Easter Sundae Interlude

You’ll forgive me for the pun once I share the recipe for this Easter-themed chocolate sundae with you. It combines the tart juicyness of pears with chocolate liqueur and malted chocolate.

Green & Blacks chocolate ice cream has a slightly malted flavour and goes particularly well here. My favourite chocolate liqueur is the Mozart one but I had an unopened bottle of Bailey’s limited edition chocolate liqueur here instead, so that’s what I used (and can report that it was very tasty in this context indeed).

You need pear quarters in fruit juice (or halves, then cut them to smaller pieces yourself), chocolate ice cream, chocolate liqueur (chocolate sauce if making for kids or alcohol-free friends), good-quality whipped cream, something crunchy on top (I used edible golden flakes to evoke the colours of white daffodils) and some kind of chocolate wafer (mine was a Malteaster Bunny because Easter Sunday).

1. Pick out four pear quarters from the juice, drain, place in a fanned shape at the bottom of the sundae glass.
2. Pour chocolate liqueur or sauce on top until the pears are covered
3. Add two scoops of chocolate ice cream
4. Add whipped cream
5. Add gold flakes and bunny

Regular readers know that I have a bit of a thing about ice cream (we do go to Fortnum’s on the perfume tours a lot and I enjoy making sundaes for visitors). Here’s a lemon meringue recipe if you’re looking for more.

Happy Easter!

Aino’s Swede Casserole

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I was asked to rummage through my Christmas smell memories for the Scented Letter this month and in doing so, also rummaged through every old photo album I have here with me in the UK.

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Although I did find a few Christmas photos that weren’t completely humiliating, what I actually ended up spending more time on, were pictures of my maternal grandmother Aino, and of us together.

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Aino grew vegetables, berries and flowers at our summer cottage and she adored flowers in particular.

We had dog rose, jasmine, pansies, lilies, geraniums and many more in abundance in every available spot. It’s no wonder that my first word was “kukka” (Finnish for “flower” – reportedly uttered as I went for Aino’s pansy border).

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As soon as I could manage it, Aino took me along for her walks to gather wild flowers and that became a kind of tradition over the years.
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The teenage me would kill me for posting this.

Aino was a Karelian refugee who came over to Finland at the age of 2 and lived at a time when one had to know how to do everything from scratch. Sometimes we don’t realise how spoiled we are.

She taught me how to make Karelian pasties, sourdough rye bread and many basic Finnish dishes. Many of these lessons took place at the summer cottage where we did not have electricity and the cooking was done on a wood-fired range and the bread was baked in the wood-heated oven at the sauna dressing room. I learned how to light the fires and brush out the coals and how dry birch bark makes the best kindling.

Aino’s cooking and baking wasn’t highly decorative but it was incredibly tasty. The post-war mentality of adding sugar, butter and cream to most things helped quite a bit there.

I still sometimes make the traditional Finnish Christmas dish lanttulaatikko (swede casserole), which used to be one of Aino’s masterpieces. My mother attempted to extract the recipe from her but Aino was not one for writing down instructions so the only way to save the recipe was to follow her and pay attention. Alas, my mother was not a detail person and the recipe she produced as a result of this exercise ended up somewhat chaotic and scribbled (main image). The various annotations in different colour pens are clarifications and dire warnings (“NOT TOO MUCH WATER!”) after years of attempts to get it right.

If you would like to have a go at making Aino’s lanttulaatikko, you’ll need a deep casserole dish and a large saucepan.

Aino’s lanttulaatikko

  • 2 medium swedes
  • A generous tablespoonful of wheat flour (or dried breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 100ml of syrup (the one we used is Dan Sukker golden syrup which is available here from Ocado)
  • 1/2 tsp of allspice
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml of cream
  • 1 tbsp of butter

Chop the swedes and boil until cooked in little water. Add the salt to the cooking water. Mash the swedes in their water (careful not to have too much water). Add the flour and mix well. Then add the syrup and mix well – leave to sweeten for at least two hours (you can get the dish this far the night before and add the remaining ingredients and bake the following day. If you do this, lift the saucepan into the fridge for the  night. This is what I do and the extra sweetening time really helps).

Heat the oven to 150°C.

Add the remaining ingredients just before baking. Pour all of the mixture into the deep casserole dish. You can attempt to make some nice patterns with a fork on the surface if you’re feeling artistic. Bake for approximately two hours.

Goes extremely well with baked ham, roast chicken, sprouts and lingonberry jam.

 

Read this month’s Scented Letter for more: IMG_3094.PNG

A Moomin interlude

Finland moomins volatile fictionI’ve just had a wonderful two week holiday in my native Finland and returning to the UK after what was, apparently, the best weather for the whole summer has been quite the culture shock. It’s like being inside Tupperware here. Grey and moist. I had a bath yesterday morning, opened the window to ‘let the moisture out’, and the air got wetter.

The first week was gloriously sunny and spent at Villa Eino at Hawkhill Nature (which I can’t recommend enough – though take my recommendation with the disclaimer that these cottages at Nuuksio National Park are owned by my husband’s cousin). The water was warm enough for daily morning swims. We grilled sausage. Picked litres of bilberries (the smaller, purple-fleshed ‘wild blueberry’). Enjoyed many sauna sessions. Then my husband flew back home and I spent another week in Helsinki and Tikkurila meeting family and friends.

The markets and shops are bursting with fresh berries and mushrooms right now. Due to the late arrival of warm weather, we hit the bilberry season head on and the lingonberries should be arriving soon – lots of partially ripe berries everywhere. Lingonberry is not too dissimilar in flavour to the cranberry, but sharper. I really miss them over here (they go wonderfully well with meat and liver dishes, as well as baked into delicious pies). Finnish strawberries are wonderful and still available in abundance. They get the nightless nights of summer and have a muskier flavour (similar to the wild strawberry) than the British and Spanish varieties we eat over here. Chanterelles are another delicacy; my friend made a delicious sauce with chanterelle mushrooms in butter, served with new potatoes. Simple things like that – and the bread, the glorious variety of different kinds of bread – is what I miss most from Finland, food-wise. I also miss some of the junk foods and flavours from my childhood (meat ‘donuts’ filled with rice, onion and minced beef; pear flavour ice cream, Fazer chocolate).

The things to look out for when over there are all things textile design – Marimekko, Vallila and so on – and even normal supermarkets can have a lovely selection of home textiles. There are outlet stores with good discounts so if you get a bit of local guidance, you can make some great discoveries. Then there’s Iittala glass design and wooden jewellery, and Moomins everywhere, of course.

I brought back lots of books and sourdough rye bread and chocolate and they’ll keep me connected to Finland a little while longer. I’m already planning my next trip (which will probably be a family gathering in 2017 – and I might need to do two trips that year, seeing as the Helsinki WorldCon bid was successful!).

A little London perfume tour (featuring tea and cake at Fortnum’s)

One of the best things about the internet is how it’s brought fellow fragrance nerds together and allowed us to get to know each other. People from all sorts of backgrounds can become fascinated by scents and it’s great to have the opportunity to hang out with such an interesting bunch. I’ve been running small perfume tours in London for a few years and yesterday I met up with a few friends in Spitalfields and visited Angela Flanders, Bloom and Patisserie Valerie (yes, cake is an essential part of any decent perfume tour). Then we headed to Piccadilly Circus and walked to Geo F. Trumper’s perfumery and had afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason. Fortnum’s perfume and toiletries department is opulent, old-fashioned and a must-see for any perfume fan heading to London. I bought Angela’s Precious one and Trumper’s Ajaccio Violets (which sounds like a spell from Harry Potter). I might write about Angela Flanders and Bloom a bit more in the future, but here are some photos!

A Banana Bread Interlude

Here’s what I baked last night (and had a slice of for breakfast): delicious, moist banana and walnut bread flavoured with cardamom, vanilla and caramel. The flavourings are an optional flourish (in fact, so are the walnuts) so if you just want the simplest possible version of this recipe, omit those.

Banana Bread Recipe

200g plain flour, 50g strong white bread flour
115g butter
115g soft, brown sugar
2 medium eggs
500g mashed, ripe bananas
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of saltBanana bread
Optional flourish:
100g of walnuts
Two pinches of cardamom seeds
2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 teaspoon of caramel flavoured syrup (I used Evilbucks Caramel Syrup)
Oven temperature: 180 Celsius
1. Combine flour, bicarb, salt, cardamom seeds and vanilla sugar in one bowl
2. Whisk the two eggs and set aside.
3. Mash the bananas and if you’re using the vanilla essence and flavoured syrup, stir these into the banana mix. Set aside.
4. Cream softened butter and brown sugar. Stir in the banana mixture and the beaten eggs. Don’t over-mix.
5. Pour the butter, sugar, banana and egg mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. Don’t over-mix.
6. Add the walnuts, if using.
7. Spoon the dough into a loaf tin (I used a silicone loaf mold) and bake for approximately 50 minutes. Check after 40 minutes and when you think it’s ready, stick a knife in the middle and if it comes out clean, the bread is ready.
8. Leave to cool in the dish it was baked in for about half an hour and then tip it out to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!