Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Salted Herring, Estonian Style

Did you know that Estonia has a 'national fish', in a similar vein to countries having chosen a 'national flower', a 'national drink', a 'national bird' etc? Well, we do since 2006 and it's a Baltic Herring (Clupea harengus membras). However, the big cousin on that tiny fish - Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) is very popular as well, and here's the most popular way of serving Atlantic herring in Estonia. You need salted Atlantic herring filets for this dish, available either at deli or fish counters or in a canned versions in your supermarket aisle. If the fish is too salty, then soak it in milk or several rounds of cold water first.

I must admit that I'm not a big fan of 'raw' fish, and salted herring belongs to that category of fish, too (I know it's cured, but it's hot heat-treated). But I served this at our Christmas Eve Dinner, where it was universally praised and finished very quickly. You cannot beat an old traditional favourite, can you..

PS I warn you, there are some pretty strong flavours combined in this dish, so it's not a dainty and elegant fish first course, but a full-on one!

Salted Atlantic Herring, served Estonian style
(Heeringas hapukoorega)
Serves 6-8

4 lightly salted Atlantic herring fillets
3 shallots or 1-2 medium onions
a scant cup of sour cream
2-3 hard-boiled eggs
fresh dill, finely chopped

Cut the herring filets into 1x2 cm pieces and place on an oblong shallow serving dish (it's usually fish-shaped, though ours wasn't).
Peel the onions and slice very thinly. Spread over the herring pieces.
Spoon the sour cream on top.
Peel the hard-boiled eggs, chop the egg whites and yolks separately.
Garnish the dish with lines of green dill, yellow egg yolks and white egg whites.

Keep in the fridge until serving with slices of rye bread as part of a Nordic buffet. Though you might prefer it as an accompaniment to boiled new potatoes (also a very Estonian thing to do). 


Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008

It's the 2nd Christmas Day already, and finally I've got a spare moment to wish you all a Joyful Christmas and tell you a little about our Christmas meal. In Estonia, we celebrate Christmas Eve - that's when Father Yule (Jõuluvana) brings us presents (I've added a photo of my two nephews opening theirs a year ago). For a third year already, K. and I have had our families over for a big traditional Christmas meal. That's 10 persons altogether - my parents, K's mum and auntie, my sister with her family, and us two. Luckily we've got a big enough table to seat us all comfortably, and as we both enjoy cooking to our loved ones, hosting a Christmas dinner has been a pure pleasure.

This year we decided to start with some fish dishes. There was salmon in a red wine vinegar (a Finnish recipe that translates as 'Glass-blower's fish'), as well as lightly-salted Atlantic herring with sour cream and onions (a VERY Estonian dish that I'll tell you more about later). For those of us not too keen on fish, there were also devilled eggs on the table. These three dishes were eaten with dark rye bread and accompanied by a very nice Swedish-produced Blossa glögg (a special Christmas drink).

For the main course I roasted a big piece of marbled pork shoulder (Boston butt is the name of the cut, if I'm not mistaken. Definitely the best-selling cut here in Estonia, but not widely known outside I'm told) that I rubbed with a mixture of rosemary, garlic, Dijon mustard, honey and salt, and roasted at 160 C for a couple of hours. Very juicy and tasty - and a big hit with my pork-loving dad :) This was accompanied by the usual Estonian Christmas trimmings: oven-baked potato wedges with caraway seeds, sauerkraut braised in dark beer, black pudding, oven-baked carrot sticks with cumin seeds (well, not strictly Estonian, but these were a great addition), lingonberry jam.

[Here we had a small - but welcome - pause, opening the presents under the Christmas tree, citing poems and singing some Christmas carols].

For dessert? I made a very-very nice - and rich - Marbled Blackcurrant and Chocolate Mousse Cake, followed by coffee and tea, and piparkoogid aka gingerbread, of course, using the same recipe I did last year.

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas with lots of good food and loved ones! Häid jõule!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Something Danish for your Christmas table? Risalamande or Rice and Almond Pudding with Warm Cherry Compote

Risalamande / Danish rice pudding with cherry sauce / Taani riisipuder sooja kirsikastmega
October 2012, photo by Juta Kübarsepp for the December issue of Kodu ja Aed, 2012

From the recipe archives (originally posted in January 2007)

At the tender age of 18 I moved to Denmark for a year as an exchange student. Wide-eyed and over-excited, I enjoyed the experience a lot. It was quite a life-changing experience. I didn't see my friends and family for almost a year, so I had to adjust to the new environment, make new friends and generally grow up quickly. At the age of 18, this was definitely something to cherish.

A new country meant lots of new foods, too (and over 10 kg extra weight upon return, sadly). Usually, the Danes would try to impress the exchange students by introducing them to 'typical' Danish items of kartofler med frikadeller (potatoes with meat balls) and rugbrød og leverpostej (rye bread and liver pate). Although delicious, these didn't impress me as such, as they're staple foods in in Estonia, too. But I had my first quiche, my first hotdog, my first spring roll and my first lasagne while in Denmark.

Whereas I broadened my international culinary horizons during that year, I also fell in love with one particularly Danish dish. You see, the Danes have the most delicious pudding for Christmas - risalamande or enriched rice pudding served with warm cherry compote. Risalamande contains either chopped or flaked almonds, and one whole almond is hidden in one of the bowls. The person who finds the almond will receive a special gift. You need to eat this pudding carefully, as you need to tell a whole almond from a chopped one by gently 'testing it' on your tongue. I guess you'll lose the gift if you can't show a whole almond, you see?!

I distinctly remember that when my host-mother 'mor Kirsten' served risalamande for the Christmas meal, every single child at the table found a whole almond in their pudding and none of the adults did.

What a coincidence, eh??

[PS Fancy a rice pudding and some chocolate? Try Pierre Hermé's Chocolate Rice Pudding (Feb 2006)]

(Mandliriis kirsikastmega)
Serves 8

Risalamande / Danish Christmas Rice Pudding / Õnnemandliga riisidessert
December 2009

Rice porridge:
1 litre of full milk (2.5% or 3.5% fat)
150 grams short-grain porridge rice
1 vanilla pod

To enrich the porridge:
500 ml whipping cream (35%)
100 grams of almond flakes (or blanched and chopped almonds)
1 whole almond (blanched or not; you may need more if you've got children eating)
2 to 3 Tbsp sugar

Cherry compote:
a large jar of stoneless cherries in syrup (370/680 grams)
1 heaped Tbsp cornflour/corn starch/Maizena
2 Tbsp cold water

First, make the rice porridge. Slowly bring the milk to a boil. Rinse the rice in cold running water, drain and add to the boiling milk together with the vanilla pod. Stir gently until the milk comes to the boil again, then reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 45-60 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all the milk and become soft. Cool completely.

Whisk the cream and sugar, and fold into cooled porridge together with almonds. Add more sugar, if you wish.

To make the cherry compote, bring the cherries and syrup to the boil in a small saucepan. Mix the cornstarch with cold water, stir into the cherry compote and simmer for a few minutes, until the sauce thickens a little.

Serve the cold rice and almond porridge with a warm cherry compote. And remember the extra gift to the lucky one with a whole almond in their pudding!
  Risalamande: Danish Christmas dessert with rice and almonds / Taani mandli-riisidessert kirsikastmega

December 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Persimmon Dessert

Another extremely simple dessert idea.

Take a ripe and non-astringent persimmon/sharon/kaki fruit, peel (optional), cube. Layer with cottage cheese. Drizzle with maple syrup or agave nectar or honey. Enjoy.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Orange Cake with Dried Cranberries

Citrus fruit (especially clementines and mandarines, but also oranges) and cranberries are pretty Christmassy, don't you think? Last night I combined these two in a simple loaf cake, and we enjoyed it for dinner last night as well as for breakfast this morning. Very simple to make - and very satisfying. I loved the slightly sour-bitter flavour that dried cranberries (also known as craisins) provided in this otherwise sweet cake.

Orange Loaf with Dried Cranberries

(Apelsinikeeks kuivatatud jõhvikatega)
Makes 1 loaf cake

200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
180 g (200 ml) caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 medium-sized orange (both grated zest and the juice)
220 g (400 ml) plain/all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
100 g dried cranberries

Cream butter and egg (using a wooden spoon and muscle power, or the paddle attachment on your KitchenAid).
Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
Add orange juice and zest.
Mix flour and baking powder, stir in the cranberries. Fold the flour into the batter.
Spoon the batter into a buttered or lined loaf tin (1,5 litre capacity works well).
Bake at the 175 C / 350 F for about 50-60 minutes, until the cake is cooked (test for doneness with a toothpick).
Cool in the tin, then turn out and place on a serving dish.

TIPS: the cake will cut into nicer slices, if you wrap it into a towel or kitchen foil and keep at room temperature until the next day.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday morning pancakes

I've mentioned before that every weekend we have pancakes for breakfast. I'm no good in making them, so I stay in bed until K. calls me to table. Here's a lovely photo of last weekend's pancakes - small and chubby farmers' cheese pancakes that we enjoyed with home-made lingonberry and pear jam (lingonberries were picked by K's mum, pears are from my parents' backyard and the jam was made by me). That's family cooperation, isn't it :)

Hope you've all had a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

An orange and fennel salad recipe

Looking for a light, quick and festive starter? Well, try this one :) It's a lovely Italian winter salad (Sicilian in origin, apparently), where fennel provides a lovely and slightly aniseedy crunch, orange provides the necessary sweet note, onion the sharpness and toasted walnuts add textural interest.

Orange and fennel salad
(Apelsini ja apteegitilli salat)
Serves 4

large handful or two of salad leaves (f.ex. lamb's lettuce)
1-2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
6 medium-sized (red blood) oranges, peeled and thinly sliced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
walnut halves, toasted

Peel the oranges (remove as much of the white pith as possible) and cut crosswise into thin slices.
Remove the hard bottom part of the fennel bulbs and discard, cut the fennel into thin slices.
Peel the red onion, cut into thin slices.
Place orange, fennel and onion slices into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes or up to a few hours at room temperature, mixing couple of times.
To serve, place some salad leaves (cos or lamb's lettuce) onto a serving plate, top with salad, including any juices.
Garnish with toasted chopped walnuts.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oven-baked salmon with beetroot

I've been asked to come up with various Christmas menu options - but by the readers of my Estonian site as well as some university friends. One of the menus is fish-centered, so for the last week I've tried to come up with a suitably festive main course. Although various white fish (pike-perch aka zander, Northern pike etc) are more traditional here in Estonia, then fresh Norwegian salmon is easily and universally available across the country. Therefore I've decided to use a red fish at the centre of my fish menu. Inspiration for this comes from a Finnish Ruokamaailma magazine, but I've tweaked it sufficiently to consider the recipe my own. I served it last night to a group of friends who came over for some food and board games, and it was very well received :)

So, for Christmas 2008 the Beetroot Princess suggests:

Oven-baked salmon with beetroot
(Ahjulõhe peediga pühadelauale)

Serves 6

1 kg salmon filet, trimmed
2 tsp salt
0.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
about 3-4 small cooked beets (either boiled or roasted)
2 Tbsp olive oil

Carefully remove all pin-bones from the salmon filet. (I like to cut off the thin side of the salmon filet and use that for another dish - perhaps soup - on the following day. I think the thick part of the filet looks much more festive, plus you it's easier to cook the fish uniformly).

Cut the fish filet into thick portions (this helps to serve the fish nicely later), but leave the skin intact. Place in an oiled oven dish. Season with salt and pepper and scatter lots of chopped dill on top.

Peel the beets and cut into thin slices. Using a small shot glass, cut the slices into uniformly sized small rounds. Layer these like fish scales on top of the salmon. Drizzle with olive oil.

If you like dill, then you can scatter more dill on top at this stage.

Cover the oven dish with a piece of foil and bake in a pre-heated 200 C / 400 F oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish and desired level of pinkness.

Serve with steamed couscous or boiled potatoes.

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stir-fried Cherry Tomatoes with Basil

This must be one of the quickest - and most colourful - side dishes I've made in a while. Having spent all day at yet another cookery course today, testing several sweet Christmas tarts and fancy cakes, I needed something savoury and easy tonight. I went for one of my stand-bys - battered and pan-fried white fish (I used a pangasius filet, which I dipped into a mixture of egg-flour-milk), and chose this colourful recipe I spotted in a Finnish magazine yesterday. It was a success - quick, different, slightly tangy, slightly sweet, and very beautiful.

Stir-fried Cherry Tomatoes with Basil
(Vokitud kirsstomatid basiilikuga)
Adapted from Suomen Kuvalehti Gourmet 4/2008
Serves 4

4 Tbsp (olive) oil
500 g cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove
handful of fresh parsley
20 large fresh basil leaves
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp caster sugar
coarsely ground black pepper

Rinse the tomatoes and dry thoroughly. Chop the garlic, parsley and basil finely, place into a small bowl.
Heat oil in a wok or frying pan until very hot. Add cherry tomatoes, season with salt, sugar and pepper. Reduce the heat and stir-fry the tomatoes for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan every now and then.
Sprinkle the garlic and herb mixture on top, give the tomatoes another stir and serve at once.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Coffee Cake

When I first started reading English-language cookbooks I was baffled by coffee cake recipes that had no coffee inside. You see, in Estonia we bake and eat lots of cakes (I've baked a cake to go with coffee each day this week), but they're not called "kohvikook" or "coffee cake". They're called just cakes, and we enjoy them with coffee. Meanwhile, I've been baking a coffee cake - that is, a cake that contains coffee crumbs - for over a decade now. And here's a recipe - originally from a Finnish food magazine in early 1990s, and I've made it over and over again. There's something about eating a coffee cake while drinking coffee, you see.

Note that I use simple ground coffee in the cake, not the instant kind. K. originally thought there were poppy seeds in the cake :P

Coffee Cake Recipe

250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250 ml / 1 cup / 225 g caster sugar
3 eggs
500 ml / 2 cups all-purpose/plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 heaped Tbsp ground coffee
2 tsp vanilla sugar
50 ml / 3-4 Tbsp milk

For the frosting:
4 Tbsp cold coffee or coffee liqueur
appr. 200 g icing sugar

For decoration:
coffee bean shaped chocolate

Cream butter and sugar until pale, then whisk in eggs, one at a time.
Measure dry ingredients into a bowl, mix thoroughly and then stir into the butter and egg mixture alongside with milk. The resulting batter is quite thick, but still spoonable.
Spoon the batter into a buttered small oven tray (f.ex. 30x30 cm). Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 175 C oven for about 25 minutes, until the cake is cooked (test for doneness with a small wooden cocktail stick).
Let cool.
Mix the coffee and icing sugar into a glossy frosting and drizzle over the cake. Decorate with chocolate 'coffee beans'.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Creamy Fish Soup

I just realised that I've been posting nothing but dessert recipes in November. That's no good, is it? Hence this creamy-cheesy fish soup recipe today. A similar recipe has appeared in several Finnish food magazines and at least one local magazine. With a few tweaks here and there, I ended up with this lovely, creamy fish soup. Feel free to experiment with differently seasoned cream cheese. I used trout, as it's lighter, but salmon would work well, too..

A lovely weeknight dinner, and it should appeal to small picky eaters, too.

Creamy Fish Soup
(Juustune forellisupp)
Serves 4

1.5 litres fish stock
5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
200 g tub cheese spread (something like this), I imagine)
170 g tub flavoured cream cheese (I used tomato & pesto)
300 g fish filet, cubed (salmon, trout)

To serve:
fresh dill, chopped
black pepper, coarsely ground

Bring the fish stock* to the boil. Add potato cubes and simmer, until tender (10-15 minutes).
Meanwhile, cut the fish into large cubes, taking care to remove any pin-bones.
Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the melted cheese spread and cream cheese, spoonful at the time.
Put the saucepan back onto the heat, add the cubed fish. Simmer on a low heat for a couple of minutes, until the fish is cooked through.
Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with chopped dill and grind some black pepper on top.

* If using home-made fish stock, then good for you. If you're using good-quality fish bouillon cubes, then take just 1 cube for 1.5 litres of water - the fish and cheese give plenty of flavour -and saltiness - themselves and you don't want the soup to be too salty.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lingonberries, cookies and cream

I've started making somewhat Christmassy desserts already - I know, I know - but we've got no Thanksgiving to look forward to, you see :)

Layered crumbled cookies (I used oat cookies, but gingersnaps or gingerbread cookies would work, too), softly whipped cream (perhaps with some vanilla), lingonberry jam..

That's all. And that's delicious...

Kihiline pohladessert

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Roasted figs with thyme, cinnamon and honey

If my previous roasted figs dessert was more of a looker than a taster, then this one is the exact opposite. It looks much humbler, but it tasted absolutely delicious. I guess a syrupy honey-cinnamon sauce on top of roasted figs isn't so unique itself, but just a sprinkling of semi-dried thyme lifted this dessert to another level, so to speak..

Sorry, I simply cannot recall where the original recipe idea is from, but I modified it slightly anyway, so I'm not too bothered :)

Roasted Figs with Thyme, Cinnamon and Honey
(Röstitud viigimarjad mee, tüümiani ja kaneeliga)
Serves 6

3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp butter
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
12 ripe figs
1 tsp dried thyme

Place honey, butter and cinnamon into a small saucepan. Heat, until everything's smooth and combined.
Cut the figs into quarters, leaving the base intact. Place them into a small oven-proof dish. Spoon the honey mixture on top.
Roast in a pre-heated 200°C/400 F oven for about 15 minutes, until the figs are cooked.
Sprinkle the figs with dried thyme and leave in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Serve, drizzling the figs with the honey sauce..

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pumpkin and Apple Crumble Recipe

My pumpkin and apple supplies don't seem to end any time soon, so I'm still trying out various recipes and cooking numerous dishes using those two autumn ingredients.

Here's a lovely autumn dessert. The idea for the filling is from an Estonian food magazine, but the crumble topping is my old favourite. We ate this with some soft vanilla ice cream, but custard or whipped cream or even crème fraîche would work well, too.

Pumpkin and Apple Crumble

2 Tbsp butter
100 ml caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon*
100 ml seedless raisins (I prefer light ones)
500 g pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into small cubes (weight after peeling)
500 g tart apples, cut into sixth or eight (weight after cleaning)

Crumble topping:
100 ml plain flour
200 ml old-fashioned rolled oats
100 ml brown (demerara) sugar
100 g cold butter

* Feel free to use mixed spice (in the UK) or pumpkin pie mix (in the US) instead.

Note that a cup is 240 ml, so 100 ml is just about half a cup minus 1 heaped Tbsp, and 200 ml is about one cup minus 2 heaped Tbsp.

Mix butter, sugar, cinnamon, raisins and cubed apples and pumpkin. Heat, stirring regularly, on a low heat for about 15 minutes, until pumpkin cubes are softened.

Mix flour, oats and brown sugar in a bowl, then add the cold butter and cut with a knife until you've got a rough-textured crumble.

Spread the apple-pumpkin mix into a buttered oven-proof dish, sprinkle with crumble topping.

Bake in a pre-heated 200 C/400 F oven for about 30 minutes, until the crumble topping is golden brown and crispy.

Cool a little, then serve with your favourite crumble accompaniment (ice cream, whipped cream, custard, crème fraîche).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Roasted Figs with Candied Ginger

No recipe, just a simple dessert idea. Halved figs are sprinkled with sugar and topped with couple of Buderim candied ginger nibbles. Roasted in the 200 C/400 F oven for 15 minutes, just to warm through, then drizzled with lemon juice and garnished with lemon zest.

Perhaps not the best fig dessert ever, but it's quick and easy, and I love the picture :)

(Röstitud viigimarjad suhkrustatud ingveriga)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Goat Cheese Mousse with Cloudberry Compote

Looking for that little something after your main course, but don't feel like baking or making an elaborate dessert? Well, then this simple goat cheese mousse is for you :) It's served from small dessert glasses or espresso cups, and the combination of tangy goat cheese mousse and sweet Nordic berries is a winner.

The original recipe from a Finnish food magazine MAKU makes a compote out of cloudberries. I must confess that I cheated and simply took another glass of home-made cloudberry compote from the larder and used that.

If you cannot get fresh cloudberries (or don't have any cloudberry compote in your fridge), you've got two options:
A) use a cloudberry jam (like the one from IKEA), and dilute it with some cloudberry liqueur (Lapponia from Finland makes a good one)
B) use a berry with similar characteristics - I'd probably go for raspberries, which are slightly softer, but have a lovely sweet-sharp flavour that would complement the goat cheese mousse nicely.

Goat Cheese Mousse with Cloudberry Compote
(Õhuline kitsejuustuvaht murakamoosiga)
Serves 6

Goat cheese mousse:
2 gelatine leaves
150 g soft and creamy goat cheese (f. ex. Chavroux)
75 ml (5 Tbsp) caster sugar
150 ml plain yoghurt
1 egg white
50 ml (3,5 Tbsp) milk

Cloudberry compote:
100 g fresh or frozen cloudberries
30 ml (2 Tbsp) caster sugar
1-2 tsp cloudberry liqueur

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for about 5 minutes.
Mix the goat cheese with 3-4 Tbsp of sugar, then add the yoghurt and stir until combined.
Whisk the egg white in a separate bowl until light and airy. Add the rest of the sugar and continue whisking, until you've got a fluffy and glossy meringue foam.
Heat the milk in a small bowl. Drain the soaked gelatine leaves and squeeze slightly, then mix with the hot milk, until dissolved.
Now pour the gelatine mixture into the goat cheese and yoghurt mixture, stirring continuously.
Finally fold gently in the whisked egg white mixture (add about 1/3 first, stirring, to soften the mixture, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg white).
Pour the mixture into small ramekins, espresso cups or dessert glasses. Cover and place in a fridge for at least 2 hours to set.

To make the cloudberry compote, place the sugar and berries in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat, then simmer for 5 minutes, until berries are softened. Remove from the heat and cool to the room temperature. The add the cloudberry liqueur.

To serve, top each portion of goat cheese mousse with a generous dollop of cloudberry liqueur.


Friday, October 31, 2008

WTISIM: Pumpkin and Ginger Teabread

It's been a while since I took part at the Waiter there is something in my ... blog event, organised by Andrew, Johanna and Jeanne. This month's event is hosted by Jeanne, who has chosen the Cucurbitacae family as a theme, or if you want a more poetic title, For the Love of Gourd. I've been featuring quite a few pumpkin recipes recently on my blog - pumpkin and flowering quince jam, pumpkin and ginger jam, pumpkin and nutmeg soup, to name just the last three. But I wanted something more mainstream this time, so I baked a pumpkin and ginger loaf, or a teabread.

This pumpkin loaf is somewhat different, as it uses grated raw pumpkin instead of cooked pumpkin purée. It's a slightly modifying recipe from BBC Good Food (November 2002). When I baked it few weeks ago, I had run out of those delicious Buderim ginger nibbles that you can buy at Lakeland stores in the UK. If I had had them at the time, I would have certainly thrown in a generous handful of them, for sure..

Pumpkin Loaf with Ginger
(Sügisene kõrvitsakeeks ingveriga)
Serves 10

175 g butter, melted
140 g runny honey
1 large egg
250 g raw butternut squash or pumpkin, coarsely grated
100 g light muscovado sugar
350 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp demerara sugar

Mix melted butter, honey, whisked egg and grated pumpkin in a blow. Fold in the flour, baking powder and ground ginger.
Spoon the batter (it's quite heavy) into a buttered and lined loaf tin, sprinkle with demerara sugar.
Bake in the middle of 180 C/350 F oven for 50-60 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and nicely risen.
Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool completely on a metal rack.

Slice and serve with butter. Mmmm...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another pumpkin jam, this time with flowering quinces

My loyal readers may remember that photo collage of flowering quinces from last summer, when I made flowering quince extract and flowering-quince and apple jam. Well, I made several other jams using flowering quinces from my mum's backyard this autumn. One of our favourite ones was this pumpkin jam (yep, just as nice as this ginger and pumpkin jam) . It's a lovely thick jam - flowering quinces are very high in pectin, with a beautiful yellow colour (well, it's mostly pumpkin after all), with a nice acidity lended by the flowering quinces. Another excellent jam to be spread on your breakfast or afternoon toast or English muffin.

NB! Note that flowering quince (Chaenomeles Lindl) and quince (Cydonia oblonga) are related, but NOT the same fruit (quite confusingly, all quinces flower, but that's another topic altogether).

Cleaning flowering-quinces for jam-making can be quite a pain. The fruit are hard and small. The best result is to find a comfortable place to sit on, put on your favourite album or switch on your favourite TV channel. Place three bowls in front of you - one filled with washed floweringquinces, one smaller bowl for piths and seeds, and one for cleaned flowering quince slices. Take a small, sharp knife (a vegetable peeling knife works well), and work away :)

Pumpkin Jam with Flowering Quinces

1 kg pumpkin flesh, cut into small cubes
1 kg flowering quinces, deseeded and cut into quarters
500 ml (2 cups) of water
1 kg caster sugar

Place the pumpkin and flowering quinces into a large saucepan. Add water. Bring to the boil and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes, skimming any froth that appears on the surface. Stir every now and then.
Add sugar and bring to the boil again. Remove from the heat and cool.
Bring everything to the boil again and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the pumpkin is soft and the jam has thickened.
Distribute into hot sterilised jars and close. Keep in a cool place.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Recipe for Mozzarella Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are a handy supper dish, but many of the 'traditional' versions (i.e. filled with minced meat and rice) are too heavy for me. Recently I've tried couple of lighter versions, and this one was well received at a recent dinner with friends. The recipe is adapted from an old issue of British Tesco Recipe Magazine (March 2003, I believe). The dish contains very few ingredients, but had surprisingly plenty of flavour, so I'll definitely try this again.

PS Sorry for the small hiatus - I was participating at a workshop in Finland, spending most of the last week in Tampere and Helsinki. It wasn't all work, however, as my dear K. joined me for the weekend of special shopping and delicious eating in Helsinki.

Mozzarella-stuffed Peppers
(Mozzarellaga täidetud paprikad)
Serves 3 as a main course or 6 as a starter

3 bell peppers (a red, yellow and orange one, perhaps?)
1 Tbsp olive oil
150 g fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
8-12 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
half of a red onion, thinly sliced
a generous handful of fresh basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper

Halve the peppers, remove the seeds. Brush the pepper halves with oil, both inside and out, and place snugly next to each other in an oven dish.
Divide mozzarella cubes, halved or quartered cherry tomatoes, onion slices and half of the basil leaves between the pepper halves.
Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake in the middle of a 180 C/350 F for 30-40 minutes, until mozzarella has melted.
Sprinkle the rest of basil leaves on top, drizzle with some more olive oil and serve with a crusty bread.

Other stuffed peppers recipes @ Nami-Nami:
Red peppers with cumin-scented halloumi cubes
Pointed red peppers stuffed with spinach & mushrooms

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oven-baked potato wedges with caraway seeds

I love caraway seeds, that's not a secret. There have been roasted beets with caraway seeds, shaken cucumber salad with caraway seeds, creamy beetroot soup with horseradish and caraway seeds, caraway-infused sauerkraut braised in beer, easy cheese crisps with caraway seeds - to name just a few. And one of my old favourites that has recently enjoyed a comeback, is a 'recipe' for oven-baked chips with caraway seeds.

So here's what you need to do.

Take your favourite roasting potato (I use a variety, Laura, which has a thin pink skin and dark yellow flesh - Estonians like their potatoes to be yellow, not white inside), scrub very clean and cut lengthwise into wedges (four is plenty). Place into an oven tray, preferably large enough to snugly fit the potatoes in one layer. Drizzle generously with oil (and give them a good stir, so they'd be covered with oil), season with sea salt and caraway seeds.

Bake for 35-45 minutes (the timing really depends on the size and variety of your chosen potato) at 200 C/400 F, until the potato wedges are soft inside and crisp & brown outside and a lovely smell of caraway seeds has filled your kitchen. Sprinkle with some extra sea salt, if necessary.

Serve as a side dish with some meat, or simply dip them into some nice sour cream. Mmmmmm....

Ahjukartulid köömnetega

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ginger and Pumpkin Jam Recipe

Have you had pumpkin jam before? You should, believe me. When I had a huge pumpkin to dissect and prepare few weeks ago, then pumpkin jam was one of the items on my to-try-list. And as we've already eaten most of the jam I made, I'm going to make some more tomorrow.

The jam has a beautiful bright yellow colour, and lovely ginger kick. We love it. We had this on pancakes this morning, but it's also great spread of a slice of toast, or served as a condiment with some grilled meat (especially if you go heavy-handed with ginger).

Ginger and Pumpkin Jam

1 kg chopped up pumpkin flesh
50 to 70 g peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 lemon
200 ml (a scant cup) of water
500 g jam sugar (with added pectin)

Wash the lemon, pat dry and grate the zest. Remove the white pith and discard. Cut the lemon flesh into smaller pieces.
Place pumpkin, water, lemon flesh and grated ginger into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook on a low heat, covered, until the pumpkin flesh is softened. Remove the lid for the last 5 to 10 minutes, so the extra moisture could evaporate.
Smash the pumpkin flesh with a wooden spoon until broken (or press through a fine sieve, if you want a very smooth jam).
Add the jam sugar and grated lemon zest, and cook for another 10 minutes.
Spoon the hot jam into sterilised jars and close immediately.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Quail Eggs with Dukkah

Have you heard of dukkah before? I had, but hadn't actually eaten any until this June, when in Bloomington, US, I had a chance to try a lovely pistachio dukkah made by Cindy Bradley, a local food blogger. Basically, it's an Egyptian dry mixture of chopped nuts (mainly hazelnuts), seeds (coriander, cumin, sesame) and possibly some other spices. It's a popular street food, where fresh wheat bread is dipped first into olive oil and then into the dukkah-mixture. But it can also be sprinkled on salads to give some crunch (say, instead of toasted pinenuts). Apparently it can be used for breading fish and meat when cooking. Quite a few bloggers have already featured dukkah on their blogs - Heidi adds black peppercorns for some heat, Jaden adds chilli pepper for an extra kick, Rosa combines almonds and hazelnuts, and my dear friend Ximena cheats a little :)

The recipe below is very lightly adapted from the British food magazine Olive (January 2007), and makes a small bowl of very simple dukkah. Feel free to play around with spices.

Quail Eggs with Dukkah
(Vutimunad dukkah-seguga)
Serves six to eight

24 quail eggs

50 grams hazelnuts
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
25 grams white sesame seeds

To serve:
Maldon sea salt flakes

First you need to blanch the hazelnuts*. Put them on a dry frying pan and roast for 3-4 minutes over a moderate heat, until they're aromatic and slightly browned. Then place on a clean kitchen towel and rub with the towel, until the brown skins come loose. Chop the nuts as rather finely (best done with a knife, as there's a danger of processing the nuts into a paste, when using a food processor).
Place coriander seeds, sesame seeds and cumin seeds on a dry frying pan and toast also for 2-3 minutes, until the seeds start to brown and smell fragrant. Cool, then mix with the toasted and chopped nuts.
Tip into a serving bowl and put aside.
Cook the quail eggs in simmering water for 3 minutes. Drain and run under cold water for a few minutes.
Serve with the dukkah and Maldon sea salt flakes. Each person peels their own eggs, then dips them into salt flakes and the dukkah mixture.

* If you can get blanched hazelnuts (I can't here in Estonia), then simply toast them for a few minutes and then chop finely.

Other recipes using QUAIL EGGS at Nami-Nami:
Small "mushrooms" of quail eggs and cherry tomatoes
Rye bread canapés with wild mushroom 'Caviar' and soft-boiled quail eggs
Soft-boiled quail eggs with dill and lightly salted whitefish roe
Spicy fried quail eggs

Friday, October 10, 2008

Baked apples with crispy rye bread and lingonberries

Some desserts are so simple, that it's hard to call them recipes and it's difficult to decide whether to blog about them or not. But then you did seem to like my oven-baked toffee apples a lot, and that hardly qualifies as a difficult dish. So here's another one for you. The only difficult part can be sourcing the rye bread crumbs - but you can always take couple of slices of stale rye bread (caraway seeds and all), and blitz them into fine crumbs in your food processor. As for lingonberries - I bet cranberries, which are far more easily available, would work just as well.

Baked Apples with Rye Bread and Lingonberries
Serves 4

For rye bread mixture:
200 ml (a scant cup) of fine and dry rye bread crumbs
50 g butter, melted
4 Tbsp caster sugar

For the fruit mixture:

4-5 cooking apples, (peeled and), cored and sliced
200 ml (a scant cup) lingonberries

For serving:
vanilla custard or ice cream or whipped cream

Butter a small oven dish (ca 24x30 cm)
Mix the melted butter, rye bread crumbs and sugar.
Layer the apple slices in the oven dish, scatter lingonberries on top.
Sprinkle generously with the rye bread mixture.
Bake at a preheated 200 C / 400 F oven for 20-30 minutes, until apples are softened.
Serve with vanilla custard, ice cream or whipped cream.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Silky pumpkin soup with nutmeg

Kõrvitsapüreesupp röstsibulakõrsikutega / Butternut squash soup with roast onion grissini
Photo by Juta Kübarsepp, for the October issue of Kodu & Aed, 2012

As somebody aptly commented on my Flickr photo page, it's that time of the year :) When heading to the market these days, you'll see piles of beautifully bright orange pumpkins and winter squashes everywhere. I got one from my mum just over a week ago, and we enjoyed a number of different pumpkin dishes during the week. I made a pumpkin and ginger loaf, two types of pumpkin jam (one with ginger, one with flowering-quinces).

And this soup. There are two things with this soup that make it different from other pumpkin soups I've tried so far. Firstly, it's fat-free, making it perfect for those who are preparing for the Christmas or Thanksgiving feasts laying ahead of us (and if you're omit the cream drizzle, it's vegan, too). Secondly, it uses nutmeg as a seasoning - giving the soup a lovely and different twist.

Fat-free Pumpkin Soup with Nutmeg
(Kõrvitsasupp muskaadiga)
Serves 4

500 ml vegetable stock (2 cups)
800 grams cubed yellow pumpkin or winter squash (cleaned weight; just under 2 lbs)
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
0.5 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt, if necessary
freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
4 Tbsp double cream (optional)

Bring the vegetable stock into boil.
Add the pumpkin, onion and garlic. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
Blend the soup into a fine purée (I used a handheld immersion blender).
Reheat the soup, season with grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Divide the soup into heated bowls, drizzle some cream on top and serve with crusty bread.

Other pumpkin/winter squash recipes @ Nami-nami:
Pickled pumpkin (Estonian Christmas recipe)
Pumpkin Risotto & Arancini Balls
Old-fashioned Pumpkin Soup with Semolina
Pumpkin Soup with Thyme
Johanna's Roasted Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Quiche

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Rugelach, rugelach, rugelach

Few weeks ago a friend of mine from Toronto, Melissa, came to visit me. Melissa and I both did our postgraduate degrees in Edinburgh in year 2000, after which she left first to her native South Africa and then moved to Toronto to do her doctorate. She had promised to visit me on several occasions since she left Scotland, and we even managed to meet up at a conference in London at one point. Now, finally, she - and her beautiful 9-month old daughter Natali - came to Estonia for a brief, 8-day visit.

And this gave me an opportunity to try some Jewish recipes I had been wanting to try for a while. You see, Melissa is Jewish, who keeps kosher. And she's vegetarian. In this Land of Pork Chops Served with Cheese Sauce, it was easiest for us to eat at home. And one night, I baked us a batch of Rugelach. Rugelach - when said with a low, husky voice, and repeatedly, sounds sweet and funny (at least little Natali seemed to think so!), like something out a fairy tale, so I was thrilled to be finally making them.

And they sure were moreish - sweet, flakey, fragrant, and very, very tasty. I adapted a recipe from Clarissa Hyman's book The Jewish Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from Around the World. Note these are not parve/pareve or 'neutral', as they contain cream cheese, so don't serve them after a meat meal, if you're trying to keep kosher.

Hazelnut Rugelach
Makes 32 small pastries

For the pastry:
200 g butter, softened
200 g full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
2 tsp caster sugar
200 g all-purpose/plain flour, sifted
a pinch of salt

For the filling:
100 g finely ground hazelnuts or walnuts
50 g soft brown sugar
5 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon

For brushing:
25 g butter, melted

For glazing:
1 egg white, beaten with a little water

Cream the warm butter and cream cheese until well blender. Beat in the sugar, then stir in the flour and salt. Mix until the dough begins to hold together, press into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill overnight in the fridge.

Combine the ground nuts, brown sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon.

Divide the dough ball into two and return the other half into the fridge. Roll out the pastry on a slightly floured surface into a thin circle about 25 cm /10 inches in diametre. Using a sharp knife or a pizza-wheel, cut into 16 equal wedges.

Brush the surface of the wedges with melted butter, then sprinkle half of the nut and cocoa mixture on top, spreading evenly as you go. Using your hand or a rolling pin, press the filling tightly down into the dough (there seems to be a lot of filling, but it'll make the pastries only nicer!).

Carefully roll up each wedge tightly, starting from the wider, outside end. You'll end up with 16 mini croissants. Brush with egg white wash.

Cover a baking tray with parchment paper and bake at the middle of a preheated 180 C/350 F oven for 20-30 minutes, until the rugelach are golden brown.

Leave to cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack.

Repeat with the second half of the pastry - even straight away or on the following day.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Recipe for Crispy Lingonberry and Oat Cookies

I was in a cookie mode yesterday. Friends of us had invited us over for dinner (thank you, Marika & Tambet!), and we wanted to bring something little and nice and edible along. Browsing through my Estonian recipe site, I came across a Finnish Valio recipe for 'Puolukka-kauracookiet', which sounded perfect, as K's mum keeps us well supplied with lingonberries this autumn (remember the lingonberry and chocolate cake, and Swedish lingonberry cake? You get the picture - we've got loads of these berries).

And these cookies were lovely! They made the whole house smell like Christmas - and as it was a beautifully sunny autumn day outside and we were on a way to spend couple of hours sailing on the Tallinn bay, that smell was a good sign of the good times ahead of us..

Lingonberry and Oat Cookies
(Pohla-kaeraküpsised )
Makes 4 dozens

200 g butter, at room temperature
275 g caster sugar (300 ml)
1 large egg
200 g plain/all-purpose flour (400 ml)
110 g rolled oats or 4-grain cereal flakes (300 ml)
1 tsp freshly ground cardamom seeds
1 tsp baking powder
half a cup of fresh or frozen lingonberries

Cream the butter and sugar, beat in the egg. You should have a pale and creamy mixture.
Measure flour, oats, cardamom and baking powder into a bowl, then fold into the butter mixture. Combine - either with a wooden spoon or by using your hands. Fold in the lingonberries.
Take a spoonful (either a heaped teaspoonful or half a tablespoonful) of cookie mixture, roll into a small ball in your palm, then press slightly. Place on a parchment-covered cookie sheet, leaving plenty of space for spreading. (I placed 3x4 cookies on a sheet at the time).
Bake in the middle of a 200 C/400 F oven for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are golden brown.
Cool completely. These will keep nicely in an airtight cooki tin for a couple of days.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Kladdkaka or a Swedish lingonberry and chocolate brownie

Photo updated in October 2013. The photo above is by Juta Kübarsepp for Nami-Nami/Kodu ja Aed

I went on a Stockholm day cruise last week with my friend Melissa and her daughter Natali. Melissa is a friend from my Edinburgh-days, who is now based in Toronto. She spent 9 days in Tallinn, and to give her a small break from my hometown, we popped over to the capital of Sweden for a day. It was lovely, if a bit chilly and wet, and luckily the ferry ride wasn't too bumpy.

On a way back to the ferry terminal I picked up two Swedish food magazines, and this Chocolate and Lingonberry Cake in the August issue of Allt of Mat immediately caught my eye. K's mum provides us with lots of lingonberries these days, you see, and although I liked the last week cardamom-scented Swedish lingonberry cake, it's fun to try new recipes. This one was a great hit with K (he had 3 slices on Saturday night alone), and his mum called me yesterday afternoon to tell how much she and her friends liked the cake, too. It's almost brownie-like in texture - smooth and velvety - with lingonberries giving a nice acidic kick to it. Well worth a try!

Lingonberry and Chocolate Cake 
Serves 12

175 g butter
3 large eggs
200 g caster sugar
120 g all-purpose/plain flour
50 g cocoa powder (unsweetened!)
a pinch of salt
100 g lingonberries

To serve:
vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream

Melt the butter on a low heat, then cool a little.
Whisk eggs and sugar until pale and foamy.
Sift flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl, then fold into the egg mixture together with the melted butter.
Spoon the batter (it's pretty mousse-like) into a buttered 24 cm spring form, smooth the top. Sprinkle the lingonberries evenly over the cake.
Bake at the lower half of a 175 C/340 F oven for 25-30 minutes, until you can see the sides of the cake loosening from the tin.
Let the cake cool in the tin for a short while before transferring it onto a cake plate.
Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Roasted Beets with Caraway Seeds

The Beet Princess (aka me) just noticed that it's been a while since her last beetroot post (over a month!?). So it's about time for another one :)

Here's a very-very simple side dish recipe that I served just over a week ago when a bunch of my girlfriends came over for a meal and sharing of some good news. It takes no time to put together, and then it just happily cooks away in your oven while you're preparing for the party. Excellent.

I served it as part of a hot snack table, but these caraway-scented roasted beets would also be a nice hot or warm side dish alongside meat. I love how caraway seeds give this dish a very distinct Northern/Eastern European feel.

Roast Beets with Caraway Seeds
(Küpsetatud peedid köömnetega)
Adapted from Estonian women's monthly Kodu & Aed (Christmas 2007)
Serves 4

4 to 6 smaller beets
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
2 Tbsp caraway seeds
salt to taste

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the beets and cut the beets into 8-12 wedges, depending on their size. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing thoroughly.
Pour the seasoned beet wedges into a large oven dish that ideally fits them in one layer.
Roast in a pre-heated 180 Centigrade oven for about 25 minutes, until the beets are cooked.
Serve hot or lukewarm.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Jamming in 2008: French Apricot Jam and Estonian Cherry Preserve

I've already put aside a fridge full of various jams and marmelades this summer (luckily, we've got an extra fridge in the garage for that purpose), and I'm still to make some apple jam, lingonberry preserves, not even talking about cranberries and black aronia berries that are ripening as we speak. Here are photos of two jams we've made.

Here's one of K's favourite jams - a French Apricot Jam - French, as we used some very delicious French apricots for this :) K. used 400 grams of caster sugar per 1 kg of fruit, and slowly cooked the jam until desired thickness:

And here's an Estonian Sour Cherry Preserve, using 400 grams of jam sugar per 1 kg of stoned cherries:

Estonian recipes:
Ilus oranž aprikoosimoos
Kirsimoos moosisuhkruga

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Swedish Lingonberry Cake Recipe

Remember my recipe for Canadian Apple Pie? Well, it's been one of my most popular recipes - and for a good reason, as it's incredibly tasty. BUT. None of my Canadian friends could recognise the cake, that is to say, they loved the cake, but couldn't confirm its Canadian origin.

I'm a bit afraid this Swedish Lingonberry Cake recipe is the same. You see, the recipe is from a Finnish women's weekly magazine, Me Naiset, where it was published in September 2005 and called "Ruotsalainen puolukkakakku" (that's "Swedish lingonberry cake"). But I've got no particular reason to believe it's Swedish, so I apologise beforehand to all my Swedish readers :)

As I'm off to a Stockholm day cruise next Monday, I thought it's appropriate to share the recipe with you. It's a bit drier than my usual forest berry cakes, but it's tasty. A bit crumbly, almost with a shortcake-like texture. With a strong cardamom flavour, it's festive and somewhat old-fashioned. And different. We liked it, and I hope you'll like it, too.

Oh, and the lingonberries were picked by K's mum. I've got enough for another 5 lingonberry cakes :)

Swedish lingonberry cake
(Rootsi pohlakook)
Serves 10-12

1 large egg
100 ml caster sugar
100 g butter, melted
350 ml plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp freshly ground cardamom seeds

For the topping:
400 ml whole lingonberries
75 ml caster sugar

Whisk the egg with the sugar, then add the melted butter and dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cardamom seeds). You'll get a moist and pretty hard dough. Press that into a buttered and/or lined cake tin (appr. 20-23 cm in diameter).
Scatter lingonberries on top and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 175 Centigrade for 45 minutes, until the cake is cooked through.

Serve at room temperature with some ice cream or custard or whipped cream.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An Autumnal Fennel and Tomato Gratin Recipe

I am slowly, but surely, warming to fennel. Until now I haven't been a huge fan of aniseedy flavours (and I still passionately dislike liquorice sweets), but I've discovered that fennel can be very tasty after it's been subjected to some heat treatment. Here's an easy autumnal vegetarian fennel and tomato gratin that made an excellent main dish, but would also work as a side dish to pork or lamb, or even some gutsy fish perhaps.

Any other hot fennel recipe ideas I should know about?

Fennel and Tomato Gratin
Adapted from this BBC Good Food recipe
Serves 4

2 large fennel bulbs (about 600 g)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used cold-pressed rapeseed oil)
2 garlic cloves
400 g can chopped tomatoes

5 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs
50 g grated Parmesan cheese

Trim the fennel bulbs (remove outer tough layers) and cut into thin wedges. Keep the fronds for garnish!
Heat oil in a saucepan and add fennel. Season with salt, cover and sauté on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Add finely chopped garlic and cook for another 10 minutes, covered.
Now add the chopped tomatoes and simmer on a medium heat for 10 minutes, until tomato sauce has thickened. Taste for seasoning.
Pour into a medium-sized ovenproof dish, spreading the mixture evenly. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and grated cheese.
Bake in a preheated 200 Celsius oven for about 20 minutes, until the gratin is golden on top.
Serve, garnishing with dill-like fennel fronds.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A lovely aubergine curry with tomatoes, coriander and nigella seeds as part of an Indian meal

Last weekend I cooked an Indian meal. I don't know if my favourite Indian food bloggers Meeta and Nupur approve, but the meal felt definitely Indian enough for us two :) It wasn't an elaborate feast - I baked some naan-breads and sprinkled them with nigella seeds, made an aromatic chicken curry, roasted some broccoli with garam masala, and prepared a really flavoursome aubergine curry (that's eggplant curry in American English) with tomatoes, coriander and nigella seeds. The latter was the big hit of the night - plenty of flavour and character, beautiful vibrant colours, and not too many calories. The recipe is very slightly adapted from the August 2008 issue of BBC Olive Magazine, and I will definitely make it again if I want a nice vegetarian aubergine dish.

Aubergine curry with tomatoes & coriander
(Vürtsikas pommuhautis tomati ja koriandriga)
Serves 4

1 onion, chopped
1 large or 2 smaller aubergines/eggplants, cut into 1 cm slices
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
400 grams tomatoes, coarsely chopped
a handful of coriander leaves/cilantro

naan bread and plain yogurt to serve

Fry the onion in some olive oil on a non-stick frying pan for about 7-8 minutes until soft, then tip into a heavy-based saucepan.
Add a little more oil to the frying pan. Add aubergine/eggplant slices and fry until they are browned on each side (you may need to work in batches). This requires patience and cold nerves! Aubergine soaks up all the oil it can get, so don't add more than a little oil at the time - just enough to barely cover the pan. The slices will soften and brown eventually, and even without adding more oil. Trust me!
Add the spices to the onions in the saucepan and fry for about 30 seconds to release the aromas.
Add chopped tomatoes and cook on a moderate heat for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes soften.
Now add the browned aubergine/eggplant slices and heat through.
Scatter coriander/cilantro leaves on top and serve.

Other recipes with Indian twist on Nami-nami:
Brinjal Masala aka deep-fried baby aubergines (October 2005)
Chicken Korma (October 2005)
Gobi Matar aka Cauliflower & Peas with Cumin (October 2005)
Potatoes & Beetroot Greens with Indian Spices (August 2007)
Smoked cod kedgeree (April 2007)
Strawberry Shrikhand or spiced yogurt with strawberries (October 2005)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pickled Sliced Cucumber Salad Recipe

I've given you so many sweet recipes recently that it's definitely time to share a lovely savoury recipe instead.

Here's a quick pickled cucumber salad that would keep nicely a week or so in your fridge. It's gutsy, has got lots of flavor and crunch, and tastes lovely. I nibbled on it straight from a bowl, but it would make a nice side salad to some grilled meat as well.

The only downside is that you only get about two 500 ml jars out of this amount. If you give one to your mum or a dear friend, then you're just left with one jar yourself, which is no way enough ... For best result, use small crisp cucumbers and not the long supermarket ones.

Pickled Sliced Cucumber Salad
(Marineeritud kurgisalat)

1 kg small crisp cucumbers
2 large onions
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp vinegar (30%)
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Dijon or Estonian mustard
1 to 2 large dried dill "blossoms" (ask from the market)

Slice the cucumber and onions into thin slices - I used my kitchen mandoline. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, then cover with cling film and leave to stand at room temperature (that's 18-20 C) for about 5 hours.
Shake the bowl or mix the salad couple of times, so the seasonings would distribute evenly.
Divide into sterilised jars and close the jars (there should be enough liquid now to cover the cucumber slices).
Keeps for a week or two in the fridge.