Friday, July 30, 2010

My favourite quick dish of the summer: Harissa-spiked houmous

Harissa hummus

If there is one dish that I've been making over and over again (apart from fried chantarelle mushrooms in various disguises), it's this quick and spicy version of houmous, the Middle-Eastern chickpea/garbanzo dish. I love the traditional houmous to bits, but sometimes it's nice to play around with your favourites a bit. I've had my fling with a beetroot houmus, and I've been eyeing a roasted pepper houmous recipe for a while now. But first, I need to get tired of this harissa-spiked houmus recipe, and this hasn't happened yet. (If you've got a favourite 'way with houmus', then I'd love to hear about it!)

I use Belazu's Rose Harissa, but any other favourite would work just as well. Suitable for vegetarians, vegans, celiacs as well, so a very handy recipe to have :)

Harissa-spiked houmous
(Hummus harissaga)
Adapted from BBC Good Food, June 2009 (see original recipe)
Serves 4 to 6

Harissa hummus

400 g can of chickpeas/garbanzos
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
couple of spoonfuls of water
1 large garlic clove, chopped
about half a lemon, juiced
1 scant Tbsp harissa paste
1 Tbsp tomato pureé / tomato paste
salt, to taste

coriander/cilantro or parsley for garnishing (optional)

Drain the chickpeas and place to the food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until you've got a smooth paste (or slightly coarse, if that's how you prefer your houmous). Taste for seasoning - if you wish, add some more harissa or lemon juice or salt.
Excellent with toated pita bread, or on a slice of toast, or spread on crispy crostini or as a dipping sauce with some crudités.

Hummus with harissa / Harissaga hummus

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Watermelon, feta and lime salad

Watermelon, feta & lime salad / Arbuusi-fetasalat laimiga

Yet another watermelon salad that's perfect as a light meal on those hot summer days. I made this first about a year ago, when I spotted the recipe in Rachel Allen's lovely book "Rachel's Favourite Food for Friends". I love the fresh note that lime adds to the sweet watermelon.

Watermelon, feta and lime salad
(Arbuusi-fetasalat laimiga)
Serves 4

500 g watermelon (cleaned weight)
200 g barrel-aged feta cheese
1 lime
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint

toasted pita bread, to serve

Peel the watermelon, remove the seeds. Cut the fruit into thin slices, about 4-5 cm (2 inches) wide. Place into the serving bowl.
Crumble the feta cheese on top, season with finely grated lime zest and freshly squeezed lime juice, sprinkle chopped mint on top.
Give it a gentle stir and serve. The salad tastes best within half an hour of preparing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Coconut French Toast with Berries

Vaesed rüütlid kookospiimaga

Something for the forthcoming weekend :) We usually have pancakes or crepes on Saturday mornings, and try to go for a coffee in a nice café on Sunday mornings. I cannot make pancakes, so K. is our Saturday morning chef :) However, sometimes we stay in on Sunday mornings as well, and then I have to come up with a special breakfast. Last Sunday we had these lovely coconut french toast with berries on our sunny balcony. I make French toast quite often, but always with the traditional egg-and-milk mixture. These are made without eggs, making them a somewhat lighter option.

Coconut French Toast with Berries
(Vaesed rüütlid kookospiimaga)
Serves 4

8 slices of white bread (f.ex. bloomer)
200 ml creamy coconut milk
1 tsp cinnamon

butter, for frying

To serve:
250 g plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla sugar
a heaped cup of raspberries and blueberries/bilberries

First, make the toast. Mix cinnamon and coconut milk in a deep plate. Dip both sides of the bread slices into the coconut milk.
Heat some butter on a non-stick frying pan and fry the bread slices on both sides until golden brown. Place onto a plate.
For the sauce, season the yogurt with vanilla, then gently stir in the berries. Spoon the sauce of the coconut french toast slices.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cold Beetroot Soup (kind of Chlodnik or Холодник)

Cold Russian beet soup / Holodnik / Külm peedisupp

Although the tropical heat wave has given way to a beautiful Estonian summer (temperatures at around 25 C, with some
showers), it's still warm here in Estonia. Perfect excuse for eating lots of cold summer soups. My cold soup repertoire isn't huge, I must admit. I love Ximena's gazpacho (and will be making it again and again in a week or so, when our tomatoes are ready). I also love this simple cold kefir soup with herbs and radishes. But radishes are finished for this year, so I needed a new cold soup recipe. The recipe here is slightly adapted from this Russian foodblog, and we loved both the flavour as well as the stunning colour. Our little daughter, who's almost 1 year and 6 months now, heartily approved as well!!

I love roasting the beets, as this gives them an exceptionally sweet and earthy flavour. If you're short for time, then this works with boiled (and even ready-grated and vacuum-packed) beets as well.

Cold Beet Soup with Kefir
(Külm peedisupp)
Serves four to six

Cold Russian beet soup / Holodnik / Külm peedisupp

3 small beets, each about the size of a tennis ball
2 short green cucumbers ("Lebanese cucumbers")
handful of green onions, chopped
3-4 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1 litre kefir
1 Tbsp grated horseradish
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-4 eggs

Wash the beets, wrap in foil and roast in a 200 C oven for about 45 minutes, until cooked through (test for doneness by piercing with a sharp knife). Cool completely, then peel and grate coarsely.
Hard-boil the eggs, then cool under cold water. Peel and cut into half lengthwise.
Wash the cucumbers, cut into small dice.
Take a large bowl, throw in the grated beets. Stir in some of the kefir, then season the soup base with horseradish and some salt and pepper. Add the rest of the ingredients, except boiled eggs. Taste again for seasoning - you may want to add more salt or pepper, or perhaps even some lemon juice.
Serve very cold, topping each portion with a boiled egg half or two.

Keeps well in the fridge for a day or two.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kama, the best thing ever ...

... on a hot summer day. Here served with bilberries, wild strawberries and garden raspberries.

Kama with berries / Kama marjadega

I've written more about KAMA here. I love my kama with kefir, which should be widely available in various health food stores and Wholefood dairy aisles near you...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Watermelon and feta salad with olives

Watermelon and feta salad / Arbuusi-fetasalat

When I first went to Greece in July 2002, I was shocked about the temperatures. I spent a week on Santorini, and it felt that the temperatures never dropped below 40 C during the day and 30 C during the night. I could hardly move, and spent my days hiding inside the conference centre (yep, I was there attending a 5-day sociology conference :)) or trying to cool down in the sea.

It's not as hot here in Estonia, of course, even if it feels like that. The daytime temperatures stay just over 30C and it "drops" to 20 C during the night (20 C, actually, is my preferred temperature for the whole summer, including day time). I pretty much haven't cooked anything during the last few days that requires me to touch the oven or the hob, and have been browsing through my recipe archives for various cold dishes to serve. Here's a cool and refreshing watermelon salad that I originally made a year ago. It tasted good then - and it was a much cooler summer. It would taste even more delicious in today's heat..

Greek watermelon and feta salad with olives
(Kreeka feta-arbuusisalat oliividega)
Serves four as a meal when accompanied with some crusty white bread.

1 kg watermelon
200 g barrel-aged feta cheese
freshly ground black pepper
about a handful or two of Kalamata olives
2 Tbsp fresh mint, leaves chopped
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

Peel the watermelon, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into bite-sized chunks. Place into a serving bowl.
Crumble the feta cheese on top, season with black pepper (straight from the pepper mill, preferably!)
Pit the olives, scatter on top of the salad alongside the chopped mint.
Drizzle with olive oil and lime juice and serve.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Green Apple Mousse

Apple mousse / Vahustatud õunatarretis

Perhaps not the most seasonal dessert (local apples become available in a month or two), but it's a light dessert that would taste lovely on a hot day. You do need a cold fridge for cooling it, however!

Make sure to choose crisp and slightly tart apples like Granny Smith.

Green Apple Mousse
(Vahustatud õunatarretis)
Serves 4

Apple mousse / Vahustatud õunatarretis

250 g apples (cored and peeled weight)
500 ml water (2 cups)
5 Tbsp caster sugar
6 gelatine leaves
0.5 tsp vanilla extract

Peel and core the apples, cut into chunks. Place in a boiling water (try adding a splash of lemon juice to keep the apples from discoloring) and simmer until apples are soft.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the apples and press through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl.
Add sugar to the hot apple "stock" and stir, until sugar has dissolved.
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for about 5 minutes. Squeeze slightly, then stir into the hot apple syrup, one by one. Pour the syrup into the apple pureé, season with vanilla extract.
Let it cool a little, until the mixture starts to set a little. Using a hand-held or standing mixture, whip until light and fluffy.
Divide between the dessert bowls and place into a cool place to set a little.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Watermelon drink

Watermelon drink / Ingveri-arbuusijook

It's VERY hot here. For the last week or two, the usually moderate summer temperatures have been replaced with about 28-30 Celsius, and the weather forecast doesn't forecast end to that heat any time soon. Perfect excuse for cold and refreshing drinks. One of my favorites has been a combination of watermelon, grated ginger and lots of crushed ice.

How do you keep yourself cool these days??

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Koldskål aka Danish buttermilk soup

Danish buttermilk soup / Koldskål / Petisupp maasikatega

We're in the middle of a heatwave here in Estonia, and there's no end in sight. On the contrary, the weather forecast announces that the temperatures will soar even higher during the next few days. I'm not a hot weather person, and the heat has seriously affected my enthusiasm and ability to cook and stand by the stove. We've been eating sandwiches, tabbouleh, lots of hummus, and sugarsnap peas, carrots and radishes from our own garden. And this Danish dessert, koldskål.

The traditional koldskål starts with an eggnog base that's topped with buttermilk, but modern versions often substitute raw egg yolks with thick yogurt. That's what I've done here as well. The traditional topping is kammerjunkere, but you can crumble some cantucci biscuits on top or use granola or müsli. I love the cardamom-scented "skorpor" you'll find at your nearest IKEA (those are the ones I've used here). Most of the recipes I've seen use lemon juice or vanilla extract for seasoning. I opted for elderflower cordial, as I've got fond memories of my host mum Kirsten using elderflower cordial to season lots of different desserts during my summer in Denmark back in 1993. I LOVE the floral notes elderflower cordial adds, and I think my host mum would approve :)

Danish buttermilk soup / Koldskål / Petisupp maasikatega

A great dessert to enjoy during those hot summer days. (There aren't many blog posts about koldskål, but you can check out Gitte's recent post. My favourite Danish foodblogger Zarah Maria, has only briefly mentioned this wonderful dessert).

Danish buttermilk soup
(Külm petisupp marjade ja kuivikutega)
Serves four

Danish buttermilk soup / Koldskål / Petisupp maasikatega

200 g thick yogurt or creme fraiche
4 Tbsp sugar
750 ml (3 cups) buttermilk
2 to 3 Tbsp elderflower cordial or lemon juice

To serve:
strawberries, raspberries or other soft fruit
crispy biscuits or 'skorpor'
couple of fresh mint or lemonbalm leaves

Combine sugar and yogurt in a bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in the cordial and buttermilk, whisk until combined. If necessary, place to the fridge to cool.
To serve, divide the koldskål into bowls, top with some biscuits and lots of strawberries. Garnish with mint or lemonbalm leaves and serve.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Cottage Cheese and Egg Salad

Egg butter with farmer's cheese / Munavõi kodujuustuga

Egg Salad (called 'munavõi' or 'egg butter' in Estonian) is a popular sandwich spread in Estonia. The traditional version contains just softened butter and boiled eggs, seasoned with salt. However, I've come to prefer this slightly lighter version over the last few years. In addition to the butter and eggs, this version contains cottage cheese or farmer's cheese. As far as the herbs go, I love chives here, but dill, parsley, savory would work as well.

It can be kept in a fridge for a few days, covered, but it tastes best when freshly made. If you do make it in advance, then bring to the room temperature 15-20 minutes before serving. Serve with boiled potatoes, on home-baked rye bread, or as a sandwich filling.

Cottage Cheese and Egg Salad
Serves four to six

Egg salad / Kodujuustu-munasalat

3 to 4 eggs
100 g butter, softened
150 g cottage cheese
sea salt
fresh chives, finely chopped

Hard-boil the eggs using your favourite method, cool to room temperature, then peel. Separate the cooked egg yolks and whites.
Place the butter and egg yolks into a bowl and use the back of a wooden spoon to cream the mixture (that gives the gorgeous yellow colour!).
Finely chop the cooked egg whites, stir into the rest of the ingredients alongside the chives. Season with salt.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Chantarelle bruschetta

Chantarelle bruschetta / Krõbedad saiad praetud kukeseentega

I've blogged about serving fried chantarelles on toast two years ago, but as the chantarelle season has began here again and I've been eating fried chantarelle mushrooms several times a week, I decided to blog about them again. The summer lunch of boiled potatoes and fried chantarelles is a classic, a side "salad" of cottage cheese and fried chantarelles is another current favourite, as is this bruschetta-style small toast. Lovely with a glass of chilled white wine or beer on a summer afternoon!

I love pairing chantarelles with dillweed, but thyme or parsley would work as well, as would summer savory.

Chantarelle bruschette
(Krõbedad saiad praetud kukeseentega)
Serves four

8 slices of white bloomer or Italian style bread
olive oil and butter, for frying

Chantarelle topping:
olive oil and butter, for frying
1 small (red) onion, finely chopped
250 g small chantarelle mushrooms
1 small garlic clove, crushed
fresh dill, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Clean the mushrooms, halve or quarter the larger ones.
Heat some butter and oil on a frying pan. Add the onion and gently sauté for 5-7 minutes, until it starts to soften. Add the mushroomsn and fry for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the crushed garlic clove, season with salt and pepper. Finally stir in the dill.
Fry the bread slices in oil and butter until golden on both sides. Divide the mushrooms on the bread slices, sprinkle some sea salt flakes on top and serve.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Grilled chicken livers in sherry and honey marinade

Chicken livers in sherry honey marinade / Grillitud kanamaksavardad

When planning the menu for the Midsummer's Eve, I knew I wanted something more unusual in addition to the traditional pork shashlik. I ended up making this simple grilled chicken liver dish, which was much liked by everyone. Such a quick dish to throw together and cook, ideal for those quick (yet leisurely) summertime meals in your backyard.

Serve with a green salad or a watermelon & feta or melon & blue cheese salad.

Grilled chicken livers
(Grillitud kanamaksavardad)
Source: Finnish magazine Apu (14.3.2004)
Serves 4

450-500 g chicken livers

2 garlic cloves, minced
a bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 Tbsp dry sherry
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp runny honey

salt and pepper to season

If you're using frozen chicken livers, then transfer them to the fridge night before.
Drain the defrozen chicken livers carefully. Cut each liver into two large pieces.
Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl, add chicken liver. Leave to marinate for about 2-3 hours.
Pierce the chicken livers onto a wooden sticks* and grill over hot coals or under a hot grill for about 5 minutes, turning them every now and then.
Season with salt and pepper and serve.

* Soak the sticks in cold water for at least 30 minutes before - then they won't burn as quickly.