The good gourmet: Foods from around the world
I am fortunate enough to have family in France. My father lives in the south and my husband's family live in the Loire Valley. We normally travel by ferry, so it gives me plenty of opportunities to fill the boot with lots of goodies from the supermarkets and wineries, and they help feed our holiday memories all year round.
Besides the numerous bottles of wine and bags of coffee, the car is normally packed with:
- A couple packets of vacuum-packed raclettte cheese, reblochon (pictured right) and any other types of fromage cuits (literally meaning cooked cheese). These can all be frozen for later consumption.
- Galettes are another must for bringing back. These are thin buckwheat pancakes from Brittany, which I fry gently then fill with a fried egg, ham and cheese. The kids adore these. They are also delicious filled with fried bacon and onion and crème fraîche. The options are endless and make for a great meal served with a nice crisp salad.
- Quenelles are another favourite of the family. Traditionally from Lyon, they are made mainly from eggs and barley semolina, and these sausage-shaped quenelles are delicious cooked in a tomato sauce topped with some grated cheese. They're also excellent for freezing.
- I know Ireland is home to great potatoes, but I have a certain grá for Amandine potatoes. These are waxy yet slightly sweet. I adore them steamed with some Kerry gold butter and a little gros sel, or Fleur de Sel de Guérande, which I bring back too.
- You can buy Bonne Maman conserves in Ireland, but I have yet to come across the jars of peach, apricot and rhubarb compotes, which make for a simple dessert served with Greek-style natural yogurt.
- I also tend to stock up on mustard, mayonnaise and Banania drinking chocolate, which also contains cereals and is Míla and Síofra's staple breakfast drink.
- It would be a sin to return from France without some bars of chocolate -- Côte D'Or tends to be our family favourite.
- French dish-washing sponges are another item I choose to fill my bags with. They are super-absorbent and last forever.
- I always bring back a couple boxes of Ebly, which is a type of barley that's cooked in the same style as rice. It only takes about 10 minutes and is great served hot with casseroles or cold in salads. Available in the supermarket, it is excellent for the digestive system and my kids love it simply with a little soya sauce.
- All across France you will find Bio Cop organic shops. They stock a wide variety of organic goods, including huile de carthame, which is a type of oil from a flower that's very rich in vitamin E and excellent mixed with olive oil to make a super salad dressing.
From Italy, I bring back the following:
- Large blocks of vacuum-packed Parmesan cheese. You can freeze Parmesan and grate it as you need it.
- Olives and olive oil are a must. I tend to get extra virgin unfiltered olive oil, delicious for dipping bread.
- Bulbs of fresh garlic and tins of soft amaretti biscuits are always packed away.
- Vanilla pods are worth stocking up on, as is saffron, dried herbs and dried porcini mushrooms.
From the US:
- I never leave the States without a bag or two of hazelnut-flavoured coffee, where the flavour is roasted into the coffee before it's ground.
- Summer wouldn't be the same without a large bottle of Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix.
- Restaurant-style tortilla chips and corn tortillas are great, but be careful how you pack these.
- Another must-have (and I have run out, so any volunteers would be great) is Old Bay seasoning. It's delicious with any type of seafood.
email: agaravaglia@ independent.ie