Kinkku (gammon)

Gammon is the main star of the whole show in the Finnish Christmas table (nothing of course is stopping anyone cooking it other times too). The original one would be gray in colour instead of the pink in the picture, but unfortunately I’ve not been successful in finding a gray salted one in the UK yet. For the pink version, nitrate is added. It acts as a preservative, and gives the pink colour, however it’s considered to be pretty unhealthy. In the gray version, nitrate isn’t added. The key to getting a juicy piece of meat, as anyone practicing slow cooking of roasts already knows, is to cook the gammon at a very low temperature, for a very long time. It then gets taken out of the oven and cooled, coated and put back for a very high temperature for a short period of time. Traditionally, on the Christmas table the gammon is served cold. I tend to cook it the day before, and on the day of cooking have it also for dinner served warm. It’s perfectly fine to serve it both ways, which ever you would prefer.

1. Take the gammon into room temperature. Dry with kitchen tissue. I would recommend putting it in a roasting bag. Cut a small hole at one corner. Put a roasting thermometer in the cold meat, so that the tip is at the thickest part. If your meat has a bone take care not to touch the bone with the thermometer. The ideal inside temperature of the meat for putting it in the oven is 10°C / 50°F.

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2. Place some water at the bottom of an oven pan. Heat the oven to 100°C (fan) / 210°F. The aim is to achieve inside temperature of the meat of 77°C – 80°C / 171°F – 176°F. I tend to try to get to the lower end, for juicier result.

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3. Remove from the oven. Cut the bag off, as well as any strings or net around the meat. Let cool on a rack for half an hour to an hour. After this, Remove the skin, and most of the fat.

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4. Coat with mustard, and breadcrumbs.

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5. Heat the oven to 250°C / 480°F, and cook the gammon for 10 minutes.

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Mince pies

Mince pies are not part of my native culture, and I didn’t like them for a long time after moving to London, but since I started making these (to keep my husband happy) I have grown to like them. I think this recipe is a really good mince pie recipe. Making the mince requires you to be somewhat organized, as you want to leave it for a few weeks, before using it for the actual pies.

Mince
225g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped/grated
110g sultanas
60g currants
60g dried cranberries
175g raisins
110g mixed candied peel
4 tbsp dark rum, whiskey or brandy
25g finely chopped blanched almonds
1 large orange, finely grated zest and juice
1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
110g shredded suet
175g dark muscovado sugar

Rum butter
125g butter, room temperature
50g light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp dark rum, whisky or brandy

Pastry
450g plain flour
180g butter, chilled and diced
50g lard, chilled and diced
finely grated zest of  1 orange
5-6 tbsp orange juice

Mince
1. Combine all mince ingredients apart from the muscovado and suet. Cook in a saucepan over low heat for 45 – 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has plumped up, the apples have broken down and excess liquid has evaporated.

2. Set aside to cool, then mix in the muscovado and suet. For adults version, I also tend to add some more alcohol at this stage (3 tbsp), as the cooking has burned all alcohol off.

3. Put in sterilized jars, and mature for 3-4 weeks.

Rum butter
Whisk the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then gradually beat in the rum, and set aside in the fridge.

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Pastry
1. Put the flour, butter and lard, as well as a pinch of salt, into a food processor. Whizz briefly until it looks like breadcrumbs.

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2. Add the orange zest and juice, and whizz again.

3. Turn onto floured surface, and knead briefly, until smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.

The pies
1. Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F.

2. Grease the baking tins with butter. Roll the dough to about 5mm thickness. I tend to cut out circles with two glasses. The bigger one for the ‘body’ of the pies, and the smaller for the lids of the pies. Place the bigger circles in the greased baking tins, forming the bottom and sides of the pie. fill with the mince mixture, and put a teaspoon of the rum butter on top. Then place the lid over, pressing the edges together with the edges of the other dough.

3. Make few punctures with a sharp knife, and brush with beaten egg, then bake for 20 minutes.

Beetroot and dill cured salmon

Cured salmon is one of the foods often enjoyed as part of the Scandinavian kitchen. There are many variations to it, however the basics you will need are sugar and salt. The whole process is based on the reaction called osmosis, and is an ancient way of preserving foods that wouldn’t last fresh for long otherwise. During the curing, you will notice a lot of liquid will be drawn out of the fish. The cured fish will last in the fridge for few weeks, however I doubt you will have anything left for that long.

2 raw beetroot, grated
500g piece of fresh salmon
50g table salt
90g caster sugar
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
a bunch of fresh dill

1. Dry roast the mustard seeds, until fragrant and popping. Cool, and crush together with the peppercorns with pestle and mortar. Mix together with salt, sugar and finely chopped dill.

2. Place a large piece of cling film to cover the dish you’re using for your curing. Place half of the raw, grated beetroot at the bottom. Then add half of the mixture of the other ingredients.

3. Add the piece of salmon on top of the beetroot and sugar / salt mixture. Leave the skin on the fish.

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4. Add the salt / sugar mixture and the beetroot on top of the fish too.

5. Tightly pack the fish and curing mixture. I used three different layers of cling film, however some of the liquid will still seep through. Place something to act as weights on top of the fish, and put in to fridge.

5. About every 12 hours (or every morning and evening), turn the fish upside down. I also change the direction my weights are, to try to ensure they are covering as much as possible during the process.

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6. After two days, your fish is ready. Drain all liquid, and wipe the fish piece clean.

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Rosolli (beetroot salad)

After any festivities, and overindulging, many of us are choosing the lighter leftovers for a snack. This beetroot salad is exactly what we need. For some reason, this particular salad is only seen on the Finnish table around Christmas time. I think the flavours are actually completely suitable to any time of the year. You get sweetness from the beetroot, saltiness from the pickled cucumber and freshness from the apple. Together with the other ingredients it all comes together like a perfect symphony.

1 salty gherkin
3 beetroots
1 carrot
1 small onion
1 medium size salad potato
1 sharp apple, for example Granny Smith
half a bunch of fresh parsley

1. Boil the beetroots in boiling water for about an hour. Once cooked, pour the hot water off, and cover the beetroots with cold water. You can now rub the skin off very easily, whilst submerged in the cold water.

2. Boil the potato with skin on, until just cooked, take care not to overcook. Once cooked, peel the potato and chop into small pieces. Peel the carrot, and boil until just cooked but still firm. Cut into quarters lengthwise, then cut into cubes.

3. Finely chop the onion, and cut the gherkin into quarters lengthwise, then chop into cubes. Finely chop the parsley.

4. Cut the apple into wedges. I tend to do this first, and then peel each wedge, but you can also peel the whole apple first. I then cut the inside edge off, where the core is. Finally, chop into cubes.

5. Mix all ingredients together. For more flavour, leave in the fridge overnight before serving.

Potato salad

Potato salad isn’t something that was ever part of our Christmas table when I was growing up. Typically, in Finland it’s usually part of the Labour Day festivities. It has however now become a staple of any entertaining I might host, including becoming part of my Christmas traditions. I have been making it ever since it was a huge hit at a party a long time ago. Potato salad is simple, but I think it’s crucial to get couple of things right. I have many times had potato salad that leaves you disappointed, and my one is the best one I’ve had to date. You will need crunch from the onion, and the right saltiness from the pickled cucumber. The latter in my opinion is the crucial key for it being a success. Some recipes also use apples, but I don’t see it necessary.

500g salad potatoes
250g onions
7 gherkins
1/2 dl fluid from the gherkins
1 dl mayonnaise
grinded black pepper
1 dl cream
(salt)

For best result, prepare the salad a day before serving.

1. Boil the potatoes with skin on, until just about cooked, but do take care you don’t overlook them. While the potatoes are boiling, peel and chop the onions. Cut the ends off the gherkins, then cut in quarters lengthwise, then chop to cubes.

 

2. Once the potatoes are cooked, peel and mix with onions whilst still hot.

3. Add the gherkins and fluid, mayonnaise and pepper.

4. Rest in the fridge. Just before serving, add the cream (and salt if required).

 

Glögi (mulled wine)

When you live in your native country, you take it for granted that you can just pop in to a shop and get whatever delicacies you happen to fancy. If you have however settled abroad like me, you’ll have to learn to make things yourself. I know you can also buy mulled wine mixtures in the UK, however, since I created my recipe, I never felt the need to try them. Every year, I end up making a few batches of this, as you can’t stop having it once it’s ready! Also, it’s actually really easy to make.

1 1/2 liters water
1/2 liter apple and blackcurrant squash
1 liter blueberry juice
6 thumb size pieces of fresh root ginger, roughly chopped
6 cinnamon sticks
6 tbsp cardamom pods
2 tbsp whole cloves
1 orange, grated peel and juice
2-3 whole star anise

1. Put all ingredients together in a large pan, and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, for an hour, and pour through a sieve, then bottle.

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2. When serving, I tend to fill 1/4 or 1/3 of the cup with red wine, and fill the rest of the cup with the spice mixture.