Sunday, November 1, 2015

Liptauer: A Savoury Bread Spread from Austria

Austrian fresh cheese spread - Liptauer

Recently I was invited to an Austrian dinner. The dishes served were entirely vegetarian which some might find surprising. It is often the famous Wiener Schnitzel that pops to mind first when thinking about Austrian cuisine. That dinner however was a testimony that an entirely vegetarian Austrian menu is possible and needless to say delicious to the degree of culinary achievement higher than some of the vegetarian restaurants can boast with.

This was the first time the host introduced me to Liptauer. Despite that the name Liptauer funnily had something of a military sounding quality in it (some Austrian - Hungarian officer perhaps who used to dip his bread into such spread every Sunday morning?) I was reaching out for a second helping of that smooth and utterly flavourful orange sauce. 

While I was spreading the bright orange Liptauer on a piece of bread, the host was explaining that it was made of Topfen, the Austrian word for quark (or fresh cheese if quark is not known in your country), paprika powder, garlic, soft butter, .... Voilà. That explained why it tasted so smooth and had almost a melting quality to it. Butter, say no more, gives every dish a lift-up. 

I bet every household in Austria has their own favourite Liptauer recipe. I have made it for a few times now and my recipe, if you really need the measurements, is here as a start to bring you closer to your own favourite version of it.

Liptauer - a savoury bread spread 
250g Topfen or quark or fresh cheese, at room temperature
50 g soft butter
1,5 tsp sweet paprika powder
0.5 tsp hot paprika powder
1 tsp caraway seed powder (or whole caraway seeds)
a good pinch of salt
a pinch of black pepper
1 tbsp mustard
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
2 small marinated cucumbers, cut into small cubes
0.5 red sweet bell pepper, cut into small cubes
1 -2 tbsp finely chopped chives

In a bowl mix together quark, soft butter, paprika powders, caraway, salt, pepper, mustard, garlic and whisk into a smooth mass.
Add the vegetable cubes. 
Garnish with chives and serve with fresh bread or toast.

Liptauer spread

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cucumber and radish salad

Radishes are bitter, you say? Indeed, on their own they can be. That bitterness can bring a blessing when combined with other ingredients that are mild and benefit from a stronger companion. One of such ingredients is cucumber. Garlic, red onion, mint or radish render a supporting arm to the slender cucumber in popular salads.

When I was a child, the radishes were more of a late spring and early summer vegetable. Further into the summer they developed a bitter taste that no one enjoyed. The weather or the varieties of those days somehow were not suitable to grow a young second crop. Now one can find the young radishes at the market almost throughout the year.

On a hot day cucumber is an additional source of hydration thanks to its high water content.
Breathing in the smell of freshly cut cucumber and eating a cold cucumber soup or salad refreshes like a gust of cool mist bursting from nozzles onto sweating customers in a terrace restaurant on a piazza in Italy in the August heat.

Cucumber and radish salad
Ingredients for 2-3
1 long salad cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bunch of ca. 10 radishes, cleaned and thinly sliced
a few sprigs of fresh dill, chopped
(optional: young dill flowers)

1 tsp honey
1tbsp (Dijon) mustard
1 tbsp apple vinegar
3-4 tbsp rape seed oil
freshly ground black pepper

Place the cucumber and radish slices into a bowl.

For the sauce  mix all ingredients together until a thicker sauce is formed.

Mix the vegetables and dill with the sauce. 
Leave to marinate in a fridge for 5-10 minutes.

Or serve separately as I have done here.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mushroom and blue cheese crostinis

A true Italian Mamma will probably call my way of making bruschettas a blasphemy, but since I don´t own a brustolina, I am not going to go without serving these crispy slices of bread with simple toppings of tomato and basil or more special goat cheese and pears. 

Brustolina, a grill pan for grilling slices of bread for bruschettas, would be another gadget in the kitchen that would claim space that is already at limit of scarcity and fortunately it is impossible to get one here.  Clear that a gas top would bless even a slice of bread with that special taste created by real fire but you can´t always have everything. At the end it is just food. 

So an oven will do or a toaster in a breakfast hurry. The result is jolly crispy anyway. 
Let me call them crostinis then - grilled or toasted bread with a topping.

Mushroom and Gorgonzola crostinis
Ingredients for ca. 10:

1 baguette bread or other bread, sliced
olive oil

2 tbsp olive oil
200g champignons or other mushrooms, sliced 
white part of 1 leek, thinly sliced
50g blue cheese like gorgonzola
black pepper

Place the bread slices that have been sprinkled with a few drops of olive oil and spread with a clove of garlic on a baking tray and bake in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius until slightly brown and crispy. Alternatively toast the slices of bread in the toaster. For the extra taste spread a little olive oil and garlic on the bread after toasting. 

Heat 2 table spoons of olive oil in a pan, cook the sliced leek in the oil for 5 minutes, then add mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes.

Transfer the slightly cooked mushrooms and leek into a food processor bowl and crush them into a rough paste. Add the blue cheese and black pepper and mix everything into a smooth paste. Taste, if a little extra salt is required.

Serve on grilled or toasted bread. Tastes especially good with dill.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Potato and asparagus salad with fresh garlic sauce

The farmer´s market is getting busier and more colourful as the summer advances.
Strawberries from local farms in Thurgau or Seeland have almost elbowed out the earlier Italian imports. Special stands are put up for local asparagus. Side by side potatoes from the previous crop stored over winter and the half thumb sized new cuties are claiming their space next to radishes, young carrots and various greens.
Early summer is the best time for fresh garlic. At our market it is often an import from neighbouring France.The plump bulbs range from whitish to purple. The elastic skin hides the cloves  so full of juice that it drips when you slice them. The young garlic is a happy companion to new potatoes and other young vegetables.

Potato and asparagus salad with fresh garlic sauce

Ingredients (2 potions)
300g blue potatoes, boiled
300g new yellow potatoes, boiled
300g asparagus (thin stalks)
1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard
1 clove of fresh garlic, chopped
1 egg
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp rape seed oil
salt and pepper

Fresh dill

Prepare the asparagus by bending or cutting off the hard ends (ca 1-2 cm).
Heat the oil in a grill pan. Place the thin asparagus stalks into the pan and fry ca. 5-7 minutes turning them on all sides. Drain on a kitchen paper.

Boil the different colour potatoes separately to preserve the colour. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar into the salt water when boiling the blue potatoes.

For the sauce fry 1 egg on one side for 1 minute. The egg should still be runny on the surface.
Measure all ingredients into a container and add the half fried egg.
Mix into a smooth sauce with a hand mixer.

Serve warm or cold. Place asparagus and potatoes on a serving platter, spoon the sauce onto the vegetables and sprinkle some chopped fresh dill on top.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Yeast pancakes with raspberry sauce

Yeast pancakes with raspberry sauce? Because....
.... it is Sunday and an opportunity to take more time to make my breakfast, the most important meal of the day.
.... it is fascinating to see the science perform in a bowl and the yeast dough develop its own life growing twice in size when lovingly kept in a warm place out of the way of draft.
.... they are sort of a memory from childhood but I can´t remember my Mom actually ever making them. 
.... the fluffy yeast pancakes are an under rated equal to the more famous thin crêpes.
.... pancakes are also an alternative for people who occasionally suffer from the "lack of cake syndrome" and need a shot of gluten but are lazy to decide between the innumerable possibilities of which cake to make that may be further complicated by the potential need of a special ingredient they may not have at home once they´ve cast the decision.
....  a plate of plumpish pancakes with a crust is a small achievement.
.... the raspberries make a just right thick sauce that slowly drips down a pile of pancakes.
.... they are best enjoyed in no hurry with a hot cup of coffee or strong black tea with milk...on a Sunday morning.

Yeast pancakes with raspberry sauce
Ingredients (makes )
15 g fresh yeast
4 tbsp sugar
0.5 tsp salt
3 dl luke warm milk or half-half milk and water (I use warm water from the kettle to get milk to luke warm temperature)
2 dl butter milk (or thicker kefir)
2 large eggs
250-300 g all purpose flour
vegetable oil (eg. rape seed oil) for frying

Dissolve the yeast with sugar, salt and the liquids in a large bowl. 
Mix in the eggs.
Add flour and combine into a smooth dough.
Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm place.
When the dough has risen twice in volume, heat a couple of table spoons of oil in a low frying pan
and portion the dough with a large spoon into suitable size pancakes.
Fry on medium heat to allow the dough to cook slowly.

Raspberry sauce
500g fresh or frozen raspberries
5 tbsp powder sugar

Pureé the raspberries with a hand mixer. 
Drain the sauce through a sieve stirring the mixture with a spatula or a wooden spoon to remove the seeds.
Add the powder sugar and mix.
Taste. If not sweet enough, add more sugar to your own personal taste.

Serve warm. 
A second portion, if some still left over, may be eaten cold later on being fully aware that a second portion indeed is an excessive Sunday indulgence. Oh well....

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fresh Juice Cocktails: Apple - Cucumber - Celery

After a period of contemplation whether I need another kitchen gadget I took the decision to invest in a juicer. I had managed through a couple years making smoothies with my all purpose hand blender and another kitchen machine seemed unnecessary. I thought, not yet.

At the start of the winter, if we may call the slightly colder weather a winter, my mind kept turning around carrot juice. I had developed a craving for carrot juice. The hand mixer is of no use for hard carrots or apples for that matter. My foodie friend Mark advised to get one that is able to crush and squeeze hard veggies if I decided to spend the money. I waited until the department store had another day of -20% discount for membership customers and tried to pick a juicer to fit my needs. The young salesman was not very confident in the technical capabilities of the machine, but he was very helpful in carrying about three kilos worth of my new equipment to the cash desk. I concluded that people must buy a lot more cheese fondue sets than juicers in Switzerland. I´m sure he would have given me an in depth induction into caquelons and rechauds.

My new kitchen toy has served me well through all winter and is here to stay. 

Combining fruit with vegetable juice makes a refreshing and satiating cocktail. More and more supermarkets are offering fruit and vegetables that are a bit deformed in shape but otherwise perfectly fine in nutritional quality. They are perfect for juice making.

In winter combine apple and cucumber with a knob of fresh ginger to heat up inside. In spring replace the ginger with a stalk of green celery.

Freshly Pressed Apple - Cucumber - Celery Juice
ingredients for 250ml
2 apples
1/2 salad cucumber
1 stalk of green celery

Wash and cut the fruit and veggies into suitable pieces for your juicer and extract the juice.

Serve and feel the vitamins and minerals boost your body.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Beetroot carpaccio with goat cheese and Estonian "kilu"

On the 24th of February 2015 Estonia is celebrating it´s 97th birthday.

In the era of global access to everything we are exposed to innumerable possibilities. A perfect Indian curry in England, decadent Austrian cakes, the freshest seafood served in Barcelona, a delightful plate of simple pasta in Florence or divinely delicious scoop of freshly made ice cream that hooks you into its spell and leaves you wanting more at Lago Maggiore, indescribably seductive eclairs in Paris, the best oven roasted lamb one can imagine in northern Spain, the delicate fatty herring in the streets of Amsterdam, the best bread in the world made by masters in Germany, tantalizingly tempting chocolate in Belgium, a glass of mango lassi that you never forget in Interlaken and many many many more delicacies of different cuisines in Europe are within one or two hour flying or train ride away. One can play the game of tastes, give in to curiosity and invite yourself or be invited to experiment and entertain your palate in any way you wish.
There is theoretically no reason to ever eat the same food again, the possibilities to experience new tastes are endless. 
And yet, every now and then we get bored or tired of the culinary affairs and indulgent episodes of excitement and we go back to some foods and dishes we have grown

So it does not come as a surprise that thinking of the menu for this anniversary of Estonia I am tending towards the down to earth ingredients that are widespread in our northern cooking. At the moment I haven´t got further from the starter, but I am thinking beetroot, garlic, horseradish, little salty fish we call "kilu". Kilu is similar to anchovies, but made slightly differently with spices like allspice, bay leaf, pepper and canned in salt brine. Some goat cheese to give the dish a special modern flavour. Keep it simple and let the ingredients do the talking.

Ingredients for 2:
a handful of lamb lettuce (Feldsalat in Germany, Nüssler Salat in Switzerland), or rocket (Rucola) as an alternative
2 beetroots, boiled and sliced into very thin slices
goat cheese, cut into 0.5 cm slices
2 cloves of garlic, cut very thinly or crushed
1tsp horseradish paste or grated horseradish
3 tbsp creme fraiche
1 can "vürtsikilu" filets or anchovies
black pepper

For the dressing combine:
1 tbsp apple vinegar
1 tbsp cold pressed rape seed oil or olive oil

Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
Place the slices of goat cheese on a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray.
Spread a little honey and a little crushed garlic or some slices of garlic and a half of walnut on each piece of cheese.
Grill the cheese in the oven until the top is bubbling as it melts or slightly golden.

Mix the horseradish with creme fraiche and a pinch of salt.

To serve place a small handful of lamb lettuce on the plate, arrange the beetroot slices in one or two layers in a circle.
Version 1: Top the beetroot carpaccio with grilled goat cheese

Version 2: Top the beetroot carpaccio with horseradish cream and fish filets

Sprinkle with the dressing and season with freshly ground black pepper.

Happy Birthday Estonia!

For more "kilu" and beetroot recipes check out:
Kilupirukad - pies with kilu filets
Beetroot soup with sauerkraut

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sweet Poppy Seed Rolls

Sweet Poppy Seed Rolls @LimeOrLemon
Sweet Poppy Seed Rolls

The first blog post of this year is inspired by the culinary fascination of poppy seeds that the Austrians are maintaining in their cuisine.

I had the opportunity to visit Austria this week. A lovely country and friendly people. This time I didn´t see much of Vienna, the cake capital of Europe if you ask me, but spent a few days in Waldviertel in Lower Austria.

I found out that Waldviertel is an area where up to 700 hectares of poppy fields are cultivated per year. Imagine when in July these fields are blooming. Not a gram worse a picture than the tulip fields in Holland. The seeds are used both in sweet as well as in savoury dishes. A whole lot of cakes are made with poppy seeds. You may find on the menu "Mohntorte" and it is likely that you get a different cake in each place, but for sure with generous amount of poppy seeds in it.

Another interesting fact that talks about the popularity of this ingredient is that poppy seeds were traded on London Commodity Exchange until early 1930s.

I found a local saying on Internet ( that says that if you eat poppy seeds on New Year´s Day the money will not run out the whole year. "Isst man am Neujahrstag Mohn zuhaus, geht das ganze Jahr das Geld nicht aus".

I don´t know if Austrians make poppy seed rolls like these or not. My Mom used to make such poppy seed rolls when we were young. It always felt like there wasn´t enough poppy seeds in them even though they tasted wonderful.

Sweet Poppy Seed Rolls
Ingredients for 10-12 rolls

For the dough:
20g fresh yeast
1dl sugar (brown)
1.5dl warm milk
a pinch of salt
1 egg
1 dl vegetable oil (eg. rape seed oil)
6 dl flour ( I used half whole wheat flour, Halbweiss in German)
0.5tsp finely ground cardamom
0.5tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:
70g poppy seeds
100g soft butter
1dl powder sugar

To finish: 1 egg, beaten
almond flakes, totally optional

Mix the yeast, sugar, milk and salt until sugar and yeast have dissolved. Mix in the egg.
Add flour and combine all together into a dough.
The dough should not be too runny, as this recipe is for 1 raising cycle only. Some yeast doughs call for a pre-raising and main raising., but we keep it simple here as nobody wants to wait too long for a warm poppy seed roll.

Put a plastic bag on top of the dough bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.
Place the bowl in a warm place. Strictly avoid draft. Leave it to do its work for about 1 hour.

In the meantime prepare the filling.
Mix the soft butter with sugar and poppy seeds in a bowl.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius. Place a baking paper on the baking sheet or butter the ramekins and sprinkle a little flour or poppy seeds on the buttered walls.

When the dough has grown twice its original size, place it on a floured surface and roll or stretch it out to a thickness of about 7 mm.

Spread the poppy seed mix on the dough and if you are in a hurry roll the dough lengthwise and cut rolls of about 3 centimeters thick.

If you have more time and want to add a little extra to your rolls then from the short side of the rolled out dough cut a ca. 6-7 cm wide piece of dough, cut 3 stripes of 2 cm wide into it, except at the top leave 2 cm together and make a plait. Roll the plait together and put it in a ramekin.

Brush the rolls with the beaten egg and place them on the baking sheet. Leave to raise for 15 minutes. Optionally sprinkle a few almond flakes on top and bake for 20 minutes until nicely brownish on top and cooked inside.
If you are using ramekins, the rolls need 5-10 minutes longer in the oven.

For an extra sweet touch pimp up the rolls with powder sugar.

LimeOrLemon Blog
Sweet side of life 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Estonian Christmas Tradition

The shortest day of the year is over and on the first day of astronomical winter the snow finally came making the day brighter and magical. Last night I was walking in Tallinn old town with my dear friend Piret. Fresh snow was falling, children were throwing themselves into the snow and both of us sighed wishing we had more suitable clothes on to join them and make a proper snowman.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
City side walks, busy side walks, dressed in holiday style....

Tallinn old town

We exchanged the opposite views of Christmas being too commercial, the pain of listening to Jingle Bells all day in every shop versus how beautiful and essentially good the messages of the songs were and how nice it was to sing along to a catching melody of Rudolph and its shiny nose on the mission to guide Santa´s sleigh or seeing Mommy tickle Santa  last night. Later on in the car we both agreed that Wham´s Last Christmas is not bad at all.

My Christmas cookies 2014

At the end of the year there are many different traditions of giving presents. The Dutch, Germans  and Swiss have Nikolaus come by with presents on the 6th December, in the UK and US it is the 25th of December, in the Spanish speaking countries you have to wait until the Three Kings come in January....and many many others depending on the calendar and religion.

In Estonia small elves start dropping small presents into the shoes that children have placed on the windowsills as early as late November, early December. The main Santa Claus visit falls on the Christmas Eve on the 24th December.

Traditionally in Estonia a little effort is required and you have to do something special to get a present. Reading a poem, singing a song, dancing with your Mom, guessing a riddle or some other little performance, as amateur or professional as it may be, would usually be enough.

This year I have an old poem I used to know in my childhood. A friend of mine recently reminded me about this one. It talks about a dog whose name is Muri, who doesn´t let strangers in but wags its tail friendly when Santa Claus comes.

The best things in life are free and can be practiced and shared all year round. One can even listen to Christmas songs in June :)

Give someone a free hug, read a children´s poem, stay healthy and positive and be good for goodness sake!
Happy holidays!

(No recipe today as Mom is cooking)

Meie Muri

Küll on kuri meie Muri
Võõraid tuppa ta ei lase
Esikus just ukse taga
on tal pehme ase

Jõuluvana koputab
Mida teeb nüüd Muri?
Muri saba liputab
Pole üldse kuri

Rõõmsalt talle vastu ruttab
nagu oleks vana tuttav 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pearl Barley Soup (Kruubisupp) and an Estonian tradition

Estonian pearl barley soup "Kruubisupp"

Probably the most popular pearl barley soup in Switzerland is the Bündner Gerstensuppe. When I moved to Switzerland I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Swiss honour this lovely grain in their cooking as much as the Estonians do. Pearl barley is a favourite for many in Estonian cooking too. Some best Estonian home cooking recipes use pearl barley. Barley was used in the old days as a nutritious filling ingredient in soups and stews. It keeps the belly full and gives energy for a long time, a lot like oats do.

Talking about energy foods in today´s post, I allow myself to take a short diversion into comparative linguistics here, my other hobby horse.

In Estonia when a passer-by sees people working hard, be it physical work like cutting wood, working in the field, shoveling snow or in modern days even doing work of less difficult nature, it is customary to wish them "Jõudu!" (Strength!) or "Jõudu tööle!" (Vigour to your work!... or something like that). The idea is that the person passing or equally when joining in in the work he or she wishes strength to finish the work or that the work goes well to those already working. The other person usually would respond with "Jõudu vaja" or "Jõudu tarvis", both meaning "Strength is needed".

I tried to find an equivalent to this saying in other languages or cultures I know. Didn´t come across much.... The English would say perhaps "Good luck" or "Fingers crossed" or in German one could perhaps say "Ich wünsche Dir Kraft". The closest saying I have seen in practice has been in Holland where I have heard many many times people wishing each other "Succes!" with a task or an assignment in a business context.

Words and expressions  gain foot in a language because the action happens frequently or phenomenon they describe  is wide spread. My so far unsuccessful search for equivalent expressions in other languages clearly hints to the Estonians having work, work, work on their mind. Throughout the years, decades and centuries, Estonians have had to work hard either to survive the cold winters or to survive as a nation.

Not long now until holidays. I wish everyone has a chance to pause and enjoy some rest at the end of the year. The winter is coming in the north, so keep warm and strong with some pearl barley soup.

Pearl barley soup (Gerstensuppe in Switzerland or Kruubisupp in Estonia)

Ingredients (enough for 4 portions):
2 tbsp vegetable oil (eg. rape seed or sunflower oil)
150g carrots, cut into small cubes
150g celeriac, cut into small cubes
100g leek, cut thinly
150g potato, cut into small cubes
70g pearl barley
1.5l water or strong meat stock
1 teaspoon salt
crème fraîche
parsley, thinly chopped

smoked meat or bacon (optional)

In order to reduce the cooking time, soak the pearl barley in cold water for a few hours.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the vegetables and cook for a about 5 minutes.

Add the pearl barley onto the vegetables but do not mix.

Pour the water/stock into the pan, Season with salt if using water.

Cook at low heat for an hour until barley is soft. Season with pepper and additional salt if necessary.

Serve with crème fraîche and parsley.

For a meaty option, add some smoked meat, cut into cubes or stripes, during cooking or fry bacon cubes separately and serve on top with crème fraîche and parsley.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Eating dal bhat in Mustang, the country of Tashi, a young buddhist monk.

The only available road to Lo Manthang is this ancient mountain path

"Tashi Delek" is a documentary about a teenage monk Tashi in Mustang, the Forbidden Kingdom of Lo. Tashi Delek is a traditional way of greeting. The film is in the final stage of production and the small team of creators is looking for support at Kickstarter. The documentary is directed by an Estonian director Peeter Rebane, music by a Brazilian composer and solo guitarist Eduardo Agni.

I am extremely pleased to share an interview with the producer of the film, Priit Rebane. I hope that the culinary excursion will create appetite for you to see the documentary and support it. 

Priit, What is the typical food on the table of the people of Mustang?
Priit: Local people typically eat only one type of food, which is dal bhat, rice with lentil stew. If available, a little bit of cooked spinach or some other greens is added and sometimes you even get some marinated vegetables like carrot or radish. Occasionally the meal contains a scoop of cauliflower or potatoes in a curry sauce.  A bit of chili or pickle is usually available to spice it up if you wish since the lentil stew is usually quite mild.
It is customary to eat dal bhat two times a day. In the morning before going to work they eat a large portion and in the evening they eat the same food again. There is no significant lunch as such. And the same happens every day and every week. Very simple basic food. 
In the mountains people also drink tea with milk or yak butter. The latter is a  traditional Tibetan tea. It is made with greasy yak butter, savoury and really tastes like salty broth with tea. It was a bit unusual for us, but obviously a cup of such brew contains a lot of energy.

A beautifully arranged dal bhat, clearly displaying all the ingredients

It is my belief, that up in the high Himalayas this dish was traditionally made with  barley instead of rice. We had a chance to try such a version once. Barley or tsampa is a grain that grows high up in the mountains. Rice doesn´t. However, these days rice is clearly a lot cheaper, it is often imported from China.
Rice is grown down in the valleys. In the Kathmandu or Pokhara valleys there are rice fields and on the edges of the rice parcels lentil is grown. This  means that they grow everything they need  locally. Life in the villages is based on a self sufficient goods exchange economy without much money involved. If someone works for you, you pay him in foodstuff or owe him a day of labour.

A street view of a village at 4000m

So, people eat a predominantly vegetarian diet. Yaks, sheep or goats provide some milk, meat is rare. According to Buddhist tradition fish is generally not eaten and there isn´t much fish in the mountains anyway.
There are also Tibetan momos that remind you of large ravioli, usually made with a vegetarian filling. Sometimes a bit of  meat or even mushrooms could be added. The momos are very tasty.

What did the film crew eat when you were working there?
Priit: Normally we ate the same food as the people of Mustang.
Nowadays it is possible to have a slightly more diverse menu in the inns and guesthouses, but your best bet is local food - they know how to make this well.
A couple of times we did offer our local crew to try something else, but  their answer was that they prefer their dal bhat and they didn´t want anything else. 
So we got used to dal bhat and had it once or even twice a day. Tasty and nutritious food, not too heavy or spicy either.
Jamyang, one of the two monks in the film, having dal bhat at a local inn

We preferred to have some alternative foods for breakfast when possible. Usually we had thick barley porridge as our breakfast meal and it was really good, just like we know it in Estonia too. Once it was served as "a Do It Yourself kit " with barley flour in one bowl and a cup of hot water next to it.
Up to about 2800 meters it is possible to grow apples and in these lower villages apples were ripe in October. Fresh apples on the tsampa porridge tasted good.
Boiled or fried eggs in the morning was a luxury we as tourist could enjoy with our porridge and tea. 
Sea-buckthorn grows very well at 3000-4000 m altitude and we  had some fresh buckthorn juice which contains a lot of vitamins and antioxidants. If not available fresh, they had made syrup out of it and we mixed it with hot water.

Please describe the local way of cooking.
Priit: Guesthouses are typically inns along the  mountain path at about one day walking distance, like it used to be in medieval Europe. There is a big kitchen with a stove or fireplace. In some inns they have started to carry liquid gas tanks up on horseback and use that for cooking. It is not easy to find wood in the high mountains, almost nothing grows above 2500 m, no trees and almost no bushes. 
Local fields, where they exist at the bottom of a valley, are irrigated by glacial water streaming down from the snowy peaks. Due to global warming, there is less and less of this water today and many fields are now deserted as a result.

Kitchen of a guest house in Tsarang, Upper Mustang

The people of Mustang use dried yak manure to make a fire and cook food. They cant´t heat their houses since there is no wood to burn. Thus there are no ovens, just a fireplace on the earthen floor to cook food and boil water. Smoke goes out of the window or the door. In winter it can be very windy and freezing cold. Temperature drops below -20 degrees Celsius.
Living conditions are very limited and medieval, seems like going back in time 400-500 years. It really makes you appreciate more all the comforts that we have in the modern world and not take these for granted.

Priit, thanks a million for taking us on this wonderful culinary journey to Mustang, the Forbidden Kingdom of Lo. 

Picturesque and harsh landscapes at the outskirts of the city of Lo Manthang

Dear reader, I hope that you found this interview exiting and eye-opening.

You can see the official trailer of the documentary here.
The link to more information and the director explaining the story on how the project started is here:
Tashi Delek - Story of a young buddhist monk
Take a few minutes to enjoy the talent of Eduardo Agni, the Brazilian composer behind the music of the documentary, in these two examples of his previous work: RED and ANOTHER SILENCE 2. It is awesome.

The project needs support to be finished at the highest quality so that the story of Tashi Delek can be enjoyed by us who will most likely never visit the far away Mustang.
Please share this with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or e-mail and if you feel you want to be part of making the documentary happen and you feel this project is worth a contribution of 5, 10, 25, 50,... USD in return for various rewards like a free HD download of this documentary or HQ soundtrack, your contribution on Kickstarter will be most deeply appreciated. Thank you!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Roasted figs with goat´s cheese and thyme

Roasted Figs with Goat´s Cheese @ Lime Or Lemon

Compared to a few years ago figs are conquering the way more and more into my kitchen. Starting in August I look forward to the fig season that culminates in late September and October. It has been a generous crop this year.

Turkish figs

Just last weekend a colleague of mine kindly gave me jar of self-made fig chutney. Her fig tree has blessed them this year with abundance of figs. Now I am looking for a suitable occasion to untie the red ribbon of the jar with a self decorated label and try her spicy chutney.

I have confessed  earlier on the blog that the fresh figs used to look kinda scary to me. I think the bizarre scariness came from their unique softness that no other fruit really has. They possess certain seductive and addictive qualities, it seems. Dish after dish the love of figs has grown and by now I am a convinced fig worshipper. Figs are truely wonderful! 
They taste great both in sweet and savoury dishes.

I don’t have a fig tree, but was happy to grab some plump and syrupy figs of Turkish origin from a supermarket sale. I made a portion of fig jam, my first ever. 

Lime Or Lemon´s first fig jam
While cutting the figs for the jam, their succulent purple flesh was so appetizing that I left a few for a quick lunch or supper later on.
Roasted fresh figs with goat´s cheese:
100g goat´s cheese, cut into chunks 
6 fresh figs, cross cut on top
thyme (or rosemary)
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Fit the bottom of a baking form with baking paper.

Place the figs into the baking form.

Divide the cheese between the figs and put a piece or two on each fruit.

Season with a little thyme and drizzle with olive oil.

Roast in the oven until the cheese melts or takes on a golden crisp.

Crispy goat´s cheese and roasted fresh figs

Serve warm just like that or with some fresh olive bread.

More fig recipes: