Friday, December 12, 2014

Layered Vegetable Salad with Smoked Salmon

(From the Nami-Nami recipe archives.)

Layered smoked salmon salad / Suitsulõhega kasukas

"Kasukas" - "fur coat" - is a name for a layered vegetable salad that is very popular here in Estonia, especially during the cold and dark season. The salad has chopped cured herring as the bottom layer, topped with layers of grated or chopped beets, carrots, potatoes and other vegetables and "glued together" with thin layers of mayonnaise. The recipe - or rather an alternative way to serve the popular "rosolje" salad - came to Estonia from Russia in the second half of last century. In Russia "fur coat" aka "shuba" is still one of the most popular salads on the festive table (here's a lovely English-language blog post about the traditional "cured herring under fur coat"), and the un-layered "rosolli" is also a must on Finnish Christmas tables). Whereas I love beets, I dislike cured herring, so I tend to skip that salad on buffet tables. When making this at home, I'd usually make a double portion and divide the salad between two glass bowls - one with herring and the other without. Until I came across a version using smoked salmon in Natasha's Kitchen blog. That was about a year and a half ago, and since then I've made this salad over and over again and converted many kasukas-haters into kasukas-lovers.

Traditionally this salad is made and served in a big glass bowl that proudly shows off all the layers, and then it's spooned into serving plates (rather like a trifle). For a neater presentation, you may want to use individual glass bowls instead (see top photo). A note to my Estonian readers - I like making this with külmsuitsulõhe aka cold-smoked salmon (Pepe Kala makes a wonderful one!), rather than with kuumsuitsulõhe aka hot-smoked salmon.

Suitsulõhega kasukas

Layered Smoked Salmon and Vegetable Salad
(Suitsulõhega kasukas)
Serves about 6 to 8

Kasukas suitsulõhega

200 g smoked salmon
400 g potatoes
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
200 g cooked beetroot (roasted, steamed or boiled)
250 g carrots
about 300-400 g good-quality mayonnaise
2 eggs

Boil (unpeeled!) carrots and potatoes until soft, but not mushy. Drain, cool a little, then peel.
Hard-boil the eggs, then cool and peel.

To compose the salad:
1. Cut the salmon into small pieces and scatter evenly at the bottom of a 2-litre (approximately 2-quart) glass bowl.
2. Grate the potatoes coarsely, scatter over the salmon.
3. Scatter chopped onion over the potato layer.
4. Gently spread about half of the mayonnaise over the onion layer.
5. Grate the beetroot coarsely, scatter over the mayonnaise layer.
6. Grate the carrots coarsely, scatter over the beetroot layer.
7. Spread rest of the mayonnaise over the beetroot layer.
8. Finely grate the eggs, scatter over the mayonnaise layer.

NB! As the mayonnaise is seasoned already, there is no need to season any of the layers with salt and pepper!

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and put into the fridge for a few hours for the flavours to combine (and the beetroot colour to stain the other layers :)) The salad can be happily made on a previous day as well, as it keeps rather well.

This recipe was also included in my latest cookbook, Jõulud kodus ("Christmas at Home"), published in Estonian in November 2011.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Holiday baking: Carrot cake cookies recipe

Carrot Cake Cookies. Porgandiküpsised.

Time to start preparing for the Christmas holidays and I offer you a lovely cookie recipe! Although we'll be mostly eating piparkoogid aka gingerbread cookies here in Estonia, these slightly chewy carrot cake cookies would do just as well.

For over two years now I've been contributing recipes for one of the biggest home and gardening magazines here in Estonia, Kodu ja Aed (that translates "Home and Garden"). Since spring we've been focusing on a specific vegetable both on the gardening pages and in the food section. Carrot happened to be the vegetable of the month in December. December, of course, being the Christmas month, so I was trying to think of recipes that would feel right at the Christmas table as well. I think these cookies fit the bill brilliantly. They are easy to make, go brilliantly with a glass of glögg or mulled wine, they're "healthy" as containing a vegetable (carrot is also providing both texture and flavour), and they are egg-free, making them also suitable for some special diets. Most of all, they have a pretty colour and they taste great. As an added bonus, the kids loved them - something to think about when you've got 3 small ones running around the house!

So when you're planning your next glögg party, think of adding these carrot cake cookies to the menu!

You'll find all of Nami-Nami's Christmas recipes here and a selection of cookie recipes here.

TIP! You could make these cookie more festive by adding a scant teaspoon of mixed spices, gingerbread spice or pumpkin pie spice - all of these would work.

TIP! If you forgot to take your butter out of the fridge in advance, then simply grate the cold butter into your mixing bowl. Instant softened butter! 

Carrot cake cookies

200 g butter, at room temperature (7 oz)
150 g caster sugar (2/3 cups)
200 g carrots, finely shredded (2 medium carrots)
300 g all-purpose flour (2 cups)
1 tsp vanilla sugar or extract
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
whole almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, either using a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of your standing mixer. Add the carrots, then the dry ingredients (flour, vanilla sugar, baking powder, salt). Mix the dough until combined, then take small chestnut-sized chunks of the dough and form into small balls.

Place the balls onto the baking sheet, flattening them with your palm. Press a whole almond onto each cookie.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown.  Remove from the oven, leave for a few minutes before transferring the carrot cookies onto a metal rack to cool completely.

More carrot cookie recipes:
Carrot oatmeal cookies by Heidi @ 101 Cookbooks
Chocolate chip carrot cookies by Jeanine @ Love & Lemons
Gingered carrot cake cookies by Michelle @ Brown-Eyed Baker
Porgandiküpsised by Marit @ Magusad fotod (recipe in Estonian)
Porgandiküpsised by Kaare @ Koopatibi (recipe in Estonian)
Porkkanakeksit @ Kotiliesi (recipe in Finnish)

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Estonian lamb soup with cabbage

Time for soup! Earlier this year I came across a recipe for Islandic lamb and cabbage soup in the blogosphere. Lovely soup and justifiably popular - and almost identical to the Estonian way of making lamb and cabbage soup. Not surprising, giving the fact that both Iceland and Estonia are "up North" and the range of vegetables traditionally available is pretty similar.

It's a simple and rustic soup, as many Estonian soups are. Hope it'll become as well and widely known as the Icelandic one ;)

Note that it's even better on the next day, so feel free to make it a day or two in advance.

Lamb soup with cabbage
(Kapsasupp lambalihaga)
Serves 6 or more as a main dish

500-750 g of lamb on the bone (shank, neck, ribs)
2 l (8 cups) water
salt and black pepper
1 medium head of cabbage
2 medium sized onions, chopped
a handful of pearl barley, soaked (optional)
3-4 carrots, sliced
5-6 potatoes, cut into chunks
fresh dill, finely chopped

Place the meat into a large saucepan, pour in enough cold water to cover. Bring into a rolling boil, let boil for a few minutes. Then drain the whole lot over a colander. Rinse the saucepan thoroughly, return to the hob.

Rinse the meat under a cold running water to remove any impurities. Return to the saucepan. Add 2 litres of water and bring slowly into a boil.

Add the peppercorns and a generous pinch of salt. Bring into a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on a low heat for about 1,5-2 hours, until the meat is really tender and easily falls off the bones. (Skim off any fat or scum that appears at the top of the soup with a slotted spoon). Remove the meat from the soup, put aside.

Now add the onions and shredded cabbage into the pot, and simmer for about 30 minutes (if using pearl barley, then add it alongside onions and cabbage). Add carrots and cook for 15 minutes. Add potatoes and simmer until carrots and potatoes are cooked.

While the vegetables are cooking, remove the meat from the bones and cut the lamb into small pieces. Return the meat into the broth and re-heat thoroughly. Season to taste, sprinkle with dill and serve.

Similar recipes:
Icelandic lamb soup @ TastyTrix
Icelandic lamb soup @ Diary of a Tomato
Irish lamb stew with a twist @ Simply Recipes
Scotch broth @ Milk and Mode
Lambalihasupp aedviljadega @ KÖÖK (recipe in Estonian)