Friday, January 31, 2014

Braised Chinese leaves (Peking cabbage) in chicken stock

Chinese cabbage braised in chicken stock / Kanaleemes hautatud Hiina kapsas
This was originally posted in November 2012. I'm reposting this as it seems like a perfect recipe to share to celebrate the Chinese New Year :)

What do you usually do with a Peking cabbage/Chinese leaves/Chinese celery cabbage/Napa cabbage (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis)?

In Estonia you'll most likely to encounter it chopped into small dice or thin ribbons and mixed with chopped peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, perhaps some feta cheese, and served as a side salad. Not particularly interesting, but cheap and filling.

I hosted/instructed couple of Chinese cookery events earlier this year, and while preparing for the events, I spent hours browsing my favourite Chinese cookbooks, looking for recipes and inspiration. Fuchsia Dunlop and Ken Hom are my favourites for inspiration (currently in love with Dunlop's most recent book, Every Grain of Rice,  the US version is due in February), but Yan-kit So's Classic Chinese Cookbook, as well as Sasha Gong and Scott Seligman's The Cultural Revolution Cookbook provided a number of excellent dishes for the final menu.

One of the dishes that I included in the final menu, was this humble braised Chinese cabbage, served hot. This particular recipe is from Ken Hom's wonderfully approachable tome, Complete Chinese Cookbook (hardcover, published in August 2011), with tiniest of modifications (you'll find the original recipe for Braised Beijing (Peking) Cabbage in Cream Sauce on p 264); there are rather similar recipes for braised Chinese leaves in Sasha Gong's book (p 21), and in Yan-kit's book (p 205)).

Chinese cabbage braised in chicken stock / Kanaleemes hautatud Hiina kapsas

I was rather sceptical to start with - I had never had these leaves in a hot dish before (and don't care much for the raw version myself). However, this dish was a true revelation - the leaves become almost silky after braising, and the final dish was much bigger that the sum of its parts. As we were enjoying our meal at the end of the 2-hour cooking marathon, most of the participants were expressing their surprise regarding how much they enjoyed this dish, having not had very high expectations about cooking and eating a hot dish using Chinese leaves (and that happened three times, actually, as I hosted three Chinese cooking sessions, all sold out, and all having 15 participants).

Note the dish is gluten-free, and also vegetarian, if you use plain water instead of Chinese chicken stock. Not as flavoursome, but still tasty.

NB! There are few more Chinese recipes here on Nami-Nami.

Braised Peking cabbage in chicken stock
(Hautatud Hiina kapsas leeme sees)
Serves four to six

Chinese cabbage braised in chicken stock / Kanaleemes hautatud Hiina kapsas

500 g Chinese leaves
1 Tbsp groundnut oil
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
300 ml chicken stock (ideally Chinese-style chicken stock)* or water
1 tsp salt
0.5 tsp ground white pepper

To thicken:
2 tsp cornflour + 2 Tbsp water (optional)

Cut the Chinese leaves into 5 cm (2 inch) wide strips.
Heat the wok. Add oil and heat until hot and slightly smokey. Add the garlic, stir-fry for 15 seconds.
Add the cabbage leaves, stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Add the stock or water to the wok, season with salt and pepper. 
Reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes, until the cabbage leaves are softened.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the cabbage leaves from the pan and place into a serving dish.
Reduce the remaining liquid by half. Add the cornflour water, heat through to thicken*.
Pour the thickened stock over the cabbage leaves and serve at once.

* To be really honest, I've usually skipped the final thickening phase with cornflour and simply reduced the liquid.

Thank you, Marju, for helping me style this simple dish for the photo shoot.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sauerkraut with pork and barley (Mulgi kapsad)


Mulgi kapsad aka mulgikapsad is a traditional dish from Southern Estonia, consisting of pork, sauerkraut and barley (either pearl barley or barley groats). It doesn't sound much - but it's another one of those dishes that tastes much more and better that you'd imagine when looking at the (short and rather bland) list of ingredients. It's also cheap, filling and substantial, a perfect winter dish, which deserves attention outside Estonia as well. Hence this blog post.

You'll need fresh sauerkraut for this dish. When I say "fresh sauerkraut", I mean the uncooked, fermented and unpasteurized sauerkraut. Look for "barrel cured" sauerkraut, not the "wine cured", and find it either in Eastern European stores or in your local health food store. Or ferment your own! :)

* PS This dish is wheat-free. If you want a gluten-free version, then feel free to use porridge/pudding/risotto rice instead of barley. 

Sauerkraut with pork and barley
Serves 6 to 8

1 kg fresh sauerkraut
0,5-1 kg fatty pork (belly or Boston butt/shoulder)
200 g pearl barley, rinsed and drained
about 500 ml (2 cups) water
salt, to taste
sugar, to taste (optional)

Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Spread the sauerkraut at the bottom of the pot, then top with meat cubes, and scatter barley on top:

Now sprinkle with salt (about half a teaspoon should be enough in most cases) and pour over enough water to barely cover the ingredients. Cover with the lid, bring into a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for about 2-3 hours, until the food is done. NO NEED TO STIR IT, though you may want to peek under the lid couple of times and add a little water, if it seems too dry. (You can also cook it in the moderate oven, if you prefer).

This is how it'll look like when done - the pearl barley has swollen and the meat is tender:


It's only now that you're supposed to give it a good stir, so the sauerkraut, barley and pork would be nicely and evenly distributed:


Taste for seasoning - if you need, add a bit more salt. Some people add a bit of sugar as well, but I don't - it all depends on the flavour of your sauerkraut. Mulgi kapsad is not supposed to be sweet-and-sour, but you may need some sugar to balance the acidity, if your cabbage is very sour.

Serve with boiled potatoes, with a good dollop of nice thick sour cream on the side, if you wish.


Other bloggers writing about mulgikapsad:
Kiilike köögis (recipe in Estonian) (recipe in Estonian)
The Kitchen Mouse (recipe in English)
Estonian Cooking and Eating (recipe in English; some helpful comments there)
Emmanuel Wille (recipe in Estonia; slightly fancier "restaurant-style" version)
Talerka (recipe in Russian)
Suhkrusai (recipe in Estonian)
Ave köök (recipe in Estonian)
Sille toidublog (recipe in Estonian, she uses turkey)
Minu kodunurk (recipe in Estonian)
Silgud ritta (recipe in Estonian)
Igapäevane kokakunst (recipe in Estonian)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The 2-ingredient banana pancakes

Gluteenivabad banaanipannkoogid. 2-ingredient pancakes (gluten-free; bananas+eggs)

First there were the 3-ingredient cookies, consisting of bananas, oats and raisins. Now we're making 2-ingredient pancakes, consisting of bananas and eggs :)

I discovered the recipe in the summer, when it appeared on my friend Liina's blog, and since then we've made them quite a few times - mostly when we have over-ripe bananas on the counter, or simply want a sweet dessert that's ready in minutes. I've seen versions adding some coconut meal, ground almonds or oats, but as long as you make the pancakes small (mine are about 5 cm or 2 inches in diameter), they'll stay together with just two ingredients as well.

These are not vegan, as they contain eggs, but they do suit most other popular diets out there. Plus the kids love them!

Note that you need ripe bananas - the riper your bananas, the sweeter and nicer the pancakes!

I've served them with a sprinkling of cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Banana and egg pancakes
Serves 3 to 4

2-ingredient pancakes (bananas+eggs). Gluteenivabad banaanipannkoogid

4 smallish bananas
4 eggs

(coconut) oil, for frying

Peel the bananas, place into a medium-sized bowl and squash with your fork. Add the eggs, whisk with your fork until combined.

Heat some (coconut) oil on a frying pan over medium low heat. Drop small amounts of batter (about 2-3 Tbsp) onto the pan and fry until golden brown on both sides, flipping half-ways.


Banaanipannkoogid (gluteenivabad). 2-ingredient pancakes.

More of those pancakes:
Liina @ Da Vahtra Residence (recipe in Estonian)
Triin @ Mõtted ja maitsed (recipe in Estonian)
Jenni @ Liemessä Ruokablogi (recipe in Finnish)
Marika @ Viljavapa keittiö (recipe in Finnish)
Panda @ Piece of Panda (recipe in Finnish)
Jenni @ Pikkuisen pippuria (recipe in Finnish)
Emmi @ Emmin ja Terhin treeniblogi (recipe in Finnish)
Tine @ FITinspiration (recipe in Danish)
Lauryn @ The Skinny Confidential (recipe in English)
Eugenie @ Eugenie Kitchen (recipe in English)
Adam @ Lifehacker (recipe in English)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Easiest Homemade Cheese Crisp Recipe Ever (gluten-free and low-carb)

Imelihtsad juustuküpsised / Simple cheese cookies

I originally blogged about these baked cheese crackers back in early December 2007.  Back then I was teaching at the university during day-time and working as an intern at a restaurant in the evenings. Didn't have much time - or need - to cook at home, so these delicious and exceptionally easy cheese crisps were perfect as a late-night nibble.

Now, more than 6 years and 3 kids later, I still make these every now and then. Cheese is an ingredient I always have lurking in the fridge, as it's pretty versatile - and I love cheese. So whenever I bake something in the oven, I bake a batch of these as well. These are also suitable if you're on a low-carb and/or gluten-free diet. And if you go to sauna on Saturday evenings, like many Estonians do, then these go beautifully with beer.

You can use any semi-hard cheese on hand. I tend to use Eesti juust aka 'Estonian cheese' - a cheese similar to the Danish Havarti cheese which is available pretty much everywhere in the world. Cheddar and Parmesan would work as well, so really, use whatever you have in your fridge.

Easy Baked Cheese Crisps
(Imelihtsad juustuküpsised)

coarsely grated cheese
caraway seeds (optional, but nice!)

Take small heaps of grated cheese and place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Leave about 5 cm/2 inches between cookies, as they spread during baking.
Sprinkle some caraway seeds on each 'crisp', if you wish. I really love the taste of caraway seeds and find the flavour mingles wonderfully with cheese, but you could use cumin seeds or paprika powder or chilli flakes or anything else you like.
Place in the middle of pre-heated 180 C/350 F oven and bake for 5-7 minutes, until the cheese has melted and turned slightly golden on the edges. Remove the baking sheet from the oven (overbaked cheese is nasty and bitter, so be careful not to bake the crisps/cookies for too long!) and leave to cool.
The cheese crisps harden slightly when cooling.

Serve as an accompaniment to a glass of hõõgvein/mulled wine/glühwein/glögg, or even regular wine or beer.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

To keep you warm in those cold days: mulled apple juice (hot cider)

Mulled apple juice. Kuum õunajook.
Photo by Juta Kübarsepp for the January 2014 issue of Kodu ja Aed magazine (I made the drink and modelled for the photo :))

Do you love mulled wine or glögg or vin chaud or Glühwein? I do. However, once Christmas is behind us, I don't fancy red wine based mulled drinks - they simply feel too, well, Christmassy. However, this mulled apple drink is perfect for winter, and a great alternative to your regular mulled wine. And should you plan a winter walk and a small picnic, you can make a batch and put into your favourite thermos bottle!

I use cinnamon and ginger, and sometimes add star anise - feel free to play with different spices. My version is non-alcoholic, but feel free to add some calvados or rum or cognac to it ;)

Mulled apple glögg (non-alcholic)

(Alkoholivaba õunaglögi)
 Serves 6

Omenaglögi. Mulled apple drink. Vürtsidega õunaglögi, alkoholivaba.
Photo by Pille Petersoo for Nami-Nami

1 litre of good apple juice, homemade or bought
1 cinnamon stick
thumb-sized piece of ginger root
1-2 star anise (optional)
soft brown sugar or honey (optional)

Gently heat the apple juice in a saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick and peeled ginger (no need to chop, though of course you can do that), as well as the star anise. Cover and let infuse for about 15 minutes on a very low heat.

Pour through a sieve and serve in heat-tolerant glasses or mugs, sweeten with brown sugar or honey, if you wish.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Lamb and Puy lentils


January 6th - or today - is the last day to wish happy new year here in Estonia, so I'm just in time - Happy New Year, dear readers of Nami-Nami near and far! Wish you all a peaceful and productive year, full of delicious and nourishing food, with occasional treats and decadent moments!

We're in the middle of a very awkward winter here. While friends in the US and Canada are facing huge snowstorms, then we had a green and mild Christmas with temperatures hovering at around couple of degrees above zero (Celsius, that is). Most unusual and weird, though not unheard of. We're promised that the temperature drops towards the end of January and we'll get some snow as well, but I won't believe it until I see it. Still, hearty soups and stews are what we're cooking most at the moment - it is winter, after all - and this lamb with lentils was a great and promising start to the culinary year or 2014.

Oh, and as you can see, I'm now a proud owner of a beautiful red Staub Oval Cocotte - a Christmas present from my dear K (with special thanks to Tigu's Kristel for shipping one for me from Germany). I've already put this to good use.

Lamb with lentils
(Lammas läätsedega)
Serves four to six


about a kilogram of lamb pieces (on the bone)
rapeseed or olive oil
2 large onions
5 large carrots
2 celery sticks
70 g (about 3 Tbsp) concentrated tomato paste
100 ml dry red wine or port
600-800 ml (about 2,5-3 cups) beef bouillon/stock
175 g green (Puy) lentils, rinsed and drained
fresh parsley and/or rosemary, chopped

You can finish cooking this dish on the stove top or in the oven. If you're going to cook it in the oven, then preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F.

Peel the onions and carrots. Chop onions finely, roughly chop the carrots and celery sticks.

Season the lamb pieces with salt. Heat oil in a heavy cooking pot/Dutch oven and brown the meat pieces on all sides. Put aside.

Add the onions to the pot, sauté for 5 minutes on a moderately low heat, stirring every now and then.

Add the carrots and celery, increase the heat a little and fry for another 5 minutes.

Add the concentrated tomato pureé, fry for a couple of minutes. Pour in the wine, reduce by half.

Now return the browned lamb into the pot again, fitting the meat snugly between the vegetables. Pour over enough beef stock to nearly cover the meat. Put the lid on and simmer on a low heat or in the oven for about 2 hours, until the meat is pretty soft.

Now remove the lid and add the lentils. If the dish looks too dry, add a little stock or hot water as well. Cover again and cook for another 45-60 minutes, until the lamb is soft and falling off the bones and the lentils are cooked.

Season to taste, scatter fresh parsley and/or rosemary on top and serve.

We ate this as this, but you could serve it with rice or crusty wholegrain bread, if you wish.