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My name is Vesa Leinonen, i take photographs of Nature, culture and cuisine, particular interest in regional products, natural resources and the cultural traditions of hunter gatherer in the ancient days. A particular region has a population and history, the natural environment provided resources that enabled populations to grow and enjoy life. Often people don't see the connection between ethnic cuisine and the regional environment, also the modern trends tend to steer people away from Natural landscapes, and away from Nature in general. Which leads to ignorance of the importance of regional products and local food ingredients and their role in cultural history. My education and training in commercial cookery (chef), with lots of kitchen work experience, has given me a fresh appreciation for the food ingredients that have been grown on the local farms.

Loimulohi: glow baked salmon

Loimulohi: glow baked salmon

Loimulohi: glow baked salmon (loimu=glow, lohi=salmon) or glow baked salmon of the Nordic region is another fantastic unique menu item in Finland, it is so natural and relatively easy way to cook a salmon without the need for cooking facilities.
When preparing to cook the Loimulohi in this “Slow-Glow-Method” the basic requirements are; a good size salmon 1-10kg, a sharp knife (relative to the fish size), a clean wooden blank , and 8 x 2inch nails per fillet, or chicken wire netting, big enough to sandwich the open fish fillets inside the netting (approx 1m x 1m).

How to glow bake salmon

Start a reasonable size fire with sufficient firewood to last half hour (relative to the fish size), build the fire to create sufficient amount of hot glowing coals that will radiate heat. If it is a windy day, then you need to use common sense where the fire is placed, some wind protection/shelter is needed so the radiated heat will be focused on the cooking of the fish, e.g. make use of the land contours, boulder, rocks, log etc.

Whether using the chicken wire or the wooden blank, the fish needs to be cleaned, and filleted, and it may be sprinkled with salt and allowed to season for 1-2 hours in a 0-4’C cool area, if so desired. The salmon fillets are then either nailed to the wooden blank, or sandwiched inside the chicken wire, so that the fillets stay flat, the flesh side facing the fire heat.

The distance between the fire and the salmon is very important, cooking a Loimulohi is not meant to be a quick method of cooking. This is a slow method of cooking, and the result is a fantastic golden color of the cooked salmon surface. To get the distance right, make sure the fire has sufficient coals that will continue to radiate heat for 30 min, you may add some wood to the fire, but it’s not the only source of heat. Check the temperature at where the salmon fillets are going to be placed by placing your hand there, and hold it there for about 15 seconds, you should be able to hold it there without burning your hand.

Use a natural boulder/rocks to prop the wood blank/chicken wire frame, place it almost vertical facing towards the fire, make sure it is stable and secure.

loimulohi-nailed
Loimulohi.Copy@All Rights reserved.2009.

So what is so special about Loimulohi?

Firstly it is the experience of catching a fine fresh Salmon fish caught in the wild.  Secondly the slow cooking method of Loimulohi works well with a large Salmon filet that has a high fat content, it caramelizes the flesh to a golden color.  Thirdly the golden caramelized salmon flesh is absolutely delicious to the taste buds.

The heat will continue to build gradually and caramelize the surface of the Loimulohi fish fillet, after about 1 hr – 1 1/2 hours.  Salmon fillet has a lot of fat, it will start to melt, so make sure you turn sides (top-down) occasionally, so the natural fat runs back onto the fillet to moisten and caramelize the flesh.

When the surface of the Loimulohi filet is a golden color, and the aroma is delicious, then is the time to enjoy.  There are many combinations that you can serve the Loimulohi or glow baked salmon with, if you are camping at a lake in Lapland, then perhaps you brought some new potatoes along to your camp, if not then enjoy the delicious flavors of the Nordic salmon with some fresh greens, cucumbers, tomato and maybe a splash of olive oil and lemon juice or your favored dressing that you enjoy, with some unleavened potato flat bread (traditional potato Rieska), or some wholesome fresh rye bread.

One of the best traditional wild outdoors cooking methods

The traditional Loimulohi caught and prepared in the heart of the Nordic Nature in Finland is really a fine sample of how food was prepared and enjoyed after it was caught hundreds of years ago, there is no pretense or facade.

loimulohi
Loimulohi nailed.Copy@All RIghts Reserved.2009.

See a picture here.
http://vesajohnleino.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Images-of-Food-items/G0000qAIkoHWxE1k/I0000AipG.sN4soU

Lapland regional tasting plate

Lapland regional tasting plate

Lapland regional tasting plate is a combination of the unique regional specific ingredients, that have evolved over a long time, they now live and grow there in that natural Nordic Arctic environment.
To present some of those ingredients on a single serving plate, that could be called, a Lapland region tasting plate.  The purpose of that is to show case some of the unique regional ingredients.

The proximity of the Arctic/Polar region/environment has shaped and influenced the environment for so long in the past history.

lapland reindeer
Lapland Reindeer.Copy@All RIghts Reserved.2009.

There has been major changes in the last 10,000 years in Lapland, and as the global climate temperatures went through changes, also the flora and fauna of Lapland went through many changes. One of them was that during the warm period after the ice age, the most predominant trees in Lapland were birch trees, and very few pine trees. The reverse is true today, there are very few birch trees, most common trees are pine trees and the Tundra areas are above the tree line, therefore no trees at all.

The landscape in Nordic region of Lapland would have looked very different around 8000 years ago than what it look’s like today.

Lichen grows in Nordic region, it is major part of the reindeer died. Lichen that grows on the trees requires clean air, a pollution free environment.  Where lichen used to grow on the tree branches in the south Finland, it is not longer found there due to the increased urban population and motor vehicle traffic that pollutes the natural clean air.

There is a lot of Natural Nordic Nutrition in the Lapland region tasting plate.

I have selected some of the unique ingredients and products and made it into a regional Lapland regional tasting plate, to showcase the unique ingredients of Lapland.
There are a variety of mushrooms like the milk-caps and Ceps. Picking mushrooms in the wild requires an experienced guide, to point out the edible mushrooms from the toxic/poison ones. Inexperienced/tourists to the natural Nordic region environment sometimes pick mushrooms that appear to be harmless, e.g. white mushrooms (Amanita virosa), but they are extremely toxic. The toxins stop the kidney from functioning, which often leads to death in matter of days. Then there are also brown colored mushrooms like the: Paxillus involutus, they are also toxic. And the common red colored mushroom with its white dots: Amanita muscaria, that too is a toxic mushroom.

The color of a mushroom can be really misleading, especially when traveling from one region of the world to another. A white colored mushroom can be safe in one region of the world, and at another it can be extremely toxic. Mushrooms are usually identified by 3-4 identity characteristics: Shape, color, texture (on top and under the cap), stem, and also the scent of the mushroom. Some mushrooms can be eaten after blanching them, and rinsing out the toxins, but there are also mushrooms that by blanching/boiling them, the toxins remain in the mushroom, therefore inedible e.g. the Amanita virosa.

Learning to identify the mushrooms of the Nordic regions and of Lapland is critical.

Mushroom identification can be learned, it is a logical process, requires a sharp eye, and patience, to follow scientific facts that is currently known about certain types of mushrooms. Just like learning the meaning of symbols in written instructions, mushrooms also have details that reveal their identity. Reindeer’s love to eat mushroom during the autumn season when mushrooms are plentiful, in fact they indulge in eating mushrooms to fatten them selves up for the long cold winter months ahead, mushrooms are a real delicacy for the Reindeer’s in the Nordic region of Lapland.

flavors of lapland
Lapland flavors.Copy@All Rights Reserved.2009.

Lapland regional tasting plate Ingredients:
  • Unleavened potato flat bread portion (Peruna Rieska).
  • Rye bread portions, grilled (Ruis leipä).
  • Smoked Inari lake Char fish (Nieri).
  • Salt cured salmon Gravelax (Suola lohi).
  • Mushroom salad, mushrooms and onions diced (sieni salatti).
  • Aura Blue cheese (sinijuusto).
  • Smoked reindeer (Savustettu poron liha).
  • Wild berry compote (metsän marjat).
  • ground black pepper and sea salt (musta pippuri, meri suola).

Digital images from lapland.

Lapland regional tasting plate is a fine sample of the natural Nordic ingredients flavors that will be a delight to the taste buds to sample.

Fennoscandia reindeer

Fennoscandia reindeer

Fennoscandia reindeer in the far north region are well suited and adjusted to that environment just like Kangaroos are to Australia.  Fennoscandia reindeerhas been farmed in larger numbers since the 16 century.  Prior to that Reindeer naturally had many useful applications to help the original pioneers to stay alive and to protect against the extreme elements of nature in the Fennoscandia reindeer region.

Unique qualities of the Fennoscandia reindeer.

The Reindeer fur is unique, it has very good insulation properties against the extreme winter cold, the fur fiber is hollow, making it lighter and a better insulate.  The antlers were used for basic household tools, and for handles e.g knife.  The meat of a Reindeer is a typical game meat, somewhat similar to a small deer or an antelope, but nothing like a kangaroo.  It was used/prepared in several ways, e.g. by hanging the meat outside in the freezing winter climate (freeze drying) and allowing it to dry, it could take several days before it was eaten.  The meat cuts were about 1/2 to 1kg size, they were usually the prime cuts, and also the heart was sometimes used/consumed by some.  This style of meat preparation was/is common in the Fennoscandia reindeer, and it’s use was readily accessible when e.g. when traveling, hunting/herding in the wild tundra areas, it was a protein source which was low a maintenance, quick to prepare and lasted well.  It could be consumed as a snack, or eaten with breads and other condiments.

The free roam style of farming of reindeer is also unique to the Fennoscandia region, the reindeer have been marked either with a neck band or an ear tag.  They roam free and breed during the summer /winter time. Then in spring time they are herded to holding pens, sorted according to the markings, and the new calves are marked according to the adult markings.  The Spring time in the Nordic region still has plenty of snow and ice, so the herding is done with the use of snowmobiles and trained dogs.

Within the Fennoscandia there is the Salla region on the east border of Finland, it is one of the original pioneers of reindeer farming and the reindeer meat industry.

In the Salla region there is a reindeer meat plant that is major producer/exporter of Reindeer meat products, with in Finland and abroad.  The most common reindeer meat dish in Finland is the Reindeer saute (but not literally a saute-a la minute), served with mashed potatoes, pickled cucumbers and crushed lingonberries.  It’s highlight is within the natural flavors found in the reindeer meat, butter, potato puree, lingonberries and the pickled cucumber, there are elements of the sweet and sour, with in the condiments that match the game meat by tradition, and the potato puree comfort food.

The preparation of the reindeer cut for the saute is done by freezing the rump, and then slicing the meat into 5mm slices.  The sliced rump is packed and stored in a freezer for later use.  The meat is thawed according to quantity/need, then tossed in a hot pan with butter, and a brown stock and seasoning is added,  and poached until the meat is tender.  Traditional plating of the reindeer saute is by making a nest with the potato puree, and placing the reindeer saute in the middle of the nest (200-300g).  Pickled cucumbers and the crushed lingonberries are placed on the edge of the potato nest,  then served to the customer as “Poron käristys” (finnish).

There are also gourmet cuts/products available for restaurant use in our modern times e.g.  Smoked reindeer, tender loins, heart, kidney, neck, shoulder, saddle etc.

reindeer_butchery_lapland
Reindeer carcasses hanging in a cold storage

Fennoscandia reindeer is a high valued as an high quality ingredient, it is very popular amongst the Hotel and Restaurants of the Lapland region.   Fennoscandia reindeer is also widely used in the southern parts of the Nordic region as well as in  East Europe.  Fennoscandia reindeer is a Natural product that goes back a long way into the traditional culture and ethnic cuisine customs in Finland.

Winter Nordic flavors

Winter Nordic flavors

Winter Nordic flavors are well suited for the extreme cold winters, that can last at times for about 6 months, meaning that the temperatures during the day dip or stay below -10′ Celsius, therefore a good time to prepare body warming foods that are healthy and have those unique Nordic flavors.  Here are some fun canapes  ideas that have good tasting ingredients that are also used traditionally for serving a main size meals at dinner/lunch table.

Winter Nordic flavors in herring and potatoes.

Boiled potatoes, cured herrings and an egg topper, very simple to prepare, they are also rich with flavors.  Herrings can be easily prepared, or purchased from a grocery store in a jar, ready made. With ready cured herrings it should only take approx 45 min to prepare and ready to serve canapes for 4-6 people.

Boil the potatoes with skin on for approx 20min, boil the eggs in hot water for 9 min,  dunk the boiled eggs in cold water, for  5 min, then peel.

Remove the herrings from a curing liquid and cut into neat portions, approx the same size as the potato portions.

Remove potatoes from the simmering water (after 20 min), allow to cool a bit, then peel and slice into canape size medallions.

Place the potato portions on a plate, top with the herring.  The egg portions may be placed on top of the potato/herring, or combined with either of the two as a different taste combination required.

Season according to your taste, along with the cured herring flavors.

Serving Winter Nordic flavors canape style.

Winter Nordic flavors and ingredients served canape style can be a natural process, it does not have to be complicated.  Ideally natural ingredients that have delicious Nordic flavors and are interesting combination of color, texture, shape and easy to work with.  Canapes can be decorated using a herb garnish or a sauce, or cracking some pepper on top for extra zing.

Nordic flavours

Nordic style canapes for an appetizer

 Winter Nordic flavors are essential part of the Nordic regional cuisine experience, a smorgasbord table of the Natural wild flavors of the Nordic cuisine focus, enjoy.

 

 

Cultural cuisine: rye bread and herrings

Cultural cuisine: rye bread and herrings

Cultural cuisine: rye bread and herrings are two traditional food items that have been well used for a long time, they are part of the regional cuisine.  Herrings and Baltic herrings been fished for food for many thousands of years.  The grain growing  appeared in the gulf of Finland around 2500 BC.  The craft of grain farming came with the war axe tribes at that time.   The Ingria-land people of the gulf of Finland would most likely would have used natural grains for food long before the migrating tribes came to the gulf of Finland from the west.

Cultural cuisine: rye bread and herrings is one of  the main stays of the traditional cuisine tables in Finland.

Nordic Cuisine Focus

Nordic Cuisine Focus welcome you

Nordic Cuisine Focus is regional nature photography and natural food ingredient blog, i place entries on the seasonal changes that are happening here in the Nordic region.

Nordic Cuisine Focus delivers information on the Nordic region, digital images of natural impressions of the environment, regional ingredients,  seasonal farmers markets and Information technology stuff like cameras, lenses, text readers and more.
Today is the Equinox for 2011, now were moving from a shadow/night dominated seasons to a day/light dominated seasons.  Already the seasonal change is being felt, and is both audible and visible.  Thermometer has moved from the – (negative) to the + (positive) side, some of the migrating birds have returned to the north (i have seen some sea gulls, and swans) the birds are singing in the trees.  The snow has started to melt from roads and pathways and the water is streaming along the road side, when the afternoon sun is out.

Nordic Cuisine Focus has many interesting articles on tradition, culture and ingredients.

Nordic Cuisine Focus content includes lot’s of digital images, pictures can communicate and affirm a thousand words within a few seconds, effortlessly.  There are links to picture galleries, and also links to other sites, and some amazon.com links to camera gear, books and nutrition just to name a few.  Nordic Cuisine Focus is a window view of our world here in the Nordic region, and at times with a close focus to specific topics of interest.

Nordic Cuisine Focus