Monday, 30 March 2015

Food memories from Tunisia: Tunisian fish keftas

Recent terrorist attack in Tunisia made my heart sink and took my thought to the wrong side of the Mediterranean Sea. Not only was Tunisia the home of the Arab spring, once upon a time (that very time, in fact) it was also my home. And as a result will always hold a special place in my heart. The time when I lived there was rather special too, not just for the small and rather insignificant country in the corner of Africa, but also for the entire region.

That also reflects on my photos from that time - owing to the general unrest and unpredictable conditions travelling around Tunisia was unfortunately not much of an option. Most of the photos I have seem to revolve around riots in the capital and refugee camps at the Libyan border.

They do not much of tourism revival package maketh which is sad, as that is exactly what the country is in a dire need of right now. So, instead I'll take you on a tour of my foodie memories - now those are something I do have!

As I moved to Tunis, I came prepared. I had a carefully drafted list of top 10 restaurants in Tunis I was going to use as my starting point for exploring my new home. Most of them weren't up to much though and many never even seemed to be open. So, my ambitious plan was shot to pieces (much like some rioters on my doorstep...) and I ended up having my Friday night dinner every week at the same place  - Chez Nous off the main street.

Somewhat adorably stuck in a time warp (1950's Paris, I think) the walls of the tiny restaurant were decorated by portraits of the legends that once upon a time dined there, too. Edit Piaf, Humphrey Bogart and the likes. The very dignified maître d' was nothing short of a legend himself - not once did he let a careless smile or an inapproriately familial comment slip from his tightly pursed lips.

Each dinner followed the same pattern: I walked into the empty restaurant to be greeted by the maître d', who'd nod his head: a whopping 1/8 of an inch as an acknowledgment of my arrival ( I told you - he made Jeeves look sloppy!) "Notre princess", he would say as he'd bow a little, escort me to my table and silently signal the waiter to approach with the menu.

And, as each week, we'd pretend we didn't do this same thing each week: I'd glance at the menu, ponder a bit and then he'd scribble down the same order week in, week out. Escargots to start with and Filet Chez Nous (absolument pas bien cuit!) for main, washed down with a demi-bottle of local rosé.

There were evenings when I was escorted home my gendarme, there were evenings when curfew prevented me from even leaving home. At one point I realized there were evenings when they probably kept the restaurant open just for me. 

Eventually the situation cooled off and I got to explore other neighbourhoods in Tunis, locating some genuinely good restaurants, too and them you'll find over here in the Foodie t(r)ips around the world- section. For the most part the quality of the restaurants wasn't something to write home about. The trendier, more expensive (and as such, populated mostly by expats) parts of Tunis boasted restaurants offering watered-down versions of European dishes but very good local food was difficult to come by.

"Tunisians eat at home with their families, not out in restaurants!" I was told. Finances probably play a part in it, too - the price range which for me, used to Finnish prices, was cheap, was probably anything but for the locals. Due to the cheap prices average Tunisian diet is very starchy: couscous, other local grains and pasta. And, courtesy of the legacy of the French colonial era: baguettes galore.

Saturday mornings I invariably spent trawling Marché Central, the Central Market of Tunis in the search of ingredients for the Saturday lunch I'd eat in my tiny kitchen, overlooking the view of the Tunis rooftops opening from the tiny balconette. And the lunch would always be seafood - the vendors at the market quickly got to know me and would always talk me into it. "Mais madame, you always purchase our king prawns! And how about squid, alors? How many kilos shall we make it this week?"

Considering Tunisia's coastal location and availability of fresh fish it was confusing how rarely it made it onto the restaurant menus. The most commonly used one was tinned tuna (!) This was particularly painful in idyllic coastal towns such as Bizerte, where the seaside restaurants would have had potential for so much more.

Higher end restaurants would have better selection, though with equally confusing results. Mulet (mullet), dorado and merluza (hake) were all familiar from Spain but loup de mer? The wolf of the sea? Google Translate to the rescue: sea bass. 

Fish keftas are a popular dish in Tunisia however and it's impossible not to run into them. They get their golden colour and aromatic taste from turmeric and cumin. Usually the mixture contains quite a bit of flour, too, but mine get their perfectly firm consistency from boiled potato. They do require a bit of bread crumbs, but by using gluten-free variety these suit gluten-free diets, too. 

And since harissa is for Tunisia what piri-piri sauce is for Portugal and Sriracha for Thailand, that means there's no meal (or life, for that matter!) without it. So, I paired these gently spiced fish patties with harissa and yogurt dressing with a bit of kick to it. And brought out my new favourite North African plates. Oh, là là.

Makes 20 keftas

Tunisian fish keftas:

300 g white fish
1 large potato
1/2 smallish onion, finely chopped
1/ tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
large handful of fresh parsley (2 tbsp when finely chopped)
the zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated
1/2 dl (30 g) bread crumbs
1 egg
salt, pepper

For frying: 1/2 litres of oil

Peel the potato and steam until cooked through. Season the fish fillets and steam them too. Let cool. 

Sauté chopped onion in a bit of oil until soft and translucent. Then add turmeric and cumin and sauté them for a couple of minutes too to allow them to release the aromas.

Mash potato using a fork, add onion, parsley, lemon zest and bread crumbs. Mix in the egg and stir into a smooth mixture. Finally add fish, incorporating in into the mixture with the fork.

Check the taste, season as needed and roll into 20 balls. Flatten them a little, deep-fry in hot oil, drain on kitchen towels and serve. With lemon wedges and/or harissa and yogurt dressing.

Harissa and yogurt dressing:

250 g Greek yogurt
1,5 tsp harissa paste
the finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp dried mint (and/ or 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley) 
salt, pepper

Combine the ingredient apart from salt and pepper) and, if possible, let rest n the cold for half an hour before serving. Check the taste and season. 

PS. Tunisia also has a long history in wine-making. Rosé is the favourite and some of it is really good. I've even tried local kosher variety! Most of the wineries are located in Cap Bon region a couple of hours away from Tunis. The best is Kurubis, located in Korba near Nabeul, which I got the chance to tour when in Tunisia. Definitely worth a visit should you be in the region!




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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Salsa Romesco - Romesco sauce

Dazzled by the stunning springtime sunshine I was so very convinced it was only a matter of time before it was time to kick off the BBQ season. How very premature of me - now there's snow on the ground. Not much, mind you, but THERE'S SNOW ON THE GROUND!

It's coming, though, I'm sure of it. So, let's get carried away and start preparing for the summer, then! Today's recipe is Salsa Romesco, a grateful companion to picnics and BBQ parties.

Romesco sauce hails from Tarragona (oh, the strange logic of languages: Romesco doesn't come from Rome and Tarragona is not the home of tarragon...) in Catalonia where the fishermen have traditionally been whipping it up as a condiment to fish. It's got so much body though it can take on just about any BBQ treat. During springtime in Catalonia it's served as a dip for calçot, a local spring onion that's charred and then peeled to reveal the soft, succulent inside.

It's also related to Syrian muhammara that's you've already been introduced to on the blog and great as a sauce, dip, on sandwiches... sky's the limit. You can adjust the heat based on the type and quantity of chilli you use and if you want it milder, just add more almonds. Traditionally the sauce is thickened using a slice of stale bread, but this recipe only uses almonds making it suitable for gluten-free diners as well. For a runnier sauce add oil (I prefer canola oil owing to its neutral flavour).

Romesco sauce:

2 medium red peppers
1/2 dl (30 pcs) blanched almonds
5 roasted garlic cloves
1 Spanish Nora pepper, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes 
(or 1/2-1 large red chilli, depending on your palate)
1/2 tsp pimentón
1 roasted tomato
1-2 tsp sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 tbsp finely chopped, fresh parsley
salt, (white) pepper

If you don't have roasted garlic lurking in the fridge, start by prepping that. Wrap a whole head of garlic in foil and roast at 175º for an hour. Let cool and squeeze out the caramelized, soft paste from the cloves. You can roast the tomato at the same time - cut a cross-shape incision in the end and place on a tray lined with parchment. 

Roast the almonds on a hot pan until golden and aromatic. Let cool.

Cut the peppers and roast at 225º until the skin starts bubbling and turning black. Transfer into a bowl and cover. Once they've cooled enough to handle, pull the skin off. Do the same with tomato. If using jarred piquillo peppers, you'll need about 6.

Measure the almonds into a mixer and blizz into powder. Add garlic paste, tomato and chilli and mix. Then add peppers, pulse into a thick paste, season with pimentón and vinegar. The sauce will thicken the longer it waits in the fridge, so if you want it runnier, add oil.

Fold in finely chopped parsley and (if you manage to keep your fingers off!) let the sauce sit in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving. Then check the taste and season as needed by adding salt, pepper (and/or a little bit of sugar).

And as we're gearing up for the BBQ season (hrrrrrrr.....) do not forget the other dips, spreads and sauces on the blog. Prepare a selection of your favourites and bring them along to a picnic. Great with these herby flatbread crisps...!

Muhammara for instance goes with, well, everything

Tartar sauce on the other hand loves, loves, loves fish and seafood. Both grilled and deep-fried kind!

And this take on baba ghannoush is versatile as heck. One of the most popular recipes in the history of this blog, by the way!

This apricot sauce is versatile too and a great accompaniment especially for Middle Eastern delicacies!

And this cashew-based garlic sauce is glorious with any grilled meat!

This mango, chilli, ginger and crayfish dressing/ spread is so delicious I eat it on its own (and so would you!) Though it is great served in hot dog buns too...!

Tzatziki provides a nice cooling breeze with spicy dishes...

And one shouldn't forget persillade,  either. Not only is it a great sauce for grilled fish or meat, it also makes a gloriously bright (and light!) dressing for salads, too!

Those ought to get you started! Now if only the weather were as welcoming to the idea of getting started with summer, too...!




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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Stifado - Greek lamb stew

Traveling. Oh, how it broadens one's horizons. Culinary ones, too. My family firmly believed in the merits of domestic expeditions, so I was almost in my twenties before my first real foreign holiday.

Already then something awoke in the mind and palate of yours truly, born and bred in a small town at the Arctic Circle. Olive oil can taste like this? There are other fish in the word besides salmon? But the biggest shock came somewhere in Greece in the form of mouthwateringly tender stifado. It was somehow familiar, yet exotic. It took me a while before I could put my finger on it: there was cinnamon in it! " Say what? Cinnamon in meat? Do they not know it's something people only use in rice pudding and apple pies?" Yeah. 

It's probably good I didn't go out of my way lecturing them about the proper ways of doing things in the kitchen - if a nation has given the world democracy, the principal upon which the entire Western world is built, then maybe, just maybe, they know their way around the kitchen too...?

Since then my excursions have taken me to Arab word and those gentle, warm spices have found a loving home in my own kitchen, too. Grab yourself this recipe for bokharat spice blend, fall in love with these sambousek- pasties or spoil your loved ones with these Andalusian-style lamb shanks!

A "behind the scenes" photo I published on Instagram immediately garnered a grateful response. "At last stiffed that actually looks like a stiffed!" shipped one of my followers. Oh yeah - none of those oregano, olives or feta in my recipe that apparently seem to turn any dish into a "Greek" one. 

For meat I used lamb: 1,4 kg slab of boneless lamb shoulder to be precise. After trimming off the excess fat and membranes I was left with 1 kg of meat. Lamb could just as well be substituted with any stewing meat: beef or rabbit!

Serves four


1 kg boneless lamb shoulder/ other stewing meat
salt,  black pepper
oil for frying

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
10 allspice peppers
2 sticks of cinnamon
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1,5 tbsp tomato concentrate
1 tsp ground cloves
350 g passata
1 tbsp sugar
4 dl red wine
750 g pearl onions

If using shoulder, trim off excess fat and membranes. Cut into 1 inch- cubes.

Brown the meat in a couple of batches, season (generously!) and move aside.

Add garlic into a pan along with rest of the ingredients (apart from onions) and bring to boil. Add meat and simmer, over medium heat, covered for 1-1,5 hrs. Every now and then check to make sure there's enough liquid.

Peel the onions and brown them too. Add into the pot and continue cooking for another hour. Check the taste and season as needed.

Serve with rice, bulgur, couscous or boiled potatos. For extra yumminess sauté the potatos in a garlic and rosemary-infused butter after parboiling them.

Our most successful wine pairing for this spicy, warm, comforting dish is this. Australian Lindeman's Bin 50 Shiraz has soft tannins and full-bodied richness that is perfect for dark meats and stews, even gamey ones. It also has a lovely spiciness that matches well with the warm spicy notes of the stifado itself.

PS. Those Andalusian lamb shanks are our entry in Finnish food bloggers' monthly food challenge, too. This month the theme is Easter and the voting is open...! Cast your vote over here!




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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Asian roasted goose breast

Easter giving you goose bumps? Fear not - we've got just the treat for you!

Goose made its first ever appearance in our kitchen a couple of weeks ago. Rumours had been telling me that a certain German supermarket chain stocks goose breasts in their freezer and for cheap, too : the whole breast only set me back €10!

It's lovely size, too and feeds up to 4 Sunday lunchers. What we were not prepared for was the fact that it came still attached to the breast plate. So, you can either cook it on the bone (which is really something I only recommend if you have a reliable thermometer and the ability to use it correctly...) and take the breasts apart after the cooking or remove the breasts either before marinating or before hitting the pan.

The inner temperature you're looking for is 55-58ºC. In case you cook the breast without the bone, you'll get to this after 8-10 minutes at 180ºC oven.

Our goose was bathed in Asian marinade and oh MY, how delicious it turned! Can't wait to make this one again. And hey, if you can't find goose, the recipe works just as well with duck, too. 

Asian roasted goose breast:

1 goose breast (appr. 900 g)


2 dl soy sauce
1 dl honey
2 large garlic cloves, minced
5 cm piece fresh ginger, minced
1/2 dl mirin
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Combine the ingredients for the marinade. Pat the goose breast dry and score the skin in a diamond pattern. Pour over the marinade and let marinate in the fridge, covered (turning every now and then) for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

The following day lift the bird out of the marinade and pat dry. Drain the marinade into a pot and over high heat reduce until thickened and syrupy. Check the taste and, if desired, add more sugar/ honey.

Heat oven to 180ºC. Place the goose breasts (skin side down) on a cold pan and bring the heat up. Fry until the ski is golden brown and crisp. Drain excess fat off the pan if needed. Then turn and brown the other side as well.

Finish cooking the bird in the oven, basting a couple of times with the marinade. Once you've reached the right temperature, remove from the oven, cover in foil and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Cut to slices and serve with rice and steamed/ stir-fried Bok Choy.

Stir-fried Bok Choy:

2 Bok Choys
some oil for frying
1/2 tsp sesame oil, white pepper 

to serve: toasted sesame seeds or cashew nuts

Separate the leaves and cut into smaller pieces. Rinse off any soil there might be and pat dry (water will make the oil splash!).

Heat a little oil in a pan/ wok. First stir fry the stems and after a couple of minutes once they've softened, add the leaves. Season (with a bit of soy too if you want but be careful - there's quite a bit of taste and salt in the goose breasts) and serve.

And if the goose kicked ass, so did the wine pairing. Choosing a red wine for Asia meats with soy-based, salty sauce/ dressing/ marinade might seem a bit tricky, but bear in mind the chemistry of food and wine pairings: saltiness tends to soften the tannins sometimes resulting in a very mellow and harmonious combinations. 

This Italian from the Puglia region won me over with the rock n' roll attitude of the bottle alone. Jammy and rich to a point of incredible, it has exceptionally high residual sugar content and as such goes very well with spicy (and Asian-inspired) sauces and BBQ- treats. Exceeded all expectations - The Mane Magician who doesn't even drink red wine couldn't stop raving about it!

Zinfandel is considered a native grape to US and it has been cultivated there for a good couple of hundred years already. In Italy the grape is known as Primitivo and its light, berry notes are a great match for a variety of vegetarian dishes (especially ones with tomato!) and pizzas, too. This Italian stubbornly claims to be 100% Zinfandel so, go figure.

The wine has been awarded in international wine competitions, too and I can see why. Definitely worth getting to know!

So, how about having some goose for Easter..?




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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Lamb sweetbreads with tartar sauce

I've only ever eaten sweetbreads twice. First time they were as delicious as they can be: juicy and rich to the point of creamy. The other was the exact opposite: they were coated with a too thick a layer of breadcrumbs and fried until they were so dried I could have just as well been eating week-old fish fingers.

Until now I've never cooked sweetbreads either, as they're not something one easily comes across - on a restaurant menu or at the supermarket. I'm not going to lie: they do take a fair bit of time. And work. But their subtly sweet flavour and juicy texture are something quite... unique.

Now, for those not in the know, the sweetbreads have nothing to do with sweets or bread. They're a gland-like organ found in the young mammals' breast cavity. I've also read that their texture is reminiscent of the brain.  In case you weren't put off by the two previous sentences (please don't be - they're such a delicacy!) keep reading and do give them a try.

The sweetbreads I was given were lamb (very small, that is) so any ideas of breading them were swiftly abandoned. So, after blanching them I coated them in seasoned flour and fried them instead. 

The taste is very mild but so juicy and rich you want to serve them with something with a bit of acidic kick to it. Like this dream tartar sauce (though this piccata sauce would work, too!) I made a little lighter tartar sauce by substituting half of the mayo wit Greek yogurt, but feel free to make it all-mayo (just make sure it's good mayo!). For herbs you can use just parsley, or use some dill and/or tarragon in the mix, too. 

Sweetbreads are covered by membrane that needs to be removed and this is the most laboursome part of the process. Whether you trim off the membrane after soaking or after blanching is entirely up to you. Soaking in cold water cleans the impurities (and gets rid of any residual blood) and makes the membrane more visible. I find the membrane is easier to remove after the blanching - at this point it shows up as an opaque layer on top of the nuggets. PS. Be prepared for sweetbreads falling apart as a result of the process- don't discard the smaller morsels either!

Lamb sweetbreads:

As a starter (for instance on a bed of some leaves) serves 4

500 g lamb sweetbreads

Soak the sweetbreads in plenty of cold water with salt (a couple of litres of water and a couple of tbsp salt) for 2-3 hours or until the water runs completely clear, changing the water every half an hour.

Blanching the sweetbreads:

3 l water
3 garlic cloves, bruised
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
3 tbsp salt
2 bay leaves

Measure the ingredients into a pot and bring to boil. Then add the drained sweetbreads and cook, in a simmering water, for 7 minutes until they're firm. Drain and cool. The quickest way? Shock them in ice water. In case you didn't trim off the membrane after the soaking, do it now.

Frying the sweetbreads:

a couple of dl flour (for gluten-free alternative use rice flour), seasoned with salt and black pepper
oil, butter (or mix of them)

Toss the sweetbreads in flour and fry (either shallow-fry on a hot pan or deep-fry in hot oil using a heavy-bottomed pot) until they have a nice golden colour. Drain on kitchen towels and serve with tartar sauce.

Tartar sauce:

1 dl mayo
1 dl Greek yogurt
1,5 tbsp finely chopped cornichons
1,5 tbsp finely chopped capers
1,5 tsp finely grated lemon zest
0,5 tsp juice from the cornichon jar
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
0,5 tsp-1 tsp mustard
salt, white pepper

Combine the ingredients and let sit in the cold for at least half an hour before serving. Check the taste and season as needed.

And as for wine pairings - oh, are you spoilt today! We don't just have one or two - we have three! That's how we assessed the bottles we opened for lunch last weekend. Perhaps we got really lucky? Perhaps we've actually learnt something? Perhaps it doesn't even matter...?

Of the whites this, Italian Sartori Marani Appassimento, was our favourite. Its citrusiness really came to life when paired with the tartar sauce,brightening the whole dish.

Though we really did like this one, Chilean Viña Tarapacá Reserva Chardonnay (oh yes, Chardonnay seems to have made a triumphant comeback from its long exile into our kitchen this spring!), too. 

Especially after having breathed for a while it's more robust personality and gentle oaky spiciness gave body to the combination, making it just a little... more interesting. 

This is something we absolutely loved. Brancot Estate South Island Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is a grape where we make an exception to our normal preferences and tend to venture out into the New World. Their varieties have the sort of warmth, ease, lightness and berry-infused richness that goes so well with our palates and the food we cook. New Zealand in particular has proved to make some great wines. Our particular favourite is Jackson Estate's VIntage Widow Pinot Noir - a killer combination with Middle Eastern flavours.

While Pinot Noir is a delight on its own, too, something magical happens when paired with foods with acidic, salty components such as tartar sauce as those components tame the last tannins producing a harmonious, round experience. So, when choosing a wine for anything with cornichons, gherkins, olives, or even chillies... don't ignoir the Pinot. 




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Thursday, 19 March 2015

Mango, chilli, ginger and coconut chicken - flu be gone!

Spring is finally here. And with it, lighter days. And, as my sad luck would have it, a very stubborn flu. After more than a week of producing Ghostbusters-worthy gunk it was time to brink out the big guns. A.k.a. mango, chilli, ginger and coconut chicken to the rescue!

This is one of the dishes I've been making for years, yet never managed to pen the recipe. I know that my friend, The Cat Blogger has been waiting for this post ever since I started blogging as this dish won her and her daughter over way back. Well, here goes!

And hey, not only is this packed with (bug-busting) flavour, it's also quick and at your table in less than 30 minutes. And it's dairy-free, kosher and gluten-free. What are you waiting - time to get cracking!

Mango, chilli, ginger and coconut chicken:

Serves four

4 chicken breasts
salt, white pepper

Mango, chilli, ginger and coconut sauce:

4 cm piece of fresh ginger (finely chopped 2,5 tbsp)
1-2 red chillis, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves (finely chopped 2 tbsp)
the juice and finely grated zest of a lime
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 chicken stock cube dissolved in 1,5 dl boiling water
2,5 small baby food jars (â 125 g) puréed mango 
1 tbsp soy sauce
2,5 dl coconut cream (the thick stuff you see as you open a tin of coconut milk)

oil for frying, 

for serving: a coriander bush and 2 spring onions

Sauté garlic, ginger and chilli in a couple of tbsp oil Add curry powder, keep stirring and cooking for a minute and then add lime zest and juice along with soy sauce.

Then add chicken stock, mango puré and coconut cream. Cook for another 10 minutes until the sauce starts thickening a bit.

Pat the chicken fillets dry and cut into 1 cm thick slices. Season with salt and white pepper. Sear quickly, working in batches, the chicken in a hot pan and transfer into the sauce. Continue cooking over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is just done. 

Check the taste and add more soy cauce if needed. Finely chop coriander and spring onion, fold into the sauce and serve with rice.

Normally I would have paired this with one of the Alsatians we've grown so fond of, probably turning to Wolfberger for a match. Gewürtztraminer for instance would have the sort of ripe sweetness that works so well with the heat from chilli and ginger. 

However, we happened to have some of this new Venetian friend instead. 

Garganega is a grape widely grown in the Veneto region and the foundation of many Soaves. It's got bright citrusy notes that perk up the overall appearance, but also ripe fruitiness which, together with the gentle spiciness (courtesy of oak barrels among other things) make this a great match for Asian cuisine. 

As the label suggests, the wine is made with appassimiento- method, which means that the grapes are partially dried over a certain period (40 days for this one) before pressing. As a result the wine has a lot more concentrated, richer flavour.

And hey, this particular wine was named in honour of the wife of the founder of the winery. How adorable is that!

Oh, what's the deal with the birds, you ask? That, my friend, is  a Rajasthani parrot chain. The birds are suppose to bring the household good luck while the bell at the end of it is supposed to ward off the evil spirits. I still haven't won the lottery but on the other side - I don't get any Jehovah's Witnessess at my door either...!




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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Foodie Helsinki is full of happening!

Helsinki foodie scene is so very happening right now I barely have time to go home to catch some sleep!

Last Friday the old wine bar at Gastrobar Emo saw the opening of Frescabar, open until summer. Its tapas menu (duck confit, my favourite!), gorgeous cocktail menu (based on Brugal rums, the pride of the Dominicans) and stylish atmosphere (not a plastic parasol in sight!) are full of Caribbean vibe that allows one to kick-start summer right now. 

Food is delicious (as can be expected from a place like Emo) and the bar is certainly in good hands - it's run by Toni Yksjärvi who was awarded the gong for The Best Waiter in Finland in last year's Chef of the Year competition.

And speaking of which, this years winners will be crowned at the end of this month. Chef of the Year competition will take place at the Spring Fair and this year marks the 20th anniversary of the competition. This year not just the test diners (of which I was honoured to be part of last year) are in for a culinary treat - the audience gets something to feast on, too!

Sinne Helsinki (one of the best restaurant in Helsinki) has prepared a snack menu packed with glorious food that I got to sample already last week. The menu is both affordable (appr. €5 each) and adorable, I can tell you. 

I've always rolled my eyes at any given jury uttering "the decisison was hard (blaah blaah) as every contestant was so qualified (yada, yada)" but I'm beginning to see that sometimes they might actually mean it. I certainly couldn't pick the winner out of this lot!

Try the hot dogs (even the veggie is superb!) and amazingly aromatic ribs and drumsticks.

Though... this salmon dish took my breath away with its delicate presentation. 

PS. Sinne has just released their own beer, too! An ale with wonderful citrusy freshness, courtesy of lemon verbena among other things. 

And if theme bars are your things, you'll love this one. The people behind our favourite hang-out, Bollywood-themed Bar Bhangra, just opened their latest (and strangest yet!) venture, a steampunk-themed bar called Steam Hellsinki.

Steam Hellsinki is located in Kamppi, and so is this brilliant newbie, too. In case football and wide selection of quality beers isn't enough for you (I've been told there are people out there like that...), this little gem has so much more up his sleeve, to. 

I mean, what kind of a sports bar has a wine list like this? Xarel.lo? Priorat? Parés Balta Cava - and by the glass?! Helsingin Jalkapallopubi, that's who.

Until the end of the month the hungry sports fans get to feast on Mustacho's, a pop-up specialized in Portuguese street food and the sales have gone through the roof.  Start with melt-in-your-mouth-tender gizzards (!) served with amazing flatbread. 

The man behind the Mustacho's is Carlos Henriques, who's honed his skills in Michelin-starred restaurant, no less. And the results are every bit as stellar. Pastel de nata was the best I've ever had (none of that soggy, half-baked puff pastry-crust over here!) and for once the custard (so gloriously rich!)- pastry-ratio was just right. 

The ingredients and cooking methods are top of the line, too: the chicken is organic and locally produced and its crispy charred skin and deliciously juicy interior are courtesy of grill, sous vide and a double convection oven (!). Do yourselves a favour and give it a go. PS. You can also grab an order to go!

The hottest event this week continues the street food theme, too: it's Streat Helsinki time! Bigger and better than last year, the festival has already been kicked off and will climax this weekend as it takes over the city centre. A whopping 64 vendors are on hand to get the party going. (My insider's tips? Skibibi Bros and The Alexanders

How's that for too much of the good thing? Let's take to the streets and make the most of them all, shall we?




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