Saturday, 31 August 2013

Reindeer roses

I have been waiting for this Saturday for a long time. I think this is the first weekend since we moved into New House when I have absolutely nothing in my calendar. No guests, no DIYing, nowhere to be or nothing to do. There has been so much going on ever since my major life overhaul in May. Almost all of it good, don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. But between the new job, lots of wonderful guests, trying to make the Bachelor Pad look good enough for someone to want to rent it and most recently, a wonderful trip back home, I have not had the energy to try and squeeze in some blogging time. But today I woke up knowing the only thing on the agenda is cleaning the house, and that is done (well, apart from the kitchen, but everything else is vacuumed, dusted and cleaned). As much as I detet cleaning, I love the feeling of accomplishment when it's all done and everything is neat, tidy and clean again. Feeling slightly guilty that the Culinary Consultant has been slaving away at the Bachelor Pad all day. We had our first two viewings today, please keep your fingers crossed that they like it.

As I mentioned, last weekend me and the Culinary Consultant went back home for an extended weekend to catch up with my family and attend the wedding of a dear friend. We got to enjoy good company, wonderful weather and seeing so many of my friends and family cheered me up so much. My mum threw us a crayfish party, I got to see my friend's son who is already five months old and it was definitely about time, and I saw my cousin and her new cafe (Cafe Norra on Aino AcktĂ©n tie 8 in Helsinki for all my friends around that part of the world). Definitely worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood. The cheesecake and butter-eye buns (I'll explain another time, it's a Finnish thing...) are well worth a try!! We crammed our bags full with Finnish chocolate, Domino biscuits, rye bread, reindeer, Finnish toothpaste (don't get me started on this, but the only good toothpaste is Pepsodent) and other absolute necessities. 

Today's recipe is of course a Finnish delicacy in honour of all the smoked reindeer meat we hauled over here. You can even use smoked salmon! This is my Mum's recipe. It's always present on our Christmas table. But it's great to serve outside of the festive season and I think it's a perfect summer starter as well. If you can't get hold of reindeer, you can use some other smoked meat. Also smoked salmon works. The recipe below is the original one, I made some small adaptations as I made a much smaller serving as the amount of reindeer was rather limited.

Reindeer mousse (serves 6-8 as a starter):
300 g smoked reindeer meat
1 onion
50 ml (about 3 tbsp) finely chopped leek
100 g cream cheese
100 g cottage cheese
200 ml whipping cream
black pepper
4 sheets of gelatin

The howto:
Finely chop the meat, onion and leek. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Mix with all other ingredients apart from the gelatin. Soak the gelatin in cold water for about 5 minutes, then gently melt in a tablespoon or two of water. Let cool for a few minutes and slowly pour into the mousse while stirring constantly. Put the mousse into a mould (my mum used a smallish bundt cake pan), but you can put it in pretty much any container. I used large muffin moulds shaped like roses. We always eat the mousse on top of toasted rye bread with lingonberries or cranberries.

I made a variation of the mousse using 100 g smoked reindeer meat, about 1/3 of a leek, 1 1/2 tbsp cream cheese, 3 tbsp cottage cheese, 100 ml whipped cream, black pepper and 2 sheets of gelatin. You can work with whatever ingredients you have, the cream cheese can be completely replaced by cottage cheese or vice versa. If you don't mind whether the mousse will be keeping it's shape (i.e. you are serving it out of a container) you can omit the gelatin, it will still taste the same but be a bit softer and not keep it's shape if you try to get it out of the cake tin/moulds. It is still a good consistency to spread onto bread.

The verdict:
I served this to the Culinary Consultant's family when they came over for a visit, and it went down very well. Unfortunately I had neither rye bread nor lingonberries but they didn't seem to mind too much. I love the mousse, I can eat heaps and heaps of it on top of bread. I can't claim it's very healthy, but it's well worth the calories!

Card of the day:
Before my trip to Finland, I needed to make a few cards. This is the first of them, my Dad's birthday card. I bought the stamp ages ago on Ebay especially for my Dad's card. He has a necklace with Snoopy, and he has worn it for as long as I can remember. Although the current version of the necklace is Snoopy 2.0, as the first one met some sort of tragic ending many years ago. 

I stamped the GR1097 Driving Woodstock stamp from Stampabilites in black Hobbycraft ink and embossed using ultrafine embossing powder before colouring with Tim Holtz distress markers. The main colours of cardstock are Fired brick and Pumice Stone. The background stamps are from the Tim Holtz Visual Artistry Grunge Cirque set and stamped in the same colour as the Tim Holtz cardstock. I really like how the card turned out, it looked a bit empty before I added the stars and the checkered pattern but I think they really did the trick, although they are quite subtle. I'm pleased with how this card turned out, as making cards for men is always tricky. I have to find a new Snoopy stamp for next year though. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Tiramisu cheesecake

Life is still cra-haa-zy! Painting the bachelor pad is still ongoing, I wouldn't mind too much if I never saw a paintbrush again. Last night I wasn't in bed until close to midnight, which for me is rather late when the alarm clock goes off at 6.30. After getting home from DIY hell (as I so fondly call it), there was still a book chapter that needed to be returned to copyeditors with comments (overhang from Old Job) and I think I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow. Today I had a rotten day at work (and that is the understatement of the century, had to call Culinary Consultant in the middle of the day for comfort and venting) and I was very pleasantly surprised when he suggested that we only do a quick round of painting and then head home early. So here I am, finally having a few precious moments to blog.

New Home is still amazing. I just wish I had a bit more waking time to spend here, but there will be time for all of that later. On Sunday we made spaghetti sauce from our 104 (!) tomatoes of the day. It takes a while to blanch that many tomatoes, let me tell you. But I'm loving it, they are the best tomatoes I've ever tasted (I might be a bit biased but I'm convinced they are sweeter than any other tomatoes I have ever had). Last Sunday, the Culinary Consultant's family came over and I got the opportunity to cook a big meal. Embarrassing hostess story, once I had my elaborate main meal on the table with all five different dishes to be served, I realised I had forgotten to serve the starter! Whoopsie... But it all turned out good, we had the starter with the evening meal instead. But I still don't understand how I managed to do that. 

This recipe is the dessert from Sunday's meal. I wanted to make a tiramisu cheesecake, but didn't quite find any recipe which was the way I wanted, so I made this up based on several different tiramisu and tiramisu cheesecakes online. It turned out quite good I think, and guests didn't seem to mind it too much either.

Tiramisu cheesecake (serves about 8):
For the base:
100 g savoyardi (ladyfingers)
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp cream cheese

For the filling:
3 egg yolks
50 g sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar
250 g mascarpone
200 g cream cheese
200 ml cream softly whipped
6 sheets of gelatin
2+2 tbsp strong coffee
4 tbsp marsala wine

a few squares of good quality dark chocolate or cocoa powder

The howto:
To prepare the base, crush the savoyardi in a food processor until small crumbs. Mix with the melted butter and cream cheese, and press onto the bottom of a loose base cake tin. Chill in fridge while preparing the filling.

Put egg yolks, sugar and vanilla sugar in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of gently boiling water. Beat over the boiling water using an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Let cool. Meawhile, mix mascarpone, cream cheese, 2 tbsp of strong coffee and the marsala. Soak the sheets of gelatin in cold water until soft (about 5 minutes). Add 2 tbsp strong coffee in a small saucepan. Squeeze as much water out of the gelatin sheets as possible and melt in the saucepan with coffee over mild heat until completely melted. Add the cheese mix to the egg yolks (the mix is quite runny at this stage) and add the gelatin in a slow stream while stirring the mix. Add the whipped cream. Let cool for a few minutes so that the filling starts to thicken a bit. Pour into the cake tin and chill over night. Melt chocolate and drizzle over the top or dust with cocoa powder.

The verdict:
This is certainly not the lightest of desserts with all that decadent cheese. But it didn't feel too stodgy either, I thought the texture was nice and light. You can adjust the flavours by adding more coffee and less marsala or vice versa depending on your preference. I originally wanted to put the ladyfingers in the bottom whole and soak them in coffee and marsala, but I just couldn't fit them into my round cake tin. If you are doing the cake in a square tin, you could add the savoyardi whole instead to skip one step of the preparation. Next time I might try that as I really like the coffee soaked savoyardi in regular tiramisu. 

Cards of the day:
I continued to play around with my Stampin' Up Mixed Bunch and Blossom punch. I also wanted to try out the bright colours, so I made some cards with mirrored colours. The sentiments are from various stamp sets I have lying around. It was wonderful to get to craft a little bit, wishing I had time for more.

Regal rose and tempting turquoise 
Pumpkin pie and pacific point
Melon mambo and old olive
Daffodil delight and rich razzleberry
All cards together as one happy family

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Roasted stone fruit

I refuse to accept that it is Sunday evening and the weekend is almost over. I'm simply too busy to go to work. The tomatoes are ripening, and I have made some home-made tomato sauce today. I flavoured it with loads of herbs from the garden. And I have been busy cooking all weekend, we had our first over night guests at New Home. We whipped up quite an impressive barbecue on Saturday. I also cooked a two course brunch this morning, consisting of a tomato and cheese oven baked omelette and Finnish pancake with lingonberry jam. And I finally had some time in the new craft room. The only thing I haven't had time for is cleaning up after my various activities in the kitchen and the craft room which is probably what I need to do right after I have published this post. Well, at least after Top Gear has finished. Although I might just fall into bed and fall asleep before my head hits the pillow.  
Today's recipe is the pudding I served yesterday after our barbecue. The recipe is originally from BBC good food, but I got it from my friend. She served it to us with a big dollop of mascarpone cheese and raspberries, and I was completely blown away. It's one of the best desserts I have ever had, and it's super simple to make. You can make it ahead and serve it cold, or you can cook it right before serving and serve it hot. And you can use whatever stone fruit you happen to have around, nectarines, peaches, plums, apricots. However, properly ripe fruit will always result in a more tasty dessert, but if your fruit is still a bit too hard, you can just increase the cooking time. 

Roasted stone fruit (serves 4-6):
100 g caster sugar (original recipe says 175 g)
35 g dark muscovado sugar 
1 tsp vanilla extract (or one vanilla pod if you have one, or 1 tsp of vanilla syrup)
5 cardamom pods (or 1-2 tsp ground cardamom)
zest and juice of 1 lime
3 peaches
3 nectarines (or any other stone fruit)

The howto:
Preheat oven to 220 ( or 200 fan) degrees C. Whizz all ingredients apart from the fruit in a food processor (if you are using ground cardamom instead of pods, you can just mix it in a bowl). Slice the fruit, and place in a oven proof dish. Pour sugar syrup over the fruit. Bake for about 20 minutes (or more if your fruit is not completely ripe) until the fruit is soft but not too mushy. Serve with vanilla ice cream or mascarpone cheese. 

The verdict:
Like I said before, this is one of the most amazing desserts I have ever had. It is sweet, but not too sweet, and goes perfectly with the creaminess of the mascarpone. It's delicious both warm and cold, so you can make it ahead if you are having guests. I prefer it cold in the summer and hot in the winter. I have reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe because I think it doesn't have to be quite so sweet, but it's obviously up to personal preference. I also like to mix it up and use a mix of white and muscovado sugar, sometimes I have even made it using only muscovado sugar, depending on what I happen to have available. Using a real vanilla pod gives the most beautiful flavour of vanilla, but I usually can't justify the expense so I use vanilla syrup. Except this time, as I seem to have misplaced my jar of vanilla syrup in the move. 

Card of the day:
I finally had a bit of time to play in the craft room. I ordered a huge bunch of crafting supplies from Stampin up all the way back in May but I haven't had an opportunity to try any of that stuff out yet. I had some trouble deciding where to start, but decided to try out my new blossom punch and Mixed bunch stamp set. I made several cards in different colours, a few of them below. The colours for the top card are Rich Razzleberry and Daffodil Delight. The colours for the lower card are Old Olive and Melon Mambo. The sentiments are from old stamp sets I had hanging around, and I realised I really need to get myself a good set of sentiments. When I started papercrafting I bought several sets of random stamp sets, and after getting proper rubber stamps, I have realised all stamps are not born equal. Good quality stamps are expensive, but they also behave so much better. So in the future I will not buy clear rubber stamps, only proper good quality rubber stamps.