Sinikka's snippets

Finland and travelling, a woman's life, cultures, languages, photography plus family recipes


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Homemade ice-cream

Finns are crazy for ice-cream. Their consumption of this frozen delight has been number one in Europe for some time, and fourth in the world, with only New Zealand, Australia and the US beating us. According to statistics, an average Finn devours as much as 14 litres of ice-cream a year – an awful lot! I don’t really know the reasons for this. It can’t be hot weather for sure – otherwise we’d hardly ever get a chance!

With our particular craving for ice-cream, it’s no wonder that the supermarkets have long, long aisles of different options on offer, one more delicious and decadent than the other. And come the first signs of summer, the little ice-cream kiosks appear at every street corner, so we can rush for instant gratification everywhere.

My first outdoor ice-cream in June this summer

With this scenario, why on earth would you make the effort to prepare your own ice-cream at home? I had never given it a second thought before as I believed it’s far too time-consuming and complicated, requiring expensive, special equipment. Yet, this summer I came across the simplest recipe – with, can you believe it, only 2 ingredients for the base! And no ice-cream machines needed! Make the base, and add whatever you like – fantastic! You can use all your imagination in designing the flavour combination exactly to your liking. What’s more, as an extra bonus you will avoid a lot of the E-numbers and other additives of regular ice-creams.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 0,33 l carton of whipping cream

THIS IS WHAT YOU DO

  • with an electric mixer, beat the milk and cream for some minutes until it begins to thicken
  • then shift in whatever flavourings you like
  • pour the mixture into a freezer-proof container
  • cover with cling film and freeze for around 4-5 hours

For my first attempt, I made a batch for hubby with some of his favourite tastes – chopped cherries and dark chocolate, with a spoonful of bourbon whisky.

The result was truly yummy – hubby approved, too! I’m sure I’ll make some more in the future, as a novelty dessert for dinner guests. It does sound like you are a true kitchen goddess if you announce that dessert will be home-made ice-cream, doesn’t it?


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My banana bread – comfort food at its best

Here in Finland we are not very accustomed to any type of British-style ‘tea bread’. If we want something to enjoy with coffee or tea, it’s usually an open sandwich, or the traditional ‘pulla’ if you fancy something sweet. Yet, living in a Finnish-British family, I soon got to know all the nice British goodies for tea time.

I once found this recipe in an old English home baking book, and have gradually developed it for my liking. Even though it’s baked in a loaf tin, and called ‘bread’, for me it’s still more like ‘cake’, due to its sweetness. When our daughter was small, this soon became our staple for the many long road trips we went on around Europe. I usually baked at least two, wrapped them in foil, and that would be our breakfast and snack during the trip. It keeps well, thanks to the moisture from the bananas, and is nourishing and comforting.

INGREDIENTS

  • 120 g butter
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 120 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 55 g wholewheat flour
  • 3 large ripe bananas (I always buy fair trade or organic)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (or vanilla sugar)
  • 55 g chopped walnuts (I chop mine rough as I like a crunchy consistency)

THIS IS WHAT YOU DO

  • with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  • add the eggs, one at a time
  • mix together the plain flour, soda, salt and cinnamon, and add to the mixture
  • stir in the wholewheat flour
  • with a fork, mash the bananas to a purée and stir into the mixture
  • add the vanilla and nuts
  • pour the mixture into a loaf tin, lined with greaseproof paper and bake in 180° C for 50-60 minutes

Mmmmm – I wish I had a ‘scratch and smell’ facility in this blog!

Cut nice and thick slices, and enjoy – on its own, with tea or coffee or any way you like! Delicious warm straight out of the oven but just as nice as a cold snack on the road.

I was reminded of this old favourite during my recent two-week adventure in Australia, as I found banana bread in the breakfast menu of almost every café I visited there. They usually served it toasted, with some butter on top. That was new to me, as we always used to devour our slices plain. So thank you Australia for giving me a new breakfast idea!

Good morning Aussie style, even with the fresh melons and pineapple plus the souvenir aboriginal-themed tea towel! (The dishes are very Finnish, though.)


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Countryside charm

I’m originally a country girl, and living in Finland, it’s hardly possible to be a totally urban creature. Especially in summer, cottage life attracts most Finns at some point. We don’t have a cottage of our own but have had the great privilege and pleasure to be invited to celebrate Midsummer at our dear friends’ cottage for ten years already. In the last few years, part of our 3-day celebration has been to visit a quirky café/shop in a small nearby village.

Vähikkälän suvipuoti, Vähikkäläntie 721, JANAKKALA

We usually drive there on Midsummer Day, just to see what’s going on, and how many people are there. Regular village folk usually come on foot or by bike but also random drivers-by stop to check what’s going on. In addition, quite a few summer cottage residents from the surrounding area are keen to have a break in their cottage routines, just like us. It’s a refreshingly eclectic mix, with the odd village fool who has perhaps had a few Midsummer drinks too many. People of all ages, from babies to grannies and granddads, which is otherwise too rare in modern Finland. The atmosphere reminds me of my childhood family gatherings at my grandparents’ place, convivial and relaxed. It’s as though everybody knows each other, and even strangers talk to each other, which we reserved Finns rarely do.

The owner of the place, Ms Sanna Juupaluoma, I’ve heard, is a school teacher, who, like me, has the long summer holiday to invest in this wonderful summertime endeavour. It is a family business with her siblings, and was started after Ms Juupaluoma returned to her home village after years abroad and was sad to see the village shop closed and deserted. The siblings bought the place, and a summer kiosk was set in it. This was 13 summers ago. Since then the business has become more and more popular, and these days it is not only a thriving café but also a shop selling local farm produce (potatoes, vegetables, bread, even meat) and other basic groceries plus a village information office displaying brochures and leaflets for visitors, for example.

Ms Juupaluoma is almost always there in person, serving customers in a happy and friendly manner, always chatty. This picture is from 2015.

The good-humoured banter between the owners and customers, and also among customers is a trademark. If you sit there for a while, you can hear the latest local gossip and news, spiced with plenty of humour and laughter. While being thus entertained, you can enjoy a large variety of home-baked pastries, both savoury and sweet, ice-cream and sweets, tea and coffee, of course, soft drinks and also bottled beers, and as it’s summer and you’re in Finland, lots of ice-cream is on offer, too, naturally.

Enter through the lace-curtained front door, and it really feels like a 1960s village store.

An eternal kid at heart, I always go for a scoop of ice-cream.

The decor of the place is very bohemian, with all sorts of second-hand furniture, and it seems constantly accumulating knick-knacks in every corner. Very attractive in its quirkiness, (possibly too messy for some!). A storeroom in the yard has been converted into an open ” living room”, with a collection of odd, old chairs and sofas. The arrangement of the furniture changes from year to year. There is even a bookshelf, with the books actually meant to be read. You can even borrow them as from a library! What especially pleases my eye, are the colourful, traditional summer flowers in pots all over the place.

Hubby enjoying his beer in the “living room”

The first time we visited in 2o13, we were curious about the British double-decker bus and red telephone box there. We learned that the owner had acquired them as she was keen on British culture, after spending years abroad.

They have since disappeared, and been replaced by annually changing ethnic food providers in the yard. One year there was a Thai kitchen, this year a mobile pizza hut. The pizzas were a real success as we had never seen such a crowd there on Midsummer Day. But unfortunately for us, we came just a little too late to taste the freshly baked pizzas – all sold out.

If you are ever driving anywhere near this place in summer, it’s well worth making a detour for a quick visit.

Here are your coordinates

It is open every day from 10-18, during the three summer months. They also have their own Facebook page, for information on special events. I’ve also read that it is a geo-cache site, and popular with Finnish motorcyclist as a welcome alternative to petrol station chain restaurants. Not only is this place one-of-a-kind curiosity to see, but also the whole village is postcard pretty, and full of old Finnish romantic countryside feel!


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Buy experiences, not things

About time to reopen my blog after almost a whole year’s pause! Terrible really how school work totally absorbs me, leaving little time for other pursuits in life. Luckily, it’s another long – and well-earned – summer holiday now, and I will soon embark on an exciting adventure, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tick off a distant destination in my bucket list.

Hongkong 2015, being a filmstar 🙂

I love travelling, and mostly spend my extra euros on a ticket that will take me somewhere outside Finland. I’ve often wondered what it is that made me this way since my two brothers are very happy to stay safely in their familiar homeland. Funny really! One decisive factor certainly is my passion for learning languages. I am proud and happy to say that hubby and I have also managed to instill the same wanderlust in our only daughter – who, by the way, is currently in Morocco, doing a two-month research project for her Master’s dissertation at the University of Edinburgh.

On a school visit with my girl in rural India, 2006

Of late, our mantra has been: “experiences, not things.” Interestingly, I found scientific proof of spending your money on travelling making most people happier than purchasing possessions. In 2014, Cornell University researchers Thomas Gilovich and Amit Kumar, published some of their findings in a paper titled We’ll always have Paris: The Hedonic Payoff from Experiential and Material Investments. They looked extensively into how purchasing experiences (i.e. spending your money on doing) and purchasing things (i.e. spending on having) affect people’s feelings of well-being and happiness. While, initially, both seemed to have a similar positive effect, it was the experiential purchases, such as travelling, concerts, movies or eating out, that tended to yield a more enduring feeling of satisfaction and happiness.

We will always remember the first time I took my girl to Paris in 2007

Research has found several reasons for this. Firstly, there is the anticipation and planning of an experience, which seemed to be very important. I can definitely relate to this. For weeks now, I have been doing background reading, getting ready to go and  dreaming of my trip ahead. For me, the anticipation is sometimes almost as rewarding as the actual experience!

The thrilling preparations – wonder if you can guess my destination this summer!

Secondly, there is the social aspect of experiences. These sorts of purchases are mostly enjoyed in the company of others, social interaction being an essential part of it all. On the contrary, material purchases, often offer solitary moments of enjoyment. Moreover, there are the memories and stories that will live on long after the experience, sometimes for the rest of your life. I will probably bore everyone with my endless stories of this trip afterwards, as I’ve done after each trip I’ve ever ventured on. People want to share their fascinating memories and learning experiences, and even negative incidents easily turn into hilarious stories afterwards. However, this is not the case with a disappointing material purchases – you’d probably rather forget all about them, get rid of them, or, at least, not talk about them that much.

Merry Christmas from Île de la Réunion 2011

Another finding seems to indicate that material purchases are easier to compare with what others have, often leading to disappointments when you realise that your neighbour, or “the Joneses”, have something better than what you just invested in. This will often result in so-called ‘buyer’s remorse’, and reduce the long-term satisfaction with a material purchase. In the case of experiential consumption, feelings of regret are directed more towards inaction, ie. wishing you hadn’t missed a wonderful opportunity.

All of us are likely to regret the planes we did not get on far more, and for far longer, than the clothing, jewellery, gadgets, or furniture we did not buy. (Gilovich and Kumar)

Finnish poet Pentti Saaritsa has described the excitement of travel beautifully in one of this poems. He writes how nothing warms you up like tomorrow’s travel ticket in your pocket, or how your familiar coat suddenly turns into the fairy tale invisibly cloak. He also urges us to set off on a trip whenever we can. And this is why, I’ll be leaving on that jet plane again in only two days’ time!

Honolulu 2015


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Apple and lingonberry crumble

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I love autumn, with its beautiful, warm colours. It’s also the delicious season of domestic apples and lovely, slightly sour, superfood lingonberries from the Finnish woods. We don’t have apple trees of our own but luckily, family and friends usually offer us goodies from their gardens. Or you can always find them in the farmers’ market or supermarkets. We are not especially keen berry pickers either but in the last few years have spent a weekend at our friends’ cottage picking some lingonberries.

picmonkey-collage-2

This crumble has been our family’s autumn favourite dessert for almost three decades. I used to have piles of all sorts of women’s mag recipe cuttings, collected by my mum during her lifetime. Among them, I once spotted a recipe for an oat flake crumble, made with tinned peaches. I remember trying it once in my flat during uni years, but found it far too sweet for my liking. The crumble part was nice and crunchy, though. Later on, I thought it might work with apples. But no, even that was a bit on the sweet side. Finally, as apples and lingonberries are in the same season and as I’ve always loved lingonberries, I thought of combining the two. And there it was: my own autumn crumble recipe! It’s been devoured and enjoyed by both family and friends for hundreds of times over the year – and we never get tired of it. Worth trying!

INGREDIENTS

  • seasonal apples, any variety (I usually use about 10 but this depends on the size of your dish)
  • 3-4 dl fresh lingonberries
  • sugar and cinnamon to taste
  • 8 dl oat flakes
  • 2 dl sugar (caster or brown)
  • 200 g melted butter or margarine

picmonkey-collage

THIS IS WHAT YOU DO

  • peel and core the apples and cut them into small wedges
  • mix with the lingonberries on the bottom of your oven dish
  • sprinkle with a little bit of sugar and plenty of cinnamon
  • for the crumble, simply mix the oat flakes, sugar and melted butter
  • cover the apples and berries with the crumble
  • bake in c. 175° C for c. 1 h 15 mins (cover with foil if the top starts getting too dark)

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The baked lingonberries give this dessert a wonderful, juicy consistency that goes well with the drier crumble topping. This desserts is best enjoyed warm with with either vanilla ice-cream or cold custard. It works both as a simply, everyday family treat, or a fancier dessert for visiting dinner guests.

dessert2 img_1570

YOU WILL POSSIBLY WANT A SECOND HELPING!


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I love flowers

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I am late again for the weekly photo challenge – RARE. This is what the beginning of the school year does to teachers! You get distracted, only focused on lesson plans, and catering for hundreds of students each day. Everything else goes on a back burner for a while.

Nevertheless, I wanted to post this for last week’s challenge. We witnessed a gorgeous miracle in our garden one rainy morning. At the beginning of summer, my hubby had purchased a hibiscus cheap on a sale, and planted it in a flower plot. It stayed green all summer but showed no signs of doing much else. We more or less forgot all about it. Until, this one morning, one beautiful, beautiful red bloom had opened, and we noticed several other buds on it. It’s been producing one new bloom almost daily now for over a week! Really rare for us.

Can’t resist posting a few hibiscus flowers from our trip to Hawaii in February 2015. Contrary to the cold north here in Finland, they grew naturally in bushes there and were so common that we kept seeing loads in all different colours every day.

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Morning magic

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This just had to be by picture for the weekly photo challenge of ‘morning’! Not my typical morning, definitely the once-in-a-lifetime type.

This was in June this year, just before Midsummer. We spent a few days at my brother’s summer cottage by lake Saimaa in eastern Finland. It was the ‘nightless night’ time in Finland. Something (most likely an irritating mosquito!) woke me up at 4am, and unable to fall back asleep, I decided to take a walk outside. How lucky I did! The sun was rising from behind the trees on the opposite side of the lake, reflecting gorgeously on the mirror-like, calm surface of the water. It was peaceful and calm. Only some fish making plopping noises, while jumping up from the lake, and a few peeps of birds.

I stayed on the wooden jetty for some time taking in all this natural beauty. I would have wanted to stay longer if it wasn’t for the annoying mosquitos disturbing me, and whining in my ears all the time. What a zen moment, though and an indelible picture in my mind from this summer!