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Viking Restaurant Harald

Viking Restaurant Harald is one of those places where, after seeing the website, I MUST go.
Maybe because there's still a big side of tourist in me, maybe because it looks and sounds exotic or maybe because I've always been fascinated by viking folklore and legends.

So as soon as I saw their website I decided that I had to try it out. Thing is, they're not just everywhere, only in the biggest Finnish cities so I had to wait to visit my relative in Lahti and later a trip to Kuopio to finally check out the restaurant.

I must say that aesthetically it looks amazing, as it offers a warm viking atmosphere with themed music and furniture, a true tourists magnet. Very smart indeed. Even the toilets have funny viking characters on the doors!

And about the most important stuff, the food, well it's worth going to Harald just to enjoy the names of the dishes. They're really funny and well thought :P

The first time in Lahti I ordered "Vidar Goatherder’s Chicken", which consisted in roasted chicken breast, goat cheese and various veggies. As for dessert I ate tar flavoured ice-cream, which was good but nothing special.

In Kuopio we all ordered a common "Shield of Heimdal the Bridgekeeper", which consisted in different kinds of meat, veggies and sauces. And for dessert we had delicious crêpes with ice-cream and jam.

I had a very good expercience at Harald. It was a very enjoyable place to eat at with friends, even though I preferred the one in Kuopio because there were viking helmets we could wear :P

The food is good, a bit exotic for an Italian maybe, with all those weird sauces and jams. But the meat was great! Cooked perfectly and very juicy. It is a bit pricy, obviously is not a place where you can go often, but the portions are fairly big.

Crunchy dry rye bread and melted butter as we wait for the main course...

 Big yummy meal!

 Harald's sign in Lahti.

Inside is quite dark...

And finally a note from my boyfriend, who remarks (seriously?!):

Remember to complain about glazing in cups and plates, those aren't authentic viking-era pottery. Totally ruined atmosphere for me.

If you happen to come to Finland check this place out, I recommend it!

Bento #2: Halloween bento

Halloween has always been my favorite Holiday of the year. Because it's funny, colorful and spoooooky! I just love the little ghosties, pumpkin lanterns, witches' cauldrons and vampires! :D

It would be great if Halloween was celebrated in Finland as much as it is in the USA. It would be much easier to find Halloween goodies at the normal stores. Sure, few of them sell stuff for parties but they're usually only paper plates, outfits, masks and decorations. So I had in mind to make a Halloween inspired bento but I don't have the proper cutters (you know... bat, pumpkin shaped etc.) and I didn't want to order them from the internet just to make ONE bento.

But do not despair my pretties! I didn't give up. Using as smart as possible what I had at home and with a bit of crafting, the Halloween bento is born and is SPOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKY!!!

The idea was to use just one container for this time but since I really wanted to use a black bento box because it highlights other colors and of course looks more halloweenish, this 2 tier box was my only choice :3

In this box there are: ghost and bat chicken nuggets, two cheese&olives skewers with skull pics, cucumber stars, a spooky hard boiled egg ghost, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and broccoli.

In the second tier there is: a clementine Jack o' Lantern, gummy worms and licorice skulls.

The nugget ghostie says "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"!!!

The clementine works really well as pumpkin, right? :D

This bento was very fun to make and to eat!

Happy bento making! Happy Halloween!

Dark chocolate brandy muffins

Yesterday was my birthday but as I was at work all day I had no chance to bake anything. So today I made these wonderful, tasty and super caloric muffins.

I've always been a chocolate lover! It tastes so good.... *____*
Sadly nowadays I can eat chocolate quite rarely, only few times a year. So the birthday becomes a really good reason to eat it without having too many regrets :P

I didn't feel like to bake plain chocolate muffins. When I saw that we still had half bottle of good italian brandy, the idea came at once: YEAH! I'LL MAKE BRANDY CHOCO MUFFINS!!! :D
The brandy left a really nice taste and it worked well with the chocolate.

For this recipe I used dark chocolate, which wasn't too bitter or too sweet.

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins or 24 minis):
  • 60 ml (35 g) dark chocolate chips
  • 160 g flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 75 g sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 75 g butter
  • 125 ml milk
  • 3 tbsp brandy
  • powdered sugar for decoration

Melt the butter. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Crush the chocolate with a knife into small pieces. Mix together flour, baking powder and cocoa then add also sugar and chocolate chips and mix.
In another bowl whisk together milk, melted butter, egg and brandy. Mix wet and dry ingredients together lightly until just combined and pour into muffins cups (fill them about 2/3). If you want, sprinkle the top with more chocolate chips.
Bake in the oven at 200ºC for about 12-15 min. Check if they're ready with a toothpick. Let the muffins cool down before decorating and serving.

Nectarine vanille yogurt

Summer has left and nectarines aren't nearly as good anymore, they are as hard as tennis balls.

But when I took this photo, necatarines were very tasty, soft and juicy and it was a must to taste them with yogurt. A new category is therefore born, which I can name: "Pimp my Yogurt" :D

My opinion is that yogurt works perfectly as dessert or snack when you have guests, and you don't have time (or will) to bake a pie or spend money for expensive confectionary. It's easy to prepare the yogurts beforehand in bowls and put them in the fridge, and take them out and decorate them as you wish just when the guests arrive.
This is a very cheap, yummy and healthy option! Especially if you use fat-free yogurts like I do.

  • 200 g nectarine (or peach, or fruit mix, whatever you can find) fat-free yogurt
  • about 100 g vanilla fat-free yogurt
  • 1/2 nectarine
  • sugar sprinkles for decoration
Put in a bowl or glass the nectarine yogurt and the vanilla one on top of it, without mixing.
Wash and chop the nectarine in small pieces and put them on the yogurt. Decorate with different kinds of sugar sprinkles.

Tasty chicken soup

As Winter (unfortunately...) approaches and the days become darker and colder, a good warm soup for dinner is as precious as a pirate's treasure.

I already said in this post that I learnt how to cook soups here in Finland. In Italy I never made one myself, and I only ate either minestrone or pastina (a tiny pasta cooked in broth).

This chicken soup was my very first attempt in the unknown Soup World. I didn't take the recipe from anywhere, I just added the ingredients in the pot up to my taste. I knew for a fact that chicken tasted good paired with bell pepper and sweet corn in a salad, so I put those ingredients in the soup as well. I added a bit of curry, some cheese and flour to ticken it up :)

In the photo below there're (almost) all the ingredients you need.

Ingredients (2 persons):
  • 5 dl water
  • about 200 g marinated chicken breasts (or also non-marinated if you want)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 2-3 tbs sweet corn
  • 1/2 carrot
  • 1-2 melted cheese slices
  • 2 tbs flour
  • curry powder
Cut the chicken in small pieces. Slice carrot and bell pepper also in small pieces.
Put the water to boil, then add the buillon cube. Add the chicken, bell pepper and carrot in the pot and let it boil until the meat is cooked. Then add corn, cheese (better cut it in pieces first) and curry up to taste.
Stir and let it boil at low heat for some minutes adding the flour bit by bit, always stirring, until the soup is ticken enough.
Serve with good rye bread slices.

Welcome back: bento #1

Holy cow! It's been ages since this blog got updated, it's about time to write something don't you think?

Summer went reaaaaaaaaally fast, and here's is already full autumn with yellow leaves falling from the trees and air getting chilly. It's also raining quite a lot too, and you can spot mushrooms everywhere. The temperature is about 7ºC and yesterday I took the winter coat out from my wardrobe... BRRRRR >.<

Since here is becoming darker and darker everyday (kaamos is coming), I try to cheer myself up making some colorful cute bentos. Bento is japanese style packed lunch, about which you can find more info on our "Bento" tab at the top of the page.

On the left there's spaghetti with mackerel and tomato sauce (leftover from the dinner) and baby carrots. On the right of the divider I put sweet corn in the cup, mozzarella balls, a little omelette and veggie sticks (cucumber and red bell pepper).

It came out very colorful :)

And this is the bento I used, my Barbapapa bento which has with 2 handy compartments.

Happy bento making!

Spicy tuna & zucchini pasta

Zucchini is a wonderful versatile veggie because it's not only good, but it fits perfectly with pastas, risottos, soups and many other main dishes as well as side dishes. Because of that I use it often :)

This time I write a recipe that I learnt from my mom and it's still one of our favorites. One good side is its lightness and healthyness: zucchini and tuna are low in calories, especially the first contains a whopping 95% of water and it has many other good properties.
The other good side is that, like almost all of my recipes, it's really easy to make!

In the original recipe we use also zucchini flowers, which I've never found on sale here in Finland so, sadly, I have to go without them. Btw, zucchini flowers are delicious, for example deep fried.

I always buy tuna chunks in water instead of those in oil because they're healthier :)

Ingredients (2 persons):
  • 200 g short pasta, e.i. penne
  • 1 medium size zucchini
  • 1 can of tuna
  • 1 onion
  • chili (fresh or dry)
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • parmesan cheese

Wash the zucchini, cut off the edges and slice it in thin strips, julienne style.
Finely chop the onion and saute in a saucepan with oil over medium heat, then add zucchini and let it cook, stirring from time to time. Add salt, pepper and chili up to taste.
When the zucchini is soft enough, add the tuna (without the water/oil of the can of course) and mix. If the sauce results too dry pour some warm water into the pan.
Cook the pasta in salty water until al dente. Mix the pasta with the sauce and serve with grated parmesan on top.

Oven potatoes with meatball!

Oh yes, you read correctly. Not meatballS but meatball! :D
It's sooooo yummy, I just started doing it and was awesome... therefore I don't have pictures of the process, just of the outcome, because I didn't believe it would actually come out this good. Be prepared for supah-supah awesomeness! ;)

Here's what we're going to do:

Ingredients (for 7-8 serves):
  • 4 large potatoes
  • fresh parsley
  • mustard
  • 300 gr of minced meat
  • 100 gr of philadelphia
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • mushrooms
  • 1 slice of "old" bread
  • 1 egg
  • 4 slices of ham
  • 10 slices of bacon
  • salt
  • paprika powder
  • olive oil
  • 1 smashed garlic

Peel and cut the potatoes in "deluxe" slices, pour mustard over them and a bit of salt, olive oil and parsley, mix and dispose on a container, with a hole in the middle for the meat.
For the meat, put the minced meat in a bowl, add salt, 1 egg, the very thinely cut slice of old bread, the paprika powder and smashed garlic, and mix well together to a "paste".
On a pan, cook the previous sliced carrots, zucchini and mushrooms. While almost done, add the philadelphia, cook in low fire, then retire and let cool in the fridge. It then becomes a quite "harder" mixture.
Now, take 1/2 of the minced meat and put on a plate, in the middle of it put 1 or 2 slices of ham. The philadelphia-veggies mixture will be disposed over it, and covered with the other ham slices (like a ball). And then, the rest of the minced meat will be put over it. Easier: ball of veggies-philla, covered by ham, covered by minced meat. xD
If you do it correctly, you can mold it all to a ball. ;) This ball you'll cover it with the bacon slices all around, and dispose the meat ball in the middle of the potatoes. Optionally, you can also put a bit of mustard and parsley over the bacon slices.
Then bake it in the oven for 45 mins at 180-200ºC.

My ball is quite tiny, because most prefered the potatoes than the meat... :P But you can put less potatoes and more meat if you prefer... XD

Sushi Time!

So I friends and I went to a sushi night to take a practice on how to do good sushi... it was fun though the knife wasn't sharp enough... so the pieces didn't actually come out as good as we wanted to, but at leat we had a good time. Here some pictures:

Here the tables as we arrived, the rice was already prepared, since it takes a bit of time to do it. :)

Explaining the procedure of cutting the salmon: the white stripes must be visible, because it's the fat, and it gives not only taste, but also visual effect.

Cutting ourselves the first slices, yay!

ARRRR I cut cut cut! Salmon be mine!

My first salmon Nigiri! The trick, is that you just push the piece gently over the rice, and round it down the edges

Explaining how to roll and cut the sushi:

These are our cut pieces... waiting to eat!

Lol... a friend kind of.. let's say.. had troubles.. XD

YAYYYYY everything together... as you see it's not the prettiest sushi, but it is yummy!!

More pictures:

Again, more pictures:

This are california rolls, inside out. ;) and you see the shrimp tails!

This was done in an euphoria at home, lot's of avocado because friends love it:

There was sushi for 12 peoples at least.... XD

So that was my cooking Sushi experience. :)

I've learned that the most important part was doing the rice correctly, and never smash it while "sushing". Here's a good recipe. ;)

  • 250 gr of high gluteic rice (usually the round type)
  • 400 gr of water
  • a bit of sake
  • 4 spoons of vinegar (best if plain vinegar, no balsamico, no apple and no wine vinegar)
  • 2,5 spoons of sugar
  • 1/2 spoon of salt

Clean the rice with lots and lots of water, to clean from impurities and until the water comes out white.
Then take a pot (without the lid), where we put the rice together with the water and the sake and let it stay for 30 mins.
Meanwhile prepare the vinegar solution (vinegar, sugar and salt) for the rice once it is cooked. You can warm a bit the vinegar so it binds better with the salt and the sugar. Then, let it cool in the fridge, for it must be cold.
Now we start cooking the rice on maximum temperature in the pot (still without lid), until it starts to boil. Then we cover the pot with the lid and go down to very low heat, and let it boil without never ever retiring the lid for 20 mins. After those 20 mins we take the pot away from the fire, and DON'T remove the lid. We just let it rest like that for another 20 mins. This is very important, taking the lid prematurely away can make that your rice isn't good enough.
When those 20 mins resting pause are gone, we throw the rice gently on a glass or plastic container (never metallic one) and start "opening" the rice with a spatula. We cut lines dividing the rice, like letting the aire come in between but be careful to not "smash" the rice. It must be done very gently. We take the vinegare-solution out of the fridge and add them slowly to the rice, as we continue "cutting" it. We can also make use of a fan: it helps absorb the good quantity and be "fluffy". But again: do it gently, never smashing or mixing the rice, otherwhise it would be unuseful.
Then , the rice is ready. ;)
It will be sticky, so just remember to wet your fingers and hands with water while doing your maki, sushi, nigiri, etc. :)

Great ingredients for sushi are: fresh fish (tuna, salmon and shrimps are the most common), avocado, surimi, cucumber... just whatever you like, I even saw some makis done with philadelphia and salad leafs. :P

Trip to Joensuu

Yesterday was a lovely day! We visited Joensuu, a city in the eastern part of Finland, in the North Karelia region at about 110 km from where I live. Joensuu is traversed by the Pielisjoki river (the name itself means "river's mouth") and nowadays is mainly famous for its University.

I've never visited Joensuu before, but my bf stopped there few times when he was in the Army and he said it's a pretty town. Well, he was right, in fact Joensuu is beautiful! I liked it a lot. It's a big city (but not too big), with lots of cool shops, a nice marketplace, lovely views and food and it doesn't feel too crowded, actually it feels very relaxing :)

When we arrived, we found the marketplace full of people and stands waiting for us. There was also some sort of festival because there were dancers and singers performing on stage. There I went right away towards the muikku stand, which sells fried little fishes that are absolutely delicious! I love them :D

The best place was Taitokortteli, a handcraft and culture quarter situated in the center of the city. Inside there were many small workshops where women crafted before your eyes beautiful handmade goods like carpets, bags, t-shirts, pillows, hats and much much more. I was totally fascinated, and I must go there again!!

In front of Taitokortteli there was a nice garden and harbour.

Of course this was also a taste journey, so we ate more yummy stuff! For example I tasted their karelian pie, which is made and sold across all Finland but it is originally from the Karelian region. Other yummies were a kermamunkki from a local bakery and Arnolds' wonderful donuts :)

Here's more photos of Joensuu.

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