Friday, January 29, 2010

Cheesy Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin

Remember my recipe for a silky Jerusalem artichoke & mushroom soup? I made another delicious sunchoke dish back in December, but never got around to blogging about it. Seeing the yummy-looking roasted sunchokes on Anne's blog today reminded me of the gratin I made - and will be definitely making again. I loved the slightly nutty and sweet flavour the Jerusalem artichokes gave to the dish. We enjoyed this with a simple green salad, but it would also make an excellent side dish to something meaty.

Cheesy Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin
(Maapirnisupp juustuga)
Serves 4

500 g Jerusalem artichokes / Sunchokes
500 g potatoes
100 g cheese, grated
400 ml single or whipping cream
salt and black pepper

Peel the potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes, cut into very thin slices (kitchen mandoline is very helpful here).
Layer potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and half of the grated cheese into a buttered oven dish, season layers with salt and pepper.
Scatter the rest of the cheese on top, pour the cream over.
Bake in a pre-heated 200 C oven for about 40-60 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked (the length of baking depends on the thickness of the vegetable slices).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Roasted Feta Cheese and Cherry Tomatoes

I'm too busy here keeping myself and our little daughter warm (it's "just" -17 Celsius/1 Fahrenheit outside at the moment, but the heavy winds of few days, especially last night, makes it feel much colder), so I haven't been blogging as much as I've wanted. But I wanted to share this super-easy lunch idea with you. I've made this for lunch twice during this week. Take a small vine full of cherry tomatoes, half a block of a decent feta cheese and place into a small oven-proof dish. Grind some black pepper on top, drizzle with some chili-infused olive oil (I used Belazu's) and bake in a pre-heated 200 C / 400 F oven for about 15 minutes, until warmed through.

Serve with some crusty bread and enjoy!

PS There's a more elaborate version of this that I hope to blog about in a few days :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Time for cake: Lingonberry Cake with Crispy Tosca topping

LIngonberry Tosca cake / Toskakattega pohlakook

What's a weekend without a cake? I know that fresh lingonberries aren't available at the moment - the season only lasts from July till September, but luckily lingonberries freeze beautifully. I suggest you take them out from your fridge (or if you failed picking your own last summer, then buy a punnet from the nearest shop) and bake this Tosca cake. Tosca cake, ever so popular in Sweden and elsewhere, is a rich pound cake with a crispy almond topping. Adding a generous layer of tart lingonberries between the cake and the topping makes this popular cake even nicer, and there are some spices in the cake batter to make it even more heartwarming during the cold winter season.

Lingonberry Cake with Crispy Tosca Topping
(Toskakattega pohlakook)
15 to 20 pieces

Lingonberry Tosca cake / Toskakook pohladega

125 g butter, melted
3 large eggs
170 g caster sugar (200 ml)
220 g plain flour (400 ml)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
0.25 tsp ground cloves
100 ml milk
200 g fresh or frozen lingonberries (400 ml)

75 g butter
125 g caster sugar (150 ml)
2 Tbsp plain flour
50 ml milk (4 Tbsp)
100 g flaked almonds

Make the sponge cake first.
Whisk eggs and sugar until pale and thick. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves, then fold into the egg mixture alongside melted butter and milk.
Line a smaller baking sheet (30x40 cm) with parchment paper, then pour the batter onto the tray. Scatter the lingonberries on top, then bake in a pre-heated 175 C oven for about 25 minutes.
To make the crispy Tosca topping, measure all ingredients into a small saucepan. Heat on a low heat, stirring regularly, until butter has melted and everything is combined.
Spoon the Tosca mixture onto a partially baked cake. Return immediately to the oven and bake in a slightly hotter oven ( 200 C) for another 15 minutes, until the Tosca topping is nice and golden brown.
Cool, then cut into small squares.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Brilliant Lemon Cheesecake (and a Lemon Mousse)

I must confess - it's been a while since I made this cake. But it's been suddenly popping up on various Estonian foodblogs recently, so I thought I'll 'reclaim' it :D The original recipe was in BBC Good Food, but I've tweaked it a little.

In general, there are cheesecakes you bake and cheesecakes you set with gelatine. This one is neither - but yet it sets beautifully overnight - as long as you use good-quality cream cheese and a good-quality condensed milk (sweetened, of course). The consistency is beautifully creamy, almost mousse-like.

If you don't feel like making a cake, make the topping anyway. It makes a delicious lemon mousse of its own right (see the photo below).

Lemon Mousse Cheesecake
(Hõrk sidrunikreemitort)
Serves 8

100 g Divestive biscuits (about 10)
50 g butter, melted
2 Tbsp sugar (optional)

Lemon Mousse Topping:
200 g cream cheese
400 g sweetened condensed milk
200 ml whipping cream, whipped
juice of 2-3 lemons (+ finely grated lemon zest, if you want a more pronounced lemon flavour)

Place the cookies into the bowl of your food processor and process until you've got fine crumbs. Stir in melted butter and sugar, if using. Press onto the base of Ø 24 cm springform tin.
Cream the cheese with a wooden spoon until soft, then stir in the condensed milk and lemon juice (+ zest, if using). Finally fold in the whipped cream.
Pour the filling over the Digestive base, smooth the top.
Place into the fridge to set for at least 12 hours (24 hours, if possible).
To serve, transfer the cake gently onto a serving plate and cut into slices.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Dashing Coconut and Beetroot Soup

Don't you just think that the colour of this soup is dashingly beautiful? I certainly do.

The flavour's wonderful as well, so I'm heartily recommending this. (As you can see, I'm still loving beets in 2010 - just like I did in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. This is the second beetroot soup I've made this year - I made my meatless borscht last week and will certainly be making another beetroot soup soon (beet being one of the few vegetables available at the moment that actually still has some taste and flavour)). The recipe is adapted from a great book, Entertaining Vegetarians by Celia Brooks-Brown, who says that the combination of coconut and beets is typical to Southern India.

You can serve this with some crusty bread for dinner, but it's stunning enough to be served from tiny espresso cups for a larger crowd.

Coconut and Beetroot Soup
(Peedipüreesupp kookospiimaga)
Serves 4 to 6 (or even a crowd, if served from small cups or glasses

2 to 3 Tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
500 g boiled beetroot, grated coarsely
200 g extra creamy or 400 g regular coconut milk
500 to 600 ml vegetable stock
half a large lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To garnish:
Lebanese cucumber, cubed
fresh coriander/cilantro or parsley, chopped
a pinch of salt

Heat oil in a saucepan, add garlic and cumin seeds and fry for about a minute, stirring,
Add the beets, stir for a minute. Season with salt and some grated lemon zest.
Add the coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.
Blend until smooth.
Return to the saucepan, re-heat. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Garnish with fresh cucumber salsa (mix all ingredients).

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Pain perdu - French toast - Poor knights - Vaesed rüütlid

I've been going through last year's food photo images and came across this. I love this picture - the plate of white bread slices, dipped into sweetened egg and milk mixture and gently browned in butter, looks appealing and appetizing.

It'll be cold here today - some say the temperatures will drop to minus 26 Celsius this weekend. It's been snowing almost daily since Christmas, and everything is covered with gorgeous, thick, white snow blanket. We're really enjoying this beautiful winter - it's truly like the winters of our childhood, and obviously that brings back lots of nice memories. Like memories of French toast for breakfast, made by my mum. I think I'll have some for breakfast today :)

Wish you all a lovely weekend!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Gingerbread Ricotta Cheesecake

This recipe is targeted more to my Northern European readers, who just might have a small disc of gingerbread dough hiding in the back of the fridge. (You know, for those who were just too busy during Christmas to "bake through" all the home-made gingerbread dough they made in early December). This is a great way to use up any leftovers. I've made it with both proper curd cheese and the ricotta that's becoming widely available here in Estonia, and actually prefer using ricotta here. Instead of individual spices, feel free to use a mixed spice, apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice or gingerbread spice of your choice.

The cake is excellent with some lingonberry jam.

Gingerbread Ricotta Cheesecake
(Kohupiimakook piparkoogipõhjal)
Serves eight to ten

about 350 g gingebread dough
500 g ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
85 g caster sugar (100 ml)
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
0.25 tsp ground cloves
a sprinkling of cardamom

Roll out the gingerbread dough into a circle about 28 cm across, then use this to line a 24 cm buttered and lined springform dish.
Whisk eggs and sugar until pale and frothy, fold in the ricotta and the spices. Spoon the filling over the gingerbread base.
Bake in a pre-heated 200 C oven for about 40-45 minutes, until the filling looks more or less set (yet still slightly wobbly - it'll cool and set once out of the oven).
Cool completely before cutting into slices and serving with lingonberry jam.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Dulce de Membrillo or a delicious quince paste to go with cheese

Dulce de Membrillo / Quince paste / Küdooniamarmelaad

I know there are several beautiful Membrillo-posts out there (f.ex. written by Melissa, Elise, Nicky, Aran, Pastry Studio - to name just a few), but I used a somewhat different method to make this delicious Spanish quince paste, so it's worth sharing the recipe after all. We were served the Queso con Membrillo on several occasions during our trip to Spain in Spring 2008 (for example, here's a plate we enjoyed at Rincón del Chorro, Albarracin, Aragon), and I've made the quince paste twice at home since then. Quinces are only available at the markets here during early Winter, and not widely familiar to people at all.

Beautiful quinces / Aiva ehk küdoonia

By the way - if you've got small children at home, then try serving them some of the puréed quince before adding the sugar. Our daughter LOVED the unsweetened quince pureé!!

Quince Paste
(Küdooniamarmelaad 'Dulce de Membrillo')

Dulce de Membrillo / Quince paste / Küdooniamarmelaad

6 large quinces (about 1,5 kg)
about 1 kg caster sugar
lemon juice

Wash the quinces and place into a large saucepan. Pour over enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to boil and simmer on low heat for about 1-1,5 hours, until the quinces are completely soft (test for softness by piercing with a small knife).
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool.
Remove the soft quinces from the cooking liquid. Cut into half, remove the core. NOTE: I did not peel the quinces. A lot of the pectin is in the peel (it's the pectin that helps the paste to thicken and jellify later), and as quinces are hard to grow commercially, it's unlikely that they've been sprayed with something horrible anyway. Feel free to peel the quinces if you prefer, of course.
Place the quinces into blender and pureé until smooth (add a spoonful or few of the cooking liquid to get you started, if needed).
Now weigh the cream-coloured fruit pulp and place into a clean saucepan. Add the same amount (re: weight) of sugar, and a squeeze or two of lemon juice. (I believe that the acid in lemon juice works with the sugar to jell the pectin in quinces).
Bring slowly to the boil and then simmer over moderate heat, stirring regularly, until the quince paste thickens, turns darker in colour and doesn't stick to the walls of the saucepan any longer (this can take about an hour).
Line a heat-resistant dish with parchment paper and pour the quince paste into the dish (mine was 25 x 35 cm). Smooth the top, and place into a dry and cool place to cool and jell completely.
Cut into thick slices and serve with Manchego cheese (or Nopri talojuust, if you're reading and making this in Estonia.).

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Poulet aux quarante gousses d’áil or chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Here's a dish that I made several times during last year - and hope to make again as soon as the fresh, new season's garlic appears on the market stalls in a couple of months. It's a dish that I had been intrigued by for ages - imagine, 40 whole garlic cloves to season just one chicken! - and when I finally made it, I fell instantly in love with it. When researching the dish, I came across several and very different versions. After making it several times, I've settled for this minimalist one. Just chicken, olive oil, lots of garlic and some salt'n'pepper. If you like your chicken with crispy skin and sticky, browned bits, then this version isn't perhaps for you, though you can always brown the chicken on a frying pan first and give it a short blast under the grill at the end.

The dish originates in Southern France, Provence, which is famed for its excellent olive oil and large, rosy-tinged garlic cloves. I love making this with young fresh garlic (see photo here), but it works with any garlic. Although the amount of garlic sounds somewhat over the top, then trust me and don't be tempted to choose some tiny garlic cloves. The bigger, the better here. Also, I'm sure the French would use a good extra virgin olive oil here, but if price is the issue, then any good olive oil works here.

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
(Kana 40 küüslauguküünega)
Serves 6

Poulet aux quarante gousses d'ail / Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic / Kana 40 küüslauguküünega

1 whole chicken, preferably free-range (about 1,5 kg)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
40 large garlic cloves (from 4-5 whole heads of garlic)
250 ml (1 cup) olive oil
fresh herbs of your choice (rosemary, sage, thyme, bay leaves)

First, prep your garlic cloves. When making this with fresh and young garlic cloves, then there's no need to peel them. During winter you should first blanch your garlic cloves in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and remove the softened papery skins.
Using a kitchen paper, pat the chicken dry. Season generously with salt and pepper, both inside and out. Place the chicken, breast-side up, into a Dutch oven or heavy casserole dish where the chicken fits snugly (the better the fit, the less oil you need).
Push the garlic cloves and herbs around the chicken, pressing them down between the chicken and the dish.
Pour over the olive oil - check that all the garlic cloves are covered with oil.
Cover the saucepan and place into a preheated 180 C/360 F oven. Bake for 1 hour and 15-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.

Poulet aux quarante gousses d'ail / Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic / Kana 40 küüslauguküünega

To serve, carve the chicken into suitably large chunks. Serve with fresh green salad leaves and some wholemeal bread to mop up the delicious garlicky juices. Don't forget the softened and mellowed garlic cloves - these are the extra bonus of the dish. I love pressing them onto piece of bread.

* You can use the leftover garlicky olive oil to dress up a salad or serve as a seasoned frying oil during the next few days.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

Our daughter Nora, born in January 2009, couple of weeks ago.

I wish all my readers a very happy new year. Hope that 2010 will be filled with exciting culinary discoveries, comforting old favourites and lots of delicious everyday meals.

Thank you so much for being here!

PS Those of you who are wondering about Nora's "woolly fleece" - it's from Hiiu Vill (see here).