Goddess of Cake

Urban Gardener’s Life
June 24, 2010, 22:43
Filed under: Drinks, Guerilla Gardening, spring seasonal food | Tags: , , ,

Guess what? I’ve been busy. That’s why there has been no movements in this virtual space for a while. Spring is the time to start new gardens, and for a person or organization promoting urban food production and gardening it is crazy busy.  But now there are several new guerilla gardens and many new urban gardeners in Helsinki, gardening in places you never thought a carrot could grow in.  But that’s not my doing, but an effort of many people.

And, there is a website on urban farming!  Kaupunkiviljely.fi it is called. I’ve been one of the people making it. Unfortunately so far all the texts are in Finnish, but maybe later there will be something in English too.  But there are many pictures of all our projects, gardening tips for urban spaces and a blog, which you should order if you are interested in urban gardening, in Finnish.

And me? I’m a wreck.  Now, I’ve been cleaning my house for two days, and slept for fourteen hours, and finally I’m starting to come to my senses again. It’s not easy to be making a movement, at least for me. Urban gardening is a lovely activism: there are no contradictions, no conficts, and even the authorities are mostly in fave of a group of people turning every unused plot into a garden. We are like pandas, cute  and no threat to anybody. And a garden is easily removed when no longer liked.  It is very rewarding to be part of a movement that is really for everyone: the grandmothers can join, as well as activists, and everyone will love you for what you do.

I’ve always been a girl for direct action: no demonstrations or signing petitions for me, but actual deeds that turn the world into a better place. But of course, there is not that much that you can do with a shovel when it is about turning a whole city into more garden – then the work is done by email, phone and facebook instead of a garden – hoe.  And that is for a person like me very difficult, and takes up a lot of resources. And I do have to battle a lot of inner demons that tell me constantly that I have no right to do the things I’m doing, and especially not be successful with my actions.  Previously, I was never aware of such monsters existing in my mind! So, power is a new trip for me, and not an easy one. I feel like a dentist: having to yield nasty tools in order to accomplish something for a greater purpose.

Burnout or not, who cares? Now I can have a peaceful moment, sit by the open window, smell woodsmoke and grass clippings, and hear the birds chirping in hedge. Besides,  I dare say:  Helsinki is changed city because of us, the Dodo Urban Farmers!

Rhubarb and Spruce Tip Drink

There will be some recipes at the kaupunkiviljely.fi – website, with the emphasis on seasonal food. This is the first, for spring or early summer. At least in Southern Finland the spruce tips are already past their prime, and have turned to actual needles, but this recipe could be made with rhubarb only as well. Sweet cicely or garden myrrh is an almost forgotten, but really nice, aniseed – tasting perennial herb that thrives in many gardens. I’m a bit embarrassed to post a recipe which is definetely no more seasonal, but I hope my readers will forgive! There is a good reason for it!

2 l spruce tips

2 l rhubarb stalks

some leaves of sweet cicely

0,5 kg sugar

25 g citric acid (works as preservative)

4 l water

Chop the rhubarb and rinse the spruce tips, and boil them with the water and the sweet cicely leaves for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the citric acid, and let the drink cool down overnight. Following day, add the sugar and citric acid, and bring to boil again. When the drink has cooled, you can pour it into bottles that should be kept refrigerated.  The drink keeps two weeks.

Spruce tips should be harvested in Finland during May or early June, when they are still light green and tender. Never heard of spruce tips? They are the year – growths of spruce trees that appear in the spring. Later in the summer they turn into regular needles. Traditionally the spruce tips have thought to have medicinal properties, and used in cough – potions. Their taste is fresh and tangy, and in my opinion resembles somehow eucalyptus.

Rhubarb Pie and Sweet Cicely
June 18, 2009, 22:22
Filed under: Baking, spring seasonal food | Tags: , ,

rhubarb pie

Finally, the first rhubarb pie this summer! I spiced it with an old fashioned herb that I found growing in my yard. It is called garden myrrh or sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata). The taste is sweet, aniseed – like, and it is said that it could even be used as a sugar substitute. The leaves are really pretty too and can be used as decoration.

I made two versions of this pie: the first one I fed for a meeting of the environmental organisation Dodo, and the second, upgraded edition went to a party of another environmental organisation, called Luonto – Liitto. And I must admit that the second version was simply so good that even me, the most self – critical baker, couldn’t find a fault in it!

Rhubarb Pie with Garden Myrrh

The Crust

3, 5 dl wheat flour

1 tsp ginger powder

1,5 tsp baking powder

1 dl sugar

150 g vegetable margarine

1 tbsp cold water

I mixed all the dry ingredients in bowl, and then kneaded in the margarine. To the last I added the cold water and set the dough to the fridge to wait for a while.

The Filling

4 – 5 dl peeled, chopped rhubarb stalks

2 tbsp finely chopped garden myrrh

1, 5 dl sugar

2 tbsp potato starch

350 g soy yoghurt

I mixed all the other ingredients, except the potato starch and the chopped rhubarb. The potato starch I sifted in and then mixed carefully, in order to avoid lumps. Then I took the crust – dough from the fridge, and lined a pie – pan with it. Then I poured the chopped rhubarb and after that the yoghurt – mixture on the crust. I baked it in a preheated 200 °C oven for 45 minutes.

The thing I did in another way I usually do, is that I added some potato starch in the filling. In non – vegan pies egg is quite often used to make the filling set, but I think potato starch worked really well, since the pie stayed together nicely. Also, in the “second edition” pie, which is not in the picture, I used brown sugar in the crust and ordinary white sugar in the filling. That had a positive effect on the look of the pie!

Red and Green Lasagna
May 21, 2009, 22:47
Filed under: Cooking, spring seasonal food | Tags: , , ,

There is a retelling of a very old fairytale by H.C. Andersen, which tells about a maiden Elisa, who in order to save her seven brothers has to collect nettle from graveyards and knit sweaters for them out of it .  I have also once upon a time made yarn out of nettle, but this time decided to stick to cooking, since the fibre making process was quite a lot of work.

So I went out to get familiar with the woods outside of my new house, and did find some beautiful places and  lots of perky little nettles. Nettle is absolutely one of my favourite plants, being not very easy to approach but very healthy and useful indeed. It’s good to eat this time of the year when it’s still small, because later on it becames quite chewy and fibrous. Nettle is easiest found somewhere close to human settlements, not in the actual woods.

nettle lasagna

Lasagna with Nettle

Tomato Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cans of crushed tomatoes

2 small onions

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp fresh oregano

2 tbsp fresh basil

a  pinch of black pepper

salt and sugar to taste

Nettle Sauce

3 l of loosely packed nettle leaves

1 onion

1 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

a pinch of nutmeg

salt to taste

Bechamel Sauce

1 l oat milk

1 dl canola oil

1 dl wheat flour

salt to taste

Also:  250g whole wheat lasagna noodles

I started with the nettle, which should always be boiled before use in order to remove nitrates.  I separated the leaves from the stems, and threw them into boiling water, and allowed them to boil for about two minutes. Then I chopped the onions and the garlic, and added them and the nettle leaves into a pan, and let them simmer for about 10 minutes. Then I added the nutmeg and the salt.

The tomato sauce I made by chopping the garlic and the onion, and frying them in oil until the onion became limp. Then I added the tomato and let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes. In the end I added the spices and the salt.

The bechamel sauce I made by first heating up the oil in a cooking pot, and then adding the flour. After boiling the mixture until there were no lumps in the flour, I added the oat milk and brought the mixture to boil, mixing it every now and then. At this stage it usually thickens, but for some reason this time it didn’t happen. Must have been the new brand of oat milk that I was using, since I have made lasagna so many times with this recipe without any troubles. I ended up using only half of the bechamel sauce, even if with a normal thick sauce I would have used it all. Anyhow the consistency of the lasagna when ready was fine, even if the bechamel sauce was not very distinguished.

After making all the three sauces I assembled the lasagna by first greasing a pan, and then adding to the bottom a layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of bechamel sauce and then a layer of lasagna noodles. Then I added a layer of nettle, a layer of bechamel sauce and a layer of lasagna noodles, and so on, until the pan was full.

I baked the lasagna in the oven for 40 minutes, in 200°C.

Hunter – Gatherer Pesto

Now the Spring is finally here and the first green things have started to come up! I wanted to get off to the forest and look for some new shoots of ground – elder ( Aegopodium podagraria) which is one of the first edible wild plants showing up in the spring. Now it is also the best time to collect it, since later in the summer it becomes slightly bitter.

I went off to the woods and found the new ground – elder leaves excactly where I expected them to be. What a hunter – gatherer’s joy I experienced at this! And while collecting them, I felt a lightness of heart, and strangely at peace the way I haven’t felt in a long time… maybe it was the connection to Mother Earth, who knows.


After returning home with my bounty, I decided to make pesto out of it. I thought that it would feel really nice to eat them uncooked.

Ground Elder Pesto with Pumpkin Seed Oil

1 dl almonds

1 dl pumpkin seed oil

1 tsp salt

3 handfuls of young leaves of ground – elder

1 clove of garlic

1/2 dl water

2 tsp dried basil

I made this pesto simply by mixing all the ingredients with a handheld mixer. The colour of it was scarily dark, but the taste very lovely, strong and flavourful. As I had intented, the strong taste of the pumpkinseed oil went really well together with the taste of  ground elder.