Saturday, July 30, 2011

The ideal thirst-quencher - a refreshing real lemonade

Lemons (making lemonade) / Sidrunid (limonaaditegu)

I love the fact that Estonia is becoming more knowledgeable about food - both its own and in general. During the Soviet time you couldn't really buy lemons at all. Then, for well over a decade, we got lemons, but often of questionable quality. I guess with our small population - just over 1.3 million people (= a very small market share) - our fruit importers didn't have much bargaining power at the European fruit and vegetable wholesalers and often ended up with the worst of the available fruit - including dried up lemons. (Still, compared to the "fresh" artichokes or rubbery fennels I've seen, the lemons have been pretty decent, I guess).

Now, during the last few years, we've had a bit of a food(ie) revolution happening. The number of excellent food blogs have sky-rocketed. There are lots of lovely restaurants popping up here and then. Organic food is becoming more available and small, artisanal producers have appeared on the shelves. The country of origin has become more important. If we take lemons, then it's not just a lemon you're buying, but lemons from Spain, Italy or elsewhere - depending on the season and the grocery store. And just recently I've realised that some stores even mark the variety of lemons. My local grocery store has been selling Spanish Primofiori lemons -huge, juicy and beautifully acidic (NB! Do not confuse with the Sicilian primofiore lemons). According to this page, Primofiori (locally known as limon Fino or limon Mesero in Spain) is the most important and popular lemon variety in the Mediterranean basin- over half of the annual Spanish lemon crop is made up of this variety. Primofiori lemons are large (mine averaged at 350 g each!), and they yield a lot of juice for their size.

Here's how I've been making lemonade to quench the thirst - we've had weeks of sunny, warm and dry summer here in Estonia, so this lemonade has been a real hit. It keeps for a week in the fridge, so it's

Note that there's no point giving exact number of lemons here - my Primofiori lemons were weighing about 350 g, yielding about 100 ml (just under 1/2 cup) juice each. I'll just give a proportion of sugar per juice that I've used. This yields a sharp and just slightly sweet lemonade - use more sugar, if you wish.

A really refreshing lemonade
(Tõeliselt mõnus limonaad)

Lemonade / Limonaad

juicy lemons
caster sugar

to serve:
still or sparkling soda water or plain water
ice cubes

Wash the lemons carefully, cut in half and juice them. Measure the juice, then take about 100 g (3.5 oz) of sugar per 250 ml (1 cup) of lemon juice.
Place sugar and lemon juice into a small saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Cool a little, then bottle and keep in the fridge.

To serve, place some ice cubes into a glass, pour some lemonade extract in over the ice cubes and top with (soda) water, to taste.

Lemons (making lemonade) / Sidrunid (limonaaditegu)



Today is my little sister's birthday - no food post today, just a pretty flower from our garden :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dangerously moreish (frozen) Oreo brownie bites

Domino brownie / Oreo brownie

To be fair, these should be called Domino brownies, as I used Domino cookies, the Finnish equivalent of Oreo sandwich cookies. But if I'd call them Domino brownies, most of you would expect something like this as opposed to the cute brownie bite above. Also, most of my American readers (that's about 2/3 of all readers of Nami-Nami) don't have access to Domino cookies anyway, and could use more familiar Oreo ones for the same result.

Now, the frozen bit. I first read about frozen brownies a while ago, but dismissed the whole idea. Who likes frozen cakes anyway? They'd be cold and hard and utterly unpleasant, right? Or that what I thought. On the other hand, I've thrown away quite a few very good brownie pieces during my lifetime, just because I forgot them on the countertop for a day too long and they became dry and boring. That's not happening any more, as I've discovered - and totally fallen for - the joys of frozen brownies. You see, a good brownie, made with lots of butter, sugar, chocolate and just a little flour - and, most importantly, NOT overbaked - is absolutely wonderful eaten straight from the freezer - cooling, delicious and almost thick ice-cream-like. I've been cutting the brownies into relatively small pieces after cooling, and we've been nibbling through two batches of those frozen brownie bites during the last week already. Not just the three of us, of course, but with some help from our Scottish friends, grandparents, nephews and various babysitters :)

Estonian summer has been warm and sunny this year (again), and a frozen chocolate brownie is just what you might need to cool yourself a little..

The idea for putting chopped cookies into my brownies is from Ina Garten (here's her recipe for outrageous Oreo crunch brownies), but I used my old and trusted brownie recipe as a basis. Here's my version, that even my non-chocoholic-K. loves.

Have you been freezing your brownies? Do you like them or hate them?

Domino or Oreo brownie bites
(Domino-brownie koogikesed)
For a 10 inch/24 cm square baking tin

200 g unsalted butter
200 g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Callebaut bittersweet chocolate couverture chips)
3 eggs (size M or L)
200 g caster sugar
100 g plain flour
0.5 tsp fine salt
0.5 tsp vanilla extract
15-20 Domino or Oreo cookies, roughly chopped

Line a 10 in/24 cm square baking dish with parchment paper. Heat the oven to 170˚C/350F.
Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add butter and chocolate and heat, stirring, until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool slightly.
Whisk eggs, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl. Fold in the chocolate mixture.
Stir in the flour, salt and cookies, stir until combined.
Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth top with a spatula.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the brownie looks dry on top, but is still nicely moist inside.

When you want to serve your brownie warm, then cool a little and cut into big squares (9, perhaps?), serve alongside a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

For frozen brownie bites, cool completely, then cut into small squares or rectangles and place into a freezer box. Enjoy from frozen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mayonnaise in 60 seconds (video recipe)

I first read about the incredibly simple immersion blender/hand-held blender mayonnaise over at Delicious Days almost two years ago (read here), but didn't try this method ourselves until a few months ago. We're certainly not looking back into the traditional "whisk until your arm hurts/add oil one drop at a time" method soon. Here's why:

The video has the recipe in Estonian, but here's all you need:

Making mayonnaise / Majoneesitegu

1 whole organic egg (M or L)
1 tsp (Dijon) mustard
1 Tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (I used lemon juice)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
250 ml (a cup) of oil (NOT extra-virgin olive oil*; I used rapeseed oil)


Place all the ingredients in a high beaker (I used a glass jar, simply because it was more photogenic than my old battered plastic beaker :)) in the order given above. Place the top of the immersion blender over the egg, and hold the ON-button. Once you see the streaks of mayonnaise appearing at the bottom of the glass/beaker, slowly start moving the blender upwards, until you've got a beautiful mayonnaise.

Season to taste and serve at once.

Keeps in the fridge for a day or two, but best eaten on the day it's made. After all, it's all natural and fresh.

* Nicole uses sunflower oil, and she helpfully refers to Cook's Illustrated (March/April 2009) in her pesto blog post:
Extra-virgin olive oil contains bitter tasting polyphenols coated by fatty acids, which prevent them from dispersing. If the oil is emulsified in a food processor, these polyphenols get squeezed out and the liquid mix turns bitter.

SO, are you a convert yet? What's your favourite brand of shop-bought mayonnaise? If you make your own, what's your favourite method/recipe?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Maple and mascarpone ice cream

Maple syrup and mascarpone ice cream / Mascarpone-vahtrasiirupijäätis

It was Canada day few weeks ago (July 1st, to be precise, which happened to be a very hot summer day), and out of the blue, I wanted to make something Canadian to mark the occasion. My wonderful *Canadian* apple cake was out of the questions, as the apples aren't ripe yet. All other dessert options seemed either much more suitable for cooler months or I didn't have the ingredients. And then it hit me. Why not make a Canada-inspired ice cream? I know, I know, there's much more to Canada than red maple leaves and sweet maple syrup, but I cannot help to put an equation mark beween Canada and maple syrup.

I had a tub of mascarpone on hand, as I had planned to make a lovely honeyed mascarpone ice cream. I swapped honey with maple syrup and served the ice cream with some candied walnuts (photo below). I made another batch last weekend - and finished it off yesterday, garnished with some sweet-as-honey cloudberries.

Summer and ice cream go hand in hand, so do enjoy both of them while you can. I certainly will, especially after it dawned upon me last night that over half of the summer is already gone :O

Maple syrup and mascarpone ice cream
(Vahtrasiirupine mascarpone-jäätis)
Serves six to eight

Maple syrup and mascarpone ice cream / Mascarpone-vahtrasiirupijäätis

2 large eggs
85 g caster sugar (100 ml)
100 ml maple syrup
250 g mascarpone, at room temperature
200 ml single cream (or double cream, see notes below)

Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla until thick and pale. Stir in the maple syrup, then whisk in the soft mascarpone cheese. Mix until thoroughly combined, then stir in the cream.
Cool, then churn into an ice cream according to the instructions of your ice cream machine.

Enjoy straight away or let it harden in the freezer for about an hour or two.

Maple and mascarpone ice cream / Mascarpone-vahtrasiirupijäätis

Notes: If you haven't got an ice cream machine, then use whipping or double cream instead. Whip it to the soft-peak stage, then gently fold into the rest of the ingredients. Pour into the lidded box and freeze for at least 24 hours.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Meatless Monday: grilled eggplant/aubergine with feta, golden raisins and mint

Grilled aubergine with white cheese, raisins and mint / Grillitud pommu ferta-juustu, rosinate ja mündiga

Time for another Meatless Monday dish. Aubergine/eggplant is one of my favourite vegetables and while I'm looking forward to our own aubergine crop soon, at the moment I must have do with imported aubergines. Luckily there are nice ones around just now (I dislike those huge sponge-like bulbous ones that you get during winter and early spring), so I cook something with aubergines/eggplants every week or two.

Aubergines / Eggplants / Oma aia pommud / Oma aia baklažaanid
Aubergines/Eggplants from Nami-Nami garden, September 2010

This lovely vegetarian dish is good as it is, but it could also be served as a side dish to some grilled chicken, fish or meat.

Other aubergine/eggplant recipes @ Nami-Nami:
Nasu dengaku or miso-glazed aubergine
Ottolenghi's roasted aubergine with saffron yoghurt
A lovely aubergine curry with tomatoes, coriander and nigella seeds
Armenian Aubergine Stew
Brinjal Masala (deep-fried aubergines)
Hob-to-table moussaka

Grilled aubergine with feta, golden raisins and mint
(Meatless Monday)
Adapted from a recipe on Swedish Arla-site
Serves 4

2 medium-sized aubergines/eggplants (not too bulbous)
3-4 Tbsp oil
salt and black pepper
small bunch of mint
4 Tbsp golden raisins
4 Tbsp roasted pinenuts
150-200 g Greek feta cheese, crumbled or cubed

Rinse the eggplants and cut into 5 mm (that's half a centimetre or about 1/4th of an inch). Sprinkle some salt and place in a colander to drain (contrary to a widespread misconception, this is NOT done to get rid of any bitterness - modern eggplant varieties simply are not bitter. However, by draining some of the eggplant juices off beforehand, they immerse less oil when frying later). Put aside for about 20-30 minutes.
Pat the aubergine slices dry, then brush with oil on both sides.
Heat a heavy frying pan until very hot, then reduce heat to medium-high and fry eggplant/aubergine slices until golden brown on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). Season with salt and pepper and place on a serving tray.
Sprinkle with crumbled feta, chopped mint leaves, golden raisins and roasted pinenuts.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Delicious and crispy elderflower fritters

Elderflower fritters / Frititud leedripuuõisikudrNAMI

We're in the mood for fritters over here - which is weird, considering the heat-wave we've been having for the umpteenth day now. Last Friday I made deep-fried crispy stuffed courgette flowers, few days before that we all enjoyed these delicious elderflower fritters.

Elderflower as such is not new to Nami-Nami household. I've been using elderflower cordial to lend some floral notes and delicate flavour to a number of dishes - cold buttermilk soup 'koldskål', quick elderflower mousse, elderflower curd, strawberries with elderflower zabaglione, to name just a few that have made it to this food blog. We've been drinking elderflower fizz at home a lot. But I've always used a shop-bought cordial, as we didn't have an elderflower (Sambucus nigra) bush growing in our garden (they grow wild pretty much only on the Western isles). Two years ago, when we had to finalize the list of plants we wanted to have in our garden, elderflower was at the top of the list (alongside a proper quince tree and an Egremont Russet apple tree). Last year the elderflower was still too young to bear any blossoms, but this year was different.

When I first spotted this tiny promise back in late June, I was very, very excited, to say the least:
So much promise - our first black elderflower :)

Some patience was needed, but eventually our black elder gave us these:


Like with all other fritters and donuts, these are best right after frying, doused with plenty of icing/confectioner's sugar that you can season with some vanilla powder or ground cinnamon.

Crispy elderflower fritters
(Frititud leedripuuõisikud)
Makes about 20-30 small fritters, enough for 5-6 hungry eaters

about 20-30 small elderflower clusters

200 g plain flour (330 ml)
a pinch of salt
1 large egg
300 ml soda water or light beer or milk
a generous splash of grappa, Limoncello or rum

mild-tasting oil for deep-frying (I used rapeseed oil)

icing sugar/confectioner's sugar to serve

Sift the flour into a bowl, add salt and mix. Make a hole in the middle, break the egg into the hole. Whisk until combined, adding the liquid (water, beer or milk) gradually and finally mixing in the alcohol. Put into the fridge for about half an hour.
Meanwhile, clean the elderflower clusters from various critters and bugs (if you cannot see any, you can place the flowers into the freezer for 10 minutes or so - apparently this "scares" them out. To keep as much of the precious pollen, it's advisable not to rinse the blossoms). Cut the stem end as short as possible.
Heat about 4-5 cm (about 2 inches) of oil in a small saucepan. The temperature is about right when a little peeled potato cube or bread cube begins to sizzle and turns into nice golden brown when you drop it into the oil.

Dipping the elderflower clusters / Kastan leedripuuõisikuid taina sisse

Now, working with couple of elderflowers at the time, dip them into the batter, then lower them into hot oil. Fry for about 2-3 minutes, then gently turn them over and let them brown on the other side as well. (I loved how they puffed up so nicely when lowered into the hot oil).
Using a slotted spoon, transfer them into a double layer of kitchen paper to drain off the excess oil.
Fry the rest of the batter-dipped elderflower blossoms in a similar fashion.

Dust with plenty of icing sugar/confectioner's sugar that you can season with vanilla powder or cinnamon first.

Elderflower fritters / Frititud leedripuuõisikud

More elderflower fritters:
Delicious Days
Nigel Slater
Lottie + Doof
Georgia Pellegrini
Hunter. Hanger. Gardener. Cook.
Doves Farm

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Showing some link love

I thought I'd share some blog links that are related to Estonia and/or Estonian food.

Elderflower cordial
Elderflower cordial by Zapxpxau

Elisa is one of the most talented food photographers here in Estonia, and some of you may already follow her Flickr photo stream. She recently - and finally! - launched her own food blog, written in English. Elisa is lives and cooks and takes most of her pictures on Saaremaa, the biggest island in Estonia. While her featured recipes aren't necessarily particularly Estonian - I always get a strong Mediterranean vibe from her blog, then her food pictures are dreamy and utterly beautiful and definitely worth subscribing to.

Katrina with a plate of kama and mascarpone bonbons in her London courtyard

Katrina Kollegaeva is a Russian-Estonian girl, who grew up in Tallinn, but now resides and blogs in the Big Old Smoke aka London. I met Katrina last summer in Tallinn, and have been following her food blog ever since. Her blog, The Gastronomical Me, features lots of Russo-Soviet dishes, and she cooked several of my recipes for her recent Midsummer Baltic Brunch - incl. my kama and mascarpone truffles and caramelised rye bread and condensed milk ice cream.

Estonian rye bread @ Kristina Lupp's blog

Kristina Lupp is an Toronto native with Estonian background, who studies gastronomy at the University of Adelaide (yep, down under!). She's currently living in Tallinn though, researching the effects of the Soviet occupation on Estonia's cuisine. Her eponymous blog cannot boast a huge number of posts, but there are some interesting musings on the topic of Estonian food.

If you are a Facebook user, then you can check out Estonian Cooking and Eating group - it's mainly run by expat and second-and third-generation Estonians in the US and Canada, so it's in English.

If there's an English-language food blog or site out there, that I've missed, then let me know!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Strawberry and sour cream ice cream

Strawberry and sour cream ice cream / Maasika-hapukoorejäätis
Favourite in July 2011

Sour cream is a staple in every Estonian kitchen, and local strawberries are abundant just now. So it's no wonder that I've resorted to making this excellent ice cream from David Lebovitz excellent Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments whenever a) it's hot and b) I crave ice cream. Always a crowd-pleaser and always delicious. Mind you, only if you use good-tasting strawberries, of course!

Strawberry and sour cream ice cream
Yields about 1.2 litres (2 pints)
Slightly adapted from David Lebovitz's recipe

Favourite in July 2008

500 gram fresh strawberries
150 gram sugar
1 Tbsp vodka (keeps the ice cream from hardening too much)
250 g sour cream
250 ml whipping cream
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Rinse, dry and hull the strawberries. Slice them and toss them in a bowl with sugar and vodka. Stir, until the sugar dissolves, then let them macerate at room temperature for an hour. Stir every now and then.
Place the strawberries (and ALL the liquid from the bowl) into the blender container, add sour cream, whipping cream and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
Refrigerate the mixture for 1 hour.
Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Crisp stuffed courgette flowers aka zucchini blossoms

Stuffed courgette flowers / Täidetud suvikõrvitsaõied

From all the vegetables we're growing in our garden, zucchini/courgette thrives best (closely followed by Jerusalem artichokes). And whereas the fruit might need another few days to be ready, zucchini blossoms are perfect already. Previously I've made zucchini blossom fritters and zucchini blossom frittata, this year I tried to stuff them. I came across two more or less identical recipes - one by Lucas Hollweg in the UK Sunday Times, the other by Jamie Oliver. A bit of tweaking here and there (who uses self-rising flour!?!?), and I came up with this version that we all LOVED.

You can use both male and female zucchini blossoms for this dish, as I did. (How can you tell them apart? The female blossoms have a tiny zucchini attached to them; the male blossoms just have the stem). I usually just use the male blossoms, as the female are the ones providing us with tasty courgettes later on. The male blossoms look like this:

Courgette flower / Zucchini blossom / Suvikõrvitsaõis
Male courgette flower/zucchini blossom

However, if you don't need so many proper zucchinis, you can pick the female blossoms as well - it'll give you a more substantial dish.

Courgette flowers / Zucchini flowers / Suvikõrvitsaõied
Courgette flowers @ Lyon Market, France, August 2009. Female blossoms are at the front, male blossoms at the back.

What's your favourite way to stuff courgette flowers/zucchini blossoms?

Deep-fried stuffed courgette flowers
(Frititud täidetud suvikõrvitsaõied)

Stuffed courgette flowers / Täidetud suvikõrvitsaõied

12 large and fresh zucchini blossoms/courgette flowers
vegetable oil, for frying

250 g ricotta cheese
25 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
finely grated zest of half a lemon
a small handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
a generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt anf freshly ground black pepper

120 g all-purpose/plain flour (about 200 ml)
0.5 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
250 ml (a cup) of sparkling water/mineral water

To serve:
sea salt flakes and lemon wedges

Make the filling. Mix ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest and mind leaves. Season generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Form the mixture into 12 small balls.
Prepare the zucchini blossoms - I avoid rinsing, if at all possible, and neither do I remove the
filaments from the female flowers. (You're welcome to do so, if you prefer). Make sure there are no little critters hiding inside the blossoms! Using your fingers, gently open each blossom and place one small stuffing ball inside. Gently close the blossom around the filling - either just folding the petals over the stuffing, twisting the petals or using a chive to tie the petals tightly together.
Mix the ingredients for the batter - it should have the consistency of a thin crepe batter.
Heat 4-5 cm (about 2 inches) of oil in a small saucepan. The temperature is about right when a little peeled potato cube or bread cube begins to sizzle and turns into nice golden brown when you drop it into the oil.
Now, working with couple of zucchini blossoms at the time, dip them into the batter, then lower them into hot oil. Fry for about 2-3 minutes, then gently turn them over and let them brown on the other side as well.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer them into a double layer of kitchen paper to drain off the excess oil.
Fry the rest of the stuffed zucchini blossoms in a similar fashion.

Serve hot, sprinkled with some Maldon sea salt and lemon wedges on the side.

Here's another close-up:
Stuffed courgette flowers / Täidetud suvikõrvitsaõied