Sunday, July 24, 2011

Norway

Sorry for the lack of posts recently - haven't been doing so much inspired cooking due to a few stresses at home, but I promise I will post properly later this week. Some on Jamie O and some on haggis and maybe some other recipes in between... I would have done some posts this weekend, but I feel it a bit inappropriate in light of the awful tragedy that happened in Norway on Friday. My heart goes out to all those affected. It is quite shocking that something like this could happen in such a peaceful and safe country. It is reminiscent of the attack in Stockholm in December last year, and makes one wonder who is next. With the rise of the far right wing movement in Finland, one can only hope that here we will not be beset by similar horrors.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Walnut and goat's cheese salad with maple syrup dressing and sirloin steak

We had this for dinner earlier and it was a lovely, light dinner, considering the heatwave we have been experiencing (30C heat, in Finland!). I quite enjoy sweet salads and having experimented a couple of times with maple syrup dressing, this recipe I got from a friend is the best that I have tried. This was ridiculously simple/quick and really tasty. If you don't want to have it so sweet you could replace the maple salad dressing with something else such as a goat's cheese vinaigrette. You can also replace the salad greens if you can't get those particular ones - crunchy salad leaves are best in my opinion.

I apologise for the lack of a picture - I got carried away with eating it before I remembered!

Ingredients
  • 70 g walnut halves (1 bag)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 pots of frisee salad
  • 1/2 pot of baby beet greens (viinisuolalehti)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 - 3/4 tbsp Dijon mustard (or any other mustard you have in your fridge) 
  • 100 g goats cheese
  • 300 g sirloin steak
  • pre-made frozen garlic bread
 Method
  1. Preheat oven to 150C
  2. Mix sugar and water together in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved, add walnut halves and toss to coat.
  3. Lay walnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 20 minute.
  4. Chop up the salad leaves (Frisee and baby beet greens) and put in a nice serving bowl.
  5. Using a fork, combine the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, oil and salt and pepper together until well mixed and then toss into the salad.
  6. Cut up the goat's cheese into small pieces (around 1cm cubes) and toss into the salad and try and make sure they aren't sticking together to much.
  7. Take out the walnuts when done and allow to cool. They will also become hard and crunchy once they have cooled.
  8. Put the garlic bread in the oven and cook according to instructions
  9. Meanwhile, warm up a pan with a little bit of oil on the hob,
  10. Cook the sirloin steak for about 4 minutes per side if you like it medium-well done. Obviously you should cook it to your preference :) and there is plenty of good advice on the web about that.
  11. Leave the sirloin to rest for about 5 minutes.
  12. Meanwhile toss the walnut halves into  the salad.
  13. Serve the salad onto plates and the garlic bread as well.
  14. Slice the sirloin into thin strips and place onto the salad and serve.
 Hyvää Ruokahalua!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Blender, what not to get...

We have the toaster, coffee maker, hand mixer and kettle (aka water boiler to Finns) of the OBH Nordica Chili range. These have served very well for a number of years (apart from the kettle whose switch broke after about 4yrs of not that much use - please bear in mind I'm a Brit and in my opinion kettles should last for a few years of several-times-a-day kind of use). So, we decided we needed a blender to make drinks and sauces and other such things. Since we had the other pieces in the OBH Nordica Chili range we naturally got their blender. Twice actually.

http://www.obhnordica.fi/Default.aspx?ID=454&ProductID=PROD125

The first overheated massively even when pulsing, so that any ice you wanted to crush for drinks, melted. Not quite the desired effect. If I had wanted to drink warm water, I would have got it from the tap. We thought there was something wrong, took it back and got a replacement. The new one still overheated, but we decided we could try and live with it (mostly cos we were too lazy to take it back). Decided one day to make Mojitos. No melted water, not even crushed ice, because when it was initially turned on, the damn thing ended up by grinding up the rubber gear mechanism, so the motor would turn but the blade couldn't because there were no notches left. Needless to say we took it back and got a refund. Any recommendations for a reasonably priced replacement gladly received.

This most certainly was not a sponsored post

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Uusi Kilta, Naantali

A few weeks ago during the warm weather/minor heatwave we experienced we went to the local harbour town of Naantali (incidentally where the President also has her summer residence) to eat out. I had eaten out at several of the restaurants in Naantali before so we decided to try a new place out. Uusi Kilta which means "New Guild" is a gorgeous seaside restaurant with a wonderful outside deck for enjoying pre-meal drinks. It was a bit chilly so we had to head inside for dinner. The inside is beautifully decorated, in an almost New England/baroque style. The food was excellent (I had their Arctic Char (Nieriää) and scallops) ,if not a little pricey, but for such a popular seaside town, that is to be expected. This place would be wonderful on a summer's evening and I can't wait to try it again.

Jerk chicken, rice, salad and corn

I bought Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals book the other day. Having heard reports that 30 minutes was a bit of an underestimation for how long the meals really do take to cook, I decided to do what I don't normally do and that is sit and read the introduction. What I found was that he admits that initially these meals won't take 30 mins from start to finish, given the right tools and some practice it will be possible.

We decided to to try the Jerk chicken with rice and black beans, accompanied by a light salad and corn on the cob. While it took 2 of us relatively skilled cooks 50 minutes to prepare from start to finish, it was worth it. The chicken was perfectly done, the salad refreshing and the rice/bean mix was delicious. It had quite a lot of heat, but the yoghurt sauce helped temper the heat. I have to say this was a brilliant meal, and what I was also pretty chuffed with was the fact that everything looked like the pictures in the book! I will try a few more recipes from this book and review them, so watch this space...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mojitos

Feeling summery we decided to make Mojitos. The secret I have found to Mojitos is, instead of sugar use a mint syrup, something like Monin's Mojito mint syrup, which I found in Stockmann for about 9 euros. Works like a charm! I used to use just sugar, but the Mojitos always lacked a certain something. I guess you could try making your own syrup (there's loads of recipes on the web), but after finding ready made mint syrup, I just am too lazy to try myself! Add more sparkling water if you find this a tad strong.




Ingredients (per glass)
  • half a lime, cut into quarters
  • 25 ml mint syrup
  • 35 ml white rum e.g. Angostura, Bacardi or similar
  • 6 fresh mint leaves
  • 60 - 80 ml sparkling water
  • 5 - 6 ice cubes
Method 
  1. Put limes, mint syrup, rum and mint into a glass. Using the end of a wooden spoon, or as we did the handle end of our sharpening steel (for knives), bash/crush the limes and other ingredients together.
  2. When you think you have got the most out of the limes, add the ice cubes to the glass.
  3. Add the water.
  4. Stir and enjoy!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sushi

Yesterday we tried making sushi, although apparently how we do it is not what "real" sushi is according my Japanese friend. So maybe I should call it sushi for foreigners?



Anyway, we made the rice according to the packet instructions. This didn't go so well as it didn't stick well enough for the nigiri sushi (the ones with the prawns on top of the rice). The filling for the rolls, was a pick 'n' mix of the following:
  • tuna
  • salmon
  • tamagoyaki - Japanese omelet, cut into strips, the recipe for which we found here
  • cucumber cut into strips
  • avocado cut into strips
  • sushi rice - as thin a layer as possible otherwise you end up with gigantic sushi rolls which can't be eaten in a single mouthful!
The rolls and nigiri were accompanied by wasabi paste, Japanese soy sauce with roasted sesame seeds and sliced sushi ginger to cleanse the palette (or so that is what it is for as I understand it). For us sushi takes about 1.5 hrs to prepare with all the slicing and omelette and rice making. We always have it on a Friday since that is the last time the fish is delivered fresh before the weekend, and it is too cumbersome to make during the week. You should always use the freshest fish possible. Never frozen. If fish smells fishy then you know it isn't fresh. I won't give you exact recipes and how to guide since we normally just get our info from the net or the side of the sushi packet.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cauliflower and broccoli gratin

This is a version of what the Brits call cauliflower cheese. I guess it can be served with whatever you like e.g. fish fingers, or pork chop or a piece of fish... whatever you like really. I don't bother having a potato or rice accompaniment to this, I think the gratin is perfect as an alternative.

Ingredients (serves 2)
  •     1 small head of broccoli
  •     1 small head of cauliflower
  •     2 tbsp butter
  •     2-3 tbsp flour
  •     300 ml milk
  •     60 ml double or whipping cream (these differ from single cream by their fat content)
  •     1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  •     1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper/paprika
  •     salt and pepper to taste
  •     1 egg yolk
  •     100g grated hard cheese e.g. cheddar, greve, gruyere (whichever you like), plus extra for sprinkling on top.

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Bring a pan of salted water to boil.
  3. Cut small florets off the broccoli and cauliflower, approx 2 in./5 cm in height.
  4. Start cooking the cauliflower in the boiling water. When it has been boiling for about 4 mins add the broccoli and boil everything for a further 3 mins. They should be quite tender but not soft enough to eat yet.
  5. Drain veg, but set aside about 100 ml of the cooking water.
  6. Melt butter slowly in a small saucepan, without letting it colour
  7. Add the flour and stir constantly with a wire whisk. When this is blended together in a yellow lump start adding the milk, cream and cooking liquid in small amounts so they can be easily incorporated without lumps forming. Make sure you are whicking quite rapidly at this point.
  8. When the sauce is starting to thicken (be warned it tends to stay runny for quite a while and you could be tempted to thicken it with more flour - don't, just be patient it will thicken), add the cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Feel free to add more of the spices to taste.
  9. Remove the sauce from the heat, whick in the egg yolk and the cheese.
  10. Put the florets of cauliflower and broccoli in a baking dish which will hold them compactly in a single layer.
  11. Pour cheese sauce over the broccoli and cauliflower pieces and then sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top.
  12. Bake in the oven for 20 mins, until golden brown on top.
Hyvää Ruokahalua!