Goddess of Cake

Harvest Party
October 14, 2010, 22:43
Filed under: autumn seasonal food, Baking, urban gardening | Tags: , , ,

I recently heard a quote from somebody (thanks, Tanja!) that in every project 1/4 of the money and energy invested in the project should be used to celebrate together. I think that is so true! In the Finnish culture celebration is easily undervalued: we don’t even have a really good word for it. A celebration can be a party or a carnival, but it can also be any kind of a gathering or ritual that values the work done and the people involved. In a celebration we are together, equal and sharing a mutual satisfaction in our community and what was experienced. A celebration turns inward, toward the center, a party turns outward, showing off.  Celebrations create social value and strenghten communities, and make people happy!

A harvest party is of course double important since it also the time to thank the abundance of the earth as well as for human people’s efforts. Being an urban gardener it does sound a bit dodgy to say: thank you Mother Earth. Should I say thank you Sister City instead? But I guess whether rural or urban, it is the same life – force manifesting itself in the beautiful vegetables.

There was a harvest party at the urban garden of Vallila, with grammophone – music, a fleamarket and of course pumpkin soup. A drizzling autumn rain finished the party, but there was just enough time to greet everybody and share the last of the huge marrows and pumpkins. It is wonderful to start gardens on empty lots: the neighbours learn to know each other and a public space becomes meaningful, a hub of interaction between the people of the neighbourhood as well as place to grow local food in a city. Present at the party was also the Editor in Chief of the fanciest foodie magazine in Finland, Glorian ruoka ja viini, since she lives in the neighbourhood.  Today, in the new issue of the magazine they nominate “urban gardening” as the Food Phenomenon of the Year, and my organisation and our projects are specially mentioned. I felt as if I’d been awarded an Oscar! Me, doing the Food Phenomenon of the year? Who would have thought? I was very happy that the culinary aspects of urban gardening are now formally recognised!

To honor that, an apple pie recipe:

Apple Pie with Calvados and Almond


3 dl whole wheat flour

125 g vegetable margarine

1tbsp oat milk

1 tbsp sugar

a pinch of salt

On top:

4 dl sliced apple

2 tbsp calvados


Top crust:

100 g marzipan

100 g vegetable margarine

1 tbsp muscovado sugar

1 dl wheat flour

Mix the ingredients for the crust quickly in a bowl. Set the crust in the fridge. Slice the apples, and grate the marzipan, and mix it with the other ingredients of the top crust.  Cover a baking pan with a diameter of 24 cm with the rolled out crust, and place it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Then bake the crust in a 200°C oven for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the crust with the apple slices, calvados and cinnamon. Crumble the top crust on top of that. Lower the temperature down to 175ºC and bake the pie in the oven 35 – 40 minutes.

Baking with Ronja
November 16, 2009, 21:09
Filed under: autumn seasonal food, Baking | Tags: ,

What to do, when both the economic and winter depression hit you hard, at the same time? Economic depression so that your employer tells you that you are now needed ten hours less in a week, and winter depression so that you only want to sleep and eat unhealthy things.  But the situation is not hopeless , because then you have a good chance to  invite your four-year old  god child for a  baking therapy session! This is what I did, and it cheered me up immensely.

Baking is so therapeutic! I can easily massage any kind of worries into a dough, and as I’ve noticed, generally the doughs don’t take it ill at all, but only become fuller and more dense. So I guess a bread dough doesn’t give a damn about human worries. And also, when the finished product emerges from the oven, it makes me feel like the Ultimate Creatrix, and that’s  also the reason why I call myself Goddess of Cake, not because I would be splendidly good at baking cakes… actually, with cakes I’ve had more desperate moments than with any other food that I’ve ever made.

Anyway, we had a lovely afternoon,  Ronja, her mother and me. Ronja insisted on bread rolls with carrot, and me on chocolate – cashew muffins, so we baked both, ate  some and took the rest to my neighbour. The bread rolls were fluffy and delicious, the muffins well risen and rich in chocolate, so supposedly they were high in all that stuff that is so good for sunlight – deprived people (tryptofan?).

ronja baking

hands in dough

ronja baking2

me and ronja

ronja and bread roll

Since I know that you my readers are all familiar with the recipes of both carrot bread rolls and chocolate muffins, I thought to share here another baking therapy – recipe. I used to bake a lot of bread a few years ago,  I guess enough to write a whole book on all my adventures in the amazing Sourdough Land. I even used to have a hundred year old rye – bread sourdough starter (leaven) that originated somewhere in Archangel, Russia, but these days it has sadly passed away in lack of TLC (though its sisters continue existence with some of my friends).

So first a few basic tips to good bread:

– If you use yeast, don’t use it very much, but instead let your dough rise for longer time, to ensure more flavour.

– Use fresh flour! If you can grind your own, do it! At least here you can get your flour ground in an organic shop.

– When the dough is rising, put it to a nice warm spot and cover with a lid, not with a kitchen towel, to protect the dough from drying.

– If you are not using a Kitchen Aid or other machinery to knead your dough, you are in for a work – out! Knead it until you sweat and your hands tremble, but at least for 10 minutes. The kneading very important for the density of the dough, and without it the gluten won’t work properly.

– There should always be enough salt in bread dough, because it helps with the consistency a great deal. Good amount is 20g/1 kg of flour.

lingonberry bread

Lingonberry Bread

This bread recipe is adapted from one of my all time favourite cook books, “Tillfällen att njuta en liten smula” by Therese Wikström from Danmark.

3 breads

Starter dough:

250 g whole wheat flour

3 g yeast

1 1/2 l water

Mix these ingredients and cover. Let stand at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

Then add:

20 g yeast

4 dl water

500g whole spelt flour

420 g whole wheat flour

60 g honey

200 g lingonberries

40g olive oil

20 g salt

Knead the dough for 12  minutes, before adding the lingonberries, and then fold them in and let the dough rise for one and half hours, before you shape the loaves. Let the loaves rise on a baking sheet for one hour, in place that is protected from draft.  Bake 30 – 40 minutes in a 200°C oven.  The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when you knock the bottom.

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.


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.

hippie food 2

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


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


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!