Profil d’un Producteur: Valérie Debiais of O’Regal Muffins

Well before the food truck trend came to Paris a New Jersey native named Michael Healey founded O’Regal Muffins and set up shop in a two-and eventually four-wheeled Muffin mobile at the Marché Bio de Raspail.

 

O'Regal English Muffins at Marché Raspail

O’Regal English Muffins at Marché Raspail

In the beginning, Michael brought freshly baked english muffins from his left bank atelier to the “boulevard bio”-boulevard Raspail- in the 6th arrondissement. The muffin man found a receptive audience at this organic market, popular amongst ex-pats and well-travelled Parisians who literally ate Michael’s muffins up.

Once he had earned enough money, Michael invested in an equipped camion complete with a brick oven that allowed for muffins to be baked on site.

The inventive American and his moveable feast attracted an adoring audience at the weekly market, including the ardent admirer Valerié Debiais, who would later marry Michael and join him in the O’Regal Muffin enterprise.

English Muffins ready to be baked

English Muffins ready to be baked- photo courtesy of Valérie Debiais

While Michael’s showmanship and flair can be credited with making O’Regal Muffins a market legend, it is Valérie that keeps that legend living.

Taking over the laborious task of spending Saturdays baking hundreds of each variety of muffin (not to mention brownies and French canelé), Valérie prepares the baked goods that she will bring to the market early the following morning.

The camion, whose technical maintenance has become too complicated to keep on the road, sits stationary at the family’s home in the Loire Valley about 150 miles outside of Paris. However, the brick oven and the muffin mobile still serve as O’Regal‘s bakery and it is here that Valérie uses locally sourced ingredients to make her delicious organic muffin varieties.

Muffins and scones- photo courtesy of Valérie Debiais

Muffins and scones- photo courtesy of Valérie Debiais

The star ingredient of O’Regal Muffins is without a doubt the locally milled flour which comes from a farmer less than 5 miles away from the family’s home. Working with heirloom varieties of wheat, this farmer grows his crop organically in a rich and diversified environment, resulting in a high quality product that renders the muffins not only enjoyable but also apperently easier to digest- Valérie told me that even gluten, or glutton, sensitive customers have told her that they are relieved to find they can enjoy O’Regal Muffins!

Along with english muffins, you can also find other favorites such as apricot and coconut, lemon poppyseed, carrot, and banana muffins at the O’Regal stand on Sundays. For a warming winter treat, stop by to see Valérie and grab a cup of chocolat chaud or an organic coffee to start your day at the market!

O'Regal stand at Marché Raspail, where you'll find muffins, chocolat chaud, and organic coffee

O’Regal stand at Marché Raspail, where you’ll find muffins, chocolat chaud, and organic coffee

Thanks so much to Valérie for sharing the story of O’Regal Muffins and thanks to both Valérie and Michael for bringing muffins to the market!

Guest Post: Aurelia D’Andrea presents Plant-based Paris

Kale Soup at Verjus (75001). One example of an amazing meat-free dish.

Kale Soup at Verjus (75001). One example of an amazing meat-free dish. Photo courtesy of  Aurelia D’Andrea

 

This week I am delighted to share a guest post by Aurelia D’Andrea, whose articles on vegetarian living and travel are invaluable guides to anyone who wants to be both meat-free and worldly.

Aurelia D’Andrea‘s writing has appeared in publications such as Vegetarian Times and Veg News as well as on her blog, My Vegan Parisian Adventure. Her articles advocate creativity in the kitchen as well as in life and encourage vegetarians to accept, and embrace, the challenges that may come with living abroad- especially in meat-loving countries such as France.

Faux Gras!

Faux Gras! Photo courtesy of Aurelia D’Andrea

Aurelia writes for the benefit of vegetarians around the world, proving that a plant-based lifestyle is a viable (and ethical) option no matter where your path may lead.

Vegetarians, vegans and the veggie-curious who are living in Paris can learn from Aurelia’s knowledge of vegetarian life abroad by attending her Vegetarian Living in Paris class.

Aurelia was kind enough to give Paris Paysanne readers a preview of what her class will cover. Space is limited so be sure to sign up for the course, which will be held on February 28th. It promises to be an informative, inspiring, and eye-opening introduction to Vegetarian Living in Paris!
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Fresh noisettes

Fresh noisettes. Photo courtesy of Aurelia D’Andrea

If It weren’t for Paris Paysanne, I might still be staring at the rutabagas I bought on a whim at my local marché, pondering whether to cook them, eat them raw, or use them as doorstops. Without a gentle guide to feed me information and ideas on a subject I’m very much interested in—local food—I’d be wallowing in a sea of mysterious fruits, tubers, and greens, praying for a culinary lifeboat to save me from certain starvation.

Since moving to Paris three years ago, I’ve met others who, like me, need help with food-related matters—though not necessarily with their rutabagas. In this country where meat-heavy culinary traditions hold firm, some of us need help navigating the tricky world of vegetarianism.

Vegetarian brunch at Cafe Pinson (75003)

Vegetarian brunch at Cafe Pinson (75003) Photo courtesy of Aurelia D’Andrea

When friends and family heard I was moving to a country where frogs, snails, and horsemeat are all served in restaurants, their excitement for me was sullied by concern. “Does tofu even exist there?” they asked, as if the stuff were the foundation of my diet to begin with. “And aren’t the frites cooked in duck fat?”

The answers are “Yes!” and “Sadly, yes, sometimes.” (I learned the latter the hard way.) But the truth is that vegetarian living in Paris is about the same as anyplace else: When armed with the right tools, it’s possible to enjoy meals at restaurants both fancy and pedestrian, participate in local culinary traditions, and even host your own wine-and-cheese party with faux fromages and meat-free charcuterie if you wanted to.

Meat-free Charcuterie!

Meat-free Charcuterie! Photo courtesy of Aurelia D’Andrea

To help others on their journey exploring plant-based Paris, I’m teaching a class called Vegetarian Living in Paris through WICE, a local non-profit cultural organization for Anglophones. In three hours, I’ll teach you how to shop for veg staples at traditional produce markets and American-style hypermarches, unravel the mysteries of French restaurant menus, introduce you to the exciting world of vegetarian entertaining, and fill you with ideas on how to make the most of your French experience without compromising your dietary preferences. Students will leave the class with helpful resources and a veritable taste of vegetarian France. (What would any class on vegetarianism be without food samples?!)

Vegan burger and fries at the Gentle Gourmet (75012)

Vegan burger and fries at the Gentle Gourmet (75012) Phot courtesy of Aurelia D’Andrea

If you or someone you know needs a helping hand navigating the mysterious, occasionally confounding place called Paris sans viande, I am offering myself up as a lifeboat. If it’s root vegetables you need help with, you and I are both better off right here, in the capable hands of Paris Paysanne.

Aurelia d’Andrea is the former editorial director of VegNews magazine and a frequent contributor to Vegetarian Times. Her next book, Moon Metro Paris, will be published by Avalon Travel in 2014.

Raw veggies are a vegetarian's delight!

Raw veggies are a vegetarian’s delight! Photo courtesy of Aurelia D’Andrea

Thanks so much Aurelia ! Paris, and its veggie loving community, are so lucky to have you!

Sign up here for Aurelia’s class!

In Season: Les Tubercules

A variety of Tubercules, or tuber vegetables, on sale at Marché Bio de Raspail

A variety of Tubercules, or tuber vegetables, on sale at Marché Bio de Raspail

Tuber vegetables or les tubercules abound in markets this time of the year. Some tubers really resemble the gnarled and earthy roots that they are- salsify, celeriac, and scorzonera come to mind- while other forms may be more familiar and palatable to us, like sweet potatoes, radish, and carrots.

I’ve written about tubers throughout the chilly seasons of autumn and winter, such as beets, turnips, and rutabaga. I’ve also fallen for a few new favorites – enjoying parsnips several times a week and finding sunchokes at restaurants in San Francisco and the markets of Paris.

Rutabaga, Parsnips, and Sunchokes at Marché Bio de Raspail

Rutabaga, Parsnips, and Sunchokes at Marché Bio de Raspail

Over the past few months it has been rare that I leave a market without a selection of tubers tucked in with my winter greens and seasonal apples and pears. Some more recent tuber sightings include the cerefeuil tubereuxor tuberous chervil and the persil tubereux, or tuberous parsley- two varieties that are popular in France and apparently difficult to find outside the hexagon.

Persil Tubereux, or tuberous parsley, at a biocoop in the 17th

Persil Tubereux, or tuberous parsley, at a biocoop in the 17th

It seems only natural to take advantage of having such a rare vegetable within our reach, so I picked up a few of the tuberous chervil variety when I had the occasion.

When asking producteurs how to prepare a tubercule their suggestions are simple and center on traditional winter dishes such as potages and purées.

However, take note: soups and mashes may not be suitable to every tuber (salsify soup? mashed beets?) so check some sources to see what is the best application for the tuber at hand. This is a general overview some tubers you may find while shopping in Paris markets, but the recipes that follow will be more suited to certain types, such a potato and parsnip variety or a mixture of these varieties with a selection of other tubers such as the tuberous chervil or tuberous parsley.

Super expensive tuberous chervil at Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles

Super expensive tuberous chervil at Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles

For me, there is nothing more comforting than mashed root veggies, be it basic potatoes or  another (t)uber-French variety, purées bring the warmth I’m missing on these rainy days.

In times of great need, I will also whip up a batch of gravy that I perfected in my college days, and add it atop my mountain of mashed root veg. If you want to give it the old college try, I’ve added my recipe here (I was vegan then & used margarine in place of butter- but the recipe below includes butter).

Locally grown sunchokes spotted in Switzerland

Locally grown sunchokes spotted in Switzerland

A few notes: Use a rough brush when cleaning tubers- especially the gnarly root varieties- dirt can cling to the skin and creep in the crevices, so spend some time washing these veggies before preparing them.

I found tuberous chervil at the Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles, where it was outrageously expensive (€39,80/kilo !!). I have seen other varieties of similar tuber varieties, such as the tuberous parsley at my local biocoop and a handful of markets, so I think you can find a more reasonably priced elsewhere.

More chic and cher tubers at Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles

More chic and cher tubers at Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles

What: Les Tubercules, (Tubers)

When: February 14, 2013

Where: A market near you

How: Carefully wash you tuber to remove all dirt. To make a purée you can either follow the instructions for my Parsnip and Rutabage Purée, or you can omit the broth and simply bring your tuber to a boil in salted water, cook until tender, drain (leaving some water in reserve) and then mix with a hand mixer, adding butter and leftover salted water until you have the desired consistency.

If you are making a hearty purée, with potatoes or parsnips for example, you can serve it with this nutritional yeast fortified gravy:

Simple Vegetarian Gravy

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup miso (use a miso cube to make the stock)

2 tbsps butter

1/2 cup chopped onions

2 tbsps flour (more as needed)

2 tbsps soy sauce

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Steps:

1) Heat up butter. Once melted, add chopped onions and cook until just brown, 2-3 minutes.

2) Whisk in your 2 tbsps of flour, stir until combined- keep stirring to avoid burning the mixture.

3) Slowly add boiling miso broth. Stir as you add.

4) If the gravy isn’t thick enough, you can stir in more flour until you’ve reached the desired thickness.

5) Stir in soy sauce followed by nutritional yeast flakes.

6) Serve hot, atop or aside your tuber purée.

 

Marché du Mois: Marché Ornano

View of the sunshine and Sacre Coeur from Marché Orano

View of the sunshine and Sacre Coeur from Marché Orano

 

This past week I was lucky to have my own personal guide to take me on a tour of her local market. Mary, a media consultant for Social Media Delivered and all all-around awesome lady met up with me at Marché Ornano in the 18th arrondissement, where she introduced me to the local farmers.

Marché Ornano is a large and bustling event, resembling other sprawling boulevard markets such as Marché Belleville or the Marché Ney.  Similar to these markets, Marché Ornano is packed with vendors selling specialty products from afar (portugeuse pastries and cheeses, herbs for making traditonal North African meals) but distinguishes itself by additionally offering vegetables grown on farms in the Ile-de-France region.

Potimarrons at Marché Orano

Potimarrons at Marché Orano

The result is a lively and thriving market that reflects the surrounding community. Open three days a week, the Marché Ornano occurs frequently enough that you could count on it as your sole source of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.

I love visiting markets like Marché Ornano, which so clearly play a role in the life of the neighborhood. A throwback to the days before the supermarchésthis market allows you to experience the market as a vital community resource.

Dandelion greens at Marché Orano

Dandelion greens at Marché Orano

Most importantly, unlike the ersatz “farmers” markets we see too often in Paris, Marché Ornano actually counts farmers among its vendors. Two producteurs from the Ile-de-France set up stands three times a week at Marché Orano where they sell seasonal fruits and vegetables to lines of eager shoppers.

The first vendor we visited has a farm in the Val d’Oise, which is located 34 km (21 miles) from Paris. Here swiss chard, celery root, turnips, and parsnips from their own production are complemented by produce from partnering producers from around France and Europe.

Swiss Chard grown in the Val d'Oise, 31 miles from Paris

Swiss Chard grown in the Val d’Oise, 21 miles from Paris

By extending the seasons a little longer by selling produce from Southern France, Italy, and Spain, this vendor manages to remain competitive in the current marketplace where autumn avocados and winter raspberries are unsettlingly abundant.

On the other end of the market, Jean-Michel Delahaye, whose farm is in Cergy-Pontoise (34km/21miles from Paris), sells exclusively his own farm-grown produce. The overflowing bins at his stand include an impressive amount of rarities in late winter such as bright orange potimarron and gorgeous honey-hued butternut squash.

Butternut squash grown in Cergy-Pontoise 31 miles from Paris

Butternut squash grown in Cergy-Pontoise 31 miles from Paris

Jean-Michel is full of advice on how to prepare his produce and even had some surprising suggestions for us- like putting a pescatarian spin on the classic French endive & ham combo by wrapping the endives in smoked salmon before covering with bechamel sauce and baking.

Stop by Jean-Michel’s stand for your pick of seasonal standards with a few exciting, uncommon options mixed in- like dandelion greens and a selection of hearty winter lettuce varieties.

Even if this corner of the 18th isn’t your neighborhood, I recommend adopting it for a day in order to experience the energy of this authentic French market & its farm fresh produce.

Marché Ornano

Boulevard Ornano (between rue Mont Cenis & Ordener), 75018

m° Simplon (line 4)

Open Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday 8h-13h

 

In Season: Rutabaga

 

Rutabagas at Marché Bio de Raspail

Rutabagas at Marché Bio de Raspail

I’ve always passed over Rutabagas at the market because I’d never been formally introduced to them and had no idea what to do with one if I brought it back to my kitchen.

Since my Autumn and Winter months have been filled with fun with root vegetables like beets, turnips, and parsnips, I figured there was no sense in leaving Rutabaga out of my seasonal vegetable rotation.

My opportunity to experiment with Rutabaga came while shopping at the Marché Bio de Raspail this past Sunday, where I spotted some at the stand of Eric & Martial Refour. These organic apple growers bring about a dozen varieties to the market each week, along with seasonal organic vegetables from the Val du Loire region.

After tasting samples from their large apple selection, I picked out a few parsnips and rutabagas and went home to experiment.

Rutabagas and Parsnips

Rutabagas and Parsnips

What: Rutabagas (Swedes)

When: February 3, 2013

Where: Marché Bio de Raspail 75006, Eric and Martial Refour’s stand

How: The vendor at the Refour stand explained to me that Rutabagas are best prepared with other vegetables. I chose a favorite of mine, parsnips, to accompany this unknown- to-me légume and decided to make a purée.

Rutabaga flesh gets spongy and porous when cooked, much unlike the tough interior of a parsnip. The combination of the two results in a hearty, yet fluffy purée that makes for a great side, or even a main dish.

Rutabaga and Parsnip Purée

Rutabaga and Parsnip Purée

Rutabaga and Parsnip Purée

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

1 large rutabaga

2 parsnips

3 cups broth

Salt & Pepper

Steps:

1) Scrub rutabaga and parsnip with a vegetable brush under cold water, be sure to remove all the dirt. Chop into evenly sized cubes.

2) Melt butter in a casserole on medium heat. Once butter is melted add the parsnips and rutabaga, stir until coated with butter. Let simmer 3-5 minutes.

3) Add three cups of broth, increase heat slightly, and cover. Let the veggies cook until tender, 15-20 minutes.

4) Once the vegetables are easily pierced with a knife, remove from heat and use a hand mixer to purée. Add more water or butter as needed and mix until smooth.

5) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.