May 11, 2016

Zucchini & Corn Soup

May 11, 2016
SproutsZucchini Corn Soup
Is a blind uncle better than no uncle, I wonder, while dropping you a recipe without any other content?

Zucchini & Corn Soup
(Serves 2-4 persons)

2 small zucchinis (about 400g)
1-2 Tbsp ghee, butter or oil
1/4 tsp hing powder
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp sweet paprika powder
3/4 tsp dry dill
1 cm (1/3”) fresh turmeric root, peeled and finely grated
750 ml (3 Cups) water
400 ml (1 1/2 Cup) frozen corn
125 ml (1/2 Cup) Greek style thick yogurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp kala namak powder
125 ml (1/2 Cup) fresh dill

Wash, peel and cut the zucchini in half lenghtwise. Slice the halves into bite-size pieces crosswise.

Heat up the ghee in a pot. Add the spices and then the zucchini slices. Sauté the vegetables for a few minutes. Add the water. Cook, covered, until the zucchini pieces are tender but still firm. You don’t want them to become mushy!

Add the corn kernels. Bring the liquid to a boil and mix in the yogurt. Remove the soup from the stove and toss in the salt and kala namak powder, and the fresh dill.

Garnish with sprouts.

April 13, 2016

Broth & Daikon Noodles

April 13, 2016
Let me push the mop aside and get up from my knees to tell you what has kept me from updating the blog.

I’ve come to think of our cottage as a lovely granny, who squeaks, leaks, and lapses. Like any 91 year old, she urges constant care. Although I nurse her, she’s prone to accidents and regularly falls apart. She is cozy, but also naughty, and it’s a full time job to tend her. Her mishaps keep me busy and make my life unpredictable.

For example, I was cleaning the woodstove in the kitchen a week ago. Suddenly carbon deposits blocked the ash vacuum, blowing the soot around the house. Goodbye white walls, ceilings and floors! And, good bye a new blog post! Since then I’ve been scrubbing every surface, furniture, and household item, and washing the textiles. By now, I’m only halfway through.
Before I'll climb on the ladder to sweep the walls, let me drop you a recipe I came up with in March while fasting on a festival day. Although I didn’t entertain my mind with anything fancier than a warm, clear broth while abstaining from food, I added spices, herbs, and vegetables to the soup when I cooked it later. Protein, like chickpeas or kidney beans, would make it more filling. Tofu or paneer would go very well with it, too.
(Serves 2-4 persons)

The broth:
2 Tbsp ghee or oil
2 ½ cm (1”) cinnamon stick
5 cloves 2 star anise
1 tej patta
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp jeera seeds
¼ tsp hing powder
1 green chili (hot)
2 ½ cm (1”) ginger
1 l (4 cups) grated vegetables (sweet potatoes, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, kale etc)
2 l (8 cups) water

The eggplant:
1 eggplant
2 Tbsp ghee oil
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2-3 Tbsp Bragg soy sauce

Other ingredients:
7 ½ cm (3”) daikon
3-4 small grill peppers
250 ml (1 cup) broad beans
2 tsp Himalayan salt or to taste
1 tsp kala namak
1 ½ tsp amchoor powder
1 bunch of basil leaves and seedlings

Make the broth first. Heat up the ghee or oil in a pot. Add the cinnamon, cloves, anise, tej patta, fennel and jeera seeds, and fry them for 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the hing powder, and add immediately the chili and ginger. Fry the spices, tossing, for 30 seconds before adding the vegetables. Sauté the vegetables for a couple of minutes then pour in the water. Cover the pot and bring the water to boil. Then reduce the heat to moderately low and cook for 40 to 60 minutes.

Strain the liquid and keep it warm until all the components are ready. Save the vegetable fiber for pancakes or bread.

While the broth is cooking, dice the eggplant. Heat up the ghee on a frying pan. When it’s hot, add the black pepper. Toss once and add the eggplant pieces. Fry them over moderate heat until they are golden on all sides. Pour in the soy sauce. Place the eggplants into the broth. Spiralize the daikon into long noodles and cut the peppers into thin slices. Place them and the beans, along with the salt, kala namak and amchoor into the broth. Garnish with basil leaves and seedlings.

Alternatively, you can place the vegetables, basil leaves and seedlings on individual plates and pour the hot broth on the top of them.

Thank you.

January 19, 2016

Seed Bread & Buckwheat Crisps

January 19, 2016
I dreamt about non-urban lifestyle long before we moved to the countryside last year.

When I was a kid, my family had a small island where we spent our summers. There weren’t neighbors, electricity, or running water. Whether it shined or rained, my brother and I splashed in the lake, swimming and playing like a pair of trout. Once a week we made a boat trip to the mainland to buy staple foods from a store on wheels, and then my mother fermented yogurt, viili (Nordic sour curd) and buttermilk which we kept cool in an excavation, dug in the ground. Every July wild blueberries and lingonberries surrounded the cottage, and we munched them directly from the bushes. There was a bigger island nearby to where we rowed to pick bucketfuls of wild strawberries, raspberries, and mushrooms in the end of each summer.

When we reached puberty, my brother and I refused to go to the island. It wasn’t hip, and we couldn’t stay apart from our friends for three months a year. As teenagers, we viewed such a vacation as a punishment and, during our last holiday, I plotted how to flee away after reading a memoir by Henri Charriére, called Papillon, which described his escape from a penal colony in French Guiana.

Seeing our resistance, my parents sold the summer house when my brother was sixteen and I was fifteen years old. It took me three years to realize what a loss it was. That’s when I started to romanticize about country-dwelling.

Last December, after having lived in fairly primitive conditions for eight months, the reality of my rustic life-choice finally hit me. In an early morning, as I was going to the basement to burn wood, I became aware that this is how the rest of my days will look like. The goal of downshifting, gardening, chopping wood and shoveling snow had become a part of my field but, all of a sudden, it appeared so ordinary and even burdensome! For the first time, I saw the cellar wasn’t a sanctuary but a cold and damp dungeon where I sat two hours every dawn, meditating, while poking the fire after every 108th mantra, and while having eight legged spiders crawling on me. The walls and the ceiling I had whitewashed in the spring were already stained with soot. In panic, I wondered if smoke and tar smudged my lungs, too. Will I be able to cope with this much austerity until the end of my life? Was it a mistake to move into this shack?

The novelty of everything wears out.

Although it’s human to misplace the desire for fulfillment in material objects, positions, relationships and achievements, I’m bothered how often I still imagine that I will attain contentment by getting one more piece of chocolate or a pair of shoes; or seeing the Himalayas, changing my worldview, studying a degree, and upgrading my significant other to the latest version of husbandhood (sorry, darling)! Unfortunately it won’t happen because the soul I am underneath the flesh, blood, bones, mind and reason is fully compatible only with spiritual energy. Matter, however mesmerizing it may appear, flows on a different, temporary frequency that will always leave the soul hungry. How much longer will I keep confusing things and situations for happiness?

Happiness is a challenge because it’s a mental disposition – a fluctuating emotion – in which suffering is momentarily absent. Like any state of balance, it flips easily out of equilibrium under the influence of an opposite force. Satisfaction, on the other hand, comes from knowing the self and the soul’s relationship with both, material and spiritual nature. Because it’s a conviction anchored in the core character of the self and the purpose of life, it remains unaffected by external circumstances and time factor. If any, my resolution for 2016 is to shift the focus from becoming happy to being satisfied with what is under my care right now.
Crisp bread is not culinary luxury, like pizza and crêpe that offer instant gratification, but a necessity the Nordic folks have dried and stored for survival since 500 AD. As a poor man’s diet, it reflects a short harvest season and the hardship of winter. To me, it summarizes (when compared to any other bread) the difference between happiness and satisfaction.

Households originally baked thin crisps from wholemeal rye flour, salt and water, and hang them on sticks under the roof. Nowadays various grains and seeds are used. Here are my two gluten-free recipes:

SEED BREAD AND BUCKWHEAT CRISPS (each recipe makes about 15 breads of 20cm / 8”)

Ingredients for the seed bread:
1 Cup (250 ml) sunflower seeds
½ Cup (125 ml) green pumpkin seeds
½ Cup (125 ml) sesame seeds
4 Tbsp flaxseeds
5 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp dry rosemary
1 Tbsp kalonji seeds
1 ½ tsp Himalayan salt
4 Tbsp ghee, oil or melted butter
1 Cup (250 ml) boiling water

Ingredients for the buckwheat bread:
2 ½ Cups (625 ml) buckwheat flour
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 ½ tsp Himalayan salt
4 Tbsp ghee, oil or melted butter
1 ½ Cup (325 ml) boiling water

For the seed bread, grind rosemary and all the seeds, except kalonji, into fine powder. Add kalonji and salt, and rub in the ghee, oil or melted butter. Finally pour in the boiling water and mix into a smooth paste. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes.

For the buckwheat crisps mix the flour, seeds, salt and ghee, oil or melted butter. Pour in the boiling water and mix into a smooth paste. Set the dough aside to rest for 10 minutes. 

Make lime size balls from the dough and roll them into as thin disks as you can. It’s easier to roll the dough if you place it between two sheets of baking paper. Remove the upper layer afterwards. If you want perfectly round breads, cut them out with the help of a plate or a lid.

Bake the breads at 175 C (345 F) until they are light golden. Because they burn easily, keep the temperature steady. 

You may vary the ratio of seeds as you like, and use spices like jeera or caraway instead of what I've suggested. By adding more ghee, oil or butter, the breads will become richer and crispier. Instead of water, you may use sour cream or milk (they don’t have to be boiling hot).

Thank you.

December 31, 2015


December 31, 2015
The Happiness Research Institute, an independent think tank exploring why some societies are more content than others, reported earlier this year that Finland tops the European Happiness Equality Index in 2015. The survey differs from the UN’s World Happiness Report by evaluating how evenly the quality of life spreads within all societal layers. Somewhere there, among the rank and file of the 5.5 million happiest Europeans, I wish you a prosperous New Year!
I made this sweet, Gopinath, for a friend’s Christmas party. It’s a dessert I learnt to prepare when I lived in the temple ashram. The original recipe includes roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped, but because I piped the sweets into paper forms with a pastry bag, I omitted them. Instead of nuts, you could add orange zest to the recipe.
Gopinath is one of many names of Krishna. It means the protector of milkmaids or cowherd girls. The bhakti yoga tradition is so personal that we name even the foods after our object of meditation.
Gopinath (makes 20 - 25 pieces)

3 ½ oz. (100 g) coconut butter
4-5 Tbsp cacao powder (or carob powder)
Seeds of a vanilla pod
¾ Cup + 1 Tbsp (200 ml) heavy cream
A little less than 1 Cup (250 ml) powder sugar
1 Cup + 3 Tbsp (300 ml) milk powder
1 ¾ oz. (50 g) roasted hazelnuts, chopped

Melt the coconut butter in a pot over a low heat. As soon as it melts, put it aside and add the cacao powder and vanilla seeds. Let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Whip the cream and sugar until it forms very soft peaks. Whisk in the milk powder.

Combine the coconut butter and cream. Use an electric mixer to break up lumps. Don’t overwork the mixture because the cream curdles easily!

Finally, fold in the nuts.

Transfer the sweet mixture into a tray. Tap it into an even square with a rubber spatula. Place the tray in the refrigerator and cut the sweet just before serving. Always serve Gopinath cold.

If you want to pipe the mixture into paper forms after combing the coconut butter and cream, omit the hazelnuts.