Sun Rolls ‒ Aurinkosämpylät

We've had an exceptionally cold spring this year, but now it finally looks like the snow has withdrawn (at least for a while). To get to enjoy wild veggies quicker, I tried to lure out the Sun from behind those clouds with these rolls I made for a housewarming present.

Rolls like these are usually among the first things Finnish kids learn to bake on their own. Still, I've been looking for the perfect recipe for most of my life. They didn't rise at all, they became too dense, they tasted like sugar buns. Eventually I've come to the conclusion it's not really about the recipe, it's about the touch and some basic rules you need to learn by experience. This is why I tried to include some tips I've found helpful in the recipe, so the instruction part may seem a bit complicated than usual, though it's not really.

- 10-12 dl flour (mostly white wheat flour, but do try experimenting with adding different full corn flours, wheat germ or such for less bun-like results)
- 5 dl water (some use oat milk or such but I wouldn't bother)
- 50 g margarine
- 50 g fresh yeast (I've found dry yeast harder to control)
- 1 tbsp dark syrup
- salt
- 2 carrots
- 1.5 dl  sun flower seed
Make sure all the ingredients are room temperature. Dissolve the yeast in water (which doesn't need to be warm). Add the syrup, the salt, part of the flours and the margarine. Keep kneading with your hand while you add flours little by little. Optionally, crate in the carrot and the sunflower seeds too.

Add flour just enough to get the dough to detach from your bowl but see it still sticks to your fingers. Using more flour than you absolutely need just gives you hard buns. Also, if you're using old flours you'll need less than fresh ones. Knead at least ten minutes more to make sure you get long, pretty strings and gets some of that seitan-style structure. Smoothen the surface of the dough, cover with a towel and let it rise until it's doubled its size (should take less than an hour).

With a sharp knife, take fist-size pieces of the dough and carefully roll a bit between your hands. If you wish, decorate by cutting a cross (Sun symbol!) on them and sprinkling some more seeds. Place the rolls on the baking sheet, put the baking sheet in a warm place (like over a sink filled fit hot water if you don't have any better place) and cover again for half an hour. For a bit nicer colour, spray a little water with a spray bottle.

Bake in 225°C for 8-10 minutes. If you let them be a little longer you'll get crunchier surface. When they come out of the oven, instantly cover them with a towel to keep them soft longer. These are at their best on the same day.

Nutritional values / 1505 g:
energy 3426 kcal
fat 97 g
protein 116 g
carbohydrates 525 g
fiber 43 g


Avocado Pasta ‒ Avokadopasta

Doesn't sound like a terribly Finnish dish, does it? The reason I decided to add this to my blog however, is that it's been somewhat a phenomena in Finland for a year or so now. People are asking their friends: "Have you tasted Avocado Pasta already?" Half of Finnish food bloggers seem to have repeated it. They even say at one point it was so popular it was difficult to find avocados in all Helsinki. And now that I realised several vegan versions of it exist too, I thought I'd had to try it that way as well. Frankly, didn't notice much difference.

Avocado Pasta was created ex tempore by a Helsinki-based chef Alexander Gullichsen for his wife-to-be Hanna when they first started dating. According to the story, she thought it so good she was close to crying. Later, the pasta turned out a success in Alexander's restaurant Rafla, so it was also included in the couple's fresh cook book Safkaa, from where it really started to have a life of its own.

And no wonder. It's really simple to prepare. Perhaps I wouldn't weep over it but it does combine some quality ingredients in a way that make it hard to fail. In the vegan version two imported cheeses, pecorino and parmesan, are replaced with nutritional yeast, which also makes it a fairly cheap dish. At least unless you want to buy some Finnish-style taxed wine to go with it, which this dish does somehow call for.

- 400‒500 g spaghetti
- 2 perfectly ripe avocados
- 1.25 dl nutritional yeast
- 1 lime
- 1 bunch of fresh basil
- 1 bunch of fresh leave persil (or coriander)
- 1 garlic clove
- 0.5 chili pepper without seeds (Unless you've neve tasted chili before or you're using Naga Jolokia I recommend upgrading this to whole fruit.)
- a dollop of olive oil (I used 0.5 dl)
- salt
- black pepper

Make the sauce straight to the serving bowl. Mince the garlic and chili. Squeeze the juice from the lime. Split the avocados, remove the seeds, dice them in their skin and help them too into the bowl with a spoon. Cut the herbs. Add the yeast, the salt, the pepper and the oil as well. Mix with a spoon a check you used enough of salt.

Cook the spaghetti al dente in well salted water. Strain the pasta, but don't flush. Save a small amount of the cooking water and pour in the sauce. Stir the spaghetti up with the sauce.

Finalize the portion with nutritional yeast and black pepper on top. Serve immediately.

Nutritional values / 938 g:
energy 2614 kcal
fat 100 g
protein 79 g
carbohydrates 342 g
fiber 38 g


Cider Sauce with Juniper Berries ‒ Katajanmarjoilla höystetty siiderikastike

I've had some cider and juniper berries waiting for the next time I'll make seitan for a while now. Laura in her blog Kasvisruokaa has created an excellent sounding marinade from juniper, garlic and rosemary, but as at the moment I was thinking what we'd eat today, waiting untill the next night to get seitan properly marinated seemed like forever. So instead, I made a sauce from the cider and spiced it up with juniper and rosemary. The taste is quite strong and wouldn't fit together with terribly many things, but for a good seitan steak it's just perfect. Cider gives it a very zesty basic taste while juniper adds up a more foresty flavour. And while I was busy with this, my spouse cooked us an accompaniment that reminds me of Hungaria, paprika potatoes. I'll give ten points to this dinner.

- 5 dl dry apple cider (please stay away from those carbonated sugar drinks)
- 6 juniper berries
- 1 tbsp margarine
- 2 tbsp wheat flour
- allspice
- rosemary
- salt

Pour the cider in a small pot. Crush the juniper berries and add them as well as the allpsice and the rosemary. Cook until the cider has reduced to half. Take aside (and if you're feeling energetic, fish out the spices). Prepare a roux as if you were making a basic brown sauce. That means melt the margarine, sift in the flower and keep stirring until things turn all nice and golden (but not black, hopefully). Pour the reducer cider back on, add some salt and remove from the stove.

Nutritional values / 534 g:
energy 336 kcal
fat 11 g
protein 3 g
carbohydrates 23 g
fiber 1 g


Pearl Gruel ‒ Helmiryynivelli

Free school lunches have shaped Finnish food culture since 1948. It tends to give whole generations equal experiences and helps especially the lifes of the poorest families. The cooks actually spend a lot of time planning the menus so for many kids this is the healthiest and most nutritionally sound meal they'll eat all day ‒ something that isn't always as self-evident as you'd like to think.

Every generation also seems to have strong favourites and anti favourites.School food is generally criticised as lacking of taste, in the same way as say, hospital food, but the environment of hurry and lack of aesthetics also gathers critique. Sometimes I've thought you could put together an interesting cook book just by collecting together most hated school foods from different times. I grew up during the depression of the 90's in the Finnish version of Bible Belt, Ostrobothnia, and was one of the only three vegetarian students, so I still have a hard time eating square-shaped dry bread, grated root vegetables or raw cabbage ‒ what an excellent salad projet for the next winter. (Then again, I loved pea soup and spinach pancakes.)

For the generation of my parents, pearl porridge and pearl soup were definitely among the most hard-to-swallow items. And can't blame them, I mean gosh, those things are slimy. They're just potato starch pressed together, something I imagine didn't exist before second world war.

I, on the other hand, came to like pearl soup since it was something my grandmom used to make. Come to think of it, it doesn't actually differ much from the macaroni soup my dad made, so if you have a hard time finding "pearls", try macaronis instead. It might prove difficult since I haven't heard they would be used anywhere else in the world (although this might help). This version gets a bit more taste from fennel seeds and that medieval treat, almond milk, which is usually sold lightly sweetened so I omitted sugar altogether though in my records this is definitely a dish on the more sweet side.

- 1 l almond milk (you can choose any milk you like, I just thought this would give a nice aroma)
- 1.5 dl potato starch pearls
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp margarine
- salt
- sugar to serve

Heat up the milk. (Don't leave it alone as it might come out from the pot if it misses you.) When you start to see bubbles appearing, add the pearls and the fennel seeds. Let them cook for about 8 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and if you wish, a spoonful of margarine. Let the eaters decide if they want to sprinkle sugar on top.

Nutritional values / 1090 g:
energy 611 kcal
fat 22 g
protein 5 g
carbohydrates 306 g
fiber 16 g


Raw Buckwheat Porridge ‒ Raaka tattaripuuro

A typical Finnish breakfast to date is still porridge. According to this survey, that's what 40% of Finns eat, while 11% uses cereals. I've always been more on the bread league myself, but sometimes it's nice to get variation.

Raw porridge as an idea sounded like something only a very dedicated hippie would eat but once I managed to ovecome my prejudices this turned out quite yummy indeed. You could use any other grain you wish here, besides buckwheat at least millet, barley and oatmeal seem popular. If you add some dried fruits and berries it becomes surprisingly sweet as well.

- 2 dl barley
- dried berries and/or fruits, rosehips in this case
- nuts and/or seeds, sunflower seeds in this case
- enough water to cover it all

In the evening, put everything in a bowl to soak for the night and cover up with water. In the morning, blend smooth. Serve with berries or jam. (The ones you see in the picture are gooseberries, by the way.)

Nutritional values / 1152 g:
energy 2503 kcal
fat 124 g
protein 68 g
carbohydrates 276 g
fiber 89 g


Greenish Karelian Pies ‒ Vihertävät karjalanpiirakat

I feel people are often way too conservative when it comes to dishes where the whole idea is that you can stuff them with anything at hand. For karelian pies this nearly always means rice porridge. My personal favourite is still a rather classic turnip filling, but this combination has also managed to attract praises. Couple of times I've run out of the filling though there was still crust left, so if you want to play safe increase the amounts in the stuffing part a little.

Basic crust recipe

With a modernized filling:
- 200 g frozen peas
- 2 dl hazelnuts
- 1 lime
- 1 tbsp dark syrup
- white pepper
- salt

If possible, let the nuts soak in water the previous night. Make the crust as usual. Mash the peas and the nuts together. Wash the lime, crate some of the peel and squeeze the juice. Mix with the pea and nut mash together with seasonings.

Stuff the pastries with your filling and continue to heating the oven and wrinkling and as usual.

Nutritional values / 1152 g:
energy 2503 kcal
fat 124 g
protein 68 g
carbohydrates 276 g
fiber 89 g


Lettuce Wraps ‒ Salaattikääröt

I've sometimes thought about ordering tempeh fungus and try if it would work with peas as well. Turns out someone else has thougt about that as well and succeeded. You can now find domestic pea and lupine tempeh from Finnish stores. Apparently, horse bean tempeh is also possible to make. Next time I feel like a chemistry project, this is very likely the way to go. In the meanwhile, I can recommend at least the lupine version. In this case it's made of blue lupins grown in Lapua.

The package was rather small, so I had to come up with a way to incorporate it into a bigger dish without losing the tempeh taste in the mix. So I tried using salad leaves as a wrap like I've seen done in raw food blogs. On paper the combination sounded great and fresh but in practise these started to turn me off quite soon. Perhaps I shoul've used some less bland type of lettuce or collard than an iceberg head. Or maybe I shouln't have used that virgin oil when making the mayo since it tends to have much too strong a flavour. Nevertheless, this combination was clearly missing something. Perhaps this combination was a bad one all in all. Still, I'm going to write it down to hopefully give you guys better ideas.

- 1 lettuce head
- 150 g lupine tempeh
- 2 dl hazel nuts
- 1 dl mayonnaise
-  240 g canned artchoke hearts
- 1 tbsp mustard
- oil for frying
- black pepper
- salt

Blend the mayo with artichoke hearts and mustard. Slice the tempeh and fry lightly, seasoning only with salt and pepper. Crunch the nuts.

Carefully peel the lettuce leaves off. Fill them with a spoonful of artichoke mayonnaise, tempeh pieces and nut crunch. Wrap the edges on each other so the fillings will keep inside. Enjoy fresh.

Nutritional values /  1144 g:
energy 1575 kcal
fat 125 g
protein 52 g
carbohydrates 62 g
fiber 29 g


Mashed Cabbage ‒ Kaalimuusi

Reading my father's autopsy report I learned that in the time of the death his arteries were already so clogged his life expectancy wasn't terribly long anyway. Knowing how good old daddy ate and how much he loved butter that didn't really surprise me much. But considering coronary disease is still the most common death reason in Finland (accounting to a whole quarter of all the deaths) and especially wide-spread among men, the low-carb craze occuring here for the last couple of years has seemed a bit worrying. Or to be more precise, at least the way most people seem to carry the it out in practise.

All this of course, should be no reason to disapprove every principle that comes from low-carb communities, say cutting down on so called fast carbohydrates or favouring home cooking from fresh ingredients. Nor a reason not to read their forums in search of good ideas. One of the brightest ones I've encountered is mashing cabbage just like potatoes. A extremely simple idea, helps to include more veggies in your meal during the cold season and most importantly, delicious as hell. During the past couple of weeks this is the third time already we've prepared this. Bear in mind that this isn't as filling as mashed potatoes, so remember it's going to vanish from the table much quicker.

- 1 small cabbage
- 50 g margarine
- green pepper
- nutmeg
- salt

Chop the cabbage and cook it until soft. Pour the water away (and save for tomorrow's soup). Add the rest of the ingredients. Mash until smooth.

Nutritional values /  850 g:
energy 507 kcal
fat 37 g
protein 10 g
carbohydrates 33 g
fiber 17 g 


Cabbage and Horse Bean Soup ‒ Kaali-härkäpapukeitto

Recently we moved into a bit bigger appartement. The migration itself felt like a complete chaos and we had to sleep the first night on friends' couch since we simply couln't fit in with all the junk, but there were some positive things in the day too. For one, the soup a friend of my flatmate's prepared for all our wonderful helpers. That version contained several types of beans and chili sauce, but I thought I'd stick more with the version she wrote down here. The twist is in combining two separetely prepared food items, which of course, you can use individually too. I couldn't find kale so I just replaced it with more red cabbage and nettle.

Cabbage Soup
- 1/4 red cabbage
- 1 1/2 onions
- 0.5 dl kale
- 2 tbsp thyme
- 2 tsp dill
- salt
- black pepper
- olive oil
- 1 tl dry nettle
- 3 l  water

Marinated horse beans
- 3 dl dry horse beans
- cayenne
- tomato paste (3 tbsp)
- olive oil (2 tbsp)
- salt
- (apple) wine vinegar
- (smoked) paprika
- black pepper
- dry basil
(sugar or in my case, a tablespoon of dark syrup)

Let the beans soke in water overnight. Rinse and cook until soft. (Remember to peel off the foam.) Rinse again. Mix the marinade ingredients with the beans. Try to make strong enough to actually give taste to the beans. Leave in the fridge for the next day.

Chop most of the onion as well as the kale and cabbage, leaving bot big and small parts. Sauté separetaly. Let the water come to a boil. Add thyme, dill, nettle, salt and pepper. Let it all simme for 10‒20 minutes. Combine the soup ingredients except kale and simmer for another 30‒60 minutes. Check the taste and add the kale about 5 minutes before the soup is ready.

Serve the soup with marinated beans and uncooked onion circles.

Nutritional values / 3852 g
energy 1217 kcal
fat 44 g
protein 66 g
carbohydrates 129 g
fiber 65 g
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