Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cardamom panna cotta with apricot and sea-buckthorn sauce

Cardamom pannacotta with apricot and sea-buckthorn topping / Kardemonine pannacotta aprikoosi-astelpajukompotiga

Panna cotta is a dessert that I actually make quite often, even if I've only blogged about it once (Vanilla panna cotta with roasted rhubarb, back in June 2008). It's a good classic Italian dessert that can be served with a number of various toppings and seasoned to your liking.

Here's a rather non-Italian version that is imminently suitable for the festive season. It has a hint of spice in the form of cardamom, and it's much lighter, as some of the cream has been substituted with kefir. Sea-buckthorn berries are one of the new superfoods, and hugely popular and easily available in Estonia. A word of warning - if you taste the panna cotta mixture before you let it set, it may feel too heavy on cardamom. Don't panic, however - the sweet and sour apricot and sea-buckthorn sauce will nicely balance it out.

I like my panna cotta to be on the wobbly side, as they're supposed to be, and I often serve them in a nice glass. If you want a firmer dessert that will hold its shape even after you've turned it onto a plate, you can use some more gelatine.

Cardamom panna cotta with apricot and sea-buckthorn sauce
(Kardemonine kooretarretis aprikoosi-astelpajulisandiga)
Adapted from the Swedish COOP-website
Serves 4

3 gelatine leaves
200 ml whipping cream
2 Tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
200 ml kefir

Topping:
100 ml (7 Tbsp) smooth apricot jam
100 ml (7 Tbsp) sea-buckthorn berries

Seak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.
Season the cream with ground cardamom, then slowly bring into a boil in a small saucepan. Cook for a few minutes, then remove from the heat and pour in the kefir. Give it a stir.
Squeeze the soaked gelatine leaves to remove excess water, then stir and melt into the cream and kefir mixture, one at a time.
Pour the mixture into individual glasses or ramekins and place into a fridge to set for at least 5 hours.
Before serving, heat the apricot jam gently in a small saucepan. Fold in the sea-buckthorn berries, heat through. Cool a little, then spoon some on top of each panna cotta.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Layered Vegetable Salad with Smoked Salmon

Layered smoked salmon salad / Suitsulõhega kasukas

"Kasukas" - "fur coat" - is a name for a layered vegetable salad that is very popular here in Estonia, especially during the cold and dark season. The salad has chopped cured herring as the bottom layer, topped with layers of grated or chopped beets, carrots, potatoes and other vegetables and "glued together" with thin layers of mayonnaise. The recipe - or rather an alternative way to serve the popular "rosolje" salad - came to Estonia from Russia in the second half of last century. In Russia "fur coat" aka "shuba" is still one of the most popular salads on the festive table (here's a lovely English-language blog post about the traditional "cured herring under fur coat"), and the un-layered "rosolli" is also a must on Finnish Christmas tables). Whereas I love beets, I dislike cured herring, so I tend to skip that salad on buffet tables. When making this at home, I'd usually make a double portion and divide the salad between two glass bowls - one with herring and the other without. Until I came across a version using smoked salmon in Natasha's Kitchen blog. That was about a year and a half ago, and since then I've made this salad over and over again and converted many kasukas-haters into kasukas-lovers.

Traditionally this salad is made and served in a big glass bowl that proudly shows off all the layers, and then it's spooned into serving plates (rather like a trifle). For a neater presentation, you may want to use individual glass bowls instead (see top photo). A note to my Estonian readers - I like making this with külmsuitsulõhe aka cold-smoked salmon (Pepe Kala makes a wonderful one!), rather than with kuumsuitsulõhe aka hot-smoked salmon.

Suitsulõhega kasukas

Layered Smoked Salmon and Vegetable Salad
(Suitsulõhega kasukas)
Serves about 6 to 8

Kasukas suitsulõhega

200 g smoked salmon
400 g potatoes
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
200 g cooked beetroot (roasted, steamed or boiled)
250 g carrots
about 300-400 g good-quality mayonnaise
2 eggs

Boil (unpeeled!) carrots and potatoes until soft, but not mushy. Drain, cool a little, then peel.
Hard-boil the eggs, then cool and peel.

To compose the salad:
1. Cut the salmon into small pieces and scatter evenly at the bottom of a 2-litre (approximately 2-quart) glass bowl.
2. Grate the potatoes coarsely, scatter over the salmon.
3. Scatter chopped onion over the potato layer.
4. Gently spread about half of the mayonnaise over the onion layer.
5. Grate the beetroot coarsely, scatter over the mayonnaise layer.
6. Grate the carrots coarsely, scatter over the beetroot layer.
7. Spread rest of the mayonnaise over the beetroot layer.
8. Finely grate the eggs, scatter over the mayonnaise layer.

NB! As the mayonnaise is seasoned already, there is no need to season any of the layers with salt and pepper!

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and put into the fridge for a few hours for the flavours to combine (and the beetroot colour to stain the other layers :)) The salad can be happily made on a previous day as well, as it keeps rather well.

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Celebrating New Year's Eve in Tallinn?!

This post is mainly for those food-oriented people in Tallinn who haven't yet decided where to celebrate New Year's Eve this year. Here are some alternatives worth considering - not paid ads, mind you, but events that some of my favourite establishments are throwing that I'd be happy to attend if I wouldn't be celebrating the New Year's Eve at home with my lovely K., our two adorable kids and some great friends.

What are your plans - in Tallinn or elsewhere - for the New Year's Eve? 


MOON ("Poppy" in Estonian) is a wonderful family-run restaurant just outside the city centre, in the outskirts of Kalamaja. It's run by the Zaštšerinski power-couple - he (Roman) is the head chef, she (Jana) is the hostess-sommelier, and they're assisted by another head chef, Roman's first cousin Igor Andrejev. They're inviting people to a 1920s inspired New Year's Eve party, with even more inspired menu and live music:


Warming welcome drink
Beetroot, cauliflower and whitefish roe "Martini"
Home-smoked eel, spicy carrots, herby brioche
Sauteéd lamb filet, mache, tomato and yoghurt
Pan-fried whitefish, tartare sauce, quail eggs, fresh horseradish
Duck and sauerkraut kulebyaka with mulled wine gravy
Warm chocolate cake with blueberry compote, sour cream ice cream, and meringue


55 Euros for a six-course meal per person, drinks not included
Reservation required: kohvik@kohvikmoon.ee

NEH is a atmospheric small upscale restaurant that I've blogged about before (see here). It's a truly seasonal restaurant that's only open from Autumn till Spring, when all the core staff packs their bags and return to their original premises at Pädaste on Muhu island.


The team @ NEH are inviting you to a dazzling New Year's Party.


NEH's New Year’s Eve Menu

Pan-fried scallop
Gotland black truffle & caramelized cauliflower
Bisque with Laeso langoustines (I had a chance to taste that dish at a recent special event, and it was truly flavoursome and lovely)
Roasted goose with smoked black plums and cranberries
red cabbage with juniper, Alvados glazed apples
Tridura cheese soufflé
walnut in birch syrup & pear compote
Sea-buckthorn chiboust with a golden shadow

Dinner and entertainment 70 € per guest
Matching wine menu 45 € per guest
Children under the age of 13 – 40 € per person
Reservation required: info@neh.ee
Dress code: Black tie


KÖÖK ('Kitchen') is a charming private restaurant in Tallinn's Old Town, with an English-born head chef Tim Bramich. They're inviting you to a festive feast, starting at 8pm and lasting till 1 am. The extensive buffet table features vodka-infused gravlax with bliny, spiced parsnip soup, proper English fish and chips, a rabbit Mole Poblano, and star anise flavoured chocolate mousse cake with mascarpone cream, among other dishes.


65 Euros for the dinner per person, wine is included (Prosecco and spirits cost extra).
Reservation required: info@kook.fi

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Swedish Saffron Buns (Lussekatter)

Safranisaiad / Saffron buns / Lucia buns / Lussekatter / Lussebollar

Saffron buns like this are eaten all over Sweden on St Lucia's day on December 13th. Lucia's buns are rather decadent buns, with lots of sugar, butter and eggs. I've used a recipe containing cream cheese, which makes these especially soft and luxurious. In Sweden, they mark the beginning of the Christmas season, and there are lots of interesting traditions associated with Lucia's Day, including small girls walking around early in the morning, wearing white and carrying burning candles on top of their head ;)

We left out the burning candles, and enjoyed these buns simply with a cup of coffee :)

A note about using saffron. Saffron is water-soluble, not fat-soluble. I am surprised how many recipes ask you to simply add the saffron threads in with the rest of the ingredients (the oil or the flour), without infusing it with the liquid (NOT oil!) beforehand. You can extract so much more flavour and colour by the simple infusion process, and given the price of good-quality saffron, you can use much less of that precious spice and get much more out of it. The recipe here is based on a recipe in a Swedish Allt om Mat recipe. As most other recipes, the Swedish one asks you to put milk, melted butter, saffron and cream cheese all together. No wonder they also ask you to use 1.5 grams of saffron. I used just one packet (0.5 g), and the resulting buns had a beautiful, intense saffron flavour and a gorgeous dark yellow colour. If I had used triple the amount of saffron (AND infused it properly to start with), then the buns would have been way over-the-top!

You can read more about saffron on Lydia's blog The Perfect Pantry and more about these Swedish buns over on Anne's blog.

Swedish Saffron Buns
(Luutsinakuklid ehk safranisaiad)
Makes about 30 generous buns

500 ml milk
0.5 grams saffron strands
50 g fresh yeast
170 g caster sugar (200 ml)
1 tsp ground cardamom seeds
0.5 tsp fine salt
about 1 kg plain flour
250 g cream cheese, softened
150 g unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, divided
raisins or dried cranberries
pearl sugar (optional)

Heat milk in a small saucepan until steaming. Remove from the heat, add saffron threads and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. You'll need to cool the milk to about 37-38 C. (Or 42 C, if using instant yeast; in that case simply stir the instant yeast into the flour).
When the milk is lukewarm, then crumble in the yeast and stir, until dissolved.
Add salt, cardamom, sugar and about half of the flour. Stir until combined, then add the cream cheese, butter, ONE egg (lightly whisked), and then gradually knead in the rest of the flour. The final yeast dough should be soft and supple.
Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm room for 30-60 minutes, until doubled in size.
Knead the dough gently and turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Twist small amounts of dough (about the size of a large egg or a tennis ball, depending on whether you're making small or larger buns). Roll each piece of dough into a long "sausage", then twist it from both ends to form a letter S (see the photo above). There are several traditional ways of shaping Lucia buns, but this is the only way I usually do. It's also easy enough shape to understand for my almost-3-year-old kitchen assistant, you see :)
Place the shaped buns onto a baking sheet that's been covered with a parchment paper. Leave to prove for another 10-15 minutes, then press a raisin or a craisin into each end.
Brush with an egg wash (= an egg whisked with a spoonful of water) and sprinkle with pearl sugar, if you wish.
Bake in a pre-heated 220 C oven for 12-15 minutes, until light golden brown.
Remove from the oven, transfer onto a metal rack to cool a little. If you want softer buns, then cover them with a clean tea towel when they're cooling.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Homemade candy recipes: fruit and nut truffles

Puuviljakommid (vasakul) / Dried fruit and nut chocolates (on the left)

There's a candy I remember from my childhood. Our main chocolate factory, Kalev, was (and probably still is) well-known for its chocolate selections or "assortiikarp" as they're known in Estonian. I loved their ganache and praline filled chocolates in those chocolate selections, but my favourite ones were the foil-wrapped large truffles with fruit and nut filling.

Here's my attempt to recreate these childhood favourites :) You can see the final product on the left on the photo above.

Fruit and Nut Filled Truffles
(Puuviljakompvekid)

Puuviljakommide tegemine

100 g dried soft figs
150 g dried soft prunes
100 g dried cranberries or cherries (or a mixture of both)
100 g chopped almonds or hazelnuts
1 Tbsp runny honey or golden syrup or agave nectar
a pinch of sea salt

to coat the truffles:
dark chocolate (tempered, preferably)

Remove the stem from the dried figs. If using a food processor, place the figs, prunes and dried cranberries or cherries into the food processor and process until you've got a coarsely ground fruit mixture. Add the almonds/nuts, salt and honey/syrup and pulse again once or twice. (You don't want the nuts chopped too finely, as you want the texture later).
     [You can also simply chop the ingredients as finely as possible]
Place the truffle mixture into the fridge for an hour to cool and harden.
Roll into small balls (TIP: use a little oil to moisten your hands - the mixture won't stick as much then.)
Either dip into melted dark chocolate - or, preferably, into tempered dark chocolate (see note below) until completely covered. Decorate with chopped nuts. Keep in a cool place until ready to serve.

Why and how to temper the chocolate? The Internet - and food blogs - are full of detailed instructions on how to temper chocolate - and why. The latter is easy - unless you temper the chocolate, the chocolate-glazed truffles will lack the shine and the snap, both very desirable elements. "How" is trickier and indeed, tempering can be a hit-and-miss. I've followed this simplified seed-technique for tempering. Place about 2/3 of your chopped up chocolate (or, indeed, chocolate pellets - and NOT compound chocolate!) into a heat-proof bowl and place the bowl on top of a small saucepan, where you've brought about 5 cm/2 inches of water into simmer. Let the chocolate melt slowly, stirring as you go along. Remove from the heat, stick a chocolate thermometer into the bowl. Now add the "seed chocolate" or the chocolate you put aside at the beginning in two or three installments and keep stirring the chocolate and cooling it. Once all the added chocolate pellets have melted, you must continue stirring the chocolate, until it registers 28 C on the thermometer - that will probably take about 15-20 minutes of active stirring, so be patient! You can then gently re-heat the chocolate - either over the waterbath, on top of a hot water bottle or by hovering your hair-drier over the chocolate - until it's about 30-31 C (best temperature for working with chocolate). 

Friday, December 09, 2011

If you like Cosmo (and Sex and the City), then you'll love this drink: Cosmopolitan glögg

Cosmopolitan glögg


Sex and the City (2008)
Miranda Hobbes: [at a bar, drinking Cosmopolitans] 
"Why did we ever stop drinking these?"
Carrie Bradshaw: "Because everyone else started! "

Perhaps it's time to start again?

This delicious and soul-warming winter drink has got its name from the famous Cosmopolitan cocktail. Ok, there's plain vodka and not lemon vodka here, and I haven't used any limes to give the drink an extra zing (though you could, by all means), but the similarities are definitely there. It's officially my favourite mulled drink this year, even if I do go very easy on the vodka most of the time :D

If you like the classic Cosmopolitan, and enjoyed watching Sex and the City, then this drink is for you :)

Cosmo Glögg
(Jõhvikaglögi)
Serves six
Adapted from Finnish-language book "Kotilieden jouluaika: Pikkujoulusta loppiaisen" (2006)

Cosmopolitan glögg

1 litre good-quality cranberry juice drink
2 Tbsp glögg mixture*
100 ml vodka
50 ml orange liqueur (Triple Sec or Cointreau)

To serve:
dried cranberries (aka 'craisins')
orange twist

Bring the juice and glögg mixture into a simmer, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20-30 minutes. Add some sugar to taste, if you really wish so.
Strain and re-heat. Add the spirits and serve in heat-proof glasses.

* I used Meira's glögimauste, which contains finely chopped dried Sevilla orange peel, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. You can use any mulled wine or glögg seasoning mix of your choice, if that's not available. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmas recipes: Swedish meatballs

Christmas meatballs / Vürtsikad lihapallid

Serving meatballs at a Christmas table is NOT an Estonian tradition, but it's something I've borrowed from our Swedish neighbours across the sea. They're especially popular with kids (though adults aren't far behind), and as they can be served hot or cold, they're excellent for buffet table. I love them with a generous grating of nutmeg, but you could also use cinnamon, allspice, juniper berries, cumin. Anne of Anne's Food uses white pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom AND allspice, for example.

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


Swedish meatballs
(Vürtsikad lihapallid)
Serves four or many more, depending on what else is on the table

Swedish meatballs / Vürstikad lihapallid

400 g minced meat
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp potato starch or cornflour
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
0.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper
150 ml milk (10 Tbsp)
a generous grating of nutmeg

butter, for frying

Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl, then form into small meatballs (it's easier to do with wet or oiled hands).

Now you've got three ways to proceed (my preference goes for the last one):

1) Melt some butter on a frying pan, brown the meatballs on all sides, then cover the pan with a lid, reduce heat and cook until done.
2) Melt some butter on a frying pan, brown the meatballs on all sides. Transfer the meatballs onto a small tray and finish cooking them in a pre-heated 200 C/400 F oven.
3) Brush a baking sheet with some melted butter or oil, spread meatballs evenly on top. Bake in a pre-heated 220 c/450 F oven for about 15 minutes, until cooked inside and lovely dark golden brown outside.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Estonian recipes: thick fruit soup (dried fruit kissel)

Thick fruit soup / Puuviljakissell

One non-Christmas recipe for a change :) Paks puuviljakissell or thick (dried) fruit soup/kissel is an old Estonian favourite (I've previously blogged about it's more modest cousin, raisin fruit soup). The kissel on the photo was made with dried apricots, prunes, pears and raisins, but you can use whatever fruit you have in hand. It's cheap, tasty and easy to make.

You can also serve it in umpteen ways. Traditional way to serve fruit soup is with milk (or perhaps light cream), but you can top a thick fruit soup with whipped cream or even good-quality vanilla ice cream, which would make it actually a rather festive pudding, especially if served from pretty dessert bowls.

Dried fruit soup
(Paks puuviljakissell)
Serves 6

500 g dried fruit and berries of your choice - apples, pears, prunes, seedless raisins, apricots etc.
1.5 litre of water
a cinnamon stick
2 cloves
85 g caster sugar (100 ml)
juice of half a lemon
2 to 3 Tbsp potato starch or cornflour + some cold water (see note below)

Rinse the dried fruit under cold water, then cut into smaller pieces, if necessary.
Place into a large saucepan with water and let them soak for 2-3 hours.
Add the cinnamon stick and cloves. Bring the "soup" into a boil, reduce heat and simmer slowly until the fruit is softened. Near the end of the cooking, add the sugar and season to taste with lemon juice.
To thicken the soup, make a slurry with starch and some cold water. Drizzle the starch slurry into the fruit soup, stirring carefully. If you are using potato starch, then re-heat the fruit soup and remove from the heat as soon as the first bubbles appear on surface - do NOT boil. If you're using cornflour, then you need to cook the soup for a few minutes for it to thicken.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and sprinkle some sugar on top - this prevents the "skin" from forming on top.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Black Pudding Profiteroles

Verivorstiträpsulised keedutainapallid / Choux puffs with black pudding
August 2011

This recipe was originally posted in December 2009. It's been fully updated, and new photos are included.

Remember the Chorizo Choux Puffs? When I published the recipe on my Estonian site, then one of the readers, Ilse, suggested using our Christmas favourite, finely chopped black pudding instead of chorizo. I liked the sound of that, so nicked the idea, adding a spoonful of roasted onion flakes for an extra depth of flavour.

The result? Soft and Christmassy choux puffs with character :) We shared these with some friends, who were just as keen on these large profiteroles as we were. Definitely a keeper and a great addition to any Christmas buffét table. You could even dip them into lingonberry jam - that'd be even more Christmassy!

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


NOTE that this recipe would work just as well with Blutwurst, morcilla, sundae, boudin noir, blodpudding, beuling, bloedworst etc.

Black Pudding Profiteroles
(Keedutainapallid e. profitroolid verivorstiga)
Makes about 24 large profiteroles


December 2009

175 ml water
75 g butter
0.5 tsp salt
120 g plain flour/all-purpose flour (200 ml)
3 large eggs
100 g black pudding, finely chopped (and skinned first, if necessary)
1 Tbsp roasted onion flakes (I like using Meira's)

Remove the skin from the black pudding sausages (not necessary, when they're thin-skinned) and chop finely.
Put water, cubed butter and salt into a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Take immediately off the heat and stir in all the flour. Return to the heat and "boil" for about two minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until you have a smooth paste that leaves the sides of the saucepan.
Remove from the heat and cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the eggs one at a time, wholly incorporating the first egg before adding the next one (this is best done with electric beaters). The resulting paste should be glossy and slowly drop from a spoon.
Stir in the finely chopped black pudding and the dried roasted onion flakes.
With a help of two tablespoons or a cookie scoop, place small heaps of choux paste onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 180 C/375 F oven for about 30 minutes, until the choux puffs are nicely puffed up and golden brown.

Verivorstiträpsulised keedutainapallid
August 2011

Monday, December 05, 2011

Gingerbread muffins

Gingerbread muffins / Piparkoogimuffinid
Gingerbread muffins, anno 2011

This recipe was originally posted in December 2008. It's been fully updated, and new photos are included.

Everyone likes a good muffin, and during Christmas time, this should be a Christmas muffin :)

There are endless variations on the theme. You could bake small cupcakes and garnish them with something Christmassy. Or you could simply add your favourite Christmas spices (say ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom) into your regular plain muffin recipe (and still glaze them afterwards). Or you could throw in a generous handful of red berries (lingonberries or cranberries) into your muffin batter to give them the festive feel.

Here's a recipe for very simple muffins - made special by the use of dark muscovado sugar and a mixture of gingerbread spices.

Note I've measured the dry ingredients both in grams and in volume. A standard American cup is 240 ml, so 100 ml of muscovado sugar would be a half a cup minus a heaped Tablespoon etc.

Gingerbread muffins
(Jõulumuffinid)
Makes 12 medium-sized muffins

Gingerbread muffins aka Christmas muffins / Jõulumuffinid e. piparkoogimuffinid
Gingerbread muffins, anno 2008

2 large eggs
85 g dark muscovado sugar (100 ml)
50 g butter, melted and slightly cooled
100 g sour cream or creme fraiche
120 g plain/all-purpose flour (200 ml)
1.5 tsp baking powder
25 g ground hazelnuts or almonds (50 ml)
2 tsp gingerbread spice or mixed spice or pumpkin pie spice

icing sugar, for dusting

Whisk eggs with sugar. Add the melted butter and sour cream. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, fold into the egg-sugar-butter-sour cream batter.
Spoon into muffin cups and bake in the middle of 200 C/400 F oven for 10-12 minutes, until muffins are cooked.
Let cool a little, then dust with icing sugar.

Gingerbread muffins / Piparkoogimuffinid
Gingerbread muffins, anno 2011

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

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Christmas Recipes: Beetroot and Orange Salad with Ginger Dressing

Beetroot and orange salad with yogurt dressing / Peedi-apelsinisalat ingveri-jogurtikastmega
Photo by Andres Teiss

A lovely wintry salad, that can be served as a starter (ideal for a buffét table, being such an eye-catcher!) or as a side dish (I can see a simply roasted and then sliced duck breast alongside this salad). It's best to use roasted beets, but if you're pinched for time, use steamed or boiled beets that you can buy in a good shop.

The sweetness of the beets goes well with the slightly acidic notes of the orange segments, the ginger in the dressing makes it again very suitable for a Christmas table.

Beet and Orange Salad with Ginger-Yoghurt Dressing
(Peedi-apelsinisalat ingveri-jogurtikastmega)
Serves 4

500 g roasted, steamed or boiled beets
2 large oranges
a handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh mint leaves

Ginger-yoghurt dressing:
200 ml plain yoghurt
1 tsp ground ginger or finely grated fresh ginger
salt, to taste

Peel the beets, cut into thick slices or small segments. Peel the oranges, filet them (e.g. remove the membranes). Combine beets, oranges and walnuts on a serving tray, season with salt and pepper and fold in the mint leaves.
Combine the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad or serve on the side.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Christmas Recipes 2011: Curried Parsnip Soup

Curried parsnip soup / Vürtsidega pastinaagisupp
Photo by Andres Teiss

I am not claiming that this curried parsnip soup is a traditional Christmas soup in Estonia or anywhere else in the world. However, after living in Scotland for seven years, I do associate parsnips - at least in their roasted incarnation - with Christmas feasts, and the warming curry spices make it immensely suitable for a lighter (and healthier) festive starter. I've used individual spices - ginger, cumin and turmeric - to spice up this pretty soup, but you can simply substitute your favourite curry powder mix for these spices.

Again, this recipe was one of the six recipes that I was recently asked to develop for a particular supermarket here in Estonia, which are included in their 2011 Christmas Newsletter. The photos for the newsletter were shot by Andres Teiss, and he has kindly allowed me to use those for my blog posts as well.

Curried Parsnip Soup
(Karrivürtsidega pastinaagisupp)
Serves six

Curried parsnip soup / Vürtsidega pastinaagisupp
Photo by Andres Teiss

1 to 2 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic glove, minced
750 g parsnips (peeled weight)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 litre hot vegetable stock
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, to garnish

Cut the parsnips into chunks.
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic, fry gently for another minute.
Add the spices and parsnip, stir to coat evenly with the spice mixture. Pour in the stock, season with salt and pepper. Bring into a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, until the parsnip is soft.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Process the soup until liquified (you can use either a hand-held immersion blender or a liquifier blender). Reheat the soup, season to taste, if necessary.
Garnish with a fresh coriander/cilantro leaves and serve.

Curried parsnip soup / Vürtsidega pastinaagisupp
Photo by Andres Teiss

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Christmas Recipes: Chocolate Mousse with Cranberry Fruit Soup

Chocolate mousse with cranberry soup / Šokolaadivaht jõhvikakisselliga
Photo by Andres Teiss

Last year we had a first proper snowfall in mid-November, and that snow never really went away until late Spring. We had a beautiful winter wonderland for months. This year is totally different - it's early December, it's still green outside, and I get to pick fresh herbs from my garden. That's a perk, for sure, but I do miss snow that makes our dark winters so much lighter and more enjoyable. However, the Christmas is soon around the corner - with or without the snow - so I'll be posting mostly Christmas recipes during this month. I recently had to develop six recipes for a particular supermarket here in Estonia, which are included in their 2011 Christmas Newsletter*. This lovely and different dessert - luscious chocolate mousse with refreshingly light cranberry fruit soup (or kissel) - was one of them.

It's best to make the chocolate mousse on the previous day, as it has time to cool and set then. However, I prepared all six dishes, including this mousse, within two and half hours, so it can be made on the night of serving as well - just it'll be a wee bit more stressful :)

* The photos for the newsletter were shot by Andres Teiss, and he has kindly allowed me to use those for my blog posts as well. 

Chocolate Mousse with Cranberry Fruit Soup
(Šokolaadivaht jõhvikakisselliga)
Serves six to eight

Chocolate mousse with cranberry soup / Šokolaadivaht jõhvikakisselliga
Photo by Andres Teiss

Chocolate mousse:
200 g dark chocolate (I used Estonian "Bitter" chocolate), coarsely chopped
1 large organic egg, separated
1 to 2 Tbsp brandy, cognac or liqueur
200 to 250 ml (a cup) whipping cream

Cranberry fruit soup:
1 l cranberry juice drink (I like Granini)
sugar, to taste
3 Tbsp potato starch or cornstarch + few Tbsp cold water

To garnish:
fresh or frozen cranberries

To make the chocolate mousse: place the chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl and either melt in the microwave or place over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from the heat, add the alcohol and stir in the egg yolk.
Whisk the egg white until stiff foam forms, then gently fold into the chocolate mousse.
Whisk the cream until it turns thick, smooth and forms soft peaks. Fold about one third into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream.
Cover the bowl with a clingfilm and place into a cold fridge for couple of hours.

To make the cranberry fruit soup, pour the juice drink into a medium-sized saucepan. Add some sugar to taste, if you wish so. Bring gently to the simmer, then add the starch and water slurry, stirring while doing so. If you're using corn starch, then bring again into a boil and simmer gently, stirring, until the fruit soup thickens. If you're using potato starch, then bring again _almost_ to the simmering point and then promptly remove from the heat. Cool completely.

To serve, take two large spoons and spoon large dollops of chocolate mousse into serving bowls. Pour cranberry fruit soup around the mousse and garnish with some fresh or frozen berries. .