Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sea-buckthorn and apple tart

Ooops. Not only was I late with this month's Daring Bakers submission, I am also late with my WTISIM entry. Jeanne has - naughtily - chosen Topless Tarts as the theme. I made something similar to my toffee apple tart with cranberries from January. Remember the sea-buckthorn sorbet and sea-buckthorn jelly? Well, we have got lots of frozen sea-buckthorn berries in the freezer (courtesy of my grandma), so I decided to try the same toffee apple tart recipe, but replacing cranberries with sea-buckthorn berries. Furthermore, I was keen to try out the dried sea-buckthorn powder* I bought recently..

The resulting tart was scrumptious - sweet toffee apples with tart sea-buckthorn berries nicely complementing each other, plus the berries giving some extra colour to the cake. Try it!

Sea-buckthorn and Apple Tart (topless, of course)
(Õunapirukas astelpajumarjade ja astelpajujahuga)
Serves 8

100 g butter
150 g plain/all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp cold water

4-5 smaller apples, cored and sliced
a handful of sea-buckthorn berries
7 Tbsp soft brown sugar
1 Tbsp potato starch
1 Tbsp dried sea-buckthorn berry powder

extra butter, for topping

Start by making the crust. Mix flour and sugar in a bowl, add cold cubed butter and rub between your fingers until you've got fine crumbs. Add the water (start with 1 Tbsp, as that may just be enough) to bring the pastry together. Form into a flat disc and place into the fridge for 30 minutes to cool.
Roll out the pastry on a slightly floured surface (or between two sheets of clingfilm) until 3-4 mm thick. Press into a 24 cm pie dish. Blind bake for 10 minutes in a 200 C oven.
Remove the tart crust from the oven, cover with apples and sprinkle with sea-buckthorn berries (no need to defreeze them).
Mix sugar, potato starch and berry powder in a small bowl, then sprinkle over the apples. Dot with some butter.
Bake in a 200 C oven for another 15-20 minutes, until the apples are softened and the sugar mixture has melted into a delicious toffee.
Cool a little, then transfer to a cake stand.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.

* Dried sea-buckthorn powder is exactly what it says on the packet - dried berries (incl seeds and skins), ground into a fine powder. They're full of vitamins and minerals. You can sprinkle these into your breakfast yogurt, add into fruit and berry smoothies, stir into hot cereal etc.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm a Daring Baker: Tender Potato Bread

I am late with this month's Daring Baker project, but that's not because I haven't been daring. I've spent quite a lot of time being daring in a kitchen last weekend, which wasn't mine (I'll tell you more one day), and I simply couldn't muster up enough energy to bake tender potato bread before the deadline. Today I stayed home, relaxed, and finally completed the challenge.

This month, Tanna of the My Kitchen in Half Cups blog decided we should have something baked and savoury, for a change. Since joining the ranks of Daring Bakers earlier this year I've made Jewish Purist's Bagels, a fancy Strawberry Mirror Cake, a delicious Milk Chocolate & Caramel Tart a la Eric Kayser, very comforting Sticky Buns & Cinnamon Buns, and elegant Bostini Cream Pies. This month we baked bread. And not any bread, but tender potato bread. The recipe is from Home Baking: Sweet and Savory Traditions from Around the World, a book by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, and can also be found here on Tanna's blog.

And so this afternoon I peeled some potatoes, boiled them until tender, drained and pressed through a fine sieve. Then mixed and stirred and kneaded and waited and folded and formed, and finally enjoyed some lovely moist potato bread with a beautifully chewy-soft texture:

I made a large focaccia and some small potato buns (sprinkled with caraway seeds). K. and I enjoyed the bread alongside a bowl of hot borscht (same recipe, just cabbage-less), and were feeling very happy indeed.

Thank you, Tanna, for a lovely challenge - and sorry for completing it a bit late..

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lovescool's Lovely Matcha Cookies

This is a story of a price-winning and very popular recipe. Lovescool's Kelli came up with a recipe for Green Tea Shortcakes, which won a Golden Scoop Award earlier this year. Then Fanny made them in France. Edith in Singapore. And then Mae and Inne in England. And Maddy in the sunny Los Angeles, and Lisa in sunny Sydney. Valentina on far-away Mauritius enjoyed them. Veronica made them. Carlos in Spain made them. Maribel liked them, and Mandy liked them. And now they've been made in Estonia by yours truly. I changed the recipe ever so slightly, using fine caster sugar instead of confectioner's sugar (I simply didn't feel like powdering my own at the moment, especially as the sugar I had was very fine indeed). I also listened to Mae's advice and reduced the temperature a little to make sure my cookies wouldn't brown too quickly. Here's my version - check out Kelli's post for the beautiful original recipe.

These are really lovely with a cup of green tea - sweet, with a hint of bitterness from matcha. Crisp and delicate. Elegant and beautiful.

Matcha Cookies
(Matcha küpsised)
Makes about 4 dozens

150 g fine caster sugar
1 Tbsp matcha (Japanese green tea) powder
140 g butter
185 g all-purpose flour
3 large egg yolks

Mix caster sugar and matcha powder in a bowl.
Cut butter into cubes, place into the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer. Add sugar and matcha mixture. Using the paddle attachment, cream until the mixture is crumbly.
Add flour, mix quickly. Add eggs one by one, mixing briefly after each addition.
Press the moist crumbs into a ball, cover with a clingfilm and place into a fridge to cool for about 15 minutes.
On a slightly floured surface, roll the pastry into 5 mm thickness, using your rolling pin. Use a cookie cutter to cut out various shapes.
(It's easiest to work with a smaller piece of pastry at the time, keeping the rest in the fridge).
Place the cookies into a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 165 C until the cookies are slightly golden around the edges. Take the cookies out, transfer with the parchment paper onto a metal rack to cool. The cookies will harden and crispen as they cool.

Other Matcha recipes on Nami-nami:
Matcha and Dark Chocolate Truffles (November 2006)
Green Matcha Loaf (February 2007)
And a photo of Mont Fuji cake in Mariage Frères in Paris.

NB! Matcha-pulbrit saab Tallinnas osta Piprapoest (Liivalaia 43), kus 30grammine pakk maksab 135 EEK.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Beef and Beer Oven Stew aka Finnish Merimiespata

Meremehehautis ehk veiselihahautis kartuli ja õllega. Sjömansbiff. Sailor's stew.
Photo by Juta Kübarsepp for the November 2013 issue of Kodu ja Aed magazine.

Last Sunday K. and I headed to a small village called Pedaspea in the beautiful nature reserve Lahemaa in Northern Estonia, to spend a day with his friends cooking, eating, walking, playing Scrabble and generally catching up. We were supposed to bring along the main course, and thus we spent hours last week trying to decide what to make. Eventually we packed along our trusty old 5-quart cast-iron cooking pot (Dutch oven?), my sharp cook's knife, and picked up some nice beef from our local butcher and some potatoes, a bottle of beer and a pot of thyme from the grocery store.

After an hour's drive we arrived in the beautiful location on the seaside, regretting that the weather wasn't good enough for a quick swim, as the house is about 20 metres from the sea:) We then unpacked our groceries, sliced and fried and layered and seasoned the meat and veg, carefully placed our cast iron pot into the oven full of hot coals, and ventured out for an hour to explore the surroundings.

When back, the hosts Ellen and Jaan served us two dishes from Tessa Kiros' beautiful book on Italian food, Twelve: A Tuscan Cookbook. For starters, we had grilled bread with stewed Savoy cabbage (Crostone di Cavolo). And for dessert we enjoyed her Almond Cantucci together with Zabaglione that I had the pleasure of whipping up quickly. And in between those two beautiful dishes we savoured our main course, a Beef and Beer Oven Stew. The recipe I used (actually recipes, as I used three slightly different ones to come up with my own version) is Finnish, and the dish is called Merimiespata or Sailor's Stew. It was my first time to make it, but definitely not the last. There are very few ingredients - beef, potatoes, onions, beer. After initial preparation you can just leave it to slowly cook away in the oven for about 2 hours. And as it already contains both the meat and the potatoes, then it's a meal on its own - no need for a side salad or such like, although crusty bread wouldn't be out of place. And I liked the slightly sharp flavour of the dish given by beer. We used a light Estonian beer (A Le Coq premium, 4.7%), but I imagine many other types of beer would be good, too.

Merimiespata aka Finnish Beef and Beer Stew
Adapted from various sources
Serves 6

600 g lean beef (sirloin is good)
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp butter
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large onions
1 tsp sugar
1 kg potatoes, peeled and sliced
a 0.5 litre bottle beer (I used A Le Coq)
300 ml beef stock
a bay leaf or two
fresh thyme, to garnish

Lay half of the potatoes into the iron-cast cooking pot, season lightly with salt.
Cut the beef cross-wise into 1.5 cm slices. Heat oil and butter on a heavy frying pan on a high heat, brown the meat slices on both sides (about 3-5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and place on top of the potatoes.
Peel and halve the onions, slice thinly. Fry gently on the frying pan for about 5 minutes, then add sugar and fry for another 4-5 minutes, until onions are translucent and softened. Take care not to burn them! Scatter on top of the beef slices, together with any pan juices.
Cover with the rest of the potato slices.
Now pour over the beer, then add enough beef stock to just cover the potatoes.
Tuck a bay leaf into the pot, cover tightly and place either into a 175 C preheated oven for about 2 hours, or into a oven full of hot coals.
When finished, test for doneness with a sharp knife (like I'm doing on the photo here). Remove from the oven, garnish with some thyme and serve.
Can be re-heated on the next day or even on the following day.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Apple and Coconut Crisp

My mum sends us a basket full of delicious home-grown non-sprayed apples every week, and I'm therefore constantly looking for new and delicious apple cake, apple pie and apple dessert recipes. Over the years I've baked many, and hence I've got plenty of excellent apple cake and pie recipes in my 'regular' apple repertoir - Quark Cake with Grated Apples, Toffee Apple Cake with Cranberries, a simple Apple Tray Cake, not to mention my famous (Non-)Canadian Apple Cake that I've been baking for two decades. But recently another baked apple dessert found a way to this repertoire and we made it actually twice last week alone. I found the recipe from DanSukker (a Danish sugar producer) website, and only tweaked it a little. It takes almost no time whatsoever to put together, and the dessert needs just under half an hour in the oven, so it's a real quickie. And the fact that we made it twice in a row should indicate that it's also a delicious one :)

Maarja Sloveenias tegi ka seda õuna-kookosevormi juba ja kiitis heaks. Loe lähemalt siit.

Apple and Coconut Crisp
Adapted from DanSukker
Serves 6

500 g not-too-sweet apples, (peeled*), cored and quartered
3 eggs
200 ml sugar
100 ml plain/all-purpose flour
250 ml (1 cup) grated coconut (desiccated coconut)
100 g (just under 1 stick) butter, melted (plus extra for greasing)

Beat the eggs with sugar until foamy and pale, about 5 minutes with an electric mixer.
Mix flour, grated coconut and fold into the egg mixture.
Gently stir in the melted and cooled butter.
Layer the apples in a greased 25 cm oven dish, so the bottom would be covered.
Pour the batter over the apples and bake in a preheated 200 C oven for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Take out of the oven, and cool a little. Serve lukewarm with vanilla ice cream, crème anglaise or lightly whipped cream.

* Peeling is not necessary when using non-sprayed apples from your own orchard or organically grown apples from a reputable source. Simple rinsing will do in those cases.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nigella Lawson's Cheesy Feet

One of the first posts on Nami-nami back in July 2005 was about feet-shaped cheesy cookies, sprinkled with caraway, poppy or sesame seeds. The idea was derived from gorgeous Nigella's beautiful book Feast: Food That Celebrates Life. Back then I nicked Nigella's idea, traced down feet-shaped cookie cutters, but used one of my favourite cheese cookie recipes instead of Nigella's recipe. I thought it's time to use my feet-shaped cookie cutters again, and finally test Nigella's original cheesy feet, sorry, cheese cookie recipe.

I must admit I prefer my old and trusty cheese cookie recipe, especially the caraway-sprinkled version. But Nigella's recipe yields lovely, crumbly cheese cookies that would be a great nibble, whether feet-shaped or not.

Cheesy Feet
(Nigella Lawsoni juustuküpsised)
Yields: 20 cookies

100 g Cheddar cheese, grated
25 g soft butter (salted is fine)
50 g plain/all-purpose flour
0.25 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blitz until comes together. (If you haven't got a food processor, then mix gtated cheese, soft butter chunks, flour and baking powder in a bowl and work between your fingers until combined). Form a flat disc, wrap in a clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Roll the rested dough on a floury surface to about 3 mm in thickness, and cut out your feet with feet-shaped cookie cutters (I used my 3 cm long cookie cutter). You can keep re-rolling this dough and cutting out feet until it is all used up.
Put them on a lined baking sheet and cook in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, until slightly golden on edges (NB! Overcooked cheese cookies taste nasty and bitter, so take them out of the oven when still light golden).
Transfer the cookies to a metal rack and allow to cool.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Old-fashioned Soups: Pumpkin Soup with Semolina

With Halloween just a fortnight behind us, there may still be an odd wedge of pumpkin in your fridge. I made a pumpkin risotto recently, and had had a lone half of a orange-fleshed pumpkin waiting in the fridge ever since then. I thought of re-making Johanna's roasted pumpkin and blue cheese quiche again. Or the simple pumpkin soup with vegetable stock. But eventually I decided to make something very unusual (to my international readers), yet typically Estonian. Milk soups - either with various grains (rice, semolina, pearl barley), pasta (macaroni or vermichelli noodles), or even vegetables (just like this beautiful summer soup by Deinin) are all common in Estonia. Granted, with the general increase of living standards and international influences, these humble soups do not enjoy the popularity they once did, but they're still very much part of the culinary heritage.

This milk soup with pumpkin and semolina can be eaten for breakfast, as a dessert or just as a light meal. It's best served warm, with a spoonful of jam, a dollop of butter or a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil (like I did), or even maple syrup (like K. did).

Ka Thredahlia tegi hiljuti kõrvitsa-mannasuppi - retsepti leiate siit. Ja ka Nami-nami blogisse võib kommentaare jätta eesti keeles:)

Milky Pumpkin Soup with Semolina
(Kõrvitsa-piimasupp mannaga)
Serves 4

500 ml milk (~ 2.5%)
300 ml water
350 g pumpkin flesh, coarsely grated
20 g or about 1.5 Tbsp wheat semolina (Cream of Wheat)
0.5 tsp salt
2 Tbsp demerara sugar

Bring milk and water to the boil in a heavy saucepan. Add pumpkin, reduce heat a little and simmer, stirring regularly, for about 15-20 minutes until pumpkin is softened.
Sprinkle in semolina, stirring to avoid lumps. Season with salt and sugar, reduce the heat further and cook for another 5 minutes, until semolina has expanded and softened.
Serve in small bowls.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Budapest: Café Gerbeaud and Dobos Cake

I needed to attend a meeting last Friday in Budapest, so I flew over on Thursday morning to do some sightseeing. I stayed in a very conveniently located Starlight Suiten Hotel on Merleq utca, unpacked and headed to town. I had been to Budapest before, but that was dozen years earlier, so it was nice to wander the streets again - it's a rather grand city. And just like Vienna, Budapest is famed for its cafe culture, so I headed to one of the heavy-weights, Café Gerbeaud in Inner Pest.

The place is indeed opulent, as Rick Rogers states in his Kaffeehaus - all golden wall decorations, heavy curtains and fancy chandeliers. There were four large salons, some smoking, some non-smoking, each packed with locals and tourists alike (Gerbeaud can sit up to 330 guests in its salons, and another 300 on its open-air terraces, so we're talking about a huge café here!). As it was 4pm by that time, I decided to have both coffee and my dinner, so I ordered a home-made goose liver terrine with Tokaj wine, roasted endives and walnut dressing (above) to start with, and the famous Hungarian cake, Dobos Torte (below), to finish. The goose liver terrine was very nice - I liked the sweet Tokaj dressing that it came with, as well as the light-textured small brioches. The portion was too large to my liking, however - goose liver is quite a mouthful to eat, so I could only finish two slices (and I was hungry, believe me!).

But the cake? Well, I was expecting something much more impressive. The cake sure looks grand - it consists of five thin discs of vanilla sponge cake, layered with chocolate buttercream icing. The cake is then covered with wedges of caramel-glazed cake. Beautiful! My favourite bit was the caramel-coated top layer. Other than that I thought the cake was too sweet, too rich and utterly non-interesting. I'll choose a slice of moist Estonian layered honey cake any time :)

But seriously, now. Was I disappointed because the Dobos Cake as such isn't to my liking? Or was the chief konditormeister at Café Gerbeaud not doing the job properly that day? Unlikely, considering that their website mentions Dobos Cake as one of their specialties, and Rick Rogers claims that "In Hungary, the name Gerbeaud is so famous as a sign of quality in baking that it is worth millions". I will still pop by in Café Gerbeaud next time I'm in town - the atmosphere was very much to my liking, their boozy María Teresa coffee excellent, and I didn't even get to sample their pretty handmade bonbons - but I'll opt for Esterházy Slice or Gerbeaud Slice instead.

However, if somebody could tell me where to get the best Dobos Cake in Budapest, I'd appreciate that. I may be back soon.

Gerbeaud House
Vörösmarty tér 7.
1051 Budapest

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Beetroot Soup with Goat's Cheese

Last night we celebrated K's birthday by inviting my parents and his mum and auntie over for a dinner. We started with this bright and nourishing beetroot soup, followed with a filling boeuf bourgoignon to please my dad (he did enjoy the beetroot & ginger cake he was served last time he visited, but he was still disappointed that there was no 'proper food' last time). We then entertained our dear guests with Piña Colada Espuma (second helpings for all the ladies, and if my dad hadn't been the designated driver, he would have probably helped himself to the seconds, too), and finished with a cup of coffee and a fancy peach souffle made by the birthday boy himself. A very enjoyable evening indeed..

I wrote about a beetroot soup only recently (Vegetarian Borscht, September 2007), but this is totally different, and just as nice. The recipe is straight off the Finnish site - Punajuuri-vuohenjuustokeitto* - the only difference is that I weighed the parsnip and celeriac to make the recipe more 'exact'. Not that it's necessary here, so if you wish, just play around with the amounts of various root vegetables in the soup. Also, the original recipe suggests you crumble the goat's cheese into the soup to make it more creamy, but I had bought a wrong goat's cheese for that purpose, so I just sliced the cheese and placed on top of the soup.

Maarja Sloveenias tegi ka seda peedisuppi ja kiitis heaks. Loe lähemalt siit.

Beetroot Soup with Goat's Cheese
Serves 4-6

1 onion, finely chopped
olive oil
300 grams raw beetroot
50 grams raw parsnip
50 grams raw celeriac/root celery
1 Litre vegetable stock (I used 4 tsp Marigold vegetable bouillon and hot water)
100 grams soft goat's cheese, crumbled (or goat's cheese with rind, sliced)
coarsely ground black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Peel the onion and chop finely.
Peel the beets, celeriac and parsley, and chop finely or grate coarsely.
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, add the onion and saute for about 7-8 minutes, until it starts to soften. Add the beets, celeriac and parsnip and heat for a few minutes, stirring every now and then.
Add the hot bouillon, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
Cool a little, then process with immersion blender until smooth. Add the crumbled goat's cheese (reserve some for garnishing), season with salt and pepper.
Divide into small soup bowls, garnish with extra cheese and some herbs.

* Kui see retsept Eesti lugejatele tuttav tundub, siis tõesti on tegemist sama supiga, mida Angeelika Kang tegi esmaspäevases Terevisioonis ja mille retsept ilmus viimases Oma Maitse numbris. Aga meil oli menüü juba eelmisel nädalal paigas, nii et jäin oma esialgsele supivalikule kindlaks :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Espresso Caramels, sweetened with honey

Heidi started it all in September. I made a mental note of the recipe. Then Joe praised them in early November. I printed out the recipe. And when Anne made them last week, I finally took out that glass of honey from the cupboard.

Excellent chewy-soft-coffee-honey-caramels. I sprinkled some extra Maldon sea salt flakes on top, but otherwise it's Heidi's recipe. Thank you, Heidi (and Joe and Anne!)

Honey-Espresso Caramels
(Pehmed mee-kohvi karamellid)

250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream (35-40% fat)
250 ml (1 cup) honey
1 Tbsp ground espresso coffee (I used Lavazza)
1 tsp Maldon sea salt, plus extra to sprinkle

Mix cream, coffee and salt in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Warm until almost boiling, then add the honey, and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat a little, and boil until you can do a firm ball test (a drop of the caramel in cold water should be a fairly firm ball). Keep an eye on the mixture, as you may need to stir occasionally to 'calm it'.
Use a candy thermometer - it should reach the hard-ball stage*, or 126ºC (260ºF). Be patient - it may take up to an hour!
Remove from the heat and let it cool a little, then pour onto a slightly greased parchment paper. When hardened to required consistency (it's a hard ball mixture, so it'll be hard, yet chewy), cut into small candies and wrap them in parchment paper or special candy wrappers.

* To test for the hard-ball stage, drop a small amount of mixture into very cold water. It should form a hard ball that is hard enough to hold its shape yet is pliable.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fennel Seed Bread Recipe

In one of my regular lunch joints, Bestseller Cafe in Viru Keskus (Tallinn), they sometimes serve soup with large chunks of fennel seed bread. Although I'm in somewhat uneasy terms with things aniseedy and liquoricey, I do like that spicy bread a lot. And therefore I couldn't help but try the fennel seed bread recipe that Clivia posted last month. Granted, I changed the recipe - originally from a Swedish baking guru Anna Bergenström - a little (omitting sunflower seeds, making two loaves instead of one, adding salt later in the process, etc), but it's still thanks to Clivia that I've discovered another keeper-recipe. Tack, Kristina!!!

Fennel Seeds (Foeniculum vulgare Mill., apteegitilliseemned ehk ristköömned) are a great spice to use in baking, bread, compotes, pickles and liqueurs, but can also be used to season fish dishes, salads and sauces. If you're interested in fennel seeds' medicinal properties, then you should remember that the seeds are also good for your digestive system and can ease the symptoms of a bad cough.

Fennel Seed Bread
Makes 2 loaves

25 grams fresh yeast
1 Tbsp honey
400 ml tepid water
600 g plain flour (1 litre/about 4 cups)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp fennel seeds, slightly crushed

Crumble the yeast into a large bowl, add honey and stir, until yeast and honey melt into one. Add the tepid water, stir again.
Now add most of the flour, as well as salt and crushed fennel seeds. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined, adding more flour, if the dough is too wet. (I kneaded the dough for 5 minutes in my KitchenAid, then another 2 minutes by hand).
Cover the bowl with a clean towel or clingfilm and let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place about one to two hours, until double in bulk.
Punch down dough. Divide it into two equally sized pieces. Form each dough piece into an oblong loaf on slightly floured surface.
Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper, and lift the dough pieces onto the baking sheet.
Heat the oven to 250 C, and let the dough rise for another 15-20 minutes.
Bake the loaves in the middle of the 250 C oven for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 150 C and continue baking for about 20 minutes longer, until the bread is light golden brown, and the bread sounds 'hollow' when you tap onto the bottom.
Let cool on a metal rack, loosely covered with a towel.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

K is guest-blogging about Cannelés, those little caramelised, irresistible buns from Bordeaux

[Pille is off to Budapest for a few days, so K. is using the opportunity to guest-blog again..]

Few years ago I took some French language courses in the city of Bordeaux, and opted for accommodation with a local family. I ended up staying with an excellent old-school French hosts: a retired couple Marie-Lucie and her husband Jean-Pierre, who had accommodated over hundred language students over the years.

Just before my arrival, the family had accommodated a student from Saudi Arabia, for whom it was the first trip outside his home country. Coming from deeply religious surroundings he couldn’t eat pork or drink wine. Seeing students from all over the world, always joyful Marie-Lucie was used to different cultures. But she also adored cooking and eating traditional and delicious French food, including some Clairet wine and hearty pork dishes... Sitting together at a dinner table was a sacred tradition for Marie-Lucie and Jean-Pierre. You can imagine how relieved they were to welcome a hungry Estonian guy appreciating everything her kitchen had to offer. In turn, I was ready to learn and be seduced by the Bordeaux cuisine.

During my two-week stay we savoured four-course dinners at home almost on a daily basis. The entire house was open for guests, except the kitchen in the mornings. It was behind these closed kitchen doors that Marie-Lucie and Jean-Pierre decided on the evening's menu. Most of the recipes were kept as small handwritten notes in huge plastic boxes labelled “poissons/crustaces”, “viande”, “entrées/legumes” etc (see photo on the right).

As expected, I could not keep myself out of the kitchen, and I learned many things. For example, do you know what the secret of happy marriage is? If wife and husband do not have an argument about finances, but argue about the perfect recipe for Tomates Antiboise. Jean-Pierre put the capers together with canned tuna into a blender. While I asked tête-à-tête from Marie-Lucie whether it would be better to chop the capers, she said that when they had been younger, she had a big argument with Jean-Pierre about this fundamental issue and she personally thinks that the capers should be chopped with knife instead of crushed in blender. But now, after several decades of conjugal life, she has given up and lets her beloved husband to do like he wants. On the other hand, although Jean-Pierre liked tête de veau, a French classic dish so vividly described in A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain, and knew how to make it, it was a forgotten delicacy in the family as Marie-Lucie was not particularly fond of it.

I also had breakfasts at their home, enjoying different jams and cheeses. One weekend morning I was served innocent-looking buns that tasted superb. Before even noticing, I was already reaching for the fifth bun. Later I have learned that substantial quantities of cannelés can vanish very quickly in the presence of children and grown-ups alike. This was my first experience with cannelés, a miracle bun from Bordeaux that has not only an extensive Wikipedia entry in English, but even several dedicated web sites in French. Cannelé has interesting history, wrapped in the mystery.

This simple pastry, made of eggs, milk and flour flavoured with rum and vanilla is currently hugely popular both in Aquitaine and Gironde, with hundreds of producers. But as it turns out, it is rather easy to bake at home. Marie-Lucie kept always the batter on hand when the grandchildren were visiting, because they always asked for cannelés.

Traditionally, cannelés are baked in special metal fluted moulds (cannelé means 'fluted'). We have got silicone moulds at home - they are easier to handle, even if they don't yield as caramelised crust as metal moulds do. Usually 8 cannelés can be made with one mould and I strongly recommend buying at least two. If you're based in the US, then you can buy tin-lined copper cannelé molds and silicon mini cannelé molds - both by Matfer Bourgeat - from

(Cannelé koogikesed)
Makes 16

500 ml milk
25 g butter
100 g plain/all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
250 g sugar
4 egg yolks and 2 egg whites
1 Tbsp of rum
2 tsp of Bourbon vanilla extract

Whisk sugar, eggs and flour in a large bowl.
Bring milk and butter to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly whish into the egg mixture, stirring constantly.
Add vanilla.
Let cool to room temperature, then add rum.
The batter should be rather runny, just like a crepe batter.
Cover the mixture and keep it in the fridge for at least overnight or up to two days.
When ready to bake your cannelés, stir the batter again, and fill the prepared cannelé moulds three-quarters full.
Start baking at 275C, after 5-10 minutes lower the temperature to 200C and continue baking around 40-50 minutes until cannelés are dark golden to almost blackish brown*.
Extract from the moulds when cannelés are still hot. Cannelés should have a caramelised crust and be chewy, yet soft, inside.

Although I am very happy with the flavour of these cannelés, I have not yet figured out why my cannelés always 'climb' out of the moulds during baking. They finally fall back to the 'normal' size, but not always evenly, leaving the shapes somewhat uneven. I appreciate if you can give me a hint on this one.

* There seem to be two schools: those, who like cannelés golden brown outside and those who prefer them caramelised to black. At the stores in Bordeaux they are usually blackish.

You can read more about cannelés from these foodblogs: Chocolate & Zucchini, Kuidaore, La Tartine Gourmande (and Bea again), The Traveler's Lunchbox and 101 Cookbooks.

Previous guest posts on Nami-nami:
K is guest-blogging about Heston Blumenthal's perfect ice cream (August 2007)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Risotto, and sunny Arancini rice balls

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in Estonia, obviously, but as so many foodbloggers are currently posting their favourite pumpkin recipes, I decided to join the bandwagon as well. So here's a recipe for a beautifully coloured pumpkin risotto - a handy way to use up that pound of pumpkin flesh that pumpkin-carvers across the world would have these days. As for the leftover risotto, I've nicked Shaun's recipe for beautiful beetroot arancini and made pumpkin arancini instead.

Pumpkin Risotto
Based on Angeelika Kang's recipe for pumpkin risotto in the October 2007 issue of Oma Maitse
Serves 4

50 g butter
2 finely chopped medium onions
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
300 g Carnaoli risotto rice
400 g finely cubed pumpkin flesh
150 ml dry white wine
1 litre hot vegetable stock
a generous handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
100 g grated Parmesan cheese
coarsely ground black pepper

In a small saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to a boil, reduce heat and keep it on slow simmer.
Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes to soften, stirring frequently.
Add garlic, fry for another 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Add the rice, heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring.
Add pumpkin cubes and stir gently for about a minute.
Add the wine, bring to simmer. Now add a generous ladleful or two of hot stock and stir gently, until the rice has absorbed the stock.
Add another ladleful or two of stock and stir, until this has been absorbed. Continue for about 20 minutes, until the rice has softened to al dente stage, and you've got a lovely creamy risotto (this would take about 20-25 minutes, depending on the rice).
Add the chopped parsley and most of the grated parmesan cheese.
Season with salt and pepper and serve at once.

Pumpkin Arancini Rice Balls
(Arancini e. frititud risotopallid)
Based on Shaun's recipe
Serves 2

For the rice mixture:
approximately a cup of leftover risotto
1 egg
5 Tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
cubed cheese (Mozzarella, Fontina - I used Estonian 'Atleet' cheese:)

For breadcrumb mixture:
4 Tbsp breadcrumbs
0.5 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

For frying:
light olive oil or rapeseed oil

For sprinkling:
Maldon sea salt flakes

Heat about 3 cm oil in a small saucepan.
Mix together the pumpkin risotto, egg, 5 Tbsp of breadcrumbs and 1 Tbsp parsley in a large bowl.
Cut the cheese into 1 cm cubes.
Combine the breadcrumbs and parsley for breading on a flat plate. Put aside.
Use about 2 Tbsp rice mix per rice ball. Flatten the rice mixture in the palm of your hand, place a cheese cube in the centre, and wrap the rice mixture around the cheese cube. Form into a nice round ball.
Roll the balls in the parsley-breadcrumb mixture (see photo below).
Fry in the hot oil until browned, crisped and heated through - approximately 4 minutes.
Drain on a paper towel, sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.
Serve and enjoy!

Other arancini recipes:
Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow
Amateur Gourmet
One Whole Clove

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Delicious Dried Plum Dessert for Autumn

Two years ago in October everyone's favourite Parisian-American foodblogger, David Lebovitz, hosted a one-off Prune Blogging Thursday that resulted in a number of recipes using the humble wrinkled prune, aka dried plum. I submitted a recipe for healthy prune cake, which tasted much better than it looked. However, this time I've got a dried plum dessert recipe that both tastes good and looks good. The recipe is adapted from an Estonian cookbook "Kohupiima- ja kodujuusturaamat" (100 Rooga) and yields 6 small portions. I've garnished mine with sweet pomegranate seeds, but you can use lavender or lemon balm or simply dust the dessert with icing sugar. If you cannot find curd cheese (a popular ingredient here in Estonia), then ricotta or even cottage cheese (press through the sieve) would probably work as well. This would make a nice Christmas dessert - just in case you're already imagining the Christmas menu in your head :)

Dried Plum and Curd Cheese Dessert
(Kohupiimakreem kuivatatud ploomidega)
Serves 6

200 grams juicy dried plums/prunes (California Sunsweet or such like)
100 ml water
a cinnamon stick
200 ml single cream
200 g ricotta or curd cheese
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract
some Armagnac to season (optional)

Place the dried plums, cinnamon stick and water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes to soften the plums. Most of the liquid should evaporate by the end.
Remove the cinnamon stick and puree the dried plums with any liquid that is still in the saucepan, adding the single cream little by little.
Season with sugar and vanilla extract, then fold in the ricotta or curd cheese. If you fancy, add a slash or two of Armagnac or other alcohol.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Another berry dessert: Sea-buckthorn sorbet

I know, I know - it's not even a month since I wrote about sea-buckthorn berries and yet I'm weekend-herb-blogging about this bright orange berry again. But you see - we recently got two large bags of sea buckthorn berries from my grandma's garden, and we need to find ways to use all those berries. One of the readers had recommended I try a sea buckthorn sorbet, and as we had really enjoyed the taste and colour of our orange 'Fanta' sorbet (NB! I've updated the post with interesting information about the amount of orange juice in Estonian and Greek Fanta Orange!), we decided to make a sorbet again. This one is just as delicious as the orange sorbet, with an attractive deep orange-yellow colour. A perfect palate-cleanser between courses, or an excellent dessert.

But to make it worthy for a Weekend Herb Blogging submission, I give you a good tip for cleaning sea-buckthorn berries. You see, sea-buckthorn branches are prickly shrubs, and the berries are quite soft. Picking them individually from the branches is a difficult, messy, painful and wasteful task. It's best to cut off berry-laden branches from the tree, remove superfluous leaves and smaller berry-free branches with scissors, wash and drain the branches, and throw them into your deep freezer for 24 hours. Then remove the branches from the freezer, and pick off the berries - as they are frozen, they come off very easily now.

Keep the berries in the deep freezer. For an excellent refreshing smoothie, blitz a handful of frozen berries in a blender, mix with water, press through a fine sieve and sweeten with sugar. Or make this sorbet:

Sea Buckthorn Sorbet

200 ml water
200 ml sugar
400 ml sea-buckthorn juice, preferably freshly extracted

You can either use shop-bought good-quality sea-buckthorn juice, or make your own. To make your own, wash about a cup of sea-buckthorn berries and puree in a blender. Press through a fine sieve. Then take some boiling water and pour over the sea-buckthorn pulp on the sieve to extract more juice. Continue, until you've got 400 ml liquid. (Using boiling water helps to extract more 'juice matter' from the pulp).
Pour water and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes to make a syrup. Cool.
Mix sea-buckthorn juice and syrup and churn in your ice cream maker according to the instructions. (We gave it 25 minutes in a Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment).
Put in the freezer to harden a little before serving.

WHB: This is also my entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Kalyn herself. Click on the logo below for more information about this established foodblogging event.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

And Now, Something Totally Different: Piña Colada Espuma

I imagine most of my readers come to Nami-nami for uncomplex comfort food recipes. This is how we eat - most of the cooking taking place at our house is what could be described 'rustic', 'down to earth', 'simple', 'quick'. I'd like to think this is visible on the blog as well - comforting cakes and muffins, earthy soups, quick-to-assemble pies and quiches and so on. However, we have recently acquired one kitchen gadget that almost falls into the field of 'molecular gastronomy' - iSi Gourmet Whip. A product by Swiss isi Group, the cream whipper has been popularised by Ferran Adrià who uses this to make his (in)famous espumas. There is a whole section written by Ferran Adrià and dedicated to foams and espumas in The Cook's Book (a book I recently wrote about here), and that got me curious. There are some supercool and stylish bloggers who have been writing about espumas on their blogs - Hungry in Hogtown made an Americano cocktail foam and Chubby Hubby recreated the 21st century tortilla in a glass - so I had been keeping my eyes open for the sleek and glossy stainless steel thingy myself. So when I spotted a Gourmet Whip on sale at a local professional cookware store where K. had taken me one afternoon, I managed to convince him that we badly needed one ourselves:)

Since then we've had fun with ours - and NOT because of the laughing gas* chargers:) We've made raspberry-flavour whipped cream (we didn't really enjoy the texture, as it was too light and airy - the Gourmet Whip whips up the volume four times!). We experimented with microwaved 'pistachio sponge' (really interesting, if not a total success yet - but we will try again). We very successfully recreated the parmesan espuma on top of pumpkin soup that we had first enjoyed at our anniversary dinner at Stenhus. And we've made Piña Colada Espuma - recipe for which we found in the iSi brochure that came with the Gourmet Whip - more than once. You see, I'm the type of girl that first eats the milky foam and then drinks her cappuccino. Piña Colada Espuma is a foamy, silky, creamy decadence in cocktail glass. Almost like a very good cappuccino foam - just with a powerful taste of the beach, to borrow Hungry in Hogtown's words. Really, really, really good..

Piña Colada Espuma
(Piña Colada Espuma vahukokteil)
- ingredients for the 500 ml iSi Gourmet Whip
Serves 4-6 - works equally well as a cocktail or as a dessert

300 ml pineapple juice
175 ml coconut milk
2 Tbsp dark rum (35% vol)
3 sheets gelatine (a 1.7 g)**

Soak gelatine sheets in cold water for 5 minutes.
Heat 4-5 Tbsp pineapple juice to 60C and stir in the pressed out gelatine sheets.
Mix coconut milk, pineapple juice and rum, add the dissolved gelatine.
Pour through a fine sieve into the 500 ml iSi Gourmet Whip and screw in 1 iSi cream charger. Shake well, and chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

To serve, shake the whipper vigorously upside-down, then dispense into cocktail glasses. Whizzzhhhh...

* iSi Cream Chargers contain nitrous oxide (N2O), popularly known as laughing gas. It's a no laughing matter, however - just read this.
** If you prefer using powdered gelatine, then take 6 grams (type silver).