Finland is called ”The Land of a Thousand Lakes,” at last count there were 187,888 of them, more lakes in relation to a country’s size than any other in the world. With a total population of about five million, Finland has one lake for every 26 people this is a pretty incredible ratio, especially if you love the great outdoors like the Finnish do!
Finland is a place I have been going to since the mid-nineties. I’ve spent enough time there over the years to get a solid glimpse of it’s culture and the extreme uniqueness and pride this Scandinavian country possesses.
“Many people have little to zero knowledge on Finland. With this post I hope to open up the door and spark some curiosity into a Northern European country that most definitely should be enjoyed more by tourists and be more understood by those out side of Scandinavia and the European Union. This is an exciting place with captivating natural beauty far beyond what most comprehend Finland to be.”
At the bottom of this post is an excellent rendition of a Finnish fish recipe, to go along with the abundance of fresh and salt water fish the Finns are able to catch, from their pristine lakes and waterways.
Fact: Finland has one of the best Educational School Systems in the world. Finland places in the top three list of best Educational systems in the world year after year.
For now, lets start by talking about “Finland:”
Finland, should not by any means be a forgotten place on a map. The country can offer intellectuals, tourists, vacationers, art connoisseurs, sport and outdoor enthusiasts the very best in these areas with a fraction of the costs and crowds of other Scandinavian or European retreats and one can end each day with a slice of “Finnish culture” that is world-renowned… a fantastic and relaxing Finnish sauna to boot!
“The land of a thousand lakes and sauna culture.”
For more on Finland and its resorts and natural beauty > http://www.visitfinland.com/web/guest/finland-guide/home
For information on traveling to Scandinavia and other Baltic nations > http://www.baltictravelcompany.com/fu/co4/Finland-holidays
This is a country that was under Swedish control from the 13 century until 1809. Russia took control after that until 1917, when Finland claimed independence from Russia and became the Republic of Finland.
The national language of Finland is Suomi. Suomi has some relation to Estonian and Hungarian languages. But for all intents and purposes the national language is Finnish (Suomi) and the second national language is Swedish. Swedish is written and spoken in second place on all street signs, and public announcements.
Helsinki is the capital of Finland, it is the cultural, economic-hub and it is the country’s major port. Helsinki has a population of 579,444 people, which is enough to give it the city feel with out the big city crowds and congestion.
From Helsinki one can take wonderful boat excursions to other fascinating cities of the Baltic. Tallin-Estonia, Stockholm-Sweden, and St. Petersburgh- Russia to name a few.
To get you started, here are some over night and day cruise lines that leave from the port of Helsinki to other ports of call throughout the Baltic regions of Scandinavia. I’ve been on them all and these are awesome family excursions, play rooms for the children, safe, and fun. A wonderful overall Scandinavian experience.
“I highly suggest while in Helsinki or Scandinavia, jumping on one of these day or over night cruises to the various ports of call around the Baltic and take a good camera!”
1) Tallink Cruise Line: http://www.tallinksilja.com/en/
2) Silja Cruise Line: http://www.directferries.co.uk/silja_line.htm
3) Viking Line: http://www.vikingline.fi/index.asp?lang=en
Helsinki, is also the food capital of Finland. This is where all the trendy restaurants and best chefs for the most part are found. In the years I’ve been going to Helsinki, I literally watched a culinary renaissance take place. Chefs and TV-chef programing are a big thing here, they even have their own version of “Top Chef” which is called “Top Chef Suomi.”
For a quick glimpse of the Finnish version of “Top Chef” > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lnNMPRXXeU
“The cuisine of Finland is very simple and pure. The flavors are balanced and minimal. Meaning the ingredients do the talking here not the spices and marinades like in other food cultures.”
Fish as you could imagine is a big player in Finnish food culture. Herring, Salmon, Perch, White Fish to name a few . Having a country with the most lakes in the world including the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea at their disposal, leaves no wonder as to why there is no shortage of some of the most delicious combination of fresh and salt water fish that any country could offer.
To end this post it would only make sense to close with a fish recipe. Combining the use of two fish (Salmon and Herring) which are extremely popular in Finland, along with highlighting the Finnish culinary way of cooking and preparing it.
Always keeping simplicity in mind and letting the ingredients speak for themselves. This is a pure way of approaching food. For avid cooks and chefs alike it is a chance to let the ingredients speak for themselves and cook, Scandinavian style.
Baltic Herring stuffed with Smoked Salmon
- Baltic herring fillets – 600g ( cleaned, scaled and pin bones removed )
- Norwegian smoked salmon – 150g
- Dill (fresh) – 3-4 fronds
- Wheat and Rye flour – 1-1/2 cups of each (sifted together)
- Salt and fresh ground white pepper to season with
- Butter – 1/2 stick (unsalted)
- Oil – light corn oil (use a neutral oil) one with a little perfume and taste as possible.
- Blend the Salmon (60g) butter and dill in a food processor or with electric had held mixer.
- Sift and mix the 2 flowers. On your work surface, place a nice coat of the flour mixture
- Place exactly half the number of fish fillets you have skin side down on the floured work surface.
- Spread the salmon, butter and dill filling on the fish, spreading evenly and using a liberal amount.
- Place the other fillets evenly on top to enclose the filling between the two pieces of fish. Try to seize up the top and bottoms of the fillets to insure they are pairs as close to seize as possible.
- Sieve the flower mixture over the now un-floured top fillet.
- Shallow fry the fish on medium high in oil (that is beginning to smoke lightly) then add a tablespoon of butter, using more butter and oil as the fish absorb it.
- Remove from the pan, season with the salt and white pepper immediately and serve.
* Technique – while cooking the fish, using a tablespoon , lift the fish up and tilt the frying pan as to allow the oil to get under the fish and fry while gently lifting the fillet up. Then place the fillet down, tilt the pan forward again and with the same spoon, spoon up the hot oil/butter mixture and spoon it over the top fillet. Flip the fish over, cook another minute or two and remove.
* Fish should never be over cooked and once it enters a hot pan the flame can be brought down slightly, this fish should take about 2 minutes on each side, over medium heat once the pan is in initially hot. It will carry over and keep cooking once removed from the pan, so a little under once remover will be perfect once server…this is the technique of fish cookery that is a true blue way to cooking perfect fish every time.
This dish needs no sauce, but does need an accompaniment. Something deeply rooted in Baltic culture, BEETROOT. Yes, a killer beet compote will kick this dish off.
- Beets – 3-4 medium seized (approx. 300-g)
- Orange juice – freshly squeezed ( 325 ml.)
- Butter – 45 g
- Basil – 1 teaspoon
- Salt and fresh ground white pepper – to taste
- Wash and scrub the beets, removing as much dirt as possible.
- Peel them
- Cut the beets into large match stick strips.
- Pour the orange juice into a pan and simmer the beetroot in it. Cook it until “al dente” (until it is cooked but still maintains its texture and has a little bite to it)
- Remove the beet root once “al dente,” increase the heat slightly and beat in the butter whisking in vigorously, to thicken the sauce lightly.
- Once thickened, return the beets, season and toss through the reduced sauce and serve alongside the fish.
* Technique: ( beets will stain any one or any thing while working with them, so wear kitchen gloves if you’re worried about turning you hands pink. Also place parchment paper over your work surface while peeling and cutting the beets, to enable a quick clean up and a stain free work area when done. I personally work with beets like this all the time and it is a great way to avoid a messy clean up.)
This compote can be served warm or cold, to add a little exotic touch and dash out of Finland for a second, add a small knife point of cinnamon to the compote during seasoning and…“OOO-La-La, you have one killer Finnish dish!”
Savor Life…One Bite…At a Time