The magic of Lapland on a plate
Lappish kitchen is reason enough to visit the northern location. The pure flavors of the forests and streams combined with the ambiance by the fire offer mind-blowing experiences. Read about the nature emphasizing food culture and check out some of my favorite recipes.
"pure, versatile and wild"
The arctic pantry here in Northern Lapland is pure, versatile and wild. Thanks to the easy access to nature's fridge, anyone's diet can easily have a traditional Lappish taste. The traditional way of cooking is all about local ingredients and pure flavors. Northern people often have habits of only eating specific food, like the only fish being salmon from Tenojoki river or the only red meat being self-caught moose or their own reindeer. All of those animals have lived and grown freely in the wilderness of Northern Lapland.
Many of us go fishing during the summer (ice-fishing in the winter), hunt moose during the fall and acquire reindeer meat during the separations. Maybe even hunt willow grouse all the way to the spring. There is really no need for store-bought meat, unless you're just in the mood for something different. Even the traditional Christmas ham might be replaced with a reindeer roast at a Lappish table. Here in Northern Lapland it it also easier to get fresh sea food like crabs, since the Arctic Ocean isn't too far.
Forest products like cloudberry, blueberry and lingonberry are often picked up by hand and used in Lappish cooking. Cloudberry is the pride of Lapland, when it comes to berries. The plant likes to grow in swamp areas and people all the way from Southern Finland come to pick cloudberries from the huge swamps of Lapland. Cloudberries are amazing with desserts like bread cheese (a traditional Finnish treat) or pancakes and ice cream. Lingonberry jam is the most amazing berry product with reindeer meat. And blueberries are often used in baking pies.
Another popular earth product is "puikulaperuna" from Lapland. This is a kind of potato, that is shaped slimmer than the other kinds. Puikulaperuna is wanted for its taste and consistence. Potatoes are very often used in Finnish cooking, they are basically "the side dish" for everything.
Salmon is a delicious fish and it can be made in so many different and tasty ways, but my absolute favorite is raw-salted salmon. The method is easy; it takes heavy salting, tight packaging and time. One way to do it is cutting the fillets in half or in three chunks and placing the salted bits against each other in a container. The fillets can be wrapped tighter with baking paper. The salting should happen in cold, like in a fridge or a freezer. The bigger the fish, the longer it will take. When it is time to enjoy, the salt and any possible other spices should be scraped off. The fillet should be cut in thin slices and eaten as it is, on a bread or maybe in a salad.
Other amazing ways to cook salmon:
- creamy salmon soup
- on a vegetable bed in the oven (optional lemons or seasoned creme on top)
- fried with butter
- smoked with juniper or alder / cold-smoked
- blazed by an open fire against a wooden board
This fish only needs salt when it comes to seasoning, but spices like lime, lemon, onion and dill can add a nice touch. I recommend a cold creamy sauce with salmon.
Fried arctic char
This is something that will crown the day of ice-fishing on the fells. Sometimes someone manages to catch a bunch of little red-stomached arctic char (one of the best tasting fish ever) and they should definitely be fried with salt and butter, preferably still on the spot, with everyone to share it with. It would be ideal, if there was a shelter with a fireplace and maybe even a frying pan close by. The guts need to be taken off, but otherwise the fish are ready for cooking. Well-made, the arctic char is such a smooth and mouth-watering treat. With a bigger individual, I'd strongly suggest raw-salting the fillets.
This is a luxury treat (made in a freezer), that can be served for example as a starter or a Christmas delicacy. I'd suggest sirloin for raw-salting. The surface can be seasoned with the basics; salt and black pepper, but a herb like fresh thyme would make a nice finishing touch. The fillet can be wrapped in baking paper like the salted salmon and placed in a freezer for a day or two. The ready dish should be cut in thin slices, when it's still partly frozen.
Traditional sautéed reindeer might just be the most iconic Lappish dish. It contains the meat (preferably from a roast), mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam (definitely) and optionally some pickles on the side. I'd say the secrets of a successful dish in this scenario, are salt and butter. The meat will be fried really quickly, but don't be cheap with the butter and taste the reindeer and the potatoes during seasoning.
I love to use sautéed reindeer and moose in salads and in Chinese type of dishes. It works very well. I tend to get the thickest sliced meat for the Chinese and fry it in rich olive oil (sometimes in honey too), chili and garlic with a bunch of veggies like cucumber, onion and Chinese cabbage. I offer this food with rice or noodles, it's a sort of a Lappish Chinese dish. In the salads I like to use basic lettuce, cucumber, tomato, maybe cheese or grapes and add some balsamic sauce on top.
This super arctic dish is a slowly cooked frozen roast. I'd take a frozen roast of a reindeer or a moose and place it on the oven rack for the whole night or about ten hours in 80 degrees. There should be an oven sheet below the rack. The roast will be seasoned in water with salt and spices (possibly bay leafs) after the cooking.
Dried meat is a good and locally popular snack, whether it's reindeer or moose. In my opinion both are good, moose might have a bit of a stronger taste. This treat lasts for a long time and can be eaten as it is, with a knife, making slices as you would make kindling from a piece of wood. They usually make it in the spring, when the weather is good for it. It can't be too cold or too warm. The pieces are cut into the same size and put in a tub with salt. They are soaked and hang outside, where there is no direct sunlight or access for the animals. The whole process takes several weeks.
This is my all time favorite campfire snack, even though it works in any environment. Once again the meat can be from either of the crown heads and there are cold and warm smoking methods. Now, I'm talking about traditional smoking in a fire hut (cold). The salting method is the same as with the dried meat, but the chunks of meat are hang in a hut, where they are smoked for a day. This treat is amazing both fried and "raw". The pieces are cut and preferably fried by a fire outside.
This just might be the tastiest and most simple soup ever. It is also know as "the reindeer soup of a Lappish man". This needs water and reindeer meat with bones in it, like from the chest, shank or the neck. Potatoes go well with it, maybe even carrots, but they are not necessary at all. The point is to boil the reindeer bits from a few hours to slowly stewing them in a baking oven for the whole day or two. The longer you make it, the better the taste, the more tender the meat. Some people like to remove the bones after the meat is soft and tender, but this is not necessary either. The possible veggies should be added in the very end of the cooking process. The flavor and smell of the clear stock will be something overwhelming. Some of the delicious juice is often collected and frozen for future sauces.
I often make stews with moose roast cut in smaller chunks and add a few pieces of reindeer meat with bones. Those bits add nicely to the taste.
The best steaks
The finest and the most valuable parts of reindeer and moose are the fillets and the roasts. Smaller bits make nice steaks on their own and bigger chunks can be cut to smaller steaks and lightly pressed flat using just fingers. Salt and black pepper are the only needed spices for these meats. Butter would be the best crease for frying, since moose and reindeer don't have a lot of fat. I would say never make them well done, only medium or medium rare. These supreme meats go well with salads, potatoes and cooked veggies. The best side dish for me has been carrot pyre. For a sauce I recommend red wine sauce or maybe just a piece of flavored butter on top. Potatoes could me boiled, smashed or maybe with cream and garlic.
Some people like to wrap the meat in a tin foil to settle before eating.
This is something super fast, delicious and non-traditional, I learned at a hike. This treat can be cooked on a frying pan over the fire or with a camping stove. "Rieska" is a traditional Finnish thin bread made with barley, oat or maybe even potatoes. This bread will work as a ready-made base for the pizza. You will only have to add tomato pyre, smoked cheese, bits of cold-smoked salmon and French cream. The bread has to fry until the cheese melts and the result is very tasty!
The best liver would be light-colored and from a young reindeer. This treat is often just thrown away, as it is under-valued. The trick with liver is not to let it get dry. I recommend cutting the liver in thin pieces obliquely, making the pieces more tender. Rolling the bits in a mix of wheat flour, salt and white pepper, makes a nice surface. Fry them with butter, only until the blood comes through. Offer them with fried onion slices, lingonberry jam (important) and boiled potatoes.
A tip; you can replace beef with reindeer or moose and try it with all kinds of dishes. Enjoy!