Friday, December 28, 2012

Shrimp salad on rye appetizers

Krevetisalat rukkileivaviiludel / Shrimp salad on rye bread Christmas and New Year, although just a scant week apart, seem to be different seasons altogether for our little family here in Estonia. Throughout December and until Christmas, we eat black pudding and sauerkraut and pork roasts - the traditional Christmas fare - a lot. We'll start eating Christmassy food early, weeks before Christmas. You see, you need to identify the best brand of black pudding (aka blood sausages) at the market each year, so you start sampling in mid-November already. Sauerkraut, on the other hand, is the seasonal vegetable at this time of the year, so we eat a lot of that as well. When the Christmas comes, we still eat the traditional Christmas fare and enjoy it.

And then, suddenly, I've had enough. For the New Year's Eve I want to hear nothing about the heavy winter stuff, and am serving various elegant and light canapés instead (and even if there is some black pudding on the table, it's hidden in puff pastry pinwheels or black pudding profiteroles).

Here's a little and light and elegant canapé I'm planning to serve this time*. Not so dissimilar to Toast Skagen or this Swedish shrimp salad, but being served on small crisp dark rye bread slices, it's a a great and festive mouthful. Oh, and once we are talking about rye bread appetizers - these smoked salmon mousse canapés are wonderful, too!

* And yes, of course we are hosting a big New Year's Eve bash this year as well. The logistics of getting three kids to a party at a friends' house is too much to bear just now, so we are being lazy and staying at home, asking dear friends to come over instead :))

Shrimp salad on rye bread
(Krevetisalat rukkileivaviiludel)
Makes about 16

  Krevetisalat rukkileivaviiludel / Shrimp salad on rye bread

250 grams cooked and peeled shrimps
2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
100 g good-quality mayonnaise
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
lemon juice, to taste

To serve:
8 slices of dark rye bread

If using frozen shrimps, defrost them and drain thoroughly (I prefer those in brine, which are more expensive but easier to use). If you wish, chop them coarsely. Mix with onion and dill, then add the mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Toast the rye bread slices, then cut into triangles or squares or small rounds. Spoon shrimp salad on top.
Garnish with some dill and serve.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Puff pastry pinwheels with black pudding and lingonberry jam

Lehttainarullid pohlamoosi ja verivorstiga / Puff pastry pinwheels with black pudding and lingonberry jam
Black pudding (aka blood sausages) with lingonberry jam are one of the staples on Estonian Christmas table and I like using these two elements in other dishes as well. Here's a small pastry that I've been baking for 5 years already. The initial idea isn't mine. Back in November 2008 I took part at a two-day cooking course ("Modern Christmas menu") at one of the vocational training schools here in Tallinn, and we had a brain-storming session with other participants trying to come up with new twists of old favourites. One of the other participants mentioned using black pudding and lingonberries for making small pastries - I cannot remember any longer, if she was talking about something she has made already or something that could be made, neither can I remember if she was talking about the idea in general or making puff pastry pinwheels in particular. In any case, I've been rolling puff pastry sheets with crumbled black pudding and lingonberry jam and some dried marjoram ever since (here's a photo evidence from November 2008, another one from December 2008 and here's one from October 2010).

So if you've got some black pudding and lingonberry jam left over after the Christmas feast, then you can use these two to make some delightful puff pastry pinwheels. And let your guests guess what's inside - most of them seem to think it's raisins ;)

Puff pastry pinwheels with black pudding and lingonberries
(Lehttainarullid verivorsti ja pohlamoosiga)

Lehttainarullid pohlamoosi ja verivorstiga / Puff pastry pinwheels with black pudding and lingonberry jam

puff pastry - either regular or yeasted puff pastry
lingonberry jam
dried marjoram (oregano will do as well)
black pudding

For brushing:
egg, whisked with some water

Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle about 3-4 mm thick.
Spread with a thin layer of lingonberry jam, then scatter the crumbled black pudding on top. Sprinkle with some dried marjoram.
Roll tightly, starting from the longer end, into a long "sausage". Cut into 2 cm lengths. Place into paper muffin cups and transfer onto a cooking sheet.
Brush with eggwash and bake in a pre-heated 225C/435F for 10-15 minutes, until the pinwheels are nicely golden brown.

Serve either warm or at room temperature.

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Saffron buns with marzipan and almonds

Saffron & marzipan rolls / Safrani-martsipanisaiad
These were immensely popular with our kids as well. The photo is from December 2011, when our son, Aksel, was 11 months old. Look at those cheeks!

It's Saint Lucia's Day today, the festival of light, which is especially popular in Sweden. Trust me, it's pit dark outside by 4 pm, so we need any extra light we can get here up North, even if it's in the form of candles on top of a lingonberry branch wreath balanced precariously on some little girls head :)) It's common to eat saffron buns - lussekatter - on Lucia's Day - ideally, first thing in the morning with your breakfast coffee or tea, but these are also wonderful in the afternoon, of course.

Lussekatter or Lucia buns are usually shaped like S, but I've opted for the more simple roll and enriched the buns with marzipan filling and slivered almonds. kokblog has an excellent overview of the various lussekatter-shapes, check them out.

Saffron buns with marzipan and almonds
(Tõeliselt mõnusad safranisaiad)
Makes a lot!

 Saffron & marzipan rolls / Safrani-martsipanisaiad
Yeast dough:
500 ml lukewarm milk (2 cups)
a generous pinch of saffron threads*
50 g fresh yeast (or use 2 sachets of instant yeast)
0.5 tsp salt
150 g caster sugar
150 g unsalted butter, softened
200 g cream cheese, softened
1 kg of all-purpose flour

100 g unsalted butter, softened
200 g marzipan, grated
3 Tbsp brandy or cognac
a generous pinch of saffron threads

To finish:
egg-wash made with 1 egg and 1 Tbsp water
50 g sliced almonds
sugar pearls

 Saffron & marzipan rolls / Safrani-martsipanisaiad

Heat the milk, pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the saffron and let it infuse and cool for a while. The milk should be 37 C/98 F at the end.
Crumble the yeast into the milk. Add salt, sugar and most of the flour. Then knead in the soft butter and cream cheese and the rest of the flour. Knead until the dough doesn't stick to the bowl any longer. Cover and let rise until doubled in size - you need to do that in a warm and draught-free place.

(Meanwhile, cover the baking sheet with a parchment paper and pre-heat the oven to 220 C/430 F).

Prepare the filling. Grate the marzipan coarsely. Mix saffron strands with the cognac and let infuse for 5-10 minutes. Melt butter in a small saucepan, add the marzipan and then the saffron-infused cognac. Heat gently, stirring, until combined. Remove from the heat.

Gently knead the yeast dough and divide into two. Roll both on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle, about 5 mm (1/4''). Spread half of the marzipan mixture onto the dough and roll tightly, starting from the longer edge.

Repeat with the other dough.

Cut into 3-4 cm rolls (about 1,5 inches) and place onto a baking sheet. (If you wish, you can let them rise again for 20-30 minutes). Brush with the egg-wash and sprinkle with slivered almonds and pearl sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lovely golden brown. Let cool under a clean kitchen towel - this helps them stay soft.

A note about using saffron. Saffron is water-soluble, not fat-soluble. I am surprised how many recipes ask you to simply add the saffron threads in with the rest of the ingredients (the oil or the flour), without infusing it with the liquid (NOT oil!) beforehand. You can extract so much more flavour and colour by the simple infusion process, and given the price of good-quality saffron, you can use much less of that precious spice and get much more out of it. 

More recipes for lussekatter or Lucia buns:
Nami-Nami, 2011
A Cat in the Kitchen, 2006
Anne's Food, 2007
Joe Pastry, 2012
Eat Drink One Woman, 2009
Good. Food. Stories. 2009
Eat, Live, Run, 2012
pPod's Kitchen, 2010
One Perfect Bite, 2009

More recipes using saffron: 
Saffron buns (lussekatter)
Roasted aubergines/eggplant with saffron yoghurt dressing by Ottolenghi
Saffron carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
Golden saffron pancakes

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mulled sea-buckthorn drink

Mulled sea-buckthorn drink / Kuum astelpajujook
A glass of warming sea-buckthorn drink. If you're unfamiliar with the name "sea-buckthorn", then it's also known as sandthorn, sallowthorn or seaberry, and tyrni in Finnish, Sanddorn in German (as well as Seedorn, Sandbeere, Weidendorn and so on), havtorn in Danish and Swedish, duindoorn in Dutch, Hippophae rhamnoides in Latin, argousier in French.

Are you a fan of Pinterest? I am. I hopped on the Pinterest-bandwagon quite late, but have grown to love it for the ease of identifying and saving various inspirational dishes. It's a great way to spot gorgeous drink and food ideas, and that's where I came across Sandy's sea-buckthorn punch. Sea-buckthorn, the wonderful superberry, has been featured quite often here on Nami-Nami (see below for numerous recipe links), and I try to use it quite regularly in my kitchen as well. This mulled hot drink using a mixture of sea-buckthorn juice, orange juice and black tea, was a great discovery.

Mulled sea-buckthorn drink
(Kuum astelpajujook)
Adapted from Confiture de Vivre
Serves 6 to 8

1 litre of brewed tea (I used Early Grey)
500 ml (2 cups) sea-buckthorn juice
250 ml (1 cup) good-quality orange juice
4 cloves
4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick/bark
5-6 Tbsp soft brown sugar

Optional (for the alcoholic version):
vodka and/or sea-buckthorn liqueur

Mix tea, sea-buckthorn and orange juice, spices and the sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring into a gentre simmer, then leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes on a very low heat.
Remove from the heat, ladle into heatproof glasses and serve.

For an alcoholic version, add 2 cl of vodka and/or sea-buckthorn liqueur per glass.

More sea-buckthorn recipes:
Sea-buckthorn jelly with kama mascarpone mousse @ Nami-Nami
Sea-buckthorn and Amaretto cheesecake @ Nami-Nami
Sea-buckthorn and apple tart @ Nami-Nami
Sea-buckthorn sorbet @ Nami-Nami
Cardamom panna-cotta with sea-buckthorn and apricot compote @ Nami-Nami
Sea-buckthorn juice @ Russian Season
Sea-buckthorn @ Real Epicurean
Gelbe grütze @ Küchenlatein
Coconut cream custard on sanddorn mirror @ Vegalicious Recipes
Sea buckthorn curd with raspberries @ Swedish Food
Sea-buckthorn cheesecake @ Bumpkin Mag
Sea-buckthorn mousse @ Andie's Veggies
Sea-buckthorn kissel with Greek yoghurt @ Suvi sur le vif

    Friday, November 30, 2012

    Oven-baked pork stroganoff with mayonnaise

    Ahjustrooganov / Oven-baked pork stroganoff with mayonnaise

    Stroganoff, for most of you, is associated with the Russian dish boeuf stroganoff, a creamy sauce based on thin beef tenderloin strips and perhaps button mushrooms (interestingly, mushrooms aren't included in böfstrooganov over here). But stroganoff it's also used as a shorthand for various hot dishes using long and thin meat strips. Say, something you'd probably call pork or beef stir-fry strips in English-speaking countries, are called stroganoff pieces over here (you can also buy "maksastrooganov" or thin beef or pork liver strips over here).

    Here's a popular Estonian family dinner - oven-baked pork stroganoff that uses less than five ingredients (pork, onions, mushrooms, mayonnaise and seasonings). It tastes lovely with some mashed or simply boiled potatoes, and is a perfect for those cold winter nights.

    More stroganoff recipes here on Nami-Nami:
    Latvian pork stroganoff "Kurzeme stroganoff"
    Mushroom stroganoff

    Oven-baked pork stroganoff with mayonnaise
    (Sealihast ahjustrooganov majoneesiga)
    Serves 4

    500 g lean pork (stroganoff/stir-fry strips)
    2 large onions
    250 g white or button or cremini mushrooms
    225 g mayonnaise (I used the local Jaani Provansaal mayo)
    salt and freshly ground black pepper
    vegetable oil, for frying

    To garnish:
    fresh chives, finely chopped

    Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F. Lightly oil a medium-sized oven casserole dish, put aside.

    Peel the onions, halve and cut into thin slices. Clean the mushrooms and cut into thin slices.
    Heat oil on a heavy skillet/frying pan, add the pork and fry until lightly browned on all sides. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put into a casserole dish.

    Fry the onions on the same pan, adding some oil, if needed. You don't need to caramelise the onions - around 5 minutes, until the onions are just starting to soften, is all you need.

    Scatter the fried onions and the sliced mushrooms on top of the pork. Drizzle or spoon the mayonnaise on top.

    Cook in a preheated 200 C oven for about 30 minutes, until the meat and mushrooms are cooked and the mayonnaise topping is lovely light golden brown.

    Garnish with chopped chives, and serve with either simple boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    Orange salad with pomegranate seeds, perfect for the festive season

    Orange salad / Apelsinisalat

    Citrus fruit and Christmas go hand in hand, no? Well, in my house they do. I like serving an orange salad during the festive season - either as a starter, like this beetroot and orange salad with ginger yoghurt dressing or this fennel and orange salad with a simple vinaigrette or even this super-simple orange and red onion salad. Or as a dessert, in a form of a simple "Orange Ambrosia, for instance.

    When flipping through the pages of one of my current favourite food magazines, the Swedish-language Lantliv mat & vin, I was immediately drawn to a pretty orange and pomegranate salad. And although Christmas is still a few weeks away, we've had some snow in Estonia already - and it's snowing outside as I'm writing this post - so this salad has been sitting prettily on our table twice during the last week or so. And it'll be definitely making an appearance or two during December.

    It'd make a lovely light dessert, or simply one of the dishes on your festive buffet spread. It's also vegan and gluten-free, so suits all kind of special diets.

    If you're making this in Estonia and are looking for crushed cardamom seeds, then I recommend buying MEIRA cardamom - it's coarsely ground. If you're looking for fine cardamom "dust" (sorry, powder), then Meira is not for you :) Alternatively, buy whole cardamom pods and grind your own. You'll need seeds from about 20 cardamom pods to get about a teaspoon of ground cardamom. 

    Orange salad with pomegranate seeds
    Apelsinisalat granaatõunaseemnetega
    Adapted from Lantliv Mat & Vin, Nr 6/2012 (Apelsinsallad)
    Serves 4, can be easily multiplied

     Orange salad / Apelsinisalat

     4 large sweet oranges
    1 ripe pomegranate
    1 Tbsp (brown) sugar
    1 tsp ground cardamom seeds

    Peel the oranges with a sharp knife, then cut into thin slices, crosswise. Arrange nicely on a large plate.
    Remove the pomegranate seeds and scatter on top of orange slices.
    Mix the ground cardamom with sugar and sprinkle on top of the fruit.
    Serve at once or leave to macerate for an hour or two in a cool place, covered.

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Interview with me on 7 Ravioli foodblog

    There's a short interview with me on a Lithuanian food blog 7 ravioli or Septyni virtieniai :) The interview is here.

    If you don't speak Lithuanian, you'll find the English translation here.

    Thank you, Dalia, it was a pleasure talking to you!

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    My recipes in Home & Garden (Kodu & Aed), November 2012

    Here's a short overview of the recipes I chose and cooked for the November 2012 issue of the Home and Garden (Kodu ja Aed) magazine, as the magazine's new editor of the food section. If you read Estonian and are based in Estonia, then you can get the magazine at all newsstands until the end of the month.

    The photos are by Juta Kübarsepp, who also helped with styling. The props are my own or from my friend Kristiina :)

    November is a dark and chilly time in Estonia. There's usually no snow yet, so nothing to reflect back the little light we have during this month (and trust me, there's not much light). However, there are still some things to light up the life during this month - Fathers' Day is celebrated during the second Sunday in November, and there are some folk calendar events as well. (And our little family gets to celebrate my dear K's birthday and the birth of our third child). I was thinking of the Father's day lunch or dinner when planning this menu, yet it'd be perfect for any autumnal family gathering.

    For starters, I chose the silky butternut squash soup with a pinch of nutmeg, accompanied by home-made roasted onion grissini. I've blogged about the soup here on Nami-Nami foodblog in October 2008, and I still highly recommend the recipe. The recipe for roasted onion grissini is originally from an Estonian foodblogger Kätrin, but I've modified it slightly over the last year or two.

      Kõrvitsapüreesupp röstsibulakõrsikutega / Butternut squash soup with roast onion grissini

    For the main course I chose something autumnal and gutsy. Rabbit has become more easily available here in Estonia for an average shopper (read: you can get it vacuum-packed in your local supermarket), and this rabbit stew with a creamy mustard sauce is an excellent way of cooking rabbit. The recipe is French-inspired and adapted from Anthony Demetre, the chef patron at the London restaurants Arbutus, Wild Honey and Les Deux Salons, more specifically, from his book Today's special: A new take on bistro food - Recipes from Arbutus and Wild Honey. Demetre uses rabbit legs, but for a home cook, using a whole rabbit makes much more sense - and is much more economical, of course.

      Sinepine küülik / Mustard and rabbit stew

     As for the perfect autumn dessert, you cannot go wrong with a classic apple crumble - something that's actually not particularly well-known in Estonia (we're more cake and pie and tart type of people, I guess). I served the crumble with a cinnamon and cream cheese whipped cream - a wonderfully aromatic addition to the crumble.

      Õunakrõbedikud kaneelise toorjuustuvahuga / Apple crisps with cinnamon cream cheese

    Check out the October 2012 recipes as well.

    Friday, November 16, 2012

    Oxtail ragout with celeriac mash

    Veisesaba / Oxtail / Härjasaba / Lehmasaba

    Oxtail - isn't it beautiful? I admit that I blatantly nicked the idea for today's post from the wonderful Jeanne in London, who wrote about a 20-hour sous vide oxtail stew in her award-winning blog, Cook Sister! Here's my oxtail story.

    Nightview / Öine vaade Albarracinile
    Albarracín at night, March 2008

    I still remember my first encounter with oxtail - on a plate, I mean. My dear K. and I were travelling in Spain in March 2008, visiting the lovely Ximena of the Lobstersquad fame in Madrid, and visiting some other off-the-beaten-track cities that Ximena and her also very lovely husband J. had suggested. One late afternoon we arrived in the picturesque Albarracín in Aragon (yep, on the lands of the medieval Kingdom of Aragón). After checking into our hotel for the night, we wandered on the streets of Albaraccín, looking for a tiny restaurant called Rincón del Chorro. Somebody somewhere had recommended it, you see. The night was already dark, but we were obviously too early for dinner, as all we found was a locked door. We returned an hour later, to find a small but busy restaurant. The menu wasn't long - I opted for the pickled partridge (a local speciality, I was told), K. ordered the rabo del toro or oxtail.

    Rabo de Toro / Oxtail Stew / Härjasabahautis e. veisesabahautis e. lehmasabahautis

    Both were brought to the table pretty quickly. While the partridge was lovely, the oxtail was wonderful and although the idea of cooking it myself seemed a wee bit daunting initially, I've become a huge oxtail convert over the years and cook this particular cut of beef regularly.

    My favourite oxtail dish takes slightly less time to cook than Jeanne's and as there's definitely no sous-vide machine in my kitchen, it can be cooked in a simple stovetop saucepan. But I guarantee it'll be just as delicious ;) The inspiration for the dish is from a blog written by an Estonian restaurateur, Mme Randrüüt - see here. It's an interpretation of the French classic, mijotée de queue de boeuf et purée de céleri rave or stewed oxtail with celeriac pureé. If you haven't cooked oxtail before, then slowly cooked oxtail has the most wonderful sweet and meaty flavour, which is pretty much universally liked. While we happily gnaw away on the slowly cooked oxtail pieces (there's a link to another oxtail stew recipe here on Nami-Nami at the bottom of this post), it can be intimidating to somebody who's new to oxtail - or if you're wanting to serve oxtail in a slightly more elegant manner. This oxtail ragout is the perfect solution then.

    Oxtail / Härjasaba e. veisesaba

    In Estonia I usually get my oxtail cut into chunks and packed neatly on a tray. Very convenient, even if it is only sold in one major supermarket and only on certain days, so one has to pre-plan carefully. If you have a friendly butcher at your favourite market, you can obviously order some whenever you need it.

    Oxtail ragout with celeriac mash
    Serves two to three (can be easily doubled)

    Oxtail ragout with celeriac mash / Veisesabaraguu selleripüreega

    1 kg oxtail pieces
    2-3 Tbsp oil
    500 ml (2 cups) boiling water
    few fresh parsley sprigs
    few fresh thyme sprigs
    1 bay leaf
    3-4 whole black peppercorns
    3-4 whole allspice berries
    salt, to taste

    Season the oxtail pieces with salt.
    Heat oil in a heavy saucepan, sauté the oxtail pieces until dark golden brown on all sides.
    Add the water, herbs and seasonings. Bring into a boil, then reduce heat and cover the saucepan. Simmer gently for about 3-4 hours until meat falls off the bones easily.
    Remove from the heat, cool. Remove the meat off the bones, discard the bones and return the meat into the stew.

    (This can be done a day in advance). 

    Skim the excess fat from the top of the stew. Re-heat the stew and simmer gently for another hour or two, until the stew has thickened. Taste for seasoning.

    Serve with a celeriac/root celery mash - prepare like your regular potato mash, just use root celery instead.

    Looking for more oxtail inspiration? Here are some recipes:

    Papardelle with oxtail ragu by Skye Gyngell
    Oxtail ragout with papardelle by Sammy and Bella (My Kitchen Rules)
    Oxtail braised in dark beer by Nami-Nami
    Coda alla vaccinaria by Food Lover's Odyssey
    Glazed oxtails by Simply Recipes
    Korean braised oxtail by Kitchen Wench
    Alsatian oxtail stew by Choosy Beggars

    Thursday, November 08, 2012

    Chinese Lemon Chicken Recipe

    Chinese lemon chicken / Hiina sidrunikana

    Now that I'm a young mum with three kids, I am looking for and cooking more and more quick and universally appealing dishes. Luckily it doesn't just mean macaroni with fried pork or pasta with pesto - the "older" kids are happy to try different foods (like mussels), and I can still cook my old favourites from across the world. Last week (when I was still a mum to just two :)) I made this quick and easy Chinese chicken dish, which they all loved. It's a lighter and healthier version of the popular Cantonese dish.

    The recipe is adapted from Wynnie Chan's 2007 cookbook "Fresh Chinese". Wynnie Chan is a nutritional consultant for the Chinese National Healty Living Centre in the United Kingdom, so she's dedicated to adjusting popular Chinese dishes to modern healthy palates. That isn't always easy, but seems to work for this lemon chicken recipe.

    I usually serve it with rice, but egg noodles work just as well, especially if doused with a little sesame oil and sprinkled with some sesame seeds.

    Chinese Lemon Chicken
    (Hiina sidrunikana)
    Serves four

    400-500 g chicken breast filets
    1 egg
    2 garlic cloves, finely crushed or grated
    2 small lemons
    1 Tbsp soy sauce
    1 tsp sesame oil
    4 Tbsp cornflour
    1 Tbsp groundnut oil or other mild vegetable oil
    2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

    Whisk the egg, garlic, finely grated zest of 1 lemon, soy sauce, sesame oil and cornflour until combined. Cut the chicken breasts into 2 cm cubes or strips, put into the lemony cornflour mixture. Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes, preferably an hour.

    Heat the wok or a large frying pan until very hot, then add the oil and heat until almost smoking. Add the chicken pieces in batches and fry until golden brown on all sides (reduce the heat, if necessary). Transfer the golden chicken nuggets onto a plate and fry the rest in a similar manner.

    When all the chicken pieces are cooked, then return them all to the pan. Add the juice of one lemon, give the dish a quick stir. Taste for seasoning - add more soy sauce or juice of another lemon, if you wish.

    Garnish with spring onions and serve at once.

    Monday, November 05, 2012

    And last, but not least...

    If you've been wondering why my posting has been somewhat erratic recently, then here's the reason:

      A baby girl was born / Sündis beebitüdruk

    Our third baby was born yesterday morning, on November 4th. She weighed 3710 grams and was 50 cm tall - our biggest baby yet :)

    Our oldest - a daughter born in January 2009 and our second child - a son born in January 2011 - are still quite small, 3 years 9 months and 1 year 9 months, respectively. So being heavily pregnant with two small kids needing the attention and trying to write a foodblog - the latter has often had to wait. But I'm still here, and hopefully you'll be patient enough to wait for my future posts - which will be about food, and not kids, I promise :)

    Thursday, November 01, 2012

    Scottish shortbread, the way I like it

    A cow, the Saltire, Scottish Parliament and me

    There's a personal reason to celebrate all things Scottish today - namely, it was exactly seven years ago that I met my dear partner K. at a reception at the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh (housed in the lovely building behind me on the photo above, though the picture is taken about 7 months later), which eventually led me to moving back home to Estonia, and living a very happy life with a wonderful partner and two gorgeous kids. Oh, and a lovely garden.

    The Scottish dish I'm celebrating today is the wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery Scottish shortbread. It's soft, yet crunchy - the crunchiness is enhanced by the use of fine semolina in the recipe. You cannot have a cup of tea without those, really.

    Scottish shortbread / Šoti liivaküpsis

    Here's the home-made Scottish all-butter shortbread - the recipe is from Delia Smith - and as it's a pretty classic one, there's been no reason to change it. I used a special shortbread tin, marked with the thistle, but you can just as well use a regular springform tin or even roll the dough out and cut into preferred shapes with a cookie cutter (remember to adjust the cooking time for smaller cookies!)

    Scottish butter shortbread
    (Šoti liivaküpsised)

    175 butter, at room temperature
    75 g caster sugar
    175 all-purpose flour, sifted
    75 g fine semolina/cream of wheat
    a pinch of salt

    Preheat  the oven to 150 C/300 F.

    Using your wooden spoon, cream the butter in a bowl.
    Add the sugar, flour, semolina and salt. Mix with the spoon until combined, then use your hands to knead the dough (or simply use a food processor). Avoid over-working the dough, however, as the butter might melt and compromise the texture!
    Transfer the cookie dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using the rolling pin, roll into a 20 cm circle and transfer it into a 20 cm springform. Press lightly, then pierce with a fork thoroughly (this keeps the shortcrust pastry from raising during baking).
    Bake the shortbread for about 60 minutes in the centre of the preheated oven, until it's pale golden and feels firm to the touch.
    Remove it from the oven and cut into 12 wedges.
    Sprinkle generously with caster sugar, if you want, and store in an airtight box.

    Tuesday, October 30, 2012

    Makhlouta, a comforting rice and lentil soup from Lebanon

    Makhlouta - Lebanese rice and lentil soup / Liibanoni riisi-läätsesupp

    Remember those pictures from our garden, taken just ten days ago? Well, just a week later our garden looked - and is still looking - very different, as the snow came surprisingly early this year, and that first snow is still here.


    Which means it's time to enjoy autumnal hearty flavours from now on. And here's a neat recipe to start with - a Lebanese soup makhlouta. What impresses me most about this is that it hardly contains anything, yet is most satisfying and flavoursome :)The recipe is slightly adapted from Claudia Roden's wonderful Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon, published in 2006. According to Taste of Beirut food blog, makhlouta means 'mixture' in Lebanese Arabic and it's a soupy stew that contains variour legumes and beans such as lentils, kidney beans, white beans, chickpeas, bulgur wheat. Claudia Roden's version is pretty minimalist, containing just rice and lentils, but I often prefere minimalist versions anyway, so I'm happy with this recipe.

    Makhlouta - Lebanese rice and lentil soup
    (Liibanoni riisi-läätsesupp)
    Serves 6 to 8

     Makhlouta - Lebanese rice and lentil soup / Liibanoni läätse-riisisupp

    2 large onions
    3 Tbsp olive oil
    2 litres vegetable stock
    200 g red 'Egyptian' lentils
    100 g risotto or porridge rice, rinsed and drained
    2 tsp coriander seeds
    salt and black pepper

    To serve:
    1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
    1-2 lemons, cut into sectors

    First make the crispy onion topping. Peel and halve the onions, cut into thin slices.
    Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, add the onions and fry gently until the onions are softened and translucent. Now increase the heat and fry until the onions are golden brown and caramelised. Transfer onto a kitchen paper to crispen.

    For the soup, bring the water into a boil. Add the lentils and rice. Season with pepper and add the crushed coriander seeds. Bring into a low simmer, cover and simmer for 35-45 minutes, until both rice and lentils are completely soft and the soup nice and creamy. Taste for seasoning  - add salt, if necessary.

    To serve, scoop the soup into warm soup bowls, sprinkle with crushed cumin seeds and garnish with crispy onion rings. Place lemon slices or sectors on the table, so everyone can sprinkle some lemon juice on top of their soup.

    More makhlouta recipes out there:
    Taste of Beirut
    Mama's Lebanese Kitchen
    Ya Salam Cooking
    The Gutsy Gourmet
    The Well-Seasoned Cook

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    Finnish mince and cabbage gratin

    Finnish mince and cabbage dish / Soome kapsa-hakklihavorm

    You've already got the recipe for the Estonian cabbage and mince stew (recommended!), here's a Finnish version that's similar, yet totally different. Whereas Estonians like their mince and cabbage as a stew alongside some boiled carrots, the Finns throw in some rice (and syrup or honey - they've got a sweeter tooth!), layer it into a oven dish and bake it slowly until done.

    Both are lovely. You could even make a large batch of the Estonian one, and use any leftovers for the Finnish version on the next day :)

    The traditional condiment is lingonberry jam (you'll find a jar in your nearest IKEA store), but sour cream works just as well.

    Finnish mince and cabbage gratin
    (Kapsa-hakklihavorm riisiga)
    Serves 6

    150 ml short-grain "porridge" rice, uncooked
    400 ml water
    0.5 tsp salt

    about 1 kg white cabbage, finely shredded
    1 onion
    400 g beef mince
    1 tsp salt
    0.25 tsp black pepper
    1 tsp dried oregano or marjoram
    1-2 Tbsp sugar syrup or honey (or use cornsyrup, maple syrup or even agave nectar)
    400 ml beef stock

    Place rice, salt and water into a saucepan, bring into a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the rice has absorbed the water. Remove from the heat and put aside.
    Chop the onion. Put beef mince and onion into a large and heavy frying pan and fry until slightly browned. Season with salt, pepper and marjoram, then add to the rice.
    Add the cabbage to the frying pan, season with a bit of salt and heat, stirring regularly, until the cabbage is slightly coloured and "collapsed". Season with syrup, then combine with the rice and the fried minced beef.
    Pour into a medium-sized oven casserole dish, pour beef stock on top.
    Bake in a preheated 200 C oven for one hour to one hour and 15 minutes. Use your judgement and cover the dish with a piece of foil at the end, if necessary.

    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Some pictures from Nami-Nami garden, October 2012

    My dear K. took some pictures of our beautiful garden last weekend. The gardening season is more or less over for this year - we picked our last tomatoes and aubergines/eggplants a fortnight ago, this weekend we harvested the last of beets, carrots and potatoes, as well as Jerusalem artichokes (the latter could stay in the ground until the Spring, but we wanted them out from a certain raised bed).

    Despite the cold nights and heavy rains, the garden still has some amazing colours on display.

    Cornus alba "Sibirica" aka red bark dogwood or red twig dogwood:

    Quercus rubra aka northern red oak or champion oak:IMG_2862.jpg

    The bright red and ripe fruit of Podophyllum emodi aka Himalayan mayapple or Indian may apple:

    Hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora' aka panicled hydrangea:

    The autumn look of Ligularia stenocephala aka leopard plant:

    Hylotelephium spectabile (Sedum spectabile) aka showy stonecrop or ice plant in its full glory, Echinacea purpurea aka Eastern purple coneflower or purple coneflowe is finally loosing its beautiful colour:

    One of my favourite apples back in Scotland was Egremont Russet - perhaps because it's very dissimilar to all the popular apple varieties in Estonia. The russet apple is often described as having a sweet and dry "nutty" flavour, and I agree. When establishing our garden 4 years ago, we ordered two Egremont Russet plants from  England to complement some of our local varieties. Although we got 2 beautiful ripe apples last year, then this year we've been blessed with almost twenty large and perfect russet-coloured dessert apples:

    Egremont Russet
    Aster novae-angliae aka aster "New England" is still looking pretty:

    Sambucus nigra or black elder (lace black elder), variety 'Dissectum', has really been thriving in our garden. Earlier this year I used the blossoms to flavour raspberry jam and make several bottles of cordial for the forthcoming winter. Now the berries are ripe and I hope to make some black elderberry jam next weekend:

    And last, but not least - our beautiful Rosa rugosa aka rugosa rose "Ritausma" has began to blossom again, for the third time this season, if I'm not mistaken:

    Here's the garden update from May 2012, and here's the garden update in Estonian.

    Sunday, October 14, 2012

    My recipes in Home & Garden (Kodu & Aed), October 2012

    Kodu & Aed, oktoober 2012 (minu esimene toimetatud köögirubriik / I'm their new food editor)

    This is the cover of the October issue of one of the best-selling home magazines in Estonia, Kodu and Aed (Home and Garden) and it has my name on the cover page :)

    "How come?", you wonder.

    In early September I got a phone call from their editor-in-chief, Ms Veigel, asking if I'd be interested in being the editor of the food section. The phone call was totally unexpected and came out of the blue - but as I am unable to return to my academic post at the University just now, I decided to say yes. It all went very quickly then - turned out they wanted me to be in charge of the October issue already and I had about a fortnight to come up with the menu and do the photoshoot. With the help of Juta Kübarsepp, the photographer, we ended up with the following "Pille Petersoo sügismarjamenüü" aka my autumn berries menu. The concept behind the menu was that while Estonians are very good in forageing for wild forest berries (cranberries, blueberries, bilberries, cloudberries, lingonberries and such like), they often overlook the berries in our own garden. Hence I focused on black aronia aka chokeberries (a popular and very beautiful hedge plant, the berries are mainly used for making cordial), sea-buckthorn berries (the super-berry of 1990s and 2000s over here) and rowanberries (the berries of rowan or mountain ash; see also and article in The Guardian).  All three are pretty abundant, especially if you live in a small garden town or on the countryside, yet the vitamin-rich and antioxydant-rich fruit of those trees/bushes are too often left for birds to eat (while trendy urbanites spend a fortune on exotic super-berries like acai, goji, golden inca etc).

    Here's the menu, photos by Juta Kübarsepp. 

    Gravadlax with sea-buckthorn juice and berries: Õrnsoolatud forelli- või lõhefilee astelpajuga / Gravadlax with sea-buckthorn juice and berries

    My autumn berry menu began with lightly salted salmon filet (rainbow trout would be excellent, too), that had been seasoned with salt, sugar, pepper and concentrated sea-buckthorn juice. After 24 hours in the fridge, the fish was thinly sliced and garnished with whole sea-buckthorn berries.

    Beef or venison "olives" with rowanberry gravy, accompanied with carrot ragout:
    Liharullid pihlakakastmega ning porgandiraguu / Beef "olives" with rowanberry gravy, carrot ragout
    The sliced beef or venison is topped with sliced carrot, onion and some rowanberries, then rolled up, fried in the mixture of butter and oil, and then simmered in liquid until done.  The carrot ragout is a simple mix of sliced carrots, onions, oil, water, rosemary and seasonings. Earlier versions of both recipes have been featured here on Nami-Nami about five years ago (see here).

    Black aronia smoothie and whipped semolina pudding with apples and black aronia berries:
    Aroonia-õunamannavaht & arooniasmuuti / Black aronia smoothie and black aronia and apple pudding

    The smoothie is a mix of banana, a handful of black aronia berries, a spoonful of kama or oat bran or oats, a cup of kefir or plain yogurt, sweetened with honey or maple syrup. The whipped semolina pudding (mannavaht) is made with water, apples, black aronia berries, sugar and (wholemeal or spelt) semolina/cream of wheat.

    Sea-buckthorn smoothie and sea-buckthorn kissel with crispy rye bread crumbs:
    Astelpajusmuuti & kissell krõbeda rukkipuruga / Sea-buckthorn smoothie and sea-buckthorn kissel with crispy rye bread crumbs
    The smoothie is a mix of banana, regular or oat milk, (frozen) sea-buckthorn berries or undiluted juice, sweetened with honey or maple syrup. The fruit soup (kissel) contains water, sugar, pureéd sea-buckthorn berries and potato starch/flour (cornflour would do), served with curd cheese mouse and garnished with crispy rye bread crumbs.

    How do you like the menu? Are you familiar with any of the berries and if yes, then how do you tend to use them in the kitchen.

    We shot the November issue last week and are shooting the December one in a few days, so there's a lot of cooking and writing going on at our house just now.

    Sunday, October 07, 2012

    Oven-baked toffee apples (from the recipe archives)

    Baked apples with almond slices and toffee sauce / Ahjuõunad iirise-mandlikattega
    September 2010

    This recipe was originally posted in September 2008, but it's still a big favourite with our friends and family, so I decided to showcase this again. It's a wonderful twist on the traditional oven-baked apples, that should appeal to everybody with a sweet tooth.

    Oven-baked Toffee Apples
    (Ahjus küpsetatud õunad mandli-iirisekattega)
    Serves 4 to 6

    September 2008

    4 to 6 large firm apples

    Toffee-almond topping:
    50 g almond slices
    50 g unsalted butter
    200 ml soft brown sugar
    200 ml whipping or double cream
    1 Tbsp potato starch or cornflour

    To serve:
    vanilla ice cream

    Peel the apples (NB! this is optional, see comment below*), halve and core them. Fit them snugly into a buttered oven-dish, cut-side down.

    Mix brown sugar and potato flour/cornflour in a small saucepan. Add butter, almond slices, and fresh cream. Bring slowly into the boil, stirring regularly. Spoon the toffee mixture onto the apples.

    Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 200 C / 400 F oven for 20-30 minutes (cooking time depends on the apples), until apples are cooked and toffee topping has thickened. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PUDDING and take care not to burn the toffee sauce!!!

    Cool a little and serve with ice cream or soft whipped cream.

    * In general, I tend not to peel apples from my mum's or grandma's garden, or apples from a reputable organic source. However, peeling apples beforehand does make for neater presentation and easier eating afterwards.

    This recipe was also included in my first cookbook, Nami-Nami kokaraamat ("Nami-Nami Cookbook"), published in Estonian in December 2010.

    Friday, September 28, 2012

    Apple and Cheddar Cheese Scones

    Viimsi Ubinapäev: Toidublogijate õunakoogikohvik / Viimsi Apple Day: Foodbloggers' Apple Pie Café
    Poster designed by Marju Randmer of

    My local farmers market, Viimsi Taluturg, hosts a big apple feast tomorrow, called Ubinapäev. If I remember it correctly, its the third year in a row. And for the second year in a row, a group of local foodbloggers, including yours truly, sets up a apple cake stand, Toidublogijate õunakoogikohvik. There are five of us, just like last year, and as last year was lots of fun and a great success (we sold all the cakes within 2 hours or so), we're more than happy to participate this year as well. So all of you who are in Tallinn or Viimsi tomorrow, are most welcome to come by and have some apple cake. But come early :)

    Today's recipe is for apple and Cheddar cheese scones. The ones on the picture were made exactly a year ago, and come highly recommended. If it weren't for the prohibitive cost of Cheddar cheese over here, I'd make these for the apple cake stand tomorrow. These are excellent - slightly sweet, slightly savory, full of roasted apples and strong-flavoured cheese - a great snack first thing in the morning or with your afternoon cup of tea.

    The original recipe appeared in Melissa Clark's "The Perfect Finish" (2010, Apple and White Cheddar Scones), but I've played with the amounts and ingredients a little. Smitten Kitchen and Leite's Culinaria have blogged about the same recipe from the same book (these are helpful when you're looking for US measurements). And a search for apple cheddar scones gives numerous results on the FoodBlogSearch, if you're looking for something slightly different.

    Apple and Cheddar Cheese Scones
    Makes 6 large scones
    Apple and Cheddar Scones / Õuna-juustukakud

    3 to 4 large apples (about 450 g/1 pound in total)
    200 g all-purpose flour
    4 Tbsp + 1.5 Tbsp caster sugar
    0.5 Tbsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    85 g cold butter, cut into cubes
    100 g strong/mature Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
    4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) fresh cream (single or double)
    2 large eggs, divided

    Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper. Peel the apples, remove the cores and cut apples into thin sectors. Place on the baking sheet on an even layer, and bake at 180 C/350 F for about 20 minutes.
    Remove from the oven, let cool.

      Apple and Cheddar Scones / Õuna-juustukakud

    Mix the dry ingredients (flour, 4 Tbsp of sugar, baking powder and salt). Place the cubed cold butter into your food processor. Add the apples, grated cheese, fresh cream and 1 egg. Scatter the dry mix on top. Using the slowest setting, quickly mix the dough until it just comes together.

     Apple and Cheddar Scones / Õuna-juustukakud

    Line a baking sheet with a clean parchment paper.

    Place the scone mixture onto a lightly floured table, sprinkle some flour on top as well. Gently roll  it into a round disk, about 3.5 cm high. Cut into 6 sectors and transfer these onto the baking sheet, leaving some space between the scones.

    Whisk the remaining  egg with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with the egg wash, then sprinkle with the rest of the sugar.

    Bake in the middle of a preheated 180 C oven for about 30 minutes, until the scones are lovely golden brown.

    Let cool a little, then transfer onto a metal rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.