Something sweet, something savory and something warm. Quick-to-prepare pies and a hot citrus-flavored ginger toddy are easy and adaptable multi-purpose dishes for the festive season.
THE EASIEST DELICACIES for the winter's festive season are quick to make using ready-made puff pastry. Just pop the pastry into the oven, remove when ready, and decorate with delicious toppings. Made on a large baking tray, these pies are ideal for large parties: there’s no need to make individual portions and the base and fillings can be prepared before guests arrive.
A hot toddy is also easy to prepare in advance. Make the flavored syrup, put it in the fridge, and re-heat when the guests’ glasses are ready. A citrus-ginger toddy can also be enjoyed as an alcohol-free version – just leave out the alcohol at the end.
A pear pie is a sweet delicacy, with its lovely combination of salty blue cheese and crunchy hazelnuts. The pears should be firm, as juice from ripe pears may make the pie base too moist. This recipe is easy to modify: just replace the pears with apples, the hazelnuts with walnuts, and the blue cheese with parmesan.
The festive salmon tart tastes almost like Russian blinis but is much easier to make, as there is no need to bother with buckwheat flour or raising pastry, or sweat frying blinis for a large group of guests. Crispy puff pastry will do just fine, if you add plenty of topping!
Pear and blue cheese tart (serves 4–6)
1 packet (500 g) puff pastry
3–4 fairly firm pears
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of wheat flour
100 g of blue cheese
50 g of hazelnuts
Take the puff pastry from the freezer and place it on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper. Let the pastry melt. Heat the oven to 225°C. Cut the pears into thin wedges and mix with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of wheat flour. Unfold the puff pastry and roll it until thin. Use flour to keep it from sticking. Punch holes in the middle of the pastry with a fork. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar on the pastry. Leave a couple of cm on the sides free of sugar.
Place the pear wedges on top of the sprinkled sugar and fold the sides of the pastry slightly on top of the pears. Press down the edges with a fork and spread them with whisked egg yolk. Fry the pie in the middle of the oven for around 20 minutes, or until the sides are golden brown.
Allow the pie to cool and garnish with crumbled blue cheese, pomegranate seeds and crushed hazelnuts.
Festive salmon tart (serves 4–6)
1 packet (500 g) puff pastry
1 egg yolk
200 g of sour cream (smetana)
1/2 bunch of dill
salt and black pepper
100 g of cold-smoked salmon
1 red onion
100 g of roe
70 g of pickled gherkins
(Alternatively: shrimps, egg wedges, dill, smoked reindeer, mushroom salad or whitefish roe)
Take the puff pastry from the freezer and place it on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper. Let the pastry melt. Heat the oven to 225°C. Unfold the puff pastry and roll it until thin. Use flour to keep it from sticking. Punch holes in the middle of the pastry with a fork. Leave about 2 cm on the sides without holes to allow the sides to rise higher.
Spread the edges with whisked egg yolk. Fry the pastry for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Let the base cool for a while before you add the fillings and press lightly in the middle to make space for the toppings.
Mix the grated peel of one lemon, the juice of half a lemon and chopped dill into the sour cream. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Spread the sour cream onto the cool puff pastry base, leaving the edges bare. Add cold-smoked salmon on top with red onion cut into thin rings, roe and slices of pickled gherkin. Garnish to taste with lemon slices and more dill, and season with ground black pepper.
Hot citrus-ginger toddy (serves 4)
3 cups water
1 (thumb size) piece of fresh ginger
3 tbs honey
Whisky, brandy or rum of your choice
Slice the ginger, do not peel. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel of the clementine and lemon. Add the ginger and citrus peel to a saucepan with water and honey. Squeeze in the clementine juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Sieve the liquid. Do not add the lemon juice until the last minute to preserve the tang (do not boil the lemon juice).
Measure about 3 tablespoons of whisky, rum or brandy into glasses and pour in 2 dl of the warm liquid. Mix with a spoon, garnish with clementine slices if you like, and enjoy while hot.
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Text and images: Suvi Kesäläinen