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

Sunny energy for those long winter days – or why do we love our smoothies so?

I used to think it was strange that people insisted on puréeing their food. Why? Is it some kind of attempt to regress back to the baby stage? The more you make and taste them however, the easier it is to understand their attraction, especially using fresh fruits and berries to make something tasty, colourful and refreshing on a winter Morning.


My absolute favourite smoothie is really easy to make and delicious and I’ve shared it with many friends since discovering it. As one of these friends recently asked for the recipe again, I thought I might as well share it through the blog. So here we go! The recipe was originally from a great little cafe “The Exhibitionists” on Museokatu, Helsinki. When I first tasted it, they told me that they were inspired by a recent trip to Morocco. Not surprising then it should become one of my favourites, given my love for North African cuisine. Here we go: avocado smoothie – enjoy!


Avocado smoothie

2 avocados

5 dl milk

Seeds from ½ vanilla pod

(1 teaspoon sugar or honey)

Mint leaves to garnish


Second favourite is a fruity smoothie that brings sunshine into the darkest winter morning:

“Brighten-up-your-day” -smoothie

½ a pineapple chopped into cubes and frozen

2 bananas, chopped into cubes and frozen

1-2 dl frozen cranberries

5 dl organic yoghurt (natural or vanilla)

1-2 tablespoons of chia & cranberry mix

1 pomegranate (2/3 into the mix, 1/3 to garnish)

+ mint leaves, pomegranate and lemon verbena leaves to garnish


There are obviously an infinite number of smoothie recipes online, as well as discussions on the pros and cons of the smoothie craze (does it help you to lose weight or on the contrary make you absorb too many calories much too easily, does it help to detox; is it a good way to ensure kids eat their greens etc. etc. In one of the blogs I went through someone even asked the rather pointless question “smoothies versus coffee?” Surely you can have both?!

Some examples can be found here:

On travel, writing, and food, or that magic Tagine

Travel is wonderful of course, who could disagree? Gradually, as you get older and more set in your ways, actually setting off becomes more difficult, as the discomfort of travel is inevitably more of an issue. All the more valuable then are those memories of travel and its flavours cherished in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Mia Kankimäki’s book, The things that make the heart beat faster, was one of the best-sellers of 2013 in terms of Finnish-language books; an interesting travel story and research report about the unlikely subject of Japanese diarist and poet Sei Shōnagon, who was born in 966AD (in Japan) and died ( 1025AD – Japan). I only managed to get around to reading this little gem of a book in early 2015, but it got me thinking of travel books more generally.

Travel books have a particular magic about them. My mother was an avid reader of travel books and left behind a library I’ve enjoyed ever since, including many Finnish women travel authors: Vivi-Ann Sjögren and Kyllikki Villa can be warmly recommended to anyone interested in the travel books genre. Both are published in Swedish, but unfortunately not in English, as far as I know. In addition to these authors, my mother gave me a special travel book many years ago called “Järvien, vuorien ja sankareiden maa” = “The land of lochs, mountains and heroes”, which is a travel book on Scotland, published in 1946 and written by Helmi Krohn, the wife of the most famous person born in Kokemäki (my home town) Eemil Nestor Setälä, and sister of Aino Kallas. Quite a gem!

The book describes amongst other things arriving in a rainy Edinburgh:

“It was raining as I arrived. It is likely to rain at any time in Scotland, it is a kind of necessary evil, which is best taken calmly. At least the Scots themselves do so. A Scottish gentleman once said that Scotland never has bad weather, in the worst case, only “beautiful, moist weather.” And in a way, he was right, at least if the rain does not happen to be too heavy and the fog not too thick. The weather simply provides the landscape with a special feeling, providing the mountainous landscapes in particular with a mysterious foggy veil. It is easy to understand how such an environment could stir one’s imagination.”

Rainy or wet weather is certainly ideal for a warm stew. This time alas, the inspiration comes not from Scotland, but from sunnier climes.

 Kaisa’s Morrocan lamb stew

The star of the meal is the lamb – depending on how huingry the crowd is, for 6-8 people count 2-3 lamb shanks and a couple of better cuts of your choice (approx. 1.5 kg of meat in total). No matter if there should be some leftover, as the stew only improves with time.

1. For seasoning and marinade:

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • A generous glug (~2 tablespoons) of olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • approx. 3 tablespoons of Harissa paste (you can get this from your local supermarket these days, though given the enthusiasm and ambition, do make it yourself, e.g. using this recipe:

2. Best of fruit&veg:

  • red bell pepper
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 (red) onion
  • 4 carrots

(Why not go for additional root vegetables, if you feel like it! Or – if you should so desire, you can make the stew entirely without meat – the flavours are beautiful also in vegetarian mode).

  •  Canned chickpeas (soak overnight)
  • garlic according to taste (I usually crush 3 cloves)
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 stock cube
  • 1-2 cans crushed tomato

To serve – and (once again) according to taste, to finish: some honey, 1-2 preserved lemons, Merguez sausages or other good fresh lamb sausages (fried separately first) served on top

3. Couscous (prepare as instructed on the packet), with added roasted almonds, some dried fruit (usually I use the apricot, fig, or dates)

1 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon of butter

+ To serve, mint and coriander, pomegranate seeds + plain yogurt on the side if you want to reduce the heat of the dish


  1. Marinate the lamb overnight using, for instance, Harissa paste, oil and red wine.
  2. Soak the chickpeas overnight and prepare the almonds and, when colouring them on the frying pan, don’t let them out of your sight as they burn very easily.
  3. Chop the vegetables.
  4. Let the lamb rest at room temperature while admiring its beauty. Cook quickly on the pan and then pop in the oven with all the other ingredients for about 3 hours (170-180 degrees).
  5. If unsure, pop the meat thermometer in and serve when the lamb is cooked to your liking. ENJOY!

A similar type of delicious Tagine-style hot pot can also be prepared with organic chicken or cockrel, too. A loval producer brings us beautiful Merguez sausages to the door.

Prepare the Tagine as above, with the only difference being replacing lamb with chicken, and with the red wine omitted. Well, I suppose a glass will go perfectly with the ready-made product in any case.  For chicken / cockerel thighs, please allow approx. 1.5 hours cooking time. Bon appetit!


Matkustamisesta, kirjoittamisesta ja ruuasta


”Minulla on kaikki nämä ääriviivat, enkä ole suhteessa keneenkään muuhun täällä vaan olen aivan erillisenä, minä olen vain minä. Ja minun pitäisi tulla minun kanssani toimeen.” (Kyllikki Villa)

Matkustaminen on ihanaa, tietenkin. Vähitellen kun iän myötä muuttuu mukavuudenhaluisemmaksi, on ehkä haluttomampi lähtemään matkaan, mutta sitä tarkemmin hellii matkojen muistoja ja makuja kotikeittiössä.

Mia Kankimäen ”Asioita, jotka saavat sydämen lyömään nopeammin” oli yksi 2013 suomalaisen kirjamaailman suursuosikkeja. Pääsin itse lukemaan tämän nautinnollisen monen tason matkakirjan vasta alkuvuodesta 2015, mutta se sai minut palaamaan matkakirjojen lajin pariin. (Toivottavasti se sai yleisemminkin naismatkakirjailijat takaisin lukevan yleisön huomion keskipisteeseen – ks. HS:n kolumni aiheesta syksyltä 2013: ”Naisten matkatarinat on unohdettu”,

Matkakirjoissa on jotakin erityisen taianomaista. Äitini oli innokas matkakirjojen lukija ja hänen jäämistöstään olen lukenut monia helmiä nimenomaan suomalaisten naisten kirjoittamista matkakirjoista. Vivi-Ann Sjögren tai edesmennyt Kyllikki Villa tulevat ensimmäisenä mieleen ja suosittelen näitä kenelle tahansa matkakirjoista kiinnostuneille! Näiden kirjoittajien lisäksi sain äidiltä erikoisen matkakirjan vuosia sitten: ”Järvien, vuorien ja sankarien maa”, joka on matkakirja Skotlannista, julkaistu jo 1946 ja kirjoittajana Helmi Krohn, ehkä tunnetuimman kokemäkeläisen Eemil Nestor Setälän vaimo ja Aino Kallaksen sisar.

Edinburghista kirjoittaessaan Helmi kirjoittaa:

”Satoi kuin saavista kaataen. Sitä voi tapahtua milloin hyvänsä Skotlannissa, se on välttämätön paha, johon on paras suhtautua rauhallisesti. Ainakin skotlantilaiset itse niin tekevät. Eräs skotlantilainen herra sanoi kerran, ettei Skotlannissa koskaan ole ruma ilma, pahimmassa tapauksessa vain ”kaunis, kostea ilma”. Jas tavallaan hän olikin oikeassa, ellei nyt sade satu olemaan liian rankka eikä sumu liian sakea. Ne antavat vain maisemalle erikoisen leimansa, kietovat varsinkin vuorimaiseman salaperäiseen, utuiseen verhoon, ja sitä katsellessa voi varsin hyvin käsittää, miten sellaisessa ympäristössä mielikuvitus alkaa liikehtiä ja salaperäiset voimat puhjeta ilmi.”

Kuvaus hymyilytti ja kuulosti tutulta. Sateisella säällä sopii erityisen hyvin nauttia lämmittävää pataruokaa. Tällä kertaa se ei tosin ole skotlantilaista, vaan eteläisemmän ilmanalan inspiroimaa:

Kaisan marokkolaishenkinen lammaspata

1. Aterian tähti eli lammas[1]:

  • Nälkäisyyden asteen mukaan valittu määrä lammasta – 6-8 hengelle esim. 2 potkaa ja 3 reilua paahtopaistipalaa (n. 1,5 kg). Ei haittaa vaikka tulisi liikaa, koska tämä vain paranee seuraavaan päivään.

2. Maustamiseen:

3. Juurekset ja muut kasvisosaston ihanuudet:

  •  1 punainen paprika
  • 1 munakoiso
  • 2 (puna)sipulia
  • 4 porkkanaa

(Miksei myös muita juureksia, jos siltä tuntuu)

  • Purkki kikherneitä (liota yön yli!)
  • Maun mukaan valkosipulia (olen käyttänyt yleensä 3 kynttä)
  • 1 sitruuna lohkottuna
  • 1 liemikuutio
  • 2 purkkia tomaattimurskaa

4. Vaihtoehtoisina lisäyksinä myös

  • 1 rkp hunajaa
  • Muutamia säilöttyjä sitruunoita (esim. Hakaniemen hallin Maustekeitaasta saa hyviä)
  • Merguez-makkaroita tms. muita hyviä lammastuoremakkaroita maun mukaan
  • Granaattiomenaa
  • Ruokajogurttia
  1. Couscous:
  • Ohjeen mukaan couscousia (2 dl/2 hlöä)
  • Pussi nopeasti pannulla paahdettuja mantelinlastuja
  • Maun mukaan pari kourallista paloteltuja kuivattuja hedelmiä (yleensä käytän aprikoosia, myös viikuna tai taateli ok)
  • Puolikkaan sitruunan mehu (tai miksei kokonaisenkin – olen sitruunafriikki – sitä sopii lisätä sopivissa väleissä melkein mihin tahansa ruokaan ja parantaa lopputulosta)
  • 1 rkl voita

+ Koristeeksi minttua ja korianteria




  1. Marinoi lammas edellisenä iltana esim. valmiilla Harissa-tahnalla, öljyllä ja/tai punaviinillä. Esteettisen tasapainon vuoksi joukkoon voi silputa kourallisen haluamiaan yrttejä (if you ask me – minttu toimii aina!) Hirvittävän suttaavaa puuhaa tämä, joten varaa paljon talouspaperia ja yritä saada joku muu rekrytoitua siivousvaiheeseen. Mätkäytä muovipussiin jääkaapppiin yön yli. Laita myös kikherneet likoon kylmään runsaaseen veteen yön yli. Samaan syssyyyn voit kuullottaa kuumalla pannulla mantelilastut – ole äärimmäisen tarkka, koska palavat helposti. Mieluiten tuijota niitä keskittyneesti ja harjoita zen-meditaatiota. Älä kiinnitä huomiota puolisoon, lapsiin tai lemmikkiin – poltat ne lastut kumminkin, lisää kaapissa ei ole, Siwakin on jo kiinni ja sitten harmittaa!

Samaan aikaan kun keskityt tuohon (ja jos olet onnekas!), saat houkuteltua siipan, lapsen tai muun sopivan hyväntahtoisen uhrin lohkomaan vihannekset ja sipulit. Nämä kun on valmiina pusseissa seuraavaan aamuun, elämä helpottuu huomattavasti.

  1. Seuraavana aamuna ota lammas jääkaapista, napsauta uuni päälle 180 asteeseen ja ihastele hetki Laten herkullista ulkonäköä ja tuoksua. Anna lampaan jäädä huoneenlämpöön lepäämään siksi aikaa kun uuni kuumenee. Murskaat mausteet haluamallasi tavalla / aseella ja kuullota ne pannulla reilussa lorauksessa öljyä.
  2. Pilko liha sopiviksi (aika reiluiksi) paloiksi ja pyöräytä liha pannulla (n. 4 min/puoli) kauniin pinnan saamiseksi.
  3. Laita lammas mausteiden ja lisukkeiden kanssa uunipannuun / pataan, lorauta päälle maun mukaan öljyä, sitruunamehua ja punkkua, tomaattimurskaa ja lihalientä siten, että liha peittyy sopivasti.
  4. Kypsennä koko hässäkkää 170-180 asteessa n. 3 tuntia, sen jälkeen laske lämpötila n. 150:een ja anna Laten lekotella vielä kaikessa rauhassa niin kauan että vieraat saapuvat tai nälkä käy ylitsepääsemättömäksi.
  5. Lampaan ollessa melkein kypsä, valmista couscous pakkauksen ohjeen mukaan ja lisää lopuksi kohdassa 5 mainitut lisukkeet.
  6. Koristele / tuunaa lopulliseen kuntoon haluamallasi tavalla (kohdan 4 tai oman pääsi mukaan)
  7. Kutsu väki kokoon, kaada lisää viiniä (jos sitä tässä vaiheessa vielä on jäljellä) & ENJOY!


Vastaavantyyppisen herkullisen Tagine-padan saa myös kanasta. Oheisen kuvan versio on Wiskilän herkullisten kukonpoikien inspiroimaa ja senkin kruunaavat Craig Beckleyn ranskalaistyyppiset lammas-Merguez –makkarat.


Valmistuksessa voi seurata yllä olevaa ohjetta, vain sillä erolla, että lampaan korvaavat pannulla ruskistetut kukonpojan koipireisipalat ja punaviinin voi jättää pois. Kypsymisaika kukonpoikien reisipaloille on n. 1,5 tuntia. Bon appetit!

[1] Viimeksi tein olosuhteiden vuoksi Stockan uusiseelantilaisesta lampaasta, mikä on ihan hyvää sekin. Suoramyyntinä tiloilta saa tietysti parasta ja parhaan mielen jättävää lammasta, esim. Kalliomäen tilalta läheltä Kotkaa, Satakunnan Köyliöstä Lallin lampaasta ja Metsolan tilalta läheltä Vihtiä olen tilannut. Näitä löytyy mm. seuraavasta linkistä: