Sunday, 28 December 2014

Cumberland herring

Our Holiday food orgy for two happily skipped the traditional dishes. But not herring. Oh, not. Not even though in the past month alone we've totally OD'd on herring both at MS Gabriella's Christmas buffet and at Restaurant Origo's Archipelago buffet in Hanko...

This time the herring was marinated in a Cumberland-inspired blackcurrant sauce. And hey, guess what time these pictures were taken? At 11 o'clock. In the evening. We've seen (and bought) the light.

400 g herring, cooked in vinegar (instructions here)


1,5 dl good blackcurrant jelly
0,5 dl red wine vinegar
0,5 dl water
the juice of 1 orange (1 dl)
8 allspice peppers
1 bay leaf
1/4 dl port wine
1 small red onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 strips of orange zest

Measure jelly, port, vinegar, water and orange juice into a pot. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Add lightly crushed allspice  and bay leaf into the liquid and leave to cool.

Remove herring fillets from the vinegar solution and drain thoroughly. Roll tight and place in a glass jar in layers with red onions and orange zest. Pour the marinade over the herring and let marinate at least until the following day.




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Friday, 26 December 2014

Chestnuts roasting in Hell - Brussel sprout, bacon and chestnut bake

Now, I love chestnuts. I love their nutty, potato-like taste and texture and I love how versatile they are. Crème de marron, chestnut paste, is my favourite filling for crêpes when in Brittany. But if possible I love them even more in savoury dishes: in France they were often serves as an accompaniment for game. Cooked with lardons, bien sûr!

So, sure, I'd love to be able to eat them more often. Nut that I can, though (see what I just did there? A little nutty joke!)

See, at least in South of Europe these babies are available cooked and peeled. And as you know, I'm not one to pine after vacuum-packed ready-made stuff when the fresh one's are in season and readily available in any old corner store. But these are an exception. These buggers are a pain to prepare.

The operation itself isn't much of an operation at all. You just cut a cross-shape incision into the chubby side of the chestnut, place them on  a tray the cut side up and roast at 200º for 15 or so minutes. Then, while they're still warm, you peel them: both the woody exterior shell and the brown skin on the inside. But at least with the specimen sold here there are simply no guarantees of what's lurking on the inside. 

I can tell you however, that after you've spent 3 days roasting 4 batches and peeling those little devils so that your fingers are bleeding (quite literally too) "helpful tips" such as "the skin comes easily off when using good quality chestnuts" don't feel terribly helpful at all.  

Every single time I've tried roasting my own, most of them have been either old and dry, rotten or just... inedible in 500 other ways. So, if possible, save your nerves and buy the vacuum-packed ones. Do not skip the recipe though as it is good.

Since bacon makes... well, everything better, I paired chestnuts with that. And as it is the Brussels sprout season, I threw some in too.  A little garlic to give it a bit of a kick and lemon zest to freshen it all up. And hey ho, ho ho ho!

As a side this this feeds 4

1 pkt (140 g) bacon or pancetta
1,5 tbsp butter
400 g Brussels sprouts
1 tsp garlic powder
250 g roasted, peeled chestnuts, halved
salt, pepper

to serve: 1/2 lemon zest, finely grated

Cut the bacon in cubes and fry, starting on cold pan and bringing the temperature up so they start rendering the fat and crispen up. Once they're done, remove with a slotted spoon. Depending on the bacon fat left in the pan, add butter and fry the halved, trimmed sprouts until a little caramelized. Then add garlic powder and chestnuts. 

Continue cooking for a couple of more minutes, season with salt and pepper and place in an oven-proof dish. Continue cooking at 200º for 15 minutes (tossing if needed halfway through), add the bacon and continue cooking for another 5 minutes until the sprouts are done. 

Check the taste, season if needed and sprinkle the lemon zest on top. Serve with a roast. And this roasted garlic and cashew sauce!




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Thursday, 25 December 2014

Warm beet and potato salad with fennel seeds

Having grown accustomed to the pickled variety, beets and their versatility are something I've only learnt to appreciate in recent years. Together with potatos they create a lovely warm side dish salad that gets even more warmth from toasted fennel seeds. Though rosemary would work well too. As would allspice.

The Boy Next Door isn't enchanted with that noble root veg either (how can he not! Can you think of a funkier coloured veg?) but this he liked. Though his idea of the right proportions between all of the components are (obviously) wrong.  According to him the correct one is equal amount of potatos and beets whereas mine (inherently correct) view is that there needs to be twice the amount of beets to the potatos. 

As a side this feeds 4-5

Warm beet and potato salad:

500 g beets
250 g potatos
125 g apple

The dressing:

200 g créme fraîche
1,5 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground
salt, black pepper

Toast the fennel seeds on a fairly hot, dry pan and grind.

Peel potatos and beets and cut to similar size chunks. Boil potatos in salted water and steam dry. Peel and cut the apple, too.

Boil (or roast) the beets (do note though that they take at least twice the amount potatos do!) and drain. If boiling, reserve some of the liquid to add into the dressing if it needs to be runnier. It also adds a lovely colour! (You can also use it for beetroot risotto!) 

Combine the veggies. Mix the dressing and fold into the warm veggies (this way the soak up more flavour, too) and serve. Delicious especially with slow-cooked pork. Such as this orange and Christmas spice-filled pork neck!




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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Pork neck stuffed with orange, cloves and allspice

The Christmas food de rigueur is ham. A massive ham. A ham that's traditionally baked the night before Christmas Eve, keeping the Dad awake all night trying to not fall asleep and ruin everyone's holiday by overcooking the ham by just 3 degrees. Which is, in its traditionality, a charming way to get a man to do something in the kitchen. Even if just once a year. But, in case you have other ways to keep a man busy all night in, say, another om altogether, here's a treat that's every bit as porky, juicy, succulent... and only takes a couple of hours. 

Serves 3-4

1 kg pork neck
the finely grated zest of an orange
2 tsp ground allspice 
2 tsp ground cloves
salt, black pepper

For baking: 4-6 slices of Pancetta (depending on their size) or bacon
olive oil, black pepper

Take the meat into room temperature a good couple of hours before baking. Cut an incision from the top halfway through the meat and then continue towards the sides (like an upside down letter "T"), being carefully not to cut all the way through. Open the meat into a sheet and, if needed, using a mallet pound it so it's even thickness.

Grind the spices and grate the orange zest. Using a pestle and mortar rub together into a paste and spread on the meat. Season generously and roll tight. Wrap in Pancetta or bacon slices (if needed, you can stretch them both against a cutting board using the back of a knife) and truss using butcher's twine. 

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some black pepper on top. Bake at 200º for 30 minutes, lower the temperature to 130º, cover with foil and keep baking for 2,5-3 hours until done. If not busy doing something (or someone!) else, baste with the juices on a couple of occasions. 

Remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Serve with warm beet and potato salad (recipe to follow tomorrow!). Or proper roasties (that, too, on its way!) and this, Cumberland-ish sauce.

Cumberland-ish sauce:

a couple of tbsp butter
1/2 red onion
1/4 - 1/2 red chilli (according to palate)
1 large garlic clove
1 cm piece of fresh ginger
2 strips of orange zest
3 tbsp brown sugar
the juice of 1 orange (1 dl)
200 gr black currants (frozen)
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 dl port wine
25-50 g butter
salt, black pepper

Peel the onion and cut into chunks. Peel the garlic clove and bruise with the back of a knife. Sauté chilli, onion and garlic in a pot. Then add sugar and continue cooking for a little while. Then add port wine, bring to boil and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add orange zest, juice, rosemary, ginger and black currants. Let gently bubble over medium heat for 20 minutes, mash through the sieve, return to a clean pot and add butter. Check the taste and season as needed. 




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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Holiday spread 2014

Unlike last year, I didn't have time to create an Advent calendar on the blog. All the holiday preparations were kept to the minimum and left to the last possible minute. A holiday is soooo needed!

We devoted last weekend to celebrating the holidays (Hanukkah for me and something vaguely Christmas-like for The Boy Next Door)  - just the two of us. The plan was to relax, enjoy each other, good food and wine...

... oh, let's lull you all into the lovey-dovey loveliness of that plan for a little while longer...

... but sure enough  it turned out to be a culinary massacre; one absurd cooking catastrophe after another. The failures were of such magnitude and my verbal expression got so bad my neighbours probably think they're living next to a punk band. With Tourette's. I mean, who would have though something as innocent-looking as a chestnut could fuel such rage?

But we did get something done - recipes for these to follow next. 

Tips for Those Perfect Roasties (yes, goose fat's the answer. One of them.)

Warm beet and potato salad to which toasted fennel seeds lend even more warmth...

Pork neck stuffed with orange zest and other Christmassy thingies...

And even gingerbread got a 2014 makeover baked in minimuffin tins!

...And that mandatory Brussels sprout side dish. This time with chestnuts. And bacon, of course. 

And what's a Nordic holiday menu without pickled herring? This year it was Cumberland-ish with black currant jelly, orange and port.

And there was some other pickling going on too - these babies were served with...wait for it... kangaroo carpaccio!

Pheeew. Now it's time to wish you all readers a wonderful, relaxing holiday season full of love, good food and wine. I on the other hand will get cracking with those recipes...




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Sunday, 21 December 2014

Vegan-kosher-gluten-free noodle salad

Recently I haven't had much time (or natural light for that matter) to produce much content on the blog. See, over achiever that I am, I'd want the content to be good quality and keep on inspiring people. For real.

So, no pressure then. Though, I'm not even going to claim I'll ever be able to let go of the pressure I voluntarily keep piling on my shoulders. The over achiever that I am. Since we had to skip hosting Sunday lunch last week due to the foodie tour of South Coast of Finland (we sure did not skip any meals that day though...) we had some people over on Saturday instead. Not-at-all-too-ambitiously I had planned cooking and shooting four (!) dishes before the guests arrived. Not-at-all-surprisingly that didn't happen...

Another thing that definitely didn't add pressure was that in addition to the usual Mafia family collection of people we usually host, we also had the fantastic people from El Mercado, a new Spanish online deli joining us. You know, people who actually understand about food!

And then there was the fact that everyone attending was on some kind of a special diet. One didn't eat meat, the other kept kosher which obviously ruled out pork and seafood and third (well, if she actually did what her personal trainer tells her to do...) only exists on cottage cheese,avocado and Universe dust. 

The night before I said good night to a whopping 1,5 kg chunk of Iberico pork neck leaving it to slowly cook overnight in the oven. The plan was to turn it into something Thai-style served in Tom Kha-style broth. At no point did it occur to me that being born and raised at the Arctic Circle any kind of understanding of the secrets of the Asian cuisine are hardly inscribed in my DNA. The pork did get eaten, but at least another 24-hour endeavour is needed to fine tune the recipe to the point that it can be shared with you guys too.

So, out of the veggies and noodles left over from Thai steak salad I devised this equally Asian noodle salad and what do you know -it just might have been the best thing on offer. And get this: it's kosher, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free... and still delicious!

Serves 4-5

Miso-sesame dressing:

1/2 dl (white) miso paste
1/4 dl mirin
1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 dl water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1,5 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 dl peanut oil, rapeseed oil or any other neutral flavoured oil (not olive oil)

First combine miso and miring to a smooth paste and then add remaining ingredients whisking to an even, lump-free dressing. Check the taste and adjust as needed.

Mung bean vermicelli salad:

2 bunches of mung bean vermicelli
250 g wakame seaweed
100 g bean sprouts
1 large carrot
2 spring onions
1/2 dl black sesame seeds
bunch of coriander

Squeeze the excess liquid out the wakame. Peel the carrot and cut into thin strips. Chop the spring onions. 

Chop noodles shorter and cook according to the instructions of the packet. Drain and rinse quickly. Combine with miso-sesame dressing and then fold in the rest of the ingredients. Add sesame seeds and coriander leaves and serve.




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Friday, 19 December 2014

Happy Hanukkah!

We are currently living the eight merry days of Hanukkah - the brightest light in Jewish calendar. And fittingly, continue exploring of the Jewish cuisine. Though, for someone of North European descent, living in a country whose culinary traditions draw from the Eastern European traditions I must say they're hardly exotic treats. Pickled herring? Pickled... well, anyhing? Stuffed cabbage rolls? Been there, eaten that, went for seconds. 

Even bagels, that New York classic that has become a breakfast staple everywhere else in the world as well is nothing new to us - I inherited my own (since then sadly misplaced) recipe from my great aunts.

So, today's treat will hardly make you gasp in awe: it's blintzes. Or, stuffed pancakes.

These parcels, usually stuffed with cheese-filling are particularly popular during Hanukkah (what with all the frying in oil...) and Shavuot (when particularly Ashkenazi-traditions of Northern and Eastern European Jews feast on all sorts of dairy products). 

Etymologically more gifted ones probably already picked up on the similarity to blinis and sure enough, they are part of the same family alright.

The filling is very cheesecake-like - not too sweet then. At its simplest it consists of ricotta and cream cheese but in my version white chocolate gives it just a little bit more richness. Well, you know me by now: in my food philosophy less is never more! Much like in that rosemary and rhubarb-tart ricotta could also be substituted with soft goat cheese.

Instead of strawberries these could also be served with bluberries macerated in lemon zest, icing sugar and a pinch of cardamom. Cardamom also works wonders in the batter itself. 

It's crucial the pancakes be properly cooled before stuffing and frying as this way they hold their shape better so the pancakes themselves can be cooked already the day before. 


2 eggs
3 dl milk
1 tsp vanilla essence/ vanilla sugar 
2,5 dl all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
pinch (appr. 1/2 tsp) salt
50 g butter, melted 

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and beat eggs with milk (and vanilla) in another. Melt butter over moderate heat.

Combine the two by adding the wet ingredients into the dry ones (this way you'll avoid any lumps) and finally pour in the butter. Let rest for about an hour. 

Cook the pancakes on a skillet using either butter or oil - but only on the other side. Pour a ladleful into the skillet, swirl the pan so it spreads into an even, thin layer and once it starts to set, remove from the pan and place on a plate or parchment sheet to wait. In case you pile the cooked pancakes on top of each other, place a parchment sheet in between each layer to prevent them from sticking. Let cool before stuffing. 

Cheese filling:

1 tub ricotta 
1 tub cream cheese
100 g white chocolate, melted
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence/ vanilla sugar
3 tbsp (icing) sugar
the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Melt the chocolate in Bain Marie. Beat rest of the ingredients together and finally whick in the chocolate. Let rest (and set) in the fridge until ready to use. 

Fill the blintzes. Place the pancake in front of you the cooked side up and spread about 4 tbsp of filling onto the lower half of the pancake leaving a couple of cm border. Fold the lowed half towards the centre of the pancake, then fold the sides on top of it and roll (as tightly as you like) into a parcel. You know, like you would with burritos or summer rolls (see here). 

Fry a couple of blintzes at a time golden and crisp on both sides, first the seam side down. Turn over and fry on the other side too. Serve warm. Maybe with orange-infused strawberry compote?

Strawberry compote:

500 g strawberries
the juice of 1 orange (1 dl)
1 tbsp icing sugar

Hull the strawberries. The tiny ones can be left intact but halve (or cut into quarters ) the bigger ones. Squeeze the orange juice, combine with sugar (through a sieve) and whisk until sugar has dissolved. Let macerate for a couple of hours in the fridge.




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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

South Coast of Finland - foodie's paradise

We spent a lovely Sunday exploring the South coast of Finland which proved to be a veritable treasure trove for a foodie.

Many of the places we visited were familiar already from last summer's excursions in the region. Rich history, magnificent views of the rolling hills, glorious December sunshine, fantastic people passionate about the quality food they produce and equally fantastic entrepreneurs every bit as passionate about making most of the local produce.

The programme for the day was ambitious and schedule tight so many places will just have for the next time (and trust me - there will be next time!).

But we got to see lot. And eat even more...!

First stop was Inkoo, Westerby Gård's estate and its delightful inn. What a gem - full of old-fashioned charm (but with a sauna department equipped with a jacuzzi!). Perfect for a romantic weekend away. Especially if you love good food...

Breakfast was just coming to and end. It, too, showcases the local produce people are so (rightfully) proud of at these parts of the country.

Then we were off to Täktom near Hanko where we visited Sjöberg's farm - now in it's third generation. Here you can buy seasonal produce - organic eggs for instance!

In Hanko it was time for the first (oh yes, there were several!) lunch of the day. The venue? Restaurant Origo and its famous archipelago buffet that we tested and loved already earlier this year.

If possible, it was even better than last time around. And food doesn't get much more local than this: often they even make their own game paté from the scratch!

After Hanko we headed to another place we introduced you last summer: Delitukku in Pohja. The air-dried snow ham was sold out (again!) but we managed to get our paws on some of that divine wild boar paté!

The second lunch of the day was slow-cooked pork belly  roll, a regional specialty. Seasoned with all sorts of Christmassy things (allspice for one) it literally melted in one's mouth.  Warm beetroot salad was a perfect match.

The next stop was the highlight of my day: Fiskars. The village (like so many others right now) was busy hosting  its annual Christmas market but our schedule didn't quite stretch to that...

Though, I can't exactly complain either: we were in for the third (and last!) lunch of the day at Fiskars Wärdshus that we love particularly much (for the scenes from our last dinner here, please click yourself here!)

It was such a treat to return to the inn we had such wonderful memories from and we couldn't have felt more welcome. As soon as we got in we were inundated with questions about the wedding date (no, still hasn't been set!) and updates on the wonderful staff.

And if Fiskars charmed us in the February sleet and made us fall in love with it in end-of-summer showers... decked out in Christmas lights, covered in snow... it's nothing short of magical!

We feasted on locally raised Hereford and seasonal root veg and mushrooms. Chilean Leyda Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva was in its earthiness a great match.

And as you can imagine- we were not hungry after all this. But there's always room for a dessert. And sure enough we polished it off in no time. Cranberry semifreddo, caramel, lingonberry coulis, raspberry meringue crumbs and mascarpone mousse... you would have too.

Then it was off to another Fiskars fabulousness we visited this summer: Rekola Brewery. We toured the premises with the owner (an absolute star!) and sampled his products (absolute stars, too!)

The gingery Kesäkolli had won us over already before (and apparently everybody else too: the initial summer edition beer has become so popular it's available all year round) but we also got to test their Christmas beer Talven Tähti. Remember the dark, tasty aroma wafting in the air on our last visit? Yep, this is what was in the making. Wonderfully warm specimen.

Rather surprisingly though my heart won stolen by Munkkitie, sturdy, on-filtered dark ale inspired by the beer made in the monasteries. A bit stronger than your average barley pop, but sublimely soft. Great spiciness and generous fruitiness without the bitter aftertaste that has previously come in between the love affair of me and ales. Definitely worth checking out. The beers are available in most of the big markets - go get yours now!

Our winter evenings will also be made a lot nicer by Metsän Tähti we took home; a dark red beer with notes of spruce sprouts.

At this point we were stuffed beyond belief (apparently there's only so much even a food blogger can eat...) but were treated to one last visit from another local foodie hero from Sjundby ice cream. This artisanal and all organic ice cream is not yet available in Helsinki (Lohja, Kirkkonummi, Sjundby and Fiskars, yes) but should you ever come across it, do give it a go. Especially the creamy, charmingly subtle lemon variety. No E-numbers over here - apart from the lemon all the ice creams get their fantastic flavour from locally grown fruits and berries. And hey, they're all lactose-free, too!




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