lauantai 1. elokuuta 2015

LIGHTHOUSE PICNIC


My dear friend decorates her home "the beach house"-style. Seashells and lighthouses are part of her everyday life... She's a barefoot "city girl", though, and has never even visited outer archipelago, the very last islands before there's only Baltic Sea in front of your eyes.


What would be a better place to celebrate her birthday than a small island called SÖDERSKÄR?!
So, I booked us a cruise from our capital city to the lighthouse-island, which is only one and half hour   boat ride away.


This is the ecxact location of the historical island.


The 150 years old lighthouse has got 6 floors and rises up to 40 meters above the sea level.


Suspension bridge connects another small island to the main island.


In the end of the shaky bridge there is a birdwatchers observatory. The Söderskär first bird research started already at 1940's. It's the longest continuos monitoring of the arctic birds spring and autumn migration in the whole world.


Fascinating?! There're so many interesting stories, also about the light house itself, but no island visit is complete without a picnic?!


TABLE IS SET!


ONNEA = CONGRATULATIONS (blueberry-whitechocholate cake)!!!


CHEERS, CITY-GIRL, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! AND GREETINGS TO EVERYONE FROM THE "MUST VISIT/DAY-TRIP FROM HELSINKI".



keskiviikko 29. heinäkuuta 2015

"PRESIDENT & PARSNIP"


This is the yellow flower that the president of the republic of Finland has found and made world famous. Outside of the country's borders foreign press is not wondering about the flower, but about the the character of a president who patiently waits for his turn in the queue... And when his turn finally comes, he introduces himself as "Sauli from Naantali". (That's where Mr. president's summer residence, KULTARANTA is located.) This is the story in a nutshell, about our president calling  national radio's nature-program. Foreigners have hard time believing that a president can be so down to earth and ordinary.  HERE you can find one story written about the event.


Our president enjoys summer in the nature, just like any Finn does. He observes flowers, and wild plants, and anybody can follow the findings via his official Facebook page. Finland's president posts comments himself, signing with his initials; SN. Our summer has been cold, but so far Mr. president has found 140 wild flowers. That's a lot!


Parsnip belongs to the same family with fennel and dill, and is surprisingly common on the roadsides of Southern Finland. It's good to be aware that the milky liquid it contains, might cause an allergic reaction to some. But the root is just the same what we buy in a supermarket. As all wild plants, the flavor is more intense compared to the cultivated one. But I think it's pretty darn great that we have such a delicious vegetable growing wild, waiting for anyone, (even the head of state,) just to pick (= dig) it up and make a dinner out of it!


WARNING: One has to know when the root is ripe for picking... Parsnip grows 2 years and spreads the seeds to make "offsprings"... The aroma of the root is amazing, at all states, but when the vegetable gets too old, it becomes tough and wood-like. If your findings are like that, do not even try to make a parsnip puree out of them. Instead; when making mashed potatoes, boil the potatoes together with parsnip, and discard the parsnip just before pureeing the potatoes. The aroma of wild parsnip will flavor your mashed potatoes to new dimensions... 


torstai 23. heinäkuuta 2015

BREAKFAST ON THE PIER


We've stopped wining about the weather and started adding extra layers of wool around us... And carrying raincoat everywhere with us. Like this morning, when the wind blew so strongly that it was difficult to stand on the bonton-built-pier. Waves rocked the pier side to side, like it was a boat. (It was fun though!)


We in Finland believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Therefore our breakfast often contains more savory than sweet treats. We also have a saying "runis se on mikä tiellä pitää" meaning "it is the rye that keeps you going". So, breakfast is not complete without dark rye bread, or karelian pies (rice filled rye pies).


Karelian pies are made out of rye-dough, and filled with potato-mash or rice porridge.


So, now you know it; rye is our our superpower!








torstai 9. heinäkuuta 2015

GETTING WILD


Despite of the coooool and wet summer, nature is not complaining. It's producing all kinds of goodies as there was nothing wrong... And teaching us a lesson in the meanwhile: there's really nothing wrong, this IS Finnish summer... Extremely unpredictable,  but at the same time gutsy and  beautiful.

"KUUSENKERKKÄ-FETA-CHEESE & WATERMELON SALAD IS AT THE SAME TIME TANGY, SWEET, SALTY AND FRESH IN TASTE"
So, we have been picking the wild herbs, mushrooms (that's the benefit of a wet summer!) and trying to ignore the summer flue that goes hand-in-hand with the constant wind and rain. Nature's own cure comes from the spruce tree, KUUSENKERKKÄ in Finnish. In the beginning of each summer the needle-tree grows a tiny soft bright green "extensions". These shoots are "spruce-babies", and are forbidden to pick without the permission of the forest owner. (According to the law called "every-man's right" everyone has got a right to pick berries and mushrooms, but to pick any part of the tree you need  a permission of the owner.)
"THE WONDERS OF SUMMER: STRAWBERRIES, DIGESTIVE-COOKIE CRUMBLE, HOME MADE ICE CREAM AND KUUSENKERKKÄ-SYRUP"

Spruce shoots can be eaten just like that, they've got a nutty resin flavor, lots of antioxidants, and vitamin A & C. We also cook tea out of them, (best cure for a sour throat and a useful coughing medicine) and turn the shoots into pesto, mayonnaise, juice and syrup. The syrup's unique taste go well with meat, fish and poultry dishes, and gives a nice tangy flavor even for ice cream. That is, if you like the aroma of resin.


SPRUCE SHOOTS SYRUP

a bucketful of spruce shoots (=spruce tips)
lukewarm water to cover
☛ let soak in a room temperature overnight

In the morning:
Bring slowly to boil and let simmer on a low heat for 2 hours.
Sieve the shoots out of the liquid, measure the amount and add 50 g of sugar for each liter of liquid. Simmer on a low heat 3-5 hours, uncovered, until the mixture becomes syrupy and dark. Pour into sterilized jars and store in the refrigerator.

___________________________


SPRUCE SHOOTS PESTO

a handful of spruce shoots (=spruce tips)
handful of toasted pine nuts
2 pealed garlic cloves
100 g of grated parmesan cheese
olive oil (as much as you need to get the consistency you desire)
1 tablespoon of lemon (or lime) juice
sea salt
black pepper

Rinse the spruce shoots, drain and place all dry ingredients into the food processor bowl, process until the spruce shoots are finely ground. While the machine is running, add olive oil in small amounts, until you have the consistency you look for. Let flavors blend for at least 1 hour before serving.

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torstai 11. kesäkuuta 2015

CHEERS TO SUMMER


TASTE OF MY FINLAND has been quiet for a while. Well... I've been waiting for a good reason to post someting nice and pretty. Waiting and waiting, as the matter of fact I'm still waiting.

So, I decided to tell you the ice cold truth; it's bitterly cold here in Finland. The midsummer (midnight sun) celebration is only a week ahead, yet the temperature is like in autumn, just before the first snow! And now the cold weather has even delayed the strawberry-harvest from the usual beginning of june to further of july.

WOOD SORREL GAVE OUR PICNIC SALAD "THAT SPECIAL" FLAVOR.
We're disappointed with the weather, but nature is amazing. Rhubarb never lets you down, and wild herbs pop out despite of the postponed summer. Spinac-like stinging nettle is now at it's best season, before it starts blooming. So is the wood sorrel (in Finnish it has got two names; käenkaali = cabbage of cuckoo, and ketunleipä = bread of fox). Equally delicious dandelion can be eaten also with eyes as it paints the landscape bright yellow. We do have some signs of summer, after all.


JAPAN IN MY MIND- SALAD DRESSING

Just mix all the ingredients;
2 desiliter olive oil
1 desiliter sesame oil
1/2 desiliter Ketjap Manis (Indonesian sweet soy)
3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
a hint of white pepper powder
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

��������������������������

We were told in the childhood that "there's not such a thing as a bad weather - there's only bad clothing". That's still true! "So, what the heck", I thought, and started the picnic season with two of my bravest friends.
FINNISH SUMMER IS NOT A SEASON, IT'S A DECISION!
Our cool (!!!) picnic season was toasted with rhubarb-mojitos, the hunger was extinguished with traditional salmon soup, and for a dessert I made double layer puddings. To tingle both Japanese and Finnish taste buds; I added some matcha-powder to the milk pudding, and strained the rhubarb pudding to make it silky (Finns normally don't do that, we just love the junks of rhubarb in our desserts). As it turned out, rhubarb and matcha make a perfect companion! (Just like Japanese and Finns in the arctic-Finn-picnics!)

TINY WILD VIOLA TASTES LIKE VANILLA.


RHUBARB MOJITO

Rhubarb puree:
chopped rhubarb stalks
sugar
water

mint leaves
white rum
elder flower juice (preferably homemade, but even IKEA-juice will do)
soda water
(sugar to your taste)
(ice if it's a warm weather)

Start making the puree: wash and cut the rhubarbs, add sugar as much as you like (fists a little, then some more after tasting) and some water. Let simmer until it's all pureed. Store in a jam jar.

To build the rhubarb-mojito: spoon a teaspoon of the rhubarb puree in to the class, add mint leaves and a hint of sugar. Then add a splash of rum and some elder flower juice and ice cubes (not in Finland) and soda water.


RHUBARB-MATCHA PUDDING

Rhubarb pudding:
1 liter water
1 desiliter granulated sugar + some extra to sprinkle on top
250 g fresh rhubarb, cut into bite size pieces
4-5 tbsp potato starch
1/2 desiliter cold water

Matcha pudding:
1 vanilla pod
5 desilitre  milk (full fat)
3 tbsp corn starch (Maizena)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2-1 desiliter matcha-teapowder

In a stainless steal saucepan; heat the water and sugar to boiling, stirring occasionally. Then add the rhubarb. Simmer uncovered until rhubarb is tender, about 10-20 minutes. Mix cold water with potato starch, whisk it into rhubarb-mixture. Bring back to boil, stirring constantly. Take the saucepan off the heat once you see the first bulb. (If you let it boil wildly, you'll end up with a gluey type of structure). Strain if desired. Sprinkle with sugar to prevent skin from forming, allow to cool.

Split the vanilla and place in a saucepan, add the sugar and pour the milk into the pan, mix well and bring to boil, (while stirring continuously). Meanwhile; mix the corn starch with cold water, and pour into the milk mixture, let boil for couple of minutes, until mixture thickens. Add match-powder, mix and let cool. Pour the mixture in individual bowls, refrigerate until slightly set, then top with the rhubarb pudding and refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled and decorate with wild edible flowers.


























sunnuntai 5. huhtikuuta 2015

EASTER MAGIC


Easter time is full of magic. Last sunday little witches wandered from door to door, wishing happiness and wealth by performing an old poem. As a good luck charm the witches gave a willow tree branch, decorated with colorful feathers.



And as a "salary" they received chocolate eggs. That was last sunday, one week before easter.


And this sunday the choco egg collection expands. Last night, the same night when Jesus rose from the dead, the EASTER ROOSTER has laid chocolate eggs under pillows and in some households into the shoes! No matter how late you stay up, you never catch a glimpse of the rooster. All there is left in the morning are the eggs, not just any eggs, but the delicious chocolate eggs and some colorful feathers. PURE MAGIC!


LEMON MOUSSE EASTER EGGS

2 gelatine leaves
1/2 lemon
2 egg yolks
1/4 dl sugar
1/2 dl water
1/2 dl white wine
2 dl double cream
7 chocolate eggs
1 jar of mango- baby food

Soak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water until soft. Grate the chest and squize the juice of a half lemon. Place the juice and grated chest into a pan with water, wine and sugar, bring to simmer. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, then add to pan and take off the heat. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved. Mix until smooth and leave to cool.

Using a warm knife, cut off tops of chocolate eggs. Whip the cream. Mix whipped cream to the cooled lemon mixture. Divide among 7 choco eggs (or ramenkins) and place into the fridge for overnight, until set.

To serve, place half teaspoon of the pyreed mango in the middle of each egg to create "the yolk".


                               ❀ HAPPY EASTER ❀


sunnuntai 8. helmikuuta 2015

"BUN FESTIVAL"


Dear All,
Greetings from the northern edge of the Europe! I am happy to announce that
TASTE OF FINLAND is back, thanks to your activity and messages!
Not much has changed here, except, now I cook the Finnish delights with energy like never before; since I just graduated as a licensed chef.
"TASTE OF MY FINLAND" is the new name of the reborn Finn-food-blog, I sure hope my recipes and stories will tickle your taste buds. And, as always, I enjoy reading your comments, so, if there's anything on your foodie-mind, please use the comment box under each post or send me a mail; minnatalka@yahoo.com.


What a better way to restart the food blog than a mid-winter food festival?!
27th of February Finns celebrate the "laskiainen" = "sliding day" = "shrovetide", with appropriate garnish of traditional cream buns and slow cooked porky pea soup.

The tradition marked originally the beginning of a 40- day long Easter feast. "Laskiainen" was the very last chance to enjoy the rich and fatty foods for a long time. Although in the old days the "sliding" meant a slide into the feast, in modern, secular, Finland it simply symbolizes the slippery tobogganing event. (And the creamy buns!!!)


LASKIAISPULLA, the sliding-bun, divides the nation... You either belong to the jam-supporters or the almond paste-supporters. There's no such an opinion as "whatever" or "anything goes", it's one or  the other. 



Anyway, all the buns look the same, it's the taste that counts. (Doesn't this shrovetide-wisdom sound like a proverb?!) First you bake a cardamom-flavored bun, slice it, and then fill it with almond paste or rasberry jam and finish it with lots of whipped vanilla cream... The amount of cream is enough only when you realize with the very first look at the bun, that it's impossible to eat it without making a mess.


SHROVETIDE BUN

500 millilitres milk
1 egg
200 g sugar
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
22 g dry yeast
about 1000 g wheat flour
150 g butter, melted

You also need another egg for brushing the buns, whipped cream and jam or almond paste (for homemade paste; mix almond flour+cream to a paste), and icing sugar to decorate.

Mix the 42- degree (dry yeast activates in 42℃), egg, sugar, cardamom and salt in a bowl. Mix in another bowl all the flour and the dry yeast. Blend gradually milk with flour, and in the end also the butter. Knead until the dough becomes elastic and smooth. Set aside in a warm place, cover with a tea towel and let rise for 40 minutes.

Punch down dough and turn onto lightly floured surface, knead for 2 minutes, or until smooth. Pick an egg size piece (or slightly larger) of the dough and shape it into a ball. Place balls of dough evenly spaced (leave room to rise) on to prepared baking trays, set aside. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.

Brush buns with slightly whipped egg and bake in an oven of 200℃ for 10-15 minutes, or until well browned and cooked through. Let cool before cutting and filling the buns with jam/almond paste and whipped cream. Dust with icing sugar, just before serving.


Another sliding day dish is the porky pea suop, slow food at its best. The taste gets better every time you reheat the soup, therefore it's a perfect  outdoor snack.


SPLIT PEA & HAM SOUP

1 pealed and chopped onion
500 g dried split peas
3 litres of water
500 g-1 kg ham bone
salt, pepper and dried marjoram to taste
Dijon mustard

Let the peas soke in water overnight. Cook them in the same water with ham bone and onion, until the meat is tender and peas soft, and the soup resembles a stew or a casserole. Shred the meat to bite-size, remove the bone, season with salt, pepper, marjoram and mustard.



No matter if you slide with your skis, ice skates or a sledge, as long as you spend the whole day outdoors and keep up the speed. As Finns wish to each other this time of the year "liukasta laskiaista"= "have a slippery sliding day!"