Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Apple crumble, the perfect autumn dessert

Õunakrõbedikud kaneelise toorjuustuvahuga / Apple crisps with cinnamon cream cheese
Recipe by Pille @ Nami-NamiAbove photo by Juta Kübarsepp for the November 2012 issue of Kodu ja Aed ("Home and Garden", an Estonian monthly magazine. I've been their food writer since October 2012). 

As for the perfect autumn dessert, you cannot go wrong with a classic apple crumble. Surprisingly apple crumble - or crumbles in general - aren't particularly well-known in Estonia - we're more cake and pie and tart type of people, I guess. I love adding oats to my crumble topping - or any other porridge flakes (rolled spelt or rye flakes work brilliantly, for example). Oat addition makes the crumble somewhat healthier and the topping more crunchy. If you have some red-skinned crab apples - like the ones on the photo above - add those to the apple mixture for extra colour.

I served the crumble with a cinnamon and cream cheese whipped cream - a wonderfully aromatic addition to the crumble.

Apple crumble
(Õunakrõbedik)
Serves six

600 g tart apples (f. ex. Antonovka, Granny Smith)
25 g seedless raisins
25 g caster sugar
ground cinnamon

Crumb topping:
100 g all-purpose wheat flour
50 g porridge oats or rolled rye or spelt flakes
100 g cold butter
50 g demerara brown sugar

Peel* and core the apples, cut into smaller chunks or sectors. Place into a bowl, toss together with raisins, sugar and cinnamon. Transfer into a buttered 24 cm pie dish or 4-6 portion dishes/ramekins.

Combine the flour, rolled grains and sugar in a bowl. Cut the butter in with two knifes or a pastry cutter or simply using your fingers. (Or simply put everything into the food processor and pulse until you've got pea-sized pieces). Spread the crumb topping over the apples.

Place in the pre-heated 200C/400F oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the apples are soft and the topping golden brown and crispy. Let cool for about 15-30 minutes before serving.

Serve with cinnamon-flavoured cream cheese, vanilla custard, vanilla ice cream or simple whipped cream.

* There's no need to peel organic apples from your own backyard or a reputable orchard.

More crumble recipes:
Rhubarb crumble @ Nami-Nami (gluten-free, if using certified gluten-free oats)
Raspberry and coconut crumble @ Nami-Nami
Pumpkin and apple crumble @ Nami-Nami
Apple cinnamon crumble @ Two Peas and Their Pod
Speculoos + Apple Crumble @ Dorie Greenspan
Butterless apple crumble @ Chocolate & Zucchini

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Quark and pumpkin pudding cake

Kõrvitsa-kohupiimavorm. Pumpkin and curd cheese.

Recipe by Pille @ Nami-NamiAbove photo by Juta Kübarsepp for the October 2013 issue of Kodu ja Aed ("Home and Garden", an Estonian monthly magazine. I've been their food writer since October 2012). 

Pumpkin or winter squash dessert, anyone?

There's a popular old-school dessert here in Estonia, called kohupiimavorm. It consists of curd cheese (also known as quark), sugar, (whisked) eggs, and some add-ons, usually raisins or pieces of fruit. It's not really a cake (too soft), nor a soufflé (no custard base), so after some research I've decided to translate it as pudding cake :) Pudding cake is a cake you need to eat with a spoon, and it's rather difficult to cut it into neat shapes when still warm.

Here's a version using that autumn staple, winter squash or pumpkin. For once, this is a recipe that's very versatile - if you cannot find curd cheese (try looking for 'tvorog' at your nearest Polish/Russian/international shop), you could use drier ricotta or even farmer's cheese. As for pumpkin, any yellow-fleshed winter squash would work. I like using butternut squash here, as this gives the dessert a lovely dark orange hue. Considering the amount of flour in the recipe, you could easily make this wheat-free or gluten-free by using different types of (gluten-free) flours.

You could eat it as it is, or with a dollop of thick yoghurt or sour cream on the side. It's lovely with a kissel or fruit soup (this cranberry kissel would work brilliantly here). I actually prefer this pumpkin version to the traditional version, as it's softer and moister.

Oh, and if you were wondering what those cookies on the top right corner of the photo were, you'll be pleased to know these contain pumpkin/squash as well. You'll find the recipe for those wonderful pumpkin cookies here.

Curd cheese and pumpkin pudding cake 
(Kõrvitsa-kohupiimavorm)
Serves 6

800 g butternut squash or pumpkin (cleaned weight)
100 g caster sugar
500 g curd cheese
4 large eggs, separated
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
100 g dried cranberries (craisins) or seedless raisins
a pinch of salt
butter
breadcrumbs

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F.

Peel the pumpkin, cut into large wedges. Remove the soft core and seeds, and cut the flesh into large cubes. Weigh the pumpkin cubes - you need about 800 g (just under 2 pounds). Place the cubes into a large saucepan, add a cup of water and simmer over a low heat until pumpkin is tender. Drain thoroughly, then place into a bowl and mash with a fork.

Add lemon juice and grated zest, curd cheese, flour, (c)raisins.

Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg yorks with sugar until creamy, add to the rest of the ingredients. Finally, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks forms. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the rest of the ingredients, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Butter a large (round) oven dish - about ∅ 26-30 cm is excellent -  and sprinkle with fine breadcrumbs. Spoon the pumpkin and curd cheese mixture into the dish, smooth the top.

Bake in the pre-heated 200 C/400 F oven for about 40 minutes, until it's lovely golden brown, and just a wee bit wobbly in the middle.

Let cool either completely or serve at room temperature.

Similar recipes:

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Roasted pumpkin soup with almonds and spicy dukkah oil a la Silvena Rowe

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From the recipe archives, originally posted in October 2011. Totally worth making!!! 
PS Check the comments section - Silvena Rowe herself left a comment - how cool is that!?

I spotted this soup recipe in Silvena Rowe's beautiful Orient Express: Fast food from the eastern Mediterranean, one of my recent cookbook acquisitions. I've been making various pumpkin soups and certainly wasn't looking for a new soup recipe, but this one caught my eye because of almonds. There are almonds both inside the soup and in the dukkah-mixture (Not sure what dukkah is? You can read more about it here). We cooked four recipes from Silvena's book last Sunday (see the menu below, scribbled on our newly painted kitchen wall), and the soup was very well received. The almonds add a thickness and a lovely texture to the soup, the dark red pomegranate seeds are a true eye candy, and the dukkah oil is a wonderful flavour enhancer. I more or less followed the recipe, though I used a bit more pumpkin and less chicken stock, and used some coriander/cilantro for garnish.

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You can either use any orange-fleshed winter squash here - butternut squash or a Hokkaido pumpkin (potimarron in French). Well, you could use any winter squash, but orange-fleshed one looks prettiest :)

More pumpkin soup recipes @ Nami-Nami:
Pumpkin soup with nutmeg
Pumpkin soup with thyme
Estonian pumpkin and semolina soup

Roasted pumpkin/butternut squash soup with dukkah
(Röstitud kõrvitsa supp mandlite ja vürtsiõliga)
Serves six

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For the dukkah oil:
50 g while almonds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
0.5 Tbsp cumin seeds
0.25 Tbsp fennel seeds
5-6 Tbsp olive oil

For the soup:
1.2 kg orange-fleshed pumpkin or squash
8 fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 onions, peeled and quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled
4 Tbsp olive oil
750 ml chicken stock (3 cups)
100 g ground almonds
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
pomegranate seeds
fresh coriander/cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F.

Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into 2-3 cm (1 inch) chunks. Place onto a large roasting tray alongside the onion quarters, garlic cloves and chopped sage leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil:

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Cook the vegetables in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft. Remove from the oven and cool.

Make the dukkah oil while the pumpkin is roasting. Place the spices and almonds onto a small dry frying pan and cook over a moderate heat until fragrant and slightly golden (keep an eye on them, as the spices burn easily!):

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Using a pestle and mortar (or a small food processor), bruise the spices and almonds until you've got a coarsely ground mixture. Add the oil, put aside.

When the vegetables are cooked, place them into a food processor or a blender. Blend to a purée, adding a little of the vegetable stock if necessary. Return the pumpkin purée into the saucepan, add the rest of the stock. Bring into a slow boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the soup is smooth and slightly thickened. Stir in the almonds, season to taste.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Spoon some dukkah oil on top, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and garnish with some cilantro/coriander.

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Friday, October 04, 2013

Great comfort food: cold weather hotpot recipe

Sügistalvine hakkliha-köögiviljahautis. Winter hotpot with vegetables, baked beans and beef mince

Now that I have five mouths to feed on a daily basis, I need to cook dishes that are easy to put together and suit all the members of the family, be they 11 months or 41 years. That means they must be flavourful and tasty, as I don't have the time, will or energy to cook separate meals for the still-toothless baby, two active toddlers and two food-loving adults. To be honest, I don't think it should even be necessary.

We've used the baby-led weaning* approach when introducing solids to our three kids, and that means our littlest has been eating family food from Day 1 (not the first day of her life, but the first time she was offered any solid food, e.g. when she was 6 months old). So much more convenient for the whole family and especially the cooking parent (that's me, at least on most days). This stew - enjoyed both by parents and the toddlers (aged 2 and 4), was perfect for the 11-month old as well.

The cold weather hotpot is a great comfort food and midweek dinner. The humble vegetables can be varied - you could add some turnips or parsnips as well, or even broccoli. Sometimes I've used gnocchi instead of potatoes, adding them at the end, so they'd have the chance to soak in the broth. The can of Heinz's baked beans you throw in at the end - well, this adds some protein as well as thickens the stew. Overall it's yet another dish that tastes much better than you'd expect from simply looking at the list of ingredients.

We love a spoonful of thick sour cream on top, but a crusty bread would be good, too.

* New to baby-led weaning aka BLW? Read all about it in Gill Rapley's book - see Amazon UK/Amazon US. I highly recommend reading it if you've got a small baby who's about to start solids soon! 

Cold weather hotpot
(Hakklihaga ühepajatoit)
Slightly adapted from BBC Good Food, March 2003
Serves six

2 Tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
4 small onions
4 good-sized carrots
8 medium-sized potatoes
450 g lean minced beef
1 l hot beef stock (you can use a stock cube or bouillon extract)
a good splash of Worcestershire sauce
a handful of chopped parsley

To serve:
some good sour cream (optional)

Peel the onions and cut into quarters. Peel the carrots, halve lengthwise and cut into thick slices. Peel the potatoes and cut into smallish chunks.
Heat oil in a heavy saucepan, add the minced beef and fry quickly, stirring all the time, until browned evenly.
Add the vegetables, give everything a quick stir. Pour over the beef stock. Bring into a boil, then partially cover with the lid, reduce heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked.
Season with Worcestershire sauce, pour in the baked beans. Stir gently and then heat through. Taste for seasoning, then scatter parsley on top and serve.
Ladle into bowl and enjoy with a spoon.