Category Archives: Toidukultuur

Pet peeves of the day: measuring spoons and cups

I am out for war with kitchen right now and it seems Pinterest has sensed it and is giving me all sorts of pictures on measuring spoons! Yes! MEASURING SPOONS! And then I happened on this article, which was posted in 2010, which makes me only hope that they have become smarter over the time, but, in case they have not, I’d like to clear out this argument once and for all.


There was a reader’s letter that asked about dessert spoon and using spoon measurements in recipes. As of now I’m really starting to see the measuring spoons as equal of degrading cooking education, here’s a little reminder of how things are, so you wouldn’t have to buy yourself all 8 plastic tiny spoons and don’t have to have 8 extra spoons to clean up while you might just do the same work with 2 spoons and spend your lovely time on something else.

So, what’s the deal with tablespoon, soup spoon, dessert spoon and teaspoon and all those measuring spoons?

This argument rises only because of cultural differences. In Europe you have 3 spoon types -teaspoon (ab 5 g sugar), dessert spoon (ab 10 g sugar) and soup spoon, aka tablespoon (ab 15 g sugar). In cooking, there is teaspoon and tablespoon measurements, which in European standard would equal to teaspoon and soup spoon. That’s all there is to it. And to check this over in numbers:

16 tablespoons = 1 cup (that is 16 x 15 g = 240 g, usual drinking glass)
3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon (3 x 5g = 15 g)

Dessert spoon is not used for measuring, because it wasn’t commonly used in all society groups, only teaspoon and soup spoon (tablespoon). The soup spoon is understood as tablespoon because of the very same principle – you would have spoons to eat soup. Nowadays it doesn’t matter any more if the “tablespoon” is dessert spoon or soup spoon, for unless you follow strict etiquette, most people choose the spoons for their family’s table based on preferences, not on sizes.

As for the cooking, the simplest is to just check over the sizes of the spoons in your kitchen and stick with the same size spoons while measuring your ingredients.  Same goes about cups – keep to one cup throughout the recipe and you don’t have to measure anything in grams.

Here’s the reason why that will save you a lot of headache: if the recipe is given in cups and/or spoonfuls, then it’s not about the actual weight, but about scale and ratio of the ingredients. Like 1 part of flour, 2 parts of sugar, 1/4th part eggs… It’s because households didn’t use scales, they used ratios. Each household had different size cups and spoons, and thus their cooking never tasted the same as their neighbors. But the recipes still worked.

We are too obsessed with accuracy these days, forgetting why the recipes are as they are. Of course the recipe doesn’t work if you search accuracy from such recipes – you need to ease up a bit, let your inner voice guide you. It’s about tuning – if there is too much flour, you add spoonful of water for consistency. If it’s too lean, you might want to add quarter a cup extra flour or if the taste is too plain, you can add that extra spoonful of sugar. Of course you can follow the recipe to exact measurements, but as our ingredients differ from country to country and from season to season, it is lunacy in making.

It’s not that hard if you think it through once, because it’s not punch of numbers, it’s a method to make your life easier. A skill which made women perfect chemists ;).

Also, here’s an old favorite of mine that all the old cook books came with. It is a kind of a marker in change of times, from when the recipes were about ratios were changed to recipes of accurate measuring, which killed the skill of tuning your own food, not just blindly following the recipe:

Screen shot 2010-09-19 at 5.36.27 PM

Have fun washing less spoons and cups!


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Filed under OLD CRAFTS, Toidukultuur

Oishi! Or, rather…

We’ve been without internet for a week. The stormy week has been nasty, but as expected for autumn storm. Maybe slightly over the usual though, but still tolerable. However, it took the internet away, so I’ve spent my time doing all sorts of weird stuff.

Like finally getting around and testing out anko from azuki beans and mochi.

Actually, for anko it’s second time. First time I tried somebody’s “easy” way and, well, blew it, because it turned out horrible – the taste was there, but the texture was not. So this time I searched out my only Japanese food book I have and painstakingly translated the German into Estonian and did it again. That book is give out in 80s and although I keep it more like a totem item, as it isn’t really that good, the second patch came out just as they described in the text! I think I could let the beans boil a little longer next time and still try out mashing them up better, but the taste is totally there and I’m super happy about it.

Even niece liked it after I convinced her that the weird scent of it can be ignored and she tasted it. But as she’s still not home with the taste of it (can’t say I’m 100 percent there either as beans in sweet form is quite unknown around here), I made two extra small patches where I added gingerbread spice mix and another with cocoa. The last one was rather nice though.

But the mochi went down the drain. Or, more like it’s in the first stage of anko – something went wrong and I’m not sure exactly what.

To start with, I should seriously stop looking at any recipe that starts with word “easy”. It’s like asking advice from a devil! Not one of those “easy” recipes have worked for me and I always end up searching the hard way, the classical way, and then it works. No shortcuts in cooking! Yeah, as if I don’t know that nothing is there without a reason.

I took the “easy mochi” recipe for testing – followed the recipe to the letter and at first it looked as if it worked. And then we tasted it and well, thank god I don’t do big patches when I’m in testing stage. The hardest part will probably be convincing my niece to give it a second chance. I know something went wrong, because the taste wasn’t even close to what I had years ago.

So, some time in the near future, after I’ve done my homework again, I’ll give it another try and sincerely hope it gives me better results and finally something good. Or rather, I wonder if there is anyone in Tartu right now, who could actually teach me if I showed up on their doorstep?

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Apple chutney

Mom helped an old friend few days ago, who has a huge garden with lots of apple trees. Long story short, she came home with a bag full of those that had fallen down. They are the sort of apples you can use immediately, so I made apple cake, but then was left over with nearly a kilo more. So what do you do?

I tried apple chutney. Never made it before, so I can’t really compare the taste, but the ingredients sound nice, so I gave it a try. And like usually – you miss some things, you have more of another, the tastes don’t feel right… so I changed it. But I like how it came out still, so here’s my version of it:

700 grams of apples – cleaned and diced.
200 grams of white sugar
110 grams of brown sugar
200 grams of raisins
1 medium onion finely diced
1,5 teaspoons of mustard seeds
1,5 teaspoons of ginger powder
0,5 teaspoons of salt
3 tablespoons of 30% white vinegar
1,5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
up to 300 milliliters of water

The odd water amount comes from the fact that not having the right vinegar at hand, I took a glass, mixed the white vinegar and balsamic vinegar (for there is nowhere said I can’t do that) and added enough water to fill that glass. Taste it carefully – it should be still acid enough, but not bad for your taste.
Clean the apples and onions, dice them quite small and toss them in a good thick bottomed pot together with the rest of the ingredients. Bring it to boil, then turn the heat low and let it bubble away, mixing every now and then to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Let it simmer until the apples and onions are done and down to more sticky context.
I prepared 5 small bottles about 200 ml each (like you would prepare jam bottles) and filled them up to the neck. Was left enough for later tasting and that was it.

I’m not sure it actually would fall under chutney, but the abundant taste would make nice addition to meat in few months. Taking in consideration of the taste combination, I would say it will want to sit on the shelf for few months before its actual goodness comes out.
chutney test

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Filed under Family Recipes, Preserves

Muffins a’la air

…or lessons on how to make muffins if you are not allowed to have dairy, eggs or anything that has gluten in it.

4 tablespoons of gluten free flour mix
2 tablespoons of rice flour or almond flour
4 tablespoons of sugar
3/4th teaspoons of baking powder  (50:50 of baking soda and citric acid)
4 tablespoons of water mixed with 2 heaped teaspoons of egg replacement
1 big mashed banana or 3 tablespoons of apple sauce
1/2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
2 fistfuls of raisins
1/2 glass of water
3 tablespoons of cooking oil
can also add 1 tablespoon of coco for chocolate flavor

Set the oven to 200 C and put ready about 10 medium size muffin forms. Mix the dry ingredients separate in a bowl except raisins and in another the water, oil and mashed banana.  Mix separately the egg replacement.  Mix the egg replacement and water mix quickly in the flours. Put in the forms and straight in the oven. Bake about 15-20 minutes.

Ready. Enjoy.

I must say I never thought it possible, but it turns out you can cook without using actual ingredients. Taste rather nice too.

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Filed under Sweets

A to Z Challenge – Spell crafts – Yeast

Witches yeast is actually wild yeast dough, or by its common name – sourdough that is kept alive on countertop in your own kitchen.

Doesn’t sound very magical, does it? It isn’t, if you look at it by the modern standard – you go in the shop, buy the yeast and do the sourdough. Yeaaaah, that’s if you are not so happy performing alchemy in your own kitchen.

I have tried keeping sourdough alive for a month. If you’d make bread at home in regular pace, keeping it alive would be much easier and getting it “good” would be easier task too. If you just take it up as one of these homey experiments, then you probably give up before your yeast matures enough to start giving good results in your bread making.

My grandmother still tells me how they had wild yeast pot which was kept hanged down in the well – they needed some, they went and took the portion, “fed” the yeast and hung it back. The reason it was kept in the well was because the most perfect way to keep the yeast from overproducing is to keep it on steady temperature and in a farm of four seasons, where the rooms go from 0 to 20 *C in couple of weeks, where is the most steadiest temperature? In the well! 4*C-s throughout the year.

The wild yeast however prefers warm kitchen. There are several technologies in the net, but my know-how goes that you just take some bread flour and mix it with warm water into thick paste. To get the process going, you can add something sour, like sour milk, kefir, fresh apple juice, fermented cabbage’s juice or anything of the sort. You let it sit for few days and it is ready when it has risen up and then flattened out again. After that you can cut it in pieces, add some flour and water and mix it smooth.  In few days you notice it will froth up, smell a bit like wild beer and it turns liquid.

The best place to keep it is the fridge, but not longer than a week, too much co2 in the process I guess. You take the witches yeast, make bread dough like usually, then take a handful of the new starter out of the dough patch before adding the rest of the flour (mm, that is difficult to explain, you basically add little flour and little water until it is liquid form and let it sit, gather power, and before adding the rest of the flour to turn it into knead-able dough, you take a cup out of it for the next time).

First ones will be weird and beyond belief sometimes, but I know people, who have had the same dough starter for a decade if not longer. It isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

Now that I’m writing of it, I think I want to start it again. It felt good to have it on the corner of the cupboard, sitting there like a steady house pet, a spirit in the corner that had to be treated well.

I don’t have my own sour dough picture, but I do have a picture of the other bread I made, so I apologize for my constant readers for a double post image :).Gluten free, dairy free, egg free!


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Filed under Daily bread, Yeast

Daily bread

As long as I’m doing the A to Z Challenge, you will get double posts occasionally.

I am bread lover. So after sis told me that we can’t really have the usual bread, I felt like crying out because I can’t get past a day without piece of bread.   I would prefer black bread, but, well, if you can’t have it, then you just can’t have it – it’s no fun to live with them if they are constantly aching their bellies. So, challenge accepted!

I know there are special gluten free flour mixes. But with price of 7 Euros for half a kilo made me crawl up the wall. I could get 6 kilos of normal flour for that! Or 4 kilos of different ones… So instead I took home the 4 different ones and felt like alchemist making the Sorcerer’s stone.

And here it is – gluten free, egg free, dairy free bread! All requirements fulfilled to be added as something we can make normally! And you can add whatever sort of extras in the dough as you want! It puffs up, it can be cut normally, it does not crumble, it does not taste like corn or rice, it is moist and it tastes and acts pretty much like a normal loaf of bread!

The base:

2 tablespoons of  buckwheat flour

4 tablespoons of corn flour (or oat flour)

4,5 tablespoons of rice flour

4,5 tablespoons of  potatoes starch

ab 300 ml of water (warmer than usual if you use dry yeast)

50 g worth of dry yeast (or 50 of live yeast mixed with half of the water above)

3 tablespoons of sugar

half a tablespoon of salt

Whatever tasty things you fancy

I tried to keep the ratios of 4 parts of whole grain flours and 6 parts of white flours and starches, 1 part equals 1 lightly heaped tablespoonful.  Simply using one flour came back with results which shall never be mentioned under penalty of death.

First I mixed together the flours and the starch. Mix them throughly so no lumps will be there.  Add sugars, salt and dry yeast. Mix through. If you use the live yeast, add the flour to the rising yeast. The sugar is actually by taste – it’s just the combination I like.

Add half the water. Mix thoroughly. Add in parts the rest of the water. With those flours, you need the mix to look like morning porridge or thicker sour cream.

Add anything else you fancy. For daily loaf, I like adding some seeds or herbs if we begin getting them fresh. For lunch snack for niece, I add a mash of banana, teaspoonfuls of cardamom and cinnamon and teaspoonful of honey.

Let it rise in warm place in the medium loaf pan until your oven heats to 180-200 C. Bake it for about 30 minutes. Remove it from the pan and wrap in a towel. If you feel it is crisp, brush crispy parts with water if needed – it will nicely turn softer. Let it cool inside the towel.

And there you go. Sounds difficult, but with baking, the complete time from mixing the flours to out of the oven is about an hour.

That, by the way, is the real result 🙂 – I am super proud.

Gluten free, dairy free, egg free!

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Filed under Daily bread

Sweet sour cucumber

1 hot house cucumber (they are the long ones) or any fresh cucumber in that matter
small handful of fresh till with stems
2 slices of fresh red or green chilly pepper or 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
4 teaspoons of sugar
pea size amount of mustard paste (we use very strong tasting one, not sweet versions – so it should be twisted by taste)
1/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds
3/4 table spoon of 30% white vinegar
200 ml of water

Melt the sugar, salt and mustard paste in the water. If needed, use 1/4th of hot water to melt them and then add 3/4th of cold water. Add the vinegar, black pepper/ chilly pepper slices and mustard seeds and leave it on the side. Probably by the time you’ve finished with preparing the rest, it will be perfectly cooled.

Slice the cucumbers and lay them in the jar in layers of cucumbers, mustard seeds and cut till. Cover it all with the solution and close the lid. Leave it in the fridge or cellar overnight and there you have it – nice, sweet and sour cucumber breakfast slices.

This version lasts about a week or two, but is not meant to keep for months. It is sweeter then fresh marinated cucumbers, but not as sweet as some varieties you find from the shop. Perfect for breakfast.

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Filed under Preserves