Goddess of Cake


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


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Gooseberries and a Sense of Safety

The smell of boiling berries always brings me back to my childhood. A berry soup, kiisseli, was something that I would eat every morning with my oatmeal porridge. I didn’t like it. My mom would make it so that it contained whole black currants, straight out of the freezer, and I hated their thick peels and the sauer taste. Only as an adult I’ve learned to appreciate the taste of black currant. And berry soup? That’s something I hardly ever make.

Here I’ll write about a dessert that my mom sometimes made, and I think it originates from her own childhood. It is called Stablemaster’s Berry Soup, and it is made of very simple ingredients: those people 50 years ago had some dried up rye bread in their cupboard, a gooseberry bush and some fresh cream in their cellar, and as an exotic ingredient just a pinch of cocoa powder. These they combined in an inventive way.

This dessert is a bit like life some fifty years ago, delightful in simple way, as our life now is delightful in a complex way. Those people had a sense of safety within the Big Circles of life: the winter, cold and snowy, would follow the summer, people would marry, have children, grow old and die, and work hard in between. For an individual life was unpredictable, in a sense that the world was not such a safe place to be in, but the communities were strong, even to the point of suffocating their members.

Nowadays, we have a lot of personal safety: good dental care, women’s rights, a possibility to reach anyone we wish, and even be anybody we wish to be. But we feel disconnected, don’t know what to do with our relationships, don’t know if there will ever be a winter on this planet again. Would I personally change my complicated liberty to a simpler life, with a sense of continuity ? Sometimes I think I would, but also I know that the freedom of our unsecure time is a great gift to someone like me. So I content myself, with making a dessert from the olden times, and have no more romantic yearnings for an imaginary simple life.

Stablemaster’s Gooseberry Soup

Berry soup is a very Finnish concept, and I don’t know whether it exists anywhere else. The traditional way to make it is to boil some berries, sieve through, and thicken the remaining juice with potato starch. After that some whole berries or fruits can still be added. This dessert, which for some reason is called Stablemaster’s Berry Soup, is traditionally made of gooseberries, but any other sauer – tasting berries can be used too, as well as rhubarb or apple. It doesn’t sound very luxurious, but somehow the sweet – and – sauer taste of gooseberries and the crispy bread crumbles are really delicious together.

stablemaster's berry soup

The Gooseberry Soup

7 dl water + an additional 1/2 dl

3 dl gooseberries

3/4 dl sugar

3 tbsp potato starch

Condiments:

2 dl of dryish rye bread crumbles

1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

a pinch of bourbon vanilla powder

oil for frying

soy cream, whipped up

I decided to make the berry soup in a really old -fashioned way, so that I would actually sieve it, since the gooseberries have these funny “tails” that would maybe not be so nice eaten. I started by boiling the berries in water about 5 minutes, until they had fallen apart for a bit. Then I put it through a sieve, and added the sugar. I diluted the potato starch to 1/2 dl water in a separate bowl. Then I took the berry soup pot from the stove, and poured in slowly the potato starch liquid, mixing the soup carefully in order to avoid lumps. Then I put the pot back to the stove and brought it to boiling temperature, so that I would just see the first bubble appearing on the surface. Then I took it off the stove. You should not boil it! I don’t know why, but this is the by – the – book way a Finnish berry soup is made.

As a condiment for the berry soup I made the bread crumbs: First I crumbled up some dried rye bread, and then fried it in oil on a frying pan, together with the sugar and cocoa powder. Then I poured the gooseberry soup into a bowl, and sprinkled it with the bread crumb mixture and whipped soy cream.