Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rain, rain, rain

It's the last day of my summer holiday, so it's time to sum up the summer:

    Raining in the horizon on the way to summer house

    Raining in the opposite end of Silkkiniitty.

    Raining and shining


    Lady at a bus stop washing a pear in the rain

    Rain catching a kite

    Raining ice

Friday, September 28, 2012


In Eastern Finland there's a tradition of bringing a pulla circle to a family of a new born baby. This "pulla of new born" is called rotinat. Sometimes something in my head just snaps, and I feel like it's my job to carry the tradition on - and one of those snaps occurred yesterday. So I decided to bake rotina-pulla to my friends who had recently gotten their first child.

For a rotina-pulla you need to make a plait out of the pulla dough. And you're suppose to make it out of four strings. So I rolled two bars, both a bit over 2 meters long, crossed them at the middle and started knotting. I'm not an expert of making pulla plait, so the knotting part required some focus. Of course the dough bars somehow stretched at some parts and turned out to be extra thick at some other parts. But eventually I was able to finalize the plait. At this point I realized I had forgotten the egg from the dough. But after all the sweat, tears and swearing I turned into John Lennon: "let it be". So off we went without the egg.

Then I wrapped the plait into a circle and put it into oven for 25 minutes, 190 celsius degrees. It got some rip marks in the oven, my grandma would give me a note because of those - but it's good enough for me. Traditionally, you're supposed to fill the center of the circle with cookies, but I think for a modern house wife there's enough baking with just the pulla itself.

I've now done rotina-pulla three times: On the first time it turned out to be ugly but eatable. The second time was beautiful but inedible. Third time the charm? Well, I forgot the egg and the pulla got rip marks, but I heard it tasted good.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Million, billion, aren't they the same?

Lately I've been an angry citizen and tax payer. My anger originates from the local politics: Helsinki city board of health affairs were supposed to make a first go/no-go decision for a huge IT project about patient data management system. The decisions made in this particular project potentially effect on the whole country, and the costs of the nation-wide project were estimated to be 1,2 to 1,8 billion euros. In the Finnish economy scale that's a huge project. And one bittersweet detail in this fuzz is our dear neighbor country Estonia, who was able to create their patient data management system with 10 million euros. Well, at the moment the project is on hold, thanks to active discussion in social media.

     Now that's what I call a data management system

It's quite easy to mix millions and billions. I know that the limits of my understanding go somewhere close to 1 billion: I can understand the scale of 1 million. I'm able to understand that 100 million is huge amount of money - that's a scale of a big construction project. As an engineer I'm able to count up to 200 million, 300 million, 500 million and all the way up to 999 million - I understand that the next round figure after 999 million is 1 billion, but I'm struggling to understand the true scale of 1 billion. I just understand it's a hell of a lot money. And I hope the decision makers understand that too.

Let's try to build some perspective to this 1,2 to 1,8 billion. GDP in Finland is about 180 billion. So the estimate of the patient data system project is 1% of the GDP. That's insane. Industry sectors should be measured as "percentages of GDP", not IT projects. Take mining industry as an example. In 2010 the mining industry in Finland was about 750 million euros. In other words, this IT project is twice the size of our mining industry. The project is about the same size as the water and waste management sector in Finland. Really, IT projects are not supposed to be that big.

In 1990's, during the great Finnish recession the GDP dropped 13%. I'm happy that we haven't faced that kind of a drop ever since, but it's clear without saying that also the standards of economy have changed since the 1990's. Nowadays zero-growth in GDP is a concerning news. Decline of 1% in GDP breaks the news for sure, and then they'd be screaming about depression for sure. So practically this IT project could push the Finnish economy into recession, right?

We'll, it's easy to nag about the price tag without offering any kind of reference. I'm not an expert of massive data management systems, but my gut feeling says that with 50 million a nation size of Finland should be able to get a decent patient data management system.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lettu, pancake, crepe

Lettu, lätty, räiskäle, ohukainen - Finnish pancakes have many names. In terms of pancakes Finland is closer to France than US: Finnish lettu is thin, just like French crepes, and definitely not as fluffy and spongey as American pancakes. In Finland lettu and pancake, pannukakku, are two different things: lettu is fried on a frying pan, while pancake is baked in the oven. The best lettu is made on open fire using a cast iron pan.

Here's a very basic lettu recipe (it's difficult to say the exact amounts, since I never measure the lettu ingredients):

5 dl milk
2 eggs
2 to 3 dl flour
0,5 tea spoon salt
2 table spoon melted butter
Some more butter for frying

Melt some butter on frying pan. Pour some dough on the pan. Let it fry. Turn around (with a spatula or by casting the lettu in the air). Let it fry. Take it a aside. Next one. Enjoy with strawberry jam and whipped cream.

And now let's get to the point - the reason why lettu is such a brilliant dish: you can make tens or hundreds of variations without actually loosing the essence. I've listed some of the variations here, but I'm sure everyone has their own:

  • If you have issues with milk, you can replace the milk with soda water (vichy) and butter with oil.
  • Replace part of the wheat flours with barley or buckwheat to get more rustic feeling.
  • Mix some nettles or spinach into the dough and have smoked fish and cheese on top - that's a proper lettu-lunch.
  • Mix some blood into the dough and you'll get blood pancakes, verilettu. Sounds horror but it makes a proper meal. Serve with lingonberry jam.
  • Back to less hard core mixes: blueberries and/or banana in the dough give a nice touch too.
  • Pancake dough made of buckwheat and yeast turns into blini. Serve with sour cream, onion, mushrooms, roe and salted fish. Heavenly.
  • Mix the leftover porridge into pancake dough, put it into oven and you'll have Åland style pancake. That'll keep the hunger away for some time.

But one thing I'm a bit surprised about: Finnish restaurants serve lettu very seldom as dessert. I can't understand why. Well, Sodexho and other lunch restaurants serve pancake, pannukakku almost every Thursday as dessert, and sometimes some bad industrial lettu. But I mean that you can't see lettu very often on the menus of real restaurants. I think the only restaurant where I've had lettu as dessert is restaurant Savu - and their lettu plate is really good!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Misty mornings, foggy nights

So it's autumn.

Which means that the humidity gets higher in the nights, and the fog may hang around still in the morning too.

But that's the way it goes. The best time of the year is here!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ateljé Finne

5 years ago we had some 40 minutes to kill before the beginning of our wedding ceremony. So we decided to pop into Ateljé Finne for a glass of sparkling. The brunch time was already over, and there were still couple of hours until the dinner time, so in theory the restaurant was closed. But luckily there were the Madventures guys Riku and Tunna having a very long brunch with their friends, so we could also stay for a while. The sommelier asked "whose big day is it?". "Ours", we replied. "Then it's on the house", he said.

Yesterday, on our 5th anniversary, we decided to return. Well, we have been there with friends, together and separately, during these 5 years - but not just two of us.


It's probably partly nostalgia, but I like Finne a lot. The place is really a former studio of sculptor Gunnar Finne, and some of his pieces are still present at the restaurant. And the food... oh! I guess the food could be categorized as modern scandinavian. I'd say it's rustic fine-dining, made of really high quality seasonal ingredients. And if you you happen to be served by the sommelier, he'll introduce you the most beautiful wines that match perfectly with the dishes.

I had a steak tartare for starter. I've never eaten tartare before, but Finne is one of the only places I dare to have that. And it was delicious. Not yucky at all, but fresh, salty and sour at the same time. As the main course I had a fish cake made of lightly smoked fish, nettles and fresh peas - and it was fantastic. In places like Finne it's ok to have meat, you won't be disappointed - but the fish dishes are just so phenomenal, that shame on you if you miss the fish. The dessert I had is the classic of Finne: licorice créme brûlée. There are very few sweets I like, but this one was just perfect - maybe because it wasn't too sweet.

So if you want to have Finnish food and something better, try Ateljé Finne. And if you want to have same style of food but one more step towards rustic - go for the Finne's sister restaurant Kuurna.