Sauna Bundles ‒ Saunanyytit

Having a sauna is such an integral part of Finnish culture in general and such a self-evident part of any informal gathering of people I don't normally even think about it.Within the past week I've bathed twice in a sauna. On Friday with my spouse we had our weekly turn in the housing cooperative's communal electric sauna. A week ago we ended up to a friend's wood stove sauna together with all the other guests that came to the party. During the midsummer weekend we also thought about trying out a public tent sauna but unfortunately the keepers had already rolled it up by the time we got to the happening.

It's not anymore the place where every Finn is born and dies, but you still can't fully understand Finnish culture separate from it. Sauna is a sacred place that I hounour for making everyone equal and stripped from titles at least for that small moment, as well as keeping away that shame and over-sexualization of our own and others' bodies.

So you understand I was a bit shocked when I read about an Internet questionnaire by Finland's largest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, the result of which was that 38% of all answerers have never been to a normal mixed sauna in their life and only 57% sees them natural. Guess this explains why all public saunas either split the groups of friends in half according to their sex organs or make you wear a swimsuit, which kind of ruins the idea of cleansing oneself. The top example of this is the longest worked public sauna Rajaportti, where the original design was altered by building a sex segregation wall through the whole building when mixed saunas were banned in 1931. Up today, I don't know a single public sauna I could go together with my friends in the manner we do in home circumstances. But somehow, there's something very Finnish in that when one half of people likes something and the other half doesn't, everyone has to work on the terms set by the dissaprovers.

To get to the actual point, meaning food, I've never really got used to the idea of it being appropriate to eat in a sauna, rather afterwards. But since the sauna stove is hot anyway, you can also use it for cooking. Here's a simple vegetable snack you can cook in a tin foil. You can of course use pretty much anything you wish or happen to have in bundles like these. Sweet potato and champignons as well as rutabaga and smoked tofu pair nicely for example. The thing in these is that the moist veggies and their condiments together form a lot of sauce which was described as "Chinese take-out" to me, so you can easily plan a whole meal around them.

- 1 zucchini
- 1 eggplant
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 onion
- 1 garlic (yes, a whole garlic)
- 1 chili
- 2 tbsp rape oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 200 g melting soy cheese

Chop the veggies and mix with the oil, the soy sauce and the vinegar. Divide evenly on foil sheets. Sprinkle with soy cheese.

Leave on a sauna stove (or grill or 200°C oven) until everything has softened up (this should take about half an hour). Enjoy together with your after sauna beer!

Nutritional values / 1393 g:
energy 1278 kcal
fat 90 g
protein 42 g
carbohydrates 70 g
fiber 24 g


Omelette in Bell Pepper ‒ Paprikoitu munakas

Quite a while now I've had this idea of cooking pea omelette inside circles (or whatever their shape is) cut from bell peppers. I've waited patiently as it hasn't been the right time for bell peppers. I even had to try whether this would work with tomatoes and grill first, but I missed the fried surface of the omelette part and the tomatoes of course needed a folio around  them since they went all soft before the omelette batter managed to coagulate at all.

Chickpea omelette makes a perfect quick meal for a lazy day. Adding the bell peppers around them doesn't give much more trouble than that but it's a change to adding them into the omelette, and besides looks nice on a dinner with friends. Usually I've made them with chickpea flour only, but this time I added some tofu to make the structure thicker and softer. For a fluffier structure, I also used sparkling water as the liquid and added a teaspoon of baking powder, but they're not necessary. Spicing them well is, since they can quite easily remain a bit lame.

- 4 bell peppers (you can be more adventurous than me and use different colours)
- 300 g silken tofu
- 3 dl chickpea flour (also called gram flour)
- 3 dl sparkling water
- 5 spring onions
- 0.5 dl nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp rape oil
- 1 tsp baking powder
- cilantro leaves
- mustard powder
- turmeric
- salt

Cut circles of the bell peppers. Save the tops and bottoms to be used later. Blend the tofu. Sprinkle the flour with it little by little, stirring while you're at it. Add the spices, the baking powder, the water and the onions too. Mix well.

Heat up a frying pan. Apply oil, place the bell peppers and pour the batter inside them. When the omelette has coagulated, turn around and cook from the other side as well. Serve with a zesty and fruity sauce.

Nutritional values / 1458 g:
energy 1323 kcal
fat 47 g
protein 72 g
carbohydrates 146 g
fiber 44 g


Cherry and Dark Chocolate Ice Cream ‒ Kirsikka-tummasuklaajäätelö

Being a child of warmness and light, I love the way how these nightless nights try their best to compensate the darkness and heaviness of winter. It's no accident that the more north you go the more metalheads there are. It's a bit disturbing sometimes to realise that the Portuguese guy dressed in black and chains, who you just met, is really a representer of a scared and ridiculed marginal group, when you're used to this stuff being completely mainstream. This applies inside Finland too: there are more dedicated metal music listeners in Oulu than there are in Helsinki.

But for me, heavy music is an inseparable part of the light of midsummer too. I've spent most of my adulthood midsummers in a heavy festival Nummirock, held in the middle of nowhere by the village's farmer society, because the atmosphere is the friendliest and most peace-loving I've seen in any mass event, coming from both the audience and the workers, who tend to overlap. So this morning I had to put on some black metal.

The plus side in listening the stuff at your own home is that you can have dark, homemade ice cream while you're at it! This time I tried making the base from nut cream for the first time, but this would work just as well with oat or soy cream. Also, this was the first time I tried my flatmate's ice cream machine instead of making the stuff by hand like I normally do. The plus side was of course that it happened more quickly but on the other hand, the stuff never ended up as cold and thick as I had hoped for. From what I've gathered from different net forums, apparently if you're going to use a machine for the job you should buy a good one, good in this case meaning expensive. But can't whine, all of this disappeared quicklier than you can growl the name.

- 4 dl cashew nuts
- 2 dl water
- 300 g cherries
- 2 dl cherry jam or puré (or 1 dl sugar)
- 100 g dark chocolate
- 4 tbsp cocoa powder

Blend the nuts together with the water. This works easier if you've let them soak for the previous night. Mix in the jam and the chocolate powder. Chop the chocolate. Remove the cherry stones and quarter the cherries. You can add the cherries and the chocolate now or at the very end of the process. Pour the stuff into your ice cream maker and follow its instructions.

Enjoy while listening to this for it's no light treat. Only cold.

Nutritional values / 1076 g:
energy 2503 kcal
fat 144 g
protein 63 g
carbohydrates 236 g
fiber 17 g


Yogurt Garnish for New Potatoes ‒ Jugurttilisuke uusille perunoille

One of the biggest holidays in Finland, the midsummer or Juhannus, is on the door. As this is the celebration of the Finnish thunder god Ukko, the tradition is to tent or sleep in a cabin by a lake, with lots of friends, do love magic and eat (and especially drink) well. For the first time in years I'm going to spend it in city.  Today we're probably going to see the bonfire in Pispala, a city district known from one of the biggest hippie and artist concentrations in all Europe. On Sunday there's a grill party at a friend's garden, so that still leaves the "official" day open for negotiations. One of the plus sides of a city midsummer is of course being able to use your own kitchen, so I think we're going to take the eating part especially seriously this year.

Usually I belong to the school that thinks new potatoes should have very simple sauces or sidekicks. I usually just eat them with plain margarine or white sauce. When cooking the first batch of the year I add a carton of oat cream, salt and some spring onions to their boiling water ‒ only a step away from summer soup.

This time I wanted to make a use for the fake shrimps I once bought from an Asia store and had been sitting in the freezer for months. I've never quite grasped the urge of Asians to make vegetarian dishes that replicate the look of different meats as perfectly as possible, but oh well, if it tastes good that's all that matters. I've never cooked shrimps in my life but the look kind of lead me to design a dish that uses the same methods I at least imagine would fit with them. I don't know about the (apparently authentic) texture of the "shrimps" themselves, which turned out to be ridiculously low in protein too, but the sauce turned out delicious. It complemented well the sweet taste of new potatoes, but might also be used as a filling for oven potatoes or as a pasta sauce.

- mock shrimps (or simply precooked soy strips)
- 5 dl soy yogurt
- 1 dl white wine (or apple wine)
- 1 rhubarb stalk (or a lemon)
- 1 small punch of fresh dill
- 1 piece of leek
- 2 tbsp margarine
- salt
- white pepper

Chop the leek and the rhubarb. Melt the margarine on a frying pan. Add the "shrimps", the rhubarb and the leek. Turn them around so the "shrimps" get some colour and the rhubarb mashes. Pour the wine on them, stir and let the whole thing simmer for as long as the liquid has reduced.

Mix the shrimp pan with the yogurt. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir. Mince the dill on top. Serve with potatoes or pasta.

Nutritional values / 1145 g:
energy 1780 kcal
fat 40 g
protein 26 g
carbohydrates 67 g
fiber 8 g



I got this acknowledgement from  Paula of Veikeä verso. Thank you, Paula!

The rules of the challenge:
1. Thank the person who gave you this challenge.
2. Answer the 11 questions proposed for you.
3. Make up 11 questions. (All don't have to concern food like this one.)
4. Share the acknowledgement for11 blogs with under 200 readers.

1. Your favourite dish/ingredient?

This keeps changing a lot. As you may have noticed, the first green wild veggies were like a small  heaven for me after the long, dark winter, when there wasn't much crunchy and tasty things available. Perhaps at the moment it's tomatoes, new potatoes, nettle and zucchini. Also, I'm very eager to sink my teeth into those first strawberries.

2. Your least favourite dish/ingredient?

I've pretty much taught myself to like all the things I didn't, first of all because it makes life easier and second of all, because I have a low tolerance for grown-ups being picky. But I do sneer at bland food that hasn't been made with love and respect for the ingredients. Examples include "pea soup" where peas are the only ingredient, those mayonnaise breads you can get from every kiosk, a bag of frozen vegetables just thrown on a pan without any seasonings that gets called a meal and "vegetarian pastas" in chain restaurants without a single source of protein besides tons of cheese. You know, the stuff that's more like feed than food and which makes a bag of potato chips seem like a tempting choice.

3. What kitchen equipment you wouldn't give up?

This question seems to be on the line "how primitive are you ready to go". Though the first things that pop into my mind are a stove and a refrigerator, perhaps a good, sharp kitchen knife as well as a dishwasher are really closer to the answer it's looking for.

4. A kitchen inutility?

Guess this is only a matter of what you actually use. But can't say I fully understand the idea of a separate rice cooker that seems to make more trouble than just boiling the damn rice in a kettle. I assume it's useful if you're keeping a Thai restaurant but in a normal home kitchen? Also, I find the habit of my spouse wanting to wrap all leftovers in plastic a bit icky but try to bear it.

5. Your fast food tip for workdays?

During summer there's nothing easier than a filling salad. In wintertime I tend to favour chopping everything from the fridge on a frying pan with some spices.

6. Your best party/feast dish?

They change depending on the nature of the given feast. Besides, I rarely like to prepare the same thing twice for the same people. But I think my dip sauces have always done rather well.

7. What kind of kitchen philosophy or food principles do you follow?

I hope most of my philosophy is apparent in this blog. I favour food made from the scratch, choosing best ingredients of the season and preparing them in a way that brings out their own aroma and couldn't have been the same on the other side of the planet. I respect resourcefulness and fresh ideas, but resurrecting traditions is also valuable. If you're interested in my ethical concerns, I just wrote about them with a bit more depth.

8. Your favourite restaurant?

I don't go to restaurants that often but when I do, I usually prefer good-quality Asian places since they tend to have real vegetarian choices and offer a different taste world from most my own cooking. For a tourist in Tampere I'd recommend Plevna because of the historical atmosphere and perhaps the best beer in all Finland.

9. Your favourite café?

I'm more of a pub person, but Kahvilla right next to me is an adorably cozy and hippie place with a lot of options and a sincere attempt to make their customers just hang out there, playing games, meeting friends and listening to music.

10. To who's dinner table would you like to get to?

My friend Päivi Lehtonen just released her first cook book Kotipuutarhan keittokirja, which concentrates on finding use for things that people often get from their gardens more than they can handle. She's a biology doctor who decided to change her research career for becoming a cook specialised in local food. So far I've only had a change to taste some of her individual dishes, so it would be interesting to get to savour through a whole dinner planned by Päivi.

11. What would you want to learn to cook?

Oh I could just write a neverending list here. I haven't really found the sparkle for raw cooking yet, I'd like to become a decent confectioner someday, molecular cuisine presents tons of tempting ideas and haute cuisine still seems like only a matter of arranging the items nicely on the plate to me. Little by little I think I've finally built up enough of confidence to host some dinner parties for friends, so that's something I'm sure I'm going to do more. Another thing I'd definitely like to become an expert is cooking for children, since we're waiting for our first baby at the moment and I have really no idea what those things should be fed with after the initial breast feeding period, beyond the fact that it shouldn't contain salt. Yikes!

My questions:
1. Who are your greatest kitchen heroes besides mom?
2. Best alcohol drink for cooking?
3. What kind of a food-centered feast would you like to take part in?
4. If I was coming over for a dinner, what would you cook?
5. How much time do you normally use for cooking?
6. Do you plan your weekly menus in advance?
7. Your most horrible restaurant experience?
9. At the moment, what kind of ingredients are the easiest to acquire where you live?
8. What would you cook while trekking in wilderness?
10. In what country have you got the best food so far?
11. What country would you like to visit just for the sake of food?

I challenge:
Greek vegetarian
Green Gourmet Giraffe
Czech Vegan (in America)
Life Up North
While Chasing Kids
Reissausta ja ruokaa


Fresh Tomato Sauce with Ground Elder and Horse Bean ‒ Tomaattikastike tuoreista tomaateista, vuohenputkesta ja härkäpavuista

This is quite likely the ugliest photo I've posted all year. The actual dish I promise is definitely worth a try though. It was one of those nights it got late before we had time to cook and feeling hungry we had to put up something quick. So I took the punch of fresh tomatoes that really start to taste their best this time of the year and put them in the pot. With them I wanted to use ground elder which is said to be on its best in tomato-based dishes. When the sauce was ready, I took the extra time to take couple of fast shots and then it was suddenly gone with even plates licked. Forever gone. No remains for morning. I may have to prepare it again.

- 5‒6 well riped tomatoes (let them go over ripe by all means)
- 1 big punch of ground elder leaves
- 2 dl horsebean crush
- 1 lovage sprig
- 1 small punch of fresh basil (or 2 tbsp pesto)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp rape oil
- black pepper
- salt

Pour the oil into a sauce pan. Quarter the tomatoes and sauté them on a mild temperature until they've turned into mash. Add the rest of the ingredients (greenies chopped, garlic minced) and let the sauce simmer for about half an hour. Serve with good quality, nutritious pasta.

Nutritional values / 770 g:
energy 714 kcal
fat 18 g
protein 47 g
carbohydrates 88 g
fiber 48 g


Rhubarb Chutney with Chili ‒ Chilinen raparperihilloke

Before 18th century Finns usually acquired sourness to food by using levain. Then vinegar was introduced and eventually it became really popular. In restaurants and higher class families it used to be a basic table condiment along with salt and pepper. But in Finland vinegar usually meant white vinegar made from barley spirits whereas in Southern Europe vinegar used in food is nearly always made from different wines.

I have a small collection of different vinegars in the kitchen closet, but my most trustworthy bottle lives in the bathroom. I tend to use apple wine vinegar in everything from cooking to cleaning to hair and fabric conditioner. It's a different thing than apple cider vinegar which the English speaking world seems to be most attracted to and which I don't believe I've ever even seen. From what I can gather, apparently their acidity is about the same but apple wine vinegar has a mellower and perhaps fruitier taste from the two.

This recipe however uses the classic white vinegar which has as high as 10% amount of ethanolic acid but is otherwise rather odorless and colourless. In case you want to replace it with some other type, you probably need a bit more and you'll also get yet another taste in the mix. The rhubarb itself is also sour of course, so I used sugar to round the taste a bit. It became a wonderful condiment for the first barbecue of this summer, together with cherry tomato, tempeh and zucchini skewers as well as this year's last asparagus rolled in seitan.

- 800 g rhubarb stalks
- 1 onion
- 1 bell pepper
- 3 chili peppers (I used aji benitos)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 dl farine sugar (or muscovada)
- 0.5 dl white vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- cinnamon
- cardamom

Chop the veggies. Put everything in the same pot. Cook about half an hour and stir every now and then. Let the chutney cool down. Pour it in clean glass jars. Let it rest for couple of days.

Serve as a condiment with any dish. Works especially well on any grilled or deep fried dishes.

Nutritional values / 1422 g:
energy 1069 kcal
fat 1 g
protein 12 g
carbohydrates 239 g
fiber 18 g


Dandelion Sima ‒ Voikukkasima

Gardening is about trying to weed out the plants that flourish in certain soil and conditions and trying to make plants that don't want to live in those conditions prosper instead. This summer we rented an allotment garden from the city for the first time, so we'll see if that's true. Already when seeding I did get this strong feeling we'd be at constant war with certain grass types that grow just awesome roots that snap every time you try to pull them out. Dandelion is perhaps more common plant that some people really try to fight with on their lawn. This is something I've never understood. I mean, they're really beautiful and may even make those otherwise awful golf yards look almost bearable. But perhaps that's just me who mostly likes yard that look like no human hand has ever touched them.

At least these "teeth of a lion" or "butter flowers" like they are called in Finnish can be quite delicious to get rid of. Their leaves can be used as salad leaves and their pungent taste gets often compared to that of salad rocket. Their roots can be roasted, ground and used as a herbal tea or coffee substitute. And those pretty flowers themselves, well, they smell and partly even taste like honey. Which is why I like to make a sparkly summer drink out of them.

- 3 l dandelion flowers
- 6 l water
- 1 dl farine sugar (or muscovado)
- 4 dl sugar
- 1 rhubarb stalk (or a lemon)
- 1 fingertip sized piece of fresh yeast

Right after you've picked the flowers, boil them and in three litres of water for about ten minutes. Fish out the flowers, save the liquid and boil the flowers again in a fresh batch of water. This time discard the flowers altogether. Chop the rhubarb and add it as well as the sugar to the liquid. Stir to make sure all the sugar has dissolved. When the liquid has cooled down to lukewarm, add the yeast piece. Let it rest for a day or so.

Next day, bottle the sima into clean bottles. You can also add a teaspoon of sugar to each bottle to assure they'll sizzle. Leave them in room temperature and let the extra pressure out every now and then so they won't explode. I personally prefer plastic bottles because of this. Check the taste after three days. Serve cold on a hot day.

Nutritional values / 6 l:
energy 2040 kcal
fat 7 g
protein 21 g
carbohydrates 491 g
fiber (not applicable)
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