Goddess of Cake


A Garden Memory and Odd Salads

This city is drowning in snow, but I can feel the spring edging closer. The days are longer and the little birds have started chirping, and the sunlight feels warm on my cheeks. It reminds me of the fact that the  summer will come.

Last summer we built a secret garden in one desolated spot in Helsinki, amidst old trains, rose bushes and general junk. It became a tiny paradise, with the biggest mangold leaves, abundant mint and sky – reaching branches of dill. And those rows of huge carrots and beetroot! It was a common effort by many  brave guerilla gardeners, who did learn about the miracle of growth in the process.  We were loved by the media, frequented by all kinds of visitors, from art students to radical activists and old ladies interested in gardening. Not to mention Helsinki’s recent dominant pest, the Urban Bunnies, a feral, red – eyed, formerly domesticated little nuisance.

I remember those early summer evenings, dry, light and warm,  lugging the heavy watering cans and letting the plants drink. What a delight is water for the dusty earth and for yourself, after a hot day. And I isn’t it strange, how the little grey, inconspicuous – looking seeds turn black soil, water and sunlight into edible green leaves and colourful tubers? If you never grew your own food, how could you possibly appreciate that? No one can control that magic! We can help and enhance it, but it happens by its own will. For new life to grow, there needs to be first death and decay, and what is living now, will finally be compost that feeds new growth.  A difficult lesson to learn.

Harvest party pictures courtesy of Päivi Raivio, thanks!

If I could stay in that moment, in the secret garden, with the heavy watering cans, I would. But time’s current is a force that only takes you forward. The green growth will take its own way, and is not stopped by blocks of concrete or urban sprawl.  When you open your fist, what you grabbed, a rock, a leaf, a piece of soil,  has  been pressed down to a diamond, a beautiful memory. That is for your keeping, for ever, even when a secret garden is too small a dream.

But they are sleeping there, under the blanket of snow, the little seeds. Soon, soon, it will be their time, to sprout and make a green revolution.  What revolutionary dreams do they dream? Stay tuned to the channel…

The Odd Salad

We recently had a meeting to plan some urban gardening visions. A member of our group suggested on our mailing list, in English, that we could share “an odd salad”. That caused a major confusion: Some people thought he meant “a strange salad”, some people thought the expression referred to a potluck dinner in general, and some people  even somehow got the idea he meant a mixed – gender sauna, because there was also talk about heating up the sauna at our meeting place. Finally, I think everyone understood what the expression means, but the “odd salad” was indeed delicious and the sauna very hot too.

Salad with Dried Apricots and Broccoli

A  head of broccoli

two handfuls of dried apricots

half a leek

50 g hazelnuts

Dressing:

3 tbsp walnut oil

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp maple syrup

a pinch of black pepper

Soak the apricots overnight in water.  The following day, separate the flower heads of the broccoli, and steam them just a couple of minutes, until they are a little tender.  Cut the leek diagonally into strips and very quickly fry it in oil. Slice the apricots and toast the hazelnuts on dry pan. Chop the hazelnuts roughly.  Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and toss the salad, decorate with chopped hazelnut.

Asian Beetroot Salad

This is a version of a dish a used make out of our guerilla – gardened beets last summer.

1 big beet

1 big orange

Dressing:

3 tbsp sesame oil

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp crushed garlic

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 tbsp lemon juice

Slice the beetroot thinly, and steam for a few minutes until tender. Slice the orange. Mix the ingredients for the dressing and toss the salad.  This salad is much improved if you have time to marinate it for a while.

Pink Salad with Fennel and Pear

200 g red cabbage

1 bulb of fennel

1 pear

Dressing:

2 tbsp raspberry vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tsp honey

a pinch of fleur de sel (or any other salt..)

Slice the cabbage and fennel very finely. I used a cheese – slicer, but you could use a mandolin as well. Cut the pear into thin slices. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing, and mix the cabbage and fennel in a bowl.  Pound the cabbage and fennel a bit, or give them a squeeze with your fingers. Mix in the pear slices and the dressing.



Bliny Carnival
February 17, 2010, 17:04
Filed under: Cooking, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Now it is the season of carnivals all over the world, from the most famous one in Rio, to the Austrian Fastnacht, Venetian Masquerade and the rather timid Finnish Laskiainen that is celebrated by downhill sledge- riding and pea soup. Carnival – tradition is about turning everything upside down: kings become slaves and servants rulers, men become women and women men. For a short while, the rules bend and laws are made ridiculous, sacred profane, and the pompous reveals its true trivial nature, like a cancan dancer, kicking up her fishnet – stockinged leg… It’s a short lived illusion, a spectre of power, but something that brings a relief, an easiness to go on with the everyday life. The Trickster celebrates with a mad leer, takes over the King’s throne, and those with no power make the rules of the game.

My carnival this year was a night with Russian food and burlesque. Burlesque is the true carnivalistic entertainment: I’m in love with the big, tattooed ladies taking off their clothes on stage, with the madly cheering audience, and that  feeling of a rock concert, but without the pretense of music, just sheer sexiness and wildness and visual stimulation.  This party was like travelling with a time machine, full of creatures from other realms, men or women, animal or human, human or alien, 15th century or future, who cares, just corsettes – heels – glitter – colour – lace – frills  – and – futuristic contraptions everywhere you lay your eyes. I felt like innocent Alice in Wonderland, with my angel wings and white tutu.

We, meaning Namu Natasha ( Sweet Natasha), Esteri Pippuri (Esther the Pepper), Bliny Blinotshka (well.. something to do with bliny, obviously), Printemps (Spring)  and Angelita started the night with bliny, Russian pancakes that are traditionally eaten in Finland this time of the year.  The Russian blin or blintzke is a thin pancake, a crêpe, bought from a stall on the street and eaten as a snack. The Finnish blin is a thick fat pancake, made of sourdough,  finely served with caviar, sour cream, mushrooms and other delicacies in a festive occasion. It’s a short way to Russia, but quite obviously something happened on the way…

Buckwheat Bliny

At least six hours prior to baking your bliny, mix the following ingredients and let ferment in room’s temperature:

2,5 dl oat milk, luke warm

2,5 dl buckwheat flour

2,5 dl wheat flour

20 g yeast

Just before baking add:

2,5 dl beer

1 tsp salt

1 dl soy yogurt

You’ll need oil for frying

Fry the bliny in a frying pan, with lots of oil. Use medium heat, so that they will cook inside too.  Nicest bliny are fried in pancake pan. Flip them over a couple of times.

Sidedishes with Bliny

You should have many different sidedishes with bliny! Five is minimum in my opinion! Nice vegan things to go with your bliny are vegan seaweed based caviar (at least in Finland available), vegan sour cream, chopped red onion, chopped pickles, honey, and mashed avocado with a bit of lemon.  We also had these things:

Beetroot with Honey

Slice some beetroot thinly, and chop some garlic. Fry quickly with oil in a wok, add salt and plenty of honey.

Mushrooms with Sour Cream

I bought some wild mushrooms preserved in brine, and made a simple condiment of them by draining off the extra liquid and adding some chopped spring onions,  black pepper and vegan sour cream.



Red Thoughts on Valentine’s Day
February 13, 2010, 19:42
Filed under: Baking | Tags: , , , ,

An open heart is something to I’d like to wish everyone, open to hold the world, open for freedom and commitment both. No sweet Valentine’s gifts from me, no junk to show that I care. Since I don’t, at least about any businesspeople getting rich with people’s earnest needs to be loved and cared for.  Or maybe I’m just bitter since the only Valentine’s Day greeting that I can count on comes from dear Maman? But a pair of lovely yellow mittens, knitted with guaranteed love to protect my hands is not bad at all, maybe enough to turn my hardened heart a bit soft on Valentine’s Day… So suddenly I found myself thinking about red food, and about a pretty red cake, and maybe a pink smoothie to go with it.

Being not keen at all on artificial colourings and such I went for dear old beetroot in search of a red hue (did you know that beetroot can be used to make a home made lip gloss?). My previous experiences with beetroot baking had not been so very splendid, so a retake was in order.  But alas, after baking my oh – so – pretty pink batter  I found out that the insides of my reddish beetroot cupcakes were a shade of a bright yellow! Yellow is the colour of envy and jealousy, versus red as the colour of love and passion.  Perhaps not the message you should convey on Valentine’s Day…

Beetroot Cupcakes with Hazelnut and Chocolate Spread

16 pieces

4 dl wheat flour

1 dl sugar

1 beetroot

1 tsp baking soda

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp egg replacer (optional)

1 tsp vanilla powder

1 tsp ginger powder

1/2 dl shredded coconut, toasted on a dry pan

1 dl oil

2 dl oat cream

1 dl oat milk

1 tsp strawberry vinegar

The Icing

120 g hazelnuts

1 dl coconut oil

1 dl powdered sugar

1 dl cocoa powder

a dash of vanilla

a pinch of salt

I wanted the beetroot to be as finely grated as possible, so I used my funky juicer from the 70’s.  I juiced the beetroot, and combined the juice and the left over beetroot pulp, which resulted about 1 dl of beetroot mush.  I mixed this mush with the rest of the wet ingredients.  Then I combined in bowl the dry ingredients, and added the wet. I poured the batter into muffin forms and baked the cupcakes about 20 minutes in a 200°C oven.

The icing is kind of a homemade Nutella. I made it by first grinding the hazelnuts in a food processor until powdered, and then adding the rest of the ingredients. I put this to the fridge to cool and harden a bit, though it is a bit tricky to handle if it is too cool, especially if you want to pipe it.  If it is too warm,  it will be runny and cannot be piped either.

Red Berry Smoothie

This is an obvious recipe, but maybe worth remembering that in the long run it maybe healthier for your heart than chocolates (would dear Maman say).

1 mango

1 dl frozen red currants

1/2 dl cashews, soaked overnight

1 dl oat milk

1 tsp lucuma

1 tsp maca

Blend all the ingredients!



Fredrika’s Tart
February 5, 2010, 12:00
Filed under: Desserts, raw food | Tags: , , , ,

The 5th of February is the honorary day of the national poet of Finland,  Johan Ludvig Runeberg. He lived in the 19th century and was a popular author of his day.  These days we celebrate his memory with a little pastry called Runeberg’s Tart.

Runeberg, like other men of his status, had a wife, Fredrika. For over a hundred years Fredrika was only credited for being the wife of Runeberg, and as  the inventor of the famous tart. In reality,  Fredrika did not even invent this pastry,  it was a specialty of a local bakery.  Instead,  she was an herself an aspiring writer, and a deeply ambitious person. But she was always left in the shade of her famous spouse. In those days before washing machines and vacuum cleaners, her days were mostly filled with household chores that she found absolutely dreary, besides of having to deal with a womanizing husband and financial difficulties.

Fredrika, isn’t it strange how still in 2010, a young lady, liberated and educated, like me, would make the choice of trying to be famous with her skills in the kitchen? Why would she do that? Since, between you and me, a pretty young lady with good cooking skills is to most people nothing more than that, however ambitious or clever she may be otherwise.  A hundred years after you, Fredrika, I must admit that certain attitudes do sit tight in the society.  And all you young ladies who are reading this blog and haven’t started your own, do consider another subject than cooking or handicrafts! Because, to formulate this clearly: after you are dead, do you want to be remembered for a friggin’ cake,  named after your husband, or because, for example, winning the Nobel Prize in physics? I think this is something we all should think about, seriously.

But anyway, this tart is for you Fredrika, I promise to read your texts one day too.

Fredrika’s Tart

I decided to make a raw version of Runeberg’s Tart. A Runeberg’s tart is a pastry with almond meal, bread or gingerbread crumbles, flavoured with cardamom and moistened with rum or punsch, a typical Swedish alcoholic drink.  The tart is topped with some raspberry jam and sugar icing. You can find a nice vegan recipe here. This is how they look made by my friend Rosa, who traditionally arranges each year a party where only  Runeberg’s Tarts are served.

My raw version contained almonds, lucuma, coconut, cardamom, dates, honey and some rum aroma, which is indeed artificial and not raw at all. But you could leave it out, substitute it with real rum or use bitter almond extract. The pink  “icing” was a bit of a challenging part, and I ended up doing it with coconut oil and honey, but later realised that probably also some cashew nut cream would have looked nice.

5 pieces

2 dl blanched almonds

1/2 dl shredded coconut

3 tsp lucuma powder

5 dates

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp coconut oil

3 drops rum aroma

a pinch of cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

The ” icing”:

2 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp honey

some raspberry purée/ other red juice for colour

The “jam”

1/2  dl frozen, thawed raspberries

honey for sweetening

I blended together all the ingredients for the tart with a food processor. Then I formed a round bar with the help of some baking parchment and stuck it to the freezer for about ten minutes. Then I cut the bar into five pieces, about 4 cm tall, and decorated them with raspberry puree and and piped on the icing.  The raspberry puree was made with a hand held blender and the icing by simply mixing the ingredients with a spoon.

The tarts tasted surprisingly much like actual Runeberg’s tarts, but the consistency was a bit too heavy and oily  for my taste.  So I think I need to experiment a bit more with this raw dessert thing…




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