Friday, 29 August 2008


So where has the kitchen been recently? I’m still working my way through Ovid; I’ve managed to get past the part where he suddenly takes a detour into incest and female homosexuality. Interesting to note that in Ovid’s world it is OK for boys to love each other and gods to marry their sisters but it is wrong for women to love each other or desire their brothers! However the way that this world view does not sit comfortably with our own more “enlightened” 21st century views has been good for me as at it has prompted me to question my own blithe assumptions on a range of subjects about what is right, wrong or socially acceptable in this world.

When theoretical philosophy hasn’t been claiming my attention I have been in the kitchen. We did manage to steal a BBQ last Saturday. It was excellent to still get one more chance to eat out as the year wanes before us. Indeed our lucky and opportunistic al fresco dining was balanced by a Sunday indoors watching the rain come down. We cooked some steak, some pork skewers and some prawns. The pork was marinated in some soy, garlic and chili and worked very well. The meal was topped off with corn which is a staple at our BBQ’s as the Boss is very fond of it.

I seem to be drifting towards voluntary quasi-vegetarianism which is an unusual place for a lover of meat. I only ever order my steak rare or blue and see no problem with killing an animal in order to eat it. If that is what it takes I can do that. Meat is meat there is nothing wrong with being willing to kill the animal you want to eat. However having set up that straw man we can return to my growing vegetarianism. It should be clear by now that it isn’t ethically driven, it is more to widen how I see food and what I want to cook. I make no claims for any systematic exploration either, I am afloat in the stream and going with the flow, my journey is no more than that.

So what have we been cooking? We seem to be working towards a cycle of pasta, potato, pulses and rice which gives us a variety of things to play with. This week we have enjoyed vegetable moussaka and a fine miso soup using home made dashi stock and some carrots from the garden that needed thinning out. I’ve commented before on how soups can make excellent quick evening meals as they can be as chunky or as light as you want them to be. We made so much Moussaka that it was good enough to eat two nights on the trot and then we played with some sweet potatoes and lentils as detailed below.

Although last night was movie night and I did want to start going again we never made it to as the weather was atrocious and by the time I had finished work, been drowned riding my bicycle home and dried myself out I just wasn’t motivated enough to go out to the cinema.

So despite all I’ve said about not eating meat above this is what we pulled together the following elements to make a satisfying dinner for 2.

*2 small baked sweet potatoes
*About 150ml of red and green lentils cooked and seasoned with salt, pepper and butter
*A small frying pan of mushrooms and bacon sautéed with some chili, cayenne pepper and oil.
I think we will have a lazy weekend, I’m certainly feeling the need for it. Although there are plans afoot to try and make some duck spring rolls or something along similar lines.

By the way one thing I discovered last week was triangular tofu. It is of course just a case of cutting up a normal block of tofu in a clever way but it adds something to appearance of the dish and that is also good for the soul. If it looks good you will think it is good and it will be good. Positive claptrap as the boss would say.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


Classical literature. I'm reading Ovid's Metamorphoses at the moment and it is a curious thing. God's change their names mid sentence and keeping up with who is who and changing into what can be a challenge. A repeating motif is the (male) God who falls in love with a human beauty, deceives her in some way to get his wicked way with her, leave her with child and leaves. Later the God's wife finds out about her husband's infidelity and wreaks revenge on the girl. How morality has changed in a few millenia! However it is an enjoyable romp through classical mythology which is filling in the gap in my knowledge. Afterwards the Finnish national epic the Kalevala is next on the reading list. Maybe after that I will turn to something more contemporary.
However the constant nature of change that Ovid chose as his theme is apt as I noticed the sun was lower behind the trees that stand behind our house this evening. The year is clearly marching on. Yet it still time to be a vintage one.
At the weekend we were in France and had a great time out at a house called La Rogiere. We camped in a field next to our friends house. We lived off pain au chocolat, BBQ sausages and red wine. I ended up running the BBQ for 45 people on saturday night including Monsieur et Madame Le Mayor. It was great fun to cook over half an oil drum filled with a large bed of coals.
I think it is not duly unkind to describe La Rogiere as very close to derelict. To the casual observer it doesn't look so good. However on closer inspection the roof beams have been completely redone and are ready for the new tiles. This would be a major step towards being a watertight building. Then can come a real kitchen and the serious work of decorating the inside can begin. I have volunteered (in all seriousness) to go back next year and to put the roof tiles on. It should be fun.
While we were out and about we discussed where we could go on our adventures. So many places came out: Avingnon, Carcassonne, Rioja, Sevilla, Namibia, New York, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Japan and the list goes on. I notice that Finnair is offering a special deal to New York this week. Tempting. I also want to go skiing next spring and am trying to convince the boss to go on a road trip round the USA.
The kitchen has been doing well, I made a chili sauce for some tofu last night and served in some noodles. It was good although I could have made a bit more sauce. I cut the tofu into triangles which was an innovation for me. I was pleased with how it looked. Then tonight we made a simple tomato and bacon sauce with basil and served it with some pasta. Maybe if the weather is good over the weekend we can squeeze one more BBQ out of the waning year.
Let the days keep rolling.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Behind the corner

It's all been too busy, too fast. I had a horrible hissing fit in the Fazer cafe when it all got too noisy and chaotic on friday. Last week was the work week from hell where I did too many hours, didn't get enough sleep, drank too much and got up the next day and tried to do it all again.

That's not to say it didn't have highlights: Visiting Kallio church for the first time, getting a great bargain when buying mushrooms at Helsinki Kauppatori, wandering around the woods on Sunday, a nice glass of wine and some lovely egg fried noodles.

Tonight has been another chance to relax in the kitchen and the chance came around to cook a risotto. Tonights version was

Chanterelle and Pea risotto

This is one advantage of living in Finland: fresh peas and fresh chanterelles in the market. No one in England is going to be able to make this dish so improvise.

I cooked the mushrooms slowly in a little olive oil and garlic and added the fresh peas to cook them lightly. Once done I set aside. Then I made the risotto in the usual way except I added sme chilli to the sofrito which it must be said should only be used in an extremely limited way as it can easily overwhelm everything else. Then I added a good dollop of creme fraiche towards the end and a small handfull of fresh mint from the garden. This could have been a lot bigger especially I was borderline generous with the chilli. The result was very pleasan and very easy.


There's a list of movies building up to be seen - one disadvantage of being so busy is you just don't go often enough.

*The Dark Night. I still can't stop laughing everytime I think that the Finnish title translates as The Night Knight.
*Wall E - I wasn't interested but the reviews have been good so maybe I could do with a bucket of schmaltz?
*X Files - yes a trip down memory lane and a guilty pleasure. Anyway David Duchovny was always nice to look at.
*The Clone Wars. I'm of that generation. Full Stop.

However with movie nights back on a Thursday I'm not sure when I'll get to see any of these. Hmm. A puzzle.


Am off to France at the weekend and hope to be able to drink some nice French wine and maybe bring a few bottles home....