Monthly Archives: July 2013

Finnish fish tajine (part 2)

Yesterday’s fish tajine turned out excellent and I thought to write down the recipe before I forget it. Finnish Fish Tajine

PREPARATION (see also the previous post Finnish fish tajine (part 1)

  • Peel and cut potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, eggplant, and place them in a large bowl (clay pot gives deeper taste but glass is fine, too)
  • Add spices: couscous mix, coriander powder and crushed coriander seeds, curcuma (also called turmeric), paprika, cinnamon sticks, lemon pepper and harissa paste
  • Add olive oil (in addition I used oil from a sundried tomato jar and it gave a lot of taste!)
  • Add fish broth (I used homemade frozen burbot broth)
  • Peel a lemon and cut it into thin slices
  • Add green olives

Mix everything thoroughly. Add fish pieces in the end (I had frozen pieces of burbot, which is an excellent fish for tajines and stews because of its solid texture). Leave the dish to marinate in the fridge for several hours. Heat the oven to 250C. Let the dish cook during one hour. The fact that the dish was cooked under a rather high temperature gave the vegetables a lot of taste (in fact the trick is to let the vegatables to almost-burn! but in order not to burn them totally, you should keep stirring the dish regularly). Finnish fish burbot tajineEnjoy “Finnish fish tajine” with cool rosé wine, for example AOC Côtes du Luberon from the South of France. Serve harissa aside for those who like it hot. I am confident to say that your dinner will be a great success!

PS I was a little bit in a hurry, but to prepare the dish more properly you should probably heat up the spices, garlic and onion in a frying pan (it is important to “open up the spices”with oil). Secondly, if you don’t have burbot, try to find a similar type of fish that has firm texture. Lastly, should you want to save money and do something even easier, try with canned tuna.

Finnish fish tajine (part 1)

When the sun shines in Finland, one has to enjoy it. So, when I spend time at the summer house by the lake, I try to do as much as I can outside. Even my cooking preparations!

My parents have burbot (made in Finnish) in the freezer (it is a winter fish), so today I decided to make a fish and vegetable stew. I invented a recipe as I was advancing. I started peeling and cutting potatoes, carrots, eggplants and onions. I placed them in a large bowl and added garlic, green olives, couscous spices, harissa, slices of lemon and olive oil, and left the dish to marinate in the fridge for several hours. It is in the oven now and will be eaten after the sauna. I wonder if it will taste anything like a Tunisian fish tajine? Probably not, but I am sure it will be tasty on its own curious way… As my husband brought with him some rosé wine from the South of France (AOC Côtes du Luberon), and I think it our dinner will be just fine! cooking at the summer house in Finland

PS Burbot is an excellent fish, but unfortunately many people are afraid to buy it because of its weird looks. Some people consider it difficult to prepare, too (getting rid of the skin etc.). This is a pity, because the texture of the fish is wonderful for preparation of many types of dishes. If you have your special burbot dish, I would love to hear about it!

Sauna Time

I just did one hour of jogging on a dirt road that cuts a big forest and some fields. The only animals I encountered were cows and sheep… No bears, no moose, no snake!

It is 9.30 pm now and the sun is still shining. Time to have a sauna.  This is the view from our bathroom toward the lake. The sauna itself is on the left side, behind the glass door.

Hyviä löylyjä! (what you say in Finnish when you wish someone a pleasant sauna session)

Finnish sauna

Grilled vendace: a typical Finnish meal after sauna

The question I hear all the time abroad is “do you eat salmon every day in Finland?”. In fact, the best salmon available at supermarkets in Finland is imported from Norway (Finland does not have access to the Arctic Sea like Norway and Russia). There are some excellent wild salmon that live in rivers of the Finnish Lapland, but you can almost never buy them in the Southern part of Finland. In addition, there are salmon in the Baltic Sea, but because of high levels of toxins in the sea (hence the fish, too), it is not recommended to eat it often.

So, to be brutally honest, Finland has limited salmon supply. However, on the other hand, I always tell people that Finland has an excellent variety of freshwater fish. Vendace (“muikku“) is one type of a lake fish (the one in the photo). It is usually available in autumn around November and easily caught by nets. Yesterday we managed to acquire some vendaces from a local fisherman near our summer house who has special equipment for catching this “lake sardine” in summer, too.

Grilled vendace: a typical Finnish meal

Perfect after-sauna meal: grilled vendace with green salad and rosé wine!

Nothing beats a good sauna, few swims in the lake, fried or grilled vendaces, green salad and a glass of French rosé from the Languedoc-Roussillon region!

PS 3kg of vendace cost us 5 Euros! Eating local products makes a lot of sense!

Finland, Land of the Midnight Sun

“Is it always light in Finland in summer?” is the most commonly-asked question I hear all the time.

What happens in where I am (about 350km from Helsinki) in July is this:

yesterday evening the sun set at 11.20 pm (I took this photo 1 hour and 20 minutes later) and this morning the sun rose at 3.39 am.

When I arrived last Thursday, I stayed up late with my parents. My Mom had a swim in the lake before finally going to bed at 3 am, and yes, indeed, the sun had started to rise (lightness at that time was very similar to this photo). I haven’t lived in Finland for a such long time that I observe all this as a foreigner, too. And I can say it is fascinating and exotic!sunset in Finland in July

A must-try at the Finnish summer house!

This morning my brother took me to test our new fishing boat. The lake was calm and beautiful, and the boat swam smoothly in the water. I got to be a captain for a while, too. captain of the boatAfterwards he convinced me to try this thing, sitting in the middle of a round-shaped plastic wheel, which is pulled by a boat.  It was actually a lot of fun and I did not fall once. We did a few rounds in the bay.water sports  My brother did it, too, but he requested much more speed (but did not fall either). my brother having funLife at the summer house is good. Temperature has climbed well above 20C and the sun is shining. My Dad is preparing grilled lake wish (called vendace I think), so must go now!

L’Homme Bleu: Berber hospitality in the center of Paris

Note added in July 2014: I returned to L’Homme Bleu many times but stopped doing so in summer 2013. Why? I was served a glass of champagne that either wasn’t real champagne or was long ago expired (I returned the glass and we were not billed for it). Unfortunately this was not all. The dishes were not as good as they used to be, and my favorite lamb tajine was simply too sweet. The tastes were not balanced. We very very disappointed and wondered was it the “August effect” (many people take holidays and maybe the restaurant was run by nonprofessionals at the time of our visit?). We never learner what it was, but we haven’t been back since summer 2013. There are so many North African restaurants in Paris to visit!! See my list of other restaurants in the end of this post.

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Paris is an excellent place to discover North African food and one can easily find an Algerian or a Moroccan restaurant in every area, arrondissement, of the city. We must have tried over 20 of these restaurants, but are always ready to try new ones.

Like l’Atlantide (Algerian restaurant l’Atlantide in Paris), l’Homme Bleu is also on Le Figaro‘s Best Couscous of 2010 list. L'Homme BleuI love tajines with lamb, fruits and nuts, and my husband loves couscous with a mixed meat plate, so going through the menu never takes too long for us. We chose a Seksu Homme Bleu Couscous (kebab, merguez sausage, lamb, chop, meatball) and based on our waiter’s suggestion, I ordered Tajine s’laxrif (sweet and sour lamb with dates, figs, raisins, almonds, orange blossom, cinnamon). We also ordered red wine, Coteaux de Tlemcen, from the western part of Algeria. Coteaux de TlemcenWhile waiting for our dishes to arrive, we looked around. There was a group of very fashionable Japanese tourists. Next to them, there was a group of local men discussing Zidane and drinking mint tea. I noticed that decoration is a little bit similar to L’Atlantide: rugs, warm orange-yellow colors, images of Sahara and Tuaregs on the wall. We had a chat with our waiter who confirmed that the restaurant owner is originally from Tizi Ouzou, which is a town in Kabylie in Algeria (like the owners of l’Atlantide).tajineMy tajine was delicious and very copious. The main difference to other lamb tajines that I have had was that the lamb was already cut into pieces. Why not! The dish was full of fruits and almonds, and apart from the fact I could have maybe asked for some more chick peas, everything was perfect.

My husband’s couscous came with a huge portion of vegetable stew (the way he likes) and a variety of grilled meat. His comments were “copious, tasty, enough stew, good-quality meat”, although he added that the merguez sausage was the least interesting meat on the plate.couscous l'homme bleuWe were particularly impressed by the friendly service. “Berber hospitality”, we said to ourselves. We also noticed that the Algerian wine had a very special (positive) effect on us: we could have fallen asleep in less than a second. The waiter joked with us and suggested we sleep on the pillows of the dining room downstairs. Apparently a coffee-croissant breakfast would be served to us in the morning at no extra cost…

In my opinion, l’Homme Bleu and l’Atlantide have a lot in common: an excellent price/quality relationship, high-quality ingredients, the way of cooking, the variety of dishes, decoration, etc. A dinner of two people with a bottle of wine hardly costs more than 60€. However, since l’Homme Bleu is closer to us (and since they were so nice), we will probably return here the next time we feel like stepping into the intriguing North African world.

L’Homme Bleu: 55bis Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 75011 Paris. Tel. 01-48070563. Metro: Parmentier. http://www.restaurant-lhommebleu.fr/

Le Figaro list: http://www.lefigaro.fr/sortir-paris/2010/11/22/03013-20101122ARTFIG00674-le-test-des-meilleurs-couscous.php?cmtpage=0

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Previous posts about eating North African food in Paris are:

L’Alcôve: finest meat of Paris (also serves couscous and tajine, but house specialty is grilled meat)
Algerian restaurant l’Atlantide in Paris (excellent couscous and tajine)
Le Tipaza: refined Moroccan food (a good address near the Eiffel Tower)