Panzanella: Tuscan Tomato and Bread Salad

That vibrant red is appealing isn't it.

Looking out the window at a snowstorm today, I must admit to thinking a little wistfully of eating this salad a couple of weeks ago in mum and dad’s front yard.

I realise that this is well out of season, but as a couple of weeks ago I was home in New Zealand, happily eating this in my parents front yard I had to share it.

Panzanella is a classic Mediterranean salad, and so has all the classic Mediterranean flavours: basil, garlic, olives etc. But tomatoes are definitely the hero. It’s great with lovely fresh, vine ripened tomatoes. If however, you live in a country where it’s winter 9 months of the year then greenhouse tomatoes can be helped out a lot by ‘soft’ roasting them – not enough to dry them out like sundried but rather just to intensify their flavour a bit (quarter them, add salt+pepper and a glug of olive oil, optionally some herbs and roast at 150C for about an hour).

This is also great in the sense that it’s really a filling, ‘meaty’ salad. It’s lovely.

The following feeds about 4-6 people as a meal itself, more if you have it only as a side. Scales easily to feed many more.

  • 500g of tomatoes
  • 500g (about 4-5 slices) of good, crusty, gluten-free bread
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3T capers
  • 3-4 shallots
  • a handful of good olives
  • a generous handful of fresh basil
  • red wine vinegar
  • lots of olive oil
  • a handful of fresh basil
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Put a pan on a medium heat with a generous amount (about 3T) of olive oil.
  2. Slice or rip the bread into large chunks, roughly mince the garlic cloves and when the oil is to temperature add the garlic and bread into the pan. It might sound like a lot of garlic but to be honest it benefits from a strong garlic flavour and cooking tastes out the acrid bite and leaves your with oily garlic croutons. Awe-some.
  3. Finely slice the shallots, tip them in a bowl and tip over the vinegar. I pretty much always use this trick when using raw onions in a salad. In a similar way as with the garlic, we’re taking the acrid burn out of the onions. This time by ‘cooking’ it with acid.
  4. Roughly slice the remaining ingredients and chuck them in.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. When the croutons are done, I usually tip them in too, so that they sit on top and leave for a couple of hours. In this way, the garlic oil from the croutons drips down and gets friendly with everything else, some croutons suck up the vinagrette and tomato juice and some croutons sit on top and stay crunchy.

Ravintolapäivä Autumn 2012

The weekend before last was Ravintolapäivä again. After debating with myself for some time, I decided to not hold another stall this Restaurant Day but rather to participant on the other side of the fence.

It was a lovely day and reminded me again of what a lovely tradition Restaurant Day is. Without wanting to sound too pompous or romantic, it’s really quite uplifting to see people so happy and welcoming. There is a real sense of community and I find that quite life affirming.

We met with friends in Karhupuisto at around lunchtime on a grey, chilly, drizzley day. Lucky then that there was in front of our noses the perfect antidote to such weather: a bowl of warm soup. In this case creamy pumpkin soup which I thoroughly enjoyed. Sorry people out there, I don’t remember the name of your stall but if you stumble upon this: your soup was excellent and definitely hit the spot.

From there we continued on to the local tobaconist, where coffee, tiramisu and shisha where on offer. Which was great from the point of view that it was just a quirky fun thing to do. Good to chat over the water pipe and a cup of coffee and memories of a previous trip to Turkey flooded back.

Michael overlooks Karhupuisto

From there we wandered down Porthaninkatu, sampling some Kim Chi on the way and looped back around to check out the vegan and glutenfree friendly, Michael Jackson Burger Palace. I had a pretty mean burger there: with lots of beetroot (ironically a very Kiwi thing to have in a burger). And a pretty mean berry smoothie on the side. I gotta, say of that place too that it was awesome to be welcomed so warmly into the MJ Burger Palace restauranteurs home and also admire their quite spectacular apartment. Thank you.

Nice pun :)

We went home to escape the weather for a bit, relax and ‘refuel’ my friends newborn and then walked south into the city. My friends had, what looked to be a pretty good Goulash at “Taste the World” and there we were also entertained by some very professional sounding Spanish guitar.

From there across to the ‘Hobbit Hole’ of Wonderfood Mustach Soup and Burgers (though I just had a chocolate oat truffle). Where we were again very genuinely welcomed into the place to sit down to share a bite and enjoy the ambiance.

 

Wonderland

Across the road to the pub to the rugby and back up through Kallio with a stop on Hämeentie for some Papaya salad. I love a good papaya salad. The mix of strong flavours: peanuts, fish sauce, lime, sugar and of course chilli. The only thing better than eating a great papaya salad, is eating a great papaya salad and watching your mate begin to bead with sweat and cough at the sudden realisation that he shouldn’t have ordered the ‘extra spicy’ salad.

Baked “Scrambled” Eggs

After years of Maiju pining for another dog I finally relented. So as of a week ago we a new family member.

Indi. Or perhaps more appropriately Bitey Yelp-in-the-middle-of-the-night McPeeEverywhere.
Pic courtesy of Juhani Majanen

Anyway, whilst I’ve been a bit on the tired and lazy side lately, conversely we’ve had *loads* of visitors. So last Sunday, we had brunch at ours. I love a good brunch eh.

The spread:

  • apricot and ginger scones: Candied ginger in scones is excellent, but this still needed a bit more tweaking to work well glutenfree
  • Roasted cherry tomatoes
  • Roasted potatoes and rosemary
  • granola (use that recipe and just bump up the honey and butter content ;) and yoghurt
  • and these baked eggs

This is basically half way between scrambled eggs and a cornbread (without the corn). It’s basic, but kinda grows on you. And good in the sense that it scales really easily to feed many people: much easier than say fried or scrambled eggs.

Scales really easily by just doubling or tripling this recipe.

  • 6 eggs
  • 1C cottage cheese
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1/4C glutenfree flour
  • 1/4C melted butter
  • 2C cheese
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C.
  2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl.
  3. Mix in the remaining ingredients.
  4. Transfer to a baking dish and put in your oven.
  5. Remove from the oven when a skewer in the middle comes out clean. How long this takes depends very much on the size and shape of your dish and whether you’ve doubled this at all, but as a rough guide it’d pay to check it after 30 mins or so.

Pancakes

Maiju has been down for a few days with laryngitis so to cheer her up last weekend I made her pancakes.

Well at least she was quiet for a good reason while eating this…

  • 1 egg
  • 1C of milk
  • ½C sugar (optional)
  • about 1C glutenfree flour
  • salt
  • butter
Notes:
Keep in mind that different flours can absorb fluid in vastly different quantities. That’s why I say about a cup. Just add carefully and stop before that batter gets too thick.
You can add as much or as little sugar as you like. And it depends a bit of what you intend to top them with. I think half a cup is a good balance personally but you could go with none at all or a full cup.
This also keeps quite well for a day or so in the fridge so you can easily make it the day before and just grab it from the fridge in the morning. Not that it’s takes long to make anyway…

 

Topping ideas:

In case you needed any inspiration any of these are awesome:

  • jam and whipped cream (the cherry jam pictured above is a particular favourite)
  • sliced banana and maple syrup
  • frozen berries and yoghurt
  • sugar and lemon juice
  1. Beat the egg and sugar (if using) together in a bowl.
  2. Beat in the milk.
  3. Beat in a small pinch of salt (half a pinch…).
  4. Whilst whisking continuously gradually reign in flour until you have a runny batter. The batter should be thick enough to basically run out to about a 5mm thick pancake in you pan.
  5. Bring a pan up to temperature on a medium high heat.
  6. Melt a knob of butter  in the pan and spoon in a good spoon of batter and tilt the pan to form a pancake shape.
  7. Flip the pancake when you see bubbles form on the top and cook for a further 30s or so.
  8. Serve with your topping of choice.

Eggs Benedict with Roasted Portobello Mushrooms and Wilted Spinach

It was Maiju’s bday yesterday, so I thought breaky in bed was in order. Maiju’s fave breaky being my eggs benny.

before

This time round I tweaked things bit and it was damn good. The recipe is essentially the same as last time, but I had the Hollandaise a bit sharper (with added lemon juice) and added about a tablespoon of chopped chives – both of which were improvements.

after

Pan Roasted Portobello Mushrooms
  • 1 large portobello mushroom per person
  • salt and black pepper
  • olive oil
  • You also need a pan that can go into the oven for this
  1. Preheat your oven to 250C.
  2. Get your (ovenproof) pan on a pretty high heat on the stove top.
  3. Remove the stems from the portobellos and remove any other dodgy looking bit (if there are any).
  4. Place the mushies gill side up and season them generously with salt and freshly milled black pepper.
  5. Drizzle a little olive oil over the mushies and a little into the pan.
  6. When the pan is up to temp, place the mushies gillside up into the pan
  7. When the mushrooms have had a couple of minutes sizzling, and have started to caramellise a bit on their bottoms take the pan off the heat and put it in the oven.
  8. The mushrooms are ready when most of the water that has released from them has boiled away in so doing concentrating the mushroom flavour into the mushies. It doesn’t need to be completely dry and when they cool, some of their juices will run back into mushrooms but you don’t want them to be very wet.
  9. Leave them to cool down to room temp.
  10. Assemble the meal, by putting down a little Hollandaise (as glue) then your glutenfree toasted or buns on top, then the wilted spinach(to make: put the spinach in a pan without anything else and cook until they don’t release aný more liquid), then the mushroom, then a poached egg, then top with a generous dollop of Hollandaise.

Rocky Road

Kivinen tie – that makes about as much sense as Korvapuusti.

Rocky road is a bit of a classic from the Antipodes. If I’m honestly, probably more Australian than Kiwi, but when you’re this far from home there’s not really so much difference. And when you’re that far from home I guess no one would know – unless of course you were to tell them I suppose.

One: Fazerin sininen

Two: lisakkeet.

Three: leave to set in a cool place.

Makes about 1 regular sized oven-tray worth.

  • 1kg chocolate
  • 250g dried apricot
  • 250g uncooked cashew
  • about 500g marshmellows
  • about 200g candied cherries
Notes:

In principle you can use basically whatever dried fruit and nuts you like. What is key to it being Rocky Road is marshmellows and chocolate basically but whatever takes your fancy in terms of dried fruit and nuts, then your creativity is the limit.

I highly recommend using a disposable foil tray when making this. Particularly if making a whole loads of these (for example, say, Ravintolapäivä) as it’s much easier to peel/rip the tray off the candy than to try and get the candy out of the tray.

It is as easy as this:

  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (a bowl sitting over a pot of slowly boiling water).
  2. Add everything else except the marshmellows and mix well.
  3. Add the marshmellows and mix.
  4. Tip the chocolatey mix into a tray and pop the tray into the fridge to set.
Addendum

And keep it out of reach if you have dogs. Ours gutsed half a tray and had to be rushed to the vet (chocolate is poisonous for dogs). She thankfully made a full recovery. Traumatised girlfriend is also expected to make a full recovery.

Ravintolapäivä / Restaurant Day

So last Sunday was Restaurant Day again. And after years of thinking it would be funny to join in, this year I did.

Restaurant Day from Cocoa on Vimeo.

Firstly, I suppose I should tell you what it is. In short: for one day everyone is encouraged to open their own restaurant. It’s been running now, for probably 2 or 3 years and has been pretty much wildly successful. As I heard the organiser say on the radio as we were in the last throws of hectic prep, food is a common experience for everyone. It brings people together to share and enjoy themselves. It celebrates cultural differences. It’s a genius idea actually. And I’m happy that I’ve finally played a part in that and shared a little taste of my homeland to some of my neighbours too.

Maiju is definitely the one with the craftwork skills.

We had the “South Pacific Sweet Store” which consisted of a handful of sweet treats from NZ. I would have loved to have made my favorite things from NZ: snapper, lamb, mint sauce and kumara, but the reality is that all of those things are either impossible to get here (snapper, kumara), prohibitively expensive (lamb) and/or just basically impractical (cooking things warm on the day would be hard work and with meat of course there are hygiene issues to consider too). After a long time thinking about it, I figured that making sweets was pretty much the most only thing I could do:

  • ahead of time (to decrease on-the-day stress),
  • at scale,
  • relatively cheaply,
  • that would be glutenfree and vegetarian and
  • that would be from my homeland

An in the end I think that decision was completely justified. The whole thing went better than I could have expected.

We were set up in Karhupuisto, which had was awesome because there was probably another 5 or 10 restaurants there. So there was plenty of people coming through and only a 50 meter walk with our dining table to the park. And I’d say that within about a minute of setting up, we had a queue of about a dozen people. It brings a smile to my face now, thinking of it actually. That’s basically what any food nerd loves about cooking, the chance to make something with their own hands and see people enjoying it. So I stood there for 90mins, smiling, chatting and dishing out slices of pavlova and kiwifruit and lovin it. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in food.

One visitor took some pics so if want to see what we had check this. Including a funny pic of Hip attacking the scraps. I’d forgotten about that, but she was very quick to pounce on any crumbs (or cooking utensils) that happened to fall off the table.

On the more practical side of it, here are a few notes, ostensibly for myself but perhaps useful also for anyone else joining in Ravintolapäivä.

  • the pavlova was a huge success. I made a 16 egg pav (which is fucking massive), and went within 20 or 30mins. It seemed to me that lots of Finns knew of pavlova. Were I to do it again, I could probably make about 3 times as much and get rid of them all, with ease.
  • The kiwifruit and canned whipped cream were perfect with the pav. Kiwifruit, well you can’t get more Kiwi than that, and the sweet pav needs something sharp to cut the richness and as to the cream, canned whipped cream was a lifesaver in terms of ease (I can’t imagine whipping that must cream by hand and then keeping it cool and having it not split whilst in the sun at the park).
  • I guess we could have made more stuff in general. I planned for 200 people and 6 hours, which in reality turned out to be about 100 people (as everyone bought 3 or 4 different things) and about 90mins. I could have had twice as much of everything and not had anything left over. I kinda got the impression that this was a common mistake (perhaps ‘theme’ is kinder than ‘mistake’) for most restauranteurs – not being used to making stuff at industrial scale.
  • Having coffee was great, especially to go with the sweet stuff we had. It would have been a lot smarter to have to big thermoses rather than one, to save Maiju running between home and back with refills (thanks Betty!) i.e. filling one while served from the other.
  • The pav was clearly the most popular thing. No one knew much of anything about any of the other things, with the possible exception of Rocky Road, which some people asked for even after it’d sold out. And lots of people asked “what is it?” of the Hokey Pokey – I guess it looked intriguing.
  • it would be a smart idea to print out ingredients lists for everything for those people with allergies. I imagine it’d be way easier to hand someone something in paper than trying to remember, run-off-your-feet, what went into something. And I should know that as a Celiac, right.
  • In the end I think my idea for the menu was proven correct. We got basically everything done beforehand, which made the day pretty stress-free and enjoyable. And sweet things are cheap enough to make that we were able to price things so that: I didn’t feel we were ripping anyone off, I got the impression that people were happy to pay our prices, and we didn’t loose money.
  • For the record, it was 3€ for a slice of pav, cream and about half a kiwifruit and 50c for a piece of candy (of couple-of-bite size).

I’ll stick the recipes up here as I get around to typing them out:

 

Shaved Fennel Salad

Today has been the example of what a great summer day can be in Helsinki. Went for a long walk in the morning, had an awesome gluten-free breaky (apologies, Finnish only, but I recommend if you’re in the area), stopped at the local farmers market and bought a bunch of fresh veges. Then some friends rung and we decided to have a picnic in the park infront of our place – Bear Park. So carrying a catch of the best that late summer has to offer, it’s easy to whip together an awesome feed. Mum’s potato salad with new potatoes and this shaved fennel salad. Add some warm weather, good company and a bottle of white and well, this is what life should be every day.

Not from the day of the story but you get the idea.

Not from the day of the story but you get the idea.

We didn’t have all the ingredients so it’s slightly tweaked 101 cookbooks version, but I have to say that in the case of pumpkin seeds for pine nuts I reckon the swap suited even better. It’s a great salad as it’s so fresh and crunchy.

  • Juice of one lemon
  • one large courgette, finely sliced
  • 2 fennel bulbs, finely diced
  • a pinch of sea-salt
  • a couple glugs of olive oil
  • a head of interesting lettuce
  • about 200g of feta
  • about ½C of toasted pumpkin seeds
  1. Put the finely sliced fennel and courgette into a bowl with the salt, lemon juice and oil and stir to coat.
  2. Leave to marinate for a bit (ours was probably only 30mins).
  3. Meanwhile toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan.
  4. Just before serving, toss in the lettuce, seeds and feta and mix.

PS: as to the ‘best of what Helsinki’ has to offer, for dessert we had blueberry tart, with had picked berries by our very selves. That recipe will have to wait for another day though.

Torta di Cioccolata: Chocolate and Walnut Mud Cake

The best thing when making cakes is not to try to ‘tweak’ cakes where wheat flour is the main component but rather focus on those that where gluten was never really a key component to start with. That means forgetting about certain favorites but also means opening up new avenues too. Every cloud has a silver lining as they say. A good brownie or a rich, dark cake like this is a good example: it’s not a gluten-free cake, it’s a cake that just happens to be glutenfree. So everyone loves it: glu-tards and non-gluten-challenged alike.

  • 100g butter
  • 340g milk chocolate (actually I used half milk and half dark chocolate)
  • 1T instant coffee powder
  • 3T Dutch cocoa powder
  • 5 large eggs
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 5T ground almonds
  • 100g walnut pieces
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C.
  2. Break the chocolate into smaller pieces and place it into a bowl with the butter.
  3. Place the bowl on top of a gently simmering pot of water so that the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Stir the chocolate and butter intermittently until it is melted, smooth and glossy.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and creamy, for about 5 minutes.
  6. Fold the almond flour and walnut pieces into the beaten eggs and sugar.
  7. Gently fold together the chocolate and the batter and when combined, pour into a 20cm spring-form cake tin.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top of the cake is dry. Turn off the oven and leave the cake undisturbed in the oven until the oven has cooled.
  9. When cool release the cake carefully from the tin.
  10. Serve with cream and something sharp and fresh like for example, raspberries.

 

Bell Pepper and Onion Fajitas with Guacamole

ready to go.

The secret to this are the following things:

  • guacamole from fresh avocados (don’t even joke about jarred guac, you may as well use wallpaper paste)
  • nice, fresh, glutenfree tortillas
  • really well-caramellised, sweet onions and peppers
Guacamole
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • a small red onion
  • 1 juicy lime (or failing that a lemon will do)
  1. Start by preparing the guacamole.
  2. Scoop out the avocado flesh (reserving the stones) and mash in a bowl with a pinch of salt and the juice of half a lime.
  3. Mix and adjust seasoning and acidity.
  4. Return the avocado stones to the guacamole, as the avocado will otherwise quickly discolour to a kinda unappetising brown – I’m not actually completely sure if this really makes a difference, but I guess it can’t hurt at least.
Fajitas
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 3 bell peppers
  • olive oil
  • salt+ black pepper
  • gluten-free tortilla flat-breads, wither store bought or homemade
  • tomato salsa, either a good store one or you can make your own too
  1. Peel and slice the onions.
  2. Core, deseed and slice the peppers.
  3. Get a pan on a medium high heat and add a decent glug of olive oil.
  4. Add the onions, peppers and a good pinch of salt and black pepper.
  5. Stirring regular, cook the peppers and onions until the peppers are soft and (more importantly) the onions are well caramellised.
  6. Serve the peppers and onions on top of a tortilla with a dollop of salsa and guacamole.