Just under four years ago, I visited Estonia for an all too brief amount of time. Whilst I was there, I had some medieval style fare, sampled elk meat and tried some pretty squeaky cheese. It is one of those countries that I would like to return to and see more of it outside the capital, possibly seeing some of the many islands or to just spend some more time in their bountiful forests. It does help that whilst I was there, I did have some pretty good food.
The issue with a lot of the food that you see being associated with Estonia is seasonality and that it is hard to necessarily get in the UK when it is (as I am writing this post in early March) still under lockdown. We are talking specialty meats like elk and wild boar or getting the hold of proper mushrooms, dark bread or specific berries. Still though there is plenty to be made as long as I can get the good recipes.
One amazing thing that I was able to find for Estonia is that, whilst a small nation, there are a number of very prolific cookery blogs out there which are just begging for you to get lost in. The food of Estonia is heavily influenced by being a former member of the Soviet Union and by having Finland just a short boat ride away. This is a country where pork and rye are staples, whilst also having an interesting variety of locally grown produce.
In choosing the dishes for today, I really wanted to think of things that are on the lists of proper Estonian foods that are of the everyday. So often I end up making things that feel very much like a special occasion food – so instead I looked through the lists of recipes and thought: if I was an Estonian, what might I actually make that is both traditional and can be done for a weeknight meal. This definitely didn’t disappoint.
It was only once I had started making this, with the potatoes on the boil, that it really twigged for me that mulgipuder (meaning barley porridge) is more of a side dish than a main meal. If I had thought about it earlier, I might have gotten some sausages to have with it as I can imagine that being an incredible match. Hey ho, I made more than enough dessert to make up for it.
Using the recipe from Tiramisust ja Fata Morganast I made a nice big batch of this porridge which is essentially a pearl barley and potato mash with additional pork and onion. This really reminds me of some of the one-pot Dutch meals I have had like hutspot – so rather than have the onion and pork on top, like in the picture, I just mixed it right in. This is such a comfort food that I can imagine making again, but as a twist on the more English bangers and mash.
Tomorrow, when I get the remains out of the fridge, I am going to see how this works with some flour mixed in and turned into potato cakes. I can just imagine this being a stunner for some lunchtime leftovers.
Roosamanna, literally meaning pink moose, is probably something that I had on my final night in Tallinn. When I had it, the pink in the pink moose was rose – including rose petals. In this version, I followed the recipe from Nami-Nami and went for something closer to hand: jam. In this instance, it was strawberry jam and the picture doesn’t quite do justice to the near baby pink that this pudding went once I whisked into a frenzy.
The cool thing about this recipe is just how flexible it is and how easy it is to make. Like, I have also bought a litre of Ocean Spray cranberry-raspberry juice to see how it would go if I went down the juice route rather than basically diluting a jar of jam. This was delicious, comforting and something I ended eating a whole lot of. If I was a kid growing up in Estonia, I can imagine this being something I would have eaten a fair bit – like how I grew up with Angel Delight.
Next time it is time to return to the cooking of the Americas. I still need to make up for neglecting the South American portion of this region, so be returning to this area to make something delicious that hopefully won’t give me the anxiety that Chile did when rolling the dessert.