Sunday, October 30, 2011

Roasted Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) with lemon, Parmesan cheese and parsley

Baked Jerusamel artichokes / Baked sunchokes /Röstitud maapirnid

Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also known as sunchoke, sunroot, topinambur, earth apple (and curiously, 'earth pear' or maapirn in Estonian) is a great and flavoursome vegetable to grow. Once the tubers are in the ground, they need no attention from you, and you can leave the new crop in the ground until you want to use them. We were shovelling snow and digging out fresh Jerusalem artichokes throughout the last winter and as late as in April were awarded with young and fresh sunchokes looking like this - they're were frost-tolerant:

Yesterday's crop of sunchokes

It's invasive, however, so be careful to allocate it a spot where it can take over and grow in peace!

The recipe for lemon-roasted Jerusalem artichokes is from Nigel Slater, with some minor changes. A lovely alternative to your regular roast potatoes - and a great option for Meatless Monday.

Lemon-roasted Jerusalem artichokes with Parmesan and parsley
(Röstitud maapirnid sidruniga)
Serves 4 to 6

Baked Jerusamel artichokes / Baked sunchokes /Röstitud maapirnid

750 g Jerusalem artichokes/Sunchokes
250 g (new) potatoes
1 lemon
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese
fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 220C/450F. Drizzle some olive oil in a roasting tin, set aside.

Scrub your vegetables really well. Do not peel, but cut in halves or quarters depending on their size. Par-boil or steam for about 10 minutes, until crispy tender. (Drain thoroughly, if par-boiling).
Tip the steamed or par-boiled vegetables into the roasting tin, stir gently. Cut the lemon in half and drizzle the lemon juice over the vegetables. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Place the roasting tin into the oven and roast for about 35 minutes. Give the vegetables a good stir once or twice during that time.
Scatter grated cheese and chopped parsley on top and serve immediately.

More recipes using Jerusalem artichokes @ Nami-Nami:
Jerusalem artichoke gratin with cheese
Silky Jerusalem artichoke and mushroom soup

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sea-buckthorn and Amaretto cheesecake

Cheesecake with Amaretto and sea-buckthorn / Toorjuustukook Amaretto-astelpajuželeega

There's a little deli in our neighbourhood, Delicato, and they sell a lovely cheesecake with a sea-buckthorn and Amaretto topping. A cheesecake so good that I immediately wanted to make something similar at home. They use a rich mascarpone layer in their cake, I went with my favourite cheesecake instead. A lovely and not-so-sweet baked cheesecake that uses one of the nature's superberries (Sea-buckthorn - the new acai berry?).

Sea-buckthorn and Amaretto cheesecake
(Toorjuustukook Amaretto-astelpajuželeega)
Serves 8

125 g Digestive-biscuits (about 8 cookies)
50 g butter, melted

Cheesecake layer:
600 g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
3 large eggs
85 g caster sugar (100 ml)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto-seabuckthorn jelly:
200 g sea-buckthorn berries, fresh or frozen
3 Tbsp caster or soft brown sugar
3 to 4 Tbsp Amaretto
3 to 4 Tbsp hot water
4 gelatine leaves (and some cold water for soaking)

Preheat oven to 180°C/350F.
Grease a 24 cm/10 inch round springform/loose-bottomed cake tin with butter, line the base with parchment paper. Process biscuits into fine crumbs, add melted butter and combine. Press the cookie mixture over base and sides of the prepared tin. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until combined.
Pour over the biscuit base and bake in the middle of a preheated 350F/180C oven for 30 minutes, until the filling is more or less set (it shouldn't wobble too much, when you lightly shake the cake tin).
Remove from the oven and cool completely.
To make the jelly layer, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.
Place the (defrosted, if necessary) berries into a blender and process until smooth. Press through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Season to taste with sugar and Amaretto.
Squeeze the gelatine leaves to remove excess cold water, then stir into hot water (about 4 Tbsp) until dissolved. Stir into the sea-buckthorn purée. Pour the mixture carefully over cooled cheesecake.
Place into the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.

Tallinn Central Market: Sea buckthorn / Astelpaju
Sea-buckthorn berries @ Tallinn Central Market, September 2007

More sea-buckthorn recipes @ Nami-Nami:
Sea-buckthorn jelly with kama mascarpone cream
Sea-buckthorn sorbet
Topless sea-buckthorn and apple tart

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dill and mustard sauce - hovmästarsås - for smoked salmon or gravlax

Suitsulõhe / Smoked salmon

This Swedish dill and mustard sauce - gravlaxsås/hovmästarsås/senapssås - was one of our favourite sauces this summer. We served this with smoked salmon and gravlax to our guests quite often, and never got tired of it. Although the season for al fresco lunches is sadly over, there's nothing that keeps us from enjoying thinly sliced smoked salmon indoors. Long and leisurely Sunday brunches, anyone?

The sauce keeps in the fridge for a few days, covered.

Swedish dill and mustard sauce
Makes about a cup

Swedish dill and mustard dressing / Rootsi sinepi-tillikaste

2 Tbsp sweet Swedish mustard (you can use Honey Dijon)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp caster sugar
0.5 tsp salt
a pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1-1.5 Tbsp white wine vinegar
200 ml mild oil (rapeseed, grapeseed, canola)
a small bunch of fresh dill, finely chopped

To serve:
smoked salmon or gravlax

Put the mustards, sugar, salt, pepper and vinegar into a bowl, and mix until the sugar has dissolved.
Using a small whisk, whisk in the oil little by litte. Finally, mix in the chopped dill.

See similar recipes:
Anne's Food
Rosa's Yummy Yum

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nami-Nami on Spanish TV

Free Wi-Fi: Estonia. Report by Ángel Varela Pena. (Andrew Poole voice-over)

Earlier this year (in May, to be precise), a Spanish film-maker Ángel spent couple of hours with us, eating rhubarb cake and filming us for a report on free wi-fi and work-life balance. The report was aired on Spanish TV in September, and here's the clip for you to see (Nami-Nami section begins at about 2:10).

I'm making Anne's mango shrimp, sing praises to my dear friend Ximena, show off my "Nami-Nami cookbook", mention Nami-Nami gardening blog, and leaf through the pages of the book where this popular apple cake recipe comes from.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Surströmming and surströmmingfest (Swedish fermented herring)

Surstömming party 2010

There's a popular evening show on Estonian national TV, called Ringvaade. About two weeks ago they had a brief section about the infamous Swedish delicacy, surströmming or fermented herring. There's a krog (tavern) on the island of Vormsi, called Krog №14 and they were holding a traditional surströmmingsfest in early October. On the show, the chef of the Krog was talking about the event and about surströmming, and then offered the host a chance to taste some of the fermented fish. The moment they opened the canned surströmming, the host looked utterly disgusted and although he later admitted that it didn't taste as bad as it smelled, he still named it No 2 in his list of the most awful food he has ever tasted (apparently he had eaten some barbecued cockroaches that tasted even worse).

This brought back "fond" memories. About a year ago we hosted a surströmmingfest ourselves. A colleague of my dear K., a cheeky middle-aged Swedish guy called Lars-Olof, offered to bring back some surströmming cans from Sweden, and K., ever so open to new culinary experiences (and experiments), said yes before even consulting with me. Let me know that this was certainly a culinary experience that will NOT become a tradition in our home.

After opening the first can in our kitchen, we quickly decided to move the surströmming-party outdoors. I could still smell the fish on the following morning, even though we cleaned up thoroughly after the party :)

We had actually about 20 people at the party, all with a Swedish connection - they had either lived or studied there, or they were Swedes living or working in Estonia. Here are three brave men preparing the surströmming:
Surströmming party 2010: Mehed surströmmingut prepareerimas

That's the way to do it: take some tunnbröd or flat wheat bread, smash some "almond potatoes" on top, garnish with finely chopped onions and top with the fish:
Surströmming & tunnbröd

One of our guests, Maarja, eagerly biting into the surströmming sandwich:
Surströmming party 2010: Maya

And we are thorough here over at the Nami-Nami kitchen. We didn't just hold a surströmmingfest, we had a comparative tasting of surströmming. Last autumn, we had three different types of surströmming - filleted fish canned in the same season 2010, whole fish canned in 2010 and whole fish canned in previous season 2009. The adventurous jury decided that the whole fish that had fermented over a year - although it looked most suspicious - was the best, taste-wise. It's like a good bottle of wine - ageing improves - and mellows - the flavour, apparently.

Surströmming party 2010

Overall, we had loads of fun and a great party (I didn't serve _just_ surströmming, of course - I'm not some Cruella de Vil, but a kind hostess. However, we did decide that this was a one-off event - the smell of surströmming is just a wee bit too overpowering, and not something we're keen to replicate at our home any time soon.

Sorry, Swedes :)

* As I was pregnant with our second child at the time, I restrained from eating the fermented fish for obvious reasons and acted as the photographer for the event :)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

There's no Cheddar without an oatcake

Oatcakes / Kaeraküpsised

We've been eating lots of cheese recently. Upon returning from France in early September, we brought along some wonderful French cheese - Livarot (aka 'the Colonel'), Pont-l'Évêque and an excellent Camembert by Domaine the Saint-Loup (after all, we had been travelling in Normandy with our family, so we had to include a Camemembert as well). We had a nice cheese tasting evening with our friends - enjoying those three cheeses, a nice crusty baguette, fig and apricots jams, nice wine and even some apples from the orchard of Olivier Roellinger's chateau :)

Just days later K. went on business to my dear old Edinburgh. While there, he visited the best cheesemonger in town, Iain Mellis, and brought back a wonderful selection of British cheese - my old favourite, Cashel Blue (an Irish farmhouse cheese that I've mentioned here earlier), as well as two new cheeses - an excellent Cheddar called Keens Cheddar (from Somerset) and a gem of a find, Berkswell (from West Midlands). We had invited the same cheese-tasting buddies over, and had another very enjoyable night contemplating the characteristics of the cheeseboard. While preparing for the night, I knew from the beginning that a baguette alone - however lovely and crusty - will not do. You simply cannot have a good British Cheddar without an oatcake :)

While I was still living in Scotland, I had a good choice of various oatcakes to go with cheese. However, my favourite was a small oatcake from the selection of Marks & Spencer that was speckled with coarsely ground black pepper. They used to sell them in the little M&S outlet at the Waverley train station, and I often bought a box to nibble on my commute from Edinburgh to Stirling (I did a 9-month post-doc at the University there during my last year in Scotland). And that's the kind of oatcake I wanted to serve with our selection of British cheese. After some searching, I came across just the thing. You'll find the original recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Every Day (look for Bill's Rona oatcakes, or see the recipe in The Guardian), here's a very slightly tweaked version that we loved and that I'll keep.

Peppery oatcakes
Makes about 30-40 small oatcakes

150g medium oatmeal (I used Veski-Mati kaerajahu)
150g wholemeal oats
0.25 to 0.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper
0.5 tsp salt
5 Tbsp or 75 ml rapeseed oil or olive oil
about 150 ml freshly boiled water

Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F and line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well in the centre. Pour the oil into the well, then pour in enough boiling water to bind it into a firm, not sticky, dough. Work quickly. Don't worry if you over-water a bit - you can remedy the situation by adding more oatmeal.

Form the dough mixture into a ball and leave it to rest for 15-30 minutes.

Dust your worktop with some extra oatmeal, and roll out the dough to about 5 mm or 1/5th of an inch thick.

Cut out discs with a cookie cutter (I used a 5 cm one). Place the oatcakes onto the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then turn and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Store in an airtight container and serve with your favourite Cheddar.