Friday, 31 July 2009

Ljubljana: The Central Market Place

I spent last week vacationing in Slovenia. It was my second visit to that beautiful country. You will find some pictures of my first visit to Ljubljana here. This time I spent a few days in Ljubljana and a couple more in Portoroz on the west coast. The weather could not have been much better. Sun, sun and more sun, and temperatures around +30 degrees Centigrade! :) I took tons of pictures, though many of them are tennis pictures (I timed my vacation so that I could watch the Banka Koper Slovenia Open women's professional tennis tournament in Portoroz), but there are more than enough of more touristy shots, too. Cinnamonda being a food blog I thought to start with sharing with you some pictures I took of the central market place in Ljubljana.

The central market is situated quite near the most important square of the city, the Preseren's Square (Presernov trg in Slovene), and the famous landmark Triple Bridge (Tromostovje). Actually, from Preseren's Square you cross the Triple Bridge, turn left, and there you are on the market place. The actual outdoor market is situated between a beautiful market hall building designed by the famous Slovenian architect Joze Plecnik and the Ljubljana cathedral. On the market, not only food products, but also clothing, some arts and crafts, and souvenirs are sold. There is also a milk automat on one side of the market place!

About the pictures:
Above: a melon stand at the market. Aren't those watermelons beautiful!
1. Part of Plecnik's colonnade and market hall seen from the Triple Bridge.
2. The market hall seen from the other side. Each door hides a little shop or cafe. Some of the shops are specialized in selling horse meat.
3. The market place in the evening. The Roman Catholic Cathedral can be seen in the background.
4. Some tables folded away for the night.
5. At the end of a market day. Products on sale or perhaps a resting place for the vendor?
6. Apples on sale.
7. The market place seen from the castle mount.
8. The other end of the market hall seen from the Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most).

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Who Needs a Knight in Shining Armour?

Sometimes things don't work out the way one wants. This time it was nothing major, just a Boston cake (a kind of cinnamon bun cake) that ended up all lopsided and funny looking. I really love Boston cake! Every time I bake one it brings back memories of my maternal Grandmother and my Mother. My Granny was a great baker, my Mom really did not like cooking or baking that much, but they both could bake a great Boston cake. And it was fun, as a little girl, to help either one to spread out to dough, butter it, then sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon, and finally to roll it. I especially liked to roll the dough! Next to eating the cake (always with a class of cold milk), rolling the dough was the best! :) So, I wanted to share with you my Boston cake recipe, but, well, my poor little cake really was no showcase! It tasted great, but looked a little sad, and all too shy to be photographed. :)

But, but...

After two days of eating my way through my lopsided cake I realised that there was another recipe I could share with you all. And a lopsided Boston cake, or any yeast-based sweed bread, f. ex. challah, or even toast would be perfect for this recipe! I desided to use the rest of my cake to make some Poor Knights, a really tasty Finnish dessert, and the perfect way to use any left over white bread. (And it does not matter, if the bread has dried up a little, actually dry bread is preferred for this recipe.)

Poor Knights

Makes a nice dessert for 2, or a big treat for 1.

4 slices of sweet bread, or white bread like toast
1 egg
some milk
cinnamon & sugar
oil/butter for frying

1. Break the egg into a shallow bowl/soup plate and mix it slightly. Pour some milk into another bowl/soup plate. Take some cinnamon & sugar & mix them on a plate. It is useful to arrange these plates into a row for step 3.
2. Warm some oil (I used rapeseed oil, the traditionalists would ude butter) on a pan.
3. Take one slice of bread at a time & using your fingers put it into the egg mixture, so that both sides get a thin egg coating.
4. Repeat with the plate with milk.
5. Repeat with the plate with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.
6. Fry in the pan from both sides.
7. Serve the Poor Knights warm with some (strawberry) jam (and whipped cream) -and a class of cold milk :)

ps. And just in case it you need it, Poor Knights are the perfect comfort food!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

On the Art of Doing Nothing

Hooray, hoo-ray it's a holi-holiday!:) I cannot help it, the old Boney M -song has been playing in my mind these past few days. :) I am on VACATION!! For four whole weeks!

The Rules of Vacation are:
1. Put your planner somewhere where you cannot see it. (If after four weeks you do not remember where it is, you have had a really good vacation!)
2. Do not make any plans.
3. Do things you enjoy doing.
4. Carpe diem!

This far I have followed the rules to the point, and I am planning... ups, no plans...I mean, I am going to continue to do so. I have been reading an excellent book (The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters), doing some fun cooking and baking, playing some tennis, and in general doing nothing special. I had dance practise today, but for the next three weeks, I will also have vacation from dancing. For the next two weeks, to be exact, I hope to continue on these lines, doing nothing special. Isn't that a lovely thing to look forward to! No plans, nothing you have to do, nowhere you have to go! Bliss!:)

Free from my usually crazy schedule I spent yesterday evening baking something I had wanted to try to do myself for some time now. I baked Alexander pastries, or rather Cinnamonda's version of them. Alexander pastry, or Aleksanterinleivos in Finnish, is a rectangular pastry with two, thin layers of cake, raspberry jam in between the layers, and pink sugar icing. It is the first pastry in Finland ever to be named after someone, in this case Russian Emperor Alexander I, who in 1809 also became the first Grand Duke of the Grand Duchy of Finland. He was supposed to visit Helsinki in 1818, and the pastry was created in his honour. In the end he visited Helsinki a year later. By the way, our main shopping street here in Helsinki is also named after him. But back to the pastry! It is still a very popular pastry here, available all around in cafes and pastry shops, and pastry counters in most food stores. It is also a very sweet pastry, perfect for someone with not only one sweet tooth but a whole set of sweet teeth! Even yours truly cannot eat many Alexanders in a row, and I have been known to wolf half a litre of ice cream or a large chocolate bar in no time!

I used my baking these pastries as a way to work towards finally emptying the freezer (I'm almost there now!) and instead of raspberry jam, which I did not have, I made some apple purée using up the frozen apple slices I had in the freezer. Also, I only had very little pink icing sugar left, so I opted for using white and making a marble effect with the little pink sugar I did have. I used 400 g white and 75 g pink icing sugar, but that was too much, therefor I have reduced the amounts for the recipe. If you want to bake traditional Alexander pastries use raspberry jam instead of apple purée and pink icing sugar only (or colour you sugar pink). One way to colour the sugar is with raspberries as in this more complicated recipe I found in the Nordic Recipe Archive.

Alexander Pastries

Makes 10

For the pastry:
200 g soft butter (or margarine)
1 dl sugar
1 egg
4 dl wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:
About 2 apples, sliced
Some sugar (according to your taste)

For the icing:
300 g white icing sugar
50 g pink icing sugar
ca. 1 dl water (or water mixed with some lemon juice)

Let's start with the filling:

1. Put the apple slices into a small pan. Add some sugar.
2. Cook the slices in their own juices until they are very soft.
3. Smash the slices with a spoon.
4. To make the purée finer pour the smashed slices into a food processor and pulse twice, that should be enough, and voilà, we have purée!
5. Let cool before use.

Then let's move on to the pastry:

1. In a bowl mix butter and sugar with your fingertips.
2. Add the egg. Mix some more.
3. Mix the flour and baking powder together in another bowl.
4. Shift the flour/baking powder mixture into the batter and mix quickly.
5. Cover with cling film and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile heat the oven to 175 Centigrade.
7. After half an hour take the batter out and spread it evenly onto a baking paper covered baking pan. The easiest way to spread the batter is to cover it with some cling film and then use a rolling pin. It should end up thin, only about 1/2 centimetres thick.
8. Bake in 175 C for about 15 minutes.
9. Let cool completely.
10. Cut the pastry into two halves.
11. Spread apple purée onto one half. Lift the other half on top.

Now is time to prepare the icing:

1. Pour the white icing sugar into a large bowl. Add some water, one tablespoon at a time, and mix, until you have a pourable, but not too runny, icing. Do the same with the pink sugar. With the pink sugar, you will need very little water, so be careful. It might be wise to use a teaspoon, when adding water to the pink sugar.
2. Pour the white icing on top of the pastry, covering the top completely. Using a piping bag make a pattern of crossing lines on the white icing. Using a fork draw a zig zag pattern on the pink lines to make them more marblelike.
3. Let the icing harden overnight.

(First thing:)) next morning:

1. Using a sharp knife cut the sides of the pastry, so that you get clean, straight, icing-free sides. (And some nice extra pieces of pastry for the cook i.e. yourself ;))
2. Cut the big pastry into 10 little pastries.
3. Brew yourself a nice cuppa tea. Put one Alexander (or maybe two) on a plate next to your tea, and...
3. En-JOY!

As I have been hopping back and forth between food and book blogs these past few days, I thought to share with my food blogging friends this info I found about The Spice of Life Challenge. It is a reading challenge that encourages participants to read books about food, be them cookbooks, nonfiction or fiction. Maybe some of you would like to join the challenge. It surely sounds like fun.