Thursday, 31 July 2014

Crayfish! Canapes!

As anyone who's ever moved can guess, we, too, have spent significant amount of quality time at IKEA in the recent months. And as a result, we, too, are the happy owners of several storage solutions named after Swedish death metal-fans. Now, I've never been terribly zen to begin with but over the spring I've added some new entries into my arsenal of anger. Repertoire of rage,   if you will. In addition to thesehungerpangsaremakemehomicidal -rage I have now mastered bloodyhellthisstupidpowertool-rage and my favourite: thesefuckersaren'tevensupposedtofittogether-rage. 

The shopping sprees have given me plenty of time to sample IKEA's food shop's selection, too. The balancing effect their crisp bread and herring jars have on the fragile Scandinavian psyche is no news of course: I have come to rely on them both in Spain and in England. Back when I lived in London I use to make pilgrimages there with a friend of mine with whom we'd buy tubes of fish roe paste which we'd suck straight out of the tube as soon as we hit the parking lot. Oh, and wash it down with Kopperberg, Swedish cider (yes, for reals:  I used to live in the country that produces possibly the best cider in the world and I'd still make the hideous Tube journey all the way there just to get my hands on that dreadful gunk!)

These little genius gems were a new acquaintance for me though and I've since been buying them by truck loads. They are so convenient to have around for whipping something up to accompany a glass of wine before dinner. Or to surprise your surprise guests (hellooo, Tzatziki Champion, do come on in!)  - as anyone who's been over in the last two months will have noticed...

Out of the variety of fillings we've tried, these crayfish ones have become an all round crowd pleaser. Faintly fiery and subtly sweet... they are just the thing right now! See, last Monday spelled the beginning of this year's crayfish season when we in Scandinavia go gaga over crayfish.

If you want, you can make these out of mayonnaise alone. The filling itself can be made in advance, but do fill the shells only as you're about to serve them to stop them from getting soggy.

24 mini croustades

3/4 dl mayonnaise
3/4 dl Greek yogurt/ crème fraîche/ sour cream
3/4 - 1 tsp - 1 Srirachaa/ chilli sauce (depending on how fiery you want yours)
1/2 tsp tomato concentrate
handful of coriander leaves (1 tbsp when finely chopped)
the zest pf 1/2 lime, finely grated
1,5 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
2 dl crayfish tails (or prawns)

To decorate: coriander leaves and/or crayfish tails

Drain the crayfish tails and squeeze dry. Combine rest of the ingredients, check the taste, season as needed and fold in the crayfish tails. Spoon into the croustade shells and have yourself a treat. Or two. With a glass of bubbly. Or two.




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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Postcards from Tallinn

After our cruise docked, we had 4 hours to spend in Tallinn. At 8 am on Sunday morning Tallinn (like most of the fellow passengers) was still asleep.

Tallinn was hosting the annual Maritime Days and the harbour area had been converted to a lively market - home to all sorts of arts and crafts and curiosities... and food, of course.

They do love their fish over there. Especially dried.

And there was wine too. None of those Finnish regulations and bureaucratic nightmares needed.

Unlike in Finland, wine is also readily available in supermarkets. Yet the people go on about their daily lives: going to work, paying taxes and raising families. Surely we'd be capable of that in Finland too?

Tallinn is so close yet so different. For a foodie it's a paradise: they have great restaurants and the prices are around half of what you'd pay in Finland. For what to do in Tallinn see here and for where to eat, click here!) Even if you only stop in Tallinn briefly, there's always time for Sadama Turg market hall right next to the harbour.

Veggies, fruits and berries galore. Bread, cheeses, pastas, crockery, arts and crafts, textiles... and meat and fish, of course. Including jellied eels, which I've never, ever encountered anywhere outside England before!

We wen't crazy and bough even more goodies to take home (wild boar! Elk! Deer sausages! Rabbit terrine! Ostrich meat! Mung bean vermicelli!) and found time to visit one of the many, many massive liqueur shops in the neighbourhood too. Limoncello ((€8.50), South African Pinotage to go with lamb we have waiting at home (€6.50) and award-winning Argentinian Pinot Noir to go with all the terrines (€4.50). And Pöltsamaa - a brilliant Estonian dessert wine - another steal at €3.50.

Oh, Tallinn. You were good to us.  Until we meet again!




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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A minibreak in Tallinn

Happened one Friday: I came home from work, already making lists as to what I'm going to cook and when and where we need to go for the ingredients and how possible leftovers are going to be utilized and who we're going to have over and when. The Boy Next Door took one look at me and poured me a large glass of wine declaring the kitchen was going to be out of bounds for me the whole weekend. That it was time we. Just. Did. Nothing. 

"What does that even mean?" I cried. "Who has time for not doing anything?" I tried protesting, with every single horror scenario possible: "That fancy ass country loaf is going to go stale! And basil's going to freeze!" Eventually the wine got the better of me and The Boy managed to fish out my passport.

Worried about my "must do and achieve and go and get"- living The Boy Next Door decided I needed a break. And surprised me with an impromptu minibreak in Tallinn on a TallinkSilja cruise. No stress, no performing, no to-do-lists, no laptops, no camera.

It had been years since my last overnight ferry trip, which, if ever in Finland, is something of an...experience. Especially during weekend. And while we did get a bit uppity analyzing the "multitude of complex sociological phenomena" and observed the "different sediments of the socio-economical spectrum" we did actually have fun. Though I have a feeling I'd have fun anywhere with The Boy.

The cruises are known as booze cruises, owing to the abundance of cheap alcohol on sale in the shops. Having already cursed the youth that was occupying rest of the cabins at our floor, I soon got another reminder of my very middle class and middle aged priorities. When fellow passengers were busy ogling the 12-packs of vodka (yep, really), I couldn't get enough of  the duck terrines and elk salamis and wild boar sausages on display.

On the ferries you have variety of restaurants. But in order to really get me to relax, The Boy had booked us in the buffet. Not that I complain - some of my happiest cruise ship memories are integrally linked to that very place. Though it had been years since my last cruise and the selection had been updated a bit, one thing hasn't change. One always overdoes it. And the Nordic fish selection is still the best thing on offer. I can (again) vouch that it is perfectly possible (not necessarily the most recommended thing to do mind you) to eat one's own body weight in shrimps.

This is what happiness (or was it gluttony?) looks like 

As the rest of the ship continued with the Saturday night bacchanals way into the morning (the last bar won't close until 6am!), we turned in already before 2am, hoping to get our first holiday snap together. See, in the past 6 months we've somehow managed to exchange first kisses, engagement rings and addresses  - never managing to squeeze in time for that pivotal first holiday together! Based on the results of our first attempts at selfies (welfies?), the Kardashians have nothing to worry about. For results (and other behind the scenes shots!), do join us on Instagram!




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Saturday, 26 July 2014

Potato and octopus salad

Sure, the best thing about blogging is all the glamorous red carpet events we get invited all the time. And all the millions of dollars/ pounds/ euros we get paid through all sorts of lucrative marketing deals, all the time. Oh, and can't forget about all the pricey gifts and free Champagne they keep throwing our way, again, all the time

Fat chance. Yeah, right. As if.

The best thing about is you guys: the readers. Your comments, feedback and just generally tagging along is the thing that keeps the bloggers going. Another super great thing are the fellow bloggers and meeting them. They are a great bunch of dedicated people and passionate about the same things. Every now and then they become real friends in the real world; not just nicknames whose lives you follow in the social media. One of mine lives in Israel so I only get to see her when she comes over for her summer holiday. Last summer we checked out the Tall Ships Race, but this time I felt brave enough to invite her over for a meal.

What was I thinking? Have I not met myself? Was I not capable of estimating the turmoil and anxiety that would push me in? See, it's one thing to admire photos of someone's cooking, quite another to actually get to taste it... For afters we had orange posset and before that we feasted new potatos (can't get enough of them!) with marinated octopus in this summery salad inspired by restaurant Salt in Tallinn

I served the salad with persillade which totally rocks my world right now: try it on salads or serve with grilled fish. seafood or meat. To keep the olive oil from overpowering the flavours, use a very light oil. Or a 50/50 blend of olive oil and something neutral like canola or rape seed. Or use only that.


3/4 of a big bunch of flat leaf parsley (finely chopped that yields 5 generous tbsp)
the zest of 3/4 lemon
1 tsp white vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 garlic clove
1/2 - 1 tsp salt (start with 1/2 and add more if needed)
1 dl oil (see above)

Crush the garlic clove using pestle and mortar and, along with salt and lemon zest, rub into paste. Add oil and finely chopped parsley leaves. Season with vinegar, check the taste and add more salt/ vinegar if needed.

Serves 3

Potato and octopus salad:

1 kg marinated octopus (recipe here)
750 kg new potatos
1/2 red onion
200 g fava beans (cooked and peeled)
15 sun dried tomatos (or oven-dried, for which you'll find recipe here)
15 olives
half a box of rucola leaves (3 handfuls)

Cut the smaller potatos in half and the bigger ones in 4. Cook in generously salted water and then, when almost done, steam dry. Peel and finely slice red onion. If you prefer a softer onion taste, fold them in with the hot potatos. Drizzle some good olive oil and fleur de sel on top and let come to room temperature.

Slice the tomatos and halve the olives. Fold them and rest of the ingredients into the potatos and serve with persillade and chilled rosé - German and Austrian ones are worth trying. 




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Friday, 25 July 2014

Marinated octopus

The heatwave that is currently sweeping across Finland has totally messed my geographical clock up. As I'm so used to being somewhere else this time of the year, soaking the Mediterranean sunshine, I actually have to remind myself every now and then where it is that I actually am.

My culinary clock has picked up on it too and I'm plagued with ridiculous craving for anything octopussy. A craving the satisfying of is a bit of a challenge at these latitudes (and with these prices...). For a while now I've been on the lookout for one of those big octopi, but so far to no avail. Again I only managed to find smaller tentacles. Then I did my head in fretting over how they refused to curl up just right for the photo. Perhaps that 3-step-shocking-method would have worked with these too?

With any member of the octopus family you have two options. Either you do it really quickly or really slowly. Anything in between and you're left with something with the charm and texture of a used tyre. Eventually I decided to cook these as I would have cooked one of those big ones, too: slowly, that is. I simmered these for an hour after which I poured the marinade over them and let that do its job until the next day.

In Mediterranean countries these are often quickly grilled over hot charcoal grill for before serving!

As a tapas this feeds 3-4

1 kg small octopus tentacles (or a 1 kg- big octopus if you can find)

The cooking liquid:

2 l water
2 bay leaves
10 allspice peppercorns (or black ones)
1 onion
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1,5 tbsp salt

Roughly chop the onion, celery and carrot into chunks. Place all the ingredients into a pot and bring to boil. Then add octopi, wait until the water comes back to boil again and then lower the heat to simmer. Let cook, covered for an hour (you can test the doneness sooner, say, after 30 minutes with the tip of a knife. They should be tender but still al dente). Remove from heat, let cool and drain. Cut the bigger ones in half. Combine the ingredients for the marinade , pour over the octopus and let marinate at least for a couple of hours, preferably overnight in the fridge.


1 dl vinegar (red or white)
2 dl (rosemary) olive oil (recipe? Here!)
1/2 red onion

Peel and slice the red onion finely. Combine with rest of the ingredients and pour over the octopi. Before serving lift the octopi from the marinade (which by  now, if it's been in the fridge, will be a bit gelatinous), drizzle some good olive oil, salt and pepper on top of it and serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Serve as is, or in a salad the way we did - more on that tomorrow!




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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Limetree

We had a date night a while back. But you know, a very casual one. So casual in fact we didn't even bother leaving our beloved neighbourhood. But so date-y I did leave the camera at home, so there won't be any extensive portrayals of the decor and general ambiance. 

Seeing how I've totally fallen for Instagram I did have my iCandy with me, though I do keep making these crazy promises to myself about not becoming one of those sad addicts feverishly poking their screens throughout their meals. By the time we tasted our starters however, we agreed that the place warranted a proper blog post so sorry folks, you'll just have to make do with iPhotos!

Asian restaurants in Helsinki are a bit on the dull side. None of them has really stood out and the first visits have primarily remained the last. So far my favourites are Twisted Street Kitchen, run by among other people, an Israeli and Farang - the crown jewel in the totally Finnish restaurant empire of Tom Björck.

After walking around half-heartedly we stumbled upon restaurant Limetree, located at the corner of Töölöntori. I had in fact spotted the place a while back in one of those neighbourhood newsletters but their culinary expertize isn't usually anything to write home about. I did remember this place being recommended for "clean, authentic flavours and fresh, contemporary atmosphere". 

And fresh it was - minimialistic even. All the cliches of Asian restaurants had been happily tossed aside and the decor was simple and airy. You know, with a couple of wooden elephants thrown in. For fun. 

The menu is, the way it always seems to be in these places, extensive. But luckily, it was tempting too. And totally MSG-free too

For starter The Boy Next Door, true to his ways, had wonton soup (€7.50/ 14) and I had Tom Kha Gai - a chicken soup made with coconut milk-based broth infused with lemon grass and chilli among other things. I like my tastes (and diamonds...) big and bold, so for me won ton soups always tend to be a bit on the thin side. The Boy Next Door loved it. It made him "see misty mountain views"...

Tom Kha Gai (€7.50/€14) was easily, hands down, unequivocally the best I've had in Finland. Beautifully balances flavours.

I had to take a moment (or three) to decide on the main course. Pork knuckle braised slowly in home-made star anise sauce sounded divine. But so, too, did crisp fried duck in red curry sauce (€19). Based on the waiter's recommendation I had the duck. Crisp fried it wasn't, but excellent nonetheless. And beautifully presented too.

My date had noodle soup with selection of seafood and couldn't get enough of its "breeziness". It was good, sure (the mussels came out of a tin, mind you) but had that last Templar-come-Holy Grail guardian knight from the Last Crusade been there, I would have been the one at the receiving end of that slow, appreciative nod: "you chose wisely". 

Desserts in Asian restaurants are never their forte - there's only so many times you can have deep-fried banana. In addition to that and the token ice cream plate there was something on the menu that sounded intriguing: Thai tapioca noodles cooked in sweet coconut sauce served with coconut ice cream. It had clearly sounded intriguing to other people as well seeing how it was out. So, deep-fried banana with coconut ice cream it was. Still, best deep-fried banana I think I've ever had.

The food along with a couple of Tsingtaos per head set us back € 80,20. And this time the first visit won't be the last - I'm going to have to get my hands all over that pork knuckle!




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Monday, 21 July 2014

Rhubarb crumble

Oh, the ambitious plans I had for making the most of the rhubarb season! I had plans for rhubarb ketchup (don't ask), rhubarb curd and jams galore. And what happened? Not much. I managed to dish out pork chops with rhubarb that tasted like vomit.Oh, and a rhubarb tart with goat cheese, white chocolate and rosemary. Which, luckily was a massive hit. Give it a try and try not to love it!

We finished the culinary extravaganza that was this year's Midsummer with this plain and boring timeless classic rhubarb crumble. Classic with some tweaks though: The crumble was cooked with vanilla and ginger and the crumble got some extra oomph from toasted coconut flakes. I'm so loving them right now - they give such a nice texture to savoury dishes too. Sprinkle them on salads or on top of some Asian style caramelized pork!

Oh and while on rhubarb... surely I can't be the only one out there that thinks there's something dubiously cannabis-like in its smell? Surely...?

Serves 6

Rhubarb filling:

750 g rhubarb
a couple of cm piece of ginger, cut in slices
1 vanilla pod
1,5 dl sugar

Split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds out. Trim the rhubarbs and (if they're thick) peel if needed. Cut into a couple of cm chinks and put in the pan with rest of the ingredients (including the vanilla pod) and bring to boil. Lower the temperature and let simmer until rhubarb is done to your liking (7-10 minutes should do it). Remove the vanilla pod and fish out the ginger too. Check taste and (if needed, add more sugar).


75 g butter
1,5 dl flour
pinch of salt
1 dl toasted coconut flakes
1 dl sugar
1 dl toasted and roughly chopped nuts (macadamia, hazelnut, Brazil, cashews or pecans)
2 generous tsp cardamom

Toast coconut flakes on pan over medium heat (no oil) until they turn golden. Remove from the pan and repeat with nuts. Let the nuts cool a bit and chop. Finely chop/grate the butter into a bowl and rub together with flour and salt. Then add rest of the ingredients. Spoon rhubarb filling into an oven-proof dish and spread crumble mixture on top of it. Grate a couple of shavings of butter on top of the crumble and bake at 175° until the crumble is crisp and golden: about 30-40 minutes. 

Let cool just a little and serve with custard or vanilla ice cream.




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