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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013

Goulash or Foulash?

None of us was born as food critic yet all we do is weighing and rating either the food on our plate or thinking about the next food and the eatery. Here comes a food critique from the quill of an unprofessional food lover. Proving my humble dedication towards this noble profession I even took efforts to get a glimpse of how to be a food critic? 

Being mean is as normal a behaviour for a "foodie" as wearing a ribeye steak costume for Lady Gaga. Or so I thought. This website proves me wrong. This nine paragraphs are gradually hammering down all my ambitions as I'm not fluent in French, I have never owned a restaurant and I usually don't disguise when ordering my dinner. 

So, patience my friend, patience. In due time I'll entertain you with lines like Ryan Sutton's: "How’s it taste? Like a savory spiced cider, fortified with shellfish and moss."

Today's restaurant: RAIKU Lounasravintola. 
Address: Hämeentie 1, near Hakaniemi Market Hall, 00530 Helsinki

Lounasravintola in Finnish means Lunch Restaurant, or buffet. One doesn't expect haute cuisine here only some tasty, homey warm food for affordable price. No fuss, no candle light. Such places are found all around the country from roadside cafés to factory canteens serving sweet potato soup, mashed potatoes, meatballs and gravy on an equally "just edible" level.  No worries, we completely understand it's food for the masses - and the market dictates. 

Today we tried the vegetable goulash, the chicken noodle salad and cold baked pumpkin and pickled vegetables.

The soup. Goulash soup. Vegetable goulash soup. Let's start with the dictionary. Goulash is a stew or soup of diced pork, lamb, beef, chicken or even mushrooms with paprika powder and other spices.

The chef made it clear he followed the rough road to invent something new. He deconstructed the goulash and served only tomato puree whereas peppers in the stock (a must!), and other vegetables (it's vegetable goulash, no?) were completely missing.

What we got, therefore was a cursed, warm gazpacho. Thick tomato puree with abundance of green herbs. Strong chili. Taste of preserving materials. All the mosaic fell into its place: it's two mass products, "Rainbow"or "Pirkka" tomato puree with herbs and tomato puree with chili, mixed in one bowl! The chef added some "exotic" flavour with big chunks of agressively raw onions and garlic in the mix.

There was nothing resembling to a goulash in there. Some crème fraîche and blackened croutons were optional to it.

So, here's the deal: undoubtedly we found the worst food ever born under the name goulash. In fact, it was baptized as "vegetable goulash", but this particular variation is a gross offense to all vegetarians.Vegetable goulash is nothing new under the Sun. Take the classic English baked beans, for example. Follow the recipe just like Gordon Ramsay says, but forget Worchestersire sauce and sautée onions and add paprika powder and some diced peppers in the beginning.

The salad bar didn't offer much joy either. Expect pickled beets, a mound of iceberg salad, tasteless baked pumpkins (from yesterday's Halloween party?) and on top of that, the so called "chicken noodle salad". Spaghetti cut into pieces mixed with a gluey, whitish sauce tasted like vinegar, an abundance of nondescript vegetables and absolutely no traces of chicken.

Although it was "normal Kulta Katriina" as the smiling and friendly waitress referred to it, the coffee tasted so foul we had to leave it in the mugs.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Foodycle Tomato Tasting Workshop results

The results of our Tomato Tasting Workshop were published in Facebook, but let's have them here in our blog too!

Here you go:

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Foodycle poster in Suomenlinna.

What is it?

Held between 12-13th of September, we participated in Foodycle - an event organised as a collaboration between Pixelache Helsinki and Ruoan Tulevaisuus (Future of Food) and other partners. Foodycle is a transdisciplinary and participatory food festival that brings together artists, designers, scientists, grassroots organisations, students, and consumers in general.

What we did

We had a role as organisers of a Tomato Tasting Workshop, participants of  a panel discussion with topics within "food & culture" and also gave a short lightning talk about artificial meat. The most precious experience was to meet and share thoughs with other Foodyclers.

Below some photos of the event - results of the tasting will be coming soon!

Thank you for all the tasting participants, Foodycle organisers and Oma Maa for the tasty organic cherry tomatoes.

Our tomatoes before tasting came from: Stockmann, Hakaniemi market hall (Luomupuoti Satumarja and A. Lavinto), the out door market in Hakaniemi, Anton & Anton, K-market and Oma Maa in Kallio.

Tasters being serious.

Puutarha ja kauppa -magazine journalist (Gardening magazine)

Ferenc cutting tomatoes to be tasted.

The score board.

Viewing the results and end discussion.

Panel discussion.

Lab grown meat presentation.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Temp(eh)ting non-meat proteins

Meanwhile we observe Finnish food and eating habits we are equally keen on learning about the "new meat" grown from stem cells without killing a single animal. Since we cannot afford to buy artificial meat (it'd be hundred thousands of Euros for a kilo), we looked around the market to find non-meat protein sources. In the next P.a.P. tasting we provided tofu, tempeh, seitan and Quorn for closer inspection.

Before tasting (Photo: Niina Ala-Fossi)

Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk then pressing the curd into white blocks. Typical ingredient of many Asian cuisines. An ancient food, it was invented some 2000 years ago in China. Tofu has low calory count and relatively high protein content. Read more about tofu.

Tempeh is another traditional, yet not very ancient soy product from Asia, more precisely from Indonesia. Soy beans go through fermentation by using Rhizoporus fungi that "binds" soy beans together thus resulting a firm block and earthy taste. Other legumes (pea, lupin, etc) may also be used for tempeh. Readily edible, but the net has many recipes showing various usages of tempeh. Read more about tempeh.

Seitan or "wheat meat" is basically gluten, the protein abundant in cereals (wheat, rye, etc). To make seitan white flour dough is washed until all starch has dissolved leaving the insoluble protein as an elastic mass. Rich in protein, because it's basically nothing but protein. Cook or fry before eat it. Read more about seitan.

Quorn is a new invention, a high-tech food created just a few decades ago to tackle the protein hunger of  the ever growing human population. It is based on mycoprotein (protein gained from fungus) and designed so that it resembles (in structure, color and smell) to real meat. It is available in many forms and tastes in the EU and US. Quorn is a registered trademark of Marlow Foods. Read more about Quorn.

We were all keen on trying these foods as all except one had never tried most of them, except perhaps the tofu.

In short, the more it tasted like meat the more people liked it. We can't help it, most of us were carnivores. Check out the results in the prezi below!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Artificial meat?

Artificial meat is a product grown in controlled environment (laboratory) and has never been a part of a live animal. The muscle tissue is created from stem cells harvested from live cattle. In 2004 John F. Vein filed  a patent for in vitro meats for human consumption in the US, while research in the Netherlands resulted the first beef patty made of lab grown beef. The first artificially grown beef burger will be cooked and sold in London in the near future. Although the price of the first lab burger is over 300 000 Euros, we predict a bright future for the technology. 
Together with our Hungarian partner group we surveyed Finnish and Hungarian people to discover the public's opinion about artificial meat. Also, we assessed information on potential environmental and health impacts of the new technology to compile an article of the issue. That article is in the pipe, we'll announce it when ready.
The basics are shown below in our new Prezi:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

About us in Camp Pixelache

Last weekend (18.-19.5.) Porridge and Potatoes took part in Camp Pixelache that was held in Naissaar in Estonia as one programme of Pixelache festival 2013.

Traveling there happened by ferry from Helsinki to Tallin in a very foggy weather. We truely experienced a feeling of going towards the unknown - because of fog we concretely didn`t see the way ahead of us! From Tallinn, after some adventures of being in a wrong place at a wrong time, we succeeded in catching boat Monica that took us to Naissaar.

Naissaar is an island located near Tallinn, 10 km away from the Estonian coast. The name of the island means "Island of women". Naissaar has a military history and the traces of it are visible all around it: old sea-mines, abandoned military buildings about to collapse, rail tracks, old war objects for curious visitors to admire, even a small Nargö Museum. It`s also an Estonian nature conservation area.

Photos: Niina Ala-Fossi
more at :

Presentation about P.a.P. in Camp Pixelache:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Have You heard of artificial meat?

Laboratory grown meat, also known as synthetic meat is an animal flesh product that has never been part of a complete, living animal. The process is based on proliferating animal stem cells under controlled environment. Thus, in theory, one stem cell may provide thousands of kgs of meat. Currently, the technology is claimed to be sufficient to create lab grown meat for commercial use. 

We would like to know your current opinion about lab grown meat and conducted a questionary together with Based on Pig.

Please help us by answering the poll - getting more answers would make the results more trustworthy!

Questionary in English and in Finnish.

Monday, May 6, 2013

May Day in the park

Porridge and Potatoes went to have a traditional May Day picnic in the park in Helsinki. Every one is out there on this day: people wearing their white hats and university trousers, having fun!

This time our sima tasting was not a very organized one - we had sunshine in our eyes, wind in our hair and heads in the clouds.

However, please take a look at the Sima tasting results:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tasters captured!

Here is a small video which was shot during a Porridge And Potatoes mämmi-tasting event:

Thanks again for all the participants, volunteers and friends!

Tasters from Niina Ala-Fossi on Vimeo.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Stories of Dark Matter: Recipe for losing and against

It is hard to define the precise moment when things turned sour. The dramatic moment must have been somewhere among the events that drew a perfect arch from the courageous decision after excited discussions, then the experiments all the way down to bitter failures, desperate trials with a not-so-happy ending with the final product.

Courageous in the sense, that practically no-one in Finland makes mämmi at home. And as all wannabe-conquerors in history, we marched ahead to the uncharted territory and gathered as much information as possible. We watched online videos, borrowed the only available Mämmi cookbook, searched for the best ingredients, and devoted all the time we deemed necessary. And it wasn't always enough.

It all started with the rye. Rye malt is a main ingredient to mämmi, and for a proper, oldschool mämmi you make malt at home. Rye malt is made of rye, soaked and germinated and baked/dried and sieved. Two experiments went parallel in two homes, but none of us was able to make malt at home.

Quality and quantity
Finding the proper, untreated rye was tricky, as in most agriculture or garden centers seeds are treated pre-sowing with chemicals. Finding just a small quantity of rye was hard, too. We ended up in funny situations explaining several times that we are not farmers, nor involved in rye production, and we have nothing to do with a John Deer tractor. 

Organic rye (Photo: I. Varga, PaP Team)

We found it interesting to note some emotions on the faces that seldom betray Finns with expressions. After mentioning the propose of this hustle (namely: mämmi making), people dropped their jaw. What a surprise! Mämmi at home, and not from the shop? Wise Finns forgot about the practice of a great tradition, or this is the prelude to some horribly complicated recipe?

Germinating rye (Ildikó Varga, PaP Team)
Round 1: After days of search, we found a store that sells organic food (Ruohonjuuri), including rye. Some members of the PaP (Porridge and Potatoes) Team have experience in agriculture, so it was easy for us to point out the low quality of rye we bought.

A large fraction of seeds was broken or damaged. When the tips are missing there is no chance for germination! So, to get rid of the broken ones we sorted them out manually. (Just imagine someone picking grains of rye!) After two days the room was filled with "stench of mice poo" and some dark fungal disease was apparent, too.

Round 2: After the failure of the organic rye, we took hold of some rare items: rye from the university's agriculture faculty. The grains look healthy and smelled fine. We are not splitting hairs if we note some flaws here. cc. 10% of total grain was either damaged or belonged to other plants (Jeez, great there was no Coco de Mer, with seeds heavier than 15kg...). Chaff and untreshed seeds were frequent, too. It took 3 hours to clean all these away and get 500g of clean rye.

This is the path to win, so we thought. The key event is germination which occurs at constant 17.5 Celsius. This is colder than an average room temp, and much warmer than the outside temp. All in all, we failed again. Given the lack of air conditioning devices, we opened the windows and adjusted the heating, all for vain. Despite all efforts, the seeds were kept in a wet and relatively warm environment. The same conditions are perfect for fungi that arose almost immediately on the seeds, making them inedible. We repeated this germinating process - and failed miserably - five times.

Luckily, rye malt is available in shops of Finland. For good reason, as it seems. The long process of cooking and baking mämmi has been described by many media, and we were able to produce nice results, too.

Final notes of Ildikó:

Finally, we did it, but the cooking process contained many critical steps. One would think the messy kitchen caused the biggest problem. Negative. The whole process takes 10-12 hours, during which you keep on repeating the same step 5-6 times. At the end comes the nightmare: boiling the porridge. You must be careful, as it burns down easily... VERY easily!

My best advise: If you start to boil the porridge, boil it over hot water! You can probably avoid burning it down if you keep the pot with the porridge away from direct contact with the heating surface. 

So, spare the biggest pot for the water, not for the porridge. Otherwise you'd be in trouble! :)

Earlier posts on mämmi

An optimistic post with the complete recipe:

A personal story:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stories of Dark Matter: Mämmi and I

Mämmi is a Finnish Easter porridge made of rye flour and – malt. We Finns eat mämmi during a short period of each year: around Easter time. At old times eating mämmi was a habit because of Lent. Nowadays hardly anyone in Finland fasts before the Easter feasts.
When I was little (in the eighties) my mum would always buy mämmi from a shop. She never prepared it at home, ever. I knew mämmi had something to do with malt and grains, but until the recent times I had no idea what those malts actually are and how they are made? 

Also, as many other people, I didn`t like mämmi: It looks unpleasant, it has a strong taste and it was usually offered with milk, which I`m not fond of either. The sugar added on top did not help in coping with the mämmi eating situations.

Meeting with the dark matter (Photo: N. Ala-Fossi)

Anyway, so I grew up, flew from the nest and spent many years without mämmi. If I was at my parents in Easter I could easily refuse any mämmi offers. Once when I was living abroad in Budapest my mother was visiting us during the mämmi season. The guests brought us small cups of mämmi from Finland. We tasted it a bit with my Hungarian boyfriend and put it into the fridge where it stayed for the next months untouched and was finally thrown away to trash. I was still not able to appreciate that stuff and neither was he pleased to meet with the Finnish culinary specialty.

But what happened then? Last year I experienced the first time in my life when I was able to enjoy eating mämmi. Did I get old? Is enjoying mämmi something like starting to love tango music when you turn middle aged? (Middle aged Finns love tango.) Well, I don`t know. I guess I had to grow up mentally to get rid of my old preconceptions to really try what mämmi tastes like. And now I like it!

(Or wait… maybe it has something to do with the vanilla sauce I ate mämmi with..?)

 P.s. Do you have a story with Mämmi? Send us a short, max. 1 page text and we´ll publish it! (anonymity granted)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mämmi recipe

How can you make mämmi at home?

The big question is: buying or preparing? Of course, preparing! Let’s cook mämmi at home!

Mmmmm….. mmmmmm…. mämmi!

Mämmi, the traditional Easter Porridge is a quite common dessert that is eaten during Lent (6 weeks before Easter). Traditionally it was baked and kept in boxes made of birch bark, but nowadays everybody buy it in aluminum or paper boxes in the stores.

This porridge contains only a few ingredients, however, it’s quite difficult to make mämmi. After all you would like to make this special porridge, it’s better to know, that the whole preparation time is 8-12 hours! There is otherwise one good news, too: the minimum volume that you can make is 4 L, which will be enough for all your relatives, friends and neighbors! Probably it’s better to choose a weekend day, when you can be home at the whole day. Now, you have to buy only the ingredients and the great mämmi cooking can be started!

PS: Don’t worry, I will make this recipe on this Saturday, so if you make it with me, please send me a picture of your beautiful porridge!

ildiko from Porridge and Potatoes

The recipe.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How to tame your mämmi?

"The dark matter is hypothesized to account for a large part of the total mass in the universe.
Dark matter cannot be seen directly by telescopes…“ (Wikipedia -“Dark matter”)

100 g of mämmi (photo: F. Vilisics)
As we left Laskiainen (Shrove Tuesday) with its traditional sledding, mushy peasoups and the season’s cake laskiaispulla behind, the season of Lent brought mämmi to our sight.  

For people unfamiliar, this dark matter is an old tradition in Finland. Based on rye malt and flour, it is exclusively consumed in late Feburary and March. Hardly a culinary wonder, but Finns could not care less! Finnish food industry produces over 3 million packages a year!

History, ingredients, production and taste   are not priority here, we only focus on one thing:
How Finnish people like mämmi, and how they eat it?

The survey
A week ago we have circulated a survey on the mämmi consuming habits because we wanted to get an insight into this Finnish peculiarity. The answers shed light to one thing: Finns know what they eat, and develop individual ways of covering the funny taste dressing their mämmis with sweet and even sweeter substances. 

The survey showed a combination of cream, sugar, milk and ice cream to be the most popular way to consume mämmi. The answers indicate, however, that a half of the respondents would not eat it if it wasn't a Finnish tradition!  

Who they are?
From the 105 respondents 73% were women and 82% of the were between the age 18 – 34 (18-24: 28%; 25-34: 54%). 

And now, let the charts tell the rest!

Text and plots: Ferenc Vilisics

Saturday, February 9, 2013