March 29, 2013

Hot Cross Buns


We woke up to a cooler morning this Good Friday, so it was a perfect time to bake a fresh batch of Hot Cross Buns. I followed this recipe almost to a T, with a few adaptations as marked below. They're a little time consuming to make, but well worth the effort. Hot Cross Buns are best eaten fresh and my husband likes to slather them with butter.

Wish you all a nice Easter long weekend!

 

 Hot Cross Buns
(recipe from taste.com.au)
(makes 12)

1 tablespoon dried yeast
1 teaspoon raw caster sugar
185ml warm milk (organic, full cream)
125ml cold milk (organic, full cream)
50g butter, melted (organic, unsalted)
1 egg, lightly whisked (large, free-range, organic)
525g plain flour
200g sultanas
70g raw caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground  cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
tiny pinch of salt

75g plain flour
5-6 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons raw caster sugar

1. Whisk dried yeast, sugar and warm milk in bowl. Leave for 10 minutes or until frothy. Whisk in cold milk, butter and egg.

2. Combine flour, sultanas, sugar, spices and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon, then knead with hand for about ten minutes until you get a smooth and elastic dough. 

3. Place the dough in a bowl, cover with tea towel and leave to double in size.

4. Shape the dough into buns. Punch down the dough, then knead for a couple of minutes and divide into 12 portions. Roll each portion into a smooth bun. Grease a 16cm x 26cm tin with butter and place the buns, side by side, into the tin. Cover the tin with a tea towel and leave for about half an hour.

5. Preheat oven to 200C. Combine flour and water in a bowl and whisk into a smooth paste. Spoon the paste into a piping bag and decorate the buns with a cross pattern. Bake for 10 minutes in 200C oven, then lower the heat to 160C and continue to bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.

6. Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan and let simmer for a few minutes until the syrup thickens. Brush the hot buns with the syrup and leave to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving.

 

March 25, 2013

Easter Preparations



Easter is almost here! Even after all these years in Australia, I still associate Easter with Spring. In Finland I would always grow "rairuoho" (a type of grass) at Easter as a symbol of Spring and new beginnings. Here in Australia, I get a similar result with sprouting wheat. It only takes a few days to grow and I just love the fresh green colour of the grass.


I'm not big on Easter decorations, but I just couldn't resist this simple white bunny I saw in the shops the other day. I don't think I will tuck it away even after Easter is over.

 Wheat grass grows in a few days and the green colour is perfect for Easter!

March 23, 2013

Leek and Potato Soup


Sydney is still sweltering in summery weather, with temperatures reaching 30C almost daily. There was, however, a cooler break some days ago and I just had to take the opportunity to make another soup. Potato and leek soup has been a favourite of mine for a long time, and even though I've shared a recipe for it before, I thought it won't do any harm doing it again.

I used nutritional yeast to flavour this soup, but you could easily use a dash of cream or soft cheese (flavoured cream cheese, for instance) instead. All it needs is a little drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil and another one of those rye-crisp breads with cheese to serve with.

I'd like more of these cool days please!


Leek and Potato Soup
(serves 4-6)

5 big potatoes
2 big leeks
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast 
freshly ground pepper, to taste
extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

1. Peel and chop the vegetables and place in a large pot with vegetable stock. Bring to boil and simmer for about half an hour or until vegetables are tender. 

2. Turn off the heat and season the soup with nutritional yeast (or cream) and pepper. Purée the soup in a blender and serve drizzled with olive oil.

March 21, 2013

Amélie


It is so true that it's the little things in life that make all the difference. Take this bicycle, for example. I've dreamed of having one for years now. It's been one of the things I really missed from Finland, being able to ride my bike everywhere (even in the snow!). Now I finally have one and I couldn't be happier. I present to you - Amélie.

We went for a ride around the near-by lake.
 We stopped to admire the view and enjoy the sunny weather.

                                                and we looked at the ducks strutting around.

 

March 19, 2013

Carrot Pancakes


My pancake addiction is showing no signs of slowing down. Savoury pancakes, sweet pancakes and now these: carrot pancakes. All these variations are actually quite common in Finland and the savoury ones are often served with lingonberry.

Carrot pancakes (or any savoury pancakes, really) make a perfect weekend lunch and these were a nice treat on a quiet Sunday after a long outing in the near-by forest. I had the left-over pancakes next day for breakfast; what a perfect way to start a new week!


Carrot Pancakes
(serves 4)

2 large eggs (free-range, organic)
500ml full cream milk
200g wholemeal flour
pinch of salt
4 carrots, finely grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
butter, for frying
lingonberry, for serving

1. Break the eggs in a bowl and add half the milk, flour and salt. Whisk until smooth, then add the oil, grated carrot and rest of the milk. Leave for half an hour.

2. Fry pancakes one at a time, a couple of minutes on each side. Serve with lingonberry jam.

March 16, 2013

Finnish Spinach Soup


There is nothing better than a comforting soup on a rainy day. I made the most of it yesterday and whipped up spinach soup, a childhood favourite served with hard-boiled egg and rye-crispbread with cheese. If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, and soon have fresh nettle available, try a similar soup using those instead. I have a recipe here.

It is supposed to be another warm one here today, so no more soups before autumn really sets in.
I am so ready for a cool change, I'm really looking forward to it!


Finnish Spinach Soup
(serves 4)

1 litre organic full-cream milk
3 tablespoons plain flour
200g baby spinach/English spinach/frozen spinach (thawed), blanched and finely chopped
a good pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper or a tiny pinch of white pepper
hard-boiled egg (free-range, organic), to serve

1. Add milk and flour to a saucepan and whisk well to combine. Whisking continuously, bring milk to a boil and add blanched, finely chopped spinach. Let simmer for a further 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and season.

2. Serve with hard-boiled egg and crispbread.

March 13, 2013

Brown Rice, Grape and Feta Salad


A quick mid-week update as I had the luxury of having a friend for lunch today. This brown rice salad was completely effortless to make, but it will definitely become my new favourite. When grapes are in season, I love eating them as they are, but also adding them to salads and desserts. This dish has a perfect combination of flavours and textures!

Brown Rice, Feta and Grape Salad
(Recipe adapted from Coles)

400g brown rice, cooked and cooled
2 big handfuls of seedless red grapes, washed and halved
200g feta, cubed
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
bunch of parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon-infused olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
handful of raw cashews, lightly toasted

Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

March 11, 2013

Everyday Meals

 

I thought I'd share a few simple and quick everyday meal-ideas with you. These are the kinds of meals I cook all the time: they are virtually zero-effort, even during those hot summer days when the last thing you feel like doing is standing next to a hot stove. 

Firstly; salads. Just take a peek into my Recipe Index and you'll realise how keen I am to feed myself (and my husband) with colourful, fresh salads that are really more like meals than just sides. This Greek-inspired salad consists of simple ingredients like cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, mixed salad leaves, Sicilian olives (instead of traditional Kalamata) and feta cheese. Drizzle with good extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and grind a bit of black pepper on top. Voilà, lunch or even a light dinner is sorted.

 

Vegetables are obviously always heavily featured even in our main meals. This mushroom and eggplant stack has grilled eggplant smeared with a miso-honey-tamari mixture, layered with pan-fried button mushrooms and toasted sesame seeds. It is a perfect little meal served with a fresh salad and a slice of chunky bread, if you like.

 

Another easy summer-meal is barbecued portobello mushrooms topped with basil-walnut pesto. Simply grill or pan-fry olive oil-drizzled mushrooms (with stalks removed) and top with a pesto made with a bunch of fresh basil, half an avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, a handful of walnuts, pinch of salt and pepper.


Finally, desserts. I can't think of anything better than seasonal ingredients (like figs, in this case), served with cheese, ricotta or yoghurt and drizzled with pure Australian honey. Really, what more could you possibly need?

March 07, 2013

Home Maintenance

 

I have been doing a bit of home maintenance lately; organising, de-cluttering and decorating. Here in Sydney I don't really change home interiors according to seasons, except for adding a few cosy blankets here and there for the cooler months, but I do like the idea of starting each season with a kind of inventory.

The wooden chest in our living room was recently brought to Sydney by my parents. It is a traditional "bridal chest", filled with linen and given to the daughter in the family when she gets married. This one was handmade by a Swedish carpenter back in 1991 when I was just 10 years old. I'm so happy to finally have it here in our Sydney-home.

 

I'm sticking to my grey-white-wood colour scheme throughout the year. I have assorted vessels in simple, timeless designs and some wooden beads I absolutely adore. Marimekko print on the living room wall adds a splash of colour.


Our kitchen has generous storage space, but I like to keep some things on display on the bench top, just to add a touch of homeyness. When my parents were visiting us, dad and I finished a few DIY projects, including this cute little ladder for the kitchen and some new shelves for our laundry space.


I'm absolutely smitten by my new wooden clothes horse. I've always had to hide the ugly plastic stands, but no more! I can store this inside during the rainy season and it's almost like a pretty piece of furniture. I love it!


March 03, 2013

Sweet Potato-Rye Rieska


Freshly baked sweet potato-rye rieska (Finnish flat bread) for breakfast on a Sunday is exactly what I wanted. Sun is peeking through the clouds after two days of rain, autumn is on its way. 


Hetkittäiseen Suomi-ikävään auttaa lähestulkoon aina leipominen. Uunituoreet bataatti-ruisrieskat sunnuntaiaamuna tulivat tarpeeseen. Aurinkokin pilkahtelee jo pilvien lomasta kahden sadepäivän jälkeen. Syksy on saapumassa Australiaan.



Sweet Potato Rye Rieska*
(makes 10 small breads)
(recipe from Ruoka Pirkka)

400g mashed sweet potato
1/2 teaspoon salt
about 140g rye flour
about 100g plain flour

1. Preheat oven to 225C and line two baking trays with baking paper.

2. Add salt to mashed potato, add flour and mix until smooth. Using two spoons, scoop portions of the dough onto the trays. Flatten the breads with flour-dusted fingers. 

3. Bake for 20-25 minutes and serve warm with butter.

* Earlier flat bread recipes here and here.