It’s appropriate that we’re up to Finland on our culinary journey at a time when the whole world seems to have gone crazy for Moomins, the white, sort-of-hippo-esque cartoon creatures created by Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jansson. There is a Moomin shop in central London, a Moomin exhibition at the Southbank Centre and, on the other side of the globe, a Moomin café in Bangkok – and undoubtedly other Moomin experiences around the world. Ash grew up with these quirky characters, but Miranda hadn’t even heard of them before moving to England. Her ignorance has been slowly cured over the years, but never more so than a couple of weeks ago when the ladies of the family went to the aforementioned Southbank Centre exhibition and learned about all things Moomin.
But even the Moomins couldn’t help us with Finnish food, so for that we turned to Wikipedia, which told us that typical a Shrove Tuesday menu in Finland consists of hernekeitto (pea and ham soup) and laskiaispulla, a sweet cardmom-flavoured bun filled with whipped cream and jam. Shrove Tuesday was imminent, so it seemed that we had a plan.
On reflection, however, it wasn’t as perfect as we first thought. The soup and the bun were each going to take a couple of hours, which isn’t really what one wants on a Tuesday night. We also couldn’t deny the fact that we were starting to feel a little bit sad about missing out on pancakes on Pancake Day. So we had a rethink and did a bit more research, and discovered that in Finland, it is traditional to eat hernekeitto on Thursdays (the Shrove Tuesday thing presumably being an annual aberration), along with a special dessert pancake. Even though we were going to be making this on a Tuesday, it seemed like a good compromise – so our Shrove Tuesday menu was created.
It’s worth pointing out that the soup still does take a few hours, so we made it the night before and just reheated it, but the pancake was easy to make from scratch on the day. Our pea soup recipe was based on one from The Food Dictator, who also provided some interesting contextual information (click the link to find out more), and the pancake recipe was a Finnish mother-in-law special from The Recipe Critic.
300g dried green peas
Pinch of bicarbonate of soda
450g gammon joint (with bone in, ideally, but ours was boneless)
2 onions, one left whole, peeled and with 2 cloves stuck in it and one diced
1 blade of mace (or, like us, some ground mace – an amount that feels about right…)
3 whole allspice (or a feels-right amount of ground allspice)
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp ground ginger
2 bay leaves
9 black peppercorns
1 carrot, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot mustard (for stirring into individual soup portions)
1. Put the dried peas in a bowl with the bicarb. Cover with cold water and leave to soak overnight.
2. The next day, put the gammon in a large saucepan, cover it with cold water and bring to the boil. As soon as it reaches boiling point, remove from the heat and drain. Wash the gammon and the pan to get rid of any starchy foam.
3. Put the gammon back in the pan and cover with water again. Add the whole onion studded with cloves, allspice, mace, ginger, bay leaves and peppercorns to the pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 1 hour.
4. Rinse the peas and put in a saucepan, bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes. Drain the peas and add to the gammon pan along with the diced onion, carrot and marjoram.
5. Simmer until the peas are tender, which will take 45-60 minutes. Top up with more water if needed.
6. Remove the gammon, whole onion, bay and mace blade (if used). Discard all except the gammon.
7. Break up the gammon into pieces, discarding any skin and bone.
8. Use a stick blender to blend the soup to a rough puree, return the gammon meat to the soup and warm through.
9. Serve with bread and hot mustard to stir into the soup.
(Sorry for the iPhone – rather than camera – photos coming up…)
Peas, day one.
Peas, day two.
This soup was a bit of a faff in that it took ages, but at the same time, there was nothing difficult about it, and you don’t actually have to do much with it except wait for it. As long as you have a few hours to spare, it’s worth trying it out. It was a hearty meal for a wintry night, and had a good flavour, which was really enhanced by the mustard – definitely don’t leave that step out. There’s probably an argument for making pea soup out of fresh (or even frozen) peas rather than messing around with the dried ones, but the dried ones did the job. Anyway, when in Finland (or, you know, ‘in’ Finland)…
But then it was time for dessert!
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups full cream milk
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
4 tbsp butter
Toppings of your choice to serve: jam and whipped cream seem to be most traditional
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Choose your baking receptacle: most recipes suggested a 9×13 inch baking dish, but we used a 9 inch frying pan which worked fine. Put the butter in the pan and put into the oven to melt and become slightly bubbly.
2. Whisk together the four eggs until combined.
3. Add the flour, milk, salt and sugar and whisk together until batter is thin.
4. Gently and slowly pour the batter on top of the melted butter in the pan.
5. Cook for 30 minutes (this will need to be adjusted if you are using a different-sized tin/pan – ours took about 40 minutes). When done, it will be golden brown around the edges and bubble up, especially over the sides – for this reason, make sure you leave plenty of growing room for it in the oven!
6. Serve with desired toppings.
… to this!
(There’s a reason this blog is called ‘Good Food on Bad Plates…)
There’s just one word for this one: yum! As two people who are big fans of Yorkshire puddings, this – essentially a giant, sweetened version – was right up our street. It was nice and soft and squishy on the inside which was a delicious contrast to the yummy crunchy bits on the top. We went with a traditional lingonberry jam and cream topping on Shrove Tuesday and finished it off the following night with maple syrup, and both worked a treat. Again, it was really easy, and as desserts go, it wasn’t too unhealthy – not to mention really easy. This may well become a new Mash House Pancake Day tradition – because let’s face it, it leaves thin British pancakes for dead!
Russia next – and then, excitingly, we leave Europe behind for a while!