Monday, 28 April 2014

Terrace season opening at Goce

When an invitation arrived in my inbox to come attend the opening of the terrace season at Goce, nothing could have kept me away. Not common sense or the ongoing move. Our nerves (pretty wound up right now!) really could use the break. And all the wonderful treats...!

Sun was warm and beverages cold.

Gazpacho was tasty and the scampi was a nice touch.

Breathtakingly beautiful dish of fresh seasonal veggies and goat cheese mousse got great reviews from the cheese-eating members of our party.

The beef in the sliders was superbly meaty and gloriously rosy on the inside.

Arancinos, made of porcini risotto couldn't have been more perfect.

Tarragon mayonnaise gave these snail crostinis wonderfully vibrant colour and a lovely, anisey kick.

Grilled secreto was served with Romesco sauce.

And of course we had to admire the handiwork of Niko, the best bar tender in the country. 

The dessert was cheesecake - heaven in a cup. Meringue shavings made for a lovely texture.

DJ kept the tunes coming. Great, chilled atmosphere!

Oh we had so much fun! Until the following morning, that is...




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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Pulled lamb sliders

With everything that's been going on, especially the recipe contest Pernod Ricard is hosting I have even more respect for wine. I'm still light years away from the expertize Wine Authority, that friend of mine, but I've had some fairly bright light bulb moments of my own, too. Let's take Pinot Noir, for instance. I've been sampling a couple of them recently and found it delightful how well it works with good Iberico ham, how it mellows the acidity of the cornichons I served with paté and experimented how it fights back the kick of the chillis.

The wine for the next leg of OivaPari- recipe contest is one of the most often-seen reds in my kitchen: Cabernet Sauvignon. And today's entry is a fine specimen at that: Chilean San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon has won numerous prizes.

We paired it with pulled lamb sliders that we had initially planned to serve with the wine that opened the contest, Castillo Molina Pinot Noir, but the test audience unanimously felt this was The One. 

For the recipe for the burger brioches, please see here.

Dressing made of caramelized red onions:

750 g red onions
2 generous tbsp olive oil
1/4 dl brown sugar
2 dl red wine
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 dl balsamico
2 tsp salt, black pepper
pinch of ground cloves (or allspice)

Finely slice the onions. Heat oil in a pan, add onions and sugar and let caramelize for a moment. Then add rest of the ingredients apart from balsamico, salt, pepper and cloves. Cook over moderate heat for 40-60 minutes until you're left with jelly-like mixture. Remove cinnamon stick and star anise and add balsamico. Blizz in the blender, pour back into pan and season. The sauce will thicken as it cools down but if it feels too runny, keep cooking over high heat until it reduces. Keeps well int he fridge. 

Pulled lamb:

3 lamb shanks or 1 large piece of meat with bone still attached (total weight a little over 1 kg)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp Chinese fivespice
1 large carrot
1 celery stalk
1 large onion
2 large garlic clove
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 bay leaves
10 allspice peppers
1 star anise
1/2 l water

Pat the meat dry. Rub salt and Chinese fivespice on it. This you can do in the morning and leave the meat to season, covered in the fridge. Peel carrot, onion and, along with celery, roughly chop into pieces. Peel garlic and bruise it gently with the back of the knife.

Brown the meat in a hot pan. Add the veggies and spices. Toss them around for a while and make them work too and release their flavours. Then pour in water. Bring to boil and transfer to a pre-heated oven at 130° . Keep it there for at least 5 hours. Or 8. We kept ours stewing overnight.

If, like me, you're neurotic, you'll probably keep waking up in the middle of the night to check up on the meat. and turn it around, too. But really, there's no need. They'll be just fine!

Lift the mat out of the pot and let come to room temperature wrapped in foil. At this point you'll see already how temptingly tender the meat is - it will fall off the bone on its own. Once it's time to assemble to burgers, shred the meat using a fork (one of the most satisfying jobs in the kitchen I'll tell you!) and admire your handiwork. There you are, bang on trend, shredding pulled lamb like nobody's business! Check the taste and season good salt and/or pepper if needed.

Pulled lamb sliders:

12 small burger brioches (or any small buns)
1 -2 red onions (depending on the size)
12 cornichons
caramelized red onion dressing
salad leaves

Toast the brioches in the oven. Top with salad leaves, finely shredded red onion, generous pile of pulled lamb, a cornichons split in two and a handsome dollop of dressing. Spear with a tooth pick to make sure it all stays put and enjoy. I have a sneaky feeling you'll end up going for seconds... and thirds...!




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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Mango, chili, ginger and crayfish dressing

I often come to realize just how twisted my priorities are. A little while back a letter from the tax authorities notified me that this year, as a result of having overpaid taxes last year (is there anything I won't overdo...?) I'm in for a refund. And did I once stop to review any of the sensible things to do with the money? Put it on savings account for that rainy day? Use it to pay off my VISA bill? Oh. No. My first (and clearly the last, too) was "ooh! Which ones of all the restaurants am I going to book a table at?"

And that will be the end of that money. As is the case with any money I have. Down the throat it goes. One way or another. And it makes for a very good life, there's no denying that one. If even the waste-minimizing operations emptying the fridge regularly produce treats such as duck confit and pear salad, it's only fair to admit how deep in the #firstworldproblems - clouds we live our lives.

The latest invention was this dip/ dressing/ paste/ spread which brings together the best parts of the burgers I've made recently. And damn, how delish it was! Crayfish from the pike burgers, mango, chilli and ginger mayonnaise from duck confit burgers and the pomegranate seeds left over from the Lebanese lamb pizza. Along with the last spoonfuls of Greek yogurt I came across.

The result is thicker and richer than mayonnaise. Mango gives it a lovely fruitiness which the brightness pomegranate seeds compliment, lending it a lovely texture too. Chilli gives it a subtle heat which lime and ginger bring to balance.

And this is ridiculously versatile, too! Try on jacket potatos, in sandwiches, in salads, on crostinis for cocktail treats, as a filling for crépes, in wraps...

For a starter for just 2 people this portion was a bit too generous, but as The Boy Next Door inquired whether or not it would keep in the fridge until the next day I had to say no. Not if I'm anywhere near it wont..!

1 dl mayonnaise
1 dl Greek yogurt
1,5 dl drained crayfish tails
1 generous dl mango purée (like a small, 60 g jar of those baby food purées)
1 small chilli
the finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lime
1 generous tbsp finely chopped coriander
1/2 tsp curry powder
the seeds of 1/4 - 1/2 pomegranate (depending on the size)

Combine the ingredients and let sit in the fridge for about an hour while the flavours develop. Check the taste and season as needed.

Even if you do opt out of the crayfish, this makes a glorious dressing that I intend to be making the most of this BBQ- season!




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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Lemony crayfish pasta

Spring has made a triumphant return to my step and onto my plate. Fish, seafood and veggies have a whole new allure. You just wait: soon the only thing I can talk about is the asparagus! But before we get there, it's time to let crayfish enjoy a little more time in the lime light. I've rediscovered it (pike burgers with Asian twist and crayfish mayo anyone? Or pike, asparagus and crayfish terrine, another gluten-free treat...?) and let me just tell you: I can't get enough of them! 

And pasta is something that I'll never be able to kiss goodbye. Especially seeing how after the latest Tour of Museokatu I schlepped back home with five different types... But even pastas get a springtime makeover: so long slowly cooked ragús, hello crayfish, lemon and parsley! Ok, and a little butter. And some sour cream too. And some white wine left over from the night before (yes, it does sometimes happen). 

Unlike everywhere else in the world, in Scandinavia dill is The Herb people love pairing with fish and seafood so you could also use that.

Serves 2

2 portions of spaghetti, bucatini or linguine

50 g butter
1 small onion
1/2 - 1 small chilli
3 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 large garlic clove (or 2 small ones)
3/4 dl white wine
1 dl sour cream/ Greek yogurt
200 g crayfish tails, drained
salt, pepper
2 generous handfuls of fresh parsley leaves

Cook pasta according to instructions in salted water until almost done. Finely chop onion, garlic and chilli. Sauté them in butter until soft. Then add 2 tsp lemon zest, white wine and sour cream (if using Greek yogurt, wait a couple of minutes before adding that). Let boil for about 5 minutes. Then add pasta and let it finish cooking in the sauce. Fold in crayfish and parsley. Check the taste and season as needed. Sprinkle rest of the lemon zest on top and serve.




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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Emo

In honour of my pay day I finally got to cross Emo off my ever-growing list of restaurants to try. I'd been hearing so much good about it it was about time too. Remember our waiter at the Chef of the Year- competition? His performance was so outstanding it warranted a congratulatory visit to the place, too.

Calling itself a gastrobar Emo follows for instance Pure Bistro's Scandinavian minimalistic style. Luckily customer service is something else: the staff knows what they're doing and they do it well. Their genuine enthusiasm about their job and the customer satisfaction is tangible.

Upon the recommendation of our wonderful waiter we kicked off our date night with glass of house Champagne (Moët & Chandon, no less, at €14.50 a pop). And a great start to a great evening it was too, as was the dreamily light fennel and rice cracker it came with.

The menu consists of 10 dishes out of which the customers can compile the dinner of their choice. Two dishes costs €32, three €45, four €55, five €60, six €66 and the whole list will set you back €99. The menu lives according to the seasons taking customer's dietary restrictions into consideration. Roast lamb with brioche got both of our attention straight away. The dish, consisting if duck liver mousse, pickled mushrooms, jellied red onions and crisp cabbage was as delicious as it sounds. I felt tempted to have another one. This time reason won, though.

Herring with fennel, consisting of cold scramble-like sauce among other things, was light and subtle dish. For my own liking the overall experience was a bit thin but my date loved it. "Translucent" was his poetic take on it.

We also got thinking how, as our own skills in the kitchen grow, so do the expectations for food and dining out. "Ok" or "took away the hunger" no longer cut it - in order to be a success a meal needs to rise to a level I or my own kitchen can't even dream of. This can easily result in pressure of totally unrealistic proportions that no kicks or gimmicks can meet. Especially in Helsinki, where good restaurants are pricey (mostly due to alcohol, though) and at worst you have to wait for a reservation for months. And now, as a food blogger my approach is a totally different one. Sometimes I have to remind myself to focus more on enjoying the experience and the company. I have a feeling that with all the analysis, expectations and incessant photo-taking I'm a dinner date from Hell. It's a good thing The Boy Next Door has all that love and zen...!

Asparagus with organic egg and Iberico pork had white asparagus cooked in milk and green one too. The poached egg was perfection and secreto (that incredibly tender part hiding beneath the belly fat) was so succulent I think even my date finally understood why that Spanish piggy gets me all giddy. He declared the asparagus the best he'd ever eaten. 

I don't often for go for chicken in a restaurant, but Spring Chicken's skin was crisp and the meat juicy. The dish made the most of the fresh seasonal vegetables and the deeply flavoursome cabbage-based sauce. There was something Béarnaise-like on the plate too which was so good only my desire to impress my date with my sophistication stopped me from licking the plate. Which was pointless seeing how he himself was entertaining that very idea too.

The winner of the evening was still to come though. Entrecoté of veal was brought over by the chef, drizzling the dish with gorgeous mushroom broth. Veal was grilled to absolute perfection. The beautiful charred lines proved how the right cooking matters: the charred crunch added to the taste and texture. By the time we got to the mushroom ravioli we were both feeling ... ahem... EMOtional. Sublime. The date waxed lyrical about comparing it to the "notes emitted by a varnished antique cello".

As the dishes we'd chosen had so much variety, we struggled with wine list. Initially we toyed with Spanish rosé, but good old Fred Loimer's Grüner Veltliner (€46 a bottle) proved to be too tempting. As it got warmer it evolved to a lot more generous and carried us surprisingly well throughout the entire meal. There was enough of it too as Christ, that's 1 litre-bottle!

Before the desserts our waiter popped over to recommend Limoncello that the family of their Italian cook makes themselves. And of course we went along. The date liked it a lot, I found this particular Limoncello a bit too bitter and herby.

The first dessert was Apple x 3 limeposset. There were 3 different breeds of apples prepared in 3 different ways. The tartness of one of the apples combined with the coldness of the dish was too much for me: not only did it totally crush lime posset's own taste, but it felt more like a palate cleanser.  

Rhubarb Pie was delightfully soothing and the goat's milk ice cream's rich tanginess made it one of our absolute favourites of the evening.

Out of the dessert wines our waiter so expertly introduced us to we went for this Chilean late harvest Sauvignon Blanc which worked well with posset. Initially we were thinking of pairing it with the Rhubarb pie, but this French port wine-like gem turned out to be even better match. Full bodied with depth and wonderful berriness but lacking almost entirely the toasty notes of port wine.


As we moved over to the wine bar to finish off our wine we were feeling rather smug about the wonderful choices we'd made and how we'd enjoyed such a lovely and diverse meal without feeling heavy. Until I saw the menu for bar snacks...

Just look at those! How was I supposed to say no? Grüner worked well with Foie gras, too (though at this point we probably wouldn't have even noticed anything different).

Bodegas Cepa 21 Hito Rosado had wonderful acidity which complimented the Iberico beautifully.

Octopus and Mussels was one of Boy Next Door's favourites of the evening. And a wonderfully meaty and smokey dish it was, too.

The price tag for the evening was €244. That's what you get when you go along with waiter's every suggestion. But boy, what you get when you go along with waiter's every suggestion! We liked. The food, the restaurant and our waiters. Emolicious!




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