Monday, 30 November 2015

Lighter take on Waldorf salad - salad with celery, fennel, apple and grapes (vegan and gluten-free)

One of the most sumptious hotels of my travel history is, without a doubt, Waldorf Astoria. Even the name echoes Old World glamuor, top hat-wearing doormen, atmosphere that just oozes elegance and clientele consisting of heiresses dripping with diamonds (ok, I might have been overdoing Hercule Poirot recently...)

And sure enough it is favoured by those of the upper echelons of the society: as I entered the hotel after a hard day of shopping I didn't understand the crowds gathered at the driveway, screaming and taking photos. I mean, I had left all my diamonds at the hotel safe, so there was no way they had me down as one of the heiresses. The reason turned out to be bunch of (admittedly handsomely built) young men that walked into the lift with me. A.k.a AC Juventus... (!!!)

In my dreamsthere is, however, only One Real Waldorf Astoria and that, along with so many other things I dream about (delis of Lower East Side, Barney's, the legendary Sunday Brunch at Waldorf Astoria, scenes of Breakfast at Tiffany's, my future husband...) is located in New York. 

That's also where this salad was born. I ended making it as I had to think of some use for the celerys left over from this soy bolognese (waste not, want not...). While I've never been a big fan of celery (when it's not swimming in a pool of vodka and tomato juice, anyway...),thinly sliced with the rest of the ingredients I really, really loved it. Fresh, quick, easy... and delicious!

The original salad bathes in a heavy dose of mayonnaise, so this is a lighter and fresher version. Should you want a more robust texture, roughly chop the ingredients into cubes. If the idea of salad with no meat in it scares you, this is delicious with some grilled chicken. 

Serves 2-3, as a side dish (try with chicken or fish!) 4-6

Lighter Waldorf salad:

3 celery stalks, thinly diagonally sliced (use the leaves, too!)
2 large fennels, thinly sliced
1 large green apple, thinly sliced
200 g green grapes, cut in half
1 large bunch of parsley
130 g walnuts


1/3 dl oil
1,5 tst mustard
the juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp honey
salt white pepper

Cut the fennels in half, remove the core and outer, leathery skin. Slice thinly and combine with rest of the ingredients. 

Mix the dressing and toss into the salad. Serve.




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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Let's yalla, habibis- we're off to Israel!

Sure, the feeling had been creeping up for some time now. The darkness was getting me down. The cold was getting unbearable. It felt like nothing was going on. I just had to get away.

Fully aware of the limits of my schedule I knew I couldn't get away for too long, so the plan was to seek solace somewhere in Europe. Even as I was waving my credit card around at my laptop I swear I had every intention to find flights to Jerez and continue my love affair with Andalusia.

But even stronger than the allure of Sherry Country was the allure of discovering a new country; the rush that only visiting somewhere new for the very first time gives. So, I was actually planning on going to Uzbekistan instead, but that option fell through owing to the time-consuming challenges of visa application process. At some point I even found myself toying with the idea of checking out one of those idyllic Christmas markets, though it's every bit as dark and cold there, right? And I don't even celebrate Christmas!

Then, one night as I was scrolling through flights I went on some kind of an autopilot and before my left hand had time to figure out what my right one was up to, I'd clicked "buy". Destination: Tel Aviv-Yafo.  Which isn't in Europe or in a new country. And at some point the length of my trip had managed to double. Oy, vey.

(And the people on How I met Your Mother had the chutzpah to claim nothing good ever happens after 2am...!)

Well, what's a girl to do. It's clearly not one of the hottest tickets right now: at cheapest it's possible to snap up return flights from Helsinki to Tel Aviv for mere €217. Though... that does involve flying Air Ukraine via Kiev. Which is exactly what I'm about to do.

(Perhaps those people on How I met Your Mother were actually onto something?)

Oh, Israel. 

Amazing and aggravating. Exciting and exhausting. Fascinating and frustrating. Incredible and insufferable. All that and then some. And yet I find myself going back over and over again. 

My Israel is falafel and hummus. History that's so uniquely and tangibly present everywhere you look. People dancing in a disco around a pile of machine guns. Baobab trees, which (after the buzz wears off in the morning) are not necessarily baobab trees at all. Nargiles happily bubbling away. Intense debates at the end of which the only thing people agree on is that it's time to start a new one. Endless beaches. Nights that continue well into the morning. Bomb shelters, black humour and dancing to Kool and The Gang's Celebration. More falafel and hummus. 

The intoxicating scent of wild rosemary that fills the air as day turns into night. Temperatures that even in the shade only go below 40° after 8pm. 

A French poet who thinks romance means playing saxophone at a cemetery in the middle of the night. Man in snake skin boots and a cowboy hat who keeps popping up when you least expect it:"you good for Shabbat? You've got a place for Shabbat? You want me to hook you up with a place for Shabbat?" Messiahs at the street corners, preaching apocalypse. Hassidics bursting out from the back of a van at traffic lights, blasting techno music and breaking hysterically energetic dance routine. Even more falafel and hummus. Always more hummus. 

Israel is a bewildering country full of contrasts that never ceases to amaze me. 

Occasionally it's impossibble to know whether art imitates life or the other way around. One day during my studies in Haifa, we were watching a movie about the first Lebanon war, blissfully unaware that a mere week later the army would arrive to evacuate us from the midst of the second one. As part of one training I watched a movie that finished with a scene of suicide bomber getting ready for his mission, walking on a street I knew so well; a street that housed my friends' bar that had been a target of one of those attacks. 

To me Israel is dreams that came true and those I'm still struggling to let go of. A country quite like no other. 

Don't forget to join me on InstagramTwitter and Facebook. So far the itinerary includes Jaffa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Akko, possibly Nazareth, hopefully a couple of wineries... and some surprises.

But now, habibis, let's yalla! Israel awaits!!!




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Monday, 16 November 2015

Fried chicken and bubbly - celebration of life, love and liberty

Crunchy on the outside, so juicy on the inside... Fried chicken with crispy corn flakes coating is everyone's favourite and nobility of comfort foods.

The past weekend was a dark one; not just for France but for everyone who believes in freedom. News from Paris on that somber Friday evening filled me with sadness, disbelief, frustration, anger and disappointment. Yes, mixed with a little bit of fear. But that's just what they wanted: for the rest of us to stop doing what we love and being who we are, simply out of fear. 

In the midst of that emotional hurricane I could only seek solace in joy, hope and love and so we decided not to skip Sunday lunch. I filled the table with people I love and food made with love and for a little moment world seemed like a safe place again.

Six servings

Crispy corn flakes- coated fried chicken:

800 g (6 pcs) chicken thighs (bone-in)


1 l buttermilk
1,5 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp pimentón (smoked paprika - can be substituted with regular paprika) 
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp mustard powder (or mustard)
1/4 tsp cayenne

for coating:

flour (gluten-free if needed), salt, pepper
the marinade
200 g corn flakes, crushed

for frying: 1 l oil

Pat the chicken pieces dry. Combine the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the chicken thighs. Cover and leave to marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, toss in flour, drench in buttermilk mixture and coat with corn flakes. 

Heat oil in a heavy-based pot. Deep-fry chicken thighs in batches, turning halfway through until coating is golden brown and the chicken is done (about 15 minutes). Keep monitoring the oil temperature to make sure you won't burn the chicken. 

Drain on kitchen towels and serve. For instance with healthier, clear coleslaw and ketchunnaise, tomato-mayonnaise with hint of paprika. Both were inspired by the lunch at Just Vege.

Tartar sauce would be another good option, for recipe see here.

Lighter, brighter coleslaw:

1 small cabbage (450 g)
3 largeish carrots (total weight 350 g)
1 large bunch of dill, finely chopped, stalks and all


1/4 dl oil
4 tbsp apple vinegar (or white vinegar)
the juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper

Peel the outer leaves of the cabbage, cut in half and remove the hard core. You'll be left with about 350 g of cabbage. Peel and grate/ cut the carrot into strips. Combine with dill.

Whisk the dressing together until the sugar has dissolved. Pour into the salad, cover and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Check the taste and season as needed; with salt, pepper or more lemon. 


1 dl mayonnaise
1 dl ketchup
1/4 tsp pimentòn
salt, pepper
(pinch of chilli)

Combine the ingredients, check the taste and serve.

Sure, you could go for Coca Cola or any old beer...but in case wine is what you're after, Riesling from Mosel (such as this Blitz you've already been introduced to) would, in its not so sweet acidity be a good pairing, too. 

We decided to take it up a notch ad celebrate life and coming together by cracking open a bottle of bubbly. Champagne or sparkling wine (especially those with a bit of toastiness) are a surprisingly good match - its crispness evens out the fattiness of anything deep-fried. No, I'm not making this up: there's actually a restaurant in New York devoted to the unlikely marriage between these two!

Jaume Serra Brut is another trusty friend that's been featured on the blog before. In addition the gentle toastiness it's got citrusy freshness and fruitiness and none of that stale yeastiness that (all too) often accompanies cheap fizz. It's got body that makes it easy to pair with variety of dishes, too: for instance with this recipe it compliments the freshness of the coleslaw and balances the fattiness of the chicken.



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Friday, 13 November 2015

Massaman chicken curry and Blitz Riesling

Back to Asian cuisine, again, I see. I'm clearly in a need of a holiday somewhere that isn't wet and grey... But in the meanwhile this Massaman curry will keep me very happy!

I love meat with the bone on and when it comes to chicken, the thighs would probably have to be my favourite. Sure, they take a bit more time than those anemic fillets, but man, do they pack more flavour! I mean, even this dish only takes 1,5 hours (and most of that it just simmers away all on its own), but in case that's too much for your weekday dinner, make this the star of your next Friday dinner/ Sunday lunch. 

In case you, too, have people in your life who claim they can't stand onion (or you just prefer a smooth consistency!), blizz the onions together with ginger and garlic and rest of the ingredients for the paste.  In case you want them to have a bite to them, gently brown them and only add into the finished dish.

Oh, and should you not have any Chinese five-spice (that's a blend of ginger, anise, fennel, cinnamon bark and pepper) lurking around, don't fall into despar- Just use pepper soldier on!

Serves 4-6

Massaman curry with chicken:

6 chicken thighs (800 g)
1 tsp Chinese five-spice
oil for frying

2 large potatos (tot. 400 g)isoa perunaa
2 onions

3 cm piece ginger
5 cloves of garlic
the stalks of 1 bunch of coriander
4 tbsp Massaman curry paste

2,5 dl chicken stock
1 can (400 g) creamy coconut milk
2 star anises

2 tbsp fish sauce
2 brown sugar
the juice of 1 lime
salt, pepper

To serve:

the remaining coriander leaves
handful of dry-roasted peanuts
(lime wedges)

Peel the potatos and cut into one inch cubes. Cut the onion roughly into wedges.

Blizz coriander stalks with ginger, garlic and Massaman curry paste. Add a couple of tbsp of chicken stock if needed for a smooth consistency.

Pat chicken dry, season and sear in a big pot on both sides. Transfer onto a plate. Add a bit more oil if needed and then add the spice paste. Heat for a couple of minutes and then add stock and coconut milk. Mix until smooth and add chicken, potatos and onions into the pot.

Bring to boil and then turn the heat down. Let simmer, covered, until chicken is fall-off-the-bone-tender and potatos are done - about 1,5 hrs.

Then add fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice. Check the taste and adjust by either adding more of those or salt and pepper.

Sprinkle peanuts and coriander leaves on top of the curry and serve with rice and a freshly squeezed lime juice.

Asian cuisine combines sweet, hot and tangy elements and the classic pairing (for a reason) is Riesling. This time, instead of my usual Alsace variety, I went for Mosel in Germany. Its Northern location among other reasons, makes for Rieslings where acidity is the dominating quality as opposed to fruity sweetness. Blitz Riesling from Weinhaus Dr.Pauly-Bergweiler has bright acidity, which makes it a great aperitif as well. It would also work with richer and spicier seafood dishes. And you know what- it wasn't out of place with this lamb dhansak, either!




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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Easy home-made naan bread

Now, there are many mysteries out there in the world that I'll probably never have answers to. Such as the fact there are still people living in Midsomer. I mean, that place has had at least one of its residents killed each week for the past, what, 30 years? I would have legged it ages ago!

I have, however, cracked one mystery: what are those black flecks in naan bread? Nope, they're not cardamom though you could use that as well. They're nigella seeds, also known as kalonji, fennel flower, black caraway and Roman coriander. 

In Indian cooking the health benefits of the ingredients are well researched and nigella seeds are used to treat for instance gastrointestinal and respiratory problems.

Though... now I'm pondering over a whole new mystery! If I plant these and keep watering them... could I grown my very own Nigella?

Depending on the size 8-10 breads

Naan breads:

2 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1,25 dl warm water

1,25 dl yogurt
1,75 dl oil (or ghee, clarified butter)
1 egg
1 tbsp nigella seeds (or 3/4 tsp cardamom or 1/2 tsp granulated garlic)

1/2 tsp salt
7-8 dl flour (and a bit more for rolling)

To serve:

clarified butter (yes, that ghee)
(chopped fresh coriander)

Mix yeast and sugar into water. Cover and let rest while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

Whisk yogurt, oil egg and what ever flavouring you're using. Combine flour and salt.

Pour yogurt mixture into the yeast mixture and stir until smooth. Then start adding flour, towards the end kneading until the dough soft and pliable but no longer sticks.

Cover with cling film and tea towel and leave to rise in a warm, drought-free place for an hour or so.

Pour onto a gently floured surface, divide into 8-10 portions and keep rest of the portions covered under a tea towel while working on one.Roll into a ball, flatten it and quickly roll into a thin sheet (round, oval... your call) At this point you don't really need flour anymore - the rolling stage only takes seconds. Only start working on a new portion as you've flipped the previous one. 

Prepare ghee by melting about 100 g of butter. Carefully pour the clear part into a new cup and discard the white sediment in the bottom (that's the milk solids). 

Heat a large frying pan. Place the thinly rolled naan on it and wait, until the bottom has browned nicely and bubbles have started forming on top. Flip it, brush the top with ghee and bake until the bottom side has got a bot if colour, too. Then brush that one with ghee and keep covered as you bake the remaining breads. Serve hot with curries.



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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Lamb dhansak and Undurraga Carménère

The recipes of my Meat-free October were well received and brought in a whole lot of new readers. But I must tell you, my old readers couldn't hide their excitement when the month came to an end...

First thing I whipped up was lamb dhansak, one of my favourites in Indian cuisine. It's earthy and comforting but not spicy a such. Dhansaks get their richness from lentils, a superhero packed with nutrients I've come to totally love.

I used a 1,2 kg pack of lamb entrecôte and boom - ended up with enough to feed about eight people. Somewhere along the way clearly forgetting I live alone. Oh well, stews like this are food of love and meant to be shared. So, I took some of mine to the crazy lady living alone downstairs. That's my challenge for you, too: make this and share the love so that at least for one day no-one needs to go lonely. Or hungry.

PS. If you can't get your hands on fenugreek seeds, just skip them. It'll be delicious nonetheless!

Serves 6-8

Lamb dhansak

1,2 kg lamb entrecôte (or another boneless piece of lamb)

oil for frying

3 onions
2 green chillis
1 large tomato
4 large garlic cloves
5 tsp finely chopped ginger
the stalks of large bunch of coriander

1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds 
3 tsp fennel seeds

2,5 tsp turmeric
2,5 tsp ground coriander seeds
2,5 tsp ground cumin

1 star anise
300 g dl red lentils 
1 l meat (or vegetable) stock

1 tbsp garam masala
salt, pepper

to serve:

coriander leaves
1 large onion (or a handful of crunchy roasted onion flakes)
1/2 tbsp chilli flakes
Cut the lamb into an inch by inch cubes. Sear, on a hot pan, in batches. Season with salt and pepper.

Grind fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and fennel seeds into powder (using either pestle and mortar or one of those handy spice grinders). Combine with the rest of the spices apart from garam masala. 

Cut the tomato in half and remove the core. Blizz with onions, chilli, garlic, ginger and coriander stalks into a paste. Heat some oil large pot and sauté the paste until it softens and stars changing colour. Then add the spices and stir for a couple of minutes.

Add meat and the star anise. Stir to cover the meat. The pour in the lentils and stock. Bring to boil. Cover  and let simmer over gentle heat for 1,5 - 2 hours until meat is tender. But hey, as is the case with stews, it's really not that fussy. 

Add garam masala, check the taste and season as needed.

Finely slice the onion reserved for serving and fry in a bit of oil until browned, a little crisp around the edges but not burned. Sprinkle on top of dhansak along with the chilli flakes and coriander leaves.

Serve with rice and naan bread. Should you fancy having a go at making your own, look no further - the recipe for that coming on the blog next!

And hey, if food is a way to culinary expeditions around the world, so, too, are wines. Since in this blog the emphasis is on pairing food and wine, you don't often hear me wax lyrical about the intensity of the colour or analyze the soil the grapes grew in. 

But there's an interesting story behind the wine pairing for this recipe.

Carménère is originally from Médoc region in Bordeaux, France and one of the oldest varieties of our continent. In 1867, however, Phylloxera plague destroyed most of the vineyards in Europe and Carménère was thought to be extinct. In 1990's the world was in for a surprise, as DNA tests (I know, right! Very CSI!) proved how a grape that had happily settled in Chile and that everybody thought was Merlot, was actually Carménère!

Carménère takes a while to ripen and produces medium-bodied red with soft tannins. Though it can occasionally have quite a bit berriness in it, they're nothing like juice-like Beaujolaises. Instead, at best they're packed with personality. They tend to have pepperiness, spiciness and earthiness, sometimes to a point of smoky.

Now, with Indian food you'd probably reach for a beer (in addition to that standard lager you might want to try a fruity IPA as well!) and a Riesling from Mosel (Blitz Riesling for one) would not be out of place either. Carménère, however, is a surprisingly good match when it comes to red wines. It's jot certain jamminess that balances the spicier notes of the Indian cuisine and it does work well with the cooling, herby elements such as coriander.

I have a feeling it might work with the Asian flavours and green peppers of this recipe for beef in peanut sauce, too...!

Oh, and if Indian food is right up your alley, try these samosas (gluten-free and vegan!).



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Saturday, 7 November 2015

Food and Fun Turku 2015: Karu Izakaya and Pinella

As tends to be the case during our getaways in Turku, going hungry is one thing we didn't have to worry about. After the glorious dinner at Kaskis, I was slightly worried if our next stop, Karu Izakaya might have too big boots to fill. Especially after learning that The Mane Magician, my date for the evening, didn't even eat sushi (say whaaaaat? Who doesn't eat sushi?!)

While the restaurant might all about minimalism, the service certainly wasn't. We were warmly welcomed and thoroughly looked after all evening.

Their special Food and Fun guest star was Eyþór Mar Halldórsson (nope, not even going to attempt spelling that one...!) from Sushi Samba in Reykjavik, which, according to their website offers einstaka blöndu af japanskri og suður-amerí­skri matargerð. 

Just how drunk would one have to be in order to come up with a language like that?

All the restaurants participating in Food and Fun offered a 4-course meal, which, at €48 was reasonably priced to say the least.

First we were served some snacks. Pig ears. Shisimi-seasoned pig ears with yuzukosho mayonnaise, to be precise.

Liked them. Liked them a lot. Though I would have needed Google translator to keep track of all things I consumed that night...

The starter (scallop ceviche with tabasco and lemon dressing, crisp garlic and spring onions) was beautifully presented, but the dressing, which we were instructed to neck, was so fierce it took a while for our sense of taste to return.

The food was far from typically Japanese - inspiration had been drawn from all over the planet. Next dish was reindeer tataki (divine while at that!), smoked sour cream, Amazu Ponzu, pickled red onion and crunchy Jerusalem artichokes)

Then it was off to a beef slider in a black bun, coriander mayo, shisho and Japanese onion rings.

A great dish, this one too. The onion had dreamily light and crunchy tempura coating, though I did not expect to run into Provolone cheese in a Japanese restaurant...

I also had the wine package. Don't seem to have made any notes, so you'll have to make do with the verdict that they worked as well.

And then it was time for some sushi.

And not just any old sushi...

Tuna nigiri with wasabi ponzu and sekbai popcorn, beef nigiri wth quail's eggs and truffle pork and Rock and Maki roll with langustine, duck liver (!!!), Sriracha mayonnaise and avocado.

"In case this is what sushi tastes like, I've never had sushi before", the date sighed.

I just sighed. And giggled. Incredible. Simply incredible.

The dessert featured more parts that a Swiss clock: yuzu and rosemary chocolate cake, skyr (well  of course...), yuzu and hazelnut. And marshmallows. For me this was a tad too sickly sweet and would have benefited from something salty.

Compared to the streamlined menu of Kaskis the night before, this went to other extreme. Each dish featured various components put together with the perseverance of an engineer, surprising combinations and tastes one would not have expected.

Great attention had clearly been paid to details, which there were a lot of. Some might say there was too much going on the plate, but I'd say they were wrong. What a feast!

The nightfall wrapped Turku and us in a blissful glow. Once more I was surprised by the compact size of this town that is swiftly becoming a firm favourite of mine. 

Everywhere you looked, there were all these charming little restaurants. I  wanted to stop by at each and every single one of them. People laughing, clearly enjoying themselves. Something about the relaxed and cozy atmosphere reminded me of Stockholm. Could it be that people in Turku simply are that much better at enjoying life?

We headed off to Pinella, a picturesque old restaurant located in the most idyllic park lit by millions of lights. It was like a scene out of Elsa Beskow's children's book. 

Pinella's cocktail bar was in good hands: they won the prize for the best cocktail of the festival.

Cocktails here were fresh and herby with lost of bright citrusy notes. The winner cocktail consisted of 1 cl cloudberry liqueur, 3 cl cucumber and dill  gin, 2 cl fresh lime juice and  2 cl simple syrup. 

Tasted every bit as glorius as it sounds, too. 

Ahhhhhh-mazing weeekend. Can't wait for next year's festival! 

Turku, I do  you.




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