Rhubarb and Mushroom Salad ‒ Raparperi-sienisalaatti

Hello! I'm leaving for a long trip tomorrow so I don't expect to be posting anything before the end of August. But don't worry, I will be back with new ideas!

Why do dandelions always grow by the roads where you shouldn't pick them from? Why do they only become visible after they grow a flower and thus turn bitter? These were the questions I pondered why hunting for the meal of the day.

Finally I managed to fill my bag with fresh and tender dandelion leaves. I decided to cook a re-edited version of an inventive rhubarb and shiitake salad that's apparently originally from Irina Somersalo's book Yllin kyllin (Multikustannus 2008).

- 0.5 l young dandelion leaves
- 300 g mushrooms (shiitake fits this one indeed but use what ever you find)
- 1 rhubarb stalk
- 1 red onion
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp ginger
- 0.5 tsp salt
- oil for frying
- basil

Chop the veggies. Fry the mushrooms and the onion until they start to get some colour. Throw in the rhubarb and the spices. Continue frying so that the rhubarb turns into a mushy "sauce". Wash the dandelion leaves. Combine all. Eat while still warm.

Nutritional values / 670 g:
energy 354 kcal
fat 14 g
protein 12 g
carbohydrates 42 g
fiber 10 g

Nettle Pancakes ‒ Nokkoslätyt

Stinging nettle is often said to be the healthiest plant in Finland due to its richness in vitamins and minerals. There's for example seven times as much iron in it than in its cultivated comrade you can use the same way, spinach. My plan is to collect and precook many bags of it in the freezer for winter. Besides food you can use it for fiber, cosmetics (especially hair), herbal medicine, dyeing and as a fertilizer.

Remember, nettle leaves are at their best when young. Use plants that haven't flowered yet, after a sunny period when the nitrate concentration is at its lowest. Cooking or drying completely destroys the stinging toxic. And of course, you should never eat anything that grows close to a road or such. The taste flavours many kinds of soups, sauces, fillings, beverages and breads. And of course nettle pancakes, a comfort food that even every health food hater loves:

- 1 l young nettle leaves (or 150 g frozen spinach)
- 3 dl wheat or spelt flour
- 1 dl potato flour
- 1.5 dl oat milk or water
- 1.5 dl cider (made from real apples, not those disgusting fake ciders)
- salt
- rape oil for frying

Lingonberry cram is a must have with these. I also made a quick sidekick from fava beans, soy yoghurt, mustard and black pepper.

Nutritional values / 742 g:
energy 1322 kcal
fat 34 g
protein 36 g
carbohydrates 205 g
fiber 16 g



If you don't know sahti, you don't know beers. This primordial Finnish top-fermented beer is among the oldest still brewed beer types in the world. If there hadn't been a prohibition law in Finland from 1919 to 1932 it would also be the longest brewed beer type for sale ‒ officially. That crown now belongs to another fine beer, Belgian lambic, which also happens to have the probably closest resemblance of sahti.

Sahti's taste is soft, sweet and thick, often described as banana-like. Instead of hops it's flavoured with juniper. It doesn't bubble much and stores only a month at most the fridge. The old poems describe mash bushel being lifted on the roof for the thunder (=ukkonen) god Ukko water it and then fermented with the drool of a horny boar. And as you probably understand from this description sahti has a special place in certain pagan feasts.

At the moment I'm making my very first round of sahti for the most important holiday of the year, midsummer, the nightless day. This feast originally known as Vakkajuhla (= bushel feast) used to be celebrated with a big punch of friends by a lake to ask Ukko send rain for the harvest to grow. Christian invaders turned pretty much all the Finnish feasts to have Christian meanings but the only thing they managed to change in this one was its name: it's nowadays known as Juhannus which refers to John the Baptist. It still involves gatherings by lakes, drinking and eating, bonfires and fertility rites. I'll update this post after I've seen how my sahti turns out but I thought I'd post this plan already in the hope of inspiring the rest of you to try as well.

To be a purist you should keep in mind that:
1. Sahti doesn't contain hops. Instead it's usually flavoured with juniper (though I've heard some other herbs like heather or wild rosemary have been used as well).
2. Sahti is always made of barley malts. Some people also use rye or caramel malts but only small amounts for flavouring.
3. Don't use added sugar. All the sugar should come from the malts and sahti isn't supposed to sparkle either. You won't need sugar even in the bottling stage since it can't be stored long anyways. Besides, well cooked wort should already produce 10-11 % beer which in most beer types is more than enough to make it taste like alcohol and thus ruin its own taste.
4. Never let the mash temperature rise over 70°C or you'll get porridge. The wort shouldn't be cooked at all, only quickly sterilized at most.
5. The most common yeast used today is common baking yeast, not normal ale yeast. This gives sahti a distinct flavour. (Of course in the old times people just saved some yeast from every round for the next one. I wouldn't want to annoy an angry boar.)
6. Approximately, 1 kg of malts makes about 2 l of sahti. Yes, it's thick.
7. Sahti is served unfiltered. Actually the leftover yeast helps it last better.
8. Three most important things to remember are cleanliness, cleanliness and cleanliness. Sterilize all the tools you use, including your hands.

Of course, rules only exists to be broken. But if you do make exceptions to please your own taste then please don't call your beer sahti. You may feel it doesn't change that much if you use hops but names used very broadly cease to really mean anything. Here's what I did:

- 3 l sahti malts
- 3 dl rye malts
- 20 g juniper berries
- 7 l water
- 50 g baking yeast

Sterilize all your equipments. Put 3 l of water in a big pot and let it come to a boil. Add the malts. Keep stirring until you've got a porridge. Heat up until the temperature has reached 70°C and make sure it doesn't rise further. Simmer for an hour. Crush the juniper berries and throw them in. Simmer another three hours. Taste to make sure it's sweet enough. It's also desirable to measure the gravity at this point so it'll be easier to trace what went wrong.

Filter and pour into an air tight fermentation vessel (with airlock). Boil the rest of the water and pour in. When the temperature has dropped to about 20°C add the yeast, dissolved in a mug of lukewarm water. Let your sahti-to-be ferment in room temperature as long as it wants to. This should take about 3-5 days. Check the gravity again and bottle your sahti and store in cold for a week. Apparently, the bigger the barrel the longer the taste lasts. Don't leave room for oxygen. If you see a foam your sahti hasn't finished yet and shouldn't be drunk (unless you want stains in your underpants).

Ask your friends over to drink your sahti fresh! Here's a suggested drinking song as well.

Vagabond's Dulcet Fire Salad ‒ Rentun suloinen tulisalaatti

Fireweed is known in Finland as the vagabond's rose (rentun ruusu). A famous song for example tells about a boozer who crawls up from a ditch in the morning and takes fireweed flowers to his loved one as a sign of remorse for being lost for the whole week again. Much fewer people seem to remember fireweed also makes an excellent tea or salad. This one got its inspiration from the English name. It's sweet and burning for your heart just like a vagabond. Think I got a bit carried away with decorating it but I promise that for once the taste is worth the looks.

- 0.5 l young fireweed leaves
- 100 g strawberries
- 1 dl cooked fava beans
- 10-15 lemon balm leaves
- a handful of wood violets (or some other edible viola)
- 2 tbsp spruce syrup
- your favourite chili sauce

Wash the fireweed leaves and lay them on a plate. Sprinkle syrup and chili sauce on them. Slice the strawberries. Lay everything on the fireweed bed as beautifully as you want. Sprinkle some more syrup and chili on the beans and the lemon balm if you wish.

Nutritional values / 300 g:
energy 257 kcal
fat 3 g
protein 6 g
carbohydrates 54 g
fiber 13 g


Macaroni Salad ‒ Makaronisalaatti

Finland is all about forest. Even if you live in a city centre as I do forest is never that far away. You can do a little walk and return home with a bag of veggies you found there. That's what I call the right way to live. I sincerely believe a person's every meal should contain something he's picked with his own hands. Of course that's much harder in a real metropolis with no real nature anywhere near. But even then you can grow herbs on your window sill.

Just remember that just like rhubarb, common wood sorrel contains a lot of oxalic acid so you shouldn't eat it on a daily basis. When I was a kid teachers told us to pick and eat wood sorrel to get vitamins. Nowadays I think they more like warn kids not to. This is a great lunch or party salad even without it but I think it really gives the final touch.

- 2 dl macaroni
- 3 dl textured soy protein flakes
- 1 chili
- 3 red onions
- 2 apples
- 2 dl common wood sorrel
- 2 dl soy yogurt
- 2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise
- oil for frying

Cook the macaroni. Fry the soy flakes together with one chopped onion and chili. Cut the rest of the onions and the apples to pieces as well. Combine. Enjoy.

Nutritional values / 1073 g (without the wood sorrel):
energy 1403 kcal
fat 32 g
protein 53 g
carbohydrates 120 g
fiber 26 g


Milk Potatoes ‒ Maitoperunat

I couldn't control myself anymore. I never have the patience to wait for domestic new potatoes. When I saw Swedish ones in a grocery store I just had to buy some. At least they already taste the same, unlike those grown in Southern Europe.

Of course these small babes can be enjoyed as they are but the way I usually prepare the first round just emphasizes their flavour, making them officially the star of the meal they are instead of just some sidekick.

- 2 kg new potatoes
- water
- 2 dl oat cream
- 1 punch of spring onions
- 50 g margarine (for example Keiju 70 %)
- salt

Wash the potatoes but be careful not to scratch they thin little skin off. Put them in a pot and cover with water. Meanwhile, chop the onions. When the potatoes are done (should take only half an hour or so since they're so small) add the rest of the ingredients.

As the name suggests, this can also be done with your favourite veg milk. Just pour away part of the water and substitute it with milk. I just find the cream-water combination gives just the right richy feel in my mouth.

Nutritional values / 4370 g:
energy 2057 kcal
fat 54 g
protein 37 g
carbohydrates 339 g
fiber 24 g


Sausage Salad ‒ Makkarasalaatti

I have a confession to make. I hate salads. They're way too dry on my tongue, I feel like a cow trying to chew them and generally they taste just too healthy. Therefore I'm planning to make them more often. Not just some sidekicks but real filling lunch salads. I'll be damned if I can't make myself the kind of salads I really do enjoy. After all, this is the best time to pick materials straight from forests. Bye bye arugula and romaine, hello dandelion and fireweed!

This one draw its inspiration from a sausage. A dry, very spicy and small vegan wiener they sell for snacks in hippie stores. I've never bought one cause they cost way too much for their size but this time I got one from the counter for buying other stuff worth of 20 euros. So instead of just eating it right away I thought to make the little stubby the star of the evening menu. You can choose to use any kind of sausage you like the best.

- 1 vegan sausage
- 1 punch of salad leaves
- 5 dried tomato pieces ("sun" dried)
- 1 red onion
- 100 g pine kernels

For dressing:
- 1 dl soy yoghurt
- 2 tbsp apple wine vinegar (more aromatic than apple cider vinegar)
- mustard powder

Roast the pine kernels on a dry frying pan. Chop the sausage, the onion and the tomatoes. Mix the yoghurt and the vinegar. Place the salad on bottom and everything else on top of it, the dressing of course last.

Nutritional values / 493 g:
energy 1073 kcal
fat 79 g
protein 29 g
carbohydrates 30 g
fiber 9 g


Spruce Syrup ‒ Kuusenkerkkäsiirappi

Somehow I managed to miss the time when birches grew buds. I may have to wait another year to make bud spirits but at least I was right on time collecting those gorgeous light green spring growths (kerkkä) of spruces for syrup. I'm planning to make a second round when they grow red flowers and present yet another flavour, perhaps this time for spruce beer or cough-mixture. Just remember that gathering a tree's annual growth means the tree won't grow its branches that year so you'll need a permission from the land owner.

- 1.5 l spruce shoots
- 2 l water
- 1 kg sugar
(- 1 vanilla pod)

Soak the growths overnight. Cook them in the soaking water for 2 hours under a lid. Filter. Add the sugar to the liquid (plus the vanilla if you want) and cook until the syrup has turned brown and sticky. That should take at least another 2 hours. If the sugar starts to form bubbles that look like pearls you're in the risk of getting a caramel paste (that will soon dry hard and solid). Put the syrup in an airtight glass jar or bottle.

If the syrup should harden in the bottle warm the whole bottle in hot water and add a dollop of water to prevent it from doing the same trick again.

This is unbelievably delicious for example on ice cream or pancakes. Many people like to make drinks out of it. Also try using it in a marinade for turnips or seitan pieces.

(The nutritional values I usually count come pretty much from sugar only.)


Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream ‒ Mansikka-raparperijäätelö

This is among the best tasting ice creams I've managed to lick so far. The rhubarb breaks the overarching sweetness and makes this a truly fresh tasting delight. Which is a must on a sunny summer weekend like the ones we've had lately.

- 400 g strawberries
- 1 rhubarb stalk
- 2 dl sugar (by the way, I always use my sugar brown)
- 2 dl soy cream
- 3 dl soy milk

Blend half of the strawberries and half of the rhubarb with the cream, the milk and the sugar. Chop the rest of the strawberries and the other half of the rhubarb. Combine all. Put the wanna-be ice cream into freezer until it looks perfect. (A few hours should do.) Remember to stir occasionally so you won't get yourself just a big ice cube.

Nutritional values / 1235 g:
energy 1160 kcal
fat 29 g
protein 17 g
carbohydrates 206 g
fiber 12 g
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