Of course, it is a very thin line in between Art and something your mother would have scolded you for. We discoursed that thin line between playing with your food and artistic self – expression at the Public School Helsinki, at a food sculpture workshop. The Public School is an amazing skill sharing project that exists in several other cities too. Maybe you’d like to start one where you live?
I piled everything on the table, and we got at it, with our fingers, knives, zesters, cheese slicers and peelers, cutting, molding and slicing.
The sculptures were beautiful.
Finally, we chopped them up and made a big pot of curry, and ate it together. One of the sculptures we simply put in the oven whole, drizzled with some olive oil, salt and pepper. It became quite crispy and delicious.
It was so much fun… Soon, I’ll organise another workshop, with more food and people!
Filed under: Cooking, Uncategorized | Tags: beetroot, blin, blintzke, buckwheat, condiments for blinis, vegan
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…
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.
Filed under: Cakes, Cooking, Uncategorized, winter seasonal food | Tags: chocolate cake, garlic, oven roasted vegetables, root vegetable
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.
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.
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
a piece of root celery
a piece of swede
6 garlic cloves
3 tbsp oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
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.
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.
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
It is said that on Samhain the spirits of the dead come back close to our lives. In the agrarian society this time of the year was the end of a harvesting cycle, and the beginning of a new year. I feel like that too, now is for me the time to sow seeds that will sprout in the spring, to dream and envision. We don’t celebrate Halloween in Finland, but on the 31st of October people will remember their passed away family members by bringing candles to the graveyard. Samhain is also a good time to make amends with one’s past, and this is exactly what I did last weekend in the country, with a bunch of cynical, exhausted anti – nuclear activists who had been fighting a nearly impossible cause up in Lapland.
The old moldy house was filled with wood heated warmth and beautiful, dreadlocked, patch – decorated people, some really slow food was made, the slimy – benched sauna was heated up. It was freezing, the grasses were covered in frost and the full moon was circled with a halo. Some people burned things in the bonfire that they wanted to get rid of, or felt that deserved a dignified end (like other people’s love letters they found somewhere). I didn’t bring anything. Though, I had a feeling I was standing in the in-between with the crowding spirits, unsure of my next step. But I guess many of us there felt it: something had come to a close, some era was over. But when a door closes, another one opens up.
But what do the activists eat at a Samhain party? They eat food that they grew themselves, inefficiently, organically, just next to the doorstep. They eat some vegan cookies somebody brought. They eat food that is lovingly foraged from the dumpsters of the local shops, with a hunter – gatherers joy at every interesting find. They eat food that is prepared on a self – made wood stove. They eat from a shared plate, to save dishwashing water that has to be carried from the well. They eat like hungry people, savouring the food, when it’s finally ready after a long and complicated cooking process, which involves several not very well concentrated people
Sorry, no recipes this time (I am trying to get my relationship with food straightened out a bit).
Filed under: Baking, Cakes, Uncategorized | Tags: agar agar, halva, rhubarb, soy yogurt, vegan cheesecake, vegan cream cheese
I have made now quite a few cheesecakes with this flavour combination, but previously I made on top of the cake a layer with pureéd rhubarb. This time I wanted to make two layers of mousse, first one with the taste of halva and the second one with the taste of rhubarb, and then put a thin glazing of rhubarb juice on top of the cake.
This cake was made for my friend Suvi’s babyshower.
75 g vegetable margarine
150 g vegan digestive cookies
2,5 dl oat vanilla sauce
500 g soy yogurt
200 g soy cream cheese, natural
150 g halva, traditional flavour
2 dl pureéd, sweetened rhubarb
2,5 dl water
2 tsp rose water
7 tbsp agar agar flakes
1 dl rhubarb juice
1/2 dl sugar with added pectin
I wanted to make this cake so that I would have two different layers of mousse, one with halva and the other one with rhubarb. I started in the morning by putting the soy yogurt in a colander that was lined with a coffee filter. In the evening, I started with the cake.
First I made the crust by breaking apart the cookies in a plastic bag and then crunching them with a rolling bin until they became crumbs. Then I melted the margarine and mixed the crumbs together with it. Then I lined the bottom of a springform cake pan, about 24 cm in diameter, with baking parchment. I patted the cookie crumb and margarine mixture on the bottom of the pan tightly. Then I put the cake tin in the fridge (or actually outside) to cool and harden for a bit.
Then I whipped up the oat vanilla sauce (it was of the kind that can be whipped). It could of course be substituted with e.g. whippable soy cream. Then I added the soy yogurt and the soy cream cheese. Then I divided the mixture in two different bowls, and added 150 g of halva to the other, which I then mixed with a hand held mixer, in order to get the halva evenly mixed in. Then I added the pureéd rhubarb to the other mixture. I used a brand of pureéd rhubarb that is on sale in Finland, which includes quite a lot of sugar, so I did not add any to the mousse.
The I put 1, 25 dl of water in a pan and added 3 and 1/2 tbsp agar agar to it. Then I boiled the mixture until the agar agar flakes were diluted, mixing it every now and then. I personally find working with agar agar quite nerve – wrecking, since it the amount you should use varies so much depending on the brand. So I stick to the same brand.
Then I let the agar agar mixture cool just for a minute or two (it sets amazingly quickly!) and poured it, little by little, to the bowl with the halva mousse mixture in it, blending it in carefully. It is important to concentrate at this stage, since otherwise you might get a lumpy mousse. Then I poured the mousse onto the cake crust, and put in the fridge.
After that I made the second mousse mixture, exactly like the previous one, but also adding 2 tsp rose water in the pan when I was diluting the agar agar. This mousse I then poured on top of the other mousse layer on the cake crust. The previous layer had had time to harden enough so that the layers stayed separate. Then I put the cake in the fridge.
The following morning I made the glazing for the cake. I made it with rhubarb juice and sugar with added pectin, which actually exists for making jam, but can be used for this also. I simply heated the sugar and the juice and then spooned it on the cake so that it formed a thin layer on top. Then I decorated the cake with fruit and mint leaves.
The cake was otherwise well done, but I was a little bit disappointed with the ready made rhubarb pureè that I was using, since it was too sweet. I would have liked to have a really nice fresh taste of rhubarb in the top layer, but now it tasted merely of sugar. The brand of agar agar I was using is Clearspring Traditional Japanese Agar Agar Flakes. And even if I tried to overestimate, the amount agar could have been slightly more, because the cake could have been a little bit firmer.
Filed under: Baking, Uncategorized | Tags: lemon, savoury muffin, sun dried tomato, vegan
What would be a better way to celebrate April Fool’s Day than to eat something that would appear sweet but actually is savoury?
Savoury Muffins with Sun Dried Tomatoes and a Lemon Topping
16 big ones
3,5 dl whole wheat flour
2 dl wheat flour
120 g vegetable margarine
4 dl oat cream
200 g sun dried tomatoes preserved in oil
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp salt
1,5 dl soy yogurt that has been drained a couple of hours in a colander, lined with a coffee filter
50 g vegetable margarine
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tl salt
I melted the margarine in a pan, and left it to cool for a while. Then I mixed the dry ingredients, and chopped the sun dried tomato small and added it to the mixture. Then I added the oat cream and the margarine, and divided the dough into muffin forms. Then I baked it in the oven for about 20 minutes in 200 Celsius, until the muffins were nicely brown.
I made the topping by mixing the soy yogurt together with the vegetable margarine and the other ingredients, using a hand held mixer.
I brought some of these to the name giving party of my friend’s son Markus. The guests were quite confused, but all the muffins got eaten…