Beer risotto with chanterelles and bacon

This weekend I had culinary holidays. Mr. No Onion Please disappeared in a cottage among woods with his friends and that meant only one for me – FREEDOM!!! I could eat whatever I want, without murmurs and complaints – pancakes as a main dish of the day? Yes, please! But, but, but…. the centerpiece of my celebrations is here, a dish that revolves around 2 most hated ingredients of his, onions and mushrooms (on the other hand it also includes 2 of his favs – beer and bacon 😉 ). The autumn is inevitably approaching, and as much as my mood suffers from upcoming darkness, my belly wildly celebrates, as my favorite culinary season begins. There are still some berries and currants available, capsicums, eggplants and courgettes are at their best, first mushrooms appear and soon the pumpkins and my beloved root veggies will star in my dishes! The recipe for basic beer risotto comes from THIS book. I pimped it up with adding some pancetta, thyme and of course chanterelles!!! It is absolutely delicious, it’s such a pity that those great mushrooms are in season for such a short time 😦 The amounts make a generous portion for 2 people. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

butter

250ml risotto rice (eg arborio)
130ml dark, rich beer
80ml double cream
roughly 500ml chicken stock
onion, finelly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finelly chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper
a handful of grated mature cheese such as grana padano, parmiggiano reggiano, pecorino etc

1,5 liters of chanterells, bigger ones cut to pieces, smaller ones left whole
150g of pancetta
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
5-6 tbsp of beer

1. Heat up a tbsp of butter in a pot. Add garlic and onion and saute till golden in colour. Add the rice and mix until it becomes slightly transparent from the fat.

2. Add the cream and simmer slowly, stirring continuously. Once the cream is nearly absorbed add the beer and stir. Yes, risotto is all about stirring – the more you stir the better it is, because the more starch is released. Once the beer is nearly absorbed start to add the chicken stock in small amounts and stir. You will need around 500ml and 15-20 min till rice absorbs everything. So in the meanwhile you can make the mushrooms.

3.  Melt a tbsp of butter in another pot. Add pancetta and cook till crispy. Add the mushrooms and thyme, saute for 3-4 min till the mushrooms soften yet stay tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Fish out the mushrooms and add to remaining sauce beer. Heat up till boiling and reduce the sauce.

5. Once your risotto looks ready add the thyme, cheese and 1/3 of the mushroom/pancetta mixture into it, stir for a minute or so.

6. Serve risotto on a bed of mushrooms sprinkled with sauce.

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Finnish blazing salmon and Demon’s Gate

Last weekend we went to visit Mr. No Onion Please parents. They live in North Karelia region of Finland, a truly beautiful land that I find so peaceful and relaxing. One evening we enjoyed blazing salmon (scroll down for the recipe), a Finnish way of preparing fish, where it is part cooked part smoked in indirect heat from the open fire. It is a really simple dish, just fish and salt, but the flavour is really superb. But, before we shoveled those delicious calories down, we “worked” hard to deserve them 😉 We went for 21km hike through the Finnish wilderness.

On Saturday we travelled roughly 80km North to another region called Kainuu, which i have always thought of as the Kingdom of Bear (I have no idea why, though, but I think they really have a huge bear population there). Just next to the border with North Karelia there is an area where 3 nature protected areas merge and several hiking paths are established. We decided to visit two of those places – the Teerisuo-Luososuo reserve and Hiidenportti National Park. We set off with 11km trail in Teerisuo.

The trail winds through spruce forest, an area where the forest transforms to mire and the open mire.  The forest is plentiful in mushrooms, billberries (wild blueberries) and crowberries (anyone of you collecting those?). In the transition area we found quite many cloudberries. I’ve mentioned already HERE how difficult it is to collect those, and actually this year is the first time since I live here that I’ve found them on several occasions! Once the path enters the open mire, there is nothing to forage on, but the views are really pretty.

What I really admire about Finnish hiking paths is that basically there is always a set place to barbecue or even a small shelter to sleep. Look, they even prepare and store chopped wood for you!!! One just needs to take the sausages and matches 🙂

Once we came back, we jumped into our car and drove around 20km further to hike on a 10km trail in the Hiidenportti National Park. Hiidenportti means Demon’s Gate and the name comes from an old folks tale. Basically, the gorge, which is a centrepiece of the park, was supposed to be a retrieval of Hiisi demon. The gorge isn’t big, it’s only 20m deep, but it’s quite picturesque.

The path follows the edge of the gorge occasionally passing through spruce forest or small mires. Once the gorge ends, there is a bridge, a bbq place and then the path follows back on the other side of the gorge. We had a really great time, but got back to Mr. No Onion’s Please parents quite tired and hungry. Fortunately they planned sauna and bbq for the evening, so our Saturday was really fabulous.

Now back to the blazing salmon. The preparation is quite simple. You need a piece of the fish, wooden plank, wooden pegs (ehem, or nails if pegs can’t be found around 😉 ), some salt, water and open fire. You place the fish filee on the plank and attach it with the pegs.  Dissolve some salt in a glass of water and brush the fish with it. Then attach the plank vertically, 30-50cm from the open fire. Brush the fish with salty water every now and then. It is important that the heat isn’t direct, the fish is supposed to cook very slowly, just as the warm smoky air passes next to it. It took us around 40 min before the fish was ready. Best to check with a toothpick if it’s ready.

Prawns in garlic butter sauce

Yesterday I read in the news, that we are enjoying righ now the most beautiful summer for the last 23 years! That was quite a shock for me. True, the summer is really lovely this year, with few occasional showers and temperature often in it’s mid 20s, but still for me it’s a kind of “average” summer, the one I was used to enjoy as a kid in Poland. Though the weather is definitely better in my homecountry, I much prefere the summer time here in Finland. I really adore how much it is able to transform throughout the year. While in the winter time it looks as if everything has frozen and died for good, now the land is thriving with vibrant green colour, spotted with blue lakes all around. Summer means for me lot’s of dishes with seasonal fruits, vegetables, fish and seafood. This lovely, fast, slightly changed recipe comes from Bajaderka. I’ve made a small mistake and was close to burn the garlic, fortunately nothing really happened apart from the colour change 😉 I’ve figured out I’ll fry the garlic first and once it is ready I’ll fish it out and throw the prawns in. Unfortunately the butter started to foam and I couldn’t do that, I just quickly threw the prawns in. Phew. No more modifications, next time I’ll follow the recipe straight 😀

INGREDIENTS

25 large prawns
3 tbsp good quality virgin olive oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp chilli flakes
6 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
50 ml white wine
2 tbsp provencal herbs
salt and pepper
lemon juice

1. Wash and clean your prawns. Rub them with a bit of salt.

2. Heat up oil and butter on the pan. Add pepper flakes and garlic, fry for 1-2 minutes.

3. Add the prawns, saute for 2 minutes. Add the wine and provencal herbs, turn the prawns on the other side and saute for 1-2  minutes more.

4. Remove the prawns from the pan. Heat up the sauce till it boils. Season with pepper, salt and lemon juice. Serve with baguette.

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!

***

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
***
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.