Sunday, April 27, 2008

Waiter, there's something in my breakfast



As I've said before, we're big breakfast fans. Not during the week, because even good breakfast doesn't outweigh some extra sleep time for me, but to make up for it, we go all out on the weekends. Usually Siim is the pancake chef and I'm more on eggs and sandwiches, but today I made pancakes in a new way - specially for the WTSIM.

Buttermilk, banana and raspberry pancakes:

2 eggs
300 g creamed cottage cheese with real vanilla
~150 ml buttermilk
~100 g flour
1/tsp baking-soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 ripe banana, peeled and diced
fresh raspberries
oil for cooking
sour-cream for serving.

Mix the eggs, 1/2 of the buttermilk, creamed cottage cheese, salt and butter. Add the flour and baking soda. Stir until even. Add the rest of the buttermilk. The dough should be more on the thick side. Add the bananas and raspberries and gently mix.
Heat the pan and the oil and use a table spoon for making the pancakes, the pancakes have to be small and thick, so a table spoonful of dough is just right.
Cook the pancakes on medium heat, otherwise they will burn (it takes them longer to cook through because of the fruit).


Serve with sourcream and fresh raspberries.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fire up the grill


This meal actually dates back to last weekend - Saturday, April 19. The official opening of the grill-season in our household. I was visiting my parents and the weather was nice, beautiful sunshine all through the day. Obviously accompanied by scolding winds, after all, it's Estonia, but we could manage staying outside until the meat was done. And then we moved back inside.
To keep myself occupied I made 3 salads to go with the meat :)

Grilled tenderloin with three spring-time salads:



pork tenderloin

marinade:
olive oil
sea salt
mustard
ketchup

Salad #1:
cucumber, diced
radishes, sliced
sour cream
green onions, chopped
fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper

Salad #2:
lettuce, torn
tomato, coarsely chopped
black olives, sliced
Feta cheese, diced
green onion, chopped
black pepper

Salad #3:
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced (with a peeler)
1 garlic clove, chopped
fresh parsley, chopped
olive oil with chili 1 tsp
1/2 lemon juice
1 tbsp grapefruit juice

Smother the meat with mustard, salt, pepper and ketchup and leave it in the fridge overnight. Grill on medium heat.
Mix the salads.
Pick some flowers and stare into the sunshine until almost blind.
And then, bite into the SPRING!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Layered Love


I love root vegetables. Well I love all kinds of vegetables. And Siim likes things that sound familiar - like a pot-roast or oven-pie. And I like stripey things. A lot.

Stripey pot-roast:
1 medium beetroot, peeled and sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
300 gr lean minced beef
150 gr light baked cheese broken into small pieces (or haloumi or cottage cheese)
thyme
sea salt
black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
~150 g tomato juice

Fry the minced meat with with salt and pepper. And then just layer. Lovely, concrete, colorful layers. And again. Beetroot, garlic, potatoes, carrots, minced meat, cheese. When you are half-way up the oven tin (or use a glass oven pot as I did) drizzle with tomato juice and then layer up the other half and drizzle in the other half of the tomato juice. The juice will make sure it will not become dry but at the same time it will not make it heavy and gluey like egg or cream would do. And smells so good when it bakes. And yet it's so light.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Bream Dream


Smoked bream is one of the most common fish in Estonia. You can always find it in the supermarkets. It tastes great on a rye bread sandwich, in a classic sour-cream and steamed onion salad, etc.
Here's a spring-time version of a smoked bream salad.

Smoked-bream and potato salad:
(serves 2)

smoked bream, de-boned and cleaned (2 handfuls)
2 small boiled potatoes, peeled, cut into thick slices
1 medium boiled carrot, peeled, cut into thick slices
6 leaves of frillice lettuce, washed, torn
chopped spring onions
2 eggs, boiled
2 medium pickles, sliced
sea salt and pepper

sauce:
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
2 tsp mayonnaise
1 tsp of strong mustard
juice of half a lime

Layer all the ingredients, top with the sauce. Enjoy with some dark rye bread.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Faking it


I don't really know how to make Indian food. One of my favorite restaurants in Tallinn is an Indian restaurant and I've seen the occasional recipe in Good Food or Olive, but I don't have any friends who make good home-made Indian and I'm slowly finding my way in the world of Indian spices.
But, I recently realized, that I'm quite decent at faking it :)

Chicken and veggies:
4-5 chicken thies
1 cinnamon stick
sea salt
2 cloves of garlic
4 cloves
2 star-anise pods
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp red curry paste
olive oil
1 small zucchini
1/2 cauliflower
2 carrots
1 can plum tomatoes with chilli
1 large onion, sliced

Take a large pot or a deep pan, cover the chicken thies with water (remove the skin if you want the food to be really light), add the sea salt, star anise, cloves and the cinnamon stick and boil until chicken is tender.
Remove the chicken, sieve the stock, get rid of the pods and stuff and set the stock aside.
Slice the carrot using the peeler (very thin, wide strips); julienne the zucchini. Cut the cauliflower into florets.
Heat some oil in the pan, add the sliced onion and the coarsely chopped garlic. Stir and heat until glossy. Add the coriander and the ginger and the canned tomatoes. Heat through, cool, then blend into a smooth sauce using a blender.
Put the chicken stock back into the pan, add the veggies, simmer. Add the pureed sauce. Pick the meat off the bones and add to the vegetables.
Serve with rice or eat as is.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Manna from heaven

I've discovered cous-cous for myself quite recently, the first time I cooked it, I followed the instructions on the box and actually did cook it. So it ended up in a solid hard lump and "fluffing with a fork" resulted in a bunch of smaller hard lumps. Not all that dissimilar from the dramatic childhood memories with cous-cous' poor cousin - the semolina porridge - in the kindergarten.
After paying attention in a friends kitchen I now know how to treat cous-cous with the appropriate respect and I think it makes a nice, quick salad-filler.

Shrimp cous-cous:
serves 3

~100 g cous-cous
1 jar of shrimp in salt-water
1 medium tomato, diced
1/3 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 large avocado, peeled, diced
some mizuma salad leaves
spring-onions, chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
2 tsp sunflower oil
small handful of sunflower seeds

In a small bowl mix the dry cous-cous with the spring onions, squeeze in the lime juice and drizzle in the oil. Cover with boiling water so that water level is about 1,5 - 2 cm above the cous-cous. Let the cous-cous take in the water (if necessary add a little more) and fluff with a fork (in this case it actually works).
Add the veggies, torn salad leaves and the shrimp. Mix. Serve.

Works as a salad or if served on an endive leaf can work as a nice party-snack.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Another one for the Cheese-Monsters

As I've mentioned before, I'm related to and live with Cheese-Monsters (a related species to Cookie-Monsters, but more sophisticated in their tastes, can often be found lingering around the dairy aisles of the nicer supermarkets) and have been spared of this cellulite-inducing, cholesterol-pumping addiction by mere genetic-coincidence or, as I like to think, by extreme willpower :). I mean I like a good slice of Camambert or an odd Mozzarella stick as much as anyone else, but this is true and deep Love for Cheese I'm talking about here.

My lovely little-sis, the Junior Cheese-Monster in our family lives in Germany right now, but her recent France experience has clearly left a mark. Obviously I understand that this is as far from April Light as you can get, but this time it really doesn't count as I DIDN'T EVEN GET A BITE.

So here it is, tartiflette by my sis.

Tartiflette:

50g unsalted butter, softened
250g bacon cut into 1cm lardons
~ 1kg potatoes, peeled and sliced to a 3mm thickness
Ssalt and pepper
1 whole Reblochon cheese
200 g creme fraiche
1 big onion
some garlic

Fry the onions and the bacon in butter. Add the potatoes and stew for a little bit to make them half-soft. Grease the oven pan, put one layer of potatoes mixed with onions and bacon (half), add chopped garlic on top, cover with half of creme fraiche and half of the cheese (cut the cheese in two both ways). If necessary add some salt (very little) and pepper. Add the other layer of potatoes with bacon and creme fraiche and put the cheese on top. Cover with foil, put in the oven for 1 h (225 to 250 degrees).
When potatoes are done, take the foil off, brown the cheese.. and then eat and get fat.

p.s might actually be useful to boil the potatoes first, cause it takes a long time.
Reblochon tastes somewhat like Brie or Camambert, but is more sticky and melts better... and has less specific taste I think.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Anyone can be good in the country (Oscar Wilde).


This soup is a result of "What do I have in the fridge, I had no time to shop."
It's a bit wintery in it's taste but I think it should still fit into the April Light campaign in the grand scheme of things. C'mon, it's a soup. And the bacon was drained :)

Rustic rosemary soup:


1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
a handful of barley
1 small red bell-pepper, diced
~5 oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
some streaky bacon or Austrian Speck (I used that as I found a piece in my fridge :)
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
rosemary
salt

Dice the speck and fry it, then drain and dry on some tissues.
Wash the barley until the water is clear, then boil it for about 5 min. Add the carrots, potatoes and onions. Quickly fry the bell-peppers and mushrooms until the mushrooms are golden. Add the peppers, mushrooms and the speck to the soup. Then add garlic, rosmary and tomato paste. Bring to boil.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Like a spring chicken


They've started selling all kinds of new, trendy lettuces here. Lately I've tried oeak-leaf that I had never had before and now I bought mizuna, it's nice, has a slightly spinachy taste. I combined it with my all-time favorite lettuce so far - frillice.

Mizuna and roast chicken salad with Rosé dressing: (serves 2)
mizuna lettuce
frillice lettuce
6 radishes, sliced
grilled or roasted chicken breast
3-4 oyster mushrooms, chopped
olive oil
1 tbsp rose wine
spring onions, chopped
salt and pepper

Fry the chopped mushrooms. Tear up an toss the salad, add the sliced radishes and the roasted chicken. Add the mushrooms. Whisk 1 tsp of olive oil with chopped spring onions, rose wine and salt for the dressing.
If you want also add some light mayo or plain yoghurt as a dressing when serving.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Discovering Panga


I went to one of the nicer supermarkets and they were selling panga-fish fillets there. I had no idea what it tasted like, but it looked really pretty. Fresh, white, slightly pink in the centre. So I bought some and embarked on some experimenting - I made half of it wrapped in Parma, with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes in the oven and the other half battered. Both were really good, turns out panga has quite a strong, sweet, natural taste, but the Parma-roll was simply heavenly.

Panga-fish rolls with Parma (serves 2):

1 panga fillet
4 slices of Parma
3 tsp of pesto
5 sundried tomatoes, chopped
spring onions for tying

Cut the fillet of fish in two, lay out two slices of Parma, cover the fish fillet with pesto and then place the fish fillet on the ham, pesto side down. Put half of the chopped sun-dried tomatoes in the middle, roll up the fish and tie the roll with some spring onions.

Bake in loose tin-foil for 15 minutes at ~180 C and then uncover and cook for ~7 minutes.

Battered panga (serves 2):

1 fillet of panga
1 egg
5 tsp flour
some light-cream (10%)
dried dill weed
dried parsley
lemon pepper
white pepper
salt

Mix the egg, 3 tsp of flour, cream, herbs, salt and pepper. Pat both sides of the fillet with flour lightly. Cover in batter. Cook on medium heat (cover) for about 7 min on both sides.

I served both with potato-carrot mash and steamed mangetouts.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Banoffee Pie


Now I know this isn't really appropriate for the April Light campaign, but glitches like this were to be expected. Especially on weekends. And, I took this particular pie to a party, so it was shared nicely and we won't be overindulging on it for days to come (sadly).
I've been wanting to make Banoffee Pie for a while now (after it being called the object of "Horrible taste in pie" in "Love Actually" I think (apparently it has had a strong effect on other people as well, look what I found on YouTube).
Sadly, I didn't realize that most recipes call for boiling cans of condensed milk for hours on end, but as I had already set my mind on making it, I combed the web and found a way to make toffee much, much more quickly.

Banoffee Pie:
short-crust pastry for the crust
For the filling:
1 can of condensed milk with sugar
100g. butter
100g. brown sugar
300g. double cream
5-6 bananas
1 tsp of instant coffee
some chocolate for serving

Bake the pie crust and let it cool.
Put a sauce pan on low heat and melt the butter and sugar stirring constantly. Add the condensed milk, bring to boil (keep stirring it) and when it thickens remove from the heat.
Transfer the toffee mixture onto the pie crust in a thick layer and let it cool (I put it near an open window) so it becomes harder.
After it has cooled, peel the bananas, cut them lengthwise and put them on the toffee layer (cut side down). Whip the double cream with the coffee, cover the bananas with the cream and decorate with chocolate chips.

I liked it a lot. It's super sweet though, 1 slice is max for most people (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). I was thinking that maybe the toffee layer could be a bit thinner, or maybe next time I'll try to make toffee without adding sugar (just condensed milk should work, or not?) so maybe it'll be less sweet..

Friday, April 4, 2008

Lunch-box

In the light of the April-Light campaign, I've been making variations of this super-healthy lunch-box to take to work. It's great, it takes a while to eat, which means that you feel full, it has an abundance of different flavors and textures, everything in it is low-calorie, yet it doesn't make you feel sad and cold like an all-veggie salad with vinaigrette sauce for lunch.

Tuna and cottage cheese salad (makes one lunch-box):
2-3 lettuce leaves
2 leaves of a baby-cabbage
4 radishes, sliced
some cucumber, sliced (optional)
spring-onion chopped
2 - 3 tbsp cottage cheese
1/3 can of tuna (the one that comes in big chunks); substitute with ham for those who don't like tuna
2-3 black Calamata olives, cut into pieces
some lemon-pepper

Tear up the lettuce and the cabbage on the bottom of a plastic box. Then layer with radishes (and cucumbers if you're going for that).

Then cottage cheese, tuna (or ham); olives, spirng onion and lemon-pepper.

Don't add salt, it will make all the juices come out and turn your salad soggy by the time you're about to eat it. Tuna should be salty enough and if not you can add the salt at work.

And I've tried, it's possible to eat that every day of the week for lunch without wanting to kill yourself as a result. And without eating half an animal for dinner.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hello Spring

So I have decided. April is gonna be a homage to the bikini season looming in the future. It's gonna be Food Good to Eat Light (which reminds me of a line a friend of mine read to me from a Kathy Lette book called "Nip and Tuck" (I think), which went something like "She was 89% personality free, Bimbo Light version").
Anyway, to the point. I've decided to challenge myself to cooking (and eating, hopefully) stuff that can be categorized as light and healthy for the month of April (apart, obviously, from an occasional restaurant or a Sunday morning Pancake Parade, life is life, you know).

So here we go - April Light vol 1 - Tangy Beetroot soup with a poached egg

- 1 beetroot, peeled and cubed
- 300 gr sauerkraut
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1 can of tomatoes (crushed or not, doesn't really matter)
- 5 juniper berries
- 5 cloves
- some dried thyme
- salt
- 1 tsp honey

Boil the beetroot, carrot, onion, juniper berries and cloves. When they're almost soft add the sauerkraut and the tomatoes, honey and thyme. Boil, cool, blitz in a blender.

If you're not a lover of strong tangy tastes (I occasionally have a palette of a pregnant person, I can eat a jar of pickles in a go, honestly), then use 200 gr of sauerkraut and half a can of tomatoes and add either a potato or a zucchini.

Serve with a poached egg. Incidentally, I had never poached an egg before. I had a vague feeling about whisking the water and vinegar, but luckily I stumbled upon this before I started. It is both highly entertaining (poor Delia) and very informative. The clingfilm version really worked. The inside was yummy-gooey and the overall presentation was nice and, y'know, egg-like.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

C'ets la vie

There's this new(ish) French Champagne restaurant called C'est la vie in Tallinn. So far I had only been to the cafe-bit, it's upstairs and despite the uncomfortably small tables, serves a very decent cheese-cake.
So now I went to the restaurant part (which, typically for Tallinn, is in the basement, and if in the winter you're really not bothered that much, then on a day when you see the sun for the first time over 6 months, it's not such a brilliant idea).

I don't like the interior design at all. The walls are upholstered with weird light yellow upholstery that gives it a bit of a mad-house or a submarine feeling, the latter of which is increased by the monotonous low hum of a ventilation system.
The service was good, apart from the fact that they could have sent an additional waiter / waitress to help out with bringing out the dishes as there was about 15 of us.

I had roasted Tuna with baby-zucchini, crayfish sauce and salmon roe. The sauce was really good. The zucchini was good, but I guess it's pretty hard to ruin. But the tuna, my favorite tuna, was SUCH a disappointment. Nobody asked me how I wanted it done and it arrived in a state they called medium, but I'd definitely call well-done.

And for dessert I decided to skip my traditional test of creme brulee and went for the Chocolate Fondant, just see how it compared to the one I recently made according to GR's recipe. Alas, the comparison was not kind on the C'est la vie fondant. It was cooked perfectly, but for some mind-boggling reason they had stuffed the poor thing with nuts. And not any nuts. Peanuts. Now can you imagine this? A gentle, gooey fondant and in-your face "wanna beer, pal?" peanuts. Ahh. Sad.
And it came with an intolerably sweet and half melted champagne sorbet.

But, others had more luck.
The feedback was very very good on the onion and garlic soup with roasted game, also on the parsnip-leek puree soup with wild smoked venison meat.
And the pan-fried pike-perch with pumpkin puree and chantarelle sauce received a raving review.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Creamy deliciousness

I invented the best pasta-sauce of my life so far! Honestly.
It all started as it usually starts with pasta in our house. Siim came home with some smoked hake and said he'd want some "spaghetti with this fish and you know, white sauce".
So I put on the Thinking Hat and here's what I came up with.
And in all honesty, it is FAN-TAS-TIC!

Creamy smoked hake pasta:

- ~200-300 gr. smoked hake (or any other white heat-smoked fish, I'm sure cod would be lovely)
- chopped spring onions
- 1 chopped red onion
- 6-7 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- handful of marinated capers, chopped
- 3-4 tbsp of mayo
- juice of one lemon
- freshly grounded pepper
- freshly grounded sea salt
- 4-5 tbsp of cooking cream
- 4-5 tpsp of pasta cooking water
- spaghetti, boiled al dente

Use a large, deep pan. Fry the onions with some olive oil until glassy, add the fish, the capers, sun-dried tomatoes and the lemon juice. Stir occasionally and keep on normal heat for about 5 minutes. Add the mayo, salt and pepper, mix. Add the cooking cream and some pasta boiling water and the spring onions.

Boil pasta according to what it says on the pack.

Be prepared to become everyone's darling for until the memory lasts :)