Tuesday, 25 November 2008

And Then It Was Winter

All of a sudden Helsinki is the winter wonderland: white, pristine, beautiful, trees covered in snow as if wrapped in intricate lace. This does not happen so often at this time of the year. We often don't get much snow before Christmas, but then sometimes it is like this, and I remember why I like winter. I don't like the cold or the darkness, but I love the beauty of new snow, I love to sit inside and look at snowflakes falling from the sky, building maps of unknown continents on my windows.

Yes, winter in Helsinki is a time of cold weather, a time of darkness -and a time of warmth and light! The warmth of people, friends and family, the light of lanterns and candles and -like today- of pristine snow.

Well, not to become too poetic about it, I'm afraid the snow will melt soon, but it does look very pretty just now!

I guess at the moment large parts of Europe are white. I have heard of wintry weather and snow in Estonia, the Netherlands and Slovenia. Estonia and Finland had a big snowstorm last weekend.

It was windy in Amsterdam, but to come back home and find the weather had turned freezing was kind of a shock! But now, after the storm, these past two days, it's been just so... well, I said it already :) ... beautiful!

But I promised you to write some more about Amsterdam. Amsterdam is known for great Indonesian and Chinese restaurants. Last week I had the opportunity to visit Srikandi, an Indonesian restaurant and art gallery, with Anya from Godful Food, and to taste my first ever ricetable! It was, in fact, the first time I ate Indonesian food. Srikandi is a very nice little restaurant located in a beautiful old building by a canal (lots of canals in Amsterdam :)). The ricetable tasted very good, service was friendly and knowledgable and I was in good company. :) It was a very nice evening.

Here are some photos I took while in Amsterdam. Enjoy!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Back on Track

Canals, boats, bicycles, beautiful buildings, nice people... Add some rain, hale and stormy wind and you will have quite a well rounded picture of my five fabulous days in Amsterdam! :) Getting there was easy, getting away a bit more difficult, as due to bad weather air traffic was badly deleyed. I should have been back home before midnight, but at that time I was still waiting for my plane to take off from Schiphol... In the end I reached home at 4 am. after a peaceful and uneventful flight.

It was my first time in Amsterdam. A friend said to me before my trip: "You are going to love the city!" and he was right. :) This time I was there on business, but I will definitely go back for a holiday, hopefully in the not too distant future. I took quite a bunch of photos and will post some of them and more about my time in Amsterdam later, but I guess I owe you all a recipe after having had such a long hiatus from blogging. This one I found in a lovely little book called "New Flavours of the Jewish Table" by Denise Phillips:

Challah bread

Makes 2

600 g flour
1 tablespoon dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon honey
25 g raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 apple, cut into small pieces
100 g vegetable oil
150 g warm water
olive oil for brushing
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
honey & cinnamon

1. Mix flour, yeast, salt, egg, 1 tablespoons honey, raisins and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a large bowl.
2. Puré the apple using a mixer and add together with vegetable oil and warm water into the same bowl with the flour mixture.
3. Mix for a couple of minutes (if using a mixer or for about 10 minutes if you are doing the mixing by hand) until the batter is smooth and does not stick into to bowl anymore.
4. Remove the batter from the bowl. Brush the insides of the bowl with some olive oil.
5. Knead the batter lightly with your hands, then replace into the bowl, so that it gets a light olive oli coating.
6. Cover the bowl with cling-film and let the batter rise for ca. 30 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
7. Meanwhile warm the oven to 200 Centigrade and cover a baking sheet with baking paper.
8. Divide the batter into two and knead both parts into long logs. Fold each log from the middle and then twist them into a spiral shape. Brush both breads with egg yolk and sprinkle with some sesame seeds on top.
9. Bake for 30 minutes in 200 Centigrade or until the breads are golden brown.
10. Brush the baked breads with some honey and sprinkle some cinnamon on top.
11. Serve warm, if possible.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Confessions of the Periodic Cook

Just a quick note to tell you, my blog friends, that all is well. I have been a lousy blogger this autumn, not posting once since July!! I have simply been concentrating on other things, mainly work and sports. :) We had the most important dance competition of the year last weekend. And preparing for that did take quite a lot of my "freetime". I am very, very happy to tell you that I and Mr. Dance Partner won our age group. :) :)

I have also read more books and less blogs, and to be honest I have hardly cooked much less baked anything for a long time! That is nothing new, however. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that I am a "periodic cook" :), sometimes I want to cook everything myself and from the beginning and then comes the time when I'm happy with buying everything ready-made. Well, Christmas is here soon and I think I just might be inspired to baking cookies or cakes soon!

I have also two trips abroad to look forward to. I'm soon going to spend some days in Amsterdam on a work-reladed study trip and a bit later I'll fly to Ljubljana in Slovenia for a short holiday.

Take care all!