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Best Fermented Foods from Around the World

Fermented foods have become popular again in recent years, largely due to health conscious individuals.

While Kimchi and Kombucha may have developed a new following in the west, fermented foods have been an integral part of communities across the globe.

Archeological evidence points out to fermentation being one of the oldest methods of food preservation. Its history dates back to the beginning of agriculture. From China and Fertile Crescent to Africa and Americas, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, grains and fruits have been fermented into food and beverages.

Fermented processes were likely developed by women through trial and error. Food was not just preserved for winter, droughts or migration, but because these were considered as healing medicine beneficial to the body.

Fermented foods play an important role in gut health and growth of good bacteria. A study in Tanzania showed that gruel made with fermented grains reduced incidence of diarrhoea in children by 33%.

When you ferment grains and certain tubers, you reduce anti-nutrient compounds and increase absorption of vitamins. Active bacteria, yeast and mound cultures turn these foods into rich sources of Vitamin K, A, B12, thiamine, niacin, and protein-building acids like lysine and methionine.

Every region has at least one unique dish as a part of its cultural heritage. This food guide brings you unfamiliar foods other than yoghurts, sauces, pickles and cottage cheese.

(And if you want to learn how to make some of these foods yourself, check out The Art of Fermented Foods, the online course with the Chef Mirna Bamieh)

Fermented foods from Asia

1. Kimchi – Korea

A Korean meal is incomplete without kimchi. Considered a national heritage, this fermented food has been prepared by families from the 7th century. Cabbage and other vegetables are cultured in their own juices/brine along with spices for 4-15 days.

2. Cheonggukjang/Doenjang – Korea

Source: James

Fermented soybean is blended into paste which is used to add flavour to different dishes. Cheonggukjang is a thinner paste that contains whole soybean, while Doenjang is a thicker and smoother paste.

3. Natto – Japan

This popular Japanese fermented dish is made with soybean and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

4. Miso – Japan/Korea

When a fungus (koji) meets soybean, salt and brown rice/barley, you get miso. This is said to have anti-ageing properties. Drink up your miso soup next time you’re at an Asian restaurant.

5. Tempeh – Indonesia

When live mold is added to soybean and left to ferment for 1-2 days, the resultant food is the cake-like tempeh.

6. Nem Chua – Vietnam

Source: Ron Diggity

Add New

Parts of lean pork are finely ground or boiled. These are mixed with roasted and powdered rice, salt, spices and covered with herbs. The mixture is then tightly wrapped in banana leaves and allowed to ferment.

7. Douchi/ Doubanjiang/Mianchi – China

Source: Food Mayhem

Douchi is a culinary paste made with fermented black beans, while Mianchi is fermented white beans. Doubanjiang is widely used in Sichuan cuisine and is made from fermented broad beans. This spicy paste also contains soybean, rice, salt, spices and sometimes, red chili.

8. Bagoong – Philippines

Source: Helga Webber

The fish sauce is made by fermenting salted fish or shrimp. When salted anchovies are fermented, you get Bagoong monamon.

9. Puto – Philippines

Source: Krista

This is steamed cake is made with fermented glutinous rice. Rice is soaked in water for 1-3 days and blended to a smooth batter. There are many variations of Puto which is usually eaten with coconut and butter.

10. Chin Som Mok – Thailand

Source: Takeaway

Pork (with skin) is fermented with glutinous rice. This is then wrapped in banana leaves and grilled.

11. Idli – SriLanka/ India

Source: Sakurako Kista

This south Indian breakfast dish has become popular across India. Rice and black bean are ground into a smooth batter. Batter is fermented overnight, steamed in special plates, and served with chutneys and sambar.

12. Dhokla – India

Source: Deapesh

Another steamed dish made with fermented batter, Dhokla is an essential breakfast food in Gujarat. Fermented batter contains chickpea flour, salt, spices and rock salt. The steamed cakes are served with hot and sweet chutneys,

13. Cahgem Pomba – India

Source: E-Pao

This healthy and delicious curry from Manipur is made with greens like spinach, mustard, dill, fenugreek, herbs like cilantro, and fermented soybean.

14. Jalebi – Pakistan/Nepal/India

Source: Risabh Mathur

This deep-fried dessert is made with fermented wheat batter. The translucent jalebis have a sweet-sour taste thanks to the sugar and bacteria culture.

15. Kombucha – China/Russia/Ukraine/Vietnam/Korea/Japan

A fermented concoction originated in Russia and Ukraine and is made with black tea, sugar and bacteria and yeast cultures. Sugar sources include honey, cane sugar or fruits. Use the same Kombucha starter to create fresh batches. The longer you ferment, the better the beverage.

 

Fermented foods from Africa

 

16. Injera – Ethiopia/Eritea

Source: Serene Vannoy

This national dish is fermented bread made with an ancient grain and a gluten-free alternative – Teff. The spongy bread with a tangy flavour is dunked into stews and eaten.

17. Togwa/Mahewu/Mabundu – Tanzanian/Zimbbawe/Africa

This fermented beverage or watered-down gruel is made with sorghum (chimera), finger millet, maize and cooked cornmeal (sazda) in a clay pot. The porridge is covered and placed in the sun for 2-3 days to ferment. It is drunk plain or with a little sugar.

18. Furundu/Ogiri– Sudan/Nigeria/West Africa

Source: Chnez blog

Sesame seeds are fermented with salt and water and pressed into cakes with a texture similar to tofu or miso. In Sudan, red sorrel seeds and Kawal leaves are fermented in the same way.

19. Garri/Gari – Nigeria/Ghana/Cameroon/Sierra Leone/West Africa

Source: David Hdez

Peeled and cubed Cassava roots are crushed into a pulp and excess water is drained out. The dried pulp is cooked in a large pot without or without palm oil to become the granular Garri. This is also pounded into a flour

20. Kenkey/Koneke/Dorkinu- Ghana/Guyana/benin/Togo/Jamaica

Source: Juxtapose^esopatxuj

This staple dish is essentially a sourdough dumpling made with corn or maize. Flour is fermented for a few days before the dough is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Other items like plantain, sweet potato, cassava, coconut or pumpkin are added to fermented dough in local variations of the recipe.

21. Dawadawa/Iru -Senegal/Uganda/Nigeria/West Africa

Source: Carsten ten Brink

Locust beans, fruit pulp and seeds, of the native tree, are fermented. These are pressed into balls or cakes (Dawadawa) and add to soups or a condiment. Iru is dried dawadawa flattened into discs.

 

Fermented foods from Americas

 

22. Sourdough Bread – Europe/ US

Different flours are mixed with wild yeast and water and baked into spongy breads with a distinct sour taste.

23. Poi – Hawaii/Polynesia

Source: Wikipedia

This fermented food is made from plant stems of taro. This is mashed and steamed or cooked into a thick liquid or dough-like paste.

24. Atole agrio – Mexico

Source: Marden Nolasco

A dough made with black maize is fermented for 4-5 days before becoming a tasty porridge. Bread is made from fermented maize dough in Peru(Tochos) and Brazil (Jamin-bang).

25. Curtido – El Salvador

Source: DLC

This is similar to kimchi and sauerkraut. This is a relish made with fermented cabbage, onions, carrots and, sometimes, lime juice.

Fermented foods from Europe

 

26. Kefir – Eastern Europe

Source: Wikipedia

A healthy beverage is obtained by adding kefir grains to milk and allowing it to ferment for 12 hours. Kefir grains are yeast and bacteria cultures that resemble clumps of cooked rice.

27. Sauerkraut –  Across  Europe

This fermented food, similar to Kimchi, is said to originate in China, but is a part of German and East European cuisine. One of the oldest traditional foods in which fresh cabbage pieces are left to ferment in its own juices or brine (salt water) for 3-4 weeks. The relish is added to many national dishes like Polish Bigos and Czech Vepřo-knedlo-zel.

28. Crème fraiche – France

Sour cream is obtained by fermenting with lactic acid bacteria. Crème fraiche is used in hot or dessert sauces, as salad and soup toppings, and in desserts.

29. Smetana – Central/Eastern Europe/Russia

Source: Iban

This sour cream is similar to crème fraiche. Milk cream is cultured by naturally occurring or introduced lactic acid bacteria. It is used as garnish in dishes like Borscht, Blini, salad and dumplings.

30. Kisela repa/ Sauer ruben – Croatia/Eastern Europe

Source: Chef Mema

Turnip shreds are fermented in a mixture of salt and water. This is eaten either as a side dish or added to soups and salads.

31. Kiviak – Greenland

Source: Orrazz

This Inuit food is made by fermenting auks (small birds). These birds are preserved in the hollowed out body of a dead seal and buried in the ground.

32. Hakarl – Iceland

Source: Audrey

This is a dish made with shark meat. The meat is fermented, hang up and left to dry. It is cubed and served with other food.

33. Kvass – Russia

Source: Bernt Rostad

This non-alcoholic beverage is made from rye bread that is stale. Loaves are added to a container with salt, water, yeast and sugar and left to ferment for 2-3 weeks. It is popular in Russia as a digestive tonic. In Ukraine this is made with beet and used in soups and vinaigrettes.

Fermented foods from Middle East

 

34. Kushuk/Tarkana/Tarhanas – Iran/America/Greece/Central Asia/Eastern Europe

Source: MRG90

The dried fermented food is made with cracked wheat flour, sour milk or yoghurt, salt, spices, tarhana herb, and groats. After fermentation, the mixture is dried and coarsely ground. Cooked vegetables are added in variations. Kushuk is turned into a nourishing soup with addition of water, stock or milk.

35. Torshi /Tursu – Iran/Turkey/Morrocco/Middle East

Source: Baha’i Views / Flitzy Phoebie

Vegetables are fermented in brine that also contains aromatic herbs, spices and vinegar. The ingredients include celery, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, cabbage, aubergines and green tomatoes. This is then paced in glass jars and stored in a cool place for 2-3 months.

36. Doogh – Iran/Syria/Lebanon

Source: Jason Lam

This cold fermented drink is basically yogurt, salt and water. It is also a national drink of Turkey and called Ayran there. You’ll find variations of this beverage in Armenia, Afghanistan, Balkan regions, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

37. Shanklish/Surke – Syria, Lebanon, Egypt

Source: Charles Haynes

This fermented cheese is made from cow or sheep’s’ milk. It is turned into balls, covered with spices like aniseed, red chilli, Aleppo pepper and za’atar, and then dried and aged. The hardened cheese is eaten as a side dish, added to eggs, or as pita bread topping.

 

How many of these traditional fermented foods have your tried? Do you have a fermented food story to share with us?

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Why Eat Asparagus? Health Benefits and History

Asparagus, a delicate, spear shaped green shoot may not have a massive fan following like cacao or berries, but come summer, European foodies go gaga over the unassuming vegetable.

From being considered an aphrodisiac to its use as a diuretic, asparagus has had a long, rich and colourful past spanning more than 2000 years. Ancient Egyptian held it in high esteem as they offered it to their gods. (more…)

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21 Inspirational Movies about Food and Chefs

Food and movies appeal to your main senses. One uses flavour, aroma and touch to captivate you, while the other captures your imagination with vision and sound.

When you combine these two themes, you get something surprising and dynamic. A good food movie lets you enjoy the visual feast, even as it showcases different realities in people’s lives.

If you’re in the mood for some soul-searching or romance the foodie way, this guide offers a buffet of 21 movies. This could change the way you feel about food, love and life.

1. Big Night by Stanley Tucci & Campbell Scott (1996)

Available here

Italian food, bickering siblings, floundering family restaurant, and the one celebrity meal. This movie has all the right elements to move its audience. You’ll be craving some carb food at the end of it.

2. Haute Cuisine (Les Saveurs du Palais) by Christian Vincent (2012)

Available here

Based on the true story of a chef from a small French town who joined the Presidential kitchen. The plot is as much about the elegance of French cuisine as it is about a lady who carves a place for herself in the male bastion.

3. Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? by Ted Kotcheff (1978)

Available here

Unlike family, romance or fun themed movies in the list, this is a mystery-thriller. A food critic tries to track the killer behind explores a series of murders of master chefs, before time runs out.

4. Like Water for Chocolate by Alfonso Arau (1992)

Available here

A magical realism movie that showcases the power of food over anyone one who eats it. A parallel track revolves around the young girl who cooks these intense meals and her forbidden love.

5. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Lasse Hallstrom (2014)

Available here

Based on a bestseller novel, this movie explores various concepts like people’s opposition to new ideas and how multiculturalism elevates cooking to a new level. When French cuisine meets Indian, there is bound to be fireworks.

6. Eat Drink Man Woman by Ang Lee (1997)

Available here

A touching story of a Taiwanese chef-father stuck in a traditional world and his modern, strong-willed daughters. He tries to find common ground with his three children over extravagant Sunday dinners.

Lee’s Chinese movie inspired spinoffs including Tortilla Soup (2001) and Soul Food.

7. Soul Food by George Tillman Jr. (1997)


Available here

This one takes a slightly different route with an African American setting. It has three married sisters (and their troubles), a matriarch and elaborate Sunday dinners with extended family.

8. Ratatouille by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava (2007)

Available here

A rat (cooking genius) and a garbage boy cook up succulent meals that reverse a hotel’s fortunes and touch the heart of a callous food critic. A movie that will have you reaching for the untouched recipe book.


9. The Chef by Jon Favreau (2014)


Available here

This movie is about a spiritual and culinary journey of a respected chef who loses his job in a fancy restaurant. He ends up with a food truck business where he focuses on creating simple and economical for the ordinary folk.

10. Tampopo by Jûzô Itami (1985)

Available here

A Western-styled Japanese movie with interconnected stories based on food. From the chef who dreams of his own noodle bar to his trucker aide, all the characters reveal their love for a hearty meal.

11. Babette’s Feast by Gabriel Axel (1987)

Available here

An Oscar winning Danish movie is about a French woman who holds a feast in the memory of a pastor-mentor after winning the lottery. The heart-warming story revolves around the preparation for the great banquet.

12. Mostly Martha by Sandra Nettelbeck (2001)

Available here

When the world of workaholic and demanding Martha collides with the avant-garde Mario, something’s gotta give. This German movie brings the clash between traditional and modern styles in the restaurant business to the fore.

If you’re looking for an American remake, then check out No Reservations (2007).

13. A Touch of Spice by Tassos Boulmetis (2003)

Available here

A touching story of a boy from Istanbul and his grandfather who teaches him to cook. When the chef’s return to his homeland 30 years later, will he find the missing spice in his life?

14. The Lunchbox by Ritesh Batra (2013)

Available here

A lonely widower, a neglected homemaker, and homemade lunches shared by mistake. This Indian movie portrays loneliness and life truths with food as a backdrop.

15. Waitress by Adrienne Shelley (2007)

Available here

Can the coming of a stranger and baking pies for a contest help you escape an unhappy marriage and a small town? Watch this flick about a pregnant waitress and her penchant for pie baking to find out.

16. The Trip by Michael Winterbottom (2010)


Available here

Fancy a trip as a food critic checking out eateries in Northern England for the Observer? Imagine travelling with a friend who shares your love for comic impressions.

If your enjoyed this, you’ll like the sequel The Trip to Italy (2014)

17. Chocolat by Lasse Hallstrom (2000)

Available here

A single mother with a young daughter opens a chocolate shop in a conservative French town. Set in the 1960s, the story has leading lady winning over the community with her cocoa based treats.

18. Julie & Julia by Nora Ephron (2009)

Available here

A movie with parallel stories based on real lives of renowned chef Julia Child and a blogger. Julie recreates each one of the chef’s recipes to turn her dreary life into something meaningful.

19. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Mel Stuart (1971)

Available here

Dahl’s classic was first brought to life in 1971 and again in 2005 with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you love the glitzy version, watch the Johnny Depp starrer. For a taste of pure entertainment, stick to the original.

20. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (2009)


Available here

When a genius scientist creates a machine to turn water into food, he isn’t really prepared for things that follow, includes food raining down the sky. A groovy animation for kids and adults alike. This one has got a sequel too.

21. I Am Love by Luca Guadagnino (2010)


Available here

An elegant and bored Russian wife of a powerful Milanese businessman falls for a young chef and his amazing creations. Life not only gets interesting but sets her up for a showdown.

To whet your appetite for more movies with food themes, check out this list.

Have these food movies increased your craving for a tasty snack?

Order from your neighbourhood takeaway joint, cook up some treats from your favourite recipe book, or better still, embark on a food tour!

Online Cooking and Nutrition Courses:

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Top 28 Food and Travel Bloggers to Follow in 2017

Do you enjoy browsing through recipes online and swooning over enticing food images? Is it curiosity about other cultures or thrill of armchair exploration that finds you spending countless hours on travel sites?

Food and travel experiments enable you to see places, culinary traditions and culture from a vantage point – local point of view.

This immersive experience leaves you with a keen understanding of food, customs and people. We’ve attempted something similar with this top list of food-loving travel bloggers.

You’ll find bloggers who enjoy a variety of foods, experiment with local and exotic cuisine on their journey across the planet. The travel bloggers in our listicle showcase their adventures and experiences, while musing on food, dining spots and tourist activities.

1. Migrationology
Author – Mark Wiens

Probably the most famous food and travel blog out there, a creation (and passion) of Mark Wiens. More than through the blog itself, Mark became famous thanks to his You Tube Channel, that features food on camera from all over the world. It is an absolute must-follow for people who travel for food.

2. Legal Nomads
Author – Jodi Ettenberg

Jodi Ettenberg, a former lawyer, quit her job to travel and ended up creating a completely new career for herself, inspiring readers with her powerful story-telling. She shares her culinary adventures from places she visits, sprinkled with beautiful photography, resources and personal tips.

3. Bacon is Magic 
Author – Ayngelina Borgan

What started off a female solo-traveller’s chronicle has morphed into a culinary and travel blog about meals, people and places. With the contribution of her husband Dave, who is a professional chef, the blog features fascinating food guides and recipes – and don’t miss all the fantastic video food guides on their You Tube Channel!

4. Nomadic Boys
Authors – Stefan and Sebastian

The London-based gay couple has travelled to 25 countries so far. You’ll find an entire section on local food recipes, in addition to culture stories and travel advice on their site.

5. 2foodtrippers 
Authors – Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

This married couple combine their love for food and travel (over 30 countries all together and 38 States in the US) into a fact-filled website. You’ll find tips on cuisine, dining spots, accommodation and food festivals.
6. With Husband in Tow 
Authors – Eric and Amber

For this couple, adventure lies in food-related events from tasting local foods to exploring new cuisines, as they are experiencing the world through food and wine travel. Don’t forget to check out their delicious You Tube Channel.

7. Authentic Food Quest
Authors – Claire and Rosemary

Claire and Rosemary, who are both family, and business partners, set off on a mission through 32 countries and 29 US States to showcase authentic local food to the world. They want to inspire other travellers to experience other countries and cultures through culinary experiences.

 

 

8. Once in A Lifetime Journey
Author – Mar Pages

Having travelled to 90 countries so far, Mar reveals more about little-known places in the world, their cuisine, restaurants and her amazing experiences there.

9. Funnelogy Channel
Authors – Gabriella Zanzanaini and Nicolas Petit

These bloggers are foodies at heart searching for new recipes from local kitchens abroad – as they say, there is not better universal language than food! Their website has food and culture stories from their journey through Eurasia.

10. A Little Adrift
Author – Shannon O’Donnell

Shannon, who was named “Traveller of the Year” by National Geographic, has been exploring the planet from 2008. Her site has expanded to include guides on food, culture and sustainable tourism along with beautiful photography.

11. Eat Your World
Authors – Scott and Laura Rosen

Travel is all about immersing in new cultural and food experiences for this couple. Their blog documents and local foods and travel stories from 125+ cities, focusing on foods and drinks that are native and traditional.

12. Boy Eats World
Authors – Aleney and Raffles

A food-travel blog with a difference! Along with travel anecdotes, you’ll find restaurant reviews, food notes by mom, and special reviews by 8-year old Raffles.

13. A Table for Two
Author – Billy Law

This Masterchef Australia participant has been living his culinary travel dream. His posts cover tasty restaurant meals from around the world with drool worthy images.

14. Mrs. O Around the World
Author – Ana Silva O’Reilly

Do luxury settings figure in your travel essentials? This blog with travel tips, reviews and best lists of places, hotels and food will feel like home.

15. A Taste of Travel
Author – Jenny

Jenny’s love for new sights, delicious flavours and luxury travel spaces is evident from her food and travel stories – and it all started in Italy, but since then she’s been eating her way throughout the continents!

 

 

16. Food Travelist
Author – Sue Reddel, Diana Laskaris

Sue and Diana call themselves “ambassadors of food travel” and they’ve been touring the culinary world since 2011. They also specifically cover experiences that “offer welcoming comfort to the LGBTQ community”.

17. The Wandering Gourmand
Author – Bryan Richards

A stay-at-home dad, a craft beer and food blogger and a travel writer, Bryan takes you on a food and beer hunting journey across five continents.

18. Lonely Palate
Author – Jessica Rigg

Jessica shares food secrets gleamed from locals and chefs on her travels, along with details on food trends and eateries.

19. The Travel Bite
Author – Rachelle Lucas and Pete Wallace

Rachelle’s and Pete’s passion for exploring food and places is visible in there posts as they searches for tastiest meals on her travels. Through her writing and recipes collected from all around the world, she inspires people to explore the world of culinary vacations.

20. Cook Sister
Author – Jeanne Horak-Druiff

Jeanne, a South African food, wine and travel blogger, brings you restaurant reviews, travel tips and cuisine advice interspersed with gorgeous images of markets and delicious food.

21. Ever in Transit
Author – Cassie Kifer and Kevin Adams

California-based duo, Cassie and Kevin, takes you on a culinary journey across continents, featuring unusual foods, global recipes, beers and wine from all around the globe. Explore their (mostly) vegetarian foods and enjoy their travel tips!

22. Travel Bites Deep
Author – Jessica Colley

The bloggette takes you on a journey across Europe exploring food, luxury settings and locale, while sharing unique tips with readers.

 

 

23. A Cook Not Mad
Authors –Tim and Nat

When a photographer and a chef decide to share their travel stories, you’re sure to find tantalising tales of food and culture among the pages.

24. The Culinary Travel Guide
Author – Laura Goyer

This Culinary Travel Professional shares top food experiences with her readers. You’ll find news, reviews, and personal food reminiscences on this magazine-style website.

25. Travel This Earth
Authors – Mica and Mike

Mica and Mike have been living all around the world since 2007. When they’re not busy volunteering, this duo explore the rich culinary scene in their destinations and share them with their readers.

26. The Food Pornographer
Author – Cynthia Chew

This Australian food-and-travel aficionado showcases her culinary experiences, restaurant reviews and market tours with beautiful images.

27. Will Fly for Food
Authors – JB and Renee

The traveleaters, as they call themselves, talk about their culinary exploits on the road. Their website also provides guides on dining spots and local food.

28. Deliciously Directionless
Author – Prachi Joshi

This India-based traveller’s site is filled with restaurant reviews, food notes, interesting recipes, and travel anecdotes.

Bonus blog!

Food Perestroika
Author – Floran Pinel

Floran writes about authentic recipes from East European (Eastern bloc) cuisines and restaurants serving them. You’ll also find travelogues from countries like Armenia and Moldova.

Did you enjoy this round-up of food-based travel blogs? Ready to embark on your own culinary cum exploration trip?

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How artisan cheese is made: traditions of Italy and France

People have been trying to preserve milk products for hundreds and hundreds of years. Cheese was a revolutionary and unexpected discovery – it turned out that the fermentation process could be controlled.

As Clifton Fadiman once said: “A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be oversophisticated. Yet it remains cheese, milk’s leap toward immortality.” We shall start our tale of cheese with milk.

Industrial vs artisan cheese

Classification of cheese is not quite straight forward, so let’s start with the basics. First of all, experts divide cheeses into “industrial” (produced by large companies, on a large scale) and “artisan”, which is produced by farmers in small batches, and often it is completely handmade.

For production of industrial cheese, only pasteurised milk is used. First, the milk is heated up to 57–68 °С  (it allows to eliminate harmful bacteria and to prolong shelf life of cheese), and then it is cooled down to 6–7 °С. Even though the heating process destroys the bacteria, it also destroys the milk structure and its original taste qualities.

Artisan cheese producers, who are especially famous in France and Italy, always follow traditional methods of production, typical to the respective region. They use varieties of cow, sheep and goat milk. The milk is neither pasteurised nor homogenised – it is used “raw” and unprocessed.

How different cheeses are made

The basic principles of cheese making haven’t changed since the times of The Odyssey, where it was described by Homer. A special bacteria or rennet are added to the milk, it turns a part of lactose into lactic acid, and milk starts to curdle. For most of the cheeses coagulation happens at 30–35 °С. Some cheeses, especially made from goat cheese, could be made at 20–25 °С, and some would need the temperature to go up to 40 °С.


One of the most famous cheese dishes is Fondue – a simple dish, prepared and eaten in the same pot. Originally, cheap wine (sometimes even slightly sour) was added to a pot and heated, and then hard cheese, which was already dry and quite old, was melted in the wine. People would enjoy their melted cheese by dipping pieces of old bread in it. It was a great solution to consume food which would otherwise go waste.


The production of soft cheeses like Italian ricotta, French brie or camembert doesn’t need complicated heating and cooling procedures. Once the curdling process is complete, they can be either be served immediately (like ricotta) or put in suitable shapes and left for ripening.   Hard varieties of cheese, like Swiss or Dutch cheeses, require curd to be heated and cooked. Thus, during the production of hard long-lasting cheeses like Parmigiana and Grana Padano, the curd is “cooked” for at least 40 minutes at about 55 °С, and only then it is transferred to the moulds.

Whey, a by-product of cheese-making (of hard cheeses), is also used for making very rare cheese varieties. It contains a large amount of protein that only curdles at high temperatures. For example fresh Roman ricotta is made from whey left after making of Pecorino. The whey is heated up to 70–75 °С, then curdled with citric acid and heated up to 85–90 °С at the end again. Separated milk solids are distributed in small baskets and left for at least 12-14 hours to drain remaining liquid from the solids. At the end of the process ricotta is ready for serving!

Besides Roma, famous whey cheeses are produced in Norway and France (Corsican brocciu).

The types of cheese and ways of their production do not end here. A special category of cheeses is called “stretched-curd” or “pulled-curd”, which is especially popular in the South of Italy, where they are called “pasta filata”. The most famous types are Mozarella and Provolone.

For the production of these cheeses, milk solids are mixed with skim milk and then cooked at high temperatures, at the same time the kneading process starts, until the mixture becomes elastic “dough”.

The origins of this method date centuries back, when people had difficulties with transporting fresh milk.  Because of hot climate, milk became acidified by the time it reached cheese makers, and curd started to separate. If you keep this curd in a warm place for a few hours, or even better if you put it in hot water or whey, it becomes elastic. If you keep kneading this mass, then it becomes stable and obtains a “string” structure.

Depending on the type of cheese, granular curd can either be made very small and dry (like for Provolone), or large and wet, like for Buffalo Mozarella. this technique is supposingly originated from ancient Greece, from where it came to the South of Italy.

Now, let’s look at the last stage of cheese making process – ripening.

Cheese ripening process – temperature and humidity 

Except for fresh cheeses which can be consumed immediately (like ricotta), all other require ripening process, which results in the unique taste and aroma qualities. Almost all cheese which produced with rennet is stored for the ripening and aging in special cheese cellars.

From the moment of ripening process, cheese becomes a responsibility of “affineur”, who is practically a “raiser” of the cheese, taking care of it during the ripening and aging process. Affineurs still follow traditional methods of their regions, which have been passed down from generation to generation.

Climate of the cheese cellars is very important, and it depends on outside temperatures, humidity and air circulation. The temperature can be anything between 0 and 25 °С, but most common temperature for the cellar is between 8 and 15 °С. Humidity normally stays in the range of 85–95%

Most of hard cheeses require relatively high temperatures, for example, French cheese Comte requires high temperatures (19 °С) and humidity (92%). On the other hand most of goat cheeses ripen at 10 °С in the cellars with good air circulation and humidity of 80%, that is considered rather “dry”.

Normally, as the aging process continues, the temperature in the cellar should be slightly lowered. Of course, it is much easier to do in artificial conditions and industrial buildings, rather than in traditional cellars and caves. Moreover, ripening and aging process of most cheeses made for raw milk doesn’t end in the cellar – it continues during transportation, storage in the shops, and even in our own fridges.

Thus, Parmigiano Reggiano is kept in salted water for 20-25 days, then it is dried in the sun and afterwards kept in the cheese cellar with good air circulation and high humidity, and stored at 16–18 °С. From time to time it is tubbed with olive oil to avoid mold formation.

Aging process lasts for at least 12 months, but to receive a famous tag of Parmigiano Reggiano it needs to stay in the cellar for at least 24 months (the date of manufacturing will always be written on the cheese).

The “blue” cheese Roquefort is kept for 4-9 months on oak shelfs, in the caves with good air circulation, which are located in the Combalou mountain, next to the village Roquefort in France. A real underground maze has 11 levels and has barely changed since the XVII century.  The caves are cold (9 °С ) and humid (95%), and a perfect natural ventilation is ensured by a complex system of stone cracks. In winter, in cold weather, warm air leaves the cave through the cracks (the more cheese is stored in the cave, the warmer the air is). In summer, it works other way around: hot air cools down on the Northern cliff, absorbs humidity and enters the caves.

The process of mold formation happens naturally, because of the tiny cheese particles set on the walls of the cave, that create a perfect environment for the mold (Pénicillium roquefort).


The ideal temperature for cheese storage is 10 °С and it should be well covered,  for example, wrapped in parchment paper. Fresh cuts of soft cheese should always stay covered. Soft cheese prefers warmer temperatures – it is aways best to let camembert or chevre sit outside of the fridge for at lest 40 minutes before serving, only then the full taste comes out.


French emmental cheese  is kept in a cellar for 4-5 days at 13 °C, and then at 16–18 °С. After one week it is moved to a different cellar, where it is kept for another month at 21–25 °C, then it is moved back to the cellar at 16–18 °С, and at the end of the process it stays at 10–13°C.

French Cammembert is moved to a “dry room” on the third day of the ripening process, where it is stored for about 12 days at 10 °С, and then the final ripening takes place. Camembert which was ripened for 21-22 days only is considered to be very young, and it reaches its best on the 30th-35th day of the ripening process.

Artisan cheese making process is an art and science, with centuries of knowledge, passed down from generation to generation. Because of the need of special environment and simply plenty of family-kept secrets of manufacturing process, replicating them home is almost impossible. In this article, we hardly touched general stages of cheese making, and you can see how complex it might be. If you travel in the cheese regions – don’t miss your chance to try raw milk cheeses straight from small producers, and you will feel the rich history and tradition stored in this unique product!

This guest post was contributed by Natur Produkt (“Натур Продукт”), the first Russian media project a natural, environmentally friendly life style. It shares knowledge about how to make our lives and surroundings better. The original text of the article (in Russian) can be seen here.

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Red or White: How to Choose the Right Wine for Your Dish


 

Red wine goes with meat, white wine goes with fish – A myth or reality?

Our lives are all about important choices and decisions that we make on a daily basis.  Some of them are easy to make, others take more time to consider. To pick a good bottle of wine to match your dinner is certainly one of them. And I bet that at some point we all have relied on the advice that red wines go with meat and white wines go with fish. So is it a myth or reality? It is one of the most popular questions I’ve been asked through my wine career and tasting experience.

When it comes to wine one can never give a definite answer. Many world famous sommeliers would even say that it’s a complete nonsense. At the same time such a notion does exist and can be fairly useful. For example rich red wines are able to make fish have metal taste. And delicate white wines can lose their charms at the presence of a good steak.

What are the basic rules of pairing?

Let’s try to look more closely on the menu and the wine list to see how they can work together. Albeit the best pairings are those selected during your own tasting experience, there are certain rules that I will recommend to follow.

 – Don’t try to make wine taste the same as your food. Take into consideration how heavy and acid to your palate the wine is, or if it’s oaky or crispy. If you are about to enjoy a delicate food, don’t pair it with oaky and powerful Shiraz as it’s going to kill the food taste. Pinot Noir would be a better choice in this case. Fatty meal will go very charmingly with crispy white wines like good Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

 – Always consider sauce as an important part of your dish. When you pick a wine think of what kind of sauce it goes with.  For example, grilled or oven baked duck/goose will go fine with rich whites from Alsace region, mature Bordeaux and Burgundy reds. Fatty marinated duck pairs with young tannin Bordeaux, Californian Cabernet and Merlot, as well as some white wines like Alsace Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris. Duck with apples and oranges with sweet sauce will go interestingly well with some sweeter whites like Riesling Auslese and Sautern.

More pairing examples

 – Best wines to pair with chicken

Grilled or baked chicken has a great variety of both red and white matches: white Burgundy wines, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, light red wine from the North of Italy, Bordeaux, Spanish sparkling wine and easy going Champaign.

 – Best wines to pair with red meat

Full bodied, tannin red wines are perfect with rare beef, lamb, and steak with fruit or sweet & sour sauces. Grilled lamb is great with red Bordeaux, New world Cabernet Sauvignon, Spanish Rioja and Ribero del Duero wines, if lamb has herbal or spicy sauce it makes a wonderful match with Pinot Noir.

Kebab goes well with Zinfandel, Shiraz, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. But if it has intense garlic sauce try Sauvignon Blanc.

If you choose to enjoy a burger with a glass of red wine, it will match with young Beaujolais, Chianti, Zinfandel, or light Cabernet.

 – Best wines to pair with fish

This may come as a surprise to you, but salmon makes a perfect match with elegant red wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot, light Bordeaux. If you look for more conservative marriage on your palate then treat it with white Burgundy: Mersault and Chablis, Rieslings, Chardonnay, especially from New Zealand.

Red mullet is a Pinot Noir delight as well as most good full bodied whites. Sardines go well with white Greek wines, Soave, Verdicchio.

Somber (mackerel) pairs wonderfully with Sauvignon Blanc, English whites, white Rioja.

Remember that delicate fish demands delicate whites like those from Burgundy, Rieslings from Alsace and Mosel areas.

Fish and chips find its fans as well. As a matter of fact it’s quite liberal in terms of wine matching. You can start from simple whites to more interesting ones like Sauvignon Blanc, Gavi or Pinot Blanc. Or simply go for sherry or beer if we are in an English mood indeed!

It is all about following your own palate

As you can see when it comes to wine there is always a choice that is unlikely to be limited. Red or white the choice is yours. Follow your own palate. We gave you a range of recommendations and food pairing examples that you can fire away with.

The food is able to influence and even alter the taste of wine, it can make it taste better and worse that’s why a thoughtful concept of food and wine relationship can promise a pleasant marriage with a good aftertaste. We’ll continue speaking about it next time.

Bon appetit!

Disclaimer: Remember that wine contains alcohol that is bad for your health

 

Svetlana_Kasparova

This article was written by Svetlana Kasparova, a wine expert who has been working with wine estates across Europe for over eight years. She is a graduate of the famous wine school “Entoria” and a Wine Games medalist.

Svetlana runs an online course “Become a wine expert in 3 days”, you can learn more about it here:

 
 
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Herbs de Provence: Recipes and History

Every single country in southern Europe has its own signature set of herbs and spices. Only real culinary masters still apply the knowledge of single herbs and food matching, whereas most home kitchens use ready herbs mixes to bring the desired aromas of the Mediterranean cuisine.

French cuisine is no exception. Its herb mixes vary significantly by region, according to the available plants: they may or may not include stalk celery, leek, savory, purple sage, and rosemary or orange zest.

Bouquet Garni

One of the most known herbs mixes is called “bouquet garni” – a composition made of aromatic herbs, tightly bound together or wrapped in a muslin, so that it can be easily taken out of the pot when a dish is ready. Usually bouquet garni includes 2-3 parsley stalks (but no leaves, as they are too tender and might make the broth look muddy), thyme and 2-3 bay leaves.

A few centuries back, a predecessor of bouquet garni was called “paquet”, which was described by a famous French chef Pierre de Lune i one of his essays: “A piece of lard (for modest days), cut leek, thyme, clove, chervil, parsley”.

Fines Herbes

Another popular French herb mix is called “fines herbes” – a combination of finely chopped fresh herbs. It is widely used in sauces, cottage cheese, omelette, as well as dishes with meat and vegetables.

Mostly, “fines herbes” includes parsley, chervil, tarragon, nebuka and cut leek. Many chefs also include celery stalks, fennel stalks, basil, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf, however these herbs are more commonly used separately or as a part of bouquet garni. The mixture of “fines herbes” can also be made with dry herbs, but in this case a big part of the aroma intensity is lost.  The proportions might vary, and it is usually added at the end of the cooking process and is not taken out of the dish before serving, unlike bouquet garni. Adding fines herbes on the top of omelette, asparagus or goat cheese can make a simple dish a highlight of any meal.

herbs-de-provence-recipe

Herbes de Provence

“Herbes de Provence” are considered to be the youngest member of the herbs mixes family in France. This term has only been used since 1970s and it usually refers to the mix of typical herbs of Provence, which can be fresh or dry. Nowadays however the composition does not always include herbs grown in Provence exclusively, and can consist of thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, chervil, tarragon, lovage, savory, sage, bay leaf and fennel. When you find Herbes de Provence outside of France, it might also include lavender, but lavender is never included in the original version.

In old times the herbs were never cultivated and were picked by hand in the wild. Nowadays they are widely cultivated by large producers as well as small family farms all over the country, but the largest amount of herbs sold in France itself surprisingly comes from abroad. Bay leaf is imported from Turkey, marjoram from Egypt, thyme from Morocco, rosemary from Spain; other herbs are imported form Poland, Albania and China. In other words, if you see a tagline “Herbes de Provence” there is no guarantee that the mix was produced in France.

Herbes de Provence are widely used for grilled meat and vegetables, fish, sauces, pasta, tomato-based recipes, soups, pie fillings, salad dressings … there is no end to their application! But if you are looking for the most classic recipe – take a look at ratatouille, a vegetable sauté made with young zucchini, aubergines and tomatoes.

Herbes de Provence became so famous worldwide, that it is easy to find them not only in the supermarkets and regular food markets, but even in the souvenir shops and airports, packed in elegant glass jars and ceramic vessels. The fact that they can be preserved for months makes them indeed a perfect travel companion, and of course a kitchen must-have. If you happen to travel in the region – don’t miss the chance to take a pack of Herbes de Provence home, and it will instantly bring the smells and tastes, and with them the memories of Cote d’-Azur to your house. 

Just remember, every mixture will  never be the same. Many French chefs create them for their kitchens personally, according to their own taste preferences, and the most dedicated culinary masters even pick them in the wild themselves. Some of the chefs refuse to use the pre-made mixtures at all, explaining that “even their Grandma never mixed everything together and knew which herb goes with what”. If someone has mastered the art of food and herbs matching, nothing can convince her to switch to ready-made mixtures. The real masters know, that rosemary goes best with lamb, juniper berries with game, sage with pork and potato, fennel with fish, thyme with rabbit, tarragon with chicken and basil with tomatoes ….

This guest post was contributed by Natur Produkt (“Натур Продукт”), the first Russian media project a natural, environmentally friendly life style. It shares knowledge about how to make our lives and surroundings better. The original text of the article (in Russian) can be seen here.

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Lavender in recipes and cosmetics: health benefits

Is it a flower? Is it a herb?

This purple wonder is both of these things, and more importantly, one of the favourite fragrances in the world from the time of ancient Egyptians and Romans. From embalming, anointing, and religious ceremonies to aromatherapy, healing and cooking, lavender had donned multiple roles across the ages. (more…)

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