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 my favourite Tallinn restaurant, Leib, passionately proclaimed his love of this dish to me, recalling his fond childhood memories of experiencing it at his grandmother’s house. It remains his favourite Estonian dish – give it a try and it might become yours, too.
Think of it as a sort of deconstructed shepherd’s pie with the addition of some zingy, acidic pickles to balance everything out.
- 700 g (1 lb 9 oz) potatoes, peeled and halved
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 300 g (10½ oz) minced (ground) pork
- 300 g (10½ oz) minced (ground) beef
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) chicken, veal or vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp chopped dill, plus extra to serve
- 60 g (2 oz/¼ cup) sour cream beetroot pickle, to serve (optional)
- preserved cucumbers to serve (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
1. Add the potatoes to a saucepan of salted water, bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes, or until the tip of a knife passes through them easily. Drain and set aside with a lid on to keep warm.
2. Warm the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat, add the meat and fry for 5–8 minutes, stirring and draining off any excess water that may come out of the meat as you go. Add the onion and cook for a further 8–10 minutes, or until the meat is browned all over and the onion is soft, then stir through the flour, pepper and nutmeg, pour over the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and simmer for a further 5–10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and stir through the dill and sour cream.
3. Divide the potatoes among plates, ladle the meaty gravy over the top, scatter over some more dill and serve with pickled beetroot and/or preserved cucumbers.
Recipe and photography from Baltic by Simon Bajada (Hardie Grant, RRP $50)