Goddess of Cake


Summer Cottage
June 24, 2011, 13:26
Filed under: summer seasonal food | Tags: ,

A summer cottage is an essential part of the Finnish mindscape: Finland was urbanized only quite recently, and most of us still feel that our roots are in the country. The Finnish dream contains a summer cottage: a simple dwelling in the woods, by a lake, faraway from the neighbours. On a summer cottage the Finn relaxes, wears some ugly clothing dating back 20 years, enjoys the cool waters of the lake and a hot sauna, rowing trips, inefficient fishing and a barbecue. In the previous days it was also common that the amenities at the summer cottage were quite basic:  no running water,  just a well, and no electricity even. At the summer cottage, the past is somehow close: old things crowd the cupboards and family secrets crowd the air.

I remember my childhood summers, long and hot, at our summer cottage. My parents, who were quite uncapable of relaxing even on a holiday, worked on their projects, my dad building something or other and my mom expanding  her huge kitchen garden.  I played on shores of the muddy lake and in the forests with my imaginary playmates, woodland fairies and mermaids, when I didn’t have to help my mom weeding in the garden or picking berries from thorny bushes.  My enthusiasm for gardening these days continues to surprise me when I remember how much I hated garden – work as a child!

Now it is the time all Finns who have the opportunity will escape cities to the country, for Midsummer’s Eve – parties and magic! Happy  Midsummer to you all!

Sangria

Sangria may be the ultimate summertime drink. Thanks for the recipe to the playwright Pipsa Lonka!

4 cl gin

2 cl flagg punsch (swedish alcoholic drink)

1 tbsp sugar

2 bottles of light red wine

the juice of one orange

the juice of one lemon

1 l sprite etc. soda

1 dl beer

Plenty of ice cubes made of orange juice

One lemon, one orange and one lime sliced

Strawberries, watermelon, any fruit you have at hand.

First mix gin, punsch, sugar, red wine, lemon juice and orange juice. Let the taste develop for a few hours. Just before serving add the sprite, beer, ice cubes and the chopped fruit.

Enjoy in a relaxed company!

 



Gooseberries and a Sense of Safety

The smell of boiling berries always brings me back to my childhood. A berry soup, kiisseli, was something that I would eat every morning with my oatmeal porridge. I didn’t like it. My mom would make it so that it contained whole black currants, straight out of the freezer, and I hated their thick peels and the sauer taste. Only as an adult I’ve learned to appreciate the taste of black currant. And berry soup? That’s something I hardly ever make.

Here I’ll write about a dessert that my mom sometimes made, and I think it originates from her own childhood. It is called Stablemaster’s Berry Soup, and it is made of very simple ingredients: those people 50 years ago had some dried up rye bread in their cupboard, a gooseberry bush and some fresh cream in their cellar, and as an exotic ingredient just a pinch of cocoa powder. These they combined in an inventive way.

This dessert is a bit like life some fifty years ago, delightful in simple way, as our life now is delightful in a complex way. Those people had a sense of safety within the Big Circles of life: the winter, cold and snowy, would follow the summer, people would marry, have children, grow old and die, and work hard in between. For an individual life was unpredictable, in a sense that the world was not such a safe place to be in, but the communities were strong, even to the point of suffocating their members.

Nowadays, we have a lot of personal safety: good dental care, women’s rights, a possibility to reach anyone we wish, and even be anybody we wish to be. But we feel disconnected, don’t know what to do with our relationships, don’t know if there will ever be a winter on this planet again. Would I personally change my complicated liberty to a simpler life, with a sense of continuity ? Sometimes I think I would, but also I know that the freedom of our unsecure time is a great gift to someone like me. So I content myself, with making a dessert from the olden times, and have no more romantic yearnings for an imaginary simple life.

Stablemaster’s Gooseberry Soup

Berry soup is a very Finnish concept, and I don’t know whether it exists anywhere else. The traditional way to make it is to boil some berries, sieve through, and thicken the remaining juice with potato starch. After that some whole berries or fruits can still be added. This dessert, which for some reason is called Stablemaster’s Berry Soup, is traditionally made of gooseberries, but any other sauer – tasting berries can be used too, as well as rhubarb or apple. It doesn’t sound very luxurious, but somehow the sweet – and – sauer taste of gooseberries and the crispy bread crumbles are really delicious together.

stablemaster's berry soup

The Gooseberry Soup

7 dl water + an additional 1/2 dl

3 dl gooseberries

3/4 dl sugar

3 tbsp potato starch

Condiments:

2 dl of dryish rye bread crumbles

1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

a pinch of bourbon vanilla powder

oil for frying

soy cream, whipped up

I decided to make the berry soup in a really old -fashioned way, so that I would actually sieve it, since the gooseberries have these funny “tails” that would maybe not be so nice eaten. I started by boiling the berries in water about 5 minutes, until they had fallen apart for a bit. Then I put it through a sieve, and added the sugar. I diluted the potato starch to 1/2 dl water in a separate bowl. Then I took the berry soup pot from the stove, and poured in slowly the potato starch liquid, mixing the soup carefully in order to avoid lumps. Then I put the pot back to the stove and brought it to boiling temperature, so that I would just see the first bubble appearing on the surface. Then I took it off the stove. You should not boil it! I don’t know why, but this is the by – the – book way a Finnish berry soup is made.

As a condiment for the berry soup I made the bread crumbs: First I crumbled up some dried rye bread, and then fried it in oil on a frying pan, together with the sugar and cocoa powder. Then I poured the gooseberry soup into a bowl, and sprinkled it with the bread crumb mixture and whipped soy cream.



Edible Flowers

To eat flowers is to eat something with no other sustenance but sheer beauty. They have mostly hardly any taste, contain no calories or nutrition for the body, but they will greatly nourish your Inner Fairy. What other would be a favourite meal in the eternal twilight in the Land of Fee, but a dinner that constitutes of flowers and a drop of nectar? In order to not forget what really is important in life, I try to cultivate some edible flowers every summer, to have that feeling of luxurious vanity in the every day life that can sometimes get a bit dreary.

flowercake

Basically all flowers of edible plants are edible, though some of them may not be so very delicious. All of them can anyhow be used to decorate food. My favourite ones are the following:

nasturtium

Nasturtium

Nasturtium(Tropaelenum Majus) is extremely easy to cultivate and has a very nice mustardy aroma, and is nicest in savoury dishes. It comes in several colours, ranging from orange to white.

Horned Violethorned violet

(Viola cornuta)

is one of the species of the Viola. It’s very pretty and tastes slightly tangy. It is perennial and therefore easy to cultivate, and produces a lot of small flowers.

Mexican Marigolmexican marigoldd

(Tagetes minuta)

has a very distingtive sweet smell and taste, and the tiny flowers look great on top of cupcakes etc.

Roserose

All species of rose are edible, but the less cultivated varieties taste nicer. I usually use Japanese Rose (rosa rugosa). Rose petals can be used also in a pancake mix, or added into other kind of doughs when baking. The white part of the petal tastes bitter and should be removed before eating.

Scotch Marigold

scotch marigold

(Calendula Officinalis) The petals can be used in salads or to decorate food. It has been used also to subsitute saffron, because it gives a nice yellow colour to food, though the taste is quite bland. Marigold is also a commonly used herbal remedy, it is said to enhance the healing of wounds and be generally good for the skin. Marigold should not be eaten by pregnant women, since it can add the production of estrogen in the body.

Borage

borage(Borago officin al is)is a flower that quite often grows as a weed in home gardens, at least here in Finland. The flower is one of the rare blue edible things, and tastes very sweet. There is some information that you should not eat any other parts of the borage plant, but in Central and Southern Europe also the leaves of borage are eaten. The flower should be safe to eat.

 

Also many of the wild flowers in Finland are edible, like fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), clover (Trifolium repense, Trifolium pratense) and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Dandelion buds are said to be nice deep fried, but I’ve never tried that myself. Clover can be added to bread dough or dried and used in herbal tea mixtures. The flowers of yarrow (Achillea millefolium) have a taste that reminds of black pepper. Yarrow also has some medicinal qualities.

Also the flowers of spice herbs are often nice looking, like the flowers of oregano, anise hyssop, and basil, though some of them may be a little too dry to be actually delicious.

In order to preserve the flowers, you can freeze them in ice cubes, e.g. on an ice cube tray or in plastic bags. The ice cubes can be used in drinks, or melted and then used as decoration. Some of the flowers can also be used dried, like scotch marigold or rose, especially in herbal tea mixtures.




A Fifteen Meter Lunch

In the States these so called 100 mile menus seem to be the new fad in restaurants. Basically it means that the ingredients for the menu are grown within a hundred miles. Also, in London there is a restaurant, which sells food that originates within the subway network of London. This menu that I’m going to write about, is not a 100 mile dinner, but a 15 meter lunch, since most of the ingredients were from a garden patch just 15 metres away.

veggies copy

I think that ideally we all should live like this, with lunches and dinners that are really picked just 15 metres away from the doorstep, and not bought from supermarkets. The commercial farming systems that produce the majority of our food at the moment are killing the planet, draining the water resources, turning independent farmers into slaves of the system, and suffocating natural ecosystems. We need a new agriculture. Monocultures must go.There aren’t many good alternatives, though. We are far too many people to be fed with grace, and some destruction of natural ecosystems is inevident in order to produce enough food for all.

But it’s not hopeless! There are things to do! You should all do it! Decentralization is the way to go with the production of food and energy. Small, intensive farming systems can produce amazing amounts of calories, if they are closely integrated in the everyday lives of people. Eat local, crop mob, depave, guerilla garden! Learn and teach permaculture, make a transition town initiative in your hometown, get an allotment garden, eat the seasonal food, and support your local organic farmers. And most important of all, do not despise what older people have to tell you, since many of them have the skills and knowledge from a life that was much more self – sufficient than our current lifestyle.

Recently me and my cousin made a trip to this old farmhouse, where our dads grew up. These days no one lives there, and that whole part of the countryside is full of empty houses, since the people have found their living in cities. There is a strange, almost haunted feeling in these places, with the rosty old farm machines in the barns and the empty gravel roads, once so busy.

old toys

But anyhow, we both felt very peaceful and happy there, among the ghosts of our grandparents. The garden was also abundant, since my uncle and aunt had been tending it every now and then. Among the chickweed we found horse radish, potatoes, swedes, onions, carrots, beetroot, broad beans, mangold, salad, parsley, garlic and dill, and a monstrously big bush of lovage. And of course lots of black and red currants, which were the aim of our trip. This is some of the simple summer food we made.

the house

Beetroot with Horse Radish

4 beetroots

a 3×3 cm piece of horse radish, peeled

1/2 dl extra virgin olive oil

salt to taste

water for cooking

First I sliced the beets thinly, and boiled them and the finely grated horse radish in a shallow amount of water until done, about 20 minutes. Then I drained off the water and added the oil and some salt. If you like more horse radish, you can grate some more and add at this stage for a stronger aroma. This dish can also be made into a bread spread, by using a hand held blender.

potato and beetroot

Herb Oil with Parsley to Go with New Potatoes

2 dl extra virgin oil (olive, canola etc)

1 dl finely chopped parsley

1 clove garlic

salt

This is such a simple thing, the ingredients are simply combined. It so delicious when made of fresh parsley. It is very nice together with new potatoes.

15 meter lunch

Salad Dressing with Black Currant

2,5 dl black currants

2/3 dl extra virgin oil

sugar

salt

The black currants should be ground through a sieve, in order to get rid of the peels. The resulting black currant mush is then mixed with oil, salt and sugar. It depends a bit how sweet you’d like to have it, you don’t necessarily need much sugar if you like it with a bit of a tang. We had it with some lettuce combined with a bit of mangold and marigold petals.

black currant dressing

Mangold Stir Fry

10 mangold leaves

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 tsp jeera

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp turmeric

a pinch of chillipowder

salt

oil for frying

The mangold leaves were first roughly chopped, as well as the onion and garlic. Then we fried the onion, garlic and the spices on a frying pan, and then tossed in the mangold, just for a minute or so.

kesäläcollage



Marinated Strawberries with Basil Cream
July 31, 2009, 20:09
Filed under: Desserts, summer seasonal food | Tags: , , , ,

As the strawberry season is still going on, there could hardly be any reasons why not to eat them all the time.. this is a simple dessert I made the other day.  The vinegar combined with sugar gives the strawberries a taste that is really interesting, not bitter or sour, but just tangy. My friend who was eating it thought it felt odd in the throat, but I simply loved it. Basil tastes good with strawberries, as well as rosemary.

1 litre of strawberries

4 tbsp rasberry vinegar

1/2 dl powdered sugar

The Cream

250 g soy yogurt, drained in a colander overnight

1 dl oat cream (whippable)

2 tbsp sugar

a pinch of bourbon vanilla

basil leaves (could also be lemon basil leaves)

I sliced the strawberries, and made the marinade by whisking together the ingredients. Then I poured it over the strawberries and let it wait for half an hour before serving.  The cream I made simply by combining the ingredients with the chopped basil leaves.

marinated strawberries2



Blueberry Bliss Tart
July 29, 2009, 22:23
Filed under: Baking, Cakes, summer seasonal food | Tags: , , , , ,

The blueberries are ripening in the forests, and there seems to be a lot this year! Also the strawberry season is still going on. Sadly, I must tell you that if you have not tasted Finnish wild blueberries and cultivated strawberries, you have no idea how they are supposed to taste. It has something to do with the almost continuos daylight of the Finnish summer, it makes the sugar content of the berries really high.

I took a rowing boat over with a couple of friends to the secluded island of Vartiosaari, which lies right in front of one of the eastern suburbs of Helsinki. We fould plenty of huge blueberries, the first rasberries and even a rare treat: some wild strawberries. And in the forest, some lovely golden specimens of the looked after chanterelle! We also met a guy who was apparently a goat herd, since he had two goats with him. I petted the other one.  So all in all, a  profitable trip, I would call it.

I made this tarte of the blueberries, since I think some of the gorgeous flavour is lost if they are baked. I was not completely happy with the end result: I think a drop of lemon juice in the filling and some whole wheat flour in the crust would make it just perfect. And yes, I’m aware of the fact many people don’t consider honey a vegan ingredient, but I do. The honey that I’m using is freshly made and from a local organic farm, very nice!

blueberry tarte 1

Blueberry and Strawberry Tart

150 g vegetable margarine

3,5 dl wheat flour

1 dl honey

1,5 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

1 tbsp cold water

The Filling

500 g soy yogurt

3/4 dl honey

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

3 tbsp potato starch

About 2 dl fresh blueberries

some strawberries

The Glaze

2 dl water

1 dl sugar with added pectin

First I heated the oven to 200ºC and then started by making the crust: it was simply made by mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl and then adding the margarine, honey and finally the water. Then I greased a springform bake tin 24 cm in diameter, and coated it with some semolina (flour is fine too), and patted the dough into it with moistened fingers. Then I baked the crust in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile the crust was baking, I made the filling by mixing the ingredients. After ten minutes I took the crust from the oven, and poured the filling onto it. Then I baked my tart for an additional 30 minutes or so, until the filling was set and the tart was a little bit brownish one the edges.

I let the tart cool down, and then added the strawberries and blueberries on top. Then I made the glazing by boiling the sugar with pectin with water until the sugar had diluted. Then I spooned the glazing carefully on top of the tart. The idea with glazing is that it keeps the berries stable on top of the tart, which looks really fancy. Me and my friend Pinja were so impatient that we didn’t allow the glazing to cool down, but ate half of the tart right away.

blueberry tarte



A Guerilla Gardener’s Dinner

This is a light dinner I made for my cousin Vappu and my friend Aino who were coming over for sauna some time ago. Some of the ingredients came from this gorgeous guerilla garden project that I’ve been doing with the environmental organisation Dodo. Our garden is on a piece of unused land, between new and old railroad tracks, only a couple of kilometres from the city center of Helsinki. We have made two big containers for the soil out of recycled wood and used old coffee bean bags and car tyres to grow veggies in. So far our piece of reclaimed land has not been disturbed guerilla gardening

by any authorities and the veggies are growing beautifully. A week and a half ago there was a lot of lettuce, dill, mint, mangold and the first big zucchini ready to be harvested! I used the dill for a potato salad, the mangold and mint for mangold leaf rolls and made a nice lemony marinade for my half of the zucchini. There is some more information on our project in Globaali Piknik (in Finnish though).

Potato Salad with Dill and Radishes

2 litres new potatoes

7 radishes

1/2 dl capers

1 dl green peas

1 apple

a handful of fresh dill

The Dressing

1 dl olive oil

2 tbsp white balsamico vinegar

2 tbsp mustard

salt, sugar and black pepper

First I scrubbed the potatoes and cooked them in lightly salted water about ten minutes, until they were done. With new potatoes you should really use them fresh from the ground, because then you can actully scrub off all the peels, which didn’t happen now since my potatoes had been standing too long in the fridge. Then I allowed the potatoes to cool, chopped the other ingredients and made the dressing by whisking the oil, vinegar, mustard and spices together. Then I chopped the potatoes and assembled the salad. With potato salad it’s quite important to let it wait for a while before serving. I think potato salad is always good, but I this combination with salty capers, crunchy radishes and sweet apple is definetely my favourite at the moment.

potato salad1

Mangold Leaf Rolls

3,5 dl whole spelt kernels

2 dl tomato paste

1 dl olive oil

1 red onion

a handful of mint

salt

about 12 mangold leaves

Mangold or chard is spinach – like vegetable, with big leaves ideal for making rolls.This time I used in the filling wholemangold spelt kernels, but actually risotto spelt or any other “sticky” grain would be better, since it is easier to assemble the rolls if the filling sticks together.

First I soaked the spelt kernels a few hours, and then cooked them in water about an hour, until they were done. Then I added the rest of the ingredients, the onion and the mint finely chopped and blended the filling well.

flatten with knifeThe mangold leaves I prepared by cutting off the extra stem and flattening the rest of it with the edge of big knife, beacuse then it is easier to bend the leaf.

Then I placed about a tablespoon of the filling at the other end of the leaf, folded over the sides and rolled a nice tight roll of it. The ready rolls I put on an oven plate and drizzled them with olive oil. I baked them in the oven in 200 °C about 20 minutes, until they were brownish.

mangold rolls2

Marinated Zucchini with Lemon

Half a zucchini (or one smaller one)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon, juice and zest

salt

1 tsp brown sugar

I cut the zucchini first into half moon shaped pieces, then I fried it quickly on a really hot frying pan in a generous amount of oil, until it was a bit speckled with brown. Then I squeezed the lemon and grated the zest, and mixed it with a bit of salt and sugar, and poured it together with the zucchini pieces. Then I let it cool down for about an hour before serving. The idea with this dish is that it should be extremely tangy, so use enough lemon!

marinated zucchini