Have you heard of birch water? Birch water is a delicious and refreshing drink, made from the sap of birch trees. It is sugar free and packed full of minerals and among other things has been shown to lower cholesterol, support liver health and promote good oral health thanks to the presence of xylitol. Lif is a Helsinki based company (in fact they reside here in Lauttasaari, the very island I call home), who produce their own organic birch water. At the perfect moment every spring, Finnish birch trees are tapped and their sap collected. The tapping process does not harm the tree, however the tree itself absorbs minerals from the Nordic soil which are naturally filtered to produce an organic sustainable beverage.
Lif birch water mocktails
If you haven’t tried birch water it has a mild woody taste which works well as a stand alone drink or as part of a mocktail. Lif have created three varieties of their birch water using hints of wild herbs and berries; Lingonberry and sea buckthorn leaves, cranberry and lemon balm and finally cloudberry. I have used them as the centrepiece of three birch water mocktails. The older I get, the less I seem to enjoy drinking to excess, so a healthy mocktail is the perfect answer. while two of the drinks comtain a sugar syrup, the sea buckthorn birch ‘mojito’ is completely sugar free. Birch water can also be used to replace regular mixers as a healthier alternative, birch water gin and tonic anyone?
So why not give birch water a try?
You can find more information about the Lif story at http://www.drinklif.com and contact them to get hold of their products.
Appleand spruce birch mocktail
Apple and mint birch mocktail
1 dl/ 100 ml apple juice
1 tbsp spruce syrup
Lif cloudberry birch water
To make the spruce syrup add 0.5 dl/ 100 ml of water, 1 dl/ 100 ml sugar and 4 tbsps of spruce shoots to a small saucepan. Gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and the spruce has infused the syrup. This will make enough syrup for around 6 drinks, set to one side.
In a large cocktail glass add ice, a few sprigs of mint, a tablespoon of spruce syrup and the apple juice. Top up with Lif cloudberry birch water and mix before enjoying.
Cranberry and orange birch mocktail
Cranberry and orange birch mocktail
1 dl/ 100 ml cranberry juice
good squeeze of orange juice
a couple of slices of orange
1 tbsp cardamom syrup
a sprig of fresh basil
Lif cranberry and lemon balm birch water
iceTo make the spruce syrup add 1 dl/ 100 ml of water, 1 dl/ 100 ml sugar and 1 tbsps of crushed cardamom pods to a small saucepan. Gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and the cardamom has infused the syrup. This will make enough syrup for around 6 drinks, set to one side.
Fill a large cocktail glass with ice and add a good squeeze of orange, the orange slices, a sprig of fresh basil, 1 tbsp of the cardamom syrup and the cranberry juice. Top up with Lif cranberry and lemon balm birch water. Stir and enjoy.
Sea Buckthorn birch ‘mojito’
Sea buckthorn birch ‘mojito’
2 tbsp sea buckthorn, defrosted
8 lime wedges
a few sprigs of fresh mint
Lif Lingonberry sea buckthorn leaves birch water
Add the lime wedges and sea buckthorn to large cocktail glass and muddle to release some of the juice and flavour. Add a good amount of crushed ice, the mint and top up with Lif Lingonberry sea buckthorn birch water. Stir and enjoy.
This is my final recipe in collaboration with Olicatessen, well at least for now! Among their uniquely sourced high quality Greek produce, you can find an absolutely delicious sugar free peanut butter. It is made from 100 % peanuts from Serres and only contains a little added salt for flavour. I am a huge peanut butter fan and this has to be one of the nicest I have tried. It is creamy and is bursting with peanut flavour and, best of all, it contains no nasty additives. Peanut butter contains a good proportion of healthy fats, which are great for your heart, it is protein rich, which helps keep you fuller for longer and is a good source of potassium. I have used it here for a quick and easy peanut butter and jelly overnight oats. The recipe is sugar free, the oats are sweetened with a couple of dates, and the peanut butter adds a delicious richness that is counterbalanced by the slightly sour raspberry chia jam.
So if you are looking for a tasty guilt free start to the day, why not add some peanut butter into your life?
1 – 2 dates (depending how sweet you want your oats to be)
2 – 4 dl plant based milk (see note below)
a good pinch of salt
For the raspberry jam:
150 g frozen raspberries
a good squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp chia seeds
Add the milk and dates to a blender and whizz up until the dates are well combined into the milk. Pour over the oats and stir in the peanut butter and the salt. I usually use almond or rice milk, or a mixture of the two. Depending on the type of oats you are using you may need more than 2 dl of milk. Begin with this and if the mixture seems very thick add a little more milk. You can also add a little more the next day as the oats will continue to absorb the milk over night. Tip the mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or over night.
Next make you raspberry jam. Add the frozen raspberries to a small saucepan with a dash of water and a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir over a low heat, until the raspberries are defrosted and the fruit begins to break down. Stir in the chia seeds and cook for a couple minutes longer before leaving to cool.
When you are ready to serve, check the consistency of the oats adding a little more milk if necessary. Top with a dollop of the jam and an extra swirl of peanut butter.
This is my second post in collaboration with Olicatessen. If you didn’t catch my recipe for Orange olive oil cake with candied cardamom oranges, Olicatessen source authentic high quality Greek produce which they ship worldwide. For this post I decided to showcase some quick and easy ideas for a Meze table using a range of Olicatessen’s classic ingredients.
First off, a white bean hummus topped with a fiery red pepper paste. The white beans create a delicious creamy hummus which is infused with Adam Herbs organic rosemary which adds a bittersweet, almost nutty flavour. Not only is this rosemary handpicked, but it is more fragrant and flavourful than the regular supermarket variety.
Secondly a olive tapenade. Olicatessen stock a number of high quality greek organic olives, which are only lightly salted and packed without additives to retain their crispness and flavour. I mixed green olives from Chalkidiki with Kalamon olives to create a delicious tapenade. Kalamon olives in particular are known as a superior variety of edible olive, which harvested green, must be handpicked to avoid bruising.
Finally I made a vegan aioli which I served with some dukkah crusted butternut squash wedges (recipe coming soon). The aioli literally takes seconds to make and like my Orange olive oil cake, uses Agora organic extra virgin olive oil. Agora’s fruity and slightly peppery flavour adds a real depth to the aioli. I flavoured mine simply with garlic, but it also works well with a touch of saffron.
So if grazing on a mouth watering Meze table is your thing, head over to http://www.olicatessen.fi for some genuine, exquisitely sourced greek produce.
White bean hummus with a fiery roasted red pepper paste (Voipapuhummus ja tuulinen paahdettu paprikatahna)
3 red peppers, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic
1 red chilli, cut into chunks and deseeded if you don’t like it too hot
white bean hummus with fiery roasted red pepper paste
Begin by roasting your red peppers. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees c. Toss the red peppers, garlic and chilli in a little olive oil. Season well, before spreading on a baking sheet and roasting in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until the peppers are tender and beginning to char along the edges. Allow to cool a little, before squeezing out the roasted garlic from their skins and adding to a food processor along with the roasted peppers, chilli and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Whizz up into a rough paste and set to one side.
Next add 2 tbsp of olive oil and the rosemary to a small pan. Warm over a medium heat for around 5 minutes to allow the rosemary to infuse the olive oil. Meanwhile add the beans, tahini and lemon juice to a food processor. Finally add the rosemary infused oil, (pour through a sieve to remove the rosemary), before seasoning well and blending the hummus into a smooth paste, adding a little extra oil or lemon juice if necessary.
Top the bean hummus with a big dollop of the rep pepper paste and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts.
Add all the ingredients in to a food processor and pulse into a smoothish paste. You don’t want to blend the tapenade too long, it should be a little rough and chunky. If the mixture is too thick add an extra drizzle of olive oil.
Appelsiini-oliiviöljykakku ja sokeroidut appelsiinit
This is the first in a series of recipes I have created in collaboration with Olicatessen Oy.Olicatessen specialises in high quality Greek products, ranging from extra virgin olive oil, peanut butter, packed olives and dried botanical herbs to natural cosmetic products and vegan soaps. Their range is sourced from all over Greece and cherry picks items from talented local artisan producers (think tahini from Lemnos or peanut butter from Serres). Although they have a deli grocery store in Thessaloniki, Greece, Kostas Stefanidis and his partner Konstantina Stamatopoulou, set up the Finnish arm of Olicatessen in their current home Tampere and have started to introduce a range of specialist products to the Finnish market. However don’t panic, if you don’t live in Finland, Olicatessen ship worldwide.
This recipe uses Olicatessen’s Agora extra virgin olive oil. The oil is produced in Kolymvari, Chania, Crete, which holds an EU protected designation of origin, and is known for its high quality olive oil. Koroneiki olives, produce a fruity oil, with a low acidity and slightly peppery taste. This is not like the regular olive oil you might find in a Finnish supermarket, it is rich and fragrant and because it is cold pressed, it retains all the olive’s flavour characteristics and health benefits. You really can notice the difference between this and a cheap super market olive oil.
Orange olive oil cake using Agora olive oil
While olive oil is generally thought to be a savoury ingredient, it also works really well in desserts and cakes. Agora’s fruity notes compliment the fragrant orange and the oil gives the cake a beautiful moist texture. I topped the cake with some candied oranges, spiced with cardamom and served it with a little of the reduced orange syrup.
So why not give Agora a try and enjoy this orange olive oil cake? or check out http://www.olicatessen.fi for some other fantastic Greek products.
Orange olive oil cake with candied oranges – serves 8 to 10 people
2 tbsp cardamon pods, crushed in a pestle and mortar
1 orange thinly sliced
6 dl/ 600 ml water
crushed pistachios to serve
Orange olive oil cake with candied cardamom oranges
Preheat your oven to 165 degrees c. and grease and line a 22 – 23cm loose bottomed round baking tin.
In a small bowl lightly whisk together the milk, zest, orange juice, vanilla, vinegar, sugar and oil.
In a separate larger bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the milk mixture and quickly whisk together until just combined.
Pour the batter into your prepared ban and bake in the oven for 40 – 45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Meanwhile make the candied oranges. Add all the ingredients, except the orange slices, to a heavy bottomed pan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Add the orange slices and bring the heat down to a simmer. Continue simmering for around 40 – 45 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by almost half.
Carefully remove the orange slices and place them on a sheet of baking paper to cool. Remove the cardamom pods and set the syrup to one side.
Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and prick it all over with a skewer. Spoon over a little of the syrup and allow it to be absorbed, before leaving the cake to cool.
Before serving decorate the cake with the candied oranges and a sprinkling of crushed pistachios. I like to serve the cake with a little jug of the remaining syrup.
This is another recipe from one of my brunches. Coconut and lime are two of my favourite flavours and here they work so well together in a delicious cake. The addition of ground almonds and desiccated coconut, keep the cake super moist. I finished it off with a simple lime icing, lime zest and coconut flakes.
Coconut Lime cake
160 g flour (gluten free if necessary. I recommend Provena)
60 g ground almonds
40 g desiccated coconut
100 g sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1.5 dl plant based milk
0.5 dl plant based yoghurt
0.6 dl oil
1/2 tsp cider vinegar
zest of 2 limes
juice of a lime
150 g icing sugar
juice of 1 – 2 limes
zest of a lime and coconut flakes to decorate
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a loaf tin (I used a 1.8 L loaf tin from Ikea).
In a large bowl lightly mix all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the wet ingredients before pouring onto the dry ingredients and mixing until well combined.
Pour into the loaf tin and bake in the oven for 30 -35 minutes or until and inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile make the icing. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add a little lime juice bit by bit, until you have a smooth thick icing. You may not need to use all the lime juice. Smooth on top of the cake and decorate with lime zest and coconut flakes.
Fermented products are very trendy at the moment. Anyone who is anyone in the food world, is making their own kombucha, kimchi or sauerkraut! Fermented products have been shown to carry a whole range of health benefits and, in particular, have a positive impact on digestive and gut health. The trend also has links with the clean eating movement, fermentation is a natural process that doesn’t rely on lots of nasty additives.
If you haven’t heard of kefir, it is a fermented milk product, originating in Russia. It has a sour taste with the consistency of thin yoghurt. It is great served with fruit or muesli, in smoothies or soups or as a replacement for butter milk. I used coconut milk and Living Nutrition baobab and banana vegan living culture, to create a vegan version. The kefir worked really well and was delicious and creamy. I served it with fresh fruit and some crunchy buckwheat and quinoa brittle.
Leave the unopened can of coconut milk submerged in the sink or a pan filled with hot water for 30 – 45 minutes. This will help the milk solids to melt and you will have a smoother milk.
Tip the can into a small bowl and use a wooden spoon to stir in the contents of the Living Nutrition capsules into the milk, until fully combined.
Cover the bowl with a cloth or tea towel that will allow the milk to breath. Leave overnight or for at least 12 hours at room temperature and allow the milk to ferment. You should see small bubbles form on top of the milk. If not, or if you prefer a more sour taste, leave the milk for a few further hours.
Stir well and then chill in the fridge before serving.
*some coconut milks work better than others and result in a thicker kefir. If your kefir is too thin I would recommend stirring in a few tablespoons of baobab which acts as a natural thickening agent.
What could be more British than the humble sandwich (reportedly named after its creator the Earl of Sandwich). Whether in packed lunches, a late night snack, cut into dainty fingers with afternoon tea or giant doorstop versions, us Brits love a sandwich. Coronation chicken is an all time classic. Originally created to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, mayonnaise and curry powder were mixed to give the sandwich its distinctive bright yellow colour. This is my quick vegan version, coronation chickpea! I have pimped up my filling with raisins, mango chutney, toasted almonds and fresh mango and I have to say it was delicious. So whether you are a vegan Brit looking for a bit of nostalgia or a coronation virgin, why not give this tasty sandwich a try?
This sandwich filling also works well in a salad or a baked potato
Coronation chickpea sandwich – serves 4
4 tbsp vegan mayo
2 tsp curry powder – see note below *
1 tbsp mango chutney
1 tbsp sultanas
400 g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted
half a fresh mango, peeled and thinly sliced
fresh crusty bread, salad leaves, tomatoes and red pepper to serve
In a small bowl mix the mayo, curry powder and mango chutney. Add the sultanas and chickpeas, mix, before refrigerating until needed.
When ready make up the sandwiches with salad leaves, tomato and red pepper slices and a good amount of the coronation chickpeas. Top with a sprinkling of toasted almonds and a few slices of fresh mango.
*I prefer to make my own curry powder mix. Simply mix together the following spices and store in an airtight jar. Try to use the freshest spices you can find as it will really enhance the flavour.
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (add a little extra if you like it spicy)
Chocolate mint is a classic combination and is at the centre of my second post using my favourite vegan ice cream from Kolmen Kaverin. My baked Alaska post, was really well received, so I thought how could I top that? Well behold, my chocolate mint ice cream cake! Layers of rich dark chocolate cake and peppermint chocolate ice cream, topped with chocolate cream and crushed Marianne mint sweets. It makes a great dinner party dessert and can be made in advance and decorated at the last minute. I made a small cake that would probably feed 4 people, but you can easily double up the recipe and use a larger tin to feed more people.
Once again I have not been paid for this post, but I was gifted the ice cream. However Kolmen Kaverin is my favourite vegan ice cream currently available and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to you!
Chocolate mint ice cream cake with Kolmen Kaverin Ice cream
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees c. and grease and line a tin roughly 38 x 26 cm.
In a large bowl add the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the yoghurt, oil and water before pouring on the dry ingredients and stirring until fully combined. Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until and inserted skewer comes out clean. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
Place a 12 cm diameter round cake tin on the cake and trace inside with a knife and cut out three rounds. Line the cake tin with cling film or baking paper and place one cake round at the bottom of the tin. Take your ice cream from the freezer and allow to soften a little, before spooning half of it form a layer on top of the cake. Add another cake round and top with the remaining ice cream and finish off with the final cake round. Return to the freezer for a least two hours to freeze completely.
Before serving whisk the plant based cream until thick. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until fully incorporated. Spoon into a piping bag.
Remove the ice cream cake from the fridge and pipe the cream on top of the cake and sprinkle with the crushed Marianne sweets
Allow the cake to sit for 5 minutes before serving to allow it to soften a little.
This recipe is actually the result of an unplanned last minute hunt for something to eat in a fairly empty fridge. However, it is actually a new favourite. I roasted some leftover crispy tofu in a little mango chutney and soy sauce and it magically became sticky and delicious. The idea came from watching Mary Berry’s Christmas special on BBC iplayer!! Where she used mango chutney to glaze some party cocktail sausages. For anyone outside of the UK, Mary Berry is a British National treasure, the patron saint of the moist cake and probably most well known for being one of the judges (usually checking for soggy bottoms) on The Great British Bake Off. However I digress, if you are looking for a quick, simple, fresh idea with Tofu, look no further. I accompanied the sticky tofu with a lightly dressed ribbon salad, some sliced avocado and some left over mango.
Let me know if you have had any happy left over ingredient magic too!
1 cucumber, peeled into ribbons (discard the seedy centre)
1 small mango, peeled and cut into strips
1 courgette, peeled into ribbons
1 avocado cut into strips
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp gluten free soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
a handful of chopped coriander and spring onion to serve
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees c.
Empty any excess water from the tofu packet and place between a few sheets of kitchen paper. Press with a weighted object for a few minutes to squeeze out any remaining liquid. Cut the tofu into cubes and toss in a little cornstarch.
Heat a small amount of oil in a pan and fry the tofu on each side, until golden and crisp. Meanwhile, lightly heat the mango chutney in a small saucepan and stir in 1 tbsp tamari.
Stir the tofu in the mango mixture before tipping onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and bake in the oven for around ten minutes until the tofu becomes nice and sticky.
While the tofu is in the oven whisk together the sesame oil, lime juice, maple syrup and soy sauce in a large bowl. Add the vegetable ribbons and lightly toss in the dressing.
Arrange the dressed vegetable in your serving bowl, along with the sliced mango and avocado. Top with the sticky mango and a sprinkling of chopped coriander and spring onion.
The range of vegan ice creams available in Finland has increased dramatically over the past couple of years, but my favourite has to be Kolmen Kaverin (or 3 friends in English). It is a small company formed by three friends who wanted to produce great quality ice cream without loads of additives. I have been lucky enough to work with them at a couple of my pop-up brunches and have to say they are passionate about promoting their vegan range. ( This year all of their team are taking part in January’s vegaanihaaste!). Their vegan ice creams are coconut cream based and they currently have 4 amazing flavours, peppermint and chocolate, pineapple and coconut, liquorice and chocolate and chocolate caramel nut flavour, which won best vegan ice cream flavour at the Finnish Vege awards.
Kolmen Kaverin vegan ice cream
As much as I like eating ice cream straight from the pot, I wanted to test out some recipes which incorporated ice cream. Vegan Baked Alaska is a bit of a retro classic, consisting of a dome of ice cream on top of a sponge cake, incased with meringue, which is then caramelised with a blow torch or in a very hot oven. I was unsure of how well a vegan version would work, but I should have once again believed in the power of aquafaba. The Alaska tasted great! By adding hot sugar syrup to whisked aqufaba it became a silky smooth Italian meringue, the result was a lot more stable than a traditional meringue which is baked for a long time in the oven. It caramelised well and the ice cream remained fully frozen.
So why not step back in time and give this somewhat impressive dessert a try?
I have not been paid for this post, but I was gifted the ice cream. However I can easily recommend Kolmen Kaverin Ice cream, it really is my favourite. It is avialable in most supermarkets here in Finland and they have also launched in Sweden where they new known as 3 vänner. Hopefully they will be expanding to more countries soon!
Vegan Baked Alaska – makes 4 individual Alaska
1 dl/ 100 ml aquafaba
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
100 g sugar
0.6 dl/ 60 ml water
Plant based cake – I used the same cake recipe as for my Vegan Tiramisu, but used a larger 38 x 26 rectangular tin to make the cake a little thinner and cooked it for only 15 minutes.
Cut four rounds from your cake and top with a spoonful of jam. Place on a lined tray that will fit into your freezer, before topping each round with a scoop of ice cream. Freeze for a couple of hours, to allow the ice cream to set as much as possible.
Meanwhile make your Italian meringue. Add the aquafaba and cream of tartar to the bowl of a standing mixer. Whisk the aquafaba until it forms stiff peaks. This can take a while, be patient as you need it as stiff as possible.
Next make a sugar syrup. Add the sugar and water to a saucepan and bring to a slow boil. Using a sugar thermometer allow the syrup to continue boiling until it reaches a temperature of between 116 and 120 degrees c.
Turn your mixer back on and slowly drizzle the syrup into the aquafaba as it whisks. Finally turn the mixer up to full for a final one to two minute whisk. The meringue should be thick and glossy.
Spoon the meringue into a piping bag and remove the cake/ ice cream rounds from the freezer. Quickly pipe the meringue to completely cover the ice cream. Use a blow torch to caramelise the outside of the meringue. Be careful as it can catch and burn easily.