Sunday, 27 October 2013

Lemin särä; the oldest traditional food in Finland

Whew, we're starting with a big one. Lemin särä is supposed to be the oldest of the traditional foods in Finland. At least the oldest that we have records of and where the recipe is still somewhere. It was recently selected as the new export of Finnish food. This wasn't anything official though, but the national broadcasting company had a theme week on one of their programs and that was focusing on... surprise surprise, traditional Finnish food. People could vote on their favorite and this food was the winner of that.

It's name comes from two things; the place where it has originated (Lemi) and the trough that is traditionally used to prepare it. The through (also "särä") was made of a big piece of birch tree, that you gouge until it resembles a trough. After you have that, you are supposed to soak the trough in salted water for one full week. After that you will still treat it with the tallow of a lamb and put it in the after warmth of a wooden oven before it is ready for use.

For the actual food you will need 1 kilo of mutton and 1 kilo of potatoes. In the traditional recipe you would put the meat on the trough and put that in a wooden oven in 200 Celsius for several hours. After some time you'd add the potatoes and let them bake in the same trough and soak the taste from the mutton. That's a very very simplified version of it all.

That's not very practical in a modern kitchen however so we had to think of something else. We soaked the mutton in salted water for 2 hours, then gently dried the surface of the mutton with a paper cloth. After that put the mutton in a smoker bag. If you have a smoker, that works well too. Put the bag in the oven that has been pre-heated to 300 Celcius. Let it be there for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 200 Celsius and let the mutton be there for 25 minutes.

Take the mutton out of the smoking bag and put it on a casserole. Pour all the meat juice from the bag with the mutton, because it has plenty of flavor now. Put the casserole back into the oven in 150 Celsius for approximately 2 hours. Remember to baste the lamb with the meat juice every now and then so it won't go dry.

After 2 hours, take the casserole out, pour all the meat juice in a pot. Add the potatoes to the pot and cover them with water. Cook until the potatoes are half-cooked. Season with salt. In the meantime, put the mutton back into the oven, so that it doesn't get cool. Cover it with foil so it doesn't get dry.

Once the potatoes are half-cooked, add them to the casserole. Pour all the liquid from the pot on the mutton and potatoes and put back in the oven, still in 150 Celsius, for another hour and a half. Now you have successfully made your first Lemin räsä. Enjoy.


1 kg mutton
1 kg potatoes
1 smoker bag

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