Tuesday Tastes 02/2017

blinis-02

You have to love it when the recipe is on the flour packet…

Blinis, buckwheat blinis!  There is something magical about blinis. I’m not sure if it’s the buckwheat flour that gives them a lovely grainy texture or because the batter uses yeast and yoghurt and sits for at least a day fermenting or is it the topping of delicate fish roe and thick sour cream with a sprinkling of finely chopped onions. Maybe it’s the butter that they are cooked in.

No matter from which direction you are coming, they are pretty great. Better still, January is the traditional blini season in Helsinki. As I write this, at least four restaurants in the city centre are celebrating blini weeks. As nice as it is to eat out, I quite enjoy cooking them myself. It is an art form and they are definitely a dish that you need to watch while they are cooking.

Almost ready to eat...

Almost ready to eat…

Chatting with The Engineer on Sunday morning, I came to the realisation that blinis were one of the first dishes that I learnt to cook when I moved to Finland. It is also probably the one that took the longest to master.

A selection of toppings

A selection of toppings

Clockwise from top left we have Smetana (a lovely thick sour cream), chopped onion, roe from the European white fish and roe from rainbow trout. Note the different colours and textures of the roe!

Ready to eat! Bon appetit

Ready to eat! Bon appetite

 

Mämmi: The Final Rite of Passage

Mämmi. Pronounced in the same manner as cat. It’s the traditional dish for Easter in Finland. It’s also one of those dishes that people either love or hate. I fall into the former camp. I tasted mämmi on my first visit to Finland and definitely took seconds. It doesn’t look extraordinary or even like it would inspire such extreme emotions. At a recent book-club gathering I heard the best description yet: dehydrated Guinness.  Black or dark brown sludge if we are being really honest. The texture to eat is slightly grainy and the flavour is rye, sweetened a little.

So last Monday I was sitting in my Finnish class and we were discussing Easter and how it is celebrated in Finland. Mämmi and Pasha (dairy dessert from Russia) were discussed at great length. Naturally our teacher was interested to know who had tried mämmi and who hadn’t, who liked and who didn’t. Not so many had tried it, although there were a few hands that stayed up to admit actually liking mämmi! The teacher didn’t ask if anyone had tried to make it, so I went hunting for a recipe. The first one I found in English was here, the time didn’t seem too long and the ingredients would be easy to find. I called anoppi-M and offered to bring mämmi as our Easter contribution.

When I arrived home that night I dug out my faithful Ruokatorstai recipe book. Of course there was a whole section just for Easter and mämmi recipe to boot. So Thursday I gathered my ingredients and started prepping the mämmi:

Mämmi ingredients: Salt, molasses, malted rye flour, rye flour and powdered orange peel.

First mix all the dry ingredients together and boil one litre of water. Place the kettle into a basin filled with warm water. Whisk in five decilitres of dry ingredients, one at a time. By the time the fifth scoop of powder had gone in the mixture was very heavy. The whisk wasn’t going to last, so I switched to an electric hand whisk.

Three litres later...Mämmi mixing

Three litres later…Mämmi mixing

Sprinkle with two more decilitres to form a ‘crust’, cover with the lid and then bath towels on top to keep the warmth in. Leave for an hour. Repeat.

Keeping the heat in - mämmi under cover

Keeping the heat in – mämmi under cover

In fact repeat until all the water has been boiled and all the dry ingredients whisked into the ‘porridge’. THIS is where I got into a little bit of trouble. My biggest saucepan is only 5 litres… So I decided to use my bread mixing bowl. Then the mixture came to the very top… and no room for further boiling as per the recipe.

Mämmi mixed... and nowhere to go

Mämmi mixed… and nowhere to go

The hour was also getting late and there was still some boiling to be done BEFORE heading into the oven.

Mämmi boiling... just enough space

Mämmi boiling… just enough space

So, a quick dish-wash later and the mämmi was returned to the stove and returned to the boil for 15 minutes. Stirring all the while to discourage sticking. Unfortunately there was sticking although, luckily no burning 🙂 There was some colour change, although not so much yet. The smell as quite thick, although not unpleasant. Then the mixture was moved to the baking tray(s) for cooling and resting. I thought one tray would be enough, sadly this was not the case and so I had to improvise.

Mämmi resting in an oven tray

Mämmi resting in an oven tray

The next stage involved waiting for the mixture to cool enough to pour the thinned molasses over.

Mämmi covered with molasses

Mämmi covered with molasses

It was really late by this stage. Far too late! So into the oven the mämmi went and on went my timer. Three hours at 150 degrees C. Unfortunately I slept through the timer and woke in a panic an hour later. It wasn’t looking very good:

Mämmi out of the oven and looking very dark...

Mämmi out of the oven and looking very dark…

I touched the top and texture just felt wrong. The shop bought versions are always sticky and fingers sink. It did appear to be a crust, so I hoped that underneath the texture was as it should be.

The car was loaded up, mämmi and all and we headed to Rauma. Good Friday dinner was crowned with the mämmi for dessert:

Mämmi with raspberries

Mämmi with raspberries and whipped cream. YUM!

Due to the large amount prepared, mämmi featured for the rest of the weekend and there is some in the freezer for guests later in the year.

Again... Mämmi with apricots this time

Again… Mämmi with apricots this time

What I did learn is that not many people actually make their own mämmi any more. After seeing the effort involved, I can understand why. Both The Engineer’s mother and grandmother had never made it, it’s far too easy to buy any of the many brands that fill the freezer section these days. Will I make it again? Probably, although only if there are lots of people to cater for and if my timing is better organised!