Monday, September 28, 2009

Fig and Goat Cheese Clafoutis

I'm still taking full advantage of the availability of good quality fresh figs at the markets at the moment. The figs are from Turkey, with dark purplish skin and beautifully pink insides. I've got no idea what's the actualy name of the specific fig variety. They're a bit too plump and round for Black Mission. Perhaps Brown Turkey?

One of the fig recipes I had bookmarked already three years ago was Melissa's Fig and Goat Cheese Clafoutis, and I was excited to finally try this at home. I can testify that it's a wonderful clafoutis recipe - the tart creamy goat cheese indeed made it taste a bit like cheesecake, it had a lovely clafoutis conistency, and it looked absolutely amazing. We enjoyed it when still slightly warm, and I think that's when the clafoutis is at its best, but it tasted also good when completely cool.

Do try it, if you've got a chance.

See here for the Estonian recipe: Viigimarjavorm kitsejuustuga.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chokeberry aka Black Aronia and Kephir Smoothie Recipe

It's official. Black aronia berries aka black chokeberries are the newest superfood. These beautiful black berries apparently have the highest concentration of useful flavonoids and antioxidants of any known natural food product. They're also rich in vitamins B2, B6, E, C and folic acid. I see articles praising Aronia melanocarpa e v e r y w h e r e!!

The berries have been grown in hedgerows in Estonia for decades. The most common use for the berries is in cordial, but I've made apple and black aronia jam couple of times as well. While most people find raw aronia berries a wee bit too astringent and tart, then I like nibbling on them. Luckily, there are lots of black aronia hedgerows bordering the streets in the suburb where I live. I get a healthy dose of these on my daily walks with the baby, as I pick a berry from here, and another one from there :)

We've just planted couple of chokeberry bushes into our new garden, and the berries I used for this super-healthy smoothie were from these bushes.

Chokeberry and Kephir Smoothie
Serves 1

1 ripe banana, peeled
handful of chokeberries/black aronia berries
250 g (1 cup) kephir
honey or agave nectar, to taste
a squeeze or two of lemon juice

Place banana chunks, berries and kephir into a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Sweeten with honey or agave nectar, and season with lemon juice.
Serve at once.

Other recipes using chokeberries/black aronia berries:
Black aronia muffins

Monday, September 21, 2009

Forageing for cloudberries, pictures

Early last month I shared a picture of our cloudberry bounty. This weekend K's mum gave us some photos of that forageing trip, and I thought you might want to see how it works with a baby on your back.

Oh, did you spot our daughter on the first picture? :)

Here's a better view:

She's just over 6 months on the photos here, weighing 7.5 kilograms. But we managed, as she spent half of the time on my back, half of the time on her dad's back.

Forageing for cloudberries and wild mushrooms / Murakaid ja seeni korjamas

Photos are taken on August 2, 2009, in a bog in Rapla county, Estonia.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The new LONELY PLANET guide to Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania

If you're travelling to Estonia, Latvia and/or Lithuania any time soon, then I can recommend the 2009 edition of the famous Lonely Planet guide. Carolyn Bain, the coordinating author of the book, has thoroughly revised the current edition - 5th already! And as an extra bonus, you can read an interview with yours truly on pages 60-61, where I share some tips re: Estonian food in general, best places to eat out in Tallinn, what to eat when visiting and what to bring back home to your friends and family. :)

You can order a copy of the book either from or or directly from the Lonely Planet website.

Read also my recommendations for eating out in Tallinn in 2009 here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spicy Crabapple Marmelade Recipe

Rememer the Crabapple Cake? Well, some of you wanted to know how to make canned crabapples and the recipe for crab-apple jam. If you've got a crabapple tree in your back yard, then now is your chance to make this gorgeously red jam out of them. I've made two batches already - the second one was using apples from a different tree, and the marmelade wasn't as bright red, rather dark pink, but the taste was still lovely. As you're using unpeeled apples, there's plenty of pectin in the marmelade, giving it a lovely spreadable texture.

Crab Apple Marmelade
(Vürtsikas paradiisiõunapüree)

1 kg red crabapples
200 ml water (just under a cup)
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
250 g caster sugar

Wash the apples, place into a saucepan with water, cloves and cinnamon. Bring into a boil and simmer on low heat, stirring every now and then, until apples are soft.
Using a wooden spoon, press the soft apples through a sieve (try to get as much of the apple fruit and peel through as possible).
Return to the saucepan, add the sugar and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for another 7-10 minutes.
Spoon the jam into hot sterilised jars.
Keep in a cold storage.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pesche alla Piemontese or Baked Peaches with Amaretti biscuits

I'm baking lots of apple cakes and plum pies these days, trying to alternate the baking days with simple fruit dishes :) Two days ago I served luscious figs with goat's cheese and Jamon Serrano. Tonight the fruit was peach, and I made a classic Italian dessert, Pesche alla piemontese. You need the crispy and light Italian almond biscuits, Amaretti, for this recipe.

Pesche alla Piedmontese
(Küpsetatud virsikud Amaretti küpsistega)
Serves 4

4 large ripe peaches
100 g Amaretti almond cookies/biscuits
2 Tbsp brandy or cognac
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 egg yolk

To serve:
whipped cream with vanilla and sugar

Wash the peaches, pat dry, halve and remove the stone. Place on a oven dish, cut-size up.
Crush the cookies into fine crumbs. Drizzle cognac on top and leave to soften for a couple of minutes. Stir in the butter and egg yolk and stir until combined.
Divide the mixture between the peaches.
Bake in the middle of 180 C / 350 F oven for about 30 minutes, until the peaches are soft and the Amaretti topping is golden.
Serve warm or at room temperature, with a spoonful or two of whipped cream.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Figs with Jamon Serrano & Goat's Cheese

It's not easy to get good-quality figs in Estonia. But when you see them, you crab them straight away and make something delicious. Like this simple, yet elegant starter, for instance. The figs are from Turkey, and they were huge, beautiful, fragrant and delicious.

Figs with Jamon Serrano & Goat's Cheese
(Viigimarjad Serrano singi ja kitsejuustuga)
Serves 4

4 large ripe figs
about 75 g soft goat's cheese
4 thin slices of Jamon Serrano or other cured ham
runny honey
fresh thyme
freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the figs, pat dry and cut almost into quarters, leaving the base intact. Place on a serving tray, opening the figs slightly.
Cut the cheese into chunks, divide between the figs. Place a piece of ham onto each fig.
Drizzle with runny honey, garnish with a thyme leaf or two and grind some black pepper on top.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Crab Apple Cake (or Apple Cake from Paradise)

Crab apples (Malus paradisiaca) are quite popular in Estonian gardens, as they're rather decorative throughout the year - gorgeously pink blossoms during the spring and early summer, attractive tiny red fruits during the autumn (don't you agree?). However, their use is rather limited - they're too tart for eating as a dessert apple, they're a pain to clean for preserving. The traditional way of preserving them is pickled whole in a sweet-and-sour marinade and used as a garnish on various dishes during winter. Not bad, but a bit boring IMHO.

A sweet soul brought me two kilograms (that's just over four pounds) of crab apples the other week, and I wanted to make a jam according to a recipe given to me years ago. I began quartering and coring the tiny apples, and quickly gave up. Way too much hassle, you see. I decided to do something different and a lot easier - a crab apple spread. (You can see the result here). I fell immediately in love with the colour - and the flavour - of that spread. So when a local newspaper asked me to provide an apple cake recipe for one of their forthcoming issues, I knew I'd be patient enough and quarter and peel those tiny apples anyway.

I quickly sourced another batch of crab apples, and used them in one of my good and trusted apple cake recipes instead of regular apples. I think that simple cake looks simply spectacular because of the crab apples.

Crab apples, by the way, are known as 'paradise apples' in Estonian. So I could call this a Paradise Cake or Apple Cake from Paradise:)

Crab Apple Cake
Serves about 10

The pastry:
200 g unsalted butter
200 g sour cream
350 g all purpose/plain flour
0.5 tsp salt

The filling:
about 400 g crab apples (cleaned weight)
sugar, according to taste (I used 4 Tbsp)

1 egg white, for brushing

Melt the butter, then mix with sour cream, flour and salt until combined. The dough is very soft at this stage. Cover the bowl with a cling film and place to the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, quarter and core the crab apples.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the very nicely malleable dough into a large rectangle (about twice the size of your small to medium sized baking sheet). Carefully lift the dough and transfer half of it onto your baking sheet, leaving the other half to hang over the edge.*
Spread the apples over the pastry, then season with sugar and cinnamon. Fold over the other half of the pastry, and press the edges firmly together.
Brush with a egg white.
Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 200 C/400 F oven for about 35-40 minutes, until the apples are cooked and the cake is lovely golden brown on top.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little before cutting into squares.

* You can also simply divide the dough into 2 pieces and roll into 2 rectangles - one for the base and the other for the top.
PS You can obviously make this cake with regular apples instead - it'd be just as tasty, if not looking just as spectacular.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Toast Skagen Recipe

Toast skagen
Photo updated in October 2010

Toast Skagen is a very festive and popular Swedish starter. It's not cheap - both good shrimps (preferably from the waters around the Smögen island) and whitefish roe (ideally from European whitefish/Vendance (Coregonus albula) or Powan (Coregonus lavaretus)) are pricy. But if you are looking for that special starter for a special occasion, then this is very elegant, good-looking and delicious*.

This beautiful appetiser was developed by one of the best-known Swedish culinary heroes, Dr Tore Wretman (1916-2003), who served a version of this dish in his Stockholm restaurant already in 1958. Skagen, by the way, is a name of a beautiful fishing port on the Northern coast of Denmark, which has been popular with Swedish and Danish artists for centuries. Who knows, perhaps Wretman was inspired by one of his trips to the area :)

* Yes, I've slowly began to like shrimps.

Toast Skagen
(Toast Skagen krevetivõileib)
Serves 4

4 slices of good-quality white bread, crusts removed
butter for frying
300 g peeled cooked shrimps/prawns (fresh is best, but in brine will do)
5 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2-3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill + extra for garnishing
100-150 g bleak/whitewish roe
one lemon, quartered

Melt the butter on a frying pan and sauté the bread slices on both sides until golden. Place on a kitchen paper to drain excess fat.
Drain the shrimps, cut into smaller pieces (optional; I left them whole, as they look prettier). Mix mayonnaise, mustard and dill, fold in the shrimps. Taste for seasoning - if necessary, add some salt and pepper.
Spoon the mixture on top of the bread slices.
Garnish with a large spoonful of caviar and some dill. Serve with a lemon quarter.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Rustic Apricot Tart

We ate quite a few of those delicious Bergeron apricots while in France, and back home, I was craving for more. So I made this ridiculously easy rustic apricot tart. This is the only free-form tart I've ever made, but I've made it several times, so it's quite a favourite. Once you've got the pastry out of the way, it's really just the matter of piling the fruit on top of it.

Note that this is just as lovely, if not better, on the following day. The apricot might look slightly worse for wear, but the pastry improves from some standing, as the moisture in the air makes it nicely crumbly and soft.

Delicious with either a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Rustic Apricot Tart
Serves six to eight

150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100 g caster sugar
1 large egg
a pinch of salt
250 g all purpose/plain flour
0.5 tsp baking powder

If using a food processor, place sugar, salt, baking powder and flour in the processor and blitz to combine. Add butter and process until fine crumbs form. Add the egg, pulse couple of times until the mixture looks moist. Take out of the processor and knead with your hands until combined. Press into a flat disk.
Place the pastry on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and a light dusting of flour. Roll out into something reminding you of a circle, about 5-6 mm (1/3 inch) thick.

10-12 large apricots, stoned
100 ml all-purpose/plain flour (just under a cup)
100 ml caster sugar (just under a cup)
100 ml ground almonds/almond meal (just under a cup)

Mix flour, sugar and ground almonds until combined, pour into the middle of the pastry circle, leaving about 5 cm (2 inches) clean border around it.
Now layer the apricots of top, making about three layers, each one smaller than the one just under it.
With the help of the baking paper and floured hands, fold the edges of the pastry over the apricots (see the picture below).
Bake in a preheated 200 C / 400 F oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the apricots are soft and the pastry golden brown and cooked.
Remove from the oven, let cool a little and then gently transfer onto a cake plate.