Sunday, April 16, 2006
When most Brits were busy buying chocolate eggs - apparently a mind-blowing 80 million chocolate eggs were to be eaten during Easter alone, then Estonians were having troubles buying chicken eggs. You see, whereas people prefer brown chicken eggs most of the time, then this week they wanted them white - so they could be painted bright and colourful for the Easter table. And white eggs were nowhere to be found.. If only the chicken knew and act accordingly!
In addition to colourful Easter eggs (the chicken, not the chocolate kind), another dish on Estonian tables this weekend is paskha - or "pasha" - the sweet curd cheese dessert originating in Russia. Here is my version, originally from the Finnish Pirkka-lehti, that I've adapted and tweaked a bit over the last few years. The main divergence from the original is the omission of the egg (and I can't see a difference in texture or taste), and replacing the almonds and raisins with pistachios and dried cranberries (or "craisins"). I know that orange-cranberry-pistachio work well together tastewise. But these three make the pashka so much more colourful, almost like it's been studded with ruby and emerald jewels! If you don't have access to curd cheese, then a mixture of ricotta and quark will work just as well.
Paskha, my way
100 g of butter, softened
85 g golden caster sugar
400 gr curd cheese
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
100 ml blanched pistachios*, roughly chopped
100 g dried organic cranberries
100 g candied orange peel, chopped
200 ml whipping or double cream, whipped
blanched and finely chopped pistachios
Cream the soft butter with sugar until light and fluffy - best done with an electric mixer. Soften the curd cheese with a wooden spoon, then add to the butter and sugar mixture and combine.
Add the cranberries, pistachios, candied orange peel, vanilla and juiced lemon, mix to combine. Finally fold in the whipped cream.
There is a special mould for making paskha, but an ordinary colander (on the right) or coeur a la crème moulds (above) can be used as well - just line them with a moist cheesecloth/muslin beforehand. Pour the paskha mixture into the mould, cover with a suitably sized plate for an extra pressure and put onto a tray (to catch any liquid).
Put into a fridge for overnight.
To serve, flip the paskha onto a plate, remove the cheesecloth and decorate.
Serve and enjoy.
* To blanch pistachios, just cover them with boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain and rub off the skins.