Sunday, 31 August 2014

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Pastor Restaurant

The restaurant scene in Helsinki is right now so very much happening I can barely keep up. New restaurant (and speakeasies!) are popping up everywhere. We've had our share or authentic Asian flavours, there have even been a couple of African restaurants and even mex-mex made its long-awaited arrival at Helsinki. Yesterday saw the opening of what is looking like this autumn's hottest ticket: Restaurant Pastor with their take on Peruvian (!) cuisine. 

We (and all the other supermodels...!) checked the place out at yesterday's brunch.

Overall appearance is fresh with a generous handful of that Scandinavian minimalism thrown in - in a way that compliments the beautiful and sculptural lines of the building itself. The date paid special attention to the successfully designed lighting and sound system (the things boys notice...!)

People behind the restaurant include some of the most experienced and successful in restaurant business in Finland. And yes, one famous actor. Fear not though - this is not going to be a celebrity restaurant, I'm told (with laughter!) - it's all about good food.

Peruvian food is a new experience for  me (well, apart from ceviche, that is). Their national dish is not on the menu though... (yes, guinea pig. And yes, I would have had some!)

The menu is described with the world nikkei which refers to Peruvian culinary traditions being happily mixed with the trendy East Easian (and Spanish!) vibe. Ceviche is well represented on the menu and deservedly so. The thing that got my heart pumping though... Octopus confit (!!!). 

As in the cultures the dishes hail from they are meant to be shared. There'sdinner (set menus starting at €52) and lunch (depending on the umber of dishes prices range from €15 to €33). Stay tuned for their laid-back brunch too!

The wine list, hand-picked by Pekka Koiranen is impressive and boasts about 150 choices. And a further couple of dozen outside the list, too. And 50 Cent, in case you're reading this: yes there's Cristal too. 

Drinks menu is equally impressive with tequilas particularly well represented on the list. There are herbs, variety of infused liqueurs and jams galore. Pastor isn't even afraid to put their own twist n the classics. Bloody Mary for instance is jazzed up a bit by a sprinkling of saffron...!

We kicked the merry afternoon off with some bubbly...

... and continued with it even through the hot dogs we sampled. A nice match.

For sweet treats there were these gloriously divine tartalettes that I simply couldn't get enough of. Just ask The Boy Next Door. I even ate his. And then some. 

Relaxed music, great service, wonderful company and all the treats made for such a nice flow we didn't want to leave. So, we stayed on the sample the actual menu too. To start with tostada with marinated white fish. Which was really nice. Guacamole had excellent acidity - points for that!

Then off to chicken empanadas. Dreamily crisp and light crust and perfectly seasoned filling. No, never had better. No, not even in Spain!

For mains we we're recommended Gambas that got their kick from soy, ginger, lemon grass and Peruvian chile sauce. Dios Mios, the size of them! And taste!

And for me...don't tell me you didn't see it coming: octopus confit, claro que si! Why, oh why haven't I ever thought of that? The result? Tender. Lovely. Soft. Lovely. Melt-in-your-mouth-gorgeously lovely. Not a big portion though. Tapenade gave it a good edge. 

I'd put a heart symbol here if only I didn't still remember how old and pathetically un-street cred I am.

With desserts I made history and for the first time ever did not succumb to the tempting calls of crème brûlè. Instead I had Crema Batida (chilli-infused dark chocolate fondant with orange ice cream). And it was good. Not as gooey as I had hoped and the orange ice cream wasn't very orangey, but good nonetheless.

But the other dessert, Blanco (roasted white chocolate mousse with caramelized banana and toffee ice cream) was just what you'd think. Over the top. Sinfully sweet. Heaven on a plate. Especially with a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

A massive thank to the fantastic hosts and good luck with your new venture. Though... with prime location, its casual but decidedly cool vibe, customer service that truly rocks and menu like this... you don't really need luck - this place can only be a hit!




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Friday, 29 August 2014

¡ Viva el Kräftskiva !

Though crayfish, cooked in its dilly broth is the bona fide star of the kräftskiva table, you've got to have something else to feed your diners too. Like the Mediterranean potato salad. But sure enough the crayfish craziness wasn't satisfied with just the plate heaving with them - we just had to have some more. 

Moderation, you see, is something you might have noticed isn't exactly my forte. Less is never more and too much is only rarely enough.

And though all that fiddling with the shells is a lovely activity in itself I wanted to give our guests a little easier access to the succulent treats. So, in celebration of this blog's roots and the Mediterranean theme of our this year's kräftskiva I baked a tart which got a lovely Iberian kick from chorizo and pimenton. And the secret behind the sunny colour of the crust? Spanish saffron! Because ¿por que pas?

You all probably know the pie crust by heart by now, non? You'll find it in here, in here and in here, too. I dissolved a pinch of saffron threads (appr. 2 g) into the liquid that goes into the crust.

Prepare the crust and blind bake at 200º, first 15 minutes covered with foil and baking beans/ regular dried beans/ rice and then without he foil for another 10 minutes or so. Let cool while you prepare the filling.


150 g crayfish tails
the zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated
1/2 tsp pimentón 
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp granulated garlic

50 g good chorizo (charcuterie type)
2 spring onion stalks, the green bits, chopped (appr. 2 dl )
75 g corn
handful of parsley leaves

Combine lemon zest, pimentón, coriander seeds and garlic powder. Drain crayfish tails , squeeze dry and toss in the spice mixture. Finely slice chorizo and chop the spring onions. Spoon the filling into the cooled pastry case: first spring onion, then chorizo, then corn, then crayfish tails and finally parsley leaves. Or, how ever you prefer. Top with custard and bake at 175º for 30-40 minutes until set and golden brown. Let cool and serve.


2,5 dl cream
1,5 dl milk
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 generous tsp freshly ground black pepper

Whisk thoroughly and pour over the filling before baking. 

PS. For even easier to manage recipe for an oil-based crust that I recently used for the tomato, basil and ricotta tart please click yourself here!




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Thursday, 28 August 2014

The best potato salad all summer

Up until now I've obediently steered clear of using provocative headlines such as that, you know, because these things are always a matter of taste and everyone's taste is different. Well, apart from Kim Kardashian's - she just doesn't have any. 

This potato salad turned out to be our favourite all summer though (and Lord knows we've gone through ridiculous quantities of potatos this summer!) It's actually a vegetarian version of the octopus salad with persillade you were served earlier. Much like other salad favourites this summer; halloumi with cranberries and pistacchios, watermelon with feta and mint and that delicious Moroccan orange salad this is quick and easy as hell. Perfect for lazy summer days then - and with that Mediterranean twist I love so much.

You can mix and match as you see fit based on what happens to be lurking in your fridge. Asparagus and green beans (or fava beans!) work wonderfully and any leftover basil leaves find in this salad a grateful final resting place.

I made a batch for our somewhat Mediterranean crayfish party and thought I'd made enough to feed about eight people. Oh, how wrong I was. The five of us destroyed it in less than half an hour...

As a main this feeds 4-5, as a side (with grilled chicken or wonderfully herby Italian sausage!) 6-8

900 g new potatos
1 jar (350 g/ 160 g)  good, black olives
1 jar (320 g/ 200 g) sun-dried tomatos in basil oil 
1 large red onion
100 g rucola leaves
1,5 dl oil from the sun-dried tomatos
fleur de sel, freshly ground black pepper

Brush the potatos and cut into 1 cm slices. Boil in salted water until done and steam dry. Drain olives and sun-dried tomatos (reserving their oil). Drizzle some of the oil on the potatos along with a sprinkling of good salt and toss carefully (potatos absorb flavours better when they're still warm) and cool to room temperature.

Cut the large sun-dried tomatos in half. Peel and slice the red onion finely. Assemble the salad by layering the ingredients into the serving dish, drizzling oil from the sun-dried tomatos as a dressing. Season with freshly ground black pepper and (in moderation!) fleur de sel. 




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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Crayfish galore

We're such a stubborn pair we can't seem to get anything right. As the rest of the country was dancing the night away at Flow Festival, we were browning butter for salad with smoked mackerel salad and baking tomato, basil and ricotta tart for the picnic the following morning. And then we even missed sampling the home-made delights at the International Restarant Day, having foolishly booked our kräftskiva on the same day. Lord, have mercy as I sure don't.

Kräftskiva, crayfish party, is the most glorious of Nordic foodie traditions and, needless to say, one of my favourite celebrations all year. Though especially in Finland it tends to have a reputation as something for those better off (and with sailing boats and Swedish as the mother tongue), the history of this humble crustacean is very different.

Finnish rivers used to have such an abundance of them the farmhands actually had a clause in their contract dictating that it could only be served for food no more than five times a week. Crayfish plague that raged through Europe in the 19th century put an end to that kind of decadence though, pretty much eliminating the crayfish population all over the continent. As a result wild, domestic crayfish available today comes with a price tag that makes it a rare treat.

Do not let this put an end to your shenanigans though - get your friends and family around the table and helangår and hydeochheja all you want. In case you don't have a river of your own to catch them from (I know. Sucks) and you can't afford the store-bought ones (around €2 each) or ready-cooked individuals (up to €5 a piece) it's frozen goods to the rescue! In Finland any supermarket (around the world you might look into IKEA) sells cooked and frozen crayfish that will make for a fine fuss-free fiesta.

Because of the price, crayfish are usually served as a generous starter as even after all the fiddling about with their shells they don't really yield that much meat. Even still, the recommended portion per diner is 12-15 crayfish a head, so you do the math!

In case I don't cook my own, I go for the jumbo size ones (16-22 crayfish per kilo) which tend to be either Chinese or Spanish wild crayfish. The ones sold in Scandinavia are cooked to cater to the very Scandinavian palate, so all you need to do is thaw them over 2 day-period in the fridge. If yours aren't too tasty though you can marinate them overnight after thawing in the broth described below.

This one's our family recipe that according to a legend originally comes from the kitchen of Savoy. The one in Finland, mind you. 

For 40 crayfish

10 l water
2 bunches of dill
3,25 dl coarse sea salt
10 sugar cubes

Measure water, salt, sugar and 1 bunch of dill into a big pot and bring to boil. Cook for 5 minutes and then add fresh crayfish, having rinsed them first to make sure they're still alive. After the water starts boiling again after adding the crayfish boil for another 3 minutes. Remove the dill and add a fresh bunch.

Cool the pot quickly - either place it into ice water in a sink or, if by the seaside, in the water. Let marinate until the next day, drain and serve.

In addition to shots (aquavit in Sweden, vodka in Finland) and lager, the drink traditionally recommended for crayfish is something on the Chardonnay - Chablis- line. I'm not a fan of that though, so Norex Spirits surprised us with Wolfberger's whites from Alsace - our current #1 wine region in the world. 

Riesling Pinot Gris worked well too, but the yellow-labelled Riesling was a firm favourite of everyone around our table. Such vibrant, aromatic elegance.

Around our table we had my British Brother, his missus the Mane Magician , Tzatziki Champion and a new addition to our circle: The Italian. Having only been in the country for 3 weeks this was his first kräftskiva, ever.

You should have seen his face as we tried to teach him the kräftskiva etiquette. For each crayfish you take, you take a shot. And for each shot you down, there's a song. He got there in the end. And by the time we ran out of the crayfish-related drinking songs, we made a smooth transition to Manchester United-related drinking songs. Oh, joy!

The weather kept us guessing until the final hours but herregud, what a fine sunny day we got! Even the sad old man from the building next to ours with a goatee that makes him look like a right perv couldn't get our spirits down as he made it his business to walk all the way to us just to inform us that the table (which no-one ever uses for anything)  at the patio of our building is technically the property of the building next to us. Apparently our respective buildings are in the middle of a turf war so gruesome even we can't be trusted with the details. 

The real hero of the day (in addition to our clawy friends in red) was, however, the neighbourhood restaurant KuuKuu. See, I just had to go and get one of those wine cooler bowls as they look so pretty. Sure enough we couldn't find any ice in the shops though, you know, to cool the wine in the bowl. But lo and behold, The Boy Next Door wandered into KuuKuu and walked out with a carrier bag full of ice. "Can't let a crayfish party run dry", they had said. That's customer care professional for you, my friend. That's Töölö!

Instagram followers were guests at the party in real time (you are one of them, aren't you?) and the rest of you too will soon be served the recipes for the rest of the treats in the following posts. There will be at least crayfish and chorizo tart with saffron crust...

...and the easiest (and tastiest!) potato salad this summer with a decidedly Mediterranean twist.

Thank you family! Thank you Restaurant KuuKuu! Thank you Norex Spirits! Surely we don't have to wait another year to do have another one...?




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