Monday, 27 July 2015

Tuna balls with garlic mayo - cheap and cheerful cocktail party treat

For the past couple of weeks I've been keeping a secret. Not easy, I'll tell you. But what a wonderful secret it was to have! My British brother finally got around to proposing to The Mane Magician and sought my consultancy in finding The Perfect Ring. And perfect it was. He said he knew straight away. With the ring and with the girl. Oh, young love...

So, over the weekend we got together to celebrate the happy news. Can't think of a better excuse! 

These tuna balls are cheap, easy and so convenient. Nothing exotic here - you'll find all the ingredients in any little corner shop. You could substitute pepper with frozen and thawed corn kernels, too (about 100 gr will do) in which case they don't need to be sautéed. 

Depending on the size this yields 25-30 balls

Tuna and pepper balls:

2 largeish potatos
1/2 green pepper, finely diced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
bunch of parsley, chopped
1/2 dl breadcrumbs (gluten-free is needed) 
1 egg
2 cans of tuna, drained
salt, pepper

1/2 l canola oil, for frying

Steam oR boil the potatos, let cool.

Sauté pepper and onion in a bit of oil until soft. 

Mash the potatos using a fork. Add onion, peppers, parsley, garlic, lemon zest and bread crumbs. Mix until smooth. Then add the egg and finally tuna (can be in coarser bits).

Check the taste, season as needed and roll into 25-30 bite-size balls. Deep-fry in hot oil, drain on kitchen towels and serve, with lemon wedges and/or garlic mayo.

Garlic mayo:

1,5 dl good mayonnaise
1/2 tbsp granulated garlic
1 tsp mustard
salt, white pepper (to taste)

Combine the ingredients, check the taste and season with salt and pepper.




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Friday, 24 July 2015

Korean coleslaw

Korean kitchen just goes above my understanding. How can fermentation on one hand produce something as noble as wine, yet also result in something as incomprehensible as kimchi? I just don't get it. This, however, is logic in a way even I can follow. Summer + BBQ season + new harvest carrots and cabbage... doesn't take Einstein to figure out that can only mean one thing: coleslaw. Much like  last year's take on this summer classic, this year's version takes its inspiration from Asia and from the Korean miracle condiment that has found home even in my fridge: gochujang paste.

These days that earthy chilli-based paste (result of fermentation, this too) can be found in regular supermarkets, so shop away! In case you have issues with gluten, steer clear though. If you want a lighter version, substitute half of the mayo with Greek yogurt.

As a side this is enough for 3, in burgers or hot dogs for 6

Korean coleslaw:

1 small new harvest cabbage (about 500 g head)
3 carrots
2 tsp rice vinegar (can be substituted with white vinegar)
2 tsp sugar

3 spring onions
bunch coriander
1/2 dl sesame seeds

Gochujang- mayo dressing:

2 dl mayo
1-2 tbsp Gochujang paste (to taste)
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 tl sesame oil
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
salt, pepper (to taste)

Cut the cabbage in half, remove the hard core and outer leaves and shred finely. Peel and shred the carrots. Combine rice vinegar with sugar and add to the veggies. Let them soften a bit while you prepare the dressing.

Combine the ingredients for the dressing, check the taste and season with salt and pepper (add a touch of sugar if needed!). Stir into the salad and finally fold in chopped spring onion, coriander and sesame seeds. 

Serve. For instance with this Filippino pork belly...?




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Monday, 20 July 2015

Trip around the world in London

England is a country, where people seldom travel because of the food. But if you're fan of ethnic food, London is a veritable treasure trove. Long history in colonialism imperialism and the sizable ethnic minority make it possible to travel around the world without even leaving London. Though some offer Michelin star-worthy fine dining experiences, ethnic restaurant are usually great places for authentic and budget.friendly feasts.

Many ethnic communities are located in certain parts of the city, which often means so are their restaurants. One of the most famous concentrations is Brick Lane in East London (closest Tube stations Aldgate East of Liverpool Street), traditionally home to South Asian community. Portions are often so big that one curry feeds 2 (do note, however, that pappadums and all the other accessories they so obligingly bring to the table cost extra!)

If it's Turkish food you're after, head off to North London and Harringay Green Lanes (Tube: Manor House or Turnpike Lane) If that's too far for your liking, head over to Antepliler in Isington instead (Tube: Angel), home to best pides and lahmacuns this side of Bosphorus. Everything else is good, too, but what ever you're having, make sure you leave room for their heavenly baklavas!

If Middle East has stolen your heart, too, Lebanese Yalla Yalla in Soho serves good and inexpensive meze (what to have? Lahmacun's Lebanese cousin arayes and their chicken liver in pomegranate molasses!). If you fancy something a little more exotic, get on the bus 16 to Kilburn, where you'll find Ariana. They don't serve alcohol, but like many simiar establishments, they operate BYOB policy. Try aushaks, their meat-filled dumplings.

London Chinatown moved to its current location in Soho in 1970s and is massively popular tourist trap. During Chinese New Year celebrations you can't even breathe in there! I suggest you skip the main street Gerrard Street and head over to dim sum heaven that is the adjacent Lisle Street. Dim Sums are served daily until about 5pm. My favourite is Young Cheng, popular among the Chinese, too. Extensive selection boasts variety of treats such as marinated duck tongues (!)

You won't find similar clusters of Japanese restaurants in the city, but owing to the ramen boom there are good Japanese restaurants all over London. Nobu is a world-famous gourmet francise, but since the biggest hype has died out, these days  it's fairly easy to get a table there. For a more modern take on Japanese cuisine there's Roka. PS. Their Aldwych branch, located at the heart of London's Theatre Land, offers a reasonably priced pre-theatre menu!

Most of the African restaurants in London are specialized in the cuisines of North and East Africa. For Eritrean food you should check out Mosob in Westbourne Park close to Notting Hill. 




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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Sesame-encrusted tuna salad So Cal with Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc

Southern California - or So Cal as it's also known - is not a region I'm personally familiar with, but based on documentaries such as Real Housewives of Orange County it seems like a charmingly genuine place where people have their values in check and feet firmly on the ground (...)

Now, obviously I was being sarcastic. The grotesquely drag queen-like, bewilderingly immature characters in the series are so frighteningly devoid of any personality it's downright perverse there isn't a Martini-swigging committee gearing up to launch a charity event for them alone. Oh, perhaps they've had them surgically removed to make more room for silicone and Botox and collagen? 

Food wise though So Cal sounds aaaahmazing. Fresh fish and seafood? Veggies? With Asian twist and influences from south of the border, too? Avocados, lime and coriander galore? Count me in!

This salad was born out of those very ingredients as I stumbled upon a gorgeous piece of fresh tuna at my fish monger, which soon found itself swimming in an Asian-inspired marinade. The price of fresh tuna might seem extortionate at times, but a owing to its meatiness a little goes a long way, especially in salads and especially when sliced this thinly. Use any veggies you want - it's wasabi mayo that is the crowning glory. That could also be substituted with this miso sesame dressing

Serves 3, as a starter 4-5

So Cal salad with Asian marinated sesame encrusted tuna:

350 g piece fresh tuna


0,75 dl soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
1,5 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 largish clove garlic
the juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp sesame oil

sesame crust:

1 egg white, lightly beaten
black sesame seeds (about 1/2 dl)

oil for frying

Combine the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the tuna. Leave to marinate while you prep the salad.


1 sheet nori seaweed
7 radishes
2 spring onions, chopped
bunch of coriander, leaves chopped
1 large carrot (or 2 smaller ones)
125 g cherry tomatos
2 small avocados
1 small green pepper (or 1/2 of a larger one)

To serve: wasabi mayo or miso-sesame dressing

Toast the seaweed at 200° until crisp but not burnt. Cut to strips. 

Cut the cherry tomatos in half, slice radishes finely and cut the carrot to thin strips. The easiest way to do this is to first slice them with mandolin or a vegetable peeler and then stack the slices and cut them into match stick like strips. Cut pepper into small cubes and do the same with avocado. Combine the ingredients, fold in seaweed, spring onion and coriander, place on the serving dish and drizzle with dressing.

Remove tuna from marinade and pat dry. Toss it in the egg white and then in sesame seeds. Heat some oil in a hot pan and sear the tuna for about 30 secs on each side. 

Let cool a bit and then (using a sharp knife) slice thinly and place on top of the salad. Serve.

Instead of California the wine pairing comes from New Zealand. I've never been best of friends with their Sauvignon Blacs as too often the currant-ey notes are too dominating. There is some of that in this, too, but in a very ripe form. Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc is a delightfully mouthwatering Sauvignon Bland and as such makes a perfect aperitif.

The wine (organic, too!) is dry and aromatic and would go well with variety of seafood and fish dishes, especially with smoked fish. It does, however, have such fruitiness, that it also worked surprisingly well with the Asian influences of this dish - it truly blossomed with this salad. A great wine for summer! And hey, it's available in a demi bottle, too (0,375 l) which makes it a convenient for picnics or those evenings à deux, when a whole bottle would be too much. 




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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Chicken and avocado salad with Biohof Pratsch Grüner Veltliner

Summer. The most pointless season here up North. It's so light one can barely sleep. And anyway, should the sum come out, you'll just get skin cancer. And Lord have mercy if you try to protect yourself with sunscreen: then the chemicals in the cream just give you some other form of cancer and on top of that expose you to all sorts of hormonal changes which change your genetic makeup and your offspring is born with horns. At least. 

If it rains, there are the mosquitos. Sure, nature is at its most glorious, but you can't really go in there either as then you'll just get bitten by a tick and get yourself Lyme disease and the doctors won't know what to do with you as they don't really believe it's a disease anyway. So, you just go and try to enjoy all this overwhelming greenness that's everywhere, to a point of giving you a migraine. One should be eating salads, but no, sausages are the only think you actually fancy. It's easy, being Finn equipped with a Finnish mentality, I'll tell you!

Luckily it only lasts a couple of funny weeks, this summer. But as you're counting down weeks to the comfortingly gray reality, here's a recipe to keep you going. It's salad, you see. And green - without a tick in sight!

This chicken and avocado salad is almost as diverse as the nature is (based on those documentaries curated by Sir Richard Attenborough), too: eat it as it is, use it as a dip for nachos (in which case you want to cut the chicken into small cubes!), have it with jacket potatos or as a filling for sandwiches. 

If you want it more slad-ey, just add more veggies (green peppers work well!). If you want to use it to stuff hot dog buns, this recipe is enough for 10 small buns. For the recipe for home-made hot dog buns, just click here!

Chicken, avocado and corn salad: 

4 (small) avocados
the juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp of good mayo
350 g cooked chicken
1-1,5 jalapeños(depending on how fiery you want it)
bunch of coriander leaves chopped
1 spring onion,chopped
150 g corn
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper

Cook the chicken. For maximun taste, choose piece on the bone - you'll get the required amount from 3 whole legs. If you're feeling lazy, just buy some rotisesserie chicken. Let cool and chop to cubes of desired size.

Measure avocado, lime juice and mayo into a food processor and blizz to smooth paste. Add rest of the ingredients and fold in the chicken. Check the taste and season as/if needed. Serve.

This would have to be my favourite way to enjoy the salad: toast the buns, stuff with salad and some coriander leaves, drizzle with lime juice and off you go!

Mexican corn beer spiked with lime would be the obvious choice for this - the richness of avocado is not the easiest to pair with wine. This Grüner Veltliner from Austrian Biohof Pratch is a good match though.

It's got mineral acidity which cuts through the richness of the avocade and citrusy notes that go well with lime. Its pepperiness works well with the heat-bringing elements and you might want to try this with spicier Asian dishes, too!




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Monday, 13 July 2015

Hottest foodie trends in London right now

We just spent 4 glorious days eating our way through London and exploring the foodie trends of the very hip and happening capital of the glorious capital. 

While there will always be room for fine dining in London, too (the city does boast huge number of Michelin- starred restaurants!), the trend there too veers towards a more laid back approach. Most of the new restaurants want to keep the threshold low and welcome walk-ins - many of them primarily won't even take reservations!

Somewhat surprisingly though the biggest trend is still street food. New restaurants specialized in this pop up everywhere  and hungry crowds are spoilt for choice. Jamaican, South African and Vietnamese, one of the hottest tickets in Finland, too. And burgers joints galore!

London also has a variety of street food festivals to keep you going. During weekend the streets and court yards of Shoreditch, the trendiest neighbourhood in London with a charmingly lived-in, vibrant vibe, are awash with street food stalls. Trip to East is highly in order for those alone!

Urban Food Fest takes over Euro Car Park located in Shoreditch High Street every weekend and offers tasty treats from all over the world for affordable prices. In case you find yourself south of the river, do check out Vauxhall Street Food Garden. Now in its second year, it opens at noon with a selection that changes daily.

Vietnamese and Korean kitchens aren't the only ones making fans left and right - Asian cuisine at large continues its success. Bars devoted to Taiwanese bubble tea can be found at just arbout every street corner in Soho.

The hottest thing right now, however, is ramen. Different styles have a fanatic following and there's no end to the debate as to who makes the best kind. One spent six months honing the recipe for that perfect noodle, in another place the broth is the result of 20 hours of loving labour. Shoruy Ramen has a couple of centrally located branches, Islington (another favourite of mine!) is home to United Ramen

Oh, and if you thought those one-ingredient-restaurants were so over and done with, think again. After the porridge and breakfast cereal bars there's a new sheriff in town: polenta. Located in Soho, La Polenteria specializes in  polenta which, in a true hipster manner (that doesn't take itself too seriously at all...!) according to them is so much more than just food: it's a (wait for it) concept.

Pubs have gone through a massive change. A mere decade ago gastropubs were something to gently make fun of but these days drinking pubs are really hard to find. 
-They're simply not enough to keep the business going, we were told at Lord Wargrave, my old local. These days you need to make an effort with the wines and craft beers and food and entertainment. 
Wargrave went through a total makeover a year ago and is its owner's 5th pub. It's pride and joy is the whiskey library which stocks a whopping 200 varieties. 
At their nest, the quality of food in London pubs is stunning, Traditional pub grub such as bangers and mash has made room for oysters and artisanal burgers though. Harwood Arms in Fulham even has a Michelin star!

Micro breweries, craft this and that, small producers... they are going strong and now the trend has moved on to Champagnes. Micro breweries and distilleries keep popping up in and out of London, specializing in whiskeys and specialty vodkas and gins. 
The most outlandish ones I've heard of? Breakfast Marmelade vodka and an ant essence gin from Cambridge. Ciders are expected to follow suit  and craft ciders will be the next big thing. Already now the only cider in tap at Wargrave comes from Brittany.



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Friday, 10 July 2015

Just as I like it: Okonomiyaki and Bellingham the Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc

A cold I thought was the result of overly vigilant airplane airconditioning took a turn for worse and I ended  up with the worst bronchitis since, well, the last time. But nothing so bad that something good wouldn't come out of it, too: for once I just did... nothing. 

The blog's been quieter than a Russian human rights organization and based on my Instagram feed you'd think I'm dead,  if not worse. After a couple of weeks into my social media-free coma The Boy Next Door pointed how I should actually be ill more often (?) Apparently it turns me into a more mellow and lovable (yes, he did!) person. 

I'm finally officially on the mend and have even tempted myself to venture into the kitchen. It is strange how quickly I lost interest in cooking and so, for too long now, we've existed on pizza from the place next door. And when I say too long, I really mean it: we're probably on their Christmas card mailing list by now...

A couple of days ago I got my monthly delivery of organic eggs (I know - I can't believe it either...) and so I was officially out of excuses not to make okonomiyaki. I first got to know this Japanese street food classic through a friend of mine who used to live in Japan, but it was our recent trip to London where I really fell for it. 

Roughly translated okonomiyaki means "as you like it" which kind of communicates its nature as the sort of dumping ground for anything you might have lurking in the fridge, you know, just as you like it! I used pork belly, but you could use prawns or squid, too. 

In some recipes cabbage and spring onion are mixed into the batter, others (like mine) top the first layer of pancake mixture with the toppings and cover it all with another layer of batter. But hey, your call - just as you like it!

The final product is drizzled with okonomi sauce and mayo (or a half-and-half mixture of them). But in case your hunger for food is bigger than your hunger for authenticity, you could just as well use BBQ sauce, oyster sauce or Hoisin sauce - you know (no prizes for guessing what I'm about to say now) just as you like it!

Bonito shavings are available at Japanese shops, as is dashi (Japanese fish stock) powder, too. In case you don't happen to have either on hand, just use water instead and substitute bonito flakes with roasted and crumbled nori seaweed (for instructions, please see here)

Serves 2 (making either 2 smaller ones or 1 large one) 



2 eggs
2,5 dl dashi fish stock (or water)
4 dl all-purpose flour (use gluten-free if needed)
1 tsp salt (or nori salt, instructions here)
2 tsp ground bonito flakes

a couple of tbsp canola oil for frying


250 g cabbage, finely shredded
2 spring onions, chopped
100 g pork belly, in fine slices 

To serve:

spring onions
50 g pork belly, pan-roasted until crunchy
okonomi sauce

Okonomi sauce:

1,5 dl ketchup
1 dl Worchester sauce
1 dl sake
1 dl mirin
3 cm piece ginger, finely grated
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp sugar

Measure the ingredients into a small pot and cook over gentle heat until the sauce thickens. 

Chop the pork belly needed for serving into thin strips and place on a cold frying pan. Turn on the heat(medium) and roast until crisp. Lift out and drain on kitchen towel. 

Combine the ingredients for the batter. Pre-heat a frying pan over medium heat and pour 1/4 of the batter (in case you're making 2 okonomiyakis) or 1/2 of the batter (in case making just one) onto the pan and spread out. Sprinkle bonito powder on it, top with cabbage and spring onions (leave some for serving) and pay the pork belly on top of them. Using a spatula squash them down a bit and cover with another layer of batter. Once the mixture has set, flip it over and fry on the other side as well.

Drizzle with okonomi sauce, mayo and scatter the crisp pork belly and remaining spring onion on top of okonomiyaki and serve.

In a somewhat unorthodox manner I used mayo spiked with wasabi. Damn I like it. It's not too pungeant, the wasabi just adds a nice kick that cuts through the richness of the mayo. Great for burgers, as a a salad dressing or as a dip!

And where there's a recipe, there's a wine pairing!

A great match for this recipe is this Chenin Blanc from Bellingham's The Bernard Series, from which I've already introduced you to Grenache Blanc-Viognier blend.

The wine is dry with bright acidity, yet with ripe fruitiness which makes this a great pairing for Asian dishes, even Japanese, which is often very subtle and not very spicy.

This would go great with smoked fish or grilled salmon, too. 12 months in French oak lends the wine toasty spiciness and adds to the complexity, so it would also nicely balance creamy, rich dishes, too. A very, very nice wine, indeed!




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