I always find it quite amusing when you spend enough time with people you like, you find odd similarities that seem almost too coincidental. All 3 of the girls here at i8b, at some point have had a strong connection to Scandinavia – mostly Finland. Julia has just come back from an in-depth study trip with lots of ideas for recipes, Catherine’s husband’s family hail from the land of many lakes, and a few years ago I took a trip there with the Queensland Youth Choir.
Freaking sweet Scando architecture
My love affair with Finland started a few years earlier though and I have my old choir conductor, Sandra Milliken to thank for this. She also took a study-tour to Finland to learn new choral techniques and instantly fell in love with the country. She has been back many times, mainly in winter, to spend time with friends and write a number of choral songs for choirs to sing. Since then she taught the choir and me a number of Finnish choral pieces and about the Finnish culture. We became well known for our Finnish language singing (one of the hardest languages in the world to learn) and had the great honour to sing for the former-Prime Minister of Finland Paavo Lipponen when he made a trip out here. He said our pronunciation was impeccable!The Helsinki Russian Orthodox Church and me, happily freezing my ass off.
Finland holds a lot of good memories for me. The choir spent time in Helsinki in the heart of winter where I fell in love with the wide cobbled streets, the open air markets and the cold, frozen harbour. We sang a concert in the “Rock Church” , carved out of the rock, where initially I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience while singing one of the more beautiful songs – it turned out to be a heavy case of jetlag! We then skipped up to a village an hour out of town for another concert. This is where I encountered karjalanpiirakat for the first time, on a table full of sweet treats as a snack during the rehearsal with our host-choir.
They had made a number of spiced biscuits and sweets, and also these pastries. At first they look like a sweet too, but they are quite savoury, earthy but very moreish. The filling is made simply of rice and milk and the pastry is made from rye flour. It is served with a mixture of chopped boiled egg and butter. They are extremely tasty, but if you are a staunchly patriotic Finn, you may not want to read the next bit… these pastries beg to be meddled with. A sweet version of a rice custard with cinnamon and a mixed berry compote on top would be divine. Or perhaps a mushroom ’risotto’ with a piece of prosciutto sandwiched between the pastry and filling. Maybe curried egg instead of plain egg on top… I will definitely be trying these again and having a play.The view from my hostel window in downtown Helsinki.
I worked from a few recipes for this but this turned out to be my version
1 cup Water
1 cup Rice (I used medium-grain, some recipes call for ’shortgrain glutinous rice’ but it shouldn’t matter too much)
1 Litre Milk (or Soy Milk)
1 cup Water
1 cup Flour (and a little bit extra)
1 1/2 cups rye flour (it took me 3 shops to find rye flour! You can get it at Woolworths)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/6 cup butter
2 hard boiled eggs
2 tbsp butter, softened
1. Put the water and rice in a saucepan and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the water is absorbed.
2. Add the milk (it looks like HEAPS but it will absorb!) and simmer for about 50-60 minutes, stirring every once in a while until the consistancy of thick porridge. Add the salt and let cool.
3. Mix all the pastry ingredients in a bowl until you get a thick paste. Roll out into a sausage shape the ‘thickness of your wrist’ and cut it into 16 equal sections.
4. Roll out on a well floured surface until it’s about 20 cm in diameter and quite thin
5. If you want to be a bit OCD (or if you are just as bad as me at creating perfect rounds of pastry) trim the sides of the pastry to a perfect circle. For the mums out there – I found using an old lid from a formula tin worked PERFECTLY!
6. take a large spoonful of rice and press it onto the pastry in a oval shape. This is sticky work, you’ll need a clean teatowel to wipe your hands after you do this. Then fold the edges of the pastry over just the edge of the rice in a crimped pattern. It doesn’t have to look perfect.
7. Heat the milk and butter in a pan until boiling. Brush this mixture over the entire pastry and pop in an oven at over 250 degrees celcius (one recipe said 290 degrees! My oven doesn’t get that hot!!)
8. After about 10 minutes brush again with the milk mixture, Then continue to cook until they look golden.
9. Take the pastries out of the oven and brush again with the milk mixture and cover with a clean tea towel so the pastry softens.
10. Boil the eggs until hard, then cool. (I cannot recommend more highly the contraption pictured above - it’s an “Egg Perfect Egg Timer” and you can get it from homewares shops. As it heats up the edge will change colour and will tell you when it is soft, medium or hard boiled. I’ve never had any surprises (or nasty greeny-grey yolks) when using this product) So… chop up the boiled eggs and mix with the softened butter.
11. Serve warm or cold with a spoonful of the egg mixture on top.
These are great for a snack during the day. We had ours for dinner with a bit of ham and a salad. I served these at work for morning tea last week and they were a hit! I’ve had few requests for the recipe. Perhaps they might be the next macaron?