Thursday, March 27, 2008

Time for a little fiesta

Some lovely pancakes K. made me recently, served with a dollop of homemade redcurrant jelly.

Well, apparently the spring officially began last week. However, it's been snowing in Estonia for two days now, and everything is covered with a thick, white carpet. As K. and I are desperate for some sun, we're heading off to Spain to visit the very lovely Ximena in Madrid, do some sightseeing and have lunch at a very special restaurant about two hours north of Barcelona.

Back in early April!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hot and Savoury: Smoked Salmon and Wasabi Rolls

We had some friends over for dinner on Thursday night, watching a video and slide show of the photos taken during our Austrian skiing trip last month. The buffet table contained some dishes that were Austrian (Wiener Schnitzel a la Johanna), some that were appropriate for Easter table (my Pashka, for example; as well as Marbled Beetroot Eggs), as well as some random favourites (Alanna's Spicy Carrots). But I also wanted to try something new and savoury, and these smoked salmon and wasabi rolls from the Swedish Arla site (Laxrullar med wasabiröra) hit the spot perfectly.

Try them, they're lovely. The Arla-people describe these as Swedish sushi :)

Smoked Salmon and Wasabi Rolls
Serves 10 as a nibble

200 g thinly sliced cold-smoked salmon
50 g dill, finely chopped
150 g cream cheese (Philadelphia)
0.5 to 1 tsp wasabi paste
a pinch of salt
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Combine dill and cream cheese in a bowl, season with wasabi paste and salt, if necessary.
Cover a cutting board with a cling film, then place salmon sliced next to each other, overlapping slightly. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the salmon slices. With the help of the cling film, roll into a tight cylinder, starting from the longer edge. ´
Place the roll into a freezer for at least half an hour (I kept it in the freezer for 2 hours).
Toast sesame seeds on a dry non-stick pan until golden, then sprinkle onto a cutting board.
Remove the salmon roll from the freezer and unwrap. Roll back and forth in sesame seeds to cover.
Using a very sharp knife, cut into 1 cm slices.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Sherbet-coloured eggs dyed with hibiscus/karkade flowers, Tandoori curry powder, matcha tea and mate tea.
For last year's eggs see this post.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Estonian Soda Bread with Ricotta Cheese

When I say "Soda Bread", will you think of Ireland? Wikipedia seems to do so, and there are plenty of Irish Soda Bread recipes out there in the foodblogosphere (Elise, BakingSheet, Kalyn, Andrea, SmittenKitchen, Tea). There's even a Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread !!

However, soda bread is a traditional bread here in Estonia as well. Although nowadays most Estonians think of rye bread when they think of bread at all ('bread' in Estonian - 'leib' - actually only means rye bread; when you use wheat flour, you'll get 'sai' and not 'leib'), traditionally barley played a more important part in the staple diet of Estonians. I recently discovered this rather coarsely ground organic Estonian barley flour (Eesti Mahe), which is excellent - with a lovely nutty taste and even lovelier texture.

Soda bread is of course best eaten warm, with butter and drizzle of runny honey, for example. But as this soda bread contains curd cheese (you can substitute ricotta), it was soft and tender on the following day as well. And the best thing about soda bread is - apart from its lovely flavour - that it can be on your table within 30 minutes or so.

Estonian Soda Bread

Makes one 23x23 cm bread

200 g ricotta* or curd cheese
2oo ml milk
1 egg
200 ml (115 g) barley flour
100 ml (70 g) plain/all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp rapeseed or olive oil

(Add 2 Tbsp sour creme, if using ricotta cheese)

Combine ricotta/curd cheese, milk, egg, salt and sugar in a bowl. Combine barley and wheat flour with baking soda, then fold into the ricotta and egg mixture. Pour in the oil and mix until combined.
Butter a spring form with butter, or line with parchment paper (I use 23x23 cm skillet, lined with paper). Spoon the batter into the form and bake at 200 Celsius for about 25-30 minutes, until the bread is lovely golden brown.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bocuse d'Or, Europe 2008, Selection Estonia

Last Sunday we spent an enjoyable afternoon watching the Bocuse d'Or, Europe 2008 Selection Estonia. The event took place in recently opened Swissôtel Tallinn. It was the first time Estonia is competing for a place at this prestigeous culinary contest, and there were four chefs competing: my favourite candidate Tõnis Siigur (Restaurant Stenhus, Tallinn), Peter Pihel (most recently at Restaurant Bloom, Stockholm), Vladislav Djatshuk (Restaurant Egoist, Tallinn) and Dmitri Rooz (Restaurant BeerHouse, Tallinn).

The contestants had 5,5 hours to prepare two dishes - one using salmon, and the other using lamb (incl. rack of lamb, lamb kidneys and lamb sweetbreads). Sadly, our camera battery failed us in the middle of the event, so we haven't got photos of all the finished dishes. However, here are some snapshots of the hard-working judges:

And here's one of Tõnis Siigur's salmon creation, Norwegian Salmon and Potato 'Ravioli', consisting of potato 'ravioli' with slow-cooked salmon belly, lemon and egg cream, salmon tartar, fresh horseradish, parmesan espuma and herbs.

The technical/kitchen judges were Michael Bhoola (a local Brit, Restaurant Pegasus, Tallinn), Roman Zaštšerinski (Restaurant Ö, Tallinn), Andrus Laaniste (Tallinn), Siiri Kirikal (Oma Maitse food magazine) and the taste judges Angelica Udeküll (Restaurant Aed, Tallinn), Christer Lingström (Restaurant Edsbacka Krog, Stockholm), Rasmus Kofoed (Restaurant Geranium, Copenhagen, Bocuse d'Or Silver Medal 2007), Sven-Erik Renaa (Norwegian Gastronomy Institute), Jarmo Vähä-Savo (Restaurant GW Sundmans, Helsinki). A very respectable and honorable bunch of judges :)

After lots of excitement and entertainment, the jury announced the winner - Estonia will be represented by Vladislav Djatshuk (Egoist, Tallinn). There are 20 countries competing for the first ever Bocuse d'Or Europe, which will take place in Stavanger, Norway on July 1st and 2nd, 2008.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Marbled Beetroot Eggs

Our Easter chick and a beautiful marbled beetroot egg.

Remember these gorgeous pickled red beet eggs from last year? Yes, that lovely photo that won the award for originality in April 2007's DMBLGIT contest. Well, I was thinking about making them again this year. But then few months ago I saw an article about the Chinese marbled tea eggs and then it suddenly dawned upon me that I could use that Chinese tea egg marbling technique to dye my beetroot eggs.

And so I did. And boy, it worked! As the eggs are 'soaked' in beetroot juice for an hour only, the eggs (unfortunately) don't really pick up much of the beet flavour.

Remember to make these just a few hours before you want to serve them - once you take them out of the beet juice and peel them, the colour will fade after a few hours. Leave them for too long in the beet juice, and they'll be just purple (nothing wrong with that, of course, but they're not marbled beetroot eggs then).

Marbled Beetroot Eggs

beet juice

Boil the eggs using your preferred technique (I simply bring my eggs to room temperature, then boil them for 7 minutes; but you can follow Alanna's or Kalyn's or Elise's or Thredahlia's instructions instead).
Cool under a running cold water for a few minutes, then drain.
Tap gently on a wooden cutting board to break the egg shell (I tried to roll first, but that breaks the shell too much). Do not peel!!!
Place the eggs in a bowl, fitting them snugly next to each other. Pour over enough beet juice to cover, then sprinkle with some salt to season the beet juice.
Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or two. Leaving them too long will result in simply red beetroot eggs.
Drain the beetroot juice and discard.
Carefully peel the eggs to reveal the gorgeously marbled beet eggs.
Enjoy! (We simply ate them with some mayonnaise).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Cheese, Garlic and Beetroot Bruschetta

I am so cheating here. There's no recipe as such, and it's not even a proper bruschetta (or is it, Susan?). But I didn't know what else to call it - a grilled cheese and garlic and beetroot bread is a bit clumsy.

But the 'recipe' is from our friend Kristel, who claims not to be a great cook. I don't know about that - I've had some pretty brilliant salmon at her place, and now this grilled sandwich. She's on a mission to fight winter fatigue with plenty of beetroot and garlic, and this is her favourite snack at the moment. She shared the recipe on the discussion board of my Estonian site last week, and three other readers immediately made this and praised it. So although I said recently that I won't bother you with my latest beetroot recipes just now, I thought it'd be unfair to keep this from you.

Thank you, Kristel!

A Cheesy-Garlicky Beetroot Bruschetta
(Grillitud peedi-küüslauguleib)

sliced white or dark bread
cream cheese
garlic, peeled and sliced
cooked beetroot, coarsley grated
cheese, coarsely grated

Spread the cream cheese on the bread slice, cover with garlic slices. Top with grated beetroot and grated cheese.
Place under a hot grill for 7-8 minutes, until the sandwich is warm and cheese begins to melt.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Something Spicy: Red Lentil Soup

This is my entry to the latest round of Waiter, there is something in my ... , this time hosted by lovely Jeanne of Cook Sister!, who has chosen pulses as the theme.

Although I've got plenty of Estonian recipes (as well as beetroot recipes:) in store for you, I decided to post something altogether spicier today - a red lentil soup. It's based on a recipe for Spicy Egyptian Lentil Soup in lovely Claudia Roden's "Tamarind and Saffron", but I tinkered with the recipe and the serving suggestions a bit, and really loved the result. It was on our table last Saturday, when couple of friends came over for a Scrabble night, and all four of us went for second helpings.

Spicy, exotic (well, for us:), heart-warming, delicious, comforting.

Spicy Red Lentil Soup
(Vürtsikas läätsesupp)
Serves 4-6

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds, slightly crushed
1.5-2 tsp coriander seeds, slighly crushed
1 tsp red chilli flakes
400 g chopped tomatoes or passata
400 g red lentils, rinsed
2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
2 litres chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper
juice of half a lemon

To serve:
fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, finely chopped
plain yogurt/sour cream

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add onion and fry gently for 7-8 minutes, until onion softens.
Add the garlic, crushed cumin and coriander seeds (I use my pestle & mortar), chilli flakes. Give it a stir and fry for another minute.
Add the tomatoes, red lentils, grated carrot and hot chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, half-covered, for 30-45 minutes, until lentils begin to break up.
Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Dilute with hot water, if necessary.

Serve with a dollop of coriander cream (mix coriander and cream/yogurt).*

* Claudia Roden suggested serving her soup with fried crispy shallots. But I had a lovely Egyptial lentil soup with coriander cream in a new deli-café near university here, so I 'stole' that serving idea instead.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Leivasupp - Estonian Bread Soup

I'm cooking more and more traditional Estonian fare these days, and really enjoy (re)discovering our humble but delicious cuisine. Here's another pretty unusual recipe for you - a bread soup. And before you start thinking something along the lines of bread-thickened gazpacho and garlic and olive oil, note that this is a SWEET bread soup. It contains rye bread, sugar, cinnamon, raisins and fruit juice. Although it may sound weird to you, it's actually very delicious :) It's an excellent idea for using leftover dark rye bread that's so popular here in Estonia and other Nordic countries, and more easily available across various ponds and oceans as well. We eat it as a dessert after a meal, although it would also make a lovely dessert or mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

The bread should be naturally leavened sour dough rye, and may contain caraway seeds, but not various other seeds (so the German style square rye bread slices with lots of seeds are no good).

Estonian Sweet Rye Bread Soup
Serves 4

400 grams stale rye bread, cut into chunks
1,5 litres of water
a scant cup of raisins, rinsed
100-150 ml (about half a cup) sugar
a cinnamon stick
200 ml cranberry/redcurrant/apple juice

Soak the bread in water until soft. When bread is all mushy, bring the mixture into a boil and simmer, until soft and liquid. Press through a fine sieve and put the bread pureé back into the saucepan.
Add the raisins, cinnamon stick and sugar, sharpen with juice. Bring slowly into a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat, fork out the cinnamon stick and cool the dessert soup.
Ladle into small bowls, serve with a dollop of sour cream, whipped cream or milk.

PS The photo above was made when the soup was still slightly warm, and it's pretty smooth and liquid. Leave it overnight, and the soup is much thicker, and you can see the raisins more clearly. Plus you'll be able to eat it with milk.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Buckwheat Kasha with Mince

Following from yesterday's buckwheat theme, here's another recent buckwheat dish we recently enjoyed. We do love buckwheat kasha or porridge as it is, and eat it occasionally as a side dish to some grilled pork. But sometimes it's nice to spice it up with a little extra. Adding pork or beef mince to the kasha is one way of making a humble side dish into a delicious main course.

Note that buckwheat is naturally gluten-free, so it's a suitable and tasty grain alternative to all those who need to avoid gluten.

Buckwheat Kasha with Mince
(Tatrapuder hakklihaga)
Serves 6

250 g mince (I used a mixture of pork and beef)
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
400 g buckwheat groats
oil for frying
1 litre of water, boiling
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil on a frying pan over high heat, add the mince and brown, stirring every now and then.
Reduce the heat to moderate, add the carrot and onions, season with salt and pepper
and cook for 5 minutes to slighly soften the onions.
Heat some oil in a large heavy saucepan, add the buckwheat groats and toast them for about 5 minutes, stirring to coat and toast evenly.
Add the fried meat and onion mixture to the buckwheat groats, give it a stir and pour over the boiling water.
Cover the saucepan and simmer on a low heat for 30-40 minutes, until buckwheat groats are soft.
Serve hot with sliced pickled cucumbers and cold horseradish and sour cream sauce*.

* To make the cold horseradish sauce grate some fresh horseradish, add enough sour cream to achieve the consistency and potency you like and season with salt.

LEFTOVERS? No worries - simply heat the cold buckwheat kasha in some oil or butter on the following day.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Just a Food Photo: Soba Noodles

Our dinner last night - Chicken Teriyaki with Soba Noodles. K. took this very lovely photo of the buckwheat noodles before I cooked them, so I though I'd share the photo with you..