A couple of months ago, I tried making a risotto that included a cheese that I was not familiar with: Taleggio. As this cheese isn’t really included in your grocery staples in Finland, I couldn’t find it in my local corner store either and used Swiss Gruyere as a substitute (well, not exactly a grocery staple in Finland either…). However, last week I managed to get my very first chunk of Taleggio and to top my happiness, it was even on sale.
The flavour of Taleggio is a bit different from any other cheese that I have tried before. I would describe it as something between brie and mozzarella. It definitely has that flavour typical of a mold cheese but it is milder and its texture is not quite as soft as brie’s. It certainly worked so well with the risotto that I went back to the great Taleggio sale and bought another piece. This time I tested it with potatoes and rosemary as suggested by this recipe. Rosemary is one of my favourite herbs which in cooperation with my new friend Tal makes this recipe quite a nice side dish to accompany chicken or red meat!
Taleggio and rosemary potatoes
800 g potatoes
250 g Taleggio
4 tbsp milk
30 g butter
1 sprig of rosemary
Cook the potatoes in boiling, unsalted water for only 10 minutes. Peel them and cut them into thin slices (~0.5 cm thick). Place the potato slices in a buttered gratin dish. Add the milk and season the potatoes with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary. Bake in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes.
Slice the Taleggio and remove its crust. Cover the potatoes with the cheese and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Allow the ready dish to cool for a few minutes before serving.
A food blog on Italian dishes in a Finnish kitchen would not have been feasible twenty years ago. Not only had the internet barely been invented and the most interesting log of the time was carried by a weird lady on Twin Peaks but also it would have been next to impossible to find half of the ingredients of the recipes in the Finnish supermarkets. Yet although in today’s Helsinki you can buy everything from carnaroli rice to organic Italian clementines, there are still some ingredients that require considerable effort to obtain or at least some creativity to substitute.
This recipe is from another Italian magazine – the Italian Elle. Their web pages contain quite an impressive range of delicious-looking dishes! The list of the ingredients for this risotto is quite short but yet long enough for my impatient (Italian) temper to miss one of them when shopping: the Taleggio cheese. I’m not sure if I have ever even tried this cheese in my life, and it certainly wasn’t available in my corner store where I dashed in the middle of cooking the risotto (don’t worry – I didn’t leave the stove unattended!). For substitute, I got some Swiss Gruyère and it worked quite nicely. The full flavour of the salty cheese is nicely balanced with the acidity and sweetness of the oranges. Based on my Google research, it seems that Gruyère wasn’t too far off from the Taleggio thingy either!
All in all, whilst I certainly appreciate the availability of Italian and other international food in Helsinki these days, I think it is also nice that not everything is imported. That way we still have room for some culinaristic (substitute) adventures at home, and some different flavours to look forward to when travelling!
2 organic oranges
1 leek finely chopped
100 g Taleggio cheese
Rinse the oranges and grate their zest. In a (non-stick) pan, gently fry the leek and the orange zest in some olive oil. Add the rice and roast the mixture for a few minutes. Pour in some wine and stir until the liquid has evaporated. Start gradually adding the broth and continue stirring to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. At the mid point of the cooking, add the juice of the oranges into the risotto, and a few minutes before the end of the cooking, the Taleggio (/ Gruyère/ whatever cheese you can find in your supermarket) diced. Season with salt, pepper and parmesan to your taste.