Setting the Mood for Creativity

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Creativity is for the brave. Or so I hear. Being able to overcome/suppress/accept the fear of being judged, hanging your creations out there for the world to see takes guts. Who of us is immune to rejection, criticism or judgement?!? But – how can one really evaluate someone else’s fruits of creativity? It’s a rather private matter, an interpretation or expression of a vision formed inside us.

Maya Angelou said that one cannot use up creativity; the more one uses, the more one has. I can certainly relate to that. The more I create, the more inspired I feel, the more I feel the need to create. I am not satisfied with all the results, but for the purpose of capturing growth and progress, I deem it of utmost importance to find the courage to also publish the post that could have been so much better. So there’s that. On the role creativity plays in life balance later this month.

Simple Wild Garlic & Linseed Scones

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Occasionally I find myself longing for life in England, and when I do, there is no scenario of these daydreams where baked goodies are not present. Be it oatcakes, hot cross buns, shortbread biscuits, Bakewell tart, mince pies, crumpets, English muffins or indeed scones. Savoury scones in particular. There is something simply sumptuous about scones. The texture is a little weird and not exactly exciting, nothing luxurious nor indulgent about them – yet a decent scone provides such comfort, AND doubles for a nutritious snack on a lazy afternoon. Also awesome for breakfast!

Ingredients:

150 g wholemeal spelt flour
100 g plain wheat flour
100 ml kefir or buttermilk
50 g unsalted butter
1 egg
4 tbsp crushed dried wild garlic leaves
3 tbsp whole linseed
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cane sugar
1 tsp salt

50 ml rapeseed oil (for brushing)

The how to:

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a large baking tray with greaseproof baking paper.
  • In a large bowl, combine both the spelt and wheat flours, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  • Chop up the chunk of butter and add it to the bowl. Wash your hands and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have an even crumb. Mix in the linseed and dried wild garlic leaves.
  • Lightly beat the egg in a separate smaller bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour in the kefir (or buttermilk) as well as the beaten egg. Combine thoroughly by kneading. You should have a moist non-sticky dough. If it sticks to your fingers, add a little more flour.
  • Place the dough ball on a lightly floured surface and using a rolling-pin, roll it into about 2-2,5 cm thick sheet. Cut into your preferred shape* (triangles, squares or rounds) and scatter the scones onto the lined baking tray leaving plenty of space between each one.
  • Brush the sides and tops with rapeseed oil and stick the tray in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Serve warm or cooled with fresh goats’ cheese and a milky cup of Earl Grey, of course!

* This dough quantity should make around 8 round scones (7 cm in ∅). Depending on the shape you’ve gone for, you may need to collect the “scraps” of dough and repeat the rolling action once or twice to use up all of it.

That Time Earl Came to Tea

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May’s teatime has rolled around much quicker than anticipated, but in the light of recent events, I have fully grasped the importance of making sh*t happen and come prepared.

No other tea (apart from maybe English Breakfast) associates quite as strongly with Great Britain for me as Earl Grey. The legends surrounding how this particular blend came into being are quite a few. I won’t be reciting these tales here today, but if your interest’s been captured, there are numerous books on the history of tea available. The truth remains, Earl Grey originates from England.

As tradition would have it, Earl Grey is a black tea infused with bergamot oil and/or blended with the dried peel of this bitter fragrant fruit. Bergamot is a member of the citrus family and is far less common than your ordinary lemon, lime or orange. In fact, the countries where this smallish tree is found growing is limited to Italy and France only in Europe, as well as some areas of North Africa and South America. Some say the use of bergamot oil was means to make the lesser quality black teas more equal in flavour to those of high quality Chinese teas.

Times move fast, however, and nowadays there are ALL KINDS of Earl Greys out there. The more common varieties include Lady Grey (with cornflower petals), French Earl Grey (with rose petals) and Russian Earl Grey (with lemongrass and various citrus peels). I’ve gone all fancy this time round with my choice of tea and sourced a very special Earl Grey blend including cornflower, calendula, safflower, lemon peel, lemongrass and cactus flower. But an Earl Grey is an Earl Grey at the end of the day. Use 3 teaspoonfuls of tea leaves per 1 liter of water at 95ºC and brew for 1-5 minutes as per your taste preference. Drink with or without milk.

As for the teatime itself, it’s more down to earth this month. Less fine bone China, elegant tea cakes and crustless cucumber sandwiches, and more real flavours. One rainy afternoon last week, I put on my baking hat and went a little nuts producing a rather large batch of cornflower shortbread biscuits and savoury wild garlic scones (recipes for both to follow in the coming weeks). The scones were spread with creamy fresh goats’ cheese before gobbled down in less bites than one would be prepared to admit. Needless to say, the biscuits disappeared just as quickly.

However, if you are more of a high tea type of gal, by all means take out that beautifully decorated delicate tea set of yours and serve a more traditional spread of teatime snacks. Surely everyone has their own vision of the ideal afternoon gathering around a pot of tea, and I am merely here to share mine. Put that kettle on, lovely!

* Oh, and if you do throw that high tea, don’t forget the Kir Royale!

Lime & Elderflower Polenta Cake (Gluten/Dairy Free)

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Ah, the marvellous polenta cake! We’ve been fond of each other for many moons, yet somehow I still tend to forget her when baking is on the agenda. Anyhow, this recipe here is without a doubt in my mind a lovechild.

Ingredients:

150 g (quick-cook) polenta
50 g corn flour
80 g ground almonds
150 g (cane) sugar
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
3 medium eggs
grated zest and juice of two limes
4 tbsp elderflower syrup (check Ikea food market)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
icing sugar, toasted almond flakes & edible dried rose petals to decorate (optional!)

The how to:

  • Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add the lime zest and juice, olive oil, sugar and salt. Using a hand-held mixer, whisk the ingredients on a low speed until small bubbles appear on the surface (about 1-2 minutes).
  • In a separate bowl, stir together the polenta, corn flour, ground almonds and baking powder.
  • Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and combine thoroughly.
  • Cover the bowl with an airtight lid or cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour to avoid the polenta crunch in the cake.
  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease a 20 cm ∅ silicone (OR bundt – 8 cm in height!) cake tin with olive oil.
  • Take the batter bowl out of the fridge, pour the contents into your chosen oiled cake tin and place it in the middle of the oven for the next 35 minutes.
  • Poke the cake with a wooden skewer or toothpick to check whether it’s cooked in the middle. If the stick comes out clean, your cake’s ready. If not, lift the tin to a higher shelf in the oven for the next 10-15 minutes, but do check in regularly to make sure the top doesn’t burn!
  • Once out of the oven, leave the cake in the tin for 15 minutes before turning it out onto a platter or cake stand.
  • Drizzle the elderflower syrup evenly over the top, and when the cake has cooled down completely, decorate with icing sugar, toasted almond flakes and dried edible rose petals.

Serve with a beautiful glass of dry white wine or a cup of green tea!

A Monthly Dose of G&T – Lemon Verbena & Pear Bitters

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Sometimes life doesn’t quite go as planned, hence the silence around here lately. But I am 200% determined to get back in the saddle and better organised for the weeks to come. Generally a lady of seasonal ingredients, I’ve had to adapt to the harsh winters and slow springs of my Nordic home country of choice. As nothing edible grows in Finland yet, I’ve been scouring around the supermarket produce section to find something appealing. And I did! Tasty looking pears from France have appeared as if from nowhere. After some mad experimenting with various types of tea and tisane, it seems lemon verbena works best in this scenario. The bitters were purchased completely by chance on a trip to Canada last autumn. If you are unable to find pear bitters, try other fruity varieties. One thing’s for sure – April’s gin and tonic won’t disappoint!

Ingredients per one glass:

4 cl gin of your choice
12 drops of (Dillon’s) pear bitters
(Fentimans) traditional tonic water
1 tsp dried lemon verbena leaves
60 ml hot water
a slice of pear
ice cubes

The how to:

  • Put the lemon verbena leaves in a disposable tea filter bag and leave it in 60 ml of boiling hot water for about 30 minutes.
  • When the brew has cooled down to room temperature, fill your favourite 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 add it to the glass. Using a straw or cocktail spoon, stir in the drops of pear bitters.
  • Cut up one semi ripe (rather hard) pear and put the slices in a bowl of water mixed with the juice of half a lemon (if you need to preserve the appearance of the pear). This slows down oxidation and keeps the fruit looking fresh. Cut a small slit into the  prettiest pear slice and stick it on the rim of the glass.
  • Top up the glass with tonic water and have a sip!

*** An idea occurred to me while writing up this recipe – instead of using the brew, why not make lemon verbena ice cubes?!?

On the Importance of Being Flexible

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Tending to an emotionally difficult family emergency last week has left me creatively dry. Everything is stable for the time being, however, in the long term there is not much hope. By no means do I want to sound overly dramatic, but I see no point in sugar-coating the reality. Meanwhile I’ve gained a ton of admiration for people who can transfer heartache into fruitious creative energy. Somehow I cannot seem to concentrate on anything properly when emotional stress takes over. SO, the lesson learned from recent experiences is the importance of being flexible when it comes to unexpected changes in the everyday. Despite one’s best intentions and carefully drafted plans, things don’t always work out as hoped. Certainly not brand spanking new information, but allowing wiggle room for plans B, C and D is an absolute necessity, and also a lot more of a challenge than assumed for a control freak like myself.

Clearly every project I embark on is started with a mindset that the end result will be a success. But like you, I am also only human. Some days success just isn’t on the cards. Take my macadamia nut custard pie fiasco over the Easter weekend. Eagerly prepping for the treat to get ready for the oven – greasing the tin, beating eggs with sugar, scraping vanilla beans, rolling out the dough and toasting nuts only to find them all burnt seven minutes later. Unable to leave the stove side as I was stirring the bubbling custard, I needed to accept the circumstances and adapt, NOT throw a tantrum in front of my husband like a precious little girl. This here is an extremely trivial example of a completely unimportant daily event, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Having given this some more thought, I’ve come to a conclusion that unwillingness to be flexible in your plans starts with fear. But what do I fear? What do you fear?

Quite another topic (another lesson to be learned another day) is willingly showing the world your fear(s).

At the beginning of the week I was thinking that I should try to catch up with my posts (two a week was the initial goal before launching Fleur Rustique) and aim to finish four by Sunday evening. But then I changed my mind. I realised that if I pursued this plan, not only would my heart not be in it but also I would not be enjoying the process of writing under pressure. So then, let this week of no posts remain as a reminder for me that a certain degree of flexibility is required in life. Go with the flow!

A Trend Victim – Smoothie Bowl

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Until recently I liked to think of myself as someone who doesn’t go along with all the latest crazes and trends. That changed when I started a new job and was introduced to the delicious fruity creature called a smoothie bowl. My, oh, my – the endless opportunities this concept provides! Definitely not a morning person, I rarely have time to eat breakfast when doing an early shift (I work at a restaurant that opens at 8:00 AM on weekdays). Usually it’s a coin toss between shower and breakfast, and truthfully shower always wins. But thank universe these days are over. The beauty of the smoothie bowl lies not only in its yumminess, but also the speed at which it can be prepared. The quantities for the recipe below are actually measured out, however, once you’ve made it a couple of times, you’ll get the feel for it how much of what to add. Sadly I am not qualified to tell you about the nutritional benefits (or lack of) of this gorgeous bowl, but it certainly keeps me going till lunch break.

Ingredients per one rather large bowlful:

50 g frozen bilberries
50 g frozen strawberries
50 g frozen raspberries
50 g frozen black currants
1 banana
200 g kefir (or natural yoghurt)
2 tbsp steel-cut oats (or jumbo)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp raw cocoa powder (or cocoa nibs)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more if you love it as much as I do)

The how to:

  • Put all the above ingredients in a blender jug.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Pour the mixture into your favourite bowl.
  • Decorate (or don’t!) to the best of your liking.

Happy testing!