Thursday, December 26, 2013

Our Christmas meal, 2013

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas, dear friends and readers! We had the pleasure of cooking for and hosting our respective families on Christmas Eve (that's when we, Estonians, have the main Christmas meal and distribute gifts). I was in charge of the menu and cooking - and I thought it's a good idea to share the menu on my blog as well. I decided to have a rather light and minimalist first course. Here's what it looked like:


Good black Estonian bread, some white toast and a selection of cured fish. Starting from the left, there are spiced Baltic sprats that I wrote about in the previous post (see here), but this time served simply with sliced red onion:


Then there's salt-cured whitefish from my favourite fishmonger, PepeKala OÜ. Whitefish slices are to be eaten with buttered toast:

Finally, locally grown and jellied catfish (African sharptooth catfish, to be more precise, angersäga in Estonian, Clarias gariepinus in Latin). This one came out of the jar as well :)


For those who prefer meat, I did serve some cold-smoked turkey slices:

Serving a selection of cured fish for starters is a rather Nordic thing to do, but you'd find many more dishes on a traditional Estonian Christmas table (some rosolje salad or perhaps the layered vegetable salad). But we kept it rather minimalist this year and it worked for us.

The main course was much more traditional. There was pork - but not my usual Christmas roast,  the ever-delicious oven-baked pork shoulder with honey, mustard and rosemary. I did experiment with pork belly and fennel seeds - and rather successfully - the meat was extremely succulent and melt-in-your-mouth, and gobbled up quickly.


Here's a close-up of the pork:IMG_7810.jpg

The cabbage was my classic õllekapsas aka sauerkraut braised in beer (the beer was A le Coq's porter):


There were simple boiled potatoes, and a duo of roasted veggies - carrots and parsnips, lightly drizzled with maple syrup:


The duo of roasted vegetables was accompanied by a trio of black pudding:  IMG_7821.jpg

For condiments, there were two relishes from a small Estonian producer, Treppoja. Pumpkin and horseradish (the yellow one) and chilli and lingonberry (the red one): IMG_7818.jpg

Neither one was bad, but my mother-in-law's apple and lingonberry jam came out tops (I've got a recipe here, but she uses more lingonberries and less apples): IMG_7819.jpg

The star of the evening, as usual, was the dessert. I was planning to do the popular Danish Christmas dessert risalamande or fluffy rice pudding with almonds and a warm cherry compote. But then our little family went to Denmark for a small holiday in early December, and my dear Danish host-mum Kirsten served us a wonderful æbletrifli - a layered trifle of æblegrød, whipped cream and custard, as well as crunchy Italian almond cookies. It was simple, delicious and really festive, so that ended up finishing our Christmas feast of 2013.

 Danish apple trifle "æbletrifli". Taani kausitort õuntega.

We didn't drink much - some beers, and some small glasses of the Swedish Blossa glögg from 2012 and 2013, juice and water for the kids..

What did you do for Christmas?

See all Nami-Nami's Christmas recipe here.
Estonian World writes about Estonian Christmas traditions here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Estonian delicacies: spiced sprat sandwiches

The Baltic sprat (Sprattus sprattus balticus) is a subspecies of the European sprat (Sprattus sprattus), also known  as brisling or skipper. They are up to 12,5 cm long (about 5 inches), small, silvery and herring-like. The sprats are commonly marinated in a mixture of black pepper, allspice (aka Jamaican pepper), cloves, nutmeg, coriander seeds, bay leaves, salt and sugar etc. The result: spiced Baltic sprats aka vürtsikilud, a famous Estonian delicacy.

Vürtsikilud aka spiced Baltic sprats are used to make some delectable small sandwiches here in Estonia, known as kiluvõileivad (literally, sprat sandwiches). I knew they were popular, but didn't realise they're so popular. You see - I've been to four different Christmas parties during the last week, and kiluvõileivad were served at three of them. Each time these were the first to disappear off the table (yes, I did keep an eye of them to verify that). When I shared the realisation on Nami-Nami's Facebook page, then oven 300 people clicked on the LIKE-button to declare their love for kiluvõileivad :) 

These aren't necessarily a Christmas food, you can serve them throughout the year, but somehow I've  just noticed their particular popularity at this time of the year. You've actually seen them here on Nami-Nami before, they were part of our New Year's Eve party spread back in 2007 (see the blog post) - back then I garnished them with finely grated eggs. So I've been "guilty"of serving them during winter festivities as well :)

In any case, I thought it's a good idea to share the "recipe" with you, my dear readers. Although hard-core fans of kiluvõileivad probably filet and pickle their own fresh Baltic sprats, then you can buy rather decent prepared and canned/packed Baltic sprats in the supermarket. I use the Briis brand, made in a nearby Maardu town, so they're almost local :)

Do buy a packet or two next time you're in Estonia, ok! ;) Alternatively, you could try with Swedish "anchovies" (these are actually sprats or Baltic herrings), probably available at IKEA, but these are much sweeter in flavour.

Estonian spiced sprat sandwiches

sliced dark rye bread
butter, at room temperature
cleaned spiced sprats fillets
red onion and/or green onion tops, chopped
hard-boiled (quail) eggs

Remove the crusts of the bread and butter the bread slices. Cut into small rectangles, top with a cleaned spiced sprat fillet. 
Top with either sliced or grated hard-boiled (quail) egg, then sprinkle with chopped onions. 
Serve and enjoy.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday cooking: browned sautéed cabbage

Photo by Juta Kübarsepp for Nami-Nami

Christmas is just around the corner and I'm busy coordinating various festive dinners and other occasions. Good times, and I always feel a bit sad when all the feasts are finally over. Well, there will be another Christmas in just a year, of course :)

One of the staples on Estonian Christmas table is sauerkraut, and I've got a lovely version here on my blog, sauerkraut braised in dark beer. However, not all people have access to Estonian-style sauerkraut (fresh and unpasteurised, containing just cabbage and salt and perhaps some caraway seeds), or perhaps they cannot stomach the fermented version. Here's where this recipe comes to rescue - a fresh cabbage that's been sautéed and browned in butter, dark syrup and some stock. This has a slightly milder flavour compared to the traditional sauerkraut, but it's just as lovely as a side dish alongside the traditional pork roast that I always serve on Christmas eve. It also works brilliantly with oven-baked salmon or other fish, so it's quite versatile.

Here's the recipe. If you use vegetable broth, then the dish is also suitable for vegetarians. For a vegan version you'll need to choose vegetable stock and oil instead of butter. It's also suitable for a gluten-free diet, as long as you'll use proper vegetable or chicken broth.

Browned sautéed cabbage
(Pruunistatud kapsas)
Serves 6 to 8

1 head of white cabbage
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp dark (corn) syrup (I used this)
about a cup of hot vegetable or chicken broth
salt, to taste

Cut the cabbage into wedges, then into thin ribbons.
Heat butter in a large saucepan, add the cabbage, a sprinkling of salt and fry for a few minutes over a moderate heat. Add the dark syrup and the stock, give it a stir. Cover and simmer over a low heat for about an hour, until the cabbage is tender and nicely golden brown. Season to taste with salt.

Can be successfully re-heated, so feel free to make this in advance.


Thank you, Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen for featuring this recipe on BlogHer in January 2014.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday baking: Sliced Almond Christmas Cookies

French gingerbread / Christmas cookies / Piparkoogid / Viilupiparkoogid
From the recipe archives!

It's the time to bake various Christmas cookies again. While I'll certainly be making and baking and decorating a batch of these favourite Estonian piparkoogid ("pepper cakes"), then this year I have another recipe in mind as well. These sliced Christmas cookies with almonds found their way into my heart in the midst of the summer heatwave, as I was choosing and testing recipes for my Christmas cookbook. I had seen a recipe for "French gingebread cookies" in a Swedish food magazine that I liked, and that reminded me of Jules Destrooper's wonderful almond thins that I used to love. After some tweaking here and there (less sugar and less cloves, more almonds), I ended up with this great recipe.

I usually divide the dough into four equal portions and roll and wrap them individually. Then I bake one and place three in the freezer - I can then bake fresh and aromatic Christmas cookies whenever I feel like :)

Almond Gingerbread Cookies
Makes a lot - about 4 large sheets


250 g butter
200 g caster sugar
140 g light baking syrup (about 100 ml)
420 g plain flour (700 ml)
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
0.5 Tbsp ground cloves
0.5 Tbsp baking soda
100 g sliced almonds

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add sugar and syrup, stir until combined. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
Combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and almonds in a bowl, then fold into the cool butter-sugar-syrup mixture. Stir until combined.
Divide the cookie dough into four equal parts, then form each one into a cylinder/sausage, about 4 cm in diameter. Wrap in clingfilm or baking paper and place into the fridge to rest. (Ideally for 24 hours).

To bake the cookies, cut each "sausage" into 3-4 mm (1/8th inch) slices, and place onto a parchment covered cookie sheet.
Bake in the middle of a preheated 200 C oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from the oven, let rest for a few minutes, then transfer onto a metal rack to cool completely.

French gingerbread / Christmas cookies / Piparkoogid / Viilupiparkoogid

This recipe was also included in my second cookbook, Jõulud kodus ("Christmas at Home"), published in Estonian in November 2011.