31 December 2014

My year 2014

Okay, it's New Year's Eve and it's time to look back at 2014. I have collected here my favourite photos, moments and recipes from 2014 and linked back to the posts (obviously not all recipes aren't originally mine, and when that's the case I have mentioned it). There were many dishes made this year, and I have selected here some of my favourites. I didn't want to make a too long post, so I had to be very selective with the recipes, and also chose to add picture collages instead of the individual photos.

As I was looking back at the year, I realised how lucky I have been with all these wonderful travels and good food. I had more trips than ever, mostly to my home country but also to others. I certainly appreciate a lot that I was able to do this.


In January I celebrated my first blog anniversary and grew more and more fond of blogging the whole time. I visited Oxford, where I try to go at least once a year and stay in the hotel Malmaison, which used to be a medieval gaol and Victorian prison just next to a Norman castle. I have many favourite pubs in Oxford, but one of them is The Eagle and Child, where the local literary group the Inklings used to drink. I love making my own pasta and made red pepper ravioli.


In February I was often cooking British food, and one dish in this category was Scottish tattie scones – what a perfect breakfast it was! I also baked traditional Finnish Runeberg's torte, a recipe that I'm trying to perfect each year. I'm a big fan of veggie pizza, so one evening I had a mini pizza party.


Spring came to England in March and I feasted on homemade falafel, followed an Ottolenghi recipe for roasted aubergines, drank mojitos and made zucchini and feta pancakes. There was also a big celebration as the dearest of them all, my granddad, turned 90.


In April a dream came true for me and I got to visit Paris for the first time! Spring in Paris really is well worth experiencing. During this month I was inspired to cook a lot French style, but also posted some Easter recipes such as lemon and white chocolate muffins.


In May many Paris posts still appeared on the blog, but I also visited the Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and Beer Festival in the idyllic Isle of Purbeck in southern England. I made my first veggie sausages and as rhubarb was in season, I baked a rhubarb pie.


I started June by making my “most accomplished curry so far” (says my partner), which was a pineapple curry. I've made it a couple of times since and it has always been well received. Also in June I celebrated Midsummer in chilly Finland and made a three-part burger post consisting of basic burger buns, pea and leek burgers and broccoli and cheese nuggets.


I just loved the whole warm summer this year, and July was a particularly busy month for me. My brother visited me with his girlfriend and we showed them some of the southern English countryside and London, but I think that the shetties and their foals in New Forest were the highlight. Then I returned to France to make holiday in Avignon and its surroundings. July was the right time for eating salads and I made among others this mixed summer salad. Balcony gardening was going well and I was able to bake spelt and carrot rolls from my own small carrots, which were the first carrots I've grown on the balcony.


In August I was being a clumsy cook as I burned my small hedgehog paw when frying a pizza made from Provencal produce. The fried pizza was so tasty though that I didn't mind the injury too much. Then I had another great holiday when I visited my family in Finland again. It was a great summer, weather being warm throughout.


In September I admired the growth of my tomato Tigerella and balcony garden plants in general. I started serious squash cooking and posted an onion squash tart recipe. I also cooked some pepper nuggets and crushed potatoes.


October was all German themed. I wrote my first trilingual post about a German classic Currywurst, but of course made its vegetarian version. Later that month I visited Hamburg and Bremen for a few days.


With November the cold and rain came to England and due to that my cooking got very autumnal and I ended the tomato growing season by making green tomato chutney from the last of the crops. Among others a garlic soup and a Moroccan style squash stew were warming me during the chilly weather. I finally managed to make a vegetarian sushi post thanks to the rice cube gadget that I purchased and I posted my first cooking video ever.


In December we got to my favourite holiday and I started posting all things Christmas. I baked a flourless chocolate cake and set Spike on top of it. I made a warm and cold acorn squash, halloumi, lentil and pomegranate salad. Then I spent Christmas with my family in Finland. Yesterday I got back from a short trip to Oxford, where I got a huge shock when I detected that my favourite tree (and that of J.R.R. Tolkien), the magnificent old Pinus Nigra, had been felled. Of course the Botanic Garden wouldn't fell it just for the sake of it, but there had been an incident in the summer, when two large limbs had suddenly fallen off the tree. As the result they had no other option than to fell the whole tree, as it had become structurally unsound. It was an extremely sad sight and I had to shed a few tears when I saw it. Below is a photo taken of the tree in January this year and then the chopped pile of wood from December, and also a visiting squirrel on the pile (there's also another photo from the Garden with the pine on it in the January section).


Obviously this wasn't the best ending for the year, but I still feel that I have been very lucky and happy this year and am excited to see what 2015 will bring.

Now I want to thank you all for this year and wish you a wonderful New Year! See you next year!

Your VegHog

24 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas time! Have relaxing holidays with tasty veggie treats!

Spelt and forest mushroom nut roast

I have just decorated the Christmas tree and will now start heating the traditional Christmas Eve daytime sauna. But first I wanted to share my spelt and forest mushroom nut roast recipe with you. This dish is going to feature at our family dinner tonight.


3 parsnips
3 carrots
2 onions
1 cloveless garlic
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
10 g dried chanterelles (or other forest mushrooms)
1 dl pearled spelt
4-5 dl vegetable stock
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
400 g peeled and cooked chestnuts 
1/2 dl breadcrumbs


Boil the peeled parsnips and carrots in water until soft and mash them.

Soak the dried chanterelles in water for about ten minutes.

Chop the onions and garlic finely and cook soft in the rapeseed oil.

Add the chanterelles and the spelt with the vegetable stock to the pan and let simmer until all excess water has been absorbed by the spelt and they are cooked. Season with black pepper.

Combine the spelt and root vegetable mixes and lightly crush the chestnuts among the mix. Then stir it into an even batter. Add some breadcrumbs if needed.

Spread the mix into an oven dish and bake at 180C for about 45 minutes.

Enjoy with your Christmas dinner.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Your VegHog

23 December 2014

Christmas beers

We're finally very close to Christmas. Here in Finland the celebrations already start tomorrow. There's some snow around here and a pleasant frost, so it's looking good.

Tasty drinks are as an important part of the holiday season as is the food. Mulled wine and cider need to be obtained for the celebrations as well as diverse Christmas beers. Obviously I will only be sipping and tasting these drinks, by no means drinking excessively.

Of course I have been tasting some international Christmas beers for you even this year. Here are my tasting notes on them.

Het Anker Gouden Carolus Christmas 10,5 %

- strong liquorice and anise taste in the beginning

- then rum and raisin and maybe plums after that

- quite different from the other Christmas beers I tasted

St Eriks Bryggeri Julale 5,4 %

- malt character

- mango and papaya

- malty honey aftertaste

- forwardly hoppy without bitterness

- loads of character of late addition of hops

Tuborg Christmas Brew 5,6 %

- malty, a little toffee and banana with a smoky finish

- rather nice wintery, Christmassy beer

- nutty in the aftertaste

- subtle apple taste throughout

BrewDog Santa Paws 4,5 %

- Christmas Scotch ale

- lovely dark deep colour, originally I said "darker than the night" when I saw it

- slight tar and smoke in the taste

- tastes of sweet caramel, roasted malt and even coffee

- aroma of burnt toffee and banana

- bitter yet smooth mouthfeel

Downton Brewery Chocolate Orange Delight 5,7 %

- strong chocolate taste

- burnt notes especially in the aftertaste

- copperly tang

- dark with a citrussy bitterness

Abbaye des Rocs Speciale Noel 9,0 %

- smells of caramel

- has a sweet caramel, toffee, plum and vanilla taste with something fruity, almost like a scorched pear

- peary estery

Mikkeller Red & White Christmas 8,0 %

- fruits, caramel, vanilla, citrus peel

- grassy hops

- floral notes

- lots of grapefruit taste

Great Heck Black Santa 5,4 %

- dark brown stout

- chocolaty, nutty, caramel, bitter

- has a fruity aftertaste

I wish a hoppy Christmas to all friends of beer!

Your VegHog


21 December 2014

Yule porridge

A rice pudding type porridge, joulupuuro, is the traditional Christmas breakfast in Finland. It's a must on the Christmas Eve in my family, but it might also be enjoyed on the other holiday mornings. It's served with sugar and cinnamon, and this is the only porridge that I eat sweet. However the porridge itself will be seasoned with salt when it cooks, so it's not fully sweet.

A peeled almond will be added to the porridge and who ever finds it, will be very lucky for the coming year. They can also make a wish, but not reveal it to anyone. Sometimes the almond can be quite tricky to spot, and if you're keen on being lucky, you should just keep eating the porridge.

I wanted to find a very basic recipe for making this, and I followed this recipe by Kotiliesi. I have written it here in English, as the original is in Finnish. 


2 dl water
1 tbsp butter
1 l milk
2 dl pudding rice
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 peeled almond

For serving: Ground cinnamon, sugar, milk


Use a saucepan with a thick bottom for this, as this porridge can burn very easily. Also remember to stir often although the cooking time is fairly long (a bit over an hour).

Bring the water and butter to the boil. Then add the water and also bring it to the boil. Add the rice and let boil for about 5-10 minutes. Stir the pot constantly during this. At this stage you can also add a cinnamon stick to bring some extra flavour. I skipped this stage, as the porridge will be served with cinnamon anyway.

Let the porridge simmer at low heat for about one hour. Stir it every now and again.

Season the ready porridge with salt.

Add the almond and serve the porridge warm with sugar and cinnamon and possibly some additional cold milk.

Enjoy your breakfast porridge!

Your VegHog

19 December 2014

Sweet potato and bean burgers

Why can't a veggie burger or Schnitzel be part of a Christmas meal, especially in various pre-Christmas parties? I think it certainly can, and would make a refreshing change. That's why I made Christmassy sweet potato and bean burgers.

Make with this recipe about 16 generous sized burgers.

1 kg sweet potatoes
240 g / 1 can red kidney beans
2 onions
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
Ground black pepper to taste
Ground nutmeg to taste
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 dl spelt flour (or wheat)
3 eggs
2 dl semolina
1 dl breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil for frying


Peel the sweet potatoes, boil them in water and mash. I did this stage on the previous night, as I'm known to be impatient to wait for the mash to cool. It also gets a bit firmer and easier to handle, if it rests longer. Anyway, let the mash cool, even if you boil the sweet potatoes on the same day.

Chop the onions and garlic finely and cook them soft in olive oil. Add the beans to the pan with the seasoning and let cook for a few minutes. Then also let this mix cool.

Combine the bean mix with the sweet potato mash and add the maple syrup. Add couple of tablespoons of flour to the batter, if it feels too soft and the burgers won't hold together.

Make an assembly line of three plates: flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs combined with semolina.

Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan and start shaping the burgers. Then roll them first in the flour, then the egg wash and finally the breadcrumbs. Fry the burgers on both sides until crispy.

Serve with rolls or as Schnitzel. I also served here some sea buckthorn jelly on the side in whimsical hedgehog and mushroom shapes.


Your VegHog

18 December 2014

Gingerbread woodland animals diorama

Gingerbread cookies always belong to Christmas, but this year I wanted to make something different. Instead of plain cookies or a gingerbread house, I made a small woodland animal diorama. In my plans it was much more spectacular than how it actually turned out, but never mind, I was happy with it. Maybe next year I can spend more time with such a project, as it was great fun! It reminded me a little bit of the huge horse head gingerbread cookies that I used to bake for my horse and pony friends at Christmas – those were the days! Have you made any creative work with gingerbread?

So, this is a photo post of my creation. The woodland animals are mainly hedgehogs of course, but if you look very closely, you might spot one or the other different species as well.