Saturday, May 6, 2017

Rhubarb-Mango Dessert

Another rhubarb season is upon us. We´ve already had the rhubarb crumble tart and cake. Tick. They taste as good as unforgettable classics ever. 
This time we are bringing the tart rhubarb taste together with sweet mango and spice it up a bit in a rhubarb-mango dessert.

150 g rhubarb, peeled and sliced
1 dl water
25 g brown sugar
1 large ripe mango
a piece of cinnamon stick (ca 4 cm)
5-6 cardamom, crushed open
1 dl cream with 28-35% fat content

In a small pan bring the water to boil, add sugar and spices and boil for a few minutes into a syrup.
Add the sliced rhubarb and cook for 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Remove the cinnamon sticks and cardamom seeds.
Peel and cut the mango. Leave a slice for decoration for later.
Place the pieces into a food processor.
Add the cooled down rhubarb to mango and pulse into a thick puree.
Whip the cream until hard.

Serve in dessert bowls either with whipped cream on top ....

.....or combine the whipped cream with the fruit mixture and decorate with small cubes of mango. For an extra kick sprinkle a tiny bit of cayenne pepper on top or a crushed biscuit for texture variation.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

"I Love Juice" or I really love juice

The Old Town of Bern is awakening from its static tradition and on the brink of being boring glory into a more vibrant existence. The kilometers of beautiful arcades are lined with several antique shops, designer furniture, various ateliers and small galleries, a marionette shop, a hunting shop, florists, watches and jewelry, hairdressers, restaurants, a horse meat delicatessen, a cheese shop one can smell from a block away. The rows of these boutiques have tattooed themselves in memory over the years. They have always been there as long as I can remember and I bet they were there decades before I first moved here. The shopkeepers as well as their customers have probably grown old running and visiting these places. Until now!

The UNESCO cultural heritage protected Old Town .has opened a new cafe here, a new Turkish or a sushi restaurant there. A couple of clothes brands have appeared. On the window of a hipster atelier a poster printed in a very modern font is inviting for a sewing course. Even a muesli boutique has recently made its debut. A wine bar on corner has closed down. Change is in the air. I am weighing the probability of the reasons for these new places opening up. Is it because after all these decades the shopkeepers have retired or have they gone out of business?

There is a lovely little juice bar between Münster and Kulturcasino. "I Love Juice" is another invigorating discovery and promises an immediate fix to anyone suffering from the winter fatigue. Cold pressed unpasturised juices, fresh salads and soups made from locally grown vegetables and fruits are there to pull anyone out of vitamine drained winter weariness. The juice menu is encouraging with a variety of choices for different tastes. I can feel how the "young glow" is making my "heart beet". I discover that my own current favourite juice is called Flying Dutchie at "I Love Juice" and wonder if it is so because of the beta-carotene or the Dutch connection of the people running the place.

Even though the juices are inviting to inject a cannonball of health into my veins, I feel like experimenting and opt for the more adventurous create -your-own smoothie.
The friendly and glowing bar girl guides me through the steps of the creation process. Select the base liquid from orange juice, almond milk, coconut or filtered water, choose the fruits, herbs or vegetables and add a touch of sweet or sour. My smoothie ends up green and is a mix of almond milk, apple, mint and lime juice. I get a full glass and later on a top-up of another half. I skip the lunch as after the smoothie the hunger doesn´t return until later in the evening. 

My almond, apple, mint and lime smoothie

During the week there is a lunch offering of a soup, salad and a juice. There is a rainbow of colourful bottles, larger and smaller, lined up in the fridge. Juices, smoothies, soups, salads can be enjoyed in the bar, grabbed as take-away or even have them delivered to your home or office. 

And the top-up

I can see how in summer the place will be swarming with tourists and local regulars looking for a refreshing cold energy booster and a shelter from the heat. Perhaps "I Love Juice" will add fruit and berry sorbets to their menu in summer.  Until then I´m going to get some more of the Young Glow and enjoy the Boostylicious as I really love juice in the otherwise traditional and slow paced Old Town in Bern.

Address: Herrengasse 10, Bern

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sweet Lemon Bread - Estonian Sidrunikeeks

A friend of mine recently injured his knee while snowboarding. I promised some cake as appropriate mood raiser and "medicine". This sweet lemon bread is based on an old Estonian recipe from an old book of baking recipes by Ida Savi.  Most food bloggers in Estonia have made it and published their versions of it. Its popularity speaks for itself. It is moist and carries a noticeable taste of lemon.

To the international audience who is wondering which colour lemons to use, here is a reminder about the difference of green and yellow lemons and how a simple lemon can cause a whole lot of misunderstanding. I have made this recipe many times with yellow lemons, the type we know as lemons in northern European.

Even though there are many more words in the English language than there are in Estonian there is one word that we have and English doesn´t. It is "keeks". In English it seems the type of sweet cake baked in a rectangular form is often called bread. Like banana bread has typically this shape. In German this type of baking form is called either "Kastenform" or "Brotbackform". We even call this form "keeksivorm".

Sweet Lemon Bread
200g butter, at room temperature
200g sugar
200g flour
5 eggs
peel and juice of 1 yellow lemon (use bio lemon or wash the lemon carefully)

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and fit a baking form with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer until soft, fully combined and the mixture turns into lighter colour.
Separate the egg yolks and egg whites.
Add the egg yolks to the butter-sugar mixture and combine.
Add the flour and mix again.
Beat the egg whites into a hard foam and add into the mixture. Make sure to combine well without too much mixing especially with the dough at the bottom of the bowl.
I noticed that when I was pouring the dough into the baking form there were some small parts that were not fully mixed with the egg whites. That created the darker bits in the cake that you can see in the picture.

Pour the dough into the baking form and bake in the middle of the oven for 45-50 minutes.

Check the readiness with a wooden match in the middle.
When ready leave it in the form for 10-15 minutes to cool down, then take it out of the form to avoid the "sweating".
A light touch of powder sugar adds a little extra before serving.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sweet Oat Biscuits

I had an opportunity to meet with some oat growers in Scotland recently. Some of them are farming and growing oats for several generations. We talked about different oat varieties. Yes, there are many different ones. Some are winter, some spring varieties and they vary in yield and other qualities. Agriculture is simply fascinating!

While people in the northern countries have grown up on morning porridge for centuries there was a risk not long ago that oats were pushed out of the mainstream, grown as animal food or as a bit of help for the necessary crop rotation as wheat had become much more profitable. Fortunately oats have gone through a bit of a rebirth recently and the world is recognising oats as one of the superfoods now.

Inspired by the visit I am sharing a simple recipe of oat biscuits today.

Oat Biscuits 
Ingredients (makes about 40)
100g butter at room temperature
75g (brown) sugar
3 eggs
a pinch of salt
250g rolled oats
50g flour
a pinch of baking powder
a good pinch of cinnamon, optional

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Prepare a baking sheet with a baking paper.

Measure butter, sugar and salt and mix in a mixer until well combined.
Add eggs and mix again.
Add oats, flour, baking powder and cinnamon and mix everything together into a rather thick dough.

Using a spoon portion the dough and with your hands form the shape you like for your biscuits.

Bake about 20-25 minutes checking that the biscuits are nicely brown at the bottom.

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.

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Sweet side of life