Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quack-quack

We had duck for this Christmas dinner. I'm not usually a great lover of duck-meat in it's classic "breast served with a thick fatty skin" form, but my mom and I decided to try and make confit and I must say that it has totally altered my outlook on duck. It's a bit of a hassle time-wise and the whole ocean of melted fat doesn't sound too endearing to start with, but trust me it's well worth it.

Duck confit
serves 12


2 whole ducks (we had frozen Hungarian ones but they turned out to be young and nice enough after defrosting) (or use legs only 12 in that case)
1 jar (~150g) of goose or duck fat + just in case some soft pig fat (lard)
10 cloves of garlic
a lot of sea salt or other coarse salt
some dried rosemary

Cover the ducks with salt (a good thick crust) and set aside in the refrigerator for ~24 hours.

The next day, shake off the salt, wash the ducks and pat dry.
If using whole ducks, cut them up into peaces (we did 6 peaces per duck).

Pat the pieces dry with kitchen towels and ay the pieces of meat out in a deep oven-dish. Scatter in the garlic cloves. Sprinkle with rosemary.

Preheat the oven to 100C.
Trim all the excess skin and fat from the ducks. Heat a large pan on low to medium heat and melt the fat until completely liquefied. Add the goose and pork fat if necessary (you need enough liquid fat to cover all the pieces of meat in a baking dish).

Strain and pour the fat into the oven dish, make sure it covers the meat.
Now in the recipes that I found online, it was recommended that the duck be cooked at 100C for 2-3 hours. We cooked ours at 100C in the beginning, after about 1.5 hrs of nothing much happening, my mom got extremely anxious and cranked the oven up to 170C. And then it stayed in the oven for 2 more hours. In the end the result was great. The meat literally fell off the bones as it was supposed to.


We served it with rice and a green salad made of lettuce, chopped hazelnuts, torn pomelo and a warm honey-Balsamico dressing.
And we washed it down with a lovely '99 Anjou.


I removed the skin before eating my bit, but the more salt-loving members of our family just ate the whole thing.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Loot

So this Christmas has been extremely abundant for my inner foodie. All the gifts we got were food related and oh so appreciated. I have no idea where all these appliances are gonna fit, but I'm now a proud owner of an espresso/latte maker;


an ice-cream maker


and a pasta-maker.

My mom got an electric meat-mincer and a slow-cookerˇ

so I'm expecting I've got access by association there too :).

I've obviously already made the first Lattes. The first batch of ice-cream is planned for tomorrow or the day after (today is the Pavlova day and we've made an army-sized one). And I guess I'll be starting off 2010 with some fresh pasta.

Also on another, still gift-related, note - this was the first year when I finally got around to compiling gift baskets with home-made ingredients in them. I made cheese-lovers baskets that had a bottle of wine, a Brie, a soft cheese with walnuts and a hard Mediterranean cheese with herbs in it, also grissini and saltine crackers and then I made a jar of pear chutney and a jar of red-onion marmalade to go in there as well.

Initial responses are positive, so I might try that again next year. Although I must say, chopping and cooking that mounting of red onions that I needed for 5 jars was quite a test on the patience of the men in my family :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mmmm...meaty

Christmas is a major meat-eating occasion here in Estonia, so even those of us, that aren't that carnivorous the rest of the time succumb to peer pressure. Classically the meat factor in the traditional Christmas meal is a fatty-fatty pork that comes with sauerkraut and black pudding sausages (see my Foodbuzz 24-24-24 entry from about a year ago), but for those of you who're still undecided, not planning to die of cardiac arrest any time soon and are looking for a meaty idea - maybe you should try this. I just made it a couple of days ago and it was lovely, if I do say so myself (which I constantly seem to do on this blog).

Glazed beef-tenderloin with braised red onions and crushed potatoes (Laagerdatud veise sisefilee glasuuriga, serveeritud punaste sibulate ja kartulitega):
serves 6


For the beef:
~1 kg beef tenderloin
freshly ground salt and pepper
a knob of butter
a glug of oil

For the glaze:
a generous glug (about 2 tbsp I imagine) of:
- premium quality extra virgin olive oil
- Thai Sweet chili sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Teriyaki sauce
- ketchup
- apple sauce or apple jam

For the sides:
6-12 potatoes (depending on the size)
4-5 red onions
glass of pink wine (on the sweet side)
a knob of butter
salt
pepper
1 tpsb of honey
1 - 2 tbsp of Balsamic vinegar

Make sure your beef is at room temperature, before you start cooking it. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Set aside for a while.

Preheat the oven to 220C.
Peel the potatoes and put them to boil.
Heat a
Heat a large pan and melt the butter and the oil until they're very hot, but not smoking.
Sear the beef on each side until nice and brown (1-2 minutes each side).
Transfer to an oven-pan, cover loosely with tinfoil and roast for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile transfer all the ingredients of the glaze to a small saucepan and put over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until it's nice and thick (coats the back of a rubber spatula).

Thinly slice the onions.
Take out the meat and increase the heat of the oven to 250C. Generously brush all the sides with the glaze. You should have plenty left over. Return the meat to the oven, uncovered. Take the meat out to brush it with the remaining glaze every 5-7 minutes. In about 20-25 minutes the meat should be done (medium/rare).

Meanwhile heat your third knob of butter in a pan, add the sliced onions and cook until glassy but not brown.
Remove the meat from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let the meat rest before serving for at least 10 minutes. Add the wine, reduce. Season with salt, pepper, Balsamico and the honey. Stir.
Serve the meat with crushed boiled potatoes and the braised onions. You'll have some juices from the meat + the glaze that will serve as the sauce. If there's not enough you can always make more by adding wine (or stock) and a tiny bit of flour to the pan where you roasted the meat, stirring and brining to a boil (flour first, then the liquid).
Now that was another one of those meals that kind of makes it impossible to seriously contemplate completely giving up meat.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Manna from Heaven vol 2

Now I already have a post that's called 'manna from heaven', but to be honest, this one deserves it so much more. Although cous-cous is great, the Estonian classic dessert - semolina-mousse, is just much more likely to be something that is in the divine realm :).
This dessert is something that every single kid in Estonia has grown up eating. It's served in kindergartens and in school cafeterias and made by moms at home. And as all the meals that are so widely prepared, there are many variations as to what they look and taste like. It is quite possible to get a disgustingly pale, grayish and yellowish looking sludge (depending on the juice you use and the amount of semolina and time of vigorous whipping that goes in) and then it's possible to get my mom's lovely, vibrant pink, super fluffy, satin smooth and yet tangy tasting mousse.
This post is obviously about the latter kind.

My mom's spectacular cranberry-semolina mousse (Jõhvika mannavaht):
serves 4

~600 ml cranberry juice (relatively concentrated)
100 ml sugar
150 ml semolina

Heat the juice and the sugar in a small saucepan to a boil. Drizzle in the semolina, stirring constantly. Turn down the heat and simmer for ~10-15 minutes, keep stirring occasionally. You'll basically end up with a semolina-porridge, but it should be thinner for the mousse.
Let it cool off and beat with an electric hand-mixer until nice and fluffy.

Serve with cold milk.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A lifesaver

Unfortunately I don't have a too familiar relationship with Middle Eastern cuisine, but whatever I've had of it, I've always enjoyed. And I've especially loved all the pasty, gooey things there. And more than anything - houmous.
I'd never thought of making it myself before a friend of mine said that she had made it and even fed some to her baby daughter, who loved it.
And what a lifesaver it was, I mean really, the timing was perfect, as it coincided with a complete lapse in sanity that I suffered a couple of weeks ago. For some unknown reason I decided to read all of the Stephenie Meyer Twilight Saga novels in 5 days. That's 2129 pages. And romance novels are not my brand of poison at all. The only more or less valid justification I can come up with is that they make a really intense filler to a socially, intellectually and in some ways emotionally barren desert that a new moms life otherwise is...
But back to houmous. One of the side-effects of the brain-bleed that I got from all that tongue in cheek vampire stuff, was that I kind of just stopped eating. And if weren't for the lovely batch of houmous I made, I would have probably just starved to death. It is absolutely amazing how far one slice of bread spread nice and thick with houmos will take you. Really, I know it's a bit of an oxymoron, but I'd really recommend houmous as diet food. It just last's so so long. It outlasts any type of whole-grain oatmeal experience by far.

Home-made houmous (hummus):
makes ~250 g


1 jar of conserved chickpeas (~150-200g)
3 tbsp of tahini (sesame seed paste)
juice of 1/2-1 lemon
1 tbsp of premium quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp of honey
a tiny pinch of salt
1 large clove of garlic

Peel and chop the garlic.
Drain the chick-peas.
Pour the chickpeas into a blender, add the garlic, the juice from 1/2 lemon, 2 tbsp of tahini, salt and the olive oil and blitz until smooth. Taste, you'll probably want to add the third spoonful of tahini, the rest of the lemon juice and the honey.
Serve in air.´-tight containers in the fridge, will keep for about a week.
It's lovely as a dip for fresh vegetables, chips or as a bread-spread.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Confusion and cake

Ugh... I'm such an idiot :).
For a while now I've been thinking why none of my foodie friends are leaving comments anymore. Was getting the feeling of being all neglected and forgotten. The protruding lower lip thing was already happening and all. And then now, I realized that I had to accept of reject 60 comments as I myself had changed the settings to escape the ever growing avalanche of spam in hieroglyphs. So anyway - so sorry that It took me so long to publish all the real comments.

And, I'm getting frustratingly behind with my blogging. I have such a backlog of things I've made and photographed that I'd want to share and somehow time just escapes me. If I'm not gonna be able to get through the pile before Christmas (and the inevitable new pile of food), I'll just go for a photo-collage.

But for now, something sweet. Super super sweet to be exact. It's a cake I made from the December issue of Delicious magazine.

Plum marzipan and almond sponge cake (ploomi ja martsipanikook):
serves 10


200 g softened butter
200 g caster sugar
4 large eggs
100 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
130 g ground almonds
50 g roasted hazelnuts, chopped
120 golden baking marzipan, chopped
500 g plums, stoned and cut into sectors
20 g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Grease a deeper oven tin.
Cream the butter and sugar with an electric beater, then add the eggs one at a time, whisking in between.
Chop the hazelnuts and grind the almonds unless you've got already-ground and chopped ones.

Mix the flour with the baking powder and the ground almonds in a separate bowl and then gently fold in the flour mixture into the eggs and sugar and butter mixture.
Fold in the hazelnuts and marzipan.

Pour the mixture into the tin and scatter with plums, pushing them down into the mixture a bit.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes.


Now Delicious also had a lemon-icing sugar frosting to go on top of the cake and I did make it, but it was just too far over the top. Too sweet, too much. Also this cake - well, my dad put it the best. He ate a piece and then sat there, thinking, until he finally said. "That's an honest cake". It really is. But it was a bit too much for me, too nutty / greasy / sweet at the same time. I think it would be lovely with just the marzipan, the almond flakes and the plums. That means no ground almonds and no chopped hazelnuts. Although I'm quite a nut-freak, I thought they were a bit too much. But give it a try, it certainly is something to leave out for Santa with a tall glass of milk.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Roasted root veggies and pasta? Yes indeed

I made this dish a while ago, I think it might have been a month ago or even longer, the fall was still in it's full colors and playing around with lovely colorful root veggies was just the thing to do. I roast veggies a lot, but usually to accompany a steak. I ha never thought it'd be OK to match them with pasta. Bt I decided to try and I was quite satisfied. It was filling and had the necessary elements of comfort food, but was still healthy and not insanely calorie packed.

Roasted root veggie and Mozzarella pasta (Pasta röstitud juurviljade ja mozzarellaga):

Serves 4

For the veggies:
2 small beetroots
1/2 of a big white radish
2 - 3 large carrots
a good glug of olive oil (about 2 tbsp)
a good glug of Balsamico
1 large tbsp of honey


For the pasta:
your favorite pasta shapes, I used penne
1 pack of mozzarella balls (~125 g.)
2 pots of your favorite lettuce
a large handful of pine nuts
some olive oil for drizzling
freshly ground salt, pepper and ground cumin seeds (or I used salt and Latplanta Everyday Seasoning)

Peel the veggies and cut them in sectors.
Parboil until just tendering. I boiled the beets separately as I didn't want everything to end up purple.
Heat the oil, Balsamico and the honey on low heat in a small saucepan. Swirl from time to time until combined and syrupy.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Line an baking tray with baking paper.
Toss the veggies in the syrup until evenly coated and lay out on the baking tray.
Bake until tender and nicely brown on the outside.

While the veggies are baking, boil the pasta according to the packet instructions.
Tear up the lettuce and pile on each plate.
When the pasta and veggies are done, toss them and add some to each plate. Tear up the mozzarella balls (unless using tiny ones) and sprinkle the pasta with the mozzarella and the pine nuts. Season. Drizzle with some olive oil.

I liked it and was especially surprised how well the flavors of the roasted white radish and the mozzarella complimented each other. Initially I had thought of using some stronger tasting cheese like goat's cheese or perhaps feta, but mozzarella was the right way to go.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another one of those nice and hearty lunch-salads

I love making these salads that are basically a main course in terms of the filling effect and the ingredients, but they still deserve the name of a salad. It just makes you feel all healthy and calorie cautious when you eat them. It actually makes you feel thinner and prettier while you eat them. And S loves them. I mean who wouldn't want to have the backbone to just have a salad for lunch or dinner instead of say meat and potatoes or a rich pasta?

A baked potato and salted peanut salad (Salat krõbekartulite ja maapähklitega):
serves 2



1 large or 2 medium potatoes
1-2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
1/2 of a long cucumber
1 red onion
a small handful of salted, roasted peanuts
1 pot of Roman lettuce
~50 g grated Parmesan

For the dressing:
1 tbsp of creamed cheese
1 tbsp of sour cream
1 tbsp of mayonnaise
1 tbsp of mustard
freshly grated black pepper
salt (if needed, taste first)

Peel and quarter the potatoes and parboiled them for about 10 min until they're not as hard anymore but not completely tender yet either.

*I happened to watch three episodes of Heston Blumenthal's "Kitchen Chemistry" on Discovery Channel last weekend, so now I'm inclined to suggest that it might be a good idea to rinse the potatoes with cold water before cooking them, then cooling them and deep frying them for 5 min's in 130 c oil and after cooling them again deep frying them again in 180 C oil until golden brown. But that's not what I did. To my excuse - I did make this salad before watching the show. But to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure if I would have found the time for the whole song and dance as lately my cooking is a contortionist's exercise of chopping, peeling, washing and at the same time minding the kid.

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Dice the pre-cooked potato wedges.
Peel and thinly chop the garlic, mix it with olive oil and then mix the potatoes in the garlicy oil so that all the pieces are coated. You can just use garlic infused olive oil for this, but I didn't have any.
Line a baking-tray with some parchment and transfer the potatoes to the paper.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.

Mix all the dressing ingredients. (If you have any leftover Ceasar's dressing, that'll do fine as well).
Tear up the lettuce, slice the cucumber and the onion.
When the potatoes are done, let them cool.

Toss all of the above with 1/2 of the parmesan and the dressing. Divide between two plates, sprinkle with the peanuts and the left over Parmesan and you're good to go.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beloved Beetroot

I assume it's become abundantly clear to anyone visiting this blog, that I have a thing for beetroot. I really really like it. And have been known to add it to everything. Stuffed paprikas. Meatballs. Muffins. Chocolate cake.
Well, I finally got around to making something that makes the beetroot itself the star of the dish - the very posh and absolutely adorable beetroot chips.
I'd been wondering about how to make them a while ago as they've been popping up in various nice dishes of different restaurants for quite some time now. Last summer my mom gave me this pocket-book sized book called "100 starters" and the chips were in ther. Pretty straight-forward to think about it. Just slice super thinly and deep fry (I' been wondering if maybe they should be slowly dried in the oven (as dried apple and pear chips are made). Maybe there are different ways to make different kinds of beetroot chips. Any experiences with that, anyone?

Anyhow, here are my beetroot chips and what I used them for.

Beetroot chips (peedikrõpsud):

1 beetroot, peeled, sliced with a vegetable peeler
a good amount of sunflower oil (~150 ml)
sea salt


Peel and slice the beetroot. Then pat the slices down with a paper towel to absorb the extra juices.
Pour the oil into a deep saucepan and heat it to 190C (a cube of white bread will turn golden brown in a minute).
Deep fry in batches and lay out on paper-towels to get rid of the extra oil.
I found that the right time to take them out is when the slices aren't covered with the tiny bubbles any more. Take them out earlier and they'll be crinkled and soggy. Take them out later and they'll have lost the lovely purple color and all of the beetroot taste and will just taste like chips.
Sprinkle with sea salt.
Serve with a dip or on a salad.

I made a side-salad for another batch of the warm honey-glazed goat's cheese toasts :

1 pot of your favorite leafy salad (I used Lollo Rosso at that particular time)
1 generous handful of pine nuts
Beetroot chips for 1/2 a beet
about 2 tbsp of leftover glaze from the goat's cheese toasts (to make new one you'll need about equal glugs of olive oil and Balsamico + 1-2 tbsp of honey, put it on medium heat and keep swirling until smooth and combined).

Tear up the salad leaves, toss with pine nuts, sprinkle with the beetroot chips, drizzle with the glaze and serve.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A risotto to celebrate fall




Although Tallinn is not the best place on earth to enjoy the benefits of fall (it's horridly windy hear nearly every day), we do get the lovely moments where the world seems to have turned into one, big, soft, golden tunnel of leaves. Leaves still on trees and leaves already on the ground. And the freshly hatched, glistening chestnuts. Now what's better to celebrate a day like that than a lovely pumpkin risotto. We had some friends over and I made one based on Gordon Ramsay's recipe from "A Chef for all Seasons".

Butternut squash and smoked ham risotto (muskaatkõrvitsa ja toorsuitsu singi risotto):
serves 4

1 butternut squash
200 g risotto rice
600 ml chicken tock
100 ml white wine
a good glug of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
50 g of smoked ham (the kind that's been smoked while still raw and that has no fat on it).
2 tbsps of creamed cheese (I used Philadelphia, I like the sourness and the fact that it's not 80% fat, as the mascarapone that Ramsay uses)
a knob of Parmesan, grated
freshly ground black pepper

Put the chicken stock on the stove and make sure that it's hot or even slightly simmering (but not boiling with big bubbles).
Peel and dice the pumpkin so you're left with small cubes.
In a large saucepan heat the olive oil and gently fry the onions and the pumpkin cubes for about 5 minutes.
Add the risotto rice and toast for about 2 minutes and stir to make sure that all the grains are coated with oil.
Pour in the wine and cook until reduced.
Now put in about 2-3 ladlefuls of the hot chicken stock. Make sure the heat under the rice is medium-low and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed.
Stir in another 2-3 ladlefuls of stock (you should run out of your stock in about 3-4 go's).
Keep cooking, stirring and adding the stock until all is gone and the risotto grains are just tender.
Cut the ham into thin strips.
Stir in the ham, the creamed cheese and 1/2 of the grated Parmesan. Season with black pepper. You probably won't need salt.
Let it heat through and serve with the extra Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A classic pair

The first day of summer vacation and champagne before noon, ice-cream and hot fudge topping, a newspaper and a latte, prawns and white wine, a day foraging at the bog and new rubber boots, black olives and sun-dried tomatoes, etc, etc. Things that always go together do that for a reason - they just fit. So sometimes it's best not to experiment with the classics.

We had friends over last weekend. I had goat's cheese and wanted to use it for a starter.

Warm goat-cheese with honey-balsamico glaze (Soojad kitsejuustusaiad mee ja palsamiäädika glasuuriga):
serves 4 as a starter


1/2 of a fresh white multi-grain bread
1 large tbsp of honey
a good glug of olive oil
a good glug of very good Balsamic vinegar
a small handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped
5-7 fresh sage leaves
a pack of firm goat's cheese (about 150-200g)


Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Cut the bread in 4 thick slices and arrange on a parchment-lined oven tin.

Chop the sage leaves.
Put the honey, the olive oil and the Balsamic vinegar into a sauce-pan and onto low heat.

Stir occasionally or just shake the pan as the honey melts and everything combines into a lovely deep-colored glaze.

Add the sage leaves, stir and remove from heat.
Cut the cheese into 4 thick slices and arrange on top of the bread.
Carefully spoon the glaze over each piece of cheese (make sure as much as possible stays on the cheese or seeps into the bread rather than runs down the edges and all over the baking-paper).

Bake with the grill on for about 15 minutes or until the edges of the cheese melt a bit and everything turns lovely golden brown.
Serve with crushed walnuts sprinkled on top.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A new favorite in Tartu

We've officially found a new favorite restaurant in Tartu and we've been there three times already. It's called Moka and it's smack in the centre, really close to the main building of the University of Tartu.
It's been around for a year or so already and I'd heard good things about it, but something about the logo or the exterior just didn't make me want to go in. For some reason I thought I'd find a crowded and stuffy small cafe that offers boring cakes. Oh how wrong was I. I mean it is a bit on the stuffy side in terms of ventilation when it's jam packed with people and the tables would benefit from being slightly more apart, but otherwise it is just splendid.
The first time we went there it was still OK to sit outside. I ordered a tempura-shrimp dish from the starters and S ordered the lasagna. Our boy enjoyed one of the freshly baked warm dinner rolls they brought out. So there we were, sitting, enjoying our drinks and the last bits of nice weather when our food arrived and my mouth literally fell open. The presentation was IMPRESSIVE. Really, really beautiful and so unexpected for this relatively understated cafe-like place.
We took our first bites and the initial amazement quickly morphed into outright delight. The food was great. Tasty, thought through in terms of intermingling flavors and contrasting textures, etc. Super. And the prices are regular cafe-prices, very reasonable.
My shrimps were coated in the most delicate tempura and came with super generous dollops of cream cheese, a nice and spicy mango chutney and lovely beetroot crisps.


S's lasagna was far too great a piece for him to manage, but was wonderful in every aspect and came with an obscenely large Parmesan crisp.


We went back the next weekend with some friends, S and a friend of ours had quesadillas (filled with smoked chicken, accompanied by onion rings and some kind of nice wafer/ bread stick thingies that had obviously been deep-fried.

.

I had the salad "Supreme" (shrimp, meat scallops, potatoes, pine-nut vinaigrette etc).


That weekend we also noticed that they have a 'National cuisines' thing going on every weekend. That weekend was dedicated to the States, but none of us took advantage apart from our friend's baby brother, who had a brownie (alas, a bit disappointing as it wasn't moist enough) for dessert.

However the rhubarb-espresso Alaska, that our friend had was very nice. Especially the Alaska bit. The rhubarb-espresso (a sauce that was basically blended rhubarb in espresso) was a bit over the top.


And then just the three of us went back the following weekend for the Belgian weekend. As expected I found both the mussels and the French fries on the menu - surprisingly in one dish, so that's what I ordered.

The mussels came in a lovely super-rich white wine/cream sauce, but the fries were a bit boring and I would have expected something more from this place. To be honest, I think they might have been frozen fries from a bag. But the mussels were fantastic.

S had Viking pork with vegetable duxelle and that was finger licking good to the last morsel. And impressively presented again.

For dessert we shared a slice of insanely rich Creme Brulee cake.


The long story short, if you're ever in Tartu, GO to MOKA. I can't wait to go there again.
Oh and I almost forgot, chef de cuisine Andrus Vaht came out to chat with us one time we were there and was most charming. Now what else can you ask from a nice visit to a restaurant.