Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Roasted quinces with lemon and vanilla

Roasted quinces / Röstitud küdooniad

I'm trying to become a better food photographer. A wise Estonian foodblogger once told me that in order to improve my photos I should take time and study carefully the pictures I like and try to replicate them - and that's what I'm doing here. Zapxpxau is definitely one of the most talented food photographers here in Estonia (note that Zapxpxau is her Flickr user name, not her real Estonian name :) and this gorgeous roasted quince photo appeared on her Flickr-stream couple of days ago. Lovely, I thought..

I was trying to sort out my kitchen counter yesterday, and when I saw three lonely quinces just sitting there, forlorn and slightly wrinkled after weeks in that corner, I remembered Zapxpxau's quince photo. I studied it, read the recipe and made the dessert. I'm pretty familiar with quinces - I've even shared a recipe with you - so I knew the dessert would taste wonderful and smell amazing (quinces must be one of the most aromatic fruits out there). However, the picture part was still missing. It was 6 pm and the light conditions were quickly getting worse (the falling late March snow didn't really help, either). On top of that, when rummaging through our cutlery cupboards I realised that I didn't have a suitable dish for plating the lovely roasted quinces. Luckily, my dear K. was still at work, so I quickly sent him to a department store, explaining vaguely what I was looking for. He found just the thing I needed - bless him.

So early this morning, when my dear K. was at work, our 2-year old daughter at the nursery and our 2-month old son having one of his many naps, I went ahead and took this photograph.

Thank you, Zapxpxau (for the inspiration and the recipe) and Eva (for the tip). Oh, and K. for that plate :)

Roasted quinces with lemon and vanilla
(Röstitud küdooniad)
Serves three to four

2 to 3 ripe quinces
about 500 ml (2 cups) of water
100 g caster sugar
2 organic unwaxed lemons
1 vanilla pod

Heat the oven to 180 C.
Peel the quinces, cut them into two halves and remove the core (be careful - raw quinces are pretty hard!)
Fit the quince halves into a deep oven dish, snugly next to one another.
Pour over the water, freshly squeezed lemon juice and grated lemon zest. Halve the vanilla pod lengthwise, fit the halves between the quinces. (There should be about an inch of water in the dish - add more, if necessary).
Cover the dish with a piece of foil.
Roast the quinces in a pre-heated 180C/350F oven for about 2 hours, turning the quinces around about half way through the baking time.
The dessert is ready when the quinces are cooked and dark orange-red.
Cool a little before serving.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Georgian Recipes: Chicken in Walnut Sauce or Chicken Satsivi

Chicken satsivi / Kana satsivi

Melissa of The Traveler's Lunchbox posted a recipe for Georgian spinach pkhali last week and I got an immense craving for Georgian dishes again. I've been cooking quite a few of them for various reasons - there were some Georgian cooking classes I gave back in 2008 and 2009, there have been Georgian midweek feasts at our home, there are recipes to re-test and re-write for yet another cookbook project ;) But apparently while I've been cooking all those delicious Georgian dishes, I've failed to share the recipes with you, dear readers. I'll try to rectify that shortcoming a.s.a.p., starting as of today. To start with (and that is a 6th Georgian recipe @ Nami-Nami), I'll give you a recipe for a really lovely and unusual chicken dish.

Georgians love walnuts - they are one of the few people who use walnuts as a main ingredient in the kitchen, not just as a garnish here and there - and they do that pretty much on a daily basis. One of the most well-known and popular uses for walnuts is in satsivi sauce, which can be served with chicken, fish and vegetables (aubergine/eggplant satsivi is another very popular dish). There is no one recipe for satsivi - apparently there are at least 20 different versions - and that does not count the secret versions of all individual Georgian cooks! The name 'satsivi' comes from the Georgian word 'tsivi', meaning 'cold/cool' - and it illustrates the fact that a warm satsivi sauce is spooned over a cooked chicken and left to cool and marinate the chicken. Because of that, it's strictly a cold-weather dish. Nobody would pour hot sauce over cold chicken and leave it like that on a hot summer day - it's a health hazard. For hot summer days there are other chicken and walnut dishes (you'll find a recipe both for katmis bazhe and chkmeruli in Darra Goldstein's  Georgian cookbook). If you're interested in the fish satsivi, look out for it in Claudia Roden's excellent book on Jewish cuisine.

Trust me - it's a lot easier to make than it sounds - and the end result is totally worth it!

Georgian Chicken in Walnut Sauce
(Kana-satsivi ehk Gruusia-pärane kana kreeka pähkli kastmes)
Serves six to eight

1 large free-range chicken
1 onion, peeled
2 bay leaves
some parsley stalks
about 1.5 litres of water

3 Tbsp sunflower oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
250 g walnuts
6 garlic cloves
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground cloves
1.5 tsp ground coriander seeds
2 tsp dried marigold leaves
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika powder
0.5 to 1 tsp Cayenne'i pepper or chilli flakes
a pinch of dried savory
0.5 to 1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp white wine or cider vinegar

about 1 litre chicken stock

Heat the oven to 200 C/400 F.
Place the chicken into a saucepan, pour over enough water to cover. Bring into a boil, removing all the froth that appeares on the surface. Then add the peeled onion, bay leaves and some salt. Reduce heat and simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the saucepan and place onto a deep oven dish, "face down". Add half a cup of boiling liquid. Roast in the middle of a 200C/400F oven for about 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.

Then you've got two options. Traditionally the chicken is cut into about 8-10 pieces and these are arranged on a serving tray. I've served this dish to a larger group of people and then it's more convenient (for the eaters, that is) to remove the flesh from the bones and cut into large bite-sized pieces, like this:

Making chicken satsivi / Kana satsivi tegemine

While the chicken is cooking in the oven, you should

1) Reduce the chicken stock - you'll need about 1 litre

2) Prepare the satsivi-sauce:

Chop the walnuts and garlic cloves in the food processor - you'll want small crumbs, but not a powder!!
Heat oil on a heavy frying pan. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 7-8 minutes.
Add the walnut mixture and fry, stirring all the time, for 3-4 minutes.
Return it all to the food processor and process into a thick coarse paste.
Now - return it to the pan again and add all the seasoning (except wine vinegar):

Making chicken satsivi / Kana satsivi tegemine

Fry for a few minutes, stirring carefully. Now start adding the chicken stock, ladleful at the time (you may not need all the stock - it depends on the thickness of your walnut paste - I've used anything from 3 to 4 cups). Let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes over a low heat, until it thickens.
Season with wine vinegar and again with some salt and pepper, if necessary.

Pour the satsivi sauce over the chicken pieces and let cool to room temperature. Serve at room temperature, garnish with pomegranate seeds or parsley or cilantro leaves.

Chicken satsivi / Kana satsivi

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meatless Monday: Pasta with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms

Blue cheese and mushroom pasta / Seene-hallitusjuustukaste makaronidele

I know the picture isn't the most appetising (it was taken few weeks ago late at night), and I will change it as soon as I make this dish again. But it's time for another Meatless Monday post and this simple pasta dish has been my to-go-supper ever since I was a postgraduate student in Edinburgh (read: for ages :)) My favourite mushrooms for this are fresh shiitake mushrooms - I love their slightly chewy texture. However, as these are almost impossible to source in Estonia, I've been making this with simple cultivated mushrooms (called šampinjonid in Estonian) instead.

The creamy blue cheese and mushroom sauce is actually pretty versatile. I've served it also with simple fried fish, meatballs as well as steamed vegetables.

Pasta with Blue Cheese and Mushrooms
Serves 4

400 g dried pasta

200-250 g fresh mushrooms (about half a litre/2 cups) - f.ex. shiitake, oyster, crimini, white cultivated
1 medium onion
2 Tbsp butter or oil
100-200 ml single cream
100-150 g crumbled blue cheese (Valio Aura, Dolcelatte etc)
freshly ground black pepper
finely chopped fresh parsley

Cook pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet.

To make the sauce, clean mushrooms and chop into halves or quarters or larger pieces, depending on the size. Peel and finely chop the onion.
Put mushrooms on a heavy pan and fry gently, until the "mushroom juices" evaporate.
Add the butter or oil as well as onion and fry for a few minutes, until the onion begins to soften.
Add the cream and heat until bubbling. Now add the cheese and stir until it's melted. Season to taste, stir in the parsley.
Drain the cooked pasta, and stir in the sauce.
Serve at once.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Taleggio cheese and onion tart

Taleggio and onion tart / Taleggio juustuga sibulapirukas

Are you familiar with the Italian Taleggio cheese? Originally made in and named for Val Taleggio near the Swiss-Italian border, this soft cow's milk cheese has been described as

'a  mild stinky cheese, with a whiff of steamed broccoli, almonds and humid cellars' :D

There's a detailed blog post about Taleggio written by David Clark here. It's a beautifully melting cheese that's especially wonderful in various pies and tarts and quiches. I've used it quite often in my cooking, though never blogged about it before (however, there's a recipe for wild mushroom and Taleggio pie in my first cookbook). There are quite a few foodbloggers who have written about it, so you should not have any troubles finding recipes if you're interested (do try Anne's risotto with Taleggio, it's delicious!)

The recipe below is inspired by the British author Nigel Slater, but I've modified the quantities.

Taleggio and onion tart
(Sibulapirukas Taleggio juustuga)
Serves six

6 medium sized onions (or 2 huge salad onions)
50 g butter
500 g (yeasted) puff pastry
200 g Taleggion cheese
handful of fresh thyme

Peel the onions and cut into thin slices. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan, add onions and sauté over low heat for about half an hour, until onions are soft and silky and sticky.
Roll out the puff pastry to fit a small deep baking sheet (mine was 25x34 cm). Using a sharp knife, make an insertion about 2 cm from the edge of the pastry.
Spread the soft and sticky onions over the pastry, leaving the edges clean. Use the onion-flavour pan liquid to brush the pastry edges.
Cut the cheese into slices, dot over the onion filling. Sprinkle some thyme leaves on top.
Bake in a pre-heated 220 C oven for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden, and the onions are nicely golden brown.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Simple delights: an avocado on rye bread

Avocado on rye bread / Avokaadovõileib

If you've been blogging about food for long enough (say for 5 years minimum), you may remember the I LOVE CHEESE SANDWICH campaign back in February 2006 (I contributed this beetroot and goat cheese toast). Somehow I remembered that blog event earlier today, and this inspired me to post a photo of one of my recent favourite quick snacks - an avocado open sandwich. All you need is a slice or two of homemade naturally leavened rye bread, a spreading of butter, a creamy Hass avocado and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt flakes.

Bliss, I say...

What's your favourite snack in a hurry?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meatless Monday: Chickpea and Tomato Soup with Pimentón

Chickpea, pimentón and tomato soup / Tomati-kikerhernesupp, kergelt suitsune

I needed to look up some Portuguese recipes for a friend last weekend and obviously I turned to the very helpful Leite's Culinaria website. I did find the recipes I was looking for, plus a lot more. One of them was this simple, yet delicious soup recipe, originally from Tamasin Day-Lewis's book "Supper for a Song: Creative Comfort Food for the Resourceful Cook". I've adapted the recipe a little to suit our tastes, and we'll be definitely making this again. Puréeing some of the chickpeas/garbanzos to thicken the soup was a neat idea, and you can add more or less pimentón (aka smoked paprika) depending on the freshness and strength of your paprika powder.

While it's filling, it's also gluten-free and vegan, so perfect recipe for a Meatless Monday.

Chickpea and Tomato Soup with Smoked Paprika
(Kikerherne-tomatisupp, kergelt suitsune)
Serves four

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
400 g can tinned chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
1 tsp Pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp tomato paste
400 g can chopped tomatoes
1 litre of hot vegetable stock/bouillon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
some parsley leaves, to serve

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, celery and rosemary and fry for a few minutes, until the aromatics are beginning to soften.
Add the chickpeas, smoked paprika, bay leaves, tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Give it a stir and bring into a boil.
Add the stock, season with salt and pepper and bring into a boil again. Then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves.
Using a hand-held/immersion blender, purée some of the soup, leaving some of the chickpeas whole.
Divide between warmed soup bowls, garnish with parsley and serve.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

North meets South: Lingonberry and Coconut Friands

Coconut & lingonberry friands

Friands again. I wrote about these dainty Australian cakes just a short time ago when posting a recipe for blueberry and lemon friands. This is the same basic recipe, but I wanted to use coconut this time and paired the pure white coconut with bright red lingonberries. The combination worked like a dream!
I am pretty sure that lingonberries - while widely available and used here in Estonia - are hard to come buy Down Under, so in a way it's a North-meets-South fusion recipe :)

Again, it's an excellent recipe for using up those egg whites, when you're tired of making meringues and mini-Pavlovas.

Coconut and Lingonberry Friands
Makes 8 regular-sized friands

100 g unsalted butter, melted
125 g icing sugar/confectioner's sugar
30 g plain flour/all-purpose flour (50 ml or 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp)
50 g finely ground almonds
50 g grated/desiccated coconut
3 medium-sized egg whites
a very generous handful of lingonberries

Preheat the oven to 200C. Generously butter eight non-stick friand or muffin tins.
Sift the icing sugar and flour into a bowl, add the almonds and mix.
Whisk the egg whites in another bowl until they form a light, floppy foam.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg whites, then lightly stir in the butter to form a soft batter.
Divide the batter among the tins. Sprinkle some berries (I used about a tablespoon for each) and flaked coconut over each cake.
Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 200 C oven for about 20 minutes, until just firm to the touch and golden brown on top.
Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack. To serve, sprinkle with more coconut

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Estonian zucchini and cheese soup

Courgette and smoked cheese soup / Suvikõrvitsa-suitsujuustusupp

Being one of the very few English-language blogs that focus on Estonian food (among other things), I tend to get quite a few emails with Estonian recipe requests or more general enquiries about Estonian food. Usually they are from people who have visited Estonia and tasted something they liked (KAMA!!!), and are now looking to recreate the dish at home. There are also quite a few expat Estonians writing to ask about dishes their grandmother used to make them in the US/Australia/etc when they were younger. Or people whose fiancée, husband, wife, adopted child, neighbour or best friend is of Estonian heritage and they'd love to make them something from Estonian culinary repertoire to surprise the given fiancée, husband, wife, adopted child, neighbour or best friend. I love those letters!

Here's an email I got last August:


I was just searching for Estonian Cheese Soup after hearing it mentioned in this story on NPR. Surprisingly, I couldn't find anything about it, but it brought me to your website and I just spent an hour going through it's great pictures and recipes. Great site!

Do you have any idea on what soup that may be? I'd love to whip one up.

Keep up the great work and thanks in advance for any help or leads you have for me.

Gavin G.

Estonian cheese soup? I was baffled. I wasn't entirely sure there is such a thing. Sure, we make various soups with addition of cheese. I've blogged about a simple goat cheese and beet soup and creamy fish soup that both have some cheese in it. However, there's nothing particularly Estonian about these two soups. So I asked around and it turns out that I'm a lousy pub-goer. You see, many Estonian pubs serve something called cheese soup (juustusupp), apparently. And as I'm more of a café-chick than a pub-girl, I had no idea.

Basically, these are simple soups that have been enriched with either cheese spread (sulatatud juust) or smoked cheese (suitsujuust). Back in August, when I was trying to come up with a soup recipe for Gavin, I made this courgette/zucchini soup with smoked cheese (the type of smoked cheese we use in Estonia looks like this:
It weighs 280 g and contains 18% milk fats) and is nowadays produced by Tere AS.

I hope you'll enjoy this, Gavin!

Courgette and Smoked Cheese Soup, Estonian style
Serves four

Zucchini and smoked cheese soup / Suvikõrvitsa-suitsujuustusupp

a dash of olive oil
1 onion
1 large potato
1 medium green zucchini/courgette
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
280 g smoked cheese (preferably Estonian)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
parsley and croutons, to serve

Peel the onion and potato, chop finely and sauté in some oil for a few minutes. When the potato is slightly golden, then add chopped-up zucchini/courgette (no need to peel). Heat for a few minutes, stirring every now and then.
Add the hot stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to the simmer and let it bubble until the vegetables are soft.
Blend until smooth, adding the chunks of smoked cheese to the soup while doing this.
Re-heat gently, season to taste.
Garnish with crispy bread croutons and a parsley leaf.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pickled beets and blue cheese quiche

Beetroot quiche with blue cheese / Peedi-sinihallitusjuustupirukas

Have you got a glass of pickled beets lurking in the back of your fridge? If yes, then you could use them for making this colourful and lovely quiche. The otherwise sweet beets have quite a piquant flavour when pickled, and that works well with the saltiness of the blue cheese. I used Valio AURA, one of my favourite blue cheese (made in Finland), but it will work with any other crumbly blue cheese, too..

Beetroot quiche with blue cheese
(Pirukas marineeritud peedi ja sinihallitusjuustuga)
Serves six to eight
Adapted from Valio, Finland

Beetroot quiche with blue cheese / Peedi-sinihallitusjuustupirukas

Pie crust:
100 g butter, at room temperature
150 g all-purpose flour (one cup)
a pinch of salt
2 Tbsp cold water

250 g pickled beets, drained and sliced
200 ml single cream
2 eggs
0.25 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried basil or 1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
150 g blue cheese (Valio Aura)

Mix butter, salt and flour, then add the water and mix until a dough ball forms. Press onto a 24 cm pie dish, and place into the fridge to rest. (If you wish, blind bake for 10 minutes at 200 c/400 F).
Mix all the filling ingredients, pour onto the (pre-baked) pie shell.
Bake at 200 C/400 F for about 30 minutes, until the filling is set and the top is golden.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Honey Granola Recipe - simple, but delicious

Honey granola / Röstitud meemüsli

I've been making my own granola for years now, using different recipes so we wouldn't get tired of this specific breakfast staple. I've made malted granola, chocolate granola, rye granola, honey granola - to name just a few. However, I've just realised that I've only shared one of the recipes with you - malted granola - back in January 2009.

Here's another recipe - slightly simpler than the malted granola one, using honey as a sweetener. I like this one with just raisins, but feel free to add your choice of chopped dried fruits to the granola at the end.

Honey Granola Recipe
(Lihtne mesine granola)

250 g old-fashioned oats (about 3 cups)
100 g almond slices
8 Tbsp runny honey
4 Tbsp neutral oil
4 Tbsp water
raisins or currants (optional)

Mix oats and almonds on a large baking sheet. Mix honey and oil in a small bowl, then add water and stir again. Pour the liquid mixture over the oats and mix until everything is well combined.
Roast in a pre-heated 150 C / 300 F oven for about 30 minutes, shaking the pan every now and then, until the oats are golden and slightly crispy (they crisp up even more when cooling down).
Remove from the oven and cool. Fold in the raisins.
Keep in an airtight container.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Chocolate lenten buns (semlor recipe)

Chocolate Semlor / Chocolate Lenten Buns / Tõmmud vastlakuklid

Today is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday in many parts of the world, but Estonians and Scandinavians are celebrating lenten bun day or semla day instead. I've been baking my own semla buns for umpteen years now and even shared two of the recipes with you - perfect simple buns and decadent lenten buns with marzipan and raspberries. I've just finished baking a batch of the former and will be stuffing them with lots of creme chantilly once the buns are cool enough. Cannot wait to devour them!!!

However, last year I also tried dark lenten buns, inspired by a recipe in a Finnish food magazine Ruokamaailma. There's chocolate everywhere - in the yeast dough, in the whipped cream, in the marzipan filling, so if you're into chocolate, you'll love this. I'd happily make them again (photos here are from February 2010), but I think I'd skip the marzipan-chocolate filling step completely.

Chocolate semlor recipe
(Tõmmud vastlakuklid)
Makes about 16 buns

Chocolate Semlor / Chocolate Lenten Buns / Tõmmud vastlakuklid

Dark yeast dough:
350 g plain/all-purpose flour
50 g caster sugar
0.5 tsp fine salt
35 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder (75 ml/5 Tbsp)
one sachet of fast-acting instant yeast
75 g butter, softened
250 ml lukewarm milk (one cup)
egg, for brushing

Filling (optional):
50 g dark chocolate
75 g marzipan

Cocoa Creme Chantilly:
200 ml whipping cream
1 Tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 Tbsp caster sugar

icing sugar/confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Mix flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt and dry yeast in a large bowl. Add the butter and using your fingers, work it into the flour mixture.
Pour in the milk and work the mixture into a nice yeast dough that doesn't stick to your hands and the bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen cloth or clingfilm and place into a warm and draught-free place to rise. Leave until doubled in size:

Chocolate Semlor / Chocolate Lenten Buns / Tõmmud vastlakuklid

Knead the dough lightly, then roll into a large 'sausage' and divide into about 16 equal-sized chunks:

Chocolate Semlor / Chocolate Lenten Buns / Tõmmud vastlakuklid

Roll into small round balls, place onto a cooking sheet and leave to rise for another 15 minutes.

Chocolate Semlor / Chocolate Lenten Buns / Tõmmud vastlakuklid

Now brush with a beaten egg wash and bake in a preheated 220 C/430 F oven for about 15 minutes, until the buns are nicely cooked. Transfer onto a metal rack to cool, and cover with a kitchen towel (this keeps the buns soft and moist).

Chocolate Semlor / Chocolate Lenten Buns / Tõmmud vastlakuklid

Cut a top off each lenten bun.

If you are making the marzipan and chocolate filling, then scoop out about a heaped teaspoonful of the bun. Melt the chocolate, add finely chopped marzipan and the scooped-out bun parts and combine. Distribute the mixture into the hollowed-out parts of the buns.

Chocolate Semlor / Chocolate Lenten Buns / Tõmmud vastlakuklid

Combine sugar and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl. Add the cream and whisk until thick and fluffy. Spoon onto the filled buns and top with the cut-off slices of buns. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Blueberry and Lemon Friands

Lemon blueberry friands / Sidruni-mustikafriandid

Ever heard of friands? These are the Australian "cousin" of the famous French financiers, the little moist egg-white cakes. Both are excellent for using up all those egg whites in the kitchen if you're tired of making Pavlovas and meringues! There are some differences, however. Whereas the financiers tend to use browned butter and are plain, the friands are made with melted butter and usually with the addition of fruit or berries. Another difference is the shape - the financiers are (traditionally) baked in oblong rectangular forms (to look like gold bars, apparently), the friands are usually baked in small oval tins (though you can use regular muffin tins or even tiny fluted tins like this talented Estonian food photographer did). Dorie Greenspan has written more about those two pastries.

I've adapted a recipe from BBC Good Food magazine. Note that I used ground whole almonds - hence the slightly darker colour of the cakes. The texture has more, well, bite to it as well, but you can obviously also use ground blanched almonds.

Blueberry and Lemon Friands
(Mustika ja sidruni friandid)
Makes 8 friands, suitable for freezing

Blueberry lemon friands / Mustika-sidrunifriandid

100 g unsalted butter, melted
125 g icing sugar/confectioner's sugar
30 g plain flour/all-purpose flour (50 ml or 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp)
80 g finely ground almonds
3 medium-sized egg whites
finely grated zest of one lemon
a generous handful of blueberries or bilberries

Preheat the oven to 200C. Generously butter eight non-stick friand or muffin tins.
Sift the icing sugar and flour into a bowl, add the almonds and mix.
Whisk the egg whites in another bowl until they form a light, floppy foam.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg whites and lemon rind, then lightly stir in the butter to form a soft batter.
Divide the batter among the tins. Sprinkle some berries over each cake.
Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 200 C oven for about 20 minutes, until just firm to the touch and golden brown on top.
Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack. To serve, dust lightly with icing sugar.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Savoury cream cheese balls with spiced sprats

Sprat and cream cheese delights / Elise vürtsikilupallid

Wait, I know what you're thinking! Those kama and mascarpone truffles again? Nope. I know they look similar, but today I'm blogging about little savoury delights I've adapted from an Estonian foodblogger Elis. Last Thursday the Republic of Estonia celebrated its 93rd anniversary and some of my girlfriends came over to celebrate the occasion - and also say hello to our little baby boy. When trying to think of Estonian nibbles to serve, I came across Elis' recipe for sprat and cream cheese balls and was sold at once. It's a play on a popular rye bread and sprat canapé, and I knew that my guests would love them. I was right - these went down a storm. I used slightly more cream cheese than in the original recipe.

I must warn you - unless you live in Estonia and have easy access to rye bread and spicy sprats ('vürtsikilu'), you won't be able to make it (though you can follow this recipe and make the spiced sprats yourself). But this might inspire you to try making something similar with anchovies or similar product that's more readily available in your part of the world.

Savory cream cheese balls with spiced sprats

Makes about 20

100 g spiced sprats filets, finely chopped
150 g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg, hard-boiled, peeled and finely chopped
3 Tbsp scallions/green onions, finely chopped
grated rye bread

Mix all ingredients (except rye bread) until combined (I used a wooden spoon, but food processor would work as well). Cover the mixture with a clingfilm and place into the fridge for 30 minutes.
Take small amounts of the cream cheese mixture and roll into small balls between your palms.
Roll in grated rye bread and place onto a serving platter.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Estonian Soda Bread Recipe

Estonian Soda Bread / Odrajahu-hapupiimakarask

If you think you've already seen a recipe for Estonian soda bread here @ Nami-Nami, then you're not mistaken - I indeed blogged about it some three years ago. However, that recipe was with ricotta/curd cheese, and this one uses kefir or cultured buttermilk. There isn't such a huge taste difference - and they're both quick to make and delicious to eat. Caraway seeds are a traditional flavouring, but if you're not keen on that spice, you can leave it out.

It's best served warm - I usually devour it with some butter and honey (see photo above) or lingonberry jam.

The original recipe is from an Estonian cult baking book, Ida Savi's "Saiad, pirukad, koogid" (1989). I haven't changed it, really, as if it ain't broke, don't fix it :)

Estonian Soda Bread

a 23x23 cm square tin, buttered

250 ml cultured buttermilk, kefir or fermented milk (1 cup)
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
1 tsp caraway seeds
175 g barley flour (about 300 ml, I used wholemeal)
90 g wheat flour (150 ml)
1 tsp baking soda

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F.
Sift both flours and soda into a bowl.
Whisk the egg with salt and sugar, add the kefir, oil/melted butter, caraway seeds and the flour mix. Stir until just combined.
Pour into a buttered tin and bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the soda bread is golden brown on top.