January 31, 2011

Prawn and Wattleseed Fettuccine

Hello Monday and new week!

We spent the weekend catching up on housework, exercising and enjoying a couple of days off. It was nice to recharge and spend time doing things we enjoy the most. The new week is bringing challenges to cooking (not least because of the rising temperatures here in Sydney), but I don't like to bargain when it comes to eating well.

This prawn and wattleseed fettuccine is a perfect weekday-gourmet dish to brighten up Monday. I picked up the wattleseed fettuccine at the local markets some time ago and been eager to try it out. It's an interesting ingredient to use and looks lovely with tiny dark spots of wattleseed. The taste is not too strong and suits well for this dish. The juicy prawns and the sweet cherry tomatoes are a must, it's like summer on a plate!

Prawn and Wattleseed Fettuccine
(Serves 2)

250g wattleseed fettuccine
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes
4 cup-mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
15 extra large King prawns, cleaned
1 tbsp lemon olive oil
1/2 bunch chives, finely chopped
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
small bunch flat-leaf parsley

In a large saucepan, bring water to boil. Add a pinch of salt and the fettuccine and cook for about 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, and add the cherry tomatoes and the mushrooms. Sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the sherry vinegar and the prawns. Cook for a further couple of minutes and add lemon olive oil, chives, salt and pepper. Sauté until the prawns are just cooked through, then take off the heat. Place the fettuccine on a large platter and top with the prawns. Sprinkle with parsley.

January 30, 2011

Plum,Chocolate and Pistachio Bake

A big sigh of relief!  This Sunday I woke up and something felt different. It wasn't as uncomfortably hot as it has been for the past couple of weeks and I could only think of one thing: baking! I had bought a big bag of plums the previous day and paring them with chocolate was the obvious choice.

This is another guilt-free treat: again I've used no butter and no sugar, only fat free yoghurt and raw honey. I've used really dark chocolate which gives it richness without too much sweetness, and I've added raw cacao nibs and pistachio for texture. Plums give it natural sweetness which is just perfect for a lazy Sunday morning treat.

Hope you are all enjoying your weekend!

Plum, Chocolate and Pistachio Bake

1/3 cup white, unprocessed spelt flour (or plain wheat flour)
1/4 cup unsweetened cacao powder
3 large free range eggs
1tsp natural vanilla extract
1 cup fat free plain yoghurt
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp raw cacao nibs
25g pistachios
60g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 small plums, halved and stoned

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a small (20cm x 20cm) square tin with baking paper. In a bowl, lightly whisk the eggs with vanilla, and add the yoghurt and honey. Whisk until smooth. Stir in the flour and cacao powder, and then mix in the cacao nibs, pistachios and the chocolate. Pour the batter into the tin and smooth the top. Place the plums on the batter, cut side up. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean (this is a moist cake!). Serve dusted with icing sugar.

January 28, 2011

Vanilla and Lavender Muffins with Honey Yoghurt Icing (Gluten-Free)

It's Friday and my home smells like muffins. Can you think of any better way to start the weekend?
I love how delicious and guilt-free these vanilla and lavender muffins turned out. I didn't use any oil or butter, and thanks to almond meal they are gluten-free, too! Lavender is such a gorgeous addition to these muffins, and it gives them a certain kind of luxurious feel.

I hope you'll have a lovely and relaxing weekend!

Vanilla and Lavender Muffins with Honey Yoghurt Icing
(Makes 9-10)

2 cups almond meal
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp lavender flowers (edible variety)
3 large free-range eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 tbsp raw, unprocessed honey

{Honey Yoghurt Icing}

250g fat free plain yoghurt
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 tbsp raw, unprocessed honey

lavender flowers, extra, to serve

Start 1-2 hours before by placing the yoghurt in a sieve lined with muslin. Place the sieve on top of a bowl and refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 170C. In a bowl, mix together the almond meal, baking powder and lavender. In another bowl lightly whisk the eggs, and mix in the apple sauce, vanilla and honey. Pour the egg mixture into the almond mixture and stir until smooth. Spoon into muffin cups and bake for 15 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool.

Take the yoghurt out of the fridge and discard the whey. Place the yoghurt in a bowl and add in vanilla and honey. Mix until smooth. Top the cooled muffins with yoghurt icing and sprinkle with extra lavender flowers to serve.


January 27, 2011

Smoked Trout Paste

Doesn't an extra day off in the middle of the week feel so luxurious? We were fortunate to have a public holiday this week, so I wanted to make a light dinner to celebrate. It's been scorching hot here in Sydney, so something light and summery was definitely in order!

I've fallen in love with smoked trout I used for the salad recently. It's such an awesome summertime ingredient (why not for a light meal in winter too), and surprisingly versatile. This paste is another favourite of mine from Finnish summers. Often it is served with new potatoes and a fresh salad on the side, but I bought some bread and nice olives (oh how I love those Sicilian ones!), and used rest of the trout for a salad. Perfect summer meal with a glass of wine on a day off!

Smoked Trout Paste

250g light sour cream
100g smoked trout
3 tbsp chives, finely chopped
2 tbsp dill, finely chopped
1/2 lemon zest (finely chopped) and juice
tiny pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for at least half an hour before serving. Serve with new potatoes or nice bread and a salad on the side.

January 25, 2011

Rye Crusted Goat Cheese and Cloudberry Cups

Ever since we left Finland I've been craving for cloudberries. We really got spoiled there, we ate cloudberries (frozen from the previous season) like there was no tomorrow and there is no doubt this luxurious berry is my all time favourite. It's been nearly a month now since we left my home country and my craving for this berry is coming back stronger by the day. My only consolation was a jar of cloudberry jam I always keep in the fridge for emergencies and although it doesn't compare to the rich flavour of the real berries, it's my second best (and only) option to satisfy my cravings.

These lovely rye crusted cups with goat cheese make a perfect pair for the cloudberry jam. They are fragile, crumbly and delicious and the goat cheese is soft and creamy, just like it should be. I loved the addition of lemon thyme, it's quickly becoming my favourite herb and I now have it growing in my tiny kitchen!

Rye Crusted Goat Cheese and Cloudberry Cups
(Makes 6)

50g unsalted butter, slightly softened
60g rye flour
20g plain wheat flour
tiny pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
25ml milk

100g goat cheese
6 tbsp cloudberry jam
fresh lemon thyme, for serving

Mix the dry ingredients with butter, add the milk and mix into a smooth dough. Divide the dough into 6 portions and press each portion into greased muffin tins cups. Place in the fridge for 10-20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 175C. Bake the cups for 10-15 minutes, remove from the oven and top with goat cheese cut into 6 portions. Place back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and got a bit of colour. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Remove the cups from the tin (carefully!) and top with cloudberry jam. Sprinkle with fresh lemon thyme.


January 23, 2011

Blackberry Pancake Tart

It has been another DIY filled weekend for me. After I had finished painting the dining chairs last weekend, I now moved on to painting a chest of drawers, sewing (the pillow cases you see in the photos) and rearranging our home. When I was standing there with a paint brush on one hand, and a can of paint in the other, I realised how easy it was to get a little carried away. I found myself thinking "what else could I paint?" and looking around for any other white objects (or any colour, for that matter) that could possibly need a new layer of paint. 

At that moment it dawned to me I should step away from the paint brush and perhaps carry my energy somewhere else, and where else but the kitchen, of course. This blackberry pancake tart is a perfect way to start a Sunday morning and so simple to make. It's a typical Finnish pancake topped with fresh blackberries that are real bursts of flavour and perfect for this dish. You could, of course, replace them with any other berries you happen to have at hand. 

Hope you'll have a lovely Sunday!

Blackberry Pancake Tart
(Recipe adapted from Yhteishyva)

3 large free-range eggs
3 tbsp brown sugar
300ml milk
65g white, unprocessed spelt flour
250g fresh blackberries
1 tbsp brown sugar, extra

In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the sugar. Add milk and flour and whisk until smooth. Set aside for about 10 minutes. Heat the oven to 200C. Pour the batter into a pie dish and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven, top with berries and sprinkle the extra sugar on top. Bake for another 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

January 21, 2011

Cranberry Frozen Yogurt with Crisp Rye and Cocoa Granola

Happy Friday!

Don't you just love Friday afternoons? You leave work feeling like there is no rush, just a slow stroll home, perhaps doing a little shopping on the way. Today on my way from work I stopped at my favourite organic store, picked up some fresh vegetables and fruit and a bunch of weekend flowers! This is my way of spoiling myself, I love having fresh flowers at home, it just makes the weekend seem a bit more special.

This cranberry frozen yogurt with crisp rye and cocoa granola is a another perfect way to enjoy the weekend. It's easy to prepare and so light yet deliciously creamy! Enjoy and have a lovely weekend!

 Cranberry Frozen Yogurt with Crisp Rye and Cocoa Granola
(Serves 2)

500g low fat plain yogurt
50g frozen cranberries
1 tbsp natural vanilla extract

1 cup rolled rye
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tbsp manuka honey blend
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 tbsp raw cocoa nibs

Start by placing the yogurt in a drainer lined with a cheesecloth. Leave to drain for at least one hour, then discard the whey (or keep for later use). Place the cranberries in a food processor and process until chopped (not too finely). Add vanilla and cranberries into the yogurt, mix well and spoon into a container. Smooth the top and place in the freezer for an hour or two mixing every now and then.

In the meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150C and line a cookie tray with a baking paper. Place the rolled rye, apple sauce, honey, cinnamon and vanilla in a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Spoon the mixture onto the cookie tray and spoon to an even layer of about 1/2 cm thick. Sprinkle with the cocoa nibs. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, then leave to cool on a wired rack.

Spoon the cranberry frozen yogurt in small bowls and serve with the crisp rye and cocoa granola.

January 19, 2011

Fast Food: Smoked Trout Salad

There are a few things I find it very hard, if not even impossible, to negotiate no matter how busy life gets:

1) 8 hour sleep every night (I can just about manage with 7 if I really have to)
2) daily exercise
3) clean bed sheets at least once a week
4) real food

And this is my kind of real fast food: a smoked trout salad, which is especially perfect for summer. Different versions of this salad are a staple in Finland during summer because it is so easy and quick, not to mention healthy, and you can make it more or less wholesome (by way of adding potatoes, for example) according to your wish. Tasty it is as well, of course ;-)

Smoked Trout Salad
(Serves 2)

1 smoked trout, about 400g
2 eggs, soft or hard boiled whichever you prefer
mixed salad leaves
punnet cherry tomatoes
caperberries, rinsed
1 shallot green, finely chopped
fresh dill


150g light sour cream
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper

Take the skin and the bones off the trout and break into bite sized pieces. Peel the eggs and cut in quarters. Place the salad leaves, tomatoes and shallot in a large bowl. Add fresh dill according to taste. Fold in the trout.

In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream, lemon juice and dill and season with salt and pepper. Place some salad on a platter, top with eggs and serve with the dressing.

PS. I guess blogging should also be added to the list above... *ahem*

January 18, 2011

Summer Dessert

To be quite honest I wasn't planning to blog this, I wasn't even planning to make a dessert in the first place, but with the ingredients in the fridge, I couldn't help myself. It is summer, after all, and this just happens to be such a simple yet impeccable combination of flavours. Now all I need is a chair on a sunny balcony, a good book and a plateful of this.

Summer Dessert

2 peaches, cut in half and stones removed
4 tsp manuka honey blend
small punnet of strawberries, hulled and quartered
a big dollop or two of organic plain yoghurt
pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 tsp raw honey
1/2 pomegranate, seeded, to serve
fresh mint, to serve

Brush the peaches with the honey and place cut side down on a grilling pan. Grill for a few minutes, then place of a platter with the strawberries.

In a bowl, mix together the yoghurt, cinnamon, vanilla and raw honey. Spoon generous dollops of the yoghurt on the fruit. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and finish with a few leaves of fresh mint.


January 17, 2011

Rye and Wheat with Beets, Carrots and Goat Cheese

It was one of those days when I (literally) half-ran home from work because I had an idea of what I wanted to cook. I have a very active mind; I just can't stop it from wandering on to recipes, ingredients and flavour combinations whenever it gets a chance. I'm also a very impatient person, and sometimes it's excruciating to wait hours before I can roll up my sleeves and get cracking.

This dish was one of those recipe ideas. I knew I was on the right track when I bought that packet of goat cheese, I had those beets in my fridge and was craving for taste of walnut oil. I'm not normally a wine lover, but for some reason this dish really seemed to call for a glass. In my opinion, a little luxury to brighten up a working week is exactly what one needs every now and then ;-)

Rye and Wheat with Beets, Carrots and Goat Cheese
(Serves 2 hungry diners)

1/2 cup rye grain
1 cup wheat grain (wheat berry)
2 medium beets, unpeeled and left whole
2 carrots, unpeeled, chopped in half or thirds
fresh rosemary
70g goat cheese
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp walnut oil + extra for serving
pinch of salt
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted, for serving

Place the rye and wheat grains in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer for about 40 minutes. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.

While the grains are cooking, place the beets and carrots in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and let simmer for 30-40 minutes or until just tender (remove the carrots earlier as they will cook faster). Peel the beets under running cold water, peel the carrots and chop into chunks.

Season the grains with apple cider vinegar, walnut oil and a pinch of salt. Add rosemary (as much as you like), carrots, beets and the goat cheese in chunks. Toss everything to mix and plate. Sprinkle with pine nuts and drizzle with extra walnut oil.

Have a lovely start for the week!

January 16, 2011

Soy Barley Porridge with Umeboshi

What a crazy weekend! I'm not sure why, but I seem to have a habit of making really ambitious weekend plans, and come Sunday afternoon and I'm absolutely exhausted. I mean, of course there are those things most of us do on the weekends because there is simply no time during the week; like cleaning or doing loads of washing. On top of these weekly chores, however, I seem to add more and more things I'd like to get done.

On this weekend's list there was the simple sounding task of sanding and painting three dining chairs, sewing a new curtain for our bathroom and, while I'm at it, why not a new runner on the dining table as well. I had also listed at least 5 dishes I wanted to cook, and of course I needed to catch up with the blogosphere as well.

Every Sunday night I swear I will not do ANYTHING the following weekend, just relax and take it easy, but somehow as the week progresses, my "to do this weekend"-list just keeps growing. Don't get me wrong, I've tried having those lazy weekends, but I seem to get so bored I just can't take it. So I'm not complaining I've been busy, I'm just saying ;-)

Anyway, so after morning exercise and cleaning, and in between getting ready to head out for dinner, I managed to squeeze in enough time to whip up this soy barley porridge I had had in my mind for a whole week. In Finland I used to make barley porridge all the time, using regular milk, but this time I've used home-made soy milk and added umeboshi for some extra tang. I fell in love with umeboshi, those sour pickles, whilst travelling in Japan, and it's delicious with this porridge!

Soy Barley Porridge with Umeboshi
(Serves 2)

1 litre home-made soy milk
2ooml water
130g pearled barley
pinch of salt
2-4 umeboshi, for serving

In a large saucepan, bring water to boil. Add the barley and cook for a few minutes or until the water has soaked into the barley. Add soy milk, bring to boil and let simmer on low heat for about 40 minutes. Keep stirring every so often and be careful not to let it boil over! Once the barley is tender, and the consistency is porridge-like, take the pan off the heat and add a pinch of salt. Serve with umeboshi!


PS. By the way, I did end up finishing two dining chairs (though taking a short-cut and not bothering to sand them, just paint), making 3 out of about a gazillion dishes I wanted to make, finishing all washing, grocery shopping and cleaning and squeeze in a dinner with friends :-) Here's looking forward to the next weekend!


January 15, 2011

Spelt Couscous Salad with Grilled Eggplant

It's been a busy first week after the holidays, and going back to work after a long leave has been easier than I had expected. This week I've been spoiled by the company of some visiting friends from Finland, something I don't get to enjoy very often. There is just something so special about having Finnish friends or relatives visiting, not only do I miss them of course and it is thus so wonderful to see them again, but it is also special because I get to communicate in my own language. I only wish I would get visitors like that more frequently!

This hot and sticky weather has made me grave salads and light meals and I realised I had all the right ingredients to make a delicious weekend lunch using spelt (farro) couscous. This is a tad healthier version of the normal couscous, and I found the taste a little nuttier, wholesome and all in all nicer. I was generous with mint and lemon, and I love the varying textures given by the pomegranate seeds, the pistachios and the dried wild Persian figs I am so madly in love with. This is perfect Saturday lunch food!

Spelt Couscous Salad with Grilled Eggplant
(serves 2)

1 medium sized eggplant, cut into half and thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt

150g spelt (farro) couscous
1/2 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp ground cummin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
200ml hot water

300g chickpeas (use raw if you can, soaked and cooked until just tender)
1/2 pomegranate, seeds taken out
small handful pistachios
5-10 dried wild Persian figs
small bunch fresh mint
1 wedge preserved lemon, skin only
olive oil

Heat a grilling pan on high, brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill on both sides until tender. Set aside.

Place the couscous in a large bowl, and add cummin, cinnamon, dried mint and pinch of salt. Pour hot water on top and cover the bowl with cling wrap. Set aside for 3 minutes then use a fork to separate and mix the couscous.

Add in the chickpeas, pomegranate seeds (leaving some for serving), pistachios and wild Persian figs. Chop the fresh mint and the preserved lemon skin finely and add them in as well. Toss to mix and finish with a dash of olive oil. Arrange the salad on a plate with the grilled eggplant and serve sprinkled with the left over pomegranate seeds.

Happy weekend!


January 14, 2011

Nara and Osaka, Japan

Osaka has been the town where Mr Scandi Foodie spent the most time when he was visiting Japan as a kid. Thus, he had a lot of good memories of different places and we really enjoyed spending time with his relatives in Osaka.

There is definitely a different kind of atmosphere in Osaka compared to Tokyo, and the food is different too: in Osaka the food tends to be more "Kansai-type", more hearty and there are some dishes that we saw in Tokyo everywhere but were hard to spot in Osaka. Okonomiyaki is everywhere, and you must try them while in town! The okonomiyaki we tried came with all sorts of toppings: from salami to oysters, prawns and even spaghetti!

From Osaka, we did an overnight trip to Nara where we attended a historical festival and admired the Todaiji temple which is the largest wooden structure in the world. This town is also known for its deer and there are certainly many of them around!

The colourful outfits from different historical periods at the festival in Nara

Oden (a soup with fish cakes, daikon, boiled egg and konnyaku) and Zenzai (rice cake in green tea with red beans) were exactly what we needed after standing in the cold all day!

Festival food included these jumbo okonomiyaki, they were huge!

The freshest mochi; we watched them making these and they were delicious!

We enjoyed the most creative meal with my partner's relatives. Truly a one's in a life time experience! A multiple course dinner consisted of small dishes of fish, vegetables and tofu.

A little snowman made out of burdock, with skiis and all!

Sake with fugu fin is a must try when visiting Japan

We really had a lovely time in Osaka: great people, great food!