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!)
March 8, 2011
Traditionally in Finland, Shrove Tuesday or “Laskiainen” (in Finnish) is the day kids go out to play with their pulk (pulkka, similar to a sled) downhill. Going to slide on the hill is what they call “pulkkamäki”.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t go pulkkamäki this year because my Pikkusiili is still sick. A huge disappointment for my other daughter, Luonnonvoima.
To make the day less boring, I offered her some Laskiaispulla and hot chocolate ^__^.
Laskiaispulla is a sweet cardamon-spiced bun served (and baked) on Shrove Tuesday. It is filled with strawberry jam (or raspberry) and whipped cream. Another version, common in Sweden, has almond paste inside instead of jam.
It serves the original purpose of Shrove Tuesday, the last festive day to eat “heavy” and prepare for Lent. Besides laskiaispulla, pea soup (hernekeitto) is often eaten too.
Laskiaispulla – Shrove Tuesday sweet buns
one recipe of traditional pulla (cardamon-spiced bun), strawberry jam and whipped cream
yields 20 small buns
adapted from here
- 2,5 dl milk
- 1 dl sugar (85g)
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 packet dry yeast
- about 7 dl special baking flour (I used erikoisvehnäjauho) – 1dl = 65g flour
- 100 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
Warm up the milk to 42 °C (to activate the dry yeast), mix sugar, salt and cardamom.
Lightly beat the egg and divide it in two portions (save the other to wash the buns before baking). Add one portion to the milk mixture, beating carefully.
Mix the dry yeast to part of the flour (about 1-2 dl ) and start pouring to the liquids, whisking to incorporate.
Add slowly the remaining flour (more or less, depending on the dough consistency. Too much flour and the buns will be hard). At last, add the melted butter.
Knead until dough is uniform, smooth and soft.
Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a damp teacloth. Leave in a warm spot for about 40 minutes until the dough has doubled its size.
When raised enough, remove the dough from the bowl, knead it on a flour-dusted surface, “punching it down” (removes the gas formed during the fermentation). Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces.
Roll the pieces to form balls and place them on baking sheets (I use parchment paper). Let the little buns rise again covered in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 225 °C ( I bake in 220°C)
Brush the buns with egg and sprinkle sugar flakes on top (optional).
Bake in center of oven for 10-15 minutes (till golden brown), remove and let cool on a rack.
To assemble the Laskiaispulla:
Cut the tops of the buns (a “lid”) and using a spoon scoop a bit from inside the bun. Fill the cavity with a spoonful of jam, the crumbs and top with the whipped cream. Close with the “lid”. Dust with icing sugar if desired.
Serve with coffee or hot chocolate ^_^.
This picture is from last year´s Shrove Tuesday. It was taken in a playground nearby and what you see in the middle (kids surrounding it) is called “napakelkka“. Napakelkka is some sort of merry-go-round with a box (or sled) connected to a log of wood that slides in circles when you push it. I am not sure, but it also belongs to the tradition of the Laskiainen.
Kylmäsavuporo mustatorvisieni pizza. Pizza with cold-smoked reindeer meat and black trumpet mushroom
November 24, 2010
“What? Reindeer? What? Black mushroom?”… Hey, don’t look at me like that! ^_^
I explain you, this supposed to be just a Food Memo entry… We had this pizza on weekend and it was amazing… Flavors hit the spot I was expecting and I thought it would be nice to share the experience with you ^_^.
Everything started with a very “bothersome” mention from hubs, the day he met his old high school friends in a pizza party: “we baked this wonderful pizza , there was mustatorvisieni (black trumpet) and moose meat”. Ah… ok… WHAT?
Do you know when once in a while something comes to you and you try not to think about it but it just keeps poking you in your head? I was determined to make that pizza. Or at least, something close to the taste I’ve imagined.
First of all, to get the mustatorvisieni (craterellus cornucopioides) . Never seen it fresh. Never seen it in the forest. Never seen it dehydrated. Never seen it anywhere (just in my imagination ^_^). Oh wait! (Now hubs enters the scene) “hey, check this out, they have mustatorvisieni in brine today”. Right… hmm… let’s grab a box :P.
To go with it… Kylmäsavuporo , the cold-smoked reindeer meat. They sell it in the charcuterie part of the supermarket. No kidding, just normal. Not an everyday cold-cut anyways, it is very strong.
Ah yes. The girls (we have little ones in this house don’t we?)… they didn’t want this pizza. I don’t blame them :). They are just kids right? So I made them a child friendly pizza with minced meat ;).
Have I told you that minced meat pizza is very common here? And it is one of Finnish kids favorite… yep.
Kylmäsavuporo mustatorvisieni pizza
Yield 3 ∅ 30cm pizza + 4 mini ones (2 mushrooms pizzas, one medium and 4 small sized “bolognese”)
- 400 g chopped canned tomatoes (I used organic)
- 1 tbsp of tomato purée
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 1/3 tsp salt
- one pinch of sugar
- fresh ground black pepper
- oregano and basil if you like
Mix all the ingredients in a small pan (except for the black pepper) and bring to simmer for 30-60 minutes, until sauce is reduced and tomatoes are melting. Add the black pepper to taste.
If you like a smooth sauce, smash the cooked tomatoes or use a blender. I like it “chunky” ^_^.
about 150 – 200 g grated mozzarella cheese
- 3 dl warm water (about 42°C)
- 3 tsp active dried yeast (I used Sunnuntai Kuivahiiva)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- about 6-7 dl durum wheat flour
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- a pinch of raw sugar
- corn meal (optional)
Pour the water into a large bowl, mix the salt, sugar and olive oil. In another measuring cup, mix the dry yeast with a small amount of wheat flour.
Using a fork, bring the flour and yeast to the liquid, swirling to combine. Add the rest of the flour, being careful not to add too much and make the dough too heavy.
The right moment to stop adding is when it starts to come together. Knead until you have a smooth, soft and springy dough.
Place the dough in a large bowl greased with olive oil and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp teacloth and place in a warm spot for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.
When you are ready to use it, remove the dough from the bowl, knead it on a flour-dusted surface, “punching it down” (removes the gas formed during the fermentation). Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll the pizzas out. It is better to roll one pizza at a time, unless you have a good timing on preparing everything ^_^.
Heat oven to 250°C
Sprinkle your baking tray with corn meal. If you have a baking stone, leave it waiting inside the oven. I don’t own one, so I just left my flat baking sheet heating up while I rolled the dough on parchment paper.
Brush the top of the pizzas with olive oil, spoon the tomato sauce, place the toppings and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake pizza one at a time until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden, about 10-15 minutes.
Cold-smoked reindeer meat and black trumpet mushroom topping
- 30 g sliced kylmäsavuporo – cold smoked reindeer meat (I used Lapin Liha sliced roast)
- 50 g (drained weight) black trumpet mushroom preserved in salted water (I used Kaskein Marja mustatorvisieni)
- a knob of unsalted butter
- 1 juniper berry (“katajanmarja”), crushed
- 1 small onion, diced
- fresh ground black pepper
Soak the mushrooms in water to remove the excess of salt. Dry them gently and put aside. Heat the butter in a small skillet and fry the onions until soft and fragrant. Add the mushrooms, the juniper berry and pepper to taste.
Cut the meat into small pieces.
Brush the top of the pizzas with olive oil, spoon the tomato sauce, place the reindeer meat and the mushroom mixture, sprinkle with cheese. Add oregano if desired.
Bake the pizza until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling golden, about 10-15 minutes.
Jauheliha pizza topping – pizza “bolognese”
- 200 g minced meat
- 2 small onions, chopped
- dried oregano and basil
- salt and pepper to taste
This is pretty simple. Fry the onions and the meat until golden brown, add the herbs and spices to taste.
Brush the top of the pizzas with olive oil, spoon the tomato sauce, sprinkle the meat mixture and top with cheese. Add oregano if desired.
Bake the pizza until the crust is browned and the cheese golden, about 10-15 minutes.
My notes about the recipe:
One could say there´s no point in writing the recipe, once the ingredients are “exotic”. Remember I said it supposed to be my “food memo” entry? Yep, you are right, I want the recipe for my reference too… (but hey, don’t you think it is entertaining just to read about something different?)
October 7, 2010
Last weekend my in-laws came for a quick visit. Girls were very excited about the fact they were going to see their grandparents and spend time with them. They live about 440 km from Helsinki and when they come to see us, it is almost a big happening for everyone.
Not only they brought happiness to the girls, they also brought us lots of produce.Those who follow me on twitter might know that my in-laws have a gorgeous vegetable garden which produces the most in summertime. Now it is Autumn and people in Finland are preparing for the cold months to come.
I got potatoes, carrots, swedes/ rutabagas , onions, some of my mother-in-law homemade pickles, a huge winter pumpkin and apples. We keep them in the cold storage downstairs that belongs to same apartment building.
I thought it was a good idea to use the apples as soon as it was possible. Those apples I got are slightly different from the ones you get normally from any supermarket. Finnish apples, most of them are small , very fragrant but also very sour. The sourness reminds me apple vinegar taste, no kidding.
Interesting thing is their flavor gets better when you cook them. Or when you use them in a pie :).
A little something about Finnish pies. The word for pie in Finnish is “piirakka” or “piiras” (and sometimes “torttu” ) and it translates to pie. You can see lots of pies in Finnish cuisine that don’t look the same, neither are made with same technique. It is a fact. You can find pies made of usual butter crust, shortbread crust, sweet bread crust, “pizza” crust, cake-alike crust, rye dough crust. Imagine a dough with a filling and we call it pie. Yep.
The apple pie I made this time is very common during the apple season. The dough reminds a lot a very heavy and rich butter cake in its softness and the filling varies according to what is in season. For example in Spring the same dough is used to make Rhubarb pie and in late Summer, Bilberry pie.
I forgot to mention.. my father-in-law has lactose intolerance and my mother-in-law has gluten intolerance. Because of that, I baked two pies : the first using lactose-free butter and the second, using a different dough recipe with almond meal.
Here follows both:
Omenapiirakka – Apple pie with “cake” dough
Adapted from the recipe that came on the package of my ceramic baking dish ( Kermansavi )
Yield a ∅ 25 cm pie
- 125 g unsalted butter ( I used lactose-free butter )
- 125 g caster sugar
- 125 g all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 eggs beaten
- 3-5 apples ( I used 5 small ones. A good substitute would be Granny Smith apples )
- 2 tbsp demerara sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Heat oven to 180 °C. Butter a 25 cm baking dish ( or a tin ) and line base with greaseproof paper. Wash and prepare the apples ( you don’t need to peel them if they are organic like mine ^_^ ).
Sift the flour and baking powder and reserve. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale. Gradually add the beaten eggs and the flour mix a little at a time , mixing carefully after each addition.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish. The dough consistency looks like a heavy cake dough ( or a soft cookie one ). Try to spread it in a way it looks like it has borders, like a pie.
Remove seeds from apples and slice them thinly. Lay the slices on top of the batter, overlapping them in circles. Sprinkle the demerara sugar and cinnamon and bake for about 25 min ( check the border with a skewer ).
Serve alone, with vanilla sauce or ice cream :)
Gluteeniton Omenapiirakka – Gluten-free apple pie
Yield a 18 cm x 24 cm rectangular baking dish
- 100 g butter
- 1 dl caster sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 dl potato starch
- 80g almond meal
- 1 tsp baking powder
- zest of half orange
- 4 small apples
- 1tbsp demerara sugar
- 1tsp cinnamon
Heat oven to 180 °C. Butter the dish (or tin ). I used the rectangular one because I didn’t have any better available :P . Wash and prepare the apples.
Combine the almond meal, potato starch, zest and baking powder and put aside. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale. Gradually add the beaten eggs and the dry ingredients mixture a little at a time , mixing carefully after each addition.
At this point you will think something is wrong. My dough got very liquid but I carried on with the recipe and it ended up perfect!!
Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish.
Remove seeds from apples and slice them thinly. Lay the slices on top of the batter, they will slightly sink in. Sprinkle the demerara sugar and cinnamon and bake for about 20 min ( check the border with a skewer ).
Let it set and cool before serving.
My notes about this recipe:
It is really necessary to leave the pie resting for a moment. Due to the crumbly nature of the dough, the pieces brake apart if you try to cut the pie while it is still warm.
The almond taste was so pleasant I myself enjoyed the pie so much and ate the rest of it after my mom-in-law left ^_^.
September 27, 2010
Suppilovahvero ( Cantharellus tubaeformis ) is one of my favorite Autumn mushrooms. It is called “yellow foot” / “funnel chanterelle” in English and belongs to the same family of the golden chanterelle. ( update: some don’t consider them as so, but only as trumpet-like mushrooms resembling chanterelles )
I had been looking for this mushroom for some time and it was a pleasant surprise to find it at the market last weekend. Mr. mies explained why I couldn’t get it before ( since golden chanterelles were widely available in the end of Summer ): suppilovahvero is a late Autumn type of mushroom, survives well when the weather is cold and even when covered by snow. Isn’t it amazing?
In Finland you can go to the forest and pick your own berries and mushrooms, as long as they are not protected or are endangered species. The concept is called “Everyman’s Rights” and it also gives you freedom to roam in forests and enjoy the peace there.
Anyways, I don’t really go to pick mushrooms myself because I am not good at recognizing the edible ones. I admire my mother-in-law, she knows berries and mushrooms a lot , so well she can fill all her stocks by picking them in late Summer and Autumn.
Suppilovahveropiirakka – Funnel Chanterelle pie
yield a 35×11 cm rectangular tart pan
- 10 dl Cantharellus tubaeformis mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped (use your hands to split them carefully)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 150 g bacon, diced
- 1/2 tsp of dried thyme
- 1 tbp of chopped parsley
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- 400 g ready pastry ( I used a mixed grain store bought, with wheat and rye flour )
- 150 g of grated cheese ( Emmental the best )
- 150 ml cream ( I used reduced fat )
- 2 eggs, beaten
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a pie tin with the pastry. Prick the bottom with a fork, cover with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights. Take to oven and bake for about 10 minutes until the crust is set. Remove and let cool.
Make the filling. Fry the bacon in a skillet until it gets golden and release own fat. Add the onion and cook until soft . Toss the thyme and reserve.
Without cleaning the pan, fry the mushrooms. If necessary, you can add a knob of butter to help the process. Allow to simmer until the water evaporates. Carefully taste with salt and pepper ( keeping in mind how salty the other ingredients are ) and toss the parsley. Let the mixture cool a bit.
Combine the eggs and cream in a bowl. Spread the bacon-onion mixture over the pastry, the fried mushrooms and sprinkle the grated cheese.
Pour the egg mixture over and sprinkle the chopped spring onion.
Bake the pie for approximately 25-30 minutes, until top is golden.
Allow to set for a while and serve with salad.
My notes about the recipe:
I was afraid to hide the nice mushroom flavor by adding too much salt but I ended up with a very “tasteless” result. Besides more salt into the mushroom mixture, I suggest to use a stronger cheese and smoked bacon to enhance all the flavors.
For a quiche, use regular pastry dough (pâte brisée).