Saturday, August 02, 2014

Simple, yet decadent fish supper: pan-fried vendace

Praetud rääbised / Pan-fried whitefish and tomato salad

This was originally posted in August 2012. I reposted this in late June, when the catching season for Lake Peipus vendace began and fresh and smoked vendace was again available, if pricey (going rate for a kilogram of smoked fish was about 20 Euros in June. But, oh so worth it). Now the Finnish vendace - slightly smaller, but just as delicious - has hit the market stalls, and we had pan-fried vendace for dinner tonight. Hence the reposting :)

Vendace is a wonderful freshwater whitefish that you'll find all over the northern continental Europe. The Latin name is Coregonus albula, and although it looks quite similar to the Estonian "national fish" Baltic Herring (räim aka Clupea harengus membras) that belongs to the herring family, then vendace is actually part of the salmonidae family alongside salmon, char, trout, graylings and other freshwater whitefishes.You're most likely to come across vendace (also called European cisco) in the lakes of Finland, Sweden, Russia and Estonia, as well as some lakes in the UK, Poland and Northern Germany. When I say the lakes of Estonia, I mean Lake Peipus - and must sadly admit that vendace has been scarce in the local waters during the last years.

Imagine my excitement when I saw beautifully fresh vendace at the local farmer's market yesterday morning! I immediately bought some hot-smoked vendace for lunch, and almost a kilogram of fresh vendace for dinner. It's such a delicate and excellent fish that doesn't need much messing around. A quick bath in a seasoned rye flour, followed by frying in hot butter or oil - you'll find the "recipe" below. I served the fried vendace with a fresh tomato salad, and the meal was enjoyed by all, including the small kids.

A note on vendace roe. The dark orange-coloured vendace roe (rääbisemari/löjrom) is a true delicacy, and Kalix löjrom from  the Swedish Botnia Bay archipelago has even been granted a PDO (protected designation of origin) status by the European Union, just like Prosciutto ham from Tuscany or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. When the rather excellent roe of common/European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) cost 799 SEK (Swedish crowns) in a supermarket in Stockholm back in early June, then the vendace roe was almost double the price, 1490 SEK:

Sorry for the photo quality - it was a quick snap with my mobile phone.

Names in other languages: rääbis (Estonian), muikku (Finnish), ryapushka (Russian), löj (Swedish), corégone blanc/la petite marène (French), Kleine Maräne (German).

Pan-fried vendace
(Pannil praetud rääbised)

Praetud rääbised / Pan-fried whitefish

fresh vendace (calculate about 2-3 fish per person)
rye flour or oatmeal
freshly ground black pepper
fresh dill, finely chopped
oil and butter for frying

Season the flour with salt and pepper, then roll the fish in the flour until evenly covered. Heat some butter and oil (or just one or the other) in a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Add the fish and fry for a few minutes on one side until dark golden brown, then carefully turn over and fry the other side for a few minutes again.

Garnish with a sprinkling of dill and serve with boiled new potatoes or potato mash, and perhaps a dollop of good home-made mayonnaise (be sure to click on the link if you haven't seen the cool Nami-Nami video recipe yet).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer food: Estonian milk and vegetable soup

Köögivilja-piimasupp. Kesäkeitto. Estonian milk and baby vegetable soupl

It's mid-July, which here in Estonia means the peak of summer. We're having a beautiful summer here, with lots of sun and not much rain. It's the end of the wild strawberry season, it's the height of chantarelle mushroom season (but too early for most other wild mushrooms), and it's the start of the beautiful local vegetable harvest season. Here's a traditional milk soup that glorifies those early tiny vegetables that are still crisp and sweet. I bought the cauliflower and potatoes - simply because I don't grow these, but the carrots and snap peas were from our own little back yard.

Although the soup is part of the Estonian traditional cuisine, it's not just Estonian. Our Northern neighbours, the Finns, eat a similar soup, called kesäkeitto or summer soup (I've provided links to several recipes at the end of the post). The Swedish name for the soup is snålsoppa or sommarsoppa.

The soup is best served with some buttered dark rye bread. It's best on day one, though it reheats well. However, be careful not to burn the milk. There's nothing worse than burnt or simply overcooked milk soup, trust me :)

Estonian milk and vegetable soup
Serves four to six

Piima-köögiviljasupp. Kesäkeitto. Estonian milk and vegetable soup.

a handful of baby carrots
1 small head of cauliflower or white cabbage
a large handful of (sugarsnap) peas
a large handful of new potatoes
500 ml (2 cups) water
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 litre (4 cups) full-fat milk
fresh dill, finely chopped

Scrub the carrots and potatoes clean, then cut the potatoes into small chunks and the carrots into slices about 3-4 mm thick (if you've got pretty slim carrots, then you can also halve or quarter them lengthwise instead, see the photos). Divide the cauliflower into small florets, or shred the cabbage into small thick slices. Pod the peas, if using regular green peas.

Place carrots, potatoes and cauliflower/cabbage into a medium saucepan. Add water, season with salt and butter. Bring into a boil. Half-cover with the lid and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are almost cooked. Add the peas and cook for 5 more minutes.

Now pour in the milk. Bring slowly into a boil, stirring gently. Remove from the heat, add the dill and season to taste. Serve and enjoy.

Piima-köögiviljasupp. Kesäkeitto. Estonian milk and vegetable soup.

Similar recipes:
Finnish summer soup by Alanna @ Kitchen Parade
Kesäkeitto by Wendy @ A Wee Bit of Cooking
Summer soup (kesäkeitto) by Lakshmi @ Pure Vegetarian (no recipe, but, oh, the photos!)
Finnish summer soup @ The Kitchn
Summer Soup by Mia @ Cloudberry Quark
Summer soup (snålsoppa) by Katarina @ Hovkonditorn: Passion for Food and Baking

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Festival food: Estonian Song and Dance Celebration 2014

Laulupidu 1

This is a very special weekend for Estonia - our 26th Song Celebration and 19th Dance Celebration takes place. You'll get all the necessary information on this website, I'll focus on food here ;)

It's a huge festival - with about 100 000 people gathered at the Song Festival Square, among them over 20 000 singers! You can imagine the amount of food you need to feed all those people during the weekend :)

Festival food isn't usually known for its gastronomic finesse and wonderful flavour, but the food I saw yesterday at the Tallinna Lauluväljak (Song Festival Square) was pretty interesting. Here's a short overview for you, should you head to the celebrations today.

The main eating area is marked with the red circle on the map below. "Merevärav" marks the "sea entrance" on Pirita road, so in case you're hungry, you should head to the right after entering the Song Festival grounds:


It's also where the EESTI TOIDU VÄLJAK aka Estonian Food Court is located. This consists of three large tents, marked by coloured signs. The Green sign marks the tent that represents the Estonian Food Industry Association.  The tent with a Blue sign hosts the local small producers, Estonian Horticultural Association and the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce. The Red signs marks the Estonian Chefs Association.

Let start with the "Blue" tent (well, the tent is white, the sign is blue :)), hosting the small/artisanal/local producers. You could feast on "haugišašlõkk" (pike shashlik, type of white fish), "soolakurgid" or fresh salted cucumbers, or small goat cheese and rye crisp "burgers":


Saaremaa is the biggest island in Estonia and they're increasingly becoming big players on the culinary scene as well. What about sandwich with elk fillets, a floral tea mixture (primrose, apple and meadowsweet), or smoked pork and rye sandwich?

The "Green" tent hosted several big food producers, including Saaremaa Delifood that introduced their new "kohuke" (curd cheese bar, top right) with cloudberries and lemon as well as Semu with their really nice sea-buckthorn drinks.

Finally, the "Red" tent, hosting the representatives of Estonian Chefs Association. There were three catering companies present, Tervise Catering, Event Catering and House Gourmet. Some of the festival food items were flatfish terrine with roasted vegetables (lestavorm röstköögiviljadega); pulled lamb with wild-garlic pearl barley (rebitud lammas karulaugu-odrakruubiga); hot smoked perch with tomato-cucumber salad (suitsuahven tomati-kurgisalatiga):


 Pike fishcakes with curd cheese and cucumber dressing (haugikoogid kohupiima-kurgikastmega, below left). You could also a buy a selection of six dishes for 6 Euros (below right):


This being Estonia, black rye bread was served everywhere - either fresh (below right) or as garlic bread (below left; yes, that's what you'd get if you ask for garlic bread (küüslauguleib) in a pub in Estonia).


There's food outside the Estonian Food Court as well. I spotted these happy people from soon-to-be-opened Inspiratsioon Catering, serving vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free food:

Inspiratsioon @ Tallinna Lauluväljak

I didn't have a chance to look into the big "beer and food" area, where many food stalls were located, but overall I can say the food was pretty decent for a festival food :)

What type of food did you have last time at a music festival?