Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Smoked herring paste

Smoked herrings from Sundom, glistening in the most glorious shades of gold that I picked up at my fish counter served as the inspiration for this spread. Those small joys in life... as I'm waiting for summer, sun and seagulls! Saltiness of the smoked fish, the texture the potatos lend, crunchiness of the onions, the richness of the boiled eggs and the acidity of the capers... It's got everything Fredrik Eriksson's book got me longing for in the Nordic summer! But these are also the very components that are guaranteed to ward off the dreadful feeling most of us are bound to start our new year with tomorrow morning...!

The capers could also be substituted with one whole gherkin (or about 10 cornichons).

Serves 6-8

8 smoked herrings (or kippers)
1 generous tbsp chopped capers / 1 gherkin
1 small red onion
butter for frying
2 boiled potatos, cold and cubed
2 boiled eggs, cooled and cubed
1 tub of Créme Fraîche (150 gr)
1 dl mayonnaise
chopped chives
salt,freshly ground white pepper

Clean the herring and roughly pull apart to big chunks. Cube the gherkin or roughly chop the capers. Peel and slice the onion and sauté in a pan in a little bit of butter so it softens but won't start browning. Cube the potatos.

Mix créme fraîche and mayonnaise and add capers, fried onion, potatos and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Finally fold in smoked fish carefully so it won't get all mushy and turn the paste into dirty grey in colour.

Serve with crisp bread or Archipelago bread.

With this I thank all of you readers for this year and wish you a wildly happy and (of course!) delicious year 2014! May it be full of success, adventures... and love!




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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Wining and dining in Helsinki: Goce

It's time to focus on the holidays (and ridiculous amounts of chocolate) and start publishing the posts that have been waiting for their turn. Such as the report on Goce, restaurant that I've managed to test on a couple of occasions. 

Getting a dinner reservation for the Independence Day Eve is nothing short of a challenge, especially when you start planning on securing one only the week before. National holidays - they have a way sneaking up on you totally out of the blue. Even though this particular holiday has been a fixture of the Finnish calendar for almost a century. I tried Emo. And Kolo. And a couple of others. But no luck. Emo for instance turned out to be booked solid through the rest  of the year. That's what it's like - dining and wining in Helsinki where everyone is busy trying to get a table at the same restaurant.

I wouldn't have minded finding a quaint little under the radar sort of place the Great Public hasn't yet discovered courtesy of the eagle -eyed food bloggers or the restaurant reviews of the biggest daily. I was even willing to leave my comfort zone (immediate city centre that is) and, if needed, even ready to toy with the idea of using public transportation. 

Quality ingredients were something I, or the date for the evening, a wine-lover visititor from overseas were not willing to compromise on. And since Spanish flavours are so very close to the heart of this blog(ger) a tip I picked up on the weekly supplement of the above mentioned daily about reopening of Goce Bar & Kitchen after a two-year-hiatus couldn't have come at a better time. 

The simple (and oh, so Scandinavian!) decor is very stylish. Restaurant itself is quite dimply lit, which, without a doubt, made me look better than I normally do. The same can't be said about the photos though...

I highly recommend you kick the evening off at their bar. The bartender knows what he's doing and this translates to great drinks. 

One of my favourites is Las Brisas, a drink named after a golf course located near Malaga (and favoured by The One And Only Real Bond). The drink gets its wonderfully summery feel from vodka infused with freshly cut grass (!)

And the only thing better than a tapas is gourmet tapas, claro que si! After trip to Manzanilla in Malaga, run by the formidable, Michelin-decorated Dani Garcia these boys had some serious boots to step into...

The menu looked promising. It's not quite as out there the way Manzanilla was, what with their foie gras millefeuilles, but the iberico-selection was enough to win over this little piggy. Bellota, for instance, that delicacy fed solely acorns, comes in various shapes and forms - for instance as chorizo.

The menu features many classic tapas treats so familiar from the Spanish posts such as croquetas, boquerones and pimientos de padron, but also some more innovative treats such as mussels with Serrano ham and sherry, oxtail with apple and chorizo cooked in cider.

Though the restaurant, according to one of the owners, Thomas Weyerstall, still isn't "entirely Spanish", the menu pays homage to the regional specialities and the wine list reflects their love of Spain, too.  There are a couple of Albariños and five different sherries. Out of the wines sold by the glass this cheerful white from Basque country was our favourite.

We started with Seleccion Iberico, which featured pata negro, and bellota as chorizo, salchichón and lomo.

Seeing how up until now I've always brought back my own cold cuts, I haven't really had to rely on the stuff available in Finland. Pata negra was, however, The Best I've ever had in Finland. Lomo was superb, chorizo was fantastically smoky and full of flavour and nutmeg gave wonderful, spicy warmth to the salchichón.

Artichoke escebeche came in wonderful nutty marinade - both the texture and taste were spot on. 

Pulpo Romesco's octopus was unfortunately dry and rubbery, but romesco sauce was divine.

Ham didn't really taste or show in croquetas, but the texture was excellent. The extra crunchy and coarse breadcrumb coating (panko?) added a nice touch..

Out of the 2 dessert choices Chocolate & Sherry had my name written all over it ( dark chocolate, sweet sherry, orange caramel...) until I discovered that sweet sherry listed in the ingredients was in fact sherry vinegar. This was a bit of a disappointment.

However, the menu featured so many other treats I just had to try, so another visit was needed. This time with a colleague who also accompanied me at Salt in Tallinn

Menu had gone through some changes since the previous visit. For instance oxtail, that Andalusian specialty, had been taken off as its popularity had failed to take off (?!). The cold cuts were also lacking because of problems with availability. Having pretty much consumed my bounty from my previous trip to Spain made me long back even more...

The wine list was plagued with similar problems - our 2 first choices for instance had been sold out.

Mussels with sherry and Serrano ham were truly great.

As were boquerones.

The acidity of the cider cut through the fattiness of the chorizo producing a dish that in its simplicity was just... ¡Muy delicioso!

Duck liver terrine was nice too, though a bit bland. Accompanying sangria granita was a great addition and really cleansed the palate.

Veal cheek with apple sauce which has now replaced oxtail, was a massive disappointment. Texture was excellent and fall-off-the-fork tender but the taste just wasn't there. Like, at all. Apple sauce was good though.

Companion felt the same way about tuna tartar, but I liked its subtlety for which orange gelé provided a nice contrast.

King prawns could have had a bit more (garlicky) bite to them, but at least they weren't those dreadful, pre-cooked, frozen slugs that have absolutely no flavour.

On the whole you can tell they've made an effort with the ingredients. The restaurant itself with its huge room and high ceilings isn't really terribly ideal for tapas restaurant though. For a wallet spoiled by Andalusian counterparts this isn't terribly cheap either: dinner for 2 (with a bottle of wine, another one of mineral water and aperitive cocktails) set us back almost €140. Still, this kicks the ass of my old favourite, Bar Teos. Watch out - there's a new sheriff in town!





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Saturday, 28 December 2013

Winter wonderland

I was born at the Arctic Circle, but left Lapland behind pretty much as soon as I could - having had enough of the fact one couldn't get sushi of bagels there and having had enough of people, who didn't even know such things existed.

Since then I've got to see the world, travelling in over 20 countries and having lived in several too. I think it's safe to say even the bagel and sushi-deficiency that plagued my early years has been taken care of. Much like yours truly, Rovaniemi has changed and grown since those days but I can't imagine my path ever taking me back there.

But especially when visiting the place around Christmas time it becomes obvious: in its Winter Wonderland atmosphere it can be quite a... magical place.

... until that snow melts away anyway, only minutes after Christmas Eve...!




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Friday, 27 December 2013

Colcannon to the rescue!

I don't think I've ever managed to have an overdose of the Christmas foods. Especially ham. By Boxing day at latest my Dad had to bake a new ham as Someone had managed to devour the previous one. But in case you've not been as fortunate and are currently struggling to come up with ways to turn that ham into something new and exciting (for 4th day in a row) here's a treat from ye goode olde Ireland: Colcannon!

Initially this was a dish that was particularly popular in the autumn as the kale was in season. At its most frugal that's pretty much all this was: mashed potatos and kale (or cabbage).  On a good day this has evolved to contain ham (or bacon) along with some leeks (or onion). This time I recycled Brussel sprouts left over from the Christmas dinner into it along with some roasted garlic left over from the herring in garlicky mustard dressing. And mustard of course: ham  mustard!

This isn't a camera-loving photogenic diva, but does the trick alright - this is just the thing to restore one's powers after yet another long night of craic that this festive season seems to be full of...)

Serves 4

12 (small) potatos
1 dl hot milk
150 gr butter
salt, white pepper
1 tsp mustard
2 large roasted garlic cloves (for instructions please see here)
1/2 leek
300 g Brussel sprout leaves or a bag of kale (or cabbage)
about 400 g boiled ham or gammon 
(a couple of dl cream)

Boil or steam the potatos. Mash with butter and milk (add more if needed), squeeze in the paste from the garlic cloves, add mustard and season. For extra rich colcannon add some cream. Finely slice the leek and sauté in butter until soft. Add ham and sprouts or kale and continue cooking until piping hot. Combine with mash.

PS. A tip I forgot from the original post is browning the butter first in a pan - this gives it (and the mash) a wonderfully toasty, in its nuttiness almost toffee-like depth and lifts the mash to a whole new level! In this case less butter is also needed.




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Thursday, 26 December 2013

From devil's testicles to dog's bollocks

Apparently the average Brit consumes around 7000 calories over their Christmas lunch. I kid you not - that came from a credible source that wasn't necessarily even Daily Mail (of course it was). Sprouts are as essential part of the spread as they are hated. One of the nicknames this poor little veg has earned itself is Devil's testicle

I must admit, it's not even in my top 500 of fruit and veg - I don't even think I've touched one since having them force-fed to my at the nursery. But I wouldn't be much of a food blogger if I weren't convinced something edible can be made out of them; something that isn't bland, watery and genuinely depressing. And armed with bacon, I set out to prove it. And what do you know - I have a newly found respect for these Barbie-sized little lettuces. Bread crumbs fried in garlic oil give this side dish garlicky depth but also a nice, crunchy texture. Roughly chopped nuts would do the trick as well for those of you abhorring carbs. Or gluten (though seriously, it is Christmas after all!)

For four

300 g Brussel sprouts
100 g (smoked) bacon cubes or lardons or pancetta
salt, black pepper
A handful of bread crumbs from about 2 slices of toast (mine were whole meal for extra nutty flavour)
2 large garlic cloves

If possible, use old bread that's already no the hard side. If not, use the oven to dry the crumbs. Blizz the bread slices in the blender and dry them at 100°. Scoop out the hard core from the sprouts and remove the leaves. Fry bacon in a pan starting with moderate heat so it won't burn but starts rendering its fat allowing it to get crunchy. Then add the sprout leaves and fry until done.

Peel the garlic cloves and bash them with the back of the knife. Pour some oil into another pan and, over moderate heat fry the garlic. Then discard them (their purpose is just to infuse the oil) and fry the bread crumbs in the oil. Drain on kitchen towel and scatter over the sprouts.

And in case these fail to win the diners over, stay tuned for tomorrow's recipe for colcannon - a fantastic way to recycle all the Christmas lunch leftovers!




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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Chocolate and port wine truffles

Christmas and chocolate. Both of the words start with the letter "c". Coincidence? Don't think so. They just go together. And, with me and my dad, port wine.  So it's no surprise these chocolate and port wine truffles found their way into the hamper I made for him, along with cantuccinis, oven roasted apple jam and mango, pineapple and star anise jam

These are so easy and only take a couple of hours. Which make these a great gift idea - especially to those unexpected guests that pop in over the holidays. Port wine could be substituted with Cointreau, rum or whisky!

Depending on the size this recipe makes 15- 18 truffles

200 g dark chocolate
1 dl cream
30 g butter, room temperature and cut into small cubes
2 tbsp port wine
cocoa powder

Grate the chocolate. Bring cream to boil and pour into the chocolate shavings. Stir unril everything is thoroughly combined. Then add butter and port wine. Stir until you have a smooth, glossy mixture. Let set in the fridge for 3-4 hours. Using a small spoon, take nuggets of the mixture and roll into small balls. Let them rest in the fridge for another half an hour and then roll them in the cocoa powder. Cool in the fridge for another half an hour before serving.




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