Goddess of Cake


Bliny Carnival
February 17, 2010, 17:04
Filed under: Cooking, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Now it is the season of carnivals all over the world, from the most famous one in Rio, to the Austrian Fastnacht, Venetian Masquerade and the rather timid Finnish Laskiainen that is celebrated by downhill sledge- riding and pea soup. Carnival – tradition is about turning everything upside down: kings become slaves and servants rulers, men become women and women men. For a short while, the rules bend and laws are made ridiculous, sacred profane, and the pompous reveals its true trivial nature, like a cancan dancer, kicking up her fishnet – stockinged leg… It’s a short lived illusion, a spectre of power, but something that brings a relief, an easiness to go on with the everyday life. The Trickster celebrates with a mad leer, takes over the King’s throne, and those with no power make the rules of the game.

My carnival this year was a night with Russian food and burlesque. Burlesque is the true carnivalistic entertainment: I’m in love with the big, tattooed ladies taking off their clothes on stage, with the madly cheering audience, and that  feeling of a rock concert, but without the pretense of music, just sheer sexiness and wildness and visual stimulation.  This party was like travelling with a time machine, full of creatures from other realms, men or women, animal or human, human or alien, 15th century or future, who cares, just corsettes – heels – glitter – colour – lace – frills  – and – futuristic contraptions everywhere you lay your eyes. I felt like innocent Alice in Wonderland, with my angel wings and white tutu.

We, meaning Namu Natasha ( Sweet Natasha), Esteri Pippuri (Esther the Pepper), Bliny Blinotshka (well.. something to do with bliny, obviously), Printemps (Spring)  and Angelita started the night with bliny, Russian pancakes that are traditionally eaten in Finland this time of the year.  The Russian blin or blintzke is a thin pancake, a crêpe, bought from a stall on the street and eaten as a snack. The Finnish blin is a thick fat pancake, made of sourdough,  finely served with caviar, sour cream, mushrooms and other delicacies in a festive occasion. It’s a short way to Russia, but quite obviously something happened on the way…

Buckwheat Bliny

At least six hours prior to baking your bliny, mix the following ingredients and let ferment in room’s temperature:

2,5 dl oat milk, luke warm

2,5 dl buckwheat flour

2,5 dl wheat flour

20 g yeast

Just before baking add:

2,5 dl beer

1 tsp salt

1 dl soy yogurt

You’ll need oil for frying

Fry the bliny in a frying pan, with lots of oil. Use medium heat, so that they will cook inside too.  Nicest bliny are fried in pancake pan. Flip them over a couple of times.

Sidedishes with Bliny

You should have many different sidedishes with bliny! Five is minimum in my opinion! Nice vegan things to go with your bliny are vegan seaweed based caviar (at least in Finland available), vegan sour cream, chopped red onion, chopped pickles, honey, and mashed avocado with a bit of lemon.  We also had these things:

Beetroot with Honey

Slice some beetroot thinly, and chop some garlic. Fry quickly with oil in a wok, add salt and plenty of honey.

Mushrooms with Sour Cream

I bought some wild mushrooms preserved in brine, and made a simple condiment of them by draining off the extra liquid and adding some chopped spring onions,  black pepper and vegan sour cream.

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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.



Up the Channon Road
December 29, 2009, 17:45
Filed under: Drinks, Sweets | Tags: , , , ,

Once upon a time, in the faraway land of Australia, there was a strictly vegan Christmas celebration, up the road leading  from the hamlet of Channon to Protestors Falls (which are indeed named after a group of successful environmental activists). There lived Mel and Jane, my two gorgeous Australian friends, in a house that was perched midway on a hill, like so many houses are in that region.

Northern New South Wales is full of alternative people and back – to – the – landers, colourful markets where hippies try to rip off tourists, ecovillages hidden in the bush and endless parties, with groovy music, vegan chocolate cakes and cuppas of chai. The hills grow other stuff than just eucalyptus, and that is one of the reasons for the prosperity of the local hippies. In Northern New South Wales it is not unusual at all to visit the monthly market dressed in a pair of wings, three layers of colourful skirts and curve – tipped fairy boots. And the parties! How they dance, dreadlocks flying, skirts swinging and the whole house going up and down with the beat of the didgeridoo! And afterwards, you jump with your friends into a van that runs on homemade biodiesel and drive an hour to the nearest beach, to have a plunge in the moonlit waves.

Around Christmastime, I happened to be staying with Mel and Jane up the Channon road. Their house was a vegan sanctuary and they were quite strict not to allow any animal products in the house. They had decided to celebrate Christmas by holding a gathering for their friends, and prepared vegan delicacies for the occasion. There was vegan sushi, vegan mudcake and vegan rocky road on the menu, as well as vegan lasagna, if I remember correctly. Christmastime is full summer in Australia, and extremely hot, so we went with our picnic down to a little creek that runs nearby. That lazy hot afternoon with non – traditional Christmas food is still one of my funniest adulthood Christmas memories, and so since I now happened to get some vegan marshmallows I decided to remake part of the memory.

Rocky Road

There are certainly a thousand different rocky road recipes on net, generally they contain nuts, peanut butter, turkish delight, marshmallows and chocolate in some form. The idea is to drizzle the ingredients on a non- sticky surface and then cover with melted chocolate so that everything will stick together.  Mine was simply accomplished by combining all the ingredients I found in my cupboard. For some reason this chocolate  is really sticky, and I’m not sure whether that’s because of the honey. If you simply melted some chocolate, the end result would certainly be less sticky, and you’d get a pretty surface with all the goodies neatly layed out, instead of boring brown bars like I did.

1 dl vegan marshmallows, cut in halves

1 dl hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

1 dl coarsely chopped dried apricots

1 dl dried cranberries

1 dl toasted pumpkin seed

a small handful of dried chokeberries

a small handful of cocoa nibs

150 g cocoa butter

2 dl cocoa powder

280 g organic honey

a pinch of chillipowder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

2 tbsp cognac

First I sprinkled all the nuts etc. on a greased round oven pan (27 cm in diameter). Then I carefully melted the cocoa butter on low heat, and blended in the cocoa powder, spices and honey. Then I poured this mixture over the nuts and other things, and allowed it to cool down in the fridge  (in a hurry? Just stick it to the freezer for 10 minutes, I have learned from Yaelian).

Chai

Chai is the favourite hippie sweet drink. I’ve never been to India, and I have no idea how the original thing is made, but I’ve learned that there are as many ways to making chai as there are hippies in the world. Basically chai is a very sweet spicy milky tea: you can make it with organic dairy milk, with rice milk, with soy milk, with coconut milk, with or without black tea.  My chai is made with seven heavenly spices: ginger, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, vanilla and cardamom.  I usually like a bit of black tea in it too, and for sweetening I think honey is just right. Clove is a slightly dangerous spice, so use it with caution!

5 dl water

5 dl rice milk (etc)

3 cm piece of fresh ginger, cut into rounds

5 black peppercorns

15 green cardamom pods

2 cinnamon sticks

7 whole cloves

a dash of bourbon vanilla powder

1/4 of a whole nutmeg, chopped

1 black teabag

1 tbsp honey

Boil the spices in water for a few minutes. Then add the milk, and bring to boil again. Add the black tea, let simmer for a couple of minutes and sweeten.  Sieve through. Enjoy in peace and harmony!



Lucia’s Saffron Buns
December 22, 2009, 23:05
Filed under: Baking, winter seasonal food | Tags: , , , ,

Picture by Juha Pentikäinen

The 13th of December is the day of Saint Lucia, the only saint that is commonly recognised in Finland and Sweden. Our countries are very Lutheran, which is sparse, strict, no nonsense – path of reformist Christianity. So we don’t know anything of  dramatic saints with their terrifying life – stories, and our churches are quiet places with simple furnishings. But then, why did we take Lucia, an unknown Sicilian saint, to be so dear to us and be part of the Advent celebrations leading Christmas?

Lucia’s Day is widely celebrated in Sweden and in the Swedish speaking part of Finland. Usually a young maiden from the local community is chosen to represent her, looks are not important, but she should have a beautiful voice to sing with. Then she appears on streets and marketplaces, in schools, in old people’s homes, clad in white, wearing a crown of candles and singing the Lucia Song. Often she will bring some “glögi”, a Finnish Christmas drink and some gingerbread to people. Hardly anyone remembers her actual story (I recall she refused to marry because she wanted to lead a Christian life in chastity, and suffered a martyr death because of that) , she is simply the bringer of light in the darkest time of the year. Somehow I think she subconsciously reminds us of the ancient, powerful Nordic goddesses, when she stands there, brave, shining and solitary, crowned with living fire.

What is my personal relationship to Lucia then? When I was five years old and in the Kindergarten, I was not chosen to be Lucia, but instead got to be Virgin Mary in the Christmas play. But who would be comforted by a meek Mary that silently bends her head and accepts her faith, when there was a chance to be Lucia, who fights for her beliefs and leads the glorious procession? I was so bitter! As an adult I actually got to be the Lucia of my school, when I studied weaving in a swedish – speaking small town. I guess it is also slowly dawning to me that somebody who looks strong and solitary from the outside, might feel lonely and isolated inside.

These kind of saffron buns are in Sweden connected with Lucia, but in my childhood home they were simply baked before each Christmas, to be served with other Christmas delicacies. I must admit that I had to consult the internet in order to remember all the different forms they were baked in, but you can use your imagination! All kind of twirls and spirals is the idea. You should reserve about one and half hours to bake this.

Saffron Christmas Buns

About 25 pieces

2,5 water

25 g yeast

2 g saffron

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

1,25 dl sugar

7 – 8 dl wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

100 g vegetable margarine, vegan butter or oil

The water should  be about 36 °C warm so that it doesn’t feel cold or hot when you try with your finger. Dilute the yeast to the water, and add the saffron and sugar and mix. Add some of the flour and then the salt. Continue adding flour until the dough has a nice dense consistency, feels heavy to the hand and doesn’t stick to the edges of the bowl. Then add the margarine or oil. The dough should stay quite soft, so don’t knead too much!

Let the dough rise covered in a nice warm spot, until it’s doubled up in size. It takes half an hour or so. Then cut it up to small pieces, and roll it into several bars that are about the thickness of your finger. Then make all kinds of fun twirly shapes, and decorate  with raisins.

Put your buns on an oven plate and let them rise for an additional 15 – 20 minutes. Then bake them in the oven in 225ºC for 10 – 15 minutes, until they are nicely golden brown. Melt some margarine or use a bit of oil to spread on the buns to make them look pretty. And yes, the raisins tend to always pop out, so try to press them firmly into the bun.

Usually these kind of buns are made with eggs and butter, and for the vegan version to succeed, it is important to not use too much flour in the dough, and to be patient enough to allow it to rise properly.

Here is what Tricia wrote about Lucia and Saffron Buns, and a non – vegan recipe for it.



Marinated Strawberries with Basil Cream
July 31, 2009, 20:09
Filed under: Desserts, summer seasonal food | Tags: , , , ,

As the strawberry season is still going on, there could hardly be any reasons why not to eat them all the time.. this is a simple dessert I made the other day.  The vinegar combined with sugar gives the strawberries a taste that is really interesting, not bitter or sour, but just tangy. My friend who was eating it thought it felt odd in the throat, but I simply loved it. Basil tastes good with strawberries, as well as rosemary.

1 litre of strawberries

4 tbsp rasberry vinegar

1/2 dl powdered sugar

The Cream

250 g soy yogurt, drained in a colander overnight

1 dl oat cream (whippable)

2 tbsp sugar

a pinch of bourbon vanilla

basil leaves (could also be lemon basil leaves)

I sliced the strawberries, and made the marinade by whisking together the ingredients. Then I poured it over the strawberries and let it wait for half an hour before serving.  The cream I made simply by combining the ingredients with the chopped basil leaves.

marinated strawberries2



Blueberry Bliss Tart
July 29, 2009, 22:23
Filed under: Baking, Cakes, summer seasonal food | Tags: , , , , ,

The blueberries are ripening in the forests, and there seems to be a lot this year! Also the strawberry season is still going on. Sadly, I must tell you that if you have not tasted Finnish wild blueberries and cultivated strawberries, you have no idea how they are supposed to taste. It has something to do with the almost continuos daylight of the Finnish summer, it makes the sugar content of the berries really high.

I took a rowing boat over with a couple of friends to the secluded island of Vartiosaari, which lies right in front of one of the eastern suburbs of Helsinki. We fould plenty of huge blueberries, the first rasberries and even a rare treat: some wild strawberries. And in the forest, some lovely golden specimens of the looked after chanterelle! We also met a guy who was apparently a goat herd, since he had two goats with him. I petted the other one.  So all in all, a  profitable trip, I would call it.

I made this tarte of the blueberries, since I think some of the gorgeous flavour is lost if they are baked. I was not completely happy with the end result: I think a drop of lemon juice in the filling and some whole wheat flour in the crust would make it just perfect. And yes, I’m aware of the fact many people don’t consider honey a vegan ingredient, but I do. The honey that I’m using is freshly made and from a local organic farm, very nice!

blueberry tarte 1

Blueberry and Strawberry Tart

150 g vegetable margarine

3,5 dl wheat flour

1 dl honey

1,5 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

1 tbsp cold water

The Filling

500 g soy yogurt

3/4 dl honey

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

3 tbsp potato starch

About 2 dl fresh blueberries

some strawberries

The Glaze

2 dl water

1 dl sugar with added pectin

First I heated the oven to 200ºC and then started by making the crust: it was simply made by mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl and then adding the margarine, honey and finally the water. Then I greased a springform bake tin 24 cm in diameter, and coated it with some semolina (flour is fine too), and patted the dough into it with moistened fingers. Then I baked the crust in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile the crust was baking, I made the filling by mixing the ingredients. After ten minutes I took the crust from the oven, and poured the filling onto it. Then I baked my tart for an additional 30 minutes or so, until the filling was set and the tart was a little bit brownish one the edges.

I let the tart cool down, and then added the strawberries and blueberries on top. Then I made the glazing by boiling the sugar with pectin with water until the sugar had diluted. Then I spooned the glazing carefully on top of the tart. The idea with glazing is that it keeps the berries stable on top of the tart, which looks really fancy. Me and my friend Pinja were so impatient that we didn’t allow the glazing to cool down, but ate half of the tart right away.

blueberry tarte



Smoky Capsicum Soup
May 18, 2009, 22:24
Filed under: Cooking | Tags: , ,

I had a lot of capsicums the other day and even if I have a strange distaste for capsicums I wanted to try to make a soup out of them. I have seen recently many recipes for a soup that includes capsicums that are lightly grilled and decided to make one of those. I was moving out of my house and to a new city the following day, so everything was rather chaotic, but somehow I managed to get the soup done.  Btw, I guess they can be called pepper too, but I got used to the name capsicum in Australia.

capsicum soup

Soup with Grilled Capsicums

6 capsicums

3 onions

2 cloves of garlic

25 g tomato puree

1 dl oat cream

1 tsp chilli flakes

2 tsp Pimenton de la Vera, dulce (sweet, smoked paprika powder)

1 l water

2 tsp vegetable stock powder

Olive oil for frying

salt to taste

First I chopped the capsicums in halves,  removed the seeds and put them on an oven plate. I sprikled them lightly with salt and olive oil and grilled them in 250°C  in the upper part of the oven. I had the oven turned on so that the heat would come from the top the oven.  I reckoned the capsicums ready when they started to get some black marks on them.

Meanwhile I had also chopped the onion and the garlic finely. I fried them in a cooking pot in olive oil, and added the chilli flakes and the sweet paprika. After that I added also the capsicums, the water, tomato puree and the vegetable stock powder. Then I let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the capsicums felt soft. Then I pureed the soup with a hand held mixer and added the oat cream and some salt. We ate the soup with Iiris with some non – vegan yoghurt we stole from my other room mate, because I had slightly overestimated the amount of chili. Otherwise the soup was nice, especially if you like capsicums. Even I got somehow used to the taste…