Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Slow-cooked pork ribs with blue cheese dip

I think I have finally perfected cooking ribs. This batch were beautiful - the meat was very soft and falling off the bone. I still haven't found a home-made marinade that I am happy with yet, so I just stick to the ribs that have been pre-marinaded - they seem to work just fine and are a similar price to unmarinaded ribs. These are great with things like potato wedges, barbeque sauce (one of my favourites is Santa Maria's Kentucky Whiskey BBQ sauce) and vegetables such as carrot and cucumber sliced into sticks, for eating up the remaining dip!

  • 2 x 300-400g pre-marinaded pork ribs (much easier than marinading own, ribs really need to be marinaded else dry and chewy)
  • 1 dl crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • handful of fresh/frozen parsley, chopped
  • 200 g (1 pot) sour cream (kermavilli) or creme fraiche
For the ribs
  1. Pre-heat oven to 120C.
  2. Remove ribs from packaging.
  3. Wrap the ribs and marinade in foil - do not leave any gaps open in the foil.
  4. Put in/on a baking tray, a tray with sides is best, just in case of any spillages.
  5. Cook at 120C for 2.5 hrs
  6. Turn heat upto 200C and cook for a further 15 mins and then take out of the oven for 15 mins to rest.
For the blue cheese dip (start making just before you turn the oven up on the ribs)
  1. Pour sour cream into a bowl.
  2. Add the crumbled blue cheese.
  3. Add salt to taste, add the parsley and stir.
  4. Let it stand in the fridge for half an hour before serving.
 Hyvää Ruokahalua!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sima (Finnish mead for Vappu/May Day)

Sima, also known as Mead, is a popular drink on Vappu (aka May Day) in Finland and Sweden. You can get it in alcohol or non-alcohol versions. The recipe below is for non-alcohol lemon Sima, which we decided to adapt and add an extra lime. We would have tried making an alcohol version but we started this project about 5 weeks too late! So, maybe we can try again in time next year. I have heard of some more exotic types of Sima, such as lime and ginger, but have no idea what they are like, but I would love to try. Anyway, you will need about a week for this project, no special equipment except a large bucket and some clean empty bottles. Fizzy drinks bottles, wine bottle etc will do, so long as you can seal them with a screw cap or something that will let the pressure out. We tried sealing some old wine bottles with corks and ended up with rather explosive Sima when we opened them. Good luck!

  • 8 litres water
  • 450 g dark brown sugar (fariinisokeri)
  • 600 g granulated sugar (plus extra for the bottles)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh yeast
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • raisins
  1. Boil about a litre of water, take off the heat and add the sugar, and stir until dissolved. If you want to alter the the colour of your Sima, you can do so by changing the proportions of brown to white sugar for darker or lighter Sima. Pour into a large 10 litre bucket.
  2. Add the remaining cold water to the bucket, stir. This mixture should be lukewarm. If not allow to cool for a bit. Pour a bit of lukewarm water into a cup and mix in the yeast. It is important to remember that yeast is a living organism and cannot tolerate temperatures above 40C - i.e. it will die if you add it to too hot water, then your mixture won't ferment and you will be left with sugary water, not Sima.
  3. Add the sliced lemons and lime, stir a bit to mix, put a lid on the bucket. In our case we used a large plate to cover.
  4. Leave to stand at room temperature or slightly warmer e.g. an airing cupboard, for 48 hours (the instructions said 12-24 hrs but we forgot to do it then)
  5. Now you will need to bottle the mead. You can use any type of bottles for this - we used left over wine bottles from our wine making last year.
  6. Add a small handful of raisins and about 1.5 tsp sugar to the bottom of each bottle. Pour in the mead, without the lemons. We used an ordinary sieve and a funnel to make sure we didn't get any pips into the bottles. Seal the bottles but not too tightly (so the pressure from the ongoing fermentation process doesn't build up) and leave at room temperature for 2-3 days (upto a week). You know the Sima is ready when the raisins rise to the surface.

Easter choc chip cupcake nests

I made these for Easter to take to a friend's house for dessert. They went down really well although they were rather large and one small complaint was that there was too much frosting - something I didn't have a problem with!

The small eggs are Cadbury's mini-eggs (which I adore...), which you can't get over here. But feel free to substitute. Traditionally people break up Cabury's flake bars to make the nest like texture, and so you would then only use frosting to stick the flaky chocolate to the cupcake. However since we don't get Cadbury's in any form here I tried to make the nest like texture by using a piping nozzle from Ikea and the cute cupcake/muffin cases that I used were the Drömmar, also from Ikea. I think these were probably on the big side for these cakes. Sadly we don't get shop bought chocolate chips so I had to improvise and make some of my own by cutting up a chocolate bar with a knife, which actually works out quite well!

For the cupcakes
  • 150 g softened butter (I usually take it out of the fridge and let it soften while I get the other ingredients ready)
  • 150 g caster sugar (siro erikoishieno sokeri)
  • 175 g self-raising flour (or 175 g plain + 2.5 tsp baking powder)
  • 3 large free-range/organic eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or substitute some of the sugar for vanilla sugar
  • 50 g milk or plain chocolate chips
For the icing
  • 150 g softened butter
  • 250 g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp very hot water
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C
  2. Line a 12 cupcake pan with cupcake papers
  3. Crack open the eggs into a cup and beat gently with a fork
  4. Put all the cake ingredients in a large bowl
  5. Beat with an electric mixer until light and creamy
  6. Spoon the cake mix evenly between the cake cases
  7. Bake until risen and firm to the touch, about 18-20 mins
  8. Allow to cool briefly and then transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly before icing
  9. Now to make the icing while the cakes are cooling.
  10. Beat the butter and icing sugar together with  the electric mixer
  11. Combine the cocoa powder and the hot water and then add them to the butter and sugar mix, beat until smooth and creamy.
  12. Use a piping bag and nozzle of your choice to frost/ice the cakes. If you are not sure how to use one of these just google "how to use a piping bag" and there's some nice videos and how to guides around to help.
  13. Finish decorating by adding a couple of eggs to the top of each nest.
Hyvää ruokahalua!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Pinella is the name for an old and beautiful riverside building in Turku. It started as a restaurant back in the 19th century and apparently has been known as Pinella ever since, even if the ensuing restaurants inhabiting the building have had different names. The building was closed in 2004 and after extensive renovations and buildong work, Pinella the restaurant opened about 3 weeks ago and we got to visit for a work lunch. I have to say that ever since I checked out the menu back in March I have wanted to try it out, so lunch seemed a perfect opportunity to see whether it is worth coming for dinner.

First impressions were that they had managed to make the place seem very light despite the thick stone walls and the pillars and overhang outside, which could conspire to make it dark and dingy. The decor was simple with a mix of normal chairs, poufs and sofa style seating in the main restaurant area. The restaurant was very busy, however our party of 30 people was still served in good time and politely. Some colleagues suggested that sitting on the poufs for a three course meal could be quite tiring and not good for the back, but I didn't see that to be so much of a problem.

The menu offered a chicken and goats cheese salad, which looked succulent and was praised by those who had ordered it. The beef cheeks with red wine sauce and mushroom polenta also went down well with some colleagues who said that the beef almost melted in your mouth. I had carrot and ginger soup with crayfish tails. This was a fabulous soup, not too sweet from the carrots with a nice kick from the ginger. The crayfish tails were perfectly done and they certainly didn't skimp on them. Most of us felt that we could have had a dessert to round off the meal, however the work budget did not extend that far. At around 9 euros for the lunch main course, which is in line with normal restaurant lunch prices in Turku I would say this was good value. It has most certainly inspired me to return to check out their a la carte menu one evening in the near(ish) future!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wild mushroom risotto

I was never a great fan of mushrooms until I started to pick my own. From the end of August until sometime in October it is common to find Finnish people heading out to the countryside with buckets (and funny hats to ward off the elk flies) in order to pick mushrooms. Everyone has their own favourite mushroom picking spots and many would keep the secret of where these places are - even on their deathbeds! I'm no expert, only confidently able to pick two types, the yellow chanterelle and it's darker and in my opinion much tastier cousin suppilovahvero, also known as yellowfoot. I love doing this every autumn and it's great to then dry what you have picked so you have plenty of mushrooms for the whole year round.

Risotto is a great dish. It is quite quick, however it is attention demanding - requiring constant attention from the moment you add the rice. I don't know if the alcohol is important but most recipes I have found usually suggest white wine or dry martini. Although I have been known to use red wine, which makes the risotto a bit pink! The most important thing with risotto is to keep stirring as this helps make it really soft and creamy by releasing the starch from the rice grains. I have used chanterelle mushrooms before for this, however I found it a bit bland. The nuttier more flavourful suppilovahvero are much better in my opinion for risotto. This risotto is great served with a nice piece or red meat such as beef or lamb, or enjoyed by itself.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • handful dried/fresh wild mushrooms e.g. porcini or my personal favourite - yellowfoot (suppilovahvero)
  • olive oil approx. 2 tbsp
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped (optional)
  • 250 ml wine or martini or vodka or cider
  • 150-200 g arborio risotto rice
  • 500 ml chicken or vegetable stock (you may need more...)
  • 25 g parmesan, grated
  • handful frozen or fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  1. If your mushrooms are dried, then you will need to rehydrate them. Do this by putting them in a bowl and cover them with hot water until they are soft. Drain away the water and pat them dry with some kitchen towel. Then chop the rehydrated or fresh mushrooms into quite small pieces (whatever size you prefer really). Dry fry for a few mins on a medium-hot neat until they don't look so wet. Be careful sometimes the mushrooms tend to jump around the pan!
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Fry the shallots and celery on a medium heat until the shallots become translucent, try not to brown the shallots if you can help it.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium-hot and add the rice. Stir thoroughly to coat all the grains in oil and then add the wine/cider/martini or vodka. Stir until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Start adding the stock to the rice. It is important to do this a bit at a time, by adding just enough to cover the rice and stirring constantly until the rice has absorbed the stock, then you can add more, bit by bit. You may not need all the stock and the risotto should look creamy towards the end (about 20mins after starting to add the stock)
  5. The rice is cooked when it is al dente which is basically the Italian way of saying soft and cooked but still with a slight crunch/hardness to the grain. Essentially you should still be able to chew this meal and not have it so overcooked you could suck it through a straw!
  6. Take the risotto off the heat and stir in the Parmesan and parsley. Season to taste and serve.
Hyvää Ruokahalua!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Moroccan chicken tagine

This dish I had at a friend's house the other night and it was lovely, the sauce was fruity and lemony and the chicken was probably the softest chicken I have ever had. Essentially a tagine is a two part dish with a conical lid. Originally they are made of clay but you can also get steel ones these days. When one makes a dish in a tagine, it is similar to braising for a long time, however the shape of the tagine and the material it is made from is said to impart an authentic flavour to the dish. We were going to try using a proper tagine, however we had forgotten to cure it beforehand, so we opted for a heavy lidded saucepan on the lowest heat possible which worked pretty well (although some Moroccans may disagree!).


  • whole chicken leg on bone (thigh) with skin
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds crushed
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp dried ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp of either paprika or chilli (something for a bit of a kick)
  • olive oil for marinade
  • 1 whole onion roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • whole fennel bulb, roughly chopped
  • few strands of saffron
  • 2 salted preserved lemons, cut roughly into eighths
  • 250 ml chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  1. Marinade chicken overnight in olive oil, coriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric, paprika/chilli, salt, pepper.
  2. Brown the chicken and marinade in olive oil - start with the skin side for a bit then turn to the other side for a while and then turn back to the skin side until nicely golden.
  3. Add the chopped onion and fry gently until softened, for about 3-5mins. Then add the crushed garlic, fennel, salted lemon and the stock.
  4. Put the lid on the pan and make sure any holes are plugged up - kitchen paper works just fine.
  5. Simmer on low heat for 1.5 hrs
  6. Serve with couscous or rice

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Home-made pesto

I have tried making pesto a few times and the thing is, it always ends up a bit different each time. That was starting to bother me but actually now I don't mind. One thing I am learning, is not to follow a recipe religiously, since the ones I have found haven't been brilliant. Instead I try to follow my taste buds on this, so forgive the approximate measures, but it is probably just best to adjust it to taste.

  • Handful of basil leaves (fresh or frozen)
  • small handful of pine nuts (pinjam siemen) - around 40 g...
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil -in the words of Mr J. Oliver... you'll need a few good glugs - around 50-100 ml
  • pecorino or manchega or pecorino cheese - I usually grate this in to taste, maybe 20 g
  • salt and pepper to season

Combine all the ingredients and blitz with a hand mixer. If the mix tastes very bitter then add a bit more oil and cheese and pine nuts. In the end the pesto should resemble a grainy mixture and may taste slightly over seasoned, but this is fine. The thickness of the pesto can depend on the purpose, whether it is to go on meat or mixed with pasta. If it is too thick, thin it out with a bit of olive oil. If I am adding it to pasta then I usually start cooking the pasta and in the meantime I make the pesto - it's that easy and it doesn't need to be cooked either.

I usually eat this with pasta, tuna and sweetcorn with some more cheese grated on top. It's something I used to eat in my student days and it's a great meal when I can't be bothered to make too much of an effort.

Dark chocolate fondants

I have recently discovered fondants as a dessert. Fondants are small cake like desserts, however, when you cut into them with a spoon they have a lovely gooey, runny centre that just oozes out onto your plate. They are also incredibly easy to make.

I used normal cake cases, but apparently it is possible to get silicon or metal moulds for this purpose. The recommended mould size is 7cm diameter by 4.5cm depth (my cake cases were a bit smaller and so instead of 4 fondants I ended up with 6). If you use moulds you should grease them and gently dust with flour and place them on a baking tray with greaseproof paper on. If you use paper cases then a muffin tray is fine.

You could probably replace the dark chocolate with milk or even white chocolate or have dark chocolate fondants with white chocolate centres...


  • 2 eggs
  • 50 g brown sugar (fariinisokeri)
  • 1 dessert spoon (12ml or 2 tsp) plain flour
  • 1 dessert spoon (12ml or 2 tsp) cornflour
  • 140 g dark chocolate, obviously around 70% cocoa solids is always good :) broken into small pieces
  • 2 squares of chocolate per fondant (approx another 70g more chocolate)
  • 110 g butter
  • 3 dessert spoons (36ml or 6 tsp) whipping cream

  1. Preheat oven to 200C (or 180C for fan assisted oven)
  2. Beat eggs and sugar
  3. Sieve flours together and beat into eggs and sugar
  4. Melt chocolate, butter and cream over bowl with simmering water (bain-marie method)
  5. Pour the chocolate, cream and butter mix in with eggs and flour and beat until smooth and well mixed
  6. Leave in fridge for 1 hour to stiffen up
  7. Pour into each paper case until the case is half filled
  8. Place 2 pieces of chocolate per fondant onto the mixture in each mould
  9. Top up mould until it is 2/3 filled
  10. Put in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes. The recommended time was 6-7 minutes but I found this was still too gooey even for the smaller cake cases, at least with my oven. If the fondants look shiny on top then they will still need 3 or 4 more minutes.
  11. Turn out immediately and serve
These are very rich, so we found that one was more than enough!
Hyvää ruokahalua!

EDIT Have just discovered that if you make too many you can keep them in the fridge and warm them in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds before serving. I also fed these to a friend earlier and she loved them!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

King prawn green thai curry - fail

I attempted to make a King Prawn Green Thai curry from this book...

I have had this book for a couple of years and every so often I attempt to make something from it. However, I usually remember by the eating stage why I haven't made anything from it for a while. It's a bit potluck as to first whether the quantities are correct and second as to whether the food tastes any good. The pictures never resemble the finished product and I really don't think this down to me (all the time...) since I am an good-ish cook. I have made a couple of good things from it, but I am now considering throwing it away since I just cannot trust the recipes and I am fed up of wasting money on good ingredients. Either that or I'll see what I fancy and compare with other online recipes.

First failure was, I used cooked king prawns, partly through laziness and partly because my local shop isn't big enough to stock even frozen king prawns. So even though I reduced cooking time they still ended up overcooked and rubbery. Yuck. I will never ever do that again.

Second failure was that we had picked up light coconut milk (5-7% fat) by accident. When I added this to my curry paste and prawns it was grey and watery. I looked at the ingredients only to find out that "light" literally means they have added water to normal coconut. In an attempt to salvage things we drained off the watery muck, found some normal coconut milk, added a bit more curry paste and cooked for a couple more minutes.

Unfortunately that didn't salvage things, the sauce was still as runny as hell and even if I had used uncooked prawns, following the cooking instructions still wouldn't have yielded a thicker sauce. Cooking it longer would have meant very elasticy rubbery prawns anyway.

If I were to try this again, I would use coconut cream, and raw king prawns and I would probably start cooking the sauce and get that almost cooked, before adding the prawns which need very little time to cook. I would also use only about half the fish sauce recommended and a dash of lime. If I dare try it again, I'll post the improved recipe up!

I managed to salvage the evenings food with some lovely chocolate fondants, but I'll save that for another day...