Saturday, 17 January 2015

This blog is no longer updated

Thanks for popping by InvisiblePinkFood. I just wanted to let you know that due to time restrictions, I had to make the difficult decision of giving up one of my blogs. There won't be any more updates to InvisiblePinkFood for the foreseeable future, unless I can find a way to cram in a few more hours in my days. However, my card blog is active and regularly updated so please pop on over any time to see if there would be anything that interests you over there. Also the InvisiblePinkFacebook page is still active, and may even get some updates of food photos from time to time (although I won't make any promises). I also have a Google Plus account, and the InvisiblePinkPinterest is open for business as usual. Thank you for your understanding.

As a final tip, I will link you to the super easy and delicious 5 minute artisan bread recipe in the image. You can find a great instructional video over at Simply So Good. Even if you have never made bread before, this is more or less foolproof!! Wishing you many happy times in your kitchens. The InvisiblePinkKitchen is out and over.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Plum jam shortbread

Getting some distance to things is sometimes useful. I haven´t spent much time online in the last few weeks, first I was busy preparing for my extended Christmas holiday, getting presents and cards all finished on time, then cleaning the house and packing my bags. When I landed in Finland, it was like coming to a completely different world. I turned off roaming on my phone and all of a sudden I was detached from all the usual communication that keeps me preoccupied. I still have wifi at my Mum´s of course, but the Culinary Consultant has taken over my computer so all I have is my iPad. And now Mum´s computer when I'm writing this, as typing long texts on a touchpad is more than my patience can handle.

I live so closely connected to the internet at home. I check my emails first thing in the morning, check facebook, blog, read blogs and then check the emails last thing before I go to bed. Not so when I'm in Finland. This is a holiday from everything that is routine. I don't have access to my craft room, and I don't need to cook. And I have also been thinking about my relationship to blogging. And how the food blog has become more of a chore than a fun hobby. Which is why I will take some time off to see whether I want to get back to it later in the year. Or whether I just want to focus on the card blog as there will be some more exciting announcements over there soon. So I don't know whether this will be my last blog post for a while or my last food blog post ever. If I do get back to blogging, I will update it on my facebook, twitter and Google+. But for now I wish everyone a wonderful, peaceful and food filled Christmas and a great New Year 2015, may it be even better than last year!!

I will publish a food recipe as well. It's something super quick and easy to put together, bakes relatively quickly and it's absolutely delicious. The original recipe is from The English Kitchen, and it's for lemon curd shortbread.  I thought my home made plum jam would be great substitute as it feels silly buying lemon curd when I have the fridge filled to the brim with home-made goodies. The plum jam is not very sweet and it has a slight sour/bitter flavour to it, just like marmalade has. That's why I love combining it with sweet pastry, it keeps the balance of the flavours, just as I imagine lemon curd would as well. So whether you have lemon curd, plum jam, orange marmalade or something else you want to use up, this shortbread is a great way of doing that.

Plum jam shortbread (serves 8):
225 g all purpose flour
125 g semolina or rice flour
125 g caster sugar
225 g chilled butter, cut into small cubes
200 g plum jam (or lemon curd, or whatever other jam/curd takes your fancy)
2 tbsp caster sugar

The howto: 
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter a 21 cm springform tin. In a bowl, mix together the sugar, flour and semolina. Add the cubed butter and rub with the butter into the flour until the texture of coarse sand. Press half of the mixture into the springform tin, and spread the jam on top. Mix the rest of the butter and flour mixture with the additional 2 tbsp sugar and spread the crumble topping onto the jam, pressing down lightly. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the edges start to turn a bit golden. Let cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then cut into eight slices. 

The verdict:
This is a super easy treat you can whip up at any time as it only uses kitchen staples. Perfect for surprise guests. It's amazing how delicious it is, given that only very basic ingredients go in it. It's buttery and crumbly, and it's absolutely irresistible. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

More Finnish Christmas food

I wrote a bit about Finnish Christmas food with my potato casserole recipe. This oven baked carrot casserole (porkkanalaatikko) is another traditional Finnish Christmas side dish, that would usually be served with ham or turkey. I'm not quite sure why these oven baked casseroles have a reputation of being a lot of work to make, as actually they don't take that much effort. And the best thing is you can make them ahead of time and freeze them. Then all you have to do is defrost them for Christmas eve dinner and pop them in the oven as they only improve from re-heating. Alternatively, you can prepare the casserole but freeze it before baking, and then do the full baking after de-frosting on Christmas Eve (let the casserole de-frost over night in the fridge).

Oven baked carrot casserole (porkkanalaatikko):
2 dl (200 ml or 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp) short grained rice or "pudding rice" (Finnish puuroriisi)
1/2 litre water
1 litre (full-fat) milk
1 kg carrots
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg (or more to taste)
2 tbsp syrup* (or 1 tbsp sugar) 
breadcrumbs and butter

*Finnish syrup is darker than golden syrup but lighter than treacle. I mix 1/3 treacle with 2/3 golden syrup to get something resembling Finnish syrup

The howto: 
Bring 1/2 litre of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add rice and cook until the water has absorbed. Add the milk, and cook until rice is cooked and a loose porridge forms (about 30-40 mins). Let cool.

Peel and chop carrots. Bring enough water to a boil in a saucepan to cover the carrots. Cook carrots until soft. Drain water and mash carrots (you can use a potato masher, ricer or handheld blender). 

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Mix the carrots with the rice porridge and add eggs, spices and syrup. Divide into two oven proof bowls and sprinkle generously with breadcrumbs and place small knobs of butter on top. Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. The top should be golden, and the carrot bake should be bubbling. In my opinion, a longer baking time makes a more tasty casserole.

The verdict:
This is one of those dishes that just have to be on the Christmas table, or else Christmas is ruined. It's really tasty and although so many buy the casseroles ready-made from the store, I think the home-made variety is infinitely better. And it's not that much of a hassle really. I like to make it a day ahead, and then re-heat on the day. The only thing that really takes a bit of time is the carrot peeling, but unless you are making in double or triple serving (and you shouldn't need to unless you are having several dozen guests) this will be more than enough for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and possibly Boxing Day as well. And after that you don't want any more anyways, it's that extra bit delicious because you only get it once a year. However, this is a really cheap dish to make and it makes quite a few servings, so I don't see why you couldn't make it at other times of the year as well, as a thrifty side. Delicious with some ham, turkey or any other meat. I even makes a light lunch all by itself.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Cranberry and white chocolate cookies

I just started my three week Christmas holiday (I'm writing this on Friday night, and schedule it to be published early on Saturday morning). I can't remember the last time I would have three weeks off work. Possibly not in ten years, possibly never. In about four hours we are heading off to the airport to go home to Finland to spend Christmas with friends and family. I will be exhausted when the alarm clock goes off, I'm even contemplating just staying up all night.

The weeks leading up to today have been chaotic, both me and the Culinary Consultant have been working long hours, so everything else has been pushed aside. No proper cooking, no house cleaning, very little crafting and certainly no time to plan what to pack and very little thought about Christmas presents. This year we will make do with very few presents. And I don't mind at all! There has been several difficult times this fall, but everyone has made it through and all I want to do is take it easy, do nothing and just enjoy the simple things. Cook nice food. See friends. Spend time with family. My only regret is that my baby Sis, who is doing a wonderful job on her first year as a medical doctor, can't join us this year. 

I am just sitting on the sofa, writing this while the Culinary Consultant (who has to stay awake tomorrow morning for the two hour drive to the airport) is sound asleep upstairs. I'm really tired too, but at the same time I'm so wound up about travelling tomorrow (oh wait, correction, later today!) that I can't really sleep. I keep going over things in my head. Did I really pack everything I need (most likely not, but it won't really matter) and did I really put the passport in my bag (yes, it was there the last seventy-two times I checked, so I'm sure it's still there). Is my phone charged? Yes. Will I remember to pack the phone and the charger tomorrow morning? Yes, because I never go anywhere without my phone. That's pretty much what is going on in my head at the moment. Oh and that little nagging voice saying I should be in bed, and that I will regret this tomorrow morning. No wait, correction again, later this morning. 

I better get on to today's recipe. I had some leftover cream cheese that just "had" to be used up. And when the Culinary Consultant went digging in one of our kitchen cupboards he found a bag of dried cranberries. So it wasn't so much we wanting cookies as it was divine intervention I think. I used this recipe from a blog called Gimme Some Oven. I didn't make any other changes to the recipe apart from halving it, as I thought two dozen cookies should be enough.

Cranberry and white chocolate cookies (makes about 24):
For the cookies
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (I used less as I always think recipes use too much salt)
115 g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used 1/2 tsp vanilla paste)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup cranberries

For the frosting:
115 g cream cheese
1/4 cup white chocolate chips, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 cup icing sugar

For the topping:
finely chopped dried cranberries
small chocolate chips or melted white chocolate

The howto:
Preheat oven to 175 degrees C (350 degrees F). Mix the flour, soda and salt. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugars using an electric mixer. Add the egg and vanilla and keep on whisking. Gradually add the dry ingredients, and mix until batter is smooth. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and cranberries. Wrap dough in cling film and chill for at least an hour.

Place tablespoon sized dollops of the dough onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet, well separated as the cookies expand quite a lot when baking.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Bring cream cheese for the frosting to room temperature.

When cookies are completely cooled, prepare the frosting. Using an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese with the melted chocolate. Make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature, otherwise the chocolate will solidify. Add the vanilla. Reduce the speed of the mixed and incorporate the icing sugar. Spread onto the cooled cookies. Decorate with cranberries and white chocolate.

The verdict:
These cookies were very sweet. If you don't like very sweet cookies, don't make them, or alternatively just exclude the icing. But if you do like very sweet things, you will love these. And the tartness of the cranberries does cut the sweetness a bit. Needless to say, these disappeared very quickly from our kitchen, I can't imagine who could have eaten a huge batch of cookies in just a few days... They are so pretty with the red cranberries on the white frosting, very Christmas-y and perfect for the season.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Rock cakes

I asked the Culinary Consultant whether there was something in particular he wanted me to bake. Usually I don't get much a reply other than along the lines of "Not really". This time however he did bring up the subject of Rock cakes. I haven't had them before, but I remember the Culinary Consultant has mentioned them a few times. According to Wikipedia they are fruit cakes which have a rough surface resembling rock. They were promoted during the Second World War by the Ministry of Food as they require less sugar and eggs than ordinary cakes. Old ways are often good ways, so I decided to give them a try. I used this recipe from BBC food but added a bit of cinnamon and allspice.

Rock cakes (makes about 12):
225 g self raising flour
75 g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
125 g butter, cubed
150 g dried fruit (such as sultanas, raisins, orange peel, currants)
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract (I used one tsp vanilla paste)

The howto:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Mix the flour, sugar an baking powder and add the butter. With your fingers, rub the butter with the flour mixture until the texture of coarse sand. Mix int the dried fruit and spices. In another bowl, mix the egg, milk and vanilla extract. Add to the flour and butter mixture and stir with a spoon until a rough dough forms. If the dough is too dry to come together, add a tsp of milk. Don't overmix. Using two spoons, drop the dough onto a parchment paper lined baking tray to form rough heaps the size of golf balls. Bake for 15-20 minutes (mine baked for 24 minutes) or until golden on top. Enjoy with tea or coffee while warm.

The verdict:
The cakes are very quick to prepare and don't take very long to cook, so they are easy treats to make. They did turn out similar to the picture in the original recipe, so I think I got it quite right. The texture of the cakes is lovely and crumbly and the pieces of fruit are really good. I had three as soon as they came out of the oven...

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Tomato, ham and tortelloni soup

This whole Christmas business is seriously cutting into my blogging time. I should have posted this yesterday, but it's been a bit crazy. There's so much to to do, get arranged, last minute online shopping and then that wait to see whether things will make it in time or not. But there's still plenty of time until Christmas, you say. Not quite, as I'm flying back home in just six short days, woop woop!! So anything I need to get arranged while still at home needs to happen very soon. And I won't be able to craft while away, so I am trying very hard to build up a bit of a buffer on the card blog. And I have tried to get all the Christmas presents sorted. What did people do before online shopping?? And I've been trying to find a dress I can fit into as I'm going to my friend's PhD party. I have to admit squeezing into any of my clothes is a bit of a problem at the moment, and I promise I will start living a healthy life soon. After I've eaten all the Christmas goodies... See why I'm having a problem over here? It's called denial!!

I can't wait to get home. Five more days in the office, and then I am looking forward to three weeks of Christmas holiday! I can't remember when I would have had three weeks off work. I look forward to spending time with my family, although my sister won't be able to join us so there will certainly be something important missing. But I am looking forward to see family and friends. I'm especially looking forward to my friend's PhD party, I will get to see so many old colleagues and friends I haven't seen in ages.

From time to time I do eat something resembling healthy food. This tortelloni soup I recently made was really delicious. I wanted to try making a non-vegetarian version of this great tortelloni soup I made a while ago. The other day The Culinary Consultant bought a pack of ham and sausage tortelloni, so I thought why not make a version with some ham.

Tomato, lenti and ham tortelloni soup (serves 4-6): 1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions
2 stalks of celery
2 carrots
1 kg tomatoes (or two cans of tinned tomatoes)
1 l  chicken stock
1 cup lentils
200 g spinch
200 g ham
400 g ham and sausage tortelloni
salt and pepper to taste

The howto:
Finely chop the onions, celery and carrots. Heat oil in a large saucepan, and add onions, celery and carrots. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and lentils. Cook for another 10 minutes until the lentils are done. Add the spinach and ham. Add the tortelloni and cook as per instructions on the pack. Taste and add salt or pepper as required. Serve with grated cheese sprinkled on top.

The verdict:
I really liked the vegetarian version of the soup. And I think I liked this version even more. You can replace the lentils with beans if you wish, but I happened to have lentils so I used them. The soup has a great flavour from the tomatoes and the ham. Actually, thinking of it, this would be a perfect recipe for leftover Christmas ham. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Finnish Sweetened Potato Casserole

We have entered the magical month of December. It's cold, dark and miserable. But it's also an excuse to start thinking about Christmas food. One of the must have foods on the Finnish Christmas Dinner table are an assortment of oven baked vegetable dishes, called "laatikko" in Finnish. Basically laatikko is the Finnish word for a drawer or box, but it's also used for oven baked dishes. For Christmas you usually make "porkkanalaatikko" (oven baked carrot casserole), "lanttulaatikko" (oven baked swede casserole) and "perunalaatikko" (oven baked potato casserole). They are all relatively easy to make, but take a lot of time. First you need to peel the veg, cook them in water until soft and mash them, and then mix with the rest of the ingredients (usually bread crumbs, syrup, cream and butter) and bake very slowly in a low temperature oven for 2-3 hours to let the flavours really develop. 

The potato casserole, perunalaatikko, takes even more time to prepare than the other two. It needs to be sweetened over night so it should be started the night before. It is also completely in the hands of the food gods to decide whether the sweetening is successful or not. It's a combination of using the right potatoes and having the right temperature for the sweetening process. But no worries, the sweetening process is an old cooking process used before sugar was available. It's a process where the starch in the food is enzymatically broken down to shorter chained carbohydrates, i.e. sugar. These days, you can achieve the same by adding syrup. But I love the tradition of making the casserole using the traditional way. And last year was finally the year when I had a successful sweetening process. I'm not exactly sure what the key to success was, I think it was the right potatoes combined with pure luck.

I nicked the recipe for the potato casserole from the Finnish cooking web site Kotikokki, but most recipes for the casserole are pretty similar. Make sure to pick a starchy, or floury, potato. If it says "good for mash" on the pack, you have pretty much got what you are looking for.

Finnish sweetened potato casserole:
2 kg floury potatoes
2 dl (200 ml, 3/4 cups plus one tbsp) plain flour
50 g butter
0.5-1 l milk (I like to use full fat, as it is Christmas after all...)
2 tbsp syrup (if sweetening is not successful)
salt to taste (start with about 2-3 tsp)

The howto:
Peel and chop potatoes. Cook in salted water until soft, pour off the water and mash potatoes. Let the mash cool until about 50 degrees C (feels warm but not hot), add half of the butter and half of the flour into the mash and mix well. Sprinkle the rest of the flour on top of the mash, put the lid back onto the saucepan and let sweeten in a warm place for at least 6 hours, or over night. The temperature should stay between 50 and 75 degrees C, but I wrapped my saucepan in a towel and left in the kitchen over night and the sweetening process worked well. The next morning you should find your mash softer than it was the night before, and with a sweeter flavour. The mash also changes colour to almost grey on top where the flour was. Give the mash a good mix, and add milk until soft (softer than normal mash, but not quite runny). If the sweetening has not been successful, also add the syrup for extra sweetness. Mix in salt to taste. Place in one big or two medium sized oven proof buttered bowls and dot the rest of the butter on top of the casserole. The casserole will bubble while cooking, so leave one and a half to two inches space in the bowls. Cook in 200 degrees for the first 30 minutes and then in 150 degrees for another two hours. The casserole will turn dark around the edges of the bowl. I love this crunchy bit, but you can just leave it uneaten if you find it unappetising. If the top gets too dark, you can cover the casserole with aluminium foil when baking.
The verdict:
I have had varying success with this dish through the years. Last Christmas it turned out perfect. The reason I like the traditional sweetening instead of taking the easy way out of just using syrup is that it tastes different, or maybe that's in my head but I think it's sweet but not too sweet. But each to their own. Year after year one of the subjects being discussed during the Christmas dinner is whether that year's potato casserole is as good as the one Mum/Grandma made and whether it's better or worse than the year before.