or Creamy cauliflower soup (in 20 minutes!)

In August 2015, the food hall (Herkku) of Stockmann’s department store introduced their 20 minute meals *. The idea is pretty simple, 3 recipes per week and one dedicated refrigerator & shelf with ALL of the ingredients you need to make these three dishes.

The 20-minute meal section, Itis Stockmann
The 20-minute meal section, Itis Stockmann

The beauty of the recipes is that they really are ready in 20 minutes! One favourite that I have made on a few occasions is the creamy cauliflower soup with crispy bacon. Now as previously mentioned, we’ve taken a bit of a vegetarian / vegan turn in our diet. So some substitution is required. Following is the recipe with my substitutions in brackets!

INGREDIENTS – serves 3 nicely as a main meal, 4 or more as a starter
1 kg cauliflower
1 litre chicken (vegetable) stock
salt, black pepper
2 dl cream (oat cream)
1 pkt bacon (100 g nuts** – dry roasted if possible)
TO SERVE
Rye bread, cheese, tomato (paprika/pepper/capsicum to replace cheese)
RECIPE
1. Bring stock to boil. Cut cauliflower into florets, and add to stock. Cook until cauliflower is soft (about 12-15 minutes) and add cream.
2. Puree soup, season with salt and pepper.
3. Fry bacon to until crispy, remove from pan and use paper towel to dry bacon of any extra fat. (If nuts have not been roasted previously, heat fry pan to high, add nuts and turn heat down, tossing so they don’t burn!)
4. Serve with bacon bits (nuts), bread, tomato & cheese (paprika) slices.

Creamy cauliflower soup with nuts
Creamy cauliflower soup with nuts

* Link is in Finnish.
**Next time I use nuts I think I may chop them first, as they tended to sink in the bowl 🙂

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Mr. 17 is working very hard to convince us that a vegan diet is the way to go. Myself, I’m not so convinced, I am very fond of butter with my vegemite toast 🙂 and let’s not forget the world of cheese! Still we are definitely eating less meat this year.

Enter Härkis! One of a few new protein (i.e. meat substitutes) that have hit supermarket shelves in the last 18 months. It’s extremely versatile and you can use it in place of minced meat: burgers, lasagne, pasta sauces, tacos, woks etc. I got a bit excited on the weekend and ended up buying 4 packets… and prepared this dish for dinner last night: Asian Härkis Bowl. Follow the link for Finnish, read on for English! I’ve added some observations in the brackets 😉
INGREDIENTS – serves 4
2 dl basmati rice
200 ml creamy coconut milk
3 dl water
1 clove garlic
1 red chili
1 tbspn sesame oil
1 pkt Härkis (250 gm)
1 tbspn fish sauce
2 tspn soy sauce
1 tspn cane sugar
1 lime (grated & juiced)
TO SERVE
Roman lettuce finely cut, coriander, red pepper/paprika/capsicum cut to small cubes and roasted peanuts
RECIPE
1. Boil water & coconut milk together (watch closely – it boils quickly and I ended up with a coconut milk puddle on my stove!). Add the rice and lower the temperature. Cover and cook for about 12 minutes. (Stir occasionally!) Let the rice sit for a minute before serving.
2. Finely chop the garlic and chili, quickly fry in the oil. Add in the Härkis and season the mixture with fish and soy sauces, sugar and both lime juice and the grated rind. (Stir quickly.) Lift off the heat.
3. Place rice in the bottom of the serving bowl, and sit Härkis, lettuce, paprika and coriander around the end. Top off with chopped nuts.

Serving suggestion. Photo credit: Verso Foods. http://www.versofood.fi/en/home
Serving suggestion. Photo credit: Verso Foods.
http://www.versofood.fi/en/home

I’m using Verso’s picture as it was all gone before I thought to take a picture. However as this one is definitely added to the recipe rotation, there will be a picture opportunity in the future!

blinis-02
You have to love it when the recipe is on the flour packet…

Blinis, buckwheat blinis!  There is something magical about blinis. I’m not sure if it’s the buckwheat flour that gives them a lovely grainy texture or because the batter uses yeast and yoghurt and sits for at least a day fermenting or is it the topping of delicate fish roe and thick sour cream with a sprinkling of finely chopped onions. Maybe it’s the butter that they are cooked in.

No matter from which direction you are coming, they are pretty great. Better still, January is the traditional blini season in Helsinki. As I write this, at least four restaurants in the city centre are celebrating blini weeks. As nice as it is to eat out, I quite enjoy cooking them myself. It is an art form and they are definitely a dish that you need to watch while they are cooking.

Almost ready to eat...
Almost ready to eat…

Chatting with The Engineer on Sunday morning, I came to the realisation that blinis were one of the first dishes that I learnt to cook when I moved to Finland. It is also probably the one that took the longest to master.

A selection of toppings
A selection of toppings

Clockwise from top left we have Smetana (a lovely thick sour cream), chopped onion, roe from the European white fish and roe from rainbow trout. Note the different colours and textures of the roe!

Ready to eat! Bon appetit
Ready to eat! Bon appetite

 

Counting the days!

Over the past couple of years, The Engineer and I have made an effort to eat out at least every second month. Small, cosy restaurants that are doing interesting things with food (and local food to boot) and wines that you can’t find at Alko. Even when we are travelling within Finland, if there is a restaurant that takes our fancy, we’ll book a table and see how we go. Because we’ve done a lot of domestic travel, our list of restaurants to go back to keeps growing 🙂 From Sica Pelle in Porvoo to  Musta Lammas in Kuopio and plenty more!

Back in early spring, Finnjävel * opened – celebrating Finnish food, Finnish methods and Finnish design. It’s taken us this long to get a booking… changing travel plans by The Engineer put paid to our last reservation. To say I am excited about this is an understatement. I’m even tempted to put up a little countdown clock…

In two weeks time I’ll be able to come back and tell you all about it! I might even take pictures :/ (Although I’ve shied away from doing that lately, it’s much nicer to enjoy the food and surroundings without stressing about whether I took a picture or not.) In the meantime, I think I’ll concentrate on my own Finnish food for midsummer.

Dessert from another of our favourites, Chef & Sommelier:

Raw chocolate & raspberries.
Raw chocolate & raspberries (& beautiful plates).

 

*Finnjävel or Finnish devil refers to the name bestoyed on Finnish immigrants to Sweden in the 1950’s & 1960’s.

Mämmi: The Final Rite of Passage

Mämmi. Pronounced in the same manner as cat. It’s the traditional dish for Easter in Finland. It’s also one of those dishes that people either love or hate. I fall into the former camp. I tasted mämmi on my first visit to Finland and definitely took seconds. It doesn’t look extraordinary or even like it would inspire such extreme emotions. At a recent book-club gathering I heard the best description yet: dehydrated Guinness.  Black or dark brown sludge if we are being really honest. The texture to eat is slightly grainy and the flavour is rye, sweetened a little.

So last Monday I was sitting in my Finnish class and we were discussing Easter and how it is celebrated in Finland. Mämmi and Pasha (dairy dessert from Russia) were discussed at great length. Naturally our teacher was interested to know who had tried mämmi and who hadn’t, who liked and who didn’t. Not so many had tried it, although there were a few hands that stayed up to admit actually liking mämmi! The teacher didn’t ask if anyone had tried to make it, so I went hunting for a recipe. The first one I found in English was here, the time didn’t seem too long and the ingredients would be easy to find. I called anoppi-M and offered to bring mämmi as our Easter contribution.

When I arrived home that night I dug out my faithful Ruokatorstai recipe book. Of course there was a whole section just for Easter and mämmi recipe to boot. So Thursday I gathered my ingredients and started prepping the mämmi:

Mämmi ingredients: Salt, molasses, malted rye flour, rye flour and powdered orange peel.

First mix all the dry ingredients together and boil one litre of water. Place the kettle into a basin filled with warm water. Whisk in five decilitres of dry ingredients, one at a time. By the time the fifth scoop of powder had gone in the mixture was very heavy. The whisk wasn’t going to last, so I switched to an electric hand whisk.

Three litres later...Mämmi mixing
Three litres later…Mämmi mixing

Sprinkle with two more decilitres to form a ‘crust’, cover with the lid and then bath towels on top to keep the warmth in. Leave for an hour. Repeat.

Keeping the heat in - mämmi under cover
Keeping the heat in – mämmi under cover

In fact repeat until all the water has been boiled and all the dry ingredients whisked into the ‘porridge’. THIS is where I got into a little bit of trouble. My biggest saucepan is only 5 litres… So I decided to use my bread mixing bowl. Then the mixture came to the very top… and no room for further boiling as per the recipe.

Mämmi mixed... and nowhere to go
Mämmi mixed… and nowhere to go

The hour was also getting late and there was still some boiling to be done BEFORE heading into the oven.

Mämmi boiling... just enough space
Mämmi boiling… just enough space

So, a quick dish-wash later and the mämmi was returned to the stove and returned to the boil for 15 minutes. Stirring all the while to discourage sticking. Unfortunately there was sticking although, luckily no burning 🙂 There was some colour change, although not so much yet. The smell as quite thick, although not unpleasant. Then the mixture was moved to the baking tray(s) for cooling and resting. I thought one tray would be enough, sadly this was not the case and so I had to improvise.

Mämmi resting in an oven tray
Mämmi resting in an oven tray

The next stage involved waiting for the mixture to cool enough to pour the thinned molasses over.

Mämmi covered with molasses
Mämmi covered with molasses

It was really late by this stage. Far too late! So into the oven the mämmi went and on went my timer. Three hours at 150 degrees C. Unfortunately I slept through the timer and woke in a panic an hour later. It wasn’t looking very good:

Mämmi out of the oven and looking very dark...
Mämmi out of the oven and looking very dark…

I touched the top and texture just felt wrong. The shop bought versions are always sticky and fingers sink. It did appear to be a crust, so I hoped that underneath the texture was as it should be.

The car was loaded up, mämmi and all and we headed to Rauma. Good Friday dinner was crowned with the mämmi for dessert:

Mämmi with raspberries
Mämmi with raspberries and whipped cream. YUM!

Due to the large amount prepared, mämmi featured for the rest of the weekend and there is some in the freezer for guests later in the year.

Again... Mämmi with apricots this time
Again… Mämmi with apricots this time

What I did learn is that not many people actually make their own mämmi any more. After seeing the effort involved, I can understand why. Both The Engineer’s mother and grandmother had never made it, it’s far too easy to buy any of the many brands that fill the freezer section these days. Will I make it again? Probably, although only if there are lots of people to cater for and if my timing is better organised!

Easter ‘Baking’

I heard this earlier as I started to get this ready. Egotrippi and Matkustaja (The Passenger).

Easter Monday we arrived home mid afternoon, after a slightly nerve-racking ‘will we won’t we make it’? to the next fuel stop before we hit empty. In the end it was just and just okay…

I’d been counting on our local corner shop to be open so we could restock the fridge. Unfortunately, that part of the plan fell through. So it was back to scrounging through the cupboards to come up with something for dinner. Not to heavy, and not so light that we’d be hungry again by bedtime.

Potatoes + flour + eggs = potato bread. Page 364 of Ruokatorstai *. Perunarieskat ** coming up!

Ruokatorstai
Recipes!

First step is to cook the potatoes You can cheat and use instant mix, which I’ve done in the past. It works, however the texture and flavour aren’t quite the same.

Step 1
Spuds on the go

Step 2 is the mashing: The best bit, although if I was mashing for normal eating now is the time I’d pour in some hot milk or toss in a few chunks of butter…

Let’s mash

Now once we have the mash, it’s best to let it cool a while.

Cooling Mash!

So while the mash cools we gather up the rest of the ingredients: barley (ohra) flour, eggs and salt.

Everything ready?

The over is set to 250 C, baking trays covered with paper and we’re set to make some dough.

Dough
Lumpen mass (is that even a real word?)

Now comes the fun part. The dough needs to be worked into snake-like shapes in preparation for slicing (cutting) into rounds.

Snakes or slugs?

So my slugs of dough are cut up into nice rounds which are then squashed and place on to the baking tray.

Into the oven we go
Into the oven we go

Once they go into the extremely hot oven it is only a matter of minutes before they can be pulled out and left to cool.

Careful... hot
Careful… hot!

After a few minutes, transfer your potato bread to a serving plate. Serve as an accompaniment to soup or on their own. Great with just butter, especially when they are fresh from the oven.

Ready to eat

* Literally translates as Food Thursday. Collection of recipes published in Helsingin Sanomat’s Thursday food column. One of my favourite Finnish recipe books.

** Potato flatbreads. There are many different versions of rieska, this one is a family staple.

My first restaurant review

There’s an old saying that if you  have a good experience you tell 1 person and 5 people if it’s a bad experience. Well I thought I should do a little research and it turns out that these numbers aren’t so exact. Rule of thumb seems to be that you’ll pass on the good news to one or two people and anything from 5 – 10 will hear about the bad experience.

Well, I’m here to turn that around. I had a great experience at Ravintola Motti earlier this week. The head chef I’ve known for the past 6 years (his daughter and Mr. 12 have been classmates during that time) and he’s also known from TV appearances. Before that, Risto has been a great  contributor to our class events! Guaranteed, if we arrange for everyone to bring a plate, his plates are always empty first. For a little taste of Risto, you can find his blog (in Finnish) here.

So, my colleague K and I had a girls night out. Well, not really. We spent the whole night talking. I was home by 22:00 (10 pm). (Come on!  it was a school night).

The food was sublime. Swede Cappuccino with this fantastic fennel foam. Potato macaroni and a white current dipping sauce. Crab ice-cream for K and a reindeer roulade for me. Melt in the mouth stuff. Beetroot and chévre mini tartlets. Beetroot is one of my favourite vegetables and I will eat it whenever it’s on the menu. Tarte Tatin for dessert, with creamiest apple ice-cream I’ve ever tasted. This is Finnish food at it’s best. Silvio Berlusconi  and Jacques Chirac were mistaken. Badly.

The table setting was simple, classic crockery and glassware. The bathrooms are really cool without being ‘too cool’. The service was attentive, the wine was paired very well and I’m sure I know the head waitress from somewhere. Two days later and I’m none the wiser. It will come to me eventually.

I like open kitchens.  Even though it was a quiet night, the kitchen noises weren’t loud or disturbing during service and we could go to say thank you and farewell to Risto and his team.

One of my favourite finnish words is suosittelen or I recommend. Absolutely I recommend! As Molly Meldrum was in the habit of saying: ‘do yourself a favour’ and check this place out. One day when I’m free in the middle of the day I’m going to check out the lunch offering.

PS: Remember my two little words post from earlier in the week. Well, Ravintola Motti will get one of my cards too!

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