Monday, 30 September 2013

Jamming away: damsons, rosemary and vanilla

I had to think of something to do with the rest of the damsons. So jam and Jerusalem it was!

A TV series about Rachel Khoo cooking away in her tiny, tiny little Parisian kitchen gave me some hope about how far the limits of a kitchen can be pushed.

Until I realized that even Mademoiselle Khoo's cuisinette is about three times bigger than mine. So, jamming sessions aren't the least challenging ones to execute in that cupboard of mine.

Since rosemary was such a good combination with damsons, I put some in the jam too. Along with the skins of a vanilla pod the seeds of which had been used in baking.

And good it was. "Deep flavours", commented the test kitchen. This works well with patés. And cheese of course. If you actually eat it.

1/2 l damsons
1,25 dl jam (gelling) sugar)
1 largeish sprig of rosemary
1 vanilla pod

Measure the ingredients into a pan, bring to boil and then cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes. Then remove the rosemary and vanilla pod and store in jars. You'll find the list of things to remember when making jam over here.




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Sunday, 29 September 2013

Last of the summer berries

Soup Sunday is taking a break this week and instead I will use today to clear the queue of the posts waiting to be published, longing for the summer gone by. The world seems to have gone mad for baking and the trend hasn't gone unnoticed in my kitchen either. 

The pie dish I'm so in love with that made its blog debut in that harvest pie has been working so hard lately it's probably already paid itself back. I can't say my colleagues are complaining though! Fear not - I'm not launching a Tart Thursday anytime soon though. Or Meatless Monday. Though I could really use a Frugal Friday. And Wine Wednesday definitely has its allure...!

This time the pie celebrates the last of the summer berries. This is based on the traditional berry pie everyone's mother used to bake, but this time I baked it without the berries and added them on top. You know, because they're so much prettier that way. 

Finns love their dairy, so our selection consists of products unknown to any other nation. Such as kermaviili, a mildly fermented, lighter (6% fat)  version of sour cream. You could use a light sour cream, quark or Turkish yoghurt instead.

The base itself is the same as the one I made for apple and frangipane tart. With savoury pies I couldn't be happier with the galette-base, with sweet ones the quest for the perfect recipe still continues.


3,5 dl all purpose flour
1 dl sugar
125 g butter (cold)
3-5 tbsp cold water

Rub the ingredients (apart from water) to a crumbly mixture. Be quick so it won't get too warm. Then start adding the water little by little until the dough starts sticking together, Wrap tightly in cling film and let rest on the fridge for half an hour.

Roll in thinly to a sheet a little bigger than the dish you're using. Roll it around the rolling pin and transfer to the dish. Or press it onto the bottom and the sides using your hands. Trim the excess and blind bake it. Place a foil sheet on top of the base and fill with ceramic baking beans or dried beans or peas. Bake at 200 (180 fan) for about 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and continue baking for further 5 minutes. This dries the base and makes sure it won't absorb the filling getting all soggy. Let the shell coo a bit and combine the ingredients for the filling.


300 g of the dairy of your choice (see above)
1 egg
1 tbsp potato flour (or corn flour)
1/2 vanillapod, the seeds scraped out (or 2 tsp vanilla sugar or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 dl sugar
the zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated

1/4 l blueberries
about 150 g raspberries

Combine the ingredients and pour into a slightly cooled shell. Bake until the filling has set - about 20-30 minutes. If the crust seems to get too much colour, cover with a foil sheet. Arrange the berries on top of the tart and dazzle!

(If you bake the tart with the berries incorporated in the filling, 200 gr of sour cream is enough.)

Voting in the Finnish foodbloggers' monthly food challenge ends today - don't forget to vote! I already have a pretty fine idea for next month's theme...! And here's our entry!




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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Spicy nuts

Being away form someone you love is hard. In the words of a mature, intelligent, analytical and verbally utterly gifted individual such as yours truly separation sucks ass. And now it sucks even more - the long awaited second season of Swedish-Danish series "The Bridge" just premiered in Scandinavia. 

Oh, that Saga Noren. For a moment it almost seemed she just might be feeling human emotions! Just like Sara Lund, the lead character in another Swedish-Danish masterpiece "The Killing" (or, "Förbrydelsen" as we in the know like to call it) it makes one wonder what exactly is wrong with these ladies? They're perfect tens alright - on Asperger's scale!

Those series have given us many marathon evenings in our home cinema, with a glass of wine in our hand (The Gentleman) and tears of horror in our eyes (me). Now, with mixed (read: bitter sweet) feelings I'm observing the tragedy unfold, all by myself. With no-one but that wine to hold my hand. And some snacks. Such as these spicy nuts.

The final product is not very hot, so adjust/ amend the spices as you see fit - you can test-drive the blend by tasting the mixture before it goes in the oven. Curry is another spice that (always) works. Allspice on the other hand lends the mixture lovely wintry heat so these would work well with some mulled wine too.

5 dl nuts
(mine was a blend of pecans, blanched almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews)
1 egg white

1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne 
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
salt, pepper

Heat the oven to 200°. Whisk the white until foamy and with no liquid left on the bottom of the bowl. Fold in the nuts and sprinkle the spices on top. Mix so everything is evenly coated, spread on a tray lined with a baking sheet and toast until golden  - about 20-30 minutes. Let cool and break apart any clusters. Store in an air-tight container.

If you prefer yours sweeter (and stickier) you can also mix the spices with a couple of generous tablespoons of sugar (in which case omit the egg white). Pour the spice mixture on a hot pan. After the sugar starts caramelizing, pour in the nuts and stir to make sure they're all coated. Keep toasting until they have a lovely colour. In case the sugar seems to start to burn, add a splash of water and stir thoroughly. Break any clusters with a spatula. Once done, spread them on a baking sheet and let cool. 




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Friday, 27 September 2013

Jamming away: apple, ginger and vanilla

I'm no pioneer in this respect either - this method of making jam was picked up from a fellow blogger in Finland. And though jam-making (dear me, using words like that with such ease. WI - you've been warned!) is no rocket science, this "forget the apples in the oven for an hour and a half and have a glass of wine in the meanwhile"- method does appeal to me more than the traditional slaving over the stove-style. And crikey. This just might be the most delicious jam ever! The fellow blogger wasn't lying - making it like this does produce a more intense, almost toffee-like flavour. Now I should just think of where to use it! Any ideas?

In all its simplicity the only rule is this: the right amount of jam (or gelling) sugar is half of that of the apples. Then add what ever tickles your fancy: a cinnamon stick, ginger, vanilla pod, cardamom, a star anise or, as some more creative bloggers had suggested: saffron.  I used a couple of cm piece of ginger cut into slices and the skins of three vanilla pods the insides of which had been utilized elsewhere in baking frenzy. If you use an intact one with seeds and all, one should be enough.

When making jam, there are a couple of ground rules:

Make sure the jars you're using are clean. Before filling them, immerse them in boiling water to make sure you get rid of all the little germs and impurities that (much like love according that song) are all around. 

Fill the jars while the jam is still hot. Fill them to the brim so there'll be no air left in which those germs could wreak havoc and start fermenting the jam. Or worse yet, start building mold. 

Close the lids immediately and let them cool in the room temperature before storing them in cold. Once they've cooled and that centre of the lid has popped back down you can pat yourself in the back and congratulate yourself with another glass of wine. That lid, you see, tells that the required vacuum has been created and your jam is safe. 

And now - let's jam away! The final quantity is roughly 1/3  of the original volume.

800 g apples
400 g jam sugar
a 3-5 cm piece of ginger
the skins of 3 vanilla pods OR 1 whole one, split in half and the seeds scraped out

Heat the oven to 150°. Cut the apples in half, remove the core and cut the halves into smaller chunks (depending on the size to 2-3). Dump them into a oven proof dish and pour the sugar (and any other flavouring agents you might be using) on top. Stir, put the dish in the oven and let stew for 1-1,5 hours. You can stir it again for a couple of times while they're stewing. If you want to. In the meanwhile have a glass of wine and be appalled at the insane behaviour of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (this, too, is optional).

Remove the dish from the oven, remove the vanilla pods/ cinnamon sticks/ ginger slices and blizz in a blender to a consistency of your choice. Pour in the jars (see before) and, once cool, store in the fridge.




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Thursday, 26 September 2013

Damson flan

The harvest from my colleagues continues. This time I was dealing with a previously unknown greatness - damson. Part of the plum family, this little sweetheart is at its best and ripest, wonderfully sweet, yet has the kind of plum-like tartness. 

It's quite temperamental in that according to one of my colleagues they don't often have enough time to ripen in Finnish hemisphere. 

Trying to process a damson can be quite temperamental as well - cutting it neatly in half in order to remove the pit isn't anywhere as straightforward it sounds. Most of the flesh tends to come with the pit. Apparently a good tool for this is the sort of pitting tool usually used on olives. And so the wishlist grows with yet another gadget. It already boasts a pasta machine, blowtorch, wood-burning oven and a meat mill. Hanukkah can't come soon enough!

I didn't feel like starting a WI-style jam operation though so instead I decided to surprise my colleagues with something else. Such as flan

Time I've spent in Brittany has left me wonderful memories not just of the Sunday markets when the fishermen would come to the shore and sell the most deliciously fresh goodies for Sunday lunch, but also of crêpes, a traditional Breton (not French!) treat of stuffed thin pancakes made with buckwheat, and flan.  It also left me fascinated with their bizarre, Celtic language consisting of letters nobody else would have even thought of.

Flan, or far, as they call it in Breton, is much like another French delicacy of clafoutis, only flan is denser and thicker. Traditionally it would be made with plums or prunes, but cherries also make a good substitution. As do damsons!

Rosemary added a nice tough to the clafoutis I've made with nectarines and it does works beautifully with plums and figs too. So I added some to the damsons too, though this time I didn't want to add it directly into the batter. Instead I threw the last sprigs from my window sill into the milk which I then brought to boil letting it then cool, leaving the sprigs in to infuse their flavour. Used like this you need more than you would when chopping them directly into the batter - up to 4 sprigs depending on how strong and piney you want the flavour. Another thing that would work well is cinnamon. Infuse some in the milk in a similar manner or sprinkle some ground one into the batter (in which case the batter loses the creamy whiteness it should, in the most puristic opinion, have).

Unfortunately I have no idea where I have copied the original recipe. It has been modified to the one below in order to achieve the texture and height that my favourite flans have shared. I prefer a flan on the denser side, so if you want your more... wobbly and custard-like decrease the quantity of flour, for instance to 5 tbsp. If you want it really dense, increase it to 7 tbsp. Do remember that it will get firmer as it cools too.

The dish I used measures appr. 16 cm x 24 cm.

A couple of dl of damsons

5 eggs
5 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1,5 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp all purpose flour
4,5 dl (full fat) milk
(3-4 sprigs of rosemary)
1 tbsp butter

Beat the eggs to a billowy, pale golden foam. Then, while continuing to beat, add sugar along with salt and vanilla. Then add flour, one tablespoon at a time. According to the original recipe the spoonfuls should be "gently rounded yet not generous". Continue to mix until you have a smooth, thickish, creamy batter. Then add milk, a little at a time. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least two hours.

Heat the oven to 220°. Once it's hot,  drop the butter into the dish you're using and place the dish in the oven. When the butter has melted, carefully remove the dish from the oven and spread the butter evenly onto the bottom and sides. Then sprinkle the berries/ fruit you're using at the bottom and and pour the mixture on top. Return to the oven and lower the heat to 180°. Bake for 25-35 minutes until it's got a little bit of colour and puffed up a bit. 

Let cool and sprinkle some icing sugar on top. Some prefer it while it's still a bit warm, some, like yours truly, prefer it the following day. But hey, c'est la vie!




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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Apple and frangipane tart

Apple is one of those things I've not had any shortage of in recent weeks - my colleagues' trees are brimming over. And the foodblogger can't get enough of that. Literally. Before burdening the blogosphere with yet another apple pie recipe I wanted to try something new, so I whipped up this frangipane filling. The making of which was another fine example of the ardour with which I cook and plan and and photograph and stage and curse the limited facilities of my miniature kitchen... while writing down stuff at the same time. Occasionally the last entry takes the back seat - multitasking (along with budget management and drinking in moderation) really doesn't seem to be one of my fortes. 

Now, I do remember writing the recipe down somewhere. I just can't remember where. But this is (just about) how it went...

Some of the flour in the base can be substituted with oat flour, but I wouldn't recommend more than 1 dl. Otherwise, owing to the different properties of oat,  you'll end with dry and crumbly base.


3,5 dl flour
125 g butter
1/2 tbsp cardamom
1 dl sugar
3-5 tbsp cold butter

2-4 apples (depending on the size)

Rub the ingredients (apart form the water) into a crumbly mixture. Then add water, little at a time until it starts sticking together. Wrap tightly in cling film and let rest in the fridge for half an hour. 

Then roll fairly thinly so it's a little bigger than your tin. Carefully wrap it around the rolling pin and transfer into the (loose bottom) pie dish. Or just press the dough on so it covers the tin evenly. Then place a sheet of foil on top of the base and fill the cavity with ceramic baking beans or dry beans or peas. Blind bake at 200° (180° fan) for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and continue baking for further 5 minutes. Let cool a bit and then spoon in the filling. Place the sliced apples on top and continue baking until done. If crust seems to be getting too much colour, cover the edges with foil.


1,5 dl almond flour
3/4 dl sugar
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 egg
3 tbsp butter

Mix the ingredients to a smooth paste. Spoon into a slightly cooled shell. Place the apples on top and continue baking until the pie is done - 25-35 minutes. For an even nicer finish you can mix 1 tbsp apricot marmalade with 1 tbsp water. Glaze the apples and return to the oven for a couple of more minutes.

Can I just say I'm in love with that tin? And that you'll be seeing it in the blog a lot? Though the miniature proportions of my miniature kitchen caught me off guard. Again. See, that dish measures 36 cm long. Which conveniently enough is the exact width of my oven. Which means that while I could get in in the oven, I couldn't get it out. A couple of energetic (!)  blows (!!) against the wall (!!!) took care of that as I managed to bend a couple of strategic millimetres off the length. With my biceps I figured that was easier than trying to expand my oven. But please, do not try that at home. Instead try this clever little tip: MEASURE THE OVEN BEFORE YOU GO INTO THE SHOPS.




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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Dining and w(h)ining in Tallinn: Salt

What's the meaning of life? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? How much is enough? How to choose a restaurant in Tallinn when there's only time for one meal? Those are only some of life's Big Issues. 

For a foodie Tallinn is nothing short of fabulous. Quality restaurants keep popping up everywhere and the price range is nothing if not reasonable. Normally my forays into Finland's Southern neighbour last longer than a day, which allows me to sample several restaurants. Though Kohvik Moon is somewhere I go every time. This time I decided to take a chance and book a lunch somewhere I'd never been before. "Ribe!" is what The Wine Authority always cries at this point. And yes, that is a place I absolutely want to try, but for dinner. So, for lunch we settled for Salt, a restaurant that already in its first year has been ranked #8 in Top 50 of Estonian restaurants. The restaurant, located towards the neighbourhood of Kadriorg does not have the most convenient of locations, but it is well worth the detour. The restaurant, petite and picturesque, has found loyal following among the locals. 

And what did I discover in the conversation we had with the restaurant's delightful owner? Her husband owns three restaurants in Tallinn, one of which is that very Ribe!

The menu changes often, based on what fresh and exciting is available that day. Today's special was rabbit stew which looked hearty and wonderful, but we decided on á la carte. To start with my colleague had sea bass ceviche, which was not only breathtakingly beautifully presented, but also extremely balanced and light dish. Normally the waiters' wine recommendations in the Tallinn restaurants I've been to have been worth taking but this time our waitress' recommendations seemed a bit fumbly. Though that might be down to her slightly fumbly English, which, though, is something she did very graciously apologize for . 

You can't get too many wines by the glass, so out of what was available we decided on Marlborough Gewürztraminer, which wasn't quite as acidic to really work with ceviche. A nice wine, nonetheless.

My duck rillette came with a wonderful pear chutney that complimented the duck beautifully.  A special thank you goes to the waitress, who gave me the opportunity to sample three reds before settling on this smooth Spanish from Murcia.

For mains my colleague had octopus with persillade. Lovely and light dish full of summery freshness. Simple, but so very nice. For this we chose vinho verde, though my rosé just might have worked even better.

We had been poring over the menu several times before the trip trying to decide which one of the tempting treats to go for. Pullimunad, or as the menu had translated it, "Pull Balls" never failed to get us in giggles. Perhaps that particular body part just doesn't have a better name in any language? I mean, it is bull's testicles. I had my slight reservations, but the waitress' verdict ("fabulous!") was enough to win me over. Oh the things I do so you don't have to! But now it's official: I've got balls. 

The taste is... interesting. Good interesting, mind you. It's not meaty, but doesn't quite taste like chicken either. The bread coating was well executed - if the crust is too thick and fried too dry it just makes what ever delectable treats it might be hiding taste like cheap fish fingers. Usually I fail to see the point of a pile of leaves dumped on top of a dish like that, but the pepperiness of rucola really complimented the mild richness of the testicles, served with tartar sauce. Upon the waitress' description of the taste I went for an Austrian rosé which had wonderful fruitiness and acidity. A match made in genital heaven!

On the recommendations of the restaurant owner Tiina I couldn't say no to a dish she herself had come up with: lamb liver Albanian style - especially after learning it was inspired by a dish she had on that meze restaurant street in Istanbul I, too, wrote about. The sauce was excellent, though I personally think cardamom would have worked well with it. The salad was taken to a whole new level by the coriander leaves. Unfortunately the liver, apart from a couple of chunks, was overcooked. This was the only letdown of our visit and after pointing it out to them it would have been nice had it been taken into consideration in the bill. 

Liver, as wonderful as it is, is strange in that when it's cooked over rosé, it just tastes like... well, liver. Which is sort of paradoxical. Lamb liver especially develops a strange camel-like aroma when overcooked. And to go with liver I took a note out of Hannibal Lecter's book(now there's a wine authority like no-one else...!) and washed it down with a lovely Chianti. 

There was such a lovely, toasty, caramel scent wafting out of the open kitchen we couldn't say no to a dessert. The source of that intoxicatingly sweet smell was caramelized apple and pear with goat cheese foam. Though the goat cheese was sold out so today it came with vanilla ice cream instead. A really nice vanilla ice cream, though.  For dessert wine we chose Pöltsamaa, that Estonian excellency. Good stuff.

Lemon posset was divine. Seriously. "Is this what heaven tastes like?" my colleague inquired. I would imagine so. I can't wait to have some more. For this our waitress' wine recommendation was more than a home run. Slam dunk. I was thinking of Austrian eiswein, but she talked me into having this Italian. Wow.

For a digestive I, ever the pensioner, had some of the superb sherry that I fell in love with in Ronda. Its toasty, rich sweetness reminds me of that toasty cane honey of ours.

It's possible to eat for a lot less in Tallinn. But if it's quality you're after, this is your choice. And the prices (even the most expensive thing on the menu is only €17,50) are extremely reasonable. The bill for my 4-course lunch with wines was a little shy of €80, my colleague's 3-course lunch with wines came to a little under €50. The experience was one of absolute delight. The staff is fantastic and I can't praise their patience with me and my camera enough. Thank you! Aitäh!

And from foodblogger's heaven to foodblogger's monthly food challenge! The voting has started and our entry, that miracle sushi made of cauliflower (entry number 3: "Andalusian Auringossa/ Kukkakaalisushi") is waiting for your votes! Voting ends on September 29th and you can cast your vote here!




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