Last week was very exciting culinary-wise. My workplace organized the annual outing and the whole company put on their hiking shoes and went out. This time we visited the Haltia Nature Center, which is an hour or so drive from the center of Helsinki. We were given a tour of Finnish nature, which was fascinating but nothing new. I would imagine that the tour would’ve been very fascinating for tourists. But then we went on a two-hour hike in the forest with a guide and of course, we got to fill our bellies with the center’s delicious buffet that is aptly named ‘Nature on a plate’. More of that later, let’s begin with last week’s meal prep because it was extraordinarily colorful this time.
Let’s see the things that went into the meal prep. I made lunches and dinners. Colorful, isn’t it? 😛 In case you wonder, those weird holy things on the left bottom are lotus roots. I really like to use them in stir-fries and stews as they are mild-tasting but give a satisfying crunch even in stews.
For lunches, I made sweet and sour pork, quite a traditional recipe. I would’ve love to use fresh pineapples, but I didn’t want to get whole pineapple, and they aren’t exactly cheap either. For some crunch I simply fried up some carrot and celery, one of my favorite combos, and for greens some garlic broccoli. The indistinct mash is tomatoe eggs which is actually a traditional Chinese dish, I also added some shrimps in there that I pre-fried with salted duck egg yolk. The yolk gives the shrimps this velvety texture that is very exciting to feel. I’m pretty it’s scientificly proven that colorful meals would increase appetite. In that case, this lunch box was very very appetizing.
I also made a stew from chicken wings and lotus roots, with some Asian flavors. With that I just fried up some green beans and snap peas to eat with.
Then the Nature on a plate buffet. Let’s start from the bottom, from those little fish. They are little whitefish called muikku that are very well-liked in Finland. They are usually deep-fried in rye breadcrumbs, but this time they were baked in sour cream. Tasted so fresh. Then going clockwise on the plate, we had some grilled veggies. After that, yes, those are pine leaves. They made pork belly seasoned with pine leaves and it actually smelled and tasted like Christmas. After the pork, we had some pickled radish, those beautiful pink circles. And those that looks like celery are in fact marinated rhubarb. I got myself two little spring carrots with tarragon. Underneath the carrots, there was smoked salmon and fennel salad with pickled spruce sprouts. Tha cube after that is simply potato cake with chives which tasted like very well seasoned and delicious boiled potatoes. The dark bunch is beef stew. Last but not least a half of a broad bean patty. All the flavors were very earthy and fresh, and really the finest of Finnish cuisine.
There was still one dish from the buffet, which for me, topped everything else. It was the very humble looking puree veggie soup that was made from potatoes and artichokes, more precisely Jerusalem artichokes. Mere words won’t give it justice. It was earthy, smoky, almost meaty flavor. It had the heartiness that I don’t usually associate with veggie puree soups. Dear Lord, it was delicious. I can eat that every single day. It’s the kind of dish that I will later dream about.
Fast-forward to the Sunday breakfast, something light. Just kidding. 😀 I had some puffy pastry left in my freezer so I decided to try this recipe. I flatten the pastry on a baking sheet, on top with crushed a generous amount of lemon and thyme flavored feta cheese. Then I covered it with cut up cherry tomatoes, and grated a bit of parmesan cheese and sprinkled some shredded mozzarella cheese on top for good measure. For flavor, I simply grinded some black pepper and dried garlic. With all that cheese, no salt was needed. Then I popped the thing inside a 225 celcius oven for about 20 minutes. While the ‘pizza’ was cooking, I marinated some fresh basil leaves in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and those I put on the ‘pizza’ after it’s done and cooled off a little bit. It wasn’t very light for breakfast, but it was freaking delicious. Make this for a party and you will be very famous 😛 Next time, I would make smaller ones instead of one big one, because the best part in puffy pastries are the crusts.