As the night time temperatures have dropped to below freezing, and autumn is in full effect, I've also managed to catch the season's first cold.
Laying low and hoping for quick recovery, I can't help that my thoughts go back to the not so resent, sunny summer days.
As in all the capital's of the Nordic countries, also Helsinki, my home town, has long and beautiful sea front. For several kilometers, there is a lovely walkway to stroll, and stop in any, or all, of the cafes on the way. When in Helsinki, my favorite thing to do on Sundays, is to meet up with my brother, walk down the waterfront, stop at one of the cafes while chatting and enjoying the beautiful view . And there's a variety of cafes, something for everyone and every occasion!
The Mattolaituri is an upscale Champagne bar. It has layered terraces over the seaside rocks, for outside seating that are facing the sea. On a sunny day, a very attractive place to chill and enjoy the sun, wine, and scenery with your friends.
The newest addition of the cafes is Birgitta by the Hernesaari. A bit out of the way, but well worth the trip. With a unique kiosk type cafe, small glass walled inside seating area, and a large outside terrace with a view to die for, it would be the winner in my book.
But the menu, the abundance of choices, and the appetizing catering can easily compete with the setting of the cafe.
Luscious sandwiches, filled croissants, delectable and delicate pastries ~ your choices are plentiful and attractive. The brunch we had by the sea was as tasty as the view was beautiful. And we got lucky with timing, when we happen to catch the best table in the front!
So if you are lucky to still enjoy the warm temperatures and sunny summer like days, go out of your way, find the unique local establishments, and enjoy your weekend!
Last week I mention I've been busting out some traditional autumn recipes in my kitchen. One of my favorite is 'kaalikääryleet', or cabbage rolls.
When you wrap spiced up ground beef/pork, cooked rice and chopped cabbage into a cabbage leaf, drizzle the rolls with light syrup and cook for couple hours you have a perfect meal in just one or two rolls. And if you serve them with lingonberries, and take the sweetness of the syrupy cabbage, savory of the meat, and tangy from the berries ~ your taste buds are having a feast!
Couple things I've done differently than the traditional recipe: I added herbs (basil, oregano, thyme) to the meat, as well as a dash of cayenne pepper to give it a bit of a kick at the end. The recipe says white cabbage, but other varieties works as well. Or you can get a bit Mediterranean tastes if you use lamb, feta cheese and mint in the filling.
I've also made a vegetarian version with variety of chopped mushrooms, you get gluten free version by using organic rice marked 'gluten free', lactose free by using stock instead of cream ~ don't let the recipe intimidate you, use it as guideline and then let your imagination free. These rolls are easy to freeze, so make more than you need, once you're at it.
And if you happen to have a lot of cabbage left over after you are done with the rolls, you can use it for example for a wok, or make less work intensive cabbage casserole, another great dish that you can freeze for later date as well.
How often have you gone out to eat, and don't remember anything from the evening a week later, because it just wasn't very memorable? And then other times, you hit the jackpot, and everything is just lovely...
A week ago I had the privilege and pleasure to enjoy one of those meals that will stay with you as a beautiful and tasteful memory.
The location, atmosphere, even the view, set the foundation.
The service was professional, knowledgeable, friendly and flexible.
And the food ~ it was beautiful, delicious, all tastes well balanced and in harmony.
I have to give Meritorppa restaurant, at Hilton Kalastajatorppa Hotel in Helsinki Finland, the highest of recommendations, and let the pictures tell the story.
You find the descriptions for the dishes by setting your mouse over the picture.
I've had such a busy week with lots of great stuff going on, but I felt that the only meal I had time to sit down for was breakfast, if I got up an hour earlier than I used to.
While organizing my time, I remembered I had some friends coming over for dinner. Since I knew I didn't have the time to be in the kitchen prior their arrival, and I didn't want to be there when they were visiting, I chose the 'easy way out' -- no, it wasn't take out, but braising a stew in the oven.
There's so little effort to it, with such a reward in the end.
Few things to remember, that will make your braise delicious:
- Always choose meat with on a bone, if possible. The bones will give so much flavor to your dish
- Season your meat well, and sear it on medium-high heat on all sides
- Saute your mirepoix, chopped onions, carrots, celery, in the pan drippings from the meat until nice caramel brown color
- Deglaze the pan with brazing liquid, I used a nice dry red wine, but any liquid you use to braise, will be great.
- Set the saute mirepoix on the bottom of a dutch oven with the meat on the top, some bay leafs, and add the rest of the braising liquid. Remember not to submerged the ingredients, meaning is to braise, not boil them.
Set the dutch oven into a medium warm oven, and let the magic happen.
If you want to serve it as thick stew, as I did, just add more veggies, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, fennel, lemongrass, mushrooms or any root vegetables about 45 minutes before the braise is done and you are ready to serve.
You can also take the ingredients from the braising liquid removing bones and mireboix, and thicken the braising liquid by reducing it, before adding the meat into it and serve with mashed potatoes, sweet potato pure, rice...
I'm glad to say, not only was the evening with my friends a great success and fun, there was also just enough leftovers for the next day.