Goddess of Cake


Permaculture and a Last Reminder of Winter

Permaculture, in case you never heard the word before, is the art of designing sustainable habitats by imitating natural ecosystems. I was invited to one permaculturalist – gathering in one ecovillage, and then to another ecological community,  to teach permaculture on an Ecovillage Design Education – course. Permaculture is a design system that searches for solutions for ecovillages, organic gardening, sustainable agriculture and social change, or anything else that gears towards a more sustainable life. The first ecovillage I visited was young and punky, and the second one a bit older and more established, but anyway it was interesting for me to do this little road trip to my past.

I was picked up from the trainstation by the old Hiace full of backbacks and hippies, and we hit the dark snowy roads towards Central Finland. The three – year – old chattered away on the front seat, I got the see mobile phone  photos from a demonstration in England, and we stoppes and peed in a row on the roadside snow (yes, alternative people do that).  Late at night, we arrived at the ecovillage, and got greeted with a plate of broad bean soup and a house full of friendly people, children and dogs. It was the eve of Spring Equinox,  and everybody in the house was bursting with energy for outdoor life, after a winter spent indoors.

In the second ecovillage I get to teach on a Ecovillage Design Education –  course, so we talk about permaculture principles:  1. Follow nature’s patterns. 2. If you are not having fun, you are not doing it right! 3. Imagination is the only limit to the system’s yield 4. Start small, observe and interact! 5. Design from pattern to details, et cetera. We also think about closed loops and sustainability. What kind of system is sustainable, and why?

After permaculture we discuss local food and the eco – footprint of different foodstuffs. Which is better, ordinary tea or organic coffee? Which has a heavier footprint, organic local cheese or a canned coconut milk? Sometimes we teachers even don’t know the answers, but after the class we do a hands – on approach on local food, and cook seitan, hemp sauce, nettle pancakes with lingonberries and oven cooked whole oats for the group, and as dessert some whipped rye with berries. It’s chaotic, and fun, and the food is delicious.

In the evenings the communal kitchen is lit and the people clean away the leftovers of dinner. They laugh softly, talk  about small things: ” We should put more dish rags on the shopping list!”, somebody leans on the counter, sips a cup of herbal tea. Somehow, I’m a little jealous of that easy companionship, the fellowship of the kitchen counter, even if I once lived here and doomed it not to be for me.

The course is very interesting, and I’m becoming very fond of the morning heart sharing circles: I simple excercise in which we four randomly chosen, very different people talk about our lives and the expectations we have for it. It’s very powerful, and in the end there is no way but to like the people in my group very much. The last morning, we do the hippie classic, a group hug, and it feels like the most natural thing to do in the world.We have woven a surprising little web of connection, in this time and space.

Ecovillage Food

Most likely, if you are a Finnish person trying to eat locally grown food, you are at this time of the year pretty stuffed with root vegetables, delicious that they are, after eating them for months. Now the first green wild veggies are sprouting in the nature, but you can still use some imaginative recipes that don’t require too many fresh ingredients.

Hemp and Funnel Chanterelle Croquettes

These are delicious vegan croquettes, though they ask for a fair amount of mushrooms. But last autumn was really good for funnel chantarelles, so there is plenty to eat.  These patties stay together very well, thanks to the proteins of hemp.

This recipe I learned from my friend Aino, thank you!

2, 5 dl dried funnel chantarelles, soaked

1 onion

2 dl hemp meal

2 dl bread crumbs +  1/2 dl for breading

1 – 2 dl oat milk

1 tsp  salt

1 tsp dried paprika

1 tsp dried basil

oil for frying

Soak the funnel chantarelles in water for 10 minutes. Chop the onion finely, and the mushrooms too. Sauté both on a pan, in oil, for a few minutes, then mix together with the hemp meal, bread crumbs and spices. Add oat milk, enough to make a nice dense paste that can easily be made into patties. Let the paste sit for a few minutes, and then make small balls or patties. Roll them in bread crumbs, and fry both sides in oil.

Hemp meal can be easily ground using a food processor.

Serve with mashed potatoes, lingonberry mush and sauerkraut.

Whipped Rye with Berries

This is a surprising dessert! The rye flour will turn light and fluffy, if you have the patience to whip it for several minutes. You can make it with lingonberries, blackcurrants or any other slightly tangy berries

1,5 dl extra fine rye flour

2,5 dl boiling water

0,5 dl sugar

1 tsp vanilla

4 dl berries (if frozen, thawed)

Blend all the ingredients, and whisk with an electric whisk for a few minutes, until fluffy.



Baking with Ronja
November 16, 2009, 21:09
Filed under: autumn seasonal food, Baking | Tags: ,

What to do, when both the economic and winter depression hit you hard, at the same time? Economic depression so that your employer tells you that you are now needed ten hours less in a week, and winter depression so that you only want to sleep and eat unhealthy things.  But the situation is not hopeless , because then you have a good chance to  invite your four-year old  god child for a  baking therapy session! This is what I did, and it cheered me up immensely.

Baking is so therapeutic! I can easily massage any kind of worries into a dough, and as I’ve noticed, generally the doughs don’t take it ill at all, but only become fuller and more dense. So I guess a bread dough doesn’t give a damn about human worries. And also, when the finished product emerges from the oven, it makes me feel like the Ultimate Creatrix, and that’s  also the reason why I call myself Goddess of Cake, not because I would be splendidly good at baking cakes… actually, with cakes I’ve had more desperate moments than with any other food that I’ve ever made.

Anyway, we had a lovely afternoon,  Ronja, her mother and me. Ronja insisted on bread rolls with carrot, and me on chocolate – cashew muffins, so we baked both, ate  some and took the rest to my neighbour. The bread rolls were fluffy and delicious, the muffins well risen and rich in chocolate, so supposedly they were high in all that stuff that is so good for sunlight – deprived people (tryptofan?).

ronja baking

hands in dough

ronja baking2

me and ronja

ronja and bread roll

Since I know that you my readers are all familiar with the recipes of both carrot bread rolls and chocolate muffins, I thought to share here another baking therapy – recipe. I used to bake a lot of bread a few years ago,  I guess enough to write a whole book on all my adventures in the amazing Sourdough Land. I even used to have a hundred year old rye – bread sourdough starter (leaven) that originated somewhere in Archangel, Russia, but these days it has sadly passed away in lack of TLC (though its sisters continue existence with some of my friends).

So first a few basic tips to good bread:

– If you use yeast, don’t use it very much, but instead let your dough rise for longer time, to ensure more flavour.

– Use fresh flour! If you can grind your own, do it! At least here you can get your flour ground in an organic shop.

– When the dough is rising, put it to a nice warm spot and cover with a lid, not with a kitchen towel, to protect the dough from drying.

– If you are not using a Kitchen Aid or other machinery to knead your dough, you are in for a work – out! Knead it until you sweat and your hands tremble, but at least for 10 minutes. The kneading very important for the density of the dough, and without it the gluten won’t work properly.

– There should always be enough salt in bread dough, because it helps with the consistency a great deal. Good amount is 20g/1 kg of flour.

lingonberry bread

Lingonberry Bread

This bread recipe is adapted from one of my all time favourite cook books, “Tillfällen att njuta en liten smula” by Therese Wikström from Danmark.

3 breads

Starter dough:

250 g whole wheat flour

3 g yeast

1 1/2 l water

Mix these ingredients and cover. Let stand at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

Then add:

20 g yeast

4 dl water

500g whole spelt flour

420 g whole wheat flour

60 g honey

200 g lingonberries

40g olive oil

20 g salt

Knead the dough for 12  minutes, before adding the lingonberries, and then fold them in and let the dough rise for one and half hours, before you shape the loaves. Let the loaves rise on a baking sheet for one hour, in place that is protected from draft.  Bake 30 – 40 minutes in a 200°C oven.  The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when you knock the bottom.



Apple Pie for Snow White
October 18, 2009, 12:04
Filed under: Baking | Tags: , ,

When I was in Fifth Grade at school we made a play on the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dvarves. I played the mean stepmother the queen, and I was quite proud of it. But I don’t think I learned my lesson that time. Would you rather be a wicked witch married to a king, or a timid princess that instead of resolving her problems escapes to the forest and ends up cleaning and cooking for a bunch of lame dvarves, and then has to be saved by a prince ? I think she totally deserves that poisonous apple! As far as I’m concerned, I have been many years that princess with no other means to deal with stuff but to escape, and only now I’m trying to learn the skills of a queen, and help me fate if that’ll  end me up as badly as the queen in the Grimm’s brother version of this fairytale!

But that’s the lesson life wants to teach us: to accept that poisonous apple, transform and transcend, and above all, to continue living our lives, instead of hiding in the woods. Any creative work can help with it, since it somehow becomes larger than your life. Sounds like cliche but it’s true, on a bad day this blog can be a hungry child that says to me: I am needy, go on, live your life so that you’ll have something to write about here! And so I’ll need to brazenly face magical mirrors, evil stepmothers and poisonous apples. So this is the little secret i promised you Kamomilla for giving me the Kreativ Blogger Award (thank you!). That when I was drowning this blog saved me, like Julie says in the movie Julie&Julia.

So my dear Snow White, in order to get you finally killed, I prepared this ve – ery nice apple pastry for you. Look at that luscious, red cheeked apple baked in with all this delicious stuff, doesn’t that make you hungry?

Apple and Lingonberry Squares

A while ago Bazu and Luciana, who are vegan bloggers from the States found me on a site of a hospitality organisation, and visited me one day on their way to Vienna. They brought me some amazing vegan goodies from America, like these strange butterscotch morsels that are meant for baking. I have no idea what they do with them in the States, but I decided to use them for apple and lingonberry squares. I simply sprinkled them on top the pastry and they melted in the oven. This type of pastry is actually what we call a pie in Finland, but the idea is quite far from the American fruit pies. Basically this kind of “pie” has a farely thick layer of batter, which is sprinkled with berries or fruits.

lingonberries and butterscotch

Ingredients:

3 dl wheat flour

2 dl whole grain spelt flour

2 dl muscovado sugar

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

3,5 dl soy milk

200 g  oil

On top

4 dl sliced apples

4 dl lingonberries

3 dl butterscotch morsels

cinnamon, muscovado sugar

This is very easy:  just mix the dry ingredients, and then add the milk and the oil. Pour evenly onto a baking pan covered with baking parchment.Cover with apple slices and lingonberries, and then sprinkle with cinnamon, muscovado sugar and butterscotch. Bake in 200 °C for about 30 minutes.

apple and lingonberry squares



The Seasonal Taste
October 13, 2009, 19:12
Filed under: Desserts, Salad | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Nowadays we live in an eternal summer of the supermarket aisle. It’s like in paradise, everything is available for us all year round, all different tastes from everywhere in the world, and amidst all that we graze innocently like Adam and Eve, knowing nothing of evil.  I would not hesitate calling today’s food production evil! If you have not seen the movie Food Inc, I strongly recommend it for everyone. You may think you already know all that scary stuff about how food is produced today, but honestly, when watching those abundant, lucrative supermarket shelves it is quite easy to lull yourself into a content forgetfulness and just allow yourself to be fed, like at Mother’s breast, with no worries.

I recently heard the Finnish author and passionate vegan, Antti Nylén, talk. He said something brilliant, when asked how he feels about the fact that he voluntarily refuses so much potential delight in his life. He answered: ” Abstinence in itself is a delight”, in the most laconic manner. It was great, and wonderfully true too, though the delights of abstinence are widely forgotten in our society. By this I don’t mean that we should completely refuse some nice edible things, but to perhaps eat them less, and savour more. I should personally really cut down on lemon, since I know somebody probably suffers for picking them somewhere.

I love the fact that there are still a couple of things that you can’t taste year – round. One of my favourites is  Finnish early apple varieties, especially “punakaneli”, Malus Domestica ´Koritschnevoje` that is a lovely thin – peeled, sweet, red – cheeked apple that has an aftertaste of cinnamon. None of the varieties of other apples comes anywhere near this one in taste I think.

apples

The other favourite seasonal food of mine is fresh broad beans (vicia faba). I adore broad beans: of course, they are a great local protein source (we don’t have that many pulses growing in Finland), and besides they are simply such a beautiful design. You know, how you open the shell and each one of the beans is nested in this white fluffy padding, in a little hook, like a treasure that they are. I could write a poem on broad beans! You can of course eat them dried too, but that’s a whole other story.

Common for these both things is that besides being seasonal, you need to pretty much grow them yourself in order to get some. The apple variety I’m talking about is very common in Finnish home gardens, but the commercial orchards don’t seem to grow it, I guess since it doesn’t keep very well. Fresh broad beans you might find here in an organic store if you are really lucky, and for them the season is already well past. But they are easy to grow, though mostly not very commonly known among home gardeners.

Spicy Broad Bean Salad

20 shells of broad beans

A handful of long beans

1 red fresh chili bean

a bunch of fresh coriander

cherry tomatoes

a couple of garlic cloves

1/2 dl lemon juice

1/2 extra virgin oil ( I had canola)

salt

I shelled the broad beans and steamed them and the long beans a few minutes. The broad beans only need like three minutes, the long beans a little longer. Then I chopped the chillies and garlic finely, and combined these two with the beans, tomatoes and chopped up coriander. The dressing I made out of fresh lemon juice, oil and a pinch of salt. This particular salad was fiercely hot, but the amount of chilli can be adjusted. I think the taste combination of fresh coriander, chili, lemon and garlic is simply divine, fresh and hot at the same time.

broad bean salad

And as dessert another seasonal thing, which is a veganized version of a really traditional Finnish dessert: Lingonberry mousse. Originally it is made with lingonberries (or some other berries), whipped cream and quark.  It is very simple to make, and fluffy and delicious. I think my veganized version was surprisingly nice too, since often this kind of stuff just doesn’t work at all.

Lingonberry Mousse

2,5 dl soy cream (I like the brand Soyatoo!)

2,5 dl soy yogurt

1 dl mashed lingonberries

3 tbsp sugar

a pinch of vanilla powder

I whipped up the cream and folded in the rest of the ingredients. That’s it!

lingonberry mousse




Lingonberry Squares for Stressed Activists
September 23, 2009, 16:25
Filed under: Baking | Tags: , ,

For the past few months I’ve been part of an organising crew of a big urban festival and a seminar with the theme of food. What is good food, what is environmentally sound to eat, who produces it, what will we eat in the future? Those questions in mind we launched into organising the 4th Megapolis – festival, called Megapolis2024. Finally, it is getting together, and the next Saturday 26th of September the work of many months will bear its hopefully delicious fruit. If you live in Helsinki or nearby, you should definitely check out the website and come! We will have as our speakers Pietro Leemann, the only vegetarian chef with a Michelin star restaurant, John Higson from Stockholm who has introduced farmer’s markets and other urban projects, Majora Carter from New York Greening the Ghetto – project, and many, many others, in addition to film screenings, hemp burgers and an afterparty with Jimi Tenor. And, as dessert, a free brunch on Sunday, with Michelin star vegetarian food, organised by the Finnish Carrot Mob! Want to meet me in person? I’ll be there, cleaning tables…

Mega24Perhe

Working in voluntary organisations is interesting, frustrating, and often requires patience and a slightly anarchistic mindset. Money is scarce, so personal connections and persuasiveness are put to good use. People get irritated, attracted, form alliances and friendships, or in worst case, stalk off and never return. Issues of control and power are lurking in the background, but we try to put them aside by politeness and understanding. Because, aren’t we all on the same mission towards a sustainable future, and grown up people as well?

While following 50 emails long winding mail – threads, having heated discussions with the lady from the Department of Housing about a truck container – that – actually – is – really – small – sized – container – indeed, and having nightmares about organising something or other every night, it is easy to forget why you actually got into the whole business originally. Then the happening is over, and so what? Did we have an impact, do few more people think at the table and make a better choice? Did they understand that with every bite, they can change the world? Who knows, since we cannot measure these things. We can only hope, and make a batch of super – unhealthy lingonberry squares for the next meeting, to keep our spirits and blood sugar levels up.

Lingonberry Squares

This recipe is basically a traditional Finnish pastry, called Aleksanterin leivos, Alexander’s Tart. I think it is named after a Russian Emperor. I tweaked the recipe a bit with lingonberries and spelt flour, but they are still very sweet, a bit too sweet for my taste actually. Okriina from Kahvila Vegaani made some really nice healthy lingonberry squares that you can check out if you understand Finnish.

lingonberry squares 2 copy

The Batter

300 g vegetable margarine, nondairy butter etc.

2,5 dl sugar

2 dl whole spelt flour

4 wheat flour

2 tsp egg replacer

1,5 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla sugar

The Jam

5 dl lingonberries

3/4 sugar with pectin

The Icing

5 dl powdered sugar

3,5 – 5 tbsp lingonberry juice

First I made the batter: I mixed the dry ingredients and then kneaded in the margarine. I put it to the fridge to wait, for 30 minutes.

Then I cooked the jam: I put the lingonberries in a cooking pot, and heated it until steam started to rise. Then I added the sugar, and let it boil for some minutes. When it started to look like jam, I took it off the stove and allowed it to cool some time. You can of course use ready made jam as well, you should have about 3,5 dl of it.

Then I assembled the pastry. I divided the dough into two parts, and rolled the other half in between two layers of baking parchment, so that it was about the size of an oven plate (35cm x 25 cm). Then I put in on an oven plate, and covered it evenly with the lingonberry jam. After that I rolled out the other half, which I then carefully transferred on top of the previous one, with the help of the baking parchment. I did have to patch a bit here and there.

I baked the pastry in 200 ºC for 30 minutes. I allowed it to cool, and then made the icing, by mixing the lingonberry juice and powdered sugar. I made also some white icing, with powdered sugar and water, and made some crazy swirls on top of the pink layer (it was late at night…) I didn’t have any juice, so I made some by grinding some lingonberries through a sieve. Finally, when the icing had set after a few hours, I cut the pastry into small squares using a sharp knife.