Vegetarian Macaroni Casserole

Vegetarian Macaroni Casserole

This is ultimate Finnish comfort food, made with love for every kid by their mums or grandmothers throughout their childhood, in my case 90s recession. In early 2000s when Finns where increasingly influenced by international cuisines and ingredients some of these everyday meals got forgotten and have reputation as a boring as everyone got into eating sushi, avocadoes and buffala mozzarella.

This dish is my hurrah to my grandmother who nourished me and my sisters through our upbringing with delicious and hearty meals. My grandmothers version included minced meat and butter but this is obviously vegetarian recipe, also a quick one as I used store-bought veggie mince. You can also make your own from mushrooms/walnuts/oats but this worked out perfect. My Australian boyfriend loves this as he is allowed to have as much tomato sauce (something that we rarely have on our dinner table) as he wishes on top of it – it’s a must!

Finnish Vegetarian Macaroni Casserole (GFO, DF)
Serves 4-6

300 g macaroni (use spelt if no need for GF, I used brown rice & millet macaroni)
400 g vegetarian minced meat (I used Veggie Delights)
1 onion, chopped small
2 organic eggs
6 dl vegetable stock (hot water + 1 cube)
1 dl oat mylk
1/4 C nutritional yeast
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp white pepper

  1. Warm the oven to 200 Celsius.
  2. Cook the macaroni al dente following the instructions.
  3. In a pan cook onion in olive oil, once browned add mince and spices. Cook until brown.
  4. In a bowl, mix the veggie stock, mylk, nutritional yeast and eggs.
  5. Lightly oil an oven dish. After draining the macaroni, poor in the minced meat mix and combine. Poor the mix to the oven dish.
  6. Poor the egg mixture over the macaroni mixture evenly. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top.
  7. Cook in the over for 50-55 minutes. Half way through add foil on top of the dish to prevent the crust getting too brown.
  8. Serve with loads of ketchup (it’s a must!) and with a fresh green salad or steamed broccoli on side to get your greens.

Nordic Winter Food

Nordic Winter Food

I was raised and born in Finland but I have lived last four years in Australia. People often ask what the Finnish food is like and I mumble something about basic food, being embarrassed about Finnish cuisine not being known as an inventor of macarons, avo toast or poke bowls.

Truth is that Finnish food is traditionally survival food. For eight months of the year, the entire country is more or less covered in snow and nothing grows and can be harvested. For my ancestors, it was all about having root vegetables, pickled vegetables, grains, dried fish and meat stored to eat throughout the year. Leafy salads and fruits in Finland were luxuries that followed fridges and international trade. Obviously when I grew up our food was modern and plentiful but the everyday dishes we had were still practical, simple and inexpensive, yet still tasty.

This particular dish is something I never touched as a kid, because it looked ugly and I knew it had cabbage in it (which sounded yak). However, when I grew older I learned to love it. When I stopped eating meat, I stopped cooking it for a while, until I got inspired by few recipes that used TVP mince. However, I don’t like eating TVP, it makes my tummy ache and it seems artificial and dodgy so I made up my own recipe just with mushrooms, and it came out heavenly and has been loved by both, Finns and foreigners who I have fed with it.

Finnish Mushroom Cabbage Casserole (serves 6)

1 cabbage
1 onion

2 big carrots
500 g of mushrooms (any kind will do)
3 gloves of garlic
1 C of brown rice (uncooked)
rosemary (fresh preferred)
1 tbs of paprika
1.5 vegetable stock cubes
1 C almond mylk (or oat)
2 tbs o maple syrup
salt
pepper
2 tbs of balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

  1. Cook the rice following the instructions on the package.
  2. Chop onion, mushrooms, and carrots to small cubes. Crush garlic and rosemary.
  3. In a pan heat 2 tbs of olive oil and add onion and garlic. After 1 minute, add diced mushrooms and carrots. Add 1 dl of water and 1 stock cube, balsamic vinegar, paprika, and rosemary. Season with salt. Let cook for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Cut cabbage as small as you prefer (I do 2 cm x 2cm squares, roughly). 
  5. Heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a wok pan or big pot. Add the cabbage and keep mixing. When cabbage starts to soften, add maple syrup and 1/2 vegetable stock cube (potentially a 1-2 tbs water). Let cabbage soften about 10 minutes. 
  6. Add mushroom mix and rice in the pot with cooked cabbage and mix all together. Taste if you need more salt and add some pepper.
  7. Poor mix in an oven tray prepared with olive oil. 
  8. Pour 1 C of plant-based milk and 1/2 C of water on top of the dish.
  9. Cook in the oven in 175 C for about an hour.
  10. Traditionally enjoyed with lingonberries or lingonberry jam. But as an expat, I have it with pickled beetroot and fresh chopped parsley on top.  

This dish is perfect because it serves a household of two three times. So basically I cook it on Sunday and it saves many busy weeknights. This is also a great side for game or fish if you that is part of your diet. Believe me, it tastes much much better than it looks haha!

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