Friday, July 5, 2013

Finland

It's been forever, I know.  MAJOR LIFE CHANGES, guys.  In April, both Kevin and I left our jobs.  Then we moved out of our apartment and traveled the country visiting family for a month.  Now we are settled in our new home, Michigan, and Kevin has started a new job.  And by settled, I mean we lived in a hotel for a while, then a house without our stuff.

So forgive me for my lack of cooking/posting.  I have a few countries that I cooked before the life-chaos, so I will hopefully get those posted soon.  Then, once I find an international store, I hope to get started anew.  And now, since I will be staying home with Brendan, I'm hoping I'll been able to make up for some lost time.

Enjoy!

Finland
Turku, the former capital & oldest city in Finland
Photo courtesy of user Sirkku :) on Flickr
Etymology: The name "Finland" appears on three rune-stones, one of which dates from the 13th century
Location: Northern Europe, between Sweden and Russia
Area: Almost 340,000 sq km; 65th largest in the world
         Slightly smaller than Montana
History: Settled around 8500 BC during the Stone Age
Capital: Helsinki
Geography: Northernmost national capital on European continent
Noun: Finn
Population: Over 5.25 million; 116th largest in the world
Independence: 1917, from Russia

Sources: CIA World Factbook, Wikipedia

Finland is one of those super-exciting countries that I am happy to tell everyone about.  Why?  Because I got a response from their embassy!  The whole e-mail is rather long, but here is an excerpt.
I took a quick look through this site and the recipes seem right: http://www.finnguide.fi/finnishrecipes/There are several Finnish food brands available in the U.S. Some products like Finncrisps, Finlandia cheese and Benecol are available in regular grocery stores. They should serve as examples of authentic ingredients.  Also, Florida has a rather big Finnish community, perhaps they are able to provide some more info http://www.yelp.com/biz/american-finnish-community-club-lake-worth
Yay!  I love when people take time out of their busy jobs to help someone just trying to learn and experience.  The rest of the e-mail was links to various Finnish websites and brands.  I looked for some stuff (like Finlandia cheese) but didn't find it.  I'll keep an eye out, though.

I immediately went to the Finnish recipes site and started scouring.  What could I make?  What seemed good?  What would give me a good representation of Finland?

I finally decided that, with this much information, I couldn't just make one thing.  For my first attempt, I would make Karelian Pies with potato filling.  They had come up multiple times in my search.  We were also having people over soon, and it seemed like a good thing to make en masse.

Flours, water, and salt into a dough.  Normally I have trouble with this combination.

Yay!
Not this time.  It came together and formed a dough-like substance just like it was supposed to.

I pureed the potato and other ingredients using my immersion blender.  Really, the steps were that easy.
Celebrating success.
The difficult part came in rolling bits of the dough as flat as possible.  I don't know if it is my lack of patience or just a physical inability, but I often don't get along with rolling pins.  This wasn't as bad as normal, but it took a lot of rye flour on the pin and the rolling surface.

I looked at some pictures of Karelian pies online to figure out how to fill the center with the potato puree.  The first few seemed a little wonky but I think I was getting it right by the end.
Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of people actually eating these.  I would say they turned out quite well, though.  Certainly a different kind of bread experience.  It was thin and a little crispy, almost like a cracker.  But still satisfying.

There was a large amount of potato left, which makes me wonder if I didn't put enough on or should have had more pies with what I made.  It just seemed a bit odd.

A few days later I was on to our entree attempt: Sausage Potato Hash.  It isn't the most adventerous recipe attempt, but I figured I would find some Finnish sausage and really make a go at it.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any anywhere, not even some of the websites I looked at online.  So I went to Trader Joe's and found the closest geographic sausage I could.
Yeah, I know.  Finland and Poland aren't exactly next door neighbors.  But I had to go with something!

Similar to the bread, this recipe was quite simple.  It even involved boiling more potatoes.  It the middle of it, while Kevin helped, we realized that the proportions would probably be off again.  I think our potatoes were a bit big.

Kevin had to end up taking Brendan duty.
Basically you fry it all up with some onions and add some seasoning.  You also get to fry an egg and put it on top, which I thought made for a pretty cool presentation.

The site suggested serving with "pickled cucumbers" so who was I to argue?  We had some homemade ones from Kevin's mom, so our meal was complete.

Finland was two for two.  This was simple and delicious.  Something you could make on a weeknight.  The addition of the egg gave a little bit more nutrition and flavor.  The only thing that I would change was the amount of potato.  It was definitely too much.  But if you reduced it a bit, the proportions would be spot on.

We had the leftovers a few nights later, and I even fried up some more eggs to make it complete.  I could see myself making this again.  While Finnish sausage would be the most authentic, I think it could still be delicious with a lot of different kinds.

Thank you, Embassy of Finland, for the information and help.  It certainly made for some delicious food.

Next time: France

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