Recipes

Tahini Miso Cookies

Don’t like to use the word fusion, because it sounds like something futuristic and modern, but the idea behind tese cookies is that they use Japanese ingredients in a form that is not tipical for their cuisine, but very much adored here in Europe. These are sort of version of english tea biscuits and are ment to be minimal and simple but complicate with individual complexity of ingredients. For example – adding salt with miso. Because it’s creamy like tahini, and brings a kind of gentler, deeper saltness. Orange peel and ginger for the zing, to uplift the heavy, slobby grease of tahini. And sesame seeds as garnish on top are crucial, but have to be mildly roasted (not too browned, as they get bitter) in advance to bring the full nutty aroma.

I like to keep the list of ingredients to the minimum and not over complicate, but these have to have all this inside to be perfect. You should know these are not very sweet, only a hint of sweetness, so they fall in the adult cookie category. Pair them with genmaicha tea, it’s nutty aroma complements them really nice.

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Tahini Miso Cookies

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp white miso paste (if you use stronger and darker miso paste use only generous 1 tbsp)
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Orange zest from one orange
  • 1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, gently roast till you can smell the aroma

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400 F). Mix flour and baking powder separately from the wet ingredients. Combine both mixes, if to dry add a splash of water. Form into a ball of dough. You can substitute olive oil for butter, to get more shortbread like texture. If you used butter chill the dough for at least an hour. If using olive oil begin with forming the dough in small balls. Dip each ball in roasted sesame seeds and flatten the ball to form a nice even round cookie. Bake for 20 minutes.

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Why the need to go all across the planet?

That’s what my mom asks when announcing trips to Asia. To be honest, that’s what I’m asking myself the day before leaving. Soon as I get on the plane the doubts are gone, I’m in observing mode. The greatest thing about travel is the enhancing of the senses. Becoming present in the moment by simply observing the surroundings. At home knowing the everydayness places and routines is a blessing time savior, but drifting through gets automated and we stop to pay attention or question the details around us. But when you land yourself all the way there in a completely new setting you wonder at electric poles and charm the dirtiness of the city chaos.

I have a strong bond to local flavours and recipes, but my heart belongs to Asian food. Best served locally where the street have the omnipresent durian smell, eating on pavement petite plastic chairs and where markets are still very much alive and kicking. My latest was a trip to Vietnam, and their food stands a new standard to fresh. With 70% of the population working as farmers, the markets are very busy places and people still have the habit to buy meat kicking for their meals. Also what fascinated me, were that the tables of locals eating out: bunch of pots and plates with fresh garnishes on the table with everybody sharing everything and combining different dishes in one small bowl, where you combine each perfect bite.

One of our national staple foods is beef noodle soup, but phở bò is a step higher with bold spices and adding meat and garnish at the end in order to preserve the texture and taste. Quail eggs were a revelation as well, as I never use them at home, but you see them everywhere in Vietnam. The tiny little egg is a perfect addition to nutritious soup plus they are the most fotogenic ingredient ever. So đac Biet it is – all included, phở galore.

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 Pho Gà đac Biet

For the broth:

3,5 l cold water

1 whole chicken cut in peices
1 whole onion, unpeeled
Big chunk of ginger, unpeeled

1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt
2 tbsp fish sauce

Rice noodles (grab a bunch with your hand as much as you can hold)

Broth dry spices:
2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise

Garnish:

2 quail eggs per person
bunch of cilantro or basil tops and green spring onion chopped

The point is to make broth clear and intense in flavor. The trick is to parboil the chicken to get rid of the impurities. Have 2 big pots ob boiling water ready. Dunk the pieces of chicken in one for 5 minutes, then transfer to the cooking pot. Next move to charring the ginger and onion for a naturally sweeten and enhance their flavor. You can do it directly on the flame or place them on the he top rack in the oven. Set to broil on high for 15 minutes. Turn the onion and ginger occasionally, to get an even char. The skin should get black and the onion/ginger soft. After cooling, rub to get the charred skin off carefully, the black skin would make the soup bitter.

Put in pot with cooking chicken covering with the lid. Turn heat to high to boil, then immediately turn heat to low. Lift lid up so that steam can escape. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts and set aside. Skim the surface of any impurities in the broth, skimming every 20 minutes to get a clear broth. Simmer for 1,5 hours, in the meantime taste and adjust seasoning with fish sauce and or sugar. In the last 20 minutes of cooking add roasted dry spices. Put them in tea filter, so you can quickly remove them, or they will make the soup bitter.

Strain the broth, discard solids. Soak noodles as per directions on package and cook quail eggs for 2,5 minutes. Ladle broth, add shredded chicken breast and soaked noodles in each bowl. Have garnish ready to add according to individual taste preferences.

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Crescent Moods

I just recently watched Food Inc., fairly old movie, but the problematic didn’t get obsolete or changed in the mean time. There is an example in the movie that show how our society is dealing with problems, or let’s call them discrepancies. Feeding the cows with corn to achieve lower price of the meat. E.Coli outbreaks rise alarmingly caused by improper cow nourishment and the solution to this is to wash the meat in ammonia. Seems like all that we do is we are obsessively keeping the statistics, graphs and percentages on desired levels. The specified numerical thresholds which are labeled as good and correct.

When you look at the whole situation over of the charts and graphs, it seems barely logical and quite bizarre. A wast amount of energy, time and resources spent on keeping the system working in certain directions. For what, meat that is hardly a tissue, let along steak? Looking solemnly at numbers and desperately adjusting them to make the formula perfect. And this is happening on every aspect of our society – environmental policy, education, industrial production and health care. And we dare to call ourselves developed countries. Yes, it is amazing what we can achieve when we set our mind, energy and resources to reach goals.  That is the real goals, that improve and function in the society, not just keeping up the numbers. The progress line can’t be endlessly heading straight up into growth, harder, better, faster, stronger. Funny how we hear this words with positive connotation, when the reality is that not every growth is positive or for the better. And by strategically fine tuning one number, other markers collapse or rise over the allowed limits, and the vicious circle is spinning, with nobody enjoying the ride.

This seems to grand to solve on an individual level. And it seems so apparently logical that we should be functioning on a different level. Cycles are the ever occuring universal rhythm. It’s very easy to get caught up in the fuss over numbers and steady growth. Not necessarily bad, but know what the numbers are about and that progress looks like an oscillated amplitude. This way you can enjoy the crescent phases just as much as the peaked full moon.

Below is a recipe for no ordinary crescent rolls, which do not grow bigger in the oven. But this is how they are just perfect.

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Crescent Poppy Seed Rolls

For the dough:

  • 1 cup rice flour +  more for rolling
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup flax egg
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3-6 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp water with a little maple syrup to glaze

Poppy seed filling:

  • 1 cup ground poppy seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • pinch of salt

There are accidentally vegan, if you use rice or soy milk. I have nothing against eggs, but this works for the days when eggs are missing in the fridge, also the flax egg gives great texture to the dough and a certain nutty flavour. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350 F). Mix all of the ingredients for the filling. Mix flours with salt. Add oil mixed with sugar and mix to flours into sandy mixture. Rub flax egg in the sandy mixture and gradually add water slowly. Mix, you will end up with sticky dough. Add a sprinkle of flour and knead to for a nice smooth dough ball. Roll out on well floured surface, cut and fill with filling. Finish by glazing them with water and maple syrup and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake for 25-30 minutes and cool out on the rack.

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Prawn skewers & black mint pesto

My cooking lately is quite minimal as it has been inspired by recent island life. Every island I’ve ever been to has a certain attitude of serene coolness. No fuss, easygoing, cool but without the ego behind it. And this is how being on an island profoundly influences your mind flow. Already the sea voyage feels cathartic, draining land dust away and when the wast empty horizon opens in front of you, you sort of really feel the edge of the earth, the bend of it. The wast waters around the islands make you feel distant and disconnected. Funny thing is that it feels so safe. For example, if zombie apocalypse would happen. Or there is a full inbox pending.

Island people don’t complicate. They make use of everything around them and the sheer simplicity of it is beautiful. Their attitude is calm, courageous, but without force. They carry a belief with them that everything will be ok. No matter what shit hits the fan, they will somehow fix the fan. If it still won’t spin, we’ll have a cool drink instead. Islands make you realize you don’t need all that much to live. And most importantly what you really need. No it’s not the wi-fi. No, not the bra eighter. Always pack them, never wear them. It’s good for the mind, to get the grasp of the true priorities. Doesn’t last long on land, but then later again comes the time to let go of the land. So, while this island spirit lasts these spicy prawn skewers with chilli rub are best when matched with refreshing mint pesto for balance. No plates, no forks, you don’t need that really.

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Mint pesto:

  • 1 cup loosely packed black mint leaves
  • 1 chopper garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup
  • juice from 1/4 lime
  • pepper, salt

Chop mint leaves finely, mix it with all ingredients. Serve with prawn skewers straight of the grill.

 

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Gnocchi zen

Not so fast, don’t judge a text by it’s title. I see you, rolling your eyes thinking “another recipe transformed into a spiritual experience”.  I’m not getting too deep to the bottom of the pot but yes, cooking is meditative. Having mind focused on only one thing, without effort. Setting everything aside – the problems can wait, tasks can wait, even hunger can wait. All that matters is the process, getting it right, making sure it is as good as it gets. This is what meditation is all about, having being here at this very moment and yet feeling distant, disappearing for a while losing track of time.

These small sized dumplings are ideal for getting lost. No need to measure out the ingredients, simply observe and follow the texture. No hurry to keep the ingredients cold, fluffy,… Just working with the dough is the best of experience – like making a zen garden with sand and round smooth stones.

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Sweet potato gnocchi filled with goat cheese:

3 cups of cooked mashed sweet potatoes (approx. 3 large potatoes)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
6 cups rice flour
3  cups tapioca flour

1/2 cup goat cheese

Note: The amount of flour variates, depending on the wetness of the potatoes. Add it gradually when mixing with mash and egg, to get the right consistency of gnocchi dough barely holding together so you can shape it in gnocchi. This resoults in fluffiest gnocchi.

Mix mashed sweet potatoes with eggs in a separate bowl combine the flours and salt. Gradually add four mixture to potatoes. You will end up with soft dough, transfer it to a well floured surface, roll out and cut in 2×2 cm squares. Add small piece of goat cheese in the middle, wrap it up, seal the edges, roll a ball and flatten it just a little bit. Repeat till you have used up all of the dough.

Put the gnocchis in boiling water, cook until they start to float. Drain, add basil pesto and sprinkle with some pine nuts.

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Hamstering⎬ verb

“The act of being busy and spending a lot of time on something, but not getting anything accomplished, just like a hamster exercising on a hamster wheel.”
“When a person or company tries to get out of a situation, by finding a loophole to get through, or coming up with some kind of bullshit excuse. Much like a hamster tries anything to escape its cage.”
“The Act of going into towns and begging for food until your packs and bags are full, similar to how a hamster stuffs it’s cheeks with food.” (def. Urban dictionary)

Although not approved by spell check, hamstering is a word with multiple meanings in various contexts. I use it to add connotational hint of desperateness and also emphasize the meaning of gathering, accumulating and hoarding everything precious and remotely potentialy practical. The autumn is the peek season to visit Hamster Islands where everything is fully loaded and waiting for the perfect occasion worthy of the hidden jewels.

With desperate trials to keep the fresh ingredients lasting as long as possible each year I stock on pumpkins. Being so versatile and delicious in almost every form, plus very durable in the pantry, makes them the ultimate hamster treasure. The stocks usually last till early spring and roll around forgotten, after cocky first fresh asparaguses appear. And again I have to remind myself to enjoy things in the present moment without fear of running out of the good stuff, as there always are new coming our way. Enjoy them now when they taste best with this simple single pan dish.

Roasted panceta wrapped pumpkin with chestnut and shallots

Cut the chesnuts and put them in salted boiling water for 30 minutes. Peel and set aside. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (400F).  Mean while cut bigger sized pumpkin in the 1,5 cm thick wedges, add peeled shallots and garlic in roast pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and dash of nutmeg. Put in the oven for 20 minutes, adding the cooked chestnuts in the last 10 minutes. Serve straight from the oven and enjoy the buttery creaminess, with crunchy panceta and sweet nutty flavor of chestnuts.

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Dirt and glory

Our childhoods forms us into who we are, no matter the fact we grow and change through our life’s path. It is in our DNA, our blood and it forms our basic perceptions. I grew up nibbling on radishes and carrots pulled out of the backyard, in times when families made their own pantry jars for the winter. I still remember the savory sweet smell of plum jam and bathtub full of floating pickles.

After teenage cravings for gummy bears and years of supermarket food, I was startled with the look of vegetables and fruit on the markets. You could see it was handcrafted, apart from the manufactured  store bought moulds. And the flavors…they took me back with “grandma’s apples and summer of ’89 nostalgia”. I am finnaly rediscovering my roots and the glory of digging them from dirt.

So, here is a warm salad for the first cold days, with root vegetables and last fresh basil leaves as the reminder for the summer.

Warm lentil salad with beets and potatoes

  • 2 beets
  • 3-4 small potatoes
  • cooked green lentils
  • goat cheese
  • basil leaves
  • olive oil, black pepper, salt, garam masala

Cook beets and potatoes, with the skin on in salty boiling water. Peel and dice. In a large pan heat the olive oil add cooked lentils, beets and potatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garam masala. Serve warm topped with goat cheese and basil leaves.

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