Friday, 29 January 2010


Going skiing. Hoorah! Back next week.

The soup was excellent and I will try and post the recipe soon. It has been a lot of fun to have my little brother here, it is good to catch up.

Now I just need it to be warmer....should be -30C with the wind chill. Brrr.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Carrot & Celery Soup

I made this very quickly and simply the other day. Hope you enjoy.

1 onion roughly chopped
5 or 6 carrots peeled and roughly chopped
1 head of celery washed and roughly chopped
1 potato, peeled and you guessed it
A bit of garlic (if you fancy)
A good dose of tarragon
Water
Salt and pepper

This couldn't be simpler - boil all the vegetables in the water, add the salt, pepper and tarragon. Once cooked, blend to a puree, return to the heat, add cream and cook for a little while longer, check seasoning and serve.

How simple was that?
A dash of cream


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Day tripper

The Kitchen is on paternity leave this week, which is a welcome change from work. Although the supreme being in the house has wryly suggested this means she gets a week off and I look after the little one, I haven't as yet put this hint into action. However we, as a family trundled off to the botanical gardens today. Even though Finland is enjoying the coldest winter in 50 years we thought at least the greenhouses would be open. If nothing else we reasoned, it would be an adventure.

Needless to say it was. We got off at the wrong bus stop in the middle of nowhere and had to walk the last mile and half to the botanical gardens, luckily for us the day was one of those days where the earth is covered in snow and the sun was shining, so despite the cold temperature it was a pleasure to be outside. When we got to the greenhouses I have to say I was impressed and the little one certainly went goggle-eyed as she saw things she had absolutely no comprehension of (gold fish especially!). However it is clear the Ruissalo is somewhere to explore in the summer and in the autumn and is a tiny piece of Finnish nature only a bus ride from our front door.

*****

My little brother arrives tomorrow and will meet his niece for the first time. I hope she doesn't confuse her daddy with the guy who kind of looks quite like him....


*****

The kitchen is currently blogging and making tea (or more accurately ignoring what is on the stove and hoping for the best). I am making carrot and celery soup with tarragon for no other reason than I have the ingredients. My inspiration levels have been at the functional for quite some time and I've been more successful at producing better than average lunches than dinners recently. However this week we have managed a rather delicious aubergine and lentil moussaka and now with this soup things are going well. I had an idea today that it was time to start making terrines.

*****

Finally the other project I have going at the moment is learning to play Day Tripper by The Beatles. I learnt it in F for some reason which seems incredibly complicated compared to using E in the 1st position. Now however I have gone with E and am sliding up to the 7th position which leaves me loads of time to sing the song and play the lead guitar line without looking like a total plonker. It is nowhere near polished yet but it is getting there and the little one is impressed if no one else is.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Backbeat

This week the Kitchen has been in Hamburg, working hard by day and maybe, just maybe finding a quiet watering hole for a small beer in the evenings. I arrived early on Monday morning and headed for Kiel by train. The lady in the ticket office sold me a rover ticket which meant I could travel on any train in Schleswig-Holstein that day. Speeding over the landscape that was covered in snow a montage of images came and went as we sped along: The field shrouded in mist with roe deer standing and watching the train pass; the field full of sheep (it is strange to report but that was definitely a novelty); the sun burning through and coating the white landscape in a brilliant luminescence before we plunge into the dank cold of Kiel.

After that is was back to work in Hamburg and it was an intense couple of days that were challenging and rewarding in parts and deeply frustrating in others. However the evening with colleagues from around Europe were fun, although it seems that this lark fell in with a crowd of owls and learnt that hard way that "one more beer" is a German euphemism for 4 or 5!

We were also treated to a walk through St Pauli, it's history (Gastst├Ątte Zur Ritze) and we were told how The Beatles are a Hamburg band. However despite that the enduring image of my night out in Hamburg was of standing down at the Elbe river with it's ice floes looking at Abramovich's yatch in dry dock.

However it is now good to be home and to marvel at how the little one has changed in only 4 days. I now have a week off and am looking forward to a little quality time with the family and in the kitchen.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Tears and inspriations

Next week the Kitchen will be in Germany. I am travelling again and leaving the boss to fend for herself and for my daughter and heir while I have fun in Hamburg. I am not relishing the 06:00 flight but am looking forward to catching up with colleagues and working on the subject at hand for this session. And maybe, just maybe finding time to enjoy a small glass of German beer.

Work in the Kitchen has been a hotch potch recently and I must admit to having borrowed ideas liberally in order to keep myself and the boss fed. I haven't had the energy to be creative on my own. Instead I have been reliant on finding inspiration from others and then either following the recipe or more often than not using it as a guide and following my gut.

Today I have had a double dose of this just at the point when I can do nothing about it. However this does mean the boss can look forward to an Aubergine and Lentil Moussaka and some kind of Naan bread topped with aubergine, courgette, pine nuts, feta cheese and mint. The latter came from an home furnishing magazine I was reading at lunch today. It was only two years old and while it was in Finnish I understood what was needed to make the dish...so does half reading and half taking notice of someonelse's recipe written in a foreign language count as stealing it? I think the answer to that is yes.

Tonight our little girl howled at the moon in such apparent pain that dinner was at best just a fuel stop for two parents confused at their little baby going bananas on them. I started out by riffing on a Japanese dish of rice with 3 toppings: chicken, egg and green beans. Luckily once it was all cooked I was able to pop it in the oven to keep it warm until our little girl was convinced to sleep. Nothing seemed to work for her: even entreaties in English, Spanish, French and Finnish had no effect and that is unusual. Normally she finds Daddy cooing in French or Finnish to be very amusing.

So despite my best efforts to pacify an upset daughter with Finnish I am generally quite pleased with how my Finnish is coming on. Admittedly when a lady spoke to me at length about the Finnish pension system for entrepreneurs in Finnish this week I had to pretend I had a clue what she was talking about. I am just over the moon I have made the leap with the "Puoli" (meaning half) to extending its context to include the idea of a side (as in "this side" and "that side" or the Swedish side of the border). I can't yet use it in a meaningful sentence but I know my Finnish colleagues do so. It is little victories like this which keep you going with a language that is as alien to my English mind as Finnish. In a strange way I find it quite a beautiful language even though it frustrates me on a daily basis.

To come back to travelling the kitchen will also be in Toulouse in February and I cannot tell you how excited I am about this. Well first of all I am quite upset that I cannot get back on the day I want to due to flights but Toulouse is the home of Cassolet, one of my all time favourite foods in the world. While I am in Toulouse I wonder if I can eat Cassolet every night in a different place?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Do be do

This weekend we took our first family trip to Helsinki. I had some paperwork to get sorted with the Customs office relating to my car (which is of course managing to be entirely logical and byzantine in its complexity, however I think we are almost there) which provided an excellent excuse to pack the family up and see friends in the big city.

I had gone into the railway station in Turku a week or so ago and tried in my best Finnish to book a special place for us and the pram. When we got on the train we found that the pram went somewhere other than our seats so we abandoned it and headed to our special family compartment. This is a little section of the train with 4 adult seats arranged in a semi circle around a window, a table and a small play area. It's meant for families with small children and it was perfect for us as in the carriage where we left the buggy 3 gentlemen decided that 9am was a suitable time to start drinking beer! The train ride up was great and the little one seemed to take it all in her stride and enjoyed sitting on my knee watching the winter world speed past. The boss took the photo above and I really like it!

Once in Helsinki my appointment with customs took less than 15 minutes (when dealing with Finnish bureaucracy it pays to have the original of everything with you!) and we were off to enjoy the weekend. We caught up with some friends who have recently had twin girls who arrived a little early. It was really amazing to see how small the girls were compared to our little monster and to see how well our friends were coping with the rigours of looking after such small babies.

Afterwards we went on to another friend who very kindly fed us and housed us! For dinner he cooked Salmon. However rather unusually he cooked it in the dishwasher. While it was an interesting experiment and the sauce (piquant dill sauce) was excellent, I cannot see how the dishwasher really added something to the finished dish apart from the theatre of the cooking process which was undeniable!

On Saturday we caught up with more friends just by sitting in the Ataneum cafe. It was very busy due to the enormously popular Picasso exhibition. However we ignored the crowds and just made ourselves comfortable in the cafe. After lunch I offered to change the baby and I learnt a valuable lesson: If there is an enormous queue for the ladies toilet and access to the disabled toilet is being guarded by a group of formidable old dears carrying a baby and engaging in a little bit of polite small talk about how she is the first Finnish member of the family will charm even the hardest of old dears. Especially if a) you do it in Finnish and b) the baby smiles at all the right times which our little one did brilliantly! Unsurprisingly the ranks of old dears parted and we were ushered into the baby changing room! Afterwards all the women at the lunch table were adamant that if they had gone with the baby they would not have got through the barricade!

Finally it was time to come home and I have to say we were "cream crackered" by the time we got home and put the baby to bed. I rustled up a lazy carbonara and we trundled off to bed as soon as was acceptable even if it was ridiculously early. However we have a full day ahead of us and we're off to buy skis!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Chickpea Ravioli

Surprise me the boss said. I know she's not terribly keen on chickpeas, or if that is unfair there is at least some resistance to them in their whole form. In hummus, mixed with bacon and avocado there is no complaints, but otherwise I sense some hesitation. All this is good background information because in the cupboard a carton of chickpeas has been calling to me and I was resolved to do something with it. So when we were working on the menu plan I casually wrote down Chickpea surprise and passed it over for approval. She saw it and gave it back as a challenge.

So I went looking for something unusual to do with chickpeas and quite by chance I came across this blog posting on The Healthy Vegan Kitchen Blog. I read it, was intrigued and decided to do my own thing with it. However I do need to acknowledge my inspiration and thank Debyi for putting the idea in my head!

What can I say? This really works. You basically make a ravioli filling with chickpeas, cream cheese, chives, garlic, lemon juice and salt and you serve it with some good home made pesto. Pesto can be made more or less sauce like depending on how much olive oil you add. Here I used more than I would normally so that the pesto would be like a sauce for the ravioli.

*****

It is still cold here in Finland - the temperatures have been hovering around the -20C now for weeks really. There is no end in sight and we had one occasion in the last week where the temperature dropped so low that the cold water feed to the hot water tank in the garage froze. So to restore hot water, yours truly was up a ladder with a hair dryer thawing out pipes....still the boss and the baby appeared to appreciate it.


Friday, 1 January 2010

Welcome to 2010.
Hope it is a good one.