Tuesday, December 29, 2009


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


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
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.


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.