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.

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.

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

Turkish sweets

I bet that when thinking of Turkish sweets there are three things coming to your mind: baklava, halva and turkish delights. Turks are known for their notorious sweet tooth and even me who would shuffle down my throat loads of desserts gets stuck after eating two or three of their highly syrupy pastries. But since I guess you all know those luscious baklavas, finger-licking halvas and scrumptious turkish delights, I’m not gonna write about them. I will try to show you a few other, a bit less common but nohow less delicious treats.

As much as I’m always allured by huge choice of sterile made market available sweets, I still believe that the best are those that are hand-made. They taste so much better when someone puts heart to create them. And so to get a real taste of artisan sweets we went for a visit to Altan Şekerleme. The shop is stuck in a really weird neighbourhood, where you can buy a saddle as well as sharpen your knives. Once you open the doors you feel like you’re in a time machine, like you’ve just jumped back half a century or so. You do feel like this is not just another place, but that it actually has a soul. The shop was opened in 1865 and since then is run by one family, passing the secret recipes from one generation to another. You can get here halva or turkish delights but we were tempted by the huge rock candies sitting on the countertop in lovely vintage jars. Akide, as they are called in Turkish, come in many flavors – strawberry, lemon, caramel, cocoa, mint, cinnamon and my favourite – bergamot.

I’m sure I’m showing you all the things you must have seen before, but I bet that the sweet below will stun most of you folks. Looks like a typical boring milk pudding, right? Oh, believe me, it can be called anything but boring. I guess you would never tell it’s made with chicken breast fillets, would you? 😉 No, it’s not disgusting and no ,it doesn’t taste funny. You basically don’t taste the chicken at all. If no one would tell you there is chicken you would never even have a clue there might be some meat inside. You may ask so why the hell they put it there? Well, I believe it’s all about the texture. You see, when you eat it, you actually can feel tiny tiny fibers that come from chicken breasts. Apart from being unusual tavuk gögsu (cause that is the proper Turkish name of this pud) has also quite a history – it emerged as a palace dish during Ottoman times. If you’re a bit more adventurous foodie then I guess you’ve put it on your “to eat” list.

Ever heard of helva? It’s a dessert that you’ll be offered in nearly every restaurant in Turkey. It’s really good as well as simple to make, so no wonder it’s so often set on menus. Traditionally, helva signifies good fortune and was used to be made on important family events such as births or deaths as well as moving the house, graduating or getting a new job. I’m pretty sure I’ll make this dessert in near future, so if you’re curious how it is done, please keep an eye on my updates 😉

Last but not least a word about ice creams. In Turkey (as anywhere else in the world) you’ll get dozens of delicious ice cream flavours, but it’s a particular one that is unique and worth to walk your feet off to find. It’s famous Maras’ chewy ice cream. Yup CHEWY, that’s not a typo. The slightly chewy consistency comes from a pine-scented tree gum called mastic. It’s widely used in Turkey and Greece to flavor puddings, some bread doughs and raki. You will find it on bazaar stalls in form of crystals, that must be pulverized prior to their use. Additional thickening factor used in chewy ice cream, is another peculiar, typically Turkish product. Salep is a ground wild orchid root that apart from flavour and thickness gives the ice cream its typical pearly white colour. While wondering on Istanbul’s old city narrow streets, you’re sure at some point to bump onto an ice cream show. It takes one metal paddle, one vat cooling down the ice cream mass and one vigorous Turk to make your jaw fall down in amazement on how chewy the chewy ice creams can really be.

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 😀 ?). 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.

Brownies with dulce de leche

There was supposed to be an introductory post here. Was supposed to be … Cause there is nothing else that needs to be said when a heavenly combo of chocolate and dulce de leche appears. There are some recipes that  need no further advertisement as there are some people who’s recipes are always no-fail showstoppers. This amazing brownie recipe I have found on David Lebovitz blog. I must say it’s an evil place, makes you salivate and crave for goodies but worst of all there is some voodoo magic going on that will shrink all your clothes at a glance. Beware….


INGREDIENTS

115g butter, cut into pieces
170g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
25g unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
200g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140g flour
optional: 100 g toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 can (around 390g) Dulce de leche

1. Preheat the oven to 175C. Prepare 20cm square pan – grease it well, you can use aluminium foil or baking paper for lining.

2.Melt the butter and add the chocolate pieces. Once everything has melted remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, stir in the sugar, vanilla and then the flour. Mix in the nuts, if using.

3. Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly.

4. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. INDULGE 😉

Chocolate fondants

I”ve found this recipe in one of the BBC Good Food issues (introduced by Ramsay of course, that’s why it works so brilliantly). It was the first time I was making fondants and I was really amazed how an impressive dessert can be made with such a few amount of preparation and effort. Moreover, you can make it a day before and let it sit in the fridge or freeze it for couple of months in advance. That’s why I really advise you to make a whole batch of those and store it for gloomy days when you need an immediate choco boost to make your day work (I filled 10 fondant moulds from the recipe below).

Ingredients:
– 200g good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
– 200g butter, cubed
– 200g golden caster sugar
– 4 eggs + 4 yolks
– 200g flour

If you don’t have silicon moulds you will need additionally butter and cacao. Butter the moulds first, put cocoa in. Leave them in the fridge for 10 min. Sprinkle inside second portion of cocoa. Only then they are ready to use.

Preparation:
1. Melt the chocolate together with butter in water bath.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with yolks and sugar, till the mixture becomes whitish.
3. Slowly add there melted chocolate.
4. Mix and pour into the moulds. You may freeze fondants at this point or just leave them in the fridge till next day.
5. Bake in 180C for 10-12 min or untill tops start to detach from edges of moulds. If you have frozen fondants, add still 5 minutes to the baking time.
6. Wait 2-3 min, take fondants out of the moulds. Serve with ice cream.