This week was difficult because I had to request approval to post in the Estonian subreddit, and I did not get it. So I had to rely on my own research, which just doesn’t compare to being able to get input from people who actually live in the country. As a result, I probably ended up with less dishes than I might have otherwise.
Estonia is located in Northern Europe near Scandinavia. The land has been inhabited for at least 11,000 years, and at various points throughout history it has been ruled by the Teutonic Order, Denmark, Sweden, and the Russian Empire. Estonia made a declaration of independence in 1918.
When World War II began, Estonia remained neutral, but the country was invaded multiple times anyway by both the Nazis and the Soviet Union. The country ended up a part of the USSR until 1991.
Today, Estonia is one of the least populous countries in the European Union, and consistently does well in international rankings for quality of life, education, and press freedom, among other things.
What Do People Eat in Estonia?
Estonia may not actually be a part of Scandinavia, but the cuisine shares a lot of similarities. There are also influences from Germany and Russia.
Some of the most typical foods are rye bread, pork, potatoes, and dairy products. Fish is common too, especially in coastal and lakeside areas.
A meal will often start with cold dishes such as pickles, meats, and sausages served with potato salad or rosolje. There may also be pastries, herring, and other seafood. This would be followed with soup or a main course (or just a filling soup, which makes up the main meal). Meals almost always include black rye bread.
What I Made
- Mulgikapsad (Sauerkraut with Pork and Barley)
- Leib (Rye Bread)
- Rosolje (Beet and Potato Salad)
- Hakklihakotletid (Meatballs)
- Mulgipuder (Mashed Potato and Barley)
- Braised Red Cabbage
Mulgikapsad (Sauerkraut with Pork and Barley)
This is Estonia’s national dish, a combination of sauerkraut, pearl barley, and pork (in this case bacon). It’s often served with boiled potato, and I’ve also seen recipes that include sliced pork on top. I served mine with boiled potatoes and sausage.
This was easy to make. I sauteed some bacon, then some onion, and then combined them with sauerkraut and pearly barley (which I cooked in advance). I added some water, then let the mixture simmer for a while. I seasoned with salt, pepper, sugar, and caraway seeds before serving.
This was alright, but I don’t think I am a big sauerkraut fan. I loosely followed a recipe from Estonian Cuisine.
Leib (Rye Bread)
Rye bread seems to be popular in this region, and this is Estonia’s version. It starts with a sourdough starter, which is combined with rye flour and warm water, then left to sit for 24 hours. Then, I added more rye flour, salt, molasses, oats, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and flax seeds. The recipe I was following called for sugar and sunflower seeds, which I substituted with the molasses and flax seeds. I also used less molasses then the sugar that was called for because it sounded like a lot. If I made this again, I would probably reduce the molasses further and use around 3 tablespoons for one loaf.
I was really pleased with how this came out. It was a little less dense than the rugbrød I made for Denmark, and I think I prefer this, though I do like both breads.
Estonians often use this bread as the base for open-faced sandwiches, another thing that is also common in Denmark. I mostly ate mine topped with eggs, which made an excellent breakfast.
If you’d like to make this, I used the recipe from Andrea Tamme. I only made a third of the recipe in order to get 1 loaf.
Rosolje (Beet and Potato Salad)
There’s a lot going on in this salad. It not only contains beets and potatoes, but also apple, pickles, onion, herring, hard-boiled eggs, and peas. All this is tossed with a mixture of sour cream and mayonnaise, seasoned with salt, pepper, mustard, and some of the liquid from the pickles.
I found this to be kind of odd, and I think it’s mostly due to the herring. It just seems weird to have random pieces of fish in a salad like this.
I used the recipe from Estonian Cuisine, except I roasted the beets rather than boiling them.
These are meatballs made from pork, beef, and veal (often just pork and beef) and they are popular either on their, own, with sauce, or as a topping for open-faced sandwiches. This does make them quite similar to the frikadeller I made for Denmark, but these are slightly different, mostly just because they don’t contain oats and the frikadeller did. I didn’t have a lot of recipes this week, and I knew these could go well with the following two sides I wanted to make, so I made them despite the similarity. Besides, I was pretty sure they would be delicious, and they were!
The recipe I used comes from Nami Nami, though I used pork, beef, and veal, rather than just pork and beef.
Mulgipuder (Mashed Potato and Barley)
This is just mashed potato mixed with pearl barley. I didn’t really use a recipe; after looking at a few I just cooked the pearl barley separately, then boiled the potatoes as usual. I mashed the potatoes with butter, cream, and salt, and stirred in the barley. I think the barley absorbed some of the moisture from the mashed potatoes because they were a bit dryer than when I usually make them, but the flavor was still good.
Braised Red Cabbage
This is a common side dish in Estonia, and in its most basic form it’s just red cabbage that is braised until soft. I followed a recipe that added onion, apple, apple cider vinegar, and caraway seeds, with a bit of cayenne pepper. I sauteed the onion first, then added the other ingredients and let the mixture cook over low heat until done. This tasted alright, but I’m not sure I’d make it again.
This recipe came from the Upper Arlington Public Library‘s recipe collection.
This was a pretty good week. The leib and hakklihakotletid were my favorites, and I’m sure I’ll make them again. Especially the lieb, which I think is probably my favorite rye bread so far!
Next week, I will be cooking food from Eswatini.