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Baking is not one of The Original Soupwoman’s strong points, but I have decided to share this recipe of pulla. Many an expat-Finn struggles with this one, partly because fresh yeast is hard to come by in other parts of the world, and because the types of available flour are different. However, this recipe has been tried and tested in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

It is somewhat unusual as it omits egg, and is made with water instead of milk. I find that egg makes the texture more heavy, and also pulla made with egg seems to loose that fresh taste quicker. Milk, on the other hand, does not improve the taste or texture in any way, so what is the point? The method is also slightly unorthodox, but it is a little quicker than traditional one.

Ingredients
35 g fast-acting dry yeast
750-1000 g strong (bread) flour
150 g caster sugar
1.5 tsp salt
8 g crushed cardamom seeds
500 ml water, warmed to 45C
150 g butter, melted (lukewarm)
milk or beaten egg for brushing
butter and caster sugar for topping (optional )

In a large bowl, mix about 300 g flour, the yeast, sugar, salt and cardamom well. Add warm water and mix vigorously. At this point you should have a thick batter. When it is smooth, whisk it some more to get some air in.

Run some warm water in your kitchen sink, put the bowl in this warm water bath and cover with a tea towel. Let rise until the batter has at least doubled its size. Should not take more than 15 minutes or so. This is a good time to switch on the oven – 210C for fan assisted, otherwise 225C. Get also 2-3 oven trays ready, putting a sheet of baking paper on each.

Take the bowl off the water bath and add the melted, lukewarm butter. As you mix the butter in with a wooden spoon/spatula/fork, start adding more flour. When you cannot use the spoon/spatula/ anymore, start using your hands. Keep adding flour a handful or two at the time, kneading it well in before adding more. It is very important to ensure the dough does not get too hard – it should be workable but ever so slightly sticky. If you are unsure, it is better the dough is too soft than too hard.

When you are happy with the consistency and the texture of the dough, let it rest for a few minutes before turning it on a lightly floured worktop. Give it a few good kneads, divide it to equal-sized lumps, and make these into rolls. I usually make 36 small buns, but it is a matter of preference. Place the buns on the baking trays, spacing them evenly. Keep in mind they will about triple their size.

Cover the trays with a tea towel and let the buns rise until they have doubled their size. Brush them with milk or beaten egg. If you like, add a knob of butter and a generous pinch of sugar on top, pressing them lightly in (this is called “voisilmä” – “butter eye”).

Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until they are golden brown. Let cool and enjoy with coffee or tea.

NOTE: If you wish to have dairy and egg free buns,  substitute the butter with 150 ml vegetable oil and brush the buns with coffee instead of milk or beaten egg.


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The Inhouse Food Critic does not usually try to influence what the Soupwoman writes, but this time, he INSISTED I should write this recipe down and make it public.

See, he is not a big fan of parsnips. He thinks they are bland, boring and uninspiring. But today, I came up with a method to prepare them in a way that he now thinks is the only way to cook parsnips. Fortunately, it is pretty simple.

Ingredients
500 g peeled parsnips, in chunks (about the size of the top part of your thumb)
2 tbsp instant mash powder
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 medium eggs
knob of butter
salt and pepper to taste
butter and vegetable oil for frying

Cook the parsnips in microwave until tender (they need to be mashed). Time varies depending on your microwave, mine took 5 mins in full power. If you think using microwave is cookery blasphemy, then steam or bake them, but do not boil – it makes them too soggy. Then let the parsnips cool a little – you do not want the eggs start cooking yet.

Add all other ingredients to cooled parsnips and make a mash e.g. with a hand blender (such as Bamix). Then comes the important part – taste it! If the mixture is too sweet, add a little splash of lemon to balance it, if you prefer spicier, then add some, etc. You can try other spices than those mentioned above, but for the first batch, I recommend sticking to these.

When you are happy with taste of the “batter”, heat a large skillet (medium to medium-high heat), melt some butter with a splash of vegetable oil (helps prevent the butter burning) and spoon the mixture in the skillet to make 4-6 cakes. Fry until they are golden brown on the one side, add some more butter in the skillet and when it has melted, turn the cakes over. Fry until the other side is lovely and golden too. The cakes should now be done – you should have some lovely golden-yellow patties, crispy on the outside and quite fluffy inside. There are only 2 eggs in the mixture so they break fairly easily, so be careful. However I’d rather not use more eggs, as then their taste would come through, and the texture would be more dense.

I served these with pan-fried salmon, grilled (Irish) white pudding and spicy chutney. The Inhouse Food Critic gave two thumbs up for this ensemble.

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Something gentle and mellow this time!

Ingredients
150 g leek, white/whitish parts only, washed and chopped
300 g Jerusalem artichokes, washed, peeled, chopped
20g butter
750ml vegetable or chicken stock
50g mascarpone cheese
grated nutmeg to taste
salt and white pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a pot on medium heat, add leek and saute until soft. Do not let brown. Add the Jerusalem artichokes and saute for a few minutes. Add stock and let simmer until the artichokes are soft. Then, take the pot off the stove and puree until smooth. Add the mascarpone cheese and some grated nutmeg and mix some more. Check the seasoning and serve!

If you want to ensure the soup is silky smooth, you can press it through a sieve, return to the pot and bring it back to a boil before serving.

You can substitute the mascarpone cheese with another cream cheese or cream. I used mascarpone as I happened to have it in the fridge. And, you can of course use the green bits of leek as well, but that makes the soup greener, and the green parts may remain stringy.

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The Bamix crisis is over, so this week’s soup is a smooth puree again. And it is spicy!

Ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp thyme
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can of plum tomatoes
3 cans of water (use the empty tomato can)
4 tsp Kallo vegetable stock granules
2 tsp Harissa paste (the real stuff, not the kind that is diluted with carrot puree or somesuch)
salt to taste
(chopped coriander to garnish)

Heat the oil in the pot, add onion, garlic and cumin and fry until the onions have softened. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, water, vegetable stock granules, thyme and harissa paste. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Then puree with a had mixer until smooth,  check the seasoning, garnish with chopped coriander and serve with fresh bread.

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I was looking through my pictures from Vietnam, and started thinking about the fragrant broths I enjoyed there. This recipe draws inspiration from those, but it is by no means authentic. But it turned out quite tasty!

Ingredients
1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 cm piece of ginger,  sliced
100g carrots, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
200g onion, thinly sliced
1 tbls vegetable oil
1000ml chicken stock
100 ml water
1 tbl fish sauce
300g cubed fish (Abel and Cole’s fish pie mix)
garnish: chopped spring onion, coriander, basil, garlic, chilli

Put carrots and salt in a small bowl, rub the salt on the carrots and set the bowl aside.

Put peppercorn, cloves, star anise and ginger in a pot and roast them on medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetable oil, stir for a few seconds and then add the onions. Lower the heat to medium and fry until light golden, stirring constantly to ensure the onions do not burn. Add the stock, water and the fish sauce, bring to a boil and let the broth simmer for 15 mins. Add the fish, cover with lid and turn the heat as low as it goes.

While the fish cooks, rinse the carrots thoroughly and put them in a bowl. Divide the garnishes into small individual bowls or plates.

When the fish is cooked (should not take longer than few minutes), serve the broth immediately  with the carrots and the garnish selection – everybody can add as much or as little as they like.

Serves 2 as a light main, 4 as a starter.

Note: Be careful with the fish sauce, it is very strong. Add just a little at first and taste.

Tip: You can make this more filling by putting some cooked and rinsed rice noodles in the soup bowls and ladling the broth over them.

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My apologies – the Soupwoman has been distracted by holidays and other forms of busyness, not to mention serious bouts of being just plain lazy. I hope this recipe makes up for it!

Ingredients
1 tbls rice bran oil or other vegetable oil
150g chopped onion
2 cloves on garlic, minced
1 medium fennel, chopped (200g)
1 chopped red chili
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 l water
1 can chopped plum tomatoes
400g of firm white fish, such as pollack, cut into bite-size pieces
2 stalks of lemongrass
1 tbls fish sauce (nam pla)
salt to taste

Heat vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic, fennel and chili, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add turmeric and coriander, and stir. Add water, tomatoes, and lemongrass, bring soup to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are done.

Add the fish into the pot and cook for a few minutes, so that the fish just done. Remove lemongrass stalks, if you can find them, and serve.

EDIT NOTE: After some consideration, I decided chopped onion works here better  – it’s much more pleasant to eat in a soup than stringy bits of leek! The recipe is updated accordingly.

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This soup uses Japanese ingredients, but I don’t know if one can call it authentic – I pretty much made the recipe up. It is a good example of  “cheating”, cooking with instant this and canned that. Of course one could make their own dashi from scratch, and braise the tofu, but this is comfort food, not penance.

Ingredients
5g instant dashi powder
1.5 tbls Clearspring Organic Japanese Brown Rice Miso paste
500 ml boiling water
1 tin Marigold Braised Tofu (drained, cubed)
a pinch or two of wakame, soaked in cold water and squeezed dry
sprinkling of dried negi or fresh chopped spring onions

Measure the dashi powder in a pot, add water. Measure the miso in a small sieve, immerse, but not fully, in the liquid, press the miso through the sieve using a spoon. Discard the grains. Add the tofu, bring to a boil and let simmer for a minute or two. Add the rehydrated wakame and negi, or spring onions.

Serves 2 as light lunch, 4 as small starter or side dish.

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