Blueberry Tarte Tatin

Timjami (thyme) is my favorite word in Finnish, which is just as well because thyme is one of my favorite herbs. I have cooked it fresh countless times in traditional (apple) tarte tatin and various other dishes. I am sure it will not be out of place in this summertime pie, in which mustikka (blueberry), found throughout Finland’s extensive woodlands, replaces the apples (omenoita) usefully found in the famous French upside-down pie. {LIF}


Blueberry Tarte Tatin: The Summer’s Most Wonderful Pie Does a Somersault
Text: Mika Rampa • Photo: Satu Nyström

The secret to the taste of the upside-down pie known as blueberry tarte tatin tarte is thyme, which deepens the blueberry’s woodsy flavor. Bake the little pies in blini pans (or other small ovenproof frying pans), so everyone gets his or her own individual serving.

Ingredients (4 servings)

Pastry Crust
75 grams butter (at room temperature)
1 deciliter sugar
1 egg
2 deciliters flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2–1 teaspoon cardamom

75 grams butter
1 deciliter brown sugar
8 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons citrus liqueur*
3 deciliters blueberries

2 deciliters whipping cream (whipped)

Cooking time: 55 min {active–35 min; passive–20 min}

Bake blueberry tarte tatin as follows:

  1. Mix the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the egg. Combine the flour, baking powder, and cardamom in another bowl. Add the flour mixture to the first bowl and mix until you have a smooth dough. Place it in the refrigerator.
  2. Add the butter, brown sugar, and thyme sprigs to a frying pan. Let simmer until the sugar has melted. Add the citrus liqueur and blueberries. Remove the pan from the stove.
  3. Press the dough on the pan or pans with a rolling pin. Make sure the pastry crust fits the pan exactly and it is on top of the blueberries.
  4. Bake the tarte tatin in an oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 20 to 30 minutes depending on the pan’s size.
  5. Put a plate over the baked pie and swiftly turn it upside down to serve.

* You can easily substitute lemon juice for the citrus liqueur.

Translated by Living in FIN

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “Contrary to Popular Belief”


Toisin kuin luullaan, useat asiat tulevat valmiiksi,
sellaisiksi kuin niiden halutaan tulevan.
Vapaudesta puhutaan kuin valinnasta,
pidetään hengitys tasaisena että ilma kantaa
Voi nostaa vihreän rinkan selkään,
vähemmän se painaa kuin omat hartiat.
Saa puhua viidellä kielellä siitä mistä puhetta riittää,
eikä muutosta ole havaittavissa kun siiryymme
paikasta toiseen; kiinnitämme huomioon
samaan maisemaan, siihen jonka omin silmin näemme.

Ajojää sulaa pyörien alla ja vuoret kolahtelevat toisiinsa,
jättiläisen kyynärpäät. Ajamme peräkkäin autoilla
kuuntelemaan valaan röyhtäilyjä. Kun tuuli yltyy,
alkaa tärisyttää, silmät ja tasapainoaisti antavat eri viestin.
Mutta ei hätää:
pahoinvointiin auttaa piste
jonka rantaviivalta löydämme, se johon taas on tuijotettava.

Olemme syyttömiä,
miljoonia vuosia vanhat ruhot painuvat pinnan alle.
Niin meidät harppunoidaan
kesken lauseen, kesken haukotuksen

eikä mikään voi torjua lohtua.

* * * * * * * * *

Contrary to popular belief, many things emerge intact,
just as one would want them to turn out.
Freedom is spoken of as a choice.
One breathes steadily so the air holds
a feather aloft.
You can lift the green rucksack on your back:
it weighs less than your own shoulders.
You may speak in five languages about something when a chat would do,
nor is change observable when we move
from place to place. We fix our gaze
on the same landscape, towards what see with our own eyes.

Drift ice melts under the wheels, and mountains bump into each other,
a giant’s elbows. We drive one after another in cars
to hearken to a whale’s belches. When the wind blows harder,
it begins to shake, and the eyes and sense of balance send a different message.
Not to worry:
nausea is alleviated by a point
we locate on the shoreline, a point toward which we must stare again.

We are blameless,
carcasses, millions of years old, sinking below the surface.
We are thus harpooned
in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of a yawn

nor can anything ward off consolation.

Source: Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 29. Translation and photo by Thomas H. Campbell

10 Reasons to Eat Strawberries

It is a tiny miracle that strawberries grow this far north. It is even more of a miracle that Finnish strawberries are supremely delicious, perfectly succulent and sweet.

Finns celebrate this miracle by eating as many strawberries as they can while they are in season.

They also honor strawberries by incorporating them into desserts concocted only on the most festive occasions, such as the strawberry whipped cream cake our downstairs neighbor Maija makes on her birthday, her name day, and her husband’s name day,  which all take place in July and August, during and just after the peak of the all-too-brief Finnish strawberry season.

Maija’s strawberry whipped cream cake is to die for, by the way.

But strawberries are not just delicious, they are good for you, too, as I was reminded yesterday by this placard at the pop-up strawberry stand at my local grocery store.

ten reasons to eat strawberries

10 Reasons to Eat Strawberries

  • It improves the immune system.
  • It maintains eyesight.
  • It prevents cancer.
  • It firms up the skin.
  • It lowers cholesterol.
  • It makes the joints work better.
  • It lowers blood pressure.
  • It improves digestion.
  • It helps control weight.
  • It is positively yummy.


Photo and translation by Living in FIN

The Imatra Sling

imatra sling.JPGThe Imatra Sling. Photo by Living in FIN

“Supreme Court rules in favor of baker who would not make wedding cake for gay couple.”

That is why they call it the Supreme Court, because, historically and episodically, it has reinforced racial, class, gender and sexual supremacy in the so-called United States.

Incidentally, I would never eat a cake made by a baker who would not make a wedding cake for a gay couple, not for political reasons, but because a cook or baker who has so much hatred in his soul inevitably infuses his dishes, cakes, pies, and cupcakes with the same hatred.

So, I have never understood the appeal of televised cooking competition programs in which hatred, anger, jealousy, and the spirit of cutthroat rivalry prevail. Having watched Gordon Ramsay in his calmer moments, I realize he actually is a terrific cook, but the atmosphere he cultivates in most of the TV programs he presents seems bound to produce tasteless, even harmful food.

I just made the first chicken mole in my life. I cannot even remember how exactly I made it and what I put in the mole sauce. I was winging it. But it turned out tasty, because I enjoyed making it, and I always enjoy improvising.

It was improvisation that led me to invent the cocktail I have dubbed the Imatra Sling, which consists of lots of ice in a tumbler glass, a heaping helping of ginger beer poured over the ice, whatever garnishes come to hand (tonight, it was a fresh basil leaf and an orange slice), and three-star Finnish jaloviina, a so-called cut brandy that has its own peculiar history, dating back to the two wars Finland fought against the Soviet Union in the 1940s.

Since I have tested the Imatra Sling on actual people who like alcoholic cocktails, I know it is a winner, but for the time being I won’t be going public with my profoundly random chicken mole sauce.

The happiest place I have ever been in my life was the café next to the flat where my longtime friend K. lived in the Castro after graduating from college and moving to San Francisco. Every morning, the cafe was chockablock with beautiful, happy gay men living in a community where it would have been unthinkable to hate them. In fact, it was easy to love so many handsome, happy men.

This post is going in way too many directions, just like my mole sauce, but I wanted to say the so-called United States will not have much of a future if its highest court reverts to the low road of defending the New Jim Crow, segregation, and homophobia. I thought we had been through all that pure evil before, at great cost to our country and a great loss of life, but, apparently, we will have to go through it all over again. // LIF

Jorma Etto, “The Boys”

purple swirl


Naapuri löysi unohdetun helmen, sika sen söi,
jonkun sanottiin tavanneen aarteita arkun.
Me pojat kynsimme kepillä multaa,
siinä oli siemenen ja lannan haju.
Me pojat emme uskoneet taruihin
joita emme keksineet itse.


The Boys

A neighbor found a forgotten pearl. A pig ate it.
They said someone had discovered a coffin’s treasures.
We boys ploughed the dirt with a stick.
It smelled of seed and manure.
We boys did not believe in tales
We did not concoct ourselves.

Source: Jorma Etto, Ajastaikaa (Porvoo & Helsinki: WSOY, 1964), p. 37. Photo and translation by Thomas H. Campbell

Tuomas Timonen, “You Had Vanished Utterly”

kaupunkitalo pysäköinti

olit kokonaan kadonnut,
pelkkä rehevä, kukikas, kivinen valo

valkoisella liinalla
musta pallo, musta

viiva, musta torni
valkoisella liinalla

tuulee, myrsky
tekee tuloaan, sälekaihtimet

helkkävät, ikkunat
paukahtelevat ja

on kuin
ja niin on, syksyllä

vien sinut Sipooseen
keräämään mustikoita


you had vanished utterly,
nothing but a flowery, lush, flinty light

in a white cloth
a black ball, a black

line, a black tower
in a white cloth

the wind blows, the storm
makes its way, the blinds

jangle, the windows
rattle, and

so on
and so, in the autumn,

I take you to Sipoo
to pick bilberries

Source: Tuomas Timonen, Asetelmia (Helsinki: Teos, 2013), p. 51. Translation and photo by Thomas H. Campbell


In Finland, both Lutherans and Greek Catholics celebrate Easter on the same day, and this year that day was this past Sunday, April 1. But Russian Orthodox Easter will be celebrated this coming Sunday, April 8.

No Orthodox Easter meal, whether in Finland or Russia, would be complete without pasha (in Russian, пасха; the same word also enotes the holiday itself). To my mind, it is the most delicious sweet treat I have ever tasted, and it is all the better that purists, like my boon companion, make it only once a year for serving on Easter Day itself and finishing off in the days following Christianity’s most important feast day.

My sweetheart makes pasha the old-fashioned Russian way, which takes a few days. First, she makes Russian творог (quark, curd, cottage cheese, farmer cheese) from fresh milk before mixing the homemade curd with the other ingredients and pouring the thick liquidy mixture thus produced into traditional wooden molds, lined with gauze.

The molds are turned upside down and drained for 24 hours before being placed in the refrigerator to set up. On Easter Day, the molds and gauze lining their insides are carefully removed, revealing tiny pyramid-like mounds of pasha in all their delectable glory, impressed with the Cyrillic letters ХВ (standing for Христов воскрес! or “Christ has risen!) on one side, and the Orthodox cross on the opposite side.

The recipe I have translated, below, is a quick, easy Finnish variation on its hardcore, time-consuming Russian cousin.

One year, my true love and I found ourself celebrating Easter in Finland. We brought our wooden molds along with us, but we used a Finnish recipe much like this one, whose mainstay is the Finnish variety of quark/farmer cheese/curd/tvorog, known as rakha. Rakha can be bought readymade and packaged in any grocery store. As we discovered, it makes an excellent pasha, and is generally less watery than tvorog, homemade or bought at the market, meaning it drains and sets up more quickly, and is thus much less of a hassle to work with.

Make sure to watch the video, below the recipe, for a great tip on how to turn your pasha into a pyramid with using the Russian wooden molds.



    • 100 g creamery butter
    • dl sugar
    • 2 packages (250 g each) quark
    • dl whipping cream (double cream)
    • egg
    • fresh-squeezed juice of half an orange
    • tsp vanilla sugar
    • 1/2 dl chopped almonds
    • 1/2 dl raisins
    • 1/2 dl succade (chopped bits of candied fruit)
  1. Whip the cream. Whip the butter and sugar until frothy. Add the quark, eggs, flavorings, and whipped cream. Pour the quark mixture into a gauze-lined pasha mold or colander to drain. You can also used a coffee filter lined with filter paper. Let the mixture drain in a cool place (i.e., a refrigerator) overnight.
  2. Flip the pasha over the next day onto a serving dish and garnish with slices of fresh fruit if desired. Serve as a dessert or at coffee time with other Easter goodies.

Source: Translated by Living in FIN