March 31, 2011

Autumn flavours - Potato and Rutabaga Tarts


These gorgeous gum nuts are my pick of the fresh flowers this week. I love how majestic and bold yet humble and beautiful they look. They are a welcoming change to the summery flowers I've been having around the home over the past few months! 


Autumn is on its way and the weather has been warm but rainy. I am loving the new season produce and embracing the changing flavours in my cooking. This time of the year always reminds me of autumn in Finland (although I'm obviously talking Northern Hemisphere autumn) when the whole family would join my granny and other relatives and harvest the potatoes that had been growing on granny's land for the past few months. It was such a joy to pick the golden potatoes from the ground and we would enjoy granny's hearty lunch after a hard day's work. I have wonderful memories from those times.


The scent and flavour of this potato and rutabaga tart are inevitably autumny. I love the sweetness of rutabaga combined with the rosemary and nutmeg. This is a perfect autumn dish!


 Potato and Rutabaga Tarts
(makes 4)

{base}

370g potatoes, mashed
35g brown rice flour
70g plain gluten-free flour
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
pinch of sea salt
1 large free-range egg white
50ml olive oil

{filling}

250g rutabaga, coarsely grated
250g smooth, low-fat ricotta
1 large free-range egg
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
pinch of ground nutmeg


1. Preheat your oven to 175C. Grease and flour four (14cm) fluted tart tins.

2. Combine the base ingredients in a bowl and knead lightly until smooth and thoroughly mixed. Refrigerate for 10-20 minutes.

3. Combine all ingredients for the filling and set aside.

4. Divide the base dough into 4 equal portions and press evenly into the tins. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

5. Fill the tart cavities with the filling and bake for 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving.




March 29, 2011

Nut and Seed Bread


I found a bottle of gorgeously dark pumpkin seed oil at the green grocer the other day and just had to have it. This is one of my favourite oils - I fell in love with it whilst travelling in Hungary a few years ago. All the farm houses there were making their own pumpkin seed oil and we dipped freshly baked bread in the oil that was seasoned with coarse sea salt - it was the most deliciously simple dish I could've imagined.

The mix of different oils and nuts gives this bread the most wonderful texture and flavour. I love gluten-free baking and for a nut-a-holic like myself it is ideal because I get to incorporate nuts in both sweet and savoury dishes. You can enjoy this bread with either sweet or savoury toppings, try ricotta and honey, for example!


Nut and Seed Bread
(Recipe adapted from Teresa Cutter)

1 cup raw cashews
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup almond meal
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda
6 large free-range eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
50ml olive oil
30ml walnut oil
30ml pumpkin seed oil

smooth ricotta and raw honey, for serving

Preheat your oven to 175C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Place the cashews and the sunflower seeds in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Combine the cashew mixture, almond meal, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Beat the eggs with the lemon juice and the oils, then stir in the dry ingredients. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving. Serve with ricotta and raw honey.

March 27, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Cake


Chocolate and zucchini cake is an all-time favourite, but to those who haven't heard of the combination (or tasted it), it may seem as weird as combining beetroot with chocolate. It works, however, and I for one am not going to argue it is not a winning pair. 

A home filled with the sweet scent of chocolate is a perfect start for a lazy Sunday.
 

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

3-4 zucchini (about 250g grated)
120g walnuts, coarsely chopped
450g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
180g 70% dark chocolate
225g brown sugar
4 large free-range eggs
125ml vegetable oil or melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml buttermilk 

Preheat your oven to 180C and grease a large cake tin (23 cm). 

Squeeze out excess water of the zucchini and combine with walnuts. Sift the dry ingredients, except the sugar, into a bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and set aside. Using electric beaters, beat the eggs, sugar and oil until light and fluffy. Beat in the chocolate and the vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately. Lastly fold in the zucchini and walnuts. 

Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on wire rack, then dust with icing sugar to serve.




March 25, 2011

Energisers - Almond butter squares



*Phew* It's been a busy week! My mind is spinning with new ideas and inspiration and the whole week has just flown by. No matter how busy it gets, however, I just can't go without eating properly. I notice when my blood sugar and energy levels are running low and I don't like munching on just anything I can get my hands on. I often carry snacks like nuts and seeds or fresh fruit with me in case things get a little hectic and I won't have time for a proper meal.

These little squares are packed with energy and natural ingredients. You can easily change the recipe to suit your taste and preferences: try adding chia seeds and ground cinnamon, different nuts and dried berries, for instance. They make an excellent home-made food gift too!


 Almond butter squares
(Makes 16-20 squares)

1 1/2 cups raw almonds

1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
3 tablespoon unsweetened apple sauce

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup raw cocoa nibs
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preheat your oven to 200C. Spread the almonds evenly on a baking tray and roast for about 10 minutes. Transfer the nuts into a food processor and process for about 10 minutes or until the texture is smooth and butter-like. Place the almond butter into a saucepan along with maple syrup, honey, vanilla and apple sauce and heat just enough to mix the ingredients together. Remove from the heat.

Mix the oats, coconut, cherries, cocoa and almonds in a separate bowl. Spoon the almond butter mixture on top and mix everything together. Be patient, the mixture is sticky but the stickier it is the better!

Spoon the mixture into a square tin (20 cm x 20 cm) rinsed with cold water. Spread evenly, then refrigerate for a couple of hours. Cut into squares before serving.




March 24, 2011

Roasted chestnuts with lentils and goat cheese


I may have mentioned it before, but I quite like cooking just for myself when I'm alone at home. I think it can be almost liberating to cook just for yourself, to treat yourself when you're alone at home and make that one dish seem so special. You can spoil yourself with ingredients you wouldn't normally get and let your imagination go wild. I love it! 

I knew I was in for a treat when I saw these gorgeous chestnuts at my local green grocer. I was craving for lentils so I decided to make a simple dish with French lentils, vinaigrette, roasted chestnuts and soft goat cheese. This dish pretty much sums up some of my all time favourite ingredients. Perfect treat to be enjoyed just by myself :-)


 Roasted chestnuts with lentils and goat cheese
(serves 1-2)

5-10 chestnuts

1/2 cup French lentils
1,5 cups water

{vinaigrette}
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp walnut oil
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
soft goat cheese, to serve

Preheat your oven to 200C. Rinse and dry the chestnuts and cut a small slit in the skin of each nut. Place them on a roasting tray and roast for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and peel off the skins as soon as you can (although be careful as they are hot!). Cut some up roughly, leaving some whole or thinly sliced. Set the chestnuts aside.

Rinse the lentils and place in a small saucepan with the water. Bring to boil, then let simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain off the excess water then place back in the saucepan.

Mix together the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Pour the mixture into the saucepan with the lentils and mix through. Add the chestnuts and the parsley and spoon into a bowl. Top with soft goat cheese before serving.




March 23, 2011

Spelt linguine and zucchini with walnut pesto


The first months of this year have been characterised by new projects and changes. I almost feel like at times I've dived straight in without knowing what is expecting me underneath. Although it's always frightening to step out of your comfort zone, it is important to do your best and at least give new things a go. I am inspired and motivated to work on projects I am passionate about and it is satisfying to see some sort of progress.

I guess the same thing goes for cooking and experimenting new recipes in the kitchen. You never know if your recipe idea will work or not if you don't give it a go. Sometimes they don't work, and believe me there are quite a few of those dishes that never make it to this blog, but at least I've tried and I can then move on.

I've been wanting to make this walnut pesto pasta for a while now and the recipe has changed somewhat from what my initial idea was. Nevertheless I was happy to see (and taste) the outcome and although it may not be the prettiest bowl of pasta you've seen, it was still tasty. So why not give it a go?


Spelt linguine and zucchini with walnut pesto
(serves 2)

200g spelt linguine
2 zucchinis

{walnut pesto}
1 cup raw walnuts
zest and juice of one lemon
small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
a couple of sprigs of fresh oregano
1 tbsp smooth, low-fat ricotta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp walnut oil
pinch of salt

flat-leaf parsley, to serve
lemon wedges, to serve

Start by making the pesto. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add water if too thick. Set aside.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchinis into long, thin strips. 

Boil water in a large saucepan. Add the linguine and cook for a few minutes or until al dente. Before draining, save a cup of the boiling water for later. Drain and return the past into the saucepan. Add pesto and mix through. If the mixture is too thick, dilute with some of the pasta water you've saved. Add zucchini strips and fold them gently into the pasta. Serve sprinkled with extra parsley and lemon wedges.



March 21, 2011

Bircher muesli


I may have been anticipating the change of seasons for a while, but as surely as people on the Northern hemisphere start seeing the first signs of spring, we start to feel the autumn in the air. I've noticed the fallen leaves, the shorter days and the cooler nights - autumn is inevitably on its way. Although I do love autumn, I can't help but feel a bit of sadness realising summer is over. It is not so much the warmth I will miss, but the longer days, the greenness and the summer produce.


There is something so calming and soothing about bircher muesli. The best thing about it is that you feel like you've gone through so much effort to make such a special bowl of goodness when you actually haven't. My version of this classic breakfast is slightly sour with apples and lemon, sweet with honey and wholesome with spelt and rye. And there has to be cinnamon, of course. This is perfect feel-good food.  

Bircher muesli
(serves 2)

1/2 cup rolled spelt
1/2 cup rolled rye
200ml water
1/2 cup apple sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tsp ground cinnamon
1,5 tbsp raw honey
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
1 apple

Mix together the spelt and rye in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, apple sauce and lemon juice. Pour the mixture on top of the spelt and the rye. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or over-night. 

Once ready to serve, mix through the cinnamon, honey and the yoghurt. Cut the apple into thin wedges. Scoop the muesli into bowls and top with apple.



March 20, 2011

Rainy day treats - Walnut crusted chocolate-ricotta cups


It has been a very wet weekend here in Sydney and I must admit the rain always makes me feel a little uneasy and anxious. On the other hand I love the sound of the rain and the feeling of having to go nowhere and do nothing, but on the other hand I keep hoping for the rain to ease so I could go on my daily walks and enjoy the fresh air.


Rain or no rain I love having guilt-free treats and these walnut crusted chocolate-ricotta cups could not be more guilt-free. I've used 100% raw chocolate, which even for a bitter chocolate lover like myself is a bit too much to handle on its own. The natural sweetness of vanilla and raw honey is all you need to take away the bitterness, and mixed with smooth ricotta and orange zest it makes a perfect filling for these cups. Perhaps rainy days are not all bad after all...


 Walnut crusted chocolate-ricotta cups
(Makes 8 small cups)

{walnut crust}
1 cup raw walnuts
1 tbsp almond meal
1 large free-range egg white

{filling}
40g dark (raw) chocolate
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
2 tablespoons raw honey
zest of one orange
100g smooth, low-fat ricotta
1 large free-range egg

icing sugar, to serve
zest of one orange, to serve

Preheat your oven to 170C. 

Place the walnuts in a food processor and blitz until they resemble coarse bread crumbs. Add a tablespoon of almond meal and the egg white and mix well. Take spoonfuls of the mixture and press into small silicone muffin cups.

To make the filling, place the chocolate, vanilla and raw honey into a small saucepan and set on low heat. Stir the mixture until the chocolate has melted, then leave to cool. Add orange zest, ricotta and one egg and mix until smooth. Scoop the filling evenly into the cups. 

Bake for about 20 minutes, then cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar and orange zest before serving.






March 18, 2011

Quince and ginger crumble with vanilla sauce


I was browsing my local green grocer this morning and found these new season quinces that looked so adorable with their little leaves. I had to get them although at the time I didn't have a clear idea in mind of what to do with them. I haven't cooked with quinces so much in the past, but bare with me as I'll be sharing a couple more quince recipes with you in the coming days.


I've given the good old crumble a revamp by using spelt flour and rolled spelt and seasoned the quinces with lovely ground ginger. Ginger is a perfect companion, I love the spiciness it brings to this dish. There is no need for butter, as I've replaced it with olive oil and used brown sugar and raw cocoa nibs to sweeten the mixture.

The vanilla sauce is a classic Finnish condiment to pies and tarts. It is sweet with vanilla and honey and nicely rounds up the spiciness of the ginger. I couldn't be happier with this special treat, it is the perfect way to start the weekend!


Quince and ginger crumble with vanilla sauce
(Serves 2-4)

250g quince*, chopped in thin slices
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup rolled spelt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp raw cocoa nibs
1/2 tsp ground ginger
60ml olive oil

{vanilla sauce}

1 large free-range egg
400ml low fat milk
3-4 tsp potato starch**
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp natural vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180C. Oil a small oven dish (22cm x 14cm). 

Mix the quince with the lemon juice and place in the oven dish. Mix together the brown sugar and the ginger and sprinkle over the quince. 

Combine the flour and baking soda in a bowl. Add the rolled spelt, brown sugar, cocoa nibs and ginger and mix well. Add the olive oil and mix until crumbly. Spread the crumble evenly on top of the quince and bake for about 30 minutes. Leave to cool slightly.

For the vanilla sauce, lightly whisk the egg in a small saucepan. Add the milk, potato starch, vanilla and honey and whisk to combine. Simmer the mixture on low heat (do not let it boil) stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool. Serve the sauce with the crumble. 

Notes to the recipe. 
* a ripe quince should be yellow coloured
** potato starch is in Australia sold as potato flour. Use 4 teaspoons if you want the sauce to be thicker. Alternatively you can use corn flour to thicken the sauce.

Wish you a lovely weekend!



March 17, 2011

Oven baked fruit with Finnish buttermilk cheese & News!

 

As a Finnish ex-pat there are quite a few things I miss from my home country. I've listed some of them here before, but dairy products and cheeses are still amongst the most missed items on the list. Finnish buttermilk cheese is something I am, however, able to somewhat replicate here in Australia and I've wanted to experiment with it for a while now. 


I adore cheese and that is probably why I got so obsessed with making this buttermilk variety at home. The texture resembles that of ricotta and on its own its very mild and quite tasteless. There are many versions of this cheese and it is surprisingly versatile, but it is ever so simple to make with just a few ingredients you most likely already have at home.



I used the same batch of cheese to make both sweet and savoury cheese (which I'll share with you another time) and I was very happy with the way it turned out! The sweetened cheese pairs beautifully with some oven roasted fruits and dried cherries. All you need is a bit of raw honey for sweetness and you have a lovely little dessert waiting to be relished.


Oven baked fruit with Finnish buttermilk cheese*
(recipe for the cheese adapted from Kotiruoka)

1 litre buttermilk
2 large free-range eggs
1,5 litres milk (low fat or full fat)
100g skim milk powder
(lemon juice)

1 tbsp raw honey

1 apple
1 pear
1 tbsp raw honey
dried cherries

Lightly beat the eggs and the buttermilk until well combined. In a large saucepan, heat the milk until warm (42C). Whisk in the milk powder and continue to heat until almost boiling. Take the saucepan off the heat and whisk in the buttermilk mixture. Cover the saucepan with a lid and leave in a warm place for about an hour. Add lemon juice (a few tablespoons) if there is no curd forming on top of the mixture. You will need to keep the mixture quite warm for this to happen. Once the mixture has curdled, use a slotted spoon to scoop out the curd and place it into a sieve lined with a cheese cloth and placed on top of a bowl. Cover the curd with the cheese cloth, place some weight on top and refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours or overnight. After this, sweeten the cheese with a tablespoon of raw honey.

Preheat oven to 170C. Cut the fruit into wedges and place in an oven dish. Drizzle the fruit with some raw honey and bake until tender. Serve the fruit with the buttermilk cheese and sprinkle with dried cherries.

*Note to the recipe. I made a whole batch of cheese and then divided it into two. For this sweet variety you will only need half of this amount.


PS. I have some exciting news to share with you! My first recipe for the brand new website called Honest Cooking has just been posted!! Go and have a look, I hope you like it!!

March 15, 2011

Pea and avocado soup with watercress and snow pea sprouts

 

On the weekend I picked up a huge selection of fresh vegetables and started experimenting with different combinations. It is so uplifting to see all the fresh produce, to touch it, to smell it and to taste it. The beautiful colours of these natural ingredients are the best inspiration one could hope for. I had an endless list of ideas of what I could be making - juices, soups, salads...but I wanted something green.


Green is a colour of growth, renewal, nature and freshness. It makes me feel hopeful and inspired. Even looking at a bowl of beautiful green soup or salad makes me happy. This soup is smooth and mellow. The avocado gives it perfect creaminess and the lemon adds a bit of tang to balance the flavours. 

Pea and avocado soup with watercress and snow pea sprouts
(serves 2)

300g frozen peas
500ml organic vegetable stock
50g watercress
20g snow pea sprouts
1 tsp dried marjoram
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 big avocado
1/4 lemon, juiced
extra-virgin lemon olive oil, to serve

Place the peas in a saucepan and cover with vegetable stock. Add the marjoram and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to boil and add watercress and snow pea sprouts. Simmer for a few minutes or until the peas are tender. Place the soup in a blender or a food processor with the avocado and blitz until smooth. Season with lemon juice and add vegetable stock or water if needed. Drizzle with a bit of lemon olive oil to serve.

March 14, 2011

Raspberry and almond clafoutis


We spent most of the weekend glued to the news from Japan. On Sunday morning, as I was going about with my chores, I felt a certain kind of serenity and a feeling of continuity. I cannot even begin to imagine what the people in Japan are going through and although I haven't stopped thinking about the tragedy, I realise that our lives will continue as normal.

We love going for long walks on the weekend. It's the best time for us to have a good chat, catch up on what is on the schedule for the upcoming week and just spend some time together. It was another hot weekend here in Sydney and I felt like making a summery dessert for Sunday afternoon tea. This raspberry and almond clafoutis is so effortless, but perfectly scrumptious.


Raspberry and almond clafoutis
(serves 2)

200g frozen raspberries
2 large free-range eggs
100g almond meal
130g low-fat, smooth ricotta
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 tbsp raw honey

icing sugar, to serve 

Preheat your oven to 175C. Divide the raspberries in 2 ramekins. Mix the eggs, almond meal, ricotta, vanilla and honey in a bowl. Spoon the batter equally on top of the raspberries on each ramekins. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Leave to cool slightly, then dust with icing sugar to serve.

March 12, 2011

Capsicum soup and Finnish scones

 

Hello friends,

I hope you are all well and safe. I'm sure you share the same feeling of shock after seeing the horrendous devastation in Japan. It is hard to believe that we were travelling around this country just a couple of months ago. We are very grateful that all our relatives in Japan are safe, but our hearts go out to everyone affected.

I think I'm personally a little bit obsessed with the idea of enjoying my life to the fullest. When natural disasters like these hit, one can't help but wonder how fragile life is. Perhaps it's not such an unhealthy obsession after all. 


I felt like we needed something comforting during this time of distress. A bowl of soup and home-made bread, what could be better? The Finnish 'scones' or 'tea bread', as we call them, is the simplest bread to make. There is no yeast, no kneading and you can get fresh bread from start to finish in less than 30 minutes.


Capsicum soup
(Serves 2)

2 red capsicums (bell peppers)
100g day-old sour dough bread
1 heaped tbsp almond meal
2 cups vegetable stock (less if you want it thicker)
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 225C. Place the capsicums on a roasting tray and roast for 15 minutes or until the skin has slightly blacken. Remove from the oven and place the capsicums in a plastic bag. Leave to cool, then peel the skins off. Place all ingredients in a food processor or in a blender and blitz until smooth. Serve warm or cold with the Finnish scones.


Finnish scones 
(Makes 2)

180g wholemeal spelt flour
1,5 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150ml water
1 tbsp olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Pour in the water and the oil and mix until smooth. Divide the dough into two. Place the dough on a baking tray lined with baking paper and pat into 1 cm disks. Using a knife, cut each disk into 4 sections (you don't need to cut all the way to the bottom). Bake in 225C for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Enjoy life.

March 11, 2011

Cinnamon and apple muffins with honeyed nut topping

 

I have been obsessing over new season apples as soon as I saw them hitting the markets and the green grocers. What to do with them, how do they taste like, are they sweet enough yet? I wanted something with lots of cinnamon, honey - and my favourite - nuts. Should I put the apples on top or into the dough? Or nuts on top? So many choices!


I think these red apples look perfect as they are. Gorgeous red hue, they look as pretty as flowers!



So I decided to use the apples in the batter and make a sweet honeyed nut topping. Perfect! These muffins are sweet, full of cinnamon, lots of apple and the sticky nut topping is a welcoming contrast to the soft cake.

Cinnamon and apple muffins with honeyed nut topping
(Makes 12 big muffins)

2 large free-range eggs
200ml unsweetened apple sauce
400ml low-fat milk
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
250g white, unbleached spelt flour
200g whole spelt flour
4 tsp baking powder
50g brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
100g apples, cut into small cubes

{honeyed nut topping}
50g almonds
30g pecans
30g walnuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tbsp raw honey

Preheat your oven to 175C. Arrange 12 large paper muffin cups in a muffin tin. In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, apple sauce, milk and vanilla. In another bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Finally add the apples and fold well. Spoon the batter into the cups and bake for about 15 minutes. 

In the mean while, combine all ingredients for the nut topping. Remove the muffins from the oven, spoon a tablespoon of the topping on each muffin, then continue to bake a further 5-10 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
Have a lovely weekend!