Food from Finland is pure and simple. As in all cuisines, the food culture is greatly influenced by the climate and the people’s way of life. Finnish food culture is shaped by long dark cold winters and has traditionally been on the rustic side, full of hearty warm stews, soups, and lots of pastries.
An example of such comfort food is Karelian Pie (Karjalanpiirakka). This traditional pastry is from the Karelia region, the eastern part of Finland. Although originally it was typical of one region, it became a symbol of the Finnish food culture in Finland and abroad.
The Karelian Pie is built on a thinly rolled unleavened rye crust. It is then stuffed with rice porridge and given an egg or butter wash on top. It is baked until the top and bottom are crispy and the middle is nice and soft.
If faced with this delight and you don’t know how to approach it, here are some tips:
• This boat shaped pastry can also be filled with mashed potatoes or carrot.
• It is often served with egg-butter (munavoi) which is spread over the hot pie before eating. The egg butter is basically hard boiled eggs mashed up with room temperature butter.
• For a modern twist you can have it topped up with smoked salmon, ham and cheese, and accompanied by pickles, tomatoes, and cucumber.
• The only prerequisite to eating this lovely pie is to be really hungry.
• There is no specific time of the day to eat one. You can enjoy one or more for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
• There is no ritual attached to the way of eating. Just pick it up by hand and enjoy!
• If you wish, you can wash them down with a pint of the celebrated Finnish beer Lapin Kulta.
I fell in love with Karelian Pie the first time I tasted it. I cannot think of a more perfect food to have on a crisp winter day, when you just returned from a walk in the forest, admiring the amazingly beautiful frozen trees and lakes. These little pies fit in your hand, melt in your mouth, and warm up your heart.
And if you can pronounce this, you are truly a winner: Hyvää ruokahalua! (Bon appétit!).