10 Dishes You Must Eat in Finland

When you think of Finnish food, what comes to mind? Actually, I never saw a Finnish restaurant outside Finland, or came up close with a Finnish chef or famous Finnish recipe. I did know they had reindeer and fish, so perhaps I would find something reasonable to eat in Finland?

Well, there are actually quite some delicious dishes in Finnish cuisine. Having an abundance of lakes and forests, the country has access to fresh seafood, game, berries and root vegetable. The Fins like to eat simply prepared, healthy and wholesome foods. Here are the top 10 dishes you must try when you visit Finland…

  1. Karelian pasty – Karjalanpiirakka is a traditional Finnish dish made from a thin rye crust with a filling of rice. Butter, often mixed with boiled egg (egg butter or munavoi), is spread over the hot pastries before eating.finland rice pastry
  2. Rye bread – Sounds simple, but this may be the best bread you would have tasted! They also add flax seeds and spelt so the bread is hearty and healthy. Spread with homemade jams, butter, and cheese. I looked forward to breakfast each day. fish soup and rye bread
  3. Hernekeitto – Fins love to eat soups and stews for lunch. This one is a split pea soup, which is traditionally eaten on Thursdays with pork or pancakes.
  4. Salmon – Fresh and smoked salmon (gravlax) is probably one of the best in Scandinavia. The fresh cold waters of the fjords allow for the salmon to stay pink in color (vs the Alaskan red) and is fattier. There’s hardly a meal in Finland where you can escape salmon.finland smoked salmon
  5. Herring – Baltic herring is another popular ingredient found in Finning cuisine. Smoked herring and pickled herring are commonly served as appetizers, sometimes accompanied by small potatoes called uusiperuna which literally means new potato. I also tried fried herring at the historic Sea Horse restaurant in Helsinki.
  6. Crayfish – I am a big fan of shellfish and some of the best crayfish I have ever eaten has been in Helsinki. Tender and juicy chunks are tossed with mayo and spread on toast, with a sprinkle of fresh dill and lemon juice. Best place to eat it is at the Old Market Hall near the Helsinki harbor.
  7. Reindeer – In a country where reindeers are allowed to roam free and not raised for meat, this is the most sustainable protein. You can find reindeer sausages, kebabs, hamburgers, stews, jerky, steaks and every imaginable meat dish. No matter which form you eat your reindeer in, it is good to know that the meat contains only 4% fat and is rich in omega-3, omega-6, B-12, zinc and iron.reindeer stew
  8. Cloudberries – Found in the northern forests of Finland, cloudberries are little orange tart berries packed with vitamin. At the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland, I had all kinds of cocktails, jams and desserts with cloudberries. The Lappish squeaky cheese baked with cloudberries is the most popular dessert. Cloudberries are a source of youth, as they contain a lot of anti-oxidants that protect against cancer and heart disease, and reduce the process of aging.cloudberries
  9. Salty licorice – Salmiakki is made with ammonium chloride, making the candy very salty. It comes in different flavors and textures, from soft and chewy, to hard and brittle. It is an acquired taste but the Finns love it.
  10. Salmiakki kossu – Is a premixed alcoholic drink with vodka, and peppery licorice. It is dark charcoal color and has a strong flavor. Finlandia is another popular brand of Finish distilled vodka made of barley.

Do you have a favorite Finish dish? Share it below…

Pizza with Pizzazz

Instead of going out with friends for dinner, this Saturday night, I decided to host a pizza party at home. It wasn’t your typical order delivery and drink beer, rather a more mature and sophisticated pizza party for refined adults.

I bought fresh ingredients including pizza dough and toppings to make two different kinds of pizzas. The guests got a hands-on lesson in pizza making and were in the kitchen making pizza. We talked and cooking over a bottle of Chianti, making the evening more enjoyable and relaxed.

The first one we made was an eggplant goat cheese and pesto pizza. First, we sliced 1 medium eggplant into ¼ inch slices and lightly fried them in olive oil, until brown on both sides. Meanwhile, we finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic and rolled out our pizza dough onto a pizza stone. We first coated the sides of the pizza dough with olive oil, and then sprinkled the chopped garlic on top. The fried eggplant slices were arranged in a circle so that the entire surface was covered. This went in a 375F oven for 15 minutes. While we waited, we made a quick pesto using Knorr pesto sauce mix. Just followed the directions on the package. We then sprinkled the sauce over the pizza and added about 3 oz crumbled goat cheese. Now it was time to let it bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the crust was golden brown.

The second pizza was relatively simple as you didn’t need to cook the toppings. We used multi-grain dough to make the base. This time we used Knorr’s four cheese sauce mix and spread it evenly on the rolled out dough. We first baked the pizza throughout for 30-40 minutes until golden brown on the edges. For the toppings, we sprinkles ½ cups finely chopped purple onions, 2 tablespoon capers and 6 oz sliced smoked salmon. (You could even add fresh arugula leaves to it if you like.) This was our smoked salmon pizza.

Both pizzas were significantly different from each other and what you traditionally eat at pizzerias, but were delicious! The guests enjoyed it, learned something new and had a memorable dinner experience. It’s another example of how you can makeover a regular family meal into something with more pizzazz.

Cooking with Herbs

Spring is around the corner and the garden will be in full bloom again. I grow my own herbs in my backyard. There is rosemary, lavender, mint, thyme, chive, parsley, cilantro and sage always at my disposal! It is a wonderful experience to cook with fresh herbs that have been plucked within a few minutes. The other great quality of herbs is that they are so diverse. Every country has it own herb of choice that is incorporated in the local cuisine. Like people, places, and cultures, herbs are also international.

Last year I was invited to speak at a garden party. I demonstrated how one can cook with fresh herbs and which herbs paired well with which recipes. We played a “guess the herb” game where you had to identify the name of the herb by seeing and smelling it. The person with the most right answers won a gift bag of gourmet goodies.

Basically, there are three ways in which you can use your herbs:

1. Cooking – If your recipe calls for a herb, chances are it needs to be added towards the end of cooking. You don’t want the herb to wilt and cook for too long or else it’s flavor would be lost. If you are using dry herb instead, the quantity used will be a lot less than if you were to use fresh sprigs.

2. Presentation – I like to take a few sprigs or leaves of fresh herbs for presentation. A parsley leaf adds color to a risotto or pasta marinara. A few sprigs of rosemary can be plated under a roast chicken. Fresh chives can be chopped and sprinkles over mashed or baked potatoes. Think mojitos!

3. Ambience – When I have too much fresh herbs and don’t know what to do with them, I put them in a vase with a little water. It gives the room a nice herby fragrance and makes a cheap arrangement.

Can you think of any other ways to use fresh herbs?

Here is a recipe for Salmon Satay. It is one of my favorite grilling recipes. The marinade is made entirely of herbs. Even if you don’t have these exact ones, you can mix and match whatever is available.

  • 2 teaspoons ginger , peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic , peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 jalapeno chile , seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed cilantro
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed mint
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (1 1/4-pound) skinless center-cut wild salmon fillet
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor or blender; blend until smooth.

Lay salmon fillet on a cutting surface with a short end facing you. Cut fillet in half from top to bottom. Make 6 equal cuts across fillet, creating 12 pieces. Insert an 8-inch bamboo (or other wooden) skewer through the short ends of each piece. Arrange salmon in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides evenly with pesto. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Spray a nonstick griddle or large skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high flame. Lightly coat salmon with cooking spray. Cook until browned on each side and just cooked through, carefully turning with spatula, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side.