Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Karjalanpiirakka - Finnish Karelian Pies

A couple of days ago, the other half fancied a taste of the homeland, so together we whipped up these karjalanpiirakka. These are traditional pies from Karelia, in the east of Finland, on the border with Russia. People eat them as snacks or for breakfast, usually topped with munavoi - egg butter. The pies themselves have a rye based crust and filled with creamy rice, but you can get potato or other fillings too. I found the rice to be the nicest though, the potato ones are a little stodgy.

Karelian pies (makes approximately 14)

120g rye flour 
30g plain flour
1 tsp salt 
120ml water
190g white rice - I used sushi rice!
500ml milk
half tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
2 eggs hard boiled
4 tbsps butter
1 tsp dill (optional)

Sift together the rye flour, plain flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and slowly add the water, a little at a time while bringing in the flour into the centre.

When all is combined, tip the dough out onto a floured surface. Work the dough into a sausage shape and cut into portion roughly 2 inches wide. Take each cut portion and with floured hands, shape into an oval and roll out to quarter cm thickness. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. 

Meanwhile, add the rice to the pot. I used sushi rice for the filling which was great because it kept it moistness, and was a little sticky. First, you need to wash the rice. Add water to the pot and swirl the rice around until the water becomes cloudy. Pour out the water, add fresh water and repeat. You may need to do this 3 or 4 times until the water is almost clear.

The next step is to polish the grains, just rub the rice grains gently between your (clean!) hands. It's a great stress reducer! Add 1 litre of fresh water to the pot, cover and bring to a boil, before reducing to a simmer. Leave for 10-15 minutes.  

Drain the rice and allow to sit for 15 minutes to allow the excess moisture to drain away. Return to the pot and add the milk, cover, leave to simmer over a low heat. Add the nutmeg now if you like and a pinch of salt. After 20 minutes, you should have lovely creamy sticky rice. 

Place the rice in the middle of the prepared dough ovals, and fold upwards to create a little basket almost for the rice. The dough naturally creases into the wave shapes that karjalanpiirakka have. Make sure the rice is snugly packed in. 

Brush each pie with a little melted butter and milk mixed together to give the rice a nice crust. Place in the oven at 210C for 20 minutes or until the rice starts to look golden. 

For the egg butter, mix together 4 tbs butter with 2 hard boiled eggs. Mash together to get a nice even consistency. Top with some dill. 

Although this seems like a lot of work, these are great on a winters morning. You could prepare ahead and keep them in the fridge, just heat them in the oven or microwave before serving. Sometimes I sneak a bit of jam onto mine, which the other half says is blasphemy, but it works a treat!

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