Average Betty? It's written by a lovely 30-something LA-based woman called Sara O'Donnell, who is even more known for her witty and catchy recipe channel Average Betty on YouTube. She was visiting Estonia last week and I had the chance to meet her and throw a party for her and her husband. It was supposed to be a garden party (my dear K. even managed to excuse himself from my aunt's husband's 65th birthday party as he had to mow the lawn and make sure the garden looks all nice and pretty when Sara and the guests arrive ;)), but alas, the weather wasn't on our side. Luckily we managed to fit all the 18 adults and numerous kids into our house as well.
While I regularly entertain rather big groups of people at our home, I decided to play it safe this time and organise a potluck party instead, asking each local guest to contribute a dish. We did agree beforehand that the dish has to be pretty Estonian and more or less summery, and we ended up with a rather lovely spread, if I may say so myself. I think Sara and Lee agree, and I saw them at least tasting each of the numerous dishes - quite an achievement considering that they came to the party straight from the meeting with a famous local chef Dmitri Demjanov, which included a full meal at one of his restaurants.
Sara and me checking out some of the delectable dishes available.
I had invited a group of local food bloggers to the party, as well as my favourite pastry chef and good friend Heidi Park (who just happens to be an American based in Tallinn) and another good Estonian friend who currently resides in Washington DC (but is visiting home for a few weeks). The local bloggers were a mix of good foodblogging friends and some rising local foodblogging stars, and based on the quality of the dishes they brought along, I just might invite them over again soon ;)
Here's the bi-lingual menu (ignore the bottom part of the blackboard. I told you the house was full of kids ;))
On the photo below you see a beetroot salad (thank you, Mann!), a salt pork and onion flatbread, specialty on our largest island, Saaremaa (baked by Kirsike). Fried Baltic herring and a sour cream dip was brought along by Vernanda, the barley soda bread by Tuuli (I've blogged about this delicious Estonian bread here). You can get a glimpse of various local charcuterie on the left and of local artisanal cheese at the bottom. Finally, there's a selection beautiful tomatoes from our greenhouse (various cherry tomatoes - mainly Suncherry and Sungold varieties - are in a beautiful white bowl designed by a young Israeli Tal Zur of Studio Trixie), large tomatoes are next to chopped green Siberian chives, all from our garden as well:
Here's Sara taking photos of our cute tomatoes (she's a foodblogger, after all):
See that pale blue enamel pot just behind the charcuterie selection on the photo below? The pot contains a huge pile of delicious breaded and fried turkey steaks in marinade. These were made and brought along by Ragne, and it's a lighter version of this popular Estonian pork dish.
Marinated saffron milkcaps, courtesy of my K's mum:
I baked one of my favourite chantarelle quiches, flavoured with tarragon and paprika (recipe in Estonian):
Other savoury dishes included a wonderful Estonian rye bread and herby home cheese (Tuuli) and a layered smoked ham, egg and cucumber salad (Kätrin).
Sara looks happy with a glass of Estonian bubbly (see note at the end of the post), and our son is helping himself to some of the dishes:
We obviously also had quite a few sweet dishes, though in the midst of the hustle and bustle we forgot to photograph them all :) Heidi, the Tallinn-based American pastry chef, brought along a passionfruit cheesecake - a perfect balance of acidic fruit and sweet cheesecake. Kirsike made a batch of toffee-covered kama cereal balls (Estonian recipe here), and my friend Liis brought along a proper Estonian kringel (baked by her sweet diplomat husband Kristjan, who couldn't make it to the party himself), and Kätrin made a küpsisetort, a layered Estonian cookie cake (I've posted a recipe for my favourite version here).
Kaare, who drove to the party all the way from Tartu, brought along a very popular curd cheese cake - a shortcrust base, with a raisin and curd cheese topping:
Oh, and there was also a bowl of wonderful sweet-yet-tart yellow gooseberries that Triin brought along from Tartu.
Finally, I'd love to say a huge thank you to our drinks sponsors. Coffee was provided by Nami-Nami's long-time supporter Meira, who's also representing Segafredo Zanetti coffees in Estonia. Meira kindly gave us a Segafredo capsule coffee machine for the party (a huge thank you also to our barista Natalie :))
A le Coq sent us a selection of juices (plum nectar, banana-pear nectar and orange juice) and their Organic Beer (the first locally produced organic beer in Estonia)! By the way, the banana-pear nectar has two of Nami-Nami's recipes printed on each carton :):
There was another first-and-only at the party. We enjoyed chilled FEST - the first Estonian sparkling fruit wine, made from local apples. This semisweet apple wine is definitely very squaffable, if you ask me :) A huge thank goes to the producer, Põltsamaa FELIX. Another local drink company - Värska Vesi - had just re-introduced their mineral waters and still and sparkling drinking waters in beautiful glass bottles, and they kindly sent us a box of each.
All in all, I hope that Sara and her husband had great time in Estonia and that we managed to make them feel very welcome here.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Saturday, July 28, 2012
The red currants are all ripe and ready now in our garden, and we're using them a lot for making different cakes and desserts. Here's the most recent one - a simple red currant cake, served with homemade and freshly churned red summer berry and mascarpone ice cream. So simple and so delicious. The original recipe from a Swedish food magazine glazed the cake with a toffee-cream cheese topping, but we never got around to making the glaze - the cake was lovely the way it is presented here:
I must admit that not many of these berries make it to the kitchen, as both our kids love eating fresh berries straight off the red currant bush (the same fate falls upon black currants, raspberries, garden strawberries and small Alpine strawberries - and any other edible berries in our garden):
Aksel, 1 y 6 m (July 2012)
Here's our daughter (now 3 y 5 m) doing exactly the same thing last year:
Nora, 2 y 5 m (July 2011)
Cardamom works really well with red currants. If you're making this cake in Estonia or Finland and not podding and crushing your own cardamom pods, I suggest using Meira's ground cardamom - it's much more flavoursome than the other readily available competing brands, mainly because Meira's cardamom is not ground to a fine dust but left rather coarse.
Cardamom and red currant cake
Adapted from the Swedish Allt om Mat magazine (original recipe)
Makes 20-24 cake slices
150 g butter, melted
50 ml (3 Tbsp + 1 tsp) milk
3 large eggs
250 g caster sugar (about 300 ml)
275 g all-purpose/plain flour
1 Tbsp vanilla sugar or 2 tsp good-quality vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cardamom
300 ml (a heaped cup) of red currants
Pre-heat the oven to 175 C/350 F.
Whisk eggs and sugar until pale, thick and fluffy in a big bowl.
Mix melted butter and milk until combined.
Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, vanilla sugar and cardamom) in a medium bowl, then gently fold into the egg mixture, alternating with the butter and milk mixture.
Line a 25x35 cm cake tin with a parchment paper, spoon the batter into the cake tin.
Scatter the red currants on top.
Bake the cake in the middle of a preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, until light golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and let cool either lightly or completely before cutting into squares and serving.
More excellent recipes using redcurrants:
Red currant meringue pie (Nami-Nami)
Simple and versatile redcurrant jelly (Nami-Nami)
Red currant jam (David Lebovitz)
Red currant tart (Delicious Days)
Red currant mini cakes (La Tartine Gourmande)
Red currant sorbet (Delicious Days)
Peach redcurrant crumble (Mowielicious)
Saturday, July 21, 2012
The gooseberry season has begun and here's one of my favourite cakes for using up those gooseberries (you'll find more delicious ways of using gooseberries at the end of this post). It's a simple sponge cake, made special by the generous amount of sour gooseberries and tiny chewy bits of cooked marzipan.
You'll need a small sheet pan for this cake, about 25x35 cm (10 inch x 14 inch) in size.
Trivia: Did you know that the French call gooseberries the "mackerel berries" (groseille a macqueraux)? Neither did I...
Marzipan and gooseberry cake
Serves about 20
4 large free-range eggs
250 g caster sugar (about 300 ml)
150-200 g marzipan
250 g all-purpose/plain flour (about 400 ml)
a pinch of salt
500 ml gooseberries, rinsed, topped and tailed (2 cups)
50 g cold butter (about 2 Tbsp)
demerara brown sugar or pearl sugar
icing sugar/confectioner's sugar
vanilla custard/creme anglaise (optional)
Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale, thick and fluffy.
Grate the marzipan coarsely (you can put the marzipan into freezer for half an hour to make grating easier), or simply cut or crumble into small chunks. Fold into the egg and sugar mixture.
Fold in the flour and salt, stir gently until combined.
Line a Swiss roll tin (ca 25x35 cm) with a parchment paper or butter generously and dust with flour or semolina.
Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin. Scatter the gooseberries on top, then sprinkle with sugar and dot with small pieces of butter (feel free to use your grater here again).
That's how it will look:
Bake in a pre-heated 200C/390 F oven for about 35-45 minutes, until the cake is golden brown.
Let cool a little, then cut into squares and dust generously with an icing sugar.
Other gooseberry recipes:
Gooseberry tart with a sweetened condensed milk topping
Gooseberry fruit soup aka gooseberry kissel
Carrot and gooseberry jam
Red gooseberry sorbet
Coconut gooseberry clafoutis @ The Kitchn
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
We've had better summers than the current one. It's been raining a lot, the temperatures are a few degrees below the usual over-20C, and the sunshine has been limited. Quite sad, actually, but apparently that's the case with most central and northern European countries this year.
However, on Saturday morning the rain had stopped, the skies had cleared and the sun was out, so we packed our little family into the car, picked up one of the grandmothers and drove out of town to forage for wild strawberries. Couple of hours and a healthy dose of fresh country air later we returned home with just about a kilogram (over 2 pounds) of the precious berries. (Note that I'm talking about the real wild berries, Fragaria vesca, not the oblong cultivated Alpine strawberries, Fragaria vesca var. semperflorens).
Wild strawberries, picked in June 2007
Usually I make wild strawberry fridge jam, but I had done that on Friday night with 2,5 kilos of wild strawberries we had bought at a market. The next usual step would be to mix the berries with a sprinkling of sugar and some grass-fed milk, but I had done that already, too. We also had friends coming over for dinner on Saturday night, so I wanted to do something special and different this time.
Remembering that the Swedes love their smultron a lot as well, I turned to their popular Allt om Mat recipe site, and came across this wonderful recipe for an ice-cold/semi-frozen wild strawberry soup with warm marzipan cheesecake.
Warm marzipan cheesecake with cold wild strawberry coulis
(Jäine metsmaasikasupp sooja martsipani-toorjuustukoogiga)
Cold strawberry coulis:
200 ml water
125 g caster sugar (150 ml)
500 ml wild strawberries (2 cups)
0.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Warm marzipan cheesecake:
100 g marzipan
200 g cream cheese (Philadelphia or such like)
2 free-range eggs
2 Tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
First prepare the ice-cold wild strawberry soup/couilis.
Bring water and sugar into a boil in a small saucepan. Boil for a minute, then remove from the heat and stir in the wild strawberries:
Using an immersion blender/hand-held blender, process the berries and the syrup until smooth (if you dislike tiny seeds, you can press the whole thing through a fine sieve, but I found it totally unnecessary).
Season to taste with vanilla and lemon juice, then place into the freezer for a few hours.
Give the mixture a stir every now and then.
About 45 minutes before you intend to serve the dessert, make the marzipan cheesecake.
Preheat the oven to 175 C/350 F.
Grate the marzipan coarsely or simply use your fingers to divide it into small crumbs. Mix with the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth (again, I was using my immersion blender).
Divide the mixture between six buttered small ramekins or silicone muffin/friand tins.
Bake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes, until the cheesecakes look cooked and are light golden brown.
Remove the marzipan cheesecakes from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.
To plate and serve:
Remove the cheesecakes carefully from the tins and place on six dessert plates. Pour the ice-cold wild strawberry coulis around the warm cheesecakes.
Garnish with wild strawberries - ideally on straw, to bring back those innocent childhood memories :)
More posts about wild strawberries:
Wild strawberry fridge jam
Picking wild strawberries in 2006
Wild strawberries and cream
Fraises des bois @ David Lebovitz
Wild strawberries from the garden @ Chocolate & Zucchini
Maapealne paradiis ehk seitse liitrit metsmaasikaid @ Koopatibi küpsetab (in Estonian)
MarikaBlossfeldt’s Passion, Purpose and Pleasure Wellness Retreat takes place August 12 – 18 at Polli Talu Arts Center in Western Estonia – a week of relaxation, awareness and awakening your taste buds – yoga, cooking classes, breath walks, massages, meditations and more …
Find details here.
Find details here.
Saturday, July 14, 2012
On Monday morning I opened my mailbox and saw this:
Hello from London
Love the blog. I had a wonderful tomato and smoked cheese soup in Tallinn and wondered if this was a traditional Estonian soup and whether you had a recipe for this?
Thanks and best wishes
Why déjà vu? You see, it's not the first time I get a recipe request for an "Estonian cheese soup" - I even posted a recipe for an "Estonian" courgette/zucchini and cheese soup last Spring, when a reader was inquiring about a soup he heard about on an American radio station. I wasn't really aware that there's such a thing as a typical Estonian cheese soup, but then realised that something called juustusupp (cheese soup) is served in most pubs, and I did have several soups in my regular recipe repertoire that relied on being thickened with either smoked cheese (suitsujuust) or melted cheese (sulatatud juust) or flavoured or unflavoured cream cheese (toorjuust).
Some cherry tomatoes from picked from our greenhouse this weekend. The varieties are Sungold and Suncherry.
Here are some of the soup recipes here on Nami-Nami foodblog that contain cheese:
Estonian courgette/zucchini and smoked cheese soup
Goat cheese and beetroot/beet soup
Creamy fish soup
But back to the tomato and cheese soup that Chris was inquiring about. Here's a version I made for lunch today, and my family loved it. I used tomato passata or sieved pureéd tomatoes. You can use canned chopped tomatoes (just process them smooth first) or even chopped fresh tomatoes from your garden (chop, cook with a bit of salt, pureé and press through a sieve to remove the skin).
The smoked cheese that's most popular here in Estonia is this "log" - currently produced by Tere (but this has been around - looking exactly the same - since the Soviet time), weighs 280 grams. After you remove the wrapping and the skin and nibble a slice or two, you're left with about 200 grams of cheese:
I might try this spreadable smoke-flavoured cheese by E-Piim next time (180 g) - would be probably so much more convenient to use in a soup:
If you cannot get hold of either one of those, then Kitchen Ninja helpfully left a comment after the courgette and smoked cheese soup recipe that smoked Gouda worked brilliantly, so try to locate some of that Dutch cheese, or look for a Räucherkäse, geräucherter Käse, копчёный сыр or such like in your local international food isle.
Tomato and Smoked Cheese Soup
400 g canned chopped tomatoes or tomato passata
400 ml water
200 g smoked cheese, finely chopped
200 ml single cream/pouring cream
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
sugar, to taste
fresh parsley, to garnish
Mix tomatoes and water in a medium saucepan. Bring into a slow boil, then add the smoked cheese and cream and heat, stirring constantly, until the cheese has melted.
Season the soup with salt, pepper and sugar.
Garnish with some finely chopped parsley and serve. A good crusty bread would be a nice companion.
Friday, July 13, 2012
You'll find the recipe for this wonderfully aromatic and flavoursome apricot sorbet at the end of this post.
Endomela is a play of three Hebrew words, Ein-Dome-La. The meaning? "Similar to none" or "Unlike no other". This is the name of a small ice cream parlour in Akko (known as Acre in English), a small town in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel. Akko was first mentioned on the tribute-lists of pharaoh Thutmose III in the 16th century BC, and is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in this part of the world. A place with history indeed.
We visited Akko in the midday heat in the middle of the hot Israeli summer, so it was hard to grasp that the city is a home to some 45 thousand inhabitants. I guess that most of them were hiding in the safety of their cool and possibly air-conditioned homes and not wandering around the streets.
We were in Akko for a reason, of course. As we were exploring the culinary delicacies Israel has to offer, we had arrived to have a light lunch at a famous seafood restaurant URI BURI, meet the man behind the restaurant, Uri (Jeremias) Buri (pictured just below), visit his ice cream shop and enjoy a private tour of his recently opened beautiful boutique hotel Efendi and finish with a "light" tapas-style lunch at the hotel restaurant. I'll write about the fish restaurant and the hotel another time, today I'll give you a peek into his ice cream shop, the smartly-named Endomela.
Here's Uri Jeremias aka Uri Buri and me in front of his ice cream shop in Akko. American journalist Eric Westervelt described Uri Jeremias in his article for NPR.org as having stepped out of a Tolkien novel, with "his thick, long, elfish beard, ample paunch and mischievous smile". My 3,5 year old daughter is convinced that I was served ice cream by Santa Claus/Father Christmas himself :)
Uri (Jeremias) Buri had been making and serving ice cream at this fish & seafood restaurant for years, but as the restaurant's kitchen is tiny, he had to move out his ice cream business into separate premises. He opened Endomela within a short walking distance from his restaurant just over a year ago. In addition to a number of sweet sorbets, ice creams and frozen yoghurts, he also makes some intriguing savoury combinations. We had a taste of this wasabi-sorbet, served with smoked salmon, as well of arak-flavoured sorbet destined as a palate-cleanser between various fish courses at his restaurant.
Uri scooping some of his lovely ice cream for us. (Photo by Noa Magger). We got to sample pretty much all the available flavours.
Endomela's ice cream selection. (Photo by Noa Magger).
All ice cream is made at the premises and in small batches. At the time of our visit, they were churning a very refreshing pineapple sorbet. My very favourite one was Endomela's mint ice cream - so fresh and minty, definitely not your regular beach-front chocolate and mint concoction (you can see it on the right on the photo above). Uri told us he uses a combination of spearmint "Nana" (Mentha spicata, Israelis call it sweet mint or nana) and the highly aromatic Emperor's mint or Roman mint (Micromeria sp) to achieve the immensely refreshing and bright minty flavour.
The runner-up was Endomela's apricot sorbet. Yet pretty much everything else we tried was wonderful as well - cardamom ice cream, passionfruit sorbet, halva ice cream, lime and poppyseed frozen yoghurt - you name it.
I've made apricot ice cream before, but not apricot sorbet, and that's what I decided to replicate at home first. As the reigning king of all things ice cream and sorbet, David Lebovitz, was also taking part in our trip to Endomela, I decided to use his recipe as a base. I know David provides his recipes both in Imperial and Metric, but his starting point is still the pound and not a kilo, so I did some minor revisions (if I'd ask for 900 grams of apricots or 110 grams of chocolate chips in a store, I'd get very weird looks. While these amounts would make perfect sense to someone who's grown up with pounds and ounces, then 900 grams (2 pounds) of apricots and 110 grams (1/4 of a pound) of chocolate would make perfect sense. For us, it's a weird 100 grams less than a kilo and a funny 10 grams more than 100 grams, if you know what I mean). I also reduced the amount of sugar just a tiny bit, as the apricots I was using were very sweet and very ripe (ripeness and the amount of fruit sugar are related, you see).
The Bergeron apricots @ Marche de Saint-Antoine, Lyon, France. August 2009
My favourite apricots for making all kinds of desserts are the French Bergeron ones. This time I used a lovely Spanish alternative - dark orange, very sweet and just a perfectly slightly acidic. You may add more sugar or a dash of lemon juice to the sorbet mix, depending on the type of apricots you're using.
Slightly adapted from David Lebovitz's excellent book The Perfect Scoop
Makes about 1 litre
1 kg very ripe apricots (that's just over 2 lbs)
250 ml/1 cup water
200 ml/170 grams caster sugar (that's 1 cup minus 3 level Tbsp)
0.5 tsp vanilla extract
Split the apricots in half, remove the stones, and cut each half into thirds.
Place the apricot pieces and water in a medium saucepan, cover. Cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until apricots are softened and begin to fall apart.
Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Once cool, pureé the mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth. Season with vanilla. Cover and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.
Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Erin Zimmer of Serious Eats writes about Endomela: Snapshots from Israel: Uri Buri and his ice cream.
Other posts about my trip to Israel.
Other ice cream and sorbet recipes here on Nami-Nami.
More ice cream and sorbet recipes on David Lebovitz's blog.
* Disclaimer: I spent six days in Israel in late June/early July as a guest of a non-profit social start-up Kinetis, more specifically their Vibe Israel programme. This particular trip hosted five international food bloggers and writers, introducing them to the multifaceted and pluralist Israeli culture and cuisine. Visit to Uri Buri restaurant, the Efendi Hotel and the adjacent ice cream parlour Endomela in Akko/Acre in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel was part of that trip.
Sunday, July 08, 2012
Here's a children's poem in Estonian, written by Heljo Mänd in 1960s, describing small elephant's Bumbu's birthday party in the jungle, where monkeys were eating wafers ("vahvel" in Estonian) and the crocodiles were eating forks ("kahvel" in Estonian). If you combine the monkeys and the forks of this poem, you'll get kahvliahvid aka kitchen/fork monkeys.
kära täis on džungel.
Sünnipäev on Bumbul,
Ahvid pistsid vahvleid,
limonaad on kange,
jookseb mööda lonti
justkui sada tonti.
Couple of weeks ago I got a phone call from a well-known journalist and party organiser, asking to give a cookery demo to a group of kids and their parents at a small music festival in a small Estonian town of Kilingi-Nõmme. The workshop, called Kahviahvi Kokakool ("Fork Monkey's Cooking School", or probably better translated as "Kitchen Monkeys"), was to have four cookery sessions/demonstrations, and I was asked to give one of them. I agreed - it was a chance to get out of town and listen to some nice music in fresh air before and after the cooking demo. We were discussing the possible menu options, taking into consideration what the other sessions were focusing on, and finally agreed I'd teach the kids and their parents (26 in total) how to make cold soups. Not your usual gazpacho, mind you, but a kefir and a buttermilk soup, respectively - one savoury, one sweet.
It's summer, after all! As it turned out to be a really hot on Saturday (the music festival and the culinary workshops took place on Saturday, July 7th), cold soups seemed to have been a wise choice indeed :)
My cold summer soup workshop was at 5.30 pm, third one of the afternoon:
I tied the apron strings and was ready to begin. Note the sweet monkey-fork/fork-monkey design:
The kids were all anxiously waiting and ready to start chopping:
We began with the savoury kefir soup. Basically we made this chlodnik, but adding beets/beetroots and grated horseradish was optional, and everybody added some cooked mortadella-style sausages as well, to make the soup a bit more substantial. I must admit that about 3/4th of the kids asked for both the beets and the horseradish, which made me very happy indeed :)
Small (and some slightly bigger) kitchen monkeys in action. Note the high concentration of fathers - at least four - who were accompaning their children:
My role was to make sure everyone has understood the instructions and are progressing nicely:
Cutting the sausages into small dice for the soup requires some serious focusing and concentration:
Me, making sure that everyone got some vitamin-rich green onions:
Here's a close-up of the cold kefir soup with scallions/green onions, finely chopped sausages, beets and cucumbers (you can only guess there's beetroot at present at this point, as the stirring of the soup was a serious and time-consuming job as well):
Once everyone had finished making and eating their cold kefir soup, it was time to start making the dessert. I had chosen the wonderfully summery Danish buttermilk and strawberry soup koldskål - you'll find the recipe here on Nami-Nami. We did use kama cereal balls instead of crushed biscuits/cookies, however.
The main component - local Estonian strawberries, which are at their peak just now:
Mint, destined as garnish of the cold buttermilk-strawberry soup (lemon balm works just as well)
Choosing the prettiest strawberries for the buttermilk-strawberry soup:
Here's our daughter (3 y 5 m) enjoying the buttermilk-strawberry soup she made all by herself:
Thank you, Merle Liivak, Kahvliahvi Kokakool & Schilling, for inviting me! I had a lovely day indeed :)
All photos by my food-blogging friend Liina Vahter .