Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A New Finnish Cookbook, Kuura, plus an Exclusive Recipe

Sini signing her cookbooks at the Kuura launch at
the Finnish Ambassador's Residence
The flavours of Nordic cuisine have become ever more popular in recent years as Scandinavian design, lifestyle and drama have penetrated the public consciousness in the United Kingdom.

In spite of its apparent ease and simplicity, cooking the Nordic way with ingredients available in Britain can be tricky. To help navigate the cross-cultural gastronomy, Sini Kiialainen, Chef for the Finnish Ambassador to London, has created Kuura, a Nordic cookbook designed for the British audience.

I began writing the book after receiving many requests for my recipes, and I’m very proud of how it turned out,’ says Sini Kiialainen.

Born in Finland, Sini moved to London at the age of 18. She has made an impressive 12-year career on the London restaurant scene, and Kuura draws its inspiration from Sini’s extensive work for a variety of diplomatic occasions, be it intimate meetings over coffee, luncheons, formal dinners or large receptions.

For me the most inspired recipe is the ‘posh’ mini meat and rice pasties (lihapiirakka). But these lihapiirakka are million miles away from some of the worst examples of this classic street food that you just must have after a night out in Finland, when some drinks have been know the kind of moment! Having tasted Sini's pasties at the launch of Kuura, I can vouch for their authentic and excellent flavour.

Every time I see that picture I want to make the meat and rice pasties again,’ Sini said when we chatted about her new book at the Finn-Guild office yesterday.

I love lihapiirakka in all their incarnations (even the greasy ones sold from a van), but the Englishman has a love/hate relationship with this Finnish version of the late-night kebab. He believes a drunk and hungry Scot, while visiting Finland, must’ve invented the deep-fried savoury pasties. (This is a reference to deep-fried Mars bars, I think). When I told him that I’d tasted a posh version, he couldn’t quite believe it.  

So to prove a point, here it is – exclusively on my blog - Sini’s Beef and Rice Pasties (to be served with Pickled Cucumber and Mustard Mayonnaise). I bet you’ll fall in love with them just as I and all the Finnish Ambassador’s guests did!

Beef and Rice Pasties
This is the best street food imaginable after a night out. My husband loves them. Rare treat though.

500 g beef mince
1 onion
1/2 bulb of garlic
2 - 3 tablespoons of oregano
1 tablespoon of all spice
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of anchovy sauce
6 drops of Worcestershire sauce
sea salt & black pepper
250 g boiled arborio rice
30 g fresh yeast
500 ml warm water
750 g strong white bread flour
25 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon of salt
1 egg
50 ml olive oil
plus 2 litres of veg oil for deep frying

Start with the filling. Boil the arborio rice for 10 - 15 minutes, or until al dente. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set to the side.
Brown the beef mince in a frying pan. Add finely chopped onion and garlic and fry lightly for a few minutes. Add spices, anchovy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Add the rice to the mixture.
Then make the bread dough. Dissolve fresh yeast into warm water. Add all of the other ingredients and mix well for 3 minutes. Tip out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 4 - 5 minutes.
Leave the dough in a bowl, covered with a tea towel in a warm place for 30 - 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Knead the dough once more and divide into 12 - 15 balls and roll them out to approx. 1cm thick discs. Spoon in the filling to bottom half of the base, fold the top part over the filling and crimp the edges carefully shut using cold water to glue the edges together.
Deep fry at 180 °C for a few minutes per side or until golden brown.

To buy your own copy of Kuura, go to
There's a limited number of copies for sale to members of Finn-Guild at the Camden office.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Six Tips on How to Survive the London Heatwave

London has been baking in a  heatwave for weeks now, so I thought I'd share my tips on how to survive the sweltering temperatures both above the ground and in the Tube, which, it was reported this week, had temperatures of over 40C...

  1. Wear comfortable clothes. Loose fitting linen or cotton is best. My favourites are MarimekkoHobbs, Jaeger and Cos, who all make wonderful clothes which are easy to wear, but still smart enough for the office. Needless to say, I always wear flat shoes when commuting and change into something more formal at the office (although not always!) In a heatwave my 'go to' shoes are Birkenstocks or my silver K Jacques St Tropez sandals. But don't forget that pedicure; there's nothing worse than chipped nail polish or hairy tootsies...
  2. Don't rush and run. I'm usually the commuter with least patience; on the street I overtake anyone ( and I mean anyone) with a pull-long suitcase and run up and down escalators on the tube. But in this heatwave, I've become the one who amblers along the tunnels, and on the bus lets everyone else go out first. (I know I should do this all the time, but...)
  3. Carry a bottle of water. Even London Transport now make announcements about this, because the conditions on the Tube can be dangerous. This week The Standard (The London evening paper, free at most tube stations) reported that the temperature on the Central Line exceeded the legal limit for keeping cattle. 
  4. Another way to cool down is a little fan. I carry a Spanish one which Son and Daughter-in-law gave out to the wedding guests in May. It's been invaluable when the train has suddenly stopped and the heat inside the Tube carriage has become unbearable. Plus all those around you benefit too!
  5. Find a park. There's always one around the corner in London. You may have to fight for a spot during lunchtimes, but for the rest of the day, there's usually plenty of room (and some shade) for everyone. Failing that, find a terrace with a view. There's a pretty good list here.
  6. Always carry an umbrella. It's London after all, so you never know when the heavens will open, plus it'll double up as a good shade when there's none provided by the venue...
    With Son at Alexandra Palace beer festival last weekend.
    My Marimekko Sumie dress was perfect wear for the hot day.
    As was the umbrella...Boy, it was hot!

FREE Weekend Offer!

Whilst I'm madly writing the sequel to The Englishman, I thought I'd give a treat: a summer weekend offer of my first novel. 

The Kindle copy will be FREE from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th July. 

The Englishman is a love story between a Finnish student and a British naval officer set in Helsinki in the early 1980's. At the height of the Cold War, the two lovers meet at the British Embassy cocktail party  but while Peter chases Russian submarines, Kaisa is stuck in Finland, a country friendly with the Soviet Union. Will their love go the distance?

Download your copy of The Englishman on Amazon UK site by clicking on the title above, or image below:

And download your copy of The Englishman on Amazon US site here.

The novel is also available from Amazon internationally (in no particular order):
Germany, France, Canada, Italy, India, Australia, Japan and Spain among others. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Read my books with Amazon's Kindle Unlimited

There's a new way to buy and read e-books. Last Friday Amazon launched its Kindle Unlimited subscription service in the US (only, for now) where readers can upload as many books as they wish for just $9.99 per month (that would be about £7.50 in the UK). This service seems a good deal for readers like me, who can consume 4-5 books per month (and download at least twice as many). What's more, to launch the service, Amazon are offering it free for the first month.

But what about authors? On the face of it, the Kindle Unlimited service could be good news to writers too. Especially for us indie writers who have published their works exclusive through Amazon. The rights and wrongs of this one channel publishing can be discussed, but for me, it's all about the balance between time I spend writing versus time spent doing publishing and marketing tasks. Listing my novels on KDP Select means that I do not have to format my ebooks for several platforms, or check several channels for sales, or worry about pricing issues across several sites. Plus the majority of ebook sales across the world are made via Amazon (a figure as high as 90% was quoted to me recently). Like it or not, Amazon is the leading ebook seller at the moment.

As I am already a KDP Select author, I am automatically listed on the present lending service which Amazon runs and where readers can download a free book per month. My books will also be automatically listed for this new Kindle Unlimited subscription service. 

In the indie authors' online community the general reaction to this new service has been mixed. Many just do not know what will happen but, being that I am an optimist, I can see several benefits.

For one, a new service will increase reading and ebook purchasing. Merely the launch of a new service, and the positive publicity involved in its launch, will increase book sales on Amazon, which is good news for me. (I know, I know, it goes against the grain to admit that one online bookseller giant is good news, but unfortunately for us KDP Select writers this is the case).

Amazon has said that each 10% read of any book which has been downloaded under the unlimited service will count as a sale, as opposed to the mere download of a title, as happens now.  If this 10% also works in the all important algorithms, this is even better news for mid-list writers like me. (This 10% is also about the same length as is offered as a free sample at the moment, without this sample download showing up on any statistics, as far as I know) For any 10% read of my books, I get a share of the total Amazon global lending fund, which for July stands at $2 million. I've calculated roughly that I could earn even more per book then the 70% I do now. So that's all good too.

Can it be, that both readers and writers will win from this new Kindle Unlimited Subscription Service?

We'll wait and see. In the meantime, if you are in the US and have taken advantage of the Kindle Unlimited service, you can find my books on it. Just click here!

For more on this new Amazon book subscription service, read this excellent blog post by David Gaughran here.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson is a brilliant and engaging read

Life After LifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brilliant and engaging novel which tells the story of Ursula Todd who dies at birth on a cold, snowy night to a middle-class family in England in 1910. But Ursula is no ordinary baby, because she goes on to be re-born over and over again. Kate Atkinson reconstructs the many lives of Ursula Todd, most of which are utterly tragic, with ease and style. The descriptions of London during the Blitz, as well as the misery and poverty of Germany at the end of the 2nd World War are particularly chilling, but I also found that other parts, such as the episode of domestic violence, are almost unbearably well described in the book. Someone commented on GoodReads that to fully appreciate the excellence of this novel, you need to re-read it, and I agree. A wonderful book!

View all my reviews