If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
-J.R.R Tolkien

15 February 2010

Finnish Food Icon : Laskiaispulla

Yesterday was Valentine's Day as everyone on this planet probably knows, but this year in Finland the winter festival of Laskiainen or Shrove Sunday fell on the same date. Both are celebrated, but I think Laskiainen is still more popular in Finland, and not least for the Finnish food icon I'm about to introduce. In a nutshell Laskiainen is an orthodox celebration before the lent season, and the idea is to eat lots of fat and sugar before the lent. In the UK it is known as the Pancake day, but the pancakes were far less visible in my opinion when I was living in the UK for three years. Laskiaispullat or Shrove buns are everywhere in Finland around this time of the year!

Laskiainen has been around since the 1800s, and was a joyful peasant holiday involving sledding down the snowy hills and making wishes for a good crops in the coming year. Sledding is still
very much involved in the celebration of Laskiainen, after all it is only healthy to burn off those bun calories somehow. I have to confess I haven't yet been sledding this year, but I hope I'll get a chance to make it to the hills! The snow doesn't seem to be going nowhere so I'm really not worried.

Laskiaispulla is basically a sweet bun, cut in half and filled with either jam or almond paste, but always with whipped cream. A heavenly creation combining all things bad for you, but oh still so good. Best enjoyed with a class of cold milk or alternatively with hot chocolate to bring the sweetness of the treat to a whole new level. Another traditional Shrove delicacy is pea and ham soup but I am saving that for Shrove Tuesday.

I got the recipe from Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki newspaper) Food section, and it worked well for me. I just swapped the regular jam to a sugar free puree of strawberries and wild raspb
erries that I had available in my freezer. I know, it still doesn't make them one bit healthy but every little helps, right?


Makes 16 buns
2,5 dl Milk
25 g Fresh Yeast
100 g Butter
1 Egg
1 tsp Cardamom
1 dl sugar

7 dl All-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

To top:
1 egg
Flaked almond or sugar drops

Jam (or berry puree!)

Almond paste
Whipped cream

Warm the milk to body temperature, combine with fresh yeast.
Add egg, sugar, cardamom and salt. Start adding flour with a whisk, and when the dough thickens, knead with hands. Add the butter, which should be softened to room temperature.
Knead the dough until it's even and springy and comes off the bowl easily.

Allow to rise in a warm place for around 40 mins. - I have learned from my mother to fill the kitchen sink with warm water and place the bowl with the dough in the sink to rise. Works!

Once risen, tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead the air off. Form a long "sausage" (lol) shapeand cut into 16 pieces. Make little buns and place on baking paper on an oven tray. Let rise for another 30 mins under a tea towel in a warm place.

Break the egg in a small bowl and brush over the buns. Top with flaked almond or sugar drops. Bake in 225 degrees for 10- 15 minutes. Once ready and cooled, cut in half and fill with jam/ almond
paste and whipped cream and put the top back on. Then have a bun party and go sledding or skiing!

10 February 2010

Soup and Bread

As any self respecting foodie would, we too do collect many cook books and food magazines to fill our bookselves. However, we have a bad habit of just looking through them and not actually using any of the recipes - this could be called food porn I guess...
But since one of the main resons we started this blog for was trying more new things, I have systematically started marking the recipes that I would like to give a go. We wouldn't really need any new magazines or cook books for a year, that's how little we've been using the ones that we already have!

We really enjoy the UK food mag Olive, which fortunately is also sold in many shops in Helsinki. It has beautiful and inspiring photography, a variety of recipes from really easy to professional and a great travel section, to mention a few good reasons to keep buying it. A foodie's must-read I think! Both of the recipes today are from Olive's February issue 2009.

Celeriac and Pear Soup
A lesson learned with this recipe; always check how many it serves. This recipe is for 6, and as Andy does not much like to eat soup, I will most likely be slurping this for days unless I freeze some. Nevermind, it is delicious! I'd never used fruit in a soup and the pear and celeriac were a great combination. A little bit sweet, but the ginger balanced it nicely. A good winter day soup!

Olive oil, 1 tbsp
Shallots, 4, finely sliced
Garlic, 2 cloves, chopped
Ginger, to taste, finely chopped
Celeriac, 1, peeled and roughly chopped
Pears, 4, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
Veg stock, 1 litre
Parsley, chopped for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add shallots, garlic and ginger and cook over medium heat for about 5 min or until softened but not coloured.
Add cleriac, pears and stock, bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the celeriac has softened.
Whiz and blitz in your chosen method until smooth, sieve if you like it really smooooth. Season and serve with parsley and your homemade bread!


Quick Carrot and Walnut Bread

This was super easy as well as super tasty, reminding me of something I know as "tea bread" that all Finnish kids learn to make in domestic cooking classes at school.

Plain flour, 350 g
Wholemeal flour, 150 g
Salt, 1 tsp
Bicarbonate of soda, 2 tsp
Carrots, 150g, peeled and grated
Walnut pieces, a handful
Greek yoghurt, 300 ml
Milk, 125 ml

Heat oven to 230C/fan 210. Mix flours, salt and bicarb, stir in carrot, walnuts and yoghurt, then add enough milk to make a soft, sticky dough. Tip onto a floured surface and form a flat ball, but on a baking sheet, slash the top and bake for 30 mins until risen and cooked.

The Fifth Taste

I think we should talk about some current issues in food on the blog and not just recipes. Today I found something that made me laugh. I happened to bump into an interesting piece of news on Yahoo pages; at Waitrose in the UK they are apparantly going to be selling a product called The Fifth Taste, basically Umami flavour in a tube. Umami refers to the savoury taste in meat, cheese and mushrooms.
This paste is made from umami-rich ingredients such as tomato, parmesan and mushrooms.

Picture from Yahoo News

I personally think it sounds really weird but if I have a chance I think I would like to try it just for a laugh, and because I'm not 100% sure what the umami flavour really is. I doubt that it will hit the supermarkets in Finland for a while though. What do you think? Would you ever try it?

09 February 2010

Somewhere Over The Rainbow Trout

Today we had a lovely friend visiting us and we enjoyed a long long dinner of nibbles for a starter, Rainbow trout for a main and olive oil-chocolate fondants for dessert. We also played with my new Canon eos 450d camera and between courses we rocked some serious(ly scary) singstar. Who says Mondays are boring?

Nibbles consisted of olives, hoummus, macadamia nuts and crackers with G&T for aperitif.
I love hoummus and it's a piece of cake to make ; blitz together a tin of drained chickpeas, garlic (I had enough to make sure no vampires will ever approach Helsinki), juice of a lime or lemon, salt and olive oil. Too easy mate!
(You should also use tahini but we didn't have any. )

I also made a carrot and walnut loaf, which was also easy and very tasty indeed. Will post the recipe at some later point. Promise!

Rainbow trout was a bargain at the supermarket costing less than 5 euros for the whole bugger. Andy first washed the trout, then skilfully (ehem) filleted it and removed the bones. He placed the fish in an oven proof dish and rubbed home-made macadamia-pesto all over the two fillets. It was cooked in 200 degrees for around 15 minutes, until cooked. We served it with a rocket, tomato and onion salad.

Macadamia Pesto

1 dl Olive Oil
Two small handfull of Basil
One small handfull of Rocket
One small handfull of Parsley
1-2 Garlic cloves
Dozen whole Macadamias
2 tbsp Grated Parmesan
Salt & Pepper

Blitz all ingredients to a paste in a blender.
Our choice of wine was Yalumba Viognier 2008 from Eden Valley in South Australia. Viognier is a great alternative to Chardonnay, the usual option for fatty fish. There was only subtle flavour of oak, with floral aromas and exotic fruit both on the nose and palate. It was quite full bodied but had enough acidity to balance the fattiness of the fish. A beautifully balanced and richly flavoured wine.

Dessert was divine, olive oil chocolate fondants served with rhubarb compote and Vanilla ice cream, but we'll save the recipe for that for later.