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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chocolate Brownie with Raspberries

How many chocoholics are out there? Hands up, please!? Well, I thought as much. If you like chocolate as much as I do, here's a recipe for you. It's adapted from Sue Lawrence's lovely cookbook "Sue Lawrence's Scottish Kitchen: Over 100 Modern Recipes Using Traditional Ingredients" (UK link/US link), but I've reduced the sugar content by one-fifth with no ill-effect to the texture, but your hips - and tastebuds - will thank you for that, trust me. You'll get a moist and flavoursome chocolate brownie with sweet-tart raspberry spots throughout.

Raspberries are one fruit/berry that really thrive in the cool and humid Scottish climate, so various raspberry desserts abound in Scottish cookbooks (think of cranachan, the traditional Scottish oat-raspberry-whisky concoction; more recent and prettier picture here). Luckily, raspberries also love Estonian climate - and my mum's garden - so I can easily access these lovely sweet-tart berries here.

My dear K. thought these were too chocolatey (what's that???), but my friends all helped themselves to a (large) second piece :)

Chocolate Brownies with Raspberries
(Šokolaadiruudud vaarikatega)
Makes 16 squares

350 g dark chocolate (55-60%), broken into pieces
250 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 large eggs
200 g soft dark brown sugar (muscovado)
100 g plain/all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
300 g raspberries (can be frozen, do not de-freeze!)

Place chocolate and butter in a small heavy-based saucepan and heat over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until almost melted. Remove from the heat when just small pieces of chocolate remain (the chocolate will continue softening) - take care not to burn the chocolate! Cool a little.
Whisk the eggs until thick and pale foam forms, then add sugar in three batches, still whisking. Fold into the cooled chocolate-butter mixture, then stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.
Butter a 23 cm square brownie pan.
Spread half of the chocolate batter into the pan, then scatter raspberries over and top with the rest of the batter.
Bake in a preheated 170 C oven for about 40 minutes, until the cake looks baked on top. Test for doneness with a wooden toothpick - the brownie cake is done, when the toothpick remains just a little bit moist.
Remove from the oven and cool on a metal rack for about 20 minutes.
Cut into squares (4x4 seems to work well, considering the intense chocolate flavour), but let cool completely in the cake pan before removing.

Other brownie posts on Nami-nami:
Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts Recipe (January 2008)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart with Thyme Recipe

I'm not even trying to pretend that this is my recipe. It's Delia's, of course. I've only very, very slightly played around with the amounts and place my tomatoes differently on the pie - just because I think it looks nicer my way :) In any case, it's a beautiful recipe for showcasing all those lovely, ripe, juicy local tomatoes that abound at the moment. Highly recommended!

Roasted Tomato and Goat's Cheese Tart with Thyme
Serves six to eight

500 grams puff pastry, rolled
150 g soft and creamy goat cheese
4 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
500 g ripe plum tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Maldon sea salt

Roll out the puff pastry to 30x40 cm rectangle and place on a slightly oiled baking sheet. Carefully score a line about 1 cm from the edge along the pastry, but do not cut through! This will help the filling to stay inside the pastry and the edges to puff up nicely.

Mix the goat cheese, minced garlic, thyme leaves, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Spread the mixture evenly on the puff pastry sheet (remaining inside the scored line).

Cut the tomatoes into 3-5 mm slices and place nicely next to each other on top of the goat cheese. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper and drizzle some olive oil on top.

Bake at a pre-heated 180 Centigrade oven for 45-50 minutes, until the pasty is golden and tomatoes have dried up a little.

Before serving, scatter some more thyme leaves on top. Cut into squares and serve.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Beetroot and Potato Salad Recipe

I love those Estonian birthday salads - the classic potato salad (a version of what's known as "Russian salad" or "Salad Olivier" elsewhere) and rosolye. But for everyday simple salads these are too time-consuming - cutting the numerous ingredients into uniform tiny cubes takes time and patience, and sometimes I don't have that. That's when the more humble and quicker versions come handy. Here's a quick salad recipe that either makes a light lunch on its own, or a more substantial meal alongside grilled meat or meatballs, for example. I also love this salad on a thick slice of sour rye bread..

Beetroot and Potato Salad
Serves 4

2 boiled beetroots, peeled
6 boiled potatoes, peeled
1 large salad onion
sour cream
fresh chives, finely chopped

Peel the beets and potatoes and either chop into small cubes or grate coarsely.
Finely mince the onion.
Mix beets, potatoes and onions in a bowl. Add enough sour cream to bind everything together. Season with salt.
Let the flavours develop for 30 minutes in a refridgerator.
Sprinkle plenty of chopped chives on top before serving.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Apricot Clafoutis, with an Estonian twist

Last weekend we managed to buy some really beautiful French apricots at the market. We made a batch of David's Fresh Apricot Ice Cream, and K. made couple of jars of his delicious apricot jam. We still had plenty of apricots left, however, so I decided to make an apricot clafoutis.

Well, it's not a traditional French clafoutis. But it looks similar enough, and the idea is very similar, too. Sprinkle some soft fruit in a buttered dish, pour the batter over and bake. The 'Estonian twist' here is the addition of our much-loved 'kohupiim' or curd cheese (sold as 'farmer's cheese' in the US). It gives the batter some body and a nice tangy flavour. You can use ricotta instead, but add an tablespoon or two of sour cream then as well.

Apricot 'clafoutis' with farmer's cheese
Serves 6

250 g fine curd cheese/farmer's cheese or ricotta
2 large eggs
200 g sour cream
3 Tbsp plain/all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
a cup of sliced fresh apricots
cinnamon, for dusting
butter for the dish

Wash and drain the apricots, then halve, remove the stones and cut each apricot halve into three slices.
Butter a medium-sized oven dish, scatter apricots in the dish.
Mix farmer's cheese, eggs, sour cream, sugar, vanilla sugar and flour in a bowl, until you've got a uniform batter. Pour over the apricots (or pour the batter in first and then scatter the apricot slices on top - it's up to you).
Dust with some cinnamon and extra sugar, if you wish.
Bake at 180 Centigrade for 45-50 minutes, until the dish is cooked through and it's golden on top.
Serve warm or cool before serving.