Goddess of Cake

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


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


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


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.

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!

Michelin Star Vegetarian Food and Other Adventures
October 5, 2009, 20:23
Filed under: Cooking | Tags: , , , , ,

Recently I had the honour to attend a cooking class by Mr. Pietro Leemann, who was a quest speaker at the Megapolis – seminar last weekend. Pietro Leemann runs the only vegetarian restaurant that has acquired a Michelin star, in Milan in Italy. The restaurant is called La Joia. Mr. Leemann has an apparent passion for vegetarianism, besides amazing cooking skills and lots of creativity. He and his wife Rosanna were both charming and lovely people, which unfortunately cannot be said about all chefs…


On the course we (meaning a few people from Dodo, some journalists from different Finnish food magazines, some people from the leading food industry companies and an advertisement agency) cooked a 4 course vegetarian meal guided by Pietro Leemann, and then ate it in candle light with some wine and discussion. The food was awesome, much better than my previous fine dining restaurant experiences. I think that since the western cuisine is so based on animal products, many chefs lack the skills of making interesting flavour combinations with vegetarian ingredients only, but I think Pietro Leemann definitely shows that it is very possible!


On the menu there was Watermelon Carpaccio, False Eggs, ” A Rich, Delicious – looking and Sufficient Meal for Ten People”, which was actually a risotto, and as dessert Knedlitky, which was kind of sweet dumplings with basil cream and a cinnamon sauce. Especially the textures and flavours of the dessert lingered in my taste buds a long time, though I’ll have to put some effort into veganising them. The best result of this cooking class was the fact that most of the journalists promised to write an article on the subject of vegetarian cooking, which would of course be great, since people should in general realise that vegetarian or vegan doesn’t automatically mean boring or tasteless food.

All pictures in this post are a courtesy of Marina Ekroos. Thanks!

Watermelon Carpaccio

Concerning this dish Pietro told that it is one of the few dishes that he makes that plays with the idea of meat. The watermelon with its red and white flesh reminds of meat somehow, and fried and cut thinly it actually looks like a carpaccio. There was some parmesan in this dish, but I think it won’t suffer much if you just leave it out.


300 g watermelon

2 g salt

20 g balsamic vinegar

grape seed oil for frying


different kinds of salad

black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Peel the watermelon and cut into 7cm thick slices. Leave some of the white peel on. Drizzle with salt and leave for 10 minutes. Cut into really thin slices, and lift them on tissue paper to dry. Fry the pieces in on a frying pan in grape seed oil, until they look roasted on both sides (black!). Lift them aside, on top of some tissue paper and let them drain for a while. Then remove the seeds and cut it into really thin slices.

Mix the oil, a pinch of salt and balsamic vinegar together. Assemble the plates with salad leaves, watermelon slices, cut up chives, dressing and pinch of black pepper.


False Eggs

This dish is also otherwise vegan, except for the fact that since the idea with this dish was to create an “egg” that is really not an egg, it was made into an eggshell. Pietro explained that the surprise between the form and taste was essential with this dish, but if you don’t want to use animal ingredients, you could quite easily make this dish using something else as the form, e.g. a silicon mould etc.

200 g root celery and carrot

50 g squash

50 g hazelnuts

1/4 of an agar – agar bar

20 g summer truffles


First, if you want to use eggs as the moulds, make a hole into the side of eight eggs. It should be so big that your finger fits inside. Then take out all the egg-white and the membranes inside the eggshell, and wash it with warm water that has a some vinegar in it. Allow the eggshells to dry two days in warm place or 10 minutes in a 200°C oven.


Steam the squash, and toast the hazelnuts on a dry pan. Grind the hazelnuts into a fine powder and mash the pumpkin. Blend, and make balls that are about the size of an egg yolk. Freeze them in a freezer.

Boil the root celery in water until it’s soft, and then make a paste out of it using a blender. Add some of the cooking water if needed, the paste should resemble a pureed soup. Dilute the agar – agar into 2 dl of water, and boil it until the water has evaporated so that there is just 1 dl left. Heat up the root celery paste and pour the agar agar into it, using a sieve. Chop the truffles and add them and salt to the mixture. Pour the mixture into the eggshells and add one squash – egg – yolk into each. Let them harden in the fridge a couple of hours.

For serving, peel the eggs, set them on a plate and drizzle with salt and olive oil, and add also some raspberry coulis (a sweet raspberry sauce).


After this cooking class my weekend was full of talk about food at the Megapolis – festival, and meeting interesting people. After that I haven’t been able to even think about food for a while…And the Carrot Mob vegetarian gourmet – brunch was of course a nice ending to the whole process on Sunday. A cucumber shot, jerusalem artichoke puree, pistachio crusted beetroot, and a banana flambe with candied orange and raspberry sauce, free for everyone who managed to be there in time!