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)
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
2 tbs of balsamic vinegar
- Cook the rice following the instructions on the package.
- Chop onion, mushrooms, and carrots to small cubes. Crush garlic and rosemary.
- 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.
- Cut cabbage as small as you prefer (I do 2 cm x 2cm squares, roughly).
- 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.
- 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.
- Poor mix in an oven tray prepared with olive oil.
- Pour 1 C of plant-based milk and 1/2 C of water on top of the dish.
- Cook in the oven in 175 C for about an hour.
- 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!