Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Recipe for buckwheat with leeks and soy sauce

Tatar porru ja sojaga / Buckwheat groats with leeks and soy sauce

What's your standby side dish? Pasta? Rice? Couscous? Bulghur? Potatoes? While these figure most frequently in our kitchen as well, then we also have buckwheat about once a fortnight or so. It's easy to cook and the slightly nutty flavour of this pseudo-grain complements quite a few dishes nicely.

Despite its name, buckwheat is not a wheat nor a cereal grain, but belongs to the same family with rhubarb and sorrel. The flavour is hearty and earthy, and it's quite a health food, being nutritionally high in all eight amino acids, calcium, vitamins B and E, and low-GI.

Just some years ago, the buckwheat meant just three things to most people - the Japanese soba noodles, Russian blini and the Breton crepes - all made with buckwheat flour. The hulled and roasted buckwheat kernels - buckwheat groats (kasha) - didn't figure at all, unless you lived somewhere in the Northern and Eastern outskirts of Europe. The Flavour Bible (2009), an excellent compendium of what-goes-with-what written for the American audience, doesn't even mention buckwheat. Heidi Swanson briefly mentions buckwheat flour in her Super Natural Cooking (2007), and suggests combining it with buckwheat honey and tart berries (cranberries, cherries, and such like) - there are no recipes in her book, though you'll find many on her excellent blog, 101 Cookbooks.

And then recipes started popping up here and there. Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours has a great choice of buckwheat recipes, though all using the flour, not the groats (her buckwheat-poppyseed sablés were lovely!). Estonian-American food writer and nutritionist Marika Blossfeldt has several buckwheat recipes in her Essential Nourishment, including kasha casserole and vegetable soup with kasha. Oh, and yours truly has been sharing her favourite buckwheat recipes over the years - see links below :)

2013 seems to be the year of the buckwheat, at least the year of the buckwheat becoming more and more  mainstream.

The Wall Street Journal started the year with Buck-Wild for Buckwheat, including a recipe for San Francisco's Tartine Bakery's buckwheat hazelnut sablés (January 4th, 2013).  The Kitchn praised it recently (Buckwheat: The New Baking Star, January 15, 2013, and Buckwheat for breakfast! 5 stunning ways to fall in love with buckwheat, February 26, 2013). The Guardian followed suit - one of the hottest chefs in Britain Yotam Ottolenghi shared his recipes for buckwheat polenta, and polenta and rice salad with dried cherries and hazelnuts (March 15, 2013). I'm sure more will follow.

Here's a simple buckwheat dish I love making for myself and the kids. Great way to use up leftover cooked buckwheat, though I admit I often cook buckwheat in order to have some left over for this particular dish. Note that it's vegan - and if you use tamari soy sauce, then it's also suitable for those avoiding gluten (buckwheat itself is gluten-free, despite the name).

If you're a fellow buckwheat lover, you may want to check out the Buckwheat Recipes Pinterest board, where you'll find 40+ great pins leading you to some wonderful foodbloggers' recipes. If you'd love to contribute to that board, then just leave your Pinterest handle in the comments and I'll send you an invite!

Buckwheat with leeks and soy sauce
(Tatar porrulauguga)
Source: L. Virkus, A. Kang, H. Ilves "Wok-toidud" (2002, in Estonian), slightly adapted
Serves 4

Tatar porru ja sojaga / Buckwheat groats with leeks and soy sauce

2 Tbsp oil
1 large leek, white and pale green part only
400 g cooked buckwheat (just under a pound)*
3 Tbsp soy sauce, or to taste

Halve the leek lengthwise, rinse off any dirt, if necessary. Cut into thin slices.

Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan/skillet over moderate heat. Add the leeks and sauté for a minute.

Turn up the heat, add the cooked buckwheat and fry, stirring constantly, until the buckwheat is heated through.  Season to taste with soy sauce and serve.

* To cook the buckwheat groats, heat some oil in a saucepan, add the groats and give them a quite stir for a few minutes. Add boiling water (the ratio is 2 parts groats to 5 parts water) bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and fluff up with a fork before serving. NOTE that I prefer buying raw groats - if you only have that dark kasha available, you can skip the toasting bit.

More buckwheat recipes here on Nami-Nami:
Buckwheat with beets and dill
Cabbage and buckwheat kasha
Buckwheat kasha with mince
Warm buckwheat and mushroom salad
Buckwheat with beef liver
Buckwheat and mushrooms casserole

Friday, April 12, 2013

Saucy Asian Meatballs recipe

Aasia lihapallid hoisini-marinaadis / Asian meatballs in a hoisin marinade

There was a day in early December last year that involved a small round turning table, a batch of beautifully styled Saucy Asian Meatballs from Ali's Gimme Some Oven blog, one of my favourite white serving plates, our beautiful white and heavy cotton living room curtains, and our almost-two-year-old son Aksel. I don't want to go into details, but let me assure you that when you immediately remove those curtains and tuck them immediately into your washing machine, the sticky sauce consisting of hoisin sauce and dark soy sauce does wash off. Eventually.

And luckily, the recipe makes loads. So even if you have to throw half of the saucy meatballs away, as the tiny shards of your favourite serving plate and white sesame seeds are almost indistinguishable from each other, and we're not really encouraging eating stuff off the floor in our household anyway, then you still have enough to eat - and photograph - as well.

These have a pretty strong flavour, so they're more for nibbling than consuming in huge quantities.

Saucy Asian Meatballs* 
(Aasia lihapallid
Source: Gimme Some Oven
Serves about 8

Aasia lihapallid hoisini-marinaadis / Asian meatballs in a hoisin marinade

1 kg mince (I used a mixture of beef and pork)
2 tsp sesame oil
250 ml (1 cup) panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs
1 Tbsp grated garlic
100 ml / 7 Tbsp finely chopped scallions/spring onions
0.5 tsp salt

175 ml hoisin sauce
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp grated garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sesame oil

white sesame seeds
finely chopped scallions/spring onions

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Mix together the meatball ingredients in a big bowl. Shape into balls about 3 cm (just over 1 inch). Place onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until meatballs are golden brown and cooked through.

Meanwhile, whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl until well blended.

Once the meatballs are cooked, dip them into the sauce until covered.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions/spring onions and serve warm.

* I have to thank Estonian food blogger Juta, who reminded me about these meatballs earlier today :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Some links about Estonian food

Tulbid / Tulips

I'll be compiling my annual "Where to eat out in Tallinn and elsewhere in Estonia" 2013 round-up soon (yep, even with three small kids I've been able to visit a café and restaurant or two, quite surprisingly :)), but until I do that, I leave you with some links about Estonian food and/or food in Estonia.

Based in Toronto? Then listen to David Sax and head over to The Estonian House for some lovely "pirukad": Pass the pirukas! At the Estonian House Café, meaty mains and deadly desserts bring the Baltic to Broadview (The Grid, March 20, 2013)

A first generation American of Estonian descent, Andres Simonson, explains the concept of Estonian smörgåsbord: Külmlaud - the guided tour (Estonian World, March 10, 2013)

London-based Swedish food writer Ana Maria Espsäter shares her impressions about the Estonian food and recommends places in Tallinn and outside the capital: Tallinn's mix of traditional and new (Just About Food, April 8, 2013)

Riina Kindlam's article in a January issue of Toronto-based online magazine Eesti Elu/Estonian Life cites yours truly and features one of my homemade cheese photos: Voulez-vous some SUIR or some SÕIR ce soir? (January 26, 2013)

If you read Finnish, then check out Sikke Sumari's overview about Tallinn restaurant scene: Jauhoton suklaakakku ja pari osoitetta Tallinnasta (Iltasanomat blog, April 12, 2013).

If you read Estonian, then Triin Paaver has been musing about the ethical aspects of foodblogging: Toidublogija rollist, vastutusest ja Tšiili hanemaltsast.

The photo above was taken in our garden in May 2012. Not sure our tulips will be in full bloom any time soon - it was still snowing yesterday! - but we're being hopeful. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Recipe for DIY Bounty bites aka homemade Mounds candy bars

Bounty Bites / Bounty kompvekid

Some home-made candy bars for a change. If you live in the US, then you'd think of these as Mounds, the candy bar produced by Hershey's. Everywhere else - including UK and Canada - you'd recognise these as Bounty, the candy bar produced by Mars Inc. A dense and sweet coconut centre, enrobed with either dark or milk chocolate.

I used milk chocolate (the American equivalent would be Almond Joy without the almonds :)), and made small cubes instead of the traditional oblong bar shape. I must admit we ate half of the coconut cubes before we even dipped them into chocolate :)

There are links to several homemade Bounty/Mounds recipes at the end of this post - do check these out as well.

DIY Bounty bites aka home-made Mounds candy bars
(Kodune Bounty)
Makes about 3 dozen

Bounty bites / Bounty kookosekommid

Coconut filling:
300 g desiccated unsweetened coconut flakes
300 g sweetened condensed milk
150 g butter, at room temperature

Chocolate glaze:
300 g dark or milk chocolate

I used the mixing bowl of my standing mixer, but you could also simply use your hand muscles to prepare the coconut mixture.

Place the butter and coconut into the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly - about 1-2 minutes. Add the condensed milk and mix for another 2-3 minutes, until thoroughly combined.

Line a small baking sheet/tray/tin with a parchment/baking paper. Transfer the coconut mixture into the tin and press into a block about 2 cm/0.8 inches high. Cover and put into the fridge for about 3 hours or freezer for about 1 hour.

Remove from the fridge/freezer, transfer the coconut block onto a cutting board and cut into 2x2 cm (0.8 x 0.8 inch) cubes. Like this:

Bounty bites / Bounty kookoskuubikud

Now there are two ways to proceed. First, cover a small tray with parchment paper and put aside.

If you prefer your candy bars at room temperature, then melt and temper your chocolate (here's a good article about tempering the chocolate or see my instructions below), dip each coconut cube into the melted chocolate until coated, then place onto the prepared tray. Cool completely, then keep in a cool place until ready to serve.

If you want to avoid tempering the chocolate - or simply like your sweets cold - then you can simply dip these into melted chocolate to coat, then place onto the prepared tray and put into the freezer. The butter and sweetened condensed milk keep these blocks from freezing completely, so you can always just grab one candy bar and enjoy straight from frozen. (This is how I enjoyed them, but then I also like my brownie bites straight from the freezer).

Why and how to temper the chocolate? The Internet - and food blogs - are full of detailed instructions on how to temper chocolate - and why. The latter is easy - unless you temper the chocolate, the chocolate-glazed candy bars/bites will lack the shine and the snap, both very desirable elements. "How" is trickier and indeed, tempering can be a hit-and-miss. I've followed this simplified seed-technique for tempering. Place about 2/3 of your chopped up chocolate (or, indeed, chocolate pellets - and NOT compound chocolate!) into a heat-proof bowl and place the bowl on top of a small saucepan, where you've brought about 5 cm/2 inches of water into simmer. Let the chocolate melt slowly, stirring as you go along. Remove from the heat, stick a chocolate thermometer into the bowl. Now add the "seed chocolate" or the chocolate you put aside at the beginning in two or three installments and keep stirring the chocolate and cooling it. Once all the added chocolate pellets have melted, you must continue stirring the chocolate, until it registers 28 C on the thermometer - that will probably take about 15-20 minutes of active stirring, so be patient! You can then gently re-heat the chocolate - either over the waterbath, on top of a hot water bottle or by hovering your hair-drier over the chocolate - until it's about 30-31 C (best temperature for working with chocolate). 

Other foodbloggers making these:
Batoniki a la Bounty by Ania @ Strawberries from Poland (recipe in Polish)

Similar recipes:
Nourishing and scrumptious "Mounds" candy bars by Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet
Homemade Bounty by Dagmar @ A Cat in the Kitchen
Homemade coconut Bounty candy bars by Christina @ Scientifically Sweet
Mounds candy bars by Elena @ Elena's Pantry
Homemade Bounty bars by Louise @ Lick that Spoon
Homemade Bounty by Eva @ Made by Eva
Easy homemade Bounty bars aka Mounds by Marie @ Not Enough Cinnamon
DIY Bounty barres by Emilie @ Emilie and Lea's Secrets (recipe in French)
Isetehtud Bounty šokolaad by Sandra @ Sentjurin Food Production (recipe in Estonian)
Kookoskommid šokolaadis ehk kodused Bounty'd by Teevi @ Ampsukas (recipe in Estonian)
Kookostrühvlid by Silja @ Jagatud rõõm (recipe in Estonian)

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Purukook or streusel cake - Estonian crumb cake recipe

Lihtne purukook / Estonian crumb cake

This Estonian classic - purukook (crumb cake, streusel cake) - is another recipe request. Over the last few years I've got several e-mails asking for this simple cake recipe, yet somehow I've never managed to blog about it until now. The basic ingredients are few - butter, flour, sugar (for the crumb), and some kind of thick jam filling. That simple.

There are several "schools" of making purukook. Some use cold butter, some soft (I find using cold butter makes for a crumblier crumb). Some use just the crumb base, some add an egg to the bottom mixture to make it firmer (I do). Most jams would work, I prefer something tart like thick apple or apple and cranberry or apple and lingonberry jam. The cake on the photos is made with raspberry jam - in that case I also throw in a handful of shredded or desiccated coconut into the topping mixture.

I've got a special question to väliseestlased aka Estonian expats. Have you tried making purukook before? Is it something that was popular among the expat Estonians? Would love to know that.

Estonian crumb cake "Purukook"
(Klassikaline purukook)

Purukook / Estonian crumb cake

400 g (3 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour (1/3 to 1/2 can be spelt or wholemeal flour)
85 grams (3 oz) caster sugar
a pinch of salt
200 g (7 oz or 2 Tbsp less than 2 sticks) cold butter, cubed
1 egg

500 g thick jam/marmelade

Line a 25x35 cm cake tin or a Swiss roll tin with a parchment paper or butter generously.

Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F.

Measure the flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and using a knife or your fingers, cut and mix until the mixture reminds of a wet sand. (You can do it in your food processor).

Transfer about 1/3 of the mixture into a small bowl and put aside - this will be your crumb mixture. (Feel free to add a handful of desiccated coconut to this mixture, or perhaps some cinnamon or other spices).

Add the egg to the remaining mixture and combine until wet crumbs form. Scatter into the cake tin, spread evenly and then press down with the palm of your hand.

(If your filling is on the soft side, you may want to pre-bake the base for about 15 minutes, until golden.)

Spread the filling evenly over the (partially baked) base. Scatter the crumb mixture evenly on top.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes, until the crumb mixture is light golden brown.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool before cutting into small bars.

This recipe was featured on:
Countlan magazine, issue 4 (Summer 2013)

Similar recipes in other food blogs:
Purukook by Mari-Liis @ Siit nurgast ja sealt nurgast (recipe in Estonian)
Kodune purukook by Ragne @ Kokkama Ragnega (recipe in Estonian)
Purukook õunamoosiga by Sandra @ Taimetoit.ee (vegan, recipe in Estonian)
Mustade ploomide ja rummiga purukook by Sille @ Toidutegu (recipe in Estonian)
Šokolaadi ja Beluga läätsedega purukook by Anneli @ Kiilikese toidulaud (recipe in Estonian)
Rukkijahu-õuna purukook by Silja @ Jagatud rõõm (recipe in Estonian)

Thursday, April 04, 2013

How do you take your tea? Russian Revels and their Tea Horse tea

Enjoying the Russian Revels black tea with lemon and cloves

Although I like my coffee - a lot - I've been drinking more tea again recently. My tea-loving friends are to blame - first KAFO sent me nine jars of their just t's Black Label No X teas  to try (I'm still in love with their Luxury Earl Grey tea that I used to me those dainty Earl Grey cookies). Then a Tallinn-born and London-based food blogger Katrina of The Gastronomical Me mentioned that she and her food-loving friend Karina have created a tea blend.

Tea blend? I knew that film stars, singers, models and such like always end up creating their own perfume, but apparently that's so old-fashioned. Nowadays you blend your own tea :D

Karina and Katrina together run a supper club in London, called The Russian Revels, hosting Russian feasts with Slavic generosity, Soviet attitude and British humour. These two Russians joined forces with London-based tea club Tea Horse and  came up with their own tea blend, called "Russian Revels". The tea was included in the March 2013 taster box:

"A bright Ceylon Uva black tea is blended with lemon and cloves for a refreshing and lightly spicy infusion. Enjoy black, with a splash of milk or a slice of fresh lemon for an extra citrus zing."

I know I spent seven years in bonnie Scotland, but never got used to drinking tea with milk. Instead I've been enjoying this tea for almost daily now, always with a slice of lemon, like instructed. Lovely - the cloves add a surprisingly mellow, yet distinct flavour - nothing chai-like at all.

If you're based in the UK and if you like your tea, you may want to give the Tea Horse's subscription a go.

Russian Revels & Tea Horse

Disclaimer: I was sent the 75 g packet of tea for free by aforementioned Karina. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Nami-Nami Easter Brunch 2013

Nami-Nami traditsiooniline kevadpühade brunch 2013 / Nami-Nami's traditional Easter brunch 2013

Another Easter Sunday, another traditional Easter brunch at the Nami-Nami household. We were no less that 25 this time, including lots of kids. The number keeps growing and growing - no wonder considering that our own little family consists of five persons already! Had all the invitees made it, we would have been no less than 36 :)

The weather was bright and sunny, but pretty cold. It was snowing in the morning, and the children actually made two snowmen while playing outside during the afternoon! Not something you associate with Easter Sunday, I'd say, but then Easter was pretty early this year. Still, some of the guests ventured outside for a while and were basking in the sun on our south-facing patio. Very spring-like :)

As always, I tried to devise a menu that'd be light and spring-like, colourful and bright. I outsourced some of the dishes, and prepared some myself on Saturday evening and the rest on Sunday morning. Considering how quickly everything disappeared, we hit the spot (or perhaps I simply didn't make enough food?).

Here's the full menu:
Menüü / The menu

We started - as always - with Mimosa cocktails, this time made with freshly squeezed blood oranges:
Veriapelsini-mimosa / Blood orange Mimosa

Our friends Kristiina and Paavo and their daughter Gretel brought along this beautiful citrus salad. Kristiina simply makes the best salads in our neighbourhood!Kristiina & Greteli kevadine salat

There was a colourful dish of fresh trout/salmon, avocados and arugula leaves, drizzled with a lime and olive oil, the recipe from one of the top Estonian bloggers, Mari-Liis: Mari-Liisi lõhe-avokaadosalat / Salmon and avocado salad

I made small cucumber bites with herb and garlic cream cheese (a last-minute idea from Annie's Eats):
Kurgi-toorjuustuamps / Cucumber and herby cream cheese

Small tattie scone buttons with smoked salmon mousse: Kartulipannkoogid ja suitsulõhekreem / Tattie scones with smoked salmon spread

Marinated sprats (Sprattus sprattus balticus), bought from the Ristemäe Talu stall at my local farmer's market. A great mix of small fish, herbs, lemon and seasoning:
Ristemäe talu "presidendi kilud"

Another sprat dish, this time a tart using spiced canned sprats in oil on a bed of sautéed leeks and onions - a recipe from another great Estonian food blogger, Sille: Frieda sibula-sprotipirukas / Onion and sprat tart

Deviled beet eggs, of course: Beetroot devilled eggs / Deviled beet eggs / Täidetud peedimunad

A small bowl of tiny chorizo meatballs for all the kids out there:Chorizo lihapallid / Chorizo meatballs

A big tray of simple roasted cauliflower (two huge heads of cauliflower, olive oil, salt'n'pepper) - not a morsel was left!
Röstitud lillkapsas / Roasted cauliflower / Roast cauliflower

And another hit, prepared by our friends Liina and Tauno and involving caramelised onions and fried kid liver and hearts (kid = cabrito = young goat): Perekond Vahter ja seitse kitsetalle :)

The desserts included this really lovely carrot and cream cheese cake with lime: Carrot and cream cheese cake / Porgandi-toorjuustukook

The traditional paskha, made again by our dear friends Paavo, Kristiina and Gretel:
Kristiina & Greteli pasha / Paskha, made by our friends

and a huge pile of Estonian profiteroles aka choux puffs filled with cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk:
Tuuletaskud-tuuleoad / Profiteroles, Estonian style

I'll try to blog about some of the dishes over the next few weeks or months - and if there's anything that you'd definitely want me to blog about, let me know in the comments. I may not be able to do it this week, but I'll try my best.

What did you eat on Easter Sunday? 

See overviews of our previous Easter brunches:

Easter brunch 2012, featuring crostini with dill-marinated pork tenderloin, Ms Marmite Lover's focaccia shots, marinated olives, Estonian mushroom salad, cold-smoked salmon, a delicious paskha, cardamon-scented apricot and curd cheese cake, and much more.

Easter brunch 2011, featuring a pretty (imitation) snow crab salad, beet quail eggs, two types of home-made Estonian cheese "sõir", smoked salmon with horseradish dip, wild garlic (ramp) pesto with almonds, crostini with white cheese and red onion jam, puff pastry rolls with feta, white bean salad with  chorizo, Limoncello, coconut and white chocolate tart.

Easter brunch 2010, featuring spinach and hot-smoked salmon salad with quail eggs, green beans and asparagus, Marika Blossfeldt's quinoa salad with beets and fennel, savory cheesecake with goat cheese and chives, Ottolenghi's cucumber salad with poppyseeds, bean salad with lemon and parsley, Baltic herring with cherry tomatoes and herbs, Estonian home-made cheese "sõir", paskha, traditional Simnel cake, and another cake with coconut, lemon curd, elderflower cream and lemon balm.

Easter brunch 2009, featuring bright green pea soup shots, zucchini rolls stuffed with goat cheese, hazelnuts, figs and mint, peppered beef fillet, marbled beetroot eggs and marbled turmeric eggs, layered surimi "crab" and egg salad, pineapple carpaccio with mint sugar, matcha madeleines, and two different paskhas.

We also hosted Easter brunches in 2007 and 2008, but somehow I didn't document their properly. I can see on Flickr what was on the table back in 2007, but that's about it.