Tag Archives: cooking

Helsinki today: restaurants & a huge fleamarket

Today I got to taste Helsinki the way I really like it: with lots of happy people on the streets and with good weather!

This is not so easy combination that the people living in warmer climate might think… But when Helsinki wants to show its good side, it really is something! There’s a special feeling in the air…

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Today we had decided to take part in a huge fleamarket (in Finnish kirpputori), organised every now and then in different parts of Helsinki.

This time the association of Kallio, Kallio-liike, arranged a very popular street market in the bohemian & hipster Kallio neighbourhood, where everyone could just come and start selling their things – for free.

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The only requirements where to take all your unsold things back home with you and to make sure that the day would be fun & nice for everyone. And it really was! The sun was shining, there were lots of people selling and buying (perhaps more or less we were the same people but anyway) and everything went smoothly.

It’s so great when people quite spontaneously “occupy the urban space” and use it to strengthen the sense of community. The Vaasankatu street was closed to cars (actually it has been like that all the summer). Another good thing,

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However, the fleamarket wasn’t the only event happening in Helsinki today. A lot bigger one was Ravintolapäivä (Restaurant Day), which took place all over the city – and Finland – and internationally!

In short, it’s a food carnival where anyone can open a restaurant for a day – and it’s amazing how many people do it in very creative ways! You just have to take a walk in Esplanadi park, like we did, to get a good glimpse of the variety.

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Their enthusiasm is amazing, as is the fact that one gets to taste the most interesting things… Today I was mostly selling stuff at the fleamarket, but I still tasted typical Maleysian soy bean rolls with shrimps and Vietnamese frittata with cabbage. Or something like that… Unfortunately there are no photos of these delicacies, I was too hungry to think about photos at the moment. 😉

Only the creativity of the chefs is the limit when it comes to the food and locating the pop-up restaurants: they can take place homes, gardens, parks, streets, balconies, shops etc. Naturally now in the summer the most of the restaurants are outside, in the November or January edition of Restaurant Day it’s a bit different…

Thank you for today, Helsinki! Looking forward to seeing more days like this, with the city alive and many smiling people around.

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Simple things – Helsinki, sauna and makkara

Today I found joy in so called small things.

It felt wonderful to go out after a couple of days in bed with a flu and to notice that I can breathe again, the sun is shining and there is a smell of spring in the air already. Today I worked from the home office, as I still felt a bit ill in the morning – which means I was still wearing pyjamas at 5 pm. So I really felt the urge of going out, called up my boyfriend who works nearby and who joined me for a little walk around the centre of Helsinki.

Children with their toboggans in Koff Park "Koffari" in Helsinki. Credit: Helsingin Uutiset

Of course everything was still in its place in the city, after a couple of days of my absence, and I loved to see all the familiar corners once more. We passed Koffin Puisto (Koff Park or “Koffari”) on Bulevardi, where children were riding their toboggans down a snowy slope and continued to the West Harbour, where the big cruises were starting their trips to Stockholm or Tallinn – as they do every evening.

West Harbour near my home in Helsinki. I love the old cranes - which are luckily objects of protection today.

In the end we visited our familiar supermarket to buy soya milk – and sausages, as it was sauna time tonight. I taught my (Spanish) boyfriend how to cook sausage on the stones of the sauna. It’s easy, as every Finn knows! Just wrap a sausage in a folio, add perhaps a bit of strong cheese and throw some beer on top of it – maybe vegetables too, and voilà! In half an hour you’ll have a tasty sausage waiting for you- while you are enjoying the hot sauna. This is a very typical Finnish thing, and some people make real gourmet experiments inside the sauna…

Getting professional! I found out that one company has even created a "sausage tube" for preparing your sausage, "makkara" in Finnish, in the sauna. Credit: Sauna-aitta

While the boyfriend went to have sauna with his friends, I enjoyed quality time with myself in the sauna of our apartment – in Finland almost all the apartment building have a common sauna, and you can get 0,5 – 1 hour a week of sauna for yourself by buying a small amount for maintenance.

A happy Finnish family having a sauna in the Oulu region, Northern Finland. The feeling of euphoria is always the same... Credit: Everyculture.com

I didn’t have sausages – as I’ve decided to spend the month of February without eating meat (more about that later). But naturally I had some nice red wine from Chile waiting for me.  Ah, it feels so good to be healthy again!

Not for vegetarians. This is how makkara-lovers like it - with mustard and ketchup, of course. Credit: HK Sininen - the most typical makkara trademark in Finland!

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Shrove Buns – the last chance to eat greasy stuff in 40 days!

Oh no! Being ill with a flu almost made me forget what day it is today: Shrove Tuesday (Laskiaistiistai in Finnish). This means that today we go all take our toboggans and go to ride a slope (check the video of a bit longer ride in Northern Finland!) and after that the tradition is to eat pea soup, pancake and laskiaispulla –  the delicious Shrove buns! Well, I would say most of the people have skipped to first and even the second part as on Tuesdays they work etc but only few don’t want to taste a bun.

So, about the buns. Basically, you make normal Finnish buns but the fun part is that for laskiainen you can tune them according to your taste! And you can find them everywhere: in cafes, supermarkets – and offices. Today at my workplace we have buns for all the employees. Also in the restaurant near the office you can every year prepare a pulla with your favourite accompaniment – and they have quite a selection.

Tonight a friend is even organising a traditional “pulla party” at her place – and over 30 friends have said YES to pulla in the Facebook invitation. Also everyone has to tell in advance what kind of pulla they prefer. In the end, only you imagination is the limit…

In short, it’s hard to avoid a pulla overdosis today.

So how is this delicacy?

Here it is, laskiaispulla. So good - but only once a year.

There are two options on for to put inside  your pulla – and this truly divides people! You can either be strawberry jam person or almond paste person. If you come to Finland on laskiainen, you’ll definitely face with this difficult question! Also pulla contains whipped cream and some sugar on top. And, like I said, only the imagination is the limit on what to put inside your original sweet bun…

People even compete who makes the best pulla

Most of the people concentrate on eating and comparing pullas but there’s a deeper reason for Shrove festivities, of course. After today, Shrove Tuesday, a period of 40 days of liturgical fasting before Easter begins and during that time you can only eat simple foodstuffs. The Protestant Finns do not observe Lent anymore, but the Orthodox usually do. Some people use the fast as an excuse to eat healthier – maybe even I’ll try to quit eating candy. Hmm I must think about it.

Anyway, today is the last chance to eat a lot of heavy stuff, as people believed that food had to be very greasy today so that the pigs and cows would get fat in the spring. Now the tradition lives on only in laskiaispulla, I guess. And unfortunately it’s us getting fat, not the cows…

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Thursday is for beer, pea soup and pancake

morning snow on Thursday, January 19, in Helsinki

Today we had a cool snow storm in Helsinki. Perhaps it influenced our minds too, as since the morning my colleagues at the office were restless and finally, after a 60-year-birthday party given for a colleague (with chocolate cake and cava) it was impossible to work.

Some opened a bottle of red wine. I tried to go back to work, in vain, so when a colleague suggested to have a beer – just one! – it was impossible to say no.

We explored a great Indian Bar Bhangra (Check Google maps, in Töölö, Runeberginkatu 28), decorated Bollywood-style and offering a nice selection of Indian beers, lassi, a shot roulette (scary) and Nepalese and Indian food. Also Bollywood music and movies, promises the bar’s Facebook page.

All in all, here comes the lesson: when a Finn suggests you “let’s go for ONE beer” in 99% of the cases it won’t stay in one. Neither today.

Luckily I was “wise” enough to leave home early… and when I arrived home, I just had to get pancake (pannukakku). Why?

For an unknown reason in Finland we have a tradition to eat pea soup (hernekeitto) on Thursdays. In the restaurant below my office too. The soup was good, but one thing was terribly missing – the typical, indispensable dessert to go with pea soup – the pancake! Typical for an unknown reason too…

Normally you enjoy pancake with strawberry jam and cream. Yummy. Here comes a photo of my masterwork – growing up in the oven… What is left over, I’ll take to the office tomorrow. Happy colleagues, happy work…

"Pannukakku", Finnish pancake growing in the oven

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