Finnish blazing salmon and Demon’s Gate

Last weekend we went to visit Mr. No Onion Please parents. They live in North Karelia region of Finland, a truly beautiful land that I find so peaceful and relaxing. One evening we enjoyed blazing salmon (scroll down for the recipe), a Finnish way of preparing fish, where it is part cooked part smoked in indirect heat from the open fire. It is a really simple dish, just fish and salt, but the flavour is really superb. But, before we shoveled those delicious calories down, we “worked” hard to deserve them ;) We went for 21km hike through the Finnish wilderness.

On Saturday we travelled roughly 80km North to another region called Kainuu, which i have always thought of as the Kingdom of Bear (I have no idea why, though, but I think they really have a huge bear population there). Just next to the border with North Karelia there is an area where 3 nature protected areas merge and several hiking paths are established. We decided to visit two of those places – the Teerisuo-Luososuo reserve and Hiidenportti National Park. We set off with 11km trail in Teerisuo.

The trail winds through spruce forest, an area where the forest transforms to mire and the open mire.  The forest is plentiful in mushrooms, billberries (wild blueberries) and crowberries (anyone of you collecting those?). In the transition area we found quite many cloudberries. I’ve mentioned already HERE how difficult it is to collect those, and actually this year is the first time since I live here that I’ve found them on several occasions! Once the path enters the open mire, there is nothing to forage on, but the views are really pretty.

What I really admire about Finnish hiking paths is that basically there is always a set place to barbecue or even a small shelter to sleep. Look, they even prepare and store chopped wood for you!!! One just needs to take the sausages and matches :)

Once we came back, we jumped into our car and drove around 20km further to hike on a 10km trail in the Hiidenportti National Park. Hiidenportti means Demon’s Gate and the name comes from an old folks tale. Basically, the gorge, which is a centrepiece of the park, was supposed to be a retrieval of Hiisi demon. The gorge isn’t big, it’s only 20m deep, but it’s quite picturesque.

The path follows the edge of the gorge occasionally passing through spruce forest or small mires. Once the gorge ends, there is a bridge, a bbq place and then the path follows back on the other side of the gorge. We had a really great time, but got back to Mr. No Onion’s Please parents quite tired and hungry. Fortunately they planned sauna and bbq for the evening, so our Saturday was really fabulous.

Now back to the blazing salmon. The preparation is quite simple. You need a piece of the fish, wooden plank, wooden pegs (ehem, or nails if pegs can’t be found around ;) ), some salt, water and open fire. You place the fish filee on the plank and attach it with the pegs.  Dissolve some salt in a glass of water and brush the fish with it. Then attach the plank vertically, 30-50cm from the open fire. Brush the fish with salty water every now and then. It is important that the heat isn’t direct, the fish is supposed to cook very slowly, just as the warm smoky air passes next to it. It took us around 40 min before the fish was ready. Best to check with a toothpick if it’s ready.

Flammkuchen and Luxembourg trip

I guess you already know we love to travel. I wish I would also love to write about it and share the amazing places we’ve been with you, but I’m kind of lazy, and since I’m making thousands of pictures on holidays (yes you read that correct, I go into THOUSANDS and it annoys even me a lot ;) ) it’s pretty difficult to choose what I would actually like to show you in a tiny space of a blog post.  Fortunately, that’s not always the case. At the end of  June we went for a long weekend to visit our friends in Luxembourg. Short trip + lot’s of time spend on chatting = few photos ;) Yes, finally manageable enough for me to finally write a post ;) Luxembourg welcomed us with rain. Fortunately, we were unlucky with the weather just for a single day and enjoyed hot sunny days for the rest of our trip. I must say I was quite surprised how tiny yet international is the City of Luxembourg. It has only 80 000 of citizens yet it bursts with energy.

Somehow, I had an image of Luxembourg as a country that looks just like Netherlands, and I have never even thought that we will see charming villages hidden in the valleys surrounded by forests. I was really enchanted with tiny old towns full of cafeterias and craft shops – that’s the thing I really miss in Finland. And another reason to visit Luxembourg are lovely vineyards  spreading along picturesque Mosel river scenery, a true lifelong memory for me. I must say I’m really positively surprised how much this petite land has to offer! Sadly, I guess at the same time, it is the least traveled country among Benelux area.

Luxembourg is a really tiny country. I guess it’s a bit difficult to talk about the traditional cuisine there as all the German, French and Belgian culinary influences pretty much mingle together. Thanks to our trip, I have fallen in love with a traditional dish from this region – the Flammkuchen, a kind of  crispy peasant pizza that is topped with fresh cheese or cream instead of tomato sauce (it is also called tarte flambee on the French side). The traditional Flammkuchen is made with onion and bacon cubes, but since I have Mr. No Onion Please at home, I made a bit more modern and lighter version of it. From the amounts given below, you’ll get 2 Flammkuchen. The recipe  for dough comes from  Linda Collister’s and Anthony Blake’s “The bread book” and I found it on CinCin forum. The dough is absolutely fantastic! Comes out crispy and it’s so easy to work with – a must try!

INGREDIENTS

455 g flour (about 12% protein content)
1,5 tsp salt
15 g fresh yeasts
1 tbsp olive oil
280 ml luke warm water

200g creme fraiche
4-5 tomatoes, thinly sliced
salt & pepper
2 handfuls of rocket
10-12 slices of dried ham

1. Dissolve the yeasts in luke warm water and leave them aside for 5-10 min.

2. Combine flour, salt, yeasts and oil and knead a ball of dough. Let it rest under cover for 1,5-2h until it doubles it’s volume.

3. Hit the dough with the fist to release the air and divide it in half. Roll the dough very! thinly (I additionally stretch it in the air, to make it super thin), you should get 2 pieces roughly of the size of your baking tray.

4. Spread the creme on top, leaving some free space on the sides. Put tomato slices on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in 275C till golden brown (remember to preheat not only the oven but also the tray you’ll put the Flammkuchen on!)

5. Spread rocket and dried ham on top. Serve with well chilled white wine :)

ENJOY!

Tasting Estonia

In previous post I promised to show you some food goodies from Tallinn. Since we have spent only half a day there, there is not that much to blog about, but well ;) here it is ;) We had a dinner in Beer House restaurant. It prides itself as  the only micro-brewery restaurant in Estonia. They brew 7 sorts of beer and as you might have guessed, it was a difficult choice so… we bought a tasting set ;) We liked the most Beer House Premium and Märzen Speziel. Medovar Honey was also really good, but I think it should be enjoyed by itself,  cause in combination with other beers it seems to be a tad too sweet. One can  see the brewery vats through the windows next to restaurant’s entrance.

Tallin takes pride in its Hanseatic history and many restaurants advertise their medieval dishes. Beer House is no different and not only it is stylized as a tavern but it also serves a wide variety of dishes that probably are similar to those from the past. For a beer snack we chose pig’s ears. Doesn’t it sound fun ;)? It is something really interesting to try, but for sure I won’t crave for it ;) For main Mr No Onion Please opted for ribs, while I got sausage of game with potato and forest-mushroom pocket, beet and horse-radish terrine, mustard sauce and fresh сranberry sauce.

I guess the most common food souvenirs one brings from any country are sweets and alcohol. Well, we are no different. That’s usually the first things we think of bringing back with us as well. When it comes to Estonia, the staple food souvenirs are Kalev chocolates and marzipan and Vana Tallin liquor.

I’m not a great fan of Kalev milk chocolates, but I must admit, they really know how to make good white ones. Both me and Mr No Onion Please adore the white chocolate with dried blueberries and crisps. Mr No Onion Please is also a fan of white chocolate with strawberries and cookies, while I prefer the one with dried cranberries and coconut. When we went to Kalev store, I have spotted a new milk chocolate with almonds and gooseberries. Oh my, I love gooseberries, of course I had to buy it! It is a nice chocolate, though, to my disappointment it doesn’t contain dried gooseberry bits (or not at least visible ones). I would also like a tiny bit more of the gooseberry flavor in it, but in general I was pretty happy with the taste and will definitely buy it again.

Another “souvenir” that one just has to bring from Estonia is Vana Tallinn liquor. As much as I  can’t really handle the original liquor (too strong), I really adore its cream and coffee cream versions. There is a tiny bit of rum and vanilla flavor with some  delicate citrus aftertaste. Definitely one of the best cream liquors I’ve ever tasted. They are absolutely delicious! Since I got now a new bottle (my stock always replenishes so fast ;) ) I’m planning to use it in  cheesecake, oh boy, can’t wait!

Kama chocolate

Now, something about Estonia’s national food product, that won’t be commonly found in a visitor’s bag – kama. It’s a mixture of roasted barley, rye, oat and pea flour. Historically, it has been used as a stomach-filling snack that could be quickly prepared by mixing it with lard. Nowadays, it is usually enjoyed  simply mixed with buttermilk and some berries. You can read more about it here and search for kama recipes on Nami-Nami blog. In fact, this ingredient is so popular, that Kalev has made a “chocolate”, using kama instead of cocoa. Actually, Kamatahvel is a fortunate outcome of Soviet times experiment. You see, during communism it was very difficult to get cocoa beans, so people started to search for alternatives. Of course kama could never substitute the real cocoa, but the outcome was not only interesting but also pretty tasty. It reminds me somewhat of a similar product invented in Poland during those times. Not only cocoa was a deficit  food product, it was also very difficult to get coffee. Similarly to kama, so called grain coffee was invented. It constituted of roasted barley, rye, sugar beets and chicory and despite it was barely reminiscent of real coffee, it remained popular not only through communism but also nowadays you can buy it as INKA grain coffee. Quite amazing what people can think of, when they are in need!

Though I bought kama just several days ago, I’ve already used 2/3 of the package (I guess it means another Tallinn trip quite soon ;) ). Apart from mixing kama with my morning muesli, I’ve decided to try out a recipe for kama mascarpone truffles – kamakäkid. I have substituted raisins with dried cranberries, as I’m much more keen on those. Thank you Pille for the recipe, we have enjoyed it together with our friends a lot!

INGREDIENTS

250 grams of mascarpone
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp chopped dried cranberries
3 tbsp chopped hazelnuts
3 heaped tbsp kama flour
a generous dash of Vana Tallinn cream liqueur (can be substituted with eg. Baileys)

Mix everything together, put into the fridge for a while. Form into small balls, roll in kama or cocoa powder and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Tallinn – a quick walk

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’ve just came back from a day trip to Estonia. Though officially it was supposed to be a work trip, we’ve spend a great afternoon in lovely Tallinn. You see I hold the nationality of one of the very few countries in Europe that are still “privileged” to need a visa for short term visits to the USA. Since the embassy in Finland is basically closed down for renovation, I was told to go somewhere else… You can imagine I was really pissed off, cause it is not only really troublesome to actually get a visa (tons of documents), but still to be forced to travel abroad to get it was a tad too much for me. Anyway, I decided to make the best of it and took Mr No Onion Please with me for a relaxing  Sunday in Estonia. I must say we had a great day that reminded us of how charming Tallinn is. We  definitely have to make another trip there in the summer! Here is a short compilation of some old pictures from Tallinn’s old town and soon I’ll blog a bit more about the goodies I bought ;)

Washington DC

I was just looking through the pictures I’ve made in Washington and I made a short compilation of photos from The Mall area as well as all from the memorials and monuments nearby. I must say that I loved the city. Washington is really amazing, it has lots of green areas, it’s pretty peaceful and surprisingly there are no skyscrapers what makes it completely different from stereotypical American big city. It was my first visit to USA and I really enjoyed it! And now I’m already looking forward to my summer holidays ;) Aaahhh I’m such a lazy bum, I wish I could travel all the time (anyone knows how those lucky guys from travel programs get their jobs ;) ?).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Vappu

The first of May (Vappu) is a widely celebrated fest in Finland. Apart from being the Labour Day it is also students’ day, doughnut day but most of all drinking day ;). The streets are really colourful with people wearing ylioppilaslakki – graduation hats as well as students wearing their traditional overalls. The balloon sellers are on every corner and atmosphere is soaked with joy and anxiety for the most frolic night of the year.

It all begins on Vappu’s Eve with traditional student’s parade and washing the statue of Havis Amanda (in every city the celebrations look a bit different). The statue wears the ylioppilaslakki through the day and in the late afternoon everyone gathers to watch as students wash it off with the water from old firemen’s car hoes and then polish the statue with brushes and brooms. When Amanda is all shiny confetti and balloons are thrown to the air and that’s the time when one should head in search of a good place where to hook up for all-night partying.

The 1st of May starts pretty quietly as majority of people try to recover from hangover and prepare for picnic. By noon most of the green spots in the city centre are already taken over by families munching their lunch. The most popular place in Helsinki to set your blanket is Kaivopuisto park that overlooks the sea. It’s always full of people, colourful and noisy as tipsy students cheer every time the sun reappears from behind the clouds.

This year the weather was really bad. Fortunately it wasn’t raining but the wind was extremely strong and it was so cold that we basically just ate the food really fast and escaped to one of the warm, cosy pubs to continue the celebrations ;). One of the very fast to prepare nibbles that I nearly always make on such occasions are pieces of puff pastry with various fillings. The one below is our all-time favourite. You just assemble the things together and throw to the oven, bake in 200C till golden brown. No fuss at all and so easy to prepare after a tiring night ;)

INGREDIENTS

puff pastry cut into squares

firm pears, sliced

mature goat cheese, sliced

pine nuts

rose pepper

BTW as this time the weather wasn’t really good, the pictures from Vappu celebrations are from last year (anyway it always looks the same ;) )

Tampere

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So it’s supposed to be spring, right? So I hear and see on various blogs enjoying the harvest of spring veggies and sunny weather. We had a great weather for last five days but today I woke up and instead of admiring bright, crispy sunlight I was shocked seeing rain and snow on the other side of the window. Fortunately its warm and it only rains right now, but it made me pretty scared as we plan to have picnic with friends on weekend. Well it’s not that easy here, thought its the end of April snow can still happen and I remember two or three years ago we had a snowstorm on the May Day. One just have to get used to. Anyway,  just over a week ago we were trying to enjoy our weekend in another city – Tampere. Hoped for great springtime weather, as several previous days were forecasting forthcoming spring. Unfortunately for us… it was snowing and bloody cold. Well not much to sight-see in such weather, we just went to a view tower and had a short walk in the city center, and as we were just heading the railway station the clouds disappeared … So much to talk about our luck. You can see on the pictures that the lake was still covered with ice and in some points you may spot the marks of cars  and snowmobiles that were driving there in the winter. The ice always stays pretty long on the lakes but once it starts to melt, it disappears in a glance. I can bet that right now there is no trace of it there.