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

29 January 2012

Homemade Lavender and Dark Chocolate Macarons

I can't resist macarons.
If I see them at a bakery, I must have one of every flavour.
When my boyfriend asked me what I wanted for my birthday last year, I wished for macarons.
Instead of a pretty box from a patisserie I got a book, Parisian macarons by Sylvie Aït-Ali. (You can find a great tutorial video on the book's webpages) "Make them yourself." Food porn at it's best, dozens of colourful variations of the pretty little biscuit.

I found a recipe for a chili chocolate macaron but made own adaptation with lavender instead of chilli. I tried to make them a lavender colour but I was too afraid to muck the marenque up and didn't add enough colouring. It was also a challenge to find the right temperature and time for them but the last batch of four oven trays was close to a success. I will be making more macarons in the future and will post a recipe when I have perfected it. Meanwhile, enjoy some pictures!


It was 2004, London, I fell in love.
With Banoffee pie. It was a revelation. From then on, I'd order it almost whenever it was on the menu. Crispy pastry, sweet bananas, gooey toffee and cream, mmmmmmm.

It was about time now I learned to make it! It's pretty easy, only boiling the condensed milk for three hours is a bit boring, so it's good to plan ahead when making this. I don't probably have to mention that this is not for the calorie-consious of us. I like to believe Nigella when she says that it's all about moderation, also when it comes to moderation, so you have to be immoderate sometimes. There is some wisdom in her sayings every now and then.

Banoffee pie (from Food for thought cookbook)

50g caster sugar
100g butter
150g white flour

400ml tin of sweet condensed milk, boiled in the tin for 2-2,5 hours
4 bananas, sliced and mixed with lemon juice to avoid browning
285ml cream

piece of dark chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 180c.

2. Cream the sugar and butter together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour until the mixture forms a ball. Press the mix into a greased 20 cm spring-form tin or something similar.
I cheated with shop bought oat pastry. Nigella would approve.

3. Prick allover witha fork to prevent the pastry from rising. Bake for 25 mins until golden. Cool down. Remove sides if you used a spring form tin.

4. Open the tin of condenced milk and spread on the pastry.

 5. Place the bananas on top of the toffee.

6. Whisk the cream and spread over the bananas. Grate dark chocolate on top.

Enjoy without guilt. You deserve it.

The Heavenly Veggie Parcels

I will finally give you the recipe for those tasty looking parcels I already wrote about earlier. I already shared the recipe in Finnish on my friend Mari's blog Pumpkin Jam, as she asked me to do a guest post on there. She is a big inspiration to me and probably the reason why I ever got into blogging in the first place. She is an amazing writer, she should do it for a living in my opinion. There is a big blogger community in Finland but I haven't been very active so far, but I would love to get to know more people who love food as much as I do. I don't know if it is a problem that I write in English, I have been thinking if I should switch to Finnish just to "fit in" a bit more. However, for now writing in English feels more comfortable.

Anyway, here comes the recipe. It is a slightly altered version from The Modern Vegetarian cookbook by Maria Elia. I found it at the sales and while I was deciding if I really should own an another cookbook (need more shelf space!!!) I saw the recipe for these parcels and walked to the till with the book. I want to cook more interesting vegetarian food, not just the basic stuff. Today I have cooked one more recipe and will do another this evening, but more about them later. This  one really impressed me and my dinner guests, definately worth the little effort it takes!

 Parcels with Mushrooms, Spinach, Beetroot, Lentils and Mozzarella
 (4 big portions)

Ginger Vinaigrette Dressing
1 cm piece ginger
1 garlic clove, grated
30 ml rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sugar
75 ml sesame oil
2 tsp dijon mustard

225g puy or brown lentils (I used green as had it already)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt and pepper
4 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

4 large portobello mushrooms (couldn't get any so used around 400g of button mushrooms)
2 tbsp olive oil (I used butter, always for mushrooms)
pinch of chilli flakes

To put together you need
Fresh spinach
300g mozzarella, torn into small pieces
200g cooked beetroot, sliced into wedges
4 squares of parchment paper (38cmx38cm), scrunch and dampen under warm water, squeeze water of. this way they look prettier and are easier to work with
4 strips cut of parchment paper (2cmx38cm)

1. Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking all ingredients together.

2. Wash the lentils. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic, sautee until softened. Add drained lentils and just enough water to cover them. Simmer until tender, about 20 mins, adding water if needed. Drain and dress with ginger vinaigrette when still hot. Season with salt and pepper, add coriander.

3. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stalks. Drizzle with olive oil(or butter), season with salt and chilli and cook in a hot pan for 3 minutes on each side.

4. To assemble, preheat the oven to 190c. Place the spinach at the bottom of the parcel, top with mushroom(s), lentils, beetroot and mozzarella. Tie the sides of the papers together with thw paper strips. The parcels can be made in advance and cooked when everyone's ready to eat!

5. Place on baking tray and cook for 15-20 minutes or until throroughly heated.

I served a simple salad of rocket, fennel and parmesan with the parcels. A light red wine goes beautifully with this, really complementing the earthy flavours.

25 January 2012

Spicy Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

 This soup has amazing thai-style flavour, a combination of sweet, spicy and acidity that really tickles the tastebuds. It is absolutely great as a starter or even as a light meal on its own, as it is quite creamy and filling. Serve an off dry or medium white wine with it and the flavours will be even more wonderful. I love a good Riesling but I'm pretty sure that a Gewurtztraminer or a Pinot Gris would work as well. Go for something from Alsace and you're at least on the right track.

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup
(New food for thought, Jane Noraika)
(Serves 4)

1 onion, finely chopped
sunflower oil
25g of root ginger
2 tsp roasted and ground cumin seeds
1 small fresh chilli (I cheated with jarred chilli paste)
600g sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
400ml coconut milk
750 ml veg stock
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
fresh coriander

1. Fry the onion in a large saucepan. Add the ginger, cumin and chilli and cook until the onion is translucent.

2. Add sweet potato, coconut milk and stock, cook until the sweet potato is soft.

3. Process with a blender until smooth. Add lime juice and seasoning. Serve with coriander. I also added some crayfish tails.

22 January 2012

Sunday dinner with good friends, good food and wine

 When we invited our good friends over for Sunday dinner, I announced that I would like to be cooking it all by myself. This has not really happened much before, as my significant other happens to be a professional chef. Somehow he always ends up taking over in the kitchen whenever we want to have something slightly better than a everyday salad or pasta.

So, I planned ahead for a three course menu which ended up looking like this:

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup with Crayfish
2009 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling, Rheingau, Germany

Parcels of Beetroot, Green Lentils, Mushrooms, Spinach and Mozzarella served with a Salad of Rocket, Fennel and Parmesan
2008 Krug'scherhoff Pinot Noir, Rheinhessen, Germany

Banoffee Pie

 The wines were bought during our Berlin trip in August, I liked the Riesling a lot but as I tasted the Pinot Noir I started dancing and laughing, I absolutely loved it. Beautiful berries with cherry, cranberry and strawberry aromas, velvety lightness and balance, no tannins. Match made in heaven for the beetroot and lentils. I am not ashamed to say I was proud of myself today, definately the best dinner I have ever cooked, without any help. Need to do this more often!
Next some pictures of the night, I will be posting the recipes in the next few days when I am less tired.

18 January 2012


Spent two hours walking in the fresh snow today. It was beautiful! Finally a proper amount of the white stuff, and the days are getting lighter as well. What follows are some pics from the walk and a lunch salad idea - recipes for salads are a bit pointless, aren't they?

Vanhakoski rapids

Pihlajamäki skatepark

Vantaa river
The reward

Lunch today was a fresh salad of crayfish, avocado, cucumber, pink grapefruit and green herb marinated olives dressed with lemon pesto and extra squeeze of lemon. Add mayo if you like!

17 January 2012

Red peppers & Almonds

 I must admit I am inspired, the moussaka was so delicious that I couldn't wait to cook the next recipe from "New food for thought". I think I should try to make an effort at the beginning of every week to cook one more substantial dish and one soup, which will last for many more days during the busy week, and even longer when frozen.

This is part of my effort to try and change my habits of nibbling unhealthy foods and not planning ahead on my meals. Also by freezing individual portions in the right size will reduce the temptation to take seconds, one of my many bad habits.

As I am trying to find a more sensible attitude to eating you might find me writing more about that aspect of food on the blog as well. Any discussion and tips are certainly welcome! Now, to the recipe of

Red pepper and almond soup
(serves 4 according to the original recipe)

Olive oil
700g red peppers, cored, de-seeded and cut in half
2 onions, finely chopped
4 sticks celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp paprika (I used smoked cause I love it!!)
400g tinned tomatoes
100g ground almonds
600g veg stock
salt & pepper
fresh basil
roasted, flaked almonds for garnish

1. Roast the peppers under a hot grill until lightly charred. Peel off the skin and discard.

2. Fry the onions, celery, garlic and (smoked) paprika together with the olive oil for 5-10 mins until soft.

3. Add tomatoes, ground almonds and roasted peppers. Continue to cook another 3-4 minutes. Add the stock and use a stick blender to mix until smooth.

 4. Season with salt, pepper and the fresh basil. Bring gently back to boil. (Might want to use a bigger saucepan than me, I nearly had the soup all over the stove.)

5. Serve with the roasted almonds.

16 January 2012

Vegetarian moussaka

 So, we have a pretty good selection of cookbooks but we rarely pick a recipe and follow it. I am on a mission to change this, and started with Jane Noraika's "New Food for thought". Food for thought is a lovely little vegetarian restaurant in Covent Garden of London, which I used to regularly visit when I lived over there in 2004-2005. It was also the first ever restaurant I took my meat eating boyfriend to, with success I think. He took me to Pizza Hut. :D

He gave me this book around 2006 (we can't agree on the year...) but not many recipes have been followed, as I said. I browsed through the book and decided to start on Moussaka, as it is most certainly apt food for the dark cold wintertime.

(Serves 6)

Tomato sauce:
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 carrot, grated
tinned chopped tomatoes, 400g
2 tbsp tomato puree
splash of soy sauce
bunch of fresh basil, chopped

White sauce:
50g butter
50g flour (2tbsp in the original recipe, found that it wasn't enough)
pinch of nutmeg
150 ml milk
100g cheddar (think I nearly doubled this...oops)
(original recipe adds a beaten egg white but I gave it a miss)

100g green lentils (bought mine ready cooked)
675g potatoes, cooked and then sliced
2 aubergines (aka eggplant), sliced
275g mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 red pepper, de-seeded and sliced into thin strips
450g FRESH spinach, washed very well

 1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Cook lentils if didn't buy them ready cooked.

 3. Place sliced aubergine on a large oven tray with plenty of olive oil. Add pesto if you want extra flavour. I used the new Pirkka lemon pesto, which is nice and fresh. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes until tender, stir every now and then.
 4. Stir-fry mushrooms and peppers, set aside.

5. Cook the spinach quickly in a saucepan in olive oil and butter (no butter in the original but I think spinach needs it) until it's wilted. Squeeze extra liquid out.

6.In a large saucepan fry the onion, garlic, celery and carrot in olive oil until soft. Add tomatos, tomato puree and soy sauce. Bring to the boil and season with basil, salt and pepper. Let it cool down for a while.Combine with lentils, mushrooms, peppers and spinach.

The best ever white sauce I ever made! (Might be the first one too...)
 7. In a small pan melt the butter with the nutmeg. Lower the heat and stir in the flour slowly. I needed much more flour than 2 tbsp like the original recipe suggested, almost the same quantity as butter. Cook until the texture of the roux changes to breadcrumb-like. Slowly add the milk and stir vigorously all the time to avoid lumps. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Stir until the cheese is melted.
8.Cover a deep dish with half of the tomato mixture, layer half of the aubergines on top.Add half of the potatoes on the aubergines. Repeat, and cover the final layer of potatoes with the white sauce. Add extra cheese if you're as greedy as me.

9. Cook in the oven at 200-225C for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling.

10. Serve with something green and ENJOY!

I look forward to making more yummy vegetarian recipes from this book. I really need to experiment more with pulses and stuff to get more vegetable proteins, I eat too much fish for my liking at the moment. I'd like to eat soups more regularly, so the next recipe might be a red pepper and almond soup. And we are hoping to visit UK at some point this year, maybe it's time to visit the good old Food for thought again...