Refreshing rhubarb kompot

Summer is now in full swing, the temperatures going over 20C mean that the hottest season of the year has finally arrived to the Northern latitudes! Nothing complements the lovely weather like a light, refreshing drink made from seasonal fruits or veggies. I have spotted this lovely rhubarb kompot on Around the kitchen table blog. Kompot (that has not much to do with a French compote) is a simple central European drink made most commonly from fresh seasonal fruits boiled with sugar. When I was a kid, my grandmum was serving all kinds of kompots luke warm, but I prefere it much more when they are icy cold. Yumm!

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INGREDIENTS

500g of rhubarb
1.5 l water
4-5 tbsp Demerara sugar
a bunch of fresh mint
zest and juice of a big lemon
2 zest and juice of 2 limes
1 small piece of cinnamon bark
3-4 cloves
2 green cardamom seeds cracked
optionally 8-10 tbsp of pink wine
ice cubes
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1.  Boil the water in a big pot, add a bunch of mint, spices and zest of 2 limes and a lemon.
2.  Boil for 5 min. Meanwhile prepare the rhubarb. Wash it thoroughly and cut into 2-3 cm pieces (leave the skin on, the more red it is, the more vibrant colour you’ll get).
3. Add rhubarb and sugar to the boiling water and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add the juice of lemon and limes, set aside to cool down. Transfer to the fridge and let it stay there overnight.
4. Drain the kompot through a fine sieve, pressing the rhubarb against the grid, to squeeze as much of the juice as possible. You may add a bit of pink wine if you wish.
5. Serve with ice cubes, garnish with mint and lime slices.

Beef tenderloin marinated in molasses with baked sweet potato puree

Today is Finnish Independence Day. In spite of being an expat, it is somewhat natural for me to celebrate 6th of December anyway, as it is a St. Nicholas day in Poland. As much as I would prefer to enjoy the Polish festivity (oh don’t blame me, we get presents on that day), it’s always uplifting to take part in independence merriment. This year, the national celebrations took place in the city of Kuopio and you can have a look at several photos from the army parade in my previous post.  We’ve also decided to have some fun at home with a bit more fancy dinner and so here it is – a succulent beef tenderloin marinated in molasses and ginger and served on baked sweet potato mash. YUM!!!

INGREDIENTS*

beef tenderloin
170 ml molasses
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
5cm piece of ginger, grated
1 tsp chili flakes
3-4 garlic cloves, grated
2-3 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
2-3 tbsp pepper

1. Mix everything well and marinade for 24h. Turn the meat around occasionally.
2. Heat the pan and seal the fillet all over until brown.
3. Place in the oven preheated to 125C and roast till inner temperature of the meat will reach 56C (for medium) or till your liking.
4. Wrap the meat tightly in aluminium foil and let it rest for 15min before you serve.

* The recipe for beef tenderloin comes from the book STEAK by Paul Gayler

INGREDIENTS

1,5kg sweet potatoes
1,5 tbsp of runny honey or golden sirup
1,5 tsp cinnamon
1/2-3/4 tsp ginger
1/2-3/4 tsp cardamom
1 egg
heaped tbsp butter

butter
bread crumbles – preferably from rye bread

1. Pierce the potatoes with a fork, grease with butter or olive oil, bake in 200C till soft and peal the skin.
2. Blend the sweet potatoes, spices, egg and butter.
3. Transfer the mixture to greased oven-proof dish. Sprinkle generously with bread crumbles and put thin slices of butter on top.
4. Bake for 30min in 180C.

Beetroot pickles

Traditionally, late summer and autumn were the times of harvest, when one struggled to preserve nature goods for cold winter months. Today, living our lives in a complete rush, most of us don’t feel like using their precious free time  to make preserves. Surely, it’s so easy to get pickles on your plate, you just go to the shop, pick them up from the shelf and voila! That’s so easy and so cheap that nowadays few people bother  making pickles themselves. I wanted finally to try how difficult can it be to make your own preserves. And you know what? It is actually ridiculously easy and the best part is that with this recipe you don’t need to bother with pasteurisation!

INGREDIENTS

2 kg of beetroots

2dl sugar
2dl 10% vinegar
3-4dl  water
heaped tbsp salt
1dl oil
3-4 bay leaves
15-20 allspice grains
several grains of black pepper
whole garlic divided into cloves, peeled

1. Wash the beetroots and put them to boiling water. Boil until they will be soft but tender. Cool down, peel the skin.

2. In the meanwhile prepare the solution. Combine rest of the ingredients and heat up till they start to boil. Take off the heat.

3. Cut the beetroots into matchsticks (kitchen robot is very useful in this task). Throw them into the solution and heat up till everything boils once again.

4. Transfer hot beetroots to sterilized jars, press them a bit and add some of the solution to cover them in liquid if necessary. Leave around 1cm of free space in the jar,  close the cap tightly and flip jars upside down. Once they cooled down flip them back and store. You can eat the preserves already 1-2 weeks later, but they will easily keep for months in some cooler place.

 

Recipe from Samanta (from Polish food forum CinCin)

Bell pepper tart tatin

I’ve just realised that for a long time I wasn’t blogging about any vegetarian dish. Time to make it up 😉 This weekend we had utilised over 5 kg of peppers – most of them were roasted and pureed to be used later on in an amazing pepper and garlic soup (I’ll post it some other time) and several of them finished in a delicious red bell pepper tart tatin. I served it together with a cream containing goat cheese, what wonderfully lifted up peppers’ sweetness. The tart is perfect for an appetizer or simply as a vegetarian main dish. Definitely, it is not a guilt-free dish as puff pastry is quite greasy and there’s still some carmel there, but if it makes you feel better about it, imagine that each pepper contains double the amount of vitamin C of what is there in one orange 😉 So in a way that’s a great healthy snack for the rainy and gloomy autumn 😉

 

INGREDIENTS:

3 red bell peppers

30g butter

pinch of salt

3 tbsp sugar

puff pastry sheet

 

fresh goat cheese

creme frache

basil, salt, pepper

1. Cut the peppers into pieces. Melt the butter in the pan and throw in the pepper pieces. Add pinch of salt. Fry till they begin to soften.

2. Push the peppers onto the sides of the pan and add to the middle 3 tbsp of sugar, wait for a while till the sugar starts to carmelise and mix it well with the peppers. Fry still for a while till peppers are getting brownish carmel coating.

3. Transfer pepper pieces and remaining carmel onto 25cm greased tart pan. Arrange them with the skin facing the bottom. Let them cool down a bit.

4. Roll the puff pastry sheet 2-3mm thick. Lay it on the top of peppers, push it down and tuck in the edges all round the inside of the pan.

5. Bake in 225C till the pastry will get a nice golden brown colour.

6. Take it away from the oven. Let it cool for 3-4min and flip it onto the plate.

7. Serve with a dip made from soft fresh goat cheese and creme frache (1:1 ratio) seasoned with salt, pepper and finely chopped basil leaves.

Sweet potato “ravioli”

We have a really tiny kitchen and so to buy whatever kind of gadget is always a fight with my other half. I know we “need to have it”, he knows the kitchen cabinets won’t handle it anymore. Therefore, we are missing quite some of “essential” equipment and so it happens that one  is a pasta machine. I’ve been so jealous reading recipes of how to make ravioli with various amazing fillings, seeing those on the blogs. I wanted to finally make my own, but obviously I won’t attempt making pasta just like that. I must say now, once I’ve found the solution I feel pretty silly that I haven’t ever thought about it before. It’s SO simple! One day I was looking through new arrivals in one of the bookstores, where I found “Vegie food” book. Apart from several nice recipes for soups and salads it had the answer for my ravioli problem! If you can’t make your own pasta just use WON TON WRAPPERS! Why didn’t I figure out that before! Of course I know it’s not the same, but its ideal substitute if you’re just like me – craving to get your home made “ravioli”. Now I have a half a kg pack of won ton wrappers in my freezer and will be finally realising my dream 😉 The first recipe was from the book itself. I kept to the recipe very loosely and decided to make a nice addition of browned butter, bacon and fried sage that fits here perfectly. It was an instant hit even with my carnivorous boyfriend. If you want to make it vegetarian just use nuts instead of pancetta for some nice crunch factor.

INGREDIENTS

500g orange sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

heaped spoon of butter

handful of grated parmesan

juice from half of lemon

1/2 a bunch of finely chopped sage (I’m a sage freak, you may want to decrease the amount)

salt, pepper, spicy paprika or chilli

1 egg, lightly beaten

won ton wrappers

50g butter

pancetta

handful of sage leaves

1. Boil sweet potatoes till soft, pat the cubes dry. Throw them into the food processor and blend together with butter, parmesan, lemon juice and sage. Add spices to your taste, once ready add the half of beaten egg and blend till smooth. Let it cool down.

2. Put a teaspoon of filling on the center of won ton wrapper. Brush the edges with remaining egg. Bend them in half to form triangle shape and press the edges firmly to seal.

3. Prepare the sauce. Fry pancetta in a tbsp of oil. Set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Put it on high heat till you notice it starts to become brownish, then decrease the heat and throw sage leaves. Let them fry for 30 sec-1 min and fish them out. Take the butter off the heat.

4. Boil “ravioli”. Throw them onto boiling water and mix delicately so that they won’t stick to each other. Take them out 1 min after they start floating on the surface.

5. Pour a bit of butter on each plate. Plate the “ravioli” and sprinkle with pancetta and fried sage.

Szechuan smoky bacon cabbage

Today we’ve enjoyed a really great weather! Finally the spring has come. YEY! We had a long walk in the woods, some nice a bit lazy but still very good food and since we got up pretty early also looots of time just to hang around and relax. Ahhh I feel so energetic, the days are really long (15,5h at the moment – a definite reason to celebrate after winter’s darkness) and recently we also got quite much of cloudless days what additionally boosts me with energy. Anyway, time for the recipe 🙂 Today a very simple side – again Chinese and again from Ching-He Huang. The Szechuan cabbage was really good, though I’ve made a small mistake that reflected negatively on the final outcome. The recipe calls for  pointed cabbage I’ve never seen it before and just guessed I’ll do fine with savoy cabbage. Unfortunately, the ends of the leaves in savoy cabbage are very delicate and upon frying they wilted. The white parts, however were deliciously crunchy. Next time definitely I’ll go for a  cabbage with tougher leaves.

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp frying oil
1 chilli, finely choped
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
5 streaky bacon rashes chopped into 1cm pieces
1 tsp Shaohsing rice wine
300g pointed cabbage, shredded
1 tbsp rice vinegar
juice of half lemon
salt

1. Heat wok, fry chilli and peppercorns for a while. Add bacon and fry for 2-3 min till browned.

2. Add rice wine and cabbage and stir-fry for 3 min. Season with vinegar, lemon juice and salt.

Roasted fennel and carrots

I feel quite much bothered when I notice, that I don’t use some particular produce for a longer time. Doesn’t matter if it’s because I forget about it, I’m not used to cook with it or simply dislike it. It just gives me this weird guilty feeling when I pass it by in the shop alley. Recently I got uncomfortable when I’ve realised that we don’t eat fennel. Sure we get it in salads from time to time, but no real cooking is involved whatsoever. And so every time I was standing between peppers and sweet potatoes the fennel bulbs were staring at me, screaming BUY US, WHY DON’T YOU BUY US…. Well I must admit that I’m a compulsive shopper when it comes to food products. I just tend to grab whatever I like, and well, we are not always able to eat everything I manage to throw to the shopping cart. Some time ago I’ve decided to give it a try and fight a bit with my nasty habit. I started to make shopping lists and try to buy only the things that were needed. And somehow I was always forgetting to put fennel on the list and the fennel bulbs just kept on nagging at me. One day I couldn’t manage anymore,  grabbed two of them, threw into my cart and guiltily escaped to the closest cash register. Still, the feeling of committing a crime didn’t cease. I had to use the bulbs fast to forget about them, to be able to clear my mind as soon as they will be swimming in their final trip towards the Baltic Sea. I reminded myself of a very simple recipe that I’ve found while browsing through one of the food porn pages. Luckily I had everything else in the fridge, just do some chopping and that’s it! Thanks Hayley from Buff Chickpea for saving my sanity 😉

INGREDIENTS:
2 fennel bulbs, sliced
3-4 large carrots, peeled, cut
2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
grated pecorino cheese
extra-virgin olive oil
fresh dill chopped

Cut the vegetables, throw them into a bowl and sprinkle with olive oil. Add Herbes de Provence , dill and pecorino, mix well and transfer to a baking dish. Sprinkle with some more pecorino. Roast in 180C till nicely browned and soft.

Porkkanalaatikko – finnish baked carrot puree

While living in Finland I’ve heard many foreigners complaining how terrible the food is here and how they hate Finnish cuisine. Well, what I hate are generalizations. Yes it’s true there are very few spices used and the food is usually made bland. It’s also true it often looks grayish, not appealing at all and yeah not that great choice of ingredients available in the shops either (at least out of the Helsinki area). But what makes the cuisine of a given country is not how the food tastes in the cheap lunch places but what people including YOU can make out of it. First, think a bit about country itself. Finland…. well it sits somewhere on the North of Europe right? Have you ever thought how north it actually is? Remember your last Discovery program about Alaska? Those huuuge icicles and snow caps covering all the state, made you probably curl into your comfortable sofa even more. The truth is that Helsinki, that happens to be as well one of the southernmost cities in Finland, is on the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska. Not to mention the rest of the country that spreads still roughly 1300km to the freezing north. So I guess, you get my point – not so much of produce here. Thats why Finnish cuisine will never be similar to bursting with sunny flavors Italian one. Add still isolation of the country and you’ll understand why it’s not Indian either. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth of even a glance to check what it has to offer. Think a bit more and you’ll find yourself wonder how people could live here just like 100 years ago. What is there to eat if the winter lasts half a year and last summer according to Finns themselves was on Tuesday? First of all berries and mushrooms – the country’s treasure lays in its forests. Add to it the wide selection of game (reindeer and moose are delightful) or fish from the lakes untouched by pollution, some root veggies as a side and you can make a truly Finnish gourmet dish that would make Ramsay proud. Well, basically what I want to say is that the true cuisine of a given country is made by people, it is made by you. Never underestimate what it has to offer, adjust it to your palate and well…. don’t complain so much, it gives you wrinkles 😉

So here’s a short story how instead of complaining I made one of the boring staple Finnish Christmas foods a winner. Traditionally, on the Christmas table there are three laatikkos – baked vegetable purees made of potatoes, swedes and carrots. No one will deny that two first ones disappear at a glance, while the carrot one sits there neglected like an ugly duckling. But…. how can that be? I mean we DO love carrots. They are so versatile, no matter if used raw, cooked or roasted. Now when I think of it, we actually always have a bag of them ready to be used. And so I’ve challenged myself – can I improve it enough to transform porkkanalaatikko from just another dish that has to simply appear on Christmas table to something we actually await?

And…. YEEAAASSS!!! I won’t be humble here and will say that my take on the traditional recipe transformed it totally. Definitely I’m gonna make this one for next Christmas. And I can bet that thanks to this metamorphosis, porkkanalaatikko will become a family favorite.

I’ve found a basic traditional recipe in one of the Finnish magazines and decided to change several things. First of all porkkanalaatikko as the only one of the other laatikkos has rice in it. I believe that takes much of delightful carrot sweetness away. So change number one – no rice in here. I have also increased the amount of spices, I believe thought that everyone should adjust it according to their palate, particularly if one is not keen on star anise. But the biggest improvement was making puree itself. Originally it is done simply by boiling and blending the carrots. But don’t you think that boiling actually washes away quite much of the root vegetable’s taste? Well at least I do.  That’s why I’ve decided to make it in a bit more tedious, but oh so delicious way – I roasted the carrots and only then pureed them. This way, I managed to preserve all the sweet carroty taste that I adore. I admit though, such way of preparation takes much more time. The slower, the better it seems, but the final choice how to make puree I leave up to you.

Ingredients:

– 2kg carrots

– 1tsp salt

– 1 egg

– 2-3 tsp cinnamon

– 1-2 tsp grated star anise

– 2 tbsp honey – preferably from honeydew, not your regular nectar flower honey. you can use  golden syrup instead

– 150ml double cream

– 20g melted butter

– bread crumbs

– butter

1. Wash, peel and chop the carrots, make puree. Either simply boil the carrots and blend them or preferably sprinkle them with olive oil and roast in the oven till soft. You can cover the baking dish so that the carrots won’t dry out or burn.

2. Fold the spices, egg, honey, cream and butter into pure.

3. Transfer the mixture into greased baking dish. Sprinkle densly bread crumbs, so that they cover all of the laatikko and put on top very thinly cut pieces of butter. Bake in 180C for 45-60min.

Enjoy