Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Estonian egg & smoked ham sauce (Muna-pekikaste)

UPDATE 10.8.2007 - you can read Andrew's saucy sauce round-up here.

For the seventh (already??) installment of Waiter, there is something in my ... foodblogging event, Andrew has chosen SAUCE as the theme. And there's a catch, you see. Andrew wrote:

"A wide open theme I hope you agree. Plenty of room for experimentation, family favourites and the tried and tested. You can use fruit. You can use meat. You can serve it over meringue or pasta or even splash it over a chunk of juicy steak. They can be tart and fruity or mellow and creamy. It can be ethnically Estonian or lip-smackingly Kiwi; 'Sauces' - versatile and delicious. What can you come up with?"

You see, he has specifically mentioned that the sauce can be ethnically Estonian. How could I be expected to make anything else then? I mean, coming up with a delicious Caribbean rum sauce or a classic French velouté would be bound to disappoint Andrew, don't you think? I therefore present you with a truly 'ethnically Estonian sauce' - munakaste. Munakaste translates egg sauce, it reminds me of very smooth and fluffy scrambled eggs. It is usually served with boiled new potatoes and rye bread. Although I remember eating it a lot as a kid, there has been a certain absence of it from my kitchen for the last few (oh well, maybe even ten?) years. And suddenly, out of the blue, I had started developing cravings for this eggy sauce. In mid-June I had some delicious munakaste at my high-school reunion weekend away (15 years!?), and when I saw Andrew's WTISIM call, I knew this is gonna be my entry.

Easier said than done. I couldn't find a suitable recipe for Estonian egg sauce it in any of my cookbooks - and there's many of them! I guess a sauce consisting off eggs and smoked greasy bacon isn't trendy at the moment, and it clashes with some healthy eating guidelines (one recipe for munakaste stated that 'obviously modern women use oil as a basis of the sauce and not smoked fatty ham', which totally misses the point, as it's the smoked ham that gives a wonderful flavour to the sauce). Eventually I called my maternal grandma Senta, who at the respectable age of 86 is a living proof that a diet consisting of frequent munakaste cannot be too bad for you (at least when combined with hard farm labour). This is her version, and mine from now on.

And I hope it's ethnically Estonian enough for Andrew :-)

My grandma Senta's egg & smoked ham sauce
Serves 2

1 heaped Tbsp plain flour
2 large eggs
300 ml milk
a pinch of salt
200 grams smoked & salted ham (see here), cut into small cubes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
chopped scallions/green onions

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and flour into a paste. Then add milk, little by little, whisking all the time. Season with salt.
Heat a frying pan or a small non-stick saucepan on a medium-high heat and add the cubed ham. Fry, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes, until the ham starts to brown and release plenty of grease. Now reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and saute them with ham cubes for about 5 minutes.
Now pour the egg and milk mixture into the saucepan and start stirring the sauce with a wooden spoon, waiting for the sauce to thicken - this could take up to five minutes. It's important to stir all the time, or you'll end up with scrambled eggs, which isn't the same thing at all!
When ready to serve, sprinkle with chopped green onions.
And serve with boiled new potatoes and rye bread, as I said above.

Here are links to my previous Waiter there is something in my ... entries:
June 2007 (DUMPLINGS): Vareniki dumplings with curd cheese filling, served with home-made apricot jam & pistachios.
May 2007 (STUFFED VEGETABLES): Stuffed tomatoes with two types of salad - cod liver salad & cucumber and wild garlic salad.
April 2007 (BREAD): a traditional Estonian quick mushroom bread, Seenekarask.
March 2007 (EASTER BASKET): a selection of various Easter delights.
February 2007 (PIE): a great Russian puff pastry and fish pie, Salmon Kulebyaka.
January 2007 (STEW): my version (in collaboration with Anthony Bourdain:) of the French classic Boeuf Bourguignon.

Two years ago I wrote about an essential Scottish dessert - Cranachan. Considering that raspberries are in season at the moment in many parts of the world, then this recipe is definitely worth checking out! And who wouldn't like a combination of raspberries, cream and whisky? There's even a delicious porridge version of Cranachan.


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Most excellent. How wonderful that none of your books had a recipe . . . seems so much more special that it came from your grandmother!

Andrew said...

certainly passes muster! :-)

katiez said...

Sounds wonderful!
My mother always had a jar of bacon grease sitting on the stove (of fridge in summer) for frying... amazing, isn't it!

Alanna said...

Love love love food without pretensions ...

Wendy said...

Great post. Imagine this would be amazingly good with dark rye bread. Off to Sweden and Finland later this month. Will be bring home bags of rye bread and will try this out then!

Paz said...

As usual your dish looks delicious. I like the topping of the scallions. It seems to complete the sauce recipe.


K & S said...

looks and sounds delicious!

Pene said...

Looks like a good "comfort food" recipe to keep in mind, Pille. I might even surprise my MIL with this when she stays with us in September.

lobstersquad said...

that will be one to try when it´s a little bit colder. I think it´s a winner recipe for the Th.

joey said...

Ethnically Estonian dishes are always a pleasure for me to see here! And bookmark of course ;) This one is certainly no different...it sounds so delicious Pille! My mouth is watering seriously! Can't wait to try it on some boiled potatoes!

deinin said...

Oh, fabulous! We have munakastike in Finland, too, but that's made with chopped hard-boiled eggs and generally served with fish. I must say yours looks more appealing ;)

Maninas: Food Maters said...

yum! some things are so simple, and so good!

Evelin said...

Ma vist ei ole ikka eestlane. Munakastet pole mina küll elu sees kodus saanud ja kui see ühes kastmete retseptiraamatus ette tuli, sain kodus kommentaari, et 'kes kartulite peale veel sellist kastet tahaks?'
No tegelikult...mina. Kuigi vanaema kokakunstiga meenub hoopis tema lihtsalt suurepärane lihtne hele jahukaste. Kuidas sellist asja tehakse? Ilma pikaajalise kogemuse, hunniku armastuse ja puupliidita vist ei saa...

benas said...

My Grandmother makes the same exact recipe! It's one of my favorite comfort foods... I can remember countless summer mornings eating this outside for breakfast at our cottage in the Lithuanian countryside. Last time when she flew to the US to visit us, my Grandmother showed me how to make it... she also said that it's an old way to "save" eggs. Still, I actually prefer it scrambled eggs... :)

Thredahlia said...

Ehhh, jälle ma loen tühja kõhuga :P
Mulle tegi munakastet vanavanaema ja ilus mälestus on see tõesti. Ma täpselt ei teagi, miks ma ise selle peale tulnud pole (retseptita olen muidugi ka).
Panen kõrva taha ja teen sügisel järgi :)

Pille said...

Tanna - it is more special, isn't it!?

Andrew - what a relief!!

Katie - bacon yields a wonderful flavour to this sauce. That's why I'd never make this with oil. I could just make scrambled eggs then, but that's a different dish altogether!

Alanna - this one was definitely a winner. I don't think K. had had it for about 30 years, and he really appreciated it!

Wendy - we ate it with new potatoes and dark rye bread. Home-made, of course..

Paz - yep, my grandma said it must be green onions and not much more elegant chives:)

K&S - thank you!

Pene - she might like it! And don't forget a kama dessert!

Ximena - it'd be nice on a cold day, but it was also great on new potatoes (alias on a warm day:)

Joey - you're so sweet!

Deinin - oh, we've got that munakaste as well!

Maninas - indeed!

Evelin - no mina sain küll seda lapsepõlves sageli, aga ma olen Sinust kaks korda vanem ka :) Tavaline jahukaste ei meeldi mulle pooltki nii palju, nii et selles osas Sind aidata hetkel ei saa..

Benas - I can imagine that Latvians and Lithuanians have something similar. Thanks for popping by:)

Thredahlia - no ei tohi tühja kõhuga toidublogisid lugeda!!! Ja praeguste ilmade korral küll munakastmega sügiseni ei pea ootama :)

Jeanne said...

Oh wow!! I think I gotta get myself to Estonia soon, if that's what I can hope to eat :) That sounds absolutely fantastic - especially since I'm the official cholesterol queen... And if I ever revive EoMEoTE, this would be the perfect entry :o)