Friday, December 31, 2010

Culinary overview of 2010

Inspired by similar posts by Alanna and Anne.

JANUARY 2010

Poulet aux quarante gousses d'ail / Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic / Kana 40 küüslauguküünega

I blogged about many of my favourite dishes back in January - chicken with 40 gloves of garlic (photo above) and dulce de membrillo and coconut & beetroot soup, to name just a few. Our beautiful daughter Nora Adeele turned one, and we celebrated it with marzipan-topped Princess cake.

FEBRUARY 2010

Cream cheese with beetroot and horseradish / Peedi-toorjuustukreem mädarõikaga

Favourite recipes back in February were colorful quinoa salad with lobster tails and avocado, cream cheese spread with horseradish and beetroot (photo above), yummy chocolate muffins, decadent Lenten buns with raspberries, Hummingbird's raspberry cheesecake brownie. It was a loooong, cold and snowy month, hence the number of baked cakes :P

MARCH 2010

Easter paskha / Pasha (2009, nr 3)

In March I loved the caramelised rye bread ice cream and ate lots of Georgian food (incl. fried Suluguni cheese and egg and walnut salad). Anticipating the Easter, the month ended with another lovely pashka recipe (photo above).

Davos, Switzerland

At the end of the month we spent a week in Davos, Switzerland. Unfortunately I was down with a nasty cold most of the time, so I missed many of the culinary delights on offer. I did manage to try some spätzle and raclette, of course, as well as some of the local cakes.

APRIL 2010

Easter eggs / Lihavõttemunad

The highlight of the month was our traditional Easter brunch. As the cold and snow melted away, I fell in love with light salads again. I loved the quinoa salad with beetroot and fennel, Ottolenghi's cucumber salad with poppyseeds. I've made the Georgian spiced and creamy mushrooms on several occasions - and it's been a great hit with Estonian foodbloggers as well ;)

For my birthday at the end of the month I made three different birthday cakes, including my usual mocca cake and the popular Brita cake.

Last, but not least - in April we got four new pets, called Evita, Carol, Daisy and Madame Fifi. Here are the first three (a pure or mixed Araucanas):

Evita, Carol, Daisy

and here's Madame Fifi (a French Marans) posing in front of their cool bright orange Eglu:

Madame Fifi

(And they do belong to the culinary overview of the year, as these lovely chicken have been providing us with free-range eggs that come with a dark yellow yolk and are hidden inside a beautiful pale blue or olive green egg shell :))

MAY 2010

Rhubarb tarts /Rabarbrikoogid

In May I shared more lighter recipes - gnocchi Puttanesca, wild garlic tzatziki, chickpea and tuna salad. Oh, and I provided some ideas for Estonian snacks to help you host an Eurovision fan party - the idea came to me after several e-mail requests for such post :)

JUNE 2010

Supelsaksad, Pärnu

As the summer season began, I blogged about a new cool café in Pärnu, the "summer capital" of Estonia (one of their popular cakes is pictured above). We loved the cooked whole fish under a salt-crust, and Ottolenghi's roasted eggplant/aubergine with saffron yogurt. The Italian tonnato mayonnaise was a frequent dish on our table during the summer, and the Estonian pork shashlik was a must-try on our Midsummer table.

We also celebrated Nami-Nami's 5th birthday, asking you to name your favorite recipes on the blog. You gave fantastic feedback, thank you!

JULY 2010

Kama with berries / Kama marjadega

July was hot! hot! hot! I almost stopped cooking during the month, as the temperatures were simply too high for a Northern girl like me :D I did blog about grilled chicken liver with sherry and honey marinade, and then moved on to pretty much uncooked dishes. Cottage cheese and egg salad, Danish sweet buttermilk soup with summer berries, watermelon salad, cold beetroot soup, harissa-spiked hummus.

And of course, as any other true Estonian, I ate lots of kama with local wild and cultivated berries (photo above) :)

We also took a daytrip to Helsinki, visiting Café Stringberg for a coffee (our little must-do in Helsinki) and having lunch at one of the hottest eateries in town, Juuri (they're famous for their Finnish tapas, sapas, but these weren't served during lunch-time, unfortunately):

Juuri, Helsinki

AUGUST 2010

Our beets / Meie oma aia peedid

I August we really reaped the benefits of our vegetable garden. Just look at the beets we harvested (above), coming in all shapes and colours!!! Favourite recipes back in August were this tomato salad (we had LOADS of tomatoes as well), oven-baked zucchini/courgettes and tomatoes with feta cheese, cherry and plum compote (our orchard is too young to pick our own stone fruit just yet, but soon, hopefully). We had some friends over for the first ever Nami-Nami tomato tasting party (photo below; hopefully this will become an annual tradition):

Tomato tasting party / Tomatite degusteerimine

It was an exceptionally good year for wild mushrooms in Estonia this year, and we ate lots of them, of course! If I get hold of some black trumpet mushrooms again next year, I'll be definitely making this black trumpet chantarelle salad again - loved the flavour and the bite! I also shared a recipe for lovely simple scones and Snickerdoodle cookies.

SEPTEMBER 2010

September was eventful. In the beginning of the month we spent over a week in Germany and France (with a short detour to Switzerland), attending our friend Margit's wedding in Köln. Of course we sampled lots of culinary delights on the trip, most memorable being maultaschen in Heidelberg:

Maultaschen @ Heidelberg

a proper Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte in a Bizenberger family café in the Schwarzwald area of Germany:

Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte

The traditional and the more modern porcini & parmesan cheese flammeküche at L'auberge Saint-Martin in Kinzberg.

Flammeküche

And last, but not least - a trip to the famous Bernard Antony, Eleveur de Fromages in Vieux-Ferrette was all worth it!

Bernard Antony, cheesemonger

Back home, things were getting exciting, too. Our daughter began attending a small local nursery (luckily, she loves it!), I went back to work after a long maternity leave. We had another tasting party at home, this time getting to know the infamous Swedish "delicacy", surströmming (an event that's NOT going to be repeated any time soon).

Surstömming party 2010

The garden was still providing us with excellent vegetables - like these beautiful eggplants/aubergines. My favourite recipe back in September was definitely this super-easy but very flavourful cauliflower cheese with lots of mustard.

OCTOBER 2010

Coconut dhal with crispy onions / Kookospiima-dhal krõbedate sibulatega

October was a good month for good recipes, if I may say so. The American apple pie, pumpkin scones, the Dutch apple cake and this coconut dhal (above) are all worth repeating again and again.

NOVEMBER 2010

Brunsviger / Danish sugar cake / Taani pärmitaina-suhkrukook

As the nights got darker and days shorter, I began cooking more substantial meals again. I loved this roasted cauliflower with bacon and garlic (thank you, Jaden, for inspiration!), the beet and blue cheese risotto, the Danish brunsviger cake (photo above). I also posted a recipe for a Latvian dish, Kurzeme stroganoff, that hopefully many of you will try.

I took my dear K. for a special birthday dinner at Bordoo, the new restaurant of one my favourite chefs, Tõnis Siigur. The 6-course tasting menu was nothing less than spectacular and I'm looking forward to going again a.s.a.p.

DECEMBER 2010

Nami-Nami kokaraamat (nami-nami cookbook)

The last month of the year just flew by. On December 1st, my first cookbook (photo above) hit the bookshelves here in Estonia, and we had a lovely book launch party that evening (the book has been doing pretty well, thank you for asking ;)). I spoke in several radio channels during December (KUKU, R2, Vikerraadio), and the Estonian print media (and bloggers!) have been very generously reviewing and covering the cookbook as well. I feel so honoured and blessed! (Again - a HUGE thank you to dear Ximena for making the book look so special and beautiful!).

Although December has been very much centered around the cookbook, I did manage to attend a special dinner at NEH and a foodbloggers' lunch at CHEDI (serving excellent modern Asian food), visited the brand new (and very cool!) Sadama turg (Harbour market) and even blog about some dishes (these cheese popovers and soft gingerbread cakei are especially recommended.

We hosted a Christmas Eve dinner to our families again (food was pretty traditional, too). And on the Christmas day we got home two new chickens - a blue and black Orpington (still nameless; these two are to keep Evita and Carol some company over the winter).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Raspberry and Mascarpone Fluff

Raspberry and mascarpone fluff / Marja-mascarponevaht

I know, I know - what am I thinking about posting a recipe for summer fruit dessert in the middle of the Christmas season?? You see, I craved a fruity dessert the other day, and came across this recipe for a blackberry fluff in the October 2006 issue of the British food magazine Olive. Unfortunately, neither one of the two nearby grocery stores had frozen blackberries that day, so I had to settle for frozen Estonian raspberries instead. Not a bad choice, I think - they're still tart and sweet at the same time, plus I love the colour.

Note that the dessert has much more character when it's been given a few hours' rest in the fridge - you can taste the mascarpone again then. I didn't bother to sieve the fruit pulp, but please do, if you think the small seeds will bother you.

Supereasy and rather nice.

Raspberry and Mascarpone Fluff
(Marja-mascarponevaht)
Serves six to eight

300 g frozen raspberries
1 Tbsp sugar
250 g mascarpone, at room temperature
200 ml whipping cream (35% fat content)
1 tsp vanilla sugar or extract

Heat the berries (keeping a few aside for decorating) gently with the sugar for a couple of minutes or until they give off juice. Whizz in a food processor until smooth, then push through a fine sieve, if you want to get rid of the seeds. Cool.
Beat the mascarpone with a spoon until it is softened, then fold in the berry purée and the vanilla extract. Loosely whip the cream and fold it in.
Spoon into small dessert bowls, decorate with extra berries. Place in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pehme piparkook or Soft Gingerbread Cake - one of my favourite Christmas cakes

Christmas cake / Pehme piparkook

I've been making this very cake for Christmas for about 6-7 years now, and it's still one of the favourites with friends and family. I made it again for a friend's birthday party last weekend, tuning the recipe a bit - reducing the amount of sugar (you could use even less, I bet), and replacing melted butter with mild-tasting oil in the batter.

There are two things to keep in mind. First, the cake is eggless (so suitable for people with egg allergies!) and the raising agent is baking soda/bicarbonate of soda. As with other similar batters, it's important to bake the cake straight away after mixing the batter - the baking soda starts to react with acid in the batter (kefir in this case) within 15-20 minutes, and if you don't bake the cake during that time, you'll end up with a very flat christmas cake :( Secondly, you could use a much larger cake sheet, but i like this in the specified size - the cake will be about 4 cm in height, which is good for me.

Soft Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
(Pehme piparkook toorjuustuglasuuriga)

Makes a large cake that'll easily feed about 20

400 g plain flour
300 g caster sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt
500 ml (2 cups) kefir or cultured buttermilk
150 g lingonberry jam (IKEA stocks some)
100 g rapeseed oil or light olive oil

Cream cheese frosting:
200 g plain cream cheese, at room temperature
50 g unsalted butter, softened
150 g icing sugar/confectioner's sugar

Decorating:
lingonberries or cranberries
hazelnuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 200 Celsius. Line a 25x30 cm cake tin with parchment paper (or simply butter it well).

Make the cake batter first. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine kefir, lingonberry jam and oil in a large measuring jug. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stir quickly so the batter comes together. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when pierced into the middle of the cake.
Let the cake cool completely (wrap in clingfilm if not decorating straight away).

For the frosting, combine the butter, cream cheese and icing sugar in a bowl - I use a wooden spoon for that, but you could also use an electric mixer. Spread the frosting over the cake.

Decorate with red berries and toasted hazelnuts or something else festive :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stewed red cabbage with prunes

Red cabbage with prunes / Hautatud punane kapsas ploomidega

Christmas is just around the corner, so I'll be focusing on various festive dishes for the next week or two. We'll definitely have some traditional roast pork with sauerkraut and black pudding for a couple of times. But we've got a big family and many festive meals ahead, so there's plenty of room to play. For the last few years we've also roasted a goose, and my favourite side dish to a goose is stewed red cabbage. Here's the way I've been making it couple of times now - and I love it. The prunes add a sweetness, orange juice some freshness and a good balsamico a lovely tang. And it's a light and virtually fat-free side dish - a great alternative to the usual rich Christmas fare.

Stewed red cabbage with prunes
(Hautatud punane kapsas ploomidega)
Serves eight

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, halved and sliced
1 kg red cabbage, shredded
250 g dried plums/prunes, halved
200 ml (just under a cup) of orange juice
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil on a large saucepan. Add onion and fry for a few minutes, until onion starts to soften.
Add the cabbage and sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the prunes, orange juice, balsamic vinegar. Season with salt.
Cover with a lid and simmer on a low heat for about an hour or so, stirring every now and then, until the cabbage has softened, but still retains some bite. (Check the liquid level at the end, and add some water, if it looks too dry).
Season to taste, and serve.

NB! You can prepare this a day or two in advance. Gently re-heat thoroughly before serving.

This recipe was also included in my second cookbook, Jõulud kodus ("Christmas at Home"), published in Estonian in November 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New York Times on Estonian Christmas Sausages

Yesterday's New York Times ran an article about making verivorst aka black pudding, the traditional Estonian Christmas sausage, in the Estonian House in New York. You can read the article here: Without Blood Sausage, It Just Wouldn’t Be Christmas.

Enjoy :)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Delicious cheese popovers

Cheesy popovers / Väikesed juustukohrud

Here's an easy and delightful popover recipe that I adapted from the September 2009 issue of The Gourmet - Mini Provolone popovers. These reminded me of gougerés, but the batter is even easier - not a choux pastry, but more like a Yorkshire pudding pastry. (Not that gougerés are difficult to do, but these were super-easy to throw together). Recommended! They're delightful as they are, but I can also imagine serving these alongside a simple soup instead of 'regular' bread rolls, and although these are best served hot, they'd disappear from a picnic basket or lunch box just as quickly.

I used a 24-cup mini-muffin pan, but you can also use a regular muffin pan, if you haven't got a mini one.

Mini cheese popovers
(Väikesed juustukohrud)
Makes 24 popovers

250 ml (1 cup) full-fat milk
2 large eggs
150 g plain flour (1 cup/250 ml)
1 Tbsp butter, melted
0.5 tsp salt
a pinch of black pepper
5 Tbsp coarsely grated strong cheese (I used Gouda)
2 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp finely chopped dill or chives

Whisk together milk, eggs, flour, melted butter, salt, and pepper until smooth, then stir in cheeses and herbs. Chill 1 hour to allow batter to rest. (NB! You can make the batter 1 day ahead and keep chilled).
Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F with rack in upper third.
Butter muffin pan with some extra butter, then heat in oven until butter sizzles, about 2 minutes.
Gently stir batter, then divide among muffin cups (they will be about two-thirds full).
Bake until puffed and golden-brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Pädaste moves to the city and becomes NEH



I've blogged about Pädaste, a luxurious manor house/boutique hotel on MUHU island, on Nami-Nami before - back in January 2007, when we spent a romantic winter night there. Since then I've been back for a quick visit couple of times on our way to Saaremaa. We also spent a very charming and delicious two days there back in August - sorry, never got around to blogging about it, but suffice to say that the food blew me away - it was extremely delicious and full of positive surprises.

However, the number of local and international tourists to MUHU island during the winter season drops considerably, and it's simply not financially viable to keep the manor house fully functional throughout the winter. So this season the chefs and staff of the Pädaste restaurant moved to the harbour area of the capital, Tallinn, and opened a charming little restaurant called NEH. They're placed in a little house on Lootsi 4, which also houses a small art gallery:


At the moment the house is surrounded and covered by snow and illuminated by fairylights - the winter came early this year:

NEH_frontal_Hires

K. and I were kindly invited to an opening dinner at NEH last Friday, where we had a chance to explore the venue, peek into the kitchen and enjoy a 4-course meal (amuse bouche, starter. main course and dessert) with matching drinks.

First, we had a chance to explore the ground floor, which has more of a casual feel:

NEH 1. korrus

then the first floor, which feels slightly more cosy and romantic:

NEH 2. korrus

and peek into the kitchen (NB! there's a chef's table for up to 5 guests just opposite the kitchen):

NEH köök

The meal we were served was delicious and we're certainly hoping to go again with friends very soon. For the first course we enjoyed a 62 C free-range egg with spiced Baltic sprats and salt-baked potatoes.


The main course was a meltingly soft veal's cheek with juniper-seasoned red cabbage and apple and celeriac cream:
IMG_6124

The dessert - a custard with bilberry compote, cookie crumbs and thyme ice cream - all very delicious (I especially liked the subtle herbal notes of the ice cream):
IMG_6158


(Apologies for not taking any pictures of the food - we were really enjoying chatting to the other couple at our table, Ede & Sten, and simply forgot about the pictures. The restaurant staff has generously allowed us to use some of their photos).


If you are in Tallinn and looking for a place to enjoy a romantic and delicious gourmet meal, then I'd definitely recommend paying NEH a visit. After all, they are only opened till March, when they move back to their real home on Muhu island :)

You can check out the menu options here (price excl. drinks are indicated):
lunch
dinner
Chef's table
Sunday brunch
drinks/wine list

NEH
Lootsi 4
10151 Tallinn
Estonia
T +372 60 22 222
E-mail: info@neh.ee

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Nami-Nami cookbook presentation



My first cookbook "Nami-Nami kokaraamat" finally hit the bookstores on Wednesday, December 1st. The official launch party took place in Rahva Raamat bookstore in Viru Keskus in Tallinn, and was a great success. There were lots of people (I signed books for a best part of an hour!) and although I was very stressed about the whole thing beforehand, I felt a great relief - and happiness - once the book was out and the launch party ended. Here's a little photo-review of the presentation.

A huge thank you to the team at VARRAK publishing house, to Heidi Park for the delicious fingerfood, to Põltsamaa Felix for providing the drinks and to all the friends, supporters and family who turned out and made me feel so special!

Krista Kaer kõneleb, taamal Mirjam ja Pille
Krista Kaer speaks on behalf of the publishers.

Ingrid Peek, my gorgeous and adorable cousin,
My cookbook on the bookshelves, with a gorgeous cover by über-talented Ximena Maier. (It's my cousin Ingrid, who helped to coordinate some of the PR, on the phone).

Põltsamaa Tõmmu 2002 Vintage
An extremely lovely fortified fruit wine, Põltsamaa Tõmmu Vintage 2002.

Heidi Park (www.kondiiter.ee)
The ever-charming Heidi Park, trained at the Culinary Institute of America and now baking fabulous cakes in Estonia (check out her website), did the catering for the party. She made three dishes from the cookbook plus her own famous brownies. Here are the edible goodies (click on the food photos for appropriate recipes, all three recipes are included in the cookbook as well):

Beetroot and blue cheese tarts / Peedi-sinihallitusjuustupirukad

Caffe latte muffins with cream cheese frosting / Kohvimuffinid toorjuustuglasuuriga

Snickerdoodles

Brownies
Heidi's famous brownies.

Autogrammitund
Me signing cookbooks.

Mann & Anu

Merle Liivak & Ingrid Peek oma saagiga :)
Some locals celebs with signed copies of my cookbook ;)