Scones – hug on a plate




Finnish winter can be a bit depressing at times. Hardly any daylight, mainly rain from October to January, at least in the southern parts of the country. There may be days when you need an extra hug. Even days when you need something more than that. Recent times have not been so easy in the politics front, either: Brexit on the European agenda, social and health reform on the Finnish agenda, unrest and post-truth in the international debates – not exactly a surfeit of good news in sight… Longing for something warm and comforting is hardly surprising.

For days like that, I’ve got just the thing for you:


It is hardly a coincidence that scones first became popular in the UK in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign in the 1840s, a time when people were also desperate for comfort and domesticity.

Even in Helsinki you can enjoy some pretty decent afternoon teas with scones and other goodies these days. Worth mentioning are for instance Salutorget, Hotel Kämp and Bergga in Kallio.

Personally I’ve been a fan of scones since school days and for decades searched for that perfect recipe, until found Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Lily’s scones. Use this recipe and let me tell you, your scones will be second to none! Simply sumptuous!




500 g flour

1 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoon of baking soda

4,5 teaspoons of cream of tartar (potassium hydrogen tartrate – tartaric acid, ‘viinikivi’ in Finnish)

125 g butter

300 ml milk

Mix the dry ingredients, then add soft butter and milk without overworking the dough.

Cut the dough into 10-15 scones (depending on your taste, whether you prefer your scones nice and plump or perhaps a bit more small and delicate…)

+ 1 egg for egg washing the scones before putting them into the oven.

Bake in 225°C for 15-20 minutes

PS:Some people may see this as a bit unorthodox, but I just love scones with butter and a nice slice of cheddar cheese! The absolutely best combination for me is still raspberry jam and double cream or – if available! – clotted cream.  If you’re brave and ambitious, you may also try to make your own clotted cream! As most things, you can find advice and inspiration from Youtube:


It’s a dog’s life (and all the better for it!)


There are today few topics more heatedly contested than food and what, how and when one should or should not eat. Perhaps a topic even more heatedly contested however is the diet of our pets. Being a “Mom” to two lovely West Highland White Terriers (or Westies, for short), who as a breed are sadly prone to suffer from allergies, I am faced with this bombardment of information on the topic. So far I’ve tried to keep a clear head and stay relatively simple and sensible, as the dogs have not been exhibiting allergy symptoms.


We are currently testing home cooking for the dogs. It’s kind of simple, really, as a vegetables and brown rice cook easy enough in a big pot once or twice a week and can be accompanied by some meat (minced turkey seems to be fine for our dogs), fish (which they absolutely love) or cottage cheese. They also get some fish oil and biotin supplements. Actually, their diet seemed so healthy to me I recently re-started taking fish oil and zinc myself, as it seemed to work for the dogs! 😉 I suppose it is fair to say that in our society we may take better care of our dogs health than our own.


Serious stuff of doggie diets aside, though: before Christmas I really wanted to make some homemade Christmas cookies for our four-legged friends. In particular as we coordinate a monthly walk with other Westies in Seurasaari and I was hoping to surprise our Westie friends with some special Christmas treats. After some not-so-successful testing of my own, I luckily got help from a Westie-owner friend who also works at the local pet supply store. She gave us the original recipe, which was tested and found to work beautifully at the Westie walk in December (with more than 20 westies being the focus group). Since then I have done some minor fine-tuning of the recipe, mostly in order to improve the characteristics: elasticity and bakeability of the dough. Now I think it is fair to say that the cookies actually look and smell good enough to eat! I am tempted to have a taste myself in fact…

So, here goes:


1 bag (300 g) of Natures Menu –dog food (we have used various types of this brand, most recently chicken and rabbit with vegetable)

2-4 dl potato or rice flour (or other glutein-free flour)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon natural yogurt

A handful of nuts and seeds can also be added for variation.

Mix the ingredients – the amount of flour will be appropriate when the composition of the dough resembles ginger bread dough. Use a mold of your choosing (we have two Westie-ones, not surprisingly and I recently purchased the cutest Valentine’s Day molds from the Stockmann’s Christmas sale).



Bake in the oven at 175 degrees until crispy.

Share with best canine friends!



(Photo of our cookie monsters from Seurasaari westie walk in January, courtesy of Mikael Vasiliev)

Second recipe comes from Victoria Stilwell herself. I love her and her “kindness of powerful” – approach to dogs and life. The cookies are wonderfully fragrant and very tasty.


These wonderful cookies are surely good enough to share with your doggie friends and they fill your kitchen with the most delicious smell of coconut. Needless to say, the dogs absolutely love them, too. The original Victoria Stilwell recipe is available here:

I have translated the American measurements into European ones as follows:

2.4 dl rice flour

1, 5 dl grated apple

160 ml natural yogurt

1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger or 1 teaspoon of ginger powder

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Mix the ingredients, roll out and cut into shape using your personal choice of cookie cutters. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake at 180 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.


Let the cookies cool, despite the constant begging from the greedy little Westies by the stove. Once the cookies have cooled down, ask the doggies to stop fussing and do a few clever tricks instead, to get to share some of these beautiful and healthy treats.


Not so bad, a dog’s life, I would say.


“Eat food. Not much. Mainly plants.” Or – eating your way through the election manifestos

The title of the blog comes from Michael Pollan and is pretty good, you have to admit. I’ve been inspired By Michal Pollan for a long time. Though some of his books on food industry seem a bit far way from our every day life, there are such a lot of parallels and they really make you think (see for instance: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food or Cooked: A natural history of transformation). My favorite book of Michael Pollan’s however is his “Food Rules”, beautifully illustrated By Maire Kalman. (for the whole story and more info, see:


One of my favorite rules: “Eat Animals that have themselves eaten well”. Easy to agree, isn’t it?

Another favorite is “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food”. Though we might as well make it “grandmother”, don’t you think?

In my last blog I was musing on a recent visit to Paris whilst also reminiscing over a much earlier visit in 1988. As we have become increasingly consumed with food and all of the issues related to it, it is clear that food is, in itself, now a highly political issue. In 1988 only the most enlightened had heard about ‘the politics of food’ and animal rights were given very little attention, in France as elsewhere. Today the situation has changed completely. People now pay much more attention to (and money on) what they eat, believing that there is inherent value in what you eat. The most ethically upright have long been the vegetarians, though, unfortunately, I am incapable of such unselfishness. Sure we had read our Peter Singer’s (, already in the 1980s, but vegetarians were few and far between and finding proper vegetarian food outside the main urban centres  in Finland was nearly impossible. Living in Turku, we were lucky: Verso, one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Finland used to be our local when at university. Such a shame that despite the global megatrend of vegetarian ideology, the restaurant closed in 2003!


It was however many years before Elina Lappalainen’s excellent book on animal welfare and animals raised for food in Finland really generated mainstream attention: “Raised to be eaten” (Syötäväksi kasvatetut) won the Tieto-Finlandia prize in 2012 and was on many a Christmas shopping list that year. The common sense approach of Lappalainen’s book was what really made it such a success: whilst acknowledging that Finns are big meat eaters (we eat almost 80 kilos of meat on average a year, with the amount of meat having gone up by 25% in the last 20 years, despite increasing awareness of the negative health effects, impact on the environment etc.), we do not really know or are aware of what it is we eat. Lappalainen’s starting point of Finns having become ‘alienated’ from food was a healthy one: the image of cute little piglets, adorable little calves or chicks has little to do with the industrial products that end up on our plates, and in fact in many cases, it seems we’d rather just not know. This creates something of a paradox; we know and want to know more about the source of our food yet, when faced with the stark reality of this information, we are discomfited. Lappalainen did not sensationalise the topic; rather she demystified it and said: right, some of us still want to eat meat, which options are the least harmful or least ethical? (For Elina Lappalainen and her publications, see: She did not take extreme views or make us feel uncomfortable just to make headlines, rather she simply showed us what the implications and options of our choices as meat-eaters were and this was widely welcomed.


I for one have moved to decreasing the amount of meat on my plate, especially giving up pork all together and favouring organic lamb and cockerel. I’ve also tried to follow (yet more) of Michael Pollan’s food rules: eat meat that has itself eaten well and treat meat as food for a special occasion. Only baby steps, I know, but small steps are sometimes required before the big leap.



Also I’ve found that making the vegetarian side dishes the stars of a meal can also make a difference; recent cases of serving organic lamb with fennel and feta salad, as well as the traditional British lamb roast with “granny’s cucumbers” (with a couple of twists, i.e. replacing normal vinegar with rice and apple vinegar, as well as mustard seeds with coriander seeds plus dill with coriander).

Vegetarian ideology and a concern for animal welfare as major political issues still do not seem to have been mainstreamed. Yet responsible and sustainable food, animals as a form of food and related issues remain surprisingly absent in the election debate. Though in Finland the share of agriculture and food production in the economy has progressively declined, the turnover of all things food is still significant, 26,70 bill eur (Niemi & Ahlstedt eds. (2014): Suomen maaseutu ja maaseutuelinkeinot 2014, available at: As a source of direct employment, the food and agriculture sector has also been on the decline, though considerable attention has been given to green growth, the bio economy and related themes as possible growth areas in a decreasing national economy. The circular economy and a focus on reducing waste, including food waste, have also brought food and our relationship with it into sharper focus. And this is all well and good. Yet somehow surprisingly little political attention is given to these topics even today.

Making_things_happen I went through the election campaign manifestos and was a bit surprised how little attention was in fact paid to these issues. I suppose the parties have done their homework: the issues of sustainable agriculture, food production and animal welfare must not interest people that much, certainly not as much as many other topics. Perhaps at times of economic hardship, the ethics of food and animals seem to be among the first issues to be set aside.

Anyone remember the Gandhi quote about the greatness of a nation being best judged by the way it treats its animals …?


Not surprisingly, given its traditions and historical background, the Green party is the one with the most focus on animal welfare and the development of an ecological production standard.

The Swedish party SFP is most clear in its support for “sustainable and profitable” farming (and forestry), as well as domestic greenhouse production and maintaining the fisheries industry in Finland. Not surprising, given its electorate, though unfortunate for animal rights, is the continuing support of the Swedish party for the fur industry in Finland.

De-regulation is in general on everyone’s agenda, not surprisingly. For the Swedish party this includes ensuring that the regulative burden is minimised in cases where the preconditions for domestic production make it necessary. Strengthening the position of producers in the food production chain and supporting endeavours seeking to prioritise food produced locally while increasing the level of awareness among consumers of such options sound like welcome pledges for food sustainability.

The National coalition does not focus particularly on food related issues, except for their desire to keep domestic food production profitable. Yet they are not terribly detailed in outlining what this might mean.

The Centre party does not want to be burdened too much by its traditional close ties with the agricultural sector and the food industry and perhaps therefore includes few food-relevant topics in its manifesto. They do however set the goal of making Finland world-renowned as a problem-solver in food-, water and energy shortage related problems. That would indeed be a wonderful mission to accomplish, though the concrete means remain to be outlined in any detail in the actual manifesto.

The Finns have in turn produced a separate policy document on rural policy, perhaps in their attempt to lure Centre party voters rather than their previous targets of ex-social democratic voters. Their manifesto includes some very concrete issues that would be welcomed for sustainable food production supporters: food production closer to home, more endogenous products to be served in centralised institutional kitchens, more local choices for consumers, such as fish and reindeer in the shops and better preconditions for ecological production, including education and research.

Food may not be the number one topic in the coming election, but there remains some food for thought for those inclined, and not always in the circles where you most expect it.  The various (numerous) digital platforms, which help you to choose between  candidates (more or less serious, as they may be) have quite a few questions about food production and its sustainability, less however on animal rights. Notable exceptions – not surprisingly – include Animalia and the Finnish Animal Rights Association (SEY, Eläinsuojeluliitto). (Find your candidate –platform for animal rights: ) As always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say…


The least we can do is to remember the topic is there and make sure not to let the candidates forget it either: let’s stop just talking about it! Ask your candidate about what she or he is willing to do in order to maintain domestic production, promote ethical production and support animal rights.  To start with…


Pictures: my own, except  “The wonderful thing…” – Source: and “If it came from a plant” By Popsugar:

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – or savouring a little bit of France


imageI travelled to Paris recently, on a mission to acquaint my niece with this wonderful hotchpotch of culture, history and culinary delights. It reminded me of my first visit to France, in 1988. The first time you see Paris is always unforgettable: there is so much to see, to do, to taste! The wide boulevards, the beautiful cathedrals, the Seine…! The colourful street markets, bakeries and cafes…! And the sound of French language or music – it leaves you simply mesmerised. It is almost too much in fact.

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imageMy second visit was in 1989, for a two-month language course in Dijon. This became one of the most significant journeys in my life, both because it really opened my eyes to all things French (and convinced me of the necessity of learning that impenetrable language of theirs!) and it allowed me to make some real friends that I have been lucky to keep ever since… Cooking and wine in Bourgogne naturally left a permanent memory.

What was significant with the 1989 visit of course was that it was the year of the bicentenaire, the 200 year anniversary of the French revolution. This was also part of the reason that French politics made such an impression on me as a young politics student. The home of the revolutionary ideals of freedom Liberté, égalité, fraternité was quite an interesting place even in the 1980s and 1990s and for a Finn interesting also because of the similar emphasis on Presidential power; Finland retained a similar ‘strong presidential’ system up to 2000, thereafter a semi-presidential one, as the constitutional reform enacted at that time put in place a more parliamentary system, bringing Finland into line with the West European mainstream. (For an introduction to the philosophers that made their impression on the French revolution, see:, on semi-presidential systems in Europe, see:

As important as the political system, though is the culinary system. 🙂

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I’m not even going to start on the topic of French cooking. Suffice to say, it is very easy to eat well in France. Sometimes it may be difficult to stick to a very light diet, but as has been argued elsewhere, French (women) themselves stay thin by eating well, by relying on quality rather than quantity. (See: A little qateau once in a while will not kill you, neither will enjoying some of the beautiful cheeses available. You can indulge sometimes, but not all the time. Eating is something to be enjoyed, and something that is deeply social. A survey from the mid-2000’s conducted by the French government’s Committee for Health Education (CFES) found that in France, 76 per cent eat meals they have prepared at home; the favourite place to eat both lunch and dinner is in the home, with 75 per cent eating at the family table. (See Mimi Spencer’s article on the topic in Guardian from 2004: Those figures are hard to beat!

The stereotypical view of French cuisine suggests it is quite meat-heavy. Indeed, it was not too long ago when being ‘a vegetarian’ in France was not at all easy, but luckily this has changed tremendously (even since my first visit to France). (See for instance this excellent blog on being vegetarian in Paris, including an extensive list of restaurants: For the meat-eater of course France is still full of treats. Personal favorites include everything to do with duck. It is difficult not to eat well in Paris in any case. (The main courses and dessert below are from one of my favorite lunch places in Paris, Miroir at Rue des Martyrs)

Chicken  Le_merlan


You can’t always travel as often as you would like. For those moments it is good to have recipes that allow you to travel in your own kitchen. One such recipe is for the classic little tea cakes, madelaines, made world famous by Marcel Proust’s novel ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ (original À la recherche du temps perdu).

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5 eggs

200 g plain all purpose flour

220 g sugar

180 g unsalted butter

grated zest of 2 organic lemons or one coffee spoon chocolate powder

a pinch of salt

11 g baking powder (! – yes, after decades of failed baking I’ve finally believed that the secret in successful baking is in following the recipe in detail, and measuring absolutely correctly the ingredients)

1) Preheat the oven to 180 °

2) Brush a Madeleine tray with butter and coat with flour, then tap the tray to remove the excess flour

3) Melt the butter and let it cool

4) Mix the flour with baking powder

4) Mix the eggs one by one with the flour with the baking powder and flour mix and gradually add the sugar and beat the mixture until pale in colour

5) Add the butter and grated lemon zest (and other possible flavorings of your choice)

6) Spoon into the baking tray; place the tray in the fridge for 1 hour to cool

7) Bake for around 10 minutes, until very lightly golden. Remove the little cakes from the tray and cool on a plate

8) Enjoy with tea (the ‘official’ way) or coffee.


Madelaines in the Proustian sense are thought to evoke significant formative memories from the days of one’s youth. Perhaps that is part of their attraction. They are absolutely at their best eaten freshly baked, but should not be kept for longer than 4 days, according to a professional chef with whom I and my niece had the pleasure of baking in Paris recently. You can also substitute the lemon rind with other flavours: I made my first batch at home using a tiny bit of essence oils with lavender and verbena. They turned out lovely and fragrant, though not as puffy as the ones we made in Paris. They do say the madelaines are not for an inexperienced or impatient cook. 🙂 Or perhaps there was something in the air of Montparnasse that could not quite be replicated in Espoo…  Perfect little treat to share at Easter.


Read more on madelaines:

A touch of spring on International Women’s Day

We all deserve something sweet


Ricotta-limoncello torttu / Ricotta and limoncello tart

(adapted from Sikke Sumari’s original recipe  /  Sikke Sumarin reseptin mukaan)



Women’s Day is as good an excuse as any to treat oneself and one’s loved ones to something sweet and delicious. In the Finnish calendar, early March can be a difficult time:  still so far from the approaching spring, with absolutely no sign of green  yet to be seen in nature around us. What better than a little sunshine and colour to brighten one’s day. Lemons are the easiest way to bring sunshine into any cooking.

Happy Women’s Day to you all!

image_3Taikina: 300g jauhoja, 100g voita, 200g sokeria, 3 keltuaista

Täyte: 500g ricotta, 100g sokeria, 3 rkl limoncelloa, 1 sitruunan raastettu kuori,  2 rkl sitruunatahnaa (Lemon curd, ostettavissa valmiina tai kunnianhimoisemmalle leipurille valmistettavissa oheisen BBC Foodin ohjeen mukaan:

Lisäksi maun mukaan tuoreita marjoja, esim. vadelmia tai mustikoita.


Käytäthän luomukananmunia? Niissä on mielestäni sekä parempi maku että erityisesti kauniimpi väri. Katso nyt näitä ihanuuksia!





Tee taikina aineksista nopeasti nyppimällä. Taikina saa jäädä hieman ‘kokkareiseksi’. Sekoita täytteen ainekset keskenään. Vuoraa 20-25cm torttuvuoka leivinpaperilla ja painele puolet taikinasta vuoan pohjalle, lisää täyte ja murusta loput taikinasta täytteen päälle. Paista 170 asteessa noin 40-45 minuuttia.




Koristele hauamillasi marjoilla. Ja nauti!


Limoncello and Ricotta Tart

(adapted from Sikke Sumari’s original recipe )

For the dough: 300g flour 100g butter 200g sugar 3 egg yolks

Filling: 500g ricotta, 100g sugar, 3 tablespoons limoncello, a zest of one (organic) lemon, 2 tablespoons lemon curd (available from supermarkets or if feeling ambitious – you can prepare it yourself following the attached BBC Food instructions : )

Ti serve: Fresh berries, e.g. rasberries or blueberries


Make the dough by quickly mixing the ingredients for the dough. Don’t overwork the dough, it will be quite “lumpy”. Mix the ingredients for the filling. Line a 20-25cm tart tin with grease-proof paper, press half of the dough into the pan, add the filling and then crumble te remainder on top. Bake at 170 degrees for about 40-45 minutes.

I do hope you are using organic eggs. To me, they both taste better and look more beautiful. Just look at these beautiful things!


Decorate with your favorite berries and enjoy! (Perhaps with a small glass of limoncello on the side.)


Six nations on a plate

You may not be aware of this, but rugby is one of my favorite sports. Not for playing as such, though I’d like to think that I have what it takes to be a good scrum half (short, fast and with terrier-like persistence). This time of year European rugby fans have something special to follow: the Six Nations tournament takes Place across Europe, from Edinburgh to Rome.

The six nations in question are England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. As a side note, there is plenty of interesting trivia to share as well: this may be the only team game where the Ireland team includes both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.

Played annually in its current form since 2000, the tournament was expanded southwards from the “5 nations”, which had been played since 1910, with the addition of Italy. The format of the Championship is quite simple: each team plays every other team once, with home field advantage alternating from one year to the next. So for instance this year Scotland will play Italy in Scotland while in 2016 the match will be in Italy. Scotland played France in Paris this year and France in turn will travel to Edinburgh next year etc. I will not go into details as to the rules, but the points system is simple: two points are awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. Unlike most other rugby union competitions the bonus point system is not used. (Source: wikipedia.)

While the six nations in question include some of my personal favorite nations across Europe and some great cooking nations, too, I must admit Wales has remained a mystery to me – I’ve actually never been there. It was therefore only logical I should start my investigative cooking with Wales, to make most of the weekend while it lasts…



I thought it safe to start with an easy one: leak and potato soup.

While fully aware that Wales has some spectacular fresh produce (great farming conditions), delicious fresh lamb, great cheese etc., stereotypically thinking of Wales and food, I thought of leeks. Thus leek and potato soup with (if available – preferably Welsh) cheese was the first “Welsh entry” into my cooking the 6 nations.


You may not need a recipe for the leek and potato soup at all, as it is rather delightfully simple to make, but if you do, good candidates are provided By Julia Child, Jamie Oliver or  James Martin.


Julia Child:

Jamie Oliver:

James Martin:

I made the soup with 2 leeks, 5 potatoes, 2 onions, 1 garlic clove, some oil and 5 dl stock. Once these had been cooked , I added 1,25 dl vegetable stock and 1,5 dl grated cheese. The whole soup was purred and lots of chopped parsley added on top. Easy to make and delicious. (On a critical note, if anything, the soup could have done with more leeks and less cheese.)



The soup is delicious served with a great Irish recipe: soda bread. Tastes great and super easy to make, even for a lazy baker such as me.

Perfect Welsh accompaniment to the soup would have been Glamorgan sausage – more cooking with leeks and a sausage that even vegetarians can enjoy. The Guardian had an excellent recipe for this:


Lots of fresh parsley always works…

As for my choice of Irish soda bread, it surely is a classic, and there are few things more rewarding than baking bread.

I used a recipe By James Martin:


170g/6oz self-raising wholemeal flour

170g/6oz plain flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

290ml/½ pint buttermilk

Preparation method

Preheat the oven to 200C

  1. Tip the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.
  2.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.)
  3. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.
  4. Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.
  5. Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

(Source: BBC Food,

Butter milk is easy to come by in Finland, as it is a kind of “PIIMÄ” (great Finnish word that!). It can also be made at home, simply by mixing milk with a tiny amount of vinegar or lemon juice.


For more information on the 6 nations tournament, see the official homepage: This year the final results will be revealed on the 21st March. Until then watch this space for more recipes and food musing from the 6 nations. 🙂

PS: Unfortunately due to some very bad planning on my part, only now realised that Scotland are playing Italy in Scotland the weekend I’ll be in Rome. Better luck next year…

Yes, it works with fish too!

imageAs has perhaps become apparent, I love cooking North-African inspired food. So far the brand new tagine dish was tested with chicken, lamb and vegetables. So it comes as no surprise that now it was time to move to my favorite – fish! image

This time we used cod, which (though from the North Atlantic), works beautifully for a tagine, as it is quite firm. I made the chermoula for the first time – quite hot and smoky, but delicious. A mix of flat leaf parsley, garlic, lots of Moroccan spices, safron, smoked paprika, oil, lemon juice, a splash of vinegar, some capers etc.         Continue reading