Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Summer Pudding

My grandmother served this dessert once, maybe seven or ten (or more!) years ago. It was so good, fresh and spicy and wonderfully berry-y that I've been thinking about it periodically ever since. Every now and then I'd bring it up in conversation with my mother and go "we should make that sometime!" And then I'd get distracted by crème brûlée or cheesecake or chocolate souffle, and the summer pudding never happened.

summer pudding

Until this weekend. This isn't my grandmother's recipe, just something I cobbled together, adding my favorite spices (ever since making the spicy swirl cake that kicked off this blog I've been living some kind of cardamom renaissance - it really is a fabulous spice to use in desserts) and using up the leftover French Bread from Friday and an I'm-afraid-to-think-how-old splosh of white wine from the fridge, thus making this my entry for this month's Leftover Tuesday, hosted by Rachel. (ETA: check out the roundup here.)

summer pudding

I think you can probably use any kind of fruit in this, frozen or fresh. I went for raspberries, bilberries and blackcurrants, frozen ones naturally since we are about as far from summer as you can get, and added a splosh of white wine for extra depth. The berries are simmered in sugar and spices (cardamom and cinnamon in this case) and poured into a bowl lined with bread and topped with another layer of bread and then weighted down in the fridge overnight so the bread soaks up all the juices and turns a wonderful purple color. A perfect easy/healthy dessert to finish a heavy meal or a weeknight dinner. Yum.

summer pudding

Summer Pudding with Cardamom & White Wine

1 large loaf of dense (white) bread, sliced and with crusts cut off
1 kg (2 pounds) berries, I used about 600 g raspberries and 200 g each bilberries and blackcurrants
3 whole cardamom pods + ½ tsp crushed cardamom seeds
1 stick cinnamon
100 ml sugar (depending on how tart your berries are and how much of a sweet tooth you have)
splosh of white wine
grated peel of ½ a lemon

Heat the cardamoms, cinnamon, sugar and wine in a large pan until sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and let stand for a while to let the spices flavor the syrup. Add the berries and lemon peel to the pan. (If you want to make things easy for yourself, fish out the cardamom pods at least before adding the berries. I didn't and had had to hunt for them later.) It will seem like A LOT of berries, but don't worry.

Turn on the heat again and simmer until the berries start letting out their juices. Meanwhile, line a medium-sized bowl (or several small ones, or ramekins, or whatever) first with a large piece of clingfilm (you'll need to cover the bowl completely with the edges later) and then with bread slices, overlapping and pressing them together so there are no cracks in between. If you're making this in portion-sized cups, make sure to slice your bread very thinly or the berries-to-bread ratio will go all wonky.

Spoon the berry mixture on the bread, reserving some of the juices (if you've used frozen berries like me, chances are you'll have a lot of liquid, but that's OK). Top the bowl with more bread, again making sure there are no cracks, and spoon on some of the reserved juices (not all of them, though).

Fold the edges of the clingfilm over the bread and weigh down with a plate topped with something heavy (such as, say, more plates). Leave in the fridge overnight.

To serve, unfold the clingfilm, invert bowl over a plate and remove both bowl and clingfilm. Moisten any white patches of bread with the last of the juices and serve along with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. (Although frankly, when I had it the following day without either it was even better.)

summer pudding

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Waiter, There's Something in My... Pie

Pumpkin in a pie? How novel! But wait, this isn't a sweet pie with pumpkin puree (which is fairly impossible to find here anyway), but a savory one with parmesan, onions and cheddar. And the pumpkin is coarsely grated and steamed. In fact, my pumpkin was grated, steamed and frozen several months ago (you seasonal produce people can just bite me), making today's cooking operation a breeze.

Pumpkin Pie

This has been one of my favorite uses for pumpkin (closely followed by a bean-ham-pumpkin soup I haven't made in far too long - now I'm wondering if I still have pumpkin puree in the freezer) ever since I found the recipe a few years ago. I waffled a bit between this and the Tamale Pie for my Waiter, there's something in my...-entry (check out the roundup here), but seriously, parmesan + cheddar + whole wheat pastry beats cheddar + cornbread any day in this household.

Pumpkin Pie

If you can't find fresh pumpkin this time of year, I'm sure this would be wonderful with any kind of winter squash. Or even with just extra onions - I dare anyone to find fault with the cheese-onion-cheese combination. Especially in a shell made wonderfully nutty by whole wheat flour. (You can feel all virtuous about the pumpkin and the whole wheat. And gluttonous about the cheese. And the butter. Best of both worlds!)

Pumpkin Pie

Two-Cheese Pumpkin Pie
from Glorian ruoka & viini 6/2005

mmm, cheesefor the pastry:
450 ml (scant 2 cups) whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
70 g (2½ oz) butter
150 ml (5 oz) cold water

for the filling:
500 g (1 generous pound) fresh pumpkin, coarsely grated
2 large onions
½-1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
100 g (3½ oz) parmesan, grated
100 g (3½ oz) cheddar, grated

a bit more butter
one egg, lightly beaten

pumpkin! and onions!Mix the salt in the flour. Work the (cubed) butter into the flour with a fork, then the cold water. Divide the dough in two and form flat disks. Wrap in clingfilm and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Steam the pumpkin until softened, about 3 minutes. Soften the onions in the oil. Mix with the pumpkin, season with salt and pepper, and leave to cool a bit.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out each disk of dough to about 30 cm (12") in diameter. Transfer one of them to a (greased, floured) springform pan, about 23 cm (9") in diameter. (Or, you know, adjust sizes to fit your pan.)

coveredBrush with some melted butter, sprinkle the grated parmesan, then the onion-pumpkin mixture, and finally the grated cheddar. Top with the other pastry disk and crimp the edges together. Brush with the egg.

Bake at 180-200°C (375° F) for about 40-50 minutes, until the crust is a deep golden color. Once you take it out of the oven, brush with some more butter (OMG yes I know. Feel free to skip.)

Pumpkin Pie

Served with a simple green salad on the side, this is fabulous both warm and cold.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, February 23, 2007

In Defense of Kneaded Bread

So here's a radical opinion: the no-knead bread that's seemingly swept the culinary world by storm this fall/winter is not actually a great favorite of mine. Partly it's an unfair prejudice (my first try left me with a stupidly ruined cast-iron pan) and partly I'm just a big old philistine who doesn't really care about crispy crusts and the open crumb The Ones In The Know seem to value over everything else. I like small-crumbed sandwich bread. I like it with lots of crunchy bits. I like it straight out of the oven, with (gasp) reduced-fat margarine, and I like it toasted the same way. I like it even when it's not the least bit airy. Hell, I like the dense Finnish rye breads, where heavy is the whole point.

toasted french bread

I'm not saying the no-knead isn't pretty good - it's perfectly acceptable as artisan breads go. And it's certainly very pretty. Mostly, I just didn't find it any less fussy than regular kneaded bread. Besides, kneading is a lot of fun.

Possibly this is just a quirk of chance or whatever, but I've never made bread that didn't, when coming out of the oven, fill me with happiness. Bread that didn't look very nice, yes. Bread that didn't rise as much as it should, sure. Bread that spread more than it rose, most definitely. But they were still good.

honey-butter french bread

Just like this Honey-Butter French Bread from epicurious that I stumbled upon this week. It's not exactly perfect - I kind of hate how the crust looks - but still making-you-overeat yummy. Normally I like working with fresh yeast (I love love love the texture and the smell and everything about it), but I didn't have the energy to think about conversions, never mind walking over to the shops (the freezing -19°C weather didn't help) to get some. Hence the slavish following of a recipe that had a lot of rave reviews. (Does anyone else have problems cooking from books these days? I tend to go all "but how will I know if it's any goooood?" a lot.)

toast & tomato soup

This is a very very white bread - not something I'd go for usually, even if it IS good. But I had some leftover soup and the recipe called for it to be served with white bread, and I have something in the works for Sunday lunch that requires white bread, and mostly I just wanted to bake something to heat the apartment a bit (SO COLD). And for all of those things, this was a very good choice. (Now if only I hadn't devoured half a loaf in one sitting. Ugh.)

Recipe after the jump!

Tamale Pie

tamale pie

I have owned Moosewood Restaurant's Low-Fat Favorites for about six or seven years, and their Tamale Pie has been one of my favorite kidney bean dishes for all that time (I have never tasted a proper tamale, so it might be helpful for those of you in the know to expect a spicy bean-and-vegetable casserole topped with low-fat cornbread since that is what this is) and yet it was only when making it last week that I realized I haven't been following the recipe AT ALL.

Tamale Pie

As it happens, I've been pretty much doubling all the vegetables - bell peppers, zucchini, carrots - (NO WONDER I always felt the need to double the seasoning!) while keeping to the prescribed amount of topping. Of course I set to rectify things immediately by doubling the cornmeal-eggwhite-buttermilk topping as well. Frankly, I shouldn't have bothered: it works far better with just a thin layer of "cornbread" barely covering the veggies. This way there's about as much topping as there is casserole, and that's just... wrong.

Tamale Pie
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant's Low-Fat Favorites, the amounts below are the ones I've used normally.
2 tsp olive oil
3-4 medium onions, chopped
3 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp dried oregano
1½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
2-3 medium carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
(about 2 cups each of all veggies)
1-2 medium chiles, minced
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 cups pinto, black or kidney beans
salt & pepper to taste

grated cheddar (the recipe calls for low-fat, but if I'm that desperate for healtfulness I'll just omit the cheese completely, thank you)

¾ cup cornmeal
1 tbsp unbleached white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 egg whites, beaten
½ cup nonfat buttermilk
2 tsp canola oil
Cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil, covered, on medium heat, for ~10 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, oregano and enough water to prevent sticking, and the carrots, cover, cook for 5 min. Add bell peppers, zucchini & chili, cover and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and beans, cover, cook for 10 minutes. (If it looks very wet, remove the cover half-way through.) Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray and spread the vegetable mixture on the bottom, sprinkle cheese on top.

In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix together the beaten egg whites, buttermilk and oil. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed. Pour the batter over the vegetable mixture, pressing it down a little with a spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 200°C (400°F), until the top is golden.

Tamale Pie

Variations: I'm sure some jalapenos would go very well in the casserole, and I've been meaning to destroy the vegetarian pureness with bacon or chorizo, but somehow I never seem to get around to it.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pea Soup Day (with Shrove Buns)

People in warmer climes have their carnivals, but in Finland the onset of Lent is celebrated with tobogganing followed by slow-cooked pea soup and Shrove buns (laskiaispulla/fastlagsbulle in Finland, semla in Sweden).

Shrove buns

Pea soup landed here during the 12th-century Crusades when the Swedish crusaders would fortify themselves for the Friday fast by filling up on this hearty dish on Thursday, which is how pea soup became a traditional Thursday meal in both Finland and Sweden (later on followed by a dessert of oven-baked pancake). Naturally this was the first soup I thought of when reading about A Veggie Venture's Soup challenge.

Pea Soup

The best pea soups are cooked in giant 100+-portion batches, and so my version is far, far larger than what I expected six lunchers to eat, especially knowing what was for dessert. (With two pounds of dried peas I really expected to have a week's worth of leftovers, but a lot of seconds were had. So, maybe three days' worth, then.) The soup is fairly predictable and gets its deep flavor from being cooked with a bit of smoked pork shank, but the buns...

Shrove buns

I've already talked about our sweet buns at some length. Shrovetide buns are plain "pulla" buns with a filling of ground almonds and whipped cream (there is some controversy between righteous almond-proponents and blasphemers who prefer to corrupt the creamy Shrovetide experience with jam, which I won't go into beyond saying that I AM RIGHT). You can eat them as is, but the REAL way to go is to serve them on a deep plate with steaming hot milk. The bun soaks up amazing amounts of milk and becomes a warm, mushy mess, the whipped cream retains a bit of cool distinction before melting in your mouth, and the almond filling is the crowning glory, tangy and creamy and intensely almond-y.

with almond & whipped cream

Pea Soup

pea soup

1 kg (2 pounds) dried green peas (in Sweden they use yellow peas, so I'm sure you'd be OK with either)
5 l (1¼ gallons) water
1 kg (2 pounds) smoked pork shank (ask your butcher to cut it in two)
2 large onions
2 tsp dried marjoram
black pepper
hot mustard to taste
salt (depending on how salty your meat was)

Rinse the peas and soak them overnight in plenty of water. Transfer (with the soaking water) to a large pot and bring to a boil. Peel the onions and cut them into chunks. Add the rest of the water and the pork, onions and marjoram and let simmer on a low heat for about two to three hours, until the peas go all mushy and start clouding and thickening the water.

Either I screwed up with the water or the recipe calls for way too much of it - this is supposed to be very thick and goopy. I wound up having to separate solids from the liquid for a while and reduce the latter by a good half or so, which was a bit of a pain. Next time I'll be conservative with the water and just add more as the peas soak it up.

pea soup

Remove the pork shank from the pot and scrape the meat from the bone. Shred the meat into small pieces and place back in the pot. Season with hot mustard and pepper (and salt, if needed) to taste.

Pea Soup

This is at its best made the day before and slowly reheated. It's served piping hot, with everyone adding more hot mustard and, in our family, garnishing with a dollop of smetana (sour cream).

Shrove Buns

makes 12 smallish buns, recipe from HBL 28/2/2006
Shrove buns

for the buns:
50 g (1¾ oz) fresh yeast
200 ml (6¾ fl oz) milk
100 g (3½ oz) butter
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 egg
450 g (1 pound) flour

+ 1 egg, lightly whipped

for the filling:
about 4-5 tbsp half-and-half
1-2 tbsp melted butter
grated peel from ½ a lemon
250 g (9 oz) almond paste
1-2 drops bitter almond

whipped cream

to serve:
plenty of hot milk

To make the buns: in a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in a few tbsp of milk. Melt the butter and pour in the rest of the milk. When the milk-butter mixture is lukewarm, add it to the yeast along with the cardamom, sugar, and egg. Mix in half the flour and work to a smooth, goopy dough. Let rest for a minute or two, then work in the rest of the flour in batches, kneading (or working with the dough hook in a mixer) until you have a shiny, springy dough. (You probably won't need all the flour - this is supposed to be a fairly loose dough.) Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, about 40-60 minutes.


Gently press down the dough, kneading a few times, and cut into twelve pieces. Form each piece into a smooth, round bun (this is the part that gives me hives) and let rise for another 20 minutes or so on a baking sheet. Brush with lightly whipped egg and bake at 225°C for about 15 minutes. Cool on racks.

out of the oven

Once the buns are cooled, cut off about a third of the top and scrape off a bit of the bottom part. Take the scraped-out filling and mix it with the almond paste (easier if you've shredded it), lemon peel, bitter almond and enough butter and cream to form a soft paste.

carved out

Fill the bottom parts with almond mixture and pipe some whipped cream around the edges of the bun. Top with the caps you cut off earlier and dust with icing sugar.

filled buns

Can be eaten as such or in a deep bowl with almost-boiling milk poured on top.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, February 19, 2007

New Tricks for the New Year

I've never been good with meat. (Except chicken. I'm good at chicken. Unfortunately, this is probably more because of the easiness of chicken than any lurking prowess in me.) Usually I labor for hours and wind up with something bland (hello, pork roast of doom), or dry, or just stringy as hell. Regardless, I have decided to forge on and Improve Myself in spite of genetic discouragements - my mother isn't good with meat, either. (I can't believe I just said that in public. Hej mamma!)

Twice-cooked five-spice lamb

I think we were all pretty astonished to find ourselves seeing in the Lunar New Year with tender, flavorful, succulent morsels of twice-cooked five-spice lamb (recipe at Epicurious). No-one more so than I, knowing that this wasn't the lamb shanks called for in the recipe, but a large hunk of unspecified mutton. Apparently if you cook anything for fifteen minutes in a lot of boiling water and then braise it for almost four hours in a mixture of simple syrup, ginger, soy, garlic, chilies and five-spice, it will turn out OK.

(My only gripe here would be that for something containing the word chiles in its title, this isn't very hot. Not everything needs to be, of course, but next time I'll up the chili a bit.)

We also had these pot stickers (first dumplings ever!), but they were all gone by the time I got to the picture-taking stage. As was an alarming amount of the lamb. I think that qualifies as a definite YAY.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Spring Is in the Air...

...or at least in the wicker basket I keep onions in.

Red Onion Greens

I'm tempted to see how much I can make it grow. On the other hand, the dark hand paw of menace is already looming in the background:

Red Onion Greens + Blue Foot

Poor little onion. I don't think it can stand much of a beating - it looks like it's been in the wars already.

Red Onion Greens

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Orange Marinated Pork with Pistachio

orange-marinated pork

This recipe is a bit of a mess, actually. A bit like the photo, really (not sure WHAT I was thinking with the angle, except that my family hasn't quite adjusted to this whole "wait for photographs to be taken before tucking in" thing).

With all those distinctive flavors (orange marmalade! chili pepper! Dijon mustard!) you'd expect it to have some serious kick to it, but as it turned out, not so much. The salad of sweet potatoes, asparagus and chickpeas served with mâche we had to go with it totally stole the show, there. (This will be blogged about when we make it again, because my pictures turned out all sucky.)

The award for most superfluous ingredient (and there's lots to choose from, unfortunately) goes to the pomegranate seeds that just totally disappeared during roasting, leaving no discernible taste to either meat or drippings, although to be perfectly honest, the pomegranate I had wasn't anything to write home about. (Think that could have something to do with it?)

Still, it's not like it was a TOTAL disaster, so here is the recipe:

Orange-Marinated Pork with Pistachios (and some other bits and bobs)

adapted from Kodin Kuvalehti
for the marinade:
100 ml orange marmalade
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp crushed chili flakes
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice
100 ml chopped mint
1 cinnamon stick

top loin or neck of pork, about 2,5 kg (ours was a lot smaller)
pomegranate seeds, pistachio nuts and sliced oranges

Whizz together the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor, rub into meat. Marinate in the fridge overnight. Let sit at room temperature for a few hours before roasting.

Stud the meat with pomegranate seeds, pistachio nuts and orange slices (this is where the mess came in). Roast, fatty side up, at 225°C for 20 minutes, then at 175°C until internal temperature reaches 70°C, about an hour and a half. (The recipe called for an internal temperature of 85°C which I'm choosing to call a typo and not a deliberate attempt to sweat out everything that is enjoyable about meat. Ahem.) Take out of the oven, cover with tinfoil and let rest for about ten minutes before serving. Drizzle with pan juices.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Spicy Swirl Cake with Apples and Berries

Yeast-based, cardamom-flavored sweet buns are a mainstay of Finnish (and Scandinavian) baking. There's even the concept of "coffee buns" (kahvipulla), which are rarely (if ever) coffee-flavored, just something to be served with afternoon coffee. Sometimes they're made plain, sprinkled with almond flakes or nib sugar, other times they're studded with a "butter eye." For St Lucia (December 13th) and Christmas, the dough is flavored with saffron (lussekatter in Swedish), and on Shrove Tuesday the plain buns are filled with almond paste or, if you're an ungodly infidel with execrable taste, jam, and whipped cream (laskiaispulla/fastlagsbulle in Finland, semla in Sweden).

Personally, I rather hate making buns, because I can never make them as round and pretty as I think they should be. I have issues. But that's why we were gifted with cinnamon swirls ("korvapuusti" - literally "cuff on the ear"), for which you just have to roll out the dough, spread it with spiced butter-sugar mixture, roll it into a log, and cut into pieces.

For whatever reason, someone decided that baking a lot of cinnamon swirls close to each other, so they melt together, would make it a Boston Cake (Bostonkakku). Go figure. Your basic Boston Cake has a filling of sugar, butter (or margarine), cinnamon, and sometimes almonds or hazelnuts. Here it's been given some oomph with shredded apples and lingonberries (use frozen cranberries or redcurrants if you live in a part of the world where lingonberries aren't available) as well as some ground cloves and ginger. It's really the extra spices that make this cake - it's very far from the ordinary mild-mannered buns I'm used to.

Spicy Boston Cake with Apples, Lingonberries and Pecans
adapted from Glorian ruoka & viini 1/06

for the dough
300 ml milk (the original called for oat milk)
25 g fresh yeast
~800 ml all-purpose flour
&dec34; tsp salt
100 ml sugar
2 tsp ground cardamom
100 g butter at room temperature

for the filling
100 g butter at room temperature
150 ml light muscovado sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
150 ml chopped pecans (toasted for a more pronounced nutty flavor)
1 tart apple, type Granny Smith, coarsely shredded
200 ml frozen lingonberries

1 egg, lightly beaten

for the icing
200 ml icing sugar
1 tbsp or so of undiluted, unsweetened berry juice - I used cranberry

Heat the milk to 37°C (finger-warm) and crumble in the yeast. Stir until the yeast has dissolved.

In a mixing bowl, sift together salt, sugar, cardamom and 400 ml of the flour, then blend in the milk. Stir until you have a gruel-like consistency, then work in the butter (this is easiest with a mixer with dough hooks, but it's nice and squishy by hand and I hate cleaning the mixer more than washing my hands, so). Knead in the rest of the flour (start off with a bit less than 4 dl and add as needed) until you have a nice elastic dough. (I know, I know! You get a feel for it. As a rule, you can't really overwork the dough if you do it by hand. In a mixer it's ready when it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.)

Cover with a kitchen towel or cling film and let stand until the dough's doubled in size, about an hour.

cardamom dough

Punch down the dough gently and let rest for a few minutes while you prepare the filling. (Cream together the sugar and butter and mix in the spices.) On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to a 30*40 cm rectangle.

Spread the rectangle with butter-sugar mixture, then sprinkle over the nuts, berries and apple, making sure to get filling right up to the edges. Beginning on the longer side, roll up to a log.


Cut the log into 6-cm-thick slices and arrange in a buttered, floured pan (about 25 cm in diameter), cut-side up. They'll rise and spread quite a bit, so you need to give them a bit of space. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for half an hour.

cut up

Brush with the egg and bake at 200°C for about 25 minutes, until nice and golden.

out of the oven

Let the cake cool completely (here is where the super cool weather we've been having came in handy) and remove from the tin. Mix the icing sugar with enough juice to make a fairly thick icing, and drizzle over the cake.


This actually works better if you let it stand overnight, as the whole thing comes together and becomes more sticky and yum.

A note on measurements: I'll probably be posting some recipes in imperial units and others in metric, depending on the original source. Most of my measuring cups have scales for both ml and cups, but if yours don't, Google is your friend and will ensure that you lose all ability to calculate conversions in your head. If you had any to begin with, that is, which I certainly didn't.

Recipe after the jump!