October 30, 2012
… and I am back!! (Well, sort of)
Yes. My writings on this blog are a bit random. Maybe I can get into the rhythm again? Perhaps not (my moods to blame!). Yea! Someday.
I am weird.
For now, let´s see what brings me here this time ;)
My daughter´s school is having a Halloween party this week and I committed myself to make something for the bake sale. To be sincere, this is our first Halloween party while living in Finland and I had no clue of what people eat there. The only thing I was sure is that there would be tons of cupcakes and tray bakes (bringing more’d be definitely boring!).
I decided for size-wise mini cheesecakes. No fuzz for cutting slices and just perfect to carry easily to the party.
BUT IT IS HALLOWEEN! Hello?
hmm… the decoration! Oh gosh, cupcakes are so much nicer to decorate with spooky touches! After brainstorming (uh, you certainly don’t want to see me doing that. Hubs says I have lightning clouds on top of my head. Every time) I came to an idea when I thought about the bilberry sauce that goes with the cheesecakes. Hmmm… yummy blood clots (eeeek)… topped with eyeballs. Just enough creepy!
Mini Baked Cheesecakes for Halloween
adapted from a recipe posted already here
Makes 24 individual cheesecakes
For the crust:
- 300 g Digestive biscuits, finely crumbled
- 140 g butter, melted (I used HYLA, low lactose)
For the cheese filling:
- 400 g cream cheese, full fat, softened
- 200 ml cream (I used HYLA, low lactose)
- 100 g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- bilberry jam (I used organic)
- round shaped white candies. I used sugar coated snowballs Toffee bonbons (toffee pallot / lumipallot)
- food decorating pens (edible markers): red, blue and green
- black marzipan
Line 24 holes of two muffin pans with muffin cases.
Finely crush the biscuits in a strong freezer plastic bag. Add the melted butter to the biscuit crumbs and “knead” until well combined. Note that you can use the plastic as a mixing vessel (no dirty dishes yet!). Alternatively, use a food processor to crush the biscuits and mix the butter.
Divide the crust mixture evenly among cases pressing firmly down with your finger or the back of a spoon. Set the pans aside while making the filling.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar in an electric mixer until it gets smooth and creamy. Don´t overdo it otherwise you will incorporate too much air into the mixture and it will “puff” in the oven. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Add lemon juice and cream and mix again.
Pour the filling evenly among cases.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before storing in the fridge.
Cheesecakes are ready to serve when they are completely set and cold.
Making the “eyes”:
Simply draw/paint the white candy balls with the edible pens to depict eyes (green/blue for the iris and red for the arteries/veins) . For the pupil I used a tiny ball made with black marzipan, mostly because my black edible pen ended (*lol*)
Horrific? Eye popping! (yuck)
Before taking the cheesecakes to the school I added about one teaspoon of bilberry jam to each cheesecake and decorated with one toffee “eye”.
June 25, 2012
Yet another month almost to its end… Summer is going so fast!!
I usually make pancakes every Sunday for brunch but last weekend I was feeling a bit bored about the regular ones and decided for something more “sophisticated” : waffles! (HA! Not that chic but hey, they are more troublesome to make.. right?)
And for the toppings… I generously covered them with fresh juicy strawberries and syrup, just in time for June´s #twitterfoodparty ! This month´s theme is our beloved all-time-favorite-summer-fruit: strawberry ^_^ (Finnish strawberries are delicious!)
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, similar to this recipe
Yield 8-12 servings, according to your waffle iron
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp sugar (the recipe calls for two tbsp but I put less)
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, yolks separated
- 1 3/4 cups milk (I used without lactose)
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
In another bowl or jug, mix the milk, egg yolks, butter and vanilla.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Combine the milk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until just moistened (the batter should still be slightly lumpy). Fold the egg whites to the batter gently.
Pour 1 cup of batter onto grids of a preheated, lightly greased waffle iron machine. Bake according to manufacturers directions.
When done (golden and crispy), lift waffle off grid (I use chopsticks ^_^)
Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm with your favorite jam, fresh fruits and syrup
Check my friends´ contribution for this virtual potluck by looking for the hashtags #twitterfoodparty #twitterstrawberryparty on twitter and visiting the Flickr pool dedicated to this happening. Join us too, it is fun!
June 1, 2012
The #bacontwitterparty was last monday and I was so busy this week I couldn’t post the recipe of my entry… as usually, you can check everyone´s contribution for this virtual potluck by checking the hashtags #twitterfoodparty #twitterbaconparty on twitter and taking a look at the Flickr pool dedicated to this fun happening!
This is a very easy recipe to make if you have everything at home, I had some frozen puff pastry and I thought it´d be a good idea to use it in this savory recipe.
Egg and bacon little pasties – Muna-pekonipasteijat
Recipe from the Finnish cooking magazine Maku 4/2003
Yields 12 little pasties
- 1 package (500g) ready puff pastry, thawed if from freezer
- 120g back bacon (fileepekonia , use streaky bacon if you don’t have it)
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- 50 g chive cream cheese
- 1 tsp chopped thyme (I added chopped fresh oregano too)
- cracked black pepper
- 1 beaten egg to brush the pasties before baking
- poppy seeds
Heat oven to 225C. Fry the bacon in a non-stick pan over a medium heat until it gets crispy. Drain the excess fat on kitchen paper towels and chop into small pieces.
Chop roughly the boiled eggs inside a medium bowl using a knife or a fork. Add the cream cheese, bacon, thyme and mix well. Season with black pepper.
Unroll the pastry and with a rolling pin, roll out until it’s large enough to cut out 12 square pieces of pastry ( approximately 10cmx10cm). My puff pastry comes already in rectangular shapes, needing only to divide in the middle to achieve equal square shapes. Lift onto a baking sheet.
Spoon the filling into the middle of each square. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg wash, then bring them up to the middle, pinching with the back of a fork to make a triangular pasty. Brush the surfaces with the egg, sprinkle poppy seeds, then bake for 15 mins or until golden.
Leave to cool on a rack and serve.
The pasties can be eaten as appetizers, snacks, brunch/breakfast or a quick lunch with salad. Complemented by a fresh fruit portion it makes a neat filling for a bento box ^_^. Delicious even cold!
May 1, 2012
Today is May Day, Vappu in Finnish. Vappu comes from the Swedish term “Valborgsmässoafton” (Walpurgis Night) a traditional festival for Spring. The celebration actually begins on the evening of last day of April and continues to 1st of May.
Vappu can be compared to a big street Carnival in Finland, everyone is soooooo happy, go out to have picnics and party outside. People wear decorative clothes, children get huge colored helium balloons, you can throw serpentines and wear your “yliopilaslakki“, the cap you receive when you graduate in High School (lukio). The same cap is used for “crowning” statues in towns around the country.
Also, as part of the tradition, people enjoy Sima, a sparkling drink that you can make yourself at home, usually accompanied by tippaleipä (a traditional Vappu fried cake), rosette (fried pastry) or munkki (donuts).
According to Finnish Wikipedia sima is considered to be mead but differs a lot from its counterparts by being much more sweeter and flavored with citrus fruits. Its alcohol content is very low too.
Honey might have been used to make Sima in the old times but nowadays the flavors are given the most by brown sugar and lemons. Believe me, it is a very refreshing beverage!
Sadly, I didn’t have time to make Sima last year… The beverage needs to be prepared in advance, takes about one week for it to become ready.
Sima – Traditional Finnish Mead
Recipe adapted from here
- 4 l water
- 500 g brown sugar (because I prefer a darker sima with deep flavor. If you want lighter, use 250g brown sugar and 250g caster sugar)
- 1/2 dl honey
- 2 organic lemons (juice and zest). Alternatively, remove the rinds and slice the lemons.
- 1/5 tsp fresh yeast (about the size of a pea)
- sugar and raisins for the bottles
- a big clean bucket (I used a 10L bucket) or a big pan with loosen lid
- 4-5 bottles with caps (if you don’t have glass ones, use clean plastic soda bottles, well washed and dry)
Boil 2 litres of water and put the sugar into the bucket. Pour the boiling water over the sugar and stir to combine. Once the sugar is totally dissolved, add the rest of water, honey, lemon juice and zest (or the lemon slices)
Let cool to lukewarm, then stir in yeast (dilute it in a small amount of water and add to the mixture). Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours (and up to 48 hours), until surface begins to bubble slightly.
On the second or third day you can bottle the sima. Strain the liquid into clean glass bottles or plastic ones. Add to each bottle a couple of raisins (3-5) and 1 tsp of caster sugar. Make sure the caps or lids are barely screwed on. Don´t close too tight!! Leave space for the gas to escape otherwise you will get too much pressure to your bottles.
Sima is ready when the raisins float on the surface (on day 5 or 6): takes about 3 days at room temperature or a week refrigerated (the temperature affects how quickly the beverage ferments).
Once ready, tighten the caps and put the bottles in the fridge. If you fear it is getting too much carbonated, release any gas from bottles that are too tight.
Keep in cool and serve chilled!
Consume in one week
You can easily double the recipe. Use 1/4 tsp fresh yeast for 1kg of sugar (half white half brown).
The raisins are added in the “secondary fermentation” to control the amount of sugars and to act as an indicator of readiness for consumption — they will swell by absorbing carbon dioxide and rise to the top of the bottle when the drink is ready (from Wikipedia article on Sima)
Hauskaa Vappua! Happy 1st of May friends!!
April 28, 2012
It has been a while I know… sickness in the family to blame my disappearance! We caught a terrible stomach flu (or viral gastroenteritis, before my sis corrects me :P) and as usual, after making rounds I am the last one suffering from it. Ugh!
Well, enough from that (ugly subject!). I made this tart sometime ago but took me a while to write the recipe down and transfer the photos to my computer…! See… I am lazy… (*slap* *slap*)
The tart was very good… I liked the fruity taste the emmental cheese gave to it… but please! It is an OD, eat lots of salad with it! ;)
Ham and tomato tart with emmental cheese
Yield a ∅ 24 cm pie. Serves 8.
For the pastry
- 175 g flour, plus extra for dusting
- pinch of salt
- 75 g butter
- enough cold water (I needed about 2-3 tbsp)
- 150g smoked turkey ham, cut into strips
- 150g grated emmental cheese
- 2 eggs
- 150g crème fraîche (I used Valio hyla)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
- 1 spring onion,chopped
- fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 tomatoes, sliced (gently pat dry with a paper towel)
- fresh basil leaves to garnish
Roll out the pastry on a light floured surface and line a 24cm pie dish. Chill again.
Preheat oven to 200C.
Remove the pastry case from the fridge. You can bake blind for 20 minutes before adding the filling but I skipped this step this time (< lazy again!)
Sprinkle the ham strips into the pastry base, the cheese, chopped basil and spring onions.
Combine the eggs with the crème fraîche in a bowl and season with paprika and black pepper. Pour over the ham and cheese.
Arrange the tomato slices on top of the tart and bake for about 30 minutes until set (and gets golden)
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with salad.
Simple isn’t it? You can use ready pastry if you don’t want to make it yourself. Pikkusiili just eats this crazily… she adores cheese. On the other hand… Luonnonvoima is not a big fan >.<! Sisters, so similar but so different!
April 4, 2012
I did a couple of fun guest posts for my sweet Brazilian friend Nathy from Bistro Pregui. The blog is in Portuguese but please take a look, we are currently talking about onigiri! (I even made clumsy pictorials showing how to make them ;)
I love her blog (she is very talented with graphics!) and being invited to write there made me very happy ^^.
Oi gente!! Eu fui convidada pela minha querida talentosa amiga Nathy do blog Bistrô Pregui para fazer alguns posts sobre oniguiri e com muita honra eu os fiz :). Passem lá para dar uma olhadinha, estamos falando sobre o famoso bolinho de arroz japonês. Tem até passo-a-passo com fotinhos para vocês verem, aqui e aqui :) !
March 25, 2012
Sunday mornings… as a school kid, weekends were the best, I could sleep long and drag myself from bed for a late breakfast. I have clear memories from some of those days… coming to the kitchen and noticing the smell of nira (garlic chives) in the air, was almost like immediate happiness. I knew we were making gyoza for dinner and confirmed my theories by opening the fridge just to find a small ball of dough wrapped in a damp towel there.
Making gyoza was always a family activity for me. My dad would make the dough and roll it very thin, cutting the gyoza skins/wrappers with the lid of our tea box (it was a metallic one and way better than any round cookie cutter ^_^), my mother prepared the vegetable-meat filling and taught me and my sister to assemble the dumplings. So fun… And we always made lots! Enough for a happy feast at night.
For those unfamiliar to it, gyoza is a dumpling, with its origins in the Chinese cuisine. It consists typically of ground meat mixed with cabbage (although my mother told me I can use napa cabbage too), green onions, garlic and garlic chives (nira) wrapped into a thinly rolled round piece of dough. Usually eaten pan-fried/steamed with a dipping sauce.
The gyoza wrappers (the dough) are certainly laborious to make, I made them a couple of times from scratch here in Finland. Nowadays I can buy ready ones (frozen) from Asian food stores (for Finnish readers,Tokyokan and Aseanic Trading have them), it saves a lot of time when wanting to make the gyoza.
The recipe I share here is an adaptation of how I´ve learned to make gyoza from my mother. Her measures are not that exact (isn´t it amazing how moms have those “special” dishes that don’t have actual recipes just directions?), after trials and adjustments, according to what I have available, this is the one I use the most.
Gyoza – Japanese potstickers
It made 48 generously filled dumplings for us. As forming them requires a bit of practice (sealing and crimping), I´d recommend to use a smaller amount of filling in each, using 3 packs of 24-piece gyoza wrappers instead.
- 2 packages of gyoza wrappers (thaw them overnight in the fridge, sealed in the original package)
- 500 g ground pork (Finnish readers, 400 g package will do fine).
- 400 g napa cabbage, finely chopped (kiinankaali)
- 3-4 chopped scallions (or half scallions and half garlic chives/nira if you find it, I usually don’t)
- 1 grated garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp grated ginger (I sometimes omit)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce (please read the notes below)
- pinch of sugar
- vegetable oil for frying
- water (1/2 cup per batch when frying)
- sesame oil (for each batch of frying gyoza)
For the dipping sauce
- soy sauce
- rice vinegar
- sesame oil
- chili oil (Rayu)
Put the chopped napa cabbage in a big recipient and sprinkle salt over it rubbing the cabbage with your hands. This will make the cabbage “sweat”. Let sit for 15 minutes, drain and squeeze the cabbage firmly to remove the excess of moisture.
In another big bowl, place all the ingredients (except the oil and water for frying the gyoza). Knead well with your hands until the meat mixture becomes “sticky”.
Assembling the gyoza
Prepare to form the dumplings. Have a little bowl with water, a clean chopping board (or a flat plate), a baking tray with parchment paper, the wrappers (keep them inside the package) and the filling. I usually “pre-divide” the filling into small equal balls to make sure I have enough to fill all the wrappers. Or use a teaspoon for measuring.
Ready to go!
Place one wrapper on the palm of your hand, dip your finger in water and moist the edges of the wrapper.
Put about one teaspoonful of the filling in the middle (you can add more after some practicing) fold the wrapper in half, pressing firmly only the top middle of it.
From the middle to right, start sealing the wrapper by placing a pleat every 1cm. When you are done with this side, pleat the left one. The final result is a dumpling that is flat on one side and all pleated on the other. Make sure the gyoza is well crimped to avoid the filling to escape during the cooking process.
Put the ready dumplings on the prepared tray and repeat with the rest of your wrappers.
Obs: I used to pleat the gyoza all the way from left to right but found out (on Maki´s Just Hungry blog) it is much easier the way I demonstrated above . Alternatively, you can form your gyozas like showed here, on Lovely Lanvin blog.
Cooking the gyoza
The most common way is to cook them is combining shallow pan frying and steaming.
In a large non-stick frying pan (which has a lid) , heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Place the gyoza into the pan, together in rows (it will be easier to remove them when flipping onto the serving plate).
Have your 1/2 cup water ready near your working station and the lid of your frying pan.
When the bottoms of the gyoza get browned, turn the heat to low and cover the pan with the lid. Hold the water in one hand and with the other, grab the lid uncovering the pan slightly, pouring the water in at the same time. Quickly cover the pan again and steam the dumplings until most of the water evaporates.
When the water is almost gone, remove the lid, turn the heat up to high and let any remaining water evaporate. Drizzle with a bit of sesame oil and cook uncovered until the gyoza gets crisp on the bottom.
Using a spatula, remove from the pan onto a serving place, crispy side up.
Serve immediately with the dipping sauce on the side.
The dipping sauce is a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and a few drops of chili oil (Rayu) or sesame oil.
Pork based gyoza fillings are the most usual ones but there are other variations. You can use half pork and half beef mince, ground chicken or finely chopped shrimp. It is possible to make vegetarian gyozas using mushrooms or other vegetables.
As I said previously, the recipe above is the one I use the most. Sometimes I feel like adding freshly ground pepper and miso-paste to the filling. Actually, my mom´s recipe includes both… but it is difficult to say the right amounts to be used.
Talking about amounts… the filling of the gyoza must be tasty but not over salty. Remember you are going to dip the ready ones in a soy based sauce, so go carefully and know your ingredients. The quantity of salt in soy sauces and miso pastes can differ considerably. If in doubt, always put less than what the recipe requires, fry or microwave a tiny bit of the filling and try it before assembling the dumplings. You can then adjust and fix the seasonings.