Goddess of Cake


A Plant’s Soul
May 9, 2010, 21:08
Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: , , , , ,

Even more than sunny spring days, I enjoy those overcast days with a slowly drizzling spring rain. Does it mean that I have a plants’ soul?

The Finnish year – cycle is structured between the two inactive seasons:  the winter and the summer. After the long, dark lull of the winter the spring is a rushed burst of energy: in just a few short weeks the nature is turned from bare potential to a full blooming fertile beauty.  Each week you hear a new migrant bird, and the amount of light increases day by day, until the darkness is just a memory, easily forgotten. And then you reach summer, the lovely, lazy season of free time, when nothing much happens,  and the greatest newsline is a trout – bitten toe.

For a delicate mind spring can be depressing too, since it sets you face to face with the inevitability of all life: whether you catch the big rolling wheel or not, life will go on, with or without you.  Spring is usually rich with deadlines, whether at work or full moons for planting things or enjoying the newly reborn nature. The elder will  bloom only a day (did you collect the flowers for a juice? ) and the sprouting wild vegetables will turn bitter in couple of weeks (did you make the pesto?). The spring rolls on, and meanwhile you might struggle with a pollen allergy, unfixed bike and the continuous daylight that doesn’t let you sleep, and as the only thought have the idea of the summer holiday somewhere ahead, if you just manage a little bit longer.

Green Sandwich Cake

Springtime is also time of festivities of all sorts, and the Finnish traditional delicacy for a graduation party or other family festivity is a sandwich cake, which is a savoury cake made of a bread loaf (!). My friends insisted on having one at their house – warming party.

What happened was that on the Eve of First of May, which is a night of great many parties in Finland, I emptied my handbag on my doorstep at 3 am and figured that I’d left my keys inside. The cake was supposed to be ready the following day.  I ended up spending the night elsewhere, and in  the morning found a big kitchen full of jamming, singing and guitar – playing people. And even if the brunch was rather meagre, only one third of a shop bought pound cake, the music was such soul food that I just couldn’t leave the soaring voices and harmonies of the morning of First of May. So in the end  the sandwich cake was assembled of things that I found in my cupboard, in a haste.  But everyone loved it.

Ingredients:

a loaf of bread, and 5 dl oat milk.

Green Pea Paste – for Icing

250 frozen green peas

1 tl grated horse radish

1 dl canola oil

1,5 dl sunflower seeds

3 tbsp lime juice

salt to taste

I threw the peas quickly to boiling water, strained them and blended everything with a hand held blender.

Pesto Rosso – for Filling

2 dl sun dried tomatoes in oil + the oil

1/2 dl sunflower seeds

1 garlic clove

I blended everything to a paste with a blender.

Lemongrass Mayo Paste – for Filling

1/2 dl lemongrass mayo (Plamil)

1/2  dl vegetable margarine

1 apple

salt to taste

I blended everything to a paste.

For a sandwich cake you need a tin – baked loaf of bread, and it should not be fresh, but dried out a bit.  Cut off all the crusts, and slice the bread diagonally into three layers. My loaf was too long to fit in my cake container, so a cut into half and made a square – shaped cake by putting the halves next to each other. Then I filled the cake, and moistened it using oat milk. I used about 5 dl of oat milk for moistening. It is good to start a day before, and let the cake stay in the fridge overnight.  The following day put on the icing and the other decorations.  My “icing” was a paste made of peas, and it turned out very well, sticky and not runny at all (must be the proteins in peas).

I decorated the cake with lime slices, very thin slices of radish, red peppercorns and pinches of black vegan caviar.

Sea – Buckthorn Chocolate Bites

This is another one of those let’s just bake something with whatever ingredients there happen to be at hand – kind of thing.  The sea –  buckthorns grow quite close to where I’m living and were a result of urban foraging last autumn (me and my Australian guest, in almost total darkness).  Sea – buckthorn is extremely rich in vitamin C, and a very challenging berry to pick because of the nasty thorns in the bushes.  It is also very, very sauer, almost bitter in taste, and does need a bit of sugar to be truly delicious.

4,5 dl flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tl bourbon vanilla powder

1 dl cocoa powder

2 dl sugar

100 g dark chocolate, chopped

0,5 dl oil

4 dl oat milk

1 tl vinegar

Mix the dry ingredients and then add the oat milk, oil and vinegar. Pour the batter into a greased and floured oven pan, size 20 cm x 15 cm. Bake in 200 °C about 4o minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool, and decorate with

Sea Buckthorn Icing

2 dl powdered sugar

1 dl frozen, thawed sea – buckthorn berries

Grind the berries through a sieve, to get rid of the seeds, and then mix the remaining paste with powdered sugar.  Sprinkle on top of the chocolate cake. I also used some silver cake pearls for a finishing touch.



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.