Thursday, January 16, 2014

Natural Cooking the Finnish Way

Natural Cooking the Finnish Way  
by Ulla Käkönen
Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co. 1974

A twofer! Whole foods and Scandinavian cuisine in the same volume. While I have several natural foods cookbooks, I have only a handful of cookbooks from Northern Europe, so this is a special Venn diagram treat.

Written by a Finn, but for a U.S. audience, the recipes seem authentic but with suggestions for hard-to-get ingredients and explanations of techniques and recipes that are probably common knowledge for Finnish cooks.

I harbor a fondness for whole/natural foods--a holdover from my childhood with a mother who didn't buy anything with artificial ingredients or colors, made her own bread, jam, and yogurt, and raised chickens and rabbits for slaughter. We had TWO full size chest freezers for our family of four. How else are you going to store 50 chickens, half a cow AND the garden produce? 

This makes it sound like I was raised by hippies, but I must interject my mother's correction that she predates the hippies. She was a Bohemian, thank you very much.

As you can see, Natural Cooking the Finnish Way radiates good health, with its wholesome cover illustration of dairy, eggs, butterflies and flowers. I think that wheel in the background is a bread--but maybe it's a cheese?

The recipes are heavy on fish, potatoes, cabbage and other ingredients I associate with Northern cuisine. What is surprising is the number of grain porridges, cereal soups, and the use of organ meats. This ain't Aquavit's elegant take on Scandinavia. This is food meant to sustain people through a long winter and a short growing season--even shorter than Michigan's.
I pulled this out after finding myself with a huge bunch of dill leftover from making gravlax.  I wanted to use some up in a soup and didn't have a whole lot in the house, but I did have what it takes to make Dill Soup (Tillikeitto): potatoes, carrots, dill, pepper and cream. Easy-peasy and it gets point for being made with water instead of stock. I did add more salt than she called for--I find that to be a typical failing in the natural cookbooks--and a touch more cream, and a splash of Tabasco and lemon juice to spark it up. It was comforting and dilly and better the next day, when the flavors ripened.
Dill Soup
Adapted from Ulla Käkönen

4 c. water
¾ tsp. salt
¾ pound potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
¼ c. cream
Lemon juice

Bring salted water to boil. Add potatoes and carrots and simmer until soft, about 30 minutes. Blend with a stick or regular blender. Stir in dill, pepper, and cream. Adjust salt, add Tabasco and few drops of lemon juice if needed. If you add a lot of lemon juice it starts to taste like dill pickle soup--no bad thing either!

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