Sunday, December 27, 2009

Apricot and Mulled Wine Fruit Soup

Hope you've all had a lovely Christmas with lots of delicious food! We celebrated the Christmas Eve (the main event in Estonia) with a large traditional meal at our home, and we've also had several other festive dinners over the last week. I'm now ready for some non-Christmassy food, though there are still some festive recipes I'll post over the next week.

First up is a simple fruit soup (kissel) that I made last Christmas.

You'll need a carton of light non-alcoholic glögg for this - I'm pretty sure your local Scandinavian store or IKEA food isle serves something suitable.

Apricot and Mulled Wine Fruit Soup
(Jõulune aprikoosikissell vahukoorega)
Source: Finnish Valio
Serves 6

1 litre of light (non-alcoholic) glögg or mulled wine
250 g dried apricots
3-4 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp potato starch or cornflour

Heat glögg and apricots in a saucepan. Simmer on low heat, covered, for about 30 minutes, until apricots are softened. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
Mix potato starch or cornflour with couple of spoonfuls of cold water, stir into the fruit soup. Bring just to the boil (when using potato starch) or cook for a few minutes (when using cornflour), stirring.
Remove from the heat, divide between dessert glasses and let cool.

Serve with some softly whipped cream (or a vegan substitute).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eggnog Recipe

After reading about the popular American Christmas tipple, eggnog, for years, I finally took the plunge and made some last weekend. We loved it, and I'm probably making another batch tonight for tomorrow's Christmas Eve dinner, and then another one for the New Year's Eve party. The recipe below is based on Melissa's and Elise's recipes, and make an excellent Christmas-time drink.

(Eggnogi jõulujook)
1 litre (serves about 6)

4 large eggyolks
100 g caster sugar
500 ml milk (2 cups)
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
250 ml whipping cream
2 Tbsp bourbon whisky
2 Tbsp dark rum

freshly grated nutmeg, to serve

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks until frothy, then slowly beat in the sugar, whisking until fluffy.
Combine milk, cinnamon stick and vanilla pod (halved lengthwise) in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Slowly heat mixture on medium heat until it is steaming hot. Do not boil! (If you're not in a hurry, then remove the saucepan from the heat and let infuse for 30 minutes. Slowly reheat again before proceeding).
Temper the eggs by slowly adding ladlefuls of hot milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it begins to thicken slightly, and coats the back of the spoon (candy thermometer should show 71C). Do not allow the mixture to boil, or the heat will curdle the egg yolks!
Remove from heat and immediately stir in the lukewarm cream (this will bring the temperature down and keep it from curdling).
Remove the vanilla pod and cinnamon stick. Cool until lukewarm, then stir in the bourbon and rum.
Chill before serving. NB! Grate some nutmeg on each serving!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nice Christmas Fruitcake

I say 'nice' in the title, as I cannot remember eating a Christmas fruitcake that I really liked when I lived in the UK (and I tried quite a few during my seven years there), but I LOVED this one. I know you're supposed to bake your fruitcake weeks in advance, and let it age and develop in a cool storage before eating it. I baked the one on the photo on Monday, and am dangerously close to having none left by tomorrow evening. That's why bought another several bags of dried fruit today, mixed them with booze. Will be baking another one of this tomorrow, just to make sure I have some to take along to the first of the many Christmas parties this weekend...

The type of dried fruit you use is entirely up to you. I used dried sweetened cherries, seedless raisins, dried apricots and dried pineapple pieces on Monday. At the moment I've got all these plus dried papaya pieces macerating away. As for the booze, anything rum-based will work best, I think. I've used rum-based Blossa glögg, Havana Club rum or even Vana Tallinn rum-based liqueur (those who've been to Estonia know what I'm talking about :)) If you don't like rum, use brandy instead.

English Christmas Fruitcake
Makes one large loaf or two smaller ones

250 g butter, at room temperature
200 g caster sugar (225 ml)
4 large eggs
275 g plain flour (500 ml/2 cups)
2 tsp baking powder
150 ml brandy or rum
600 g of dried fruit of your choice (about 1 litre/4 cups)

Chop the dried fruit into smaller pieces, if necessary, and pour over the brandy or rum. Leave to macerate and soften for at least few hours, preferably overnight.
Cream soft butter and sugar until pale. Whisk in the eggs, one at the time, incorporating each egg before adding the next one.
Mix flour and baking powder, then stir into the egg and butter mixture.
Fold in the dried fruit (plus any booze that's left in the bowl).
Spoon the batter into a buttered large (2-quart) baking tin.
Bake in a preheated 175 C oven for about one hour, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool, then wrap into a parchment paper and foil and leave to age for a few weeks (or a day, if you're like me:))

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday baking: Rugelach with prune filling

It's been a over a year since I made some delicious rugelach-cookies with hazelnut filling. After seeing a very talented young American pastry chef, Heidi Park (now based here in Tallinn), sharing her recipe for rugelach-cookies in a local food magazine, I felt the urge to make these again. I used my old recipe, and adapted the filling from Martha Stewart's recipe for Prune Rugelach.

Very pleased with the final result, so sharing it with my dear readers :)

Rugelach with Prune Filling
(Rugelach-küpsised ploomitäidisega)
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:
200 g dried plums/prunes
100 ml brandy or cognac

Breadcrumb mixture:
4 Tbsp breadcrumbs
4 Tbsp caster sugar
0.5 tsp cinnamon

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

On the night before:
Pour brandy over the prunes and let soak for up to 24 hours.

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.

On the day of baking:
Combine the breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon.

Puree the prunes with the brandy until smooth.

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 half of the prune puree, then sprinkle half of the breadcrumb 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.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One very knobbly Jerusalem artichoke, one very silky mushroom soup

Have you ever seen a recipe for Jerusalem artichoke/Sunchoke/Topinambur-something that begins with "Wash and peel the Jerusalem artichokes". I have. While I obviously understand the washing bit, then I'm a bit unsure about the peeling. See the specimen above? That's just one example of an artichoke I had to deal with earlier today, when preparing lunch for K's mum who came to visit her grand-daughter (who's doing splendidly, by the way:)). Have you ever seen such a knobbly Jerusalem artichoke before? It was beautiful - crisp and fresh, but had I attempted to peel it, there wouldn't have been much left. So I gave it a very good wash and scrub, and simply chopped it. And that's what I'll do from now on - I'll only buy Jerusalem artichokes with thin and beautiful skin, so I can omit that tricky "peel the artichoke" bit...

The inspiration for combining mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes came from one Estonian monthly, but I've changed the process and proportion so considerably so there's no need to credit anything specific :)

Jerusalem artichoke and mushroom soup
Serves 4

250 g Jerusalem artichokes (aka topinambur aka Sunchokes)
250 g mushrooms
1 medium yellow onion
2 Tbsp butter
600 ml water
400 ml whipping/heavy cream (use single/light cream, if you prefer)
freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme, to garnish

Wash and peel (or not :)) the Jerusalem artichokes. Peel the onions. Clean the mushrooms. Chop all into small chunks.
Heat the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the artichokes, onion and mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season with some salt.
Add hot water, bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the Jerusalem artichokes are softened.
Transfer into a blender and purée until smooth.
Return to the saucepan, add cream and reheat. Season with salt and pepper (and some dried porcini or chantarelle powder, if you wish), garnish with fresh thyme and serve.
Some shaved Parmesan cheese would also be nice.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Almond and Clementine Cake, Claudia Roden style

Christmas and clementines go together. At this time of the year, the shops are flooded with tiny clementines from Morocco and slightly larger specimens from Spain, and I keep buying wooden trays of the orange fruit. Mostly we simply eat them au naturel, but I've been experimenting with few dessert and cake recipes as well.

There's a lovely recipe for flourless almond and orange cake in Claudia Roden's excellent book on Jewish food that I had been wanting to make for ages. The idea of boiling whole oranges and using the whole lot - zest, pith, fruit - in a cake sounded intriguing. Nigella Lawson has adapted the recipe and uses clementines, but I followed Claudia's original instructions here. However, I used clementines instead of oranges, and an excellent Swedish clementine-flavoured glögg Blossa instead of orange flower water. We loved the resulting cake a lot - slightly bitter (from the zest and pith), very moist and just rather unusual. We'd definitely make this again - and perhaps try the original version with oranges as well. (Mmmm - perhaps even those gorgeous red 'blood oranges' when they appear in the shops in a few months?).

You want clementines with thin skin here and as little white pith as possible. That's why I chose the thin-skinned Maroc-clementines here. Oh, and it'll be a much easier job if the clementines have no or just a few seeds.

Almond and Clementine Cake
Serves 10

400 g clementines (about 8-9 small fruit, preferably organic and unwaxed)
6 large eggs
250 g sugar
250 g blanched ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp orange flower oil or citrus liqueur

Wash the clementines carefully in hot water. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring into a boil and simmer on a low heat for about 60-90 minutes, until the clementines are soft.
Drain the clementines and cool a little. Cut into halves, remove any seeds. Place the clementines into a food processor and blend into a coarse purée.
Whisk the eggs and sugar into a thick and pale foam.
Blend ground almonds with baking powder, then fold into the egg foam.
Stir the orange flower water or Blossa glögg into the clementine mixture, then gently fold into the rest of the ingredients.
Pour the batter into a buttered and lined 26 cm springform tin.
Bake in a preheated 180 C oven for about 45 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top. Test for doneness with a wooden toothpick - it should be clean after inserting into the middle of the cake.
Cool before transfering the cake onto a serving tray.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Janssons Frestelse aka Jansson's Temptation - a tasty potato gratin from Sweden

Janssons frestelse / Janssoni kiusatus
Jansson's frestelse, 2011

Did you know that the 'ansjovis' in Jansson's Temptation, the ever-popular creamy Swedish potato gratin, is not anchovis (Engraulis encrasicolus), but sprat (Sprattus sprattus)? Sprats in brine have been called 'ansjovis' in Sweden since 17th century, which is obviously rather confusing for an English-speaking recipe translator. That's why you see 'anchovies' in most English recipes. However, the Swedish 'ansjovis' are pickled in a rather sweet brine, so substituting regular anchovies wouldn't give you the same flavour sensation. It'd be still a tasty potato gratin, but not the same..

Luckily you can find Swedish ansjovis at the food aisle of your nearest IKEA - alongside cloudberry and lingonberry jam and gingerbread cookies.

(For my readers in Estonia - I used "Kipperi anšoovis" - a sprat preserve with a highest sugar content).

Janssons Frestelse
(Janssoni kiusatus)
Serves 6

Jansson's frestelse / Janssoni kiusatus
Jansson's frestelse, 2009

1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
3 large onions
100 g spiced and pickled Swedish 'ansjovis' (sprat filets)
500 ml (2 cups) whipping cream/heavy cream
3-4 Tbsp breadcrumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the potatoes and cut into thick matchsticks (I used my food processor for that).
Peel the onions and cut into thin slices. Fry in butter for about 5 minutes, but do not brown.
Butter a large oven dish, spread half of the potato over the base. Cover with fried onion slices, place 'ansjovis' filets on top.
Cover with the rest of the potatoes. Season moderately with salt and pepper.
Pour over the cream - you may need a bit more or a bit less - it depends on the size of the dish you're using. You want the cream to almost cover the potatoes.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and dot some butter slices over the breadcrumbs.
Bake in a preheated 220 C oven for about 1 hour.
Remove from the oven, let cool for about 5 minutes, then serve either alongside a green salad or a meat roast.

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

Friday, December 04, 2009

Caraway teacake

Adding caraway seeds to your teacake does not seem like an obvious idea, but it works. Caraway seeds are much beloved in the Northern and Eastern Europe. In Estonia we add them liberally to rye bread, to oven-baked potato wedges, into sauerkraut soups and side dishes. We usually do not add them to desserts, but there's something about the spicy earthiness of caraway seeds that complements the rich flavour of this typical Estonian teacake.

The recipe below results in a flavoursome cake with nice, dense and moist crumb. Perfect with a cup of afternoon tea..

Caraway Cake
About 10 slices

180 g butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
170 g caster sugar (200 ml)
250 g all-purpose flour (450 ml)
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 Tbsp whole caraway seeds
200 ml sour milk or kefir or fermented buttermilk

Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and thick. Stir in the kefir or fermented buttermilk.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and caraway seeds, then gently fold into the egg mixture.
Finally stir in the cooled melted butter.
Pour the batter into a lined 1-litre cake tin.
Bake in a pre-heated 180 C oven for 40-50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle remains clean.
Cool before cutting into slices.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Chorizo choux puffs (chorizo profiteroles recipe)

Sausages / Vorstid
Selection of cured sausages at La Boqueria, Barcelona.

Another recipe that I've adapted from Eric Treuille's Canapeś (sold as Hors d'Oeuvres in the US). I served these at a brunch couple of weeks ago, and although there were enough of these for everyone, I barely managed to save one for Kristjan - these disappeared just so quickly!

There's no need to fill these with anything, as the chorizo lends plenty of flavour.

Chorizo Choux Puffs
Makes about 24 large profiteroles or many more tiny ones

Chorizo puffs / Chorizo-profitroolid

200 ml water
100 g butter
0.5 tsp salt
120 g plain flour/all-purpose flour (200 ml)
3 large eggs
100 g chorizo sausage

Peel the chorizo sausage and chop finely.
Put water, cubed butter and salt into a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Take off the heat and stir in all the flour. Return to the heat and "boil" for about two minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until you have a smooth paste that leaves the sides of the saucepan.
Remove from the heat and cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the eggs one at a time, totally incorporating the egg before adding the next one. This is best done with electric beaters!! The resulting paste should be glossy and slowly drop from a spoon.
Stir in the finely chopped chorizo sausage.
With a help of two tablespoons, place small heaps of choux paste onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 180 C oven for about 30 minutes, until the choux puffs are nicely puffed up and golden brown.