Thursday, October 20, 2005
An Estonian friend of a very good Estonian friend of mine is visiting, and as my Turkish flatmate already has some Turkish friends staying in our guest room, this Estonian friend is staying with another Estonian friend who lives just around the corner (got that?:) But I’m in charge of cooking the dinner for a few nights. Not that I mind obviously...
On Monday night the theme was ‘cooking Estonian but not only'. I picked up some mushrooms (sadly cultivated, as chantarelles or any other wild mushrooms are hard to come by in Edinburgh), organic beef mince, a cone shaped cabbage (‘sweetheart cabbage’ – a novelty for me) and some Dolcelatte cheese. And after pretty much minimal effort I ended up with three delicious dishes.
For starters, I peeled the mushrooms, removed the stalks (see the above banner), covered with a piece of blue cheese and grilled them in the oven. I served these with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Putting them on top of some panfried German rye bread ('Mischbrot' that I bought in Göttingen) provided a nice contrast of textures. This was the non-Estonian bit.
Now to the Estonian bit. For the mains I cooked a cabbage roll. Cabbage rolls are beloved autumnal and winter dish back home, but I didn’t feel like stuffing individual cabbage leaves, so I cheated. Again. I mixed the mince, finely chopped onion, crushed Finn Crisp bread (I had no breadcrumbs in the house), an egg, chopped mushroom stalks (my addition), salt, and slightly simmered shredded Sweetheart cabbage. I formed this into a fat sausage and baked in the oven until dark golden brown.
Ingredients for the cabbage roll:
400 grams of mince (pork is traditional, though I used organic beef)
a small head of (sweetheart) cabbage
1 chopped onion
handful of breadcrumbs or 1-2 slices of soaked bread
salt and pepper
This cheat’s cabbage roll was served with some boiled Charlotte potatoes, which I tossed in butter, sprinkled with Maldon salt and put into the oven for another 5 minutes.
And everyone could help themselves to some chopped cucumber, grated turnip and sour cream.
Again a lovely night 'eating and drinking (in) Estonian', with some nice food and wine (Torres Sangre de Toro 2003 and The Wolftrap 2004) and another very exciting episode of Without a Trace.
And finally: I had started a bread dough before the dinner, planning to make some delicious Estonian pastries with loads of butter. But somehow the yeast dough didn’t look like it’s gonna like being layered with butter and rolled over and over again like puff pastry. So I rolled it out rather thickly, crumbled the rest of Dolcelatte on top, added a sprinkling of parsley, rolled it up and baked at 230˚C until golden. Delicious as a late night nibble, and perfect as a take along lunch at the office (it was nicely soft and inviting on the following day as well)...
So I planned to make something sweet and Estonian, but ended up with something savoury and Italian-ish. Nevertheless, I was especially pleased with this bread, as I modified the recipe to a great degree and turned it into something nice and 'mine'. Quite an achievement, considering that I usually tend to follow recipes quite closely...