Monday, December 31, 2007

Eating out - Tartu - restaurant Kaks

I went to visit my family in Tartu over the holidays and we wanted to go and check out the recently opened restaurant Volga. Apparently everyone else in Tartu wanted to do the same thing and we were unable to get a table. So we went to another restarurant none of us had been to before - Kaks (Two).
The atmosphere and the interior design is very cozy and they've managed to fit quite a lot of tables into the rooms without making you feel like you're jammed into a fast-food joint and every meal comes with a side-dish of someone elses conversation.
And they served a very, very decent boef a la tatar. And the lamb my sister ordered was good as well, even though they could give the way they serve it a second thought. Whichever way I tried to photograph it, it still ended up looking like a pile of cow-dung (as you can witness above).

But this is where the compliments stop.
- They let us wait for more than an hour.
- I had a Ceasars salad that came without the Ceasars dressing. Seriously. I even asked the waiter about it, hoping they serve the dressing in an additional little bowl that he had just left in the kitchen, but no. This was a Ceasars without the Ceasars dressing and made out of murdered lettuce - flat and soggy.
- My mother ordered duck, which was supposed to be in an orange-cranberry sauce, but alas also came sans sauce and for that matter taste. But with a lot of fat.

Theoretically they also serve sushi, but they didn't have the ingredients that day and now I think it might be a good thing. Bad sushi always ruins my mood for days and so far I've never had any decent sushi in Tartu that hasn't been home-made.

So all in all - a nice place for boef a la tatar and maybe a coffee, but stay away from the duck (the pork was also bland).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Soup is liquid comfort

I borrowed the Soup Bible by Debra Mayhew from a friend recently. Although the book in itself can be quite odd, as it for some reason suggests to puree all the soups (including Borsch), it does have some great ideas in it. And the following was one of them:

Roasted bell-pepper soup:
3 red bell peppers
3 yellow bell peppers
1 chopped onion
1 chopped garlic clove
1 tbsp of flour

Deseed and sector 3 red peppers and 2 yellow peppers, roast in the oven on tin foil unil the skins turn brown. Then put the peppers in a plastic bag and let it cool.
Put the onions and the garlic in a pot with ca 150 ml of chicken stock, bring to boil until it reduces and the onions are almost soft ( ca 5 min). Add the flour and the rest of the chicken stock.
Peel the skins off the peppers, coarsely chop and add to the pot. Cool, puree, bring back to boil. Serve with some chopped yellow bell pepper and / or halved cherry tomatoes.

Yum. And so pretty again. What would we do without the bright-coloured soups to get through the cold, dark and dull nights (don't answer that :).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fish, to taste right, must swim three times - in water, in butter, and in wine. Polish Proverb

So it was Salmon-Sunday again but this time I invented a really cool sauce (based on some otherwise undrinkable wine :-).

Salmon (made it with two different toppings this time):

- salmon + leek, salt, pepper, parsley, tomatoe juice
- salmon + sliced onion, pickled baby-corn and Worchestire sauce.

Served it with rice, braised cabbage and some creamy ume-wine sauce.

Braised cabbage:

2 laurel leaves
1 star-anise pod
2 cloves
brown sugar, salt

Thinly slice the cabbage and toss it on the frying pan with some oil until it turns golden brown. Add balsamico, salt and brown sugar. Add some water, bay leaves, star-anise, cloves, reduce the heat and cover with a lid. Stir occasionally and keep it on the heat for ~20 min.

Ume sauce:
2 tsp of flour
1 cup Japanese ume-plum wine
juice from 1/2 lemon
chopped parsley
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp cream-cheese

Melt the butter, add the flour and some boiling water. Add the wine and bring to boil. Add parsley, lemon juice and oyster sayce. Bring to boil and reduce. Add the cream cheese.

Budmo .... hey

I went to Kyiv this week. Had never been there before and I liked it a LOT. Hope I'll have a chance to go back sometime soon, although I hear the best time is in spring when the chestnuts are in bloom.

Colleagues took me to a typical Ukrainian restaurant for dinner one night. Among other things they also taught me how to say "cheers" in Ukrainian, with everything that this entails obviously :)

The story goes that when the Cossacks sat down for a meal they all had to have a chance at rising their glass to something. So the first one started saying "Budmo" followed by whatever wanted to wish. Say health, or happiness or riches. Then the second one, the third one etc. And when they got to the last one (the colleague telling me the story said "When they reach the 25th" ... can you imagine taking 25 shots of vodka before dinner? :) he'd have nothing more to wish, so he'd just say "Budmo" and all the others would reply with "Hey!".

Vodka was served with black bread, pickles (not marinated with vinegar however, but the naturally sour ones) and ... tra-laaa ... lard. Again lard. I seem to be on some Central-European lard-trail :)

So here goes. Budmo .. Hey!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

“If we're not supposed to eat animals, how come they're made out of meat?” Tom Snyder

So it seems I'll be coming back to the sous-vide steak again and again. And before I knew how to make it, I wasn't even such a huge meat lover. Seems that I'll have to make up for my increasing carbon footprint in giving up something else. Or finally changing all the light-bulbs. But what can I do, this really is THE way to make THE perfect steak.

Another perfect steak with braised cabbage and a potatoe mash

some high quality beef tenderloin (for example the Argentinian organic kind that comes from the happy stressfree cows), in air-tight plastic
some olive oil for frying
salt and pepper
half of a red cabbage
1 star-anise pod
2 laurel leaves
some balsamico
Lea Perrins sauce
brown sugar
green onions

Find your biggest pot, fill it with water and put the meat in there, still in the plastic. Bring the water to 60 - 65 degrees and keep it at that for 45 minutes. Discard water, open the plastic, cut the meat in some reasonable chunks and fry on a very hot pan for 30 sec - 1 min on both sides. The meat will become brown instantaneously. Let the meat "rest" for 10 - 15 minutes before eating.

Those who like their steak more rare can fight over the middle bits and those who want to stay in the safety of medium can lick their fingers after finising the end bit.

Chop the cabbage and toss it with oil on a hot frying pan. After a while add the spices, the sugar, balsamico, Lea Perrins and some water and cover with a lid. Stir often and when the cabbage is softer remove the lid so that the sauce will reduce.

And the mash, well, it's a mash. Boil - mash - mix - spice :)