Friday, 31 May 2013

Toast Skagen

In Stockholm our Saturdays tend to follow a pattern. Design district for The Gentleman, a couple of vintage shops for me and lunch invariably at Östermalm Market Hall. Most likely at Lisa's. This restaurant at the heart of the hall specializes in fish and seafood and is always packed, though well worth the wait. Toast Skagen, so loved by the Swedes is one of the menu favourites and for a reason. And the perfect accompaniment for this classic is aquavit which there are many varieties of. 

Today Toast Skagens were fashioned into mini versions suitable for appetizers or canapés to go with drinks. The bread baskets are the same we made for the tea party

These king prawns weren't as masisve as the ones we've used in the past. You can use any size prawns for this of course - depending on the size you'll need 24-32 of them.

Some of the mayo ( 1/3 or 1/2) could be substituted with Turkish yoghurt, too.

makes 8

8 slices of toast

24 king prawns
dash of lemon juice
a little oil
1/2 chilli, finely chopped
salt, black pepper

4 heaped tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp dill
salt, white pepper

Prepare the bread baskets according to the instructions here. Let them cool.

If using uncooked prawns, shell and de-vein them (leave the tail on for 8 prawns you'll need for decorating). Brush lightly with oil, sprinkle wiith some lemon juice and a little bit of chilli. Season and cook - either in a pan, on the grill or in the oven (175°) for a couple of minutes until done. Let cool.

Chop the cooled prawns into chunks (remember to save those 8!) and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Spoon into the baskets and serve!
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Thursday, 30 May 2013


My favourite hotel in Stockholm is also one of my absolute favourite hotels in the world: Grand Hotel. I booked us there for a weekend to celebrate The Gentleman's 50th birthday. It is such a big day and he is such a fine man that it deserves to be celebrated! And Grand is the hotel of choice for all the other superstars when they're in town too...

The hotel is full of that old school glamour. They also have a spectacular spa department, brilliant bar, delightful afternoon tea... and as if all this wasn't enough - they also house 2 Michelin- starred restaurants. I was won over at the breakfast at the latest where they serve Kalle's Kaviar (Swedish paste made of cod roe) in adorable miniature tubes!

I love roe. Which is something The Gentleman's discerning British palate will probably never be able to fully comprehend. This is a slightly more grown-up version  of it: taramasalata.

This originally a Greek delicacy, is, as the name states, a roe salad. Traditionally the roe used for this comes from mullet, carp or even cod, but just about any roe works. Today I tried it with the vegan version made of seaweed and even that was good! Serve with crusty bread, crackers... or crisp bread.

This recipe makes about 2,5 dl of taramasalata.

1 white loaf (350 g)
1 dl milk
1/2 small onion, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
100 g roe
1 large yolk
1,5 tbsp lemon juice
0,5 tsp lemon zest, grated
1 dl olive oil
white pepper

Cut the bread in half and scoop out the bread from the crust. Let soak in milk for about 10 minutes. Then squeeze the excess milk out - the mixture should be paste-like.

Mix it with roe, yolk, onion, garlic and lemon juice in a blender until it's smooth. A handheld device is probably the easiest and produces the smoothest result. 

Add oil in a thin stream with the machine running. Add the lemon zest and season with white pepper. If taramasalata is too salty (depends on the roe you use) add some more bread  (and if needed, some milk and/or oil).

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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Scrocchietti and foodie dreams in Vaxholm

Directly upon arrival at Vaxholm one is greeted by the sight of Vaxholm Hotel, a traditional hotel full of the charm of the world gone by. The terrace at their restaurant is a delightful place for a lunch. 

For us the proverbial icing on the cake that was Vaxholm was Skafferi, recently opened right by the harbour.

It is a little deli run by a former banker of God only knows how many exotic origins that sells exactly the kind of delightful little things that make yours truly squeal with delight. Italian delicacies, charcuterie (the truffle salami is to. Die. For), a couple of daily lunch specials and wine. 

And across the street there's a tiny terrace, where you can stage an impromptu picnic with all the goodies from the deli. And enjoy the sun. And the view of the castle just across the small river. If this sounds ridiculously perfect, try to hang in there. Because that's exactly what it is.

I can tell you- after 3 bottles of perfectly chilled rosé that castle looks nothing like those brain-busting German 3000- piece puzzles. It actually looks... rather charming.

The owner at Skafferi is an absolute star. "Well, one day I just got thinking why the hell I'm doing a job I hate when all I want to do is cook. So, I opened this." For that we thank him- we will be back.

It's so wonderful coming across people like that; people with such passion for food they are willing to take that leap into the unknown. I can only wish him all the best (with only the faintest notion of envy...)

One of the things I stocked up on were scrocchiettes, rosemary- sea salt crackers that I tried to reproduce at home (I've got to make most of that rosemary one way or another...) I used the recipe for grissinis as base.

Makes about 30

2 dl warm water
2 tsp dry yeast
1 tbsp syrup or honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
4 dl all purpose flour
2 tbsp chopped rosemary

for brushing: 1 egg ja 1 tbsp oil

Mix yeast with water. Add syrup and let sit for appr. 5 minutes. Then add oil and 1 dl of flour. Mix and add salt and the remaining flour. Work into a smooth, elastic dough. Pour excess flour out of the bowl, oil it lightly and leave the dough to rise.

Let the dough rise until doubled in size in a covered bowl, in a warm and draft-free place. Divide the dough in 3 and each one of those into a thin sheet. Cut the sheet into strips of appr. 5 cms wide and then them into a square-shaped crackers. If you prefer a less rustic look, you can use a cookie cutter to cut the dough into shapes of your choice. 

In order to avoid the dough from rising too much, roll each portion as the previous batch is about to come out of the oven. Prick the crackers with a toothpick and brush with egg and oil- wash. Sprinkle some fleur de sel on top.

Bake in 200° for 15- 20 minutes until crisp and golden. Let them cool on a wire rack.

The small pleasures in life. Inevitably made of carbs and alcohol.

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Monday, 27 May 2013

Swedish summer paradise

An Australian friend of mine was about to visit Sweden for the first time a little while ago and turned to me for advice and recommendations. 

The Gentleman used to live is Stockholm at one point, so that's another place we have many wonderful memories from. Last summer we holidayed there in the late August sun and it sure felt like being in a foreign country!

Considering how much time we've spent in Stockholm, it's downright silly that we've never taken the boat to Grinda. Or Vaxholm. 

But, better late than never so this time we finally did. 

Grinda Wärdshus and their lunch are well worth the boat trip and even the hike through the woods. But Vaxholm, boys and girls, Vaxholm. Oj då and herregud, it was adorable!

It's exactly the sort of Swedish summer paradise that it makes you want to tie a wreath of flowers into your hair and dance polka around the may pole.

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Sunday, 26 May 2013

Soup Sunday: Borsch

I've never considered borsch my friend. Ours was one of those first encounters that were forever carved in my mind - but for all the wrong reasons. Blood and vomit related associations kept us apart for years until in Tallinn I convinced myself to give it a second chance.

And lo and behold - Von Krahli Aed's borsch was so dreamily light that we did, against all odds, become soul mates. If I remember correctly, Von Krahli Aed's version was served with elk meat, the gentle gaminess of which complimented this soup so wonderfully, but since there was still some reindeer mince left in the freezer, I rolled it into mini meat balls that I cooked in the soup. 

Normally I would have used the venison shavings that can be found in most Finnish supermarkets. I seasoned the mince with some salt and pepper and dropped them into the soup a couple of minutes before the soup was done. 

If you want, you could substitute some of the beets with carrots cut into julienne or even cabbage. And since every day is worth turning into a celebration - even if just by going through the extra mile with the presentation, I decorated the soup with some beetroot crisps. Not only does it look nice, it also showcases the main ingredient in a new way that really brings out the sweetness of the beets in an unparalleled way. Fennel's liquoricey notes add a nice depth to the soup.

For 3

3 beets (total weight around 300 g)
1 tbsp tomato concentrate
1 onion
1 fennel (200 g)
8 dl good stock
a couple of allspice peppers
salt, pepper
150 g reindeer mice/ venison shavings

Peel the beets and slice thinly. Leave a couple of slices for decoration. Cut the slices into juliennes - the thinner, the better. If using carrot or cabbage, do the same. Peel the outer leaves off the fennel, cut it in half and cut off the hard, woody core. Then slice it into equally thin slices. Slice the onion finely and gently fry in oil for a little while. Then add the remaining veg, let them soften a bit and pour the stock over them. Add the allspice. Cook over medium heat, covered, until the vegs are done. Then add the meat and let cook for a couple of more minutes. Serve with sour cream. If you want beetroot crisps, either fry them in hot oil or brush them with oil and bake in the oven (175°) until crisp. Keep an eye on them as they burn quickly.

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Saturday, 25 May 2013

Lemon crème brûlée

Though our kitchen in Spain is armed with all sorts of goodies, in addition to that pasta machine it also lacks something else: a blowtorch. Which is a big deficit when one is taken over by longing for Bonaparte's bakery and a craving for crème brûlée. 

Though I like to think I'm fairly open-minded and willing to try new things, when it comes to menus, I'm somewhat predictable. My friend, the Tzatziki champion laughs how I always seem to go for duck. When it comes to desserts, I'm even more pathetic: if it's on the menu, it will be on my plate. Crème brûlée, that is. 

Today we made some ourselves from the anxiety-ridden lemons from our garden (well, the use of plural is somewhat unnecessary - this year's harvest: one lemon). And to go with the lemony notes, I added raspberries. And Finnish salty liquorice- flavoured hard candy called Turkinpippuri. And yes, another version featured rosemary, also from our own garden...

And the leftover egg whites can be used for meringues!

6 portions

1 dl milk
3,5 dl cream
1/2 vanilla pod
4 yolks
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 dl sugar

optional: raspberries, rosemary, Turkinpippuri- sweets

Split the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds. Bring cream and milk with vanilla seeds and pod added to them to boil in a pan. In a bowl whisk yolks and sugar together into a pale yellow, thick foam. Let the cream mixture cool a little and pour it into the eggs through a sieve in a thin stream. Add the finely grated lemon zest. Pour into shallow ramekins, place in a deep oven dish and pour boiling water into the dish so it reaches halfway up the ramekins. Bake in 190° for 20- 25 minutes until the mixture has set. Let cool  and set in the fridge for several hours - preferably until the next day. Right before serving sprinkle a thin layer of dark sugar on top and burn it until there's a crisp surface - either with a blowtorch or under the grill for a few minutes.

Some recipes advice the puddings to be cooked in 100° for 50- 60 minutes. Opinions/ comments/ experiences as to which way is the best way are welcome!

For variety add some raspberries (gooood), a teaspoon of chopped rosemary (even better!) or a couple of crushed Turkinpippuri sweets (insanely goooood!) into the dishes before they go into the oven.

And while on the topic of pasta machines - the voting in the Finnish foodbloggers' monthly food challenge has begun and lasts until May 30th. This month's theme was spinach and our entry  is spinach and ricotta raviolis (pinaatti-ricotta raviolit in Finnish) - you can vote them here!

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Drunken prawns

One of the restaurants in Tallinn I've discovered on the recommendations of a friend of mine The Wine Authority is Fish & Wine. One summery afternoon I retired there to enjoy some lunch (and sample the praised wine list). I had pasta with vodka and prawns, which today was put to test in the home kitchen. And oh, how Tallinn is calling me back...

It is such a treat to have friends like that - to have people to compare notes with and discover new destinations. Thanks to their recommendations Tallinn never ceases to surprise!

Pasta is a world onto its own, and for this dish bucatini would be the best choice.  Though I only seemed to have linguini... As this was made back home in Helsinki, I didn't have that home-made shellfish stock and I "had to" make do with lobster fond (which from now on is a pantry staple!) The end result was so yummy that even though I claim the recipe feeds 2, today it only fed one extremely greedy food blogger...

For 2

150 g pasta of your choice
400 g king prawns
1/2 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 chilli
(again, adjust based on your palate and the variety of chilli you're using - mine wasn't very hot)
1 tbsp tomato concentrate
1/2 dl vodka
2 tbsp lobster fond
2,5 dl cream
1 tbsp dill
salt, pepper

To serve: sour cream, roe, dill

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Fry the onion, finely chopped chilli and garlic in some butter. When they've softened a bit, add the tomato paste and vodka along with the lobster fond and cream. Cook for a bit longer and add dill. Add prawns and cook for a couple of more minutes until they're cooked through. Season and serve. Be careful with salt as there's some in the lobster fond and roe. Fold the pasta into the sauce and serve with a dollop of sour cream and roe.

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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Culinarism and culture in Tallinn

The Gentleman's and my roads first crossed over 7 years ago. In so many ways we're so like chalk and cheese that we are probably the ones most bewildered by the fact that the road still goes on. Relationship with the opposite sex is challenging enough as it is, even when you don't have to build it over language and culture barriers and reaching over the generation gap. That's when it becomes a venture worthy of a Nobel peace prize. But man, he makes me happy- he's not getting rid of me anytime soon!

The relationship was met with surprised scepticism by many. The answer to the often asked question "so, where did you meet?" raised even more eyebrows: "at the theatre? So you're both, like, what- culture vultures?" It was such a shame, having to ruin all their ideas by explaining that theatre, yes- but a nightclub called Theatre.

Since then we have, in addition to drinking culture, dabbled with the higher kind as well.

Even to my surprise when in Finland, I'm a  frequent visitor to Tallinn and the National Opera there. Tallinn is so close, yet in all its coy charm so completely different.

Opera's calendar is varied and the admissions are cheap. And the restaurants in Tallinn are more than enough reason to skip to the other side of the bay and pretend one understands operatic geniuses. More on the restaurants here.

If there's one thing I have learn from the operas it is this: true love ends in tragedy. Often tuberculosis- related kind. That is a fate I'd like me and the Gentleman to avoid...

There's something else Tallinn (and its fabulous bakeries) have taught me: Marie Antoinette of the "let them eat cake"- fame was one of the world's worst misunderstood humanitarians. Cakes are gooood! Especially the ones at Bonaparte's, where I always pick up at least their créme brûlée tart. I don't care what they say about Eastern European women- tarts in Tallinn are the best...

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Greetings from under the Andalusian sun!

Greetings from Spain, where we have officially kicked off the asparagus season. Though... this neighbourhood freak of nature is probably something totally different than what it looks like? A mutant member of the palm tree family perhaps? I mean - that would require buckets and buckets of Hollandaise!

And there's no need to camp out in the sun - spring this year has been very fickle. There's still snow in the Northern Spain and apparently even more is on the way.

For the next few weeks I'm looking at some tanning (hopefully!), markets, exploring new places, food both during tapas marathons and in the test kitchen and also quality time with The Gentleman... And The Mother-in-Law. You will be looking at unpublished treasures until I'll find time to put together new material from Spain. 

We have also been bestowed an incredible honour: Herkkusuun lautasella, one of the leading food blogs in Finland has asked us to collaborate with them in the form of an article on the Andalusian treats and here it is!

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Monday, 20 May 2013

Fabada Asturiana

I love royal families. When Kate and Wills finally came out with the news of the long-awaited engagement, I'm fairly certain I cried. Luckily later I, too, got to see that sometimes years of relentless waiting and unfaltering belief in happy ends do pay off!

Before the wedding of Swedish Crown Princess Victoria and her chosen one, Daniel I had researched weeks in advance how to stream the wedding live in Spain. I was hospitalized the night before, but fortunately I was discharged a couple of hours before the wedding, so when it started, I was exactly where I was supposed to: firmly in front of the laptop, wearing a tiara and clutching a glass of Champagne.  An hour later I came around under the table, though tiara firmly in its place. Turned out that the numerous drugs I was sent home from the hospital with really didn't go with alcohol. See, another reason to learn the local lingo.

Perhaps it's because of that language barrier that I've never grown very close to the Spanish royal family. Though of course I like them too. Especially the Crown Prince Felipe (whose full name, in a charmingly understated manner is Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos (et omnes sancti) de Borbón y de Grecia). His title: the Prince of Asturia.

Asturia is an autonomy located in the Northern Spain. Their most famous dish is, without a doubt, Fabada Asturiana - Asturian sausage and bean stew. And what could be a better way to try and forge a friendship with morcilla, that legendary Asturian blood sausage I had brought home with me.  

Letizia, Felipe's wife and the future Queen has some seriously gorgeous shoes, but she is to skinny there's no way she's often gone overboard with this Asturian traditional delicacy...

When done the proper way the process starts the day before. That's when you start soaking the beans, ham bones, pork belly, pig's ears (and what ever else you're using). The next day they'd be placed in a pot with some water. When the water starts to boil, you'd add chorizo, morcilla and other meats and then you'd keep on slowly stewing them for a couple of hours. I, on the other hand, chose pre-cooked beans and a short cut that will get you a bowl of steamy stew in less than half an hour.

The dish itself is very simple and very much like the French cassoulet and the Portuguese feijoada, the ingredients are simple too: cheap cuts, sausages and beans. This is exactly the sort rustic dish that offers warmth and comfort in the middle of the cold winter. Apart from pimiento and saffron this doesn't even call for much spices - the earthiness of the morcilla and the kick from the chorizo take care of that on their own. 

Like with pork, my relationship with blood has been wrought with complications. This is actually the first time I've ever cooked a blood dish. In its smoky toastiness and earthy pungeance morcilla is even more robust that the English black pudding and I must say I'm not entirely sold just yet...

For 3

150 g chorizo
125 g morcilla (or black pudding)
5 slices of the side of the pork (or thick cut bacon)
2 tins of cooked white beans (not in tomato sauce) which is roughly 1/2 kg beans
1 tsp pimiento
pinch (appr. 1/6 tsp) saffron
1 dl stock
3 dl water

Rinse the beans. Cut the sausages into 1 cm slices. Heat the pan and toss in the sausages. Once they start releasing their own fat (make sure the pan isn't too hot - otherwise they will just burn), add the side of pork/ bacon. Then add stock and water. Carefully fold in the beans. Add saffron (either as is or mixed with a little bit of boiling water) and pimiento. Let cook under lid on medium heat for 20-30 minutes until the sausages and pork are cooked all the way through. Every now and then check there's still liquid left and add more if needed. Don't stir too vigorously of the beans will just fall apart and become mushy. Season with black pepper (optional) - there really shouldn't be any need for salt. In case you find the aromas too smoky, a dash of lemon juice or lemon zest will lift and freshen up the flavours.

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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Soup Sunday: harira

Thisu week's Soup Sunday is in a Moroccan state of mind too. Today's soup is Morocco's culinary gift to the world of soups: harira.

Occasionally I tell myself I travel in order to learn about humanity. To challenge myself, my prejudices and opinions in the face of new places and, at times, difficult situations - forced to realize how little I know and how sometimes I might actually be... wrong. But let's face it - I probably do it all for food.

When I finally managed to talk The Gentleman into going to Morocco with  me, my dream was to get to Marrakesh. And not least because of the legendary Jemaa el-Fnaa market. Due to logistical issues we compromised and went to Tangiers. But one thing I held on to: I needed to have some harira.

Harira is a thick soup, popular especially during Ramadan, the fasting month. It warms and comforts the body and soul. There are as many traditional recipes as there are eaters, but it is a tomato-based soup with warm, gingery and cinnamony notes and has lentils and chickpeas  though some even add rice or noodles to give it more body. The meat used in this is usually lamb. Often it is the kind of cheap cuts that require a lengthy, slow cooking but missing time, patience and pressure cooker I used minced lamb which means that the soup will take 30 minutes and not 3 hours. The chickpeas I used were pre-cooked too. 

In spite of the warmth and rich aromatic scent the soup itself isn't very hot. It's surprisingly gentle. You can crank up the heat if you want by adding more chillis or a couple of spoonfuls of harissa that would add a nice kick to it. Most recipes don't even have chillis, but mine does. Small, but so feisty the lady at the ethnic shop at Hakaniemi shooked her head with disbelief. "I don't know what you think you're doing, girl - these are HOT!"

For 6

1 large onion, finely chopped
1  large carrot, finely cubed
2 large garlic cloves
2 chillis (or more or less, depending on your palate and the hotness of your chillis)
2 generous tsp ginger (dried)
1 heaped tsp tumeric
250 g lamb mince
1 generous tsb cinnamon
2 litres stock (meat or chicken)
3/4 dl tomato puré
4 large tomatos, blanched, peeled and cubed
3 dl red lentils, rinced
1 can (240 g) pre-cooked chickpeas
salt, pepper
2 handfuls of shopped parsley
2 handfuls of chopped coriander

Heat about 1/2 dl of oil in a big pot. Add onion, garlic, chilli, carrot, ginger and turmeric. Let the spices cook for a while. Then add mince and brown. Add tomato paste and stock. Stir well. Add tomatos and lentils and cook for about 10 minutes until lentils are done. Add cinnamon and chic peas and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes until they too are hot all the way through. Season. Finally add the herbs and serve with lemon wedges.

Oh, and I so don't need to lament that unbearably bare ring finger of mine anymore. These days it's being occupied by a rock so big I'm surprised the casting director at Real Housewives of OC hasn't been in touch with it yet. But I have just discovered one thing that doesn't go with it: turmeric. That thing stains everything with such gusto you really want to look out...

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Saturday, 18 May 2013

Moroccan flavours

Harissa is to North Africa what hummus is to Middle East - each country in the region claims to have invented it and supposedly produces the best stuff money can buy.

In its liquoricey spiciness it is rather unique and works with just about anything. Well... ice cream might be an exception. 

You can also make it yourself, buy it at the ethnic markets or you can outsource sourcing it to a friend's family that in all their internationality rival UN and the Pitt-Jolie- family. Such as a my dear friend Taru from Trio Miumau- blog who has just honoured us with I love your blog- award. We love!  

Today we used it in a Moroccan style harissa yoghurt that was served with lamb köftes and carrot and mint couscous.

Lamb köftes (fancy ethnic name for skewered mince) were seasoned with ras el hanout, a spice mix widely used all over Middle East and North Africa. It literally means the top shelf of the shop, which refers to the fact that each shop has their own variety with their own regional features.

Before the Moroccan variety used to contain a special green beetle, due to its (alleged?) afrodisiac qualities, but its use was banned in the 1990's. The ingredients vary greatly from one mix to another and some feature up to 20 different spices. You could always make your own - this is mine.

Ras el Hanout:

1 tbsp corianderseeds, ground
1 tbsp cumin, ground
1/4 tbsp cloves, ground
1/4 tbsp allspice, ground
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper 
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/4 tbsp cardamom, ground

For three

Lamb köfte

250 g lamb mince
1,5 tbsp ras el hanout
1/2 onion
1 garlic clove
3 slices of bread
a couple of tbsp stock
handful of parsley, chopped
salt, pepper

Remove the crusts from the bread. Soak it in stock until it disintegrates. Soften the onion in a little bit of oil until translucent  Add garlic and ras el hanout. Add to the bread mixture. Combine into this mince and parsley. Work into a smooth mixture and let rest in the cold for half an hour. Shape into oblong patties around a skewer and fry, either in a grill or in a pan for a couple of minutes per side.

Carrot and mint couscous

3 dl couscous
3 dl carrot juice
1/2 onion
handful of mint leaves, chopped
lemon juice

Bring the carrot juice to boil and add couscous. Turn the heat off and let the couscous cook covered until it's  done and the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with fork, add mint and a dash of lemon juice. Season and serve.

Harissa yoghurt sauce

2 dl Greek yogurt
2 generous tsp harissa paste
1 tsp tomato paste
a dash of lemon juice

Combine the ingredients and let sit in the cold for a while before serving.

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Friday, 17 May 2013

Mediterranean Morocco

Though Morocco positively basks in colours, it also has those hues of blue and white that not only are very typical for Mediterranean countries but also are very soothing for the soul.  It is possible (downright recommendable I'd say!) to explore tiny seaside villages for day trips from Tangiers - they make you see Morocco in a totally different light.

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

Magnificent colours of Morocco

As much as there are places to explore in Andalusia, it also makes exploring the rest of the world rather convenient - especially North Africa. Algeciras and Tarifa, both only a couple of hours drive from Malaga have ferry routes that take one to Tangiers or Ceuta in Morocco at their best in less than hour.

Being the border towns that they are, they don't exactly compare to the jewels that are Casablanca or Marrakesh - though without a doubt their initial charm, inspired by their authenticity, has suffered a bit as the streams of tourists have taken over. Though Tangiers isn't much of a jewel and its reputation, courtesy of being a key port for drug smuggling, is a bit shady, it does provide an opportunity to see some of the magnificent colours that are Morocco.

The narrow, maze-like streets of medina offer plenty of opportunities for one to lose her/himself (and her/his wallet). Good buys are those leather-strapped baskets that make Sunday market shopping spree so much more fun. Also ceramics, especially the traditional tagines make good souvenirs too as do the rugs and those traditional cast iron lanterns that come in variety of sizes - at their biggest they measure over 1 metre.

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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Twisted street kitchen

Though lately I've been eating out in proper restaurants and even in ones recommended in Michelin guide, it has been a joy to discover places that offer serious value for money for a lot less money, offering interesting culinary expeditions all over the world. Travelling is a fine hobby and probably the best thing about is sampling the local cuisine - preferably on the streets. The appreciation of the ingredients and a true love of food is something one truly tastes. 

So it has been great finding places such as Fafa's which take Middle Eastern street food classics such as falafels and kebabs to a whole new level (their marketing really is right: one of the best falafels I've ever eaten). Another joint that apparently does the same for sandwiches is Street Gastro that was just opened at Sofiankatu. Based on the rave reviews I can't wait to try them! And for Asian street food there's Twisted street kitchen - a tiny place that was opened on Fredrikinkatu 3 months ago.

You know how sometimes you meet new people and you immediately find a common language? That's what happened here. Literally. Surprisingly though in an Asian restaurant in Finland that language was Hebrew. The kal kal kalit- jingle that we were greeted with at the door evoked curiosity and memories. My dining companions for the evening couldn't have been more surprised at the turn communication took. 

The menu isn't very extensive but offers a nice cross section of Thai cuisine. For sides we had adorably aromatic jasmin rice, appropriately gutsy Chow Mein noodles and wasabi-potato salad. Wasabi lent the salad some nice heat, but could have used a bit more seasoning. I found Som Tam papaya salad from Northern Thailand a bit bland for my liking but it was fresh and balanced nicely the spiciness of the other dishes. 

Mussaman gai was, in its spiciness, outstandingly balanced and subtly seductive dish for which star anis brought wonderful depth without being overpowering. Loved it.

But the best was yet to come: the BBQ ribs. Oh. OHHHH. Easily the best ribs I've ever eaten. You know how the sign of good ribs is the way they "practically fall off the bone"? Well, that's what these did. For real. Perfect fattiness and the sauce... ooooh the sauce. I tried  to get the intel on the sauce which they make from scratch (the pineappley sweetness we deciphered ourselves) but I'm afraid the recipe is still very much a secret. Which is probably how it's supposed to be. Apple is one of the core ingredients, that much we were revealed. 

The portions are so generously sized that one dish would easily feed two persons. The service is excellent. Opening hours are a tad tricky in that even during weekends they close at 9pm. The restaurant only seats 8 and doesn't take reservations, but people - get in the queue if you must. Not for me but for those ribs. Well worth it.

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