Sunday, May 25, 2014

Creamy avocado pasta a la Safkaa

Avocado pasta / Avokaadopasta a la Safkaa

About two years ago all the Finnish food blogs and magazines were raving about avocado pasta. Hanna Gullichsen, a Finnish food writer, had published the recipe in her cookbook Safkaa. Parempaa arkiruokaa (Otava, August 2012)  and the recipe quickly became a No 1 hit, so to say, and well deservedly, as it is a lovely dish indeed.

Avocado pasta is nothing new, of course, but Safkaa blog (and book) brought it to the attention to the masses up here North, and we're thankful :)

We don't always get the best avocados here in Estonia, but if we do, I often make this dish for my family. It's easy, there's hardly any washing up (one pot to cook the pasta in, one large bowl to prepare the avocado mixture), and it's quite versatile. Though I like the original version with pecorino and parmesan (photo above), I quite often use a soft goat cheese or even salty feta cheese instead, resulting in a much creamier avocado pasta (photos below). While the Safkaa recipe uses basil and parsley, I often substitute coriander/cilantro, giving it a flavour palate of a nice guacamole. If you love pasta - and love guacamole and/or avocados in general - then do try this version.

You'll find the Safkaa's original recipe in Finnish here. I've included links to similar recipes at the end of the post.

Avocado Pasta Recipe
(Safkaa avokaadopasta)
Serves 4

400 g tagliatelle, linguini or spaghetti
1 fat garlic clove
half a red chilli or a generous pinch of chilli/red pepper flakes
1 lime
2 ripe avocados
extra-virgin olive oil
a small bunch of fresh basil
a small bunch of fresh coriander/cilantro or parsley
30 g Pecorino cheese, finely grated (about 7 Tbsp)
30 g Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 7 Tbsp)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

First boil the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt (about a tablespoonful of salt to a large pot of rapidly boiling water). Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (check the packet for the recommended cooking time). Do not cover the pot and always cook pasta on a rolling boil!

Avokaadopasta. Avocado pasta.

Meanwhile, make the avocado sauce (above). Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves, add to the serving bowl. De-seed the chilli, finely chop, add to the bowl.

Finely chop the avocado, add to the bowl. Drizzle with lime juice, season generously with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil, chopped herbs and most of the shredded cheese.

When the pasta is ready, reserve about 100 ml (just under 1/2 a cup) of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and add immediately to the avocado sauce. Now stir in some of the reserved starch-enriched cooking water, to help thicken and distribute the sauce more evenly.

Add the rest of the grated cheese and serve immediately. Enjoy al fresco, if possible :)

Avocado pasta. Avokaadopasta.

Similar recipes elsewhere:
Creamy avocado pasta @ Two Peas and Their Pod
Avocado and Goat Cheese Alfredo Pasta @ Closet Cooking
Creamy Avocado and Gouda Cheese Pasta @ Half-Baked Harvest
Avocado Pesto Pasta @ Gimme Some Oven
Avocado Pesto Pasta @ A Cosy Kitchen
Avocado Pasta @ Dessert for Two
Avokaadopasta @ Da Vahtra Residence (in Estonian)
Safkaa avokaadopasta @ Maitse asi (in Estonian)
Avokaadopasta @ Toidutegu (in Estonian)
Avokadopasta @ Pastanjauhantaa (in Finnish)
Avokadopasta @ Food and Then Some (in Finnish/English)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Asparagus and cheese tart recipe

Asparagus tart. Asparagus quiche.
Originally posted in May 2011, but I'm bumping this up again, as the local asparagus season has began. The photo above was taken by Juta Kübarsepp to illustrate my column in the May 2014 issue of Kodu ja Aed magazine here in Estonia.. 

Isn't it pretty? This lovely topless tart can be served either warm (perhaps with a green side salad) or cold (cut into thin slices to accompany drinks). It's a simple tart - a puff pastry base (I made a quick rough puff pastry myself) is covered with a layer of grated cheese, followed by an egg and cream mixture, and finally topped with lightly cooked asparagus spears. You could certainly mix the cheese in to the egg and cream mixture, but I loved the visual effect of using a separate cheese layer.

Asparagus and cheese tart
Serves 8 to 10

Asparagus tart / Sparglipirukas

500 g puff pastry (store-bought or home-made rough puff pastry)

24 medium-sized fresh green asparagus spears
150 g Gouda or Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated
3 large eggs
200 ml fresh cream (whipping, heavy or double)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Snap off the hard and woody lower end of the asparagus spears (these can be used to make stock, for instance). Cook the asparagus spears in a simmering and lightly salted water for about 2 minutes. Drain, rinse quickly under cold water and drain again. Put aside.
Line a rectangular pie dish (approximately 25x35 cm) with a parchment paper. Roll out a puff pastry so it'd cover the base and come up the sides a little. Prick with a fork here and there.
Scatter the grated cheese over the base.
Whisk the eggs with cream, season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Pour carefully over the cheese.
Place asparagus spears on top.
Bake in a preheated 200 C oven for about 30 minutes, until the tart is nicely golden on top and the puff pastry is cooked.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An easy breakfast: ahjusoojad kohupiimasaiad aka Curd Cheese Toasts

I'm reposting this post from February 2007, as it was listed as one of the 50 of the world's best breakfast dishes over at the few days ago. Although I'm trying not to eat too much white bread these days, I stopped at the local supermarket on the way back home from my firstborn's violin class, bought a bloomer, and made these at home. Being an Estonian, I obviously - and rather conveniently - already had some curd cheese at the fridge. And the kids - all three of them - loved these!

Here's an Instragram short of the toasts (you can follow my daily food related pics here):

And here's the original post from all those years ago:

I was flipping through the pages of a tired thin Estonian cookbook called "Kohupiimatoidud" the other day, looking for some nostalgic recipes. The cookbook was published in 1973, a year before I was even born, and is full of recipes utilising curd cheese, one of the very popular ingredients in Estonian kitchen (frequently featured here on Nami-nami blog, as you can see from the long list of curd cheese recipes at the end of this post). One of the recipes that caught my eye was for curd cheese toasts - something my mum used to make quite often to me and my sister. As I still had some white bread left after making Estonian tomato toasts, I decided to make my childhood recipe from the book for breakfast today. Creamy and sweet topping with a hint of vanilla, hot and crispy base - what more can one ask from a breakfast toast!? Of course, this would work just as well as a weekday dessert, especially if there are children in the house..

If you cannot find curd cheese (ask for tvorog in Russian and Polish shops), then try ricotta or fromage fraiche instead. As far as the bread is concerned, then try to get hold of wheat bloomer.

Estonian Curd Cheese Toasts
(Ahjus küpsetatud kohupiimasaiad)
Makes 6 toasts

250 grams curd cheese
3-4 Tbsp sugar
1 egg
vanilla extract or vanilla sugar, to taste
1 Tbsp sour cream or yogurt
6 slices of white bread (bloomer or brioche)

Mix curd cheese with sugar, vanilla, sour cream and egg.

Lay bread slices on a baking sheet, spoon the curd cheese mixture over:

Bake at 200 C for about 15 minutes, until the curd cheese mixture is slightly golden.
Serve warm with a cup of coffee, tea or glass of milk.

Here's a version with raisins: Ahjus küpsetatud kohupiimasaiad / Oven-baked curd cheese toasts

Other curd cheese recipes @ Nami-nami:
Curd Cheese Cake with Grated Apples (November 2006)
Curd Cheese & Apple Souffle (September 2007)
Easter Pashka (April 2006)
Lemony Curd Cheese Cake (May 2006)
Lemony Curd Cheese Tart (March 2006)
Milk Curd Cream with Blueberries (March 2006)
Sõrnikud alias curd cheese patties (plain or with carrots) (January 2006)
Vareniki dumplings with curd cheese filling, served with home-made apricot jam & pistachios (July 2007)

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Best rhubarb muffins recipe ever

I just baked a batch and had to dig out this recipe from the depths of Nami-Nami and share this with you again :) The post is actually from 2007, the photo below from 2009. They are still my very favourite rhubarb muffins!!!

Rhubarb muffins / Rabarbrimuffinid

We are still enjoying the rhubarb bounty. Here's a recipe for really moist rhubarb muffins that I made twice last week. Firstly, they were served at a 'girly' housewarming/birthday party last Thursday, attended by all my aunties (that's three maternal and one paternal), my parents (my dad was unable to attend the 'real' birthday party on a previous weekend), as well as some of my first cousins (not all 11 though:). Instead of birthday cake, I made lots of these rhubarb muffins that day, served as a pyramid on a cake stand. Very pretty!! But in the midst of all the buzz and excitement, we forgot to take a picture. Not that it mattered much, as it gave me a good excuse to make these very same muffins again on Sunday.

These muffins, let me tell you, are the moistest muffins you'll make. They're so moist, that even if you eat them on the following day, they taste like they're freshly baked. Delicious!

Rhubarb muffins
(Maailma parimad rabarbrimuffinid)

Serves 12

2 medium eggs
125 g sugar (150 ml)
150 g plain flour (250 ml)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
150 grams sour cream (20%)
50 grams butter, melted and cooled
400 grams rhubarb, (peeled and) chopped

Cinnamon and demerara sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Whisk eggs with sugar until pale and frothy.
Mix the dry ingredients. Add to the egg mixture together with sour cream and melted butter. Fold in the rhubarb.
Fill 12 hole muffin tray (they'll be pretty full, as rhubarb gives a lot of bulk initially, but shrink while the batter rises), sprinkle with cinnamon and demerara sugar
Bake at 225 C for 13-15 minutes, until muffins have risen and turned golden brown.
Cool a little before serving, as the rhubarb pieces can be very hot!

Other rhubarb recipes @ Nami-nami:
A creamy rhubarb pie (June 2005)
Rhubarb jam with ginger (May 2007)

Other muffin recipes @ Nami-nami:
Apple muffins (March 2007)
Cocoa and raspberry muffins (August 2005)
Dark chocolate and cherry muffins (April 2006)
Dark chocolate and chilli muffins (July 2005)
Savoury muffins with beetrot and blue cheese (October 2006)
Savoury muffins with feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes (June 2006)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Cauliflower with tahini dressing and sesame and hemp seeds

(Romaani) lillkapsas tahiinikastmega. Romanesco cauliflower with tahini dressing and sesame and hemp seeds.

It's almost two years since I went to Israel with the lovely David Lebovitz and Ms Marmite Lover, as well as Cambria from The Kitchn and Erin from Serious Eats. We were invited and hosted by Kinetis, and I had the most wonderful week exploring the Israeli culinary scene. One of the most memorable meals during that trip was lunch at Haj Kahil, an Arabic restaurant in Jaffa. (Read David's wonderful review of the amazingly satisfying meal here). The restaurant is focusing on "authentic Arab cuisine with a Galilee orientation", cooked by the Palestine chef Omar Iluwan:

Omar did all the cooking for us @ Haj Kahil, Jaffa, Israel

The food was utterly delicious, and I was gorging on the dozen or more mezze dishes, all vegetarian and all utterly delicious. One of the most memorable dishes was a simple cauliflower with tahini (20 NIS, still on the menu). The pairing of cauliflower and tahini was still new to me and it was a match made in heaven. I missed it.

There's a recipe for fried cauliflower with tahini in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's newst book, Jerusalem, but Haj Kahil's wasn't fried. It was mild and soft, simple cooked cauliflower, dressed with creamy tahini. Just when I was about to start inventing the bicycle again - or trying to recreate the dish I fell in love with in Jaffa - Clotilde posted a recipe for Cauliflower Salad à la Café Pinson. I made the dish with regular cauliflower on the day Clotilde posted the recipe, and have made it almost on a weekly basis since then. It's my favourite way of preparing cauliflower these days, alongside a simply roasted cauliflower.

As always, I've modified the way I make this cauliflower salad. I'm not too keen on flax seeds, either whole or crushed, and apart from the crunch factor, I couldn't see what they'd add to the cauliflower. I used lightly toasted sesame seeds instead - after all, the tahini is made with sesame seeds as well, so it seemed like a nice pairing. Also, hulled raw hemp seeds have a lovely moist and soft bite, so I've been adding these as well (the nutritious hemp seeds also called hemp hearts; you can easily buy them from Amazon, see here, here and here).

(Romanesco) cauliflower with tahini dressing and seeds
(Romaani) lillkapsas tahiinikastmega
Serves 4

(Romaani) lillkapsas tahiinikastmega. Romanesco cauliflower with tahini dressing and sesame and hemp seeds.

1 large cauliflower, regular or Romanesco, cut into florets

Tahini dressing:
3 Tbsp light tahini paste
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp cumin seeds, slightly crushed
0.5 tsp fine sea salt
5 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil

toasted sesame seeds
hulled hemp seeds

Bring a large pan of water to boil. Season generously with salt. Add the cauliflower florets and boil for about 7-8 minutes, until cooked, but still with a bit of bite. Drain thoroughly and let cool to room temperature.

Make the tahini dressing. Whisk tahina, salt, lemon juice and cumin seeds until combined, then drizzle in the olive oil, whisking vigorously to create a nice emulsified dressing (Clotilde calls this "vegan mayonnaise"). Pour the dressing over the cooked cauliflower and toss until combined.

Transfer into a serving dish, sprinkle generously with toasted sesame seeds and hulled hemp seeds.

Enjoy either straight away, or keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Here's a cauliflower version, dressed with tahini and topped with just sesame seeds:
Lillkapsas tahiinikastmega. Cauliflower with tahini dressing and sesame seeds.