Thursday, 30 January 2014

Orange, chilli and ginger chicken

In anticipation of Chinese New Year we kicked off the celebrations by cooking some Asian food last weekend. Anticipation and planning is the key to this fiesta: as what seems like billions of revelers start their holidays that seem to go on forever, the sea export in the whole region for instance comes to a total standstill for weeks on end.

Today marks the beginning of the year of the horse, by the way. We didn't get quite that literal though I'm sure they eat that too (?). Instead we went for chicken. Spiked with orange which has become a standing fixture in my kitchen lately.

Orange goes well with cooking - the juice gives dishes sweetness, but the zest lends a lovely heat. You don't want to get too giddy with the zest though as you're easily left with a very bitter mess.

But orange peel can be turned into a true "waste nothing"- sort of sweet treat - you just stay tuned!

Gordon's notorious red braised pork served as the inspiration for this dish. My breasts came with bones (my chicken breasts, obviously), but you can use the boneless variety too. Go for the bigger ones though (yes, I'm still talking about chickens over here!).

Serves four

4 chicken breasts

The marinade:

the juice of 3 oranges
the zest of 1 orange, in broad strips
1/2 dl soy sauce
1/2 dl oyster sauce
3 large garlic cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 dl Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry) 
1 large chilli
appr. 5 cm x 3 cm piece of ginger

For caramelizing:

1/2 dl oil
3/4 dl sugar

For serving:

1 red chilli
a couple of spring onions

Remove the bone from the chickens and cut into chunks of your desired size. Combine the ingredients for the marinade and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Lift the chickens out of the marinade. Heat oil and sugar in a pan. Once the sugar has melted and starts caramelizing, throw in the chicken. Let them get colour and a lovely crust and then pour in the marinade. Keep simmering (over moderate heat) until the chicken is done (won't take long!) and the lift them out of the sauce. Keep them warm and run the sauce through a sieve. Then return it to the pan and over high heat let it reduce until you're left with s thick, syrup-like consistency. Check the taste and pour over the chicken.




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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Tongue in cheek and on a plate

Today's recipe should set the tongues wagging as we're making yet another foray into the not-at-all-awful world of offal. I do hope cat didn't catch your tongue as I know this part of an animal is not for everyone. Hold your tongue though as it's definitely worth  ago, even if is with tongue in a cheek.

These cuts are sustainable and affordable: pork tongue comes to under €7 a kilo. If you've got more people joining you, you might want to look into beef tongue, which (at around 1,-1-5 kilos) is an impressive organ.

A couple of hours of simmering turns the tongue into a wonderfully dense but moreish treat that I thought to use in a Vitello Tonnato sort of way. It is an antipasto classic from Piemonte, Italy and usually consists of thinly sliced veal served with a creamy tuna dressing spiked with capers.

One of the best things about preparing tongue is the stock: the flavoursome, comforting and sweet stock. Do not throw it away - use it for soups, sauces or risotto.

As a starter this generously feeds 4-6

4 pork tongues (combined weight about 1,3 kg) or 1 beef tongue

The stock:

2 carrots
1 onion
2 celery stalks
4 bay leaves
10 allspice peppers
10 whole black peppers
appr. 2 tsp salt

Roughly chop the veggies, place n a pot with the tongue(s) and enough water to cover them. Bring to boil and let simmer over moderate heat for 1,5-2 hours (depending on the size) for pork and 2,5-3 hours for the beef. Spoon off any foam that forms on top. Once they're cool enough to handle, skin them. Strain the stock and let the tongues cool down in the liquid. Then wrap them tightly in clingfilm. Tongue will keep for about 5 days. Before serving slice them and serve on a bed of rucola with the tuna dressing and some capers to garnish.


3 dl good mayo
1 tin tuna in oil
1/2 dl roughly chopped capers in brine 
1/4 dl cooking liquid
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
3/4 tsp white pepper

To serve: 70 g box of rucola and some capers

Blizz the ingredients n a blender to a smooth, creamy dressing and serve with the tongue.

Oh, and voting in this month's chilli-themed Finnish food bloggers' challenge has begun - karkkipossu (that's our take on Gordon's red braised pork belly) is grateful for all your votes! To vote, please go here!




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Monday, 27 January 2014

Best of the best at Teurastamo

Helsinki city-dwellers have made Teurastamo their own urban oasis and back yard. These days the once busy abattoir area is known for their hammocks and barbecue in the summer and ice skating rink in the winter. Saturdays have seen them hosting a variety of events like Farmers' markets - I'm sure you all remember the solar cooking session? And the World Bites- festival?

 Several restaurants have found their new home here, along with speciality shops.  Collection of bloggers and army of their each-fancier-than-the-next-cameras got to sample their finest on Saturday.

Some of the things that the entrepreneurs have in common is passion for their trade. When it comes to ingredients, quality, freshness and local origin are the keys. Most of them are the love children of people who've taken a massive leap of faith following their dream. Such as Helsinki coffee roastery.

Oh and by the way you can also buy those old coffee bags. They make great laundry bags. Or slightly different cushions. Or latest additions to a food blogger's photo staging arsenal; already bursting at the seams...

Pasta factory, brain child of two men is a similar venture. They supply pasta and noodles for the some of the finest restaurants in town. Soon their products will be available at selected shops too.

Freshness is the key at Tuoretori, too where you can shop for the best of the local produce.

Teurastamo also houses the collection point for Makumaku, where freshness is so paramount they don't even have warehouse. Everything is specifically acquired for the weekly deliveries -  fish that got to to fish counter on Thursday will be at the customer's table later that very day!

As soon as you walk into the area, you're greeted by Roslund whose butcher family have roots over here that go back generations. Rosburger that you've already been introduced to just won't let one down. Though the pulled pork kind is at least as good!

Ho's Food is specialized in dim sum, hot pot and street food treats.

Flavour Studio is the product of the tiny cocktail giant A21, once selected the Best Bar In The World (as in, for real). They do cooking lessons. And obviously insanely delicious cocktails!

Lovely lads of B-Smokery take their meat seriously. And boy, ca you taste it! Slowly (roasted) does it!

Teurastamo also houses Jädelino, the product of a dream two women came up with in Italy. Their ice cream is delightfully dense (cream and other real deals, people!) though they also  make sugar-free Stevia ice cream and lactose-free soy creams.

A distillery is also in the cards! Are you?




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Sunday, 26 January 2014

Orange curd tart

From my friends who read this blog (yes, there are some out there!) I've learnt that this blog has a cake index. Based on the foods I cook they can diagnose my state of mind. And when there's cake, I am apparently in the need of therapy.

So, for those of you reading the blog now, relax. Nothing to worry about. I'm fine. This is a happy cake!

And sort counts towards the five a day, right? Five slices a day anyway - it's that good!

Instead of regular flour you could use almond flour. Some of the flour could also be substituted with oat flour (not very much though as that makes the crust too sandy and brittle). Instead of orange curd you could use lemon curd, for which blueberries would be a wonderful accompaniment.

For the tin I used (28 cm diameter) you need 1 portion of orange curd.

Recipe for the crust is the same I used for egg custard and salmon and spinach tart. This time I added 1/2 dl of sugar into it too. In order to play up the orangey notes you can also grate the zest of 1 orange into the dough and, instead of water, use orange juice.

Prepare the dough for the crust, wrap in cling film, roll into a thin sheet to cover the bottom and the sides of a fluted, loose bottom tin. Let set int he cold for half an hour, brush with the egg white left over from the orange curd (or just blind bake for about 15 minutes), pour the orange curd into the shell and bake at 175° for about 20 minutes until the crust starts getting a bit of colour.

Let cool to room temperature and then chill for a couple of hours before serving. Sprinkle berries on top and serve. And enjoy. And help yourself to another slice.




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Saturday, 25 January 2014

Orange is the new black

I so long to be a sophisticated, Hermés bag- toting grown up, exuding that elusive understated elegance. I have some serious doubts as to whether my fantasy will ever come true though. First there's the fact that those bags cost several thousands (insert any currency here). Then there's the fact that for some reason the Hermés I'm dreaming of is orange. Yep, obnoxiously bright, Guantanamo Bay- orange. Which is the least understated of colours. And doesn't particularly go with anything. Though... coordinating accessories is probably the least of Guantanamo Bay residents' concerns?

I don't seem to make much of a brainiac either. Somebody asked me if orange  the fruit is called that because of its colour or whether the colour got its name from the fruit? Didn't know. And with these segways I give you today's recipe: orange curd, slightly more vibrant and sweeter cousin of a previously introduced treat lemon curd.

Much like lemon curd, this is incredibly versatile: spread it on toast, serve it with pancakes, use it to fill cakes, biscuits (such as macarons!) or in pies. The last one is coming to the blog soon. Provided I can keep my fingers out of the jar...

4 large oranges
4 eggs and 1 yolk (the white will be used for the tart!)
100 g butter
3 dl sugar

Grate the zest of oranges. If you like yours on the bitter side, grate them all. For a sweeter take 1-2 is enough. In this case you might want to go easier on the sugar as well. Squeeze the juice and combine with butter and sugar in a bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water until the butter has melted. Stir so it's smooth and run through a sieve. In another bowl whisk the eggs and pour in the juice mixture. Continue cooking in Bain Marie (that's fancy ass French for bowl over a pot over simmering water) for 10-15 minutes until the mixture starts thickening and covers the back of a wooden spoon. If you want yours even thicker (in case you're using it as pie filling) add 1 tbsp of corn starch and continue cooking for another 10 or so minutes.

Some make curds using only yolks, which results in a clearer, more vibrant coloured paste. This is entirely a matter of taste - but after flan de naranja I have so many egg whites waiting to be used anyway I just really didn't feel like more...




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Thursday, 23 January 2014

Gordon's red braised pork belly

Being a food blogger I'm used to winging it. You know, tossing stuff into the pan (occasionally by accident) and hoping for the best. So, following a recipe point by point can be quite... liberating. Though strangely challenging too. But how else is one going to judge a book and its recipes? By its cover...?

If the recipe in question comes from a source as revered as Gordon Ramsay, there shouldn't be anything to fear, right? I received this book (originally World Kitchen, 2009) with mixed feelings. Now, my kitchen and blog have been making culinary travels around the world; discovering new things and nurturing memories brought back from my own travels. Yet I have reservations about any book or a restaurant that claims to be specialized in all cuisines of the world.

I tend to appreciate books that focus on a certain area; introducing its special features, typical ingredients, cooking methods and history more than just scratching the surface. Once you've got the hang of the balance and the factors contributing to it, sure, make it your own.

World Kitchen on the other hand offers a minibreak to France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Great Britain, Middle East, China, Thailand, India and United Stated (pheeeeeew). As such it's probably more suited for someone  whose cook book arsenal has no immediate plans to take over their bedroom too. But I do have a feeling the face and name of the Glaswegian tiger probably account for more than the actual content.

First impression is very.. bland. I don't know how Mr. Ramsays rage, so familiar from his TV performances would even translate onto the pages of a cook book (though I am fairly certain it wouldn't sell very well!). The book just seems a bit - I don't know - lackluster? Introduction to the dishes chosen for this book has been kept to an absolute minimum and the book is lacking sort of a personal touch. The overall appearance (or photos that are so important to me) fails to evoke any excitement. Sure, the photos are large and good quality but not the kind that would evoke ideas and create and atmosphere. There's certain genericness about it that reminds me of the first cook books I ever remember reading back in the 80's. 

For the trail recipe I picked "red braised pork belly" from Chinese section. It's also one of the few recipes the author himself recommends one tries. And off we went...

Excitement was soon replaced by scepticism. Based on the picture the end result should be reminiscent of the caramelized pork that Farang, champion of South East Asian cooking and one of my favourite restaurants in Helsinki, has given a bit of a cult status. The method and the ingredients however don't seem to add up. There seems to be too little of everything: spices, quantities and cooking time. In Farang's recipe for caramelized pork one first makes the broth in which the pork is subsequently cooked in for hours. After that both pork and broth are chilled overnight (separately and the pork with a little weight on top of it) after which the pork is then deep fried and served with a thick sauce that has been reduced from the stock (this stage alone takes over an hour). 

Tässä Gordonin possu...

This marathon takes one to the finish line a lot quicker. A lot. First you boil the meat for a couple of minutes, then you chop it up, caramelize the cubes (again for only a few minutes) and then you cook the pork in liquid that you're then supposed to reduce it to thick, syrupy sauce. Having attempted to recreate the photo above twice now I doubt there will be a third try. First attempt resulted in a charred, rock-hard stinking mess, though the colour was pretty spot on. Next time I kept watching the liquid evaporating as if my life (and not just my sanity and any credentials as a food blogger) depended on it, but there really wasn't anything to reduce. And the colour came from a completely different Pantone chart  - there was none of that dark, deep richness. 

I don't consider myself totally clueless in the kitchen, but even to my eyes the recipe seems a bit nonchalant. First the recipe talks about a pan, but later mentions a pot. Though I can't imagine what kind of a pot would accommodate and caramelize that kind of amount of meat. There was no mention of whether the pot/pan should be kept covered in the simmering phase. With a lid on it wouldn't really reduce terribly well, but without the lid the liquid evaporates in moments. In any case the recipe calls for 2 dl of water, which is in no way enough to cover the ingredients as one is instructed to do - what ever the cooking vessel. Did they perhaps mean 2 l? I'll never know. 

A quick foray into the wonderful world of fellow food bloggers revealed their takes on the recipe had nothing on the original one either. Colour-wise that is (click on the photos to be redirected).               Braised Red Belly Pork 

And I don't know what sort of Victoria Beckhams Gordon's used to feeding - I'd say the recipe feeds 3-4 people. At most.

Serves 4-6

800 g boneless pork belly (with the skin still on)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tpsb dark soy sauce
3 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thick slices
2 star anises
1 cinnamon stick
3 dried chillis
about 2 dl water
3 spring onions, chopped

Bring a wide pan or water to boil and reduce the heat a bit. Lower the pork into the pot (cut in two if needed) and let boil for 3-4 minutes. Peel the foam that collects onto the surface which there will be a lot of (editor's note: there was none). Drain the meat and let cool for a bit. Wipe the pot clean and put back on heat.

Cut the pork into 2 cm cubes. Heat oil and sugar in a pan over medium heat. As soon as the sugar has dissolved and starts caramelizing, add meat into the pan skin side down. Fry for a couple of minutes until the skin starts caramelizing ("until the skin starts to caramelize"? In case you really want to meat to get any real colour, multiply that time by at least 5 - it won't have chance to brown at later stages either)

Add soy sauces, ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick and dried chillis into the pan and pour enough water to just cover the ingredients (2 dl? Really? Mine took at least 5 times that). Bring to boil and let simmer (quietly so) for 50-60 minutes until the meat is very tender (it's not melt-in-your-mouth-tender-loving sort of done by this time).

Using a slotted spoon, lift the meat out of the pan onto a plate. Reduce the remaining liquid until its thick and syrup-like (had I followed the recipe to a tee I would only have been left with a couple of spoonfuls). Check seasoning and add a pinch of sugar if it's too salty for you. Stir in the spring onions (reserving a handful for serving) and return the meat into the sauce. Heat for a while.

Divide the food into heated serving dishes, decorate with the remaining spring onions and serve immediately.

...ja tässä ruokabloggarin.

And the final verdict? After the initial frustration I'm feeling a lot more mellow. If you're more generous with liquid, keep the simmer to low, keep the pan partly covered and perhaps crank the spices up a notch, this is good. And in any case - takes a lot less time than the elusive Farang pork...

I also got feeling a little bad about trashing the book, too. What if that book is to Gordon what this blog is to me? A selection of precious memories I've picked up along the way? A random (and occasionally rambling) collection of some of my favourite things (hands up if you didn't just start humming and channeling your inner Julie Andrews)? I really ought to give the book another go, shouldn't I? I mean, the man has some serious street cred. Perhaps I'll give rabbit ragu a go. Or Mississippi mud cake...?

The theme in Finnish food blogger's monthly food challenge this month is chilli. I have warm memories of last January's challenge where the theme was chilli, too. My blog, which had just seen the daylight two weeks earlier took part with coconut prawns and mango-chilli dip and won! I have high hopes for this month's challenge too - you are looking at our contender! Stay tuned for information as to where, when and how to vote!

* The book was received for free for reviewing purposes *




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