Thursday, July 30, 2009

Messing with Spuds

Like a true Estonian - I like potatoes. Boiled and fried, baked and mashed, in a salad or a rosti. Really. But, for some unknown reason, I had never made gnocchi until recently. Truth be told - I have made knedliky (the Ukrainian version of gnocchi) plenty of times before. But afrer seeing this video on, I decided it was time to give it a try and I also tried to stick with as much of Hermsdorf's advice I could.

New potato gnocchi with spinach and pine nuts (Värske kartuli gnocchid spinat ja seedermänni seemnetega):

(serves 8):

~10-15 small - medium new potatoes
2 eggs
~ 12 tbsp of flour
a large chunk of grated Grana Padano (~100 g)
~1/2 nutmeg, grated
fresh spinach (a large bunch, the more the better)
a large knob of butter
2-3 large cloves of garlic
150 g pine nuts (roasted, or if not you'll need to roast them yourself)

Wash the potatoes and boil them with their peel still on.
Peel them when they're still warm and mash the potatoes using a ricer if you've got one or an old-school metallic masher that has a grate-like bottom (the result is much like with a ricer).
Grate the cheese.

Sprinkle the counter top with appr. 6 tbsp of flour. Turn the mashed potatoes out on the flour and make a small dent in the pile. Sprinkle the pile with nutmeg and salt.

Break two eggs into the dent, slightly whisk them up with a fork and then fold the eggs into the mashed potatoes using your hands.

Add the grated cheese and some more flour and gently knead the whole thing so that it resembles a very sticky dough. Go easy on it. Add some more flour if necessary, but the less the better.
Half fill a pot with water and bring it to a simmer.
Prepare a large bowl filled with ice water and another large bowl next to it.
When the water is coming to a simmer, take a handful of the mash-dough and roll it into a sausage the diameter of a man's thumb. Cut it into chunks that are about 1 cm long.
Gently transfer the first batch of chunks into the simmering water (keep it on medium heat).
The gnocchi are ready when they start to float. Then gently transfer them to the bowl with ice water for a moment and then into the empty bowl.
Repeat, repeat, repeat until you've no more dough and a bowlful of splendid, glistening gnocchi.
Wash and tear up or roll up and cut the spinach.

Peel and chop the garlic.
Roast the nuts if they're not roasted (on a dry pan until golden).
Now you need a large pan, melt the butter and on medium heat fry the chopped garlic until golden. Add the spinach and toss it for just a moment, until it's nice and wilted. Set it aside.
Add some more butter if necessary and brown the gnocchi.
Serve the gnocchi tossed with the wilted spinach and sprinkled with the pine nuts.
It's delicious. A lot of hassle, but really, truly delicious.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In the mood for some Asian food

My sister is visiting with her boyfriend and we're all visiting our parents. So it's a bit of a madhouse at times, but with lots of good eats. Usually someone gets a craving of some sort that then immediately has to be catered to and I get to spend a lot more time in the kitchen than I've been able to lately. Usually it goes something like this: "I feel like some Asian food," someone says. "I'll make some if you babysit". I say. And then someone else says they want pork and a fourth person says they want seafood so this is how we ended up with these dishes.

Sweet and sour mixed meat with peas:
(serves 6)

300 g pork strips
300 g beef strips
1/2 orange
a large handful of fresh shelled peas
a big knob of fresh garlic (3 cm)
2 big cloves of garlic
1/2 of red bell pepper
6-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tsp of fish sauce
oil for frying
some boiling water

Chop the garlic and the ginger and cut the bell pepper in strips.
Heat some oil in a large pan. Brown the beef then the pork. Add the ginger and the garlic. After about a minute, add the bell pepper and the peas.
Stir and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Taste. Add the tomatoes and some water (if necesary, you want yout meat and veggies be covered in the sauce).
Squeeze in the juice from 1/2 of the orange and add the fish sauce.

Reduce the heat and let it simmer for a couple of more minutes.

Yellow plum seafood:
(serves 6)

1 pack of cleaned shrimp
1 pack of Tiger prawns (cleaned , but with 'easy open' shells left on)
1/2 lime
a little bit of fresh chilli pepper
a bunch of fresh cilantro
10 fresh and ripe yellow plums
1 cube of chicken stock
2 tsp of corn or potato starch
1 clove of garlic
oil for frying.

Peel and depit the plums and cut into pieces (you'll just end up with soft pulp).
Chop the garlic, chilli (no seeds) and cilantro.
Heat the oil in a large pan. Quickly fry the prawns until they turn pink.

Add salt and squeeze in the lime. Add the shrimps, mix and fry for a minute or so.
Then add the garlic and plums. Reduce heat, cover and let it simmer.
Bring some water to a boil (about 250ml) and dissolve the stock cube. Mix the starch with a little bit of cold water.
Add the stock to the simmering prawns and then mix in the starch with the cold water. Keep stirring. It should thicken quickly. Add the chilli. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

Serve both over some rice noodles (don't forget to wash them with cold water after they're done (3 minutes in boiling water). And that's it.
Although I don't claim to be any kind of specialist when it comes to cooking Asian food (that's why I'm very careful not to claim it to be Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese or anything else specific, unless I use a recipe and I really know it is), I must say, that this was fabulous. And what more - it tasted really authentic. At least in the remit of my limited experience :).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Happy geese and foie gras

It's my B-day soon and my sister made me a perfect gift. She sent me some La Pateria de Sousa Foie Gras.

It´s fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. It's spicy and full of flavor but somehow less fatty that normal foie gras. It comes in abundance of goose fat for those who love the fattyness though. I know it's a lame comparison, but it compares to normal foie gras like pork compares to wild boar. It's more gamey.

And why? It comes from the wild iberian geese this guy called Eduardo Sousa keeps and he doesn't force feed them.
Check out this TED talk by Dan Barber the chef on the topic.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Somthing simple and delicious for the last strawberries

Finally a moment for posting. My boy started crawling around a while ago and has developed such cosmic speeds by now (and he always heads for the dangerous stuff that our apartment suddenly seems full of) that I don't even have a moment to catch my breath let alone sit down and enjoy a simple moment of sorting through my food pics and reminiscing about one of the last pleasant moments in the kitchen.

We were visiting my parents again last week and the strawberries were in their full glory. So I was thinking what to do with them (after having stuffed my face straight from the garden of course) and after making another one of my Pavlova's (I've got my mom hooked now) again, I decided to try out the British classic - Eton mess. It did seem like a glorified version of the strawberries with cream, so popular in Estonia, but I still wanted to try.

Eton mess (serves 5-6):

350 ml whipping cream (35%)
1/2 tsp of vanilla sugar
4-5 large meringues (we don't have nice ones in the store here, so we made ours ourselves using 3 eggs, 1 tsp of white wine vinegar, 1 tsp of potato starch and 150 gr of extra fine sugar. It made about 8 large meringues, crispy on the outside and nice and marshmallowy on the inside (and accidentally a bit too tan on the outside as well. Beat room temperature egg whites with the sugar and the starch, fold in the vinegar and slowly bake).
a good bowl of strawberries (I have no idea how much was in there).
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp of good peppermint snaps, Cointreau or other kind of liqueur.

Beat the whipping cream with the vanilla sugar.

Turn about 2/3 of the strawberries into a strawberry sauce (blitz with the sugar and the liqueur). Save the nicer and bigger strawberries, clean them and cut them into halves or sectors.
Crumble 2-3 meringues into the whipped cream.

Then fold in the strawberry pieces.

Chill for about an hour.
Serve drizzled with the strawberry sauce and some more pieces of meringue. Decorate with fresh mint leaves if you have any.

Essentially I was right - it is just glorified strawberries with cream. Or perhaps a simplified strawberry pavlova. But who cares. It's so nice on a lovely summer afternoon. Sadly it'll take most of the next day to work off, but hey, we all deserve our little indulgences.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Secret Garden


Sorry for the radio silence. For some reason there's just no time to upload the goodies I've been making (and to be truthful, not a whole lot of time to be making them either).
But there was just something I had to share. My mothers wonderful, bountiful garden is in it's various stages of ripening and blooming, so I took some pictures one day...
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