I don’t know about you but I’ve generally had my fill of snow after two or three days. Luca and I don’t agree on this one. He thinks snow is the best thing in the entire calendar. So we’ve been sledging and we’ve made a snowman and ticked most of his snow boxes, perhaps for the year.
However I’d had enough and decided to escape…to Helsinki.
I jest. I was actually in Helsinki but, no, it wasn’t about escaping the snow. Perhaps unsurprisingly however the snow intrudes rather less in Helsinki because although there’s rather a lot of it Finns do snow rather better than the English.
For instance when it snows in Finland they sweep it off airport runways because they find it then makes it easier for planes to land, whereas at Heathrow ground crew simply see an opportunity for building snowmen in the middle of the runway.
In Finland it may be cold outside but they’ve worked out that by insulating buildings it’s possible to keep them warm inside. Sheer genius. We prefer to keep the gas companies in profit by letting the heat escape in drafts and through inadequate windows.
Another piece of sheer genius were the blinis I ate at in Helsinki. I’d never really seen the point of blinis before – sort of small rubbery pancakey things that were a bit like drop scones but without the charm or bulk. Blinis, I thought, were cast offs from the washer section of the plumbing suppliers masquerading as food.
However my friend and colleague Marika took me out to a restaurant called ‘Rafla’ on Uudenmaankatu and there I discovered that blinis can be sublime.
I must apologise for the picture, grabbed with my iPhone. They were so delicious that it didn’t occur to me that I should photograph them until I’d very nearly demolished the lot. So this is quite a rude picture of the remains of my blinis. They were served with sour cream, finely chopped red onion, vendace roe and small medallions of salmon (or gravlax). To get the blinis this fine they are fried in oodles of butter.
The main course was grilled white fish on pumpkin, peppers and pine nuts was really good – if not quite such a revelation as the blinis. Marika explained that it’s a typical lake dwelling species that always tasted better when her father caught it than when she buys it from a shop.
People, let me put it this way; I didn’t feel the need to order pudding (yes you heard right) and I didn’t feel cheated for being puddingless.
Rafla’s chef, Alexander ja Hanna Gullichsen, seems to have had something of a hit with a recipe for pasta with avocado, lime, basil and parsley. It wasn’t on the menu when we ate at Rafla and frankly I’m not sure I’d have chosen to eat pasta in Helsinki when there are so many things to choose from that use Finnish ingredients to excellent effect.
Helsinki may not be the most obvious food destination but with luck, research or simply with the help of Finnish friends you can certainly eat well.
So, just to encourage you, here’s a blini recipe from Finland
450ml semi-skimmed milk
3/4 sachet of dried yeast
300ml buckwheat flour
3 egg yolks
150 ml beer
75ml rye flour
150ml wheat flour
½ tbs salt
freshly ground white pepper
2 tbs full fat creme fraiche (or proper smetana – Eastern European soured cream – if you can get it)
3 beaten egg whites
Warm the milk to just over blood temperature (around 41-43 degrees C), add the dried yeast, give it half an hour in a warm place to start to develop before adding the buckwheat, covering and leaving to stand overnight to create a leaven.
Mix in the remaining ingredients ending by gently folding in the beaten egg whites. Ideally use a blini pan (made of heavy cast iron with little blini sized indentations) and fry the blinis in clarified butter until crispy.
Serve (as per above) with smetana, chopped onion and vendace roe.
(Addendum) The site on which I found this recipe states that “This recipe is owned by The Art Foundation Merita”.
Sorry, but the idea that you can own a recipe is pretty questionable. You cannot copyright a list of ingredients. I’ve added a link back out of politeness but where a recipe is traditional, as are blinis, saying you own it is about as sensible as saying you own a recipe for pancakes. All the above ingredients are used in blini recipes by all sorts of people.