No, no, I didn’t make these, but I just wanted to tell you about one of the oldest Russian candies - Petushok (Cockerel) lollipops. It’s an all-natural candy made with just sugar, water, and a drop of vinegar essence. Plus maybe some honey (like the ones you can see in the picture). You can also buy cockerel lollipops at almost every craft or food fair in Latvia - they’re called Gailitis here. They taste of burnt sugar and are rustic-looking, amber golden in colour, and irregular in shape. No artificial flavourings, no colouring agents - if you come across a red or yellow lollipop, it’s not a right one.
I don’t basically like lollipops, but these I can’t resist. They’re so natural, they taste of childhood, and they’re beautifully translucent. I’m even thinking of making some Petushki at home, if only I find matching lollipop moulds!
P.S. I’ve just discovered this lovely site Bloglovin and added my blog there:
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On the first snowy day in Riga, Mom made this cold pumpkin cake.
I’ve never seen a fall as long, warm, and sunny in Riga as this year. I believe this was done specially for Ivanka :) thanks to the fine weather, we could stay in the fresh air for hours, and those long long rains typical for Latvian autumn began only in mid-November. Or maybe that’s just a head start before a severe winter, we’ll see. Anyway, yesterday everything got covered with a thin layer of snow - and believe me I can see far from my 14th floor! In fact I can make mini-weather forecasts from here! Not to mention that it’s just nice to see nothing but the sky from the windows. I noticed some drawbacks of living on the 14th floor however, when the elevator stopped and someone remained stuck inside until the mender arrived…
Anyway, it looks like winter here now, and it’s a reason to have a piece of delicious cake, isn’t it? The pumpkin cake made by Mom is a compilation of multiple American cake recipes (including carrot cake) and it’s cold like winter, dusted with snow-like caster sugar, and comforting and filling as anything made of pumpkin is. I loved the super-dense, super moist texture, the slightly salty creamy filling and the subtle sweet flavour of baked pumpkin enhanced by ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I’m sure it’s good with a cup of Christmas tea, although it was just as good with the delicate jasmine and peach blossom tea that my aunt brought from China. These pictures of the cake are actually taken by her (seems like everyone in my family is getting involved in this blog, hehe)!
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Yesterday Mom came over and we had our first joint cooking session since I had the baby. I mean, we’ve been cooking regular meals together, or more often I’ve been shamelessly consuming dinners cooked entirely by Mom (somehow I still can’t juggle taking care of the baby and cooking), but we haven’t done anything for the blog.
So, yesterday we made Vatrushki. These are Russian/Ukrainian/Belorussian buns with sweetened cottage cheese in the middle. Vatrushki are normally made of bread dough, but we don’t really like the combination of plain bread dough and cottage cheese. So, we made our Vatrushki with a sour cream and margarine dough (the same we used for our Lemon Pie) and with plenty of cottage cheese filling. This type of yeast dough is my favourite. It remains soft and flavourful for days and days! We also folded in some dried apricots and sprinkled all this with cinnamon - believe me, the aroma of baking Vatrushki was so strong that Mom said she still smelt like Vatrushki on her way home… she supposes everyone on the bus thought she was a baker, hehe. I can imagine how envious those hungry people on their way from work could have been.
Anyway, if you are looking for a conventional recipe for this Eastern European pastry, you should really stop reading this, because we are going to present our fantasy on the theme of Vatrushki :) the recipe, however, has all the components of classic Vatrushki: a ring of dough with cottage cheese filling in the middle. Only… I arranged them too closely to each other on the baking pan… and as the dough baked through and raised, they nearly stuck to each other and their shape transformed to squares. Aaaaargh!! I promise I’ll make new pictures of correct Vatrushki next time I make them. I’m just posting what I have at the moment, okay? Please don’t judge too strictly. The shape is not a key factor after all - it’s much more important to mention that the cottage cheese filling was luscious and juicy and scented with melted dried apricots, and the crust was subtly crispy on the outside and moist and buttery on the inside. Even Stano said those were great - and he’s not a pastry eater. Oh by the way his parents are visiting us for Catholic Christmas, so we’re going to have some lovely Slovak Christmas recipes for the blog. In fact I should start saving for December/January family dinners, because we’re going to have a lot of special occasions - Catholic Christmas, then Ivanka’s Name day, then New Year’s Eve, and finally Russian Orthodox Christmas. Oh, and then there’re just 3 weeks left until my birthday ;-)
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Looking through Grandmother’s recipe notebook that I borrowed from her (although it looks more like I’ve expropriated it, muahaha), I stumbled across a recipe titled “Quick Apple Cake”. Naturally, the word “quick” caught my eye. My first attempt at this was a fail though, because I used a baking form that was too deep so there was too much batter and too little apples. Last night I made the cake again and it was a lot better!
This is the classic combination of fragrant fall apples flavoured with cinnamon and nutmeg on top of a dense, moist sweet-scented cake. Something very basic and homely, perfect with a scoop of good sour cream or Crème fraiche. Not to mention that the smell of a baking apple cake is one of the coziest food smells in the world!! I’m now thinking of trying this as an upside-down cake - to lock all of the rich apple juices inside.
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I’m sick of chicken soup.
You know, after being a semi-vegetarian for seven or eight years, I’m absolutely repulsed by any kind of soup made with meat or poultry. But ironically, I’ve found out I can’t lactate without animal protein. And chicken soup is one of the best ways to enhance milk production, since there’re proteins in it, and it’s liquid. At first I tried to diversify my chicken soup menu by adding different types of croutons or pasta. By this week, I realized this didn’t help any longer. I will never like chicken soup. I’m hopeless. So now I just throw some fresh dill into my bowl of chicken soup, grab a large piece of bread, close my eyes and… brrr! this should be done quickly. In fact it’s getting unbearable, so I think I’ll just start eating more chicken fillets instead.
I’m so ashamed of being so carnivorous.
Due to the lack of time, I haven’t cooked anything interesting in a while. Today I made Hasselback potatoes for the first time in my life and I loved them! I sprinkled some caraway seeds on top and added a tiny bit of garlic. Hasselback potatoes are a classic, so I’m not posting the recipe. Instead, I thought I’d just share another tip for encouraging lactation. Caraway drink - it really helps. And what’s more, it tastes good! To prepare it, pour one teaspoon of caraway seeds with one cup boiling water, cover and let infuse for 10 minutes. Then add a teaspoon of sugar and cream/milk to taste. Of course you shouldn’t necessarily be breastfeeding to enjoy this drink, so I recommend it to everyone!
Check out this pretty IKEA balloon my sister gave us for Ivanka’s first month anniversary!
Remember some time ago I wrote about our recipe being published in the Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook? Well, I received my copy of the book the other day, and now I finally believe our recipe is in it! Although it was still pretty hard to believe. You see, after having worked for 5 years as a press officer, I get super excited about anything hand-made and tangible. That’s why I so much love to cook - and to experience different textures, smells, and flavours.
Much as I prefer hardbacks, this paperback book really doesn’t count like a paperback :) it’s so imposing and fashionable and I love the square format. It’s colourful and well-organized, there’s a very helpful index in the end and a metric conversion table (including oven temperatures) which is worth copying and posting on your fridge as a reference for daily use! I was excited to see a lot of my fellow bloggers’ names in the blog list. It’s a shame I have so little time to go through each page of this fabulous cookbook right now, but I’m reading it page by page every time I have a spare minute. What I enjoy the most about the Foodista book is that all recipes are “live” and tested . I also know that the Foodista team had cooked some of the winner recipes to test them… which makes the whole cookbook really trustworthy!
If you would like to buy a book with 100 great, original and authentic recipes from all over the world, you should really order your copy on November 3, 2010 between 10 – 11 am PDT (see time zone converter). Because there will be a fantastic prize giveaway going on, and you might win some cool prizes such as an Amazon or a MadWine gift card, a Zojirushi Rice Cooker, or a Andrews McMeel cookbook! All you have to do to enter the competition is forward your purchase confirmation email to email@example.com (see complete info here).
Meanwhile, Ivanka has learned to smile. She now greets me with a trusting smile every morning. She knows it’s her strongest weapon to make my heart melt even after a very sleepless night!
Thank you for all your congrats on our new baby - I just haven’t had the time to reply to each of them, but I’ll do so later!