Nude Finnish Girls

Happy New Year! For Helsinki it has meant low temperatures and lots of snow, which means more light, good moods and fun ways to commute.

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Sharing a sled

WordPress sent me some stats on Hey Helsinki’s year in review – here’s a quick look at some of my most popular posts in 2015:

#1 – Helsinki Underground

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This surprised me but as someone said, ‘When you arrive in a city the first thing you want to know is how to get around.” I hope this post has been useful  – & that people found reassurance in the fact that it would be very difficult to get lost on the subway in Helsinki.

#2 – How to make the best korvapuustit

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This post went nuts thanks to my sister-in-law Ilona and her baking tips on how to make three Finnish sweets with one dough.

#3 – 101 Reasons to visit Helsinki

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Linnanmaäki Amusement Park

This post grew from a project at work where I was looking through all my photos from the previous year.  I could have come up with more reasons but, like dalmatians, 101 is a pretty good start.

#4 – Finland’s oldest public pool, swimsuits optional

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Yrjoönkatu uimihalli Photo credit: Cafe Yrjo

I can see on my stats page the search terms entered into google that lead people to Hey Helsinki. Time and again the most common thing people are looking for is ‘nude Finnish girls’ which seems to then lead them to this post where I went skinny dipping in Finland’s oldest public pool. Popular with the general public it was also a hit in the German nudist community.

#5 – How to dress a child for Finnish winter

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With temperatures as low as -26 celcius lately (-15 F), this post has resurfaced as people search for help with one of life’s major challenges. As we are outside everyday, it’s essential to dress properly which means multiple layers and accessories, such as neck warmers (imagine a turtle-neck sweater but with no sleeves or torso) as kids don’t generally wear scarves. As someone at work said recently, ‘Every time you dress a child for Finnish winter, a little part of you dies’.

And where do you come from?

Well Finns or people in Finland overwhelmingly make up the largest group of readers. I guess people who’ve moved here are looking for tips and for the locals, well we all like to know what others might think of us. Thanks also to friends and family at home in NZ & Australia for following along.

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I’m going to take a little break from writing this blog as we prepare to make our first trip home in nearly two years. I’ll be in Asia for work and then have a month in New Zealand. I can’t wait! You can follow along on Facebook or Instagram for updates.

I’m also working with Laura Iisalo of Creating Helsinki on a book about the people who make Helsinki the city it is.  It features tips from locals on their favourite places & things to do, with recipes you can try at home of Nordic classics made with a contemporary twist.

It will be released by Cozy Publishing in May 2016 & I’ll keep you posted about the launch. In the meantime, thanks so much for reading and for all your comments over the last year.

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Me signing our publishing contract. Photo: Laura Iisalo

And for those who accidentally got here while searching for ‘nude Finnish girls’, here’s a picture of me in my underwear today.

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I told you it was cold!

 

 

 

How to make the best korvapuustit (three treats with one dough)

I had a baking lesson on Sunday with my Finnish sister-in-law Ilona. She baked while I took notes before having a little sample at the end.

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This dough can be used to make various sweets. To make enough for korvapuustit, a few munkit (doughnuts) and rahkapiirakat (quark pies), follow these easy steps:

Heat 5 dcl (500ml) of milk until it is slightly warmer than body temperature. You can use water if you are lactose-free. Crumble in one packet of tuorehiiva (fresh yeast) and stir to dissolve.

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Add 1 dcl white sugar, 2 teaspoons cardamom, 2 eggs and mix. Stir in 9 dcl of plain flour (unsifted) and a pinch of salt. Once the mixture becomes thick and sticky use your hands to mix. You want a balance between the dough being thick enough to roll and loose enough so it has enough air in it to rise.

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Add 100g of melted butter and lightly mix with hands. Don’t knead too much as the dough needs to stretch.  Now it needs to double in size so cover with a tea towel and put aside. A 1950s tea towel printed with Australian birds is always best.

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Heat the oven to 200°c. Once the dough has doubled in size scrape it out onto a floured surface. When making korvapuustit you can be quite rough with the dough, it’s okay to push a bit of the air out of it. Divide the dough and put aside the amounts you would like for doughnuts and rahkapiirakat.

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Roll the dough into a 1cm thick rectangle and brush with 25g of melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and then roll lengthways.

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Cut the dough into triangles with the edge of a spatula. You can freeze uncooked dough at this stage to bake later.

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Place the triangles on a tray lined with baking paper. Put them on the bottom edge of the triangle and push down (like you are squashing a pyramid).

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Leave a bit of space between them as they will grow. Brush with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes or until golden.

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For rahkapiiraka: These are easier to make if the dough has come from the freezer. Shape dough into little dish shapes with a slight well in the middle. If the dough is fresh poke a couple of little holes in the bottom with a fork. Brush with egg and then mix one tub of rahka (quark) with the leftover raw egg and 1 teaspoon of white sugar.

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Spoon the mixture into the wells and press in raisins if you like and bake in oven for about 15 minutes.

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For the doughnuts: Shape dough into small rounds with the side of your hands. Don’t be too rough as you want air in this dough so they will rise.

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Take a round of dough and punch a hole in it with your finger. Then stretch a bit by spinning the ring on your fingers. This makes a sturdier doughnut shape than if you were to make a sausage and join two ends. You can freeze the raw dough circles at this stage for later use, or fry in oil and coat with sugar when cooled.

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Yum! All three of these sweet snacks are best served warm with coffee on the couch while you watch the Men’s 50km cross-country skiing final.

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Apologies to Ilona for not getting more photos that included her lovely face. I would have also included more photos of us eating these delicious snacks but some of us were still in our pyjamas… 

 

Restaurant Day (Ravintolapäivä)

Established in Helsinki in 2011, Restaurant Day is described on the official website as ‘a worldwide food carnival when anyone can set up a restaurant, café or bar for a day.’ People can sell their wares to the public by setting up a food stall wherever they like: at home, in a park, on the street or at the railway station. They are only limited by their imagination and their cooking skills. 

Setting up in Vanhan Kirkon Puisto (Old Church Park)

Setting up in Vanhan Kirkon Puisto (Old Church Park)

Restaurant Day is now held four times a year in 27 countries around the world. We were lucky enough that the latest was held last Saturday on a bright and sunny spring day. We headed down to Vanhan Kirkon Puisto (Old Church Park) quite early and watched as the first stalls were set up.

Cafe Tivoli

The girls at Cafe Tivoli

My first purchase was from two girls who had set up a stall of home-made baking called Cafe Tivoli. Their chocolate brownie was delicious and a good accompaniment to our morning kahvi (coffee).

The goods at Cafe Tivoli

Some of the goods on offer at Cafe Tivoli

Jonny’s brother had a good looking falafel roll from another stand and Jonny bought a wrap from Soul Mamma’s Kitchen. It advertised itself as a vegan stall but he chose a goats cheese wrap from the menu. It came without goats cheese so was at least true to its vegan claim if  not the menu.

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Soul Mama’s Kitchen

Apparently food in Helsinki has come a long way in recent years but there is not as large a selection as we have at home. So it was really exciting to see offerings from cuisines as diverse as Korean, Moroccan, Dutch and Russian.

Cakes served with tea from the samovar

Cakes served with tea from the samovar

There was also a Brazilian barbecue offering a World Cup special of a main plate with a grilled banana and guarana. The boys were firing up their large open grill with a huge piece of meat on it as well as little chicken hearts on skewers.

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Traditional Finnish fare was represented too; one of the most popular stalls we saw was run by a Finnish women’s assocation selling kahvi and pulla (coffee and pastries).

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We saw the chef from the Mexican restaurant we had eaten at the night before setting up a stall; apparently Restaurant Day is a good way for people to try new recipes out on the public. I read one interview where a woman who was hoping to open her own Indian restaurant planned on using the day to gauge the popularity of various home-cooked dishes she hoped to put on her menu.

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My only regret on this day was having breakfast before we came out. We had to head out to another event around midday so I didn’t quite have the appeptite to try as many things as I would have liked. But I’ll know better for next Restaurant Day, which will be held in mid-August.

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www.restaurantday.org 

Kuppi ja Muffini Cafe

Today I had coffee with a lovely Finnish girl, Katri. We had never met before but a mutual friend in the UK put us in touch. I was really touched that Katri took the time to meet with me as she is about to move overseas and has a few goodbyes to make. I was missing home today and it was good to have someone to meet for coffee. She suggested we meet at Kuppi ja Muffini Cafe, just around the corner from our apartment.

Miko and Teddy Baby

Miko and Teddy Baby

Kuppi ja Muffini (Cup & Muffin) is run by two friends who believe in quality baking with only natural ingredients. The cake counter was full of delicious looking cupcakes and treats. Miko had a small Rocky Road cupcake and I had a delicious banana and berry muffin. It had great texture and walnuts and sugar baked on the top. We shared a freshly squeezed carrot and ginger juice (90% to Miko, 10% to me).

Cakes are baked daily and according to the season

Cakes are baked daily and according to the season

The decor reminded me of a New Zealand cafe. There were some cool retro features inside a cool, clean interior. A bookshelf in the back room had books for patrons to read. There was a wooden rocking chair in the corner that would be great for reading in, complete with crochet rug. It would have been a great day to settle in there as we had a brief snow-shower come down while we sat inside.

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Although frosty outside, the staff were really warm and one lady brought out a basket of toys for Miko. A woman behind us was comfortably ensconced with her Suomi (Finnish) textbooks and the cafe filled up as lunchtime drew near. You’d have to look for Kuppi & Muffini as its signage is quite subtle, but if fresh baked treats and delicious drinks are your thing, its definitely worth a look.

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Kuppi & Muffini

Kalevankatu 17, Helsinki

www.kuppijamuffini.fi