For the past few months I’ve been part of an organising crew of a big urban festival and a seminar with the theme of food. What is good food, what is environmentally sound to eat, who produces it, what will we eat in the future? Those questions in mind we launched into organising the 4th Megapolis – festival, called Megapolis2024. Finally, it is getting together, and the next Saturday 26th of September the work of many months will bear its hopefully delicious fruit. If you live in Helsinki or nearby, you should definitely check out the website and come! We will have as our speakers Pietro Leemann, the only vegetarian chef with a Michelin star restaurant, John Higson from Stockholm who has introduced farmer’s markets and other urban projects, Majora Carter from New York Greening the Ghetto – project, and many, many others, in addition to film screenings, hemp burgers and an afterparty with Jimi Tenor. And, as dessert, a free brunch on Sunday, with Michelin star vegetarian food, organised by the Finnish Carrot Mob! Want to meet me in person? I’ll be there, cleaning tables…
Working in voluntary organisations is interesting, frustrating, and often requires patience and a slightly anarchistic mindset. Money is scarce, so personal connections and persuasiveness are put to good use. People get irritated, attracted, form alliances and friendships, or in worst case, stalk off and never return. Issues of control and power are lurking in the background, but we try to put them aside by politeness and understanding. Because, aren’t we all on the same mission towards a sustainable future, and grown up people as well?
While following 50 emails long winding mail – threads, having heated discussions with the lady from the Department of Housing about a truck container – that – actually – is – really – small – sized – container – indeed, and having nightmares about organising something or other every night, it is easy to forget why you actually got into the whole business originally. Then the happening is over, and so what? Did we have an impact, do few more people think at the table and make a better choice? Did they understand that with every bite, they can change the world? Who knows, since we cannot measure these things. We can only hope, and make a batch of super – unhealthy lingonberry squares for the next meeting, to keep our spirits and blood sugar levels up.
This recipe is basically a traditional Finnish pastry, called Aleksanterin leivos, Alexander’s Tart. I think it is named after a Russian Emperor. I tweaked the recipe a bit with lingonberries and spelt flour, but they are still very sweet, a bit too sweet for my taste actually. Okriina from Kahvila Vegaani made some really nice healthy lingonberry squares that you can check out if you understand Finnish.
300 g vegetable margarine, nondairy butter etc.
2,5 dl sugar
2 dl whole spelt flour
4 wheat flour
2 tsp egg replacer
1,5 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla sugar
5 dl lingonberries
3/4 sugar with pectin
5 dl powdered sugar
3,5 – 5 tbsp lingonberry juice
First I made the batter: I mixed the dry ingredients and then kneaded in the margarine. I put it to the fridge to wait, for 30 minutes.
Then I cooked the jam: I put the lingonberries in a cooking pot, and heated it until steam started to rise. Then I added the sugar, and let it boil for some minutes. When it started to look like jam, I took it off the stove and allowed it to cool some time. You can of course use ready made jam as well, you should have about 3,5 dl of it.
Then I assembled the pastry. I divided the dough into two parts, and rolled the other half in between two layers of baking parchment, so that it was about the size of an oven plate (35cm x 25 cm). Then I put in on an oven plate, and covered it evenly with the lingonberry jam. After that I rolled out the other half, which I then carefully transferred on top of the previous one, with the help of the baking parchment. I did have to patch a bit here and there.
I baked the pastry in 200 ºC for 30 minutes. I allowed it to cool, and then made the icing, by mixing the lingonberry juice and powdered sugar. I made also some white icing, with powdered sugar and water, and made some crazy swirls on top of the pink layer (it was late at night…) I didn’t have any juice, so I made some by grinding some lingonberries through a sieve. Finally, when the icing had set after a few hours, I cut the pastry into small squares using a sharp knife.
Filed under: Baking, Drinks | Tags: apple, apple pie, autumn, carrot, ginger, juice
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?
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.
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:
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…
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
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.
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.
Filed under: Desserts, summer seasonal food | Tags: berry soup, gooseberry, old fashioned dessert, potato starch, soy cream
The smell of boiling berries always brings me back to my childhood. A berry soup, kiisseli, was something that I would eat every morning with my oatmeal porridge. I didn’t like it. My mom would make it so that it contained whole black currants, straight out of the freezer, and I hated their thick peels and the sauer taste. Only as an adult I’ve learned to appreciate the taste of black currant. And berry soup? That’s something I hardly ever make.
Here I’ll write about a dessert that my mom sometimes made, and I think it originates from her own childhood. It is called Stablemaster’s Berry Soup, and it is made of very simple ingredients: those people 50 years ago had some dried up rye bread in their cupboard, a gooseberry bush and some fresh cream in their cellar, and as an exotic ingredient just a pinch of cocoa powder. These they combined in an inventive way.
This dessert is a bit like life some fifty years ago, delightful in simple way, as our life now is delightful in a complex way. Those people had a sense of safety within the Big Circles of life: the winter, cold and snowy, would follow the summer, people would marry, have children, grow old and die, and work hard in between. For an individual life was unpredictable, in a sense that the world was not such a safe place to be in, but the communities were strong, even to the point of suffocating their members.
Nowadays, we have a lot of personal safety: good dental care, women’s rights, a possibility to reach anyone we wish, and even be anybody we wish to be. But we feel disconnected, don’t know what to do with our relationships, don’t know if there will ever be a winter on this planet again. Would I personally change my complicated liberty to a simpler life, with a sense of continuity ? Sometimes I think I would, but also I know that the freedom of our unsecure time is a great gift to someone like me. So I content myself, with making a dessert from the olden times, and have no more romantic yearnings for an imaginary simple life.
Stablemaster’s Gooseberry Soup
Berry soup is a very Finnish concept, and I don’t know whether it exists anywhere else. The traditional way to make it is to boil some berries, sieve through, and thicken the remaining juice with potato starch. After that some whole berries or fruits can still be added. This dessert, which for some reason is called Stablemaster’s Berry Soup, is traditionally made of gooseberries, but any other sauer – tasting berries can be used too, as well as rhubarb or apple. It doesn’t sound very luxurious, but somehow the sweet – and – sauer taste of gooseberries and the crispy bread crumbles are really delicious together.
The Gooseberry Soup
7 dl water + an additional 1/2 dl
3 dl gooseberries
3/4 dl sugar
3 tbsp potato starch
2 dl of dryish rye bread crumbles
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
a pinch of bourbon vanilla powder
oil for frying
soy cream, whipped up
I decided to make the berry soup in a really old -fashioned way, so that I would actually sieve it, since the gooseberries have these funny “tails” that would maybe not be so nice eaten. I started by boiling the berries in water about 5 minutes, until they had fallen apart for a bit. Then I put it through a sieve, and added the sugar. I diluted the potato starch to 1/2 dl water in a separate bowl. Then I took the berry soup pot from the stove, and poured in slowly the potato starch liquid, mixing the soup carefully in order to avoid lumps. Then I put the pot back to the stove and brought it to boiling temperature, so that I would just see the first bubble appearing on the surface. Then I took it off the stove. You should not boil it! I don’t know why, but this is the by – the – book way a Finnish berry soup is made.
As a condiment for the berry soup I made the bread crumbs: First I crumbled up some dried rye bread, and then fried it in oil on a frying pan, together with the sugar and cocoa powder. Then I poured the gooseberry soup into a bowl, and sprinkled it with the bread crumb mixture and whipped soy cream.
Filed under: Baking, Cooking | Tags: berry tartalette, cashew nut, sesame halva, vegan cheese
I had a house warming party a couple of weekends before. I had ordered a good weather, and so the day was sunny and warm, with just a hint of autumn crisp in the air. We would be in out in the garden, since there was no way everyone would fit into my small apartment. Like always before a party, I once more decided that I shall never – ever organise a party again. This time it happened, when my hand held blender suddenly died and again, when my bike fell over fully loaded with groceries..
But when the guests started to arrive, I forgot all about the stress. Everything was just perfect: There was a surprise performance of childrens songs from a party next door and Bollywood dance show. A lot of people brought something nice to eat, and a rare phenomenon happened: everything actually got eaten up, and the next morning there were just a few grapes left.
When the night fell I put little colourful lanterns hanging everywhere, and the sauna was very, very hot. A friend of mine brought an ancient gramophone, and close to midnight we went to dance on the street to the greatest hits from the swinging twenties, some walz, some tango and some charleston. It was magical.
Here is a couple of things that were on the menu that night.
Vegan Cashew Nut Cheese
I got my inspiration for this “cheese” from a recipe in Vegeterian Times, which I could not find in the recipe search anymore. It was a fair bit more complicated than this one, involving soaking the nuts for 24 hours, sieving them through a cheese cloth and baking the in the oven. So this is sort of a busy person’s vegan cheese.
about 40 balls
400 g cashew nut
200 g blanched almonds
1 dl shiro miso paste
1 dl tahini
1 dl lemon juice
30 g rose peppercorns
15 g black poppy seeds
I started the day before, and soaked the nuts and almonds in water overnight. The following day I drained off the liquid, and added the tahini, lemon juice, shiro miso paste and some salt, and blended the whole thing. At this stage, my hand held blender sadly died after serving me for four years. So I would heartily recommend some other type of blender for this purpose. When the paste was farely smooth, I rolled balls of it in my hands. Half of them I rolled in crushed rose peppercorns, and the other half in poppy seeds.
Berry Tartalettes with Halva
My mother gave me all these little metal tartalette forms that were used quite a lot when I was a child. It gave me such a vivid memory from the summer parties in my childhood, to fold and press the batter into the forms. I got my inspiration for this recipe from Inna Somersalo’s cookbook Yllin kyllin, and also Verrot from Honeysucklebeet seems to have made tartalettes recently.
about 25 pieces
6 dl wheat flour
250 g margarine
1 dl sugar
2 tsp egg replacer
2 tbsp cold water
250 g soy yogurt
1 dl soy cream
1 tsp bourbon vanilla powder
100 g plain sesame halva
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1,5 dl sugar
fresh berries, about 4 dl
First I made the batter, which is basically just a normal pie crust. I mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl, folded in the margarine and last added the cold water. Then I put the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes or so. After that I pressed it into the tartalette forms. In order to keep the crust in place in the oven, I pressed a piece of baking parchment into each of the forms on top of the crust. It worked allright, but I think the best option is to fill the forms with dried peas (which can be used in the normal way afterwards!). I baked the tartalettes about 20 minutes in 200 °C. If you don’t use baking parchment or peas, the baking time is shorter. The tartalettes should be properly cooled down before attempting to remove them from the forms.
Then I made the filling. I whipped the soy cream, and then blended in the rest of the ingredients. If you are too lazy to properly crumble the halva, you can use a hand held blender. Then I removed the tartalettes from the forms, which requires a bit of concentration, since they fall apart easily, and filled the tartalettes with the mousse. On top I placed berries and leaves of lemon balm.
After a serene and civilized start the party finally got quite wild. This is how my kitchen looked in the following morning. Luckily several guests had not been able to go home and one guest had so much fun that she decided to return in the morning, so we got the house cleaned in just a few hours. I learned a lesson too: sometimes it is good to ask for some help, even if it feels difficult. And sometimes, they might help you even if you don’t ask!