Friday, 18 April 2014

Finnish Easter Mämmi

If you have ever been in Finland around Easter you might have seen it in the store, but then again, you might have missed it. Among all he colourful Easter candies, eggs and chocolates the small white box filled with black goo can't easily compete for attention. But many Finns - including me - don't feel like it's Easter without it. I dare you to try this.

The product is called Mämmi, or Memma in Swedish. It's made out of rye flour and malt, takes about 6-7h to make, and it's eaten with milk, cream and sugar. I've never made it myself but obviously you can't find it anywhere outside Finland so I went for it and was surprised at how easy it was. I had a hard time even finding ingredients, but thanks to the great guys at Dan's Homebrewing Supplies I got lots of good stuff to tinker with and the result was surprising. It was, against all odds and my cautious expectations, a great success, super yummy, and really makes Easter feel like Easter, even far away from all my own folks and traditions. The recipe is a mix of Finnish and Swedish ones I dug out from the internet, adapted to suit the ingredients I found.

Ingredients (serves 8 if they're all crazy about it, 15 if they just eat it because it's Easter)

2L water
8 dl rye flour
3 dl roasted malted barley*

3,5 dl malt extract*
1 tbsp ground bitter orange peel*
peel of 1/2 orange peel (fresh, grated)
1 dl molasses
1tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar

for serving:
double cream
white sugar

Heat the water to about 60oC (this is according to the recipes but I actually used water that I'd just boiled - worked fine) and pour it into a large bowl. Add the barley and the rye flour and let stand, covered, in the oven for 3h at a fairly low temperature (my oven doesn't do lower than 70oC so i turned it off a couple of times because you don't want it to start simmering). You can use the stove too on the lowest setting, in that case just give it a stir every now and then. The mixture will be quite watery at the start but get a bit thicker in the oven - not much thicker than pancake batter though, don't worry if it seems a bit thin.

Take the bowl out of the oven and raise the temperature to 150oC. Add all the other ingredients and stir until they are well mixed. Transfer the batter into an ovenproof dish (I used a rectangular oven pan about 15x30cm) and put it back in the oven. It now stays in the oven for another 3h, but you need to stir it every 15-20min to ensure that it gets evenly baked. A film will form on top of the batter and this needs to be mixed back in every now and then, hence the stirring. When it's done the consistency should be like treacle ("like proper treacle", my British husband adds, "like the kind that a spoon will stand up in"). After the 3h are up, or when the consistency is right, take the mämmi out and let it cool down. It will have become even thicker now it's cooled down, like mudcake. Serve the mämmi with milk and a bit of cream (or just cream, I guess, I think some people eat it just with cream, others just with milk) and some white sugar. Enjoy your Finnish Easter!

* Some notes on the ingredients: After lots of searching, I finally found the malted barley, malt extract and bitter orange peel in a homebrewing supply store. I don't know how important the roasted malted barley is in the recipe because in the end all the malty taste came from the extract. The barley did provide the right colour, though. It came in whole pearls but they ground it for me in the store, as fine as they could but it was still much coarser than flour. As for the bitter orange peel, it's an important part of the taste, but before I stumbled upon it in the beer brewing store I had planned to use fresh orange and lemon peel and a splash of angostura bitters, to get that slight bitter tinge that bitter oranges have. I might try that anyway next time as it took me like half an hour to grind the bitter orange peel with pestle and mortar - it was like trying to grind stone!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Cinnamon Bun Oatmeal in a Cup

I've got a sweet tooth. When i saw this recipe of porridge disguised as a CINNAMON BUN i knew i just had to try it.

My problem with this idea was i wanted to make it for breakfast, but with a baby and a toddler, mornings are quite packed with things that have to be done as it is, without adding something more complicated than cereal and sandwiches to the mix. So what i did was i made everything ready the night before and put it in the fridge. In the morning i just mumbled to my husband who always gets up before me to put the oven on. When i finally couldn't convincingly tell myself i was still asleep i got up, put everything together in three cups and stuck them in the oven. 25 minutes later breakfast was served, and a very nice one it was.

Baked Cinnamon Bun Oatmeal (Single Serving)
1/3 cup Oats
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk
2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 pecan half, chopped fine

Sugar mix
1 1/2 tsp coconut oil, melted
2 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cream Cheese Icing
1/2 Tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp maple syrup
splash vanilla

1 pecan half, chopped fine

I made a double batch and then put it in three cups. That way one serving was enough for breakfast since we also had sandwiches with it. 
The night before you want to have this, mix together the ingredients for the oatmeal in a plastic container. Do the same with the sugar mix and the icing. Put them in the fridge. The next morning preheat the oven to 175°C. Put the porridge in one or several cups that are suited for oven use. Drizzle half of the sugar mix on top of the porridge and put it in the oven for about 25 min. When the porridge is done add the icing. You can just use a spoon or then you can pipe it on if you want it to look fancy. Drizzle the rest of the sugar mix on top and finally add the chopped pecan. Ready to serve!

This was a really fun porridge to have for breakfast and i just thought how cool it would look if you had some friends over for brunch and you would make a couple of batches of this and divide it into espresso cups. Because the best part of brunch is to have all sorts of stuff on the table and a whole serving of porridge leaves little room for anything else.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Quinoa porridge with almond and cocoa nibs

Two weeks ago I put up my first quinoa porridge recipe, and here's another variation. I can't say which one I like better but I think maybe this one. I love the way the almond and cocoa nibs work together. The combination is a bit of a new find for me and I'll probably put almonds and cocoa nibs in everything for the next couple of weeks because that's what I do when I find a taste that I like. Then I forget it for a while and later when I rediscover it I'm just as wildly happy about it as the first time.

Quinoa Porridge with Almond and Cocoa Nibs

What you need (one serving)

1/3 cup quinoa
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/2 mashed banana
pinch of salt
1 tbsp cocoa nibs
1 handful roughly chopped almonds

Put the quinoa, water, milk, coconut oil and salt in a non-stick pan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 15-20minutes under a lid. If needed, add a little more water. When it's done, turn off the heat and mix in the mashed banana. Pour the contents into a bowl and mix in the almonds and cocoa nibs. If you feel daring, try adding a dollop of plain youghurt on top for a great contrast in taste.

While I've been experimenting with quinoa I've come across some really great-looking recipes that I hope to try at some point, like Princess Misia's "Apple quinoa porridge" and the "Quinoa breakfast bake" on the Greatist food blog. Can't wait to try them!!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Good News About the Health Benefits of Oats

Last week there were some good news for porridge lovers, specifically concerning oats and oatmeal. Oats have long been recognized for their ability to lower levels of harmful cholesterol. Research has also shown that oats can produce a lowering of glycemic response, body weight, and blood pressure, as well as increasing satiety. In many countries products containing oats are allowed to be marketed as health products because the link to improved health has been sufficiently well researched. The main benefit comes from the beta-glucan that oats contain, but research that was presented last week suggest that there might be other components in oats that add to the health benefits. Here's The Telegraph reporting from the Annual Conference of the American Chemical Society in Dallas:

"Researchers said studies suggest that a bioactive compound called avenanthramide could stop fat forming in the arteries, causing heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Shengmin Sang, from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University said: “While the data to support the importance of oat beta-glucan remains, these studies reveal that the heart health benefit of eating oats may go beyond fibre.
“As the scientific investigators dig deeper, we have discovered that the bioactive compounds found in oats may provide additional cardio-protective benefits.”
Researchers believe that the bioactive compounds in oats could stop fat formation in the arteries, which can become a condition called atherosclerosis."
Oatmeal is not just healthy, but delicious! Check out our easy beginner's recipe for Basic Rolled-Oats Porridge that you can  eat as such or spice up with nuts, berries and whatever else you find in your cupboard; the Fridge Porridge that you make overnight and don't even need to cook; and, for the connoisseurs or on a rainy day, the fantastic Scotsman (oatmeal with whiskey, cream & honey).

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Strawberry Quinoa Porridge

The last couple of weeks I have been experimenting with Quinoa porridge. Unlike rice, I don't think quinoa "just becomes" porridge by cooking it. I think it needs some extra ingredients to become a dish in it's own right and not just feel like you're eating a side dish. This recipe was inspired by a recipe I originally saw on Pinterest, which looks delicious but I haven't tried it yet because it seems more like a dessert. Here's my take on strawberry quinoa.

Strawberry Quinoa Porridge

What you need (one serving)
1/3 cup of quinoa
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 dollop or small teaspoon of coconut oil (not absolutely 
necessary but gives a fuller taste)
pinch of salt
1/2 small mashed banana
2-4 chopped strawberries (depending on size and 
taste and whether fresh or frozen)
1 tsp brown sugar (and some extra to sprinkle on top)

Put the quinoa, water, milk, coconut oil and salt in a non-stick pan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 15-20minutes under a lid. If needed, add a little more water. When it's done, turn off the heat and mix in the mashed banana. Pour the contents into a bowl and mix in the strawberries and brown sugar. Just before eating, add a sprinkle of brown sugar on top.

The mashed banana and strawberries add sweetness to the porridge, and I've made the porridge both with and without the added sugar. Both work, but some days I just really love that extra bit of sweetness, and brown sugar has such a great taste. When me and my sisters were little we used to add syrup (the kind that would be called molasses in Canada, is it a North American thing?) to all our porridges if our mom would let us, and as much as she'd let us, and I still just love it. Brown sugar has that same particular taste and I love it. Did I say that already?

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Rye, Walnut and Date Porridge

Rye porridge is almost as common as oatmeal in Finland, which means you can find rye flakes right next to the oats in any Finnish supermarket. Not so in Vancouver - I had to go out to Whole Foods to get me some.

Rye is a good source of nutrients and, according to the Worlds Healthiest Foods website, can even help stabilize menopausal symptoms, so it has a lot going for it besides the great taste.

The basic recipe for rye porridge is really simple. Take 1 part rye flakes to 3 parts water (for some reason rye porridge is almost never made with milk where I come from, it really works better with just water), bring it to a boil and let simmer for about 10-20minutes depending on what consistency you like. Soaking the flakes overnight shortens the cooking time considerably so you almost just need to heat it. Throw in a pinch of salt to taste and add a small knob of butter and some sugar when it's in the bowl, and add some milk on the side if you want to.

Now, although I've never disliked rye porridge, I also never got very excited about it. That's why I'd like to share a recipe that came about as a consequence of my recent discovery of the food processor. It makes the porridge creamier, fuller, and gives it a sweetness that I think works better than added sugar, and I love it! It's delicious.

Ingredients for 1 portion
1/2 a cup of rye flakes
ca 1 1/2-2 cups of water (less if you've soaked the rye flakes)
pinch of salt
a handful or about 1/4 of a cup of walnuts
3-4 dates

Bring the water to a boil (leaving a little bit to the side to add if needed), add the rye flakes and a pinch of salt, and then let it simmer under a lid for about 15 minutes (if you don't use a lid you just need to add more water). While the porridge is simmering, put the walnuts in the food processor (I use a small Braun one, it holds about 2 cups). Using a sharp chopping blade, give them a twirl for a couple of seconds, then add the dates and chop them down almost to a paste. They can't really get too small, but if the pieces are too big they won't mix perfectly with the porridge and will be more like add-ons. When the porridge has simmered about 15 minutes (it's good if it's still a tiny bit watery), take it off the heat and mix in almost all of the walnut-date paste. The porridge will instantly turn a bit lighter and creamier. Sprinkle the rest of the paste/mix on top and serve.

Rye, walnut and date porridge. Yumyum!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Slow and lazy

If you fancy something delicious but you really don't want to work for it, go for barley porridge made in the oven. The only thing you need is time.

Ok, you also need 2 dl of whole barley grains, 1,5 litres of milk and 1 tsp of salt. You can also throw in a knob of butter, if you want. And you need an oven dish with high edges.

This is what you do: Preheat the oven to 150°. Butter your oven dish. Put the ingredients in the dish and put it in the oven, on the lowest level. Take it out 3 hrs later and let it sit for a while. Eat with some fresh berries or throw some frozen ones in a blender..

So good! And very different from the stove top barley porridge I wrote about a while ago. Not creamy and thick, but with a really nice roasted flavour.

When I told my dad that I had made this kind of porridge, he got nostalgic and told me his grandmother used to make it when he was little. He also recommended that you fry any leftover porridge in butter the next day and you'll get a nice treat.