Sunday, 27 April 2008

Shine a light

Thursday's movie was Shine a light - the Rolling Stones concert film. I found it to be an odd affair with parts that were amazing, Ronnie & Keef's guitar playing switching between lead and rhythm like a magic trick you couldn't understand. However the overall impression I am left with is how skeletal Mick Jagger was. Sitting in the movie I was associating with what I was seeing on screen with the Mexican death paintings typified by artists like Jose Posada. Last night while out with some good friends the comment was made by someone not at the movie that Jagger was the most enigmatic performer he had ever seen. The movie, to me, at least exposed him to be anything but that. The titanic ego was there in plain view but some of his stage craft seemed more suitable to an American politician on the campaign trail. So a flawed but interesting piece of concert cinema. Pleased to have seen it, reserved as to whether I would say I enjoyed it.

Next weeks film is the Darjeeling Express and while I am also a little ambivalent about it I know these are the films that can take you by surprise. So I am looking forward to the experience, the good company and the opportunity to see something new.


The kitchen has been busy as well. I'm just cooking some beans so that we can do some kind of slow cooked beef, aubergine and beans surprise for tea tonight. I know nothing more about it at this stage than that. On Friday we made ravioli which was excellent. The filling was sweet potato, red pepper and bacon with a lot of fresh rosemary and it was very very tasty.

I'm looking forward to BBQ season and cooking some lovely things, especially vegetables this year. We say a very nice gas grill in the Finnish Design Forum which may also help in the creation of Cecilie's dry fried beans.


Off to get the boss a beer.

Remember waste nothing

Monday, 21 April 2008

Moving the castle

Howl's Moving Castle is a Japanese film about a Welsh book with American actors. We first saw it a while back and have had the DVD floating around so last night we watched it again and I really enjoyed it. OK except Bully Crystal not being funny. It came after a long day out riding our bikes. It also came with a nice glass of rum and coke which is definitely my poison.

The Kitchen has been a very productive place over the last few days and here is my recipe for Roast Red Pepper and Tomato soup. I must start by saying I got the idea from watching the BBC programme Masterchef. One of the competitors made this and I set out to give it a go. I worked out what I wanted to do and checked I was right by looking in a book called The Soup Bible.

Unsalted Butter
Olive oil
500g tomatoes chopped
3 large garlic cloves chopped
2 Red Peppers whole
600 ml of Chicken stock (preferably home made)
Fennel Seeds
1 tin of Pinto Beans
Salt & Pepper

Put the red peppers under a very hot grill and leave so that they blacken.
Gently fry the onions and garlic in a pan with some olive oil and butter. This is a slow process so don't worry about leaving them there for a while
When they are soft add a dash of vermouth
Add the tomatoes and leave to cook with the onions
Add the chicken stock
Check seasoning
Take the peppers out from under the grill, put in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to cool.
Once cooled remove the charred skin, tear up and add to the pan
Check the taste and the seasoning
If it's good put everything in the blender and whisk until it is whatever texture you like. I prefer my soups to be a little chunky. Smooth isn't so good for me.
Add the pinto beans, chorizo and fennel seeds.

Tonight we had a fun salad with Chicken fried in oregano, rice, lentils, romaine and salad leaves, tomatoes, carrots, mozzarella and watermelon, mung beans with a nice garlic vinaigrette.

I'm also thinking ahead to the good weather and starting to think about all the great things waiting to be bbq'd. I'm not just talking about meat - the ubiquitous sausages. No I mean corn, broccoli, aubergines, peppers, fennel, courgette and many more great things beside. It's going to be a great summer.

Remember get outdoors, cook out there and waste nothing.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Weekend noodles

At the end of a long week you want a good dinner that isn't so hard to fix. You want to sit back, relax and maybe enjoy a glass of wine. What you don't want to do is pop some ready made meal in the microwave. There is so much more to food than that and I make no apologies for promoting the real way here. Now to be clear I will not encourage you to be a gourmet or a chef. There are others who can do it better than me. I'm the person who reads that stuff and makes it in his own kitchen everyday. Sometimes I love to fuss over my food but sometimes it is fuel.
So if you make any of these dishes I'm going to have to trust you to use your own judgement on whether something is cooked or not. Just remember I'm doing this because want people to be practical and get more from their food. Better taste, less waste.

Yesterday I finally had a day off after a long week, we had planned to go out, do a load of jobs in town and eat at a place that puts garlic in everything (beer, ice cream etc etc) but the jobs were more complicated than expected and we ended up coming home instead and watching a movie (woo hoo how excting are we?). This sudden Plan B required us to raid the fridge and the freezer to rustle up dinner on the hoof. So I apologise for a lack of authentic flavours here but it tasted good. We used Pad Thai as an inspiration and then adapted it to what we had.

Weekend noodles
As ever all recipes serve 2.

Everything needs to be prepared in advance for this dish because it comes together very fast.

Vegetable oil
Sesame oil
Garlic plenty chopped very finely
Dried Chili chopped very finely
Tamarind paste dissolved in hot water
Rice wine
Soy sauce
Broccoli cut into florets
Carrots sliced into thin strips
Mushrooms sliced
Palm Sugar
Lime juice
Mung beans
Peanuts crushed in a pestle and mortar

Put on a pan of water. Let it come to the boil and add the noodles
In a separate pan warm a little vegetable oil and sesame oil
Add half the garlic and chilli and fry gently
Add the prawns – admittedly ours had come out of the freezer so I needed to be a bit patient while the water evapourated.
As they begin to brown add the tamarind water, a dash of rice wine and a dash of soy.
Add the vegetables except the mung beans
Add the remaining garlic and chili
Cook for a few minutes and then add the mung beans and cook for about half a minute to make sure everything is coated and finished cooking.

To serve put the noodles on a plate, put the prawns and vegetables on top, a quick dash of lime juice and then sprinkle with peanuts. Eat hot.

Friday, 18 April 2008

The joys of a new world

Today has been a good day. The boss has been bought a fabulous new coat and looks like the bee knees...everyone has to submit to being treated like a princess every now and then...but we also got tickets to see the Boss when he plays Helsinki.

Lunch was a simple salad but rather than the usual vinagrette I went for a sweet chilli dressing today which was made with a mixture of sweet chilli sauce, vegetable oil, mirin & soy. The Salad consisted of leaves, mung beans, carrot and avocado and if I'm really honest it was lush...maybe in retrospect a little salt would have upped the tastiness but never underestimate what a little inspiriation and stuff that needs using in the fridge can do. We're cooking a Pad Thai-esque meal tonight so watch out for more updates over the weekend.

When we moved to Finland we were told that we would have to wait 2 years to get a credit card. Today we needed one to book flights on line...55 euros per person difference between the office and the internet is a powerful incentive so I will see if I can get my employer to make a plea on my behalf. My employer has it's account with a well known Scandanavian bank and as the sales manager for that company earning good money (and a few solid months of receiving a salary into my account to show my contract was real not just a fake!) maybe they can consider issuing me a card sooner...

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Pasta a la Deb

The kitchen has been a good place to be this week. So far we've had great success with

Tuna steaks with spinach noodles
Pork chops with grainy mustard and cheese served with spinach
Pasta a la Deb

The second one was me reviving an old trick from university of grating some cheese and mixing it with some grainy mustard and then after the chops were cooked grilling the topping to give an extra flavour to the dish. It worked very well.

Pasta a la Deb was good if unusual. We used Chicken, bacon and pasta amongst other ingredients but we also added sweet potato to the mix which worked really well. I think the combination of the last two could make for a really exciting meal. It also got me thinking that sweet potato and chilli could also be an interesting combination.


This week movie club was on Tuesday and was the nihilistic Funny Games. It was a disturbing film in many ways even if it fell into the unfortunate genre of movies featuring Naomi Watts in her underwear. While it was disturbing a few sequences did mean the overall effect wasn't as unnerving as perhaps was hoped for by the director. Still it was a good crowd of sickos out for the week is the Rolling Stones movie so it will probably just be the diehards!

Writing of music the song writing is going well. I've finished one new song, am almost there with another (bizarrely chorusless but really works for an uptempo song), have two more sad slow ones for when I'm feeling melancholy and one more is waiting for some attention so I've gone from writers block to six good songs in a month. I'd like eight before I start recording which probably means I'll spend all of the Finnish summer holed up in the studio when I should be enjoying the nordic light.

Until next time waste nothing.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Rolling along

I would love to have been a jolly soul this morning but after last night's visit to the Helsinki beer festival I missed this morning and am struggling this afternoon. I drank way too much different stuff and am reaping the whirlwind. That is a good thing in a way.

Yet surprisingly my mind turns to my trip into town to meet Deb, Cecilie, Quinn Tom, Dave & Hanna. I'd been at work so they were ahead of me. The sun was shining, I had managed to dress myself to the point where I looked like I knew what I was doing (believe me that is an achievement). The train ride into Helsinki was OK but I wanted to close my eyes in the sun but as there was nowhere to sit I settled for resting my head against the door as we rolled along. As we pulled into the station the train for St Petersburg was flling up with people. I remember seeing that there was a member of staff at every door dressed in a very Russian way with enormous hats. Then the ride on the metro was uneventful except for the girl standing on the platform in front of me. What was strange about her was that the way she stood, forced by her odd shoes and the insane tightness of her jeans made it seem as if her knees bent the wrong way. Finally I remember the strong light as I walked down the street to the mamouth old cable factory. It was piercing and even from behind my sunnies it was too strong to really see what was in front of me. The wind was vigourous but I was happy.


The movie last was week - Tha Band's Visit - was also good. I know the proposition of a film in Hebrew, Arabic and Englsih with Finnish & Swedish subtitles doesn't sound so good but it was nice little vignette and very in keeping with "If no one speaks of remarkable things" in so far as it saw the beautiful in the mundane and the two combined to make me quite sad.


Today despite the way I am feeling the kitchen will be busy. I am going to make Mushroom and roast pepper risotto followed by baked rhubard. Risotto is an act of love and probably the dish I love to cook more than any other. For me the challenge with risotto is to continually simplify it. Less is more. So please make sure of a couple of things. Home made stock. Unsalted butter. Dry Vermouth. Remember there are 4 stages to a risotto.

1) Soffrito
2) Rice in
3) Other ingredients in
4) Butter and parmesan

If you use these 4 stages to know where you are a risotto is simple to make.

Serves 2
Olive oil
Garlic finely chopped
Carrot finely chopped
Celery finely chopped
Onion finely chopped
110g Arborio rice
350-400ml Chicken stock
Red Peppers roasted to intensify their sweetness and then cut into strips
Mushrooms finely chopped and fried in butter and with lots of ground pepper
Fresh Thyme
Unsalted butter
Parmesan grated
Salt, Pepper

Heat the oil in a pan, and gently fry the garlic, onion, carrot and celery for a few minutes. Add the rice and let it fry for a minute or so. Then add the vermouth, let it be absorbed and the harsh vapours to disappate. Now add a ladel full of stock and begin stirring. As the stock is absorbed add more one ladel at a time. As it cooks check the seasoning. Do not add to much salt too early as the cheese will add saltiness. Keep stirring. When the stock is nearly one ladle from been all added put in the mushrooms and the thyme. When all done remove from the heat and add the butter and cheese. Stir in and put a lid on the pan. Leave for two minutes. Check for seasoning one last time. Serve with the red pepper on top.

Update: The risotto was very good, however I think cracked pepper would be better than ground pepper with the mushrooms and we found out that we had no parmesan! However as those of you who read this blog no we try not to wasit anything so we had a stash of parmesan rinds in the freezer. They were swiftly pulled out, warmed up and enough cheese was coaxed off them to save the day.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

A wednesday supper

Life is busy at the moment. The days at work are getting longer and I was caught out this morning sending an e-mail before 7am. Still I came home prepared for tomorrow as opposed to running to catch up. So once home we made a simple midweek supper. I hope you like it.

Salmon with Red rice and vegetable medley
Serves 2

The idea with this dish was to have sort of Miso crust on top of the salmon and if I'm honest tonight's effort represented the first attempt. If you follow the instructions below you will get the miso flavour but not the crust. I need to work on in but I thought you should know. It falls nicely into three parts.

Salmon steaks deboned
Mixture of wild red rice and basmati rice 400g*
Garlic 2 cloves finely chopped
Half a pepper cut into strips
3 sticks of celery chopped
2 large mushrooms finely chopped
Miso paste
Soy sauce
Chinese rice wine
Vegetable oil 1 tablespoon

Put the one and half times the volume of water in a saucepan with the rice.
Put on a ring and bring to the boil.
Boil hard for 3 minutes or so
Simmer on a low heat with the lid on for just over 10 minutes
Take off the heat, do not touch the lid and leave for about 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic, celery and fry gently. Add the mushrooms. Add a dash of soy sauce and rice wine.
When cooked remove from the heat and set in a bowl.

Spread some miso paste on the side you want to be the presentation side.
Make sure the pan is very hot.
Put the salmon in miso side down and cook quickly.
Turn over and allow to continue cooking.

Just before the salmon is finishedon down add the vegetables and rice together.
Serve the salmon on the bed of rice.

*The reason for so much is the leftovers create a handy lunch.

We also made some lovely chicken stock out of the bones from the chicken the other night which ended up as roast chicken with cheesey mashed potatoes, pesto and roast tomatoes. It was lovely. We used most of the chicken leftovers in a tasty minty meal last night but still have enough for one more meal. So one chicken has made 3 meals and provided stock for a lot more. That's the kitchen working the way we like.

I have finished reading my book and enjoyed it very much. I look forward to putting some thoughts up here soon.

There's a beer festival in Helsinki on Saturday and I am very much looking forward to it.

Until next time, waste nothing, learn Finnish and play guitar.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

A river runs

News from New Zealand this morning on how small Neil Finn really is seems to be the perfect way to start the day. Yesterday we were in the company of good friends and the the day and the night flowed in a slightly offbeat fashion and I had the chance to let my more surreal view of the world out to play. I mentioned in a previous posting (here) that I had the first sentence to a novel in a dream. I think the humourous motif that ran through the day gave me a bit more of the story. Now I have some research to do. Then maybe one day I will write it.
We saw three football games, a grand prix qualifier and an ice hockey game almost simultaneously yesterday which may explain the enormous quantities of bad beer that was consumed. We also ate out at Dong Bei Hu and I enjoyed my food although I was told in no uncertain terms that it was not authentic enough. The, obvious, result of this disappointment was that a plan was hatched to take over my boss' flat (we need a gas stove and currently it's the only one we can get access to), heat a wok up to a temperature that will cause any alcohol vapours to ignite spectacularly and then cook the dish properly. It involves sustaining this kind of heat for 15 minutes. Even today the Kitchen thinks this is an excellent way to proceed short of going to China for 3 weeks which was also discussed quite seriously last night. I look forward to the results and keeping my eyebrows.

Finally we retired to the comfortable surroundings of Teerenpeli and talked life, love, movies, music and the universe until we all turned into pumpkins. Oh & I promised to take the boss to see the Boss much to her apparent disgust. I think she's going to have a great time at that Bruce Springsteen concert.

Today the Kitchen is meant to be cooking a whole roast chicken with pesto butter served with sweet potatoes and oven roasted onions and tomatoes.
However given our current energy levels this may not be a realsitic option and despite the rain I think we may go for a walk in the city centre. However I will have some preparation to do so here are is what I'm going to do with tomatoes:
Oven Roast Tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 120C
Slice the tomatoes in half and deeseed
Place on a tray and lightle oil and season
Roast for about 3 hours.

Friday, 4 April 2008

A salad for the day after the night before

This may seem obvious, it may not so I offer it here on it's own merits. When preparing your food think about how you want it to look when it is all put together and set on the table. Tonight's supper was a simple affair, the first salad of the spring and very lovely it was too. What elevated it over the humble was me thinking about how the ingredients were working out with each other.

I started out with the basic idea of doing something with Basil, Tomatoes and Mozarella. I knew that I was going to slice the mozarella and the tomatoes and once it grew into a bigger salad than that I knew the other elements should not compete with the big milky whiteness and the tomatoes. Make it and enjoy!

Various salad leaves
Tomatoes sliced
Mozarella sliced
Red Onion finely diced
Cucumber finely diced
Mushrooms extra finely diced
Parmesan - small shavings
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

I don't think I need to go into the intricacies of how to put this together but this dish lends itself to more or less love depending on your energy levels. I was out at the excellent Tapista last night and consequently wasn't feeling the most energetic. However I know that the mushrooms could be fried, bacon could be added, the oil and vinegar could be worked up into a real vinagrete. Let your imagination work wonders for your fridge.


Spring is here and I enjoyed the long walk from the central railway station to the British embassy to lodge my passport application. The weather was glorious and to just enjoy the sunshine and look at the buildings was a treat. I was really struck by the number of buildings in Helsinki adorned by carvings of animals and I wonder whether there is a maybe a photographic project here for me. So many creative things going on at the moment is extremely exciting, a little hectic and a good sign about where life is.


Tomorrow is football, beer, ice hockey beer and beer in town. Should be fun, I'm not a football fan but there will be good people there and that is good enough for me. I'm even going to miss American Idol for it. They must be good people!

Waste nothing and love living in Finland.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Coming out of the closet.

I am in a confessional mood this evening. The Kitchen has been wrecked by my recent rampant workaholism and I have been bad at finding time to cook. I did however manage to make a quick pasta supper this evening which went down well. To make this really good I recommend that you make your own sausage meat. This is a lot easier than it sounds and I will get round to posting on this in the future.

Sausage and creamy tomato sauce with Pasta

Olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 dried chilli
300g sausage meat
1 400ml tin of tomatoes
1 red onion
100g mushrooms
75ml double cream
Salt & Pepper

Heat some olive oil in a pan.
Chop the garlic and the chilli and fry gently.
Add the sausage meat and red onion.
After a few minutes add the tomatoes and the cream.
Season with salt, pepper and thyme.
Cook gently for 10 minutes or so.
Put on a pan of salted water and when it is at a rolling boil add the pasta. I like to make this with penne but can you go with whatever works for you.

Mix and serve with parmesan and pepper.

This dish is a great base for midweek suppers. You can speed it up or slow it down according to your evening. It is also very forgiving with other ingredients: peppers and mushrooms especially but I can imagine some black kalamata olives adding a nice bite or some spinach wilted into this working really well.


Lots of things have been keeping me out of the Kitchen recently besides work including reading "If nobody speaks of remarkable things" by Jon McGregor, writing some fantastic songs for the new Pebble album, learning Finnish and going back to the confessional mode that started me this evening(what is about blogging that encourages this?) my burgeoning addiction to the latest season of American Idol and Bones.


No movie night tomorrow night as I'm taking my team out for a thank you meal and boy have they earned it. I intend to drink a glass of red wine and relax and Friday is a free day and Saturday we are going to make an unusual foray into the world of premier league football. We have been promised beer which should work as a lovely sedative. Next week is the Helsinki beer festival and they will be featuring Danish Microbreweries which should be an excellent day.

Waste nothing and learn Finnish