Monday, June 25, 2012

Israeli food, and a recipe for Roasted Aubergine (Eggplant) with Feta

Roasted eggplant with feta / Pommupüree fetaga

 I'll be eating lots of Israeli food in the coming few days, together with few other foodbloggers from England, France and the US, and you'll bound to hear much more about it. In advance of the foodie journey, we were all sent a gorgeous coffee-table/cookbook by Riga-born and Israel-based food writer and cookbook author Janna Gur, called The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey. I've been browsing through the book and sticking enough yellow post-it notes on the pages to give my family and friends menu ideas till Christmas. The first dish (and certainly not the last one) I tried was a little number with roasted aubergines/eggplants.

Lovely on some rye bread crisps!

Roasted eggplants / Roasted aubergines / Röstitud pommud

Please keep your fingers crossed that this Nordic foodie won't collapse under the Israeli sun - the dry heat is somewhat intimidating, I must admit. Nordic summers with about 20 Celsius and few degrees above that are what I'm enjoying most, you see, but sometimes we need to challenge ourselves, especially in the name of good food and good company ;)

Roasted aubergine with feta 
Serves four to six

Roasted eggplant with feta / Röstitud pommupüree fetaga

2 firm medium-sized aubergines/eggplants, rinsed
200 g feta cheese, crumbled
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of sumac
a pinch of dried oregano or marjoram leaves
3 chopped spring onions
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Roast the rinsed eggplants either on an open flame (if you've got a gas grill) or simply in a hot oven until soft and blackened. Cool slightly, then peel (discard the skin) and mash the roasted flesh with a knife and/or a fork.
Add the crumbled feta cheese and olive oil, season with sumac and oregano (I used a close relative, marjoram). Add the chopped spring onions (I used a mixture of chives, green onions and Siberian garlic chives from my garden), season to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Note: if you season the aubergine/eggplant flesh while it's still slightly warm, then the flavours are absorbed much better!

Serve at once or cover and keep in a cool place until ready to serve. 

Other bloggers cooking from this book:
David Lebovitz tried the Tu bi'Shvat Cake
Family Friendly Food baked the Apple, Cinnamon and Walnuts cake
Noshes, Thoughts and Reves made the Beetroot and Pomegranate Salad

NB! Note that you can follow Nami-Nami foodblog updates - and my other food-related tweets - in Twitter now:!/PilleNamiNami

Friday, June 15, 2012

7-year itch? Nami-Nami food blog anniversary post and a recipe for a Swedish shrimp salad (Räksallad)

Rootsi krevetisalat / Swedish shrimp salad / Räksallad
Nami-Nami foodblog is now seven years old. On June 15, 2005, I wrote my first English-language blog post. Back then I was seven years younger. I had just finished my PhD in Sociology of Nationalism at the University of Edinburgh in bonnie Scotland, and about to start my first post-doctoral fellowship at the same university. I hadn't yet met my dear K, who seduced me back to Estonia in October following year (I met in him on November 1, 2005, four and half months after starting blogging, at a reception in Edinburgh), and I definitely didn't have any gorgeous kids back then (and, consequently, I had much more time for blogging :))

Those seven years have been fun - it's been fun meeting other foodbloggers from all over the world, it's been fun taking part in various foodblogging events. It's been educating and entertaining thinking more about what, how, and why we eat, being more reflexive about our dietary choices, eating habits and the food culture in general.

And nope, there's definitely no seven-year itch in my relationship to Nami-Nami foodblog. We're still going strong, and I have no intention of quitting just yet. Furthermore, there are some extremely interesting blogging-related trips and meet-ups lined up for the near future, so stay with me and Nami-Nami :)

For today's recipe, I'll give you this Swedish shrimp salad, something that was offer on the recent Swedish buffet. Although I do cook and blog about dishes from all over the world, then I do feel most happy and confident when blogging about Estonian, other Nordic and possibly also Eastern European dishes. This is a very Nordic salad flavour-wise - fresh, herbal, light and very summery. You can serve it as a simple salad or perhaps on top of some buttered toast.

Swedish shrimp salad
Serves six (can be easily multiplied)
400-500 g hand-peeled cooked shrimps*
100 ml (7 level Tbsp) of good-quality mayonnaise
100 ml finely chopped fresh dill
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp mild paprika powder
0.25 tsp freshly ground pepper (preferably white pepper)

* I prefer the ones in a light marinade or brine to the frozen ones, but both will do. Just make sure the netto weight after defrosting and draining is about 400 g.

If using frozen shrimps, then thoroughly defrost them (I take them from the freezer and put into the fridge on the previous night). Drain thoroughly, then squeeze gently to remove as much water as possible. If using shrimps in a brine/marinade, then simply drain them.
Put couple of shrimps on the side, if you want to use them for garnish.
In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise and dill, season with lemon juice, paprika powder and pepper. Add the shrimps and stir gently, until combined.
Transfer the salad into a serving bowl, garnish with some shrimps and dill.

Serve at once, or cover with clingfilm and place into the fridge for an hour or two.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Swedish afternoon

Have you been to Stockholm, the capital of Sweden? I have, many times, most recently during the first weekend of June. The weekend trip was organised by The Flavours of Estonia, and we were 10 Estonian foodbloggers and food journalists in total. We had plenty of good food and met some very nice people, but in general I don't have much to write about the trip, as I didn't bring my camera and the horrid weather conditions (a meagre 5 degrees Celsius, heavy non-stop rain and strong Nordic winds) kind of kept me from really enjoying that beautiful Athens of the North this time.

But Stockholm - and Swedish food - are lovely, so we invited some K's friends and colleagues over this Sunday afternoon for a Swedish summer party. We were 17 adults and 6 kids (and 4 chickens and a beautiful Alaskan Malamute), all gathered around our brand new patio table. We spent the first part of the afternoon party outside - it was beautiful and sunny, but then some threatening clouds overcast the sun, so we moved the food inside after a while. Luckily, we were saved the downpour, and most of us ventured outside again soon. Good time was had by all, if I can say so as a hostess :)

I thought you might want to see what we served at this Swedish party, no? Here are the photos with links to recipes, where appropriate.Our daughter has seated herself smartly next to the trio of Swedish cheese and helped herself very generously:

The cheeseboard showcased Präst, Greve and Svecia, as recommended by a charming Swedish food writer Jens Linder whom I met in Stockholm. Of course, there as also Västerbotten (not pictured). We had some top-notch Swedish crispbread to go with the cheese, a gift from Ami Hofstadius of Visit Sweden. My gorgeous new serviettes were sewn by Arteljee. On the top left corner you can see a whole hot-smoked trout and the creamy caviar dressing that I wrote about just a few weeks ago here

Here's a better close-up of the table. You can see some new season's Estonian potatoes, a box of strawberries (imported, unfortunately, as the local ones are still few and prohibitively expensive), small round canapes with smoked Baltic herring and pickle cream (böcklingröra), dark rye bread triangles with salted herring and egg salad (gubbröra), Västerbottens cheese pie, a big bowl of tomato salad:

Gubbröra or herring and egg spread on crispy rye bread triangles: IMG_1251.jpg
Böcklingröra on roasted bread:
Västerbottens cheese pie. We actually had two - one baked by yours truly, the other by Tallinn-based Swede Lars-Olof (pictured, the pie, not the guy):

Again, that tomato salad that tasted already like a summer tomato salad should taste: IMG_1248.jpg

A very nice räksallad or shrimp/prawn salad that I'll be definitely making again soon: IMG_1247.jpg

For dessert, I baked two cakes - a large kärleksmums or Swedish cocoa cake, and a simple spiced rhubarb cake (very Estonian, not Swedish at all). The guests brought along lots of strawberries, which were all eaten very quickly as well.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Some pictures from Nami-Nami garden, May 2012

I'm off to my high-school reunion today (20 years?!?!? How did that happen??), so instead of writing about food I quickly share some photos of our beautiful garden taken during the last few weeks.
Whereas I'm bossing around the kitchen these days, my dear K. is in charge of the garden. We have a very young garden - only established in 2009-2010. Last year K. submitted the garden to a major gardening competition, organised by the biggest selling monthly, Kodu & Aed. And we won the coveted main title :) Mind you, K. submitted the garden to the "Young Garden" competition category - most of the planting was done just a year or two earlier, so it's nowhere near the fully established garden. However, the jury liked the design and the ideas, the neat vegetable garden and the cool Coolaroo sun-shade and the chicken in an urban backyard and the fact that everything was designed to be enjoyed by the family (especially the children) and/or used for cooking purposes. And decided to give us the main price :)

Anyway, here are some pictures from May 2012, starting with the most recent ones:

 Iluõunapuu "Liset"
Decorative apple "Liset" (31 May 2012)

 Sirel  'Catherine Havemeyer' / Syringa vulgaris / Lilac
Lilac "Catherine Havemeyer" (31 May 2012)

 Ebaküdoonia / flowering quince
A gorgeous flowering quince that bears wonderful edible fruits (see here and here; do not confuse with "regular" quince, which also grows in our garden; 31 May 2012).

Hall enelas / Spiraea X cinerea
Spiraea cinerea (31 May 2012)

(20 May 2012)

 Kuldne piimalill
Cushion Spurge (20 May 2012)

(20 May 2012)

Umbrella plant aka Indian rhubarb (20 May 2012)

 Viltkirss / Nanking cherry / Prunus tomentosa thunb
Bergenias (20 May 2012)

(14 May 2012)

 Forsythia (14 May 2012)

(2 May 2012)

Friday, June 08, 2012

Coconut and carrot soup with lime and basil

Kookose-porgandisupp laimi ja basiilikuga / Coconut and carrot soup with lime and basil 
I know, I know. It's summer and you're probably wondering why would anyone write about soothing vegetable soups, no?

Well, here's a flavoursome and vegan and gluten-free soup that'd be perfect for those slightly cooler summer nights that we are (at least here in Estonia) bound to encounter every now and then. It's mostly store-cupboard ingredients, so a lovely stand-by recipe. Somehow the coconut and carrots and basil and lime together are very refreshing, and surprisingly suitable for summer months. We thought it worked also well as a cold soup, but that's up to you.

The recipe is adapted from Lina's Matkasse, a popular Swedish grocery-and-recipe delivery service.

Coconut and carrot soup with lime and basil
(Kookose-porgandisupp laimi ja basiilikuga)
Serves 4 to 6

350 g carrots
1 medium onion
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
220 g red lentils (about 1 cup), rinsed and drained
1 litre vegetable stock
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
400 ml coconut milk
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1.5 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1.5 tsp coriander seeds, ground
0.5 tsp salt
1 lime, juiced
a pinch of chilli flakes (I used Aleppo chili)
a handful of fresh basil leaves

Peel or scrub the carrots and cut into 1 cm slices. Peel and chop the onion.
Heat oil in a heavy saucepan, add the onion and fry for a few minutes. Add the carrots and lentils and a sprinkle of salt, sauté for another few minutes.
Now add the vegetable stock, grated ginger, crushed garlic, cumin and coriander seeds as well as the coconut milk. Bring into a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, until the lentils and carrots are soft.
Process the soup until smooth (I prefer a jug blender, but an immersion blender would work as well). Season to taste with salt, lime juice and chilli flakes.
Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

EDIT November 29, 2012: Lydia Walshin featured this recipe on her SoupChick blog. Thank you, Lydia!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Persian scrambled eggs with dill (panir bereshteh)

Persian scrambled eggs with feta and dill / Pärsia munahüüve fetajuustuga

After "discovering" this wonderful Persian beetroot and yogurt borani recipe, I was hungry for more Persian recipes. Browsing the FoodBlogSearch results and using Google gave me plenty of ideas for diversifying my family's diet during the coming weeks. One dish that really caught my eye was "Persian feta omelette" that's apparently a real hit at byblos le petit café - a favourite Persian brunch location in Montreal, Canada. As we have a ready supply off fresh eggs from our four chickens, I'm always willing to try new egg recipes, and this feta omelette fit the bill nicely.

Fluffy (Orpington)
Fluffy, one of our two Orpingtons, on a walk 

I didn't have an exact recipe, instead I took inspiration from here and there (see some links at the bottom of this post). I call it Persian scrambled eggs with feta as opposed to Persian feta omelette, as, well, this is how I make scrambled eggs and not an omelette :) By blitzing the eggs with feta cheese first guarantees you have a uniform feta-egg mixture, and every bite you take tastes of the lovely feta cheese, as well as the farm-fresh eggs.

Serve with a selection of flat and soft white breads, or on top of - or between - toasted sliced bread.

Persian scrambled eggs with feta cheese
Serves two to three

Persian scrambled eggs with feta and dill / Pärsia munahüüve fetajuustuga

4 large eggs
200 g soft feta cheese
freshly ground white or black pepper
a pinch of oregano or marjoram

fresh dill, to garnish

Place the eggs and the feta into the beaker of your hand-held/immersion blender and blitz until combined. Season with pepper and a pinch of oregano or marjoram.
Lightly oil a heavy-bottomed omelet pan.
Pour the egg mixture into the cold pan and place the pan onto a hob over a medium-low heat. Heat gently and slowly, stirring with a wooden spatula or spoon, until the eggs are scrambled, yet soft and creamy.
Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the eggs into a serving dish. Garnish with chopped dill and serve at once.  

More about Persian feta omelette/omelet: 
Cooking and Cooking (recipe for Panir Bereshteh)
Julie's "Eating Project" blog (see photo no 5)
She Said (same recipe/photo in the Australian Herald Sun)
Cheese contest @ Canadian Living