Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Simple Snack: Sprouted & Roasted Olive Oil Almonds

Sprouted & Roasted Olive Oil Almonds

If you've never had a sprouted almond, you are in for a treat even before you turn your oven on for this recipe.  Take dry, raw almonds, cover with twice as much water as you have almonds, and let it soak for four hours or overnight.  The almonds will go from being slightly chewy and wrinkled, and grow to almost twice their size:  moist, crisp and immensely satisfying to eat.

You can stop there, refrigerate your almonds, and snack on them until they are gone.

Or… You can add 4 cups of fresh, cold water for every cup of sprouted almonds, spin them in your blender, strain the almonds, and with a little effort, you have yourself a liter of almond milk, plus almond meat that you can sprinkle over salads, put in bread, use in muffins or as a meat substitute.  This almond milk has none of the preservatives or additives you'll get in your liter of store-bought almond milk, and you'll be patting yourself on the back about how easy it is.  It's a revelation.  And so delicious.

But then, you can take these almonds one step further, and you really should.  The thing is: when you combine plump, crisp sprouted almonds with a little olive oil, a little salt and a hot oven, you arrive at a flavor that is unbelievable addictive.

When I first made these, using local Sicilian olive oil and almonds,  at a Yoga & Food Retreat near Scopello, Sicily this summer, one of the yogis asked: "what kind of magic did you use on these?", as the entire bowl disappeared into mouths around the table.

These are perfect as an appetizer, a little snack, sprinkled over morning oatmeal, or yogurt, or on top of salad.  You won't be able to keep a batch around for long because nobody can keep their hands off of them, but it doesn't matter.  They are so easy to make that you can just get another batch rolling and your back in business in no time.

Up close & personal

Sprouted & Roasted Olive Oil Almonds

1 cup of raw almonds
2 cups of water
1-2 teaspoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt

Soak the raw almonds in the water for 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F.

Drain the water and return the almonds to a bowl.  Add the olive oil and salt and toss to combine.  Spread the almonds in an even layer across a parchment covered baking pan.  Bake 15-20 minutes until the almonds are fragrant and roasted.  You can pull one out and cut it in half to check:  you want the internal color to be a light golden brown and the outside to have darkened slightly.  Allow the almonds to cool for 5 minutes or so before serving as they'll be crisper when cooled.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Option:  add minced fresh rosemary into the mix - the fragrance and flavor are lovely.

Makes 1 heaping cup/ 250ml.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Forest Lamb Mushroom Chili / Lampaankääpä-chilikeitto

Forest Lamb Mushroom Chili / Lampaankääpa-chilikeitto with Cornbread
A discussion around what exactly is "real chili" can turn quickly into a heated debate among those who take their chili seriously.  The recipe I'm about to give you may raise the eyebrows of those in the strictly beef and/or bean crowd since the main source of protein here comes from mushrooms, but please read on.

At first I was afraid this may be a recipe designed just for Finns, as the first name in English name I came across for Lampaankääpä, "terrestrial polypore fungus" doesn't sound very appetizing, and, according to Wikipedia's entry for Albatrellus ovinus, it's "edible and sold commercially in Finland", but doesn't mention any other locations.  I began to wonder: anybody out there not from Finland and still picking and enjoying this fine mushroom?

Fortunately, further research yielded both a more appealing English name:  Forest Lamb Mushroom.  Now that makes a lot more sense, and gives nod to the Finnish name using the Finnish word for sheep "Lammas"as well as the Latin "ovinus" from "ovis" meaning sheep.

And if this all getting too detailed for you, bear with me here, check out the video above (in Finnish) and know that this fine mushroom, with a distant resemblance to the back of a white, fluffy, woolly sheep, , is not only delicious and versatile, it's extremely easy to recognize, grows across Europe and North America, and we are having a bumper crop here in Finland this year.  A weekend visit to Sipoonkorpi, the national park area east of Helsinki, yielded far more of these than I cared to bring home; I packed several kilos worth in my basket and left the rest for other mushroom hunters sure to come along behind me.

A note to all of you mushroom hunters around the world who are reading this and wondering if you should bother, give it a try!  Every site I came across mentioned that it's eaten in Finland.  The reference was so unusually specific that I am still wondering if any other nationality has embraced it as edible.  Let me know!

Forest Lamb Mushroom, Lampaankääpä, Albatrellus ovinus

This is a firm, clean mushroom.  They have a smooth, white to light brown top, dry to the touch, with dips and curves.  They stand close to the ground on a very short step, quite often overlapping with each other.  The underside has very fine, dense, pure white spores. When you find them, as always, check for worms while you are in the forest and leave the infested parts behind.  While usually pure white when you pick them, these mushrooms turn yellow when cooked.  Once home, you can fry them up in a pan like you would beef patties; rinse under water, dip in flour, then egg, then a flour mixture seasoned with parmesan, salt, pepper and oregano and fry in butter, or, you can use them as a meat replacement in chili.

What?!?  Chili?  Well…I've been wanting something with a warm, spicy kick to go along with the cooling weather.  I'm a big fan of chili, find myself consuming less & less meat these days, and didn't have any beans in the house.  I was staring at the big pile of Forest Lamb Mushroom aka Lampaankääpä in my refrigerator and I realized that it would serve as a fine substitute for meat.

You could add beans to this as well, and I may do that next time.  There is a long-standing argument among chili aficionados as to whether "real" chili contains beans at all or meat at all.  There are strong advocates in both the beef only camp and the beans only camp, and a long line of people who combine the two as well as advocates of White Chili made with chicken and white beans.  Some wonder about the use of tomatoes, saying it has no place there, while others wouldn't dream of making chili without it.  The bottom line, I would say, is that the best thing you can do with a pot of chili is make it your own.  If you love beans, toss them in.  If you have a sweet pepper/paprika that needs a home, dice it and toss it in.  Would you like to add corn?  Great idea.  And so the story goes.  In fact, if I'd been facing down a plate of porcini/herkkutatti, they would have found a welcome place in this chili as well.  But given the abundance of Lampaankääpä in every forest I've walked in during the last couple of weeks, I suggest you start your Mushroom Chili adventure with this.  Enjoy!

To serve with it, I highly recommend you make this cornbread.  Get your chili simmering in the pot, mix together your cornbread and get that in the oven, and you'll be sitting at a table, surrounded by a mouth-watering, fragrant meal, in about 40 minutes.

Forest Lamb Mushroom Chili / Lampaankääpä-chilikeitto with Cornbread
A few notes before you begin:

  • You can substitute other, meaty mushrooms for the Forest Sheep Mushroom:  Chantarelles (Kantarelli), Hedgehogs (Vaaleaorakas), Porcini (Herkkutatti) and Portobello would all work here.
  • Adjust the amount of chili to your liking.  I like it spicy, so I used 1.5 teaspoons of cayenne.
  • If you have a can or box of pre-cooked kidney beans, black beans, or white beans, by all means add them.  Next time I make this, I will definitely include beans.
  • Other vegetables I'd suggest here are zucchini (kesäkurpitsa) and cauliflower (kukkakaali).

Forest Lamb Mushroom Chili / Lampaankääpä-chilikeitto

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
400g / 1 pound Forest Lamb Mushroom / Lampaankääpä, diced
1 large onion, diced small
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 - 1.5 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
650 g / two cans tomato sauce

Heat the vegetable oil of your choice in a heavy-bottomed pot (don't use unlined cast-iron as it will react with the tomatoes).  Add the mushrooms, onion, celery and carrots and cook at medium low heat for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.  Increase the temperature and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot.  Allow the chili to simmer for 30 minutes.  Serve; with shredded cheese if desired.

Serves 4-6.  Reheats and freezes well.  Serve with Fresh Cornbread 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dusky Wax Cap Mushroom Coconut Chili Soup / Mustavahakas Kokos Chili Keitto

Dusky Wax Cap Coconut Chili Soup / Mustavahakas Kokos Chili Keitto with Black Sesame Sourdough Bread
Oh, what a mushroom season this has been!  And oh, how I love heading deep into the woods, basket in hand, searching for edible mushrooms.  For those of you who haven't yet been caught by the fever of finding edible mushrooms, you may think it crazy, but for those of you whose baskets and jars and freezers and spare containers are slowly, steadily and repeatedly filling with mushrooms, you'll understand the joy of coming across a mushroom that you've seen pictures of, wondered about, and perhaps picked once or twice in the forest, only to toss it away again, because you "weren't 100% sure".  Or of finding a much-loved mushroom once again:  nothing beats the thrill of the first flush of boletus edulis in the dim light of the shady forest, standing proudly at the foot of a pine or fir, or spotting the unmistakable gold of chanterelle out of the corner of your eye against the dark green moss of the forest floor, the first mushrooms a new season.

New to me this year, Mustavahakas (Finnish) or Dusky Wax Cap Mushrooms, Hygrophorus Camarophyllus, is the black tie dresser of the mushroom world.  It has an elegant, dark gray/brown cap, a clean natural  white undercap with elegant, waxy, sturdy, curved, gills and a slender, strong gray stem.  Once you've seen one, you will always know them, though it's easy to miss them at first in the autumn forest among fallen leaves and debris, since they sit close to the grown, the dark heads just above forest floor.  They have a mild pleasant smell, reminiscent of honey, and the flavor is excellent.  They are considered to be a three-star mushroom, right up there with porcini for flavor.  I found mine growing in a mixed forest filled with fir, pine and birch, in the center of a mossy patch not too far from a patch of yellow foot chanterelles (suppilovahvero).  They are a fall mushroom in Finland, Scandinavia and Russia, with a growth season from the end of August through October.  In the US they are found in northern North America.  If you know of them growing in other parts of the world, please let me know!

Mustavahakas, Dusky Wax Cap, Hygrophorus Camarophyllus

I didn't find many out on my last trek: just under 1/2 liter of good ones, but enough to fry up in the pan and create a soup.  I left a portion of them behind in the woods since the worms had found them before I did, so slice them completely in half as you pick them so you know which to bring home and which to leave behind; the worms tend to get there early.  If you are lucky enough to find a lot of them, they freeze well.  Fry them in a dry pan over medium heat until they release their juice, and then store them in a labeled plastic bag or container.

So how to cook them?  I'd read somewhere that they suit Asian recipes well, so I decided to make a nice soup for lunch.

I fried the mushrooms first and salted them lightly so I could taste them before adding them to the soup. The flavor reminded me a bit of the way oyster sauce smells, and the scent that came off as I cooked them was that of raw honey.  This soup uses simple ingredients to create a warming soup with fiery chili undertones that is really satisfying.  I give a range for the amount of chili as I found I made it a bit too fiery at first, and ended up removing some of the liquid before adding the coconut milk.  I hoping to find more of this beauties on my next trip out - I am thinking they'd be great in a curry stir fry over steamed brown rice.

If you don't have Dusky Wax Caps anywhere near you, you could substitute store-bought Shitakes or Matsutakes for this recipe.

Dusky Wax Cap Coconut Chili Soup - Mustavahakas Kokos Chili Keitto
Dusky Wax Cap Coconut Chili Soup

2 cups / 1/2 liter fresh waxy cap mushrooms
2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 + 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 carrots, sliced into thin circles
1 cup / 2.5 dl thinly sliced white cabbage
1 - 2 teaspoons red chili pepper, depending on how spicy you like it
3 cups / 750 ml water
1 tablespoon soy sauce, preferably Tamari
2 teaspoons of oyster sauce; optional, but adds a nice extra depth to this soup
1 tablespoon of chopped chives
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1 cup / 250 ml coconut milk
1/2 cup / 3/4 dl of small egg noodles, pasta, or rice noodles (I used mini bow tie pasta)

In a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized pot, heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, then add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms release most of their liquid and are cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Pour the mushrooms onto a plate and set aside; set the pot back on the stove.

To the pot, add 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and the onion.  Saute the onion until it is slightly translucent and tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic, carrots, cabbage and pepper, stir well, and allow to cook for another five minutes.  Add the water, soy sauce and oyster sauce, and allow the mixture to cook for 10 minutes.  Add the chives, parsley and coconut milk, stir well, and bring back to a boil.  Add the pasta/noodles and cook them in the pot per manufacturers instructions or until they are al dente.  Taste and add salt & pepper if needed.  Pour into bowls and serve.

Serves 4.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Beet, Carrot, Rosemary & Goat Cheese Galette

My friends, it's time to eat your root vegetables.  In a pie.  For dinner.

Beet, Carrot, Rosemary and Goat Cheese Galette
I have been dreaming of this recipe since early spring when I planted my beets.  I had grand plans of harvesting loads of beets:  a few golden ones; dark red round ones, and the prettiest of them all, the lovely striped Chiaggio beets… and then along came a cold, rainy, long spring followed immediately by a long, dry, extremely hot summer.  I was away for the first three weeks of really hot weather, and nearly every living thing in my garden died.  The sole survivors were the mint which grew with great vigor and abundance everywhere; the oregano which has taken over the bed into which it was planted 3 years ago, 1/2 liter of strawberries, and a whole load of rhubarb.  Not exactly a smashing success.

My local food market, thankfully, was stocked with beets harvested by those with better luck and far greater skill than I, so I was finally able to gather the elements of this recipe floating around in my mind, and produce a dinner for my dearest and me.

I know, first I call it a galette, and then I talk about pie, so what's going on, here?  A galette is French term for a flat, round, free-formed crusty pie or cake.  In this case, an open-faced, free-form pie, using flaky crust dough, baked on a flat pan with the dough arranged an a relaxed fashion around and partially over the ingredients, and then baked.  It's easy to make and not at all fussy, so it doesn't matter if it isn't perfect; in fact, it shouldn't be.  The more rustic it looks, the better.

The first night we ate it all by itself, with no accompaniment.  It was warm from the oven with the golden, flaky crust breaking under the edge of the of fork and dissolving in our mouths.  The tanginess of the goat cheese balanced the sweet honey and earthiness of the beets and carrots, while the small bit of rosemary added a welcome perfume. It was delicious.  The next day I had one of the remaining slices for lunch, served slightly warmed, together with a fresh green salad.  The crust wasn't as crisp on day two, but it was still delicious, so feel free to make this a day ahead and rewarm it to serve if needed. Warming it in a 200°C/425°F oven for 10 minutes would re-crisp the crust, as well.

It may look like a lot of work, but really, you expend a little bit effort and then wait while the action happens.  So go ahead, get that crust started and you'll be enjoying this in no time.

Beet, Carrot, Rosemary & Goat Cheese Galette

Beet, Carrot, Rosemary & Goat Cheese Galette

Flaky Tart Crust
1 teaspoon / 5 ml salt
2/3 cup / 150 ml cold water
3 cups + 2 tablespoons / 455g all-purpose flour
1 cup + 5 tablespoons / 300 g very cold butter

In a small bowl, combine the salt and the water and stir to dissolve. Keep cold until ready to use.

You can make the dough in a food processor or by hand.  To use a food processor, but the flour in the work bowl.  Cut the butter into pieces and scatter over the flour.  Pulse briefly until the mixture forms large crumbs, and some of the butter pieces are about the size of peas.  Add the water-salt mixture and pulse briefly until the dough starts to form a ball, but is not completely smooth.  You should still see butter chunks.

To make by hand, put the flour in a bowl.  Cut the butter into pieces and scatter over the flour.  Using your hands, a fork or a pastry blender (my preferred tool), work the butter into the flour until the mixture forms large chunks and some of the butter pieces are about the size of peas.  Pour in the water-salt mixture and, using your hands, work the dough together so it forms a ball but is not smooth.  You should still see butter chunks.

On a floured work surface, divide the dough into two equal balls and shape each ball into a disk about 1 inch / 2.5 cm thick.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours or up to overnight.

You will need only one disk of dough for this recipe.  If you do not plan to use the other disk immediately, place the disk in a plastic bag, label with contents and date, and freeze.  Remove from the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator one night before you'd like to use it.

Make the filling:
5 medium-sized beets
2 large carrots, cut in half lengthwise
1 container of soft goat cheese
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh, rosemary
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt or orange citrus salt
1 teaspoon of runny honey
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 200°C/425°F.

Wash the beets if they are muddy, cut off the long thin root end but leave the stem end intact.  Place on an oven-proof tray and place in the hot oven for 30 minutes.  While the beets roast, peel and slice the carrots and toss them with a drizzle of olive oil.  After the beets have been in the oven, add the carrots to the same try and cook for another 15 minutes.  The beets should be tender when pierced with a fork; if they are not, cook them a little longer.  The carrots should be slightly caramelized and brown; remove them before the beets if needed.

To assemble:

On a lightly floured surface, roll 1 disk of crust (recipe above) out into a large circle measuring 40 cm / 15 inches in diameter.  Don't worry if it's not a perfect circle, or if the edges are a bit rough.  The great thing about a galette, is that it is supposed to be a bit rustic.   Place the crust onto a parchment covered tray.

Spread the center of the crust with a layer of goat cheese - use all of it, and spread it out so it's 1.5cm / 1/2 inch from the edge.

Slice the beets into thin layers and lay them out across the the goat cheese, starting 2.5 cm / 1 inch in from the edge of the goat cheese, letting them overlap slightly.  Leave a small empty circle of goat cheese in the middle.  Cut the carrots into small chunks or strips and arrange them in the center.  Sprinkle the chopped rosemary and the Maldon salt over the top of the carrots and the beets.  Drizzle honey over the top.

Fold the edge of the crust over the outside section of the beets, working from one point in the circle and turning the crust slightly under itself as you work the dough up and over.  Brush the crust with beaten egg.  Place the tray with the galette into the hot oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden and crisp.

Serves 6-8 as a main course.  I recommend you serve it with a nice green salad.  Also makes a wonderful appetizer.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Zucchini Potato Gratin

Zucchini Potato Gratin
What are gonna do if you've planted even one zucchini plant, and it just keeps producing one zucchini after another, faster than you can keep up, and faster than you can give it away?  You may have made zucchini bread or cake and zucchini soup and grilled zucchini, and are running out of ideas.

But then even more seriously, what are you gonna do if you have a head full of zucchini recipe ideas and no zucchini in sight?  The second feels like a far worse predicament this year, I have to say - since my zucchini plants produced…absolutely nothing.  I was away for the hottest weeks of Finland's summer, and my poor plants dried out from neglect.  I received a few zucchini's by someone trying to get rid of some of their excess, and happily started cooking.  No worries - there is always another great way to utilize this raw ingredient in my house.  Anyone looking to unload a few?  ;)

If you happen to have access to potatoes as well, here's a dish that can be served as a main course or side dish and will have you coming back for seconds.  The creamy béchamel sauce can be made with any kind of milk from non-fat to whole milk; or oat milk as a non-dairy alternative, and really ties the whole dish together well.

Dig in while the Zucchini Potato Gratin is still warm.
Zucchini Potato Gratin

1 medium zucchini
6 new/small potatoes
1 onion, peeled and diced
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced, or 2 teaspoons dried
1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 garlic cloves, minced fine
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3 cups milk
1 cup grated white, mild cheese (Emmental, Gouda or Mozzarella all work well here)

Heat the oven to 175°C / 350°F.

Using a box grater or mandolin, slice the zucchini into very thin rounds.  Toss with one teaspoon of salt and place into a colander over a bowl.  Allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Using a box grater or mandolin, slice the potatoes into very thin rounds.  Place into a small bowl and cover with cold water to prevent browning.  Prep the onion, parsley, and oregano and mix them together in a small bowl.

Squeeze the zucchini over the colander to release as much water a possible, making sure to collect the zucchini water in a bowl.

To make a béchamel: in a small saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until blended.  Add the zucchini water and whisk until smooth.  Add all of the milk, whisk until smooth, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Once the mixture is thickened and just begins to bubble, remove from heat.  Whisk in the salt and pepper, and garlic or garlic powder.


Butter the bottom and sides of a 2 quart, oven-safe casserole dish; any shape will do.  Layer potatoes across the bottom, Sprinkle with 1/3 of the onion mixture and 1/3 of the cheese.  Layer half of the zucchini rounds over the top and ladle 1/3 of the béchamel over the top.  Repeat to layer potatoes, then onion mix, then cheese, then zucchini, then béchamel, then potatoes, onions, béchamel, ending with the last 1/3 of the cheese.

Place the mixture in the oven and make for 45 minutes until the potatoes are tender when poked with a fork and the top is golden brown.

Serves 4 as a main dish.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Gooseberry Cardamom Jam

Finnish Crepes served with fresh bilberries, Gooseberry Cardamom Jam, and Turkish yogurt.
Gooseberries are funny little things. Every summer, up at J's mummo's place, there are a few old gooseberry bushes that faithfully produce a 2 liters of green gooseberries and 1 liter of big red ones…and about 1/2 liter of the little wild ones that we use for eating only.

The branches of the bushes have pokey little thorns that grab your hand as you reach for the berries, and nearly each berry comes off of the bush with a dried flower poking out of the top end and a stem attached to the other end.  Both ends of each berry need to be trimmed before consuming; the easiest way to accomplish this is to grab a pair of scissors and trim each berry, one by one.

Green gooseberries, before the stems and blossoms were trimmed.  
So there you are with your pail of berries, but what do you do with them then?  You can only eat so many straight up, and out of the freezer they are so tart that every time we tried them over morning oatmeal or in smoothies we ended up throwing the end result away, or tried to compensate for the unbelievable sourness by adding heaps of sweet stuff.  Not good.

So now gooseberry harvest is over for another year, and this time I tried a few new tricks.  The first, made with the green gooseberries, was a Gooseberry Cake - a cake whose texture and flavor definitely improved after sitting overnight, and one I'd try again.  More on that cake later.  The other recipe I tried was a Gooseberry Cardamom Jam.

With a scant liter of red gooseberries available, I didn't have a lot of raw ingredients to work with, which was no problem, really, because I wasn't sure my experiment would work at all.  But we'd decided we were going to make Finnish Crepes for dinner, but didn't have any jam on hand - a must-have ingredient when eating sweet crepes around here.  Necessity is the mother of invention as we know, and I started combining ingredients into pot.

Gooseberry Cardamom Jam is the perfect tart-sweet note in these dinner Finnish crepes.
This is a jam with a really strong flavor - you don't need much at all on the crepe, and it isn't a jam you'd put on toast.  The cardamom flavor stands out strongly and cleanly against the gooseberry's equally strong flavor, and I didn't want to over-sweeten as I like my jams to taste like what they are made of rather than to be a sickly sweet mass.

It's a jam I'm looking forward to experimenting with in savory foods: I'd like to combine it with a brown sauce to serve with a roast, or to use it as I would with blackcurrant jam, and serve it with roast chicken.  This actually makes sense to me that the flavor is reminiscent of blackcurrant as both berries are part of the Ribes genus.

For now, roast anything will have to wait, as first, I'm starting with crepes.

But if you need other ideas for using up Gooseberries, here are a few:

Mrs Wheelbarrow makes pectin from gooseberries.
Nigel Slater makes gooseberry pie, a recipe published in his cookbook Ripe.
And brought to you by the BBC, a plethora of options.

The makings of a good dinner.
Gooseberry Cardamom Jam

1 liter red gooseberries, blossoms and stems trimmed
2-3 dl sugar / 1 - 1.5 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 dl / 1/4 cup water

Place 3 spoons on a plate and into the freezer.

Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed stockpot.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium.  Allow the mixture to boil for 25 - 30 minutes, until the mixture has reduced and smallish bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan.  Remove from heat.  Pour a small amount of jam onto one of your spoons and return it to the freezer for 5 minutes.  The jam is done if, when you push the jam on the spoon with your finger, it wrinkles a little.  If it has not gelled enough, cook for an additional 5 minutes and test again.  Repeat again until it has gelled to your liking.

Note: gooseberries contain a lot of pectin, so you don't want to cook this too long.  It's best if it's a little runny as a finished product.

Once the jam is done, remove from heat.

Using a wide mouth funnel placed in the jar and a ladle, spoon the jam into the jars, leaving a 1/2" / 1.5 cm space at the top.  Repeat until all of the jars are full.  Using a damp paper towel, wipe the rim of the jar so there is no jam residue left.  Place the hot lid on the jar, and, using a towel to hold the hot jar so you don't burn your hand, tighten the lid finger-tight (don't over tighten; the best way to ensure that you don't is to use your thumb and first to fingers to tighten the lid, which means you won't have enough finger strength to push it too far.)

Wash the big jam pot.  Put a dish towel in the bottom and place the jars on top.  Fill with water to cover the jar by at least 1"/ 2,5 cm.  Put the lid on and bring the pot to a boil.  Once boiling, set the timer for 15 minutes.  When the timer stops, turn off the heat and let the jars rest for 5 minutes.  Remove the jars from hot water and set on a dish cloth on the countertop, right side up, to cool completely.  Check to make sure the lids have sealed:  the top dome of the lid should be pulled in tightly and shouldn't move when you press it with your finger.  Sometimes you'll hear a ping as the jars cool and the lid seals, but not always.  If the lids are sealed, label the jars and store them in a cool, dark place for up to one year.  If your jar doesn't seal, put it in the fridge and use it within one month. 

Makes 1/2 liter / 1 pint.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dinner over the campfire: Redfin Perch (Ahven) in Foil

Bonfire dinners = happy summer days
Lakeside living.  Fresh fish.  A whole lot of sunshine.  Laughter shared with the people you love.  Food cooked over the fire.  Garden-fresh produce.  Lazy, breezy days.  The makings of a good summer.  Oh, and more fish.  Yes, please.

Redfin perch (ahven) ready to take the heat.
Carrots with butter, honey, salt & pepper, ready for roasting.
There was a lot of fish coming out of Lake Päijänne into our happy grasp this summer, most of it redfin perch (ahven) or pike (hauki).  It seems every time we dropped the nets in, we pulled out a sizable catch.  When you have 6 -10 fish (or sometimes more) coming out of the lake at the same time, you need to start getting creative about how to cook so that boredom (gasp!) doesn't set in.  Mostly, we've eaten it either smoked whole or filleted and pan-fried over the open fire.  Excellent, finger-licking stuff.

Final moments over open flame - ideally the fire could have been a bit lower.
This time, I wanted a lighter, juicier version, but one that still didn't involve heating up the kitchen.  Open fire cooking is another great advantage of cabin life, and who wouldn't want to eat a fresh meal in the great outdoors with the wind blowing softly off of the lake?  I've had success cooking fish in parchment or foil in the oven, so decided to try this over the open flame, and to serve foil-wrapped vegetables as side dishes cooked up in the same fashion.

Dinner is served
I started with the vegetables first:  root vegetables tend to take a long time to roast, and I wanted to give the carrots time to caramelize and the turnips and potatoes time to soften.  The carrots & potatoes were excellent; next time I'll par-cook the turnips for 5 - 7 min to get them to a delicious softness before putting them in foil.

L to R: new potatoes, turnips, carrots
The red fin perch was a delight to eat this way:  with a skin that peeled away easily with a fork and knife (make sure you descale/suomustaa the fish before you try this method).  The steam trapped in the foil softened the fish into tender, moist flakes that pulled away from the bone, and the fish disappeared pretty quickly.  Note: this will work pike perch and trout as well.

Foil-wrapped redfin perch

Foil-wrapped Redfin Perch

One redfin perch per person
Onion, peeled, cut into slices
Fresh Dill fronds
Lemon slices (best) or lemon juice
Olive Oil

First, get your campfire/nuoti going.  You want to give it a chance to burn down so it's mostly hot coals and low flame.  Arrange a grill over the top of the flame.

Clean and descale your redfin perch.  Lay out a large piece of foil per fish.  Salt the fish inside and out. Lay each fish on one side on the foil lengthwise in line with the foil.  Arrange onion slices (or the green tops if you have them), lemon slices and dill into the cavity of each fish and arrange them over the top of the fish as well.  If you don't have fresh lemon, do as I did in the picture above and sprinkle the cavity and the top of the salmon with lemon juice instead.  Drizzle olive oil over the top of each fish.  Bring the long sides of the foil up over the top of the fish, fold them over carefully several times, and press to seal.  Roll up each end and seal.  

Place the fish on the grill over the fire, and cook for 20-25 minutes.  To check for doneness, open the top of one package (watch for the steam that will come pouring out) and push the tines of a fork into the fish near the spine and the neck opening; pull down lightly with the fork.  If the fish pulls easily away from the bone and is moist a slightly flaky; it's done (I always taste to make sure; (ahem) quality control).  Remove from heat and serve.

Roasted Carrots
Fresh carrots; greens trimmed but with one inch or so remaining

Arrange the washed, trimmed carrots on a piece of foil.  Sprinkle with salt; drizzle with honey; and set a few pats of butter over the top.  Close the foil; seal the package; and place on a grill over the open fire.

Roasted Potatoes 
New potatoes washed and cut into chunks
Salt & Pepper
Green onion tops, cut into rounds, optional

Lay the washed, cut potatoes on a piece of foil.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper and set a few pats of butter over the top.  Close the foil; seal the package; and place on a grill over the open fire.

Roasted Turnips

Raw turnips, washed, peeled, and cut into chunks
Salt & Pepper
Green onion tops, cut into rounds, optional

Place the turnips in a small pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes.
Place the cooked turnips on a piece of foil.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper and set a few pats of butter over the top.  Close the foil; seal the package; and place on a grill over the open fire.