I feel the need to point out that I said, on my last post, “it’s not that we actively dislike the components of the traditional Christmas dinner…”.
It’s just that it isn’t a “treat” meal to me. The only part of the dinner that I really could do without is, erm, the turkey. Which is kind of a key part, but any time I’ve tried it I’ve found it to be a bit dry, boring, and generally lacking in taste – even in really nice restaurants. I much prefer chicken.
However, the rest of the meal is great. I’m particularly fond of stuffing, and fluffy roast potatoes, and those little sausages wrapped in bacon. Christmas dinner enthusiasts may be comforted to know that when some other family members call round to The Parents’ house on Christmas night, there’s always a Christmas Tea to be scoffed. It’s a cold buffet, and another of my mother’s noteworthy achievements. Chicken, ham, stuffing slices, pasta salads, stuffed eggs (I adore these), fresh bread, cranberry sauce… it never ceases to amaze me that we can each fill our plates at least twice after having declared a state of emergency just a few hours earlier due to the greedy bingeing mentioned in the previous post.
And then, of course, there are leftovers for days on end, which can be eaten as a cold lunch or served with roast potatoes and sprouts for a Christmassy dinner. So, I do eat “normal” Christmas food, you see. Just not for Christmas Dinner. Perfectly understandable.
I really am craving a big, home-cooked, Norn Irish meal now, you know.
I like to cook, and I do my best with what I’ve got, but my supply of ingredients in Estonia is decidedly limited. This is partly because they like to eat different sorts of foods here, but mostly because I have absolutely no idea how to identify the majority of storecupboard ingredients on the supermarket shelves. It took me several weeks and four incorrect purchases before I managed to work out which member of the vast dairy fridge was ordinary cream. Before that, I accidentally bought yogurt, creme fraiche, some sort of disgusting dessert thing, and a carton of unidentifiable and tasteless white gloop. If any of my growing number of local readers are also vaguely interested in cooking, and would like to spend an entertaining afternoon guiding me around a supermarket and explaining/translating products for me, please do volunteer. I’ll buy you a coffee, or perhaps a bag of sprouts.
In the meantime, bevchen had a post the other week about shopping baskets and what lies therein, and I’ve been meaning to mention some of the interesting supermarket items I’ve discovered in Tallinn. Well, they’re interesting to me, anyway. Some of my regular purchases include:
Happy Cows. Not an unexpected move into the farming trade, but a strangely-named Milka chocolate bar. Milk chocolate with splodges of white. Like cows. No, like happy cows. Makes for a Happy Hails, anyway.
Pancakes. The variety of pancakes here is really quite breathtaking, as I’ve pointed out before. The best are to be found in Kompressor – the last one I tried there was minced beef and cheese, although the garlic and blue cheese ones are pretty special, too. And if you don’t want to go out, you’ve got to make sure you also have a good supply of pancakes at home. The ready-made supermarket ones aren’t brilliant, but they satisfy the craving. And then last week I discovered “Big Pancake Flour” – hooray! As a result, the fridge is now full of homemade pancakes. It is a very happy state of affairs.
Garlic. As you know, I always, always buy garlic. Even if I already have some. It is like a compulsion, and often I do not know how the garlic got into my basket. Recently, I encountered a display of “Super Garlic”, which may need to be sampled before too much longer…
Ham. Estonia has approximately 1.3 million different kinds of ham. It is virtually impossible to buy the same one twice in a row, unless you’ve had the sense to write down the name of the one you liked. Obviously, I do not. However, it’s nice to have a bit of variety, I suppose, even if I haven’t got the faintest clue what all the variations of the same product actually are. It’s not just ham, it’s pork products in general. If it comes from a pig, the Estonians will offer you an overwhelming selection of nearly-identical-but-slightly-different versions of it. Which brings me to:
Big Sausage. Forgive me, for I do not know the correct name for such a product. It is simply a Big Sausage, to me. These are monstrous creations. Just one Big Sausage takes up quite a large part of an entire shelf in our fridge. Initially, I bought one out of curiosity. I had two main questions: 1) How do you cook a Big Sausage? 2) Are Big Sausages the same as Normal Sausages, only bigger? The answers are “I have no idea” and “No, nicer”, respectively. The ones I’ve tried have had cheese or something throughout them, which goes all gooey and delicious, and bubbles up from under the skin. Of the sausage, I mean, not of the eater. Big Sausages are extremely nice. They are, however, very difficult to cook. I decided (after an unsuccessful attempt involving a small explosion) that a low heat for a long time was the best option, but this left the skin slightly chewy. I am refining my method by purchasing Big Sausage on a regular basis. :)
Siirup. When in France, I complained about the absence of squash drinks, the kind you dilute with water, as these were a staple of mine before I left Ireland. I was directed to “sirop”, which is the same idea, except that it’s a thick, gooey syrup that you have to dilute, rather than the ordinary liquid consistency to which I was accustomed. It’s very sticky, and much too sweet for my tastes. However, armed with the knowledge that “sirop” was along the right lines, I discovered the Estonian equivalent: “siirup”. To my delight, it is much more squashlike. In fact, it is nicer. There are interesting flavours like raspberry with redcurrant, and my favourite is something that I can neither identify nor translate. No matter. It’s nice.
All this food blogging makes me very hungry. And I seem to recall there being a Big Sausage in the fridge…