Wild Garlic and an ode to the rain...

People often wonder why I moved to England, seeing as I´m born in Norway.

With eyes wide open they cannot seem to understand the words coming out of my mouth when I say I fell in love with the green rolling hills, the fog and the rain...

What!?

They utter completely bewildered.

Precisely, I say with a wry smile...

You see, that is mostly right, I do with all my heart adore the sound of rain, the smell after it has poured down for hours, the feeling of coolness in the air as it gently drizzles from the sky, and the wet mist that like beautiful Egyptian cotton softly rests on the green landscape below.

I  grew up in Norway, spent my teenage years travelling and living in Switzerland, France and Tokyo. Studied fashion design in Milano, then spent some time in Stockholm before spreading my wings and moving to the Dominican Republic in the caribbean. I studied Middle eastern studies, arabic hebrew and international relations in Malta and in the Us, before ending my "world tour" in San Francisco before returning to Norway, and wondering where I would fit in in this wonderfully big and beautiful world.

And so, while thinking of all the places I´d lived, I one day saw this little whitewashed cottage safely tucked inside a white picket fence, with a thatched roof and a hobbit entrance... and I knew this was my home...

I simply fell in love...

Have you ever had that very same feeling, that you just "know", and when you do there´s no need to ask any more questions, so you simply act... you sign the contract, get the keys and move in, trusting that time will answer all the why´s...

As the rain falls from the english sky, from gentle drizzle to wild storms that threaten to pull up by the root the ancient trees around my cottage, I feel more and more at home in this wet and foggy part of the world. 

It´s like it just fits, like a fine glove in the perfect size for your hands, or a shoe that doesn't knead your feet into a sore lump by the end of a wander in the woods, but rather hugs them and brings warmth and comfort with every step.

Theres also something to be said about the utter bliss of snuggling up inside when the clouds turn bleak and grey.

To simply sit there with a cup of tea or rather in the evening, a little glass of wine, waiting for the clouds to deliver as promised the refreshing rain, that encourages every garden to become a jungle in a matter of days.

I often celebrate these evening, and always feel like a treat is in order.

I´m partial to a cake with my afternoon tea, however with that glass of wine in the evening, it´s savoury treat I crave.

At 15 and 16 years of age, I spent my summers in Switzerland working on my german, where at every breakfast I would wander down to a table set for one with jams, honey, bread, tea and cheeses, one of the cheese was the classic Boursin with garlic and herbs.

The first few days I stuck to my bread with butter and honey, but then one day I reached across the table and had my very first encounter with the savoury cheese that instantly brought back memories of my beloved mother´s garden in Norway filled to the brim with her love for herbs.

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Perhaps it was my young impressionable soul, or perhaps it was love at first bite, the very same way, I fell in love with my cottage, but ever since,  when feeling like a treat, I reach for that Boursin cheese in the store and carry it home the way one would with something a wee bit precious.

These days, ever since the wild garlic blossomed and filled the forest with that distinctive fragrance of garlic, I´ve cooked with it like there was no tomorrow, and in a moment of decadence, I reached for the cheese, a handful of wild garlic, created a savoury treat to go with that very glass of white cooling in the fridge.

It´s a savoury madeleine of sorts, with hints of the forest that goes perfectly well with a white wine with some sweet notes and on the not too dry side of things.

So when it rains, theres no need to go blue, just get baking, light the fire and lean back with that glass of wine.

And now that I´ve found my home in the green english countryside, if you pass by on a particularly grey evening, my thatched cottage will be the one with little smoke puffs coming out of the chimney, like smoke from the old steam trains, and with a warm glow from the fireplace beaming from its windows.

Savory wild garlic Madeleines

Ingredients:

 45g of  all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

75g Boursin garlic and herbs or boursin pepper for a bit more bite.

50g freshly grated Gruyere

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh wild garlic (or chives)

1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper

A tiny bit of milk if the dough is too dry.

                     

                     

Method:

Preheat your oven to 425℉.

Butter your madeleine pan even if it's already labeled as nonstick.

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients, keeping the Gruyere and wild garlic till it´s all blended well, then add and combine till you have a smooth and creamy dough.

With two spoons, spoon the batter onto the madeleine molds and bake in the center rack of your oven for about 10-12 minutes or until firm and golden.

Beware they go from light golden, which is what you want, to dark brown in seconds, so keep an eye out.

Remove from oven when done, and cool them for a few minutes before serving on a rack.

Serve warm with a glass of wine.

                A opinions, stories and recipes above are my own, made in collaboration with Boursin.                 To enter their competition in winning a dinner for two at the Le Gavroche, click here.

                A opinions, stories and recipes above are my own, made in collaboration with Boursin.

                To enter their competition in winning a dinner for two at the Le Gavroche, click here.

Bon appetito!

A Tuscan artist villa, and prosecco for breakfast...

A couple of weeks ago, I visited my beloved Italy.

Ever since I studied Fashion design in Milano at the age of 19, and Art History and Caravaggio in Rome a few years later. It´s become my second home that I return to again and again.

This time around a wee trip to Tuscany, or paradise, either name fits, at least that´s what our driver told us as he skilfully manoeuvred the car through quaint little mountaintop villages and ridge lines, before turning onto an unassuming pathway of sorts, that eventually led us to the most charming retreat.

I´m not much of a resort traveller, I enjoy the more private and intimate, perhaps with a dash of old school history and with a bit of soul.

So I was pleasantly surprised at how tucked away and intimate it felt to stay at the lovely Villa Lena in the heart of Tuscany. A lovely hotel with soul.

Now, this place isn't just another Tuscan Villa, and perhaps that´s why I felt so at home there, as their main villa, a family house of sorts was filled to the brim with creatives, artists in residence that stay for a number of weeks or months to create, freely, from the heart however they feel inspired too.

They all have studios down a sandy path and to the right of an olive grove, but they all live together like one big family in the old villa.

So as a guest at the hotelI, with a beautiful room above the converted old stable, I thoroughly enjoyed the creative buzz that practically filled the air we breathed. 

In the gentle heat of a Tuscan spring on the verge of summer, I got up early and went to bed late, wandering slowly through the villa, and its surroundings, taking it all in, breathing deep and recharging.

Early one morning after an enchanting house concert the night before by one of the artists in residence the musician..... I raised with the sun, and accompanied only by a few birds singing in "Italian", I ended up taking a seat in the villa´s organic garden dreaming of my own garden, that one day hopefully will look a little like this one.

Beautifully laid-back, yet organised,  and filled to he brim with fresh vegetables that my mind translated into little dishes, the ones casually spread out on a table with drink before dinner with friends on a warm summers day...

And luckily, I found a kindred spirit that morning.

In chic leather sandals, that I secretly coveted, Alexis Delaney, the chef in residence from New York, greeted me warmly and walked me through the villa´s garden, talked about the slow food movement, and we may or may not have bonded over our love fore the brilliant Alice Waters and breton striped tops.

As the sun rose and morning began nibbling on noon, she heard my belly rumble a bit, as I had skipped breakfast for a wee hike to the top of the mountain on the estate that morning, and was indeed ripe for a nibble or two.

I followed her around the garden and we picked the loveliest butter yellow zucchini flowers, ready to be deep fried and dipped in an anchovy mayonnaise with a naughty little side of Prosecco.

I could only but smile as here was a woman after mine own heart

So after a few skilful minutes in the Villa´s restaurant kitchen over a refreshing pitcher of mint and cucumber water, Alexi mixed together a Prosecco batter for the zucchini flowers.

«Remember», she told me and lifted her gaze from the batter mixing, «without a bit of fizz, the batter doesn't get as airy and crisp».

I took mental notes, and thought to myself that a quality bottle of a local Prosecco was as good of a fizz as any.

With a bottle of the remaining Prosecco. some glasses, and the fried treat in hand we made our way to the villa´s backyard «family» table, took a seat and talked food like there was no tomorrow.

Luckily Alexis was willing to share her recipe with me, so here it is, in my case breakfast, but probably more suited as a wee apritivo snack, a starter or as a treat on its own eaten in the garden with dear friends as the sun sets.

It´s always such a treat to meet people and especially women who follow their own dreams, who keep walking and who make their dreams come true, without sounding too cheesy, one deep fried zucchini flower at a time, or in the owner of Villa Lena´s case, one artist in residence at the time.

What I think inspires me the most in addition to their vision, is their passionate faith in their dreams, the diligent and patient work in making  their dreams come true, and to never give up.

As I sit here in my wee english cottage writing this post, I feel excited about the future and ready to leap, once again, out of that comfort zone and into the unknown… 

Here´s to following ones dreams!

Don't forget to serve up the remaining precious drops of Prosecco with the zucchini flowers.

Chin, chin..!

Fried Zucchini Blossoms:

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil for frying

Up to 2 dozen Zucchini blossoms, ideally with tiny zucchini attached

80 g flour 

60 g rice flour

325 ml prosecco 

sea salt 

Method:

Gently wash blossoms and baby zucchini in a bowl of water and remove to a towel to dry. Fill a pot with vegetable oil no higher than halfway, or you run the risk of boiling over. Heat the oil until a deep fry thermometer reads 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C. Prepare batter by whisking both flours and prosecco until just barely combined. Do not over mix. Working in batches of four or five, dip blossoms in batter until evenly coated and lay them in the oil. Avoid over crowding the pan. After a minute, flip the blossoms once with a slotted spoon, fry another minute, and remove to a paper towel. They should take no more than 2-3 minutes, and should be a golden brown. Season liberally with good sea salt and enjoy as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Serve with anchovy mayonnaise and a small glass of prosecco! 

 

Anchovy Mayonnaise:

Ingredients

1 egg yolk 

1 T lemon juice

3/4 c. vegetable oil 

1/4 c. olive oil 

1 clove garlic 

4 anchovy filets 

salt to taste 

Method

Whisk egg yolk and lemon juice until light in color. Very slowly, drop by drop, stream in first the vegetable oil and then the olive oil. Pound the clove of garlic and the anchovy filets in a mortar and pestle until smooth. Whisk into the mayonnaise, let stand for one minute and then check the seasoning, adding a pinch of salt if needed.