Finland has suffered from an unfair reputation when it comes to its cuisine, but with a focus on fresh seasonal produce, there’s a lot to love about food from the land of lakes and forest. Finnish cuisine is simple, combining influences from both Sweden and Russia and relying on quality ingredients often foraged straight from the land. In this post we take a look at common Finnish dishes and we find out which La Belle Assiette chefs can bring a taste of Finland to your dining table.
Finland has over 200,000 lakes, so it’s no surprise that fish forms a substantial part of the cuisine. Whether fried, baked, boiled, dried, salted, fermented, or smoked, fish is enjoyed up and down the country in a variety of ways. A favourite dish is graavilohi (gravlax in Swedish), raw salmon cured with salt, sugar, and lemon juice, often served on rye bread with dill, or with new potatoes and chanterelle mushroom sauce. Fried muikku is another popular dish, with the fish often caught and cooked at summer homes (mökki) situated beside lakes.
Try Alex Cooper’s take on Scandinavian flavours with his cherry wood vodka and grapefruit cured salmon, served with sweet dijon sour cream and fennel flowers.
Another popular food enjoyed at summer homes is the humble sausage or makkara. Pork is the most popular meat eaten in Finland, with sausages accounting for a third of the total consumption. There is a long tradition of hunting, with a focus on deer, moose, and bear along with small game such as hare, duck, and grouse. Sautéed or cold smoked reindeer is often served at special occasions such as Christmas.
Chefs Martina and Magdalena offer reindeer fillet with potato and celeriac purée, brussel sprouts, and parsnip crisps.
From the forest
The right to walk in the forest and collect the fruits of the season is enshrined in the Finnish legal concept of ‘everyman’s right’ which gives much wider access to private land than in other countries. Collecting wild berries, mushrooms, and flowers is a popular outdoor activity for many Finns with wild strawberries, raspberries, bilberries, and lingonberries found almost everywhere and cloudberries, cranberries, arctic brambles, and sea buckthorns growing in limited regions. Berries are often used to make desserts such as blueberry pie (mustikkapiirakka) or sweet berry soup (kiisseli). They also frequently accompany meat, especially tart lingonberry sauce. Mushrooms are equally valued in Finnish cuisine, with chanterelles being the most sought-after for a wide variety of dishes including soups, sauces, and stews.
Enjoy chanterelle mushrooms sautéed with cabbage and served with braised beef cheek ravioli in Joseph Sefton’s three-course menu.
Finnish people consume the most coffee per capita in the world (12 kg per person per year!), and what goes better with a cup of coffee than a perfectly formed treat straight from the oven? Pulla is the term for mildly sweet cardamom bread which commonly accompanies afternoon coffee in Finland. It can take an array of forms, from cinnamon rolls (korvapuusti), to braided loaves (pitko), to small round buns resembling scones. Pulla perfectly captures the essence of Finnish baking – simple, hearty, and delicious!
Feast on cinnamon rolls in chef Daniel Salvador’s Energy Brunch menu.
We hope you have enjoyed this introduction to Finnish food and that you get to sample it for yourself with a little help from one of the chefs above. Not a fan of Nordic food? Find chefs to suit your tastes on La Belle Assiette.
Other ‘Food Travel Diaries’:
Illustrations by Laura Haapio-Kirk.