December 29, 2010

Reindeer Pies and Other Reindeer Dishes

As exotic as it may sound, growing up in Finnish Lapland meant that reindeer was always our number one meat to eat. During my years in Australia I've often been asked what is a common dish in my region in Finland, and I have always replied "reindeer". "YOU EAT RUDOLF??", has been the common response, and I suppose most people outside the Nordic countries would have the same reaction.

There are always large herds of reindeer wandering around my hometown. Reindeer are a common sight, so it may seem strange that we are also so fond of their meat. Traditionally, all parts of the animal were used, and you can still buy products made out of reindeer skin, bones and antlers. Reindeer meat has a delicious clean game taste and it's low in fat. I am not a fan of beef or pork, and hardly ever eat any meat when back in Sydney, but reindeer meat is something I grew up eating, and I find it a whole lot tastier than any other meat.

During our stay in Finland we've had reindeer meat in many different dishes including reindeer blood pancakes (my favourite), sautéed reindeer (which almost has a status of a national dish), reindeer and cheese soup, smoked reindeer on rye bread, dried reindeer heart and also reindeer and elk pies. There has certainly been no shortage of reindeer this Christmas!

Reindeer blood (available from the freezers in all supermarkets) is mixed with water and rye flour and made into crisp, crepe like pancakes that are served with lingonberry.

Top with lingonberries, roll up and enjoy!

Reindeer pairs well with strong cheeses such this soup

Sauteed reindeer with mashed potato and lingonberry is a classic

Reindeer Pies
(Makes 24)

100g butter, softened
95g plain flour
60g rye flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50ml milk


100g strong cheese, grated
2 eggs
120g smetana
100g smoked reindeer, chopped
2 tsp plain flour
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 225C.

Mix the dry ingredients with the butter, add milk and mix to combine. Divide the dough into two and form into bars. Cut each bar into 12 pieces and roll the pieces into balls. Press the pieces into a muffin tin to cup shapes.

Stir together the ingredients for the filling and fill in the cups. Bake for about 15 minutes.