Friday, August 31, 2007

Emma Leppermann plums, and a good old-fashioned plum cake

For weeks, K. has been asking me to check if they already sell Emma Leppermann plums at the market. These are his favourites, and also some of the best-loved plums in Estonia - juicy, flavoursome, sweet & tangy, large and pretty, round and yellow-pink (see picture here). (The cultivar was developed by a German gardener W. Leppermann back in 1897, and he named the tree after his wife; if you read Danish, then you can read more here and here:)

Last Saturday morning we headed to the market again to stock up on various fruit and vegetables. We were due to visit my parents afterwards, and knowing that their garden has a lot to offer - my mum's got a really green thumb - I asked my mum what any good daughter would: 'Mom, we're coming over for a cup of coffee later. Have you got anything in the garden for us?' She said she's got some plums and two 'zucchinis'. I made a mental note of that (some plums, two supersized marrows), and headed to the market, where I stocked up on lots of gorgeous late summer fruit and vegetables - some pears, beets, bell peppers, leeks, onions and broad beans from the vegetable aisles, and two bottles of spicy adjika from my favourite market lady. And, rather excitedly, I spent 50 kroons (that's about £2.20 or just over $3.00) on a kilogram of K's favourite plums.

When we arrived at my parents place, I was met by a huge plum tree absolutely stuffed with ripe, juicy, delicious Emma Leppermann plums. I had never realised that she had this huge tree there (my excuse is that my parents moved into the house when I was still living in Edinburgh, and during my twice-annual visits - early summer and Christmas - aren't exactly prime plum season). My sweet mum was quite amused when I told her we had just bought those very same plums at the market. She gave us two bags, and within half an hour we had picked about 10 kilograms of the best plums on earth! That's 500 kroons worth of plums!!!

Consequently, during the last week I've eaten more plums than I can remember. I've made two different types of plum jam - one 'traditional', one with rum (yum!!). I've made a plum compote which we've eaten with whipped cream as a dessert for a few days, and neither one of us seems to be tired yet. And I baked a very simple and satisfying plum cake, which we finished between us far too quickly.

Here's the cake. The recipe is adapted from "Kirsi- ja ploomikoogid. Magustoidud" (100 Rooga, 2007), but it's pretty similar to the one my mum used to make us years ago. 'Kodune' or 'homey' is the word K. used to describe this cake. It must be a compliment of a highest sort, as he was reaching for his fourth piece when saying that..

Note the beautiful yellow shade of the cake - we're using eggs from these very happy chicken.

Plum cake
(Lihtne ploomikook)
20 pieces

500-600 grams ripe plums, washed

2 large eggs
250 grams sugar
200 ml kefir or buttermilk or yogurt
200 ml milk
125 grams butter, melted and cooled
350 grams plain flour/all-purpose flour
3.5 tsp baking powder

Halve the plums, remove the stones and cut plums into quarters.
Whisk eggs with sugar until pale and thick. Stir in kefir/buttermilk, milk and melted butter.
Mix flour with baking powder and fold into the egg mixture.
Pour into a lined 24x32 cm baking tray*, dot with plum quarters and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
Bake at 200C for about 30 minutes, until cake is golden brown and well risen (test for doneness with a sharp knife or wooden toothpick).
Cool slightly, then cut into squares.

* Our cake was 4 cm high, and that's how we like it. You could use a large baking tray, but your cake would be thinner.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I'm a Daring Baker: Eric Kayser's Milk Chocolate & Caramel Tart

Me, my cool apron and my buggert recipe notes.

My adventures as a Daring Baker continue. So far I've made Jewish Purist's Bagels, and a fancy Strawberry Mirror Cake. This month another multi-layered challenge was chosen by the hosts Veronica and Patricia - Eric Kayser's Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart. Chocolate and caramel go really well together, as far as I'm concerned, so I was pleased with the choice.

I enjoyed making this cake. The chocolate hazelnut shortbread pastry worked like a dream, and tasted heavenly. The caramel (I used the 'dry method') was easy to make, and set nicely during baking (I cooked it for 25 minutes instead of recommended 15, following advice from fellow bakers). My troubles only started when making the milk chocolate mousse. I managed to churn the first batch of whipping cream into butter (well, it was another hot summer day, so I wasn't really surprised). K. kindly - and very quickly - brought another packet of cream from a nearby store, and whipped it up into a nice thick cream himself, to which I added a cooled melted milk chocolate (I used Fazer Blue milk chocolate). The mousse was a bit thinner than I had imagined, and sure enough, refused to set even after hours in the fridge*. It tasted absolutely wonderful however - a subtle symphony of cinnamon, cocoa, caramel, chocolate - all very nice, and although sweet, then not cloyingly so. None of the 7 official cake tasters in our judging panel (me included) seemed to mind that instead of chocolate mousse the cake was covered with chocolate mousse sauce :)

Oh, and as you can see from the top photo, I managed to destroy my testing notes in the process, but I think the 'metric' recipe below is what I did:)

Whereas I wasn't so enthusiastic about the previous Daring Baker challenge,the Strawberry Mirror Cake, I would happily make this cake again without modifications. That's how delicious it was. And I'll make sure that the milk chocolate mousse behaves next time..

Click here to see a list of other Daring Bakers!

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart
Adapted from Eric Kayser's Sweet and Savory Tarts
Serves 10

Chocolate Shortbread Pastry

80 grams unsalted butter, softened
50 grams caster sugar
3 Tbsp ground hazelnuts
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1 small egg
130 grams cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
0.5 tbsp cocoa powder

On the previous day:
In a mixing bowl of a food processor, cream the butter.
Add the confectioners’ sugar, the ground hazelnuts, and the cinnamon, and mix together
Add the egg, mixing constantly
Sift in the flour, the baking powder, and the cocoa powder, and mix well.
Form a ball with the dough, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight.

On the day of the assembly:
Preheat oven to 160 °C.
Line a 26 cm loose-bottomed baking pan with the chocolate shortbread pastry and bake blind for 15 minutes.

Caramel Layer

300 g granulated sugar
250 g whipping cream (room temperature)
50 grams butter (room temperature)
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2.5 Tbsp (15 g) plain flour

In a saucepan, caramelize 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar using the dry method until it turns a golden caramel color. Incorporate the cream and then add butter. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.
In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, then incorporate the flour.
Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.
Spread it out in the tart shell and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Milk Chocolate Mousse

300 grams whipping cream
250 grams milk chocolate

Prepare the milk chocolate mousse:
Beat the whipping cream until stiff. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or in a bain-marie, and fold it gently into the whipped cream.
Pour the chocolate mousse over the cooled caramel mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

To decorate

Melt ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar in a saucepan until it reaches an amber color. Pour it onto waxed paper laid out on a flat surface. Leave to cool. Break it into small fragments and stick them lightly into the top of the tart.

* In the interest of clarity I should probably reveal that the slice on the photo is cut from a frozen piece of cake :) And just for the sake of it - the cake froze beautifully, and tasted really nice. K. actually preferred the slightly defrozen frozen version..

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Waiter, there is something in my ... roasted onions with blue cheese

Indeed. Who would have thought that the Reigning Queen of Braai, Jeanne of Cook Sister, would choose a meatless barbecue for the 8th round of Waiter, there is something in my ... foodblogging event? But meatless she chose, and I'm happy to oblige. Although we're by no means vegetarian, we don't eat much meat in our house. If faced with a rich meaty stew and a slightly lighter vegetable stew, we'd most likely opt for the later..

I decided to roast some onions. My logic was following: if my vegetable dish was to have any chances against all the roasted, grilled and barbecued meat at the braai or grilliõhtu, then it needed to be strong and bold and flavoursome. A combination of roasted onions and my current favourite blue cheese (yes, I am still raving about the Finnish Valio Aura blue cheese), and some potent herbs - thyme and savoury - would be surely shining. The onions (the white ones are famous local Peipsi sibulad or from the traditional onion-growing areas alongside Lake Peipus, the fifth-largest lake in Europe) sweeten up while roasting, nicely complemented by the potent cheese. I used thyme for red onions and savory for white onions, but I don't think there're hard rules for that..


Roasted onions with blue cheese
(Röstitud sibulad sinihallitusjuustuga)

Onions, medium-sized
Blue cheese (I used Valio Aura)
Fresh thyme or savory

Peel the onions, cut off a small slice from the top & bottom and then cut in half cross-wise. Place onion halves on a piece of foil, cover with a slice of blue cheese and some herbs.
Fold into parcels, so the steam wouldn't escape, and cook on your BBQ for about 20-25 minutes, until onions are softened and cheese melted.
Alternatively, roast in a very hot oven (say 250 C) instead.

Serve as an accompaniment to grilled meat, or on its own with chunks of good bread.

Here are links to my previous Waiter there is something in my ... entries:
July 2008 (SAUCES):
Munakaste alias my grandma Senta's egg & smoked ham sauce.
June 2007 (DUMPLINGS):
Vareniki dumplings with curd cheese filling, served with home-made apricot jam & pistachios.
Stuffed tomatoes with two types of salad - cod liver salad & cucumber and wild garlic salad.
April 2007 (BREAD): a traditional Estonian quick mushroom bread,
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.

Monday, August 27, 2007

As American As ... Nigella Lawson's Rum-soaked Banana Bread

There are a couple of grocery staples that we as 'average' Estonians would most certainly pick up on our typical supermarket trip. Some rye bread (unless I'm baking my own), a carton of milk, some yogurt for breakfast and curd cheese for baking, a bag or two of sour cream. And a bunch of bananas. Yep. More often than not, K. and I throw a bunch of bananas into our shopping basket, as they're a useful standby if hunger pangs hit. Of course, now being late summer, we've got the first of local summer apples - Suislepp, Valge Klaar, Sõstraroosa - that are much better for that purpose. But I guess we're creatures of habit, so occasionally - and absent-mindedly - bananas still appear in our shopping basket and on our countertop, only to wilt there slowly while we're eating apples and plums that are in season just now..

That's exactly what happened last week, and that's why I was baking a banana bread in the heat of the summer. The recipe is from my favourite Nigella book, How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking; she has adapted the recipe from Jim Fobel's book Old-Fashioned Baking Book: Recipes from an American Childhood. How does this compare with your favourite banana bread, I wonder? Is this a typical American banana bread recipe, as Jim Fobel & Nigella Lawson suggest?

Nigella Lawson's Rum-soaked Banana Bread
(Nigella Lawsoni rummihõnguline banaanikeeks)
Nigella's recipe is available here, below is my adapted version.
Serves 10

100 g sultanas
75 g dark rum
175 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt
125 g unsalted butter, melted
150 g sugar
2 large eggs
4 small very ripe bananas (about 300 g peeled weight)
60 g walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the sultanas and rum in a small bowl and soak for about an hour.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended (I used my KitchenAid mixer for this). Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas.
Stir in the walnuts, rum-soaked sultanas (including rum) and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit.
Scrape into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of a pre-heated 180ºC oven for about 1 hour, until an inserted toothpick comes out cleanish.
Leave in the tin on a rack to cool, and eat thickly or thinly sliced, as you prefer.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Roasted marrow with garlic and dried herbs, alias What to do with an overgrown squash

Cubed and seasoned squash/marrow, ready for roasting.

My mum doesn't get the concept of zucchini/courgettes. She's convinced that bigger is better, so while I was happily harvesting beautiful slim zucchini from my container garden, she was waiting until her zucchini were 'the right size'. 'Right size' in this case means totally overgrown, about 1,5-2 kilograms a piece. No amount of explanation and talking (Mom, these are supposed to be eaten when they're still young and tender, they're not your usual pumpkin/squash!!!) seems to help.

When my dad popped by last weekend to bring us a large bag of my favourite summer apples - Valge Klaar and Suislepp, and some beautiful yellow flowers (all from my mum's garden), he also brought us a huge and overgrown squash/marrow. Way too large for something as delicate as zucchini carpaccio, so I had to come up with something else. Luckily I bumped into this recipe over at the fun The Great Big Vegetable Challenge blog, which I very slightly adapted. And I liked the result.

I think I won't argue with my mum about the 'right' time & size to harvest zucchini. I'll just continue eating my zucchini as zucchini and her 'zucchini' as squash/marrow. Two for the price of one, you know..

Roasted marrow with garlic and dried herbs
(Röstitud kabatšokk küüslauguga)
Serves 4 as a side dish

A fat roasted garlic clove.

1 kg of cubed marrow/squash (weight after de-seeding)
3 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 large garlic cloves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Maldon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Cut the marrow in half lengthwise, then again in half or into quarters lengthwise, depending on the size of the marrow. Cut into 2-3 cm chunks.
Brush a large oven dish slightly with oil, add squash/marrow cubes, herbs, garlic cloves and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands, so everything would be evenly coated.
Roast in a 200C oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring every now and then, until squash/marrow cubes are golden and softened.

Tips for serving: serve as an accompaniment for a grilled meat, or as a vegetarian dish with some good bread. I used the leftover roasted marrow to make a vegetable quiche on the following day, which was delicious, too.

WHB: This is also my entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Scott from Real Epicurean (click through to read other WHB entries).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Meet Höganäs, my new fabulous teapot

I need to thank one lovely foodblogger for inadvertedly introducing me to Höganäs Keramik last November in Denmark, and another dear foodblogger for buying it for me in Sweden, taking it to Finland and shipping it to me in Estonia (what a pan-Nordic affair!!), where I finally got hold of it today.

Waiting 9 months for it was definitely worth it..

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Estonian desserts: KAMA, the modern-traditional way

UPDATE 1.9.2007: You can read Johanna's round-up here!

My dear blog friend Johanna is hosting the latest round of Sugar High Friday, and the theme is local specialities. There are plenty of typical Estonian cakes and desserts I could write about, but considering that I have recently posted kama promotion packs* to some lovely bloggers across the world, I thought it would be appropriate to give the recipients some tips for using that funny Estonian roasted meal mixture consisting of boiled, roasted and ground peas, rye, barley and wheat. I've written thoroughly about kama here, and shared recipes for kama mousse with season's berries, and boozy kama & mascarpone truffles before. I think it's time to move on and give you the recipe for the authentic way of eating kama.

Well, semi-authentic. Adding sugar to kama is a 20th century thing. The really 'authentic' way of eating kama would be without sugar and accompanied with bread and salted sprats, or perhaps humble sandwiches. That's not how most Estonians think of kama nowadays, however, to whom kama drink as described below is more familiar and rather popular summer fare..

I understand it's tricky to replicate, as you need both a kama mixture and a fermented milk product (kefir or buttermilk or sour milk) for making this, both of which aren't so easily available. I guess thin plain drinking yogurt would work, too.

Kama, the traditional Estonian summer drink/dessert
(Kama, traditsioonilisel moel)
Serves 1

250 ml kefir, sour milk or buttermilk
2 Tbsp kama mixture
2 Tbsp sugar
a pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients, let stand in the fridge for 10 minutes, then garnish with berries (I've used Alpine strawberries from my container garden), bilberry syrup (see photo here) or go all modern with a drizzle of chocolate sauce (top).

Serve. Kama can either be eaten with a small spoon, or drunk straight from the cup. Use more or less kama mixture, depending on your preferences.

* Kama Promotion Packs consist of a 400 g packet of kama flour, a bag of kama breakfast cereal, a bar of kama 'chocolate' and a packet of kama 'Tootsie rolls'. Contact me if you're interested in trying it - I'm happy to send it to you, though I've decided to charge P&P from now on.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Not quite Sag Aloo: Potatoes & Beetroot Greens with Indian Spices

I've always had a soft spot for Sag Aloo, the Indian spinach & potato dish. I'm not even sure if it's a proper Indian dish, as I haven't found it in any Indian cookbooks I've looked at, but it is served in most Indian restaurants in Scotland and I always ordered it. Few months ago my friend Nenya brought me a cookbook as a present, because it had a recipe for sag aloo inside, and I was happy. Then there was a recipe here and here. I was even happier. But when I finally felt the time was right for making my first sag aloo, there was no spinach in the house. I did have a large bunch of beet greens, however, leftovers from making the Potato & Beetroot Pie. And thus a new dish was born :)

Potatoes & Beetroot Greens with Indian Spices
Serves 2 as a main dish

2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds, slightly crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds, slightly crushed
2 onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
0.5-1 tsp chilli flakes
500 grams potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
boiling water or vegetable stock
250 beetroot greens, chopped roughly

Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat. Add mustard, coriander and cumin seeds and fry for about 1 minute to release the spices.
Add onions & garlic and fry gently for about 5 minutes.
Add chilli flakes and potatoes, pour over enough boiling water to cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add beetroot greens, and simmer for another 7-10 minutes, until potatoes have softened and liquid has reduced.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Preserving lingonberries: an apple and lingonberry jam

A fortnight ago, Ximena and I and our respective partners J. and K., went to a bog where we picked various forest berries, including lots of lingonberries. The Latin name of lingonberries is Vaccinium viris-idaea, thus belonging to the same family with blueberries (Vaccinium Cyanococcus), bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) and bog bilberries (Vaccinium uliginosum). They're a great source of vitamin C, and have been appreciated by Northeners for that reason for a long time.

Lingonberries can be used to make apple pies and cheesecakes, rye bread and cream pudding, and a number of other desserts. Lingonberries are also great for making jam. Lingonberry jam - at least the version here - has many uses. It can be used as a typical jam on pancakes, toast, breakfast porridge. But it's not overly sweet, and lingonberries yield this am a rather tart quality. Therefore it can be also used as a chutney to accompany grilled sausages or black pudding during Christmas.

Apple and lingonberry jam

1 kg lingonberries*
1 kg apples, peeled**, cored and cut into chunks
200 ml water
600-700 grams sugar

Pick through the berries to make sure they're clean. Bring water to the boil in a large saucepan, add lingonberries and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring, until softened.
Add apple chunks and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add sugar and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Pour into hot sterilised jars and close immediately.

* If it's a poor lingonberry year, then you can take 2 parts apples and 1 part berries.
** If using apples from your own garden or a reputable organic source, then you don't have to peel them. I used underripe "Valge Klaar" apples from my mum's garden. They're one of the earliest apples available and very soft and juicy, so they're perfect for jam-making.

WHB: This is also my entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Zorra from Kochtopf (click through to read her round-up).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Apple pudding with milk, and international tongue twisters

When you move to a new country and learn a new language, the locals inevitably present you with various tongue-twisters. Something difficult and tricky, so they could have a laugh when you say that. In Estonia, foreigners are often asked to say 'Jüriöö ülestõus' - scarily confusing when you look at the words (what's with all those dots and tildes and long vowels and diphthongs?), but not so difficult to pronounce, actually, as long as you know how each of the letters is to sound. Jüriöö ülestõus, by the way, means St George's night uprising - something that happened way back in 1343 here in Estonia.

In Denmark, they've got a much trickier tongue twister: rødgrød med fløde - a name of a lovely Danish red berry pudding with cream. That, let me tell you, is much more difficult to pronounce than 'Jüriöö ülestõus'. I know, as I spent a year in Denmark as an exchange student in 1992-1993 and was asked to say those three words more than once. And the term is not just used to make fun of innocent exchange students - apparently it was used to tell German infiltrators posing as Danes during the Second World War - not even the most talented inflitrators could pronounce this one correct, you see.

And how is all that related to this post? Well, there's a much easier-sounding alternative to rødgrød med fløde, and that's æblegrød. Æblegrød, of course, is apple pudding. I used some beautiful local sõstraroosa or "redcurrant pink" apples (see photo here) that we had picked up at the farm last weekend. They were a bit underripe, so not so good for eating, but they did make a most beautiful and delicious apple pudding..

Apple pudding with milk
Serves 4, can be easily doubled or tripled
Recipe adapted from an old issue of Nõukogude Naine or Soviet Woman:)

500 grams apples (cored weight), cubed
100 grams sugar
100 ml water
a cinnamon stick or some vanilla extract (optional)

Peel* and core the apples, cut into chunks. Place apple chunks, sugar and water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring regularly, until apples have turned opaque and you've got a thick mush.
Season with cinnamon (adding the stick in the beginning) or vanilla extract (adding it at the end).
Cool, serve with cold milk. Or with vanilla custard, if you insist.

* I never peel apples from our own garden, as they're 'uncertified organic'. If you use supermarket-bought apples, I'd definitely peel them first.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A group photo

Click on the photo to enlarge!

Here's a picture of some forest berries in their natural habitat. Starting from the top left corner: blue 'dusty' berries are bog bilberries (Vaccinium uliginosum). The blue shiny - and shy (see how it's hiding behind the green leaves?) - berry on the top right is a bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). The red berries are lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) , and the bright yellow one is a cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), of course.

I'm sorry to report that wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca L) had already left the stage by the time we took the picture, and that cranberries (Vaccinium Oxycoccus) were yet to turn red, and in any case stubbornly grew few meters from the above spot, so they didn't fit into the picture..

* Before Ximena came to Estonia, I promised to take her to pick wild mushrooms and forest berries. The above photo is taken about 10 days ago on our joint forageing trip. I think she - and her hubby J. - were pleased.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Something delicious to drizzle on your Sunday pancakes: bilberry or blueberry syrup

Pancakes by K, bilberry syrup by Pille

We eat lots of pancakes in our house, and we eat them regularly. Every Sunday morning*, K. wakes up before I do, goes to the kitchen and makes us some pancakes. Sometimes he makes thin, crepe-like pancakes, sometimes thick, smaller drop-cakes. They're all wonderful, and I feel very spoilt during those leisurely weekend breakfasts ;) Pancakes, of course, need a little something to accompany them. Maybe a spoonful of summery wild strawberry jam, or much more 'adult' rhubarb jam with ginger. Perhaps some honey-coloured cloudberry jam, plum & vanilla jam or blueberry/bilberry jam? There are other, non-jammy, options - a scoop of ever-so-slightly-melted vanilla ice cream comes to mind. Or a zigzag of chocolate sauce. Or a generous drizzle of this bilberry syrup that I found on this Finnish recipe site. The choice is all yours..

Blueberry/bilberry syrup
Makes about 1 litres

1 litre blueberries/bilberries
700 ml sugar
150 ml water

Put all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.
Press through a fine sieve, pour into sterilised hot bottles.

Serve with ice cream or pancakes.

* Sometimes he makes pancakes on Saturday mornings, but then we head to his mum's place for Sunday morning pancakes :)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ximena's El gazpacho de Escolástica, or the best gazpacho in the world

Those of you who read Ximena's blog, Lobstersquad (and you all should, because it's brilliant!), already know that 1) she's the talented illustrator behind my new banner, 2) she has some great tips for cooking sausages, 3) she's holidaying in Estonia at the moment, and 4) she knows her gazpacho. So much so that earlier this summer she gave her dear readers an all-encompassing in-depth virtual flash-course in gazpacho-making, introducing us to the do's and dont's (Gazpacho 101), the basic recipe (Gazpacho 101.2), variations on the latter and allowed garnishes (Gazpacho 101.3), and last, but not least, a recipe for El gazpacho de Escolástica, or the best gazpacho in the world (Gazpacho 101.4).

Last weekend, after a day of forageing the forest for wild mushrooms and forest berries, we stocked up on tomatoes in one of the local supermarkets. I'm extremely relieved to note that Ximena totally approved of the tomatoes available, as I was a bit worried she'd declare them incomparable to the Spanish ones and utterly unsuitable for gazpacho-making. She then whipped up a large batch of El gazpacho de Escolástica to feed six hungry diners. Her brilliant gazpacho was served as the starter that night, followed by three types of fried wild mushrooms picked earlier during the day (gypsy mushrooms, various ceps, yellow chantarelles) and a dessert of Finnish bread cheese in a creamy rum sauce and served with fresh cloudberries.

Anyway, back to the gazpacho..

I must say that I haven't had much gazpacho in my life. I've only been to Spain once, in 2004, and spent most of the time either catching or recovering from sunstroke (stroke) heatstroke. But even with my limited gazpacho experience I can say that Ximena's gazpacho was indeed outstanding - smooth and silky, excellent-tasting, beautifully coloured, so simple, yet so sophisticated. And J., Ximena's darling husband, agrees, and claims this gazpacho is as good as his mother's - which, as we all know, is the ultimate compliment from any Mediterranean man ...
So head over to Ximena's blog for that gazpacho recipe. I'll be stocking up on tomatoes later this week, hoping that I manage to convince Ximena to whip up yet another batch of it coming weekend..

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), yummy muffins

Bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum, sinikas or 'blue' berry in Estonian) is a close relative of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L., mustikas or 'black' berry in Estonian) and high-bush blueberry (Vaccinium Cyanococcus or V. corymbosum, kännasmustikas e. kultuurmustikas in Estonian). The first two can be distinguished by looking at their stems (brown for bog bilberries and green for bilberries) or leaves (blue-green for bog bilberries, green for bilberries) and by biting into the fruit (bog bilberries have a pinkish flesh, bilberries are blackish-purple throughout, blueberries are whitish-green inside). Also, the bog bilberry fruit is slightly oblong in shape, whereas bilberries are round, and blueberries round, but much larger than the first two.

Just so you'd know..

I made bog bilberry muffins, and took them along to my sister's and my two nephews' joint birthday party last Sunday. You cannot really see that from the picture, but I baked the muffins in football-print muffin cases. They were quite a hit amongst the 20-something small boys (and few girls) aged between 4 and 8, believe me. I'd like to think it wasn't just the cunningly chosen muffin papers :)

Bog bilberry muffins
(Sinika- või mustikamuffinid)
Makes 12

2 medium eggs
150 ml sugar
250 ml plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp cardamom seeds (from about 20 pods), ground
150 grams sour cream or plain yogurt
50 grams butter, melted & cooled
200-300 ml bog bilberries (or bilberries or blueberries)

Whisk eggs with sugar until pale and frothy.
Mix the dry ingredients. Add to the egg mixture together with sour cream and melted butter. Fold in the forest berries.
Fill 12 hole muffin tray and bake at 225 C for 13-15 minutes, until muffins have risen and turned golden brown.

For more muffin ideas, check out Muffin Monday Round-Up # 5 where Wonder Sophie is gathering recipes for for Les Muffins Régressifs alias Childhood Muffins.

WHB: This is also my entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Melissa from Cooking Diva. Click on the logo below for more information about this established foodblogging event!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pretty in Pink: A Gooseberry Sorbet

It's hot here in Estonia. I'm sure Estonia feels still cool enough for Ximena & J. who last weekend arrived here up in the North hoping to escape the Spanish summer heat (they're currently holidaying on Saaremaa, a beautiful island off the west coast). But I'm having real difficulties with the temperatures around +30 Celsius and constant sunshine. So much so that I've opted to stay and work from home for a few days. You see, the beach is just 5 minutes away, so I can always hop on my bike, cycle to the beach and dip into the waves to cool the body and clear the mind.

Alternatively, I can have yet another scoop of ice cream. I made a second batch of David Lebovitz's wonderfully tasting and amazingly simple Vietnamese coffee ice cream this afternoon - if you haven't tried that one (and like your coffee with milk & sugar), then I strongly suggest you pick up a can of sweetened condensed milk next time you're at the supermarket! But here's a sorbet recipe from a fortnight ago. Not just any sorbet, but a gooseberry sorbet of most beautiful pink shade. I served this at the recent movie night, together with four other frozen desserts, where it was a clear favourite with many of my friends. This gooseberry sorbet has a sweet yet subtly sharp flavour, and requires a use of ripe and good-flavoured gooseberries.

Gooseberry Sorbet

350 ml water
300 g sugar
500 g ripe red gooseberries

Top and tail the gooseberries.
Bring the water to the boil, add sugar and stir, until dissolved. Add gooseberries and boil for 5 minutes, until softened.
Cool, then puree in a blender. Press through a fine sieve, trying to gather as much of the juices as possible.
Place into the fridge for an hour, or until the mixture is thoroughly cool.
Churn in your ice cream machine according to the instructions.

A year ago I shared a recipe for a summery chicken with creamy mustard and dill sauce and crispy bacon. Two years ago I wrote about carrots pickled with rosemary and orange juice - both of which I still happily recommend you'd try.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Nigella Lawson's raw beetroot salad with dill and mustard seeds

UPDATE 18.8.2007
This post was mentioned on the Swedish-language site Matfeber, together with my photo!

In my previous beetroot post one of the readers, Lydia, enquired about the use of raw beetroot. All my beetroot recipes so far on this blog have been using either boiled or roasted beetroot (the two are interchangeable in most recipes). Lydia's comment, however, reminded me of a Nigella Lawson recipe I had tried - and enjoyed - few years ago, so I looked it up again. The recipe is from her book Forever Summer, and makes a delightful summery salad. Feel free to use more mustard seeds and a lot more fresh herbs, as these only enhance the flavour of the salad.

The salad was still very enjoyable - and thank you, Lydia, for making be look up this recipe again!!

Raw Beetroot Salad with Dill and Mustardseeds
(Peedisalat sinepiseemnete ja tilliga)
Source: Forever Summerby Nigella Lawson

500 grams raw beetroot
1 lemon
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
2 Tbsp mustard seeds, toasted
fresh parsley, chopped
Maldon sea salt

Peel the beets and grate finely either by hand or in a food processor. Add chopped dill, lemon juice and olive oil.
Toast mustard seeds on a small dry frying pan, until they start 'popping' - it'll take only few seconds, so don't go anywhere! Add mustard seeds to the salad, season with salt and garnish with plenty of parsley.

A year ago I wrote about raspberry focaccia, that we enjoyed with some Cornish Brie cheese.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

K is guest-blogging about Heston Blumenthal's perfect ice cream

There is obviously a good reason for stepping up as a first guest blogger: current recipe is inspired of In Search of Perfection by Heston Blumenthal, a challenging macho cookbook waiting for the boys’ egos to be satisfied. Browsing through the 20-plus step recipes Pille decided that it is not her style. Therefore it takes a guest blogger for Blumenthal to be featured here on Nami-Nami.

I noticed Jersey milk ice cream recipe in the book right away as it included dry ice as a freezing component (see here; note step 2 of the recipe: 'Put on safety gloves and protective goggles and open the packet of dry ice':). Carbon dioxide ice at -78.5 C is a familiar substance to me from constructing a cloud chamber for tracking cosmic particles, a well-known experiment in particle physics. Dry ice is mainly of industrial use and it can be bought only during working hours and from the industrial gas company situated far outside the city. While I was waiting for a moment to go and fetch it, our KitchenAid Ice Cream Attachment had finally arrived from Germany. Although using dry ice would have lead to dramatic photos of the mystical fumes sneaking out of the bowl, it seemed quite pointless to overcomplicate things.

Eliminating dry ice lead to an unexpected realisation: with just four components - milk, double cream, unrefined caster sugar and glucose syrup - to be heated gently until the sugar has dissolved, this is one of the simplest ice cream recipes one can possibly find.

Blumenthal’s book has a pleasant feature: thorough stories about finding the best ingredients, the essential part of a quest for perfection. For example ice cream recipe requires milk with fat content 5.2% from organic free-range Jersey cows. I have nice memories of cycling on a sunny autumn day through green pastures on Jersey Island few years ago and participating in a staring contest with a genuine free-range Jersey cow, but I also remember that it took me a multi-stop air travel and a whole day to get there. Besides Estonians do not use double cream with fat content 48%, we have whipping cream (fat content 35% - 38%) instead.

Therefore following Blumenthal’s footsteps, without compromising his perfectionism, called for creativity. I calculated that an average fat content of a milk/double cream mixture in the recipe was 21.2% and for the whole recipe 17.3%. (For the sake of comparison David Lebovitz's vanilla ice cream that Pille prepared a day before had 25.2% fat content for the dairy component plus 5 high-calorie egg yolks making an average fat content of a mix 21.4%). Using premium 3.5% milk and 35% whipping cream in 50/50 mixture I ended up with 19.2% fat for a dairy component and overall fat content 15.7%. That falls neatly in the middle of the range of 10-20% fat content, that according to Harold McGee is characteristic to most good ice cream recipes.

Glucose syrup is needed in the mix to give ice cream smooth, creamy consistency without the presence of yolks or high fat content.

After standard procedure with the ice cream maker, the end result was with smooth texture and notably milky, clean and fresh taste. I was resisting temptation to add a spoonful of Pure Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extractor to throw in pieces of quality chocolate or to pour over some maple syrup. The recipe just seemed too simple. I closed my eyes and brought back childhood memories of a simple milk ice cream called Plombiir. In 1980s we had Soviet Union, iron curtain and stagnation and the producers did not yet know the virtues of artificial ingredients and milk & skimmed milk powders.

Blumenthal writes in his book: 'Perfection is the ultimate, the best something can possibly be. For many of us, the perfect meal won’t be some fancy restaurant food. Stuck on a desert island, our dream dish is more likely something we grew up with and have taken to our hearts.'

Apparently molecular-gastronomic image does not tell all about the chef of The Fat Duck.

For the Jersey milk ice cream

500ml Jersey whole milk
300ml double cream
80g unrefined caster sugar
100g glucose syrup

400ml 3,5% Alma piima
400ml 35% Alma vahukoort
80g demerara suhkrut
100g glükoosisiirupit

Segada ained kergelt kuumutades kuni suhkur on sulanud, jahuta. Jäätisemasinas segada madalal kiirusel kuni segu omandab pehme jäätise struktuuri. Jätta segu tahenema sügavkülmikusse.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Three new stars in the kitchen: a golden cloudberry jam, a shiny bilberry jam, and a fragrant plum & vanilla jam

Up here in Estonia, I'm busy preparing for the long, dark and cold Nordic winter by trying to preserve some of this gorgeous, light & sunny summer. I've made a litre of wild strawberry fridge jam (and a small jar of wild raspberry jam), three different types of cherry preserves, and K has made some apricot jam . Oh, and I made this gorgeously red redcurrant jelly. We did make few jars of ginger & rhubarb jam, using Moominmamma's recipe, but we have already eaten those.

Here's what we stored away about a fortnight ago:

Cloudberry Jam

A honey-coloured cloudberry jam. This is not actually made by me, but sent us by K's mum, who is busy in Lalli picking those golden berries these days. And we're helping her to eat them :)
Anyway, here's a recipe for preserving all those cloudberries you've been picking this summer:

1 kg cloudberries
400-500 grams sugar

Clean the cloudberries (i.e. remove any loose leaves), then layer in a saucepan with sugar. Leave to stand in a cold place for four hours or overnight.
Bring slowly into a boil, then simmer for about 25 minutes, by which time cloudberries are softened and immersed in syrup. Now skim off any froth from the surface of the jam, and ladle the jam into hot sterilised jars. Close immediately and store in a cold and dark place.

Blaeberry/Bilberry Jam

Here's something I've learned only recently. I've always known that 'mustikas' translates as 'blueberry' (even if the Estonian name actually means 'black berry'), and that's what's written in most English-Estonian dictionaries. However, Johanna and I (and our respective other halves) figured out in London in April that the dark blue berry of Europe is actually a bilberry (Scots 'blaeberry', French 'myrtilles', Latin 'Vaccinium myrtillus') --- and it's the larger blue berry (with WHITE or greenish inside) that you find in the US and Asia that is blueberry (Vaccinium Cyanococcus). They taste alike, although I find the bilberry flavour more intense, and the easiest way to tell one from another is to bite into a berry and look at it closely. The bilberry, you see, is beautifully dark purple throughout..

Anyway - here's how I make my bilberry jam (the recipe would work equally well for blueberries:)
The recipe yields about 700 ml.

1 kg of bilberries, rinsed & drained
400 grams of sugar
50 ml of water

Place bilberries and water into a saucepan, and bring slowly to the boil, stirring regularly.
Add sugar, simmer on low heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. Skim off any froth that appears on the surface!
Ladle the jam into hot sterilised jars, close immediately and keep in a dark & cold storage.

Plum & Vanilla Jam
(Ploomimoos vaniljega)
Adapted from Hoidised

1 kg plums (stoned weight)
500 g jam sugar (i.e. with added pectin)
1 lemon
1 vanilla pod
100 ml water

Cut the vanilla pod into half lengthwise and scratch the seeds loose with a small knife. Put both the pod and the precious seeds aside.
Place halved plums into a saucepan, add water and vanilla pod&seeds:

Bring the mixture slowly to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove the vanilla pod.
Add sugar and a generous squeeze of lemon juice, continue simmering & stirring for another 20 minutes. Skim off any froth that appeares on the surface. (If you want a smooth jam, then you could press it through a sieve or colander after this).
Pour the hot jam into preheated sterilised jars, close the jars immediately.

PS - the stars are cut-outs of leftover sponge from the Strawberry Mirror Cake episode.