Goddess of Cake


A Garden Memory and Odd Salads

This city is drowning in snow, but I can feel the spring edging closer. The days are longer and the little birds have started chirping, and the sunlight feels warm on my cheeks. It reminds me of the fact that the  summer will come.

Last summer we built a secret garden in one desolated spot in Helsinki, amidst old trains, rose bushes and general junk. It became a tiny paradise, with the biggest mangold leaves, abundant mint and sky – reaching branches of dill. And those rows of huge carrots and beetroot! It was a common effort by many  brave guerilla gardeners, who did learn about the miracle of growth in the process.  We were loved by the media, frequented by all kinds of visitors, from art students to radical activists and old ladies interested in gardening. Not to mention Helsinki’s recent dominant pest, the Urban Bunnies, a feral, red – eyed, formerly domesticated little nuisance.

I remember those early summer evenings, dry, light and warm,  lugging the heavy watering cans and letting the plants drink. What a delight is water for the dusty earth and for yourself, after a hot day. And I isn’t it strange, how the little grey, inconspicuous – looking seeds turn black soil, water and sunlight into edible green leaves and colourful tubers? If you never grew your own food, how could you possibly appreciate that? No one can control that magic! We can help and enhance it, but it happens by its own will. For new life to grow, there needs to be first death and decay, and what is living now, will finally be compost that feeds new growth.  A difficult lesson to learn.

Harvest party pictures courtesy of Päivi Raivio, thanks!

If I could stay in that moment, in the secret garden, with the heavy watering cans, I would. But time’s current is a force that only takes you forward. The green growth will take its own way, and is not stopped by blocks of concrete or urban sprawl.  When you open your fist, what you grabbed, a rock, a leaf, a piece of soil,  has  been pressed down to a diamond, a beautiful memory. That is for your keeping, for ever, even when a secret garden is too small a dream.

But they are sleeping there, under the blanket of snow, the little seeds. Soon, soon, it will be their time, to sprout and make a green revolution.  What revolutionary dreams do they dream? Stay tuned to the channel…

The Odd Salad

We recently had a meeting to plan some urban gardening visions. A member of our group suggested on our mailing list, in English, that we could share “an odd salad”. That caused a major confusion: Some people thought he meant “a strange salad”, some people thought the expression referred to a potluck dinner in general, and some people  even somehow got the idea he meant a mixed – gender sauna, because there was also talk about heating up the sauna at our meeting place. Finally, I think everyone understood what the expression means, but the “odd salad” was indeed delicious and the sauna very hot too.

Salad with Dried Apricots and Broccoli

A  head of broccoli

two handfuls of dried apricots

half a leek

50 g hazelnuts

Dressing:

3 tbsp walnut oil

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp maple syrup

a pinch of black pepper

Soak the apricots overnight in water.  The following day, separate the flower heads of the broccoli, and steam them just a couple of minutes, until they are a little tender.  Cut the leek diagonally into strips and very quickly fry it in oil. Slice the apricots and toast the hazelnuts on dry pan. Chop the hazelnuts roughly.  Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and toss the salad, decorate with chopped hazelnut.

Asian Beetroot Salad

This is a version of a dish a used make out of our guerilla – gardened beets last summer.

1 big beet

1 big orange

Dressing:

3 tbsp sesame oil

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp crushed garlic

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 tbsp lemon juice

Slice the beetroot thinly, and steam for a few minutes until tender. Slice the orange. Mix the ingredients for the dressing and toss the salad.  This salad is much improved if you have time to marinate it for a while.

Pink Salad with Fennel and Pear

200 g red cabbage

1 bulb of fennel

1 pear

Dressing:

2 tbsp raspberry vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tsp honey

a pinch of fleur de sel (or any other salt..)

Slice the cabbage and fennel very finely. I used a cheese – slicer, but you could use a mandolin as well. Cut the pear into thin slices. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing, and mix the cabbage and fennel in a bowl.  Pound the cabbage and fennel a bit, or give them a squeeze with your fingers. Mix in the pear slices and the dressing.



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.

hippies

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

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!



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




Reclaiming the Street with Boulgur Salad
August 18, 2009, 14:45
Filed under: Cooking, Salad | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Every August, my community reclaims the street that I’m living on with dinner tables. No cars are allowed in a whole day. People bring food and drinks, and the whole neighbourhood eats and socialises together. What a lucky person I am, to be living on such a street, the only one in Finland!

reclaiming the street3

Eating together keeps a community alive, and reclaiming a space in a city by eating in it is a revolutionary act if any . When we eat together, we share so many other things with the food: the substance of our lives, our values and creativity. Even in today’s western world of continuous abundance, the act of sharing food has still not completely lost some of its ritual significance: if I am willing to share my piece of bread with you, you are for me worth more than the risk of going hungry.

street reclaming

What is proper to eat, is a question that can lead to some really heated debates – we all have our opinion on that. But I guess that amidst all the guilt that can be felt for eating food that is not sound ecologically, ethically, or health wise, it is good to remember that food also has another function in society: the festive, ritual aspect of sharing food that is common for all human cultures. Food is nourishment for the soul too: for thriving communities and fulfilling human relationships.

reclaiming the street

In the afternoon, the tables slowly start to appear on the street, and people gather around them. Food is brought out , presented and accordingly admired, wine bottles and beer appear on the tables. We sit and eat and talk, the whole sunny day. Passers – by are offered food to taste (“come, have some of these beetroot shells Salla has made!”) and of course drinks. People move from table to table, children run along with painted faces. At dusk candles appear, people find their instruments and sounds of drumming and singing fill the street. The stars that we haven’t seen in a couple of light summer months flicker in the warm, dark August night.

I get know my neighbours much better, since I’m new on this street. They tell me some gossip, like why there is such a hole in the hedge between our house and the neighbouring one: the husband of the lady next door used to originally live there… Also while sitting at the table, we four ladies from my house make a decision: next summer, our house will be painted pink, and the wooden panels in the hallways Mediterranean turquoise.

Pineapple and Mint Salsa

1 fair trade pineapple

2 – 3 dl chopped spearmint

2 red chillibean

1/2 tsp salt

I peeled and chopped the pineapple, the mint and the chilli, then I blended the whole thing with a hand held blender. We ate it with some tortilla chips.

pineapple salsa

Boulgur Salad with Nectarines

4,5 dl boulgur

9 dl water for cooking

1 avocado

2 nectarines

200 g cherry tomatoes

2 red onions

2 dl chopped rucola

2 cloves of garlic

1/3 of a purple cauliflower

The Dressing

1 and 1/2 lemon, juice and zest

3 dl olive oil

salt

First I cooked the bulgur: I added it to boiling water, with a bit of salt in it, and let it simmer for about 8 minutes. Then I set it aside to cool. I chopped the rest of the ingredients roughly, except for the garlic, which I chopped finely, and mixed them together with the bulgur. Then I made the dressing: I squeezed the lemons and grated the zest, and whisked it together with olive oil. I poured the dressing into the salad and mixed carefully. This amount of ingredients make up about 4 litres of salad. It is also a good thing to remember that if you are intending to have this kind of food standing in sunshine for many hours, it is quite important to remember to cool it down properly, preferably in the fridge, before serving.

bulgursalad

Beetroot Shells

1 long beetroot, or 3 round ones

100 g pecan nuts

salt

honey

3 tbsp oil (sesame, pumpkin, olive…)

3 tbsp water

2 tsp lemon juice

This little dish is a nice raw foodie thing, unfortunaly not of my own invention..

First, I sliced the beertoot really really thinly with a cheese slicer into round thin slices. You could use a mandolin slicer as well, or a sharp knife. Then I made the nut paste that is the filling of the shells by simply mixing the ingredients with a blender. I made the shells by sort of glueing two beetroot slices together with the paste. The thinner you cut the slices, the nicer the shells are to eat, but if your slices are a bit thicker they keep better,otherwise they’ll start to look a bit dry and greyish in a couple of hours.

beetroot shells



Summer Salad
June 6, 2009, 22:01
Filed under: Salad | Tags: , ,

I thought to combine the delicacies of early summer: green asparagus and rhubarb that is growing sonicely in my yard. So I made this salad with a rhubarb dressing, which was supposed to have a slightly Asian taste to it. I would have liked to have some fresh radish in the salad too, but sadly there were no available. Except for one that I found in the fridge and cut to flower for decoration…

Salad with Asparagus and a Rhubard Dressing

6 stalks of green asparagus

2 handfuls of different kinds of salad ( I had salanova and iceberg lettuce and some rucola)

1 avocado

mungbean sprouts

1 gherkin

some leaves of bloodwort for decoration

pumpkin seed

Rhubarb Dressing

2 stalks of rhubarb

1 dl water

1 tsp white balsamico

1cm x 1cm piece fresh ginger

3/4 dl muscovado sugar

1 little red onion

1 tbsp sesame oil

salt

I made the dressing by chopping the onion, the ginger and the rhubarb. Then I put in pan the rhubarb, ginger, sugar, onions and water, and let the mixture boil until the rhubarb was quite mushed. Then I added the oil and some salt.  I guess I could have put the mixture through a sieve, in order to get a really refined consistency, but I ended up using it just as it was.

I peeled the asparagus and cut out a couple of cm of the fibrous part at the bottom of the stalk.  Then I threw the stalks to 1 liter of boiling water, and boiled them for about 3 minutes, then drained out the water and rinsed them in cold water.

Then I toasted the pumpkin seeds lightly on a dry frying pan.

I assembled the salad, and served it together with some fried tofu.  The rhubarb dressing was really nice!

summer salad



Spring Equinox Salad
March 22, 2009, 11:06
Filed under: Salad | Tags: , , , , , ,

There is an old story that tells about the Spring Equinox: Hades, the god of Kingdom of Death, stole the beautiful maiden Persephone down to his realm to be his wife.  Meanwhile her mother Demeter, who is the Goddess of Earth and all living things, made everything barren and dry in her mourning. Finally Persephone was allowed to return to stay in in the Land of Living every half of the year, and her returning was the coming of the spring, when her mother made all flowers bloom in her wake.

So since now it is the time of Spring Equinox, I wanted to make a salad to celebrate the oncoming Spring, even if the land is here in the North not quite blooming yet… This salad is very sweet, like the Maiden Persephone is sweet returning from the Land of the Dead, and the first signs of spring are sweet to the soul.

spring-salad1

Salad with caramelised walnuts and rasberry vinaigrette (2 – 3 portions)

150 g of different kinds of salad (I had chicory, radicchio and corn salad)

1 apple

1 avocado

1 pomegranade

1 half of a cucumber

1 1/2 dl alfalfa sprouts

spring onions

Caramelised walnuts

70 g walnuts

2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp muscovado sugar

1/4 tsp chili powder

Rasberry vinaigrette

1 dl rasberries

1 dl olive oil

2 tbsp rasberry vinegar

1 /2 tsp salt

1 tsp mustard

First I prepared the caramelised walnuts. This I did simply by adding all the ingredients for the caramelised walnuts on a frying pan, and frying them for about 5 minutes, or until the sugar was caramelised. This means it becomes sort of syrup – like. The sugar burns easily so I tried to concentrate.  Then I poured the mixture onto a pan that was covered with baking parchment to let it cool down.

Then I made the vinaigrette by mixing all the ingredients with a hand held mixer. I suppose in order to be very gourmet you should actually puree the rasberries using a sieve, so that you’d get rid of the seeds, but who cares?

Then I chopped all the other ingredients for the salad and took out the seeds from the pomegranade, being careful not to take out any of the white skin that is inside the fruit, since it is very bitter.  Then I assembled the salad by mixing all the ingredients and the dressing.