Thursday, August 4, 2011

Food from the forest – 1: Wild blueberry-ricotta cake and blueberry-banana smoothie

50% of Estonia is covered by forest. For many Estonians going to the forest is as natural part of their life as surfing would be for people living close to the ocean like my Brazilian friends or skiing and mountain biking for the Swiss. A walk in the snowy forest on a sunny day is a bright relaxation, but a walk in summer or in autumn will fill your stomach in addition to having a good walk and an abundant breath of totally fresh air.

July-August is the time for blueberries (Ger.: Heidelbeeren, Est.: mustikad), August-September for lingonberries (Ger.: Preiselbeeren, Est.: pohlad), and September for wild mushrooms. The only thing to do before disappearing to fill your basket is to establish where is the exit. The position of the sun in relation to the point of entry (=exit or the place where the car is) is my best orienteering aid. Going with my Mom, the exit rules need to be established early on before reaching the forest as she has a habit to delve among the trees the moment the car stops and her foot touches the moss. It’s sweet but caution is better. Every year there is news about people getting lost in the forest. In my many years of being friends with the forest I have just about panicked once and thought I was lost for 10 minutes on a cloudy day as I could not detect the position of the Sun.

Wild blueberries in the forest

During my holidays in July I went to pick blueberries 5 times and got my oxygen dosis. I would add that the trip to the forest in our case is driven by the excitement and undertaken with a lot of enthusiasm, more so than the material benefit that may come with it. My Dad has so to say prohibited my Mom to make any more jam as there is enough already. In some years the crop is poor, but as long as you can eat some then and there the trip has paid off. That´s as fresh and natural a mouthful as it can get.In the past the berries were made into jams or other preserves. Blueberry jam is a must in the home medicine store – helps with any kind of indigestion, besides being just delicious. Nowadays there is an inversely proportional change from preserves to freezing the berries in the freezer. The shelves in the cellar become emptier while the freezers get bigger. I have friends who have found a new fashionable hobby in making all sorts of fruit and berry smoothies, cocktails and iced juices.Yummie! Well, three freezers of my close families were filled with the season’s blueberries from these trips to the forest. Ready for the winter.

Wild blueberries / mustikad
The forest blueberries make your tongue blue, the industrial blueberries don’t. In my town in Switzerland it is difficult to find forest blueberries in the supermarket frozen food department.  I was recently in Munich and saw the wild blueberries, lingonberries and the chanterelles mushrooms on the market – it felt so much like home, only at  about twice the price.

Blueberry-Ricotta Cake

Blueberry-ricotta cake recipe
24-26cm diameter cake form fitted with baking paper

120g butter
100g sugar
1 egg
250g wheat flour or a little more if sticky (for a healthier option use 50% whole grain wheat flour and 50% plain white wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch of salt

400g of ricotta
4 tablespoons sour cream (20% fat)
3-4 tablespoons of sugar
2 eggs

0.4l or 4 big one-palm fulls of (wild) blueberries (If you use frozen ones - totally fine too - mix the berries with 1 tablespoon of potato or corn starch to keep them separate)
50-100g of almond flakes

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Mix the butter with sugar using a mixer, add the egg and mix again. Add the flour and before mixing with the butter-egg slightly mix the dry flour with salt and baking powder. Mix all into a dough. Form it into a ball with your hands. If the dough is too sticky pat some flour on the dough. Cover the dough with the plastic foil and leave to settle in the fridge for ca 30 min.
The dough is quite soft and lets itself to be spread on the bottom of the form. Pre-cook the dough for 10 minutes until the dough seems cooked and not raw soft sticky any more.
Mix the ricotta with sour cream and sugar. Taste before adding the egg (salmonella risk!) and then mix in the eggs.
Set the oven to 190 degrees C.
Put 2/3 of your blueberries on the pre-cooked dough, then the ricotta mix, more blueberries on the ricotta mix and the almond flakes on the blueberries.
Bake in oven for 35-45 minutes. The almond flakes should take a slight brown colour and check the cake with a match (ricotta should not stick to the match).
Let the cake cool down before serving.

Cool blueberry and banana smoothie, even better with icecream
Blueberry-banana smoothie

In a blender mix per person
a handful of blueberries,
1/2  banana,
some apple juice,
ice cubes into a smoothie.
If you want to give yourself or your friends a special treat add some ice cream as well. (Thanks for treating me=))
Mix well until the ice cubes have been crushed and the drink takes a nice thick consistency.