Monday, January 30, 2006

A feast for friends

My dear Greek friend Anna was in Edinburgh last weekend for her PhD viva, which she passed with ease. On Friday night we went out for drinks. But to properly celebrate this long-awaited occasion (Anna had taken some time off to give birth to a gorgeous baby son), I cooked a meal for six* last Saturday. The feast was Greek(ish). Not that Anna doesn't get to eat delicious Greek food back in Athens, but it was a good opportunity for me to try out some old and new recipes of one of my current favourite cuisines.

On the table were:
Potatoes with lemon and garlic (Kreeka sidrunikartulid) - simply boiled potatoes, tossed with olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and lemon juice at the end.

Feta and spinach mini omelettes (Feta-spinati miniomletid) that I have made couple of times before and went down a storm.

Roasted mushrooms (Täidetud seenekübarad), this time stuffed with some Welsh goat cheese, grated parmesan and chopped parsley.

Black Greek kalamata olives with garlic and herbs

In addition to the above, I cooked two new dishes, both from Tessa Kiros' beautiful book Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes. The first recipe was a Greek fish dish, the other Cypriot cracked wheat dish.

Oven-baked fish with tomato and parsley
(Kreeka kalavormi retsept)
Serves 4-6

1 kg white fish fillets (I used haddock), cut into 5-6 cm pieces
400 grams chopped tomatoes with juice
a generous handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
juice of 2 lemons
2 celery stalks, chopped with some leaves
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and crushed black pepper

Put fish fillets into a large oven dish in a single layer. Sprinkle with Maldon salt flakes and crushed black pepper.

Mix tomatoes, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, celery, sugar and olive oil. Season to taste and spoon over the fish fillets to cover completely.

Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes at 180˚C.
Remove the foil, increase the heat to 200˚C and cook for another 40-50 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened and the top of the fish is golden in a couple of places. (To be honest, I cooked it for 30 minutes under the foil and then just another 15 minutes more. I would have preferred the liquid slightly more thick, but the fish was beautifully cooked and according to my friend Anna, Greek sauces would always be a bit soupy rather than sticky). The taste was perfect, it felt (and probably was) very light and flavoursome.

Serve with a crusty bread to mop up the juices. According to the author, "this dish is great served either hot or cold, even straight from the fridge".

Purkouri - Cracked Wheat
(Küprose bulgurisalat)

This is from the "Cyprus" chapter of the book, and probably Turkish in origin, as it reminds me a lot of a dish, kisir, that my former Turkish flatmate Fatosh prepared regularly. Tessa Kiros writes that "This is good as part of a vegetarian meal, or instead of rice or potatoes with something like a simple grilled chicken breast."

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

4 Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200 grams chopped tomatoes (I used 400 grams)
265 grams bulgur/cracked wheat (I used medium)
1 tsp paprika powder
750 ml boiling water
salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, sauté onion until soft. Add the garlic, sauté for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes. Heat until tomatoes are bubblying.
Add the cracked wheat, season with salt and pepper and mix through.
Add the paprika and boiling water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, half-cover the saucepan with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently stir every now and then.
Take the saucepan off the heat, cover with a clean teatowel and the lid. Let it steam off for 10 minutes or so.
Fluff up. Serve warm or room temperature with a dollop of yogurt, if wished. (I omitted the yogurt and added a generous sprinkling of parsley).

* It was a mixed bunch: nationalities present were Greek (1), Turkish (1), Korean (2), South African (1), Estonian (1) - just as colourful as the food:)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sugar (not) High Friday #15 (I tried...)

This time the Sugar High Friday is hosted by Becks&Posh, and they've decided to replace the 'high' with 'low'. The task:
is to make a delicious, mouthwatering dessert whilst being a lot more frugal than usual with the fat and the sugar. In fact, try not to use processed sugar at all.

Hmmm. Got that? No processed sugar whatsoever. However, more 'natural sugars', like honey, syrup, sugary fruit etc were allowed.

Inspiration struck me about a week ago on Glasgow-Edinburgh train when I was flipping through the pages of the January issue of Waitrose Food Illustrated. On page 11 it states that
The parsnip's season is November to January, so this is the last chance to get them at their best. Winter frosts will also have intensified their already marked sweetness; in days gone by, this root was used instead of sugar in cakes.

Voila! I like carrot cakes a lot, and if parsnip was used instead of sugar in the old days, I could try to make a parsnip cake which is like carrot cake, but without sugar. I also had a packet of sucrose free ginger (Buderim Ginger from Australia) in my cupboard, and I thought that ginger should work quite well with parsnip. I checked out some of my carrot cake recipes, and eventually decided to make parsnip, ginger and hazelnut tray bake.

Well. It wasn't bad. If I'd be served this, I'd happily finish the piece. But it wasn't blogging-worthily good either, verging on the bland, so I'll keep the recipe to myself this time. It was much nicer on the morning after, when the ginger had had time to depart some of its gingery goodness into the rest of the cake (that ginger was actually delicious on its own as well, I hadn't tried this particular type of ginger previously).

But, to be truly honest, I should have just made the sugar-free Luscious Apple Cake recipe from the very same Waitrose magazine..

Tagged with: +

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Celebrating Burns’ Night: Gie her a haggis!

This is my nod to the Scottish national poet Robert Burns, whose 237th birth anniversary was celebrated yesterday all over Scotland and elsewhere in the world. Traditionally copious amounts of haggis, neeps and tatties, as well as whisky, are consumed to celebrate the Bard's life. However, as I was planning to eat in solitude last night (failed miserably, but that's only good:), I was thinking of something a lot lighter and easier to eat. Something that you can eat while watching yet another episode of Desperate Housewives, for instance..

I made potato shortcrust canapés filled with haggis and topped with a rich shallot and whisky gravy. Although it lacks the neeps/turnip element (not my fault, read the note at the bottom), it does combine the haggis, tatties/potatoes and whisky.

I used the same potato shortcrust pastry that I had prepared for my first (and thus far last) Paper Chef entry. The haggis was a mini sized one from MacSween of Edinburgh, of course. And for the gravy I slowly fried some finely chopped shallots, made into a thick gravy, and added a very generous splash of my favourite whisky at the end.

The rest was easy – pop the hot shortcrust cases onto a plate, stuff each with a spoonful of steaming haggis (I bake mine in the oven usually) and top with a tiny dollop of onion whisky gravy.

As it turned out, I didn't eat these on my own after all. I mentioned mini haggis tarts to a friend on the phone, and within minutes she was over at my place with another friend. And we finished them well in advance of Desperate Housewives... The potato cases were perfectly crunchy and worked well with the crumbly-soft haggis and slightly sticky boozy whisky glaze. We all liked these, despite of having had dinner just before...

I wish I could tell you that some of the canapés are with potato shortcrust cases and some with turnip shortcrust cases. Unfortunately, my local Tesco had forgotten that there may be some Scots who fancy eating turnips that night together with their potatoes and haggis. So they had forgotten to order extra. To top this, they had also run out of haggis by 7pm!!! Whoever is ordering the stock for that particular branch, should be fired! Thank god for Peckham's, who had ordered extra haggis, so I could go ahead with my plan after all...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fine and sleek dining/clubbing in Amsterdam

I was in Amsterdam last weekend to visit a dear friend T. My friend is in his early 20s and into clubbing big time, whereas I prefer a leisurely night - in or out - eating and talking. Hence we had to think of a compromise for the Saturday night. Not maybe an easy thing to do, but we definitely ended up doing something that catered for all requirements. We went to the Supper Club. T. had been there twice before, and obviously knew that this style of 'clubbing' I would enjoy. Hey - all I had to do was to lounge on my back on a white sofa, listen to cool music and eat delicious food..

The huge dining/clubbing hall is all minimalist and white. Upon arrival, you get assigned either a table or sofa downstairs or a sofa up on the mezzanine level. People were very glamorous - but not pretentious. Music was hip and chill-out, mellow to start with. The huge screen at the end of one wall showed underwater images of naked women swimming (well, seminaked, if you consider a pearly thong an item of clothing). A black leather clad rock chick played classics on an electric violin between the courses. At the end of the party a dreadlocked and very yummy-looking Junior sang couple of great s(ingal)ongs. Overall very cool and fun and chilled out atmosphere.

During the long evening - we spent 5 hours there - you get served 5 courses. There is a set menu that changes all the time. This what we had on Saturday night:

To start with, a huge slice of fresh tuna rolled around sliced avocado and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, served with some crispy julienne salad.

Second plate: fish. White fish. Sorry, I have no clue what fish exactly, but it was extremely smooth and almost creamy in texture - not flaky at all. Really tasty, garnished with some crispy lotus root slices and served alongside smooth parsnip and potato puree.

For the third course, we were served soup. Although you can't order anything off the menu, they do have vegetarian options. And as I have a strong (mental) allergy to shrimps, then instead of shrimp soup I got a small glass of flavoursome tomato soup. I was obviously too busy savouring the soup, and totally forgot to take a photograph of it. The soup was served in small glasses - with chopsticks! You fish all chunky bits out of the soup with your chopsticks, and then drink the liquid. Mmmm..

For the fourth course - roasted lamb. I'm not a great lamb eater - it's not really common in Estonia (my grandma used to have lots of sheep, but these were grown for their wool rather than meat). But this was absolutely delicious, as were the mushrooms and the risotto. The meat was incredibly tender and juicy and I finished every last morsel of it. If it hadn't been to the fact that by that time it was midnight and I hardly ever eat after 8pm, I would have asked for my friend T.'s portion as well. Although I doubt he had allowed me - he finished his plate way before me. He's from a lamb-devouring country, you see..

For the dessert, we were served a quartet of hot intensely chocolatey chocolate pudding, accompanied by some vanilla foam as well as cold mini ice cream cocktail and some crunchy nut flakes.

I enjoyed the food - and the atmosphere, as well as the company of course - a lot.

Supper Club
21 Jonge Roelensteeg
Old Centre: New Side
Telephone: 00 (0) 20 638 0513 (booking essential!)
Hours: Open 8pm - 1am daily

Entrance and food: €65 pp (excl. drinks & service)

PS I was a bit confused by the toilets in this place in the beginning though - there were two of them, labelled "Homo" and "Hetero" and both were unisex. But apparently it's not unheard of in nightclubs, so it must be just me who's ancient:)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Cooking Estonian: sõrnikud alias curd cheese patties

Since the EU Enlargement in May 2004 the availability of various food products from my part of the world (i.e. Northern and Eastern Europe) has increased considerably here in Scotland. My local deli, Victor Hugo on Melville Drive, has now a special shelf dedicated to various Polish relishes, jams and salads. And as of early January, there's a Polish shop, Bona Deli, within a 5-minute walk from my house. This is good news. Although Polish cuisine is not very familiar to me, quite a few of the raw ingredients we use are the same.

When checking out the new Polish deli*, I was delighted to find that they stock curd cheese. Milk curd cheese (kohupiim) is very popular in Estonia in various forms.You can buy it plain, or seasoned with vanilla or studded with raisins. Children adore chocolate covered curd cheese bars - a good source of milk proteins. When I was a kid, there was just one variety of these - nowadays you can get these filled with cranberry or blueberry jam, for instance. Milk curd creams with various delicious flavours were our typical milky snack before yogurts took over the dairy sections in the supermarkets. Cakes using milk curd are delicious alternatives to more familiar cheesecakes. Texture-wise, it's very similar to ricotta, although the production process differs (ricotta is used from milk whey).

But milk curd can also be used in savoury dishes, and one popular dish is called 'sõrnikud'. Basically these are curd cheese patties that have been dipped into flour or breadcrumbs and fried gently in butter and oil. The dish is also known in Russia, the Ukraine etc, so it's not 'native' to the Estonian kitchen. But I've seen similar recipes in older Estonian cookbooks.

I made two different versions last week - plain ones and carrot ones.

Plain curd cheese patties
(Kohupiimakotletid ehk sõrnikud)

Sõrnikud köömnetega

250 grams dry curd cheese
100 ml plain flour
1 medium or large egg
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 Tbsp sour cream
a pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients and let stand for 15 minutes. Moisten your hands and form the curd cheese mixture into small patties. Dip into semolina or fine breadcrumbs.
Fry in oil and/or butter until slightly golden. You're aiming for a soft and not crispy crust here.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped herbs as a light meal.

Curd cheese patties with carrot

The carrot version is very similar, but due to the use of some sugar and the inherent sweetness of carrots, this can be served as a dessert. Well, it is served as a dessert back in Estonia (as the plain ones can, once you omit caraway seeds and add a spoonful of sugar). If you're a bit sceptical about it, you can always drizzle some honey or serve with some jam - in addition to the sour cream, that is:)

250 grams plain milk curd cheese
2 large grated carrots
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp semolina
1 little to medium egg
1 Tbsp sugar
100 ml plain flour
a pinch of salt

Fry the grated carrot gently in butter to soften a little. Add semolina, fry for a minute or two. Cool a little.
Mix all ingredients and let rest for 15 minutes.
With moist hands again, form into small patties and dip into semolina or fine breadcrumbs. Fry until golden brown.

NB! If you cannot find curd cheese (try Polish/Russian shops), then ricotta is a perfectly acceptable substitute. The taste will be a wee bit milder though.

*Bona Deli, 86 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh

Friday, January 20, 2006

Chakhohbili alias Georgian chicken with herbs and wine

I started this foodblog back in June and if I remember correctly, then one of the first comments I left on another blog was avidly defending Georgian cuisine. It's not that I'm an expert on that particular cuisine, but I happily visit the few Georgian (and other Caucasian) restaurants in Tallinn when I have a chance. During my teenage years I lived in a block of flats where our next door neighbours were a stern Russian physics professor (he) and an extremely lively and charming Georgian journalist and theatre critic (she). She was a good cook. I can almost say that I grew up smelling the delicious aromas of Georgian cuisine on a daily basis...

Not sure why, but the recent avian flu scares - which in theory should make me not to want to eat poultry - have had exactly the opposite effect on me. I've been craving chicken for weeks, and last weekend had a go. I did make sure my chicken came from a reputable local organic source and I cooked chicken two days in a row - a Georgian chicken stew on Saturday (to precede the yummy fig tarts) and a somewhat disappointing Caribbean coconut chicken on Sunday (I'm still trying to figure out whether it was me or the recipe).

The following recipe for a Georgian chicken stew is based on quite a few sources, including Clarissa Hyman's The Jewish Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from Around the World, as well as various Estonian sources. Clarissa Hyman's recipe was probably most useful in terms of which seasonings to use, although the way she included potatoes in her stew was ubiquous, to say the least. I compared, combined and tweaked the various recipes to what I had on hand. Traditionally a whole cut-up chicken is first dry fried in the saucepan before other ingredients are added. I used chicken breasts. To boost the chicken flavour that would have otherwise come from the bones and skin, I added some fresh chicken gravy. The resulting stew was really flavoursome and tasty, and seemed pretty authentic - though adapted - to all eaters. And I think Eteria, my neighbour, would have approved.

Georgian chicken with herbs and wine - Chakhokhbili

500 grams chicken breast fillets, cut into large chunks
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
2 chopped large onions
1 chopped garlic clove
400 grams chopped tomatoes (or couple of peeled fresh tomatoes)
100 ml fresh chicken stock
100 ml medium-bodied red wine
2 bay leaves
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1 tsp crushed fenugreek seeds (optional)
salt and black pepper
a very generous cupful of fresh herbs (CORIANDER/CILANTRO, TARRAGON, mint, basil, dill, parsley - it MUST include the herbs in capital letters, otherwise it's not even remotely authentic. I used the whole lot apart from mint.)

Heat the oil in a thick saucepan. Add chicken and fry on a medium heat until slightly browned all over.
Add onions, stir for a few minutes. Add garlic and saute, until onion has softened a little.
Add the chilli flakes, coriander and fenugreek*, stir for a few seconds to release aromas. Add tomatoes, fresh chicken stock and wine together with bay leaves. Season. Bring to a simmer, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook for 30-45 minutes (or more, if you wish), stirring every now and then, until the sauce is reduced to a thick glossy sauce.
Remove the bay leaves and add the fresh herbs. Stir and cover for 10 minutes, so the flavours can infuse. Season again, if necessary.
Serve with boiled rice or potatoes, garnish with lemon slices.

* If you can get hold of the Georgian spicy relish, adjika, then use this one instead of the spices (a tablespoon or two, depending on your taste).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Võileivatort - Sandwich Cake

Dagmar over at A cat in the kitchen posted a picture of a fancy seafood smörgåstårta that her mother had made, so I decided to share a picture of the võileivatort I made for the New Year's Eve party. Sandwich Cakes have been a popular feature on Estonian buffet and coffee tables since 1990s, most common being either ham cake or seafood cake. Although I happily eat fish (less bones, heads, scales etc), I don't eat seafood like shrimps, mussels etc. Which inevitably means that I tend to prefer the ham version:

This ham sandwich cake served 20 people as part of the New Year's Eve table. I used whole rye bread slices for the 3 bread layers (3x4 slices per layer). The moist (NB! this is absolutely essential, as there is nothing worse than a dry sandwich cake!) filling consisted of finely chopped pickled dill cucumbers, lean turkey ham, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, loads of herbs (dill, chives and parsley) and seasonings. But basically you can layer the bread with any of your favourite sandwich fillings. I do one with canned tuna, leek and chopped egg and mayo occasionally as well.

For decoration - small peppered pork ham rolls filled with grated cheese, mayonnaise, garlic and smoked sweet pimento pepper. But it's your call, really.

Singi-võileivatordi retsept
Tuunikalatordi retsept

Monday, January 16, 2006

Fig tarts with brown sugar mascarpone

I had two Estonian girlfriends over for a leisurely dinner on Saturday night, where we compared each others' Christmas holiday notes and plans for the new year. We had a Georgian chicken stew - chakhohbili - for the main course, and puff pastry tarts with figs and brown sugar mascarpone for the dessert. We drank Italian white wine and copious amounts of water infused with cucumber & lime slices.

Puff Pastry Tarts with Figs & Brown Sugar Mascarpone

I came across this simple yet delicious dessert in a donna hay magazine (Issue 20, Autumn 2005). I didn't change anything about it – though I did forget to dab the figs with butter before baking, and I'll do that next time as well.

Cut puff pastry into 10x5 cm rectangles, put onto a baking tray and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Cut ripe figs into quarters and place on the pastry sheets. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake in a 200˚C oven for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown.

Serve with a dollop mascarpone cheese that has been mixed with brown sugar (about 2 Tbsp of sugar per 250 gram tub of mascarpone).

Again, a really simple and tasty dessert that will definitely be a keeper. The two guests had not eaten figs before, and were totally converted.

Next time I will cut the puff pastry into small squares and top each with just a quarter of a fig – this way I'd get nice small desserts that can be eaten with fingers.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

European Blogging By Mail 3: A tasty parcel from Greece

I really enjoyed participating in the first round of European Blogging By Mail back in August, when I got a wonderful parcel from Johanna of The Passionate Cook. This time I got a lovely parcel full of various culinary goodies from Shalimar of Wanderlust: for the love of food & travel. Sha - who is originally from the Philippines, but lives in Greece - has described the contents of the parcel on her blog in great detail, so I’ll be brief here.

On the left there are 3 bags of various flavoured teas – one of them with chocolate bits!!! I tried the green tea with cinnamon and orange and it was really fragrant and soothing.

On the top right there's a packet of instant beef-flavoured soup. I'm a bit wary of this one as it says "Spicy" on the packet. I'm a bit worried whether I can stand the heat. I'll let you know.

Also on the right is a bar of Nestle chocolate and a selection of various mini chocolates (the green ones with nuts were first to disappear!)

The Tupperware box contains some coconut macaroons and really tasty cookies – I will be scanning Sha's blog for the recipe!

A bag of walnuts and two plastic bags with flour-vanilla-baking powder that were to be used with Sha's recipe for crispy chocolate brownies. And that's what I did. The recipe was easy to follow and resulted in a yummy tray of gooey-nutty chocolate brownies. Sha says that it's one of her favourite comfort foods, and these were very comforting indeed on a chilly Scottish weekend.

Efharisto, dear Shalimar!

Check out Johanna's roundup of the EBBP3. My own comforting foodie parcel went to Fini of Cocinalia in Spain.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A simple and delicious apple cake

UPDATE 11.9.2007 - I've included a new photo - I made this cake for my grandma Adele's 86th birthday today.

As my (non)Canadian apple cake post was very popular, I'll share my runner up with you as well. If the Canadian apple cake is my 'lovely on the coffee table apple cake', then this one is my 'need a quick cake to go with a cup of tea on a weekday apple cake'. It takes basically no time whatsoever to through together. You get rather thin and moist cake squares topped with cinnamony demerara crust.

NB! I never peel apples from reputable organic source (like my mum's backyard :)). However, if you use regular supermarket apples, it might be best to peel them first, as apples are heavily sprayed with pesticides.

Simple apple cake

240 g/400 ml plain flour
125 g/150 ml sugar
a pinch of salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
100 g melted butter
2 eggs
200 ml milk, sourmilk, kefir or buttermilk
4-5 large apples, cored and cubed

To finish:
demerara sugar

Mix the dry ingredients.
Melt the butter, add milk (drop by drop to prevent curdling), whisk in the egg, using a fork. Add to the dry mixture. If too dry, add some more milk.
Fold in apple cubes.
Pour into a small buttered cake tin.
Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and demerara sugar.
Bake at 200˚C oven for about 30 minutes, until the cake is nice and golden.
If you wish, sprinkle with icing sugar.

PS The cake is also lovely with chopped rhubarb or gooseberries, so use whatever is in season.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Estonian nibbles: cod liver canapés

Photo updated in December 2008

Cod liver - tursamaks - comes in cans, and it's not very widely available or known these days. It was even less available during the Soviet era, when it was considered a real delicacy. Luckily, my grandmother knew somebody who knew somebody (essential for culinary survival back then) and somehow she managed to get a can or two every now and then. I love it.

You don't really do much with it. You drain it, mash it with a fork, mix with some chopped onion and pickled cucumber and boiled egg, season with salt and pepper, and moisten with some of the drained oil. You get a very slightly fishy, mushy and creamy concoction that is great for stuffing boiled eggs (in which case you only add chopped egg yolk to the 'salad') or for spreading on toasted bread. That's exactly how cod liver found its way to my family's Christmas dinner this year, as one of the starters, when we were eagerly waiting for the boozy sauerkraut, roasted pork and black pudding to crispen. It also did so last year (click on the Estonian-language link below for a picture from 2004). It is definitely not a typical dish on Estonian Christmas table, but it seems to have its firm place on my family's table, alongside with salmon roe canapés (left) that my parents love but I heartily dislike. Too fishy for my delicate palate:)

Tursamaksasalati retsept

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A tasty tomato and goat’s cheese mouthful

This is yet another tasty vegetarian recipe from Swedish-Italian Ilva of Lucullian Delights. I used mini plum tomatoes and for the topping a Maltese unpasteurised goat’s cheese ('Gozo Cheeselets' from Camel Brand, a gift from a visitor from Malta a few months ago), some oil-cured black olives, and dried rosemary and oregano. I mixed the ingredients and spread the mush over halved tomatoes (I sprinkled tomatoes with some black pepper first) and grilled in the oven until the cheese mixture melted slightly.

These were lovely with some Estonian rye bread for a light supper. Very nice. Tack, Ilva!

Tomati-kitsejuustusuupistete retsept

Sunday, January 08, 2006

An upside down onion pie

Yet another recipe from Nigella's How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. It is cold and windy in Edinburgh these days, and I needed something heartwarming and comforting to eat last night. Being a proud recent owner of a tarte tatin dish, I thought to use my new kitchenware for something savoury. I remembered Nigella's recipe for "Supper Onion Pie" that I had bookmarked a while ago, and that's what I cooked. I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, except that I used some Dutch cheese instead of Cheddar, brought by a kind visitor from Amsterdam a few weeks ago. And whereas Nigella sprinkles the same cheese on the onions as well, I used a lovely Irish blue cheese Cachel Blue instead, as I thought - rightly - that a strong-flavoured cheese would work very well with the sweet onions.

Another definite keeper that would be really lovely as a light vegetarian supper.

Upside down red onion pie
(Pahupidi sibulapirukas)
Very slightly adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess
Serves 6

For the onion layer:
4-5 medium red onions
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 heaped Tbsp butter
0.5 tsp dried thyme
50 grams of blue cheese

For the cheesy scone dough:
250 grams plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
100 grams grated cheese
100 ml milk
50 grams melted butter
1 tsp English mustard
1 large egg, beaten

Peel the onions, cut into half and then each half into 4-5 segments, depending on the size. Heat oil and butter in a non-stick or thick-bottomed saucepan and sweat the onions for 20-30 minutes on a low heat, stirring regularly to prevent sticking, until the onions are soft and slightly golden on edges.

Season with salt, pepper and thyme, and layer at the bottom of a deep pie dish. I buttered the dish slightly before adding the onions, then sprinkled with some Blue Cachel cheese.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and grated cheese in a bowl. In another bowl mix the melted butter, milk, mustard and egg. Mix the contents of the two bowls with a wooden spoon. Dip the mixture onto a cutting board, form into a fat disc the size of the pie dish and transfer onto the onions.

Bake at 180-200˚C for about 30 minutes, until the scone dough is golden and baked. Let it cool for 5 minutes, then cover with a serving dish and carefully flip over.

Serve hot or warm with HP Sauce or brown sauce (as recommended by Nigella herself) or with a dollop of sour cream (as I did).

Note for next time: maybe try with small shallots, left whole?

UPDATE: T. Carter over at Lifechanges ... Delayed got inspired and made a red onion upside down pie as well.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Verivorst & hapukapsas: Estonian Christmas staples black pudding & sauerkraut

You ALWAYS have sauerkraut (hapukapsas) and black pudding (verivorstid) at an Estonian Christmas table. I've written about sauerkraut before, here's a picture of a pan full of 2 different types of black pudding or blood sausages before roasting.

And here's a picture of my first Christmas meal in 2005, at my auntie Vaike's place - a week before Christmas actually:)

Sauerkraut, black and white pudding (same thing, one with and the other without blood), potatoes and a really delicious chunk of roasted wild boar (hunted my my cousin's husband). Yummmmy..

Friday, January 06, 2006

Blue cheese and walnut biscuits

I found a recipe for these blue cheese and walnut biscuits in December issue of Pereköök, a monthly recipe booklet of Estonian family journal Pere ja Kodu. They were really simple to make and delicious, and went very well with glög/mulled wine:) These are a lovely addition to my cheesy feet biscuits.

Blue cheese and walnut biscuits

150 grams butter
300 ml plain flour
0.5 tsp salt
100-150 grams blue cheese
50 grams chopped walnuts

Chop butter, flour and salt into crumbs, add chopped blue cheese and mix into a dough (if the dough feels to greasy, add a bit more flour).
Add the nuts, knead a bit and form into 2 rolls (3 cm diameter). Wrap into a clingfilm and put into a fridge for at least an hour.
Cut each roll into 5 mm discs and put these onto a baking tray. Bake at 175˚C for 12-15 minutes, until they are light golden (do NOT let them go brown, as cheese goes bitter).

These biscuits keep for a week in an airtight container (in theory. We finished them straight away).

London-based Manne of Tummyrumble tried these cookies, too