June 29, 2016

Baked Garden Rolls in Tomato sauce

June 29, 2016
Last summer was cold and rainy, and there was nothing to harvest in the garden before July. This year the garden is a jungle! It has produced salad, spinach, turnip tops, and baby beets since the end of April and, by now, I've already planted a second round of carrots, white radish, Swiss chard, and bok choy.

(makes about 20 bite size rolls)

20 green leaves (Swiss chard, turnip tops, zucchini leaves, or bok choy leaves etc.)

For the tomato sauce:
1-2 Tbsp ghee
1 tsp peeled and finely grated ginger (juice squeezed out and set aside)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp jeera seeds
1/4 tsp hing powder
4 peeled and quartered tomatoes (stems removed)
2 tsp freshly ground coriander powder
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp kala namak powder
1 tsp Himalayan salt
(the ginger juice)
1/2 cup (125 ml) Ricotta cheese (125g)

For the filling:
2-3 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp hing powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp powdered nutmeg
2 cups (500 ml) chopped greens (Swiss chard, spinach, turnip tips, wild vegetables like nettle, and herbs)
1/2 cup (125 ml) cooked quinoa
1/2 cup (125 ml) cooked black lentils
1/2 cup (125 ml) roasted pine nuts (or roasted and chopped cashew nuts)
1/2 cup (125 ml) Ricotta cheese (125g)
1 tsp Himalayan salt

For baking:
Olive oil
(Parmesan like hard cheese - optional)

The method:
Preheat the oven to 440 F (225 C).

Wash the leaves and cut off the stems (chop the stems to be used in the filling). Plunge the leaves into boiling water for a minute to blanch them. Lift out the leaves and spread them on a clean towel to dry.

Heat up the ghee in a small wok or pan until it's hot but not smoking. Roast the ginger until it's light golden and push it aside of the pan before adding the black mustard seeds. When the seeds crackle and pop, add the jeera seeds and hing powder. Toss and turn the spices once with a spatula and drop in the tomatoes. Cook on the medium heat until the tomatoes break and become juicy.

Stir in the coriander powder, cinnamon powder, cayenne powder, kala namak powder and salt. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the ginger juice (set aside earlier) and Ricotta cheese. Pour the sauce onto a baking dish.

While the tomatoes are cooking, melt the butter on the pan over a medium heat. When it's hot, add the hing, black pepper and nutmeg powder. Toss the spices once or twice and add the chopped greens and stems. Sauté the vegetables until they wilt, for a couple of minutes.

Remove the greens from the stove and mix them with the cooked quinoa and lentils, roasted nuts,  Ricotta, and salt.

Spoon a small portion of the filling onto the wider end of a leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf on the top of the filling, and roll them up. Place the rolls into the tomato sauce, seam side down. Arrange the remaining leaves in a similar manner.

Sprinkle the leaves with olive oil and, if you like, with grated parmesan like hard cheese (you may want to reduce the amount of salt when cooking the sauce and the filling, considering that the cheese will add saltiness to the dish).

Bake in the oven until the top of the rolls are brown, for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cook one part of quinoa and one part of lentils separately with two parts of water. With 1:2 ratio neither the quinoa or lentils will turn into a porridge.

May 11, 2016

Zucchini & Corn Soup

May 11, 2016
SproutsZucchini Corn Soup
Is a blind uncle better than no uncle, I wonder, while dropping you a recipe without any other content?

Zucchini & Corn Soup
(Serves 2-4 persons)

2 small zucchinis (about 400g)
1-2 Tbsp ghee, butter or oil
1/4 tsp hing powder
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp sweet paprika powder
3/4 tsp dry dill
1 cm (1/3”) fresh turmeric root, peeled and finely grated
750 ml (3 Cups) water
400 ml (1 1/2 Cup) frozen corn
125 ml (1/2 Cup) Greek style thick yogurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp kala namak powder
125 ml (1/2 Cup) fresh dill

Wash, peel and cut the zucchini in half lenghtwise. Slice the halves into bite-size pieces crosswise.

Heat up the ghee in a pot. Add the spices and then the zucchini slices. Sauté the vegetables for a few minutes. Add the water. Cook, covered, until the zucchini pieces are tender but still firm. You don’t want them to become mushy!

Add the corn kernels. Bring the liquid to a boil and mix in the yogurt. Remove the soup from the stove and toss in the salt and kala namak powder, and the fresh dill.

Garnish with sprouts.

April 13, 2016

Broth & Daikon Noodles

April 13, 2016
Let me push the mop aside and get up from my knees to tell you what has kept me from updating the blog.

I’ve come to think of our cottage as a lovely granny, who squeaks, leaks, and lapses. Like any 91 year old, she urges constant care. Although I nurse her, she’s prone to accidents and regularly falls apart. She is cozy, but also naughty, and it’s a full time job to tend her. Her mishaps keep me busy and make my life unpredictable.

For example, I was cleaning the woodstove in the kitchen a week ago. Suddenly carbon deposits blocked the ash vacuum, blowing the soot around the house. Goodbye white walls, ceilings and floors! And, good bye a new blog post! Since then I’ve been scrubbing every surface, furniture, and household item, and washing the textiles. By now, I’m only halfway through.
Before I'll climb on the ladder to sweep the walls, let me drop you a recipe I came up with in March while fasting on a festival day. Although I didn’t entertain my mind with anything fancier than a warm, clear broth while abstaining from food, I added spices, herbs, and vegetables to the soup when I cooked it later. Protein, like chickpeas or kidney beans, would make it more filling. Tofu or paneer would go very well with it, too.
(Serves 2-4 persons)

The broth:
2 Tbsp ghee or oil
2 ½ cm (1”) cinnamon stick
5 cloves 2 star anise
1 tej patta
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp jeera seeds
¼ tsp hing powder
1 green chili (hot)
2 ½ cm (1”) ginger
1 l (4 cups) grated vegetables (sweet potatoes, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, kale etc)
2 l (8 cups) water

The eggplant:
1 eggplant
2 Tbsp ghee oil
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2-3 Tbsp Bragg soy sauce

Other ingredients:
7 ½ cm (3”) daikon
3-4 small grill peppers
250 ml (1 cup) broad beans
2 tsp Himalayan salt or to taste
1 tsp kala namak
1 ½ tsp amchoor powder
1 bunch of basil leaves and seedlings

Make the broth first. Heat up the ghee or oil in a pot. Add the cinnamon, cloves, anise, tej patta, fennel and jeera seeds, and fry them for 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the hing powder, and add immediately the chili and ginger. Fry the spices, tossing, for 30 seconds before adding the vegetables. Sauté the vegetables for a couple of minutes then pour in the water. Cover the pot and bring the water to boil. Then reduce the heat to moderately low and cook for 40 to 60 minutes.

Strain the liquid and keep it warm until all the components are ready. Save the vegetable fiber for pancakes or bread.

While the broth is cooking, dice the eggplant. Heat up the ghee on a frying pan. When it’s hot, add the black pepper. Toss once and add the eggplant pieces. Fry them over moderate heat until they are golden on all sides. Pour in the soy sauce. Place the eggplants into the broth. Spiralize the daikon into long noodles and cut the peppers into thin slices. Place them and the beans, along with the salt, kala namak and amchoor into the broth. Garnish with basil leaves and seedlings.

Alternatively, you can place the vegetables, basil leaves and seedlings on individual plates and pour the hot broth on the top of them.

Thank you.

January 19, 2016

Seed Bread & Buckwheat Crisps

January 19, 2016
I dreamt about non-urban lifestyle long before we moved to the countryside last year.

When I was a kid, my family had a small island where we spent our summers. There weren’t neighbors, electricity, or running water. Whether it shined or rained, my brother and I splashed in the lake, swimming and playing like a pair of trout. Once a week we made a boat trip to the mainland to buy staple foods from a store on wheels, and then my mother fermented yogurt, viili (Nordic sour curd) and buttermilk which we kept cool in an excavation, dug in the ground. Every July wild blueberries and lingonberries surrounded the cottage, and we munched them directly from the bushes. There was a bigger island nearby to where we rowed to pick bucketfuls of wild strawberries, raspberries, and mushrooms in the end of each summer.

When we reached puberty, my brother and I refused to go to the island. It wasn’t hip, and we couldn’t stay apart from our friends for three months a year. As teenagers, we viewed such a vacation as a punishment and, during our last holiday, I plotted how to flee away after reading a memoir by Henri Charriére, called Papillon, which described his escape from a penal colony in French Guiana.

Seeing our resistance, my parents sold the summer house when my brother was sixteen and I was fifteen years old. It took me three years to realize what a loss it was. That’s when I started to romanticize about country-dwelling.

Last December, after having lived in fairly primitive conditions for eight months, the reality of my rustic life-choice finally hit me. In an early morning, as I was going to the basement to burn wood, I became aware that this is how the rest of my days will look like. The goal of downshifting, gardening, chopping wood and shoveling snow had become a part of my field but, all of a sudden, it appeared so ordinary and even burdensome! For the first time, I saw the cellar wasn’t a sanctuary but a cold and damp dungeon where I sat two hours every dawn, meditating, while poking the fire after every 108th mantra, and while having eight legged spiders crawling on me. The walls and the ceiling I had whitewashed in the spring were already stained with soot. In panic, I wondered if smoke and tar smudged my lungs, too. Will I be able to cope with this much austerity until the end of my life? Was it a mistake to move into this shack?

The novelty of everything wears out.

Although it’s human to misplace the desire for fulfillment in material objects, positions, relationships and achievements, I’m bothered how often I still imagine that I will attain contentment by getting one more piece of chocolate or a pair of shoes; or seeing the Himalayas, changing my worldview, studying a degree, and upgrading my significant other to the latest version of husbandhood (sorry, darling)! Unfortunately it won’t happen because the soul I am underneath the flesh, blood, bones, mind and reason is fully compatible only with spiritual energy. Matter, however mesmerizing it may appear, flows on a different, temporary frequency that will always leave the soul hungry. How much longer will I keep confusing things and situations for happiness?

Happiness is a challenge because it’s a mental disposition – a fluctuating emotion – in which suffering is momentarily absent. Like any state of balance, it flips easily out of equilibrium under the influence of an opposite force. Satisfaction, on the other hand, comes from knowing the self and the soul’s relationship with both, material and spiritual nature. Because it’s a conviction anchored in the core character of the self and the purpose of life, it remains unaffected by external circumstances and time factor. If any, my resolution for 2016 is to shift the focus from becoming happy to being satisfied with what is under my care right now.
Crisp bread is not culinary luxury, like pizza and crêpe that offer instant gratification, but a necessity the Nordic folks have dried and stored for survival since 500 AD. As a poor man’s diet, it reflects a short harvest season and the hardship of winter. To me, it summarizes (when compared to any other bread) the difference between happiness and satisfaction.

Households originally baked thin crisps from wholemeal rye flour, salt and water, and hang them on sticks under the roof. Nowadays various grains and seeds are used. Here are my two gluten-free recipes:

SEED BREAD AND BUCKWHEAT CRISPS (each recipe makes about 15 breads of 20cm / 8”)

Ingredients for the seed bread:
1 Cup (250 ml) sunflower seeds
½ Cup (125 ml) green pumpkin seeds
½ Cup (125 ml) sesame seeds
4 Tbsp flaxseeds
5 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp dry rosemary
1 Tbsp kalonji seeds
1 ½ tsp Himalayan salt
4 Tbsp ghee, oil or melted butter
1 Cup (250 ml) boiling water

Ingredients for the buckwheat bread:
2 ½ Cups (625 ml) buckwheat flour
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 ½ tsp Himalayan salt
4 Tbsp ghee, oil or melted butter
1 ½ Cup (325 ml) boiling water

For the seed bread, grind rosemary and all the seeds, except kalonji, into fine powder. Add kalonji and salt, and rub in the ghee, oil or melted butter. Finally pour in the boiling water and mix into a smooth paste. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes.

For the buckwheat crisps mix the flour, seeds, salt and ghee, oil or melted butter. Pour in the boiling water and mix into a smooth paste. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes. 

Make lime size balls from the dough and roll them into as thin disks as you can. It’s easier to roll the dough if you place it between two sheets of baking paper. Remove the upper layer afterwards. If you want perfectly round breads, cut them out with the help of a plate or a lid.

Bake the breads at 175 C (345 F) until they are light golden. Because they burn easily, keep the temperature steady. 

You may vary the ratio of seeds as you like, and use spices like jeera or caraway instead of what I've suggested. By adding more ghee, oil or butter, the breads will become richer and crispier. Instead of water, you may use sour cream or milk (they don’t have to be boiling hot).

Thank you.