Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm a Daring Baker: Bostini Cream Pies

Yes, it's that time of the month again when Daring Bakers strike across the foodblogosphere! And I'm one of them. Since joining the ranks of Daring Bakers I've made Jewish Purist's Bagels, then a fancy Strawberry Mirror Cake, followed by a delicious Milk Chocolate & Caramel Tart a la Eric Kayser, and last month I was baking very comforting Sticky Buns & Cinnamon Buns. This month a lot of Daring Bakers are making Bostini Cream Pies. October challenge was set by Mary of AlpineBerry, and you can find the recipe here. Mary tells you all about the background of Bostini Cream Pies, but apparently it's an adaptation of Boston cream pie (vanilla layer cake with cream and topped with chocolate glaze). Boston cream pie is an American classic - the official state dessert of Massachusetts, no less - created by French chef M. Sanzian at Parker House Hotel in Boston a while ago.

Bostini Cream Pie is similar, yet different. The dessert was nice - a combination of rich vanilla custard, light orange chiffon cake and a glossy dark chocolate glaze. It was easy to make and assemble, and I used my silicon muffin tray for baking the chiffon cakes which worked really well. We enjoyed this American classic just before watching a great American movie (TransAmerica), so it was a thoroughly American Sunday:) However, there's something about the American cakes & desserts that I never understand. As it was just two of us eating it this weekend, we halved the recipe, which should have yielded four desserts. Yet we still ended up with enough custard, cakes and chocolate glaze to feed at least 6 (if not 8) comfortably - and believe me, neither I or K. can boast to have a small appetite. I could, in theory, have eaten a 1/8th of the original recipe instead of lunch or dinner, but never ever as a dessert after the starter and main course..

Anyway - my favourite Daring Baker challenge so far is still the Milk Chocolate & Caramel Tart a la Eric Kayser, K. swears by the Strawberry Mirror Cake. We're both looking forward to the next month's challenge :)

You can learn how other Daring Bakers did with this month's challenge by browsing through the blogroll here. There are about 200 Daring Bakers already, so be patient:)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging # 106: The Round-Up!

Kalyn kindly trusted me with hosting this week's Weekend Herb Blogging. It has been quite a task! There were 45 entries from far away corners of the world, including New Zealand, Alaska, India, France, Philippines, Spain, Scotland, England, Croatia, Brazil, Canada and USA.

To make this round-up more digestible, I've grouped the entries by the main ingredients. However, I didn't want to make it too easy for you either, so I've listed the ingredients alphabetically, in Estonian ;) I have provided the English equivalents, of course..

Happy browsing!

Lia of Swirling Notions blog has been cooking with Romano Beans. Lia grows them herself, and is actually looking for more recipe ideas for using these particular beans. So if you know a recipe or two, go and tell Lia!

Katerina (Vancouver, Canada) of Daily Unadventures in Cooking shares a recipe for Fennel Risotto with Goat Cheese. She's using fennel both as a herb and as a vegetable in this creamy risotto, so she's been doubly adventurous in cooking this time!

The Queen of Vegetables, Alanna (St Louis, USA) of A Veggie Venture is also cooking with fennel this week. She shares a simple recipe for delicious-looking roasted fennel. Just look at those gorgeously caramelised fennel chunks!

Burcu of Almost Turkish Recipes is sharing a recipe for Kuzu Etli Enginar aka Artichoke Heart and Lamb Stew. Sounds like a perfect autumn dish to me!

Toni (San Diego, USA) of Daily Bread Journal is understandingly distraught about the recent fires in her area, yet manages to bake a comforting Banana-Coconut Bread.

Maninas (Croatia) of Food Matters has given a new twist to the traditional tuna & mayonnaise sandwich by adding some basil leaves from her windowsill - the result is Tuna & Mayo Sandwich with Basil, Lemon and Black Pepper. Maninas reminds us that basil won the honorable title of the most popular herb of last year's Weekend Herb Blogging!

Charise (Dublin, USA) of more bread and cheese, please! is sharing a recipe for Ginger-Vanilla-Pear Bread. The recipe uses a lot of crystallised ginger - my favourite way of consuming ginger - so I'm definitely bookmarking this one!

Potatoes are the staple ingredient in Estonia, so I was excited to see Curry in Kadai's Kalva's (Andhra Pradesh, India) entry for Aloo Pudina Pulla Kura aka Minty Lemony Potato Fry.

There was another exotic potato entry: Sra of When My Soup Came Alive has included a leftover spud into her raita recipe - most unusual, and very intriguing!

Gwen (New York) of the Intoxicated Zodiac gives some zodiac tips for Virgos and shares a recipe for a pomegranite kumquat caipirinha. She's definitely providing the most teasing WHB photo I've seen so far!

VegeYum of A Life(Time) of Cooking (Australia) made a kumquat marmalade and describes it as divine. Cannot disagree with that - I love when you can see tiny black vanilla seeds in your food - be it a kumquat marmalade, plum jam or vanilla custard!

Pam (TN, USA) of Sidewalk Shoes keeps always fresh parsley and cilantro/coriander in her fridge, as using fresh garnish makes all the difference in the world, as she says. She's using cilantro/coriander to garnish this great chicken tortilla soup.

The originator of the Weekend Herb Blogging, Kalyn (Salt Lake City, Utah) of Kalyn's Kitchen has come up with a beautiful and colourful recipe for roasted butternut squash - an excellent recipe for the forthcoming Thanksgiving festivities! Thank you, Kalyn, for launching WHB two years ago, and for letting me host this time - it's been fun (though tough)!

The Chocolate Lady (Greenwich Village, New York, USA) is cooking up a storm with bright-coloured uchiki kuri squash. You can find her Late October Lentil Soup with Uchiki Kuri Squash recipe here.

Rosa (Paris&Nice, France) of Edible adventures in Paris, Nice and beyond is also talking about winter squash, but different ones: courge de Nice, potimarron, ridged courge musquée and such like. For her first ever WHB entry (welcome, Rosa!) she's come up with a Provençal classic Tian de courge. Rosa is originally from Canada, but has been working as a food critic and cookbook writer in France for the last dozen years. You can get a glimpse of her life by visiting her blog!

Kevin (Toronto, Canada) of Closet Cooking is exploring the Japanese kabocha squash this week and creates a beautiful kabocha risotto. I love the garnish of deep fried sage leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds. I've been thinking of making a pumpkin risotto myself recently, and will definitely use toasted pumpkin seeds on top.

Ilva (Tuscany, Italy) of Lucullian Delights was thinking of me when deciding which dish to enter for this week's WHB - how sweet is that!? You see, I had told her previously that I really like caraway seeds - a perfect spice to spice up a sauerkraut stew or rye bread and many other dishes. You can see her beautiful creation caraway carrots sweetly resting on a bed of soft goat's cheese. However, if you don't like caraway seeds, then you can use similar-looking (bot NOT similar-tasting!) cumin seeds in this recipe.

Strata (Sunnyvale, CA, USA) of My Bay Area Garden is letting us know about mustard as a salad green and sandwich layer. I grew some mustard leaves in a container this summer, and really liked their subtle mustardy kick! Head over to Strata's blog - she even tells you about different mustard leaf varieties - just look at the colours!!

Annemarie (London, UK) of Ambrosia and Nectar was sitting in a cold, herb-less, husband-less house, and prepared a Rack of Lamb, Port and Cranberry Jus, and Parsnip and Horseradish Mash to warm and cheer her up the other day. It must have worked!

The talented Ximena (Madrid, Spain) of the Lobstersquad blog has been drooling over recipes in Andrea Nguyen´s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavours and tried various soups from the book. For the WHB, she drew us some lovely mint leaves.

Lissie (Bangalore, India) of Salt & Spice blog has made a coriander and mint chutney that she uses to make this great-looking ribbon sandwich. What a great idea, don't you think?

Syrie (Vancouver, Canada) of Taste Buddies blog used mint both to season and garnish her lamb biryani and to make her after-dinner mint tea. Both very comforting, don't you think? Mint is one of Syrie's favourite herbs. I drink a lot of mint tea, using mint from my mum's garden, but I must admit I've neglected mint as a herb.

Mandira (Michigan, USA) of Ahaar: pleasure and sustenance has been throwing some mushrooms and green peppers in with her baked tilapia - a great dish if you need to eat more fish and vegetables!

Shaun (Auckland, New Zealand) of Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow obviously knows that I've got a soft spot for beetroot. His entry - Beetroot Risotto (adapted from Diane Forley & Catherine Young's The Anatomy of a Dish) - has already been printed out for perusal in our kitchen a.s.a.p. There are two steps to the recipe - first you need to pickle the beetroots, then make the risotto using those pickled beets, but it sure looks lovely!

Sophie (Oxford, England) of Mostly Eating shares a recipe for A warm beetroot, sumac and sweet potato salad that goes well with feta cheese. Sumac is also a great ingredient to use in this salad - its sharpness complementing the earthiness of the beets so well. I love her photo of small different-coloured beets - aren't they cute??

Katie (France) of Thyme for Cooking has still got plenty of parsley in her French garden, and she's whisked up this gorgeously yellow parsley and mushroom omelette. If WHB were about giving points, she'd get an extra one for calling me her very favourite Estonian :)

Anna (Sydney, Australia) of Morsels & Musings is using parsley to garnish her Lebanese breakfast dish Fatteh. The dish also contains lots of chickpeas, and sounds really good, so head over to read Anna's recipe.

Paz (New York, USA) of The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz is also blogging about parsley this week. She fancied one of Ilva's fabulous cauliflower recipes, and is blogging about Very Cheap but Very Good Vegetable Soup. You can never have too many recipes like that, so check it out!

Joey (Manila, Philippines) of the lovely 80 Breakfasts pounded some native pili nuts into this pretty pili nut pesto. Sounds like something to try when I'm ever on these faraway islands!! I must admit I had to search an online database for the Estonian equivalent of pili nuts (Canarium ovatum). Turns out the plant is called pili-kanaripuu and the fruit is pili. Who would have known!?

Patricia (São Paulo, Brazil) Technicolor Kitchen has been making Tomato, Minas cheese and eggplant salad in her kitchen. Patricia used Minas cheese - queijo Minas frescal - in a salad, which is a Brazilian speciality, but bocconcini would do, so you can all try the salad yourself. (And if you prefer reading the Portuguese-language version, then click here).

Chicken and Leek Pie was the entry submitted by Arfi Binsted (Tuakau, New Zealand) of HOMEMADES: A Joy of Being Domestic. Arfi has been struggling with sinusitis and recovering from the loss of her father-in-law. Lets hope that the Leek & Chicken Pie is

A relative foodblogging newbie Laurie (Anchorage, Alaska) of Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska proudly presents Revithia Soupa aka Lemony Chickpea and Rosemary Soup. The recipe is an example of the delicious dishes presented in her charity cookbook Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, which you can buy here.

Ramona (Alexandria, VA) of The Houndstooth Gourmet is also presenting a rosemary recipe, namely Rosemary, Olive and Honey Quick Bread. The bread looks beautiful and so comforting that I'm tempted to make it already this week. Luckily, I've got two pots of rosemary on my windowsill, so the ingredients are at hand..

Genie (Iowa City, USA) of Inadvertent Gardener has used sage - a herb that abounds in her back garden - to make blackberry-ginger-sage vinaigrette to accompany a fruit salad. Doesn't that sound just delicious?

Peter (Toronto, Canada) of Kalofagas: Pursuit of Delicious Foods submitted the sole mushroom recipe this week, risotto with royal trumpets. I thought I know lots of wild mushrooms, but Peter has just introduced me to a new one (Pleurotus erýngii in Latin, kuningausterservik in Estonian).

As a former resident of Bonnie Scotland, it always delights me to hear from Scotland. So when an email poppled into my inbox from Holler (Scotland) of Tinned Tomatoes, I was very excited and headed straight over to check our her recipe for Apple & Red Onion Chutney. Go and admire the cute labels she has made!

Jennifer is blogging over at Like to Cook and she submitted a recipe for Spinach and chickpea soup. According to Jennifer, it's perfect on a chilly autumn day, which makes it perfect for pretty much anyone living on a Northern hemisphere at the moment :)

Haalo (Australia) of Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once is clearly showing how the seasons on the Southern and Northern hemisphere differ. How else could she be blogging about this gorgeous Zucchini Flower Frittata in late October, when I did it back in July?

Susan (Missouri, USA) of the award-winning Farmgirl Fare blog baked a fabulous-looking fresh tomato and basil whole wheat sourdough bread. This bread is extra special, as the recipe was sent to Susan by one of her readers back in August, so it's a fan mail recipe. Susan has a recently started a small artisanal bread bakery at her farm, so no wonder she comes up with this beautiful loaf! (I must admit that Susan's banner is almost as beautiful as mine, so if you haven't seen it yet, then pop over:)

Margot (London, UK) of the Coffee & Vanilla: euro-caribbean food blog is mixing Polish, Dominican and British elements in her kitchen. For this week's WHB she recreates a recipe from UKTV Food, but adds her own twist. The resulting Fruit & Cheese Pastry with Sweet Chilli Sauce looks most intriguing and appetising, using both pears and apples, as well as feta and mozzarella cheese. Margot serves this with sweet chilli sauce, and she also provides a little more information about small and devillish bird eye chilli peppers.

Jeanne (London, England) of Cook Sister! blog writes an informative post on figs and shares a recipe for roast figs with balsamic vinegar and pine nuts. Go and read the story about the fig tree in her back garden in Pretoria!

Sher (Davis, California, US) of What Did You Eat blog highlights the role of cumin in her chicken and tomatillo stew. The recipe is adapted from Food&Wine, but Sher wonders why the end result has such a different colour in reality compared to the magazine photo. Any suggestions?

Mike (Florida, USA) of Mike's Table has made a vegetable pizza. It's hard to highlight one particular herb or vegetable - the pizza is full of pure vegetable goodness, so do check out the recipe yourself. Mike has also provided good step-by-step photos.

Andrea (Northern Virginia/DC Metro, USA) of Andrea's Recipes has submitted a very informative and helpful post on making vegetable stock. I've only recently started making my own vegetable and fish stock, and can confirm that it makes all the difference (though I do cheat sometimes with my Marigold Vegetable Bouillon powder:)

Gretchen (Lima, Peru) of Canela y Comino is also using a whole range of vegetables for her submitted entry, Thai Style Stir Fried Chicken. There's onions, carrots, mushrooms, and broccoli, and Gretcshen kindly provides nutritional information on all these ingredients.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A recipe for meekook aka Estonian honey cake

Here's my entry for the 10th installment of Waiter, there is something in my ... (WTISIM) foodblogging event, a brainchild of three fabulous British foodbloggers Johanna, Jeanne and Andrew. This month's edition is hosted by Andrew, who has asked us to send in our recipes for LAYERED CAKES.

I decided to try meekook or a layered honey cake that is available in most cake shops and is a popular birthday table option. It consists of six thin cake layers and six simple sweetened sour cream layers. Our layers were slightly thicker than we expected them to be, but the taste was exactly right.


MEEKOOK aka Estonian Honey Cake*
Serves 12-16

Honey cake layers:
3 Tbsp honey

200 g (250 ml/1 cup) caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
360 g plain flour (600 ml)

Between layers:
1 kg sour cream
85 g (100 ml) caster sugar

Whisk eggs until pale and thick.
Heat honey and sugar in a large saucepan. When it's about to boil, remove from the heat and add the whisked eggs, stirring until combined. Add baking soda and stir again.
Add flour gradually, mixing until combined. Put aside to cool completely!
Divide the dough into six equal parts (it's easiest to do it by rolling it into a cylinder and then cutting into six pieces).
Take six sheets of baking/parchment paper, dust very slightly with flour.
On a slightly floured parchment paper, form each piece of dough into a ball and then roll out into a 24 cm circles.
Bake one dough circle at the time for 5 minutes in the middle of a 225 C oven until dark golden. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking paper.

Layer five baked circles with the sour cream on a cake stand, covering also the top cake circle.
Crush the sixth cake circle in a food processor and sprinkle on the top layer of sour cream.
Place into the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.

Here are links to my previous Waiter there is something in my ... entries:
September 2007 (SAVOURY PRESERVE): Gooseberry Chutney
August 2007 (MEATLESS BBQ):
Roasted onions with blue cheese.
July 2007 (SAUCES):
Munakaste alias my grandma Senta's egg & smoked ham sauce.
June 2007 (DUMPLINGS):
Vareniki dumplings with curd cheese filling, served with home-made apricot jam & pistachios.
Stuffed tomatoes with two types of salad - cod liver salad & cucumber and wild garlic salad.
April 2007 (BREAD): a traditional Estonian quick mushroom bread,
March 2007 (EASTER BASKET): a selection of various
Easter delights.
February 2007 (PIE): a great Russian puff pastry and fish pie,
Salmon Kulebyaka.
January 2007 (STEW): my version (in collaboration with Anthony Bourdain:) of the French classic
Boeuf Bourguignon.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Armenian Aubergine Stew (or Armenian Eggplant Stew, if you wish)

There's a smart little paperback by Nicholas Glee, called Don't Sweat the Aubergine: What Works in the Kitchen and Why, that I love. It's trying to de-mystify various kitchen conundrums - to wash the rice or not before cooking? to sweat the aubergine/eggplant with salt first? do you simmer your stock for 1, 2,6 or 10 hours? and such like. But it was the title that intrigued me enough to actually order the book. You see, most of the recipes using aubergines ask to salt, rinse and dry the aubergine before cooking. There are two major explanations for that. Explanation 1: apparently it eliminates the bitterness in aubergine - but then most 'modern' aubergines aren't bitter to start with. Explanation 2: it helps NOT to soak up too much oil afterwards. Mr Glee isn't convinced. Neither does he buy into Delia Smith's explanation that salting concentrates the flavour. He does recommend simply cutting up the aubergine, tossing with oil, salt and pepper and roasting them in the oven. Nice...

But here's a much better way to treat aubergines, trust me. In this recipe for 'juicy stewed eggplant' adapted from St Gregory's Church's fundrising cookbook Adventures in Armenian Cooking the aubergines are added to a simple tomato sauce. The aubergines soak up the seasoned tomato sauce (healthy, virtually fat-free), and emerge half an hour later being meltingly soft and tender, with plenty of flavour. It is equally delicious when freshly cooked, but is an extremely satisfying when eaten cool hours or even a day or two later.

The stew is seasoned with dried herbs - basil & mint in this case. The use of dried mint as a seasoning is especially widespread in Armenia, alongside cumin, barberries and various fresh herbs. Whereas the cuisines of the Caucasus area are typically quite meat-heavy, then Armenians also love their fruit, vegetables and salads. You can read more about Armenian cuisine here, here or here.

Armenian Aubergine Stew
(Armeenia pommuhautis)
Serves 4

about 500 grams aubergine (I used 3 smaller ones), cut into small chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled (optional)
2 Tbsp olive oil
400 grams crushed tomatoes or 500 grams tomato passata
0.5 tsp dried basil
0.5 tsp dried mint
coarsely ground black pepper
200-300 ml boiling water

fresh basil or/and mint, to garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add onion and bell pepper and fry gently for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add whole garlic cloves, season with basil, mint, salt and pepper. Saute for another few minutes.
Now add tomatoes (either crushed tomatoes or tomato passata), aubergine chunks and hot water. Give it a stir, then simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes, until aubergine is meltingly soft, but still holds its shape. Stir every now and then, adding more water, if the stew looks too dry.
Season to taste, garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

This is also my entry for the Vegetarian Awareness Month event hosted by Margot of Coffee & Vanilla.