Saturday, 22 August 2009

The end of the beginning

It is a lovely late summer's Saturday morning here in Finland as I start to write this. Quiet and still. The blue sky is almost cloudless and the garden in bathed in dappled sunlight. The house is quiet as well. The boss is upstairs busying herself with some task or other before our friend from Norway arrives tomorrow and I've just finished the hoovering.

Last night was a landmark in the kitchen as we reached the end of the third bag of charcoal consumed in one summer. In the end it was a close run thing, there was just enough heat from the coals to roast a foil wrapped loin of pork that had been rubbed with salt, pepper, fennel seeds, sesame oil and soy sauce. You can't really go wrong with this kind of cooking - put it in the coals, put in on the grill it doesn't matter, 15 minutes or 45 minutes it doesn't matter either so long as that foil is tightly wrapped so none of the juices can escape! However there wasn't enough heat to boil a pot of coffee in the embers. Maybe next summer I will manage to enjoy that little pleasure.

We served the pork with a huge bowl of sticky rice and a spicy aubergine and noodle salad that I took directly from Harumi Kurihara's Japanese Home Cooking. It was simple to make and very tasty, not to mention surprisingly spicy for the use of one chili that has been hiding in a bag with a load of other chilis in the freezer for a few months. Maybe freezing intensifies the zing a chili brings? I feel an experiment coming on! Our neighbours came and joined us with their little boy and we had an excellent evening.

However it is now time to put the blog on hold for a little while. There are two reasons for this: the first is that when the blog started I had hoped it would be a medium for food and life related musings. In a sense it has been and in a sense it hasn't. There are better food blogs out there and there are better musing blogs out there. I feel that I am falling between the two stools and my conclusion is that I need to be clearer about how this blog will go forward. I took a decision early on to exclude politics from my blog and I don't intend to change that. Now it is a question of refreshing my frame of references for myself. With the above mentioned score for the summer this post feels like the perfect point to take a breather. The second, and more practical, reason is the imminent arrival of a "mini me" or a "mini boss" into my life. I've never been a dad before and while I dream of carrying on more or less as before I am not so daft as to believe there isn't going to be a major realignment in the rthymn of my life. In fact I am looking forward to it tremendously. I cannot wait to get to know the little person. Although indications so far seem to suggest he or she has inhereted the currently complimentary stubborn streaks the boss & I possess.

Finaly as it is such a lovely day & I have nothing to do I am going to enjoy it by listening to Test Match Special from the Oval on the BBC. Might I recommend the same to you?

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Hornets and Rum

I was cycling home from work this afternoon in time to watch some of the fast jets of the Finnish air force strut their funky stuff as part of the Helsinki Air Show. Despite a small run in with the police relating to where I was choosing to ride my bicycle I somehow managed to end up at a point just outside the airfield perimeter fence next to a rather unassuming lampost that the fighter jets seemed to be using as their fulcrum point. Consequently I can tell exactly what it feels like to be standing in the middle of an open space while a rather fast jet fighter bears down on you. While this was happening to me I was merrily watching a pigeon and wondering what Blowers would say. I have to say the planes were very impressive and the Finnish disregard for health and safety meant rather expensive military hardware was pulling rather interesting manouevers at insanely low heights over a built up area at speeds approaching stalling point!


Last night we met some friends at Pikkulintu for a beer or two. I started the evening on the Caribbean Rum Stout which was blacker than night and a mind bending 11% alcohol. It was lovely. Deep, complex, tasty, sweet, coffee, rum, tar, coal, smoke flavours all colliding. It took me ages to drink my 33cl and actually made for a civilised evening as opposed to a session which is always a good thing. I did notice in their current beer list that they have an IPA at 21%. The mind can only boggle...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Come into my parlour

The kitchen has been in Turku for a few days house hunting and is now back in Helsinki. It was a very successful trip and we found a house to move to once the autumn begins. We spent a few days driving all over the city and saw big places, small places, odd places, far away places, some places we didn't find, and some places we found by accident. At the end of it all though we did find a nice new place, in a great location and have signed the contract and have the keys!

The kitchen is a good size with three fridges and a chest freezer. We couldn't work out why this would be needed until we walked out into the garden and saw the mature apple trees laden with fruit, the two large clumps of rhubarb and all sorts of berries and currants growing. The final bit of good fortune is that there seems to be a fruiting cherry tree in the garden as well. We're also lucky that the garden will get afternoon sun which in the warm Finnish summer will be wonderful and the BBQ opportunities it gives makes me a happy chef!

Location wise it is perfect for cycling to work and also easy and convenient to meet friends off the train from Helsinki and farther afield! It is a short stroll into town and there is a lovely park only 5 minutes away. Couldn't be better really.

The final thing is that the sauna is a firewood sauna which the Finns prize very highly. I am looking forward to a winter of warm warm saunas as the year becomes dark and cold.


I thought I would put up this link as we made this for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sometimes it is nice to follow a recipe and not think too much.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

BBQ summer

There has been a lot of noise in the newspapers back home about how the Met Office got their forecast for the summer so wrong. The promised BBQ summer has been drowned by the wettest July on record. It seems odd that this year in Finland the weather has consistently allowed me to set up the kitchen outdoors on an almost weekly basis after the washout of last year.

Yesterday the Boss and I had a fairly quiet day at home. We've got things to do but decided not to do them. Instead there was the very serious job of sitting in the chair in the garden doing very little. I am sure that once the baby arrives moments like that will seem strange and remote, but who knows?

As the day was a lovely one we planned to BBQ, we knew that we would be having potato salad as the Boss has dropped hints to me this week that I have been letting her down in the provision of potatoes!

Our challenge in Finland is mayonnaise. The shop bought stuff is shockingly bad. I would ordinarily make my own but with the Boss building us a baby in her laboratory I need to cook all the eggs in the kitchen. So we cheated and mixed in some mustard which meant that neither really tasted bad. We then added hard boiled eggs, broad beans and some bacon lardons to give it flavour.

For the main we put some cubed pork in a marinade of soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil for a few hours and then put it on skewers with leek. The idea was to make it dead simple, look attractive and taste good! They only took a few minutes to cook and so afterwards we put a bit of wood on the BBQ to make a fire and sat out into the evening chatting about nothing in particular.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


House hunting is a current obsession in the Kitchen. I think I have personally sent's stat counter through the roof this month. While this has the pleasing effect of ensuring their marketing department is thoroughly perplexed by the data it has not as yet provided me with a new base for the kitchen and somewhere to house the boss and the baby.

With trying to make sure the loose ends in Helsinki are tied up before the move it seems the day job has been intruding on the important work in the Kitchen. So rather than offering up some tasty tips I might just mention some ideas that have worked and one we're going to try tomorrow night on a friend.

Last night the boss made a quite superb roast red pepper tart which I am afraid to say was actually even better today as my lunch at work. We bought the peppers from the grocery stand from Malmi railway station and while they weren't the prettiest they were very cheap at 1€ for a bag.

Tonight was my turn to offer pan fried salmon with lentils and vegetables. This was mostly good weekday evening food, the vegetables, once drained were given a little bit of butter and a smattering of fennel seeds which just elevated them above the humdrum.

Tomorrow we will doing something that is along the lines of black pudding and pork paella. I am not sure in my own head how this work but the boss assures me from her extensive googling that the Spanish make morcilla paellas so I can't be too far off the mark!

The other thing that has dragged me away from the kitchen was listening to Test Match Special on the BBC. I must admit that I've been quite ambivalent about the cricket for a while now however when I stumbled across the TMS commentary on the Internet I was happy to be sucked back in. I am looking forward to the 4th Test from Headingly at the weekend especially as I have the weekend off and can sit and listen to both days. All I have to do now is to convince the boss to sit still so I can play TMS to her belly so that the foetus can start its conditioning process before birth!!