Jacques Chirac was very wrong: Finnish food is wonderful. I’ve eaten in Helsinki and I have sampled Lappish food in the Arctic Circle as well, reindeer and all, and I was absolutely impressed. They know how to cook fish above all: salmon in so many ways, thickly cut, heavily cold smoked or scorched with grill marks, hot smoked and roasted. There is pike and perch (it might be the same thing for all I know); there is something called ‘white fish’ and it is equally delicious, there is roe of various kinds. They know how to cook soups: clear or creamy, always with chunks of fish and a dice of potato and carrots; none of that blended, baby food nonsense.
And the most magic though very simple dessert I’ve had was – wait for this – squeaky haloumi-type grilled cheese served with berries, ice cream and small meringues. Absolutely genius. So this is my first no-recipe suggestion: try this at home. Sear a slice of haloumi in a dry pan, dollop a scoop of vanilla ice over it and maybe sprinkle a few frozen raspberries. It’s heaven.
If you’re in no mood for experiment – fine; grill your haloumi and stick it in a (perhaps home made?) bun with some roasted vegetables. Or make a variety of chicken burger by frying some crispy chicken to put in that bun. Recipes are to be mixed and matched.
I’m going to cure some salmon this week and cut it thickly like they do in Finland. If that’s too much fuss for you, try salmon roasted with maple syrup. It will be great with raw broccoli salad perhaps, or buttered spinach.
I’ll also cook a venison casserole and pretend it’s reindeer – not so very different after all. Sauteed reindeer is more like pulled meat: cooked tender, shredded, then sauteed lightly crisp. I might fancy doing that with some braised beef brisket.
And finally, rye bread which is king in Scandinavian countries: if you bake bread, try the malt vinegar rye which is similar to what they bake in Finland, or the treacle rye bread. There’s also rye sourdough if that’s your preference.
Finally, let’s not forget breakfast: banana fritters might be a good idea one morning this week, or else bake a batch of Finnish-style cinnamon buns at the weekend. Stay warm and keep well!