Sunday, September 28, 2008

Golden, golden days - pumpkin pie

We've had absolutely fantastic weather for the last week, sunshine, ~15-18 C temperature etc. After the horrid rainy summer it is truly blissful and people wander the streets looking happy in this slightly incredulous way.
And to celebrate the bliss outside, I decided to try and make a pumpkin-pie. None of the recipes I found seemed quite IT on their own, so I did some shuffling and combining.

Pumpkin-pie. (Ameerikapärane kõrvitsapirukas.)

shortcut pastry for making the pie shell
~ 1 kg pumpkin
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar (light packed)
1 tablespoon of potato-starch
2 tsp salt
250 gr of vanilla custard (they sell it in yoghurt-jars here and call it 'pudding')
1 pack (180 gr) cream cheese
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Peel and cut up the pumpkin, remove the seeds. Cover an oven tin with foil or baking paper (leave some extra so you can cover the pumpkin pieces as well) and bake at 175C until tender through (about 1 hr). This will also get rid of some of the extra water in the pumpkin that would otherwise make your pie-filling too wet. Let the pumpkin cool off and then blend it in a blender. You'll need about 400 - 500 ml of pumpkin puree for the pie (you can use any leftovers for a nice pumpkin soup).

Whisk cream cheese with the custard and the eggs. Add the pumpkin, sugar, the spices and the potato-starch.
Roll out the dough and make the crust. (No need to pre-bake). Pour in the filling and bake in a pre-heated oven until the center is set (about 1 - 1,5 hr).
Cool, chill, serve with whipped cream and nuts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mamma Mia!

Ever since those spaghetti meatballs we had in Trattoria Fiamma in Vegas we've had a craving for them. So recently Siim got tired of waiting till I got around to making them and made them himself. Under my not so watchful eye of course :)

Spaghetti meatballs a'la Siim. (Hakklihapallid spagettidega.)

2 eggs
150 ml milk
4 slices of white bread
600 gr minced meat (75% lean beef, 25% pork)
chopped parsley
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 chopped onion
3 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 tbsp sugar
dried basil (generously)
1 large can of crushed Tomatoes
500 grams of tomato paste
Parmesan cheese

Beat eggs lightly, add milk and bread and let it stand for about 5 minutes. Add ground beef, 1/2 of the chopped onion and 1 clove of minced garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Preheat the oven to 180C. Shape into meatballs that are about size of a fist (a girl fist) and place them on a baking pan. Bake the meatballs for about 25 minutes.

Heat a deep pan over medium heat and saute the remaining 1/2 of chopped onion and remaining garlic in oil until tender. Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add meatballs, cover and simmer for about 20-30 more minutes.
Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Playing around with risotto

I've been meaning to make Gordon Ramsay's pumpkin-pancetta risotto for a while now and since it's pumpkin season, I thought the time might be right. I even bought some pumpkin but then changed my mind.
It was still to be risotto, but an eggplant-smoked moose sausage one.

Eggplant and smoked moose-sausage risotto. (Baklazaani ja põdravorsti risotto.)
~ 150 g. smoked moose-sausage (any dry smoked sausage will do), thinly sliced
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
vegetable oil
150 g. risotto-rice
1 ripe yellow tomato
500 ml chicken-stock
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
~100 - 150 ml red dry wine
2 tablespoons of cream-cheese
~50 g. of grated Parmesan

Fry the sausage and set aside on a paper-napkin to drain. Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan and brown the diced eggplant until tender, set aside.
Bring chicken stock to simmer. In a deep sauce-pan saute the shallots and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in the rice and cook for a couple of minutes to toast the grains. Mix so all the grains are coated with oil. Pour in the wine and cook until it is completely reduced.
Pour in 1/4 of the chicken-stock and stir well. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed, then add more stock (1 ladleful). Continue that until you've used up all the stock and the risotto grains are just tender.
Now stir in the creamed-cheese and the sausage and then the egg-plant and chopped, peeled tomato. Add half of the parmesan. Check the seasoning. Stir and serve with additional parmesan sprinkled on top.

Now I know that a 'normal' risotto is made with white wine (and I thought I had some, but apparently I didn't, so I used red), but it works fine with red, especially if you use things like smoky-meats in it.
It turned out really smooth and creamy and definitely very filling.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

An ode to cabbage

I really love cabbage - all the different kinds - but I do think that the simplest white head cabbage is the most versatile. Fresh salads, braised sides, stews, soups, Japanese pancakes, sauerkraut ... the list is endless. And it's SO good for you.

This summer I was taking a train to Tartu and an old lady (83) sat next to me. She was really curious and really, really wanted to chat. Apparently she had been a lung-doctor all her life. So the majority of her monologues centered around health. Luckily there was a next stop pretty soon and a guy with a crutch came and sat next to us (65, had a stroke 7 months ago). That's when I learned that eating raw white cabbage is good for weight-loss (eavesdropping on old people's conversations is so much more fun than actually participating in them :). I also learned that linen-seed oil and honey-water is good for lowering cholesterol and a lot of other stuff.

But back to cabbage. My mom grows some, so there I was, sitting on a huge batch of home-grown, thinking what to do with it, when an old child-hood favorite dawned on me. Cabbage-pie! And not the small ones, but the big one.

Big cabbage-pie. (Kapsapirukas vene moodi.)

1 glass of warm milk;
25 grams of fresh yeast or 1 sachet;
2 eggs;
2 tsp salt;
2 tbsp of butter;
flour (~250 g.)

Warm the milk (but it can't be hot or it'll kill the yeast and your dough won't rise) and melt the butter in it. If you're using dry yeast, mix it with the flour, if you're using fresh, mix it into the milk. Add salt and flour and then one egg. Add enough flour until the dough is kneadable.
Leave it under a fresh towel in the bowl for it to rise, then knead through once more and leave to rise again.

1/2 - 3/4 of a large white cabbage, thinly chopped
3 eggs
2 tbsp butter
freshly ground black pepper
1 onion

Chop the cabbage and stew it (if you're in a hurry, you can add some water to boil it, but you then need to drain it). Stew until it's tender. Add salt and pepper (be generous with the pepper) and butter.
Boil the eggs until they're hard, chop or mash and mix the eggs into the cabbage.

Preheat the oven to 175 C (350F). Sprinkle some flour on the table and roll out the dough so it's not too thin (you should be able to pick it up and lay it on the oven-pan). The dough should be twice the size of your pie i.e. twice the size of your oven-pan.

Grease the pan or cover it with some baking-parchment and transfer the dough so that half of it stick over the edge.
Lay out the cabbage-filling in a nice thick layer leaving 2 cm from each side. Fold over the dough so it covers the filling.
Knead the edges together.
Whisk up the remaining egg and paint the top.
Bake until golden (10 - 15 min).

It's quite a time-consuming project, but you can considerably shorten it by preparing the cabbage-filling on a night before (or at least stewing the cabbage) and buying the yeast-dough from the supermarket.
It makes a perfect veggie dinner or something to take with you in a lunch-box.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pork loin and eggplant

I almost never cook fatty bits of meat, but then again when I go to an Estonian style restaurant or someone's mom has prepared fried meat then I quite like it. So the last time I went to the market I saw this really nice, clean looking loin peace of pork, with the skin and the fat still on (the blade chop) and couldn't resist buying it.
There we were then, me and the fatty peace of meat, staring at each other in my kitchen. I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. But then I remembered a very appetizing picture of a loin of pork from Mr. Ramsay's 'A Chef for all seasons' and it was settled.

Loin of pork with Indian style eggplant and fragrant rice. (Sealiha indiapärase baklazaani ja aromaatse riisiga.)
Loin of pork (blade chop) ~400 gr
sea salt
2 cloves of garlic

Eggplant (inspired by Nami-Nami)
1 eggplant
1 large ripe tomato
1 red bell-pepper
1 onion
1 tsp tumeric
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder

rice (~150 gr)
1 tsp tumeric powder
1 tsp ginger powder
pinch of ground nutmeg

Heat a pan, when hot, put the pork on the pan, rind down and press it down until the rind starts crackling. Do that until the rind looks nice, slightly browned and crackled.
Preheat the oven to 200C. Transfer the pork into an oven tin, sprinkle with sea salt and roast for 30 minutes.
Cut up the garlic into thick slices and after 30 minutes of roasting, put holes in the meat with a knife and stuff them with garlic. Turn down the heat to 180 and roast for 15 more minutes. It's ready if clear juices come out when pierced with a skewer.

Cut the eggplant into thick slices and brown on both sides on a frying pan. It'll take a while.
Chop the onions and the bell peppers. Peel and chop the tomatoes. When the egg-plant is ready, fry the onions in oil until golden, then add the bell peppers and when they've become more tender, add the spices and quickly fry for 30 seconds. Then add the tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, then carefully lay in the sliced egg-plant and cover the slices with the sauce.

Rinse the rice and if possible leave it soaking for a while (30 min). Cover the rice with water so that you'll have about 1 cm more water above the rice and add in the spices from the start. Place a saucepan over a moderate-high heat. Bring the water to the boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Place a lid on the saucepan and leave the rice to cook for 10 minutes then turn off the heat heat. Leave it for 5 minutes to steam. All of the water should go in the rice.

It looks and smells very nice and the relatively light sides of eggplant and rice kind of balance out the fatty meat. And even if you don't eat the crackling, it still makes it look nice and adds flavor to the meat.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

On a schoolnight

The results of having spent 19 years studying in one educational institution or another has had the effect of me craving for freshly sharpened pencils and crisp, clean notebooks every September. And I love it when it's cool and fresh and sunny on September 1. Kids with flowers and all this stuff.
So as a homage to all the school kids or rather their parents who get home extra tired after their off-springs have started school, here's a really simple but tasty weekday dinner.

Tomato-basil silver smelt with potatoes and a Japanese style cucumber salad. (Tomati-basiiliku hõbeheik kartulite ja jaapanipärase kurgisalatiga.)

- 2 silver smelt fillets (or hake), frozen will do just fine;
- 1 large ripe tomato;
- fresh basil leaves;
- 1 medium onion;
- mayonnaise;
-freshly ground salt and pepper.

- fresh cucumbers;
- 1 tbsp mirin;
- 1 tsp rice vinegar;
- 1 tsp light soy sauce;
- 1 clove garlic;

Sprinkle freshly ground sea salt on both sides of the fish fillets and lightly pan-fry on both sides. Peel and cut up the tomatoes and chop up the basil. Slice the onion and separate the rings. Cover each fish fillet with the tomatoes, basil and onions and a generous squeeze of mayonnaise. Turn down the heat, cover the pan with a lid and let the fish cook for about 15 minutes.

Peel and cut the cucumbers for the salad. Peel the garlic and chop it finely. Mix the cucumbers with mirin, rice vinegar, soy sauce and the garlic. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with boiled potatoes.

It's really nice. Fragrant, simple and light.