Happy Monday everyone! Hope you are all well. Today I’m writing about one of my favourite subjects of all times, FOOD! This recipe, which I’m about to share with you is very special to me, because it is from Karelia. Karelia is an area, which we lost to Russia in the war. Only tiny fraction of Karelia still remains part of Finland. I’m a purebred Karelian, as all my grandparents are from Karelia, from both Finnish and Russian side.
Karelians once had their own culture, customs, traditions, language and heritage. Unfortunately the language has almost died out, as the Karelian refugees fled Karelia and settled and married Finns. What remains is their culture and more specifically their food culture. So here we have a fine example of it, Karjalanpaisti, ie Karelian stew…
So where do we start. First and most importantly, we need to get QUALITY ingredients. I marched straight down to the butchers, which my family has been going to for decades, Katinalan Lihakauppa in Hämeenlinna. They are exceptional! Our Christmas ham always comes from Katinalan Lihakauppa and picking up the ham from their shop is all part of my family’s Christmas preparations. I think, everyone should have their go-to butcher. You can taste the difference! One more thing I have to say about our butcher is that they have THE BEST ‘wholemeat’ sausages. My mum often picks some up on her way home from work and they are gone in a second. Have a look at their website and when you are in the area, pop in! The sausages are worth the visit on their own.
This time, we weren’t after the sausages, but some beef and pork cubes for my Karjalanpaisti. The staff was super lovely and helpful. All I needed to say is what I’m making and for how many people.
We got a half and half mix of pork and beef. That is the authentic Karelian way, but nothing is stopping you from just using one of the other.
Katinalan Lihakauppa also have some other groceries, such as eggs, honey, cheese, flour, spices and their own mustard. In case you needed more convincing…
The ingredients for the stew are humble, therefore it is super important to make sure you have the best possible produce. It is literally, just the meat, couple onions and carrots, quite a bit of butter, bay leaves and black peppercorns. (and bit of salt and water)
To begin with, fry the meat in plenty of butter. They don’t need to be cooked through. What we are looking for is a nice golden brown colour, as that adds to the texture and taste of the meat. Don’t put any salt at this stage. Meanwhile cut and peel the onion and carrot.
Butter a casserole dish and put the meat, chopped carrots and onion in. Cut the onions and carrots in bigger chunks so they’ll have some texture left after all those hours in the oven.
Then finally add the peppercorns, bay leaves and just enough water to cover the meat. Only at this stage you can add the salt. My mum felt strongly that the bay leaves shouldn’t go in, as it wasn’t how the Karelians did it back in the day. I think you can experiment with flavours as long as they are not overpowering. The star of the show is the meat.
Then place the lid on the casserole dish and place it in the oven. We used Iittala Sarpaneva casserole dish, which is just perfect for the job. All and all, Karjalanpaisti needs about 3 hours in the oven. I had it on 200 degrees for the first 1,5h and on 150 degrees for the last 1,5h. That gave us perfect time to prepare the side dishes.
We made some pickled cucumber. All you need is cucumbers, vinegar, dill and salt and pinch of sugar. Put everything together in one dish and leave it the fridge for an hour. We also had some picked beetroot, fresh from the tin. When the stew had about an hour left in the oven, we started making mashed potatoes.
And there we have it, Karjalanpaisti! It was divine! It is super easy to make and you don’t need 16 million ingredients. Perfect for a lazy Sunday.
Next week, I’ll take you to my favourite places in Helsinki for a relaxing walk. Meanwhile follow us on Instagram and we take you where ever we go.
Thank you guys and most importantly thanks to Katinalan Lihakauppa for taking care of us!
Speak to you soon!