Saturday, 23 July 2011

Estonian Food

The last time my family got together my sister suggested we should cook an Estonian feast. I was thrilled at the prospect of whipping up a few familiar dishes whilst my father pulled a face and said  "Estonian food is boring". I guess his mind flashed back to his childhood, remembering all the times he ate boiled cabbage whilst growing up, and loathing it. But the truth is whenever we're in Tallinn my father often orders kapsapirukas (cabbage pie) which leads me to think he doesn't have such an aversion to cabbage as he would like us to believe. Estonian cuisine whilst simple, is anything but boring.  Its flavours are unique and do not cease to delight the taste buds. You can taste it in the peenleib with the caraway seeds, in the salads with the dill and radishes and you taste it in the cakes and slices filled with the delicious berries picked fresh from the forest.

A huge informal economy for produce still exists in Estonia today. People often produce their own eggs, milk, honey, fruit and vegetables and trade their surplus with friends and family or simply give it away. The Estonian diet largely consists of pork, fish, herrings, cabbage, potatoes, beetroot and myriad types of mushroom. About fifteen types of mushrooms are poisonous so it pays to do your research before eating them. The most common type of berry found in the Estonian forest is the blueberry and you can also find strawberries, cranberries and raspberries.

For our dinner party my sister made traditional Estonian fish salad, I provided dessert with an apple and rhubarb crumble and my father went with my favourite Russian dish - beef stroganoff. As an entrée I also made little pastries filled with bacon, onion and cheese which my grandmother often used to make too.