November 30, 2010

Spicy Tempeh Balls

Is there any one ingredient you've cooked with and thought it just wasn't at all what you had expected? Then it takes you ages to give it another go, all because of that one disappointing experience? Tempeh has been one of those ingredients for me. I tried cooking it once; I can't even remember what I was making, but it just wasn't right. Ever since then I've wanted to give it another chance, but it's taken me months to get back to it.

Since I've been cutting back on tofu, I thought tempeh is a less processed alternative, and so I bought a packet on my last visit to my local health food store. I am so glad this second attempt proved so much more successful and I will most definitely be cooking with tempeh again! It's actually a very useful ingredient, so I'm sure I won't be lost at recipe alternatives either!


Spicy Tempeh Balls

300g tempeh
1/2 brown onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 large free-range egg yolk
1 tbsp less salt soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 large tbsp bread or rice crumbs
1 red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 tbsp shiro miso
1 tbsp mirin
freshly ground black pepper

1 carrot grated, to serve
1 tbsp black sesame seeds, toasted, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Sauté the onion and the garlic in a dash of water or olive oil until translucent. Place all ingredients in a bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Shape the dough into balls and place on a baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes turning the balls over half way. Serve with grated carrot and toasted black sesame seeds.

Enjoy!

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November 28, 2010

Joululimppu - Finnish Christmas Bread


It is First Advent today and my partner and I are meeting his parents for a pre-Christmas lunch. Last year we spent the Christmas here in Sydney and I prepared a full-on Scandinavian feast for us to enjoy: Finnish Christmas casseroles, salads, home-made gravlax and joululimppu - the Finnish Christmas bread.

I also prepared a Christmas hamper with everything home-made; including tomato chutney, apricot marmalade, chocolate, truffels, date cake, etc. Yes, I went Christmas crazy! Obviously I have taken it easy this year seeing we are departing for our trip in a week's time. I couldn't help myself but make this bread again as it was a huge success (especially had with home-made gravlax!), and this morning my home smells like sweet Christmas :-)

This is a typical bread for Christmas in Finland. We call it joululimppu ('joulu' meaning Christmas and 'limppu' meaning a type of bread), it is sweet because of the dark syrup (treacle) and fragrant thanks to the spices like aniseed and fennel. The crust is sweetened with syrup-water and it is my favourite of the whole bread. Back in Finland I'd have to fight over the end pieces of the bread with mum, but here I can enjoy them all by myself :-)


Joululimppu - Finnish Christmas Bread

100ml treacle (dark syrup)
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp aniseed or 1/2 tsp carraway seeds
1 tsp dried (but not candied) orange peel, finely chopped*
600ml buttermilk or milk
about 300g organic rye flour
about 300g organic white, unbleached spelt flour or plain wheat flour
4 tsp dry active yeast
a good pinch of salt
100ml canola oil or melted butter

1 tbsp treacle, extra
100ml water

*in Finland I would use 'bitter orange peel' for this, but dried orange peel works well, too


In a small saucepan bring the syrup and the spices to boil. Remove from the heat. Pour the milk into a large bowl and add the warm syrup. Mix and check the temperature. You will need this to be hand-hot so place it in the microwave and heat for a minute or two to get it right. Be careful not to over heat though! Add the yeast and the salt into a small amount of flour and stir into the milk. Starting adding the flour kneading and mixing as you go. You may need more flour (or use less) depending on the type of flour you are using. Knead the dough until smooth and slightly elastic. Add the oil and knead it in as well. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to double in size.

Form the dough into two large breads (shape of a large ball), place on a large roasting tin lined with baking paper and leave to rise for 20-30 minutes. Prick the breads and bake in 200C for about 50-60 minutes. After 45 minutes brush the bread with the syrup and water mixture (mix the syrup into warm water) and continue to bake until the base of the breads seems cooked. Leave to cool on a wired rack and serve with butter or gravlax.

Enjoy!

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November 26, 2010

Rhubarb and Apple Loaf with Cinnamon Yoghurt


Well what can I say? Rhubarbs are in season here in Australia so of course I am embracing them as much as I can. I have stacked some in my freezer (cut into small pieces and stored in freezer bags) for when it won't be available, I've made those rhubarb muffins and the rhubarb frozen yoghurt recently and even made rhubarb marmalade to bring for my partner's parents when we meet them this Sunday for pre-Christmas and First Advent lunch.

This is a superbly easy loaf to whip up when you are craving for something special for breakfast or something to have with your afternoon tea. I hope you all have a nice and relaxing weekend!


Rhubarb and Apple Loaf

2 cups organic white, unbleached spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 large free-range eggs
2 small apples, very finely grated
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
2 cups rhubarb, cut into small pieces

Cinnamon Yoghurt

1 cup organic plain yoghurt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
2 tsp raw honey

Preheat oven to 180C and prepare a regular size loaf tin.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and bicard soda in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, add in the apple, honey and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients and fold to combine. Lastly, fold in the rhubarb. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes. For the yoghurt, combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Serve the loaf with the cinnamon yoghurt.

Indulge!

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November 24, 2010

Black Bean Spaghetti with Edamame and Creamy Tofu Sauce


Remember the black bean spaghetti dish I posted a couple of weeks ago? Well I'm on it again and this time paired it with some Japanese flavours. Tofu is such a versatile ingredient: steamed, fried, grilled, cold or hot, it is perfect in both savoury and sweet dishes. It also makes great creamy sauces, like the mayonnaise I made for the protein salad and this creamy pasta sauce!

Edamame is also something I always seem to have in the freezer, it is great for salads and makes delicious soups, but also pairs perfectly in dishes that you want to make totally vegetarian but desire a little bit of extra protein. Healthy as, not to mention delicious! ;-)


Black Bean Spaghetti with Edamame and Creamy Tofu Sauce

200g dry black bean spaghetti

300g silken tofu
1 tbsp shiro miso
1 tbsp brown rice vinegar
small piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp sesame oil
sprinkling of shichimi togarashi

450g bag frozen edamame
2 shallots, finely chopped

extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt

Cook the spaghetti in boiling water according to the packet instructions (about 8 minutes or until 'al dente'). Drain and place in a large bowl.

Steam the tofu for a few minutes in a steamer. Place in a food processor along with miso, brown rice vinegar, ginger and sesame oil. Process until smooth. Season with some shichimi togarashi.

Cook the edamame in boiling water until tender (a few minutes). Drain and cool enough to handle. Shell the beans.

Pour the tofu sauce on the spaghetti and toss well to combine. Toss in the edamame and the shallots and add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt (to your taste). Toss to combine and serve warm.

Enjoy!

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November 23, 2010

Rye, Kale and Pomegranate Salad


It's Thanksgiving week! Well, I don't actually celebrate Thanksgiving, but I am aware it's taking place this week and of course how could I have missed all those Thanksgiving recipes everywhere? I wasn't thinking of Thanksgiving when starting to make this salad, however, but the gorgeous colours of the ingredients instantly made me think this would make a nice dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas!

It's a rather surprising combination of flavours, but somehow together they create a perfect balance and quite an exciting texture for this simple dish. I am really embracing the rye grain, it brings such a nice change to rice and other pantry staples, and is so wholesome and nutritious.


Rye, Kale and Pomegranate Salad

1,5 cups raw rye grain
small bunch kale, washed and stems and ribs cut off
1/2 pomegranate, seeds recovered
few sprigs of lemon thyme
1 tbsp pomegranate balsamic
1 tbsp lemon extra-virgin olive oil

Dressing

2 tbsp lemon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp dry mustard
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place the rye in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to boil. Simmer (adding water if needed) until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl to cool.

Steam the kale leaves for a couple of minutes and chop coarsely.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour onto the rye. Mix well to combine. Add the kale, pomegranate and the lemon thyme, as well as the balsamic and lemon olive oil. Toss well to combine and serve warm as a wholesome salad or as a side dish.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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November 21, 2010

Finnish Potato Flat Bread


One of my favourite things to have in Finland used to be my granny's "rieska", which is a Finnish flat bread made with oat, barley or potato. Granny would bake the bread in her giant wood-fired oven and it was the best thing to have with 'gravlax' (salt cured salmon). I am looking forward to baking and having this bread again when I go to Finland for Christmas.

This time I had bought some smoked salmon and of course felt like having it with rieska. I knew I would have to keep it simple so I made this potato version of the bread and we ate them warm with the salmon and some fresh dill. Delicious!


Finnish Potato Flat Bread

300g mashed potato, cooled*
100g whole spelt flour
1 large free-range egg
pinch of salt

* You can use left-over mashed potato. If you make a new batch, use some milk to loosen and moisturise the mixture.

Preheat oven to 220C. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and divide the dough into 4 portions. Place the portions on a baking tray lined with baking paper and flatten each portion with flour dusted fingers into round disks. Prick the breads with a fork and bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm with butter, smoked salmon and fresh dill.

Enjoy!

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November 20, 2010

Kale, Heirloom Carrot, Mission Fig and Feta Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic


The best thing about weekend mornings are the early morning walks to the beach, the unrushed breakfasts and the local produce markets where people are catching up with each other over a cup of coffee, buying seasonal produce and enjoying live music. It was a morning like this today here in Sydney, the sun was out and I felt so happy.

I love buying ingredients from the markets; it has so much character, people are there to enjoy the experience and are generally in a good mood and you get the benefit of buying local produce. Yes, in an ideal world I would buy all my groceries from the fresh produce markets!

This time I had nothing special in mind, I was hoping to find just one ingredient that would inspire me to make a nice dish for lunch. I did end up buying a few things: some beautiful kale, gorgeous heirloom carrots, dried organic mission figs and delicious pomegranate balsamic, and without really planning it made a salad using all these ingredients! We ended up forking out a huge plate of this standing over the kitchen bench and it was a perfect dish for a sunny Saturday afternoon.


Kale, Heirloom Carrot, Mission Fig and Feta Salad
with Pomegranate Balsamic

small bunch kale, washed
small bunch heirloom carrots
50g organic dried Mission figs, cut into quarters
100g feta cheese
1 tbsp extra-virgin lemon olive oil (or olive oil with lemon)
1 tbsp pomegranate balsamic vinegar

Cut out the stems and the ribs of the kale, and cut the heads off the carrots. Place the carrots in a steamer, top with the kale and steam. Carrot will need a few minutes, but the kale leaves only need less than a minute. Place the kale leaves on a large platter, scatter the figs on top and place the steamed carrots in the middle. Crumble over the feta and drizzle with lemon olive oil and pomegranate balsamic.
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November 19, 2010

Grilled Mango Cheeks with Haloumi, Pine Nuts and Lemon Thyme


Cooking for one; yay or nay? I often here people say "I was too lazy to cook because it was just me", and I totally understand the reasoning, but sometimes it's kind of fun to cook just for yourself, don't you think? I admit that when I was a single girl living in Finland, I didn't often bother to cook in the same scale that I do now. It is of course more satisfying to be able to share the meal that you've cook with your family or friends, but I think there is something utterly enjoyable about cooking just for yourself as well.

I thought of this while making this mango and haloumi salad. I didn't have to cook dinner for my partner that night, but I just couldn't keep myself out of the kitchen. I wanted to create something easy and light so I put together this little salad. The sweetness of the mango, the saltiness of the haloumi and the vinegary balsamic are all perfect in balancing each other in this dish.

With these thoughts I wish you all a very enjoyable and relaxing weekend!


Grilled Mango Cheeks with Haloumi, Pine Nuts and Lemon Thyme

1 mango, washed and cheeks cut off
2 tbsp caramelised balsamic
250g (low-fat) haloumi cheese, cut into slices
1 tsp walnut oil
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
fresh lemon thyme
1/4 lemon, juiced
fresh rocket, to serve

Heat a grill pan on high. Brush the mango cheeks with caramelised balsamic vinegar. Place the mango cheeks and the haloumi on the pan and grill for a few minutes until soften. Set aside and drizzle the cheese with walnut oil. Assemble the mango cheeks on a plate with rocket and the cheese. Sprinkle with pine nuts and lemon thyme and drizzle with fresh lemon juice.
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November 18, 2010

Spiced Almond and Rhubarb Muffins


My thoughts have been on the upcoming Christmas for quite a while now, probably ever since the last Christmas, to be exact! There is nothing like a white Christmas and to me it's the only Christmas I know, so you can probably imagine how weird it is for me to think Christmas whilst in the middle of the Australian summer.

I don't think it has quite hit me yet, probably for this above mentioned reason, that in a few weeks time I'll be in the Winter Wonderland, up at the Arctic Circle. There is a lot to do and a lot to see before we get there, however, so for now I'm trying to find a teeny bit of Christmas spirit in a way of these spiced muffins. It is the spices I've used in these muffins that make me think of Christmas, and I've poached the rhubarb in one of the stunningly fragrant teas I received from Swedelicious Tea. Christmas is getting closer, one muffin at a time!


Spiced Almond and Rhubarb Muffins
(Makes 12 small muffins)

1 cup water
2 tsp Swedelicious Rudolf Tea
250g rhubarb, cut into chunks
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 tbsp manuka honey blend

2 cups almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
3 large free-range eggs
1/2 cup organic, unsweetened apple puree
1 tbsp agave nectar

Preheat oven to 175C and prepare a muffin tray.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to boil, turn off the heat, and add the tea. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes then drain keeping the tea. Return the tea into the saucepan, add the rhubarb, vanilla and honey and bring to boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the rhubarb has softened.
Drain (keep the liquid and drink or use elsewhere, it's really lovely!) and leave to cool.

Mix the almond meal, baking powder and spices in a bowl. In another bowl whisk the eggs, add in the apple puree and the agave nectar and stir to mix. Pour the egg mixture into the almond mixture and stir to combine. Spoon the batter into the muffin tray and spoon some of the rhubarb on top of each one. Press gently with a spoon to 'sink' the rhubarb. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool slightly on a wired rack and serve warm with a cup of tea.
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November 16, 2010

Avocado and Walnut Bread


It's not the first time I eat something in a restaurant and instantly think "how can I recreate this at home?". In fact, this happens to me most of the time if I'm having something that is really nice, but at least seemingly easy to make at home. I had one of these moments after having the Burnt Orange Cafe's walnut bread with avocado, and I couldn't wait to try making my version of it.

In Finland I used to bake my own bread all the time. Somehow the flour there was easier (for me) to work with, there was more flour varieties available, and I always had fresh yeast to use for making bread rolls or other bread at home. After moving to Australia I not only mostly stopped eating bread (because I couldn't quite find rye bread I was happy with), but I also stopped baking it. During the years of living here I've of course baked bread many times, but never in the same scale as in Finland where I used to bake bread almost every week. Nowadays I mostly make loaves, sweet or savoury, and in my opinion they really are the easiest and quickest way to enjoy freshly baked goodies at home.

This avocado and walnut bread will definitely become a new favourite of mine. Walnuts are by far my favourite nut and avocado just adds another level of goodness to this bread. I'm so happy my version of the bread worked, so you can imagine I'm quite excited to share this recipe with you ;-)


Avocado and Walnut Bread
(Recipe adapted from NY Times)

1 cup organic white, unbleached spelt flour
3/4 cup organic whole spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
4 large free-range eggs
1/2 cup organic fat-free yoghurt
1 avocado, mashed
3 tbsp walnut oil
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 180C and prepare a standard size loaf tin.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Beat the eggs in another bowl and beat in the yoghurt, avocado and oil. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, add the walnuts and fold to combine. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Enjoy!

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November 15, 2010

Roast Chicken Salad with Brown Rice and Apple


Roast chicken is such a great staple dish and you can easily adjust how you serve it depending on the season. You can have it stuffed for a heartier meal or make it into a salad, like this one, and bring it along to lunch or summer picnic.

I started humbly, by roasting the chicken with some caramelised balsamic vinegar which I'm so fond of. I had some left over rice so I thought it will be much nicer with a bit of dressing. Once I took out my huge salad bowl I knew I was onto something much bigger than I had originally thought. But this is why I love cooking! Adding this and that, tasting, improvising and creating as I go make me feel like I'm painting or composing. I really think it's that drive to create that inspires so many of us bloggers!

The outcome is a balanced mix of flavours, and I feel like I changed the simple roast chicken with plain rice into something a bit more interesting and enjoyable :-)


Roast Chicken Salad with Brown Rice and Apple

1 free-range chicken (about 1,2 kgs)
Himalayan pink rock salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp caramelised balsamic vinegar

2 cups long grain brown rice, cooked
(preferably left over rice from the day before)
2 shallot greens, finely chopped
1 green apple, peeled, cored and cut into small dice
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 tsp dry mustard
juice of 1 small lemon
Himalayan pink rock salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200C. Clean the chicken, rub with salt, pepper and balsamic and place in an oven bag or a roasting tin. Cook for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cooled down shred the chicken into bite size pieces.

Place the rice in a large bowl, add the shallots and the apple. In a small bowl, mix together the oils, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper and whisk well to combine. Pour the mixture onto the rice, add the chicken and toss everything well to combine. Place in the fridge for the flavours to develop.

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November 14, 2010

Rhubarb-Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt


It's been HOT in Sydney for the past couple of days! I don't cope with heat very well, so anything above 27C is quite unbearable and uncomfortable to me. All the more reason why I can't wait to leave this Sydney heat behind and head to the Northern hemisphere!

This is one of my favourite summer treats along with all the fresh tropical fruit that are in abundance here during the summer months. Simple and delicious!


Rhubarb-Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt

250g rhubarb, cut into pieces (fresh or frozen)
150g strawberries, hulled and halved (fresh or frozen)
1/2 juice of lemon
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
small knob fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp manuca honey blend
1 tsp natural vanilla extract

1 cup organic plain yoghurt

Place all ingredients except for the yoghurt in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes or until rhubarb has softened. Remove from heat and puree using a stab mixer or a food processor. Leave to cool.

Once cool, stir in the yoghurt and mix well. Place in a container and freeze for a few hours, stirring every half an hour to an hour. You can spoon the mixture into small moulds and freeze them again or just shape it into balls. In any case it'll be delicious :-)

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November 13, 2010

Almond Crusted Ricotta Tart


Hi all and happy weekend!

Blogging is such a wonderful thing. I've said it before, but after I started blogging a bit over a year ago, I have met so many wonderful and warm-hearted people who have brought so much joy and inspiration in my life it's just amazing. I am ever so grateful for your support and love, thank you!

This delicious almond crusted ricotta tart was inspired by my beautiful and talented friend, Amanda whom I was also fortunate to get to know through blogging. It turned out we have a lot more in common than we could've imagined! Amanda now has her very own Etsy shop with the cutest hand-made scarves and beanies, so please go check out The Pikku Lintu Shop ;-)

I love trying new crusts on tarts and quiches, and I think this one would make such a perfect dish for any upcoming Pre-Christmas parties! You could easily use this crust for a sweet tart as well, and I will definitely give that a go too in the near future.


Almond Crusted Ricotta Tart

Crust

2 cups almond meal
1 large free-range egg
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/4 lemon
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper

Topping

500g low fat ricotta cheese
1 tsp dried sweet basil
juice of 3/4 lemon
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large free-range eggs

1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved

Preheat oven to 180C. Combine all crust ingredients together and spread the mixture, using the back of a wetted spoon, on a small (19cm) quiche dish. Bake the crust for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Mix the topping ingredients together in a bowl and spread on the pre-baked crust. Top with cherry tomatoes and continue to bake for another 30 minutes or until set. Cool on a wired rack and serve with fresh leafy greens.

Thank you all!



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November 12, 2010

Rye and Salmon Salad with Capers and Lemon


For us Finns rye is our staple grain. We are brought up eating rye bread with a rye flour content of around 70-80% (compared to some bread sold as "rye" bread in Australia might have around 20% rye flour, rest is wheat). When I was small white (wheat) bread was something my mum didn't even consider as 'real' bread and would very rarely buy it. At school all kids from primary school through to high school get a free warm meal every day and rye bread is always part of this meal.

I was so excited to find rye grain at my local health food store. I really recommend you give it a go if you happen to find it, and use it in warm salads where you'd normally use rice. It's so earthy and wholesome! In this warm salad, I've combined the rye with some lovely fatty salmon and a tangy, vinegary dressing.


Rye and Salmon Salad with Capers and Lemon

350g salmon fillet
Himalayan pink rock salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp French capers
1/2 lemon, finely sliced

1,5 cups organic rye grain
2 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp lemon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 lemon, juiced
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the salmon fillet in an oven dish and season with salt and pepper. Add the capers on top of the fillet and arrange the lemon slices on top of the capers. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until it's just cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

In the mean time, cook the rye in plenty of boiling water for about 20-30 minutes or until tender (there will still be a bite to it). Drain and place in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, lemon olive oil and dry mustard. Pour on the warm rye and stir through. Season with some black pepper and extra lemon juice. Break the salmon into bite size pieces and fold them together with the capers through the rye. Serve warm.

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