Goddess of Cake


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.

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Soup Kitchen
January 15, 2010, 20:46
Filed under: Cooking, soup | Tags: , , , , ,

For a while, I  worked at the Office. The Office is a place where many creative, clever and friendly people make the gears of capitalist society turn smoothly. At the Office, people eat carefully, but enjoying their food as much as anybody. Often they ask: Is it organic? Is it low fat? Is it low carb? They are concerned about their weight and the health aspects of their diet.

I always made a nice big pot of soup every Friday for the people at the Office. The soups were generally well liked, though several men promptly refused to even touch them, since well – the soups were vegetarian. To no avail was the praise the other people lavished on my soups, and also I must admit it: after tasting the food restaurants in Helsinki have to offer I’m quite proud of my soup – making skills.  But the guys had their principles: no vegetarian food shall ever cross their lips. I have my principles too:  I did not give in, and neither did they. Though I told one of them that if he brings me a living chicken, and slaughters it in front of my eyes,  at counter of  the Office kitchen, I shall indeed cook it for him. But he never did, and I continued to make a vegetarian soup every Friday.

I do happen to know many males that are indeed vegetarian, even vegan, so the fierce resistance my soups met with the guys at the Office left me puzzled: what is going on, I asked my girlfriends. We did some really hard thinking, but who could understand, what goes on in a mans’ handsome head? The mystery remains unsolved to this day.

Here are four soups that I made for them. All of these soups are prepared in the same way:

First peel and chop all the veggies, then heat some oil in a cooking pot, then add the chopped onion, and garlic and ginger, if there’s any on the recipe. Then add the rest of the vegetables, turn a couple of times and add water or vegetable stock, enough to cover everything. Cook until done, purée using a hand-held blender, add salt, and other mentioned spices, as well as cream/wine . Soups should always be left to stand  for some minutes before serving, to make the flavours “open”.

Pink Soup – with Beetroot and Orange

This is a nice winter season soup, originally by Saara Törmä. The orange zest lifts the flavour of beetroot to a totally new dimension.

1 onion

5 beetroot

4 carrots

2 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp grated ginger

2 l vegetable stock

2 tbsp lemon juice

grated zest of one organic orange

black pepper

salt

soy yogurt for serving

White Soup – with Almond and Cauliflower

This is a late summer – autumn seasonal soup. Almond meal can also be used in curries etc. to thicken and bring a creamy flavour.

300 g cauliflower (one head)

150 g almond meal

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

2 tsp sherry vinegar

1/2 dl oat cream etc.

salt to taste

water

Orange Soup – with Sweet Potato,  Lime and Chili

Well, this is a no – season soup in Finland, but very nice and warming in the winter. I quite enjoy the very subtle heat cooking the chillies whole brings to the soup, but you might as well chop them if you like a bit more intense spiciness.

1 red onion

oil for frying

2 carrots

2 sweet potatoes

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 can coconut milk

4 red chillies

juice of two limes

water

fresh coriander for serving

Green Soup – with Green Peas and Mint

Fresh mint and fresh peas – this is certainly a summer seasonal soup, but can easily be made with frozen peas and dried mint as well. Remember to use spearmint, not peppermint! Also, if you don’t like the taste of mint, it can be substituted with estragon.

4 potatoes

150 g green peas

2 cloves garlic

1 onion

a handful of mint

1/2 dl white wine

vegetable stock

salt

1 dl oat cream

home made croutons for serving

Oh.. and there is also a Red Soup – with Bell Pepper and Smoke Flavour. The recipe is here.



Snow and Asian Food
January 10, 2010, 15:08
Filed under: Cooking, Desserts | Tags: , , , , , ,

In a sense, in Finland there is no such thing as “winter seasonal food”.  Right now the whole country is enveloped in snow, and nothing grows.  So if you want to be locavorean and vegetarian in the winter, you eat what keeps: root vegetables, dried mushrooms, sauerkraut, and these modern times what you can find in your freezer, like berries and frozen leaf vegetables. Thinking like a squirrel is essential for a Finnish locavore.  If you weren’t industrious in the autumn, bad luck for you.  By this I don’t mean that food wouldn’t be available in the supermarket, of course it is, but it just generally isn’t from local sources.

But anyway, even if I like the cold and snowy winter very much, I sometimes find myself looking for flights to somewhere… Bali, Thailand, Costa Rica.. I seem to have some infantile yearning for a warm, easy place with smiling people, exotic fruits and long white beaches. I do know how flying affects the climate and  in the past I have committed enough environmental crimes in that matter, so I try to satisfy my cravings for far – away places by other means.

This time, I  decided to travel to Asia by cooking. Buying some non – seasonal, imported ingredients is anyhow a much lesser environmental crime than flying to Bali!  I invited a few friends over and visited the Realm of the Chinese People on that strip of street that houses pretty much all the Asian groceries in Helsinki. That already feels like being somewhere else: the loud discussion in Chinese, strange smells and products that have Chinese characters written on them  instantly bring you from sleepy cool Helsinki to some hot and intense Asian mega – city.

On our cross – Asian menu were wontons filled with tofu and napa cabbage, a vegetable stir – fry with rice – noodles and as dessert  sticky rice with mango. And how nice and exotic the food tasted and smelled, and how refreshing it is to see a bit of colour in this white – and – black snow fairytale!

Wontons

Wonton is a type of Chinese ravioli. We filled ours with tofu and napa cabbage, which a very common vegetable in the Chinese and Korean kitchen. Wontons are steamed or cooked, but they can also be fried afterwards in oil on a pan.

Filling:

250 g smoke – flavoured tofu

200 g napa cabbage

4 tsp spring onions

2 tsp grated ginger

2 tsp dry vermut

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

First chop the napa cabbage finely and mix it with the salt in a bowl. Let it stand 10 minutes. Crumble the tofu and mix with the rest of the seasonings, then add the cabbage.

The Wrapper Dough

4 dl wheat flour

1,2 dl water

Mix the flour and the water and let the dough stand covered for 10 minutes. Then form a bar of it and cut it into 32 pieces.  Roll the pieces with a rolling bin into thin circles, about 6 – 7 cm in diameter.

Put a tablespoon of filling into each circle and fold it over, trying to press out the extra air. Pinch the edges together, you can moisten them too with a bit of water. There are many different ways to fold the wontons, but we simply made half – moon shapes.

Steam the wontons on an oiled surface for 10 minutes. They will stick together, so try to place them so that they don’t touch each other. It’s good to have a large dish with lid at hand for the ready wontons, because you’ll have to make several batches unless you happen to have a really large steamer.

Wonton Sauce

1/2 dl sesame oil

1/2 dl balsamic vinegar

1/1 dl soy sauce

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp chili flakes

Mix the ingredients and eat with the wontons.

Stir – Fry with Cashews and Bell Pepper

The Chinese cuisine rests heavily on the holy trinity of sesame oil, garlic and ginger, and so does this stir – fry. You can use any veggies that you like, but remember to be fast! I always, always overdo it. So anyhow, first the crispier stuff in the wok and after the softer.

2 bell peppers, yellow and red

2 carrots

100 g snow peas

1/2 leek

a small handful of dried funnel chantarelles

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp vegetarian oyster/mushroom sauce

1/2 dl vegetable stock

a dash of sesame oil

peanut oil for frying

Heat peanut oil in the wok and throw in the ginger and garlic. Fry for one minute and add the mushrooms and the rest of the veggies. Fry for 1 -2 minutes, then add the cashewnuts. Fry for one minute and add the seasonings.

Sticky Rice with Mango

This is a favourite dessert from Thailand, updated with a bit of vanilla.

2 dl sticky rice (gluttonous rice)

6 dl coconut milk

4 tbsp brown sugar

a pinch of salt

1 vanilla pod

1 ripe mango

First you should soak the rice for four or more hours in cold water, in the fridge. Then, in a cooking pot, bring to boil the coconut milk, vanilla pod, sugar, salt and rice. Let simmer until the coconut milk has absorbed.  Then steam the rice for 15 minutes until it’s sticky and soft. I used a normal sieve for the purpose, stuck into a cooking pot and covered with a lid.  Serve with sliced mango.