Friday, September 28, 2012

Apple and Cheddar Cheese Scones

Viimsi Ubinapäev: Toidublogijate õunakoogikohvik / Viimsi Apple Day: Foodbloggers' Apple Pie Café
Poster designed by Marju Randmer of

My local farmers market, Viimsi Taluturg, hosts a big apple feast tomorrow, called Ubinapäev. If I remember it correctly, its the third year in a row. And for the second year in a row, a group of local foodbloggers, including yours truly, sets up a apple cake stand, Toidublogijate õunakoogikohvik. There are five of us, just like last year, and as last year was lots of fun and a great success (we sold all the cakes within 2 hours or so), we're more than happy to participate this year as well. So all of you who are in Tallinn or Viimsi tomorrow, are most welcome to come by and have some apple cake. But come early :)

Today's recipe is for apple and Cheddar cheese scones. The ones on the picture were made exactly a year ago, and come highly recommended. If it weren't for the prohibitive cost of Cheddar cheese over here, I'd make these for the apple cake stand tomorrow. These are excellent - slightly sweet, slightly savory, full of roasted apples and strong-flavoured cheese - a great snack first thing in the morning or with your afternoon cup of tea.

The original recipe appeared in Melissa Clark's "The Perfect Finish" (2010, Apple and White Cheddar Scones), but I've played with the amounts and ingredients a little. Smitten Kitchen and Leite's Culinaria have blogged about the same recipe from the same book (these are helpful when you're looking for US measurements). And a search for apple cheddar scones gives numerous results on the FoodBlogSearch, if you're looking for something slightly different.

Apple and Cheddar Cheese Scones
Makes 6 large scones
Apple and Cheddar Scones / Õuna-juustukakud

3 to 4 large apples (about 450 g/1 pound in total)
200 g all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp + 1.5 Tbsp caster sugar
0.5 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
85 g cold butter, cut into cubes
100 g strong/mature Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) fresh cream (single or double)
2 large eggs, divided

Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper. Peel the apples, remove the cores and cut apples into thin sectors. Place on the baking sheet on an even layer, and bake at 180 C/350 F for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, let cool.

  Apple and Cheddar Scones / Õuna-juustukakud

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, 4 Tbsp of sugar, baking powder and salt). Place the cubed cold butter into your food processor. Add the apples, grated cheese, fresh cream and 1 egg. Scatter the dry mix on top. Using the slowest setting, quickly mix the dough until it just comes together.

 Apple and Cheddar Scones / Õuna-juustukakud

Line a baking sheet with a clean parchment paper.

Place the scone mixture onto a lightly floured table, sprinkle some flour on top as well. Gently roll  it into a round disk, about 3.5 cm high. Cut into 6 sectors and transfer these onto the baking sheet, leaving some space between the scones.

Whisk the remaining  egg with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with the egg wash, then sprinkle with the rest of the sugar.

Bake in the middle of a preheated 180 C oven for about 30 minutes, until the scones are lovely golden brown.

Let cool a little, then transfer onto a metal rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No porcini mushrooms? Make sautéed aubergine/eggplants (Melanzane al funghetto)

Sautéed aubergines / Praetud pommud / Melanzane al funghetto

The silver-haired Amalfi-born and England-based Antonio Carluccio is known in the United Kingdom as the godfather of Italian gastronomy. This lovely dish is based on his recipe. Gently sautéed cubed aubergines/eggplants with garlic indeed have a flavour reminiscent of porcini/penny bun/cep mushrooms (Boletus edulis in Latin) - hence the title of this post :) A handy recipe to have when you crave mushrooms but cannot get hold of good ones, or when you want to please somebody who cannot eat mushrooms for whatever reason..

Antonio Carluccio recommends this as a side dish to veal chops or Wienerschnitzler, but it's lovely as a vegetarian main with some crusty white bread as well. 

Choose nice and firm aubergines for this.

Melanzane al funghetto  
(Praetud pommud e. melanzane al funghetto)
Serves four

500 g aubergine/eggplant
2 garlic cloves
8 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp seal salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Peel the aubergines (not compulsory, I actually prefer them unpeeled) and cut into neat 1,5-2 cm cubes. Slice the garlic.
Heat oil on a large skillet over moderate heat. Add the aubergine and garlic and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the aubergine softens.
Stir in the parsely, season with salt and pepper.
Serve hot or leave to cool before serving.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A recipe for Shakshuka (shakshouka), or eggs nested in spicy tomato sauce

Shakshuka / Shakshouka
You'll find the recipe for this wonderfully simple and flavoursome basic shakshouka at the end of this post. The colourful selection of hot peppers and tiny tomatoes is from our greenhouse.  

I went to Israel back in June (see disclaimer at the end of this post), and fell in love with shakshuka (also spelled as shakshouka). Shakshuka is a northern African dish, originally from Tunesia or Algeria (depends who you ask from) that has become extremely popular in Israel over the last decades. We were told on several occasion that this is one of the two dishes that every Israeli man knows how to cook (I cannot recall what was the other one. Anyone?). I'm sure Israeli women are pretty good in making this dish as well, but yes, it's mainly men who boast who can make and eat the most fragrant and spicy shakshuka for breakfast :)

As with many traditional dishes, there are as many recipes around as there are cooks.  The hugely popular Yotam Ottolenghi has a version in his second bestselling book, Plenty, using onions and plenty of bell peppers and you can see him making his version of shakshuka in this video recipe on Guardian's website. The guru of Jewish food, Claudia Roden, includes a recipe for shakshouka in her epic The Book of Jewish Food. She notes that  

"This name us used for all kinds of dishes involving fried vegetables with eggs broken on top. A variety of vegetables, from potatoes and broad beans to artichoke hearts and courgettes, are used in Tunesia, where the dish originated, but it is the version with onions, peppers and tomatoes that has been adopted in Israel as a popular evening meal".

Claudia Roden also includes two variations in her book - one with spicy merquez sausage, the other with white Bulgarian cheese.  In another excellent book, Tamarind and Saffron, Claudia Roden provides two recipes, one with the merquez sausage, the other one with peppers and garlic instead of onions, which also happens to be my Allium of choice for this recipe.

Janna Gur - a popular and well-known Israeli food writer whom we had a pleasure of meeting twice during our trip to Israel (she's standing on the far left on this photo) - has included a recipe and several variations of shakshuka in her beautiful The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey. Janna claims that there are just three mandatory ingredients - tomatoes, hot sauce and eggs, and her basic recipe includes garlic, fresh and canned tomatoes, seasonings and eggs (note: NO peppers!). She also includes varieties with onions and peppers, with spicy merquez or small cocktail sausages, "the Israeli Army shakshuka" with canned corn, baked beans and sausages, as well as the mild tomatoless shakshuka with spinach and feta.

Last, but not least, there's a recipe for shakshuka in Rebbetzin G. H. Halpern's rather humorously written Confessions of a Kitchen Rebbetzin, using plenty of bell peppers (green, yellow and red), garlic cloves, eggs and spices. Rebbetzin goes as far as claiming that shakshouka is probably the dish Israelis enjoy eating most:

"What Israelis really dig is Shakshuka - a well seasoned North African dish of eggs in hot tomato sauce. The best and nicest (and most barbaric) way to eat it is straight from the pan, no utensils needed, by dipping thick chunks of simple bread."

Here are some of the shakshukas we  enjoyed during our trip to Israel*. First off, the large Shakshuka at restaurant Cordelia (Chef Nir Zook), Old Jaffa, Israel. Challah bread (on the background) is perfect for scooping up the spicy tomato and egg dish:
 Shakshouka for breakfast @ Cordelia (chef Nir Zook), Jaffa, Israel

Here's a "single portion" shakshuka at Manta Ray, Jaffa, Israel - about to be devoured by the colourful Ms Marmite Lover. Note the thin layers of grilled cheese on top of the shakshuka - wonderful, if not traditional, addition. Another fellow traveller, David Lebovitz, mentions shakshuka in his extensive post about Israeli breakfast.
 Shakshouka for breakfast at Manta Ray, Jaffa

As the eggs play such an important role in this dish, it's best to use the freshest organic/free-range eggs you can afford. Luckily, our backyard chicken keep us well stocked with eggs at the moment and of course, I used eggs from our own chicken. Here are our Orpington chickens, Buffy and Fluffy, earlier this year. They're excellent layers:
Buffy & Fluffy (Orpingtons)

My recipe below is pretty basic - just garlic, tomatoes, seasonings and eggs. Although you can use fresh tomatoes during the summer time, I'll include canned tomatoes in the recipe - the fresh tomato season is coming quickly to an end here in Estonia, and you wouldn't want to use the flavourless winter supermarket tomatoes here. You'll find links to fancier and more elaborate versions below. Somehow I prefer this dish to be very basic.

As hinted above, you need a good bread - no pita bread (that's for eating hummus!), but a nice challah or a bloomer or a crusty country bread to scoop up all the shakshuka from the pan!

A simple shakshuka recipe 
(Shakshuka ehk teravas tomatikastmes küpsetatud munad)
Serves one

1 Tbsp oil
1 large garlic clove, crushed
200 g chopped tomatoes
a generous pinch of chilli flakes or a scant teaspoon of harissa
a pinch of ground cumin
a pinch of ground caraway seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs

Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and fry gently, until garlic is golden.
Add the chopped tomatoes and the seasonings, stir, cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the tomato sauce is well flavoured and slightly thickened. Taste for seasonings - add more chilli or other spices, if necessary.
Using a spoon, make two dents into the tomato sauce and break an egg into each one. Sprinkle some salt on top and heat for another 5-6 minutes, until the egg white is thickened and the egg yolk is half-cooked (if you prefer your egg yolk fully cooked, cover the pan or transfer it under a hot grill for a few minutes.

Other foodbloggers writing about shakshouka (in English): 
Kitchen Parade (September 2012; Alanna hosted me generously - and fed me, of course - in June 2008. Do check out her blog, if you're not yet familiar with it)
The Wednesday Chef (September 2006)
Smitten Kitchen (April 2010; Deb crumbles feta cheese on top of her shakshouka)
The Bojon Gourmet (October 2011)
The Leftover Queen (May 2012)
The Shiksha in the Kitchen  (July 2010)
A Sweet Spoonful (March 2012, incl. fennel!)
Cook Republic (May 2011)

Other foodbloggers writing about shakshouka (in Estonian):
Ise tehtud. Hästi tehtud. (August 2011)

 * 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. 

See other posts about my trip to Israel.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Zucchini and Parmesan Tart

Courgette and parmesan tart / Zucchini and parmesan tart / Parmesani-suvikõrvitsapirukas

What's your favourite zucchini/courgette dish this year?

I'm still harvesting a good-sized zucchini or two every few days, and here's my favourite zucchini dish of 2012 (another recent favourite is this courgette/zucchini cake with lemon frosting, but as one is sweet and the other savoury, I believe I'm allowed to have two favourites :)). I spotted this idea in the May 2009 issue of the British food magazine Olive, but there was too little cheese and too much zucchini in the original recipe, so I've been playing around with it quite a lot. The tart has been a real hit with everybody who has tried it (just look at the number of comments on my Estonian site), and I can see why - the cheese, garlic and courgettes work together immensely well.

Use a slim and crisp zucchini for this - both for the looks and the texture.

Courgette and Parmesan Tart
Serves about 8 to 10

500 g puff pastry
ca 500 g zucchini/courgette
2 large garlic cloves
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh herbs of your choice (oregano, thyme - optional)
150 g cream cheese
75-100 g finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F. Line an oven sheet with a parchment paper. 

Slice the courgette thinly (I use my Benriner Japanese kitchen mandoline for this), peel the garlic cloves and slice thinly as well. Place into a bowl, season generously with salt and pepper and herbs (if using), drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently to combine and leave to macerate for 10-15 minutes.
 Parmesani-suvikõrvitsapirukas / Courgette and parmesan tart

Roll out the puff pastry. Using a sharp knife, score a border about 1-1.5 cm from the edge of the pastry. Transfer the puff pastry onto the baking shet.
Mix the cream cheese with half of the grated Parmesan cheese, spread the cheese mixture onto the puff pastry (stay withing the cut you made).

 Parmesani-suvikõrvitsapirukas / Courgette and parmesan tart

Layer the zucchini slices neatly on top of the cheese mixture, overlapping them as you go.

 Parmesani-suvikõrvitsapirukas / Courgette and parmesan tart

Bake for 15 minutes at the pre-heated oven.
Take the tart out of the oven, sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan cheese on top, and return to the oven. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the tart is lovely golden brown on top.

Cool a little and cut into small squares. 

 Parmesani-suvikõrvitsapirukas / Courgette and parmesan tart