Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Finland Finland Finland!

I'm back from a fab five-day trip to Finland to visit my sister and her chap. It was great! I'd been to Helsinki twice before, but only ever in the winter, and they now live in Turku so there were all sorts of new things to explore.

My sister and I started off with lunch in Helsinki on Thursday before getting the train to Turku, which only takes a couple of hours, and then we all went out for dinner to a really lovely restaurant on a boat. All the food was local and seasonal and there were lots of traditional Finnish flavours - I had smoked salmon with beetroot mousse, white fish with tiger prawns and chive mash, and then the most amazing sea buckthorn pannacotta with spruce syrup and caramelised bananas. It was fab - I'm going to do a whole post on food later! We also had a few drinks in various bars around the town...and found the brilliant cow sculpture I've posted up there! Although we're a bit past Midsummer now, the evenings were still really light - this is midnight:
On Friday Suze and I had a potter around Turku - there's an amazing fruit and veg market in the summer, and an indoor market hall with yet more stalls selling just about everything you can think of. And we saw the building where they make the Declaration of Christmas Peace every Christmas Eve!
Then we went to a little country cottage on one of the islands of the archipelago near Turku, and the weather was amazing. We sat out in the sun watching the boats go past on the Baltic sea, we had a huge barbecue, and I went in the sauna!

And then on Saturday we went to another island and another country house, owned by my sister's boyfriend's parents. We went out on a boat trip around the islands, had another sauna, and ate a ton of gorgeous food. Lots of salmon and new potatoes and dill - fantastic!
It was a seriously brilliant little holiday and I loved exploring a bit more of Finland and seeing how gorgeously green it is in the summer!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Amazing yogurt and tahini dressing

The other night, I made this aubergine salad for supper and it was lovely - but what was really lovely was the yogurt and tahini dressing that went with it. The amounts in the recipe made a whole jam jar's worth of dressing, so last night I had it with roasted carrots, potatoes and chickpeas and I think it was even nicer having been in the fridge for a couple of days!
It's creamy and garlicky and lemony, and there's quite a kick from the cayenne pepper (I added a good pinch, but you could obviously use as much or as little as you liked) and it's ridiculously easy to make. You can also make it as low-fat as you like by using fat-free yogurt - I actually used some plain soya yogurt that I had in the fridge and it was fab and dairy-free to boot. I reckon it'd be amazing with grilled fish, or any kind of roasted vegetables, or a peppery rocket and watercress salad.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Gluten-free vegan peanut butter cookies

I do like a bit of peanut butter. Recently I was discussing peanut butter with some friends (mainly the controversial issue of whether to butter one's toast before spreading it with peanut butter - I say absolutely not!) and the subject of Meridian's no added salt or sugar peanut butter came up. Apparently it's the best there is! So of course I went out and bought some...and then wondered what to do with the half-jar of Whole Earth (which might be organic but has added oil and salt) sitting in my kitchen.

I had a bit of a Google for peanut butter cookie recipes, but most of them seemed to include a ton of sugar, or sugary things like maple syrup. So in the end I totally made up my own recipe, and I was amazed to find that it worked really well! I made them gluten-free because I fancied using buckwheat flour and I thought 'in for a penny, in for a pound, let's make them totally GF!' And they happen to be vegan as well. They're seriously easy and really tasty. I'll definitely be making them again!

Gluten-free vegan peanut butter cookies

Makes around 20 cookies

1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup Doves Farm GF plain flour (or ordinary flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup (around 130g) peanut butter

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
2. Mix the flours and baking powder together in a bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, mash the banana well, then stir in the peanut butter until well combined.
4. Tip the flour mix into the peanut butter and banana, and stir together to form a dough.
5. Break off pieces of dough and roll into balls about 1" across. Place on the baking tray and flatten with the back of a fork.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Weird Food: chia seeds

I've been reading about chia seeds on food blogs and healthy eating blogs for ages now, but I hadn't tried them until this week. Until quite recently they were reasonably difficult to get hold of in the UK - or they were expensive, with the only bags I'd seen being massive £12 ones in Holland & Barrett. But now they do little 100g bags for around £2, and so I decided to take the plunge and buy some.

I was inspired by Laura's raspberry chia seed jam, and so that was the first thing I tried. It wasn't really a recipe - I just mashed about 100g of raspberries, added 5g of chia seeds, and stirred it all together. Left in the fridge overnight, the chia seeds did their thing and made it quite gelatinous in texture, very much like a slightly runny jam. It's delicious - I didn't add any sugar because I had gorgeous sweet British raspberries, but it is quite tart so if you decide to have a go you might want to add a bit of icing sugar to taste.
I think I'm going to try mixing some chia seeds with Kara chocolate coconut milk (one of my new obsessions - it makes the most incredible hot chocolate!) for a chocolate pudding-type thing...we'll see how that goes!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Veg Box Day: 10/7/12

Another slightly soggy one, thanks to this glorious July weather! This fortnight's box had vine tomatoes, an aubergine, two mini cucumbers, some spring onions, new potatoes, carrots and a TON of broad beans.

So far all I've done is mix some of the tomatoes and cucumber into a potato salad, but this evening I'm planning a variation on this aubergine salad recipe, with the cherry tomatoes and maybe some smoked tofu.
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