Friday, March 27, 2009

Silky Onion Soup with Crispy Croutons

I'm definitely on the "Take Five Ingredients" mood these days. Cooking with a small baby is possible, of course, but I haven't got the time or energy to think up elaborate menus and spend hours in front of the hob these days. Nor do I want it, to be honest. Simple, comforting, delicious dishes are much more attractive - and feasible - at the moment.

Here's a very simple and delicious and comforting soup recipe for these cold wintry nights. (Yes, there's still snow out here, even if the days have got a lot longer and there's definitely spring in the air during the daytime).

Silky Onion Soup
(Sametine sibulasupp)
Serves 4

50 g butter
500 g onions
2 tsp sugar
1 l / 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
200 ml (just under a cup) whipping cream
1 to 2 Tbsp plain/all-purpose flour
salt and white pepper, to taste

For garnish:
crispy croutons
grated hard cheese
fresh chives, chopped

Peel the onions, halve and cut into slices.
Heat a heavy saucepan and melt the butter in the pan. Add onion slices and sauté on a low heat for 10-15 minutes, until the onions and softened and slightly caramelised. Do not burn them! Add sugar after about 7 minutes, stir.
When onions are softened, then pureé them with an immersion/stick/hand-held blender until smooth. (For an especially smooth result, press the onion pureé through a sieve).
Return the onion pureé into the saucepan, add the stock and bring into a boil.
Mix the flour with the cream and stir into the soup base. Simmer gently until the soup has thickened slightly (the flour does it).
Taste for seasoning, add salt and white pepper, if necessary.
To serve, ladle the soup into warm bowls, scatter over croutons and chopped chives and grate some cheese on top.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pineapple Cake with Cocoa Frosting

Fancy a lactose-free and fat-free cake that's a little bit more interesting than the simple eggs-sugar-flour sponge cake? Well, this might be the answer. There's a large tin of canned pineapple in the cake, which makes it more moist and rich, so it feels like it's made with at least some butter. I must admit I couldn't taste the pineapple in the cake, not even a little, but I still liked the cake. It's covered with a simple cocoa powder glaze, but you could use some of the pineapple syrup from the can to make a white glaze instead..

Pineapple Cake with Cocoa Glaze
(Ananassikook kakaoglasuuriga)
Cuts into 12 slices

3 large eggs
200 g caster sugar
225 g plain/all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
350 g canned crushed pineapple (drained weight, that's one large 580 g can)

150 ml icing sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2-3 Tbsp water

Drain the canned pineapple, blend the pulp into until smooth.
Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick, pale and foamy. Gently fold in the flour, baking powder and pineapple.
Pour into a buttered or lined 22 cm cake tin.
Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 200 C oven for about 45 minutes, until the cake is risen and light golden (test for doneness with a wooden toothpick).
Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the cake tin for 10 minutes; then trasnfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the glaze, mix all ingredients and smear over the cooled cake.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Broad bean paté

Here's a broad bean paté I made today. K's mum and auntie came for a short visit to check out the baby girl, and I wanted something savoury to nibble (there was a cake as well, of course). I had boiled 500 grams of broad beans yesterday in order to make Egyptian falafels following a recipe by Claudia Roden, but I decided to 'steal' some of the beans and try out a broad bean paté instead. The result was really lovely. Both K's mum and auntie guessed it was made with chicken livers instead - before wolfing down another thin crisp bread spread with this lovely paté.

PS I used unpeeled dried broad beans and didn't peel them after soaking or boiling either.

Broad Bean Paté
( Põldoapasteet )
Makes about a cup

a cup of boiled broad beans, drained thoroughly*
2 Tbsp concentrated tomati paste/tomato purée
2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For garnish:
fresh basil

Blend the first five ingredients in a bowl with a hand-held blender into a smooth paste. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Garnish with a fresh basil leave and serve.

* To boil dried broad beans/fava beans: soak them in cold water for 12-24 hours, then rinse and drain. Place in a saucepan with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, then simmer on a low heat until soft, but not mushy (about 40 minutes or longer, depending on the age of the beans etc). Do not add salt until the end, as this may extend the cooking period. 
You need about 1/2 cup of dried beans for this amount of broad bean paté. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Macarons, made by K.

K made macarons for the New Year's Eve party. We had quite a few friends over for that occasion, and whereas I was mainly in charge of the savoury dishes, K. had (almost) free hands in deciding which sweet dishes to offer. He had wanted to make macarons for ages, so he decided to go ahead.

I must admit that I was a bit hesitant to start with. Macarons, as we all know (or at least that's the feeling I get when reading bloggers who have made them), are a tricky concoction, to say the least. They sound deceptively simple - icing sugar, ground almonds, egg whites - yet there are hundred tricks and insider tips you must know in order to succeed. Also, as you cannot buy ground almonds in Estonia, K. had to grind his own - using our small old coffee grinder - and sieve the meal again and again. Then you had to wait for the egg whites to dry and so on. In the midst of the preparations for a successful New Year's Eve party, our kitchen was a mess - and occupied by him - for much longer than I had ever planned or wanted..

But - his macarons were a success! He made three different types - matcha macarons with dark chocolate ganache, lingonberry macarons (substituting some of the almonds with ground dried lingonberries - that's the Estonian twist) with blackcurrant buttercream a la Pille (aka icing sugar mixed with soft butter and some unsweetened blackcurrant juice), and plain macarons with plain buttercream.

They were beautiful and delicate and very much macaron-like. Loved these!!!

K. wants to thank Kuidaore and Tartelette as well as Melissa for their excellent tips on how to succeed with macarons.

You can see more pictures here.

Makroonide teema Nami-Nami foorumis

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mango Yogurt Cake Recipe

Here's a cake I made for K's mum's birthday lunch back in January. After the excessive eating during the festive season, I wanted to make something light, low in sugar and still delicious. An experiment with a pure mango pureé resulted in this delicious yogurt cake. Several people have tried this recipe, also posted on my Estonian site, and they've loved it. I used a can of sweetened Alphonso mango pulp by a UK-based East End company (92% mango), but you could use fresh mango pureé or blend some canned mangoes instead.

The cake needs to set for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, so make it on a night before.

Mango Yogurt Cake
Serves 10 to 12

200 g gingerbread cookies or cocoa biscuits, crushed
80 g butter, melted

Mango filling:
500 g good-quality mango pulp
200 g plain yogurt
200 ml whipping cream (35-38% fat content)
2 Tbsp sugar
juice of a large lemon
8 gelatine leaves (or 2 Tbsp gelatine powder)

pistachio nuts, sliced or mint or lemon balm leaves

Mix the finely crushed biscuits with melted butter. Line a 25 cm springform with a parchment paper and press the mixture onto the base. If you want to make sure that the base doesn't crumble at all, you can bake it for 10 minutes in a 200 Celsius oven, then cool completely (I usually skip this step and save electricity :)
Soak the gelatine leaves in a cold water for about 5-10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix the mango pulp and yogurt.
Heat the lemon juice in a small bowl, adding 2-3 Tbsp hot water. Press the soaked gelatine leaves dry and stir into the hot lemon juice/water mixture. Stir couple of times, until melted. Pour into the mango-yogurt mixture, stirring vigorously.
Whip the cream and sugar until soft peaks form, then fold into the mango mixture.
Spoon the mango filling onto (the pre-baked) cookie base, smooth the top.
Place into the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Garnish with something green- pistachio nuts, or perhaps a mint or lemon balm leaves. Cut into fine slices and serve.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Rosinakissell aka Raisin Fruit Soup

Here's a (old Estonian?) recipe for a simple dessert that costs next to nothing - and is made pretty much out of nothing (raisins, water, sugar). Yet it tastes good..

I vaguely remember it from kindergarten and elementary school lunch breaks, but it had been a looooong time since my last rosinakissell. Until I stayed at the maternity clinic early last month and had to 'feast' on the food that the hospital budget catering had to offer. The desserts were all nursery food and humble, and raisin fruit soup or kissel was served one night. Although the hospital version wasn't the best example of this dessert soup, it still brought back nostalgic food memories. Back home, one of the first dishes I cooked as a young mother, was this dessert soup/fruit soup/kissell (call what you like it). Pretty delicious, actually.

For best result, use different type of seedless raisins and currants. I used small yellow and large Californian raisins.

Raisin Fruit Soup
Serves 4

200 g seedless raisins
1.5 litres of water
sugar, to taste
1 cinnamon stick
3 Tbsp potato starch or cornstarch/cornflour

Wash the raisins and soak in a bowl of boiled water overnight (the latter is not absolutely necessary, but it shortens the cooking period).
Place raisins and water into a saucepan and bring into a boil. Season with sugar (careful here, as raisins are naturally sweet), throw in a cinnamon stick.
Simmer on a medium heat until raisins are all plump and softened.
Mix the starch with some cold water and pour into the raisin soup, whisking constantly to avoid clumps. If using potato starch, remove the saucepan from the heat the moment it starts to bubble lightly again. If using corn starch/cornflour, bring into a boil and simmer for couple of minutes.
Pour into dessert bowls and sprinkle some sugar on top.

Serve with whipped cream, curd/farmer's cheese cream or softened vanilla ice cream.