October 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
Perhaps it was the cold temps, perhaps it was the fall flu season starting, but I’ve been functioning with less than a full battery pack for a while. On top of that, my laptop battery actually died. While the mechanical battery has been replaced, the human one is still putting at 42% efficiency. Hopefully the rest of the month will be better.
It’s taken me a long time to post September’s special dinner, but finally, here it is. For the 2014 special dinners, Mr. E suggested we should look at some of the less often used cookbooks in our household for inspiration. This time we chose Tastes of Anglo-Saxon England by Mary Savelli.
The starter was a hot root vegetable and cucumber soup. Yes, boiled cucumber! We used our own heritage cukes, supermarket onions plus local turnip and carrots. The soup also had a little beer in the broth. The mix was unusual, and improved from adding a little sour cream. The main course was fish cakes with buttered beets – yum! – and a dollop of sour cream, which Mr. E added to the recipe. As dessert Mr. E made baked apples stuffed with a mixture of pears, peach, honey, breadcrumbs, butter and cinnamon. To make it really rich, we topped it with a splash of thick cream. Ahh!
I decided to keep the table bare so that all of that gorgeous wood would show to its benefit. Bamboo placemats are in no way Anglo-Saxon, but I’m no purist, and they go nicely with the wood colors. Simple glasses and white bowls won’t detract from the fancier plates. A fast and free wild flower / leaf bouquet topped a cork hotpad.
Apart from the soup, which tasted a little funny to our modern palates, the dinner was great. Especially the dessert!
September 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
For the 2014 special dinners, Mr. E suggested we should look at some of the less often used cookbooks in our household for inspiration.
This August, we picked a collection of recipes from Louhisaari Manor in Askainen, Finland. The recipes and remedies were written down in the late 1700s to mid-1800s and read like family knowledge: there’s no need to share measurements or detailed information because everyone already knows exactly what size your pots and pans are. Mr. E had therefore to improvise a bit.
Mr. E made a simple omelet with salt, pepper, and parsley as a starter. The “trick” was to whip the eggs into a light froth before adding the rest of the ingredients. For the main course, Mr. E wanted to try a smoked geese recipe, but we’re not equipped for smoking, nor did we have access to geese. Instead, he picked two small Cornish game hens and roasted them on the grille outdoors. The hens were served with a simple cucumber-tomato salad, which wasn’t called for in the recipe, but which we wanted to add anyway for extra veggies. The cucumbers came from our yard.
As dessert, Mr. E chose a flourless lemon cake. It’s made on an almond paste crust topped with cooked rice flavored with lemon and sugar. I’d rather call it a pie, I think. Whatever you call it, it tasted very good.
For the table, I picked our blue willow China because the pattern was popular in the 18th century, making it a perfect historical fit. I then chose coordinating dishes and textiles to go with the plates, and I think the combination looks really good, even if I say so myself. For an additional Finnish touch, I placed our Iittala annual bird 2012 as a minimalistic centerpiece.
It’s another keeper of a dinner! Mr. E said he’d like to try the lemon cake another time to tweak it even better. Well, I’m not one to say no to that! 🙂
July 14, 2014 § 2 Comments
For the 2014 special dinners, Mr. E suggested we should look at some of the less often used cookbooks in our household for inspiration. For June – to continue the historical theme – we chose the Viking Cookbook.
Mr. E made cabbage-beet-carrot soup as starter, served with a dollop of sour cream. The beets turned the soup red, of course, and tended to overwhelm the taste as well, but the sour cream worked as a surprisingly good neutralizer.
The main course was pork with apple. Mr. E cooked most of the meal outdoors on the grill (until he ran out of coal and had to finish inside on the stove), and that might be why the pork came out a bit dry. However, the mushy, cooked apples kept the dish juicy.
As dessert Mr. E made a blueberry oven pancake with whipped cream.
(A note on pancakes: Even though we call them pancakes, Scandinavian / Finnish pancakes are not the thick, fluffy, flour-y American breakfast stuff. There’s actually two kinds of dishes called pancakes. One is baked in the oven, usually in a deep cookie sheet; Mr. E put his into a pie dish, though. These oven pancakes come out dense, eggy and rich. Oven pancakes are an especially delicious way to use up old milk. The other kind resembles American pancakes, but is cooked ultra thin like crepes. Both types tend to be enjoyed as dessert more often than breakfast, typically with fresh berries, jam, ice cream or whipped cream. One of our favorite restaurants in Finland serves the thin crepe-style pancakes with both savory and sweet fillings of your choice.)
I kept the table simple and incorporated traditional crafts, namely clay dishes and the runner (handmade in Finland from unbleached linen and dyed cottons). Our glasses are actually replicas of medieval drinking glasses that we got years ago at the Historiska museet in Stockholm (I believe) on a research trip for Mr. E’s dissertation.
Even though Mr. E had some qualms while cooking, I think this dinner came out really tasty. The pancake is definitely a keeper – he’s already made it twice more. Yum! 🙂
June 6, 2014 § 1 Comment
For the 2014 special dinners, Mr. E suggested we should look at some of the less often used cookbooks in our household for inspiration. The May cookbook is The Classical Cookbook. It presents recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome and adds a version that’s adapted to the modern kitchen.
We had honey-glazed shrimp (a Greek recipe) as starter. They were very sweet, but not overly so. Mr. E did comment that all of the recipes he made for this dinner took a surprisingly large amount of honey. I guess the ancient Mediterraneans had a sweet tooth. 🙂
For the main course, Mr. E made a cold Roman chicken and sausage salad with nuts and cucumbers and molded in a shell of bread. (The recipe actually called for sweetbread – brains – but Mr. E used sausage instead.) The bread shell didn’t settle very well, but the salad still tasted good. The combination was a little different due to the dressing made with honey, wine, mint and coriander. Certainly not what we’d associate with Italian cooking nowadays. We also had mushrooms cooked in honey and wine as a side.
Lastly, there was a pear patina, a custard-like sweet dish flavored with pear and sweet wine. It reminded me of pancake, so I suppose you could call it flourless pancake as well. Very delicious, in any case, and, very aptly, washed down with wine.
It would’ve been nice to deck the table with an ancient Greek / Rome theme as well, but I’m afraid I don’t have the brain power at the moment. I did pick our blue napkins with Greek key meander at the perimeter, though, and used wooden chargers and hand-blown glass dessert plates for a dash of rusticity, if that’s even a word. 🙂
All in all, some of the flavor combinations aren’t typical for the 20th and 21st century Western tastes, but we enjoyed this dinner immensely nevertheless. Definitely a keeper!
February 13, 2014 § 2 Comments
Yesterday’s hotel ceiling post reminded me that I’ve never mentioned the pancake restaurant we like to visit in Finland.
The restaurant is in an old, small timber storage house from either the 1700s or the 1800s. That means that the spaces are constrained and a little weird, and there’s a lot of exposed wood. They have intricate mosaics on their walls and ceilings. Painting murals in the little nooks and crannies is a great idea for such a choppy space, I think. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have any non-fuzzy pictures from the downstairs, but here is one from the upstairs:
We just looove both their sweet and savory pancakes! This winter we had a warm pancake filled with smoked reindeer and bacon followed by a chocolate-pear pancake as dessert. Splitting the two between us filled the tummy quite nicely.
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November 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
Random fact of the day: it’s the 95th anniversary of the Latvian proclamation of independence. In celebration, there is a Google doodle on the Latvian search site:
I really like it. It looks based on Latvian folk art. (I can see similarities with Finnish folk art, especially those two circular designs in the middle. If I remember right, my grandmother had two spinning wheel parts* decorated in a very similar manner.) And the instrument looks related to the Finnish kantele. It’s also neat how the doodle subtly invokes the Latvian red-white-red flag. A great piece of graphic design, all in all.
*) The parts are called rukinlapa. I couldn’t find a good translation. Here’s a picture from the Museum of Central Finland with three rukinlapa. My grandmother’s were closest to the leftmost one, but less fancy.