Rutabaga Casserole ‒ Räätikkäloora

Somehow I've managed to forget posting one of the four classic casseroles of the Finnish Christmas table. The others are of course carrot casserole, potato casserole and liver or in my case, raisin casserole. As a replacement of some sort I have remembered rutabaga cubes in syrup though. Nothing wrong with that, but here's the true classic, too. While potato and carrot only became common relatively recently, rutabaga is something you might call original part of the standing table, after all.

- 1 kg rutabaga
- 2 dl oat cream
- 1 tbsp dark syrup
- cinnamon
- clove
- allspice
- breadcrumbs and margarine to top with

Peel and cube the rutabagas. Steam them soft. Mash smooth and mix together with the cream and the spices. Spread in a casserole and finalize by sprinkling breadcrumbs and margarine pieces. Bake for an hour in a 175°C oven.

Nutritional values / 1283 g:
energy 849 kcal
fat 45 g
protein 16 g
carbohydrates 96 g
fiber 21 g


Yule Stars ‒ Joulutortut

Yule stars or Christmas tarts are one of those things every Finn gets fed up during December. I tried to search the origin of them, but it turned out surprisingly difficult. Some writers say they originated in England which is funny because I haven't heard these would be known outside Finland. I assume we're talking about some tarts resembling them but not exactly like them. The first written recipe we know is by a Swedish cook Cajsa Warg in her book Hjelpreda i hushållningen för unga fruentimber, printed in 1755, but for my knowledge, Swedes of today don't know them either. Anyway, judging from the ingredients alone, these are probably one of those things that became popular in the 19th century among noblemen and which regular folk just couldn't even dream to afford.

This year there was a small public outrage when the public broadcasting company of Sweden (the country which Finns have a very complicated love-hate relationship with) claimed them swastikas. Nothing wrong with Sun symbols during the biggest Sun festive of course, but unfortunately it was more like Nazi symbols. This of course assured their popularity among younger Finns with a bad sense of humour like me. In our this years solstice bring-dish party there was little else than Yule starts to eat.

At least that gave me a change to compare self-made tarts and those with store-bought dough. The store-bought ones win in flakiness and fluffiness but of course, lose miserably in taste category. Making the dough yourself does take a little work though, so it's understandable why modern Finns most often cut corners here. The key words to success are coldness and layers. My personal secret ingredient is booze which boils away in the oven, leaving things crunchier than plain old water. It's not essential but if you don't want the extra taste, you can use good quality, odorless vodka.

- 1 l wheat flour
- 500 g margarine
- about 2 dl cold water
(- 2 tbsp brandy or vodka)

- 300 g plum jam (or apple marmalade)

Measure the flour into a large bowl. Place the margarine on it, cold. Start chopping the margarine with a knife until the pieces are about the size of a pea. Drizzle the brandy on the crumble as well as about 1 dl of cold water. Mix with a spatula. Keep adding water a spoonful at a time until you manage to get it mixed. Even quickly by hand and move the resulting clump into a cold place for half an hour.

Place the dough on parchment paper. Roll it flat and thin. Fold one third from the left on the centre and one third from the right on the centre. You should now have a three-layered dough. Turn it 45 degrees an roll again. Repeat this process a few times. Move into a cold place for half an hour.

Now roll the dough one more time and cut into squares. If you're going for the traditional star shape, make cuts from all corners towards the middle. Portion a good spoonful of jam on the middle. Fold the left side of each corner in the middle. Press a little so they won't open up in the oven. If you're afraid your so-called friends will mistake you for a neonazi, try a flower shape instead. I got three baking shields or 27 stars from this amount.

Bake in 225 °C until the edges start to acquire some colour ‒ that's about ten minutes. For a "snowy" effect, dust with powdered sugar.

Nutritional values / 1 star / 50 g:
energy 203 kcal
fat 14 g
protein 3 g
carbohydrates 16 g
fiber 1 g


Beet Temptation ‒ Punajuurikiusaus

I've talked before about the wonderful casserole type of dish called temptations.They usually involve potatoes cut into strips but it being December and all, this time I wanted to use beets. Their colour is so wonderfully dark and Christmassy, though this is still quite an everyday dish.

This makes a creamy and fruity accompaniment for a more humble main course.

- 1 kg beetroot
- 4 dl oat cream
- 1 leek
- 1 dl barley
- 1 chili (I personally think habanero gives a nice fruity aroma. But if hotness isn't your thing, try a winter apple instead.)
- thyme
- green pepper
- bread crumbs and margarine to top with

Peel and julienne the beets. Cut the leek and chili too. Mix all the ingredients in a casserole. Bake for half an hour in a 175°C oven.

Mix things a bit with a spoon. Sprinkle bread crumbs on the casserole. Top with a few margarine pieces. Bake for another half an hour.

Nutritional values / 1765 g:
energy 1297 kcal
fat 54 g
protein 30 g
carbohydrates 169 g
fiber 45 g


Yule Log ‒ Jouluhalko

On the Finnish Independence Day the president invites war veterans, the parliament and commendable citizens from many areas of life to his palace in the centre of Helsinki. The occasion is televised and people often gather together with their friends to watch how the guest come in certain order to shake hands with the president and president's wife or husband. We try to guess who they are, review their clothing and play silly drinking games. Later, when the dancing begins, we tend to forget they exist and just spend some good time together.

Except not this year. This year the reception was held in Tampere, half a kilometer from my home. And the biggest news wasn't who wore the most revealing dress but the other gathering outside. Some have called it a full-scale riot while others claim it a demonstration where couple of drunkards just happened to hang along. I almost feel sorry I never went out to see myself what really happened. But then again, we were too busy eating the yule log my spouse baked.

Yule log is essentially a Swiss roll made to resemble a piece of wood which was traditionally burned during the celebration. The tradition derives from Germanic paganism, just like Christmas tree. They are rarely seen in Finland though I think it would be a rather great dessert for the traditional standing table. After all, Finns are forest people like ewoks. In our mythology, the Yule is all about how the Great Oak grows huge enough to cover the Sun during the winter solstice and how the light returns after the tree is cut down.

Swiss roll is one of my spouse's kitchen specialities, but we've never managed to prepare a satisfying vegan one. Every time I've seen pictures of pretty and perfectly rolled vegan Swiss rolls, the recipes seem way too complicated and feature ingredients I've never even heard of. So when I found Saara Törmä's perfect looking log with the weirdest ingredient being banana, my spouse wanted to make it right away. The only change he made was switching the filling and the frosting. Now this definitely the holy grail we've been looking for. Next time it might be interesting to try if the banana could be replaced with berries or mämmi.

The cake:
- 2 dl wheat flour
 - 1.5 bananas
- 1 dl sugar
- 0.5 dl oil
- 0.5 dl vegetable milk
- 0.5 dl potato flour
- 2 tbsp coffee
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- a hint of salt

The filling:
- 125 g margarine
- 100 g dark chocolate
- 2 dl vegetable milk
- 1 dl icing sugar
- 1.5 tbsp potato flour
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar

The frosting:
- 175 g margarine
- 1.5 dl icing sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp rum or brandy
- 1 tbsp strong coffee

First, the filling. Mix the icing sugar and the potato flour in a pot. Whisk in the milk. Heat up carefully, whisking all the time, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add the vanilla sugar. After the milk kissel has cooled down, whisk the margarine until it's fluffy and add it to the mixture in small amounts. Melt down the chocolate (bain-marie is probably the easiest method), see it's not too hot, and add into the filling in small amounts. Move into the fridge.

Next, the frosting. Whip up the margarine like you did before. Add the rest of the ingredients and smooth down. Leave in room temperature.

Finally, the cake itself. Mash the bananas. Mix together with the sugar, the oil and the milk. In a different bowl, mix the dry ingredients too. Combine the two and mix well. Spread evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for ten minutes in a 225°C oven. Cover with another parchment paper and then another baking sheet. This should help you to flip the cake over. Detach the paper but don't remove it. Roll the cake loosely, careful not to break it.

After the cake has cooled down, we get to arrange the pieces together. Open the cake and moisten with coffee. Spread the filling evenly. Roll the cake back into a bar again (with the help of the paper under it). Move into the fridge.

When the roll has settled down, move it on a clean parchment paper. See that the frosting is still smooth. Spread it on the log. Roll into the paper and move in a cold place. Take into room temperature about half an hour before serving and remove the paper while it's still easy. Draw lines with a fork on the surface or decorate with crushed nuts if you want to the log look woodier.

Nutritional values / 1349 g (if you really want to know):
energy 4768 kcal
fat 297 g
protein 41 g
carbohydrates 473 g
fiber 12 g


Soy Stroganoff ‒ Soijastroganov

There's a lot of debate about what the original Stroganoff's beaf contained. There was an influential Stroganoff family who used to own practically half the Siberia. A recipe bearing their name was created in the 18th century, perhaps by one of their French chefs. Of the many competing recipes some feature mushrooms, sour cream, mustard or onions while others don't. Most versions of today mention tomato paste though tomatoes weren't even known in Russia at the time.

With not enough historical knowledge I'm not going to take part in this guessing game. Instead, I'm going to tell you how a dish called stroganoff became popular in the Nordic countries during the last century. In Finland different versions of it were served at practically every gas station. One very staple item in them, along with some form of meat and tomato paste, is pickles- Especially sausage stroganoff is still thought as a typical Finnish home food.

Sausages are fine too, but I used textured soy protein strips to make a cheap and easy winter dinner.

- 125 g soy strips
- 2 onions
- 2 pickles
- 2 dl oat cream
- 0.5 dl tomato paste
- 1 tbsp mustard
- 1 dose of stock
- oil for frying

Cook the soy strips for ten minutes in stock flavoured water. Chop and sauté the onions. Drain the soy strips and add them on the same pot with the onions.  Dice the pickles. Mix everything and let it simmer for ten more minutes.

Serve with barley or potatoes.

Nutritional values / 917 g:
energy 1052 kcal
fat 51 g
protein 74 g
carbohydrates 74 g
fiber 29 g
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