Archive for November, 2012

November 24, 2012

Karjalanpiirakat – Karelian Piroques – Recipe – a Traditional Finnish Savoury Pastry

by Ciaran Burke

Karjalanpiirakat – Karelian piroques ready for eating…

Karelian Piroques are a popular Finnish pasty, originating in the east of Finland, Karelia. Every visitor to a Finnish house will be served these tasty savoury pastries. Home made ones are the best, variance occurs. Hanna’s grandmother taught her how to make them, the authentic Karelian way, and of course everybody’s granny makes the best ones! Otherwise known as Helsinki granny, she was a Karelian native who moved to Helsinki after the war when a large part of Karelia was given to Russian as part of a peace treaty in 1945.

What makes a real Karelian piroque authentic is that the rye based pastry is rolled really thin. The filling is added, the pastry folded and pinched to make pleats and then cooked in a really hot oven. The pastry cooks hard, but upon removal from the oven, melted butter is brushed on top of each piroque. The melted butter soaks into the pastry, leaving it soft and tasty. Karelian piroques are best served warm and an ample dollop of egg butter on top.

The traditional fillings were either barley porridge or mashed turnip. These days the most common filling is rice, like rice pudding but savoury. Potato is also commonly used. My favourite is turnip, but other fillings could be used such as beetroot or pumpkin. There is plenty of chances to experiment, sweet potato and butternut squash are two alternatives and there is no reason why one could not add spices to the mix.

Hanna decided it was time to pass on her familial recipe and technique to me, to share the tradition of Karelia with her Irish man. The real skill is mastering the pulikka, the rolling pin used for Karelian piroques. After a couple of odd shaped attempts were produced, i started to get the hang of it, and after the batch was completed Hanna reckoned Helsinki granny would be proud of my effort, that there was a happy granny looking down from the heavens.

Wrap the butter piroques with greaseproof paper and leave for 10 minutes so that they soften. If you make too many, they freeze well.

Karelian Piroques – Recipe



  • 200ml water
  • 1tsp. salt
  • 450ml rye flour (It has to be rye. You can get in health stores)
  • 100ml white spelt flour (or wheat)

Rice, potato and turnip fillings


1)   potato mash


2)   turnip mash


3)   Rice porridge

For the potato mash:

  • 10 potatoes
  • 1tbsp. butter
  • salt


For the turnip mash:

  • 1kg turnip
  • 1tbsp. honey or syrup (mixture of golden syrup and black treacle 2:1)
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • salt and pepper

For the rice porridge:

  • 300ml rice (short grain like for rice pudding or follow instruction on package for amount of rice to milk)
  • 1, 5 l milk (or soy milk)
  • salt

For brushing: quite a bit of melted butter

Fillings – Method

  • Make first the porridge or the mashes. For the porridge: boil the rice in milk until soft and thick (porridge). Add salt. Let cool.
  • For the potato mash: peel the potatoes and cook in salty water until very soft. Take care that they don’t become watery. Mash and mix with butter, add salt to taste. Let cool.
  • For the turnip mash: peel the turnip and cut into small cubes. Cook in salty water until very soft. Try to cook all the water away, not to pour it away. Mash and add the honey/syrup, ginger, salt and pepper. Let cool.

Kakkara – the Finnish name for Karelian piroque pastry balls

Method for the pastry:

  1. Mix flours, water and salt with hands until you get flexible pastry.
  2. Make a ball and roll it into a fat sausage. Then cut into 25-30 pieces.
  3. Cover with some flour to stop trying.
  4. Put the oven to heat as hot as you can. Ideal would be 300°C, but most of the modern ovens heat only upto 250°C.
  5. Take then the pastry pieces one by one, clean excess flour off, roll between your hands to a ball and flatten against table. These are called kakkara.
  6. Cover each formed kakkara with some flour  to stop them drying.
  7. Take kakkaras one by one. Brush of the excess flour and roll with rolling pin on a floured table to very thin circles. The thinner the better.
  8. Finnish rolling pin for these type of pastry is pulikka, a piece of wood which gets thinner towards both ends. While rolling the kakkara should turn under the rolling pin in circle. This might need a bit of practice… In fact most of the Finns don’t know how to do this, so roll whatever way you want as long as the kakkaras get thin.
  9. Lay rolled kakkara aside and cover with flour. Lay next kakkara when rolled on the top of the first one and cover with flour as well. Continue like this until you have all the kakkaras rolled, and a pile on flat round pastries.

Rolled pastry

Filling – Method

  1. Take the one on the top of the pile. Brush carefully off all the excess flour from both sides. Lay on the table and put filling in the middle along the whole diameter of the pastry circle.
  2. With your fingers pinch the pastry up on both sides of the filling to form pleats. The pastry should be now oval in shape and in the middle a filling stripe should be visible. Put on a buttered oven tray.
  3. When all pastries are prepared put them in the oven and bake for 12- 15min at highest setting.
  4. Remove from oven and  brush with melted butter while they are still hot.
  5. Wrap into baking / greaseproof paper to soften for 10min.

Tray of piroques ready for the oven, use a pastry brush to remove excess flour

Eat when still warm. If you eat them later they are better to be heated up. Traditionally they are eaten with butter or eggbutter.

Karjalanpiirakat – Karelian piroques ready for eating…


  • 3 eggs
  • 50g butter
  • salt


Boil the eggs hard and mash roughly with fork. Add the butter and salt to taste and mix well.

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November 22, 2012

Lemon and Rosemary Tartlets – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Rosemary is both a handsome shrub for the garden and a delicious flavouring in the kitchen. Rosmarinus officinalis, as it is named botanically is an evergreen shrub that grows to about 1.2 metres (4ft) and produces bright blue flowers in late Spring. Although it was killed by the hard winter a couple of years ago, it survive most Irish winters without harm. It is ideal fro pot cultivation and when growing it in the garden give it a postion with a good sunny aspect and a soil that is well drained.

The foilage when crushed releases its aromatic oils and the gastronomic mind sends rapid messages to the taste buds, the mouth starts watering. The mind usually summons up images of slow roasted lamb, pork steak or a pasta dish. One of my favourite ways of cooking freshly dug potatoes is to scrub the skins thoroughly and cut the tubers into thin lengthwise slices of about 2cm thick. Toss the sliced potatoes in some oil, olive or rapeseed oil, and then roll them in freshly chopped rosemary. Sprinkle with salt and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes at about 200 degrees Celcius. Serve with anything savoury, they are a delicious meal by themselves, make a garlic and yogurt dip, and prepare to stuff yourself, you wont be able to stop eating them.

Rosmarinus officinalis var. prostratus is a low growing rosemary with a spreading growth habit

But rosemary as an ingredient in a dessert is less usual, and when Hanna proposed baking lemon and rosemary tartlets I immediately said yes. The rosemary adds an aromatic flavour to the sweet lemon filling. This is a combination of flavours that works so well. The soft texture of the lemon filling melts on the tongue while the molars crush the pastry, rosemary sneaks up to surprise you while you are transported to taste bud heaven…

Lemon and Rosemary Tartlets Recipe (makes 9 tartlets)



  • 11/3 cup of  Spelt flours (1:2 whole grain : white)
  • 2 tbsp Muscavado Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Finely chopped rosemary
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup of cold butter
  • 1-2 tbsp cold water


  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest


  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celcius
  2. Lightly butter tart pan
  3. Mix/crumble the pastry mixture together, only add the water at the end
  4. Press the pastry into the forms in the tray and bake for 15 minutess. Let cool before filling
  5. Mix the yogurt and sugar well
  6. Add the eggs one by one and the lemon juice and zest
  7. Mix well and put into the pastry
  8. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes
  9. Allow to cool before serving

November 17, 2012

Why do some humans dump rubbish in the forest?

by Ciaran Burke

Why do some humans dump rubbish in the forest?.

November 17, 2012

National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin, November 17th 2012

by Ciaran Burke

A beautiful sunny day in the National Botanic Gardens. I was there with students today. Lots of nice autumnal colour, some flowers and fruits too.

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November 17, 2012

Lonicera nitida – learning to love it

by Ciaran Burke

The warm golden foliage of Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’

I thought it was a box hedge that we were chopping. We had a saw, a shears and even an axe. It was a family event. My dad was cutting the thick stems with the saw while questioning the wisdom of the act. My mother directed the operations, ensuring him that it had to be done. I chopped up the cut stems with the shears, The axe lay on the ground unused, but at least we prepared.  I piled the chopped stems into a wheel barrow and trundled them to the end of the garden.

My barrow was piled high, too high! For I was eleven and eager to prove that a boy that skinny could do the work of a man! My twiggy load seemed to mock my twiggy frame and although it was not heavy, my over loading made it an unsteady burden. Loose leaves blew in the wind.  Branches grabbed onto other shrubs as I passed, as if clinging to another plant would some how give them a reprieve from their compost heap destiny. Occassionally the shaky pile of stems would dive over the side, like they were desperate to avoid their fate. I would be devastated by my latest failure, quickly looking around to ensure their was no witnesses to my embarassment. Quickly I would pile them back on top of the barrow. After throwing them unceremoniously on to the pile of garden debris that we fancifully called a compost heap I ran back with the empty barrow to impress everyone with my speedy work rate.

That is one of my earliest memories of my many encounters with the hedge that bordered my parents front garden and the Daly’s next door. Seven years later I would learn that the hedge was not in fact a box hedge as my father called it but a hedge of Lonicera nitida. My dad was not alone in this misguided nomenclature, many people refer to the honeysuckle relative as box, real box hedge is another unrelated plant called Buxus sempervirens. If previous owners of the home of my childhood had planted real Box hedge instead of Box-leaf honeysuckle, then we would have had less hedge butchering days, much less trimming and a much neater line of continuos shrubs that we call a hedge.

The previous owners planted Lonicera nitida as a hedge, perhaps also the misapprehension that it was a box hedge, hoping to emulate the neat trimmed hedges of large country estates and fine gardens pitured and described in gardening books. Many people around the country did the same, the unruly stems carrying tiny dark green leaves protrude from hedgerows all over the country side, further investigation usually reveals a derelict cottage hidden from view by the hedge. I guess that the untidy Lonicera was widely planted in late forties and early fities. The ruins of the houses lie lifeless and empty while the hedges thrive unbounded by human intervention, their scrawling twigginess thriving with neglect. If one did not understand the history of rural Ireland you might think that the occupants of the houses left because they could not keep their hedges under control, but their emigration was due to economics rather than gardening troubles.

Through my teenage years the daunting task of trimming the front hedge became more punishment that fun. After my college days and when my gardening enthusiasm had been inspired, the front hedge was still viewed with a degree of dislike. It grew so fast, that any misplaced belief that our hedge could resemble a neat Box was shattered by time I had to give it its third or fourth trimming during the summer. Lonicera nitida does not do neat, at least the ones we have in our gardens in Ireland

When reading the invaluable tome that is W.J. Bean’s Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles, I found out that the Lonicera nitida clone that we grow is much less suited to being a neat hedge than a form of it that grows in Germany. The plant introduced by the prolific plant hunter Ernest H. Wilson at the dawn of the 20th century. There are different forms, some much slower and neater growing than the one we have in common cultivation. Its typical, the Germans get the neat tidy well behaved plant, and we Irish grow the wild, untidy, disorderly form.

Not quite as comon but still widely grown is the form with yellow leaves, Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’. This plant I treated with the same disrespect that I had for the green leaved plant. It has the same bad hair day outline, but a warm golden presence. Gradually I started to view it in a new light. I realised it does not want to be clipped into a defined line, it is a bit like an eleven year old boy, much happier with messy hair and dirty pants than with grooming and shirt and tie. I planted it in our yellow border, it grew with vigour as one would expect, the shears was kept at long distance and its branches grew without hinderance. Now it fills it space with character and colour, as it grew in the garden, it grew on me.

Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ before being moved last week

Last week I had to dig it up, I did so with great care as its move is only temporary. It had to make a journey to a temporary home until work on our ne wooden building is completed, our new classroom. So once again I was trundling with an over flowing wheelbarrow of Lonicera nitida, this time the fate of the Lonicera is for much better, replanting rather than compost. An this time the wheelbarrow did not topple, at least no one saw it topple.

My wheel barrow piled high with a single plant of Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’

Now when I travel along a country road, I enjoy the sight of the dark green untidiness that is Lonicera nitida. I am pleased with its character, they refuse to be bound by strict regulation, they wont be told what to do, they shrug off imposed rule, they enjoy their freedom. Long live Lonicera nitida.

Sprigs of Lonicera nitida ‘Baggessens’s Gold’ stuck in a pot with Cornus alba stems provides ornament in a pot over the winter months. They will root in Spring.

prigs of Lonicera nitida ‘Baggessens’s Gold’ stuck in a pot with Cornus alba stems provides ornament in a pot over the winter months.

Lonicera nitida ‘Baggessen’s Gold’

Neils Baggesen

Niels Baggesen was Danish and that he established a nursery in Cardiff after working at Kew this was in the early 1900s.  He later established a nursery in Pembury, kent in England. It is  here that he first came across a single plant of Lonicera nitida with golden leaves. According to Neils Baggesen this occurred after the war, the introduction date for the cultivar is given as 1967. Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold was awarded an Award of GardenMerit (AGM) by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993. Sadly Neils had died before the event.
Here is a link to an interesting tribut piece to ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ LINK
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