The Christmas ham is in the oven, rice porridge bubbling on stove, gravlax done, vendace roe defrosted and bread baked. I'm ready to start my Christmas.


(3 loaves)

1 l buttermilk
50g fresh yeast
1 dl apple juice
20g sea salt
450g (ca. 3 dl) dark golden syrup
250g (ca. 3 dl) crushed rye malt
100g (ca. 3 dl) rye bran
200g (ca. 3 dl) rye flour
600g (ca. 1 l) wheat flour
  1. Warm the buttermilk to hand temperature and mix in the yeast.
  2. Add all other ingredients and stir until everything is mixed. Avoid kneading.
  3. Divide the batter in three loaf pans. 
  4. Leave to rest for ca. 1,5-2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Bake first in 175°C for 30 minutes and then in 150°C for another 1h30min.



Photo: Kalevi Karusuo

Timo Alarik Pakkanen has had the same yearly routine for the 54th year in a row now. It all started with visiting the neighbourhood families, but grew to quite remarkable dimensions. He has done charity, he has marketed Finland for years and most of all, he has made people happy all over the world. And for all that the Finland Chamber of Commerce awarded him with a gold medal for life’s work after wearing the red outfit for 50 years. The first 50 years. And his last name translates into what else than freeze, or frost. Pleased to introduce you to Mr. Pakkanen, better known as Santa Claus.

As commonly known, Santa is quite occupied during the pre-Christmas season, but gladly the hundreds of years old white-beard knows his way with modern technology. I skyped with him while he was having a free morning in Cyprus, where he’s doing a six-week Santa gig. Along with many other European countries, he’s brought Christmas spirit to Jordania, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan, where he was the official Finnair Santa for many years, until now. Last spring, Santa Claus Licensing Ltd denounced his official Santa license due to “his actions not equivalent with the foundation’s values”.

Since 1978 he’s been the chairman of KHPV, Kohtuullisen Hutikan Pyhä Veljeskunta, The Holy Brotherhood of Moderate Intoxication. A beer society for “old-school beer enjoyers”, as he describes, with a mission to promote the Finnish beer culture but also the moderate and reasonable way of life. And that’s something the Santa foundation couldn’t digest. Apparently, in their opinion, being a spokesperson for moderate way of drinking is not suitable for a Santa, they would require total absolutism.

Santa suggests enjoying beer, not drinking it with both hands.
“There’s such an amazing amount of different styles of beers and marvellous flavour experiences to be paired with food too. Some dishes go perfectly together with a certain beer, just like some go hand in hand with a certain wine.”

The beer culture is blooming in Finland: Grocery store beer shelves are filled with numerous options and also the restaurant business has invested in their craft brewery selections. But for the Finnish microbreweries things have been made very difficult. The soon-to-be tightened alcohol legislation will for example forbid all outdoor advertising. Santa also points out that Finnish vineyards are allowed to sell their products in their own retail store on the premises, but breweries not.

From Santa I also asked for his favourite pub in the city. He still names Pub Angleterre as one of his favourites, although it has changed a lot from it’s ‘good old days’. Of the newer ones he recommends brewery restaurants Bryggeri and Bruuveri. But I also wanted to know where Santa could be found having dinner in Helsinki, if the beer theme would be set aside for a while. Along with classics like Salve, Kannas or the Rivoli pizzeria, Rivoletto, he mentioned one restaurant I had never heard of: Viking restaurant Harald. Their “särä” on the menu is supposed to be prepared the orthodox way: Lamb and potatoes braised in a wooden (birch) trough for several hours. I can only imagine how well Santa with his beard, a pint of strong beer and a hearty portion of särä go together.

I also asked if Santa will retire one day and the answer was quite clear: “Santa can’t retire, he’ll just get better getting older. I’ll travel the world as long as I’m able to use my legs, and Finland as long as I’m able to use my head.”




I like dogs, my husband likes cats. I’d rather stay indoors, he enjoys the outdoors. I take my showers hot, he showers with this weird, almost lukewarm water. I’d love to start the glögi season in November, my husband would prefer saving it for the holidays.

With the dog vs. cat thing we shall never agree but otherwise we're doing just fine. Being together requires compromising: He forces me to go out, we never shower together and I start drinking glögi only after 6th of December, the Finnish Independence Day.

Last Saturday was the 6th, so here you go, one with redwine, black currant and a quite traditional spice combo and the other with white wine, elderflower, lime and mint. Kind of a warm winterly Hugo.


3 dl elderflower cordial (= concentrate, mine was 1:5 and it worked perfectly)
1 tbsp lime juice
fresh mint
75 cl white wine
  1. Measure the elderflower cordial and lime juice in a sauce pan.
  2. Add some chopped up mint leaves and bring to boil.
  3. Pour in white wine, heat up, but make sure not to boil anymore.


200g frozen blackcurrants
5 dl water
2 cm piece of fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp cloves (whole)
1/2 tsp cardamom (I only had ground cardamom)
1/4 lemon (wedge)
1/4 orange (wedge)

1,5 dl dark muscovado sugar (or less or more, depending how sweet or unsweet you like it)
75 cl red wine
  1. Put the frozen berries with water and all the spices and fruit wedges in a pot, bring to boil and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Pour the juice through a sieve and then back to the pot. Add sugar and bring again to boil. Mix well so all the sugar dissolves.
  3. Add red wine and heat up, don't boil!
  4. Serve with almonds and raisins.



Concept stores & gift shopping are a match made in heaven. On one single shopping tour you get a book for your mom, a handmade toy for your newborn niece, a beautifully packed candle for the kid’s school teacher and surely you find a solution what to get for the ever-so-difficult-to-find-a-gift in-laws too.

And while at it, maybe something small for yourself. At least a cup of coffee.

I went to check out the Xmas Garage, a pop up concept store curated by the across the street My o My store. Piled on the big brown cardboard boxes you find products from &Bros, R/H, TikauPelago Bicycles and many others but you can also grab along some eatable goodies for example from Sinne or Levy Chocolate.

And have the cup of coffee (and a cupcake) at Brooklyn Café.

The same thing goes of course for the many many many Christmas sales and markets organised around the city before D-Day. Here some tips from my to go list:

Fri 11.00-19.00, Sat 10.00-18.00, Sun 11.00-17.00
Kaapelitehdas (Cable Factory), Tallberginkatu 1

Why? Ornamo = The Finnish Association of Designers


Sun 10.00-
Hakaniemi Market Square

Why? Rice porridge breakfast.

Daily 10.00-19.00
Senate Square

Why? The Finnish version of the must have Christmas Market of every European capital.

Fri 15.00-20.00, Sat 13.00-19.00, Sun 13.00-19.00
We Got Beef, Iso Roobertinkatu 21

Why? After shopping start sipping and hang in the bar until 04.00.

Mon-Fri 11.00-20.00, Sat & Sun 11.00-17.00
Kaapelitehdas (Cable Factory), Tallberginkatu 1

Why? Workshops, gymnastics and bingo! Among other things.

Daily 11.00-17.00
Korjaamo, Töölönkatu 51

Why? Sushibar & Wine next to it.

And of course the one I started my journey through Christmas sales & markets this year:

Mon-Fri 11.00-19.00, Sat10.00-17.00, Sun 12.00-17.00
Aleksanterinkatu 9

Why? Go see for yourself!