Nov 14, 2009

grilled cheese sandwich

last few days have been tough, i don't react very well to pain, kinda makes me feel down. i'm fully aware that my pain is insignificant compared to the pain people with major maladies feel, but i think i'm allowed to moan on my blog. at least a bit, right?

cooking (i'm doubtful if i should even call it cooking) has been a challenge as peeling, chopping and heavy pots are somewhat difficult to handle with just one hand and 2 fingers. also, as this is my 100th blog-entry i wanted to make something fancier than just heating a tin of pea-soup (not that there is something wrong with pea-soup from a tin). however, yesterday at the store i figured out a perfect almost no-cook "one hand" dish, namely grilled cheese sandwich.

i, sorry we (as certain someone was my chauffeur), bought some really nice country bread, cheese and smoked ham. to get biggest possible slices, bread was sliced in half, then 2 slices were cut from each half (got it? never mind if you didn't, just try to get four equal size slices). all four slices were spread with 1 tbsp of grainy dijon mustard (if you're not a big fan of mustard, use less or none at all)

certain someone loves mustard so there was plenty of it...

we used appenzeller and black label emmental. you could use just one cheese, but use something that melts nicely into oozy-gooiey goodness

one slice covered with appenzeller, one with emmental

one side gets thinly sliced tomatoes, the other a big slice (or two) of smoked country ham, put the slices face to face, ham meeting tomato

butter slightly one side of bread

place buttered side down on a heated pan on medium heat

place heavy object on top, i used an old cast iron pan. if you happen to have a brick laying around in your kitchen you could use that (just wrap it in foil first)

before flipping the bread, butter the other side as well. it's hard to say how long it takes for the cheeses to melt and bread to brown, let your eyes tell you when to flip and take off the pan. you could use the grill function in oven, or one of those sandwich irons as well. if you're feeling very proper, you could whip up a nice green salad with lemon or lime vinaigrette to go with this. we were hungry so we ate these as they were, with very cold milk, but feel free to grade up... very cold beer comes to mind first

the other day, after my doctor's appointment, i went to collect my meds from a pharmacy that is located close to an old fashioned market hall called hakaniemen halli. the meat, fish, cheese, spice and whatever else stalls are excellent, it is almost worth a weekly detour for food shopping. i have to tell myself that i'll go there to buy meat only when we run out of meat in the freezers, that ain't happening anytime soon... i had excellent crayfish sandwich in one of the shops, real mayo, boiled egg, salad and plenty of crayfish on whole wheat bread, yam! took my time eating it (for once!), afterwards went upstairs in the hall to browse all the shops. (remind myself, if ever in need of clever gift idea, go to hakaniemen halli)

there are also quite a few asian markets in that same area, and as i was already there, had nowhere to go... more or less had to visit two of them. i din't buy that much and all of that was something that's easy to cook with one hand!

well, perhaps not this chile as it required mincing

dried chinese mushrooms

soaking in boiling water before use

had wanted to make something with pak choi for the longest time, so got some of it not quite knowing what and how i was going to prepare it. here the pak choi with minced chili

everything boiling away merrily

this was so good, hot but good. now, even if you twisted my sore wrist for a recipe i couldn't give you one, this was free fall cooking at it's best. what i can do is tell what went in: water, vegetable stock, ginger paste, hoisin sauce, chinese mushrooms, rice noodles, pak choi, chili and chili oil, soya sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil

the other night when i was feeling uber sorry for myself, i went to the movies. again, even if you twisted my sore wrist, i couldn't tell you the last time i had been to see a film in a cinema, it's been years. anyway, i went to see julia/julie, you know "mastering the art of french cooking julia child and julie powell that wanted to make 534 recipes in that cookbook in one year, and blog about it" movie. it was such a feel-good movie, i'm glad i went, though i don't think julia child would approve of my free fall method of cooking. it was almost a private showing as there was only one other person in the huge cinema with me, weird.

coincidentally, mastering the art of french cooking is still missing from my cookbook collection. wonder if i'd ever find use for it...

Nov 11, 2009


no, i didn't have to go to court to get this verdict, but the doctor's. my left wrist has been bothering me for a while, last 2 weeks it's been getting worse. ever since the first "diagnosis" in the spring i had wanted a second opinion. yesterday i went to get this second opinion, and boy, did i get some!

the blunt, cut the chase verdict was the wrist needs surgery. (for those of you not in the know, i broke the wrist 20 odd yrs ago, it was not healed properly, needed corrective surgery, and a second surgery to remove some steel from it). it's never been "as good as new" since the first injury, but last spring it got really sore. that was fixed with rest and an injection what the doctor called "cocktail", which after 3 days of pain getting worse actually did something and stopped the pain.

now, yesterday... my options seem to be "matched darrach" or "sauve-kapandji", both surgeries (feel free to google them) there was a third option called schenker-prosthesis, but that's not been done in finland yet (and i ain't going to be a guinea pig!). the matched darrach seems to be the more suitable operation. picture in the link shows what's done in the operation. basically, they cut off some bone, drill some holes and get a tendon from somewhere in my body and use that to tie ulna (one of bones in wrist) to where it should stay (stay being the operative word, it seems artrosis has done some damage chewing up tissue, now there is just bone on bone, thus the pain).

the good doctor was kind enough to simplify these procedures to me by drawing them while explaining what's done. i was in kinda haze so most of it got away

both these operations involve a cast, matched darrach for (at least) 4 weeks, sauve-kapandji 6 weeks. good news is get to choose, hah. i'm not a happy camper right now

Nov 10, 2009

cabbage rolls

yesterday morning i got a craving for cabbage rolls. weather wasn't doing anything to cheer me up so i figured making the rolls would be a perfect thing to do. obviously, i needed cabbage so i went to get a big one from the store, along with some minced beef and pork, but any mince will work.

making the rolls involve a lot of hands on work so i figured i'd make enough to freeze. for this batch (that resulted in 20 rolls and a cabbage casserole) i used 1 big cabbage, 800 gr of minced meat, 2 medium size onions, 3 dl cooked rice, white & black pepper, butter, dark syrup and 1 liter of stock.

started by browning the minced meat. though i got the leanest version of mince, there was some unwanted fat that i got rid of by "straining" the mince by placing it on paper towels in colander. you could also make this vegetarian by grating a few carrots (or whatever you fancy) to the filling, or adding up on onions and rice (even chopped raisins if you like raisins)

onions were chopped quite fine, sauteed and added to browned mince

cooked rice

all mixed, seasoned with white and black pepper to taste, and left to cool. feel free to use salt if you like it. you could also go wild with other spices, say if you had lamb mince, rosemary might work great, with chicken or turkey you might go for curry mix...

removed the core from cabbage (makes it easier to peel the leaves one by one)

cabbage in salted (only salt in this recipe) boiling water to wilt the leaves for easier removal, you might have to do this several times (peel and wilt again)

these were almost too stiff to peel and did indeed require another bath in boiling water to wilt them further. i got 26 leaves of my big cabbage until the leaves got too small. some broke when peeling so i chopped them for another use. i was left with peeled cabbage approx the size of my fist, chopped that fine and in a bit i'll tell you what i did with those

removing the hard part of leaves for easier rolling

place one in front of you as a "cup"

place a spoonful of mince mix on leave

turn the sides on

start rolling, try to make it as tight as possible

all neatly placed in oven dishes. these 2 are handy since they both fit in the oven at the same time. oven at the shack has convection but that mode gets used seldom since there is only rack

instead of dobs of butter i used oivariini on top. use as much, or as little, a you like

3 tbsp of dark syrup and 3 dl of stock (any you have) to each pan went in before putting them in 160C oven and cooking until done. until they are done? yes, you never know how long it's going to take. the cookbook said 45 mins, but mine were seriously underdone at that point. i guess the cooking time correlates to how "wilted" the leaves were to begin with and how "done" you want yours. certain someone seems to like some bite in the cabbage, i like mine mushy soft. ended up cooking one for 1½ hrs and the other for 2 hrs

this was in the oven for 2 hrs, last ½ hr covered with foil

made this casserole with the same ingredients as the rolls, except the "left-over" cabbage was chopped fine. now remember, i wanted to make enough to freeze, if that's not what you want, half the recipe and you'll get 20 or so rolls and no casserole

casserole pre cooking, oivariini, syrup and stock in

this was in oven for 1½ hrs and by that time it was kinda late (10.30 pm) as my cooking was interrupted by certain someone's unexpected car-trouble that involved a tow truck...

cookbooks name all sorts of accompaniments for either of these dishes, feel free to find out what they are, i'll eat mine with lingonberry jam!

ps. how many went to freezer? hmm... i truly cannot come up with a witty answer to that! none, i'm ashamed to say

Nov 9, 2009

apple pie

went to get these winter apples from garden yesterday, well, went to see if there were any decent ones to be picked. was pleasantly surprised, there were these and at least enough for 2 more pies.

when i got in and started coring these, noticed that they were almost frozen... now my poor coring tool is close to getting replaced, all bent and twisted

halved and sliced 6 apples, added 2 tbsp of all purpose flour, 3 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp of ground cinnamon to bowl and mixed all that up

made the very basic pie dough (5 dl flour, 2 tbsp sugar, 120 gr low-salt butter, ½ dl coarse corn meal (optional, adds crunch to dough), mix all together with pastry blender, cool for at least 30 mins before rolling and placing on pie dish).

pour the sliced apples on dough, juggle and press gently to spread and pack slices evenly

had these uber cool and handy (yeah, sure!), almost never been used piecrust cutters in the drawer, so thought i might give them a go

this is totally optional and if you made the basic pie dough there wouldn't be any dough left to do this (i cheated and didn't tell you i made more!). my initial idea was to make enough leaves to cover the entire pie... my patience run out and i only made this much. the dough needs to be very well chilled, my first time wasn't as effortless as the video in the link above suggests... this is after eggwash and before baking. oh, did sprinkle 1 tbsp of demerera sugar on top before oven

after 40 mins on bottom section of 200C oven

the leaves are cute, and very crunchy with the eggwash and demerera on top. hmm, would this be a cookie idea?

made a vanilla custard to go with the pie. that custard shouldn't even be mentioned here, let's just say it was made of non-fat milk, potato starch, sugar and vanilla paste. taste was kinda ok, but not making it again, ever. sorry

Nov 8, 2009

deer pot roast

yesterday certain some had taken a deer roast from freezer to thaw. wasn't sure how i was going to prepare it, but then found inspiration in anna olson's cookbook and mom's old designer pot

before doing anything else put the oven on to 170C, then take out your veggies.

for this dish i used 4 carrots, a parsnip, 7 medium size potatoes, 2 yellow onions and 10 cm bit of root parsley (that's the white veggie on onions, if you can't find any, used stems of regular parsley, or forget about it). you could easily make your own combination of veggies, i happen to like these, but any root vegetable will work, you just need to figure out which size you chop each veggie so that they all be cooked at the same time

the deer roast, actual name of the animal is roe deer, this is the hind part of it

all veggies chopped up

take 1 chopped carrot, half of parsnip, 1 onion and the root parsley (save the rest of veggies for later, put potatoes in cold water to avoid them turning brown)

heat pot on high, add 2 tbsp of rapeseed oil and brown the roast on both sides, remove from pot

add 1 chopped carrot, half of parsnip, onion and root parsley, turn them around in pot for a minute

add approx 6 dl of boiling stock (either real stuff or from boiling water and beef fond), scrape off any brown bits from bottom of pot, then add 2 bay leaves and ½ tsp dried thyme (or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme if you have it)

place browned roast on top, put lid on and place the pot in the preheated 170C oven for 1½ hrs, remove from oven after 45 mins and turn the roast, return to oven for another 45 mins

this is how mine looked after 1½ hrs

take out the roast, place on a plate, strain the veggies and reserve the stock. these veggies will go to compost, they've given out all flavor (this part is from anna)

place the reserved veggies to pot, pour stock back to pot

place roast on top, put lid on and return pot to oven for another 40 to 60 mins

this was mine after 45 mins, roast removed to rest before cutting. i didn't peel the potatoes because they looked so pretty with jackets on... not really, they keep their shape better with longer cooking with skins on, and you always need all the fiber you can get

my portion plated, serving this from a soup plate is from anna as well, the stock was so rich and flavorfull, i put spoons out as well. poured some stock on a slice of bread, so good!

made an apple pie for dessert but more on that tomorrow...

ps. happy father's day, dad!