Thursday, 19 March 2009

Singer sing me a song

Last weekend we had a visitor from the UK and on Sunday we took her out to the Akseli Gallen Kallela museum just out of Helsinki city centre. Gallen Kallela seems to have cornered the market in Kalevala art. The exhibition we saw was sketches for his grand project (& ambition) to be the national Kalevala artist. Something he has arguably achieved even if the project as he imagined it was never completed. The Musuem is housed in his old studio and was built in that period of the late 19th/early 20th century which gives it a suitably garnd scale and then factor in the eccentricities of an artist (he had a monks cell installed in the tower) and you have a wonderful space, full of light and slightly dotty.

The exhibition was really interesting, especially now I have read the Kalevala and know the stories. There was one in particular which was a very geometric version of the defence of the Sampo which really got my attention and although I've been searching for it on the net I haven't found it. However during my searches I found this portrait of old Väinämöinen which I really liked.

Our friend is a vegetarian and we enjoyed cooking proper food without meat. We made a lovely Miso soup and served it with rice on the evening she arrived, then we cooked a Thai red curry with tofu on Saturday night and had a lovely pasta with tomatoes, olives, chili and spinach on Sunday. All very simple to make and easy to do on a evening after work.

This week I have been out a couple of nights and finally last night the boss & I made some fajitas. It was an object lesson in the fact that shop bought stuff is not as good as cooking it by yourself. Yes we were pushed for time and lacked motivation and yes we bought the simple shop ready ingredients. The guacamole was the most disappointing and we have now learnt our lesson anew (the hard way) that good food is home made food.

Tonight we had some home made chips baked in the oven and some steak with red onions and mushrooms. Lovely.

Tomorrow the kitchen closes for one week as I am off skiing in France. Service will resume in early April.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Time for some opinions

I've been busy reading recently and catching up on music so I thought I would take this blog post to give you some opinions on the music I've just got hold of and a book I've just finished.

No Line on the Horizon by U2. The first time I heard it I really had nothing good to say about it: maudlin, death by mid tempo, lacking focus, really poor production, ersatz, trying to hard to be clever, is that your idea of a melody? Second time I actually picked up that a few songs differed in tempo but I still am not convinced. It all seems to be a bit of a blur as one song blends into another. Maybe this will be a grower and won't let the casual listener in but that is on the evidence so far the most charitable conclusion. I have read some gushing reviews on the web which I have to disagree with. I think I'm also annoyed that the hype coming from the band seems to be so at odds with the final album. If this is the their third masterpiece then they are doing a good job of making it difficult to spot.

I'm not sure how I got into the Killers, I think I bought their first CD on a whim one day in Bristol after work and played it over and over again. It was, and is that good. I think their second album was even better if maybe not as memorable. By that I mean it lacked the big immediate classics of the first album but is still a good listen. Now I am catching up with their new album. I have to say that this is an odd one. It beats U2 by a mile but at times it sounds like most of the tunes (and especially the rhythm parts) are the pre programed tunes that come on a cheap Casio keyboard. This is the key to this album they seem to be going towards dance music and in the vein mined by the Scissor Sisters. I kind of miss the guitars. However it does work. Curious.

Like the Killers, Franz Ferdinand seem to be turning more dancey in their third effort and while I am not a massive fan this is probably as good as the Killers.

I am becoming aware as I write this that somehow all of these albums have failed in gaining my instant acceptance. That they were all downloaded at the same time and listened to on the bus backwards and forwards to work over the course of a day or so may mean my views are more linked to my world than their worth. Or it may mean that I am right in my opinions. You listen to them and you decide.

Which brings me to Barack Obama's book. Hmm what to make of it. Well here it is: how can a man who claims to want to change so much of the political landscape around him sound so like the politicians he says he wants to change? Only when he spoke about race did I get the feeling his passion took flight and I found myself wading through chapter after chapter where he spoke of his desire to be different and then marched himself through every imaginable focus group tick box there was.

The good news is that today has been a beautiful day in Helsinki so I took the boss and my mother in law for a walk over the frozen sea. We were not alone as many Helsinki residents took the opportunity to ski, walk, run, ice fish under lovely spring skies. This is one of the reasons we came north to do this and to be out under blue skies on days like this. It may be hard to get through the dark winter months here in Finland but you feel it is worth it on days like today. Maybe I should go give that U2 album another listen?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A full stop

Pork rolls with Mozzarella, Spinach & Garlic served with Beans

This was an idea for a Monday night super that occurred to me on the bus on the way home from work. I had jotted down in my diary “beans” so had popped a mixture on to soak the night before. The problem now was I had no idea what to do with the beans. I had planned to read my book but wasn’t in the mood to take in Obama’s pontificating so was idly staring out the window when I hatched the plan.

It is a recipe that seems to fit into what the Kitchen does best. We take midweek food, the stuff you eat everyday after work and try and give it a little bit extra. What we also do is plan what we eat and when so that we save money and don’t waste food. I have always made a conscious decision to leave my opinions on politics and religion out of this blog but on the subject of people in the west wasting huge quantities of food I have to say it is a sin.

Serves 2
2 pork fillets thinly rolled out like a pancake
100g of blanched spinach – you will need to adjust this depending on how big (or how flat) your pork fillets are.
50g of mozzarella chopped up
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil

250g of mixed beans

Put on the beans to cook for about 1 ½ - remember do not salt them until cooked
Meanwhile on the flattened pork place half of the spinach, mozzarella and garlic
Roll up the meat so it looks like a slightly fat tube
Pin the meat together with cocktail sticks

In a pan warm some olive oil, them melt a knob of butter into it and add a dash of vermouth
Place the 2 pork rolls into the pan and put a lid on
Cook for about 20 minutes on a medium heat
Keep an eye on the liquid in the pan you don’t want it to evaporate

When the beans are done season them with salt & pepper. If you want to add some extra spinach to them it will be very tasty.

Finally when the meat is done serve up and enjoy.

We had some left over spinach today because the only bag in the supermarket yesterday was too big to use in one go so I popped the rest of it in with some mushrooms and served it as a side to some Salmon & Rice.