Finnish blazing salmon and Demon’s Gate

Last weekend we went to visit Mr. No Onion Please parents. They live in North Karelia region of Finland, a truly beautiful land that I find so peaceful and relaxing. One evening we enjoyed blazing salmon (scroll down for the recipe), a Finnish way of preparing fish, where it is part cooked part smoked in indirect heat from the open fire. It is a really simple dish, just fish and salt, but the flavour is really superb. But, before we shoveled those delicious calories down, we “worked” hard to deserve them 😉 We went for 21km hike through the Finnish wilderness.

On Saturday we travelled roughly 80km North to another region called Kainuu, which i have always thought of as the Kingdom of Bear (I have no idea why, though, but I think they really have a huge bear population there). Just next to the border with North Karelia there is an area where 3 nature protected areas merge and several hiking paths are established. We decided to visit two of those places – the Teerisuo-Luososuo reserve and Hiidenportti National Park. We set off with 11km trail in Teerisuo.

The trail winds through spruce forest, an area where the forest transforms to mire and the open mire.  The forest is plentiful in mushrooms, billberries (wild blueberries) and crowberries (anyone of you collecting those?). In the transition area we found quite many cloudberries. I’ve mentioned already HERE how difficult it is to collect those, and actually this year is the first time since I live here that I’ve found them on several occasions! Once the path enters the open mire, there is nothing to forage on, but the views are really pretty.

What I really admire about Finnish hiking paths is that basically there is always a set place to barbecue or even a small shelter to sleep. Look, they even prepare and store chopped wood for you!!! One just needs to take the sausages and matches 🙂

Once we came back, we jumped into our car and drove around 20km further to hike on a 10km trail in the Hiidenportti National Park. Hiidenportti means Demon’s Gate and the name comes from an old folks tale. Basically, the gorge, which is a centrepiece of the park, was supposed to be a retrieval of Hiisi demon. The gorge isn’t big, it’s only 20m deep, but it’s quite picturesque.

The path follows the edge of the gorge occasionally passing through spruce forest or small mires. Once the gorge ends, there is a bridge, a bbq place and then the path follows back on the other side of the gorge. We had a really great time, but got back to Mr. No Onion’s Please parents quite tired and hungry. Fortunately they planned sauna and bbq for the evening, so our Saturday was really fabulous.

Now back to the blazing salmon. The preparation is quite simple. You need a piece of the fish, wooden plank, wooden pegs (ehem, or nails if pegs can’t be found around 😉 ), some salt, water and open fire. You place the fish filee on the plank and attach it with the pegs.  Dissolve some salt in a glass of water and brush the fish with it. Then attach the plank vertically, 30-50cm from the open fire. Brush the fish with salty water every now and then. It is important that the heat isn’t direct, the fish is supposed to cook very slowly, just as the warm smoky air passes next to it. It took us around 40 min before the fish was ready. Best to check with a toothpick if it’s ready.

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Spaghetti with creamy salmon sauce

Right now in Finland we enjoy a truly lovely, sunny weekend, with temperatures going up to 27C in Helsinki! Such weather is not very common here and it makes me appreciate cloudless sky more and more the longer I live here. As much as  the sun awakens my inner resources of energy, it makes me a bit lazy when it comes to cooking. The summer days definitely require light and quick dishes,  made without the necessity of  tedious standing by a burning hot cooker. I made this dish for the first time as a way to clean our fridge from some leftovers, yet the sauce came out so tasty and easy to do that I repeat it from time to time, particularly during hot, lazy days. I prefer to use cold smoked salmon or gravlax, as the fish flavour is more intense, yet any leftover salmon will do, let it be hot smoked one or even oven baked one. It’s a lovely summer lunch dish, to be made in no time. The amounts given below are enough for 2 people.

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INGREDIENTS

spaghetti

250ml crème fraiche

a bunch of dill, finely chopped

5-6 slices of cold smoked salmon, sliced to small pieces

3 tbsp small capers

freshly ground black pepper – quite much

salt and lemon juice to taste

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1. Cook the proper amount of spaghetti for 2 people. In the meantime, slowly heat up crème fraiche.

2. Add dill, capers, pepper and lemon juice and simmer for a minute or two.

3. Add the salmon and immediately take the sauce away from the heat. Season with salt.

Herby citrus salmon

The good point of living in Finland is that it it always easy and pretty cheap to get your hands on salmon. It is one of the cheapest and most abundant fish here, not to mention how delicious it is. We have it quite often as a midweek dinner, simply baked with pesto and served with a seasonal salad.  Nowadays, one can buy here pestos of a really good quality, and it is extremely fast to prepare salmon this way. As much as both of us love red pesto, Mr. No Onion Please complains that the green basil pesto has too strong herby taste for him. Therefore, I tried to create a kind of herby paste that wouldn’t have such a strong taste, but would compliment salmon nicely. I decided to incorporate some citrus flavour as well. The outcome was pretty good and both of us liked it.  The salmon was served on a salad bed made of wild rucola, goat cheese and cherry tomatoes confit.

Ingredients

500g salmon filet

3 toast breads (skin cut off)

zest from 1 lemon

juice from half a lemon

half a glass of basil leaves

half a glass of thyme leaves

2-3 tbsp of olive oil

salt

1. Wash the salmon filet and put it into greased ovenproof dish.

2. Put the bread, lemon zest and juice, basil and thyme into a bowl and blend it well to a paste

3. Add olive oil and salt to your liking. My paste was pretty thick, I wanted it to create a nice layer of  it on the salmon. If you wish you may add a bit more of olive oil to make it more pesto like. Spread the paste on top of the filet.

4. Bake in 200C for 25 min of until ready. I put the aluminium foil after 15 min of baking to avoid browning of the paste.