Goddess of Cake


A Word on Hippies

“Hippies are the dolphins of our race, playful, resilient, social, fetished by some, dismissed by others, ” says Chelsea Cain in her book The Hippie Handbook. She was raised in a hippie commune in the 70’s. I was reminded her words  last weekend when I was asked to do a cafe for a hippie party, which was held at a yoga school in Helsinki.

I was a hippie myself for many years, and not without a reason! However much there can be bad jokes made of hippies, I think there is still a very important lesson that can be learned from them. Hippies see life as endlessly enjoyable, filled with creativity, beauty and meaningful encounters with other human and nonhuman beings. Of course, also the mainstream western society is generally very pleasure – oriented, but I think the difference with the hippie culture lies in the fact that the pleasure hippies seek is not destructive towards other living things, and generally doesn’t have a high price, to the environment or moneywise. How delicious is organic, vegan food, how pleasurable is a footmassage given by a friend, how much fun can be a drum and a guitar, how nice to spend a summer in a teepee, how delightful to learn new acrobatic tricks… It is so easy to forget the simple delights of communal living, when you struggle for your daily earnings in this society. In the hippie world, there is always enough time, and the greatest achievement of a person is to be present here and now.

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So this weekend at the hippie party I noticed we, who had met at some hippie gathering or other a few years ago, had all grown up, and perhaps matured too. There weren’t that many people at the party, and I think everybody had already seen enough life not to be pretentious about being a hippie. So people were laughing when the meditation was supposed to begin, did some really silly barefoot dancing and joked about the Natha – cult instead of a spiritual panel discussion (“hey girls, are you going to the Natha party afterwards? Watch out for the guru!”). Of course there were candles, a big mandala on the wall, some sandalwood incence and soft cushions. DJ Indigo played and we reminisced a little: somebody had decided to start a tribe, another one had been suspicious about hippies but then gone to a gathering and totally become one, third one had caused a major jealousy attack in a Peruvian boyfriend by acting like any hippie girl at a wedding party. Oh sweet crazy youth, I guess it shall never return. Luckily enough, I think I still have my dreadlocks with all the beads and colourful felt hidden off in some cupboard, so if I want to become a hippie again, I can just sew them back on…

I had made some proper hippie food for the party: local, cheap and colourful, and not too fancy. The menu included a platter with a stuffed grape leaf roll, some favabean – blackcurrant hoummus, sesame – marinated beetroots, minty coleslaw and raw chili – apple chutney, with a piece of sourdough rye bread.

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Finnish Hoummus

This is my local version of the Arabic classic – I know the ingredients sound weird but surprisingly they work really well together, and the paste actually tastes like hoummus! The purple colour is nice as well (to my taste..)

5 dl cooked favabeans

1 dl black currants

3 cloves of garlic

1 – 2 dl canola oil

salt

Soak the beans overnight and cook for an hour or until they are tender. Drain off the cooking water, add the rest of the ingredients and make into a paste with a blender.

Minty Coleslaw

The mint was somehow still alive in my garden, even if it has been below freezing many nights. This is a cheap and simple vegan coleslaw. You can make it with egg – free mayo too.

a couple of carrots

1 dl sesame seeds, toasted

a handful of mint leaves

1/2 dl lemon juice

1 dl olive oil

salt

Slice the cabbage really thin, preferably with a cheese slicer. Then pound it in order to make it more juicy, grate the carrot, chop the mint, toast the seeds and mix everything. The coleslaw is much better if you let it wait a few hours in the fridge.

Simple Dolmas

This is not how dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) are made in Greece, but if you aren’t a Greek grandmother with five dutiful daughters to help you, this might be the way you want to make them, since this is much faster and easier.

about 50 pieces

50 preserved grape leaves

6 dl brown rice, or preferably spelt or barley if you live in Finland

9 dl water for cooking

3 tsp salt

1 dl tomato paste

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 tsp spice mix that includes dill, chili, coriander leaf and mint (if you have fresh herbs at hand it’s much better)

2 dl olive oil

a packet of preserved grape leaf rolls

Boil the grain and allow it to cool. The dolmas are easier to roll if you boil the grain until it’s quite mushy. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients of the filling, and roll the dolmas. Basically you do the rolling so that you put a couple of teaspoons of filling at widest part of the grape leaf,then fold over the sides and roll the leaf into a tight roll. The problem with the preserved grape leaves is that they often are too small and have a lot of holes, but then you’ll just need discard those and use the bigger ones. Put the ready rolled dolmas on a oven dish, drizzle with olive oil and bake them in the oven in 200ºC for about 20 minutes, or until they have turned darkish in colour.

hippie food

Om Shantih Shantih Shantih!



Apple Pie for Snow White
October 18, 2009, 12:04
Filed under: Baking | Tags: , ,

When I was in Fifth Grade at school we made a play on the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dvarves. I played the mean stepmother the queen, and I was quite proud of it. But I don’t think I learned my lesson that time. Would you rather be a wicked witch married to a king, or a timid princess that instead of resolving her problems escapes to the forest and ends up cleaning and cooking for a bunch of lame dvarves, and then has to be saved by a prince ? I think she totally deserves that poisonous apple! As far as I’m concerned, I have been many years that princess with no other means to deal with stuff but to escape, and only now I’m trying to learn the skills of a queen, and help me fate if that’ll  end me up as badly as the queen in the Grimm’s brother version of this fairytale!

But that’s the lesson life wants to teach us: to accept that poisonous apple, transform and transcend, and above all, to continue living our lives, instead of hiding in the woods. Any creative work can help with it, since it somehow becomes larger than your life. Sounds like cliche but it’s true, on a bad day this blog can be a hungry child that says to me: I am needy, go on, live your life so that you’ll have something to write about here! And so I’ll need to brazenly face magical mirrors, evil stepmothers and poisonous apples. So this is the little secret i promised you Kamomilla for giving me the Kreativ Blogger Award (thank you!). That when I was drowning this blog saved me, like Julie says in the movie Julie&Julia.

So my dear Snow White, in order to get you finally killed, I prepared this ve – ery nice apple pastry for you. Look at that luscious, red cheeked apple baked in with all this delicious stuff, doesn’t that make you hungry?

Apple and Lingonberry Squares

A while ago Bazu and Luciana, who are vegan bloggers from the States found me on a site of a hospitality organisation, and visited me one day on their way to Vienna. They brought me some amazing vegan goodies from America, like these strange butterscotch morsels that are meant for baking. I have no idea what they do with them in the States, but I decided to use them for apple and lingonberry squares. I simply sprinkled them on top the pastry and they melted in the oven. This type of pastry is actually what we call a pie in Finland, but the idea is quite far from the American fruit pies. Basically this kind of “pie” has a farely thick layer of batter, which is sprinkled with berries or fruits.

lingonberries and butterscotch

Ingredients:

3 dl wheat flour

2 dl whole grain spelt flour

2 dl muscovado sugar

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

3,5 dl soy milk

200 g  oil

On top

4 dl sliced apples

4 dl lingonberries

3 dl butterscotch morsels

cinnamon, muscovado sugar

This is very easy:  just mix the dry ingredients, and then add the milk and the oil. Pour evenly onto a baking pan covered with baking parchment.Cover with apple slices and lingonberries, and then sprinkle with cinnamon, muscovado sugar and butterscotch. Bake in 200 °C for about 30 minutes.

apple and lingonberry squares



The Seasonal Taste
October 13, 2009, 19:12
Filed under: Desserts, Salad | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Nowadays we live in an eternal summer of the supermarket aisle. It’s like in paradise, everything is available for us all year round, all different tastes from everywhere in the world, and amidst all that we graze innocently like Adam and Eve, knowing nothing of evil.  I would not hesitate calling today’s food production evil! If you have not seen the movie Food Inc, I strongly recommend it for everyone. You may think you already know all that scary stuff about how food is produced today, but honestly, when watching those abundant, lucrative supermarket shelves it is quite easy to lull yourself into a content forgetfulness and just allow yourself to be fed, like at Mother’s breast, with no worries.

I recently heard the Finnish author and passionate vegan, Antti Nylén, talk. He said something brilliant, when asked how he feels about the fact that he voluntarily refuses so much potential delight in his life. He answered: ” Abstinence in itself is a delight”, in the most laconic manner. It was great, and wonderfully true too, though the delights of abstinence are widely forgotten in our society. By this I don’t mean that we should completely refuse some nice edible things, but to perhaps eat them less, and savour more. I should personally really cut down on lemon, since I know somebody probably suffers for picking them somewhere.

I love the fact that there are still a couple of things that you can’t taste year – round. One of my favourites is  Finnish early apple varieties, especially “punakaneli”, Malus Domestica ´Koritschnevoje` that is a lovely thin – peeled, sweet, red – cheeked apple that has an aftertaste of cinnamon. None of the varieties of other apples comes anywhere near this one in taste I think.

apples

The other favourite seasonal food of mine is fresh broad beans (vicia faba). I adore broad beans: of course, they are a great local protein source (we don’t have that many pulses growing in Finland), and besides they are simply such a beautiful design. You know, how you open the shell and each one of the beans is nested in this white fluffy padding, in a little hook, like a treasure that they are. I could write a poem on broad beans! You can of course eat them dried too, but that’s a whole other story.

Common for these both things is that besides being seasonal, you need to pretty much grow them yourself in order to get some. The apple variety I’m talking about is very common in Finnish home gardens, but the commercial orchards don’t seem to grow it, I guess since it doesn’t keep very well. Fresh broad beans you might find here in an organic store if you are really lucky, and for them the season is already well past. But they are easy to grow, though mostly not very commonly known among home gardeners.

Spicy Broad Bean Salad

20 shells of broad beans

A handful of long beans

1 red fresh chili bean

a bunch of fresh coriander

cherry tomatoes

a couple of garlic cloves

1/2 dl lemon juice

1/2 extra virgin oil ( I had canola)

salt

I shelled the broad beans and steamed them and the long beans a few minutes. The broad beans only need like three minutes, the long beans a little longer. Then I chopped the chillies and garlic finely, and combined these two with the beans, tomatoes and chopped up coriander. The dressing I made out of fresh lemon juice, oil and a pinch of salt. This particular salad was fiercely hot, but the amount of chilli can be adjusted. I think the taste combination of fresh coriander, chili, lemon and garlic is simply divine, fresh and hot at the same time.

broad bean salad

And as dessert another seasonal thing, which is a veganized version of a really traditional Finnish dessert: Lingonberry mousse. Originally it is made with lingonberries (or some other berries), whipped cream and quark.  It is very simple to make, and fluffy and delicious. I think my veganized version was surprisingly nice too, since often this kind of stuff just doesn’t work at all.

Lingonberry Mousse

2,5 dl soy cream (I like the brand Soyatoo!)

2,5 dl soy yogurt

1 dl mashed lingonberries

3 tbsp sugar

a pinch of vanilla powder

I whipped up the cream and folded in the rest of the ingredients. That’s it!

lingonberry mousse




Michelin Star Vegetarian Food and Other Adventures
October 5, 2009, 20:23
Filed under: Cooking | Tags: , , , , ,

Recently I had the honour to attend a cooking class by Mr. Pietro Leemann, who was a quest speaker at the Megapolis – seminar last weekend. Pietro Leemann runs the only vegetarian restaurant that has acquired a Michelin star, in Milan in Italy. The restaurant is called La Joia. Mr. Leemann has an apparent passion for vegetarianism, besides amazing cooking skills and lots of creativity. He and his wife Rosanna were both charming and lovely people, which unfortunately cannot be said about all chefs…

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On the course we (meaning a few people from Dodo, some journalists from different Finnish food magazines, some people from the leading food industry companies and an advertisement agency) cooked a 4 course vegetarian meal guided by Pietro Leemann, and then ate it in candle light with some wine and discussion. The food was awesome, much better than my previous fine dining restaurant experiences. I think that since the western cuisine is so based on animal products, many chefs lack the skills of making interesting flavour combinations with vegetarian ingredients only, but I think Pietro Leemann definitely shows that it is very possible!

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On the menu there was Watermelon Carpaccio, False Eggs, ” A Rich, Delicious – looking and Sufficient Meal for Ten People”, which was actually a risotto, and as dessert Knedlitky, which was kind of sweet dumplings with basil cream and a cinnamon sauce. Especially the textures and flavours of the dessert lingered in my taste buds a long time, though I’ll have to put some effort into veganising them. The best result of this cooking class was the fact that most of the journalists promised to write an article on the subject of vegetarian cooking, which would of course be great, since people should in general realise that vegetarian or vegan doesn’t automatically mean boring or tasteless food.

All pictures in this post are a courtesy of Marina Ekroos. Thanks!

Watermelon Carpaccio

Concerning this dish Pietro told that it is one of the few dishes that he makes that plays with the idea of meat. The watermelon with its red and white flesh reminds of meat somehow, and fried and cut thinly it actually looks like a carpaccio. There was some parmesan in this dish, but I think it won’t suffer much if you just leave it out.

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300 g watermelon

2 g salt

20 g balsamic vinegar

grape seed oil for frying

chives

different kinds of salad

black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Peel the watermelon and cut into 7cm thick slices. Leave some of the white peel on. Drizzle with salt and leave for 10 minutes. Cut into really thin slices, and lift them on tissue paper to dry. Fry the pieces in on a frying pan in grape seed oil, until they look roasted on both sides (black!). Lift them aside, on top of some tissue paper and let them drain for a while. Then remove the seeds and cut it into really thin slices.

Mix the oil, a pinch of salt and balsamic vinegar together. Assemble the plates with salad leaves, watermelon slices, cut up chives, dressing and pinch of black pepper.

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False Eggs

This dish is also otherwise vegan, except for the fact that since the idea with this dish was to create an “egg” that is really not an egg, it was made into an eggshell. Pietro explained that the surprise between the form and taste was essential with this dish, but if you don’t want to use animal ingredients, you could quite easily make this dish using something else as the form, e.g. a silicon mould etc.

200 g root celery and carrot

50 g squash

50 g hazelnuts

1/4 of an agar – agar bar

20 g summer truffles

salt

First, if you want to use eggs as the moulds, make a hole into the side of eight eggs. It should be so big that your finger fits inside. Then take out all the egg-white and the membranes inside the eggshell, and wash it with warm water that has a some vinegar in it. Allow the eggshells to dry two days in warm place or 10 minutes in a 200°C oven.

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Steam the squash, and toast the hazelnuts on a dry pan. Grind the hazelnuts into a fine powder and mash the pumpkin. Blend, and make balls that are about the size of an egg yolk. Freeze them in a freezer.

Boil the root celery in water until it’s soft, and then make a paste out of it using a blender. Add some of the cooking water if needed, the paste should resemble a pureed soup. Dilute the agar – agar into 2 dl of water, and boil it until the water has evaporated so that there is just 1 dl left. Heat up the root celery paste and pour the agar agar into it, using a sieve. Chop the truffles and add them and salt to the mixture. Pour the mixture into the eggshells and add one squash – egg – yolk into each. Let them harden in the fridge a couple of hours.

For serving, peel the eggs, set them on a plate and drizzle with salt and olive oil, and add also some raspberry coulis (a sweet raspberry sauce).

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After this cooking class my weekend was full of talk about food at the Megapolis – festival, and meeting interesting people. After that I haven’t been able to even think about food for a while…And the Carrot Mob vegetarian gourmet – brunch was of course a nice ending to the whole process on Sunday. A cucumber shot, jerusalem artichoke puree, pistachio crusted beetroot, and a banana flambe with candied orange and raspberry sauce, free for everyone who managed to be there in time!