August 31, 2012

Friday Bites: Mushroom Lasagne

Here's a rare treat for you - a pasta recipe! You might remember that I'm really not the biggest fan of pasta and tend to only cook it for my husband who is not as fussy as I am. Although tasty, I must admit that even this dish was mainly demolished by him and not me. Regardless, I wanted to try making a dairy-free (and vegan) lasagne and this turned out surprisingly well.
The trick is to use a lot of mushrooms for a hearty result. You could even use more than I did, up to, say 700 grams. Add flavour with capers, olives, sundried tomatoes and (dried or fresh) herbs and use wholemeal lasagne sheets for a nuttier flavour.
Mushroom Lasagne
(serves 4-6)

olive oil for the pan
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, grated 
3 small carrots, finely diced
500g mixed mushrooms (button, shiitake, portobello), sliced
2 tins diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons French capers
olives, sundried tomatoes, optional
salt, pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
grated nutmeg
fresh or dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano), optional
300-500ml vegetable stock
300g silken firm tofu
pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons plain flour
100-150ml cold water
wholemeal lasagne sheets

1. Heat oil in a large pan and add onion, garlic and carrots. Cook for a few minutes, then add mushrooms. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes and add rest of the ingredients. Leave to simmer on low heat for about half an hour.

2. Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a medium sized pot. Use a hand blender to blend in the tofu. Season with pepper. Whisk flour with cold water and stir into the stock. Stir until the sauce thickens, then remove from the heat.

3. Preheat oven to 200C and grease a baking dish with olive oil.

4. To assemble the lasagne, spoon some of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of lasagne sheets, then some of the white sauce, tomato sauce and more lasagne sheets. Continue for a few layers. Finish off with a layer of white sauce and tomato sauce. Bake for 40-45 minutes and leave to cool for at least half an hour before serving.

August 27, 2012

Oven-Baked 3-Grain Porridge with Blueberry Soup

It was a beautiful weekend here in Sydney, so sunny and warm! I got most of the things done on my to do-list, including this oven-baked porridge which I've been craving for a while. The recipe is based on my old favourite, pearl barley porridge, but this one has a lot 'grainier' texture and nuttier flavour. Sweet blueberry soup was a perfect companion and I was happy as ever to devour a bowl of this whilst enjoying the sun on our balcony.

Bring on the new week!

Oven-Baked 3-Grain Porridge
(serves 4)

70g oat groats
70g rye groats
70g brown rice
700-800ml unsweetened oat milk
a pinch of salt 
olive oil for the baking dish

1. Start by soaking the grains for at least a couple of hours. When ready to bake, drain the grains.

2. Preheat oven to 150C and brush an oven dish (21cm x 15cm) with some oil.

3. Combine all grains and add to the dish. Pour milk on top (enough to reach a couple of centimetres from the top) and season with salt. 

4. Bake for a couple of hours or until the milk has soaked in and the grains have softened. Leave to cool slightly before serving.

Blueberry Soup

250g fresh or frozen blueberries
800ml water
2 tablespoons raw vanilla sugar
2 teaspoons granulated stevia
2 tablespoons potato starch
100ml water, extra 

1. Combine blueberries, sugar, stevia and most of the water in a pan. Bring to boil, then add rest of the water and take the pan off the heat.

2. Whisk potato starch in cold water and add to the blueberry soup while whisking continuously. Leave to cool before serving.

August 23, 2012

Scandi Foodie Turns Three, Queen Muffins

Three years ago today I published my first blog post. It was a poem my mum used to read me in the mornings to wake me up. I started the blog to keep in touch with my parents, to show them the Finnish treats I was baking and the vintage Scandinavian design pieces I had found. Very soon I realised blogging had opened up a whole new world to me; a world of recipes I had never tried before, ingredients I had never even heard of, flavours I had never tasted and people I had never met. I loved sharing pieces of my everyday life to my imaginary audience. I had no idea if anyone apart from my parents ever read my blog, but I kept posting new recipes day after day. 

I've come a long way in three years. I've experienced both sides of the blogosphere, the good and the bad, I've found new friends along the way and I've learned a lot about food, styling and photography. Blogging has also opened up a new career to me as a stylist and a freelance writer and I couldn't be happier and more thankful for it. 

However many changes there have been along the way, this blog has remained first and foremost a personal account. There have been very few commercials and I've never been interested in making money with this blog. I continue to write content that feels comfortable to me and I don't feel a need to publish something only to attract more readers. I am open to feedback, but for the above mentioned reason I don't take criticism very well; it always feels as a personal attack and sometimes I feel that some people tend to forget that there is a real person behind every post.

I thank you for following and I plan to continue blogging for as long as it feels right and doesn't become a chore. I have many more recipes to try and I definitely still have a lot to learn, so I feel no need to stop now. I hope you will continue reading and sharing your thoughts - thank you again.

 Queen Muffins*
(makes 12)

2 apples (Granny Smith)
1 banana
1/4 lemon, juiced
180g wholemeal flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon pure, ground vanilla
30g raw vanilla sugar
50g raw caster sugar
60ml olive oil
150g fresh or frozen raspberries and blueberries
natural, unrefined icing sugar to serve

* In Finland we call the combination of berries 'kuningatar' (queen), hence the name! :-)

1. Preheat the oven to 175C and line a 12 cup muffin tray with paper cups (or use oil to grease). 

2. Finely grate peeled and cored apples and put in a bowl with chopped banana and lemon juice. Puree with a hand mixer until smooth. Set aside.

3. Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add oil into the dry ingredients and stir, then add the fruit puree. Stir briefly to combine and carefully fold the frozen berries in to the batter. 

4. Divide the batter evenly between the cups and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack before dusting with icing sugar.

August 17, 2012

Rhubarb and Strawberry Whipped Porridge

Spring is in the air! I can feel a warmer breeze during my morning walks, the days are getting longer and the light just that tiny bit brighter. I have kick-started my spring cleaning and I can sense fresh energy floating about our home.

I picked up a punnet of fresh strawberries from a local green grocer and decided to use them for yet another childhood favourite of mine: whipped semolina porridge. Traditionally made with lingonberries, this sweeter version combines rhubarb and strawberries resulting in a smooth, delicious dessert. 

Rhubarb and Strawberry Whipped Porridge
(Serves 2)

500ml water
250g chopped rhubarb
250g fresh strawberries
50g semolina
1/2 teaspoon pure ground vanilla
1 teaspoon granulated stevia

1. Bring water to a boil in a medium sized pan. Add rhubarb and simmer until completely softened.

2. Puree strawberries with a hand mixer and add in to the pan. Scatter in semolina, whisking continuously to avoid any lumps. 

3. Keep stirring the porridge and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add vanilla and stevia.

4. Leave to cool completely. Whisk the porridge with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Serve at room temperature.

August 12, 2012

A Little Greenhouse and Aunt Hanna's Cookies

It's been a rainy weekend here in Sydney, but when the sun did peek through the clouds I grabbed my camera and went back to the balcony to snap some more photos. I set up this little greenhouse with a few succulents and I just love how it looks on our balcony table. You really can't go wrong with succulents, they are probably out there with the easiest plants to take care of and it's definitely a bonus that they look so darn cute too! 

Today I got back in the kitchen to bake some more traditional Finnish treats for my husband. In case you are wondering where this baking frenzy is stemming from, I think it's merely an urge to connect with my home in Finland. I'm baking treats I grew up with, like these cookies that I remember from my childhood. My granny used to have a cookie stash in the attic and I remember sneaking up there looking for a sweet treat. These are the memories and traditions I want to keep with me and one day pass on to my children.

These cookies are commonly known in Finland as Aunt Hanna's cookies. I don't know who aunt Hanna was and why the cookies are named after her, but it doesn't make them any less loved. They are super simple to make and use ingredients you are likely to have at home at all times.

Aunt Hanna's Cookies

150g (organic, unsalted) butter
200g (raw) caster sugar
150ml (organic) cream*
2 teaspoons baking powder
250g (organic) potato starch**
300g (organic) plain flour

* light or heavy as long as it is meant for baking

** In Australia potato starch is often sold as potato flour

1. Melt the butter and leave to cool.

2. Add sugar and cream to the cool butter.

3. Combine baking powder, potato starch and flour and add the mixture through a sieve to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well into a smooth dough.

4. Leave the dough to rest in a cool place for about half an hour. In the meanwhile, preheat the oven to 175C and prepare 2-3 cookie trays lined with baking paper.

5. Shape the dough into thin rolls and cut into even sized pieces. Roll each piece into a small ball and press with a fork to give the cookie its traditional pattern. Place the cookies on the trays and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container or in the freezer.

August 07, 2012

Balcony Make-Over, Korvapuusti and Some Changes

Last weekend I finally had time to get our balcony sorted. When we moved into this apartment 8 months ago, we were already busy planning our wedding, so most of the home-improvements had to be put on hold. I am not usually a very patient person, but this year has gone past so quickly that I have hardly had time to stop and whinge about not having a finished balcony.

I had already ordered a three piece dining set for the balcony and when it arrived last week, I decided that the coming weekend was a perfect time to put everything else in place as well. On Friday I drove to a near-by nursery to pick up plants, several bags of potting mix and a few new pots. Those large fibreglass pots you see in these photos are a left-over from the previous balcony make-over we did in our old apartment.


Picking up the right kinds of plants was quite easy. I wanted to go for easy-to-maintain shrubs that would stay green throughout the year, so I bought a few white agapanthus and a couple of lavenders to go with my existing plants. I've given up trying to grow veggies for now as I've had real problems with whiteflies and aphids. Hopefully these plants are a little more stress-free yet still give the balcony that green outlook I wanted.

Although I'm sure I'll still be adding bits and bobs on the balcony, I'm really happy with the outcome. When I had finally finished re-potting the plants and cleaning up the mess, it was such a nice treat to sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy the sun. I even made some korvapuusti* to celebrate our new balcony!

While I'm at it, I guess this is as good as opportunity as any to tell you about some changes I've planned for this blog. After almost three solid years of blogging, I've decided to mix things up a bit and also start doing posts on decorating and craft so technically this won't be solely a food blog anymore. I will be sharing more traditional Finnish recipes (like the one today) and I have also been planning a name change, but that might have to wait a little longer. I hope you will still continue to enjoy my posts and as always I'd love to hear your feedback!



500ml (organic) milk
50g fresh yeast or 4 teaspoons dry yeast
120g raw caster sugar + a few tablespoons for filling and topping
1/2 teaspoons salt 
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 (free-range, organic) egg + 1 egg for brushing
800-1000g (organic) plain flour
150g (organic) butter + 50g for filling
ground cinnamon for filling

1. Heat milk to 'hand-warm' or to about 42 C if using dry yeast (which is a little warmer than if using fresh yeast). Add yeast and stir until it dissolves. Add sugar, salt and cardamom and stir well to dissolve. Add one egg and whisk lightly to blend it in.

2. Start adding the flour, bit by bit, first stirring with a wooden fork, then kneading by hand. Add melted and cooled-down butter, knead and add more flour until the dough feels soft and doesn't stick to your hand.

3. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place (a sink filled with warm water is ideal if it's a cool day) to double in size.

4. Gently punch down the dough to get rid of any air trapped inside. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for a further 10 minutes.

5. Roll the dough into a flat, 2cm thick square. It is probably easier to roll the dough if you do it in two batches. Spread softened butter thinly and evenly on the square, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and roll into a (very) thick cigar. Cut the roll into even sized pieces (this amount should make about 30 pieces). Press a fold in each piece with your little fingers to create the traditional korvapuusti shape. Arrange the buns on baking trays lined with baking paper (leave plenty of room between each bun), cover the trays with tea towels and leave to rise for another 30 minutes. 

6. Preheat the oven to 225C.

7. Just before baking, brush the buns with a lightly whisked egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes or until evenly browned. Leave to cool on a wired rack and cover with a tea towel. These freeze really well, as long as you let them cool completely, use thick freezer bags and empty out all the air from the bags so they won't dry out.

* Yes, I still follow a plant-based diet so these were actually just another hubby-treat in the M&M household.

August 02, 2012

Marinated Chargrilled Capsicums

It's such a beautiful, sunny winter's day here in Sydney. I've been at home today; cleaning, doing loads of washing and crafting a little. I've taken multiple tea breaks and just sat on the balcony in the sunshine enjoying the warmth. This weather reminds me of late spring days back in Finland. 

I've also been enjoying the crisp, red capsicums I've seen in abundance at green grocers lately. I just had to take the opportunity to preserve some of those flavours for later, when capsicums are not as plentiful as they are now. This recipe proved simple and straight-forward and I'm sure these marinated chargrilled capsicums will be enjoyed with gusto during the next couple of months.


Marinated Chargrilled Capsicums
(Recipe adapted from

1kg red capsicums
2 garlic cloves
60ml red wine vinegar
120ml extra-virgin olive oil
fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano), optional

1. Cut the capsicums into thick slices. Remove seeds and white pith.

2. Preheat a grill pan on high heat and place capsicum slices, skin-side down on the pan. Grill the slices (in batches) for about 10 minutes or until the skin is completely blackened. Remove from the grill and place in a strong and sealed plastic bag (minigrip or something similar). Leave for a few minutes, then rub the skins off and leave to cool.

3. Thinly slice the garlic cloves and mix red wine vinegar and olive oil in a separate bowl.

4. Layer capsicum slices and garlic (and herbs, if using) in to sterilised jars and pour the olive oil and vinegar mixture on top. Refrigerate for at least overnight before using. These will keep in the fridge for a few months.