A Monthly Dose of G&T – Rowan Berry & (Smoky) Birch

As it happens the tiny deep orange coloured rowan berries have all been eaten by birds preparing for the winter now, but if one were organised and quick enough, one might have picked some for the freezer or better yet made syrup out of them when one still had the chance. I didn’t do either this year. Grabbed a handful of berries on my way home one day after work in late August and threw them in my gin and tonic. Alright-alright, it wasn’t quite like that. I did have some syrup left from the previous years’ harvest still, so I thought hey, how cool would it be to mix it with gin? And then I remembered I’d recently bought this birch flavoured tonic by VEEN Waters.. Seemed like the perfect marriage!

In all seriousness though, this beautiful drink here needs some preparation and thinking ahead since the two key ingredients are foraged and in season only for a short period of time. So far I have come up with three variations, two of which have been tested, ergo won’t be sharing a scientifically precise recipe today, but rather guidelines as to how one might want to achieve a rowan berry and birch G&T best suited to their liking.

Ingredients per one glass:

4 cl gin – as is OR infused with birch leaves for at least one week OR gin + 1 g dried birch leaves infused in 6 cl of boiling hot water for two hours

4 cl rowan berry syrup OR crushed fresh berries and a bit of sugar syrup

tonic water – traditional OR VEEN Nordic Tonic Water OR Smoked Birch Arctic Tonic

ice cubes

Other considerations:

1-2 cl akvavit/aquavit
a couple of drops liquid smoke

The how to:

  • Fill a highball glass half way with ice cubes and pour in the gin (and birch leaf infusion if relevant). Add rowan berry syrup (or crushed berries and half a teaspoon of sugar syrup).
  • If using akvavit and/or liquid smoke, measure these into the mix also. Give it all a good stir.
  • Top up the glass with preferred tonic water, garnish with rowan berries (fresh/frozen/crushed) or a birch leaf and bon voyage, taste buds! Next stop Finland.

* I am still very much paving my way to the world of gin and its endless opportunities, and am by no means an expert in the field of mixology, but as I delve deeper into the subject, I feel an immense need to share my findings. A recent favourite that’s becoming a staple in my bar cupboard is a gin distilled with akvavit (water of life!) botanicals by The Nordic Spirits Lab (no, I am not being paid to write this). It has a wonderfully deep herbal flavour with a hint of spice and subtle zesty bitterness.

The inspiration for the above cocktail has been drawn from walks in the wild Nordic woods, bonfires on crisp autumn nights, scents of smoky sauna and the feel of changing seasons in the air (I really struggle to put that last one into words).
Hope you’ll have as much fun experimenting with it as I did!

Chapter Two

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As unbelievable as it sounds this post has been in the writing since July. Yes, July! What happened one might ask. There’s a simple answer to this – life happened. And death happened. I won’t go as far as to say I’ve become a different person in the four and half months since my last post, but things have certainly shifted, and continue to shift, within as well as around me. Perhaps unsurprisingly my outlook on life at this moment in time is somewhat darker than it used to be. Maybe it will get lighter again, or maybe that’s just how it is from now on, it’s impossible to know. Slowly but surely, however, I am adapting to the new order of my world.

So yes, times have been challenging, countless tears have been shed and numerous personal days taken. The new more responsible position at work has taken its toll (not that I’m complaining!) and motivation to do anything other than sit on the sofa and mind-numbingly stare at a TV screen has been nonexistent on some days. Through all this, however, I have not once been tempted to give up on Fleur Rustique. Quite the opposite! Although undocumented, on the good days I’ve kept myself busy baking, knitting, arranging flowers, taking photos, brainstorming future posts etc. I’ve been very much looking forward to the morning I feel like sharing again, and it has arrived at last!

One topic I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is redefining this space. I cannot seem to find the one perfectly imperfect slogan that brings it all together. How do you combine a passion for tea, flowers, paper, cake, travelling, photography, crafts, cookbooks and G&Ts into one short yet on point descriptive line? I’ve put real effort into avoiding labelling Fleur Rustique as a lifestyle journal, life utterly unstyled is more like it, but maybe it’s time I rethink this.

Anyhow, going forward here’s what I’m planning to deliver – you can continue to expect finding recipes, both for baked treats and cocktails, inspiration for craft/DIY projects, ideas on what to do and where to go in Helsinki should you ever be around, some talk on tea and the all-consuming mysteries of life. The rest will be up to the gods of creativity.

I have added a portfolio to the page for visual reference (or when words fail me). For the time being it will be showcasing photos from my travels, shots of grandma’s garden, snaps from a walk in the woods.. We shall see what will become of it.

Thank you for sticking around and may your Monday be productive!

Rhubarb, Orange & Poppy Seed Overnight Oats (Vegan)

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Carrying on with breakfast options that can be wolfed down in a mad rush at 5:30 AM, I’ve come up with a rather epic recipe for overnight oats that not only will keep hunger at bay for hours, but also tastes so unbelievably indulgent you won’t mind putting in the effort the night before.

Oats are not always gluten free (due to cross contamination at processing/packaging facilities), so if you have issues digesting gluten, make sure to double check allergen information.

Ingredients:

60-100 g fresh rhubarb stalks cut into 10cm long pieces
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp coconut sugar

50 g (gluten free) jumbo oats
1 tbsp almond flour
1 tbsp poppy seeds
juice of 1 small orange
zest of 1/2 orange
1/4 tsp cardamom

The how to:

  • Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan. Add the rhubarb and sprinkle with coconut sugar.
  • Cook on a low to medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the rhubarb has softened/is pulling apart. Transfer the stew into a smallish cup, jar or glass and let it cool down.
  • Place the oats, almond flour, poppy seeds and cardamom in a small bowl. Add the orange zest and juice and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour the oat mixture onto the rhubarb and cover with cling film (or lid if using a jar). Let it rest in the fridge (you guessed it!) overnight, and enjoy in the early rays of sunshine!

* Depending on the size and juiciness of the orange you use, more oats may be required to absorb the moisture. See that’s where I struggle with developing recipes – so much is down to personal preference! Some people like their porridges/birchers dry, others like ’em more liquid. I suppose you should just use these quantities as a guideline to figure out whatever you like best.. 🙂

A Monthly Dose of G&T – Almond & Cherry (Blossom)

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The cherry blossoms came and went. I was sick. But here’s a recipe for a slightly perfume flavoured nevertheless taste bud pleasing gin and tonic I managed to stir up in between the coughing fits of May. Admittedly on the feminine side of drinks.

Ingredients per one glass:

4 cl gin of your choice
2 cl Disaronno
Thomas Henry cherry blossom tonic water
1 tsp cherry oil infused black (Ceylon) tea
40 ml hot water
cherries to garnish
ice cubes

The how to:

  • Put the black tea in a disposable filter bag and leave it in 40 ml of just boiled water for about 30 minutes (or more if you desire more depth in flavour).
  • Once the infusion is ready and cooled down, fill a high ball glass half way with ice cubes and pour in the tea squeezing out the liquid from the filter bag also.
  • Measure out 4 cl of gin and 2 cl of Disaronno and add them to the glass. Give it a good stir.
  • Top up the glass with cherry blossom tonic water, dip in a pair of cherries for garnish and expand the horizons of your palate!

A Silence and a Half

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To explain the two weeks of silence, I luckily have many excuses (haha!). I came down with a nasty cold about three weeks ago and the stubborn lingering cough that developed seems to be here to stay. That combined with one too many shifts at work, absolutely ridiculously gorgeous weather (for May in Helsinki) and admittedly my general poor time management during the days off (as well as workday mornings/evenings) have resulted in heaps of ideas and numerous plans, but not much to show for them. BUT more than anything else over the past months, I have learned to forgive and be kind to myself. Choosing to feel NO GUILT whatsoever!

Three months into project Fleur Rustique, I feel in many ways it has taken on a life of its own. Sure I’m still the one writing this and mapping out the content, however, as I was contemplating back in April, more often than not, things don’t go as planned, and turns out allowing a degree of flexibility in life is of vital nature. For instance, I had a firm plan to write about books a lot before this site went up. That hasn’t really happened. In fact, I’ve been completely and utterly stuck with the first actual post on books and reading and literature I wanted to publish this week. I certainly didn’t plan to do a monthly series on gin and tonics nor spend a stupendous number of hours developing and testing recipes. Ergo, getting sidetracked and giving myself permission to pursue spontaneous creative freedom has produced a very different outcome to that expected. But you know what?!? It’s way better than I ever thought it could be!

To begin with, Fleur Rustique was born as a hobby, something for me to focus on outside the day job with the purpose of establishing a better life balance and helping manage stress. That being said, from the start I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into structure – jotting down miles and miles of ideas on Google Docs, drawing up an annual (!) content plan, setting deadlines and possibly paying a little too close attention to the details. To the point where I now realise I’ve approached the process of creating content more as an assignment, albeit the kind I enjoy, than a free-flowing stream of creativity. The need for structure may have arisen from fear or disbelief that I could actually stay committed to the project, so I needed to hold myself accountable.

Anyhow, having received incredibly heartwarming and truly encouraging feedback from friends and strangers alike, I now predict in the long run Fleur Rustique will be growing into a portfolio. I have no way of knowing yet what it’s for, but I guess all will be revealed sooner or later.

So where I’m going with all this is that I have just received a rather unexpected (yet warmly welcomed) promotion at work which will take up a lot more of my time and mental capacity, and whilst I have every intention of keeping Fleur Rustique going, realistically two posts a week most probably won’t be happening. At least not in the summer. Or maybe it will? Honestly, I have NO clue. And here it comes (the book talk finally!) – I recently picked up a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear from the library. It wasn’t accidental, but I cannot remember what prompted me to seek it out. I haven’t even finished it, yet already feel liberated. The best advice I’ve taken on board so far is that a creative life should not be bound by restrictions or conditions, and so my two posts a week plan was sound at the beginning, but creativity doesn’t quite work like this. I can’t actually plan to be creative, say, next Friday because I have time to spare. It happens when it happens, and so because for me quality always comes before quantity, I am freeing myself from this restriction. And as someone who believes that anything is possible, it might be that this is all I need to tear down the dam on the river of creativity and let it flow wild and free.

Let’s see what happens!

Cornflower Teatime Shortbread

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No one will argue that every proper teatime requires the presence of shortbread. I’ve added a little twist to mine – blue cornflower petals. Cornflower is the national flower of Estonia and therefore this recipe is doubly special with Mother’s Day just around the corner. These lovely biscuits make a wonderful present, and are of course muchly appreciated as cookie jar fillers on every kitchen counter!

Ingredients:

170 g plain wheat flour
55 g cane sugar
80 g unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla extract or spiced rum
1/4 tsp salt
4 heaped tsp dried cornflower petals (edible purpose!)

The how to:

  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt.
  • Cut the butter into smallish chunks and add to the flour mixture. After washing your hands, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have an even crumb, and stir in the cornflower petals.
  • In a separate smaller bowl, beat the egg with the vanilla extract or spiced rum. Combine the beaten egg thoroughly with the crumbs until you have a smooth loaf of dough. Wrap it in cling film and rest in the fridge for an hour.
  • Once the hour has passed, preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a large baking tray with greaseproof parchment paper.
  • Unwrap the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll a 0,5 cm thick sheet, working fast so it stays cool. Using a knife (or a ravioli cutter, as I did*), cut the dough into your preferred shapes and place on the lined tray.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until the tops and edges start to turn golden. Transfer onto a cooling rack before nibbling.

* The 4×4 cm ravioli cutter makes 25 biscuits.

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