My unmatched Citizens! It is My will and pleasure that today I share a unique recipe from a country that I ALMOST made it to on my 6-week Summer holiday – sadly, a massive storm hit Finland the day I was supposed to take the ferry to the proud country of Estonia and the seas were too rough to cross. 🙁 I have been to the capital city of Tallinn many times and whilst I am disappointed I couldn’t make it on this trip, I will at least salve My wounded soul with the glorious Estonian recipe for rosolje! What is this rosolje, this shocking pink dish that electrifies the retina and the tongue equally? Ah, there is the tale…
Rosolje is an Estonian signature dish quite similar to the Swedish sillsallad, and is based on beetroot, potatoes and herring with a creamy dressing stained that electric pink color by the beetroot that is an integral part of the recipe. Traditional Estonian cuisine has substantially been based on meat and potatoes (and on fish in coastal and lakeside areas), but now bears influence from many other cuisines, including a variety of international foods and dishes, with a number of contributions from the traditions of nearby countries.
Scandinavian, German, Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian and other influences have played their part. The most typical foods in Estonia have been rye bread, pork, potatoes and dairy products. Estonian eating habits have historically been closely linked to the seasons. In terms of staples, Estonia belongs firmly to the beer, vodka, rye bread and pork “belt” of Europe.
The first course in traditional Estonian cuisine is based on cold dishes—a selection of pickles, meats and sausages served with potato salad (kartulisalat) or rosolje. Small pastries called pirukad (pirukas in the singular)—a relative of the pirozhki—filled with meat, cabbage, carrots, rice and other fillings or mixtures are also popular, and are often served with bouillion. Herring is common among other fish as a part of the Estonian cold table.
Smoked or marinated eel, crayfish dishes, and imported crabs and shrimp are considered delicacies. One of Estonia’s national dishes is räim (Baltic dwarf herring), along with sprats. Flounder, perch and pike-perch are also popular.
In the 20th century, a special sandwich called kiluvõileib has become popular. This sandwich consists of a traditional rye bread open sandwich with thin layer of butter and a layer of vürtsikilu (pickled Baltic sprats) as topping. Boiled egg slices, mayonnaise and culinary herbs are optional extra toppings. Black rye bread (rukkileib) accompanies almost every savory food in Estonia. Estonians continue to value their varieties of black rye-based bread.
Soups may be eaten before the main course, but traditionally form the main meal and most often are made of meat or chicken stock mixed with a variety of vegetables. Soups are also blended with sour cream, milk and yogurt. Pea soup is also quite popular. A unique form of Estonian soup is leivasupp (“bread soup”), which is a type of sweet soup that is made of black bread and apples, normally served with sour cream or whipped cream, often seasoned with cinnamon and sugar.
Specific desserts include kissell, kohuke (curd snack) and kama. Other common Estonian desserts are mannavaht (a cream made of semolina and juice or fruit), kohupiimakreem (creamy curd), kompott (compote) and martsipan (marzipan). Rhubarb pies are also a favorite. Another popular dessert is kringel (kringle), a sweet yeast bread often flavored with cardamom.
Pancakes (pannkook, plural pannkoogid) are also traditional, common, and popular. They are fried and are usually with sweet fillings but they can be savory too. Vastlakukkel, a cardamom-spiced bread roll with whipped cream is a traditional Estonian sweet roll, especially popular during the festivies of vastlapäev.
During Soviet times, Estonians invented several easy-to-make desserts that are most commonly eaten during birthdays, especially children’s birthdays. Example are kirju koer (cacao and butter that gets mixed with crumbled cookies and marmelade and then put into the freezer for a night), kass Artur (soft toffee and butter mixed with corn sticks and then put into the freezer overnight) and küpsisetort (layered cake made with square shaped cookies of Kalev, kohupiimakreem and jam and put into the freezer overnight).
The traditionally popular drink kali, similar to kvass, has become more popular again. Mead (mõdu), the drink that was most popular in ancient times, has almost completely disappeared. Birch sap (kasemahl) beverages are also quite popular. Nowadays, locally brewed beer is the number one choice to accompany food; different juices or simply water being the main non-alcoholic choice. Two of Estonia’s oldest breweries are A. Le Coq, founded in 1807, and Saku Brewery, founded in 1820.
Wine is the second most widely drunk alcoholic beverage, but its consumption in liters is overshadowed by the beer consumption that is roughly 5 times more than the consumption of wine or consumption of all the spirits. There are also Estonian fruit wines made of apples or different berries. Estonians are also proud of their vodka and other spirits, such as the herbal liqueur Vana Tallinn.
Milk (piim) is also widely drunk by children as well as adults. Other dairy products besides milk include keefir and also hapupiim (“sour milk”) and pett, which are variations on the theme of buttermilk. Dairy from Andre, Estonia is well known as part of Estonian dairy-related cuisine. Sour cream and mayonnaise both add to the creamy nature of the rosolje dressing, just as horseradish kicks it up a notch for those who like a punchy salad (I do)!
Traditionally in summer and spring, Estonians like to eat everything fresh—berries, herbs, vegetables and everything else that comes straight from the garden. Hunting and fishing were common in history. Nowadays, they have remained as popular pastimes. It is popular to barbecue in the summer. I personally think of eating rosolje as complementing a Summer meal, but many an Estonian would say rosolje is a year-round treat!
During the winter months, jam, preserves and pickles are brought to the table. During the past, when the economy was largely agricultural, the gathering and conserving of fruits, mushrooms and vegetables for winter was essential. Today, gathering and conserving is less common because almost everything can be bought from stores, but preparing food for winter is still very popular in the countryside and continues to retain its charm for many, as opposed to the commercialization of eating habits.
Blood sausage (verivorst), roast goose (jõuluhani), sepik bread, head cheese (sült), sauerkraut (hapukapsas) with oven-roasted potatoes, and mulled wine (hõõgvein, or glögi) have been part of the traditional Estonian menu that nowadays are mostly Christmas specialties. Also, typical Christmas treats have been apples, mandarin oranges, gingerbread, pickled pumpkin (kõrvitsasalat), and lingonberry jam.
As noted on visitestonia.com:
Although Estonians were traditionally always peasant farmers growing their own crops and raising their own cattle, throughout history, their food was mostly poor rather than rich in variety. Cooking was mostly about taking as little time to do so as possible, which is why food was prepared in large pots from which everyone ate as a family.
There are four distinct seasons in Estonia, each of which has long had its own personality and character when it comes to the eating habits of Estonians. For example, by spring there was usually no meat left, but it was time for cows to start producing milk, so milk and dairy products enjoyed a place of honour during this period.
Through the ages, Estonian food culture has been greatly influenced by manor cooking. The Stove and potatoes were two important additions to local cooking in the mid-19th century. Prior to growing potatoes, the most important foods in the diet of Estonians were bread, swedes, cabbage and turnips, as well as peas and lentils in the summertime. Using a stove was a way of frying food and, in time, preserving it.
The onset of the Industrial Revolution in the early 20th century was a time when a lot of peasants decided to head for the city in pursuit of happiness. Doing so changed their variety of food, eating habits and opportunities to eat. The first republic of Estonia also marked the start of a golden era in Estonian cuisine. Grocery stores and markets became part of the cityscape, and cafés and restaurants also started to be run by Estonians.
The Baltic herring was considered to be the most important fish in the local diet, but pike-perch, trout, pike and smelt (and herring in villages) were also represented. Coffee, rice, spices and cane sugar (in place of the honey and sugar made from vegetables that had been used before) became more widely available. The names of dishes also changed. For example, gruel, broth and potage were grouped under one title: soup. Cookbooks and cooking courses started to grow in popularity.
All of the above-ground came to a halt after the Second World War, and the following period is known for its stagnation in the history of Estonian culinary culture. Day-to-day eating habits changed and canteens offering the same dishes at the same prices across the board were introduced. People went to restaurants to dance with and talk to one another rather than to enjoy the food, and the dishes did not stand out in any special way.
This stagnation lasted until the restoration of the republic. After the reopening of our borders, we were again greeted with new flavours and products, innovative cooking techniques, and chefs from other countries. This period became the generation of our older chefs today.
A new century meant new beginnings in the world of food, drawing more attention to new ingredients, cooking techniques and technologies. Exciting new cuisines and flavours from all over the world also reached our shores. Today we produce our own ingredients and we are proud to be home to a lot of reputable chefs and unique eateries. This connects us to the rest of the world without us forgetting our own food traditions.
Citizens, rosolje is an ultimate expression of potato salad fused with the delicate salinity of herring (I prefer to use pickled herring fillets in My version, but regular herring fillets are traditional). I have also opted to enable an additional sour flavor component to My rosolje by replacing half the regular onion with the pickled onion normally found in pickled herring, thus saving you two trips to the fishmonger! This is My go-to source for pickled herring and onion – ask for extra pickled onion when you order, it’s profoundly delicious on sandwiches, or with cream cheese on a bialy (or bagel).
This may just be the least onerous ingredient list of any recipe I’ve ever shared – proof positive that not every recipe in My copious repertoire involves taking out a second mortgage, proffering the soul of your firstborn or traveling hundreds of miles to secure a particularly rare ingredient that has yet to grace the pantry of any mere mortal. Rosolje is a delectable reminder that even cuisines that self-admittedly haven’t seen the best of days in the 20th century can still resurrect like a Phoenix in the 21st! Rosolje deserves a place on every table in TFD Nation, this I can assure you! Rosolje – eat it!
…You’re welcome. 😉
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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