Goddess of Cake


A Good Friday with Citrus
April 5, 2010, 21:13
Filed under: Cooking, Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , ,

My childhood school was a Walldorf – school, for thirteen years. So ask me any question about the Finnish school system, and I won’t be able to answer you. But I learned how to make pretty sheep out of carded wool and pipecleaner, how to work with copper, how to flutter backwards and left in the eurythmics class, when there is a Minor cadence in the music, and several little poems to say thanks for the food, in the beginning or at end of the day.  And yes, since there are many superstitions regarding Walldorf – education, we did learn our maths, biology and physics according to the state curriculum, along the other approaches to life.

Maybe the most valuable lesson of a Walldorf – school is that most likely you end up spending most of your thirteen years there with the same classmates, and most likely the same teachers too. A Walldorf – school is a community, and in like any community the people don’t always get along with each other well at all, and don’t like each other either. But somehow, when you rub onto each other for thirteen years, finally the worst edges are gone and maybe you have learned something about the human nature as well. And still, after years I finished school  when I meet some of my old classmates, I feel an instant familiarity with them, stronger than with any of my other friends.

This Good Friday I spent comfortably with one of my old classmates and her partner. We are such old friends, hold no surprises for each other.  My friend always cooks by the recipe; I always cook by the feel. She keeps a beautiful, colourful, neat and clean house, and the story of her life is artistically arranged in photo books.  My house is chaotic and mostly outright dirty, and I can’t even recall what I did a year ago, let alone have a photo book about it. We have always been different like that, and I guess we will always remain with our ways.  But it is amazing to have a friend that stayed in your life since you were seven years old.

Easter Food

Being secular people, we made Easter food already on Good Friday. In our families there are no strong traditions of what savoury foods to make on Easter,  so we somehow ended up cooking citrus – themed food, which does have a feeling of Easter to it, maybe because the yellow colour of lemons. Anyway we made an intensely lemony risotto, a salad with a tangy tahini dressing and citrus – infused fruit salad as dessert.

Lemon – Tofu Risotto

This risotto is from the cookbook Tofukeittokirja (a Finnish cookbook on tofu), slightly modified.

400 g firm tofu

The Marinade

1 lemon, juiced

1 lime, juiced

2 tbsp apple vinegar

2 tbsp honey

a pinch of allspice

1 tsp salt

The Risotto

3 dl arborio rice

8 dl vegetable stock

1 onion

1 lemon, juiced

grated zest of ½ lemon

2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tbsp oil

50 g vegetable margarine

salt to taste

a pinch of turmeric

almonds and fresh mint for decorating

Mix the ingredients for the marinade, cut the tofu into small squares and mix in, let it marinate for a while in the fridge, preferably overnight.

Chop the onion and heat up the oil and margarine in a cooking pot.  Throw in the onion and turn it for a minute or so. Add the rice, and let it sauté until it’s translucent. Remember to keep stirring! Next add the lemon juice and zest. Add vegetable stock little by little, stirring so that the rice is submerged all the time. Let simmer, stirring and adding the stock, for 15 to 20 minutes.

Fry the tofu quickly on a pan, and add it to the risotto, along with a bit of turmeric for a nice yellow colour. Using a cup as mold plate the risotto and decorate with almonds and fresh mint.

Tahini Salad Dressing

1 dl lime juice

1/2 dl light tahini

1 garlic clove

a pinch of salt

Blend everything with a hand held blender. If you prefer a runnier consistency, add some water, but I think it dilutes the taste unnecessary. Our salad contained thinly sliced kohlrabi, green apple, mung bean sprouts, oven roasted cherry tomatoes and dried cranberries.

Lemongrass – marinated fruit salad

This is vaguely the recipe I used as an inspiration for the fruit salad and lemongrass syrup. The result was delicious, though when cooking the marinade it smelled strangely of Indian incense. Here are also good instructions on how to segment citrus fruit. Segmenting citrus is definitely worth the bother!

1/2 cantaloupe melon

1/2 pineapple

1 pink grape fruit

1 orange

1 pear

1 dl mint shavings

The Marinade

2 dl citrus juice, from the segmenting + lime juice

1 vanilla pod

2 stalks of lemon grass

1 dl honey

Zest of 1 lime

Segment the citrus, and catch the extra juices in a bowl. Make the syrup: cut the lemon grass stalks to 3 cm long pieces, scrape the vanilla pod and grate the lime zest. Add all the ingredients to a cooking pot, bring to a boil and let simmer a few minutes.

Cut up all the fruit, and add the strained marinade and the finely chopped mint. Let marinate for an hour or so.

This is what you say in a Walldorf – school, to bless the meal:

Earth who gives to us this food
Sun who makes it ripe and good
Dear Earth …. Dear Sun
By you we live
Our loving thanks to you we give…..

Bon Appetit for everyone!

Advertisements


Snow and Asian Food
January 10, 2010, 15:08
Filed under: Cooking, Desserts | Tags: , , , , , ,

In a sense, in Finland there is no such thing as “winter seasonal food”.  Right now the whole country is enveloped in snow, and nothing grows.  So if you want to be locavorean and vegetarian in the winter, you eat what keeps: root vegetables, dried mushrooms, sauerkraut, and these modern times what you can find in your freezer, like berries and frozen leaf vegetables. Thinking like a squirrel is essential for a Finnish locavore.  If you weren’t industrious in the autumn, bad luck for you.  By this I don’t mean that food wouldn’t be available in the supermarket, of course it is, but it just generally isn’t from local sources.

But anyway, even if I like the cold and snowy winter very much, I sometimes find myself looking for flights to somewhere… Bali, Thailand, Costa Rica.. I seem to have some infantile yearning for a warm, easy place with smiling people, exotic fruits and long white beaches. I do know how flying affects the climate and  in the past I have committed enough environmental crimes in that matter, so I try to satisfy my cravings for far – away places by other means.

This time, I  decided to travel to Asia by cooking. Buying some non – seasonal, imported ingredients is anyhow a much lesser environmental crime than flying to Bali!  I invited a few friends over and visited the Realm of the Chinese People on that strip of street that houses pretty much all the Asian groceries in Helsinki. That already feels like being somewhere else: the loud discussion in Chinese, strange smells and products that have Chinese characters written on them  instantly bring you from sleepy cool Helsinki to some hot and intense Asian mega – city.

On our cross – Asian menu were wontons filled with tofu and napa cabbage, a vegetable stir – fry with rice – noodles and as dessert  sticky rice with mango. And how nice and exotic the food tasted and smelled, and how refreshing it is to see a bit of colour in this white – and – black snow fairytale!

Wontons

Wonton is a type of Chinese ravioli. We filled ours with tofu and napa cabbage, which a very common vegetable in the Chinese and Korean kitchen. Wontons are steamed or cooked, but they can also be fried afterwards in oil on a pan.

Filling:

250 g smoke – flavoured tofu

200 g napa cabbage

4 tsp spring onions

2 tsp grated ginger

2 tsp dry vermut

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

First chop the napa cabbage finely and mix it with the salt in a bowl. Let it stand 10 minutes. Crumble the tofu and mix with the rest of the seasonings, then add the cabbage.

The Wrapper Dough

4 dl wheat flour

1,2 dl water

Mix the flour and the water and let the dough stand covered for 10 minutes. Then form a bar of it and cut it into 32 pieces.  Roll the pieces with a rolling bin into thin circles, about 6 – 7 cm in diameter.

Put a tablespoon of filling into each circle and fold it over, trying to press out the extra air. Pinch the edges together, you can moisten them too with a bit of water. There are many different ways to fold the wontons, but we simply made half – moon shapes.

Steam the wontons on an oiled surface for 10 minutes. They will stick together, so try to place them so that they don’t touch each other. It’s good to have a large dish with lid at hand for the ready wontons, because you’ll have to make several batches unless you happen to have a really large steamer.

Wonton Sauce

1/2 dl sesame oil

1/2 dl balsamic vinegar

1/1 dl soy sauce

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp chili flakes

Mix the ingredients and eat with the wontons.

Stir – Fry with Cashews and Bell Pepper

The Chinese cuisine rests heavily on the holy trinity of sesame oil, garlic and ginger, and so does this stir – fry. You can use any veggies that you like, but remember to be fast! I always, always overdo it. So anyhow, first the crispier stuff in the wok and after the softer.

2 bell peppers, yellow and red

2 carrots

100 g snow peas

1/2 leek

a small handful of dried funnel chantarelles

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp vegetarian oyster/mushroom sauce

1/2 dl vegetable stock

a dash of sesame oil

peanut oil for frying

Heat peanut oil in the wok and throw in the ginger and garlic. Fry for one minute and add the mushrooms and the rest of the veggies. Fry for 1 -2 minutes, then add the cashewnuts. Fry for one minute and add the seasonings.

Sticky Rice with Mango

This is a favourite dessert from Thailand, updated with a bit of vanilla.

2 dl sticky rice (gluttonous rice)

6 dl coconut milk

4 tbsp brown sugar

a pinch of salt

1 vanilla pod

1 ripe mango

First you should soak the rice for four or more hours in cold water, in the fridge. Then, in a cooking pot, bring to boil the coconut milk, vanilla pod, sugar, salt and rice. Let simmer until the coconut milk has absorbed.  Then steam the rice for 15 minutes until it’s sticky and soft. I used a normal sieve for the purpose, stuck into a cooking pot and covered with a lid.  Serve with sliced mango.



Climate Change Wonderings

This weekend I did some catering for Ilmasto.org, which is a Finnish website about climate change. It is a great source of information on different aspects of the catastrophic change that will soon be part of everyone’s life (yes, I mean you too!). In English you can find reliable information at IPCC or at Hadley Centre, which is the leading British research center for climate change.

Food is also one factor in climate change. A recent study by World Watch Institute shows that the methane emissions of livestock might actually present a half of all the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the human civilization (carbon dioxide is basically the cause for climate change, though I assume everyone knows this by now!). This means that transition to a vegan diet might actually be an even faster way to cut down the emissions than moving to non – fossil fuels. There is a certain hope with these results though: starting to eat a vegetable based diet would actually be a fairly easy thing to do to prevent climate change, and something we could do as individuals. If we just did it!

So if I’m cooking for a climate change – related project, of course I would like my food be as low – carb (meaning carbon dioxide, not carbohydrates) as possible. But when I go to the supermarket to buy the ingredients, how could I possible remember all the complicated information that I’ve heard? I really wish there was an obligatory certification system of food that would somehow tell you how climate friendly the things that you’re about to buy really are. I know vegan is always better than meat or dairy, but there are so many things to take into account: Is is better to buy frozen berries that are locally grown instead of Spanish seasonal fruit? I know tomatoes grown in Finnish hothouses have a heavy ecological backpack, but how do they compare to tomatoes grown in the Netherlands? How can I be certain that the soy products that I buy haven’t been grown in ex- rainforest?

Well, finally I didn’t go for totally local options with the food that I made, but vegan it was anyhow. I made a tofu – mushroom quiche and some raw food desserts, which is something I’ve wanted to explore a long time.

Tofu – Mushroom Quiche

The Crust

125 g vegetable margarine or oil

4,5 dl graham flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 dl cold water

The Filling:

1,5 dl soy yogurt

1 dl oat cream

2 tsp egg replacer

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp marjoram

a pinch of black pepper

1/3 of a red onion, thinly sliced

100 g smoked firm tofu, cut into cubes

10 champion mushrooms, sliced

a few cherry tomatoes

a few basil leaves

olive oil

I made the crust by kneading the margarine and the flour into a crumbly mixture, and then added water. Then I patted the crust into pie dish.

For the filling I mixed the soy yogurt, oat cream and egg replacer, and seasoned the mixture with salt, black pepper, lemon juice and marjoram. Then I poured it on the crust, and added the sliced onion, mushrooms, tofu, cherry tomatoes and finally the basil leaves. Then I drizzled the whole thing with olive oil. I baked the quiche in the oven in 200ºC about 40 minutes.

The thing why I absolutely wanted to have tomatoes in this quiche is because sometimes with cooked food all the colours are so dull and brownish that adding even a little bit of red will make the dish much more interesting and appetizing.

Raw Chocolate and Orange Truffles

about 25 pieces

1 l dates

3 dl oat flakes

2 dl pecan nuts

1 dl coconut oil

2 tsp cinnamon

1dl raw cocoa powder

1dl maple syrup or honey (is maple syrup raw?)

the zest of an organic orange

I used the  cutting blade of a food processor to chop up the nuts and dates finely, then I mixed in the rest of the ingredients by hand. I formed small balls of them and powdered them with cocoa powder. It might be a good idea to soak the dates for a couple of hours, if you don’t own a powerful mixer. Though since I tried both ways, I think the taste is nicer if you don’t soak them.

Raw Raspberry Treats

about 25 pieces

1 l cashew nuts

3 dl raspberries (frozen)

2 dl grated coconut

1 dl maple syrup or honey

1 tsp vanilla powder

1 dl coconut oil

I chopped the cashews with the cutting blade of a food processor, until they were completely pulverized, then I added the rest of the ingredients and made a paste, using a hand held blender. Then I put the paste to the freezer for 10 minutes or so, in order to make it stiffen a bit. Then I formed small balls out of it and rolled them in grated coconut, and finally decorated them with a bit of freeze dried berry powder.