Saturday, 31 March 2007

Green tea cake - not really a desperate cry for a healthier dessert

Isn't it just awful? I mean having green tea cake at home. There's this opportunity that I could decide having some slices of cake instead of a cup of hot tea. Oh I hate these I'm-really-healthy not-so-healthy-at-all dishes. It's like fitness cereals - the more you eat, the better for you. More cake always equals more cake. This green tea cake although, if you wish, is a healthy cake. Say it to yourself until you believe it.

The cake is good served with raspberries or raspberry sauce when it's still warm. When the cake had cooled, I topped it with some unflavoured cream cheese and served with raspberries. The cream cheese could also be flavoured with lemon or lime. I used green tea with mint in the cake and it was a really good choice. I recommend it, I really do. Although other flavourings would be nice too. Jasmine green tea maybe?

Green tea cake with cottage cheese

170 g ground graham cracker cookies
2 tbsp melted butter
350 g cottage cheese
200 g sour cream
150 g sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 tsp ground green tea (with mint)
1 tbsp flour

1. Mix the ground cookies with butter and press the mixture otno the bottom of a greased springform pan.
2. Blend cottage cheese and sour cream so you have a really smooth mixture, add sugar and flour, mix in eggs one by one. Finally add vanilla and green tea. Pour the batter into the pan.
3. Bake at 170C for 50-60 minutes.
4. Serve warm or chilled.

The green tea flavour comes out just nicely and mint adds a refreshing accent. I'm sorry, but this cake does make me use the evil word interesting. It has an interesting taste. I imagine little round green tea cakes, topped with what looks like a small hill of raspberries. I guess drinking tea with it would be a sin already?

Friday, 30 March 2007

Mediterranean style marinated Halloumi

After having kept my eye on it for quite some time already, I finally bought my first Halloumi cheese. If only the price wasn't such a robbery, it could become a regular guest here.
Bright white, firm and with layered texture, easily falling apart at some places, rubbery, smooth, a little bit squeaky, mild, very salty - my first expressions.

Halloumi originates from Cyprus and is traditionally made of a combination of sheep's and goat's milk, but nowadays cow's milk is often added. An important fact is that Halloumi can be cooked and fried and grilled and it's still got its own shape - it won't melt because of its high melting point.
Halloumi's really salty taste is nice in salads, but not so much when eaten as a snack. To get rid of the salty taste, I soaked it in water overnight, changing the water once. My idea was to marinate the cheese for a lovely finger snack and and so it sat in the fridge for one more day. One too long day.

Mediterranean style marinated Halloumi

150 g Halloumi cheese
3 tsp pesto
3/4 dl olive oil
5 sun-dried tomatoes

1. Cut the cheese into bite-size rectangles. If you wish to reduce the salty taste, soak the pieces in water overnight.
2. Chop the tomatoes into tiny bits and combine with pesto and oil. Add the cheese and let it marinate for at least one day in the fridge.

So, a small bowlful of marinated cheese. What now? To make snacks, drain the Halloumi and dry it - tiny bits of pesto and tomatoes will make these bites colourful. The cheese can also be used in salads, the marinade will act as salad dressing (I used some with sweet potato salad and added some yoghurt). Halloumi fried in the marinade can be added to all kinds of dishes - I just served it simple on a toast with some cream cheese and chinese cabbage.

The marinated cheese has quite a lot of taste. I wonder if I could preserve it in a jar for a longer period to make it more intense. Halloumi is a cheese that stays fresh by itself for a long time too. Oh thank you, Cyprus.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Kama overpowers breakfast scones

It's this funny thing that I don't have graham flour at home. So every time I need it, I look around in the kitchen and discover:
a) no way I'm making this without graham flour
b) OK, I'll manage without
c) oh I'll just use kama again
And so it happens that the Estonian national dish kama (I wrote about it here) unintentionally discoveres itself in all kinds of dishes. I replace some of the graham flour with regular wheat flour and some of it with kama. The results are always interesting. This weekend my breakfast scones turned really Estoniany.

These scones are equally good with some cheese or a sweet topping. Good quality butter or some jam on a warm slice is a breakfast classic - as simple and good as it can get. I ate a slice with some cheese and one with vanilla and chocolate sauce.

Breakfast scones with kama

1 3/4 dl wheat flour
1/2 dl kama
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
25 g butter at room temperature
1 dl milk

1. Mix together the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add butter and mix carefully.Finally quickly blend in milk.
2. Heat a skillet and form an about 1 cm thick round. Make holes in it with a fork and bake it over medium heat for about 6 minutes on each side.
3. Serve warm or cooled, cut into slices.

The scones don't taste so good anymore later and should be eaten the same day. But as they're fast to make, this is not a problem, fresh scones are a lovely substitute to bread on weekend mornings or even on weekdays if you're not a person who loves to sleep until the very last minute.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Sour milk cake goes 'yum'

Although I managed to really burn my finger while taking the cake out of the oven, I forgive it. Well the cake didn't make me run desperately around in the kitchen looking for ice spray, I did. But my finger's alive and so is the cake. Double luck or what?
My mom recently nagged at me for not having any ordinary cake recipes. Any normal ones. So I had a use-this-sour-milk-from-the-fridge mission and know what? I had a recipe. Well, almost.

The inspiration came from the Estonian cooking magazine Oma Maitse. I substituted sour cream with sour milk and used frozen rhubarb and raspberries instead of sliced rhubarb. I also reduced the quantity to 2/3 and did some nice sugar tricks. I believe my mom's going to adopt the recipe now and next time I'd really like to use more topping on the cake. Not twice as much, but definitely more! I'll also chop the nuts into smaller bits (and maybe they won't do a disappearing trick into the cake).

Sour milk cake with raspberries and rhubarb

60 g butter at room temperature
60 g powdered sugar
60 g chopped nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts)
1 tsp cinnamon
90 g soft brown sugar
70 g sugar
1 egg
150 g flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 dl sour milk
100 g (frozen) raspberries
100 g (frozen) sliced rhubarb

1. Melt half of the butter and mix with nuts, powdered sugar and cinnamon.
2. With an electric mixer, beat together the rest of the butter, sugar and egg. Then add sour milk.
3. Mix together flour and soda, add to the mixture. Finally add raspberries and rhubarb.
4. Grease a rectangular baking pan and pour the batter into it. Then crumble the topping onto the batter.
5. Bake at 180C for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm (with ice cream) or cooled, cut into rectangles.

The cake is equally good served warm or cooled. The raspberries bring out a nice sour flavour, at the same time the cake is quite sweet. My topping slowly sinked into the batter while baking and only marks of it were left on top of the cake, but every bite into a cinnamon flavoured nut was like an unexpected surprise that completed the sour juicyness of the berries.
Now my mom can hide her rhubarb cake recipe, we've got one!

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Like swimming in peanut butter

Before cheap jars of peanut butter appeared in our stores (and that was only tiny bits of time ago), I decided to give it a try and buy one (and definitely not the cheapest) good-looking foreign jar. A jar of creamy peanut butter, really full of taste. So, impressed by its content, I visited the jar with a little spoon quite often and finally scooped out every bit of it. Although about 1 1/4 cups of it went into this cake. Why eat just peanut butter when you can add a little something to it and feel like eating loads more peanut butter?

Peanut butter cheesecake
(adapted from Epicurious )

450 g cream cheese
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
3 eggs
150 g chopped dark chocolate

1. Grease a springform pan or a ceramic baking pan (this is what I used). If you're using a springform pan, wrap it carefully with aluminum foil.
2. With an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, sour cream and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time. Finally mix in chocolate and pour the batter into your baking pan.
3. Place the baking pan into a larger one, then fill the large pan with hot water so that it comes about half way up the sides of the smaller baking dish.
4. Bake the cake at 160C/325F for about an hour and cool it completely before serving.

Yes, the cake is very peanut buttery. Oh and cream cheesy, it's true. Although eating huge amounts of it sounds wonderful, you wouldn't want to do it. Small slices are already nicely rich and fill the belly enough. With a cup of coffee, on spring mornings like today? For me this cake is a reminder of quality peanut butter. Looking forward to the day when these jars full of taste are sold in every supermarket, I'm really trying to ignore the cheap ones now. Oh, well, it's Estonia.
And swimming in peanut butter? Not really one of my dreams.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Have more pumpkin than you have time? Rye-bread it.

There I was, standing in front of the fridge with an empty stomach and quite an empty mind, too. An empty stomach couldn't wait for meat stew, an empty stomach couldn't even wait for a half an hour for a lovely soup. So this stomach of mine, together with the mind, produced the idea of breaded pumpkin. A nice one.

I used quite thick slices of pumpkin, but a bit thinner ones would have been better for the seasonings to have an influence on the insides of them too. Although I used quite fresh rye bread, it would be easier to use some that is a few days old or even dried.

Rye-breaded pumpkin

Some pumpkin slices
Shredded rye bread
1 egg
Salt, pepper

1. Season the flour with salt and pepper, beat the egg, heat butter or oil in a frying pan.
2. One by one, roll the pumpkin slices in flour, in the beaten egg and finally in shredded rye bread (try to press as much bread on them as you can), then fry them.
3. When you have removed the pumpkin slices from the frying pan, you can add some salt to the egg and cook an omelette to go with them.

I ate the whole thing with garlic cream cheese and sweet apple puree. The rye bread coating was nicely crispy and kind of made me feel Estonian. Don't worry about browning it too much, it won't happen that fast. Simple, yet...simple. Again, a glass of cold milk is a must-have.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Nutty milk of cashews and almonds

I believe I could never be vegetarian or vegan. Not that I couldn't resist eating animal products, I just don't really see the point for me to do it. But nuts make veganism neat. Nuts are the thing.

So if you don't want to drink milk for some reason or just want to experience something different and surprisingly good, try nut milk. Looks just like the real thing and tastes even better. I only used 2 dl of water when making my nut milk, the result was quite rich but at the same time silky and tasteful. You may add more water if you want a lighter version.

Cashew and almond milk

1 dl cashews and almonds (in all)
2-4 dl water
1 tsp honey

1. Grind the nuts (you may peel the almonds first if you like) very well, you may even make a paste of them.
2. Start adding water, bit by bit in the beginning. You may do it in a food processor or in a blender.
3. Add some vanilla and honey (or whatever else you like) to add more taste.
4. You may strain the nut milk or not, cool it or use it immediately. It will keep in the fridge for about three days.

I used the nut milk on some cereals, my father preffered to drink it by itself. But it can be used like real milk or cream (depends on the richness)...everywhere. I really love pancakes made with coconut milk so I believe this version of nut milk would work great in them too.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Jolly brussels sprouts in pumpkin puree

Colourful food does lighten the mood and vegetables do lighten a meal. So a hoorah to this summer-coloured lighten-everything dish. Brussels sprouts are still quite a new discovery for me and seem fun to cook with. As I was popping them into pumpking puree, I couldn't help feeling glad it was really food in the saucepan. Well, did look really good.

The recipe was adapted from a cookbook, I made it for two people as a side dish to go with grilled chicken breasts. I substituted heavy cream with milk and didn't add onion (or else I could have put...well, a lot of onion in there. I did want it to be about pumpkin).

Brussels sprouts in pumpkin puree

100 g pumpkin, minced
1 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, minced
salt, pepper
a bit of sugar
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp mild mustard
140 g brussels sprouts

1. Melt butter in a saucepan and cook the pumpkin in it, covered.
2. Add garlic, season with salt, pepper, sugar and turmeric. Then add milk and cook, covered, for about 10-15 minutes.
3. Puree the mixture, add mustard and pour back into the saucepan.
4. Make crosswise cuts into the stem ends of the brussels sprouts (so that they cook through better) and add them to the puree. Cook at low heat for about 15 minutes.

I didn't really imagine how the flavours of pumpkin and brussels sprouts would match together before making this dish, but they really completed each other. The puree with its sweetness surrounded the slightly bitter brussels sprouts and when bitten, these flavours melted together. The textures were really harmonious and when eaten together with meat, the creamy pumpkin also took the place of sauce.

All in all, a really nice and uplifting side dish. Although, when my mother tried to serve some three remaining brussels sprouts to my father (she had left them for him to try), the jolly vegetables were sadly left onto the plate with only some pumpkin puree eaten from around them. But that's just dad.