Lavender and lemon creme brulee

- NO!!! I don’t want it!

- But….

- NO! Don’t spoil it with some freaking flowers!!!! For that matter I WON’T EAT ANY FLOWERS!!! Make the one I like, you know the chocolate one? Mmmm… chocolate….

Well, that’s kind of our standart conversation, when I try to introduce a novel, “suspicious” ingredient in our kitchen. It’s like a tiny little war that I nearly always win (yes, yes, I know…. the infamous onion problem…). Fortunately the “war times” are basically over, for the last 5 years we went through most of the things you can buy here up North, as well as some that you actually can’t. With a touch of  nostalgy I remind myself of the times when even a simple broccoli was an enemy on the plate. Nowadays, though, those talks don’t happen anymore, or so I though, cause last weekend we just had one.

And all that fuss about lavender, you say? I know that for many of you lavender is a kitchen staple, yet I have never seen it on sale in Finland. Even more, I brought mine from the USA just a couple of weeks ago, so I guess it’s a kind of exotic ingredient here. Anyway, over the years, I acquired a perfectly working strategy, that let’s me push through whatever I want to be cooked the kitchen (yes, yes…. apart from onion). I like to call it the “peaceful diplomat” strategy ;) As an answer to Mr No Onion Please poison accusations, I simply murmur “aha, yes, yes, uhumm” and slowly walk away to proceed with my plans anyway. Once I’m done, I approach him joyfully, pretending to suffer from a severe dementia and say in delight:

- Looooook! It worked!, Look what I managed to cook!!!

He doesn’t have much choice at this point and that’s why it’s a perfect way to make him try new things. Yes… so this is the peaceful diplomat strategy… I have a feeling our governments are also pretty fond of it ;)

This lavender and lemon creme brulee was an instant hit, and it surprisingly dethroned even the current favourite – the chocolate creme brulee! It is a definite must try! Mr No Onion Please reccomends, and that means a lot ;)

***

INGREDIENTS:

500ml cream (30% fat)

1 tbsp vanilla paste or seeds from 1 vanilla pod

finelly grated zest from one lemon

2 tbsp lavender

60ml caster sugar

6 egg yolks

some more caster sugar for carmelising on top

***

1. Heat the oven to 150C. Assemble six shallow ceramic tarts in a roasting pan.
2. Stir the yolks to homogenise, beware not to incorporate air into the mixture.
3. Slowly heat up the cream with sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and lavender. Bring it to simmer and keep for several minutes. Set aside for 10 min and let the lavender infuse the cream. Strain through the sieve.
4. Slowly add small amounts of cream to the egg mixture. Mix well and repeat till you incorporate everything. Try not to make any air bubbles
5. Pour the mixture between the tarts, tapping the roasting pan gently on the counter to settle the custard and remove any air bubbles. Pour hot water into your roasting pan so it comes up roughly as high as the custard.
6. Transfer to the oven and bake till they are set for 20-25min (for my size of ramekins).
7. Take them out, once they are cooled down to room temperature, transfer to the fridge (I find it is best to keep them overnight before you eat them).
8. An hour before serving toss some sugar on the top of each creme brulee and carmelise it with kitchen torch. Cool it down in the fridge again before serving.

Finnish delicacy – leipäjuusto with cloudberries

Today I’d like to tell you a bit about two very typical Finnish products – leipäjuusto and cloudberries that can be married into a really fast and delicious dessert. Leipäjuusto is a kind of fresh cheese made of cow’s milk, or traditionally from cow’s beestings. Direct translation of the name means bread cheese and I guess the name comes from it’s looks – dark brown spots that appear after the cheese is baked. Or maybe from the simple, yet  unusual fact that it is put into stoves just like bread is. The texture is very firm, a bit rubbery, maybe somewhat reminiscent to halloumi in this sence, yet totally different. Because of it’s texture it is also sometimes called squeaky cheese as it makes really funny noises when you eat it warm. I love it’s texture and the sound it makes, it’s simply a part of the fun when eating this dessert, but I know many people, particularly foreigners might be a bit discouraged by it. The cheese is very mild in taste, milky with a hint of sweetness and it can be used in desserts but also appears often in salads.

Cloudberries are another very typical Finnish ingredient. I know, I know, I should put here a picture of a real fruit not just jam, but you see… I somehow never really went to pick them up ;) It’s a tricky business (or so I keep telling myself ;) ). The fruit might look a tiny bit like a yellow raspberry, but unfortunately it doesn’t grow like one. The raspberries grow on a tall bush, and they are lots, making it easy to pick them up. Cloudberries, are more like wild strawberry bushes and sadly one plant forms only one berry! What a job to fill in a basket with them! Even worse, they grow sparse, only in separated places (known to the avid cloudberry foragers, not lame couch potatoes like me ;) ) and preferentially in wetlands among hordes of mosquitos. Phew… does it sound like a good excuse? ;) Anyway, they are really delicious and both the leipäjuusto and cloudberries are a must try when you’re visiting Finland.

INGREDIENTS:

leipäjuusto

muscovado sugar

double cream

cloudberry jam

Cut the cheese into small pieces, sprinkle muscovado sugar on top of them. Pour double cream, not too much, it shouldn’t cover cheese. Put to oven under grill and heat up till the sugar is caramelised. Serve with cloudberry jam.

Tasting Estonia

In previous post I promised to show you some food goodies from Tallinn. Since we have spent only half a day there, there is not that much to blog about, but well ;) here it is ;) We had a dinner in Beer House restaurant. It prides itself as  the only micro-brewery restaurant in Estonia. They brew 7 sorts of beer and as you might have guessed, it was a difficult choice so… we bought a tasting set ;) We liked the most Beer House Premium and Märzen Speziel. Medovar Honey was also really good, but I think it should be enjoyed by itself,  cause in combination with other beers it seems to be a tad too sweet. One can  see the brewery vats through the windows next to restaurant’s entrance.

Tallin takes pride in its Hanseatic history and many restaurants advertise their medieval dishes. Beer House is no different and not only it is stylized as a tavern but it also serves a wide variety of dishes that probably are similar to those from the past. For a beer snack we chose pig’s ears. Doesn’t it sound fun ;)? It is something really interesting to try, but for sure I won’t crave for it ;) For main Mr No Onion Please opted for ribs, while I got sausage of game with potato and forest-mushroom pocket, beet and horse-radish terrine, mustard sauce and fresh сranberry sauce.

I guess the most common food souvenirs one brings from any country are sweets and alcohol. Well, we are no different. That’s usually the first things we think of bringing back with us as well. When it comes to Estonia, the staple food souvenirs are Kalev chocolates and marzipan and Vana Tallin liquor.

I’m not a great fan of Kalev milk chocolates, but I must admit, they really know how to make good white ones. Both me and Mr No Onion Please adore the white chocolate with dried blueberries and crisps. Mr No Onion Please is also a fan of white chocolate with strawberries and cookies, while I prefer the one with dried cranberries and coconut. When we went to Kalev store, I have spotted a new milk chocolate with almonds and gooseberries. Oh my, I love gooseberries, of course I had to buy it! It is a nice chocolate, though, to my disappointment it doesn’t contain dried gooseberry bits (or not at least visible ones). I would also like a tiny bit more of the gooseberry flavor in it, but in general I was pretty happy with the taste and will definitely buy it again.

Another “souvenir” that one just has to bring from Estonia is Vana Tallinn liquor. As much as I  can’t really handle the original liquor (too strong), I really adore its cream and coffee cream versions. There is a tiny bit of rum and vanilla flavor with some  delicate citrus aftertaste. Definitely one of the best cream liquors I’ve ever tasted. They are absolutely delicious! Since I got now a new bottle (my stock always replenishes so fast ;) ) I’m planning to use it in  cheesecake, oh boy, can’t wait!

Kama chocolate

Now, something about Estonia’s national food product, that won’t be commonly found in a visitor’s bag – kama. It’s a mixture of roasted barley, rye, oat and pea flour. Historically, it has been used as a stomach-filling snack that could be quickly prepared by mixing it with lard. Nowadays, it is usually enjoyed  simply mixed with buttermilk and some berries. You can read more about it here and search for kama recipes on Nami-Nami blog. In fact, this ingredient is so popular, that Kalev has made a “chocolate”, using kama instead of cocoa. Actually, Kamatahvel is a fortunate outcome of Soviet times experiment. You see, during communism it was very difficult to get cocoa beans, so people started to search for alternatives. Of course kama could never substitute the real cocoa, but the outcome was not only interesting but also pretty tasty. It reminds me somewhat of a similar product invented in Poland during those times. Not only cocoa was a deficit  food product, it was also very difficult to get coffee. Similarly to kama, so called grain coffee was invented. It constituted of roasted barley, rye, sugar beets and chicory and despite it was barely reminiscent of real coffee, it remained popular not only through communism but also nowadays you can buy it as INKA grain coffee. Quite amazing what people can think of, when they are in need!

Though I bought kama just several days ago, I’ve already used 2/3 of the package (I guess it means another Tallinn trip quite soon ;) ). Apart from mixing kama with my morning muesli, I’ve decided to try out a recipe for kama mascarpone truffles – kamakäkid. I have substituted raisins with dried cranberries, as I’m much more keen on those. Thank you Pille for the recipe, we have enjoyed it together with our friends a lot!

INGREDIENTS

250 grams of mascarpone
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp chopped dried cranberries
3 tbsp chopped hazelnuts
3 heaped tbsp kama flour
a generous dash of Vana Tallinn cream liqueur (can be substituted with eg. Baileys)

Mix everything together, put into the fridge for a while. Form into small balls, roll in kama or cocoa powder and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Chocolate creme brulee for my Valentine

This post is for my Valentine, with whom I unfortunately can’t be today. Luckily for Mr. No Onion Please, I’m the kind of person who even if is forced to miss some fest, simply will celebrate it before. And so he enjoyed his Valentine’s treat yesterday. And believe me he enjoyed it a lot. Not only because it is so heavenly good. There is also another reason. I just got myself a kitchen torch and guess who was the first to run around with it  trying it out (also attempting to set  chicken drumsticks on fire). Ohioh, my big man has a small boy inside, who likes to take charge, and that’s why I love him so much ;)

The recipe comes from a book called “Pure Chocolate” and I found it on Not So Humble Pie blog.

INGREDIENTS

5 egg yolks
4 tbsp sugar + some more for caramel topping
500ml cream
1/2 vanilla pod (or 1tsp of vanilla paste)
125g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken to pieces

1. Heat the oven to 150C. Assemble six shallow ceramic tarts in a roasting pan.
2. Stir the yolks with 2 tbsp of sugar, beware not to incorporate air into the mixture.
3. Heat up the cream with 2 tbsp sugar and vanilla. Once it begins to foam, remove from heat and fish out the vanilla bean. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the cream and discard the pod. Add the chocolate to the mixture and stir until completely melted and smooth. Coll it down slightly.
4. Slowly add small amounts of cream to the egg mixture. Mix well and repeat till you whisk in everything.
5. Pour the mixture between the tarts, tapping the roasting pan gently on the counter to settle the custard and remove any air bubbles. Pour hot water into your roasting pan so it comes up roughly as high as the custard.
6. Transfer to the oven and bake till they are set 20-35min (for my size of ramekins 25min was enough).
7. Take them out, once they are cooled down to room temperature, transfer to the fridge (I find it is best to keep them overnight before you eat them).
8. An hour before serving toss some sugar on the top of each creme brulee and carmelise it with kitchen torch. Cool it down in the fridge again before serving.

 

How to make decorative nuts:

1. Place a toothpick into each nut

2. Dry carmelise sugar, dip the nuts into it

3. Poke vertically placed cardboard with the other side of toothpicks and let the nuts dry, gravitation will force caramel down, forming decorative tail

Caramel panna cotta with tonka bean


Valentine’s Day’s approaching really fast. Myself, I’m not a great fan of this fest, but I believe that any occasion is a good excuse to make and eat desserts, don’t you think so? ;) Since Valentine’s day is on Monday, I guess some of you are still searching for an easy, fast and yet sophisticated recipe to surprise your beloved ones. I believe I have one that  fulfills all those requirements! This lovely panna cotta is not only extremely easy to make but it also marries luscious caramel and vanilla with exotic tonka beans.

In the past, tonka beans were used to flavour tobacco for smoking pipes and nowadays they are often used in perfumes. They are rather a rarity when it comes to culinary use and are mostly featured in French and Italian dishes, however they slowly enter other cuisines . Unfortunately, they are forbidden in some countries (eg. in USA) as they contain coumarin and are toxic in high dosages. Tonka beans have lovely vanilla-almond flavor with a strong scent of rum (they are processed in it for 24h before drying). I got tonka beans as a generous gift from Bea from Bea w kuchni. Thank you once again Bea, it was such a delightful and tasty surprise!

The recipe comes from Master chef Australia  (by Adriano Zumbo). It makes 2 portions.

 

INGREDIENTS
60g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split seeds scraped
1/3 tonka bean, grated
250ml cream
1 gelatine  leaf (2g)

1. Dry caramelize the sugar with the tonka bean and vanilla seeds and bean in a saucepan until sugar has melted and mixture is caramel in colour.

2. Meanwhile, heat cream in a small saucepan and add warm cream to caramel to deglaze pan. Soak gelatine leaf in water until soft, squeeze out excess moisture. Stir gelatine into mixture and strain mixture through a sieve placed over a small bowl. Cool in an ice bath.

3. Once cooled to room temperature pour into glasses or moulds. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour or until set.

Almond and coffee cake

You know those days when you just keep on singing a song that has stuck in your head? Well I had such one on Saturday and I wouldn’t mind that much if it just wasn’t the popular kid’s song. After several hours of constant annoying humming I managed to improve a bit the outdated version (don’t you think I’m a bit too old to clap my hands ;) ?). I was so sick of it that finally I decided I should bake a cake and while mixing the ingredients I was still constantly singing to myself:

“If you’re happy and you know it BAKE A CAKE

if you’re happy and you know it BAKE A CAKE

if you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it

if you’re happy and you know it BAKE A CAKE”

I thought that I’ll never get rid of this infuriating melody, but once the cake popped out from the oven, as if with the touch of a magic wound, the song has disappeared from my mind. I must admit I had some problems with the baking procedure itself. The recipe calls for baking in 150C, what seemed a bit suspicious, taking into consideration that it is just a very simple basic cake, as I bake most of the cakes in 180C. Anyway, as I’m not a baking guru and the recipe was from a guru – the great Gordon Ramsay I decided to simply follow it and see what happens. After 1h of baking my cake wasn’t ready yet, so I pulled the temperature up to nearly 200 and baked it covered with aluminum foil for 10-15 min. Fortunately, this didn’t affect the cake anyhow. It did not dry out, and was still nicely moist inside. Was it a typo in the book or rather my oven that has some problems with keeping temperatures right – that’s and unsolved mystery. Anyway, I pass on the original recipe to you.

INGREDIENTS:

170g unsalted butter

170g caster sugar

3 large eggs lightly beaten

1/2 tsp almond essence (I put 1)

100g ground almonds

4 tbsp extremely strong espresso (I put 6)

100g self raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

 

Crunch topping:

60g plain flour

40g demerara sugar

40g cold unsalted butter

 

1.       Preheat the oven to 150C. Butter the 20cm cake tin. Make the crunch topping mixing all the ingredients with your fingers and making crumbles.

2.       Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl. Slowly beat in the eggs. Fold in the almonds, almond essence and half of the espresso. Add flour, baking powder and finally the rest of espresso.

3.       Spread the mixture in cake tin and sprinkle the toping. Bake for 50-60min or until a skewer inserted into a cake comes out clean.

Luscious dessert – Berries poached in wine with mascarpone cheese

It’s been a while since I was preparing any dessert. I basically don’t enjoy baking that much when it’s hot, and I’m sure this summer hit the record in Finnish history – the temperatures were skyrocketing for this latitude! It was simply amazing how hot it was. Ok, if I say that the record temperature was +37C you’ll just laugh, but well here in the far North it is a serious thing when scale reaches over 30C ;) Actually I don’t remember a single day last summer that had a temperature over 30C… so you see, we don’t get much heat here in general. Well, I don’t complain actually, I’m not a fan of hot weather, my organism starts to go on strike above 25C, so Nordic countries are in a way perfect for me. There is another great plus of living so far North. We get here wonderful berries, the forests right now are full of billberries, cranberries, lingonberries and if you’re lucky you may find some cloudberries as well. This time of  the year is perfect to get most of the nature goods, also the mushrooms starts to appear. That makes me additionally thrilled as Mr. No Onion Please is also Mr. No Mushrooms Please, however this year he has promised to try some mushroom dishes (YAY ;) that’s another story though). Ok, so back to the recipe. I wanted so much to make a dessert with mixed berries and must say that as usual when it comes to fruit desserts Gordon Ramsay is unbeatable. I’ve found this recipe when I was looking through his “Fast food” book. The original calls for blackberries and figs (extremely difficult to be found here in a good quality), but a mixture of strawberries, billberries and raspberries fits amazingly well! I really loved it. The berries poached in wine are a bit syrupy and sweet, however as soon as they are paired with heavy, creamy mascarpone one just realises how perfectly everything fits together. Mmmm…. I want to eat it againnnn


INGREDIENTS:

1 vanilla pod

250ml red wine (eg. Merlot)

1 cinnamon stick

4 cloves

2 star anise

100g sugar

400g mixture of various berries

250g mascarpone

2 tbsp icing sugar

1. Split the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds, reserve both the pod and seeds.

2. Pour the wine into the pot, add the vanilla pod, cinnamon stick, cloves, anise and sugar and slowly bring to the boil. Lower the heat to simmer, add the fruits and poach gently for 5-7 min. Let it cool down completely

3. Mix the mascarpone together with vanilla seeds and icing sugar.

4. Divide mascarpone and poached fruits. It will be enough for 4 portions.

Easy peasy strawberry dessert

I guess you all know the food mood change kind of thingy. You shop thinking of what would please your palate the most for several next days, come back happily home with a bunch of goodies and next day you realize that you actually would prefer to eat something else. Well…. that’s what happened last week to my cannelloni plan… Was supposed to stuff them with a mixture of ricotta, rucola, capers and smoked fish and ended up having creamy spaghetti containing those things but yeah…. ricotta was still left out in my fridge. Nothing particularly worrying in that, just that the “best before” date was approaching quite fast. I “foodgawkered” for desserts with ricotta and found this amazingly fast and simple recipe from Lucullian delights. The original called for classic dark chocolate and mint combo, I decided to try out also less orthodox version – basil, white chocolate and strawberries mixture. Mr. No Onion Please and I had quite different opinion on the dessert variations – he loved the mint version, I went fully for basil option, each of us munching  happily upon our own bowls, not having to share with the other one ;) And who said that disagreements ruin relationships? ;)

INGREDIENTS:

250g ricotta
200ml fresh cream
3tbsp sugar
fresh strawberries, sliced

shredded mint leaves
dark chocolate, grated

OR

shredded basil leaves
white chocolate, grated

1.  Press the ricotta through a finely meshed sieve into a bowl and stir very well.
2. Whip the cream with sugar until it is stiff and delicately fold in ricotta.
3. Mix with strawberries and preferred chocolate-herb combo

Pears poached in perry

You know those days when you’re craving for something sweet, yet are full of guilt of even thinking about any kind of  dessert? Well time to go back to good old fruit desserts before the bikini time is here ;) . Usually pears are poached in an alcohol that gives them quite distinct flavour from their own one. But no worries here, pear cider nicely complements their natural taste and the spices are balanced perfectly! The recipe comes from Gordon Ramsay’s book “Great British Pub Food”.

Ingredients:

4 ripe pears

700ml pear cider

100g caster sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

10 cloves

3 star anise

1/2 tsp black peppercorns

1. Put all the ingredients into a sauce pan, except for the pears.

2. Bring the syrup to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes to thicken it slightly (don’t worry about the foaming, the liquid will clear further on).

3. Peel the pears and soak them in the syrup. Take care they are fully immersed in the liquid. Poach pears for 15-20 min till soft but still tender.

4. Take the pears out and return the liquid back to the heat and boil till it is reduced and thickened. Pour it over the pears to coat. Serve with ice-cream or whipped cream.

Chocolate chip and cranberry cookies

Wohoo, it’s nearly Easter time and No Onions are going for a week of holidays! YEY! I’ll be away for a while, but expect soon some mouthwatering pictures from one of the most known food capitals in Europe. I’m getting so excited, just 16 hours and I’ll be in a place without snow (is that even possible :D ?). Have to pack and still run around to organise some stuff…. huh I looove to go on holidays, but who doesn’t ;) Don’t tell it to my boss, but my biggest motivation to work is to think that I’ll go on vacations ;) I was recently pretty busy and haven’t done much cooking. Those cookies I’ve baked together with my friends already pretty long time ago, thanks Linda for great photo! See you soon!!!

This recipe comes from “Apples for jam, recipes for life” cookbook.

INGREDIENTS:

75g butter
50g brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 egg
several drops of vanilla oil
160g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
70g derk chocolate chips
70g dried cranberries

1. Mix butter and sugar till smooth.
2. Add the egg and vanilla oil, mix.
3. Fold in flour, baking powder, chocolate chips and cranberries.
4. Scoop the dough with teaspoon, roll in your hands till round, flatten and place on baking tray.
5. Bake in190C for12-15 min.