Saturday, 29 September 2007

Broccoli pleasure for one

I spotted the recipe for Broccoli with hazelnut butter on Epicurious. Although it was love at first sight, the reviews made me want it even more - someone actually wrote it was the only way to get his/her children eat their veggies.

...someone forgot to buy hazelnuts. Not a big deal! I had just the amount of salted pistachios and figured these could suite the dish even better.

Although I made this dish for one, I'm going to include the original quantities for 6 people. It's so fast that cooking this for one is not a problem, but rather a blessing. Instead of steaming I just blanched the broccoli - steaming is a technique I have yet to study... I can't help but add salt to the boiling water - come on, what's a veggie without taste?

Broccoli with pistachio butter
(adapted from Epicurious; serves 6 (1))

900 g (150 g) broccoli
80 g (15 g) butter at room temperature
115 g (20 g) salted pistachios (weighed after shelling)
black pepper

  1. Cut broccoli stems into 1/2 cm slices and florets into 2 1/2 cm pieces
  2. Boil the stems for 3 minutes, then add the florets and boil for 5 more minutes
  3. Finely grind half of the pistachios and mix with butter, season with pepper (the pistachios have enough salt to them already)
  4. Drain the broccoli and mix well with the butter mixture.
  5. Chop pistachios that are left over and add.
  6. Serve warm

This is one of the easiest and most delicious broccoli dishes I have had and made. I will definitely make this again - probably tomorrow already:) The broccoli is just tender enough and pistachios add a crunchy effect. Plus the dish has the nicest green colour! I'm sure it would make a great side dish for chicken as well.
make your kids eat this.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Ever smelt a garden full of roses? Ever tasted one?

I finally-finally got my hands on rosewater. Rosewater is a product that is basically made using rose petals and water. It was first produced in Persia and has been used in South Asian, West Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines for flavouring desserts. Its wonderfully floral scent is overcome only by the fact that eating or drinking something that's made with rosewater is like tasting a rose garden.

Imagine a warm summer day in a garden full of roses.
Now imagine you are tasting this day.
This is rosewater.

For my first attempt to use rosewater I chose a simple rosewater lassi - a sweet Indian yoghurt drink.

Rosewater lassi
(from the Estonian magazine Oma Maitse, serves 2-3)

5 dl unflavoured yoghurt
1 dl cold water
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp rosewater
1/2 tsp crushed/ground cardamum
(ice and rose petals for serving)
  1. Mix yoghurt, water, sugar, rosewater and cardamum well
  2. If you wish, add ice cubes or crushed ice and rose petals for serving

I'd just call the recipe flowery breakfast, because that's what it is for me. It has quite a strong cardamum taste - if you like cardamum, you'll probably love it. I like using ground cardamum because then there's a splash of taste in every sip and no bits to get between your teeth. As for the ice - it's cold here in the North! No ice in my breakfast! I'll just have to wait for the summer for that...

Rosewater is not a very cheap treat, although only little portions are used at a time. If you grow your own roses, see these recipes for making your own rosewater.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Coco-nutty prune candy

A few weeks ago I had cravings for ice cream with hot sauce. That's called a tooth-ache wish. I happened to have a bunch of prunes left over from my chocolate-y meat sauce and decided to boil them in some coconut milk. The coconut milk thickened and adopted the fruity sweetness of the prunes, which turned soft and velvety, being rich in creamy coconut milk.

I didn't eat it all, no matter how serious my cravings were.
I discovered the left-overs later when they had already cooled down. Instead of a sauce there were soft coconut-flavoured prunes. Ding! An idea! I would have walked..well...a mile to have got hold on to some white chocolate to dip these prunes into. It took me a week to get the chocolate, though...

Coco-nutty prune candy
(about 30)

2 dl prunes
2 dl coconut milk
about 120 g white chocolate
about 2 dl coconut flakes

  1. Boil prunes with coconut milk for 10-15 minutes (don't cover).
  2. Remove from heat and let the prunes cool. If there is too much coconut milk left, you can just pick the prunes out.
  3. Melt chocolate over a waterbath. Prepare a small bowl with coconut flakes to roll the candy in and parchment paper/foil/silicone sheet to place the candy on for cooling.
  4. Dip each prune into white chocolate, let excessive chocolate drip off, roll the candy in coconut flakes and place onto parchment paper/foil/silicone sheet to cool. (I used 2 teaspoons - one for dipping and one for covering so I didn't get a chocolate-coconut flake mess)
The candies can be stored in the fridge and taken out only some time before serving - that way it's better to eat them in several bites. If they're kept at room temperature, it's better to eat them in just one bite - or pieces might fall off them and...that's just not that comfortable.

How long should you boil the prunes? I have boiled them at quite a high temperature. The first time I made the candies, I used a small pot - the prunes didn't fit in one layer. I boiled them for 15 minutes and the coconut milk was still quite light-coloured. The second time I used a saucepan - the prunes didn't fill one layer. After 10 minutes I removed the saucepan from heat, because the coconut milk was quite brown already. So I recommend using a pot that just holds one layer of prunes and keeping an eye on it - don't let the coconut milk turn that brown, the taste will be better.

The candies have a mild coconut taste and are very velvety inside. White chocolate adds additional sweetness and makes the overall impression quite sweet. If you're an extreme sweettooth, try adding dark syrup when boiling the prunes. Using toasted coconut flakes would make the nutty accent yummily overwhelming.
Do try this at home!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

A sweet mosaic of cookies

I just couldn't resist buying the Australian cookbook Sweet Food when I first browsed through it in a bookstore (actually it was the second time, but first sounds so much more poetical). For me a big deal of the recipes inside are exotic, using ingredients that are unusual in an Estonian kitchen - macadamia nuts for example, which are quite often in the ingredient lists. Ask an average Estonian what a macadamia nut is - you'll probalby hear the answer 'Misasi?' or - in English - 'A what?'

One of the first recipes that caught my eye was of cracked cookies (the name may differ in the English version, as I'm re-translating the recipe from Estonian). Their appearance is just that I was sure I'd be making them before I'd even read through the recipe. The cool look is achieved by rolling balls of cookie dough in powdered sugar before baking - that will leave a two-coloured cracked effect.

I substituted the allspice in the recipe with a double amount of cinnamon and pecan nuts with walnuts. I do have a budget, you know.

Cracked chocolate cookies
(adapted from Sweet Food)

125 g soft butter
370 g soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
60 g melted chocolate
80 ml milk
340 g flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
85 g chopped walnuts
powdered sugar

  1. Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla until the mixture is light and creamy.
  2. Add eggs one by one
  3. Add chocolate and milk (I was afraid that chocoalte would turn lumpy when added to the cool mixture and mixed it with warm milk first).
  4. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt onto the butter mixture and mix well.
  5. Add chopped walnuts.
  6. Cover the dough and place it in the fridge for at least 3 hours (you can also prepare the dough the evening before)
  7. Preheat the oven to 180C and slightly grease 2 griddles.
  8. Use a teaspoon for measuring and make balls out of the dough (the recipe said this technique would make about 60 cookies - I got over 80 though I scooped quite much dough every time)
  9. Roll each ball in a small bowl with powdered sugar so that it's covered well and place the balls onto the griddles, leaving enough space between them
  10. According to the recipe you should bake the cookies for 20-25 min. I baked my best batch only for 18 minutes - the edges shouldn't look very dark when you take the cookies out of the oven. Even if they don't get burnt - too much time mean rock cookies.
  11. After removing from the oven, leave for about 3-4 minutes, then place on a rack and let cool.

I subconsciously tried to find the cookies I had baked for 18 minutes afterwards - they were softer inside and seemed to have more taste. The cookies were moderately sweet and had a charming scent of cinnamon. This is rather a cacao-holic cookie than a chocoholic one, if I'm allowed to say such a thing! And I do believe one can't refuse eating something that looks like a sweet mosaic. Even if he or she has accidentally used a too long baking time and it cracks under the tooth like a real one:)

I wouldn't say these were the best cookies ever, but they were good and looked like A-class celebrities. That's great enough for me!

Monday, 3 September 2007

TGRWT#5: Meat with chocolate - are you kidding?

To try and eat meat with chocolate – that’s no easy challenge. Like – no way. But the more I thought about it, the more tempted I felt. Not only to test myself but also to shock others to see what they’d say and if they’d have anything to say at all. Well, they had. Amrita’s challenge for this months TGRWT#5 – combining meat and chocolate – has been the most intriguing one this far.

A traditional mole would have been a safer choice, I guess, because it’s widely known that it has chocolate in it and people actually eat it and like it and they actually do. No mole this time, amigos. I used an Italian recipe (Cinghiale in agrodolce) that actually called for wild boar (not a good idea to spend a pile of money if you’re mixing meat with chocolate for the first time – trust me), but used pork, I also lessened the amount of red wine vinegar. Otherwise I followed the recipe, word for word. Quite a scary afternoon.

Pork in chocolate and prune sauce
(adapted from Hans Joachim Döbbelin’s ’Italy)

100 g prunes
75 g big raisins
600 g pork chops
75 g bacon
3 tbsp olive oil
50 g bitter chocolate
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 dl red wine vinegar
3 laurel leaves

  1. Soak prunes and raisins in lukewarm water
  2. Cut the meat into slices
  3. Chop bacon and heat it with olive oil until transparent
  4. Add pork chops and fry them on both sides, then add salt and fry for additional 10 minutes on lower heat.
  5. Drain prunes and raisins and grate chocolate (for me it was easier to just chop it into little pieces)
  6. Heat sugar, laurel leaves and red wine vinegar on a pan until sugar dissolves, then add the mixture to the meat
  7. Also add raisins, prunes, chocolate and some cinnamon, then heat almost until boiling point (don’t let it boil!)
  8. Mix meat and sauce well and heat everything for another 15 minutes, not letting it boil.
  9. Serve with pasta or be a traitor like me and serve with rice instead.

I don’t imagine eating something like this with pasta. Really really really. Pasta with sweet and sour chocolate sauce? No. Rice was definitely much better.

Cooking this dish filled the kitchen with overwhelming vinegar smell – that was a bit alarming, especially for my mother. ’If I had known you were going to use it for meat, I wouldn’t have bought you this bottle of vinegar,’ she said when she came home. And also – ’If you asked me to buy meat I thought you’d be making something really good, but you made something sour.’ Okay, not a very bad start.

The dish is best described as sweet and sour chocolate meat. The taste of chocolate, most of all, is strange. It may be strangely good, but it’s still strange, strangely chocolate-y. What I actually like the most, are the prunes – delicate, soft, somehow maintaining a good balance between tastes. I’d rather eat the meat and pick out the prunes (into my mouth, of course), adding some yoghurt to my rice instead of chocolate sauce! The meat has an interesting accent to it, but isn’t flavoured by the sauce in a taste-killing way.

When my parents came home, I kept repeating, ’Really-really, you don’t have to eat this, you can just have rice with smoked chicken, really. Really.’ But strangely this time they wouldn’t listen, although I refused to reveal the components of the dish and hid myself in my room, doing all kinds of, you know, important stuff. After they’d called me for several times to go and explain the mystery, I heard the words ’this meat was good’.

I’m in awe. I’m confused. Something’s wrong in the world.
My parents liked meat in chocolate sauce.