If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-J.R.R Tolkien

27 February 2012

Beetroot and Beluga lentils

I tend to shop interesting foods and then forget them in the cupboard until the best before date has long gone. Today I found a bag of fresh beetroot that really needed using and started to look for something to go with it and discovered some beluga lentils at the back of the top shelf. (After I'd chucked a few other "best before last year" products in the bin)

Never having used beluga lentils (aren't they pretty!) before, I googled and found a nice recipe at Ahmija blog. Only 20 mins cooking in veg stock, rinse and they're ready! Me, I am not a fan of overnight soaking business etc.

1,5 dl olive oil
2 tbsp honey
0,75 dl white balsamic
2 tbsp lemon juice
2tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Mix the ingredients and add to the lentils when they're still warm.

Beetroot was washed, peeled and chopped into wedges. In an oven dish, add olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few crushed whole garlic cloves. Cook in 200C for 20 mins, then add crumbled feta cheese, and cook another 25 mins or until the beets are cooked through.

Chop some fresh spinach and top with the lentils and beetroot. Enjoy!

Pomegranate & Blood Orange

Cut segments out of a couple of blood oranges, add a little grenadine for colour, place at the bottom of a bowl.
Mix some rich Turkish yoghurt with crushed macadamia nuts and grated white chocolate, season with cinnamon and a little brown sugar. Place on top of the oranges.
Chop a pomegranate in half and remove the seeds. Spoon a generous amount on top of the yoghurt and finish with a little more white chocolate. Voilà!

Creme Ninon aka Posh Pea Soup

Creme Ninon is so easy to make and tastes so good, great light starter for a nice dinner. My recipe goes something like this:
(serves 2-4)

2 small bags of frozen peas (can use fresh when they're in season but frozen are always good)
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil, 2 tbsp
1 herby veg stock cube
Water, enough to cover the peas
Plenty of fresh mint leaves

Cream, 1dl, whipped but not too much
Champagne (I used Cremant d'Alsace) , 1dl

1. Sautee the onion in the olive oil in a saucepan until translucent.

2. Add the peas, veg stock cube and the water. Bring to boil and let simmer for a couple of minutes, don't overcook the peas. 

3. Add the mint leaves and blitz with a stick blender. Pass through a sieve to make it very smooth.

4. Serve the soup on bowl, add a dollop of cream in the middle and pour a small amount of Champagne around it. 

5. Enjoy with some more Champagne. Oh la la!

26 February 2012

Pure Scandinavian Flavours at Spis

Thursday night was special just because me and my resident chef rarely have an evening off from work together, apart from Sundays and Mondays, when most interesting restaurants in Helsinki are all closed. So, previous week, after a short think thank we booked ourselves a table at Helsinki's fine dining scene's newcomer Spis. In a way I recommend you not to read this post if you're planning to go and have the surprise dinner as you will enjoy it much more if you don't know what is coming! I did the mistake of finding out what they were serving at the moment and I wish I hadn't.

We started with pre dinner drinks at wine bar Latva on Korkeavuorenkatu 25. I had a Franciacorta roseand the chef had a beetroot whiskey sour. Nice beginning for the night, and a short walk to Spis around the corner. Will have to visit Latva again to sample more wines and the Finnish tapas.

At Kasarminkatu 26 we found the tiny restaurant with just 18 seats. The sign outside looked promising and I would say that carrots did become the theme of the evening. Nearly all tables were occupied when we came but there were a few seats free for walk ins, as they promise on their website.

We went for the recommendation of a naturally sweet sparkling Beaujolais, which was a refreshingly different aperitif and served from some pretty funky glassware. We chose to have a tasting menu with fish and small glasses of recommended wines for the food.

The first amuse bouche was a carrot in a pot. The carrot was a spoon and the ground was star anise flavoured, with a mayonnaise in the bottom. Delicious and very very funny. Good trick to make anyone smile straight away at the beginning of their meal.

Second amuse was a borch "soup" with a beetroot sorbet, foam and powder. It actually turned into a soup in the mouth and definately was more delicious than any other borch I've ever tasted.

After this came the first starter "Pumpkin and Malt", of which I hadn't gotten a decent picture. The light was a little too dark for impressive food photography so I won't be publishing anything that doesn't do justice to the actual presentation. The dish had pumpkin cubes with malt in several forms; crumble, puree and foam at least. The chef loved it but he is a beer man; for me the malt was very very strong and bitter. However, the wine recommendation was spot on with a German sweet Riesling that tamed the malt and complimented the natural sweetness of the pumpkin.

Next we were poured a chilled Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. As it was a surprise menu we were trying to guess what would come next... Root vegetables was all we could think of. Got it partially right as we did get "something between a soup and a pasta", with a creamy frothy jerusalem artichoke soup and chestnut ravioli. Again the wine was beautiful with the food, contrasting the creamy soup and complimenting the chestnut.

Before the main came "Carrot and Carrot", sorbet and granita. Very fresh and clean taste of carrot.

The main course was "Burbot, Potato and Onion". Even with many components and foams and things the flavours were so simple and clean. The potato tasted purely of potato, and that's how it should be in this restaurant. It was a small shock to the tastebuds that are used to seasoning that often might cover the real original flavours of the ingredients. The burbot was a little tough but not being the expert on how to cook burbot I am not sure if it could have been more tender. We both enjoyed it very much. The wine was an Austrian blend of Gruner Veltliner and Riesling and was well balanced with the subtle flavours of the dish.

Before desserts we got "Gammel Dansk with a milk snow", which they admitted to have copied from Noma in Copenhagen. Herby alcoholic sorbet with a milky powder, again quite funny. (Sorry no pic)

Dessert was "Parsnip and White Chocolate" with white chocolate ganache and parsnip in the form of ice cream, powder and puree, as well as an apple foam. It was a completely new flavour for me to have parsnip in the form of a dessert and I really enjoyed it. The sweet wine was from the Jura area in France.

 With our espressos we got beetroot marshmallows and carrot lollipops, which added an another great touch to the evening. The chef enjoyed a Finnish røm from Åland, a surprising addition to the dinner.

We had a great evening and one of the most innovative meals in a long time. We will definately be going back, the menu is to be changed ten times in a year with the seasons so there are more surprises waiting for us in Spis. The service was warm and welcoming, professional (great wine pairing) and friendly. Only critism I have is that I'd wish they'd leave the water jugs at the table, they would save themselves alot of work. (The water glasses are tiny.)

Helsinki is the World design Capital 2012, and I'd recommed Spis for any travellers interested in Finnish design as they pay a lot of attention to detail here with the tableware (especially liked the plates by Nanna Bayer) and even the uniforms of the staff. And the food is definitely Scandinavian, pure, fresh and simple.

Go and let Spis surprise you too!

Ps. Another review found on Liemessä blog in Finnish with very nice pictures.

24 February 2012

How do you like your laskiaispulla?

It was shrove Tuesday this week and one of my earliest blog posts has been viewed so many times! Of course the recipe for the lovely Shrove bun. This year I've been so busy I haven't made any buns but I'd just like to answer the question on everyone's lips; shall it be with almond paste or jam? Let Bob Marley tell you:

19 February 2012

On the menu on Shrove Sunday

Crème Ninon
Wolfberger Cremant D'Alcase Brut, Alsace, France

Potato Blinis with Whitefish Roe, Cured Salmon and Creamed Forest Mushrooms 
Dr Pauly Bergweiler Blitz Riesling, Mosel, Germany


White Chocolate & Macadamia Yoghurt with Blood Orange & Pomegranate

 Recipes will follow after some sleep...

12 February 2012

Lunch at Postres

To celebrate my dear friend Ilona's birthday a special lunch was in order and so we decided to book a table at Postres, one of the few Michelin starred restaurants in Helsinki. The cuisine is modern Scandinavian based on the classic French style. They have two menu choices for lunch, 29€ or Chef's menu for 53€. We mixed a little bit and the price was from between the two menus.
We started with the house Champagne, which suited our occasion and was pleasantly toasty, waking up an appetite. The bread was irrisistably fresh, the best "saaristolaisleipä" I have ever tasted. I liked how the butter was set on a small stone.

We asked for a white wine that would go with both the starter and the main and got a nice Rheingau Riesling which was exactly the kind of wine I love; acidity, fruit, freshness, maybe just off dry. (And it didn't break the bank either.)

Our starter was a beautifully served mussel soup, with a touch of Thai flavours such as coconut, curry and coriander.  The flavours were fresh and balanced, and of course there was a pretty foam. Wonder when that will go out of fashion...

 The main course was the very seasonal burbot, which I have eaten only once before, if you don't count the roe of burbot, which is great with blinis. There were panfried pieces of burbot, burbot liver and a sort of quenelle with a fish mousse inside, as well as a mayonnaise (blisfully forgot what it was flavoured with but it was very tasty!), a parsley puree, carrots, ryebread croutons and a potato snow. It wasn't only beautiful in presentation but also tasted good and satisfied the appetite. The flavour of the fish is quite delicate and everything on the plate was in balance.

 Dessert was a baked chocolate mousse with "tiger ice cream". The mousse was like a softer version of a fondant, fluffy and moist. Tiger ice cream was like a gourmet version of the shop bought stuff and the orange flavour came in the ice cream and a quark as well as gel, jelly and segments of orange. Couldn't fault it, and the dessert wine from Mas Jullien (Southern France) really complimented the orange flavours.

Cloudberry filled profiterols were presented with our coffees, and even we were quite full they were the cherry on top.
All in all the lunch was perfect, and pretty much what I expected it to be. Service was friendly and professional, at the level that the Michelin inspectors would aspire it to be. If I have to come up with any criticism it is that I personally wish that even the Michelin places would relax just a little bit. Who really wants the napkin put on their lap or their table brushed off breadcrumps? However, for me it is a place that is well suited for a special occasion, and I will definately want to go back. Would recommend for anyone who enjoys this kind of food!

06 February 2012

Paris in April

All pictures from http://weheartit.com

Hoping and wishing we can go.
What are your favourite things in Paris?
Hotels, restaurants, cafes, markets, picnic places, museums, shows, day trips, anything.
Je suis très excité!

Carrot Pancakes with Roasted Carrot Houmous

 Hello there, hope you had a great weekend! Mine went quick with two birthdays and one christening, a lot of food and wine but no cooking.
So I'm here to share the recipe of last week's healthier version of Sunday lunch, again from the Modern Vegetarian cookbook by Maria Elia. The dish could be a light lunch or even a starter.

I had to do some experimenting with the recipe as chickpea flour was nowhere to be found, and I gave up after visiting three speciality shops. I replaced it with ground almonds, and while the flavour was great, the texture of the pancakes didn't seem right. I will give these another go as soon as I get hold of some chickpea flour. I love houmous and the roasted carrots gave it a lovely twist.

Carrot Pancakes with Roasted Carrot Houmous
Makes 4 pancakes

150g carrots, grated
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp baking powder
100g chickpea flour(besan/gram flour)
50g semolina (that's mannaryyni for the Finns, had to think about that for a sec myself)
2 tsp salt
150ml-200ml water
olive oil for frying

200g carrots, peeled
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
200g chickpeas, cooked (Tinned are fine)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp cround cumin

Any pretty little leafy salad variety
flaked almonds, toasted
Feta cheese (optional)

25ml sherry vinegar
25ml water
2 tbsp ev olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
pinch of sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

2. To make the houmous, cut the carrots into thin slices, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking tray for about 20 mins until soft( mine were maybe forgotten a little and they bacame a little caramelized...). While still hot, put the carrots in a blender with the remaining houmous ingredients, and mix until smooth, adding olive oil if needed. Check the salt and pepper and add if needed.

3. To make the pancakes, mix all ingredients, except olive oil, together to form a thick batter. Heat olive oil in a small no stick frying pan until hot, spoon in quarter of the batter and fry until golden on both sides. Repeat to make 4 pancakes.

4. Whisk the salad dressing ingredients together and season to taste. Mix the salad ingredients together and add the dressing.

5. Place the pancake on a plate, top with houmous and salad. Voila!

01 February 2012

Monday dinner

 It's starting to look and feel like winter finally, with heaps of snow and temperature going down to -20 celsius soon. On days like these nothing tastes better than my home chef''s Asian style noodle soup. We often have it on Monday nights, and it always tastes so good. He makes the broth separately with lots of spices, the flavour is intense with chilli, ginger, garlic, star anise and a hint of sweetness. The broth is poured on a bowl full of chopped vegetables and cooked noodles. Plenty of coriander is needed, as well as either tofu or prawns. I might share the recipe one day as well.
It is really a weeknight dish for us normally but you could make it more special and enjoy a glass of medium dry Gewurtztraminer.

We have sun!!!