31 August 2013

Sun-dried tomato gnocchi

I felt like making a different gnocchi variation as I absolutely love gnocchi and it's so good in several contexts. This time I paired the potato goodness with some sun-dried tomatoes, which gave them some extra flavour, and it was something I haven't made before. You should still be able to obtain new potatoes in the shops, which make delightful gnocchi.


A few sun-dried tomatoes
Vegetable stock powder
750g new potatoes
3dl flour


Chop the sun-dried tomatoes very small and soak them in a small amount (about 1dl) of cold vegetable stock for about 30 minutes. Then remove all the fluid off them carefully.

Peel and boil the potatoes until soft. When the potatoes are soft press them through a potato ricer and mix with the flour. Knead until you have a firm mix and then add the sun-dried tomatoes and some salt. You might not need all the flour or you might need more depending on the texture of the dough. You also need some flour for dusting of your work surface.

Roll long rods of the dough and cut it into gnocchi sized bits. Boil the gnocchi in salt water until they float on the surface. Serve with a nice sauce or a crisp salad and enjoy!

Your VegHog

29 August 2013

Kabocha squash and sage pot pies

September is approaching fast, but the weather can still be quite summerly, so save this recipe for the autumn if you think it's not pie season yet. I'm going to share this with you now anyway.

Kabocha is a sweet and chestnut flavoured squash and it makes a really lovely pie filling. Therefore I decided to make this pie with it.

The pie filling:

1 kabocha squash (about 500g)
1 onion
1 garlic clove
150g mozzarella
150ml vegetable stock
1 egg
1 cup white wine
Olive oil
Fresh sage

The pastry:

150g flour
75g butter
2-4tbsp cold water

The method:

For the pastry mix the flour and soft butter together. Pinch small butter pieces among the flour until the dough reaches a bread crumb like texture. Then add the cold water and knead into a firm dough. Wrap it in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Then you can start preparing the filling. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Chop the squash into small cubes and place them on a baking tray. Be careful when cutting the squash as it can be a hard one to crack. Quarter the onion and add the onion wedges to the baking tray. Put the garlic and sage on the baking tray as well. Brush the vegetables with olive oil. Roast them in the oven for about 30 minutes. Stir them occasionally.

In the meanwhile chop the mozzarella. When the veg is roasted, lightly fry it in a pan. Chop the garlic first somewhat smaller. Add the white wine to the pan and let it evaporate. Then also add the vegetable stock and let it simmer for a while. Add the mozzarella cubes before you take the filling off heat.

Grease a cake tin or smaller oven dishes to bake the pies in. I made two smaller pies this time. Roll out the pastry thinly and cut suitable sized pieces for your dishes, also for the lids. Place the pastry into the dish, fill it with the squash filling and put the lid on them. Press the edges firmly together and brush the pies with a beaten egg. You can make some decorations on the lid by pressing with a fork.

Bake the pie at 200C for about 20-25 minutes and serve it hot.

Your VegHog

26 August 2013

Carrot, pepper and zucchini patties with soya

This is a recipe for very quick and tasty vegetable patties made of basic ingredients. I added some soya to these as well for the extra healthy touch and these patties are almost vegan. I used eggs to bind the mixture, but feel free to substitute it.


1 small zucchini

3 carrots

1 red pepper

1 onion

1dl soya crunch

Fresh parsley

Fresh chives

2 eggs

1dl wheat flour

1tsp nettle salt

Ground black pepper

Vegetable oil for frying


This is how to make the patties: grate the carrots, pepper and zucchini and chop the onion small. Boil the soya crunch in water for 5 minutes and remove its excess water by pressing it through a sieve. Mix all these ingredients in a bowl and add the eggs and the flour. Add enough flour to make the mixture fairly firm but you might need more than one desiliter flour or not quite that much depending on the juiciness of the vegetables.

Season the mix with salt and pepper. I now have this nettle salt that I like to use all the time, so I added it here as well, but don't worry if you can't get such a thing. Season the mix also generously with some fresh parsley and chives.

Heat some vegetable oil in a pan to a moderate temperature. Put enough oil to the pan to enable shallow frying. Shape fairly small and thin patties of the mix directly to the pan and fry each side for a few minutes until the patties are firm and fried golden brown.

Place them on a piece of kitchen roll to tap off the excess oil.

These are best to be served as a side with potatoes, salad and maybe some light gravy.


Your VegHog


24 August 2013

Finnish Gin Long Drink - Lonkero

In my opinion one of the best alcoholic beverages in this world is the Finnish Gin Long Drink, Lonkero to its friends, the grey gold of the north. Nowadays several brands and flavours of the long drink exist, but the classic is the best: gin in a tin with a grapefruit lemonade type of drink, at strength of 4,7% or 5,5% alcohol.

This drink was the first ready made alcoholic mixed drink in the history when it was created to quench the thirst of visitors to the 1952 Helsinki summer olympics. These days it's still one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Finland, and I miss it so much when I'm in England. It should be exported more widely as it beats gin and tonic 5-0. Lonkero's taste is smoother and finer due to the grapefruit and the gin is more subtle.

But anyway, please don't take this appraisal too seriously, it's only my opinion and I appreciate that people have different tastes!

What's your favourite drink, dear Hogger?


22 August 2013

Late summer charcoal grilling in foil

There are so many different options for versatile vegetarian barbequing and this is only one of them. I just about managed to squeeze this post in during the summer, it's only August, right?

When I'm in Finland in the summer I always grill fresh vegetables in foil parcels, as wrapping everything in foil makes the grilling procedure easier and the vegetables char more gently. It's also nice garden fun for the family and can be done even in the autumn. There's always the possibility to eat indoors if it's too chilly outside.

New potatoes must never be missing from this sort of ensemble. They should be pre-boiled until almost done, then wrapped in foil and grilled until their bottom bits get brown grilling marks. This method brings out the new potato flavours in a marvellous way and adds some smokiness.

Onions and tomatoes are a great addition and they don't need any pre work other than chopping. Quarter them and wrap them into individual foil bags and grill gently. So simple!

This time I made a stuffed courgette and grilled it. Take a large courgette, cut it in half and scoop its insides out by leaving a thin courgette shell of about 1cm thickness. Stuff the courgette halves with chopped tomatoes, onions and grated cheese and their own insides. Season them with salt and pepper and grill wrapped in foil.

Another tasty, and more effortless, option is to chop the courgette into smallish pieces and grill it with some emmental cheese cubes.

Once I even grilled some pre-boiled purple cauliflower. It added some nice unusual colour to the plate.

One item that can't be missing from the grill either is rye bread. Once all your veg has grilled sufficiently, place pieces of rye bread on the grill and lightly grill them. They are so nice with a smoky flavour and a filling addition to your meal.

Enjoy your grilling moments!

Your VegHog


20 August 2013

Finnish potato pies

These potato pies are similar to the traditional Finnish Karjalanpiirakat (Karelian pies) I made a while ago, but the rice filling has been replaced by potato mash. These potato pies are also very traditional in Finland and suitable to any occasion, may it be a festive one or just everyday life.

This crust recipe is slightly altered from my gradmother's Karjalanpiirakka recipe, but otherwise I didn't really consult much the traditional recipes and started cooking straight away. I was very happy with the finished pies. Here's how I made them.

For the rye crust:

3 dl wheat flour
2 dl rye flour
2-3 dl lukewarm water and milk mix
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Melted butter for brushing

For the potato filling:

500g potatoes, I used new potatoes because they are in season
50g butter

Peel the potatoes and boil them until they are soft. Mash them and mix with the butter and season with salt. When the mash is smooth set it to side to be cooled down.

This is how to make the dough for the crust: First mix the dry ingredients and then add the lukewarm milk and water mix and the oil and knead. You can make the fluid more milky or more watery depending on your taste. Add more fluid or flour if needed. Knead a firm dough, which will be a little bit similar to a pizza dough. Let it rise under a tea towel for about one hour.

Then take small portions of the dough and roll it out thinly with a rolling pin. Cut the dough into small (about 15 cm long) slightly oval circles. You can use a lid or a bowl of suitable size as a cutting help.

Take about two tablespoons of the potato mash and spread it to the middle of the circle by leaving about 2cm edges without filling. Then make the distinct wavy closing (see photos). Fold the edges over and pinch them starting from the middle and moving towards the ends. Leave the middle opening slightly wider as in Karjalanpiirakka.

Bake the pies at 225C for about 15-20 minutes until the crust is baked and they are nicely browned. Brush them with melted butter and let set for a while.

Then they are ready to be served as a filling snack. My favourite serving variation is the basic one, just with some extra butter spread on the pies.

Stay hungry!

Your VegHog

19 August 2013

Sea-buckthorn berry jelly served with squeaky cheese

Hi Hoggers!

Today's dish uses similar ingredients as yesterday's salad but is still quite different and whimsical. Please have a look at the previous post, where also the sea-buckthorn berry and the Finnish squeaky cheese are explained. I utilised these very typical western Finnish ingredients again, but tried to create a more modern approach.

This is how you can make this salad/starter:

Prepare the sea-buckthorn berry jelly. Dissolve a sachet (about 6g) of vege gel, vegetarian gelatine, into 2dl of cold water. Then heat the liquid up to the boiling point. Add one tablespoon of sugar and dissolve it into the liquid. Puree about 100g of sea-buckthorn berries with a hand mixer and press them through a sieve to the gelatine liquid. Whisk carefully so that there are no lumps. Pour it to a container or glass of your choice depending on how you want to present the jelly later. I poured mine on a plate with high edges in order to make fairly flat jelly.

Then dice some squeaky cheese. I diced both the cheese and the jelly to approximately same sized cubes and presented them as a chessboard, but the possibilities are limitless. I appreciate that you might not get any sea-buckthorn berries, but please also consider cloudberry or cranberry jelly with cheese!

Get creative!

Your VegHog


18 August 2013

Sea-buckthorn berry and squeaky cheese salad

Us Finns are crazy about berries, mushrooms and all sorts of forest and natural produce. Visit our country for unforgettable culinary experiences. I mainly try to make nice fusion dishes with Finnish produce when I have the chance.

Sea-buckthorn grows wild and in people's gardens in western Finland where The VegHog comes from. Here we know it as tyrni. The sea-buckthorn berries contain loads of vitamin C and the flavour is very crisp and strong. It also makes brilliant juices and jams. As I'm on a holiday at home now, I have picked these berries and utilised them in my cooking. I really want to take some dried ones with me back to England.

Today's dish is a simple sea-bucktorn salad with some squeaky Finnish cheese, leipäjuusto.The squeaky cheese is a traditional mild homemade cheese from my region with distinctive charring marks and it's a great addition to salads. I used to be lucky enough to get the fresh homemade cheese charred at an open fire while following the cheese making process of my grandparents, but nowadays I get mine from the supermarket.

For this salad I combined the sea-buckthorn berries I had picked myself with squeaky cheese cubes and fresh local lettuce and enjoyed it as a colourful side dish to new potatoes.

Stay hungry!

Your VegHog


17 August 2013

Raspberry and white chocolate cheese cake with raspberry coulis

As you might know, I don't bake sweet stuff so often, but the hog mother's birthday definitely called for a cake. This however can hardly be called baking as it's a non-bake cake, which makes it just so appealing especially in the summertime when you don't want to use your oven too much. You can comfortably make it within one hour but you'll need the patience to let it set overnight.

Normally this sort of recipe would need some gelatine, but luckily good vegetarian alternatives exist. It can be difficult to get the cake set, especially with white chocolate that has a lower melting point and therefore might not set properly. As the filling is quite creamy, more vegetarian gelatine than usual is needed, about 12g of the vege gel should do the trick. Dissolve them according to the instructions on the packet.

The base:

180g oat biscuits

50g butter

Crush the oat biscuits finely, melt the butter and mix the two together. Grease the base of a large detachable base cake tin with butter and press the biscuit base onto the bottom.

The filling:

0,5l raspberries

130g white chocolate

100g plain soft cheese

170g lemon soft cheese

2 eggs

1dl sugar

12g vegetarian gelatine (2 sachets vege gel)

2dl whipping cream

Melt the white chocolate in a water bath. Prepare the vegetarian gelatine as described on your packet.

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Beat the egg yolks and the sugar into a foam. Add the melted white chocolate, both soft cheeses and the vegetarian gelatine. Also whip the cream and carefully mix it to the main filling. Then whip the egg whites foamy and mix lightly. This is the chocolate and cheese filling done.

Pour half of the filling on the cake base and add the raspberries on it. Then cover the raspberries with the rest of the filling. Cover the cake tin and let the cake set in the fridge until the next day.

I decided to make some raspberry coulis, an intense raspberry sauce, to it and it's better to make this on day two just before serving.

The Raspberry coulis:

A handful of Raspberries

1tbsp water

3tbsp sugar

Dissolve the sugar in water by heating them gently. Puree the raspberries and press them through a sieve to the pan. Mix it and let cool.

Decorate the cake with the raspberry coulis, fresh raspberries and serve it with coffee. Enjoy!

Your VegHog