24 March 2008

A very Good Monday!

This is by no means a complaint, but for accurately the whole last week rain and me are going hand in hand. And - as mysterious as it may seem - apart from sunny and dry weather, my wanderlus also reaches its peak when it’s virtually an 'Unwalkable' weather outdoors. So today is not an exception. I woke up to an unsettling feeling that there is a certain place in Moscow I’m still unaware of and yet it is, unquestionably, the place I need to be in. I had no choice but to grab a map, put on my rain boots and set out for a quest. And my Dear Readers, if I didn’t follow the voice of my inner wisdom (*wink*) I would end up the unluckiest girl ever. Why? Listen...

I didn’t know in which direction I had to go. I simply let my feet carry me there. I got on the metro, closed my eyes and got focused on my intuition. After a few metro stations I still didn’t get any coherent answer to my questions. I tried to ease my budding doubts with a thought that a ‘destinationless’ gentle stroll about moscovian narrow alleys and side-streets – which I adore - would also be spectacular; never mind that i’ll have to negotiate a wall of rain and allow wind to to embrace me tightly in between. And here where my napping inner wisdom kindled at me and said: there is a magazine in your bag, so leaf through it and thee will find thy answer.

And my answer I found. In the Perlov’s Tea House* which is, indubitantly, one of the most outstanding and beautiful places in the central part of Moscow.

At the moment I spotted it, I knew it was my place. In glee and at a heartbreaking speed, I propelled my way through to it and presented myself happily in its frontdoor. This is where I learnt how the heavens smell. Interested? *wink, wink, wink* MY heavens smell of CHOCOLATE, RAW and GROUND COFFEE BEANS, TEA LEAVES and LIQUORS. The view of said goodnesses residing on the shelves gently stroke my eyesight while I was standing in the middle of the venue greedily inhaling the exgilirating aromas and odours. And the house’s interior is all but dull. Initially planned as the merchant’s residential house with a teashop on the first floor in mid-18th century, in a run of following years its owner (merchant Perlov) commissioned contemporate architects to decorate the house in the Chinese style (I take it that the intended purpose was to pay reverance to and thus establish closer connections with his chinese partners at that time – smart, huh? *smiles*). Eventually it appeared to look like a Chinese pagoda. Right in the middle of Moscow. I’m telling you, this is THE perfect place to be in on a Good Monday – no, every single day!

The warm and tender aroma of vanilla; from leathery to smoky to woody to fruity aromas of chocolate; the odour of freshly brewed coffee of all imaginable sorts with a possibility to taste a cup before buying beans of your choice; muted voices of customers (mostly french today); bottles of creamy liquors oozing their seducing flammable fumes, the ancient chinese design with dragons painted on the ceiling and mirrows everywhere – I was soaring high, I was speechless, I was under the magic spell, I was in love.

After a numerous efforts I pulled myself up together and invested my money in chocolate (honestly, I sooo needed to refill my stash of chocolate – probably, this is why I felt unsettled in the morning *smile*) and a thumb-nail bottle of old Riga herbal balsam (for coffee rather than plain consumption, though it feels sooo warm when alone in your belly!) *wink, wink, wink*

I came back home absolutely contented (you would guess so, wouldn’t you? *smiles*)! One mission was accomplished. But there was something else...something unnerving, which I, again, didn’t compute right away. The evident explanation to this unease came to me only when I'd stuck my head into a fridge (ha!) wearing a thoughtful what’s-for-dinner expression. I, somehow, completely forgot that a few days back I’d purchased one (1) kilo (please, don’t ask! *wink*) of fresh spring onion at a local farmer’s. Believe me when I say that 1 kilo of spring onion is fairly much. Too much! The time when my lovely onions would start getting rotten was unmercifully approaching ( I virtually heard its footsteps and could even smell). So, I had to take immediate measures. And I did.

*****Onion burgers*****

Yields about 10


For burgers
500 g white onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
5-6 sprigs spring onion, finely chopped
1 egg
4-5 Tsp plain flour
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying
For a sauce
2 Tsp tomato paste
1 tsp harrissa
½ cinnamon stick
2-3 cloves of garlic, crashed (or finely chopped)
1 1/2 cup plain water

1. In a medium bowl, combine onions (both white and spring) and a carrot.
2. To the mixture, add an egg, seasonings and flour and mix very thoroughly.

3. With a tablespoon, scoop a mixture and form small balls. Flour and flatten them slightly.

4. Preheat a non-stick frying pan, and fry your burgers over a high heat (5 mins on each side).

5. Once done, put the burgers on a kitchen paper towel to move away excess oil.

6. Into the same frying pan but over a low heat now (after you are finished with burgers), pour tomato paste mixed with 1 1/2 cup plain water, add garlic, cinnamon stick and harrissa. Stir well. Simmer the mixture until thickened.

7. Put the burgers in a small saucepan, pour the sauce over them and simmer at a low heat for about 10 mins. This will incorporate all the flavours.

8. Serve with steaming rice, or green salad leave, or as you wish.

If I didn’t know that it was onion burgers, I would think it was a fish dish. Seriously!! I absolutely love it. Fiery harrissa adds spiciness to the dish; plus cinnamon and fried onions is a FANTASTIC combination!!!

Such has been my Good Monday!!

Perlov’s Tea House
Myasnitskaya str.19

18 March 2008

My imperfect elegant baguettes - a good reason for a smile!

When it’s gloomy outside (and it’s been so in Moscow lately), one of the things that could (re)charge me is a good laugh. Not just ha-ha-ha, but a good belly laugh that would brush off all my restraints, worries and unease stocked in the corners of my mind throughout the winter. Time has come to shake it off, point!

This girl said, this girl did. A visit to the Puppets House on Saturday (I even wasn’t the oldest among its visitors), and much fun throughout the whole weekend in my kitchen. To play around in a kitchen is one of my greatest anti-dotes against the gloominess. For me food is more than a passion, it’s a way to express myself. So, I wanted a laugh - I got it. And in between I went through a baguette-a-thon (isn’t it eloquent enough? *giggles*). My baguette-a-thon is an ongoing event, for every weekend within the last months I’ve been lounging a baguette making campaign with a purpose to learn HOW to bake a damn good home-made baguette. Until now there’ve been only the mishaps. Though every single time after I goof something up I learn what I must not do in the future and this is how one actually learns, right? Or you think I’m in denial? *wink, wink, wink*

By now I’ve made lots of research on baguettes already (and yes, I still keep messing it up), and have picked and incorporated two recipes* in one which, to my mind, can serve me good – though they do not…yet. *wink, wink, wink*


Yields 3-4

550 g strong unbleached flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp sea salt
300-400 ml warm water
1 egg, well beaten and mixed with 1 Tsp cold water


1. In a large bowl, combine 150 g flour, 1 tsp yeast and 2 tsp sea salt. Stir in 400 ml warm water and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

2..On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled.
My dough happened to be rising overnight. And judging the way I took care of the dough, I must admit I might be a very good parent one day. *smiles* To create a warm environment I wrapped up the bowl with the dough in a woollen blanket, I patted a bundle affectionately and sang it lullabies. When I unwrapped it in the morning the dough aroma was just divine. Sourish, alive…it practically smiled at me!

3. Punch the dough down and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into a large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edges with water and seal. Taper the ends. (Is there any other way to shape a baguette as I seem to misunderstand how to do it just right and relatively easy??)

4. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place the loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat the egg with 1 tbsp of water and brush on. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until it has nearly doubled, around 35 to 40 minutes (or even more if your kitchen isn’t warm enough). Warning: I covered the loaves with a damp cloth and it glued so hard to the loaves, that I had really hard times to move the stuck cloth away. As a result the surface of the baguettes is uneven. *sigh*

5. With a very sharp knife (this is where my new chef’s knife came in oh-so-handy), make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across the top of each loaf. Bake in a preheated 190 C (375 F) oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until the bread tastes done. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

These baguettes were mishaps in appearances (again! *wink, wink*), though pretty much edible and tasty and with soooo crispy crust (Yum!); this is where this don’t-judge-a-boo
k-by-its-cover concept steps in to bang the drum for my sake. *wink* Ta da da da!

Oh, and of course my baguette-a-thon isn’t finished yet. I know one day I will make a flawless loaf. I simply know it!

I had fun this weekend. I really did.

And before I call my Tuesday a day (Tuesdays, you never cut me a slack and yet I love thee!) I want to take this opportunity to express my utter gratitude to Cookiemouse of Cookiemouse for awarding me with the Excellence Blog Award.

My first award thus far!!! And as the legend has it now I’ve got to pass a trophy to other 5 excellent food bloggers – I’m always in tatters when it comes to choosing among so many outstanding people running their blogs. Ok, no further ado. The award goes to:
1) Tiina of
Cinnamonda for having an excellent sense of taste and creating marvellous dishes – both sweet and savoury!!
2) Kate of
Aaplemint for her cooking talent that seems to be innate and stunning photography!!
3) Michele of
Oswego Tea for inspiration, motivation, great sense of humour and such a beautiful writing!!
4) Marieke of
Trifles.nl for creating a cosy (‘gezellig’ in dutch) atmosphere of a small dutch patisserie in her kitchen!!
5) Ximena of
Lobstersquad for her fabulous drawings and smart and humorous narration!!

*One of the recipes you can find
here and the other in Mireille Guiliano’s Book

9 March 2008

Amazed and rewarded

Lately such a thing as serendipity seems to be raining on me non-stop. *smiles* By chance I discovered that I get equally excited by purchasing a new real chef’s knife (sometimes I am REALLY amazed by my own self) as by getting a bar of to-die-for chocolate. *wink, wink, wink* I also learnt that when at a morning rush hour on the metro you’re not sandwiched in a train between yawning people and nobody is tearing apart your coat and bag elbowing their way out or into the compartment, it’s only because you took the train in a wrong direction and now have to propel your own way through to work at a breakneck speed. *sigh*

And besides, I understood that when I bake something without any recipe on hand (and you, My Dear Readers, know – don’t you? - that when it’s concerned BAKING it’s practially a MUST to stick to the RECIPE) and, nevertheless, a final product of such a recipe-less baking of mine is damn good, the best way of self-reward for me then is a bunch of flowers, a glass of white wine and a piece (or maybe two *wink*) of my creation, and never mind how simple it might be...*a wink and a very proud smile*

*****V E R Y Simple Curd Strudel*****

Preparation time: 1-2 hours
Cooking time: 15-20 mins

You'll need:
1 sheet of puff pastry (I haven’t YET employed a talent of making a puff pastry at home, so presently I’m using an uncooked store-bought type of puff pastry)

1 egg white, beaten and mixed with one Tsp cold water

200 g curds
(i buy fresh curds at a local market on Sundays)
60 g chopped walnuts, toasted until fragrant
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ Tsp acacia honey (or any other sort of honey you favour)
2 Tsp unsweetend coconut flakes


1. Thaw pastry according to package instructions at a room temperature (usually it takes from 1 to 2 hours).

2. Combine curds, toasted walnuts, honey, cinnamon and coconut flakes and mix well.

3. On a slighly floured surface roll out the dough to make it thin enough (but don’t make it too thin as it might tear apart when put in a hot oven).

4. Spead the stuffing equally on the dough sheet and roll it up into a strudel shape. Seal the seam by pinching the sides together slightly. Brush the strudel surface with egg white pixture

5. Place a strudel, seam side down, on a slightly greased baking sheet and put it in a preheated to 230-240 C oven. Bake for 15-20 mins, or until golden brown (if strudel browns too fast, cover it loosely with a foil then).

6. Remove from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack.

7. Enjoy!

Moist and flavourful curd stuffing with crunchy walnuts embraced in a crumbly puff pastry is a divine combination that’s worth a glass of dry white wine to be raised to!! Cheers! *wink*

P.S. The only thing I found difficult while making my strudel was to not eat up all the curds stuffing (I had to restrain myself really hard by pacing restlessly up and down my kitchen) before the puff pastry got thawed. *wink, wink, wink*

3 March 2008

REAL Tale from My Kitchen

My life seemed to be all about soups yesterday until the chance took over. Oh well, I’ll better put a particular order in my narration. *smiles*

So, there was a
‘Pumpkin Soup’ in my earphones (shocked? *wink, wink, wink* Why? It’s just a song! *giggles*), two different types of soup (both equally delicious, but upon this later*) simmering on my stovetop (blimey, it’s working all right now), and an ever-expanding girl’s dilemma which soup to choose for my lunch. Oh, it’s such an ordeal to have to be making a choice between things you want both. I guess you might be saying it’s not a big deal to have two soups for lunch (I indeed could turn it into a soup tasting party, couldn’t I *smiles*), but I also had sweet and honest intentions for a desert afterwards. *a glow in my eyes and a very broad smile* You fee where I’m going, don’t you? *wink, wink, wink* Yes, I had to make a decision. And not the easiest one, I would say.

Probably I’d be staying in my kitchen for AGES** psyching myself up to make a judicious choice if I didn’t get injured (!!!) eventually. A can of chickpeas fell off out of a kitchen cupboard right on my feet (I assume I opened that cupboard for some reason, though I don’t seem to remember that namely reason now *a very sheepish expression of my face*). So the can of chickpeas and my aching feet was enough for me to decide on the spot what I was going to cook. Chickpeas with potatoes, I’m proud to say! (I’ve been wondering how I could have passed an exam in logic in my university so successfully. Hm.).

*****Chick Peas and Potatoes Masala*****

Serves 3-4


2 tsp vegetable oil
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 whole glove
2-3 small dried red chillies, crashed
1 small onion, chopped
1 glove garlic, crushed
1 Tsp tamarind paste
400 ml canned tomatoes, trimmed and pureed
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp each ground cumin and ground coriander
½ tsp each ground cinnamon and ground cloves
2 small potatoes, diced
400 g can chick peas, thoroughly rinsed and drained
½ tsp organic smoke extract
Fresh herbs, to garnish


1. Heat oil in large non-stick pan. Add fennel seeds, whole clove and dried red chilli and sauté until lightly browned.

2. Add onion and garlic and sauté until softened.

3. Add tamarind paste to pureed tomatoes and stir/mix very well to avoid any lumps of tamarind paste (it dawned upon me to use an egg whisk for this purpose). You should undertake this before starting to cook, for dissolving a tamarind paste is a time-consuming procedure.

4. Add tomatoes with tamarind paste and all ground spices to onion and garlic and cook until oily specks are on the surface of the mixture. At this point add potatoes and chi peas and mix well.

5. Bring to boil, cover with a lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 25-35 mins, or until potatoes are cooked and tender (not mushy).

6. Stir in ½ tsp organic smoke extract, chopped parsley/coriander and serve with your favourite bread.

The salt isn’t featured in this dish at all, ‘cause the tamarind paste plays the entire trick of enriching the dish with a sourish/slightly salty taste. All the spices compliment each other so well that tomato base of the dish is given a rich and incredibly flavourful texture. As to the smoke extract it adds up a subtle smoky undertone that by a twist of your imagination brings you to a mysterious Asian land…

In the light of aforementioned circumstances I couldn’t help but maintaining an Asian theme of my Sunday lunch*** and opted for an Indian tomato soup the recipe of which you can find on Nicky's fantastic blog.

Ah, and now I’d like to brag just a little bit, can I? *smiles* I’ve got a new pet and its name is
Dark Belgian Chocolate with Cinnamon. HEAVENS! (Tiina, are you reading this? *wink, wink, wink*) So, my desert was as humble as my intentions…A square of the treasure that crowned up my royal feast. Truth be told I even didn’t care I’d got a small mishap in my kitchen earlier. I might as well call it happiness, mightn’t I? *smiles*

*Not to be talking in riddles for now I’ll just mention it’s an Indian- and French-style soups, either of which featuring red lentils. Yum!
** A note: an indecisive girl can easily starve herself to death. Huh.
*** For such an occasion I even dressed up in an Indian style (i believe it was more of if-you-say-A-say-B kind of a thing rather than me getting totally nuts *smiles*). Thank you, L., for giving me that lovely dress I simply adore!

1 March 2008



P.S. 2-3 mins under the grill/in the oven on each side is fairly time for naan rather than 10 mins on one side alone (as I did at first). The rest (both ingredients and method) is the same. *Phew*
P.P.S. It paired sooooooo good with Heidi's Curried Egg Salad! Mmmhhhhh...