Sunday, 28 June 2009

With Kafka in the Kitchen

One week until my summer holidays! :) My mind is already starting to tune into holiday mood. I am thinking of what to cook and what to read during my weeks off from work. Most of my summer vacation will also be a break from dance practise, but I'm looking forward to as much tennis as I can cram into those weeks. :) And I will be going to Slovenia for a week in July. That is something I am really, really looking forward to! I'm also planning on more posts on Cinnamonda and on my brand new book blog A Book Blog of One's Own. If you want to learn a bit more about me, take a look at the first post on the book blog, and I hope to see you all visiting there too in the future. :)

Books and food do go perfectly together, don't you think? And some authors have nicely combined the two in their work. I am at the moment reading a fun little book by Mark Crick called Kafka's Soup - A Complete History of World Literarure in 14 Recipes. It is a collection of recipes and little stories that include the method of cooking the recipe. Each story is written in the style of a different writer. There is, for example, a story in the style of Marcel Proust about making tiramisu and another in the style of Franz Kafka about cooking miso soup. Other writers whose style Crick is imitating in the book are Raymond Chandler (a priceless account of cooking lamb in dill sauce, maybe the best story in the book), Jane Austen, Irvine Welsh, Gabriel García Márquez, John Steinbeck, marquis de Sade, Virginia Woolf, Homer (Achilles cooking rabbit and vegetables!), Graham Greene, Jorge Luis Borges, Harold Pinter, and Geoffrey Chaucer. This really is a little gem of a book! I highly recommend you to read it. And maybe even cook from it!

My recipe today is, however, written totally in the style of Cinnamonda. :) It is the rhubarb season now, and I had been waiting the whole week to have time for baking a rhubarb pie. I had also been looking for a nice recipe for the pie. Rhubarb pie is something very common in Finland during the summer, but it seems not one of my cook books have a recipe for the kind of pie I was imagining in baking. I knew what the pie I was hoping to bake should look like, but as I was not quite sure of the ingredients, I wanted to find a tested recipe and not experiment on my own. I found some recipes on the net, but they were not quite what I was looking for. Then I thought that maybe my Grandmother's old cook book from the thirties would include a traditional rhubarb pie recipe. Strangely enough it did not, but a small piece of paper fell from in between the brittle pages of the old book while I was carefully browsing it. I took the paper slip into my hand and turned it over to see what it was. A rhubarb pie recipe! It was clearly written with a computer and then printed out, so I guessed it was not something my Grandmother had used, but rather a recipe my Dad (who had the book before he gave it to me last year) had either written down himself or more probably been given by a friend sometime. And as I looked at the recipe I knew immediately it was exactly the one I had been looking for! It was the simple, traditional recipe for rhubarb pie, and I am glad to share it here with you.
Rhubarb pie

4 dl wheat flour
2 dl sugar
2 dl melted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanillin sugar
1 dl water (or milk)
4 rhubarb stalks cut into 2 cm pieces
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 Centigrade.
2. Mix sugar and flour.
3. Add melted butter and mix until crumbs are formed.
4. Set 2 dl crumbs aside for the topping.
5. Add egg, baking powder, vanillin sugar and water and mix until smooth.
6. Pour the batter into a round pie tin.
7. Put the rhubarb pieces on top. Then add the crumbs you set aside earlier.
8. Shift 1 teaspoon cinnamon on top of it all.
9. Bake in 200 C for about half an hour or until a tooth pick (or in my case a knitting needle! :)) inserted into the pie comes out clean.
10. Enjoy, preferably warm with some vanilla ice cream or vanilla sauce.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

What You Leave Behind...

We have a saying in Finnish "minkä taakseen jättää, sen edestään löytää". The literal translation would be "what you leave behind, you will find in front of you", meaning of course that if you leave something you should do undone, you are only postponing the inevitable. Well, I really should have defreezed my freezer a long time ago. Winter would have been an ideal time to do that, but... but...

I do admit defreezing the freezer is not one of my favorite things, neither is washing the dishes (thank God for dishwashers!) or vacuuming the apartment, but those are tasks you simply have to do (unless, of course, you can afford to pay someone else to do those things for you, which is not the case here, or you want to live in your own filth, which is not the case here either). Some of those tasks you have to do more often, some, like the defreezing, luckily not so very often. But even that has to be done sometime! And I guess my time to do it is now. Or as soon as I have consumed all the food I have in the freezer. You see, winter would have been a better time for this. It would not have been necessary to worry about food going bad. I could just have loaded my French balcony with all the food I have in the freezer and below zero Centigrade temperature outside would have kept it all in perfectly freezed state to but back in the freezer afterwards. Not so during the summer. So, I am eating, or rather baking, my way towards an empty freezer. And then I will, I promise, I swear that I will defreeze the freezer.

It so happened that among the freezed ingredients waiting to be used were some apple slices, cranberries and blueberries. I put them in good use and baked a cake. And this kind of cake needs a nice sauce, so, I also made some chocolate sauce. Remember the 3 second mayo -recipe I posted some time ago? On the same cooking course I also learned the world's easiest chocolate sauce recipe. Hmm, maybe the course should have been called "the world's easiest cooking course"... Anyway, forget melting chocolate etc. This sause works just as fine and it is so easy to make!

Chocolate Sauce

3 dl water
1 dl cocoa powder, preferably Green & Black's
1,5 dl sugar
50 g cold butter, diced

1. Mix water, cocoa powder and sugar.
2. Let boil for 10 minutes in a pan without a lid.
3. Add the butter.
4. Mix until smooth.
Fruit & Berry Cake

Recipe adapted from Menu à la carte (Easy Menu Planner) ed. Joanne Holliman

2-3 apples, sliced
2-3 handfuls of berries (blueberries&cranberries)
60 g butter
0,5 dl sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
2,5 dl wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
0,5 dl water (or milk)
30 g butter for decoration
1 tablespoon sugar for decoration

1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 Centigrade.
2. Butter a 20 cm cake tin.
3. Mix butter & sugar well in a bowl.
4. Add egg. Beat well.
5. Add flour & water by folding them into the mixture carefully with a spoon.
6. Spoon the batter into the tin.
7. Place the apple slices on top of the batter so that they make a circle. Place the berries into the centre. See picture below.
8. Bake for 20 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
9. Brush the cake with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
10. Serve warm (or cold) with warm (or cold) chocolate sauce.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Old Porvoo

Some time ago I spent a day in Porvoo, a town some 50 kms from Helsinki. Porvoo, which got its town rights in the 14th century, is one of the six towns established in Finland in the Middle Ages.

In addition to its history, Porvoo is renown for chocolate. There is not only one, but two chocolate factories in Porvoo, and for almost anyone visiting the town, some chocolate is on the buying list!
Brunberg has a shop in the old town and a factory shop a little farther away from the town centre. Pieni suklaatehdas (=Little Chocolate Factory) has their factory and shop in the old town. Brunberg's chocolates are more main stream, whereas Pieni suklaatehdas specializes in making hand made chocolate truffles and selling a selection of quality
chocolate bars. The brands available include Valrhona and Amadei among others. I especially like Little Chocolate Factory's rose truffles, blueberry truffles being no 2 on my list. The picture above shows my little, tasty souvenirs! :)

Below are some pictures I took in the old part of town. The first picture shows the building housing Pieni suklaatehdas. And if you are wondering where is everybody, why are the streets totally empty? Well, I must tell you that the weather that day was horrible! Cold (+6 in the morning and it was already beginning of June!!) and rainy!

I am listening to Il mio canto libero by Laura Pausini and Juanes.