Reindeer and moose delicacies in Finland

Just as kangaroo, emu and crocodile meats are popular in Australia, reindeer and moose are delicacies in Finland.

Served with potatoes, salad or in a stew, reindeer and moose is the "it" menu item in Finland at the moment.

"It is really trendy here right now," said Helsinki-based celebrity chef Sara La Fontaine.

Food from any country is influenced by its neighbours, history and locally produced ingredients.

Like its Scandinavian neighbours, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, Finland gets extremely cold in winter and fresh ingredients are often hard to come by.

"There is influence from Russia and Sweden, you can see it in the food and the drinking.

"But I think that we have made it our own."

Stews are popular, as are soups.

"When it is raining and it is cold, you eat these pot meals with gravy and mash potatoes," explained La Fontaine.

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"That is when I use reindeer and moose a lot."

Other local delicacies include salmon, different cheeses and breads.

In Summer, Finns love a good BBQ and sauna, with grilled sausages, cold beer and always a nip of vodka.

A country of many lakes, fresh fish is also popular in Finland. Perch, Pike, Burbot and Baltic Herring are all specialities.

Salmon is eaten hot or cold, served raw, salted or smoked.

"We love eating fish, especially salmon, you will find it everywhere," said La Fontaine.

La Fountain is known for combining traditional local recipes with a modern, international twist.

She trained at the New York Culinary Institute and has released a number of cook books, as well as having her own TV show and is about to launch her own kitchenware range.

La Fountain says Finnish cuisine was constantly changing but would always be influenced by age-old traditions such as smoking meats.

"Finnish food is really fresh and light and has a lot of balance," she said.

"Berries are really in at the moment - lingonberries and cloudberries, they add some really fresh flavours and it is great because you can just pick them in the forest."

Autumn is the time to collect fresh wild berries and mushrooms.

Strawberries, cranberries, gooseberries, blueberries and raspberries are also popular and provide a good flavour for many local liquors. Cloudberries are bright yellow in colour and are only found in the Arctic Circle.

It is also popular to drink a shot of vodka with a couple of berries in the glass.

La Fountain is also a big fan of reindeer and moose meat, which is farmed locally in the same way Australians produce beef from cattle.

The export of reindeer meat has become big business in recent years, and is said to be one of the fastest growing parts of the Finnish food industry.

Although slightly more expensive than other meats, reindeer has a distinctive taste of game and is fine-textured and tender. It is also very low in fat.

"It is like beef but more tender and really rich in flavour," said La Fontaine.

"Reindeer doesn't need that much sauce, so it is light and the taste is just so powerful.

"Moose is similar and is also used a lot in the winter time."

Each region in Finland comes with its own specific recipes and unique dishes.

But the best place to sample a mixture of Finnish cuisine is the waterside capital of Helsinki, where new restaurants and trendy bars are opening all the time.

There, one can sample food from regions such as Lapland, the Aland Islands, and Savonia.

"People really want to be trendy and stylish with design, clothes and food," said La Fontaine.

"We want to be different."

IF YOU GO:

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MyPlanet is a specialist Scandinavian travel retailer offering expert advice and a broad range of competitively priced city breaks, hotels, various tours and transport options for exploring Scandinavian region.

MyPlanet can be contacted on (02)9020-5800 or visit http://www.myplanetaustralia.com.

* The writer was a guest of Scandinavian Airlines, Finnish Tourist Board, Helsinki City Tourist and Convention Bureau and MyPlanet.

AAP

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