Sunday, December 27, 2009

Apricot and Mulled Wine Fruit Soup

Hope you've all had a lovely Christmas with lots of delicious food! We celebrated the Christmas Eve (the main event in Estonia) with a large traditional meal at our home, and we've also had several other festive dinners over the last week. I'm now ready for some non-Christmassy food, though there are still some festive recipes I'll post over the next week.

First up is a simple fruit soup (kissel) that I made last Christmas.

You'll need a carton of light non-alcoholic glögg for this - I'm pretty sure your local Scandinavian store or IKEA food isle serves something suitable.

Apricot and Mulled Wine Fruit Soup
(Jõulune aprikoosikissell vahukoorega)
Source: Finnish Valio
Serves 6

1 litre of light (non-alcoholic) glögg or mulled wine
250 g dried apricots
3-4 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp potato starch or cornflour

Heat glögg and apricots in a saucepan. Simmer on low heat, covered, for about 30 minutes, until apricots are softened. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
Mix potato starch or cornflour with couple of spoonfuls of cold water, stir into the fruit soup. Bring just to the boil (when using potato starch) or cook for a few minutes (when using cornflour), stirring.
Remove from the heat, divide between dessert glasses and let cool.

Serve with some softly whipped cream (or a vegan substitute).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eggnog Recipe

After reading about the popular American Christmas tipple, eggnog, for years, I finally took the plunge and made some last weekend. We loved it, and I'm probably making another batch tonight for tomorrow's Christmas Eve dinner, and then another one for the New Year's Eve party. The recipe below is based on Melissa's and Elise's recipes, and make an excellent Christmas-time drink.

(Eggnogi jõulujook)
1 litre (serves about 6)

4 large eggyolks
100 g caster sugar
500 ml milk (2 cups)
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
250 ml whipping cream
2 Tbsp bourbon whisky
2 Tbsp dark rum

freshly grated nutmeg, to serve

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks until frothy, then slowly beat in the sugar, whisking until fluffy.
Combine milk, cinnamon stick and vanilla pod (halved lengthwise) in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Slowly heat mixture on medium heat until it is steaming hot. Do not boil! (If you're not in a hurry, then remove the saucepan from the heat and let infuse for 30 minutes. Slowly reheat again before proceeding).
Temper the eggs by slowly adding ladlefuls of hot milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it begins to thicken slightly, and coats the back of the spoon (candy thermometer should show 71C). Do not allow the mixture to boil, or the heat will curdle the egg yolks!
Remove from heat and immediately stir in the lukewarm cream (this will bring the temperature down and keep it from curdling).
Remove the vanilla pod and cinnamon stick. Cool until lukewarm, then stir in the bourbon and rum.
Chill before serving. NB! Grate some nutmeg on each serving!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nice Christmas Fruitcake

I say 'nice' in the title, as I cannot remember eating a Christmas fruitcake that I really liked when I lived in the UK (and I tried quite a few during my seven years there), but I LOVED this one. I know you're supposed to bake your fruitcake weeks in advance, and let it age and develop in a cool storage before eating it. I baked the one on the photo on Monday, and am dangerously close to having none left by tomorrow evening. That's why bought another several bags of dried fruit today, mixed them with booze. Will be baking another one of this tomorrow, just to make sure I have some to take along to the first of the many Christmas parties this weekend...

The type of dried fruit you use is entirely up to you. I used dried sweetened cherries, seedless raisins, dried apricots and dried pineapple pieces on Monday. At the moment I've got all these plus dried papaya pieces macerating away. As for the booze, anything rum-based will work best, I think. I've used rum-based Blossa glögg, Havana Club rum or even Vana Tallinn rum-based liqueur (those who've been to Estonia know what I'm talking about :)) If you don't like rum, use brandy instead.

English Christmas Fruitcake
Makes one large loaf or two smaller ones

250 g butter, at room temperature
200 g caster sugar (225 ml)
4 large eggs
275 g plain flour (500 ml/2 cups)
2 tsp baking powder
150 ml brandy or rum
600 g of dried fruit of your choice (about 1 litre/4 cups)

Chop the dried fruit into smaller pieces, if necessary, and pour over the brandy or rum. Leave to macerate and soften for at least few hours, preferably overnight.
Cream soft butter and sugar until pale. Whisk in the eggs, one at the time, incorporating each egg before adding the next one.
Mix flour and baking powder, then stir into the egg and butter mixture.
Fold in the dried fruit (plus any booze that's left in the bowl).
Spoon the batter into a buttered large (2-quart) baking tin.
Bake in a preheated 175 C oven for about one hour, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool, then wrap into a parchment paper and foil and leave to age for a few weeks (or a day, if you're like me:))

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday baking: Rugelach with prune filling

It's been a over a year since I made some delicious rugelach-cookies with hazelnut filling. After seeing a very talented young American pastry chef, Heidi Park (now based here in Tallinn), sharing her recipe for rugelach-cookies in a local food magazine, I felt the urge to make these again. I used my old recipe, and adapted the filling from Martha Stewart's recipe for Prune Rugelach.

Very pleased with the final result, so sharing it with my dear readers :)

Rugelach with Prune Filling
(Rugelach-küpsised ploomitäidisega)
Makes 32 small pastries

For the pastry:
200 g butter, softened
200 g full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
2 tsp caster sugar
200 g all-purpose/plain flour, sifted
a pinch of salt

For the filling:
200 g dried plums/prunes
100 ml brandy or cognac

Breadcrumb mixture:
4 Tbsp breadcrumbs
4 Tbsp caster sugar
0.5 tsp cinnamon

For glazing:
1 egg white, beaten with a little water

On the night before:
Pour brandy over the prunes and let soak for up to 24 hours.

Cream the warm butter and cream cheese until well blender. Beat in the sugar, then stir in the flour and salt. Mix until the dough begins to hold together, press into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill overnight in the fridge.

On the day of baking:
Combine the breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon.

Puree the prunes with the brandy until smooth.

Divide the dough ball into two and return the other half into the fridge. Roll out the pastry on a slightly floured surface into a thin circle about 25 cm /10 inches in diametre. Using a sharp knife or a pizza-wheel, cut into 16 equal wedges.

Brush the surface of the wedges with half of the prune puree, then sprinkle half of the breadcrumb mixture on top, spreading evenly as you go. Using your hand or a rolling pin, press the filling tightly down into the dough (there seems to be a lot of filling, but it'll make the pastries only nicer!).

Carefully roll up each wedge tightly, starting from the wider, outside end. You'll end up with 16 mini croissants. Brush with egg white wash.

Cover a baking tray with parchment paper and bake at the middle of a preheated 180 C/350 F oven for 20-30 minutes, until the rugelach are golden brown.

Leave to cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack.

Repeat with the second half of the pastry - even straight away or on the following day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One very knobbly Jerusalem artichoke, one very silky mushroom soup

Have you ever seen a recipe for Jerusalem artichoke/Sunchoke/Topinambur-something that begins with "Wash and peel the Jerusalem artichokes". I have. While I obviously understand the washing bit, then I'm a bit unsure about the peeling. See the specimen above? That's just one example of an artichoke I had to deal with earlier today, when preparing lunch for K's mum who came to visit her grand-daughter (who's doing splendidly, by the way:)). Have you ever seen such a knobbly Jerusalem artichoke before? It was beautiful - crisp and fresh, but had I attempted to peel it, there wouldn't have been much left. So I gave it a very good wash and scrub, and simply chopped it. And that's what I'll do from now on - I'll only buy Jerusalem artichokes with thin and beautiful skin, so I can omit that tricky "peel the artichoke" bit...

The inspiration for combining mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes came from one Estonian monthly, but I've changed the process and proportion so considerably so there's no need to credit anything specific :)

Jerusalem artichoke and mushroom soup
Serves 4

250 g Jerusalem artichokes (aka topinambur aka Sunchokes)
250 g mushrooms
1 medium yellow onion
2 Tbsp butter
600 ml water
400 ml whipping/heavy cream (use single/light cream, if you prefer)
freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme, to garnish

Wash and peel (or not :)) the Jerusalem artichokes. Peel the onions. Clean the mushrooms. Chop all into small chunks.
Heat the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the artichokes, onion and mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season with some salt.
Add hot water, bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the Jerusalem artichokes are softened.
Transfer into a blender and purée until smooth.
Return to the saucepan, add cream and reheat. Season with salt and pepper (and some dried porcini or chantarelle powder, if you wish), garnish with fresh thyme and serve.
Some shaved Parmesan cheese would also be nice.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Almond and Clementine Cake, Claudia Roden style

Christmas and clementines go together. At this time of the year, the shops are flooded with tiny clementines from Morocco and slightly larger specimens from Spain, and I keep buying wooden trays of the orange fruit. Mostly we simply eat them au naturel, but I've been experimenting with few dessert and cake recipes as well.

There's a lovely recipe for flourless almond and orange cake in Claudia Roden's excellent book on Jewish food that I had been wanting to make for ages. The idea of boiling whole oranges and using the whole lot - zest, pith, fruit - in a cake sounded intriguing. Nigella Lawson has adapted the recipe and uses clementines, but I followed Claudia's original instructions here. However, I used clementines instead of oranges, and an excellent Swedish clementine-flavoured glögg Blossa instead of orange flower water. We loved the resulting cake a lot - slightly bitter (from the zest and pith), very moist and just rather unusual. We'd definitely make this again - and perhaps try the original version with oranges as well. (Mmmm - perhaps even those gorgeous red 'blood oranges' when they appear in the shops in a few months?).

You want clementines with thin skin here and as little white pith as possible. That's why I chose the thin-skinned Maroc-clementines here. Oh, and it'll be a much easier job if the clementines have no or just a few seeds.

Almond and Clementine Cake
Serves 10

400 g clementines (about 8-9 small fruit, preferably organic and unwaxed)
6 large eggs
250 g sugar
250 g blanched ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp orange flower oil or citrus liqueur

Wash the clementines carefully in hot water. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring into a boil and simmer on a low heat for about 60-90 minutes, until the clementines are soft.
Drain the clementines and cool a little. Cut into halves, remove any seeds. Place the clementines into a food processor and blend into a coarse purée.
Whisk the eggs and sugar into a thick and pale foam.
Blend ground almonds with baking powder, then fold into the egg foam.
Stir the orange flower water or Blossa glögg into the clementine mixture, then gently fold into the rest of the ingredients.
Pour the batter into a buttered and lined 26 cm springform tin.
Bake in a preheated 180 C oven for about 45 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top. Test for doneness with a wooden toothpick - it should be clean after inserting into the middle of the cake.
Cool before transfering the cake onto a serving tray.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Janssons Frestelse aka Jansson's Temptation - a tasty potato gratin from Sweden

Janssons frestelse / Janssoni kiusatus
Jansson's frestelse, 2011

Did you know that the 'ansjovis' in Jansson's Temptation, the ever-popular creamy Swedish potato gratin, is not anchovis (Engraulis encrasicolus), but sprat (Sprattus sprattus)? Sprats in brine have been called 'ansjovis' in Sweden since 17th century, which is obviously rather confusing for an English-speaking recipe translator. That's why you see 'anchovies' in most English recipes. However, the Swedish 'ansjovis' are pickled in a rather sweet brine, so substituting regular anchovies wouldn't give you the same flavour sensation. It'd be still a tasty potato gratin, but not the same..

Luckily you can find Swedish ansjovis at the food aisle of your nearest IKEA - alongside cloudberry and lingonberry jam and gingerbread cookies.

(For my readers in Estonia - I used "Kipperi anšoovis" - a sprat preserve with a highest sugar content).

Janssons Frestelse
(Janssoni kiusatus)
Serves 6

Jansson's frestelse / Janssoni kiusatus
Jansson's frestelse, 2009

1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
3 large onions
100 g spiced and pickled Swedish 'ansjovis' (sprat filets)
500 ml (2 cups) whipping cream/heavy cream
3-4 Tbsp breadcrumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the potatoes and cut into thick matchsticks (I used my food processor for that).
Peel the onions and cut into thin slices. Fry in butter for about 5 minutes, but do not brown.
Butter a large oven dish, spread half of the potato over the base. Cover with fried onion slices, place 'ansjovis' filets on top.
Cover with the rest of the potatoes. Season moderately with salt and pepper.
Pour over the cream - you may need a bit more or a bit less - it depends on the size of the dish you're using. You want the cream to almost cover the potatoes.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and dot some butter slices over the breadcrumbs.
Bake in a preheated 220 C oven for about 1 hour.
Remove from the oven, let cool for about 5 minutes, then serve either alongside a green salad or a meat roast.

This recipe was also included in my second cookbook, Jõulud kodus ("Christmas at Home"), published in Estonian in November 2011.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Caraway teacake

Adding caraway seeds to your teacake does not seem like an obvious idea, but it works. Caraway seeds are much beloved in the Northern and Eastern Europe. In Estonia we add them liberally to rye bread, to oven-baked potato wedges, into sauerkraut soups and side dishes. We usually do not add them to desserts, but there's something about the spicy earthiness of caraway seeds that complements the rich flavour of this typical Estonian teacake.

The recipe below results in a flavoursome cake with nice, dense and moist crumb. Perfect with a cup of afternoon tea..

Caraway Cake
About 10 slices

180 g butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
170 g caster sugar (200 ml)
250 g all-purpose flour (450 ml)
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 Tbsp whole caraway seeds
200 ml sour milk or kefir or fermented buttermilk

Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and thick. Stir in the kefir or fermented buttermilk.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and caraway seeds, then gently fold into the egg mixture.
Finally stir in the cooled melted butter.
Pour the batter into a lined 1-litre cake tin.
Bake in a pre-heated 180 C oven for 40-50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle remains clean.
Cool before cutting into slices.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Chorizo choux puffs (chorizo profiteroles recipe)

Sausages / Vorstid
Selection of cured sausages at La Boqueria, Barcelona.

Another recipe that I've adapted from Eric Treuille's Canapeś (sold as Hors d'Oeuvres in the US). I served these at a brunch couple of weeks ago, and although there were enough of these for everyone, I barely managed to save one for Kristjan - these disappeared just so quickly!

There's no need to fill these with anything, as the chorizo lends plenty of flavour.

Chorizo Choux Puffs
Makes about 24 large profiteroles or many more tiny ones

Chorizo puffs / Chorizo-profitroolid

200 ml water
100 g butter
0.5 tsp salt
120 g plain flour/all-purpose flour (200 ml)
3 large eggs
100 g chorizo sausage

Peel the chorizo sausage and chop finely.
Put water, cubed butter and salt into a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Take off the heat and stir in all the flour. Return to the heat and "boil" for about two minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until you have a smooth paste that leaves the sides of the saucepan.
Remove from the heat and cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the eggs one at a time, totally incorporating the egg before adding the next one. This is best done with electric beaters!! The resulting paste should be glossy and slowly drop from a spoon.
Stir in the finely chopped chorizo sausage.
With a help of two tablespoons, place small heaps of choux paste onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 180 C oven for about 30 minutes, until the choux puffs are nicely puffed up and golden brown.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Last night I attended my first ever Thanksgiving dinner. Few days late, I know, but for various logistic reasons, our Tallinn-based American hosts, Rachel & Stefano, decided to throw a party on Sunday night instead. Four couples, four kids and lots of good food (including a locally sourced non-frozen 8 kg turkey!). Rachel had asked me to bring along a Pecan Pie, and as I couldn't decide which recipe to choose, I decided to make a non-traditional pie instead. I liked it - a pre-baked pie crust is covered with dark chocolate ganache that hides a cup of caramelized crunchy pecans - an idea I got from a Finnish Ruokamaailma magazine. Truly chocolaty - and thus a 10-inch cake easily feeds a dozen!

Chocolate Pecan Pie
Serves 10-12

100 g unsalted butter, softened
85 g caster sugar (100 ml)
200 g all-purpose/plain flour
1 large egg
a pinch of salt

For praline:
100 g pecans, very coarsley chopped
4 Tbsp muscovado sugar

300 g dark chocolate
150 ml whipping cream
100 g unsalted butter, softened

Using the food processor, blend butter, flour, sugar and salt until fine crumbs form. Add the egg, pulse couple of times. Then press the dough into the base and sides of a 24 cm springform tin.
Blind bake in a preheated 200 C oven for 15-20 minutes, until the dough is baked and nicely golden brown.

For the praline, mix the sugar and nuts on a frying pan and heat on a moderate heat, until the sugar melts and sticks onto the nuts. Remove from the heat.

For the ganache, bring the cream almost to a boil. Add chopped chocolate and stir, until melted. Stir in the soft butter. Stir, until combined and uniform, then fold in the pecan praline.

Pour the ganache over pre-baked crust (decorate with some toasted pecans, if you wish). Place into a cool storage or fridge for at least 4 hours for the chocolate pecan filling to harden.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Empanada Gallega de Atun

Ever since I enjoyed my first tuna-filled Galician turnover, empanada gallega, on a hillside picnic about an hour's drive from Madrid last Spring - in a lovely company of Ximena and her hubby J - I've been wanting to make these at home. I have been waiting for Ximena's special recipe to appear on Lobstersquad (soon!), but meanwhile I came up with this version of the famous Spanish pastry. I must admit I was thoroughly satisfied with the result - and I hope that my Spanish friends approve.

Basically, it's a yeast pastry (tinged slightly red with the help of the very special and wonderful smoked Spanish paprika powder, Pimentón de la Vera) that's encasing a moist and flavoursome tuna, egg and tomato filling. Although we had small turnovers on that memorable hillside picnic - empanadillas gallegas - then it's more traditional to make one large pie that's cut into wedges.

Empanada Gallega de Atun or Galician Tuna Pie
(Galiitsia tuunikalapirukas)
Serves six to eight

Yeast pastry:
500 g plain flour
300 ml warm water (42 C)
100 g olive oil
1 sachet of active dry yeast
1 tsp smoked mild Spanish paprika (Pimentón de la Vera, dulce)
1 tsp salt

2 cans of tuna chunks in brine (a 200 g), drained and flaked
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
200 g chopped tomatoes (half a regular can)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
a handful of chopped fresh parsley
salt, black pepper and smoked paprika powder, to taste

For brushing:

First, prepare the yeast dough. Mix flour, active dry yeast, paprika powder and salt in the mixing bowl. Stir in the water and oil and mix and knead until a uniform ball forms. (I use my KA mixer for this). Cover with clingfilm or a clean kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.
For the filling, you start with sofrito. Heat olive oil on a sauté pan, add onion and bell pepper and sauté for a few minutes. Add garlic, sauté for another few minutes. Then add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. Simmer on a low heat for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the sauce has thickened a little.
Season with smoked paprika powder, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in drained and flaked tuna, chopped hard-boiled eggs and parsley.
Divide the yeast pastry into two more or less equal pieces. Dust your worktop with some flour and using the rolling pin, roll one piece into a large circle, about 5 mm thick. Transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Spread the tuna, egg and tomato filling on top, leaving about 2 cm edge.
Roll out the other half of the pastry, place that over the filling. Crimp the edges together (see below).
Using a sharp small knife, cut couple of "breathing holes" on top of the pastry.
Brush with a whisked egg.
Bake in the middle of pre-heated 200 C oven for about 30 minutes, until the empanada is lovely golden brown on top.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little before cutting into wedges and serving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Easy Canapés: Medjool Dates with Goat's Cheese

Here's another canapé idea that I brought back from London. Simple, yes, but with good creamy'n'tangy goat's cheese and soft'n'sweet Medjool dates it's an excellent combination. Although dried dates can hardly be called seasonal, then there's something very Christmassy in them, in my opinion, so this would be an excellent hors d'oeuvre with a mug of hot mulled wine or glögg between now and Christmas.

Medjool dates stuffed with goat's cheese
(Kitsejuustuga täidetud datlid)
Makes 12

12 large soft Medjool dates*
100 g creamy and tangy goat's cheese
couple of sprigs of fresh thyme

Using a small knife, carefully make a slit into each date and remove the stone.
Cut the goat cheese into 12 disks and insert a piece of cheese into each date.
Place on a serving tray, garnish with fresh thyme and serve.

* I haven't seen Medjool dates anywhere in Estonia, so I bought couple of packets in London. You could use the dried dates available here, but these are about 3 times smaller than Medjool dates and nowhere near as soft.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Easy Canapés: Salmon Appetizers with Lemon Pepper

We spent a long weekend in London in the beginning of November, mixing work with some pleasure. The latter part included spending two full days with the always lovely Johanna and her family in Kingston. Johanna is the Queen of Canapeś, and I used the opportunity to browse through her library of canapé and fingerfood and appetisers cookbooks, looking for simple and delicious ideas I could manage myself. We're likely to host a number of festive buffets over the next few weeks, so I could do with an extra idea or two.

Here's one super-simple canapé idea that I served to a bunch of my girlfriends last Sunday. You need good-quality smoked salmon for this, as the salmon is served almost au naturel. I spotted this in Canapeś (sold as Hors d'Oeuvres in the US). You need small cocktail sticks for this appetizer.

Smoked Salmon Canapés with Lemon Pepper
(Suitsulõhesuupisted "sidrunipipraga")
Serves a dozen

100 g smoked salmon*
half a lemon, preferably organic
freshly ground black pepper

If necessary, cut salmon slices into thin, long strips (about an inch wide). Weave each slice onto a cocktail stick, as seen on the photo above. Place on a serving tray.
Wash and dry the lemon thoroughly, then grate generously some lemon peel/lemon zest over the salmon slices.
Finally, season with black pepper.
Serve at once or cover with clingfilm and keep in the freezer until needed. Let the appetizers come back to the room temperature before serving, as the flavour of the fish is better when not cold.

* I used "Saare Hõbe" cold smoked salmon strips from Ösel Fish.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe

My dear K. celebrated his umpteenth birthday last Friday. He wondered if I'd bake him a cake that he could take along and share with his colleagues during the day. At first he asked me to bake my Manhattan cheesecake, but then we remembered how much his colleagues had enjoyed a dense chocolate and lingonberry cake I made few weeks ago, and decided to try a chocolate cheesecake instead. The recipe below is based on a chocolate cheesecake recipe published in the November issue of Food & Travel, but I've changed the base completely, as trust me, there is such thing as too much chocolate :)

It was delicious, very rich and dense. It's rather sweet, so you should serve this with some nice raspberries or perhaps a generous spoonful of spicy crab-apple marmalade (on the photo) to counter-balance the sweetness a bit.

Chocolate Cheesecake
Serves 10 to 12

Crumb base:
175 g Digestive biscuits
2 Tbsp cacao powder
75 g butter, melted

4 large eggs
100 g sugar
800 g full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature!
1 tsp vanilla extract
200 g dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids)

Process the cookies until fine crumbs, mix with cocoa powder and melted butter. Press onto the base of a lined 26 cm springform tin.
Cut the chocolate into small pieces, then melt in a bowl set over a barely simmering water, until chocolate is melted (stir every now and then). Cool a little.
Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and pale foam forms. Then add the soft cream cheese, vanilla extract and finally stir in the melted chocolate. Stir, until combined, then pour over the crumb base.
Bake in a prehreated 160 C oven for one hour, until set.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely before serving.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving in Estonia: baking a pumpkin pie without Crisco and canned pumpkin

A selection of pumpkins at Tallinn Central Market, September 2007

Last week I got an email from a young American women who had recently moved to a small town in South-West Estonia. She wants to host a Thanksgiving dinner to her family and local friends, but didn't know where to get a whole turkey (not the most popular poultry bird here in Estonia) nor did she had a recipe for pumpkin pie that didn't use canned pumpkin and Crisco. I promised to post a recipe for an "Estonian" version of the American pumpkin pie, using the widely available yellow pumpkin, just like the one pictured above on the left.

This is for you, Laura W. :)

Pumpkin Pie
(Ameerika kõrvitsapirukas)
Serves 10

For the pie crust:
175 g plain flour
2 Tbsp sugar
125 g butter
1 egg yolk

300 g coarsely chopped yellow pumpkin
2 eggs
175 g caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
a pinch of salt
2 Tbsp plain flour
200 ml whipping cream (35%)

For serving:
whipped cream and cinnamon

Make the pie crust first, by mixing flour, sugar and butter with a knife until crumbs for. Add egg yolk and knead until the pastry forms a ball. Line a 24-26 cm pie dish with the pastry (either rolling the pastry and transferring to the pie dish, or simply pressing it into the dish with your fingers). Place to the fridge for 30 minutes to relax.
Place cubed pumpkin into a small saucepan, pour over enough water just to cover. Add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft. Drain thoroughly!!! Cool a little, then pureé with a blender.
Whisk the eggs slightly, then mix with cooled pumpkin alongside with other ingredients.
Pour the filling onto the pie crust.
Bake in the lower part of a 200 C / 400 F oven for 40-50 minutes, until the filling is golden brown and almost set.
Cool completely before serving with some whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Salmon Confit Recipe

Salmon confit / Aeglaselt küpsetatud lõhe

Looking for a new way of preparing salmon?

I (and several other Estonian foodbloggers) have discovered a delightful recipe from the 7th issue of the always beautiful and inspirational Finnish food magazine, Glorian Ruoka & Viini (Gloria's Food and Wine). Whereas confit, the old French cooking and preserving method, usually describes food (traditionally goose, duck or pork) that has been salted and then slowly cooked in its own fat, then here's it's a fillet of salmon that has been cured in a sea salt mixture and then slowly cooked in olive oil. The resulting dish is dark opaque pink, extremely moist and delicious both hot or cold. In the magazine, the salmon was served cold on a bed of lentil salad. We enjoyed it both hot and cold, simply with some good home-made mayo.

Salmon Confit
(Aeglaselt küpsetatud lõhefilee)
Serves 4

Salmon confit / Madalal temperatuuril küpsetatud lõhe sidruniga

500 g salmon filet

Salt cure:
2 Tbsp flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)
1 tsp caster sugar
0.25 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the confit:
2 organic lemons, thinly sliced
250-300 ml olive oil

Mix sea salt, sugar and pepper and spread over the fish fillet. Cover with clingfilm and leave to season in a fridge or cool place for up to 3 hours.
Wipe off the salt mixture, and place the cleaned fish fillet into a small oven dish, where it fits snugly (the better the fit, the less olive oil you need).
Layer lemon slices over the fish, then drizzle enough olive oil on top, just to cover the fish.
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the fish fillet.
Cook in a pre-heated 75 C / 167 F oven for about 40 minutes, until the internal temperature reads 38 C / 100 F.
Remove the fish from the oven, cool until it's reached the room temperature. Serve at once or cool completely in the fridge.

Salmon confit / Madalal temperatuuril küpsetatud lõhe sidruniga

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Banana muffins with pecan nuts

Banana muffin / Banaanimuffin

Have you ever bought a bunch of bananas that, well, just don't taste right?

This happened to me last week. I had bought a small bunch from a local supermarket, so I could give some to our daughter and eat some as a quick afternoon snack. However, these tasted extremely bland, somewhat mushy and rather floury, and were just left hanging in the kitchen. Still, I didn't want to throw them away, so I compared some of my muffin recipes and banana bread recipes, and ended up making these banana muffins. Surprisingly, these tasted really well, so I'll keep that recipe on hand for next time I need to get rid of some bananas and want to eat some muffins.

I used pecans, but walnuts would work just as well (for the fraction of the cost)!

Banana Muffins with Pecans or Walnuts
Makes 12

3 medium-sized ripe bananas, peeled
2 large eggs
175 g plain/all-purpose flour
100 g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract or sugar
a pinch of salt
100 g unsalted butter, melted
50 g pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped

Mash bananas in a large bowl with a fork. Stir in the eggs.
Measure flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and vanilla sugar into another bowl, stir and then add to the banana mixture together with cooled melted butter.
Fold in the chopped nuts and stir until just combined - DO NOT OVER-STIR!
Divide into lined medium-sized muffin cups.
Bake in a pre-heated 200 C / 400 F oven for about 20 minutes, until muffins are golden brown on top and cooked.
Transfer to a metal rack to cool.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Estonian Milk Soup with Pasta Shapes

Pasta and milk soup / Makaroni-piimasupp

This week is school holidays in Estonia, and my 10-year-old nephew stayed with us for a few days. We went for walks, swimming at the local swimming pool, did some homework together, he spent hours entertaining our little daughter. Of course, we also cooked and ate food together (nachos, enchiladas, quesadillas and other food with high kid appeal). Our last meal together was lunch on Wednesday and I offered to cook him something special. His request: makaroni-piimasupp or pasta and milk soup. I was baffled - I hadn't had that humble soup for almost two decades and I didn't think today's kids eat it. I was proven wrong :)

Furthermore, I had no intentions to blog about this particular milk soup and didn't focus too much on getting a good picture. But then somebody saw the picture in Flickr and asked for the recipe, so here you go after all...

Although the soup has some sugar in it, it's more of a "savoury" soup, served as a meal on its own, preferably with some ham sandwiches on the side.

Estonian Milk Soup with Pasta Shapes
Serves 4

500 ml water (2 cups)
1 tsp salt
100 g short pasta (1 cup)
750 ml full-fat milk (3 cups)
a generous pinch of sugar
1 Tbsp butter

Bring water to the vigorous boil, add salt and pasta shapes. Reduce heat to simmering, then boil for 5-7 minutes, until pasta is al dente.
Pour in the milk, give it all a stir and boil for another few minutes, until pasta is fully cooked.
Season with a pinch of sugar and some more salt, if you wish. Stir in the butter and serve.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Elderflower curd recipe

Elderflower curd on home-made white bread.

Anyone else 'out there' who likes to smear some lemon curd on toast or spoon some of the yellow goodness over their breakfast yogurt?? I've made more batches of lemon curd over the last few months than I care to remember, all because K. LOVES it. He can eat some straight from the jar (his excuse is that he doesn't want to waste any yogurt or bread!). He also loves elderflower cordial, so I thought to combine these two and make elderflower curd for this weekend. I used my regular lemon curd recipe, just substituting lemon juice with undiluted elderflower cordial, and as the latter is sweetened, I reduced the amount of sugar by one third.

We loved the creamy and floral-scented result. So much so that there's not much left for the weekend. I better whip up another batch soon.

If it's lemon curd you're after, check out Meeta's extensive post about making lemon curd or Ilva's rosemary twist on the classic.

Elderflower Curd
Serves 4 to 6

3 large eggs
100 g caster sugar
100 ml elderflower cordial/syrup
100 g unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Put the bowl in a pan of boiling water or a bain-marie and stir until it has thickened.

You need a small saucepan and a medium-sized bowl that fits over the saucepan.
Pour about 2-3 cm / an inch of water into the saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl until combined, then whisk in the elderflower cordial.
Place the bowl over the pan of boiling waterand cook, stirring regularly with a small whisk, until the mixture thickens. (DO NOT BOIL, or the curd, well curdles :)) This may take about 7-10 minutes (you can test for doneness with a wooden spoon - if the curd coats the back of the spoon, it's ready).
Remove from the heat and let it cool a little (to about 62-63 C). Then add the cubed butter and stir, until the butter has blended with the rest of the ingredients.
Pour into a small jar or a bowl, and cool before serving.

Leedrisiirupit müüakse mahepoodides ja pealinnas ka nt NOP-poes.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lingonberry cheesecake

If you're stuck for lingonberry recipe ideas, then let me suggest you this creamy lingonberry cheesecake. A friend of mine came over for a coffee about a fortnight ago, bringing me a large tub of lingonberries she had picked herself. Although I've got some good stand-by lingonberry cake recipes (some of them here on the blog: lingonberry and chocolate cake, Swedish lingonberry cake), I wanted to try something new and different. Using my regular cheesecake filling, I came up with this lingonberry cheesecake recipe.

As all cheesecakes, this is best made a day before you want to serve it, so it is completely cool and set.

Lingonberry cheesecake
Serves 6 to 8

100 g butter, softened
85 g caster sugar (100 ml)
1 large egg
175 g plain flour (300 ml)
0.5 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt

450 g full-fat cream cheese (1 pound)
85 g caster sugar (100 ml)
2 large eggs
0.5 tsp vanilla extract
finely grated zest of half a lime

100 g lingonberries (about 1 cup)

First, prepare the pastry. Cream butter and sugar. Mix the dry ingredients, then mix into the butter mixture together with egg. Press the pastry onto the base and sides of a buttered 26 cm springform tin. Put into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Prepare the filling: Mix all ingredients - if you wish, you can use an electric mixer for that (though stirring thoroughly with a wooden spoon does the job as well, as long as the cream cheese and eggs are at room temperature). Pour into the pastry base.

Scatter the lingonberries on top.

Bake in a pre-heated 180 C /350 F oven for 30-35 minutes, until the filling is almost set and the cake is light golden brown on top.

Let cool completely before trasnferring onto the serving plate.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Japanese dinner party

Back in mid-July we had a small Japanese dinner party at our place, attended by some of our Estonian friends and an American couple residing in Tallinn, nine adults in total.

We had a mix of Japanese dishes - no sushi, however - and everybody seemed to like the food. Somehow I never got around to sharing the photos from that night until now. I do not intend to blog about each and every dish on the table that night - I am no expert in Japanese cooking, and there are many bloggers out there who'd have much more authentic recipes to share - but if there's a particular dish that interests you, let me know in the comments.

Japanese dinner party / Jaapani pidusöök

We tried to have five different colours on the table - black/purple, white, red/orange, yellow and green; as well as five cooking methods (boiling, grilling, deep-frying, steaming and raw); and five flavours (sweet, salty, spicy, sour, bitter). Below is a "photo reportage" of the dishes we served and enjoyed that night.

A selection of Japanese crackers, sent over from Tokyo by my friend Ryoko.

Spanish mackerel sashimi with dried miso from Nobu Matsuhisa & Mark Edwards' book NOBU WEST:

Nasu dengaku or grilled aubergine/eggplant slices with miso paste and sesame seeds. I used a mix of hacho-miso and shiro-miso, and this dish was one of my favourites! It's impossible to get thin Japanese aubergines/eggplants here in Estonia, so I used a regular purple aubergine. (If I can get hold of seeds for the Japanese aubergines, I might try growing them in my new greenhouse next year :))

I couldn't get frozen edamame pods any more, only shelled ones. So instead of serving steamed edamame pods, I boiled some soy beans, drained them and dressed them with some ume plum vinegar, soy sauce and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds:

Chicken and leek yakitori skewers, a popular and well-known Japanese dish:

Another Japanese classic, tempura. We battered and deep-fried fresh chantarelles, sugarsnap pea pods and calamari rings:

Pieces of salmon marinating in teriyaki sauce. Home-made, of course!

The curiosity dessert :) I wanted to make something with matcha, the green tea powder. Matcha ice cream would have been an obvious choice, but I already had some home-made cherry ice cream sitting in the freezer. Instead I made matcha jelly, served with red azuki bean paste, from Harumi Kurihara's "Harumi's Japanese Cooking". It was definitely, umm, interesting. Not bad, but the taste and texture were really unusual, and best served in very small portions to the Estonian (and American) palate. Massimo, the 11-month old son of our American guests, really enjoyed the bitter-sweet concoction, however.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Time for soup: lentil and coconut soup

Proper autumn has come somewhat suddenly this year. I've got vague memories of enjoying the warm autumn sun and a cup of coffee on our newly installed patio only recently. But that's all history now - the winds are really chilly and strong, there's hardly been a day without rain during the last week or so. We've turned on the heating indoors and I'm wrapping our daughter into several layers whenever we're going outdoors. It's been already snowing in the south of Estonia, and we've had night frosts as well. Winter's soon here...

Which means it's a perfect time for filling and chunky soups that heat both your heart and your body. Here's something I made for dinner just few days ago.

Lentil and Coconut Soup
(Läätsesupp kookospiimaga)
Serves 4

2 cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp turmeric
200 g red lentils ("Egyptian lentils"), rinsed and drained
500 ml (half a litre or two cups) hot vegetable stock
400 g can crushed tomatoes
250 ml (one cup) coconut milk
fresh coriander/cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan, add ginger, onion and garlic and fry on a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring regularly. Do not burn!
Add turmeric, hot stock, tomatoes and rinsed lentils. Give it a stir, bring into a boil. Then reduce heat, cover the saucepan partially with a lid, and simmer on a low heat for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft.
Stir in the coconut milk, heat through.
To serve, divide into soup bowl and garnish with a coriander leaf.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Roasted Peaches with Basil Butter

I've briefly mentioned this dish before on Nami-Nami, but as I only now have a decent photo of the dish, I'm writing about it again. Hope you don't mind :)

I got the recipe from Shauna's blog back in the summer of 2005, just months into my food blogging. The original recipe is from The New York Times. I made it couple of times back then, and have been making it again and again. Roasting peaches makes them much sweeter and softer - a blessing when you can only buy long-haul fruit that have been picked way too early. The good thing, you see, is that you can successfully make this dish with slightly underripe fruit as well..

Roasted Peaches with Basil Butter
(Küpsetatud virsikud basiilikuvõiga)

fresh basil leaves
brown sugar

Halve the peaches and remove the stone (you may wish to hollow out the centre to fit the filling better, but I must admit I've never bothered with it). Place the peaches on an oven dish, cut-side up. Tear some basil leaves into smaller pieces and place onto the "holes", alongside with a generous pinch of brown sugar, and a small piece of butter (say, half a tsp per peach half). Dust with cinnamon.

Bake in the middle of a preheated 200 C / 400 F oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the peaches are soft and the topping slightly caramelised.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of softly whipped cream.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fig and Goat Cheese Clafoutis

I'm still taking full advantage of the availability of good quality fresh figs at the markets at the moment. The figs are from Turkey, with dark purplish skin and beautifully pink insides. I've got no idea what's the actualy name of the specific fig variety. They're a bit too plump and round for Black Mission. Perhaps Brown Turkey?

One of the fig recipes I had bookmarked already three years ago was Melissa's Fig and Goat Cheese Clafoutis, and I was excited to finally try this at home. I can testify that it's a wonderful clafoutis recipe - the tart creamy goat cheese indeed made it taste a bit like cheesecake, it had a lovely clafoutis conistency, and it looked absolutely amazing. We enjoyed it when still slightly warm, and I think that's when the clafoutis is at its best, but it tasted also good when completely cool.

Do try it, if you've got a chance.

See here for the Estonian recipe: Viigimarjavorm kitsejuustuga.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chokeberry aka Black Aronia and Kephir Smoothie Recipe

It's official. Black aronia berries aka black chokeberries are the newest superfood. These beautiful black berries apparently have the highest concentration of useful flavonoids and antioxidants of any known natural food product. They're also rich in vitamins B2, B6, E, C and folic acid. I see articles praising Aronia melanocarpa e v e r y w h e r e!!

The berries have been grown in hedgerows in Estonia for decades. The most common use for the berries is in cordial, but I've made apple and black aronia jam couple of times as well. While most people find raw aronia berries a wee bit too astringent and tart, then I like nibbling on them. Luckily, there are lots of black aronia hedgerows bordering the streets in the suburb where I live. I get a healthy dose of these on my daily walks with the baby, as I pick a berry from here, and another one from there :)

We've just planted couple of chokeberry bushes into our new garden, and the berries I used for this super-healthy smoothie were from these bushes.

Chokeberry and Kephir Smoothie
Serves 1

1 ripe banana, peeled
handful of chokeberries/black aronia berries
250 g (1 cup) kephir
honey or agave nectar, to taste
a squeeze or two of lemon juice

Place banana chunks, berries and kephir into a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Sweeten with honey or agave nectar, and season with lemon juice.
Serve at once.

Other recipes using chokeberries/black aronia berries:
Black aronia muffins

Monday, September 21, 2009

Forageing for cloudberries, pictures

Early last month I shared a picture of our cloudberry bounty. This weekend K's mum gave us some photos of that forageing trip, and I thought you might want to see how it works with a baby on your back.

Oh, did you spot our daughter on the first picture? :)

Here's a better view:

She's just over 6 months on the photos here, weighing 7.5 kilograms. But we managed, as she spent half of the time on my back, half of the time on her dad's back.

Forageing for cloudberries and wild mushrooms / Murakaid ja seeni korjamas

Photos are taken on August 2, 2009, in a bog in Rapla county, Estonia.