Winter Is Coming

So. It’s the 17th of October and it’s snowing.

That’s pretty much all I should probably say about weather but the snow has just bummed me out so much today that I will go on with the weather subject for just a little while.

There are usually 3 unquestionable signals indicating that the winter is coming to Moscow. Luckily, not the Game of Thrones kind of ‘Winter Is Coming’ with all the ‘white walkers and direwolves and constant massacre or whatever happens in the 9th episode of each season’ kind of stuff (yeah, I loooove the series, but can you blame me?). The 3 things that every winter starts with here in Moscow are (1) enormous traffic jams, (2) snowplow trucks that make the traffic even worse and (3) massive queues of people trying to change their tyres to snow ones (does anybody do that tyre-change twice a year except for Russians?). Well, there’s one more 100% indicator: women wearing fur, loooots of fur, but that’s kind of obvious, I guess. To cut a long story short – today I’ve witnessed all of the 3 main signals + some chicas in their ‘shubas’ (that’s how we call fur coats). So I can bindingly confirm that the winter has come to Moscow today. Wow. Kinda early, don’t you think?

Anyways, yesterday, being still unaware of the coming winter I made some incredible, gingery-chocolate-orange cookies (which was, a great idea by the way, as I wouldn’t have made it today without the cookies). Orange-chocolate-ginger cookies_1

The recipe is pretty much basic but it’s the combination of ginger, chocolate, orange and (!) mint-and-basil infused butter that makes the cookies so unusual and spicy and soft and so tremendously good.

To make these you will need:

  • 150 g all-purpose flour
  • 80 g rye-flour (you can stick to AP flour, this one just gives more texture)
  • 1 egg
  • 100 g brown sugar
  • 50 g white sugar (add 2-3 tbsp more if you prefer the cookies to be more sweet)
  • 4 tbsp chocolate drops
  • 140 g butter
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • some fresh mint and basil

Orange-ginger-chocolate cokkies ingr

First prepare the mint-and-basil infused butter. In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat, then add basil and mint leaves in and heat the butter until it boils. Boil the butter with the herbs for 30 sec, stirring constantly. Take it off the heat, let it cool for 5-7 min and that take the mint and basil leaves out of the butter.

In a large bowl mix together flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. Pour in the butter and stir well until the mix looks like small crumbs. Mix in the egg and then orange juice until the batter is smooth and a bit gloopy. Then mix in chocolate drops and orange zest until they are well distributed through the batter.

Cover a baking tray with a baking sheet. Form mid-size cookies (4-5 cm over) and place them on the tray, spacing each cookie 2-3 cm apart. Cover with a food wrap and put the cookies in a fridge for at least an hour (the batter would last for up to a week in your fridge). When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 200ºC and transfer the tray with the cookies right from the fridge to your oven. Bake for 12-15 mins until slightly browned.

Enjoy!

Orange-chocolate-ginger cookies_2

One healthy snack recipe: Cheese&Corn mini muffins

One weird thing about me is that I’m planning all the upcoming stuff waaaay ahead. So I’m already considering places to spend New Year 2015, next summer and schools for my yet-not-even-in-plan kids. Naturally, I’ve been all about blueprinting this year’s Halloween for the last couple of weeks. Well, at least the food part of it.

I just looove this day, although it’s not celebrated as commonly and widely here in Russia as it is, say, in the US. It’s not that I’m all about witches and demons and stuff, but the day gives you a good reason to throw one more party even though Christmas and New Year are still two months ahead. And I simply need this kind of stuff to live through the rest of autumn (not its best part, by the way) till the holiday season.

So, I’ve started choosing snacks that will go for Halloween (non-pumpkin and non-daunting) and I should say these cheese-corn- spring onion mini muffins are definitely one of my fav. And well, okay, they are not all healthy, not as healthy as green salad for sure, but hey, they’ve got corn and spring onions and they are MINI, which is not a bad start =).

Cheesecorn muffins_

You will need:

  • 80 g all-purpose flour
  • 80 g cornmeal
  • 100 g canned corn kernels
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 125 ml buttermilk
  • 50 g butter, melted
  • 50 g semi-hard cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp spring onions, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • + mini muffin baking pan (mine goes for 20 mini-muffins)

Corncheese muffins ingredients

Preheat your oven to 220ºC. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Make a deepening in the centre of the mixture and add an egg, buttermilk, melted butter (make sure it’s not hot), corn and chopped spring onions. Stir gently until the batter is smooth. Then mix in the cheese. Place the batter in the muffin pan, dividing it evenly among the cups. Bake for 15-17 mins until the tops of muffins are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy!

Cheesecorn muffins_after bake

 

In love with autumn again. Perfect apple pie

We’re now at this ‘fantastic’ part of autumn when you don’t get much sun. And last few days there was literally NO sun in Moscow. I should say, it wouldn’t have bothered me a year ago for sure, but now I’m taking all the food pictures it turns out to be quite a problem. The most important thing you get from all these amazing food photographers is that you ‘must always take pictures of food in daylight’. Daylight. Hmmm. Light. What if we don’t have any light? What if it’s gloomy and dark all day long and your perfect burgers just sit there dreaming of being photographed and all they get instead is just being eaten by your friends (who, by the way, you also couldn’t take pictures of because it was too dark)? Well, okay, I should probably get a hot-shoe, but as per now, I feel like one of those penguins in Antarctica who live without sunlight for several months (but I of course do realize that these penguins have quite a more serious problem than I do, sorry penguins).

Anyway. Today the sun has finally broken through the clouds. Yay! And I made a perfect apple pie (which is definitely not that much of an event, but still, you know) and was finally able to take some pictures.

Apple pie_2

You should really try this one – the filling comes out incredibly rich, soft and just melts in your mouth, while the pastry is super crunchy. And if you put some ice-cream on top…you will just never even think of any other dessert.

NB: There might seem to be quite a lot of the ingredients in this recipe, but it’s basically apples, walnuts, flour, sugar, butter and eggs in different proportions – so just make sure you have these and you are ready to cook!

Apple pie ingredients

For the pastry you will need:

  • 150 g cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 250 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tbsp of cold water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • + 1 slightly beaten egg-yolk for egging

For the streusel you will need:

  • 25 g butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 50 g flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

For the filling you will need:

  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 100 g walnuts, cut in small pieces
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 25 g butter
  • 3 tbsp sugar (brown or white)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the sauce you will need:

  • 75 g butter
  • 5 tbsp sugar (brown or white)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
  • 2 tbsp brandy (this time I also used a bit of home-made plum liquor, so you may try adding smth like that, too)

Pastry:

Put the flour, lemon zest, brown and white sugar and salt into a bowl. Mix in the butter with your hands until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and mix until the crumbs turn into dough. Put the dough in plastic food wrap and let it sit in a freezer about 30 mins.

Streusel:

Place flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Filling:

Heat the butter in a frying pan, add apples and sugar, simmer over medium heat for about 3-4 mins stirring from time to time, then add cinnamon, nutmeg, brandy and walnuts and cook for another 1 minute. Take off the heat.

Sauce:

Simmer butter over medium heat in a saucepan until it becomes golden-brown (it will also smell amazingly like hazelnut). While the butter is still warm (but not hot!) whisk it together with sugar, eggs, flour, cinnamon and vanilla sugar.

Preheat your oven to 200ºC. Take the pastry out of the freezer and roll out 2/3 of it on a slightly floured surface. The pastry should come out about 3mm thick and c. 1-2 cm larger than your pie dish. Lower the pastry in your pie dish (the best way of doing that is just to roll the pastry over your rolling pin and then just gently ‘unroll’ it over your pie dish). Press the pastry into the dish so that there are no air bubbles left. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut it into 6 stripes.

Pour the sauce into the pastry, top with the apple filling, then sprinkle over the streusel and then arrange the pastry stripes as a ‘basket’ on top. Put some egg-yolk on the pastry stripes with a food brush.

Bake for about 45 mins.

Serve while still warm with ice-cream and mint.

Enjoy!

Apple pie_1

 

Simple sour-and-sweet autumn dinner idea

Sometimes I get so preoccupied with the stuff I’m doing that when I’m back to reality from whatever it is I was up to I realize that (1) I haven’t eaten for a whole day, (2) my cat hasn’t eaten for a whole day, (3) my cat made such a mess in the apartment that I wish she doesn’t eat at all, (4) my fiance will be home in just half an hour and I have nothing for dinner neither for him, nor for myself. As I’m all into learning German and tons of other things that I’m doing now to make up for my ‘lost’ time at work, this situation has become quite common lately. And you know, sometimes you simply don’t feel like cooking anything sophisticated. You just need a simple, still a very tasty meal.

One of my favourite choices for these times is chicken – I usually have some in my fridge and there’re soooo many easy ways of cooking chicken that I never get tired of it.

Next time you are short of time or just have something more fun (or important) to do than cooking, you should really try this recipe of tender, sour-sweet honey-mustard-lemony baked chicken.

Honey mustard chicken ingredients

I also used some lemon zest and lemon juice which add some slightly sour taste and freshness – but that’s completely up to you.

So, first of all, preheat your oven to 200°C. In a small bowl whisk together dijon mustard, honey, 1-2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest and crushed garlic cloves. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place them in an oven-proof dish. Pour over the honey-lemon-mustard sauce and spread it evenly over the thighs with a food brush.

Honey mustard chicken_in sauce

Bake the thighs for 35-45 min until cooked through and golden brown (I recommend to grease the thighs a couple times while baking with the exuding chicken juice).

Enjoy the thighs while still hot with a fresh vegetable salad or baked veggies!

Honey mustard roasted chicken

PS What do you cook when you don’t actually feel like cooking?)

 

Oh autumn! Part 2: One happy camembert story

Being ‘sanctioned’ from most of the cheeses we like best (we literally don’t have them in our supermarkets here in Moscow), we were grocery-shopping like crazy during our trip to Austria and Italy. I believe it was quite a shock for local people making their everyday purchases to see our shopping basket loaded with what seemed like TONS of different kinds of cheese and ‘wurst’. Still, believe me, the effect on the airport guys was even stronger, especially when they had to check our backpacks filled with all the yummy camembert-parmesan-salami stuff =).

Anyway, when we got home I realised that I got sooo much cheese in that bout of esurience, that eating it just as a chaser while drinking wine would definitely not be enough to use it up before it goes bad (we don’t drink THAT much). So yesterday I decided to use some of the cheese up while cooking dinner. The idea was to use a fusion of eggplants (seriously, what’s wrong with me with all the eggplants?) and camembert to make a warm salad – I also added some sweet pepper and cilantro and it worked out really well! The mix is definitely something new – eggplants come all sweet and creamy making a great complement to crispy though tender fried camembert, with cilantro and pepper shaping it all in a nice, rich fusion!

You will need:

Eggplant and brie salad ingr

You will also need 1 tbsp sugar, a handful of breadcrumbs, 1 egg, 2 tbsp olive oil, some sesame seeds and a small sweet long pepper

Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Peel most of the skin off the eggplant (I say ‘most’, but you may of course leave it all if you like eggplant skin, it’s just that in this recipe I think it’s best to make the eggplants as tender and creamy as they can get and the skin just won’t be like that no matter how you cook it, but leaving some of it makes the eggplant look prettier), cut it into 4 stripes lengthwise, arrange the stripes on a baking sheet or a large plate, season with salt and leave them like that for 30 min. Then dab the eggplant stripes dry with a paper towel and cut them into 6-7 cm sticks. Cut the pepper in large pieces. Arrange the eggplant sticks and pepper on a baking tray covered with a baking sheet, season them with salt. Roast in the oven for 15-20 min until the veggies just start to shrivel and become tender.

Prepare the sauce. Put the teriyaki sauce and honey in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat for a couple of minutes, increase the heat to medium and then add sugar stirring until it fully dissolves. Take the sauce off the heat.

Remove the veggies from the oven and spread the sauce over them with a food brush. Increase the heat to 200ºC, switch the roasting mode to ‘grill’ if your oven has one. Put the veggies back in the oven on a top shelf and caramelize for just a couple of minutes. Remove them from the oven.

Cut camembert in 8 segments. In a small bowl beat up the egg, put the breadcrumbs in another bowl. Put camembert pieces first into egg and then into breadcrumbs. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and roast camembert pieces covered in breadcrumbs over medium heat for just a few minutes until golden brown and then take them out of the pan immediately.

To serve, put roasted eggplant sticks and pepper on each plate, top them with camembert pieces, sprinkle over the chopped cilantro, sweet pepper and sesame seeds.

To add extra freshness enjoy it with cucumber salad (just slice the cucumbers, season with salt and teriyaki sauce). And don’t forget to pour yourself a glass of wine – there’s camembert in this salad after all!))

Eggpland and brie salad

PS I promise I’ll stop cooking eggplants)

Oh, autumn! Part 1: mountains and pumpkin duet

Personally, I think autumn is just the best time of the year. Well, okay, not all autumn. And not everywhere. But two past weeks we spent in breathtaking Austrian Alps and sweet, sunny, welcoming and all-about-wine-and-food Italy. And that, I would say, is just the best possible way of living autumn through.

But first things first. I know this is not supposed to be a travel blog (and it is definitely not one), but there’s this one picture that we took while hiking in Schladming I just HAVE TO post.

Schladming

Isn’t that amazing? It’s all so incredibly fresh, verdurous, but at the same time somehow fantastically rich and sweet and juicy… And this fabulous jade-terracotta-amber carpet is all blueberry bushes!

And you know what? I have no idea of how my super-inventive-lunatic brain came up with this, but this picture somehow inspired me to cook a pumpkin soup)). Maybe colours? Well, who knows.

I really hope that this recipe will change the minds of those of you who find pumpkin dishes boring and not worth cooking at any price. With this recipe, you’ll find out that cooking pumpkins is extremely simple and the result usually exceeds all expectations!

Well, as usual, a picture of main ingredients below:

Pumpkin soup ingredients

You will also need:

– 200-300 ml chicken bouillon (beef or vegetable stock would also go, use one you like best)

– 100 ml light cream

– 1 tbsp sugar

– olive oil (and pumpkin oil if you happen to have some)

– 1/8 tbsp ginger and 1/8 tbsp nutmeg powder

– dried herbs (basil and thyme)

Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the skin, scoop out the seeds and fibres from the middle, cut the flesh into medium pieces. Peel and chop the onion and garlic cloves (leave one clove for rocket sauce). Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add chopped onion and garlic. Cook until they are softened and golden brown. Add the pumpkin flesh and herbs, season with salt, sugar and pepper. Cover with the lid and cook for 25-30 min until the pumpkin is soft, stirring from time to time to avoid burning. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for 10 min.

Meanwhile, prepare the rocket sauce. Grind up rocket (I also added some fresh basil leaves) with 2 tbsp of pumpkin oil and garlic, season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Warm up the bouillon in a large casserole. Puree the cooled pumpkin-onion-garlic mix with a blender, add ginger and nutmeg and then pour the mixture in the casserole. Let it boil for a minute, take off the heat and add 50 ml cream, stir well.

To serve, pour the soup in the bowls, put a tbsp of rocket sauce and 2 tbsp of cream into each bowl, season with freshly ground pepper and paprika. Enjoy!

Pumpkin soup

Eggplants are fun: another vegetarian recipe

Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not a vegetarian (although I do really think those people live a way more healthier life than we ‘meat-eaters’ do and I will probably become one myself some day). Anyway, as per now, I looooove meat and eat quite a lot of it. Still, somehow, I’ve been cooking a great deal of veggies this week. This ‘somehow’ is mainly a result of the fact that I have tons of greens in my fridge that I impulsively bought at the local market this week just because I know this variety will be gone soon with the winter coming. That’s kind of my ‘seasonal vegetables carpe diem’.

So yesterday I decided that eggplants would be a nice choice for a dinner and made an ‘eggplant parmigiana’. To be honest, not exactly a ‘parmigiana’. I live in Moscow and we are kinda short of that stuff right now (you probably already know that from the news, but if you don’t, just ignore it =) ). So instead of parmesan, I used some ‘grana padana’ cheese I still have in my cheese reserve and I replaced mozarella you would normally use in this recipe with curd cheese. Well, you have to get adjusted.

Ingredients_eggplantsand cheese

You will also need 50 g of flour, 1 tbs of sugar, 2 tbs of milk, 2 eggs, 100 g of bread crumbs, olive oil, salt, pepper and dried herbs for seasoning.

The preparation process itself is quite simple, although a bit time-consuming. Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Thinly slice the eggplants into 0.5-0.8 mm rounds, arrange them on a baking sheet or a large plate, season with salt and leave them like that for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the sauce. Finely chop the onions, garlic and basil. Treat fresh tomatoes with boiling water for just about 30 seconds, peel the skin off the tomatoes, then chop them. In a large pan heat the olive oil, add onion and garlic and cook until they are golden brown. Add canned and fresh chopped tomatoes, basil and sugar, season with salt, pepper and dried thyme (or any other herb you like best). Cook for 10-15 min, stirring from time to time. 

By the time you prepare the sauce, your eggplants should be just ready. You will need three small bowls or plates you will dip the eggplants into. In the first bowl, put the flour, season it with salt and pepper. In the second bowl, beat up the eggs and milk and season the mixture with salt and herbs (thyme, basil, again, anything you like best). In the third bowl, put the bread crumbs and season them with salt and dried herbs. Now, put each eggplant slice in turn into flour, eggs and then bread crumbs. In a large pan, heat the olive oil and cook the eggplant slices until golden brown (1-2 min each side).

In a baking dish, put about 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom, top it with a layer of fried eggplants, put half of the boiled french carrots over the eggplants, then sprinkle a half of grated grana padana and curd cheese, then spoon another 1/3 of the sauce, then put a layer of eggplants and carrots again, then spoon the remaining sauce, end with the remaining cheese. Cook for about 35 minutes in the oven until the cheese is melted and nicely browned. Sprinkle over some fresh chopped basil before serving.

Eggplant parmegiano

Enjoy!