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eG Foodblog: Pille


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Pille

Thanks for your "tour" of Tallinn.  We visited there two summers ago after a cruise from Moscow to St Petersburg.  We found the architecture and decorations so colorful and vibrant after many drab buildings in Russia.

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Dejah - thank you! I think Tallinn's beautiful indeed :rolleyes: (though as all towns, there are pockets which aren't exactly visually pleasing. Some of the Soviet residential areas are downright horrid!!! :unsure: )

I use the word "Soviet" as an adjective meaning "drab Brutalist architecture showing visible signs of decay." The University of Pennsylvania campus had several very Soviet housing towers dating to around 1970. Most of these have been repaired and remodeled; they now look much less Soviet, thanks in part to window treatments that resemble Piet Mondrian paintings. But if you go to this site, you can see a (small) picture of an international student residence near Penn that still looks awfully Soviet.

I'm interested in hearing about how food has changed since Estonia became independent.  When I was living in Moscow, I was really struck by how there was very little packaged food on the market and what little variety of fresh food was available, except for the wonderful (but overpriced) produce and dairy products available at farmer's markets.  There were also very few restaurants back then, and not much ethnic variety, besides the fabulous Georgian restaurants and a few Central Asian places. We were dying for Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese food.  All this has changed in Moscow, of course.  What was shopping/eating at home/eating in restaurants like during the Soviet years and how has it changed?

Such a good question, Dasha, thank you. First of all, I was still rather young when the Soviet occupation ended – 17, to be more precise. This means I don’t know much about putting food on the table, and coping with food shortages. I do remember empty, absolutely empty grocery stores, however. Food rationing (for sugar, for flour, for bread, you name it). Queueing for food every single time we were shopping. Not having a banana or a hamburger until I was 18 (though why either one of them would be bad, I don’t understand now :laugh::laugh::laugh:

Luckily, most of us would have grandparents with big farms or summer cottages with a vegetable plots, so this provided plenty of fresh vegetables, dairy and meat. The popularity for forageing for wild mushrooms and berries also dates back to this period. And as freezers were not available back then, Estonian mothers became very skilled in canning and jamming and preserving the summer bounty, which is still popular nowadays.

And of course, there was a huge under-the-counter economy. My grandmother worked as an accountant in one of the food trusts (a central food provision office), so we’d occasional get rarities from there (olive oil and mango juice during the Moscow olympics, and canned cod liver later). My mum worked (and still does) in the Registry, and as an employee of Tallinn City Government, she could use a special shop occasionally selling coffee etc. There was even an under-the-counter economy in that special shop!!! One of my aunts worked in a kolhoos/collective farm that was specialising in poultry, and she'd often bring us chicken gizzards and chicken necks. My mum would make a delicious stew from the former, but I used to hate the chicken neck soup - there were far too many bones, and too little meat - yet, as a rare source of meat protein, we were eating it quite often..

I should ask my mum how we always had food on the table (and apart from chicken neck soup, it was all very delicious) in circumstances where the shops were selling nothing for most of the time :blink:

As far as restaurants go, the better ones were mainly for the privileged classes - Communist party apparatchiki and such like - and only became open for general public during Perestroika. There was no market economy to speak of, so the restaurant receptionist (or any of the employees) didn't have any incentive to let you in and feed you as it didn't influence anybody's income whether the restaurant was full or not.

Definitely not an era any sober-minded Estonian would want to return, food- or otherwise :huh:

I recall hearing about a joke told in the USSR that went, "When Communism comes to the Sahara Desert, there will be a shortage of sand."

It looks as if post-Soviet Estonia no longer has that problem -- you've shown us plenty of delicious -- and delicious-looking -- food in this blog.

A thousand thanks for showing us around town and introducing us to Estonian foodways. I will check out your non-eG foodblog.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I didn't have any lunch today, as our pancake brunch was quite substantial. And for dinner tonight we decided to have something exotic and something Estonian.

First, the exotic part. I went to the Stockmann foodhall, and picked up a packet of chicken thigh filets. I also had some coconut milk, lemongrass, fresh coriander/cilantro and red chilli peppers in the house, so I ended up making this Trinidadian coconut chicken curry, though adapting the recipe a little, of course :raz: We didn't have any rice in the house, so we steamed some organic quinoa instead. I really liked it - it wasn't as hot as I thought it would be, and the flavour was pleasantly Caribbean, at least what I imagine Caribbean food to be..

gallery_28661_5138_122040.jpg

Some of you may still remember that we bought some sea-buckthorn berries at the market last weekend, and I promised I'd make a dessert out of this superfood (at least Wikipedia claims so and it's hugely popular for its health benefits here in Estonia). So for dessert, I made a jelly with sea buckthorn berries (115 grams berries were pureed with an immersion blender, then pressed through a fine sieve, then I added hot water to make up 300 ml, sweetened with some sugar and set with 4 gelatine sheets). And I served it with kama. Kama is a really lovely and slightly nutty-tasting and rather uniquely Estonian ingredient, which is made of roasted, boiled and ground mixture of peas, barley, rye and wheat (you can read more about kama here, here and here). It's not available abroad as far as i know, and I've recently sent out no less than 8 'kama care packages' to readers of my blog across the world, who had become intrigued after reading about kama on my blog. At least one eGullet reader, Eden, has had a chance to taste kama 'chocolate' bar, too :biggrin:

The sea-buckthorn jelly topped with kama and mascarpone mousse:

gallery_28661_5138_55770.jpg

Really, really nice flavour combination. We decided to leave the jelly recipe as it is, but incorporate some whipped cream to the kama mousse next time, so it'd be easier to pipe and look smoother.

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How does one prepare salted mushrooms?

Fresh clean mushrooms and salt and time?

How salty are they? That salad sounds tasty.

There are two basic ways of salting mushrooms, Michelle. The more traditional way is to simply layer mushrooms (NB! the ones that need to be cooked/boiled to remove any bitterness etc, shoud be boiled before salting, too!) and coarse salt (generously!) into a container, then put a heavy press on top, and place the container into a very cold basement or a fridge. Mushrooms prepared this way are very salty, and need to be soaked in water before they can be used.

A slightly more modern way is to cover mushrooms with a salty brine. Bring 1 Litre of water and 2 Tbsp of salt to the boil, add (pre-boiled and drained, if necessary!) mushrooms, simmer for 5 minutes. Then layer mushrooms (not too tightly!) into sterilised jars, bring the brine to the boil again, and then pour over the mushrooms. Close the jars thoroughly.

Mushrooms which have been salted like this can be eaten straight away - either as a zakuska straight from the jar (well, drain them first), or mixed into salads or added into mushroom gravies. No need to pre-soak to remove saltiness like the first, 'dry' version.

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Pille

Thanks again for your great blog. Here is the recipe for the french onion bread pudding.

1 1/2 pounds onions (2 to 3 medium onions), thinly sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

3 teaspoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons clarified butter

1 tablespoon sweet sherry

1 large Italian or French bread loaf, crusts removed, cut into 5 by 1-inch pieces

6 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, saute the onions, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in the clarified butter over medium-high heat; stir constantly to prevent burning. Cook until golden brown. Add sherry and stir to lift any caramelized onion on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Spread out the bread pieces evenly on a baking sheet. Place in the oven for about 5 to 8 minutes to dry the bread slightly but not to add color. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, mustard, thyme, the remaining salt, and pepper. Soak the bread in the egg mixture for 5 minutes.

In a casserole dish, layer the bread with the onions and cheese. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the top.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the egg mixture is set.

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....There's a very nice and light cafeteria just down the road from the university, called Cafe Peterson.... And they inspired one of my great recent baking successes, a pear and blue cheese quiche that I can see myself making again and again during the Christmas season (you can see a picture here). ......

Pille - Thank you so much for doing this blog. I visited Tallin briefly in 2004 and found it lovely. You lead such a busy life that I'm amazed that you found the time to fill your blog here with photos and descriptions that really capture a special sense of place. I've been reading along all week and enjoyed this opportunity to learn more about the area.

I've looked at Nami-Nami too and I've got to try the beetroot and blue cheese tarts and the red onion and feta tart.

The pear and blue cheese quiche you mentioned in the post I've quoted sounds really interesting. Any chance you'll be sharing the recipe for that one?

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Pille

Thanks again for your great blog.  Here is the recipe for the french onion bread pudding.

LucyLou - thank you for the recipe! I'll be certainly trying this out during the next few weeks.

Thank you very much, such a fun blog!

Ahh, Michelle, thank you! :rolleyes:

Pille - Thank you so much for doing this blog.  I visited Tallin briefly in 2004 and found it lovely. You lead such a busy life that I'm amazed that you found the time to fill your blog here with photos and descriptions that really capture a special sense of place.  I've been reading along all week and enjoyed this opportunity to learn more about the area. 

I've looked at Nami-Nami too and I've got to try the beetroot and blue cheese tarts and the red onion and feta tart.

The pear and blue cheese quiche you mentioned in the post I've quoted sounds really interesting.  Any chance you'll be sharing the recipe for that one?

How exciting to hear that you've been to Tallinn, Blue Dolphin, and that you think I've captured the sense of place as you remember it! (PS Tallinn is with double NN at the end, everybody!!! The Russian transcription is with one 'n', which seems to cause a lot of confusion across the world :wacko:) We do lead busy lives indeed, but the next few months are a bit busier than usually because of the cookery diploma and the photography course I'm taking. But as they say in Estonian, "Kes palju teeb, see palju jõuab" - who does a lot, manages a lot :biggrin:

Now, the recipes. I will blog about the pear and blue cheese quiche over at Nami-nami this week. I thought I'll leave it for Christmas, but then so many people have seen the photo on my Flickr photo stream and asked for the recipe, so I better oblige :laugh: And do try the beetroot and blue cheese tartlets and the feta and red onion tart - they're both wonderful.

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I think in this past week, you've managed to increase future tourism to Tallinn and the rest of Estonia!  It's now on my list of countries to visit, at least!

Thanks for blogging this week, and giving us a taste of your wonderful country and life!

Rona - I sure hope so :laugh: Thank you for your kind words!

Now, my foodblog is semi-offically over, but Snowangel has kindly allowed me to use this space for another few hours. Some of you have asked for recipes - most of them are available on my Nami-nami foodblog, but I've also added some recipes to RecipeGullet. Here are the links:

Estonian sauerkraut soup

My simple apple cake

Semolina breakfast porridge with eggs

I promised to show you how to make Estonian naturally leavened rye bread - as pictured on one of the teaser photos. Bread - rukkileib - is the most important element of traditional Estonian eating. When we start eating, we say 'Head isu!' or bon appetit, but when you enter the room where somebody is eating, you'd wish them 'Jätku leiba!' or 'may you have enough bread'. The word for bread - leib - actually only means a rye bread (whether 100% rye, like the bread I make, or a mixture of rye and wheat). What is known as bread in most other countries - the one made with wheat flour - is known as 'sai' in Estonia. There's also 'sepik' which is made with barley flour or coarser wheat flour.

I don't have time for a proper step-by-step tutorial for that, but those of you who are interested, can probably find it on my other blog within a week (or fortnight, at the most). But I compiled this bread-making collage for you:

gallery_28661_5138_84350.jpg

It's a no-knead bread, though not as the very famous one everybody has been talking about (inc here on eGullet) :laugh::laugh::laugh: There's very little hands on time, but it does take quite a lot of time to ferment. The basic ingredient list is basic: rye starter, warm water, rye flour, sugar, salt, more flour. On the day one (let say, on Friday morning before going to work), you take a big bowl, mix the starter (mine lives in a small jar in my fridge; the lid has small holes pierced in), 1 litre of warm tap-water, and so much flour that the mixture reminds you of sour cream (ca 300-400 grams). Cover (I use cling film), and place in a warm area to ferment for 24 hours (close to a radiator, next to your fireplace, on a floor with under-floor heating). No need to do anything with it during this time. (The sourness of the bread depends on this process - the longer the fermenting period and warmer the place, the more sour the resulting bread will be).

After this time (alas, Saturday morning), take the jar you keep the starter in (there is NO need to wash it between fillings), and put few ladlefuls (about 150 grams, perhaps?) into the jar. Put the jar into the fridge again until your next bread-making session.

Now, take the mixing bowl and add 4 tsp of salt and 150-200 grams sugar. Mix. [Now the optional part - you can add caraway seeds - a typical bread flavouring here, and compulsory element in my opinion; sunflower seeds, linseeds/flax seeds, oats, oat bran, - whatever you fancy]. Add more rye flour, stirring with a wooden spoon. The exact amount depends on zillion factors (incl whether you added any seeds or oats), but you want a mixture that isn't too runny nor too thick and heavy :laugh:

Take two bread tins - I use Kaiser loaf pans, and butter them thoroughly. Divide the bread mixture between the two (filling them about halfways). Smooth the top with a wet hand. Cover again with cling film and leave to raise in a work place for the whole day (6-10 hours, depending what time did you get up on Saturday morning :raz: ).

Heat the oven to 200-220 C. Place the bread tins into the middle rack (removing the cling film, of course). During the first 20-30 minutes the bread develops a crust. After that you can cover the bread with foil to avoid burning it.

Bake for 60-70 minutes in total (sorry, this depends again on the oven. I bake my breads at 200C for 60 minutes, and that works out well). Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 7-10 minutes.

Now turn the breads out of the tins onto 2 sheets of parchment paper, schmear with butter on all sides, and wrap into the baking paper (and then on foil). Leave to cool for a little before eating.

Bread like this keeps fresh and moist for a week (you can put it in the fridge on day 3 or 4). It slices well, and tastes heavenly.

Now, the tricky part:

I also hope your rye starter is something we can replicate at home.

I got my rye bread starter from a kind fellow Estonian blogger back in April, and have been using the same starter from the beginning. If you'd be in Estonia, I could easily give you one, but most of you aren't.

I've got two tips from various local cookbooks, but I haven't tried them myself, so I don't guarantee they'd work:

Version 1. Mix rye flour and water into a thick mixture. To encourage fermenting, you may add something sour - grated sour apple or even apple juice, sour rye bread pieces, sauerkraut liquid or sour milk/kefir. Leave to ferment for 1-2 days in a warm place. The starter is done, when it deflates after rising."

Version 2. Mix some kefir/sour milk, few smashed boiled potatoes and enough rye flour to get a thick mixture. Sugar can be added, too. Leave to rise and deflate in a warm place.

Hope that helps.

In any case, it's been fun blogging with you, dear fellow eGulleteers! :rolleyes:

Edited by Pille (log)
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I promised to show you how to make Estonian naturally leavened rye bread - as pictured on one of the teaser photos. Bread - rukkileib - is the most important element of traditional Estonian eating. When we start eating, we say 'Head isu!' or bon appetit, but when you enter the room where somebody is eating, you'd wish them 'Jätku leiba!' or 'may you have enough bread'. The word for bread - leib - actually only means a rye bread (whether 100% rye, like the bread I make, or a mixture of rye and wheat). What is known as bread in most other countries - the one made with wheat flour - is known as 'sai' in Estonia. There's also 'sepik' which is made with barley flour or coarser wheat flour.

I've been a lurker, not knowing absolutely anything about Estonian cooking, but I just wanted to say thank you for your lovely blog. This particular description of yours is very intriguing to me.

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wow!!

hello (and sadly goodbye) from edinburgh.

I've enjoyed this blog an awful lot (nami nami being one of my favourite places!) and the pictures of Tallin are wonderful.

thank you so much :smile:

Spam in my pantry at home.

Think of expiration, better read the label now.

Spam breakfast, dinner or lunch.

Think about how it's been pre-cooked, wonder if I'll just eat it cold.

wierd al ~ spam

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Pille, I just might rely on someone else's sourdough starter, though James Beard has a recipe for a Finnish rye bread with pseudo-starter that you mix four days before baking:

"Combine 1 cup of rye flour w 1 cup liquid, cover loosely, and set in a warm place.  Stir once or twice each day, adding more liquid if the mixture becomes too dry.  It should bubble and give off a strong odor."
--From Beard on Bread.

Recommended liquids include flat beer, buttermilk or potato water. The entire mixture is incorporated into a dough that requires yeast for leavening. The two alternatives you discovered sound interesting, too. Whatever I decide to do, I appreciate the inspiration.

Thank you for a truly educational food blog--and a charming one at that!

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I wanted to add a hearty THANK YOU! Your blog has been a joy to read.What an education and a desire to visit Estonia some time soon. I got some wonderful honeycrisp and empire apples at the farmers market this weekend, and I'm going to make your apple cake.

After that, your bread. :wink:

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I promised to show you how to make Estonian naturally leavened rye bread - as pictured on one of the teaser photos. Bread - rukkileib - is the most important element of traditional Estonian eating. When we start eating, we say 'Head isu!' or bon appetit, but when you enter the room where somebody is eating, you'd wish them 'Jätku leiba!' or 'may you have enough bread'. The word for bread - leib - actually only means a rye bread (whether 100% rye, like the bread I make, or a mixture of rye and wheat). What is known as bread in most other countries - the one made with wheat flour - is known as 'sai' in Estonia. There's also 'sepik' which is made with barley flour or coarser wheat flour.

I've been a lurker, not knowing absolutely anything about Estonian cooking, but I just wanted to say thank you for your lovely blog. This particular description of yours is very intriguing to me.

Hiroyuki - I'm just a beginner in Japanese cooking - until now I've been focusing on buying cookbooks about Japanese food :wink: - but hope to learn more soon. I'm glad you enjoyed my little blog!

wow!!

hello (and sadly goodbye) from edinburgh.

I've enjoyed this blog an awful lot (nami nami being one of my favourite places!) and the pictures of Tallin are wonderful.

  thank you so much  :smile:

I was in Edinburgh just few weeks ago, BinkyBoots - although I'm glad I'm living in Tallinn now, then Edinburgh will always have a special place in my heart :rolleyes:

Thank you Pille!  I really enjoyed your blog!

Shelby - thank you! It's been a pleasure to do this blog!

Pille, I just might rely on someone else's sourdough starter, though James Beard has a recipe for a Finnish rye bread with pseudo-starter that you mix four days before baking:
"Combine 1 cup of rye flour w 1 cup liquid, cover loosely, and set in a warm place.  Stir once or twice each day, adding more liquid if the mixture becomes too dry.  It should bubble and give off a strong odor."
--From Beard on Bread.

Recommended liquids include flat beer, buttermilk or potato water. The entire mixture is incorporated into a dough that requires yeast for leavening. The two alternatives you discovered sound interesting, too. Whatever I decide to do, I appreciate the inspiration.

Thank you for a truly educational food blog--and a charming one at that!

Pontormo - James Beard's instructions aren't so dissimilar to the ones I found, although it does sound that he prescribes double the time for leavening. Whichever one you choose, I hope it'll work out for you. Note that the starter may require few rounds of breadmaking before it's really happy & active :laugh:

I wanted to add a hearty THANK YOU! Your blog has been a joy to read.What an education and a desire to visit Estonia some time soon. I got some wonderful honeycrisp and empire apples at the farmers market this weekend, and I'm going to make your apple cake.

After that, your bread. :wink:

I hope you'll have a chance to visit Estonia soon, Monovano (and let me know when you do)!

Pille, thank you for a wonderful week and happy anniversary to you and Kristjan!

Thank you, hsm!

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I'm sorry that my trip to Paris made me miss the last day of your blog, but I want to join in the chorus of thank yous. Estonia is a country that doesn't get enough publicity, so most of us knew very little before this week. You've opened our eyes in a wonderful way, and I thank you for all of your lovely efforts.

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