,,One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating.
And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends. ,,
-Laurie Colwin

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another Christmas

Christmas - This magical time of the year who demands good foods. Tradition is one of the great things about Christmas. I don’t know from where the traditions come from but I know these menus with lots of tradition will be here now and also in the future. If your family asks, "Can please have the roast turkey again this year!" you will know that you scored a hit. And when the meal is over, remind your guests for the considerable effort you have put in by saying, "I cooked, you clean!" I am chef for many years and I think in the last 10 years, I have worked around 12 Christmases:)))
It's something you get used to do as a chef – never stop cooking not even on the Christmas day!!! Normally the restaurant is close on the Christmas day then I have day off and I want to spend time with my family, enjoy some good food and a good glass of wine. For me Christmas is about spending time with the people I care and love. I will spend the evening with my wife, my daughter and our dog here in Estonia and with the rest of the family on the phone or on the internet.
In Estonia to have plenty of Christmas food at home, symbolically meant enough food for the whole coming year and is usually to eat large meals on Christmas days. Traditional Estonian Christmas food is roast pork with sauerkraut, blood sausages, pumpkin salad, roast potatoes with dill, cranberry sauce and hot cream sauce or gravy. According to an old tradition, seven to twelve different meals were served on Christmas Night.Before dinner, a group sauna is traditional. For Christmas dessert, crunchy gingerbreads (piparkook), or kringel bread (my recipe here) is served. In Estonia, to be drunk is also part of the tradition in Christmas days.
Christmas in Romania for me is unique. On Christmas time, every Romanian family have on their table stuffed cabbage, home made sausages and traditional sweet bread. (sarmale, caltabosi, carnati, toba si cozonac). Real god old Romanian culture and traditions for Christmas days are kept with respect in the countryside. The magic religious carols, a big fresh Christmas tree every year, not to many presents under the tree, the smell of stuffed cabbage leaves, family and friends – this is how I remember my Christmases in Romania. I miss my Christmas. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Christmas in Estonia as well – but we do, miss the rest of the family, and there’s nothing more important than having your family around you all the time. And yes, something is missing more in Christmas - the children caroling with the star, gathering with friends, the glorious food that my mother and my grandmother use to make, - my mouth waters only when I think about it. I don’t have this here and I will never have this here.
For this time I don’t have any pictures and recipes of Romanian food, but I will share with you some pictures and two recipes of what I cook on these days for some friends and in the restaurant.
Who says you can't serve turkey after Thanksgiving? I will show you the way I made this easy recipe with great success that I use for Christmas and Thanksgiving. I love the fruity stuffing in this recipe. Not only does it get even more flavor cooked with the turkey, but you end up with a main dish and side dish in one step. I served with roast carrots with honey and cumin, sweet potato mash, roast Brussels sprouts, red wine gravy and cranberry sauce.
Ingredients for 8 People:
- A 5kg turkey:
- 500g bacon cubed
- 50g chopped sage
- 50 g chopped flat Italian parley
- 300ml Brandy
- 300g raisins
- 300 chopped apples
- 200ml hot water or chiken stock
- 500g garlic butter
- 2 white onions chopped very small
-Salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
First put dry raisins into a bowl and pour over the brandy. Cover and leave to soak until most of brandy has been absorbed.
To make the stuffing, combine the onion, sage, bacon, parsley, raisins, apples and breadcrumbs together in a large bowl.
Add in the half of the melted garlic butter, water or stock, season with a generous amount of salt and pepper and mix by hand. Stuff the turkey but not too tightly because it will expand while cooking. Next, rub the turkey all over and under the skin with garlic butter. Massage the bird and get the entire turkey covered. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Now wrap the turkey in foil with a lot of foil and it’s really important to seal the package well so that all the moisture stays in the package. Place the turkey in on a roasting tin and cook at 200C for 30 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 160C. Cook for a further 3 hours for a 5kg bird. Now, uncover and turn the temperature back up to 200C. Cook at this temperature for another 30 minute until the skin is a golden color. Cooking time depends on the size of the turkey. The best and safest way to cook a turkey is to use a food thermometer. Turkey should have an interior temperature of 72C to be properly cooked and the juice should run clear.
Now, allow it to sit for 20 minutes to rest before carving. Transfer turkey to a serving platter. This is the time to finish cooking the rest of side dishes. Use the fat and juices left sitting in the foil to add to the gravy. Carve turkey by removing drumstick, wings and thigh by running a sharp carving knife through joints. Slice the breast diagonally across the grain. Serve with stuffing, gravy, and sides dishes. I serve with roast carrots with honey and cumin, sweet potato mash and roast Brussels sprouts. Enjoy.
My Christmas cake(Jõulukook)
Ingredients for 16 nice portions
-200g raisins
-200g dry dates
-200g dry prunes, chopped
-200g dry cherries, halved
-100g dried blueberries
-100g dried cranberries
-Zest and juice of 2 large oranges
-300ml brandy
-200g butter, softened
-200g dark brown sugar
-6 eggs
-300g self-rising flour
-2 tbsp. maple syrup or honey
-2 tbsp. vanilla extract
-2 tbsp. cinnamon powder
-1 tbsp. ginger powder
-1 tsp. baking powder
-1 tsp. soda
For the icing
-300g sugar powder
-350g cream cheese, I use Philadelphia cheese
-50g vanilla sugar
-Zest from 2 oranges
-100g unsalted pistachio nuts chopped.
If you don’t find same mixed of dry fruits please fell free to make your own combination (use dry figs or a mix of dry exotic fruit to add more color to your cake). You need 1kg of mix dry fruits for this recipe.
Put all dry fruits, zest and juice from two oranges into a large bowl and pour over the brandy. Cover and leave to soak overnight until most of brandy has been absorbed.
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Grease the base and sides of a 32cm round cake tin and line with baking paper. In a clean bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, adding a little of the flour if it starts to curdle. Add the flour spoon by spoon, cinnamon powder, ginger powder, fruit and brandy, maple syrup, vanilla, soda and the backing powder. Mix everything together until well combined. Spoon in the prepared tin and smooth with the back of the spoon. Bake for 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for a few hours, then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.
For the cream cheese icing, put the sugar, cream cheese, vanilla sugar, and zest in a large bowl and mix to just soft and smooth. Swirl over the top of the cake and sprinkle with pistachio nuts. Store the cake in an airtight container and keep in the fridge. Eat within one week.
Happy Thanksgiving or Merry Christmas.
Here more pictures with other thinks we did and serve for this Christmas.
Here we made 3 diferent jams and chutney to be serve for a snack with some nice cheese, marinated olives and a good glass of wine.- Clementine and Indian spices jam, Cranberry chutney, Bitter Oranges and ginger jam. All home made.
Home made wine jelly. Here I use Chardonay and a nice Merlot mix with a bit of sugar sirop and gelatine. After I cubed the jelly and served with snacks. This go very well with cheese and antipasto. 
                           Here I made blood sausage lollipops in tempura served with red currants sauce.
     No Christmas with out crunchy gingerbreads (piparkook) made by my wife and my daughter.
And of course Santa is coming many times this month.
Happy Christmas !!!
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Curry and Lamb Rogan Josh

Most people in the world today know what a curry is - or at least they think that.
Curry is a concept rather than a strict recipe and is no particular ingredient that makes "curry." It can be customized when you use the different local spices. Even though the same meats and vegetables are used in the curry, tastes completely different in every region. The curries are mainly eaten with rice, breads (like naan or ciapati), poppadum (fried or baked crispy bread made from chick peas flour or chana) or potatoes and served on the side with pickles or chutney.
No curry is truly complete without onions, garlic, chili and ginger. These four ingredients are always best used fresh. Onions are always finely chopped and sautéed until translucent or brown in the beginning in any curry. Ginger is usually grated or chopped very fine and garlic can be sliced or crushed.The level of heat is given by the amount and the type of chili we use. Dry chili can be used instead. The heat level of fresh chilies is reduced with the length of cooking so add them earlier if you like it milder and later if you prefer it hotter.
In India, the curry is flavored with spices like clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, bay leaf, coriander, cumin, cardamom, fenugreek, curry leaves and turmeric.
In Pakistan they flavor the curry, which is either mutton or chicken, with masalas powder, garlic, vinegar, cumin, turmeric, tomatoes and coriander.
Chinese curry is more watery and can be made with all kinds of meats, all kind of vegetables in a mildly spicy yellow curry sauce, and served with stir fry vegetables over steamed rice or noodles. Soy sauce, hot sweet chili sauce, may be added to the sauce to enhance the flavor of the curry.
In Japan and Korea curry is considered to be a Western dish. It is usually eaten with rice and pickled vegetables, like pickled ginger or pickled daikon -white radish.
Malaysian curries typically use curry powders rich in turmeric, tamarind, coconut milk, ginger, shrimp paste, and garlic. In Malaysian curry all kind of things can be use including lamb, chicken, shrimp, with aubergine, boiled eggs, and vegetables.
In Thai cuisine, curry it’s a dish with a sauce based on a paste made with local ingredients such as chili peppers, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, galangal and coconut milk. Thai curries tend to be more aromatic than Indian curries. In the West, Thai curries are described by color. Red curries use red chilies while green curries use green chilies. Yellow curry is use to make "curry soup" and is more similar to Indian curries, with the use of turmeric and cumin.
In the UK’s ''curry" is one of the most popular dishes. Curry in UK means that a meat, vegetable or fish dish is cooked in a spicy sauce and served with rice or bread.In 1390 the first English cookery book was written, called ‘The Forme of Cury’. ‘Cury’ was the Old English word for cooking or boiling.So when the English merchants landed in India in 1610, the word ‘cury’ had been part of the English language for over two hundred years.Whatever the real Indian, ‘curry’ was rapidly adopted in Britain cuisine.They own creations and most well know curry in the UK is chicken tikka masala.
Here is my favorite version of Rogan Josh and this one is made by me many times with great success. Rogan Josh is one of the most important curries of India and is very easy to make. This Rogan Josh is a proper curry made from scratch without curry paste from market, with lots of flavor and creaminess from the yoghurt. The nice mix of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, chili and ginger, turns the lamb into an aromatic fiesta.
Ingredients for 10 persons
100 ml vegetable oil
2 pieces - 5cm cinnamon stick
4 bay leaves
1 large spoon green cardamom seeds
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 kg onions, finely chopped
500 ml of lamb stock
1 tbsp. chili flakes
1 tsp. cumin seeds (jeera seeds)
3 tbsp. tomato purée
2 kg lamb leg, or stewing lamb, cubed
1 tsp. salt
200 ml yogurt
1 tbsp. sugar
50 gr fresh coriander
Juice from one lemon
Lamb marinate
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. of ground coriander
1 tbsp. chili flakes
1 tbsp. of ground turmeric
1 tbsp. minced garlic
6 cm of diced fresh ginger
3 tbsp. of garam masala
Marinate the cubed lamb meat with all the marinate ingredient and leave them aside for minimum 2 hours (or overnight.).
In a large saucepan heat the oil in a heavy-based pan. Tip in the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves cardamoms seeds, cumin seeds and dry chili flakes. When they sizzle (make sure they don't burn) add the garlic and the onion and fry until the onions are nicely caramelized.

Add the lamb and fry for 5 to 7 minutes until it changes color. Pour in 500 ml of lamb stock, cover and simmer on a low heat for 40 minutes until the meat is tender.

The mixture can be frozen at this stage. Defrost thoroughly before reheating and bring to the boil.Remove the lid and stir in the tomato puree and mix. Add the salt, yogurt, lemon juice, sugar and cook for 10 more minutes.
 When the oil rise to the top of the saucepan means the curry is ready. Stir in the coriander leaves.
Just before serving you could garnish it with chopped coriander leaves.
Serve with Basmati rice, wild rice, Bombay potato, chutney (recipe here) and poppadum.
Here the lamb Rogan Josh is served with wild rice, popadomus and mango chutney.
 Here I made the curry with Wild board and served with rice, red curant chutney and fresh mint leaves.
Here is my way of Thai chiken curry served with rice and spice banana.
More recipe of diferent curry soon.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gravlax or Cured Salmon

I think the number one secret in these recipes is to choose the right file of fresh salmon.I use salmon but trout or tuna can be used instead and the fish must be fresh and very well chilled.
The process of curing meat it has been used in old time as a way to preserve meat from going off.
The salt and sugar cooks the meat by drawing a large amount of liquid. In the same way the Japanese came up with sushi. They needed a way to preserve for longer days the fish for their army in the war, so they covered the fish with raw rice, which absorbed all the liquid, keeping the fish drier and safer.
Usually a mix made from salt, sugar and herbs is rubbed onto the surface of the meat and leaved to cure for 2 days.
1,5kg sides of salmon. Skin on, bones out
5 large spoon of Sugar
5 large spoon of Salt
300gr cooked and grated beetroot
2 lemons
100gr of fresh dill.
Wash off the fish on both sides and pat dry.
Mix sugar and salt in a small bowl and finely chop the dill.
Take enough plastic wrap and lay flat on counter and then sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt and sugar mixture.
Put fish on top and sprinkle remaining salt sugar mix on top of fish, and the chopped dill and the beetroot on top. Squeeze one lemon over the fish and slice another one on top of the fish.
Tightly wrap the fish and refrigerate with something fairly heavy on top, for 24-48 hours, until moisture has been drawn out of fish.
The longer the fillet is kept this way, the saltier it becomes. I think the salmon is better when it is only very lightly salted.
Remove from the plastic wrap and wipe off the salt. Slice thinly and serve.
You can freeze the salmon if you do not intend to eat it straight away. It'll keep about 3 months.
You can serve gravlax as it is, garnished with dill and lemon slices
 or with egg butter, soy sauce, pickled ginger, Wasabi paste,
or use it to make gravlax canapés over blini with sour cream and salmon caviar.
Here I use the slices of cured salmon on a wrap with cream cheese, capers, red onions and iceberg salad. I serve on a bufet table for a large party.
Here the salmon is marinated with Aquavit and juniper berry then chopped very fine and I served with sweet mustard sauce.
Here we marinate the trout with the dill, orange and lemon. We serve the trout with a Swedish cheese cake, lemon oil and baby salad.
Here I marinate the salmon with lime, ginger and coriander and served with sushi rice rolls and a soy- mirin sauce. As well you can enjoy the salmon with fresh salad or with scrambled eggs, or part of a quick creamy pasta sauce.
For all this recipes you can replace the cured salmon with smoked salmon for a quick version.
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