Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Green beans, Greek style

Green beans, Greek style

Today is the Greek independence day, commemorating the start of the War of Greek Independence back in 1821. I'm celebrating with sharing one of my favourite Greek dishes with you.

The recipe has been with me since early 1990s, and I remember clearly that I discovered it from a Finnish women's magazine. Cannot remember the exact date or the name of the magazine, but it was called "kreikkalainen papupata" or Greek bean stew. Since then - and that means for the last 20+ years - I've been making it every now and then. It's versatile - it's lovely when steaming hot, but also nice at room temperature and perfectly edible straight from the fridge. It goes equally well with some bread, or with a grilled steak, it can handle beer, water or wine. My kind of dish, you know :)

Green beans with tomatoes and feta
(Rohelised oad Kreeka moodi)
Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main dish

Kreeka oapada. Greek beans.

400 - 450 g frozen green beans, trimmed
2 large (red) onions, chopped
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
400 g canned chopped tomatoes
1-2 tsp dried Greek oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh flat-leaf/Italian parsley, chopped

To serve:
about 100 g of Greek feta

(If using fresh beans, then trim them first, then boil in plenty of salted water for about 5 minutes. Discard the liquid).

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the onion and fry gently for about 5 minutes, until the onions start to soften. Don't burn them!

Add the tomatoes, the green beans and some water (I usually just fill the empty tomato tin with water). Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes, until the beans are cooked and the tomato sauce thickened. Stir in the parsley.

Transfer the beans and tomato into a serving dish. Crumble some feta cheese on top.

Kreeka oapada. Greek beans.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gluten-free buckwheat cookies recipe

Tatraküpsised. Buckwheat cookies.

Are you on Pinterest? I am, with a nice number followers (thank you, all!) and various "boards". One of my boards is called buckwheat recipes, and I've been pinning various recipes there utilising this non-grain/pseudo-grain. Despite the name, you see, buckwheat is not a grass, but a plant related to sorrel and rhubarb.

During the recent months I've noticed that this particular board is getting new followers on a daily basis, and individual buckwheat recipes get repinned by increasingly many pinners. Buckwheat is "in". I guess the popularity of buckwheat recipes is caused by a) this "pseudo-grain" being gluten-free and hence suitable as a wheat substitute for all those avoiding gluten and b) some popular Paleo templates/frameworks allow small to moderate consumption of buckwheat dishes. Plus it has a lovely nutty flavour when baked.

Have you tried buckwheat? It's pretty popular here in Estonia and I've got several buckwheat recipes here on Nami-Nami (listed at the end of this post, see below). While I prefer cookies with buckwheat groats, then I tend to have some buckwheat flour in the house as well. It's the compulsory ingredient in blini, the small yeasted pancakes served with smetana and caviar. Plus I love this buckwheat cookies recipe that I discovered years ago in a British food giant's Sainsbury's client magazine. Apparently the original recipe is by Doves Farm, and you could also use rice flour instead of buckwheat flour. I prefer buckwheat, for it has a lovely flavour of its own. Note that my version has way less sugar (100 g instead of 150 g)  - if you've got a very sweet tooth, you may want to use more sugar perhaps.

I used to make these with chopped hazelnuts, but since our son is sensitive to hazelnuts, I've been using sliced/slivered almonds instead.

Have I missed your excellent buckwheat recipe and you'd like me to include it to the buckwheat recipes board? Leave a link to your blog post in the comments and I'll check it out!

Buckwheat cookies
Makes about 2 dozens

Buckwheat and almond cookies. Mandli-tatraküpsised.

125 g butter, at softened
100 g caster sugar
1 egg
150 g (light) buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
100 g chopped hazelnuts or chopped/sliced almonds

Heat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar, followed by the egg. Mix in the flour, baking powder and nuts/almonds, combine. (If the mixture is on the dry side, add a spoonful or two of cold water)*.

Take a heaped teaspoonful of the mixture, roll into balls and place onto the baking sheet. Gently press with a fork to flatten the cookie dough balls a little.

Tatraküpsised. Buckwheat cookies.

Bake for 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven until the cookies are light golden.

Let cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer onto the metal rack to cool completely.

* I've also used a different method - combined all the dry ingredients (buckwheat flour, sugar, baking powder), added the grated softened butter and the egg, and simply mixed everything and rolled into walnut-sized balls.

Buckwheat cookies. Tatraküpsised mandlitega.

More buckwheat inspiration here on Nami-Nami:
Buckwheat with leeks and soy sauce
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

More buckwheat cookies by other bloggers:
Buckwheat chocolate chip cookies by Karina @ gluten-free goddess
Multiseed buckwheat cookies  by Clotilde @ Chocolate & Zucchini
Nibby buckwheat butter cookies by Heidi @ 101 cookbooks
Buckwheat sugar cookies @ LA Times
Buckwheat chocolate chip cookies by Garrett @ Vanilla Garlic
Buckwheat chocolate chip cookies by Alanna @ The Bojon Gourmet

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Sibulaklops aka Estonian Onion Steak aka Pan-Seared Steak and Onions

Sibulaklops. Estonian onion steak.
Photo by Juta Kübarsepp for the February issue of Kodu ja Aed magazine. 

Time for another Estonian classic! There are two lovely-sounding dishes in Estonia, kooreklops and sibulaklops. The first one is pan-fried steak simmered in creamy gravy, the other is the kooreklops with a generous amount of fried onions. I've come across recipes for those dishes in Estonian cookbooks from almost a century ago, and they're still popular among Estonian home cooks. They've obviously stood the test of time.

The creamy gravy, thickened with flour and seasoned with smetana or sour cream (crème fraîche would work in a pinch) is an important element of the dish, and makes it different from your regular pan-fried steak and onions.

Cooked potatoes, potato mash, cauliflower or green vegetables would all work as a side dish.

Pan-fried steak and onions
Serves 6

600-800 g good-quality beef (boneless sirloin steak, entrecôte)
oil and butter, for frying
4 to 5 large onions
salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
500 ml (2 cups) beef bouillon or water
100 - 150 g smetana/sour cream/crème fraîche

Cut the beef into 1 cm (just under half an inch) slices, then gently pat them thinner, trying to give them an oblong oval shape. Season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add the beef slices and fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Transfer the meat onto a place and put aside.

If neccessary, add another spoonful of butter onto the skillet. Add flour and cook for a minute, stirring carefully. Now and the hot bouillon or water and stir, until you've got a thin gravy. Return the meat into the pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the meat is cooked. NB! If you're not using proper beef ("lihaveis" in Estonian), but meat from a dairy cow, the meat will require considerably longer time to reach the tender stage, so to test for doneness.

When beef is tender, then use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan and keep warm on a plate, covered with a piece of foil.

Add the sour cream to the sauce, cook for a few minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions. Peel the onions, halve lengthwise and then cut into thin slices. Melt another spoonful of butter and a spoonful of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

To serve: spoon the gravy onto a plate, top with a slice or two of beef and garnish with a very generous amount of fried onions. It is an onion steak after all :)

Sibulaklops on other foodblogs:
Tuuli @ Ise tehtud, hästi tehtud (recipe in Estonian) 

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Beetroot Brownies (wheat-free, possibly gluten-free)

Beetroot brownies.
Photo by Juta Kübarsepp for the March 2014 issue of Kodu ja Aed magazine. 

March. While in some far away corners this means new season's rhubarb and spring greens, then here in far North it's time to dig out the last of the last season's root vegetables and do something nice with them. Beetroot is one of my favourites (see all those beet recipes!?) and luckily it's one vegetable that's still nice and good at this time of the year.

Chocolate-laden brownies are loved by many, and here's a lovely version I've been baking recently. The cooked (either boiled or roasted) beet makes these extra moist and soft, and you can easily make this gluten-free by using appropriate flour (see notes below).


Beetroot and Dark Chocolate Brownies
Makes 16 small squares

200 g unsalted butter
200 g dark chocolate (70%)
200 g cooked beetroot
3 large eggs
200 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar or extract
100 g flour*
50 g coarsely chopped almonds or walnuts (optional)

* A note on flour: As my son is sensitive to wheat, I use rye - and a wholemeal rye - when baking this. You can use regular wheat flour for this, or even buckwheat or rice flour for a gluten-free version. 

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/390 F. Line a 24 cm (10 inch) square cake tin with parchment paper.

Break the chocolate into pieces, cut the butter into chunks. Place both into a small saucepan and heat gently on a low heat, stirring every now and then, until the chocolate melts. Remove from the hob and stir until combined. Leave and let it cool to room temperature.

Finely grate the beets, fold into the melted chocolate and butter mixture.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Gently fold in the vanilla, then the beet-chocolate-butter mixture. Finally fold in the flour and the nuts, if using. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes - or only until the cake looks cooked from the top. Remove from the oven and let cool before cutting into squares.

Photo by Juta Kübarsepp for Nami-Nami.