Filed under: autumn seasonal food, Cooking, Salad | Tags: beetroot, black currant, bread spread, dolma, fava bean, grape leaf, mint, sesame
“Hippies are the dolphins of our race, playful, resilient, social, fetished by some, dismissed by others, ” says Chelsea Cain in her book The Hippie Handbook. She was raised in a hippie commune in the 70’s. I was reminded her words last weekend when I was asked to do a cafe for a hippie party, which was held at a yoga school in Helsinki.
I was a hippie myself for many years, and not without a reason! However much there can be bad jokes made of hippies, I think there is still a very important lesson that can be learned from them. Hippies see life as endlessly enjoyable, filled with creativity, beauty and meaningful encounters with other human and nonhuman beings. Of course, also the mainstream western society is generally very pleasure – oriented, but I think the difference with the hippie culture lies in the fact that the pleasure hippies seek is not destructive towards other living things, and generally doesn’t have a high price, to the environment or moneywise. How delicious is organic, vegan food, how pleasurable is a footmassage given by a friend, how much fun can be a drum and a guitar, how nice to spend a summer in a teepee, how delightful to learn new acrobatic tricks… It is so easy to forget the simple delights of communal living, when you struggle for your daily earnings in this society. In the hippie world, there is always enough time, and the greatest achievement of a person is to be present here and now.
So this weekend at the hippie party I noticed we, who had met at some hippie gathering or other a few years ago, had all grown up, and perhaps matured too. There weren’t that many people at the party, and I think everybody had already seen enough life not to be pretentious about being a hippie. So people were laughing when the meditation was supposed to begin, did some really silly barefoot dancing and joked about the Natha – cult instead of a spiritual panel discussion (“hey girls, are you going to the Natha party afterwards? Watch out for the guru!”). Of course there were candles, a big mandala on the wall, some sandalwood incence and soft cushions. DJ Indigo played and we reminisced a little: somebody had decided to start a tribe, another one had been suspicious about hippies but then gone to a gathering and totally become one, third one had caused a major jealousy attack in a Peruvian boyfriend by acting like any hippie girl at a wedding party. Oh sweet crazy youth, I guess it shall never return. Luckily enough, I think I still have my dreadlocks with all the beads and colourful felt hidden off in some cupboard, so if I want to become a hippie again, I can just sew them back on…
I had made some proper hippie food for the party: local, cheap and colourful, and not too fancy. The menu included a platter with a stuffed grape leaf roll, some favabean – blackcurrant hoummus, sesame – marinated beetroots, minty coleslaw and raw chili – apple chutney, with a piece of sourdough rye bread.
This is my local version of the Arabic classic – I know the ingredients sound weird but surprisingly they work really well together, and the paste actually tastes like hoummus! The purple colour is nice as well (to my taste..)
5 dl cooked favabeans
1 dl black currants
3 cloves of garlic
1 – 2 dl canola oil
Soak the beans overnight and cook for an hour or until they are tender. Drain off the cooking water, add the rest of the ingredients and make into a paste with a blender.
The mint was somehow still alive in my garden, even if it has been below freezing many nights. This is a cheap and simple vegan coleslaw. You can make it with egg – free mayo too.
a couple of carrots
1 dl sesame seeds, toasted
a handful of mint leaves
1/2 dl lemon juice
1 dl olive oil
Slice the cabbage really thin, preferably with a cheese slicer. Then pound it in order to make it more juicy, grate the carrot, chop the mint, toast the seeds and mix everything. The coleslaw is much better if you let it wait a few hours in the fridge.
This is not how dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) are made in Greece, but if you aren’t a Greek grandmother with five dutiful daughters to help you, this might be the way you want to make them, since this is much faster and easier.
about 50 pieces
50 preserved grape leaves
6 dl brown rice, or preferably spelt or barley if you live in Finland
9 dl water for cooking
3 tsp salt
1 dl tomato paste
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp spice mix that includes dill, chili, coriander leaf and mint (if you have fresh herbs at hand it’s much better)
2 dl olive oil
a packet of preserved grape leaf rolls
Boil the grain and allow it to cool. The dolmas are easier to roll if you boil the grain until it’s quite mushy. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients of the filling, and roll the dolmas. Basically you do the rolling so that you put a couple of teaspoons of filling at widest part of the grape leaf,then fold over the sides and roll the leaf into a tight roll. The problem with the preserved grape leaves is that they often are too small and have a lot of holes, but then you’ll just need discard those and use the bigger ones. Put the ready rolled dolmas on a oven dish, drizzle with olive oil and bake them in the oven in 200ºC for about 20 minutes, or until they have turned darkish in colour.
Om Shantih Shantih Shantih!
Filed under: Cooking, Salad | Tags: beetroot, bulgur, chilli, communal eating, mint, nectarine, pecan nut, pineapple, raw food, salsa
Every August, my community reclaims the street that I’m living on with dinner tables. No cars are allowed in a whole day. People bring food and drinks, and the whole neighbourhood eats and socialises together. What a lucky person I am, to be living on such a street, the only one in Finland!
Eating together keeps a community alive, and reclaiming a space in a city by eating in it is a revolutionary act if any . When we eat together, we share so many other things with the food: the substance of our lives, our values and creativity. Even in today’s western world of continuous abundance, the act of sharing food has still not completely lost some of its ritual significance: if I am willing to share my piece of bread with you, you are for me worth more than the risk of going hungry.
What is proper to eat, is a question that can lead to some really heated debates – we all have our opinion on that. But I guess that amidst all the guilt that can be felt for eating food that is not sound ecologically, ethically, or health wise, it is good to remember that food also has another function in society: the festive, ritual aspect of sharing food that is common for all human cultures. Food is nourishment for the soul too: for thriving communities and fulfilling human relationships.
In the afternoon, the tables slowly start to appear on the street, and people gather around them. Food is brought out , presented and accordingly admired, wine bottles and beer appear on the tables. We sit and eat and talk, the whole sunny day. Passers – by are offered food to taste (“come, have some of these beetroot shells Salla has made!”) and of course drinks. People move from table to table, children run along with painted faces. At dusk candles appear, people find their instruments and sounds of drumming and singing fill the street. The stars that we haven’t seen in a couple of light summer months flicker in the warm, dark August night.
I get know my neighbours much better, since I’m new on this street. They tell me some gossip, like why there is such a hole in the hedge between our house and the neighbouring one: the husband of the lady next door used to originally live there… Also while sitting at the table, we four ladies from my house make a decision: next summer, our house will be painted pink, and the wooden panels in the hallways Mediterranean turquoise.
Pineapple and Mint Salsa
1 fair trade pineapple
2 – 3 dl chopped spearmint
2 red chillibean
1/2 tsp salt
I peeled and chopped the pineapple, the mint and the chilli, then I blended the whole thing with a hand held blender. We ate it with some tortilla chips.
Boulgur Salad with Nectarines
4,5 dl boulgur
9 dl water for cooking
200 g cherry tomatoes
2 red onions
2 dl chopped rucola
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 of a purple cauliflower
1 and 1/2 lemon, juice and zest
3 dl olive oil
First I cooked the bulgur: I added it to boiling water, with a bit of salt in it, and let it simmer for about 8 minutes. Then I set it aside to cool. I chopped the rest of the ingredients roughly, except for the garlic, which I chopped finely, and mixed them together with the bulgur. Then I made the dressing: I squeezed the lemons and grated the zest, and whisked it together with olive oil. I poured the dressing into the salad and mixed carefully. This amount of ingredients make up about 4 litres of salad. It is also a good thing to remember that if you are intending to have this kind of food standing in sunshine for many hours, it is quite important to remember to cool it down properly, preferably in the fridge, before serving.
1 long beetroot, or 3 round ones
100 g pecan nuts
3 tbsp oil (sesame, pumpkin, olive…)
3 tbsp water
2 tsp lemon juice
This little dish is a nice raw foodie thing, unfortunaly not of my own invention..
First, I sliced the beertoot really really thinly with a cheese slicer into round thin slices. You could use a mandolin slicer as well, or a sharp knife. Then I made the nut paste that is the filling of the shells by simply mixing the ingredients with a blender. I made the shells by sort of glueing two beetroot slices together with the paste. The thinner you cut the slices, the nicer the shells are to eat, but if your slices are a bit thicker they keep better,otherwise they’ll start to look a bit dry and greyish in a couple of hours.
Presently, I am cooking for a bunch of Alternative People of Finland. They have decided to make a movie about Kalevala – the Finnish National ephic poem – and wanting to make it hit the box offices big time too. They just went to do some shooting to an island, and among the food that I made for them was this little hippie treat:
Mint Chocolate Balls
(about 20 pieces)
300 g vegetable margarine
2,5 dl brown sugar
5 dl oat flakes
1 dl cocoa powder
1 dl fresh peppermint (chopped)
2 dl grated coconut
This is so simple to make: I chopped the mint finely, mixed all the ingredients, and then made balls of it, and rolled them a bit on plate that was filled with grated coconut.
We’ll see about the movie…
This is an extremely simple drink I made on hot day. Again I found some use for the mints that try to overtake my yard..
1/4 of big watermelon
1 handful of spearmint leaves
1 tbsp freshly squeesed lemon juice
1 tsp muscovado sugar
I blended it with a handheld mixer and served it with ice cubes. This yielded about 7 dl, just enough for me and my guest.
There is some very offensive mint plants growing in my yard. I thought to use them for something, and wanted to make some cool sweet drink for sunny weather. Also, in my freezer there is some frozen banana, which is a great base for vegan “milk”shakes and sorbets. I usually freeze the bananas, if for some reason I have forgotten them and they have become completely black. This way they make the best sorbet. This is what I came up with this time:
Mint – Coconut – Pineapple Smoothie
1 frozen, overripe banana
1/2 can of canned pineapple
1 small handful of spearmint leaves
3/4 dl coconut milk
I blended it all with a handheld mixer.