Friday, August 31, 2012

Helsinki - talks, talks, talks

Today there was no time to visit anything; talks from morning till late.

At first I had a session on the 'role of plants in paleonutritional reassessment' which was quite interesting, especially the recently discovered underwater site of Amsterdam-Yangtzehaven. The site which is 20 m below water level still gave up lots of information about plant food in the Mesolithic. From charred acorn over club rush to prepared celandine tubers (buttercup), a lot of wild plants were used for food in the Mesolithic.
The second session was about circumpolar rock art and somehow taken over by shamans. Still, I didn't know too much about Canadian rock art so it was quite interesting to see some examples from the New World. This is the site of Qajartalik, Quebec which was made by the Dorset culture (2500 BC to AD 500):
Time for lunch with the unicafé's vegan choice of a wrap,  a vegetable chili, brown rice and a soy-yogurt sauce:
In the afternoon I ended up in the climate archaeology section where climatologists were mocking archaeologists for not having a deeper appreciation of their art and still had typologies based on pottery. Some nice talks with an interesting one by Gunhild Eriksdotter about the Little Ice Age and its impact on indoor climate and living comfort. Although working in historical archaeology her findings were interesting and easily transferable into prehistory. Hardwick Hall, a stately manor in England for example had so much windows that it would have been really cold in winter, let alone during the Little Ice Age. But she showed how people could show off with their manors and still live relatively comforting. Bess of Hardwick, who had the manor built moved her smaller sized sleeping rooms to the south side with few windows and had 8 (!) carpets on the floor. So the cold rooms were more or less just for receptions and kitchens.
See her small sleeping chamber in the back? By the way, Hardwick Hall's facade was used for the exterior scenes for Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter 1 and 2.

The last session for today was about 'animal agency'; a lot of criticism against raising animals as capital came through and some carefully softened voices for animal rights. But in general they kept to the archaeological side of it. Kristin Armstrong Oma presented a nice paper (based on her article in the World Archaeology - if you are by any chance an archaeologist, you might want to read it here).
Her talk was about the social interaction between sheep, dog, and man in the Bronze Age when sheep farming intensified because wool was extensively used for textiles and how new husbandry practises evolved that changed not only landscape (grazing areas) and technology but also house architecture (from a two-aisled house -upper illustration- in the Neolithic to a three-aisled house in the Early Bronze Age -lower illustration) to allow animals to be stocked in the house.
taken from:
A nice rock art scene of a shepherd and his dog herding a flock of sheep illustrated her theory that the shared living also built a source of trust which made it easier to handle the sheep.
Rock art scene from Valhaug 1, Rogaland Norway
K. Armstrong Oma 2010, plate 2

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Helsinki - National Museum

I spent the morning with talks concerning the Michelsberg Culture, an important Central European Neolithic culture. The talks from French and German researchers were mostly about territoriality, enclosures, houses, but the most interesting ones were about salt exploitation in Germany (Olivier Weller) and Michelsberg along the Rhine and Main (Detlef Gronenborn).

For lunch I went to the Unicafé in the Porthania building and I was not disappointed: a vegan lunch option! Getting vegan food is difficult in Helsinki, cheese and milk products are everywhere. So I really enjoyed my beet steaks (Punajuuripihvit) with potatoes and soy-yogurt sauce:

After lunch I went to the National Museum to have a look at the Prehistoric section.
So beautiful! I just have to show you an object ... or two ... you know what I mean ...
A cupmarked stone from Häme, Kalvola in Southern Finland. Probably Iron Age:
 Figure and axe head in animal form; mostly elks but these ones are lovely bears (from Antrea)

Clay figurine, Jettböle site (pitted ware culture)

Waist ornament from Viking dress, Humikkala, Masku. Made separately from wired beads and sewn onto the dress:

And here are Viking dress replicas with similar ornaments on the apron of the woman's dress (Euran Luistarihauta, grave 56, ca. AD 900):

After the museum I went to the market square in front of the harbour; berries abundant:
And of course it is the mushroom season!

Someone tried the Finnish pancakes called 'lettu':

A bird brawl at the harbour:

Not far from the harbour is also the Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral from the 19th century:
I think this island is the World Heritage Site Suomenlinna; if I have time left I will go there and then know for sure :)

Strange looking flower hives:

In the evening there was a free chamber concert in the Cathedral Crypt; it came with an art exhibition featuring art work from Nelly Jurvelius:

The musicians consisted of four young artists, Pekko pulakka on a Silvestre violin from 1843, Sauli Kulmala on a Maussiell viola from 1722, Samit Junnona (flute), and Anna Vaahtoranta (piano) whom you can see on the photo here:


What a long day, and tomorrow talks start at half past eight. They are crazy, these Finns :) 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Helsinki - Church in the Rock

I had a bit of time in the morning, so I went for the Temppeliaukio Church or better known as Church in the Rock. This astonishing church was built in 1969 and right into the rock of this hill in Helsinki.

Yet it is still full of natural light which comes in from huge window panels under the copper dome.

copper dome from the outside
I came just in time for a piano concert in the church (well, actually I knew it already and therefore came in time):

Oliver Wu playing the piano in the Church in the Rock
A kind of flash mob school choir interrupted his performance:

And apart from loads of tourists buzzing around, a couple had his wedding photos shot:

Votive candles on the rocks :)

It was time to go to the conference registration which is not far from Helsinki Cathedral

The Porthania building of the University of Helsinki where part of the sessions will be:

Opening reception in the auditorium of the main building:

There was also some entertainment; Maija Kauhanen, a post-grad at the Department of Folk Music played on the kantele of Saarijärvi, a Finnish and Karelian zither. Since I only had my handy cam, the optical quality sucks, but you can at least hear the instrument. Maija has a web presence on myspace in case you want to see her more clearly :))

The day ended with a reception, lots of wine but also some snacks (at least salads for me) including the lovely Finnish rye-malt bread (Saaristolaisleipä), sweetened with molasses.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Arrival in Helsinki

I love travelling - seeing something new and unexpected or just staying at a nice place. Like Helsinki!
I arrived today for the EAA conference (European Association of Archaeologists) which this year takes place in Helsinki.
I'm staying at a nice and stylish hotel and - by pure chance - saw Lady Gaga who is staying at the hotel next to mine. A lot of people were waiting in front of the hotel and when I walked by she came out; people were screaming and cameras flashing. She looked like a big black raven :D

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hot Summer :)

Today we had a really and I mean really hot day:

Actually we had 40° Celsius which is 104° Fahrenheit! Felt like holidays :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Poppy 'Schmarrn'

Poppy seeds again? Either there are opiates left in poppy seed and I'm already addicted or Barbara's 'Mohnschmarrn' recipe was just irresistible :) I go for the latter (unless you'll see only poppy recipes in the near future *hehe*).

But what is a 'Schmarrn'? For one a difficult to pronounce German word: 7 consonants and only one vowel. Crazy isn't it? The word is Bavarian or Austrian and means 'nonsense' but in the realms of cuisine it means a fluffy pancake which is shredded to pieces; the most famous 'Schmarrn' is the 'Kaiserschmarrn'. But Barbara choose to do a poppy seed Schmarrn *drool*

Since I had some leftover ground poppy seed and I was alone at home today, this was a very welcome, quick and satisfying dinner.

I exchanged some of the ingredients to make it vegan (a more true to the original Kaiserschmarrn and yet vegan recipe can be found here).

But let's go straight for the poppy Schmarrn recipe:

for 2 pers

for the poppy mixture:

150 ml soy cream
50 g ground poppy seeds (you can use a coffee grinder to do this)
lemon zest

for the Schmarrn:

250 ml vegan milk (I used a spelt-almond drink)
1 tablespoon soy flour
5 tablespoons flour (I used spelt flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1.5 tablespoons agave nectar

oil for frying
rapadura (dehydrated sugar cane juice) for sprinkling the finished Schmarrn

What to do:

 Heat the soy cream and bring to a boil, add the ground poppy seeds and let the mixture rest for a couple of minutes. Add the lemon zest.

Meanwhile pour the vegan milk in a high vessel and use a hand mixer (or lots of muscle power) to mix in the soy flour until you get a frothy mass.

Add flour, baking powder, agave nectar, and vanilla and mix well. Then use a wooden spoon and fold in the poppy seed mixture.

Heat the oil in a pan, add mixture (roughly as thick as an American pancake) and bake golden on one side. Then turn it over and shred into pieces with two forks. If the Schmarrn gets a bit sticky and doesn't turn over in one piece .... well, it actually doesn't matter since you are tearing it up anyway :)

 Sprinkle with rapadura and serve with fresh fruit or fruit compote.

The finished Schmarrn looked a bit darker than Barbara's but it was very yummy. So if you have the occasional sweet tooth attack, try this very German/Austrian recipe :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lazy Poppy-Seed Couscous Salad

And now for something completely different ..
A lot of German food blogs are posting about poppy seeds this month. This is mainly due to a German cooking event with poppy seeds as the star of the dish. Mel from Pimpi-Mel-la is hosting Zorra's LXXX - Papaver event and I'm glad this ingredient gets a little more attention, since it is not only super yummy, makes you sound hip and cool (Oh dear, I haven't had my daily intake of opium poppy today ...), but is also very healthy. It is a super rich source for calcium and B-vitamins. But, and this may be to your dissappointment, the poppy seeds are nearly free of opiates.

In Eastern Europe, Germany, and Austria it is a cherished ingredient for cakes. But rarely used in savoury dishes. So instead of baking I turned to cooking, or rather, since the weather is hot and summer-ish towards making a salad.

At first we need the poppy-seed dressing. The recipe is based on Kathy's dressing on Healthy Happy Life. However, I replaced the apple cider and maple sirup with apple balsamico and instead of whole poppy seeds I used steamed and ground poppy seeds (this is because I'm stupid; I thought I had a package of poppy seeds in my cupboard but it was this steamed and ground one and it was too late to go shopping); therefore my dressing has a much darker colour than Kathy's. But it is equally yummy
These are the ingredients:

and if you whisk everything vigorously together you will get a nice dressing:

Poppy-seed Dressing


2 tablespoons vegan mayonaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons apple balsamico vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 eschalot, finely diced
1garlic clove, pressed
1 tablespoon poppy seeds or ground poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

Not much really; whisk everything except the eschalot and the poppy seeds together vigorously. Then fold in eschalot and poppy seeds. Done!

Since I had leftover couscous I added some colour to it (pomegranate, rucola, yellow bell pepper, and peanuts).

Before we turn to the salad I think this it is a good opportunity to explain how a pomegranate is opened properly without leaving a mess in the kitchen and on your clothes. I first learned this from Pete's blog and ever used this method since. But there is also a youtube video of it (well, what's not on youtube?).
At first take a good look at your pomegranate; because of this fruit we have a winter season - or so the ancient Greeks said. When Persephone was 'kidnapped' by Hades she ate 6 kernels of pomegranates and whenever you eat a fruit in the otherworld you can't go back. Since she only ate 6 kernels she had to stay with her husband Hades for 6 months and for 6 months she stays with her mother Demeter. Demeter is so happy for having her daughter back that she really goes into spring mood and therefore we have a warm season until she goes back to Hades.

Hades with cornucopia and Persephone with a pomegranate seed

Now that you have properly appreciated the fruit, cut off with a sharp knife the top and lower part of it, like this:

With a sharp knife cut the outer layer carefully, so that it looks quartered. Don't cut too deep or you will cut into the seeds which you don't want.

Now fill up a big bowl with cold water and break the pomegranate in quarters (below the water):

Gently loosen the seeds (still under water); the inner white skin will float on top and the heavier seeds will sink to the ground of your bowl.

Remove bigger parts by hand and pour away most of the water with the white bits. Before you throw away the seeds with your water, however, use a strainer:

Now you have clean, unscathed, and beautiful pomegranade seeds which are super healthy and delicious.

Now that everything is prepared, we can have a look at the ingredients:

Combine them in a bowl:

Now add the poppy-seed dressing from above and sprinkle with some poppy-seeds:

Poppy-Seed Couscous Salad (for 2 Pers.)


1 cup prepared couscous
half of a yellow bell pepper, diced
2 handful of rocket
half a cup of pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons of peanuts (if you use salten ones be cautious with the salt, you may need none at all)
1 portion of poppy-seed dressing (see above for recipe)

What to do

Not much, mix everything gently together. Done :)

And, since this is a lazy recipe and I'm lazy during summer time, the salad also goes to a much beloved event which I (due to laziness I guess) do not frequent as much as I want should. I'm talking about Deb's Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen. This event will not only accept soups for a Sunday round-up but also salads and sandwiches. Therefore I'm also sending this salad to Kahakai Kitchen. Hope you like it, Deb  :)