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

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

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:

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:
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:

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

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
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
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. .

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ottolenghi's chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic

Ottolenghi's chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic / Rösti

Here's a lovely recipe adapted from London-based Yotam Ottolenghi's first cookbook, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. The book is full on inspiring vegetarian dishes that I've been drooling over - and cooking - over and over again. I've already blogged about two of the dishes - roasted aubergine/eggplant with saffron yogurt and a refreshing cucumber and poppy seed salad, and here's a lovely vegan side dish using broccoli. I've reduced the amount of oil used in the recipe considerably, but otherwise it's following the book.

Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
(Röstitud spargelkapsas tšilli ja küüslauguga)
Serves 4

500 g broccoli
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 to 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 mild red chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

To garnish:
toasted almond slices or thinly sliced lemon

Separate the broccoli into florets and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes and not longer! Immediately refresh under cold running water to stop further cooking, then drain and leave to dry completely.

Once the broccoli is dry, toss with 3 Tbsp of the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place a griddle pan on high heat and leave for 4 to 5 minutes until smoking hot. Grill the broccoli in batches on the hot pan, turning to get lovely charmarks on all sides. When ready, transfer into a heatproof bowl.

While the broccoli is cooking, place the remaining Tbsp of oil in a small saucepan together with sliced garlic and chillies and cook on a medium heat until the garlic begins to turn golden brown. Be careful not to let the garlic and chilli burn – they will continue cooking in the hot oil even when off heat. Pour the garlic and chilli oil over the hot broccoli florets and toss well.

Season to taste, sprinkle with almond slices or lemon slices and serve immediately or at room temperature.

Monday, November 28, 2011

And the winner is ....

... Joanna, a Brit living in Latvia. Please send me your postal address, so I can mail you your copy of Marika Blossfeldt's Essential Nutrition.

You can contact me at nami (dot) nami (at) yahoo (dot) com

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book project No 2: Christmas at Home (Jõulud kodus)

Remember my first cookbook, "Nami-Nami kokaraamat" and its launch party on December 1st almost a year ago? The cookbook has done well, I'm happy to say - and I'm already working on the third book. Yes, the third one, as despite giving birth to a second baby earlier this year (and thus having two kids under-3 crawling and running around in the kitchen) I also managed to work on my second cookbook. Or kind of cookbook. My dear publishers, Varrak, kindly asked me in late Spring if I could co-author a Christmas book with Irina Tammis - she'd write the section on Christmas crafts, and I'd write the festive recipes. I was thrilled to say yes and so it happened that I was baking gingerbread and roasting black pudding in the middle of the August heatwave this year :)

The book came out in the beginning of November - first as part of the Suur Eesti Raamatuklubi (the Large Estonian Book Club, where it is the star book of November), but is now available in most bookstores in Estonia. RRP is 15.90 EUR and, obviously, it makes a wonderful Christmas gift to your loved ones (if you speak Estonian, that is :))

Here's a list of Christmas recipes - I've provided links to relevant recipes in English here on the Nami-Nami foodblog - and some pictures as well. Note that all recipes were re-tested and (usually) re-photographed during the summer, so the edited recipe in the book is necessarily not exactly the same as here on the blog.

Lehttainarullid pohlamoosi ja verivorstiga
Christmas pork roast / Jõulupraad seakaelakarbonaadist
Christmas meatballs / Vürtsikad lihapallid
  • Small blue cheese and marmalade tartlets
  • Joulutortut aka Finnish Christmas stars
Finnish Christmas stars / Jõulutähed / Joulutortut
Inglise jõulukeeks / Inglise puuviljakeekseeks

Estonian Christmas cake with cream cheese frosting / Pehme piparkook toorjuustuglasuuriga

Eggnog / Jõululiköör / Munaliköör / Jõulujook

You can see the book advertisement on the publishers' website here. Of course, I'm happy to answer any questions about the cookbook and the recipes - and if there's a particular recipe that catches your idea, but isn't yet available in English on the blog, please let me know. The Christmas is just around the corner and I'd be happy to share the recipe!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Marika Blossfeldt's 'Essential Nourishment' and a recipe for Kabocha Apricot Soup (book giveaway)

NB! I've got one copy of this wonderful book (in English!!!) to give away to Nami-Nami readers. See details below!

I had seen the Estonian version of this book at my friends' place, and loved it. So when Marika, who divides her life between Estonia and New York, and whom I've met couple of times, asked me if I'd love a copy of the English version, I said yes. The book's full title is "Essential Nourishment: Recipes from My Estonian Farm. Your feel-good guide to healthful eating and energized living, one delicious meal at a time". It's divided into three major sections - Nutrition and Nourishment; Lifestyle; Food Guides and Recipes. Marika has been trained in integrative nutrition - meaning a reasonable and wholesome approach to eating and living healthily, and the resulting combination of information on nutrition and a collection on recipes is excellent.

I've got my own favourites - her beet, fennel and quinoa salad is wonderful, as is the recipe for Rye Porridge with Sesame Seeds. Our good friends regularly make her Zucchini Walnut Muffins and Carrot Ginger Soup (I'm especially partial to those muffins - our friend Peter bakes them in mini muffin tins, and they're addictive!) There are several healthy- and delicious-sounding recipes I'm looking forward to trying as soon as the festive season is over - Polenta with Roasted Sunflower Seeds, Quinoa Pilaf with Shiitake Mushrooms, Dandelion Greens in Creamy Sesame Sauce, Chickpeas with Sweet Potatoes, to give you just an idea.

But when I asked Marika which recipe she'd like me to share with my many American readers, she suggested this nourishing soup. Hope you'll enjoy it - and why not serve it as a starter this Thursday?

Kabocha Apricot Soup
serves 6

What could be a better treat than a squash puree soup on a chilly autumn day? Although the original recipe calls for kabocha squash, any winter squash or pumpkin can be used. The dried apricots add a little twist of sweet and tart and a hint of sophistication.

1 kabocha squash, about 2 pounds (1 kg), cut into quarters, seeds and fibrous parts removed
4 cups (1 l) water
1 onion, cut into wedges
12 dried apricots, cut into halves
1 piece fresh ginger, about 2 inches (5 cm) long, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions

Place the squash in a steamer basket inserted into a large pot. Add 3 cups (750 ml) of the water and steam for 20 minutes. Reserve the cooking water. Place the cooked squash onto a plate to cool. Use a spoon to scrape the meat from the peel.

Boil the onion, apricots and ginger in the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) of water for 10 minutes.

Combine the squash with the onion mixture. In batches, pour into a blender or food processor and puree, adding some of the reserved squash cooking water for a smooth blend.

Return the puree to the pot. Add the butter and bring to a boil. Add more cooking water if the soup is very thick. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into soup plates and garnish with chopped scallions.


NB! In the month of November Marika offers her book for sale on her website at a discounted rate. You will receive a signed copy and shipping is absolutely FREE in the United States:
Hint: this beautifully designed cookbook might just be the perfect Christmas present for all your health conscious friends and family members.
European readers, you can order Marika's book on and

Furthermore, I've got ONE copy of this book to give away to a Nami-Nami reader (I'll ship anywhere in the world). To win one, just leave a comment with your name, location and the name of your favourite healthy cold weather dish. I'll randomly choose a winner on Monday morning (November 28th).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Latvian cranberry, cream and rye trifle 'Rupjmaizes kārtojums'

Lätlaste riivleivadessert

Our Southern neighbours Latvians are celebrating their independent statehood again today. Last year I shared a recipe for delicious light pork dish, Kurzeme Stroganoff, to mark the occasion. This time you'll get a recipe for a Latvian pudding, kind of rye and cranberry trifle, called rupjmaizes kārtojums (rupjmaize is the Latvian word for dark rye bread) or "Latvian Ambrosia" among English-speakers who know the stuff.  Cream, rye bread and cranberries is apparently a classic Latvian flavour combination. My local supermarket has a freezer selling Latvian ice cream, including a delicious (and deliciously large) tub of "Rupjmaizes kārtojums ice cream". Latvian popular dairy giant, Karums, has at least one Rupjmaizes kārtojums (scroll down here for the photo). A quick googleing revealed many other commercially made rupjmaizes kārtojums derivatives.

You can serve it in a large glass bowl, like I've done, or in pretty dessert glasses (like on this Latvian website). I've seen recipes that are using just whipped cream for the cream part, and recipes that are using just curd cheese for the cream part. I've gone the Estonian route and mixed the two :)

Latvian sweet rye trifle 
(Läti leivadessert)

about 200 g grated dark rye bread (shop-bought and make your own)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp caster sugar, divided
400 g curd cheese cream
200 g whipping cream (35%, optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract or sugar
150 g cranberries, crushed and sweetened according to taste

Place the rye bread crumbs onto a non-stick frying pan. Add 2 Tbsp of sugar and the cinnamon. Stir, then slowly toast the breadcrumbs for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the bread is aromatic and, well, toasty :) Remove the pan from the heat and let the breadcrumbs cool completely.
Meanwhile, mix the curd cheese, sugar, vanilla and whipped cream (if using).
Layer the dessert into a large bowl or individual dessert glasses. Start with about a third of the bread mixture, then half of the cream mixture, half of the cranberries, then another third of the breadcrumbs, then the other half of the cream, then cranberries and finally top the dessert with the rest of the cinnamon-scented caramelized breadcrumbs.

Leave to stand for about 4-5 hours in the fridge before serving. Garnish with some whole cranberries.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Things to do with (Estonian) black pudding aka verikäkk

Someone left a comment on my blog this morning:

Just brought back home from Estonia some Verikäkk and still wondering what to do exactly with it :D Aitäh also from Spain for your blog ;)

I thought I'll help Enlil out and share some of the recipe ideas and photos with him :)

Verikäkk is basically a dense black pudding (also known as blood pudding or blood dumpling). It's a mixture of (usually pig's) blood, flour (rye, barley or wheat), fried onions, lard/bacon and seasonings. Here in Estonia it's sold widely, and it comes in large dumplings, weighing about 450 grams. Traditionally it was made in late Autumn/for Christmas, but is now available throughout the year. I personally don't think of verikäkk as a Christmas product at all (as opposed to verivorst or black sausages), and happily buy it all year round.

Here are some of the ways of consuming black pudding.

Fried black pudding with sour cream:

Fried black pudding / Praetud verikäkk hapukoorega

1 black pudding
lard, butter or oil for frying
250 g sour cream

Cut into thick (about 1 cm) slices, fry in butter until browned and crisp on both sides. Pour the sour cream on top at the end and heat gently. Serve at once.
Pickled pumpkin salad and lingonberry or cranberry jam/sauce work well as condiments.

Fried black pudding:

Fried black pudding / Praetud verikäkk

1 black pudding
lard, butter or oil for frying

Cut into thick (about 1 cm) slices, fry in butter until browned and crisp on both sides. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and/or lingonberry jam. (If you forgot to buy that in Estonia, then head to your nearest IKEA food isle).

Fried black pudding crisps:

Black pudding chips / Veritsipsid

I've already blogged about this, see recipe here.

Ülle tore ood verikäkile
UMA MEKK video verikäki tegemisest

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

My favourite beetroot soup, vegetarian borscht

October 2011

Here is one of my very favourite soups of all time, which I make about once a month (at least!). It's a vegetarian version of the famous Russian-Ukrainian beet soup, borscht. My version is delicious and heartwarming - brilliant for cold autumn days and dark winter nights. Yet it's light and refreshing enough, so it would also be good during summer. I tend to use sauerkraut during winter and plain white cabbage during summer (and prefer the first one).

Depending how good your knife-skills are, but it could be on your table in about 40 minutes or even less. I use the food processor to shred (or 'julienne') the vegetables.

My favorite beet soup
(Mõnus peedisupp, täitsa lihavaba)
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course

September 2007

400-500 g (about a pound) of beets
2 medium onions
2 large carrots
400-500 g (about a pound) white cabbage or mild sauerkraut
2 Tbsp olive oil
1.5 litres vegetable stock
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice or wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

sour cream, to serve

finely chopped parsley or dill, to garnish

Peel the beets, onions and carrots. Cut all vegetables into thick matchsticks (you can use a food processor here to speed up the process). If using fresh cabbage, shred it thinly.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add carrots, beets, onions and a pinch of salt and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Add the shredded cabbage or sauerkraut, then pour in the hot stock. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer on a low heat for about 20-30 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, keeping in mind that a proper borscht should have a slightly acidic taste.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream (or omit, if you want a vegan soup) and sprinkle with some chopped parsley or dill.
Serve with some crusty (rye) bread.

UPDATE 21.9.2007
Hedgehog made this soup, too - check out her post here.

NOTE: This soup recipe was originally posted in September 2007. It's been fully revised and updated in November 2011.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Roasted Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) with lemon, Parmesan cheese and parsley

Baked Jerusamel artichokes / Baked sunchokes /Röstitud maapirnid

Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also known as sunchoke, sunroot, topinambur, earth apple (and curiously, 'earth pear' or maapirn in Estonian) is a great and flavoursome vegetable to grow. Once the tubers are in the ground, they need no attention from you, and you can leave the new crop in the ground until you want to use them. We were shovelling snow and digging out fresh Jerusalem artichokes throughout the last winter and as late as in April were awarded with young and fresh sunchokes looking like this - they're were frost-tolerant:

Yesterday's crop of sunchokes

It's invasive, however, so be careful to allocate it a spot where it can take over and grow in peace!

The recipe for lemon-roasted Jerusalem artichokes is from Nigel Slater, with some minor changes. A lovely alternative to your regular roast potatoes - and a great option for Meatless Monday.

Lemon-roasted Jerusalem artichokes with Parmesan and parsley
(Röstitud maapirnid sidruniga)
Serves 4 to 6

Baked Jerusamel artichokes / Baked sunchokes /Röstitud maapirnid

750 g Jerusalem artichokes/Sunchokes
250 g (new) potatoes
1 lemon
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese
fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 220C/450F. Drizzle some olive oil in a roasting tin, set aside.

Scrub your vegetables really well. Do not peel, but cut in halves or quarters depending on their size. Par-boil or steam for about 10 minutes, until crispy tender. (Drain thoroughly, if par-boiling).
Tip the steamed or par-boiled vegetables into the roasting tin, stir gently. Cut the lemon in half and drizzle the lemon juice over the vegetables. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Place the roasting tin into the oven and roast for about 35 minutes. Give the vegetables a good stir once or twice during that time.
Scatter grated cheese and chopped parsley on top and serve immediately.

More recipes using Jerusalem artichokes @ Nami-Nami:
Jerusalem artichoke gratin with cheese
Silky Jerusalem artichoke and mushroom soup