• Baltic layered honey cake (Baltic by Simon Bajada)
From piragi to pollen cake, taste Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with these Northern European treats.
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28 Oct 2019 - 1:36 PM  UPDATED 28 Oct 2019 - 1:36 PM

The Baltic region encompasses three Northern European countries to the East of the Baltic Sea. These are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and each has a varying range of dishes showcasing the region’s coastline and rugged mountainous terrain. From herring cakes to hearty beef stew, here are nine Northern recipes from Simon Bajada’s cookbook, Baltic, to highlight the region.

Peragis

Piragi

Historically in Latvia, bringing piragi to the table around celebrations and holidays would arguably be seen as similar to bringing whole lobsters to a barbecue – they served as a form of bragging rights, particularly at Jāņi, or midsummer, when the Latvian pagan god Jānis would traditionally be celebrated with (among other events) a feast.

Smoked fish and celeriac remoulade on sourdough

Smoked fish and celeriac remoulade on sourdough

This recipe makes a great starter if you are entertaining but is equally good to have to hand as a snack in the refrigerator – if well covered it will keep for days and the flavours will come together even better over time (just remember to give it a good mix through before serving). It’s also excellent on crispbread.

Herring cakes with kale salad and cured egg yolk

Herring cakes with kale salad & cured egg yolk

The cured egg yolks take a little time to prepare, but they are delicious and well worth your while. They are extremely versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes – tossed into salads, or served over pasta, for example – so it’s worth making up a larger batch if you do attempt them.

Potato pudding (Kūgelis)

Potato pudding (Kūgelis)

This is the ultimate comfort food and an iconic Lithuanian dish. Very similar to the Ashkenazi Jewish dish kugel, from which it is almost certainly derived, it is also typically made from potato.

Potato whistles with chanterelles

Potato whistles with chanterelles

Known to the people of the Aukštaitija region in Lithuania as bulbona, these potato pillows are more commonly called Švilpikai, which literally translates as ‘whistles’ due to the noise they sometimes make while they cook away in the oven.

The lazy dessert (tinginys)

The lazy dessert (tinginys)

Myth has it that this recipe was accidentally created in the sixties by a woman who was trying to make chocolate but added too much sugar, which turned her mixture into a syrup. To remedy this she tried to make it less liquid by adding some broken-up biscuits (cookies); she stirred them into the syrup and when it cooled, the first tinginys was created.

Hakklihakaste

Hakklihakaste

This is the ultimate in comfort food. It’s essentially a meaty gravy served over boiled potatoes, but don’t let this dish’s simplicity deter you from taking the time to cook it. The chef of recipe author Simon Bajada’s favourite Tallinn restaurant, Leib, passionately proclaimed his love of this dish to Bajada, recalling his fond childhood memories of experiencing it at his grandmother’s house.

Pear and pollen cake

Pear and pollen cake

Pure bee pollen, as well as wax mixed with bee pollen, is sold at markets in all three Baltic countries, with a hefty price tag that reflects the value placed on its many health benefits. You can also find it in health food stores or online.

Baltic layered honey cake

Baltic layered honey cake

This impressive-looking layer cake is surprisingly easy to make. Its best feature (besides look and taste) is that with time it will only improve. The baked biscuit-like layers are softened by sour cream frosting meaning it's a make-ahead dream.

Recipes and photography from Baltic by Simon Bajada (Hardie Grant, RRP $50).

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