Goddess of Cake


Permaculture and a Last Reminder of Winter

Permaculture, in case you never heard the word before, is the art of designing sustainable habitats by imitating natural ecosystems. I was invited to one permaculturalist – gathering in one ecovillage, and then to another ecological community,  to teach permaculture on an Ecovillage Design Education – course. Permaculture is a design system that searches for solutions for ecovillages, organic gardening, sustainable agriculture and social change, or anything else that gears towards a more sustainable life. The first ecovillage I visited was young and punky, and the second one a bit older and more established, but anyway it was interesting for me to do this little road trip to my past.

I was picked up from the trainstation by the old Hiace full of backbacks and hippies, and we hit the dark snowy roads towards Central Finland. The three – year – old chattered away on the front seat, I got the see mobile phone  photos from a demonstration in England, and we stoppes and peed in a row on the roadside snow (yes, alternative people do that).  Late at night, we arrived at the ecovillage, and got greeted with a plate of broad bean soup and a house full of friendly people, children and dogs. It was the eve of Spring Equinox,  and everybody in the house was bursting with energy for outdoor life, after a winter spent indoors.

In the second ecovillage I get to teach on a Ecovillage Design Education –  course, so we talk about permaculture principles:  1. Follow nature’s patterns. 2. If you are not having fun, you are not doing it right! 3. Imagination is the only limit to the system’s yield 4. Start small, observe and interact! 5. Design from pattern to details, et cetera. We also think about closed loops and sustainability. What kind of system is sustainable, and why?

After permaculture we discuss local food and the eco – footprint of different foodstuffs. Which is better, ordinary tea or organic coffee? Which has a heavier footprint, organic local cheese or a canned coconut milk? Sometimes we teachers even don’t know the answers, but after the class we do a hands – on approach on local food, and cook seitan, hemp sauce, nettle pancakes with lingonberries and oven cooked whole oats for the group, and as dessert some whipped rye with berries. It’s chaotic, and fun, and the food is delicious.

In the evenings the communal kitchen is lit and the people clean away the leftovers of dinner. They laugh softly, talk  about small things: ” We should put more dish rags on the shopping list!”, somebody leans on the counter, sips a cup of herbal tea. Somehow, I’m a little jealous of that easy companionship, the fellowship of the kitchen counter, even if I once lived here and doomed it not to be for me.

The course is very interesting, and I’m becoming very fond of the morning heart sharing circles: I simple excercise in which we four randomly chosen, very different people talk about our lives and the expectations we have for it. It’s very powerful, and in the end there is no way but to like the people in my group very much. The last morning, we do the hippie classic, a group hug, and it feels like the most natural thing to do in the world.We have woven a surprising little web of connection, in this time and space.

Ecovillage Food

Most likely, if you are a Finnish person trying to eat locally grown food, you are at this time of the year pretty stuffed with root vegetables, delicious that they are, after eating them for months. Now the first green wild veggies are sprouting in the nature, but you can still use some imaginative recipes that don’t require too many fresh ingredients.

Hemp and Funnel Chanterelle Croquettes

These are delicious vegan croquettes, though they ask for a fair amount of mushrooms. But last autumn was really good for funnel chantarelles, so there is plenty to eat.  These patties stay together very well, thanks to the proteins of hemp.

This recipe I learned from my friend Aino, thank you!

2, 5 dl dried funnel chantarelles, soaked

1 onion

2 dl hemp meal

2 dl bread crumbs +  1/2 dl for breading

1 – 2 dl oat milk

1 tsp  salt

1 tsp dried paprika

1 tsp dried basil

oil for frying

Soak the funnel chantarelles in water for 10 minutes. Chop the onion finely, and the mushrooms too. Sauté both on a pan, in oil, for a few minutes, then mix together with the hemp meal, bread crumbs and spices. Add oat milk, enough to make a nice dense paste that can easily be made into patties. Let the paste sit for a few minutes, and then make small balls or patties. Roll them in bread crumbs, and fry both sides in oil.

Hemp meal can be easily ground using a food processor.

Serve with mashed potatoes, lingonberry mush and sauerkraut.

Whipped Rye with Berries

This is a surprising dessert! The rye flour will turn light and fluffy, if you have the patience to whip it for several minutes. You can make it with lingonberries, blackcurrants or any other slightly tangy berries

1,5 dl extra fine rye flour

2,5 dl boiling water

0,5 dl sugar

1 tsp vanilla

4 dl berries (if frozen, thawed)

Blend all the ingredients, and whisk with an electric whisk for a few minutes, until fluffy.

Advertisements


A Good Friday with Citrus
April 5, 2010, 21:13
Filed under: Cooking, Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , ,

My childhood school was a Walldorf – school, for thirteen years. So ask me any question about the Finnish school system, and I won’t be able to answer you. But I learned how to make pretty sheep out of carded wool and pipecleaner, how to work with copper, how to flutter backwards and left in the eurythmics class, when there is a Minor cadence in the music, and several little poems to say thanks for the food, in the beginning or at end of the day.  And yes, since there are many superstitions regarding Walldorf – education, we did learn our maths, biology and physics according to the state curriculum, along the other approaches to life.

Maybe the most valuable lesson of a Walldorf – school is that most likely you end up spending most of your thirteen years there with the same classmates, and most likely the same teachers too. A Walldorf – school is a community, and in like any community the people don’t always get along with each other well at all, and don’t like each other either. But somehow, when you rub onto each other for thirteen years, finally the worst edges are gone and maybe you have learned something about the human nature as well. And still, after years I finished school  when I meet some of my old classmates, I feel an instant familiarity with them, stronger than with any of my other friends.

This Good Friday I spent comfortably with one of my old classmates and her partner. We are such old friends, hold no surprises for each other.  My friend always cooks by the recipe; I always cook by the feel. She keeps a beautiful, colourful, neat and clean house, and the story of her life is artistically arranged in photo books.  My house is chaotic and mostly outright dirty, and I can’t even recall what I did a year ago, let alone have a photo book about it. We have always been different like that, and I guess we will always remain with our ways.  But it is amazing to have a friend that stayed in your life since you were seven years old.

Easter Food

Being secular people, we made Easter food already on Good Friday. In our families there are no strong traditions of what savoury foods to make on Easter,  so we somehow ended up cooking citrus – themed food, which does have a feeling of Easter to it, maybe because the yellow colour of lemons. Anyway we made an intensely lemony risotto, a salad with a tangy tahini dressing and citrus – infused fruit salad as dessert.

Lemon – Tofu Risotto

This risotto is from the cookbook Tofukeittokirja (a Finnish cookbook on tofu), slightly modified.

400 g firm tofu

The Marinade

1 lemon, juiced

1 lime, juiced

2 tbsp apple vinegar

2 tbsp honey

a pinch of allspice

1 tsp salt

The Risotto

3 dl arborio rice

8 dl vegetable stock

1 onion

1 lemon, juiced

grated zest of ½ lemon

2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tbsp oil

50 g vegetable margarine

salt to taste

a pinch of turmeric

almonds and fresh mint for decorating

Mix the ingredients for the marinade, cut the tofu into small squares and mix in, let it marinate for a while in the fridge, preferably overnight.

Chop the onion and heat up the oil and margarine in a cooking pot.  Throw in the onion and turn it for a minute or so. Add the rice, and let it sauté until it’s translucent. Remember to keep stirring! Next add the lemon juice and zest. Add vegetable stock little by little, stirring so that the rice is submerged all the time. Let simmer, stirring and adding the stock, for 15 to 20 minutes.

Fry the tofu quickly on a pan, and add it to the risotto, along with a bit of turmeric for a nice yellow colour. Using a cup as mold plate the risotto and decorate with almonds and fresh mint.

Tahini Salad Dressing

1 dl lime juice

1/2 dl light tahini

1 garlic clove

a pinch of salt

Blend everything with a hand held blender. If you prefer a runnier consistency, add some water, but I think it dilutes the taste unnecessary. Our salad contained thinly sliced kohlrabi, green apple, mung bean sprouts, oven roasted cherry tomatoes and dried cranberries.

Lemongrass – marinated fruit salad

This is vaguely the recipe I used as an inspiration for the fruit salad and lemongrass syrup. The result was delicious, though when cooking the marinade it smelled strangely of Indian incense. Here are also good instructions on how to segment citrus fruit. Segmenting citrus is definitely worth the bother!

1/2 cantaloupe melon

1/2 pineapple

1 pink grape fruit

1 orange

1 pear

1 dl mint shavings

The Marinade

2 dl citrus juice, from the segmenting + lime juice

1 vanilla pod

2 stalks of lemon grass

1 dl honey

Zest of 1 lime

Segment the citrus, and catch the extra juices in a bowl. Make the syrup: cut the lemon grass stalks to 3 cm long pieces, scrape the vanilla pod and grate the lime zest. Add all the ingredients to a cooking pot, bring to a boil and let simmer a few minutes.

Cut up all the fruit, and add the strained marinade and the finely chopped mint. Let marinate for an hour or so.

This is what you say in a Walldorf – school, to bless the meal:

Earth who gives to us this food
Sun who makes it ripe and good
Dear Earth …. Dear Sun
By you we live
Our loving thanks to you we give…..

Bon Appetit for everyone!



Bliny Carnival
February 17, 2010, 17:04
Filed under: Cooking, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Now it is the season of carnivals all over the world, from the most famous one in Rio, to the Austrian Fastnacht, Venetian Masquerade and the rather timid Finnish Laskiainen that is celebrated by downhill sledge- riding and pea soup. Carnival – tradition is about turning everything upside down: kings become slaves and servants rulers, men become women and women men. For a short while, the rules bend and laws are made ridiculous, sacred profane, and the pompous reveals its true trivial nature, like a cancan dancer, kicking up her fishnet – stockinged leg… It’s a short lived illusion, a spectre of power, but something that brings a relief, an easiness to go on with the everyday life. The Trickster celebrates with a mad leer, takes over the King’s throne, and those with no power make the rules of the game.

My carnival this year was a night with Russian food and burlesque. Burlesque is the true carnivalistic entertainment: I’m in love with the big, tattooed ladies taking off their clothes on stage, with the madly cheering audience, and that  feeling of a rock concert, but without the pretense of music, just sheer sexiness and wildness and visual stimulation.  This party was like travelling with a time machine, full of creatures from other realms, men or women, animal or human, human or alien, 15th century or future, who cares, just corsettes – heels – glitter – colour – lace – frills  – and – futuristic contraptions everywhere you lay your eyes. I felt like innocent Alice in Wonderland, with my angel wings and white tutu.

We, meaning Namu Natasha ( Sweet Natasha), Esteri Pippuri (Esther the Pepper), Bliny Blinotshka (well.. something to do with bliny, obviously), Printemps (Spring)  and Angelita started the night with bliny, Russian pancakes that are traditionally eaten in Finland this time of the year.  The Russian blin or blintzke is a thin pancake, a crêpe, bought from a stall on the street and eaten as a snack. The Finnish blin is a thick fat pancake, made of sourdough,  finely served with caviar, sour cream, mushrooms and other delicacies in a festive occasion. It’s a short way to Russia, but quite obviously something happened on the way…

Buckwheat Bliny

At least six hours prior to baking your bliny, mix the following ingredients and let ferment in room’s temperature:

2,5 dl oat milk, luke warm

2,5 dl buckwheat flour

2,5 dl wheat flour

20 g yeast

Just before baking add:

2,5 dl beer

1 tsp salt

1 dl soy yogurt

You’ll need oil for frying

Fry the bliny in a frying pan, with lots of oil. Use medium heat, so that they will cook inside too.  Nicest bliny are fried in pancake pan. Flip them over a couple of times.

Sidedishes with Bliny

You should have many different sidedishes with bliny! Five is minimum in my opinion! Nice vegan things to go with your bliny are vegan seaweed based caviar (at least in Finland available), vegan sour cream, chopped red onion, chopped pickles, honey, and mashed avocado with a bit of lemon.  We also had these things:

Beetroot with Honey

Slice some beetroot thinly, and chop some garlic. Fry quickly with oil in a wok, add salt and plenty of honey.

Mushrooms with Sour Cream

I bought some wild mushrooms preserved in brine, and made a simple condiment of them by draining off the extra liquid and adding some chopped spring onions,  black pepper and vegan sour cream.



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.



Cooking for Crowds
December 9, 2009, 21:30
Filed under: Cooking | Tags: , , , , , ,

I was recently cooking for a group of young Russian NGO – people. Vegetarian food was quite clearly a new concept for many of them, but the praise I got for my cooking was unequivocal. One of them even said in the feedback round that she shall now became vegetarian and convert her family and friends too! I was so happy to hear that since now I can think that besides some money for me, I may have achieved something much more important: actually a tiny little change in the world towards a more sustainable future. That felt like a great achievement for my fingers that were coarse from cutting veggies and legs that were trembling from too much standing up.

Working in the kitchen, even if it is creative and fun, and a profession where you’ll be loved and praised much, is mostly a lot of hard manual labour. Since I’m no Michelin Star chef, I do my own dishes and chop my own veggies, and spent a lot of time lugging heavy bags from one place to another. For some reason, it is always these more than twelve-hour days you end up doing. By the way, if you want to become my slave, get in touch immediately!

Some tips, if you end up cooking for a crowd of people:

– Reserve enough time, and plan ahead: when one pot is cooking, can you make the salad meanwhile? How long does it take for each thing to boil or bake, and how long does it take you to chop the ingredients? A good cook can concentrate on several processes at the same time.

– Learn to use your knife, and always bring your own. Generally, if you can chop fast, you should be able to cook for many people, no problem. I do like get some help, if I need to make a meal for more than 40 people and the time is limited.

– It’s often hard to estimate how much people will eat. Generally, a meal should be about 300 g, though it depends a lot: men eat more than women, alternative people eat more than mainstream people, people who are active outdoors eat more than people who have spent time sitting in a meeting.

– Usually, I estimate about 4- 5 dl soup as a single course, or for a meal 70 – 80 g grains or 150 – 200 g pasta and about 2 – 3 dl of curry or sauce, and about 2 dl salad. It doesn’t matter how you count, you can also multiply recipes or think how many potatoes each one will eat etc. The important thing though is that you do some kind of an estimation of the amounts that you’ll need, and plan the things on your menu.

– Any kitchen often lacks these: a proper knife, a lemon squeezer and a hand held blender.

– Don’t be shy with spices (there are a few exceptions though, like black pepper and cloves).

– Afterwards, remember to enjoy the praise!

This is the kind of food that I usually make for people: quite a general vegetarian fare, but tasty and wholesome. The following recipes are by Tuija Ruuska, slightly modified, except for the salad which was a moment’s creation. The amounts are enough for 15 – 20 people.

Caribbean Mango Sauce with Kidney Beans

500 g carrots

7 large potatoes

4 onions

2 large bell peppers

1 tbsp grated ginger

5 fresh chillies

3 cans of kidney beans in salt water

2 cans of coconut milk

300 g frozen green beans

150 g frozen mango puree (you could basically use any kind of pureed, unsweetened mango)

1 tsp allspice

juice of one lemon

salt

water for cooking

Start by chopping the onions and the chillies finely, and the potatoes, carrots and the bell pepper into big chunky pieces. Add oil and the onions, chillies and grated ginger to big cooking pot, and fry until the onion is limp. Then add the chopped carrots and the potatoes, and enough water to cover them as well as  salt, bring to boil and let simmer about 10 minutes. Then add the bell peppers and coconut milk, and let boil until everything is tender. As last add the mango puree, frozen and canned beans, lemon juice and allspice, and heat up once more.

Spelt Pilaf with Cashew Nuts

1,5 g broken spelt kernels

water for cooking

300 g green frozen peas

200 g cashew nuts

1 dl canola oil

1 tbsp turmeric

3 onions

salt

First cook the spelt. Two things about cooking grains: wash them first, to get rid of dust,  and always add them to cold water that you then bring to boil, in order to avoid making porridge. So wash the spelt kernels first, generally it is good to change the water a couple of times and really rub the grain, as if you were doing laundry by hand. Then put the spelt, some salt and water into a big cooking pot. The water should come about 5 cm above the level of the spelt. Then bring it to boil and let simmer until the spelt is cooked, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the cashew nuts on a dry frying pan, turning constantly, since they burn easily.  Then fry the onions in canola oil, together with the turmeric. Add the peas, the cashews and pour the mixture into the cooking pot with the spelt and mix carefully.

Cucumber and Coconut Salad

4 cucumbers

4 dl mung bean sprouts

1 organic orange

2 dl grated coconut

1 dl canola oil

juice of one lemon

pinch of salt

First wash and cut the cucumbers, and cut up the orange and grate the zest. Mix the coconut, the grated orange zest, lemon juice and the oil and some salt with a blender. Mix the cucumber pieces, the orange, the mung bean sprouts and the coconut mixture.



Mushroom Hunting

Two weeks or so ago I went to the countryside in search of some local food with a couple of friends. In the woods we did find lots and lots of funnel chanterelles (Cantharellus tubaeformis) and lingonberries. Picking these mushrooms is very rewarding: first you don’t see them, but then you spot one and suddenly realise they are simply everywhere… Picking lingonberries can be meditative, or boring in other words, but anyway it’s nice to stumble on branches and get your gumboots sucked inside wet moss in the wet forest, in  slowly drizzling rain. We also dug up the last root vegetables from the garden and used them and the results of our foraging for a gorgeous meal.

carrots

mushrooms

In the woods we encountered a guy carrying a gun, who was in a moose hunting party. It did occur to me that eating a wild moose might be so much more locavorean*  than buying some vegan soy products that might have destroyed half a rainforest. I’m generally not against killing, since in my opinion dying is part of the natural world, and an essential part of how the ecosystem works. At least the animals in the wild have had an opportunity to a dignified life, which can of course not be said about those poor creatures who only exist to serve our needs for animal products.

country tripping

On our way home we also met a woman from a neighboring house, who had a few cows, a horse and a herd of sixty sheep. She told us that when she shears all those sheep and sends the wool to a spinnery, she will either get 120 euros for it, or 4 kg of ready-made wool yarn, which really is nothing at all. So keeping all those animals is just a hobby for her. She was a really shining person, you could see the happiness those animals were giving her, and they way she treated them was loving and respectful. But it is still sad that in order to make any other kind of profit than just happiness she’d have to do her farming in a much more unsustainable way. What could be the solution to this? My dream is that our food could be provided in the ways we experienced on our weekend trip:  with foraging, hunting and  small-scale farming. What I don’t know is whether this would be effective enough to feed us all on this planet. Probably not, but I still wish it could be possible.

At home we made the all time favourite: oven roasted veggies and funnel chanterelle sauce, with lingonberry mush. I know everyone knows how to make roasted veggies, but it’s such a nice winter time dish that I’ll write about it, just in case you had forgotten the whole idea in this raw food craze that seems to prevail these days. I originally learned the concept of oven roasted vegetables from a cook book by Saara Törmä, called Keittokomero ja huone, which is a great source of simple, affordable, yet delicious recipes. It’s totally out of print these days, sadly, and of course only available in Finnish.

Oven Roasted Vegetables

3 carrots

1 parsnip

2 beetroots

2 onions

2 potatoes

a piece of root celery

a piece of swede

6 garlic cloves

The Dressing

3 tbsp oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp honey

black pepper

1 tbsp dried herbs: thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, choose your favourite ones

Chop the veggies roughly. There is no need to peel the potatoes, just clean them well. Peel the garlic cloves, and pour everything onto an oven plate. Mix the ingredients for the dressing, and drizzle over the veggies. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes in 200 ºC.

mushroom sauce and oven grated veggies

There was also a cake for Vappu’s birthday the following day. The cake was a vegan chocolate cake, filled with grated apple, lingonberries and frosted with soy cream. It was decorated with lingonberries found in the forest and ancient liquorice found in the cupboard. Very simple, suitable for a country trip.

cake

Basic Vegan Chocolate Cake

4 dl wheat flour

1 dl cocoa powder

2  dl sugar

2 tsp baking powder

0,5 tsp baking soda

2 tsp egg replacer

1 tsp chocolate flavouring

3 dl oat milk or other non – dairy

1 tsp vinegar

2 dl canola oil

Vegan cakes are easy to make: mix the dry ingredients and the sugar. It is a good idea to use a sieve with the cocoa powder.  Then mix the vinegar with the milk and add to the batter. As the last ingredient add the oil. Avoid mixing too much! Then pour the batter to a springform pan, 24 cm in diameter, and bake in the oven in 180 °C about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool thoroughly before cutting the layers and filling it.  And remember: a cake should always be filled the day before  serving!

* a locavore is a person who tries to eat as much local food as possible