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!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Apple and sage pork chops

I found this recipe online and thought it looked nice and then when I was cooking it I had a few misgivings - things weren't browning properly, the marinade looked like it wasn't going to do anything to the pork and the apples looked out of place. However, after putting the apples in the oven to oven bake instead of leaving them in the pan, this dish came out beautifully, especially when served with potato wedges and broccoli. You could also grill the chops and apples instead, I couldn't since our oven and grill aren't separate.

One tip I have for marinading is to use a bag instead of a bowl, anything will do really. I have used normal food bags, the bags that vegetables come in in the supermarket, or my preference - 1 litre ziplock food bags. If you do use a bag, double bag the marinading things particularly if they have bones on  to prevent them breaking through the bag. Usually before closing the bag I make sure that all air is out of the bag and that I rotate the bag round every so often just so all food gets the marinade.

Ingredients
  • 2 pork chops, on or off the bone
  • 2 red or pink small eating apples
For the marinade:
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh sage leaves, finely chopped or 10ml (2tsp) dried sage
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped or 10ml (2tsp) dried thyme
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) maple syrup
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
  • the juice and zest of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper
For the sauce
  • 150 ml single cream (you may not need all of this)
  • 150 ml chicken or beef stock
  • a little more maple syrup to taste
Method 
  1. Remove excess fat from the chops
  2. Cut the apples in half, leaving the core intact.
  3. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl
  4. Add the chops and the apples to the marinade and mix to coat all surfaces
  5. Cover and put in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes. Do not marinade for longer than an hour, or the apples will turn brown.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 180C and cook wedges on a tray and grease-proof paper, according to packet instructions. The next steps will take around 20-30 mins.
  7. Put a small amount of oil in the frying pan and heat. Add pork chops and apples (cut side down) and cook for 5 mins.
  8. Remove apples and put in the oven for about 15mins, cut side facing up.
  9. Continue cooking the pork chops in the pan until the marinade is reducing and starting to caramelise and brown and stick to the pork.
  10. Check the chops are cooked through, put on a  plate, cover in foil and allow to rest while you make the sauce.
  11. Pour in the stock to the frying pan which the chops were in and try and get the sticky brown marinade off the bottom of the saucepan. This will give flavour and colour to the sauce. It doesn't matter if there are bits of sage there too. Allow to reduce and thicken.
  12. Add the cream and stir. Taste and add some maple syrup if necessary. I think we may have added a little more sage to the mix. Allow to simmer and reduce for a few minutes.
  13. Serve the pork chops and wedges with some green veg and with the sauce.
Hyvää Ruokahalua!

Mökki living & BBQs

Sorry about the lack of blogging recently, however the recent hot weather hasn't inspired much cooking, it has only inspired this....



 and this...



although I will tell you about the lovely chocolate tiffin and the chocolate pastry rolls my OH made, some other day...



*a mökki is a Finnish cottage or cabin where they go to enjoy the summer often they only have simple amenities and will be hidden down a dirt track somewhere

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Bacon and mascarpone pasta

I used to be into the Atkins diet a while ago (which worked actually, but I cheated and stayed in the induction /first phase the entire way through - the weight  has kinda stayed off but a recent visit back home and Easter has made the scales wobble more than just a bit!) and this recipe is inspired by an Atkins recipe but it uses real pasta instead of Atkins pasta - which I read is horrible. I never tried this while on Atkins because I generally hate food substitutes, I'd rather go without than substitute for less. However, I love bacon and cheese of most descriptions and combining these ingredients with pasta has got to be a winner... well it's hearty, comfort food for me :) I guess it would also work with some broccoli, peas or green beans in the sauce as well. This isn't my favourite dish ever but it's nice for a weekday when you just can't be bothered to do much.

Ingredients
  • 120 g bacon (streaky or back), sliced
  • 100 g dried pasta
  • 1 small shallot, chopped 
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 60 ml white wine (good excuse to have a couple of glasses with the meal!)
  • 100 g mascarpone cheese
  • 60 ml whole/semi-skimmed milk
  • large handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
Method
  1. Boil a pan of salted water and add the pasta
  2. In a large pan over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until crisp, which will take about 12 mins - not too hot otherwise it will go dry and burn.
  3. The pasta should be ready sometime during the cooking of the bacon and so drain and return to the same pot but leave it with the lid on, off the heat.
  4. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain the fat and pour off most of the fat leaving about a tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan.
  5. Cook the shallots in the pan that has the bacon fat for about 3 mins on a medium heat until translucent.
  6. Add garlic and cook for a further minute
  7. Stir in the wine and cook until reduced by half (about 3 minutes)
  8. Add the mascarpone, salt and pepper. Stir until cheese is melted,.
  9. Mix in the milk and parsley; cook 1 minute to heat through and then add the pasta and the bacon and stir until the pasta is nicely coated.
  10. Serve on it's own or with a small salad
Hyvää Ruokahalua!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Sausage fusilli

This recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver's "Proper blokes' sausage fusilli", we made a few changes to the original recipe in that we used more sausage per person and less pasta and fresh chilli instead and I had powdered spices not whole seeds. I was a bit worried since I am quite used to "saucy" pastas, but this was really really good - so good I'm trying to resist making it for the second time in one week! Jamie recommends good quality sausages and I cannot agree more - you would lose the texture and flavour of the dish if you buy cheap sausages. I used Cumberland sausages and they were fantastic.

Ingredients (serves 2)

• 1 and a bit tsp ground fennel
• 1 finely chopped red chilli
• olive oil
• 400g good-quality Cumberland sausages
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• a wineglass of white wine
• zest and juice of 1 lemon (you shouldn't need all of it)
• 200g good-quality fusilli or penne
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• a couple of knobs of butter
• a handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or pecorino or something similar), plus extra for serving
• a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Method
  1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan/wok.
  2. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins and put into the pan, and use a wooden spoon or something to break it up and then fry for a few minutes until the meat starts to colour
  3. Carry on trying to break up the large lumps of sausage - it will start to look like mince.
  4. Add the fennel and chillis to the sausage meat and cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes until the meat becomes crisp, golden brown and a little bit caramelized.
  5. Put on a pan of salted boiling water for the pasta.
  6. Stir in the oregano, pour in the white wine and allow it to reduce by half.
  7. Add the lemon zest and juice - but be gentle with the lemon as I found that all the juice made the sauce a bit too lemony.
  8. Turn the heat down to low on the sausage meat while you cook the pasta according to the instructions.
  9. When the pasta is ready, take about 200 ml of the cooking water and put it aside and then drain the pasta.
  10. Add the pasta to the sausage meat and stir to coat, add the butter, parmesan, parsley and a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water usntil the sauce has loosed up a little.
  11. Season to taste and serve, remembering to sprinkle some of the cheese on the top.
Hyvää Ruokahalua!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Chicken and peppers in pastry

My friend makes this and she kindly gave me the recipe to post up. I rarely work with pastry - mostly due to lack of confidence after a disastrous steak and ale pie and few years ago, but I thought I would give this a try. It went pretty well apart from the fact that I was too lazy to read the defrosting instructions on the pastry first and we almost had a very sticky unusable pastry block. To ensure that puff pastry is light and puffy one has to preserve the layer structure when rolling it out and not mess it up by making it into a ball and rolling it out.I quite liked this but I think there was too much pastry - so maybe I should have rolled it out thinner and perhaps only use half a pack of pastry for the two servings! Also I think next time I would use a stronger cheese than brie, maybe something like blue cheese. I guess one could also exchange the peppers for other veg such as spinach. Anyway, good luck :)

Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 1 packet puff pastry (voitaikina)
  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • olive oil
  • mixed herbs for marinade
  • 1-2 sweet red ramiro (pointy) peppers
  • brie, sliced
  • 1 egg  beaten or some milk for glazing the pastry
  • salad to accompany the meal
Method
  1. Butterfly chicken breast and marinade in olive oil, mixed herbs, salt and pepper briefly (this is not strictly a marinade, but more to coat the chicken in something tasty)
  2. Brown the chicken breasts in a pan and put to one side once done.
  3. Meanwhile, roast some sweet red peppers under a hot grill. I like to remove the seeds and insides and halve them and rub some olive oil over them before putting them under a really hot grill for 5-10 mins. Let cool and then peel the skin off the peppers and slice into strips.
  4. Open up the chicken breasts, put a few strips of roasted red pepper in middle of chicken, add some slices of brie, then wrap in puff pastry. You can do this however you like.
  5. Put the wrapped chicken on a baking tray and glaze with the milk or the egg.
  6. Bake for 30-40 mins at 200C, or until the pastry looks risen and done.
  7. Serve with salad.
Hyvää Ruokahalua!