Gazpacho

This summer soup is one of my all time favourite chilled soups. All ingredients are served raw, so you can be sure that all the flavours and nutrients are still present for sure. You can serve it on it’s own, or perhaps with finely chopped cucumber / red pepper pieces, or perhaps with some goat cheese mousse. I use quite a lot of cucumber in my recipe, as I love it, however it dilutes the redness of the soup a little bit. The soup is very liquid, as it’s drained through a sieve, but it is really flavoursome. You can serve it as a very light lunch or dinner, in which case you’ll probably get two servings from this recipe, or you could serve it as a little appetizer or starter on a garden party, in which case you’ll get many servings.

400g large tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 garlic glove
2  handfulls of basil leaves
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp lemon juice (1 lemon)
3 dl water
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp tabasco
salt
black pepper

1. To get the skin off the tomatoes more easily, place them in boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove and let cool. With a sharp knife, make a slit on the skin going around the whole tomato, this will make it easier to peel them. Then chop the tomatoes, discarding the hard core part.

2. Peel and chop the cucumber while the tomatoes are cooling. Place in the liquidizer, together with the peeled garlic clove. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, basil leaves and water, and blend until smooth.

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3. Strain through a sieve, and push as much through as you can. This step will take a while.

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4. Stir in the lemon juice, oil, tabasco and seasoning. Chill in the fridge for at least couple of hours. Before serving, check the taste, and add seasoning if required, as chilling may reduce the strength of flavours.

Restaurant Review: Stem, London

My husband and I have been waiting for this restaurant to open. We’ve been tracking Mark Jarvis’ journey for years now, and every time he opens a new restaurant we’re there. We had high hopes for Stem, based on what we know of Mark and his food in the past. This restaurant is good for those wanting to take that step into fine dining world, but are not yet used to the formal setting. The atmosphere and setting is casual, but neat. On flavour, however, we were sad to conclude that the restaurant did not deliver, leaving us somewhat underwhelmed.

I’m hoping that this more due to being the first week of opening, and once things get to full swing this improves.

The appetizer was nice enough, flavour was like minted peas, with nice mousse on top. It might have been potato mousse, but don’t quote me on that. The pastry shell was thin and worked well, the peas seemed a little bit too hard for me.

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The sourdough bread was excellent, and I would even say one of the best things of the whole meal. The butter tests was passed, the butter being soft and easy to spread.

I enjoyed the asparagus with lemon oil and tarragon cream. The dish did leave you wanting more of it however. My husband felt there should’ve been more of the cream, as you were left eating the last bits of asparagus without any sauce. The flavours worked well for me, and the asparagus was cooked well, with still crunchy bite to it. The dish was paired with 2016 Ciu Ciu ‘Falerio’, Trebbiano / Pecorino / Passerina, Marche, Italy. White wine, with a lovely floral note.

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The next dish of fermented radicchio and blood orange was a bit of a weird one. On the drinks pairing, this was served with Wild Beer, ‘Ninkasi’, Somerset, UK, which actually complemented the food extremely well. We felt that without the drink the food wouldn’t have been as enjoyable. The fermented leaves and blood orange flavor actually went well together, however without the beer wouldn’t perhaps had been very nice.

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At this stage we were feeling somewhat disappointed, and were really looking forward to the smoked chicken tortellini with leek hearts cooked in truffle oil. Unfortunately, the general trend of being underwhelming in terms of flavour continued. We were in fact getting very frustrated, because Mark is so much better than this! The tortellini itself was nicely thin, however too al dente for me. The chicken filling seemed quite dry, and not delivering much on flavor. I thought the leek hearts were very nice, the best thing on the dish, however I didn’t get the truffle flavor coming through at any point on this plate of food. For me, the jus was a little bit salty, however my husband didn’t agree with me on this aspect. Wine pairing for this dish was 2016 Pierre Frick, Riesling, Alsace, France. Slightly floral with a little bit of sweetness, but not from the sweet end of the Riesling spectrum. Very enjoyable.

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Before the cod baked in lemon verbena, grelot onion, nasturtium and pear came, we thought that was going to be the ‘make or break’ plate of food, whether the restaurant could redeem themselves. The fish itself was cooked very well, being translucent and not overcooked, still quite firm. On flavor, we thought the plate was lacking again. The pear brought nice flavor and sweetness to the fish, and I thought the mini onions were the best thing on the plate. I tend to find cod quite a tasteless fish in general. I felt something on the plate was a bit too salty for me. As a drink pairing we had 2015 Sokol Blosser, Pinot Gris, Williamette Valley, California.

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The next main dish of beef was nice and pink. We were looking forward to cutting into a succulent, melt-in-the-mouth piece of meat. Unfortunately, we both found the piece of meat somewhat tougher and chewier that we were expecting. The dish also came with beef tartare, which unfortunately was very bland. I think it’s very important to have great flavours going on when serving raw beef, and I have in my time had some excellent tartares. This dish was served with 2016 Vigneureuse, ‘CroiZADe’, Syrah / Duras, Gaillac, Rhone, France.

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Cheese course came with thin, crispy crackers that I thoroughly liked. I’m not usually a fan of crackers, end up eating my cheese on it’s own, however I did like these ones. My husband thought completely opposite to me about this. The cheese was served with tomato chutney, which in our mind didn’t work, and was quite unpleasant. Of, course, we had this this with some Fonseca, 20 YearTawny Port, Portugal.

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The best part of the dessert of strawberry, tomato and rosemary, was the red strawberries, which were excellent with full of  flavour and sweetness. The white strawberries left me thinking they were just raw strawberries, I didn’t enjoy them very much. There was a subtle flavour of rosenmary coming through, which worked quite well. Dessert wine pairing was 2017 Landon Chartier, ‘Naturlich’, Folle Blanche / Gamay, Loire, France. Slightly sparkling, in between white and rose wine, it was very pleasant with a hint of strawberry.

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Our main feeling was that the drinks stole the show. We would go back to Stem for drinks more than the food, at this stage. I wish them all the best, and hopefully they will develop and grow as time goes by.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Smoked cod with mustard and kale mash

This cod dish is pretty good, easy cooking for those days when you’ve been working late, and just want to quickly get on with it when you get home. Cod itself can normally be quite a tasteless fish in my mind, and buying it smoked makes a nice change. I might also swap it to smoked haddock, which works well too. I would say this recipe can work for anything between 2-4 people, depending on the diners’ appetite!

3 medium to large potatoes
300ml vegetable stock
3 handfuls of chopped kale
2 large smoked cod fillets
25g butter
1 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
salt
black pepper

1. Peel and cut the potatoes into fairly small chunks. Place in a pan, and boil in the stock for 5 minutes, covered with a lid.

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2. If the chopped kale pieces are large, you may want to chop them more finely. Stir in the kale and butter, and lower the temperature to simmer. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

3. Place the fish pieces on top of the potato – kale mixture. Simmer gently, steaming the fish for 7-8 minutes.

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4. Carefully remove the fish. Coarsely mash the potatoes and kale together, and mix the mustard in. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 

Poached eggs and asparagus wrapped in bacon with Béarnaise sauce

I love trying to think of different ways to serve food I might have often, to keep things interesting. As we’re currently in asparagus season, I thought this would be a perfect way to serve one’s usual eggs and bacon breakfast.

5-6 asparagus per diner
Thin cut streaky bacon rashers, 1 for each asparagus + 2 extra per diner
2 eggs per diner
Béarnaise sauce

Béarnaise sauce (serves 2)
2
tbsp finely chopped onion
5 freshly ground white peppers, or 3 shakes of ground white pepper
2 parsley stalks
2 tarragon stalks
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp water
100g butter
2 egg yolks
1-2 stalks of tarragon, leaves only, finely chopped

1. Put the onion, pepper, parsley, tarragon, vinegar and water in a pan. Let boil until the liquid has reduced to about half. Strain the liquid.

2. Melt the butter.

3. Put the egg yolks in a bowl, and drizzle over the strained liquid.

4. The eggs will need to be cooked in a bain marie (hot water bath). This is actually not as complicated as it sounds, please don’t let that deter you from making this sauce! You need a pot with water at the bottom, which will be heated to boiling. It’s important that the bottom of the bowl with the eggs doesn’t touch the hot water, as this could result to your sauce splitting. Start adding the melted butter to the eggs in drops at first, mixing/whisking as you go, then slowly drizzling the rest. You need to keep mixing the sauce until thickened.

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5. Add the finely chopped tarragon leaves.

Poached eggs

1 tbsp vinegar
couple of pinches of salt

All you need to poach eggs successfully are spacious enough pan, spoon for stirring boiling water, slotted spoon for removing the egg from the water, a bowl for the cooked eggs to let excess water drain out. I tend to break the egg into a cup, to have one ready to be cooked as soon as one comes out of the boiling water.

1. Put vinegar and salt in the pan, pour water and bring to boil. Stir in the centre with a spoon, and immediately pour egg into the eye in the center. This, together with the vinegar and salt will hold the egg together.

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2. Cook for 3 minutes, and remove from the water with a slotted spoon. I tend to put the egg in a bowl first, to drain excess water, before plating it, otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy plate of food!

Asparagus and bacon

1. Prepare the asparagus, by peeling the stalk half of them.

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2. Wrap the asparagus with the bacon, and place on a tray together with individual bacon rashers. Heat the grill, and grill the asparagus under medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning half way through.

Plate all ingredients for a tasty breakfast or brunch!

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Munkit (doughnuts)

1st of May is a national holiday called Vappu in Finland,  and the evening before sees some heavy celebrations. There are some traditional foods associated with Vappu too, from nakit (frankfurther, or hot dog, sausages), potato salad (click here for my recipe) and drink called sima, to deep fried sweet thing called tippaleipä as well as munkit (doughnuts). Munkit, of course, are not eaten only at Vappu, but all year round. You can fill them with jam after they’ve been fried, however both my husband and I prefer unfilled ones so I don’t fill my munkit.

basic pulla dough (click here for basic pulla recipe)
2 litres of vegetable oil
caster sugar

1. Follow the pulla recipe to make your basic dough. When making doughnuts, make your buns a little bit smaller than when baking in the oven, because they may be left uncooked in the middle otherwise. Let the individual buns rise for about half an hour.

2. Heat the oil in a pan to 180°C / 355°F. Place the buns in the oil in small batches (about 4 at a time). Once the undersides have browned, turn them around.

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3. Drain on a kitchen tissue. Once the oil has drained and the doughnuts aren’t wet anymore (but still warm), roll in the sugar.

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Asparagus soup

Don’t you just love it when asparagus starts coming to season? Something I always make during that period is asparagus soup. You only need a few ingredients, and it’s pretty quick to make (unless you want to make your own chicken stock for it).

serves 2-3
500g asparagus
2 shallots
600 ml chicken stock
25g butter
olive oil, for drizzling over the portions

1. Trim the asparagus stalks, by peeling the lower half of them. Otherwise you’ll end up with woody strings in your soup, that are edible, but somewhat uncomfortable in the mouth. Rinse, and cut the tips off. Set the tips aside for later. Roughly chop the asparagus stalks and the shallots.

2. Melt the butter in a pan, and soften the shallots and asparagus, frying for 5 minutes at medium to high temperature. Reduce to low to medium temperature, and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Cool the mixture, then liquidise the soup until smooth. Place back in the pan, heat and season to taste.

4. Boil the asparagus tips separately for 2 minutes, and drain. Mix into the soup, saving a few to be put on top.

5. Drizzle with little olive oil.

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Aromatic rice with tandoori lamb steaks

When my husband and I met, I was going through a cooking phase of making a lot of Indian curries from scratch. I still cook these, of course, however not as often as I used to back then. This particular rice is one of my favourites, and it comes with an amusing story. We were attending a friend’s BBQ party, and I brought all the ingredients for the rice with me, as well as marinated lamb cutlets, to finish the cooking at my friend’s house. The rice and the lamb were a huge hit,  and the rice became the most talked about topic of the whole party. One person, who was a vegetarian, said she was going to try it, and I mentioned to her that unfortunately it does contain chicken stock. She said she was still going to try it regardless, because everyone at the party was raving about the rice so much. She ended up asking me for the recipe.

Tandoori lamb
250ml natural yoghurt
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped (about a thumb size piece)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
lamb

1. Mix all prepared ingredients together with the yoghurt. If you want the marinade mixture to be smooth, you can blend it in a food processor. This would normally be enough for at least four portions of meat.

2. Add the meat to the mixture, and make sure the meat is fully coated. Cover, and marinade in the fridge overnight, or as long as you can: you could prepare this in the morning, to cook later in the day.

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3. Fry the steaks for about 5 minutes on each side in a griddle pan with some oil, or on a grill (as I only used two steaks, I had a lot of leftover marinade. I poured it on a pan, and cooked it, to use as sauce).

Aromatic rice
2 onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black mustard seeds
4 cardamom pods, bruised
2 bay leaves
2 dl shelled pistachio nuts
3 dl uncooked basmati rice
5 1/2 dl chicken stock
1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil

1. Wash the rice thoroughly, until the water doesn’t isn’t cloudy anymore (this gets rid of the excess starch). Drain well.

2. Prepare the stock. You want this to be warm when you use it.

3. Prepare / measure other ingredients. I usually tend to measure all dry spices that get used at same stage, in one cup. Best way to bruise the cardamoms is to place the flat surface of a wide knife on top of the pod, and bash it with a fist.

4. Heat the ghee / oil in a pan. Cook the onions, garlic, spices and nuts, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the onions are browned slightly and the mixture is fragrant.

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5. Stir in the rice and stock, and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer 15 minutes, covered. Once cooked, mix with a fork and stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

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