Sunday, 31 December 2006

Christmas menu

I'm finally home after travelling about Estonia during the last week. Before it's time to celebrate the next fiesta, I'd share my family's this year's Christmas menu. There weren't so many of us sitting round the table - seven grown-ups and two children (as I do the talking here, I naturally consider myself a grown-up). We even had a real Santa, so the only thing missing from Christmas spirit was this really slowly falling perfect white snow... But as Christmas (fortunately or unfortunately) is a feasting holiday here in Estonia, I'll better talk about that side of the holiday.

Christmas menu
Glazed pork fillet
Creamy winter vegetables
Boiled potatoes
Cottage cheese-yoghurt sauce with dill
Sour cabbage
Gooseberry chutney
Salted salmon
Ham, cheese

English christmas pudding with creamy vanilla sauce
Almond and coconut candies

No, we didn't have traditional blood sausage this year (I can still remember the spooky process of making it when I was little), but we did eat classical home-made marinated pumpkin, meat jelly (we actually found a whole shelf full of it, made by grandma, of course) and oven roast only the next day at my grandmother's. Oh, mystical...grannies and their cookery (I'm afraid I'll repeat this forever).

I'll share the recipe of creamy winter vegetables. I believe it could go with fish as well as with pork, it could also be eaten as a meal by itself. Light cream can be substituted with heavy cream to make the vegetables turn more silky and enjoyable.

Creamy winter vegetables

1 kg (in all) carrot, swede and onion
2 dl light cream
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1. peel the vegetables. cut the carrots and swede into bigger pieces, onions into four sectors.
2. lay the vegetables into a baking dish, strew with thyme.
3. mix together cream, honey, salt and pepper, pour the mixture over the vegetables.
4. cover the dish with its lid or with foil and bake at 200 C for one and a half hours.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Gingerbread mania

The kitchen is smelling for spices, sugar is sizzling oh-so-mysteriously and a whole wash basin is filled with brownish dough, the family has gathered around a small table and everybody has a small batch of dough in front of them, to knead and to...taste, bit by bit.
I remember making gingerbread dough at my grandmother's. It was packed until the next evening when the family could come together once again. My brother probably had the same memory flash when he asked me to find some time for him to make the dough after granny's instructions. Although we added a teeny bit too much flour as we were kneading and were overwhelmed by nostalgia, the main purpose of making the dough was finally fulfilled - we were doing something together. However, my brother never stopped saying but granny did it like that... Oh, mystical...grannies and their cookery.

As it has become a tradition the last four years, I baked gingerbreads together with my friend Marie. For us gingerbreads aren't just gingerbreads. Oh no, there's a lot more. Filled gingerbreads (with banana filling on the picture) are already becoming a classic. To make these, you only have to put the filling between two dough circles and press the edges together, you can also shape the rounds afterwards. Why not try salty fillings? Gingerbreads filled with liver pate, flavoured cream cheese or blue cheese are a great snack on the christmas table. Sweet fillings could include berries (frozen ones should be dried after melting), fruit (especially bananas, onto which we added some chili), dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, peanut butter (I'm trying to track down the ones with PB, but they all look the same!)

Stained-glass gingerbreads look really nifty. To make them, all you have to do is to transfer dough rounds with holes onto the baking tray and put a broken caramel candy in the center of the hole. Could be eaten slowly as well as used for decorations.

The idea of making gingerbread balls originates from last year when we bought a whole batch of dough that was nastily sticky and unformable. Only later we saw the charm of the terrible incident. These actually make a lovely present or a hard-to-refuse sweet snack.

When talking about gingerbreads, one can't escape sugar-coating. This year we acted like traitors and used ready-to-use icing. Still, our level is far beyond the..usual level (also known as making whiskers to gingerbread cats). This time we decided to mess with the names of food products. Oh yes, the one on the picture actually says 'mustard':). I'd like to point out that it is a great idea to use paint-brushes while designing the gingerbreads. Although I didn't use the technique this year, I have used it before and it's possible to create neat pieces of food-art like that.

Merry christmas and may your lives be overwhelmed by new tastes and occasionally...nostalgia:)

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Christmas coming - time for candies!

This weekend I got to cook a lot. The main event was making gingerbread dough (of course following granny's magic recipe) together with family, but that I'm going to discuss later.

Christmas is no time for diet, so our kitchen table is already loaded with sweets. Although I went to sauna this evening, I believe I can still smell the scent of flowing dark chocolate on my fingers. Or perhaps it's the air. Christmasy. I prepared the filling for these candies yesterday and dipped them into chocolate this morning. I'm afraid this will lead to making my own better-than-ever (and chemistry-free) Bounty bars.

Coconut candies

150 g shredded coconut
50 g almonds (ground or chopped)
40 g butter
1 dl sugar
2 dl double cream
200 g chocolate

1. roast the coconut until golden
2. mix together butter, sugar and cream in a pot and boil the mixture for 5 minutes
3. add the coconut and almonds, blend well and spread the mixture onto foil, let cool
4. melt the chocolate (I used 100 g dark and 100 g milk chocolate, but I'm sure white chocolate would be wonderful here too), dip squares or balls of coconut mixture into it using a fork (I hid peeled whole almonds in some of the candies - makes me think of Rafaello) and let them cool on foil or parchment paper.

A pinch of traditions

I thought it would suit just perfectly to start with something Estonian. At this time of year everybody is talking about baked potatoes, blood sausage or rich pork roast, so I'd better remind kama.

Kama is a traditional Estonian food, a flour mix of different roasted and grinded grains (wheat, rye, barley) and legumes. It is usually eaten mixed into dairy products (buttermilk, yoghurt, curd cheese), but is sometimes just the taste a cake or some snack needs. In this cake the taste of kama can be felt pretty strongly and the sweet, sour and salty tastes compete with each other in a pleasantly baffling way.

Rhubarb-kamacake with cinnamon flavoured glaze

100 ml vegetable oil
130 g honey
1 egg
1 tbsp baking soda
150 ml unflavoured yoghurt
250 g wheat flour
100 g kama flour
2 tsp salt
350 minced rhubarb
1 tsp vanilla extract
50 g chopped nuts (i.e. almonds, hazelnuts, pecans)
70 g sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter (at room temperature)

1. mix together oil and honey, add the egg and blend well, then add yoghurt and vanilla extract.
2. mix together wheat flour and kama, baking powder, shopped nuts and salt, add to the mixture.
3. you can add the rhubarb the way you like it the most. I like to puree half of it and add the other half minced. put the blended batter into a baking pan.
4. mix together the butter, sugar and cinnamon. gently cover the batter with the mixture.
5. bake the cake at 170 C for about 1 hour until firm.

The cake is just perfect served warm with a cup of cold milk, but nearly as good served at room temperature. It's not the sweetest of bites, but is a good change with its controversial tastes. Maybe serve with apricot jam and green tea?

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Recipe index

Appetisers and snacks
Bacon wrapped bananas with parsley filling
Bread and onion tartelettes
Brown butter flavoured butter
Fir shoot butter
Grilled feta with honey and aniseed
Mediterranean style marinated Halloumi cheese
Onion tartelettes
Oven baked garlic
Pickled eggs with beets
Smoked sausage mouthful with pineapple cream cheese
Spunky ham and feta rolls

Salads and soups
Carrot soup with coriander and aniseed
Creamy broccoli soup with pesto oil and pumpkin seeds
Fennel and pear soup
Green summer salad
Honeyed onion and apple soup with caraway
Parsnip soup with smoked cheese

Broccoli with pistachio butter
Brussels sprouts in pumpkin puree
Creamy winter vegetables
Oven baked garlic
Peppermint flavoured cauliflower gratin with cheese and mustard
Roasted spiced sweet potatoes
Rye-breaded pumpkin

Grains and pasta
Green couscous with celery root and pesto

Pork in chocolate and prune sauce

Savoury pies and tarts
Bread and onion tartelettes
Cheese pie with dill
Healthy onion tart on an oat flake and carrot crust

Brie cheese fried with blackcurrant and coconut
Cheese pie with dill
Grilled feta with honey and aniseed
Mediterranean style marinated Halloumi cheese

Blackcurrant-cream sauce
Cherry and hazelnut sweet yoghurt sauce
Coconut honey with vanilla
Coriander and coconut milk syrup (on strawberries)
Forest pesto
Onion marmalade with balsamico
Yoghurt sauce with onion, garlic and black tea

Bread and scones
Breakfast scones with kama
Oat flake scone
Onioned barley and curd cheese soda bread

Breakfast scones with kama
Carrot and orange milkshake
Chocolate omelette
Favourite ice tea smoothie
Oat flake scone
Rosewater lassi

Sponge cakes and muffins
Estonian flag cake
Honey muffins with cheesecake and everything
Tiramisu muffins

Cakes, pies and tarts
Chocolate brownies with barley flour
Green tea cake with cottage cheese
Hazelnut cake with curd cheese and black tea cream
Layered cake with prunes
Licorice cheesecake with chocolate and lingonberry jam
Lime cream tartelettes
Ohio Shaker lemon pie
Peanut butter cheesecake
Poppy seed cake with curd cheese
Rainbow-coloured curd cheese cake
Rhubarb-kamacake with cinnamon flavoured glaze
Simple mix-together vanilla cake
Sour milk cake with raspberries and rhubarb

Apples in uniform
Black tea glazed apples
Brie cheese fried with blackcurrant and coconut
Caramelised carrot dessert with yoghurt
Chocolate balls filled with apricots and marzipan
Chocolate omelette
Coca cola sorbet
Coconut milk kissel
Coriander and coconut milk syrup (on strawberries)
Cream cheese ice cream
Curd cheese mousse with blackcurrant sauce and kiwis
Curd cheese mousse with black tea
Curd cheese with coffee, clove-flavoured bananas and almond praline
Fake eggs of coconut panna cotta and banana chip puree
Leivasupp - a sweet rye bread dessert
Pasha with custard
Peanut halva with vanilla
Rosewater and black tea granita
Rye bread pudding with berries
Spicy apples in red wine and blackcurrant juice
Sweet bread puddings with condensed milk, peanut butter and plums
Sweet rye bread and white bread pudding
Vanilla flowers over cherry sauce

Coffee, cocoa and lemon zest meringues
Cracked chocolate cookies
Filled gingerbreads
Flourless peanut butter cookies
Hazelnut cookies with black pepper and rosewater
Tosca cookies

Candies, sweets and chocolate
Caramelised hazelnuts
Carrot truffles
Cashew nut fudge with rosewater (Kajoo Barfi)
Chocolate slices with pinches of cinnamon and salt
Coconut candies
Coco-nutty prune candy
Domino truffles
Hazelnut rum balls
Ice cream truffles
Lemon truffles with a pepper-warm coating
Marshmallows with a hint of rum
Saffron-hearted truffle eggs in white chocolate
Spiced chocolate truffles

Preserves and jams
Coconut honey with vanilla
Forest pesto
Lime marmalade
Onion marmalade with balsamico
Pineapple and lime curd with dried apricots
Quince jam with cinnamon

Carrot and orange milkshake
Cashew and almond milk
Favourite ice tea smoothie
Oat milk
Rosewater lassi