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.



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!



Winter Adventure
January 26, 2010, 11:33
Filed under: Baking | Tags: , , ,

I went skiing the the other day. I took my skiis, walked past the cars, shops, trams, people and the hustle and bustle of the city, until I arrived on the seashore. The sea has frozen over thickly in these past cold weeks.  It was a strange foggy day: the world had become a monochrome in black and greyish white. The snow was white, the sky was white and the frosty treetops were half hidden by white mist.  Skiing in that vast flat expanse of whiteness made me feel like inside a glass of milk (well, vegan milk..). Then the sun started to set, and everything got a lovely pink sheen.

I skied past the island that is my secret place for summer evening swims. It has a dodgy old pier and there is hardly anyone there but for some sheep, so it is nice and private. It looked so different now with the snowy trees!  It was easy to forget that the city was breathing right behind my back. I was the only moving,  colourful, rustling little presence on the vast expance of white ice.

For I while, I played with the idea that I was brave Mr. Amundsen skiing towards the South Pole,  though the fact that it was only – 15ºC didn’t quite match my fantasy.  Also, I lacked a pack of gorgeous blue -eyed huskies and a sleigh. Is my notion of antarctic exploration perhaps slightly over – romanticised?  Anyhow,  any explorer knows that the rations are very important for endurance. I bet Mr. Amundsen did not have as nice rations as I did: freshly baked scones and hot herbal tea!

Pear and Ginger Scones

I’ve never baked scones in my life before. I found a recipe in everybody likes sandwiches, which is a beautiful Canadian blog. I modified it a little. I also learned from the internet that it is important that the margarine and the milk are cold, in order to avoid the baking powder to start to work too early. You should also try to keep the kneading of the dough to the minimum.  I used fresh grated ginger in these scones, but the surprising thing about fresh ginger and baked goods is that somehow the taste just disappears in the oven. So if you like ginger, feel free to add some.

1 dl  shredded coconut

2 dl all purpose flour

1 dl graham flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

3 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

a pinch of bourbon vanilla powder

1 ripe pear, diced

1/2 dl dried cranberries

1 tsp ground cardamom

50 g vegetable margarine

2 dl oat milk + 1 tsp for topping

2 tsp  demerara sugar for topping

I toasted the coconut on a dry pan, in order to enhance the flavour. It burns easily, so watch out! Then I combined the dry ingredients in a bowl, cut in the margarine and mixed with my fingers until I got a crumbly mixture, and folded in the diced pear and cranberries.  Then I blended in the oat milk. I patted the ready dough onto a lightly floured surface, so that it was about 3 cm thick and cut round shapes using a form. You could use a glass etc. or just cut triangles.

I baked the scones in 200°C 15 minutes. Ideally, the scones should be devoured fresh from the oven plate, or at least eaten the same day. Wrap them into a shawl if you want to bring them with you out to arctic environments. I was pleasantly surprised with my scones: I always thought that scones are somehow dry and boring, but at least these ones were moist and tasty.



Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
September 15, 2009, 10:28
Filed under: Baking, Drinks | Tags: , , , , ,

I must admit it: the summer is over. Last week me and my neighbours finally put back the corridor windows that we have been repairing the whole summer (or, to be honest, my neighbours much more than me). The day was warm, but it didn’t feel like the last summer day, but like the first one in autumn. Suddenly, the night fell at half past eight, and it caught me up right when I was picking the apples and plums that lie all over my yard. The neighbours were fixing the last window, and the lights were on in the corridors. I stood in the darkness of the yard, and listened to the crazy autumn wind blowing all over the place, and to the faint traffic noises of my new home city. I am scared of the winter and the darkness it brings, and the long winter nights. How will I deal with it now that I live by myself?

windows

I was trying to cheer up by thinking: Colourful leaves! Lingonberries! Mushrooms! But it didn’t really help. I felt like the Tove Jansson’s Moomin – book character Nuuskamuikkunen, Snufkin. When the autumn comes, he lifts his backback, plays a little tune on his flute and leaves who knows where, to perhaps return with the sun. Don’t we all just love him, we who cannot leave our commitments.

autumn harvest

I shivered, even if it wasn’t cold, picked up the bucket of apples and went inside. There I saw my reflection in the mirror: a yellow leaf had stuck into my hair. There was no way but to admit the facts: I went to the calendar and turned the page from August to September, 10 days late.

Apple, Carrot and Ginger Juice

My mom brought me this juicer that I guess originates from the 70′s. It is a funky thing, though notoriously hard to clean. In the apple season I love it, since freshly made apple juice is just so good. This is my favourite flavour combination:

For 1 big glass you need:

1 carrot

3 small apples

2x2cm piece of ginger

Throw it all in the juicer, and then mix the resulting juice with a spoon. No need to peel anything. If you like ginger, you can very well add some. This works really well for that gloomy autumn feeling…

carrotjuice

Apple and White Currant Pie

This pie is like the apple pies made in the States, and doesn’t resemble a Finnish apple pie at all, since the Finnish pies are never covered like the American ones. This recipe is a vegan version of this recipe, though since the apples that grow in my yard are sadly not of the tangy variety, so I replaced some apples with white currants, in order to create a similar effect. For jams and similar things tangy and hard apple varieties are most suitable, and of the Finnish varieties e.g. Antonovka is good.

The Pie Batter

150 g vegetable margarine

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

4 1/2 wheat flour

1 dl ice cold water

The Filling:

10 small apples

2,5 dl white currants

1 3/4 dl sugar with added pectin

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp wheat flour

1 tbsp vegetable margarine

First, I made the pie batter. I simply mixed first the dry ingredients and then added the margarine and til last the cold water. Then I put the batter into the fridge for about half an hour.

Then I made the filling: I sliced the apples and removed the seeds. Then I mixed in the rest of the ingredients, except for the margarine.

Then I divided the batter into two, and rolled it out using a rolling pin so that it would fit a round baking tin (24cm in diameter) that I had greased and floured earlier. I had the batter in between two layers of baking parchment, and it helped a lot with the process. Then I filled the pie, added the margarine in a few lumps on top, rolled the other part of the batter, and covered the pie. The edges I squeezed together and then made a few holes on top the pie with a fork.

I grated the pie in the oven in 200°C for 15 minutes, and then lowered the heat to 175°C for 45 minutes.

apple pie2

As a footnote, I ran into this concept in the internet: a veggie trader! Isn’t that a good idea! In the harvest time those people with red currant bushes, apple, plum or cherry trees, or zucchini plants, are usually in trouble with all the produce, like me with the apples. At Veggie Trader you can find people to swap your produce with! We should have that here too, because that is also one way to overrule the wholesalers that dominate our food consumption today.



Beetroot Cake with Coconut
April 26, 2009, 15:05
Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: , , , ,

Beetroot seems to be my favourite ingredient these days… I had an idea of combining the same ingredients as I would for a beetroot stew that I sometimes make, but to make a sweet cake out of it.

Beetroot Cake

4 dl finely grated beetroot

1 tbsp finely grated ginger

4 dl wheat flour

3 dl muscovado sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

3 tsp Orgran egg replacer

1 dl grated coconut

150 g vegetable margarine, melted

1/2 dl lime juice (juice of one lime)

2 dl coconut milk

Topping:

25 g vegetable margarine

1 dl soy yogurt

1/2  dl powdered sugar

I made this cake simply by first mixing the dry ingredients, including sugar and the egg replacer, in a bowl. Then I added the grated ginger and then the beetroot, and mixed carefully. Then I added the coconut milk and limejuice, mixed, added the melted margarine and mixed still a little bit more. It’s important not to mix these kind of cakes too much, in order to not make them chewy.

I poured the dough into a cake tin, which was greased and coated with grated coconut. I baked the cake for about an hour in the oven, in 175°C.

beetroot-cake1-copy

Then I made the the topping for the cake, by melting the margarine and mixing with the other ingredients. It was quite runny and not that pretty, but it didn’t matter so much, since I wasn’t going to transport the cake anywhere.

For the taste of the cake… It tasted surprisingly much of beetroot, but it wasn’t unpleasant. The difference between this cake and a carrot cake was that somehow  beetroot was more distinguishable in the ready baked cake, than carrot in a carrot cake.  So all in all:  a strange, but nice cake.  I don’t actually know for what kind of crowd it would be best suited for, but at least it would surprise most people.



Japanese Porridge
March 14, 2009, 12:49
Filed under: Breakfast | Tags: , ,

In Finland, we eat a lot of oatmeal porridge. That’s what I ate for breakfast almost every morning when I was a child. Though, it is generally quite restricted what goes with your porridge here: usually, it is something like a jam or soup made of berries, some milk or cinnamon and sugar and perhaps a bit of butter or margarine. So I guess that’s why I was so delighted when Damien once fed me this Japanese – tasting porridge in Brisbane Australia…

japanese-porridge12

Japanese porridge,1 portion

2 dl water

1 dl oatflakes

pinch of salt

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

spring onions, chopped

1 tsp miso paste

First I cook the porridge in quite the usual way, boil the water with a pinch of salt, and add the oats, except that I also add the grated ginger to the water. Then I cook the porridge until it’s ready, and serve it with miso paste and chopped spring onions, and have some green tea as beverage to go with it. This time I had white rice miso, and it was really delicious, but also barley miso is good.  Ohaiyoo gozaimastanee!




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