For my beloved Brother who introduced me to the art of cooking, who taught me how to taste and truly love food. Without him I'd never be able to be where I am today.

August 28, 2012

I Demand Real Food!
It’s not the first time I get moved by food to extent that I did two days ago. It’s the kind of feeling you get when the person who you’ve secretly loved for what seems like an eternity, suddenly tells you that he/she loves you back. That’s the most accurate comparison I can think of to describe it properly. Many people ask me how I manage to get so emotional about food. My answer to that question is simple: that’s just how it is when you finds the one true passion in life. That’s also why I usually compare my passion for food with love. Most people, even the ones who haven’t found that one thing they burn for, can still relate to the feeling of being in love. Love, and the passion that love awakes in you, makes you do things you’d otherwise never do in a million years. To not even mention how it makes you act and feel in unimaginable ways. Haven’t we all been there... The next time you find yourself blushing, your hands trembling and your heart racing when faced with the source of your passion, you’ll understand how I feel about food. 

On Sunday, I attended a panel discussion on locally produced food in the little town of Loviisa. I wasn’t lucky enough to actually be one of the speakers invited to the panel, but I did my part sitting in the audience. To my joy, the room was full of people of all ages as I arrived. Like an overly eager little girl on the first day of school, I took a seat in the first row. Wouldn’t want to miss any of the action or information. With my hand sweating from excitement, I applauded the speakers as they took their places behind the desk set up right in front of me.

One man, above the others, made a deep impression on me. Mats-Eric Nilsson, a journalist turned food writer, engaged the audience with a very important and poignant topic – real food.

Real food is rare. It’s actually amazingly tough to get your hands on real food these days. Now you must think I’m being delirious, but I swear I’m totally lucid. In fact, I haven’t seen things this clear for a while. By real food I mean locally produced, unprocessed food. It’s food without an endless list of additives enhancing taste, texture and color. Real food isn’t posing as food, it is food. Why do I claim it’s rare? Take any product you’ve got in your fridge. Do you know where it’s from, what it truly contains and how it’s produced? Negative, I assume, because isn’t available, accessible or affordable. We have a problem. Also my new hero, Mats-Eric Nilsson, chewed on these facts. Let’s unravel this problem, shall we.


Where I live in Helsinki there are few decent food stores at people’s disposal. Sure, there are probably hundreds of super and hypermarkets, but they all sell the same stuff more or less. And of the I’m thinking a majority of that stuff isn’t real food. One simply needs to take a closer look at the content. Before you’ve reached the end of the ingredient list, the store you’re shopping in will probably close.


Now, there are of course open-air markets that still sell real food produced by real farmers, but most people living in Helsinki for example, don’t have access to these markets. Open-air markets are known to open before the birds even start singing and the stands are stripped out of the best and freshest produce before lunchtime. The average working adult will for this reason never have the chance to even see a glimpse of this food. It’s like an urban legend one hears talk about. Those sweet amazing potatoes sold by the charming old farmer at the market… I still haven’t seen those potatoes, or the charming farmer.


Luckily, both aforementioned dilemmas have been relieved to at least some extent. Small producers who produce real food with the right ethics and food philosophy have been given the chance to reach the consumers through little food boutiques and shops that only sell food with certain quality and level. These shops are as picky as I am when it comes to food, its origins, purity and freshness. However, an additional dilemma arises. Even though I’d rather not eat for a week than buying bad, processed foods, I still can’t afford to exclusively shop at these little shops. Since most Finns haven’t realized that real food simply tastes better than “fake food”, the demand on real food is still rather low, even though it’s growing fast. And since demand isn’t grand, the little food shops can keep their current price levels.

* * *

There’s an important point that Mats-Eric also highlighted. This point needs to be taken into consideration when talking about the price one has to pay for real food these days. It’s about equal comparison. When it comes to food, people seem to be stingier than with other consumer goods. Take mobile phones for instance. I don’t think there’s anyone who thinks they can get a brand new iPhone for the price of an old Nokia phone. Because the person who wants an iPhone knows the quality of the product and thus estimates it higher than an old Nokia, this person makes no objections when typing in the credit card pin code, making him the owner of a brand new super phone. Same goes for cars. Like Mats-Eric argued, “no one would ever argue the remarkable difference between a Skoda and a Jaguar”. Still, for some despicable reason, people can go for hours complaining about the price of a locally produced biological cucumber comparing it to a hard, plastic-like, Spanish one. I rest my case.

This is the point during the panel discussion that I seriously thought I would stand up and scream out of relief that someone says theses things straight out loud. I wanted to jump over the desk that served as a barrier between us and embrace this amazing Swedish man who spoke straight to my heart. There were elderly people and children in the audience, so I had to detain myself.

Not only did this man verbalize the ugly truth about people’s misbeliefs and total ignorance concerning food, he even offered a pretty straightforward solution to this seemingly heavy issue. It’s in fact the answer to most problems: Communication. Since a plastic wrapped, hormonally modified and chemically pampered piece of so-called meat can’t talk, the consumer can’t know the truth of its fate, treatment and life. Not even its origin is to more detail than its country of origin. In worst cases, the only trace of the products origin is stated with two letters, EU. The meat could be from anywhere and gone through all kinds of procedures, as far as I’m concerned.

Obviously, in one way or another, you need a face to communicate. And since packaging hasn’t gone through a 2.0 evolution (yet), there’s only that much information that can still be available on the wrapping of a product. Some producers have certainly tried the impossible and almost managed to write a novel on a 5x5cm label using font size 0,1, but that’s somehow counterproductive, I must say. Trying to read it will surely take me until closing time. So even though we have a solution, we need to find a way to implement the solution. Firstly, we must learn to acknowledge the lack of real food. Secondly, value real food. Thirdly, desire real food over “fake food”. Finally, demand real food, real food with a face!

After the panel discussion and after shaking hands with Mr Nilsson (and no I didn’t force myself on him), I was extremely pleased to find a "local food only" open-air market right outside the auditorium. As I walked from stand to stand with tears of joy in my eyes, there was one stand that I couldn't only look at. What I found at that stand was one of those true urban legend products. I had heard my Granny and Mum talking about it, but had never I encountered it in my life. Ladies and Gentlemen, an urban legend no more! Let me present to you a fine raw material: Ternimaito. In English, the best way to call it is first milk, as it is exactly that – the very first form of milk produced by mammals (including humans) in late pregnancy. In Finland, ternimaito is used among other things to make a delicious dessert-like oven cheese, which it couldn’t be any simpler. You mix ternimaito and normal milk, pour the mix in an oven form and pop it in the oven 175°c for 1 hour. When it’s done you sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on it (personally, I prefer honey).  To give you and idea of the taste and texture, think about a crème brûlée and I think you’ll get the picture.

The charming (young) cow farmer barely had time to greet me before I was already handing him the money I owed him for half a liter of ternimaito. I was overwhelmed by happiness, had in tears of joy and I told him I loved him. No wonder the poor man blushed… I blushed too, so it was okay I guess. I couldn't help it, I had found real food! The man who most likely had milked the cow with his own hand, stood right in front of me. The farm where the cows live a happy life was only 15 km away.

In the car on my way home, I studied the ternimaito bottle with care. And this is what I read on the label:

Ternimaito from Henrikas Ladugård
Content: protein, fat and carbohydrates. 
Packaging day: 11.05.12 
Instructions: Stored frozen up to six months. To be consumed immediately after defrosting. 

Thank you Henrikas Ladugård! I also love what your product did for me.

August 20, 2012

Laughter, Tears and Deliciousness

A small step for human kind, a big step for little me: Yesterday, after having successfully executed a mini project, the one-day pop-up restaurant gØtt, I went to bed tired but extremely happy.

gØtt what was what my Italian project partner Veronica and I contributed to Restaurant Day. Since its first edition in May 2011 in Helsinki the concept, a Finnish to begin with, has become a global culinary carnival where passionate foodies like myself can test their wings as restaurateurs for one day. How does it work? It’s simple. Anyone can set up any type of restaurant, café or what-have-you anywhere they want, at any time of day. In a country like Finland, where starting any food related business officially and legally is a hand full, this type of occasion is really something special. One of the most fun ideas I’ve encountered is to sell small sweet and salty snacks from the fifth floor window of someone’s kitchen by transporting the goods to the hungry customers via rope and pulley.

Our idea was also original and well thought out. gØtt truly was a child of love for both Veronica and I. I was a Restaurant Day rookie, Veronica had done it once before and knew the drill. gØtt however, was a first for both of us.  Veronica, who has a love for design and fashion, and I who live for food and food culture, made a perfect team for Restaurant Day. Four days prior to D-day, we put our creative heads together in order to make our little dream come true. 

Step by step, starting from the smallest detail, we came up with a whole concept that we christened gØtt. When we first met in Helsinki, Veronica and I were both studying in Sweden. Both of us used the Swedish word for good – gott. Swedes from Gothenburg pronounce it not with o [o] but with a [ö] – a phoneme, which is probably unfamiliar to you who have no experience of a Nordic language… gØtt sounded good, it looked good, it was gött. The Norwegian letter ø gave it aesthetics that pleased our eye ;)

Because both Veronica and I are totally loyal to our ethics and morals when it comes to food and our surroundings, we also wanted gØtt to reflect that as clearly as possible. Not only did the food need to be delicious and all homemade, it also had to be nature friendly and good-looking. I can’t tell you how many told us that we’re going way too far and aiming way too high. For us, it was all or nothing, so we remained firm regardless of critical feedback. 

Planning the menu made up the core our yummy project. What to cook!? It had to be easy, fast, efficient, take-away friendly, just to name a few criteria. And did I mention it had to absolutely delicious? After hours of twisting and turning each idea upside down and inside out, here’s what we came up with:


gØtt Rolls with Finnish Aura Blue Cheese, Pears, Spicy Pork & Sweet Prunes Sauce
(A very special and warm thank you to my beloved friend Tif Audubert a.k.a my recipe bank)

Sesame Cabbage Crunch 
Coconut & Curry Lentil Velouté 
Homemade Focaccia al Rosmarino 

Blueberries, Yoghurt, Toasted Almonds & Oat Flakes 

Elderflower Lemonade & Blackcurrants 
Mint Water with Apples

Everything actually tasted as delicious as it seems, I must say. And I can tell you, we didn’t take the easy way out. We didn’t cheat, nor give up when it got tough. And in the end it was a great success, even if it didn’t seem that way at 7 am on Sunday morning when we woke up to cook and prepare the restaurant for 40 customers.

All in all, after ripping my white sheets into 40 cotton napkins, painting 40 gØtt stencils on them, and sewing nice borders on them, collecting 40 glass jars from neighbors and friends and attaching labels to them, digging in trash containers and the recycle center for pillows and curtains, tieing pallets, huge metal frames, old luggage and other “decorations” onto a bike and transporting it all through Helsinki, I think I speak on behalf of both of us that we did us proud. A lot of tears, but even more laughter came out of this experience. The most important thing is that we did it and that we did it exactly as we wanted.

August 14, 2012

Super Man, Super Jam

If you haven’t already heard of what I’m about to tell you, you better read extra carefully and get both informed and inspired. It’s with great pleasure that I praise this young man who has created an amazingly delicious product line by sharing his Grandmother’s secret jam recipe with the rest of the world.

I have to hand it to him. Which14-year-old boy gets excited over making jam with his granny? I honestly can’t think of many. Anything unrelated to either sex or alcohol or other similar/related activities will probably not even make them get out of bed… Fraser Doherty, however, the super man of this story, seems to have been rather different and special. And boy am I glad about that! Again this morning, as I drank my tea and ate my yoghurt with toasted seeds and oat flakes, I popped open the little glass jar of Super Jam to add a yummy touch to my otherwise routine breakfast. I can only smile and think that FINALLY someone has got it!

What is so special about Super Jam? What made me so happy when discovering it? I’ll tell you. It’s completely sugar free, no sweeteners added – 100% pure fruit jam made out of “Super Fruits” (Super Fruits are fruits and berries that tend to have a high nutritional value and are high on anti-oxidants. Some common Super Fruits are blueberries and cranberries. Others are more exotic).

Let me break it down. Super Jam is the creation of a teenager from Edinburgh, Fraser Doherty, who after being taught by his granny to make jam according to a secret recipes at the age of fourteen, is now one of Britain’s most celebrated young CEOs. Pretty amazing isn’t it! Besides being among the luckiest 23 three-year-olds that I’ve stumbled upon in a while, he also gives lectures on his entrepreneurial adventures, writes a column and makes TV appearances. Fraser's most popular speech, as I’ve understood, is the one called "The Adventures of Jam Boy". It’s a speech revealing the good times and the not-so-good times of his journey from the comfort of his granny's kitchen to the much harsher and competitive real world.

I wonder when he actually has time to enjoy the wonderful jams himself?

Sure I was impressed by the man behind the jam and as a consequence I spent all morning Googling him to find out more. But above all, I’m thrilled to see how small producers, little by little, manage to break into the market with honest and pure products that prove a self-evident fact – there’s no need to add extra sugar when the raw material itself is already sweet by nature.

August 9, 2012

My Blueberry Memories

It’s the little things in life that make me happiest. Blueberries are one of them. Sweet, fresh, handpicked blueberries from not further than 10km away. Pure and simple, yet so exquisite and delicious! Exactly the way I like it. After having told you this, you can probably imagine how delighted I was to find an elderly man with a huge case of beautiful dark blueberries in his hands ringing the doorbell.

I’ve always enjoyed blueberries thoroughly. I remember me being about the size of a fire extinguisher, running around the forest next to our house and eating all the blueberries I could possibly find. I absolutely loved how they made my tongue all black. Cheap fun, good times. What’s better than that! As soon as I had thanked the blueberry-man, paid him for his hard work and shut the door behind him, I couldn’t help savoring a handful, and immediately running to my Mum and sticking my tongue out.  As we laughed and recalled the childhood memories together, another funny blueberry related memory came to my mind.

I must have been about ten years old, going to elementary school. In the beginning of August, when school started again after the summer break, the teachers were still nice, stress-free and keen on doing fun things with the pupils. An activity that was definitely a favorite, was going to the forest to do “field work” instead of staying in the hot classroom, learning the names of countless wild flower by heart. In order to make the kids all excited and motivated about the outdoor alternative to classic learning methods, the teachers promised that they’d give us 30 minutes in the end of the lesson to pick as many blueberries as we possible could and then take the stash to the school kitchen where the cooker would reward us by making blueberry pancakes. I don’t know if that was a good enough a carrot for the others, but for me – a little girl with a big appetite – it worked like a charm. There was a condition though. For the class to enjoy those yummy pancakes in the end, we had to swear we wouldn’t eat any blueberries during the actual lesson, neither while picking.

The first part of the condition I sort of understood, but the second part never made any sense to me whatsoever. Blueberries are so healthy and good for you! I mean sure, there wouldn’t be nearly as many blueberries in the basket if all kids would put every other handful in their mouths… Looking at it that way, I can see point. Regardless of the protests of 25 ten-year-olds, the teachers remained firm on both conditions: “If we see any of you eating any blueberries before we’re back at school, no body will get any pancakes at all!” Harsh, but still not harsh enough. What some little villains didn’t think of was that the teachers were a tad smarter and knew exactly how the control the situation.

I remember having a huge crush on this boy in my class and I also remember trying to impress him the best I possibly could. I guess he knew the power he had on me, so he didn’t hesitant taking advantage of it, the vicious little boy that he was. As I was floating somewhere on a pink cloud, day dreaming of my first kiss with this boy, vaguely listening to the teachers talking about some plants, I suddenly heard him call my name. All blushed and nervous, I asked him what he wanted. He dared me to eat blueberries with him and a couple other boys. I knew it meant trouble, but I kept my poker face and accepted the challenge. When the teacher turned her back we ran off further into the forest to perform the little crime. I was ready to show case my fearlessness, when my sweetheart told me that I should go first. The silly little girl with a crush in me obeyed and I did it without hesitation. As soon as I had chewed and gobbled up the handful of blueberries, the boys ran back to the rest of the class and left me standing in the middle of crime scene. All I could hear was their cruel laughter as they caught up the rest of the group. I felt like a total jackass. I couldn’t believe they managed to trick me. Luckily, I hadn’t been away for long enough for the teacher to notice, so I thought I was safe after all. As the lesson and the blueberry picking were over and we headed back to school, the teacher stopped abruptly stopped the platoon: “Time for a check up boys and girls!”. What!? How was I supposed to get away with this one? I had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. I remember thinking that the teacher was the cruelest woman on the planet when she made each kid open their mouth and stick out their tongue to see if someone had given in to temptation.

My turn was up. I felt like the teacher could smell the shame on me from meter away. “So Edith, will you be the one to blame? You know the whole class will go home without pancakes if you’re tongue is blue.” I stuck out my tongue, looked her straight in her eyes and decided to be honest: “I did it out of love… for blueberries. I just love blueberries too much and I only had one handful. If you want to punish everyone because of me, than fine, but please, just punish me and let the others enjoy the pancakes. I’ll go directly home after school. I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again.” She was speechless. I saw all my classmates holding their breaths. “Fine”, she answered and the class cheered.

I biked home that day with tears in my eyes, but with a clean conscious. When I came home, I told my Mum what had happened. Without a minutes hesitation, my Mum and I ran to the forest, picked some blueberries and made the best pancakes for just the two of us.

August 3, 2012

"It is rewarding fishing in troubled waters"

This post is specially dedicated to my brother. He's the best fish cook I know! He's suffering from acute leukemia a we speak and therefore won't be able to cook for a while. I'm caring the family banner in his honor.

I love challenges in every aspect of my life, but especially when cooking: the tougher the challenge, the sweeter the price. In fact, I get easily bored if I keep playing it safe, leaning on the same old same-olds. Of course I love to serve food that I know will taste amazing and make my guests happy for a fact, but in that case I won’t learn anything new myself. Also, I get a far better rush when I’m holding my breath to the very last second, without having a clue of how my food will make people react. The satisfaction when their reactions are positive weighs that much more then.

I made myself a promise on my birthday in the beginning of July. I swore I’d learn how to master the art of cooking fish and other seafood at an amateur level. Until now, cooking fish has been like Russian roulette for me. I never know what the result will be; it’s either very good or very bad and half of the time when I’m in the kitchen sweating it, I’m not really in control of the process. Usually, I’m pretty lucky and I end up serving a superb dish, but I can vividly remember times when the whole thing just ended up in tears. I’m also very dramatic when I blow a meal.

I was so dedicated to my promise that I even offered to work for free for my favorite fish salesman at the indoor market where I always buy fish. I thought that in order to discover the intricacies of this slimy creature of the sea, I had to take it from the top, learn it from the very beginning. Regardless of my good will and fierce motivation, it hit me a few days ago that I hadn’t gotten any further in acquiring deeper fish cooking skills. Even the book on the topic that I received as a birthday gift remained as good as unopened on my nightstand. Something had to be done.

An old proverb says, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.” I like the sound of that. As I live nowhere close to decent fishing places, I have no essential equipment, let alone the know-how to use such equipment, I needed a more modern interpretation of that proverb. I decided what I should do instead: study, learn, execute. I took a comfortable position, sat back and dove into Mitch Tonk’s book Fish – The Complete Fish & Sea Food Companion. Something told me Mitch and I would be best friends very soon…

“In the world of professional cooking a chef with good seafood skill and knowledge is highly regarded – the same applies, I think, to the home cook”, says Mitch in the introduction of his book. I fully agree. Maybe it’s the cold fact that ruining fish by cooking it poorly results in something so unpleasant for the palate. So when a cook, professional or amateur, manages to serve you a perfect fish dish, a part of you is always happily surprised and humongously grateful. Like I said, I do have some aces up my sleeve when it comes to fish and seafood, but I can’t rely on them nor my dumb luck, so I continued reading what Mitch had to say.

After internalizing one forth of the book, which had turned into my culinary bible, I felt like my newfound skills where ready to be tested. Ground rule: only buy and cook the freshest fish. If the specific fish type you’re looking for isn’t still jumping before your eyes, leave it. Unfortunately not all people can relish in the luxury of living close to the sea, so one has to apply this rule the best they can. Let’s just say that when fish smells fishy, walk away without hesitation. I got lucky this time. My fish guy offered me a Finnish Sea Salmon caught the very same morning.

Twenty minutes later the creature was staring right at me. I admit I felt intimidated. Failure was not an option, especially when handling such an exquisite raw material. I needed Mitch. Like any true friend, he had my back. After frenetically removing the gills before preparing the fish for cooking (very important by the way), I felt more confident. Another important guideline: keep it simple. Fresh fish needs almost nothing to taste divine. A couple of slices of lemon, fresh dill and small chunks of butter, salt and olive oil. I was good to go. Putting the beauty in the oven would’ve been too easy, so I went for the grill. Double trouble. I was as far out my comfort zone as possible but I had to do it. With my heart racing, I placed the beauty on the hot grill. I heard Mitch’s words in my head: “Fight the urge of wanting to touch it, turn it, flip it…Let it be and only flip it once”. I was being perfectly patient until the poor fish caught fire! All of the dripping butter and the oil ignited the flames and threatened my eyebrows. Panic-stricken, I had to call for back up. After a little help, the situation was once again under control. It was a close call, but precisely the excitement I was looking for.

Fifteen to twenty minutes on each side later, the treat was ready to be served. I’m certain my face was completely white, knowing how nervous I was. I managed to place the fish on the plate without breaking it. Disregarding the minor cosmetic defects, I was pretty proud of the result. Only tasting it would reveal the rest. I called my family to the table and while serving my loved ones I took a little bite. There were no words. I could only cheer and jump up and down of happiness. My reaction almost gave my Mother a heart attack. Safe to say that the fish was a winner. Three more very satisfied mouths can agree to that.