Thursday, February 23, 2012

Estonian recipes: fried pork escalopes in marinade

Fried pork in marinade /  Praetud liha marinaadis

I'm thrilled to share another wonderful Estonian dish with you - fried pork slices in marinade, served cold. It's been a popular dish on various buffét tables for many decades, and as it can be made ahead - and it keeps well in the fridge - it's a useful recipe to have in your repertoire. You can eat it alongside a traditional potato salad, or perhaps on a slice of good dark rye bread - remember, it's a cold dish.

I've used pork shoulder (kaelakarbonaad) for making this, but you could also use any other soft boneless cut.

Fried pork in marinade
(Praetud sealiha marinaadis)
Serves 10 to 12

1 kg boneless pork (blade shoulder, Boston butt, loin)
a scant cup of all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 large eggs, lightly whisked
oil, for frying

1.5 litres water
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 onions, peeled, halved and sliced
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1.5 Tbsp sugar
1.5 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp vinegar (30%)

Cut the pork into 1 cm slices, across the grain. Place the meat between two sheets of cling film or parchment paper. Using a mallet or a rolling pin, pound the meat on both sides until it forms a thin escalope. Cut each escalope into smaller pieces, about 4x5 cm in size.
Season the flour with salt and pepper, dip the meat pieces into flour and then into whisked egg.
Heat the oil on a frying pan over moderate heat. Fry the meat slices until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Remove from the pan and transfer into a bowl and let cool.

Now make the marinade. Place all the ingredients - apart from the vinegar - into a small saucepan and bring into a boil. Simmer gently, until the carrot slices are al dente (crisp). Remove from the heat, add the vinegar, and let cool.

Pour the marinade over the meat slices. Cover and let stand for at least 24 hours before serving.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Estonian recipes: Barley with Smoked Pork (vastlapuder)

Lenten porridge (Barley porridge with bacon) / Vastlapuder / Kruubipuder suitsulihakuubikutega
February 2012

It's Shrove Tuesday today, and I'm sharing a traditional Estonian Shrove Tuesday recipe with you. You'll need exactly three ingredients - pearl barley, smoked pork and water (and some salt to taste, if necessary). Cheap, simple, filling, flavoursome, and surprisingly delicious :)

You'll need a good chunk of smoked pork - ribs are perfect, though I've often used a fattier smoked cheek. This particular piece of meat is called maasuitsuribi (country-smoked ribs) in Estonian:

Smoked pork ribs / Maasuitsuribi

Note that this porridge reheats rather well - just slowly warm it until piping hot on your frying pan. I like to serve this with some sour cream.

Barley Porridge with Smoked Pork
Serves four to six

Lenten porridge (Barley porridge with bacon) / Vastlapuder / Kruubipuder suitsulihakuubikutega

200 g smoked pork (rib, cheek or thickly cut bacon)
175 g pearl barley, rinsed and drained
1 l boiling water
salt, to taste

Cut the smoked pork into dice:

Cubed smoked pork cheek / Suitsupõsk, vastlapudru jaoks

Fry the pork cubes in a heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, until browned and slightly crispened. (Drain off the excess oil, if necessary - various cuts of pork are rather different. Leave about a tablespoon or two of pork fat).
Add the pearl barley and sauté for about a minute, stirring.
Add the boiling water. Reduce heat, cover the pan with a lid. Simmer on a low heat for about an hour, stirring couple of times, until the barley is just ever so lightly al dente (you don't want it to go too mushy).
Taste for seasoning, add some salt, if necessary.

Lenten porridge (smoked pork cheek, barley) / Vastlapuder
February 2008

Yellow split pea soup with smoked pork
Traditional lenten buns
Lenten buns with raspberries and marzipan
Chocolate-y lenten buns

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cover Girl

Estonian family magazine "Pere & Kodu" ("Family and Home"), February 2012, front cover

Not sure how that happened and why, but in January I was approached by the Pere ja Kodu ("Family and Home"), the biggest family magazine published in Estonia. They asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed for the cover story of their February issue. I must admit I was pretty baffled - me? I know that my Estonian recipe site is popular (I get about 3000 unique visitors each day), that the two cookbooks have done well, that my regular monthly recipe column in Postimees, my one-week stint cooking on the breakfast show at the national television (I'll blog about that soon, promise!), and numerous radio interviews mean that many people would recognise the Nami-Nami name quite well. Still, cooking and writing about the food is something I do in the privacy and intimacy of my own home, for my close friends and dear family, so it's sometimes hard to comprehend that it's actually not so private and intimate after all.

A three-hour interview with a lovely journalist and two photo-shoots with an even lovelier photographer resulted in a nice long article and some pretty glamorous family photos :) The article doesn't talk about cooking as such. Instead it focuses on balancing family life, academic career and my cooking hobby; on my attempts to involve kids in the cooking process and developing a healthy relationship to food and eating; on baby-led weaning (a topic very close to my heart); on keeping and sustaining family harmony (of a kind that's possible with two tiny lively kids); and on my appreciation of the Estonian social welfare system that lets me stay at home for about 18 months with each kid (keeping my full salary).

So if you read Estonian, and want to learn more about all that, go to your nearest newspaper stand and get the February 2012 issue of Pere and Kodu :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Estonian recipes: Condensed Milk Cookies (kondenspiimaküpsised)

Condensed milk cookies / Kondenspiimaküpsised

I'm continuing with sharing Estonian recipes with you this month, in anticipation of the national holiday later this month. Here's a small baking project for the weekend - small, delicious and crispy-tender condensed milk cookies. The recipe is adapted from a classic Estonian cookbook "Valik toiduretsepte" (the 1974 edition), where they're called simply "milk cookies". The sweetened condensed milk gives those cookies not only a desired sweetness, but also a slight dulce de leche flavour, which I find very appealing.

Condensed Milk Cookies

250 g all-purpose/plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
150 g cold butter, cubed
175 g sweetened condensed milk
2-3 Tbsp water

a small egg whisked with some water, for brushing

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla sugar) in a bowl, then add the cold cubed butter. Using a knife, cut the butter into the flour mixture, until it resembed wet crumbs. Now add the condensed milk and using your hands, knead into a ball (you may not need the water at all).
Place the dough into the fridge for half an hour, so the gluten can relax a little.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until 3-4 mm thick (1/8th of an inch). Cut into shapes (I cut into diamonds, using a roller cutter).
Transfer the cookies into a lined baking sheet and brush with an egg wash.
Bake in a preheated 200 C / 400 F oven until light golden brown.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Estonian recipes: Cocoa Cake with Sour Cream (Kräsupea)

Children's Birthday Cake / Kräsupea tort

This popped into my mailbox yesterday:

Manu has left a new comment on your post "Tapas, Estonian style":

My name is Manu and I`m looking for a estonian cake recipe... the problem is I don`t know the cake`s name, but it is a chocolate cake,with peaces of sponge cake with french cream.
Do you know any thing similar???
I just love this cake, I will be so thankful if you could help me.

After a moment of confusion, it hit me - Kräsupea, which translates as (someone with) curly hair, though "microphone hair" wouldn't be all wrong either! It's an ever-popular cake on children's birthdays, and I've made it for my two nephews on countless occasions. I don't know the exact origins of the cake, but it's been popular in Estonia since late 1980s or so.

Estonian cocoa and sour cream cake
Serves about 16

Kräsupea tort

The sponge cakes:
4 large eggs
340 g caster sugar (400 ml)
360 g all-purpose flour (600 ml)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400 g sour cream

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 kg sour cream

100 g butter
2 Tbsp fresh cream
3 Tbsp caster sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F. Line a small baking sheet (a Swiss roll tin is excellent) with a parchment paper, and line a 24 cm springform tin also with parchment paper.
Whisk the eggs, sugar, flour, soda and sour cream until combined. Quickly pour about 2/3 of the mixture onto a small baking sheet.
Now add the cocoa powder to the rest of the mixture, and then pour that into the lined round cake tin.
Place both of the baking tins into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown (test for doneness with a toothpick - it should come out clean).
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Place the dark cake on a cake tray, spread with a thick layer of sour cream.
Cut the light cake into large cubes, then mix gently with the rest of the sour cream - you don't want to break up the cake cubes. Pile that mixture of cake cubes and sour cream on top of the cocoa base - whether you want a dome or something flatter, is up to you.
To make the glaze, gently melt the butter, pour in the cream, cocoa and sugar. Stir until smooth and then drizzle over the cake. (This is the traditional "chocolate glaze" of the 1980s and 1990s, when proper chocolate was hard to come by. Feel free to substitute with proper melted chocolate glaze).

Leave to stand in the fridge or cool place for about 12 hours before serving.

Kräsupea kook

Estonian recipes: Alexander cake (Aleksandrikook)

Alexander cake / Aleksandrikook
Alexander cake, March 2011, dyed with sea-buckthorn juice concentrate

I'm dedicating February to various Estonian recipes, so if you've travelled to Estonia and want a specific recipe or two, let me know. Aleksandrikook aka Alexander cake has been requested here on Nami-Nami on several occasions, so it's about time to listen to my dear readers and post a recipe :)

To start with, Alexander cake is not actually Estonian in its origin, even though it's rather popular here and found in many traditional coffee and pastry shops. Our Nordic neighbours, Finns, claim the cake as their own. But then I've even come across recipes for Alexander cake in Latvian cookbooks, so it's popular in all over the North-Eastern corner of Europe.

Apparently its history goes back to 1814 or 1818, depending on your sources, when Alexander I of Russia, the reigning czar, visited Helsinki, and was served this concoction on his birthday. The cake is mentioned in Kullo manor's ledger books from 1819-1821. By 1850s, the cakes were sold in Café Ekberg (they still are, gorgeously pink in colour and sandwiched with apple spread).

In principle, it's a simple cake. Two layers of shorcrust pastry, sandwiched with thick raspberry (or other) jam, and topped with simple icing. However, as one talented Estonian food blogger has written somewhere, it's actually a tricky cake to do well. First, it's important not to overmix the pastry, as it won't have the right texture. It's important to roll out the pastry evenly, as otherwise it won't bake evenly. To lift one cake layer on top of the other is tricky as well - if you're unlucky, it'll break apart. If you're making this in a cafeteria, then you'll need to cut perfectly even-sized rectangles, and the glaze needs to be pretty and pink (or cocoa-brown, if you're opting for the cocoa glaze).

NOTE: this should be baked and put together a day before serving, otherwise it'll be too dry and crumbly!

Aleksander's cake / Aleksanterin leivos / Aleksandrikook
Alexander cake, September 2009, dyed with fresh black aronia juice and white chocolate

I've included some links to Estonian and Finnish foodbloggers that have written about the cake - you'll find them at the end of this post.

Alexander cake
Cuts into 12 rectangles

Alexander cake / Aleksandrikook
Alexander cake, March 2011, dyed with sea-buckthorn juice concentrate

Pastry layers:
125 g caster sugar (150 ml)
300 g all-purpose flour (500 ml, about 2 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
200 g butter, at room temperature
1 egg

250 ml (1 cup) thick raspberry jam

250 g icing sugar/confectioners sugar (about 400 ml)
3-4 Tbsp raspberry or black aronia juice

Make the pastry by mixing all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the butter, and using your fingers for mixing, mix until you've got large crumbs. Add the egg and quickly mix the pastry until it comes together.
Take a parchment paper that fits your baking sheet. Place the pastry on top of the paper and using a slightly floured rolling pin, roll the pastry to fit the baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated 175C/350F oven until dry and light golden brown (about 20 minutes).
Take out from the oven, and cut into two even-sized rectangles (the final cake will be half the size of your baking sheet). Cool lightly.*
Spread the jam over one shortcake base. Then very carefully lift the other shortcake layer on top of the one covered with jam.
Cut into squares (but don't separate the pieces) and leave to cool completely.
Make the glaze by mixing some colourful juice into the icing sugar until you've got a runny sugar glaze. Pour and spread that over the cake pieces and leave to set.

* Note that there is an alternative way of baking this cake - you'll sandwich two shortcake layers together with jam BEFORE baking (obviously you'll need to bake it a bit longer then). I've never tried this version.

Alexander cake / Aleksandrikook
Alexander cake, March 2011, dyed with sea-buckthorn juice concentrate

Fancy more? Here are some links to other foodbloggers' posts about Alexander cake - these give you a good idea about the different ways of glazing the cake.

Aniitram (a classic cocoa frosting and white frosting, zigzag pattern), MARU (Estonian designer and food writer), Qsti, Ragne, Liina, Sille

Kinuskikissa (one of the most popular Finnish foodbloggers, she used a cappuccino-flavoured glaze), Jaana, Sarppu (apple version), Maija (she uses marzipan in the filling!).