Goddess of Cake


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!



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.



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.



Red Thoughts on Valentine’s Day
February 13, 2010, 19:42
Filed under: Baking | Tags: , , , ,

An open heart is something to I’d like to wish everyone, open to hold the world, open for freedom and commitment both. No sweet Valentine’s gifts from me, no junk to show that I care. Since I don’t, at least about any businesspeople getting rich with people’s earnest needs to be loved and cared for.  Or maybe I’m just bitter since the only Valentine’s Day greeting that I can count on comes from dear Maman? But a pair of lovely yellow mittens, knitted with guaranteed love to protect my hands is not bad at all, maybe enough to turn my hardened heart a bit soft on Valentine’s Day… So suddenly I found myself thinking about red food, and about a pretty red cake, and maybe a pink smoothie to go with it.

Being not keen at all on artificial colourings and such I went for dear old beetroot in search of a red hue (did you know that beetroot can be used to make a home made lip gloss?). My previous experiences with beetroot baking had not been so very splendid, so a retake was in order.  But alas, after baking my oh – so – pretty pink batter  I found out that the insides of my reddish beetroot cupcakes were a shade of a bright yellow! Yellow is the colour of envy and jealousy, versus red as the colour of love and passion.  Perhaps not the message you should convey on Valentine’s Day…

Beetroot Cupcakes with Hazelnut and Chocolate Spread

16 pieces

4 dl wheat flour

1 dl sugar

1 beetroot

1 tsp baking soda

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp egg replacer (optional)

1 tsp vanilla powder

1 tsp ginger powder

1/2 dl shredded coconut, toasted on a dry pan

1 dl oil

2 dl oat cream

1 dl oat milk

1 tsp strawberry vinegar

The Icing

120 g hazelnuts

1 dl coconut oil

1 dl powdered sugar

1 dl cocoa powder

a dash of vanilla

a pinch of salt

I wanted the beetroot to be as finely grated as possible, so I used my funky juicer from the 70’s.  I juiced the beetroot, and combined the juice and the left over beetroot pulp, which resulted about 1 dl of beetroot mush.  I mixed this mush with the rest of the wet ingredients.  Then I combined in bowl the dry ingredients, and added the wet. I poured the batter into muffin forms and baked the cupcakes about 20 minutes in a 200°C oven.

The icing is kind of a homemade Nutella. I made it by first grinding the hazelnuts in a food processor until powdered, and then adding the rest of the ingredients. I put this to the fridge to cool and harden a bit, though it is a bit tricky to handle if it is too cool, especially if you want to pipe it.  If it is too warm,  it will be runny and cannot be piped either.

Red Berry Smoothie

This is an obvious recipe, but maybe worth remembering that in the long run it maybe healthier for your heart than chocolates (would dear Maman say).

1 mango

1 dl frozen red currants

1/2 dl cashews, soaked overnight

1 dl oat milk

1 tsp lucuma

1 tsp maca

Blend all the ingredients!



Fredrika’s Tart
February 5, 2010, 12:00
Filed under: Desserts, raw food | Tags: , , , ,

The 5th of February is the honorary day of the national poet of Finland,  Johan Ludvig Runeberg. He lived in the 19th century and was a popular author of his day.  These days we celebrate his memory with a little pastry called Runeberg’s Tart.

Runeberg, like other men of his status, had a wife, Fredrika. For over a hundred years Fredrika was only credited for being the wife of Runeberg, and as  the inventor of the famous tart. In reality,  Fredrika did not even invent this pastry,  it was a specialty of a local bakery.  Instead,  she was an herself an aspiring writer, and a deeply ambitious person. But she was always left in the shade of her famous spouse. In those days before washing machines and vacuum cleaners, her days were mostly filled with household chores that she found absolutely dreary, besides of having to deal with a womanizing husband and financial difficulties.

Fredrika, isn’t it strange how still in 2010, a young lady, liberated and educated, like me, would make the choice of trying to be famous with her skills in the kitchen? Why would she do that? Since, between you and me, a pretty young lady with good cooking skills is to most people nothing more than that, however ambitious or clever she may be otherwise.  A hundred years after you, Fredrika, I must admit that certain attitudes do sit tight in the society.  And all you young ladies who are reading this blog and haven’t started your own, do consider another subject than cooking or handicrafts! Because, to formulate this clearly: after you are dead, do you want to be remembered for a friggin’ cake,  named after your husband, or because, for example, winning the Nobel Prize in physics? I think this is something we all should think about, seriously.

But anyway, this tart is for you Fredrika, I promise to read your texts one day too.

Fredrika’s Tart

I decided to make a raw version of Runeberg’s Tart. A Runeberg’s tart is a pastry with almond meal, bread or gingerbread crumbles, flavoured with cardamom and moistened with rum or punsch, a typical Swedish alcoholic drink.  The tart is topped with some raspberry jam and sugar icing. You can find a nice vegan recipe here. This is how they look made by my friend Rosa, who traditionally arranges each year a party where only  Runeberg’s Tarts are served.

My raw version contained almonds, lucuma, coconut, cardamom, dates, honey and some rum aroma, which is indeed artificial and not raw at all. But you could leave it out, substitute it with real rum or use bitter almond extract. The pink  “icing” was a bit of a challenging part, and I ended up doing it with coconut oil and honey, but later realised that probably also some cashew nut cream would have looked nice.

5 pieces

2 dl blanched almonds

1/2 dl shredded coconut

3 tsp lucuma powder

5 dates

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp coconut oil

3 drops rum aroma

a pinch of cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

The ” icing”:

2 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp honey

some raspberry purée/ other red juice for colour

The “jam”

1/2  dl frozen, thawed raspberries

honey for sweetening

I blended together all the ingredients for the tart with a food processor. Then I formed a round bar with the help of some baking parchment and stuck it to the freezer for about ten minutes. Then I cut the bar into five pieces, about 4 cm tall, and decorated them with raspberry puree and and piped on the icing.  The raspberry puree was made with a hand held blender and the icing by simply mixing the ingredients with a spoon.

The tarts tasted surprisingly much like actual Runeberg’s tarts, but the consistency was a bit too heavy and oily  for my taste.  So I think I need to experiment a bit more with this raw dessert thing…



Winter Adventure
January 26, 2010, 11:33
Filed under: Baking | Tags: , , ,

I went skiing the the other day. I took my skiis, walked past the cars, shops, trams, people and the hustle and bustle of the city, until I arrived on the seashore. The sea has frozen over thickly in these past cold weeks.  It was a strange foggy day: the world had become a monochrome in black and greyish white. The snow was white, the sky was white and the frosty treetops were half hidden by white mist.  Skiing in that vast flat expanse of whiteness made me feel like inside a glass of milk (well, vegan milk..). Then the sun started to set, and everything got a lovely pink sheen.

I skied past the island that is my secret place for summer evening swims. It has a dodgy old pier and there is hardly anyone there but for some sheep, so it is nice and private. It looked so different now with the snowy trees!  It was easy to forget that the city was breathing right behind my back. I was the only moving,  colourful, rustling little presence on the vast expance of white ice.

For I while, I played with the idea that I was brave Mr. Amundsen skiing towards the South Pole,  though the fact that it was only – 15ºC didn’t quite match my fantasy.  Also, I lacked a pack of gorgeous blue -eyed huskies and a sleigh. Is my notion of antarctic exploration perhaps slightly over – romanticised?  Anyhow,  any explorer knows that the rations are very important for endurance. I bet Mr. Amundsen did not have as nice rations as I did: freshly baked scones and hot herbal tea!

Pear and Ginger Scones

I’ve never baked scones in my life before. I found a recipe in everybody likes sandwiches, which is a beautiful Canadian blog. I modified it a little. I also learned from the internet that it is important that the margarine and the milk are cold, in order to avoid the baking powder to start to work too early. You should also try to keep the kneading of the dough to the minimum.  I used fresh grated ginger in these scones, but the surprising thing about fresh ginger and baked goods is that somehow the taste just disappears in the oven. So if you like ginger, feel free to add some.

1 dl  shredded coconut

2 dl all purpose flour

1 dl graham flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

3 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

a pinch of bourbon vanilla powder

1 ripe pear, diced

1/2 dl dried cranberries

1 tsp ground cardamom

50 g vegetable margarine

2 dl oat milk + 1 tsp for topping

2 tsp  demerara sugar for topping

I toasted the coconut on a dry pan, in order to enhance the flavour. It burns easily, so watch out! Then I combined the dry ingredients in a bowl, cut in the margarine and mixed with my fingers until I got a crumbly mixture, and folded in the diced pear and cranberries.  Then I blended in the oat milk. I patted the ready dough onto a lightly floured surface, so that it was about 3 cm thick and cut round shapes using a form. You could use a glass etc. or just cut triangles.

I baked the scones in 200°C 15 minutes. Ideally, the scones should be devoured fresh from the oven plate, or at least eaten the same day. Wrap them into a shawl if you want to bring them with you out to arctic environments. I was pleasantly surprised with my scones: I always thought that scones are somehow dry and boring, but at least these ones were moist and tasty.



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.