Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ham, Mushroom, Basel and Sundried Tomato in a cream sauce

Pasta is quick an easy. My son says spaghetti should not be over cooked and it should be al dente. Al dente is a fancy term for pasta that's fully cooked, but not overly soft. The phrase is Italian for "to the tooth," which comes from testing the pasta's consistency with your teeth.

But the way that he does it is to take one strand of spaghetti from the pot and throw it agaist the wall at the back of the cooker. If it stays stuck to the wall for a few seconds before it falls down then it is al dente. If it does not stick then it is not fully cooked. It might be a messy way to test... but it works perfectly.

And for the cream sauce. Fry some onion in butter with rock salt and course black pepper, and add cubes of oak smoked ham. Cut in half Sitake mushrooms and for colour add sundried tomatoes and torn basil leaves. Mushrooms shrink considerably if you cook them for a long period of time so put them in at the end together with the cream. When everything is piping hot pour over your pasta. Superb.

Ham on Rye with beefsteak tomatoes and pickled gherkin (evening snack)

There is no beating Finnish Rye bread. There are so many varieties but my favourite is "Jälkiuuni" sour rye bread. First off the bread is sour and salty. This is due to fact that the starter for the sourdough has lactobacillus, which produces lactic acid to give the bread that acid bite.

This bread is called and "after-oven" bread. Once all the other bread has been baked at the bakery and the oven is cooling down this is when the Jälkiuuni Rye bread is put into the oven. It is circular and has a hole in the centre. In the olden days once the bread was baked a pole was shoved through the hole and the rye bread hung from the rafters. Because of its sourness it was a bread that could be kept for a long time.

Due to to baking process of a long slow and low temperature the bread is a very tough and it gives good exercise to the teeth just to eat it. I love it with oak smoked ham, beef steak tomatoes, and pickled gherkin, and even though it is quite salty I am not averse to grinding some sea salt on the tomatoes for that extra ping.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Djam cake with cream and hot chocolate

Wedding anniversary 33 years and we go out for some coffee and cake, and a movie afterwards. Djam is Swedish but what the hell it is good stuff especially with some cream on the side and a drizzle of hot chocolate sauce covering the plate in a manner that would have made the action painter Jackson Pollack proud.

And the movie afterwards we went to BioCity where they don't do Hollywood. There was a good choice and it was a toss up between a french movie called the choir boys and a mongolian movie about a camel that cried.

I wanted the French movie since I did not want to have to say to anyone who asked me what did you do on your anniversary that I had been watching a mongolian movie abut a camel that wept. We went for the choirboy movie but before it began they showed a trailer for the camel that wept and I almost wished I had gone to see it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Thai green curry with basil on parsley rice

How do you cook perfect rice, well I do it according to the method my daughter taught me. It is very simple and works every time. The rice is not undercooked, and it does not get burnt to the bottom of the pot. This is her secret.

Take 2 dl of rice (a dl per person is the rule )and add a vegetable stock cube. Don't bother with salt. Boil up 4 dl of water seperately, I do this in an electric kettle, and when it is boiling vigourously, pour it on top of the rice. Keep the water boiling, and in about 8 minutes the level of the water will have gone down so the rice begins to show.

At this point turn the heat off completely and put the lid on the pot and let it rest for a further 6 minutes. Sprinkle in some dried parsley and if you want add a dash of olive oil to make the rice glisten, or if you want a knob of butter will do the trick as well. Mix butter and parsley into the rice and serve imeadiately.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Cinnamon buns ( Korvapuusti )

Bread is good but Korvapuusti is better. Bread is sensible and sturdy. Korvapuusti has a tan having been basted with whiped egg. Bread is solid and very serious, it does not make jokes. Korvapuusti is flecked with cinnamon and glows with saffron, it giggles behind its hand, or laughs outright straight in your face. Bread wears steeltoe capped industrial boots, and it stand on the table with its hands on its hips, defiantely. Korvapuusti has satin ballet pumps and frilly pink ribbons, and it will dance until it is out of breath.

Korvapuusti what a strange name (Korva=Ear, puusti=a slap) ( Korvapuusti= A slap on the ear.) Yes the shape of it looks like the ears of a boxer who has gone a few too many rounds with Mike Tyson, or the ears of a Welsh second row forward, that are swollen due to years of rubbing and chaffing on the haunches of the prop-forward.

The secret is in the spices. Into the dough you put cardimum and saffron, and when the dough is rolled out you spead on butter, and sprinkle with sugar, and dust with cinnamon.

1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk
4 cups flour ( Sunnuntai )
6 table spons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Spices Cinnamon, cardimum, saffron.
For glaze: 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoons water.

When can you eat it? I cannot resist eating it straight from the oven while it is still hot. I know it must be really bad for you, and we have even told the kids wait until it cools, only to sneak a nibble at a fresh korvapuusti while nobody is looking. Korvapuusti is one item of food that can easily turn you into a thief and a hypocrite.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Bread of life

Why should you make bread? Well basically for the smell. If you come into a house where bread has been baked, it has got a wonderful welcoming aroma. When you take rolls from the oven and they are steaming fresh, you can hardly wait to slap some butter on them and see it melt into the warm pores of the bread. Bread and butter alone is a treat, but if you want to go overboard then the perfect combination is to add emental cheese with tomatoes, or if you want your delight to have a sharper taste then go for metvursti and pickled gherkins

Recipe: Maija's secret recipe

Water, yeast, salt, honey, oats, wholemeal four, white flour, olive oil and butter. You think she is going to give you exact amounts... no way... the dough is made by feel. You know when it is right and that only comes through experiance, and how do you get experiance? Well one of the best methods is to have five kids who all love the bread that you make, and will eat it as fast as you can make it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Eat raw stuff

Alot of people eat raw food and never think anything of it. An apple an orange a bannana. So what!!! I suppose some people make a big thing out of eating raw stuff. They would say it is healthier, and that you are getting vitamins and other trace elements that might be destroyed through cooking.

I don't even take those things into consideration. I eat raw because it is easy, and it cuts out having to expend enery cooking things. The above salad has got lots of raw stuff in it. Raw smoked salmon (norwegian) celery sticks (israel) sliced tomatoes (spannish) Mozzerella cheese (italian) pickled ghrekin (polish) oak-leaf lettuce (finnish) garlic cloves (iranian).

The good thing about this kind of raw salad is the contrast in flavours. A drizzle of olive oil, and a shake of balsamic vinegar, and some freshly ground pepper makes it perfect.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Home made Sushi

I like raw fish. The Finns like raw Baltic herring. I have just discovered a new variation Limesilli and I thought it would go well with some sushi rice. It is a misapprehension that sushi is raw fish. In actual fact sushi refers to the pearl rice treated with the the rice vinegar sauce. It is true that raw fish features prominantly together with sushi, but to give it its proper name it is called sashimi. The rice is wraped in edible roasted seaweed called Nori.

The package of Nori that I bought was from Yutaka, and in it was a small sachet of moisture absorbant chemical, and on the package it said "DO NOT EAT", and there was I thinking I would make a sauce of it!!!

I made two rolls, one with cold smoked salmon, and the other with the lime Baltic herring. For some green colour I added some celery leaves. Dill might have been better. One sheet of nori can be cut into six parts. I used a very sharp knife and to make cutting easier, I warmed it with with hot water. Keeping the knife moist also helps. That sushi rice is very sticky. The two side sauces were sweet chilli and pineapple and the other Ketjap Manis a sweet soya sauce.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Thai green curry soup with cold smoked salmon

I bought some cold smoked salmon to make some sushi and having rather alot of it I decided to make some Thai green curry soup. Something warm for this cold weather. It snowed rather heavily overnight.

4 small potatoes thinly sliced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 small leek roughly chopped.
1 green pepper
2 tablespoons Thai green curry.
1 small tin coconut milk.
200 gm cold smoked salmon cut into 2 cm chunks.
Olive oil.

Saute the leek in the pan with olive oil. Add potato and carrot strips and briefly stir in with the leeks and olive oil. Add half liter of water and the green thai curry powder. Bring to the boil and then simmer until potatoes and carrots are cooked. At the end add the coconut milk, salmon chunks, and green pepper, and serve immediately while the green pepper is still cruchy. Perfect.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Bread and Cheese Wednesday 16th March 2005

Good bread is hard to beat. I don't mean that cotton wool bleached bread with a shelf live of a milllion years. I mean real bread full of flavours. The bread I had this morning for breakfast was "Vaasan Kaura Pellava" (Oat and linseed) I topped it it off with JuustoPortti Pohjanmaa, a semi hard, full fat, mature cheese.

Finns are spoiled for good bread, especially rye bread. Finns who are abroad usually want three things cardemum for pastries, Turun Sinappia mustard for sausages, and Fazer Rye bread to compliment a bottle of lager.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lazy porridge Tuesday 15th March

So you don't like to wash up the pot after making porridge, well this is the way to do it if you are in a hurry. Do it straight in the plate. Take 1 dl of porridge oats: I use the Elovena brand cos they are good and I like the packaging, and put then in a deep bowl. Add 2.5 dl of water or if you want 1 dl of milk and 1.5 dl of water. Add a pinch of salt and bung the plate in the microwave for 2 min 30 sec. Stop the microwave at 1 min and give it a stir and then continue for a further 1:30 min. Take it out and let it rest for 1 min and then eat it with milk and sugar.

Nothing quite like it to fill the stomach on a cold winter's morning.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Hot potato soup Monday 14th March

Soups are simple and good and very easy to make. Ten minutes for preperation and 25 minutes to cook. Here is my recipe for hot potato minced meat soup.

5 small potatoes diced (type firm rather than mushy)
2 carrots diced
2 onions diced
2 cloves of garlic sliced (garlic is the new salt)
200 gm of minced meat
1 vegetable stock cube
Sprinkling of parsley and chives.

Saute the onions with a knob of butter, add 1 litre of Evian bottled water... just kidding tap water is good enough, Add the other ingredients and boil for 25 minutes. Test the potatoes with a knife to see that they are ready. If they fall off the knife they are good to go. As a garnish add the chives and parsley at the end. Serve with oat and linseed bread, and have a beer to go along with it.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Pasta with Swedish meatballs Sunday 13th March

Pasta with mushroom sauce and swedish meatballs toped with fresh chives.

Simple cabbage salad

Ilana our friend from Israel made us a very simple cabbage salad. It is so easy to make and so tasty. The ingredients are as follows:

One fresh young cabbage.
a handful of prunes.
half a lemon or half a lime whichever you prefer.
A drizzle of virgin olive oil.
Freshly ground rock salt.

Shred the cabbage in thin slices and keep as long strips (no dicing). I use a Japanese knife for this the blade is broad and the edge keen and it makes a great job of shredding cabbage. Cut the prunes into nibble size chunks and mix with the cabbage. Squeeze on the lime or lemon juice and add a drizzle of olive oil, then toss the salad to mix the ingredients once more, and finally grind some rock salt over the top. Finnished and perfect.

A UK top chef on an American TV show tossed is salad and the co-presenter and american asked him why he was tossing the salad rather than mixing it with a spoon. With a wink the chef replied "We are all tossers over in the UK".

Viili Breakfast 13th March 2005

Viili is a Finnish dairy product. I think the best way to describe it is "ropey milk". It is not like yoghurt it does not have that smooth consistancy. It is very stretchy and stringy, as you can see from the picture you can lift it from the bowl and and it will form a strand more than 5 cm long.

They sell these machines for making yoghurt, sort of incubators because the lactobacillus that performs the fermentation requires a temperature of around 45C to be able to grow and ferment the milk sugar lactose into lactic acid. Making yoghurt at home requires some management, but I have been told instead of buying expensive equipment, you can just use a styrox box with a 100 watt lightbulb fitted to it. It generates enough heat inside the box for the fermentation to take place.

The beauty of the cultures used for making Viili is that all you need to do is place some milk in a bowl and add a spoonful of Villi as a starter and overnight the milk will have set and the Viili is ready to eat. You can get Viili with very low fat. The stuff that I am eating is 1% and I top it off with bannana and a raisin meusli.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Franco Sporco's in Trieste

Franco Sporco has a restuant in Trieste Northern Italy. I suppose his nickname would be "Frank the Pig". The special thing about Franco is that to get into Franco's you have to have connections. Someone who has his telephone number. You call him up and if he likes the sound of your voice then you can book a table. At Franco's there are no menus you eat what he cooks for you.

He has a cigar perminantly stuck in the corner of his mouth. A dish towel over his shoulder and flour on his hands and he cooks the most amazing fish. Fish is the only thing he ever cooks. For the meal he will give you 10 litres of either Tokai or Pinot Grigio, and as much cibbatta bread as you need to mop up the gravy from your plate. An evening will start at 8 o'clock and when the last course is served it will be well past midnight.

For starters he will do a clear clam soup, and after that some fritto misto to nibble on untill the main course arrives. His speciality is a lobster dish which has king prawns and mussels thrown in, and if he does you mussels on their own he only uses white wine, onion, chives, rock salt and black pepper for the sauce.

Two hours into the meal he will play LP's by Harry Belafonte. Mostly happy calypso songs "she jump up in the air come down in slow motion", and expects everybody to join in the chorus. Eating at Franco's is a very happy experiance.

Salmon on a bed of salad

salad bed

Salmon on salad bed

Salmon salad almost all eaten

Spiced salmon Saturday 12th March

Ready for the oven

Spiced salmon for two

Half a kilo of Norwegian salmon (tail section)
Olive oil and Apple cider vinegar
Rough rock sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Zest of Lime
One grated pistacho nut

Place aluminium folio on a baking try and add a dash of olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Dip both sides of the salmon in the olive oil-vinegar mix. Place salmon skin side down and sprinkle with rough sea salt, freshly ground pepper, the zest of a lime and grated pistacho nut.

Fold over the folio to make a tight package so that none of the juices can run out, and bake in the oven at 200 C. The fish will remain moist and absorb all the flavours from the different spices. Serve with a salad.


If you were thinking that brown stuff was some kind of chocolate mousse you would be wrong. It is mämmiä a traditional Finnish desert served around easter time. The mämmiä box is always brought out and unsuspecting foreigners are asked if they would like to taste it.

A thick round dollop is extracted from the mämmiä box and sort of thrown onto the plate. That stuff is so thick and sticky that it takes a quick flick of the wrist to get it off the serving spoon, and when it comes to rest on the plate it looks like something a dog would have left on the pavement. The hosts then smile a wry smile and wait for you to eat it.

Friday 11th March Salad

click photo to enlarge

Oak leaf lettuce
Mozerella cheese
Feta cheese
Spanish Beaf tomatoes
Finnish Cucumber slices
Roasted pistachio nuts (Iran)
Potato and cucumber salad
Zest of lime
Vaasan Rye Bread with chives spread.