May 1, 2012
Today is May Day, Vappu in Finnish. Vappu comes from the Swedish term “Valborgsmässoafton” (Walpurgis Night) a traditional festival for Spring. The celebration actually begins on the evening of last day of April and continues to 1st of May.
Vappu can be compared to a big street Carnival in Finland, everyone is soooooo happy, go out to have picnics and party outside. People wear decorative clothes, children get huge colored helium balloons, you can throw serpentines and wear your “yliopilaslakki“, the cap you receive when you graduate in High School (lukio). The same cap is used for “crowning” statues in towns around the country.
Also, as part of the tradition, people enjoy Sima, a sparkling drink that you can make yourself at home, usually accompanied by tippaleipä (a traditional Vappu fried cake), rosette (fried pastry) or munkki (donuts).
According to Finnish Wikipedia sima is considered to be mead but differs a lot from its counterparts by being much more sweeter and flavored with citrus fruits. Its alcohol content is very low too.
Honey might have been used to make Sima in the old times but nowadays the flavors are given the most by brown sugar and lemons. Believe me, it is a very refreshing beverage!
Sadly, I didn’t have time to make Sima last year… The beverage needs to be prepared in advance, takes about one week for it to become ready.
Sima – Traditional Finnish Mead
Recipe adapted from here
- 4 l water
- 500 g brown sugar (because I prefer a darker sima with deep flavor. If you want lighter, use 250g brown sugar and 250g caster sugar)
- 1/2 dl honey
- 2 organic lemons (juice and zest). Alternatively, remove the rinds and slice the lemons.
- 1/5 tsp fresh yeast (about the size of a pea)
- sugar and raisins for the bottles
- a big clean bucket (I used a 10L bucket) or a big pan with loosen lid
- 4-5 bottles with caps (if you don’t have glass ones, use clean plastic soda bottles, well washed and dry)
Boil 2 litres of water and put the sugar into the bucket. Pour the boiling water over the sugar and stir to combine. Once the sugar is totally dissolved, add the rest of water, honey, lemon juice and zest (or the lemon slices)
Let cool to lukewarm, then stir in yeast (dilute it in a small amount of water and add to the mixture). Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours (and up to 48 hours), until surface begins to bubble slightly.
On the second or third day you can bottle the sima. Strain the liquid into clean glass bottles or plastic ones. Add to each bottle a couple of raisins (3-5) and 1 tsp of caster sugar. Make sure the caps or lids are barely screwed on. Don´t close too tight!! Leave space for the gas to escape otherwise you will get too much pressure to your bottles.
Sima is ready when the raisins float on the surface (on day 5 or 6): takes about 3 days at room temperature or a week refrigerated (the temperature affects how quickly the beverage ferments).
Once ready, tighten the caps and put the bottles in the fridge. If you fear it is getting too much carbonated, release any gas from bottles that are too tight.
Keep in cool and serve chilled!
Consume in one week
You can easily double the recipe. Use 1/4 tsp fresh yeast for 1kg of sugar (half white half brown).
The raisins are added in the “secondary fermentation” to control the amount of sugars and to act as an indicator of readiness for consumption — they will swell by absorbing carbon dioxide and rise to the top of the bottle when the drink is ready (from Wikipedia article on Sima)
Hauskaa Vappua! Happy 1st of May friends!!
March 22, 2012
A couple of months ago my daughters got a cooking book from the book club we belong to. The book is in Finnish and the title translates to ” Hellapoliisi – My first recipes. Learn to cook!”
My girls were very enthusiastic about trying all the recipes, they are very kid-oriented (in other words, easy to follow and execute) and covers pretty much many traditional meals from Finnish households.
While browsing the book with the girls I told I could help to make some of the recipes with them, the first one being a classic tray bake cake called “mokkapalat“.
Yesterday I was woken up by my smaller daughter pushing the book against my head telling “mommy, we were supposed to bake that mocha cake today remember?” . UH, do I pay for my silly promises??
I have tried a different recipe for the same cake before. It is really a classic sweet treat and as you can guess, it is very “sugary”. Here in Finland they are a traditional pairing for coffee but kids happily eat them with a glass of cold milk.
Mokkapalat – Mocha squares
from this book . Yields about 20 squares or one baking tray*
*note: it is quite common that Finnish ovens come with baking trays, one flat and another slightly deeper. I used the deep one and it measures aprox. 35 cm x 32 cm . If you don’t have such, you can use Swiss roll pan or the biggest rectangular baking pan you find. Nevertheless, the cake might become a bit taller if you do so.
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 3 dl caster sugar (1dl = 85g)
- 4 1/2 dl wheat flour (1dl=65g)
- 1/2 dl cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 150 g melted unsalted butter. Save 1/2 dl for the icing
- 1 dl milk
For the icing
- 300 g icing sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 dl melted unsalted butter
- 1/2 dl hot strong coffee
- sprinkles or shredded dry coconut
Line your baking tray with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 225 °C.
Place the eggs and sugar into the bowl of your mixer and whisk until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl mix together the rest of the dry ingredients, using a sieve if necessary.
Remove the bowl from your mixer and start adding the flour mixture. Add the milk and at last, fold carefully the melted butter.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin and use a spatula to even the surface.
Bake for 13-15 minutes in the middle of your oven, until risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
When the tray has come out from the oven, prepare the icing by mixing all the ingredients together. The icing will look like a thick chocolate paste. Spread evenly onto the warm cake and immediately sprinkle your choice of decoration (we used hundreds and thousands ^_^)
Allow to set. Cut into squares and remove from the baking tray.
I also made Hello Kitty mocha mini cakes using a cookie cutter. The perfect small size for little girls ;)!
December 6, 2011
Finland celebrates Independence Day today, December 6th. Besides being a holiday, the day is marked by many events everywhere and it is closed with the annual President´s Ball which is broadcasted on tv every year.
For us, this tuesday was a day to relax. I was very glad we had this long weekend (LV didn’t need to go to pre school yesterday), to recharge our batteries and prepare for the Christmas Holidays.
We woke up very late and got surprised when we opened the curtains. Land outside was all covered with a white layer ^_^ ! The first snow of the year in Helsinki :)!! Too bad it melted away already, but it was beautiful in the morning.
I thought about making a bento featuring only Finnish food today, but in the end, I only made this little meal for my girls. Just to celebrate!
- Karjalanpiirakoita – mini Karelian pastries
These little “pies” are traditional pastries from the region of Karelia, eaten all over Finland nowadays. Consists usually by a rye crust filled with rice porridge or potato mash. Barley used to be its filling in old times but not anymore. My mother-in-law taught be to make karjalanpiirakka years ago… her pastries are the best I ever ate! However.. those “mini” ones were store bought, pre-baked (yes I know, not the same as homemade…)
- Small container with munavoi
Butter mixed with boiled eggs (muna translates to egg, voi is butter), a usual spread for the karjalanpiirakka.
- Leipäjuusto “hearts” with mixed berries jam
Leipäjuusto translates to “bread cheese”. It is a fresh cheese which origins comes from Ostrobothnia(area from Finland which once belonged to Sweden), Northern Finland and Kainuu.
This kind of cheese is prepared into flat round disks then baked and grilled (or charred) for the dark marks. Usually eaten with cloudberry jam and coffee. They “squeak” nicely when you chew them ^_^!
- Mini yoghurt dessert with crushed gingerbread (piparkakku), thick yoghurt with vanilla, topped with Finnish bilberries (mustikka). The berries were collected from the forest in late Summer and they are an important source of vitamins during the Finnish winter.
- Muumipeikko or Moomintroll made with a fluffy slice of pulla (Finnish sweet cardamon bread). Eyes are dashes of melted chocolate
- Cherry tomato, cucumber slices, green apple flower and for a treat, Fazer sininen chocolates. The most loved milk chocolate of Finnish people ;)
Hope you didn’t get bored while reading my post today… I really enjoyed writing about a bit of the Finnish food culture ^_^
Hyvää Itsenäisyyspäivää kaikille!!
(Happy Independence Day Finnish friends!)