Finnish Your Sandwich!

Finnish Your Sandwich!

Here is the little sandwich I made myself for lunch yesterday, using the fine Gululainen Reissumies Täysjyväruis Fullkornsrag (rye bread rounds) that Maxence brought me back from his trip to Helsinki.

This isn’t a recipe really, I pretty much just used what I had on hand, spreading some Mme Loïc cheese (an addictive kind of cream cheese from Brittany) on one side and Branston pickles on the other, laying pieces of bone-in ham on top, and cramming the sandwich with as much chopped celery as would fit.

When I tore off the celery stalks I needed from the bunch, I unfortunately had to evict a fat little worm that had set up residence there. I’m not sure if the little guy was dead or just numb from the cold in the vegetable drawer, but I do hope he found new play buddies in the trash…

This good, healthy sandwich was washed down by a tall glass of Gazpacho, that slightly spicy, cold tomato soup from Spain that you can buy in cartons at grocery stores here. A wonderful match for the earthy taste of rye, it turns out.

Lamb’s Lettuce Chicken Soup

Soupe de Mâche au Poulet

[Lamb’s Lettuce Chicken Soup]

Foreword : you might notice that the picture above has the focus on the bread and not the soup. The soup will have to forgive me, I love it dearly and all, it is really the star of this post, but I’m sorry, soup, you are just not photogenic. At all.

La mâche, which I’m told translates to lamb’s lettuce, is a kind of salad which comes in small bouquets of soft green leaves in the shape of drops, and has a mild taste. I like its flavor and texture very much, I like that it looks very pretty and I like that “ça change de la salade!“, as a recurrent ad campaign says : “It’s a nice change from salad”.

We happened to have a bunch of mâche that was wilting so fast the naked eye could witness the process, and we also had leftovers from an astounding roasted chicken we had bought at our favorite rôtisserie a couple of days before. I considered making a chicken salad, but for all the daffodills and blooming buds, it is still winter here, so a soup felt much more appropriate.

This is the first soup I make that involves some kind of meat, and I am just now fully grasping the concept of chicken soup and what the fuss was all about : boy, talk about a comforting and fragrant soup! It is infused with flavor from the meat, bones and skin of the chicken which simmer in it for a while. Mâche turns out to be as delicious cooked as it is raw, with so mild a taste there’s almost a hint of sweetness.

It is also a very easy soup to put together, the only slightly annoying step being to remove the bones and skin. It would work with boneless skinless chicken breasts, but I still highly recommend using bone-in and skin-on pieces of chicken, I’m sure it really makes a difference in the depth of taste.

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Look What I Got!

Look What I Got!

Sometimes it’s the nicest and most heart-warming thing to see how well your own personal Maxence knows you. He went on a business trip to Helsinki (in Finland, for the geographically challenged among us, I certainly am one of them) for a couple of days last week. When we got home on the night of his return – after we went to see Air brilliantly playing live at the Zenith -, I was greeted by a small mountain of Finnish goods, neatly arranged on my side of the bar*.

*I’ll easily admit – though a little shamefully – that I do feel the need to have half of the bar be considered mine. Our respective mess has to be on the correct side.

My lovely sweet darling had combed the freezing frozen streets of Helsinki, looking for a good grocery store, and had more or less bought one of every product that looked foreign and Finnish and interesting.

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Baked Oatmeal Breakfast Clafoutis

Baked Oatmeal Clafoutis

For the longest time I wasn’t the greatest fan of oatmeal, at least when cooked in milk the usual way. The lumpy look and the weird smell and the mushy texture really turned me off. However, I was always a good friend of oatmeal in muesli, and in cookies, and in this baked oatmeal recipe.

The original recipe is actually one that is offered by Quaker Oats, and it caught my attention as it went through a bout of extreme popularity on the Cooking Light forums some time ago. I like to add nuts and dried fruit, such as raisins or dried cranberries, and an apple, a banana, a pear, a peach, or any fresh seasonal fruit is a great addition, too.

I call it a clafoutis because the texture reminds me of the typically French, grandmotherly dessert, and a slice of this oatmeal for breakfast or brunch is a delightful way to start the day : tasty, filling and healthful. You can have it with a side of yogurt and fruit; it is also nice with a thin spread of jam or peanut butter.

About the cinnamon I use

I am in love with the fresh cinnamon I order from Cinnamon Hill, a small company that specializes in sourcing and selling the highest-quality, freshest cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam (ordinary cinnamon usually comes from China or Indonesia). I get whole sticks, and grate them with the beautifully crafted (and highly giftable!) cinnamon grater that Cinnamon Hill has designed. Truly, you don’t know what cinnamon tastes like until you’ve tried freshly harvested, freshly grated, top-grade cinnamon, and it makes an amazing difference in this recipe.

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Live Food : A Cooking Class

Live Food : A Cooking Class

Last Saturday, I took a cooking class on live food at Pousse-Pousse, the little store where I buy my sprouting gear and collect my Campanier baskets.

It was taught by Pol Grégoire, a chef from Belgium. He started out his career in conventional cooking, but then he got interested in what he calls “alimentation vive” and low-temp cooking, and decided to start eating and cooking that way. He opened a restaurant in Brussels along those precepts, he has written a book that is just ready to get published, and he organizes conferences and cooking classes.

The class was held in the kitchen at the back of the Pousse-Pousse boutique : the students were sitting around a long and narrow table, at the end of which Pol stood, preparing the food, talking about the ingredients and the nutrition concepts, and answering the myriad of our questions. Among the twelve students, there were three guys, which I consider a pretty good ratio for a cooking class, and a nutrition-oriented one at that. Since Pol’s classes are organized in cycles of five, some people knew each other and the chef already, and the general atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, with a little teasing thrown in the mix.

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