When I was 11 years old my Mum and I went to Finland for three months over winter. Right after we touched down Mum bought me some gorgeous red ice skates. We stayed with my grandparents for some of the time in their apartment in the city. We’d walk through the snow to the local ice rink, sit in a log cabin and pop our skates on. We’d skate around and around for hours. I was mesmerised at how good my Mum could skate, twirling around and gliding across the ice so gracefully.
Another fond memory of that trip is the food. Oh boy, did I love the food. If you ever get the chance to try Fazer’s milk chocolate, do yourself a favour and grab as much as you can. I did just that, which resulted in me coming home a far cry from the scrawny rib-protruding pre-teen that had left three months prior. My grandmother would buy me family blocks of the stuff, I had zero self-restraint and ate it quicker than she could buy it.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night, walking to the freezer in my grandparents’ kitchen and sneaking these delicious ice creams they had. I wasn’t the only one sneaking around in the middle of the night succumbing to vices, I also saw my Mum sneaking a cigarette in her pyjamas in the middle of the night too. What rebels.
The bread in Finland was particularly delicious too, quite small and crispy when toasted. We’d eat it for breakfast, smothered in butter, I’m surprised I ever wanted to come home!
I also remember there used to be these food kiosks on the street around the city that sold lihapiirakka, a traditional meat pasty that are often called pies or hamburger pies. They are made with the same dough that you make pulla with but with less sugar and no cardamom. They are filled with mince, onion and rice, and then deep fried. They almost resemble a savoury donut, that’s the best way I can describe it. The dough turns a delicious brown colour on the outside when fried and when you take a bite the dough in the centre is fluffy and pale.
In the kiosks in Finland they slice them open down the middle, pop a sausage in the centre and top it with tomato sauce or mustard, much like a hotdog. Bluddy glorious! My grandmother used to make them when she moved to Australia too, they were always one of my favourites. High time I tried making them myself.
I have seen baked versions of these pies but honestly, as much as I am not a fan of deep fried food these are best fried. The dough comes up all fluffy and gives the pies a very different taste to if they are baked.
Ingredients (makes approx. 30 pies):
500ml warm milk
900g plain flour
6tsp dry yeast
200g melted butter
400g lean mince
2 tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
1 cup rice
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for deep frying
To make the dough:
Mix warm milk, 2 eggs, sugar and salt together until the sugar has melted.
In a separate bowl mix the flour and yeast together.
Using a spoon to mix, start adding a little of the flour and yeast through the milk mixture. Keep adding the flour a little by little, and when the mixture starts to resemble dough, ditch the spoon and use your hand. Knead until the dough comes off your hand (don’t worry if you have not used all the flour).
Add slightly cooled melted butter and keep kneading until it is all absorbed into the mix. Don’t worry if it seems the dough is swimming in the butter, as you keep kneading the butter will be absorbed into the dough.
If the dough is too moist and sticks to your hand, add a little more flour. Knead until the dough is super soft, I usually aim for about 10-12 minutes once the butter is all absorbed. You can use a mixer with a dough hook, but I just love kneading dough by hand.
Cover the kneaded dough with a tea towel and let it rise to double its size in a warm place (away from draft), for approximately 1 hour.
To make the filling:
Cook rice according to packet.
Saute onion in butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add mince and cook until just browned. Take off heat, combine with rice and season well with salt and pepper.
To make the pies:
Punch dough, then pour out onto floured surface. I divided mine into 4 portions to allow for easier rolling (I have a tiny workspace so I couldn’t roll out the entire dough in one hit). Roll out to about 5mm thickness. Cut circles in the dough using a 12cm cookie cutter. Place a tablespoon of mince mixture into the middle of each circle. Brush edges with water, fold the circle in half and pinch edges together. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Heat oil in a deep saucepan. Once hot, place pie into oil and fry for a couple of minutes. Once golden, turn to cook other side. Don’t overcook as will burn quickly, and ensure they don’t touch the bottom of the pan or you’ll wind up with a burnt spot on your pies. The dough must turn a golden colour on the outside to be cooked nicely on the inside. You don’t want to pull the pies out too soon or the inside will be too raw and ‘doughy’. Once golden on both sides, place onto paper towel to soak up excess oil, then chow down!
You can cut down the middle lengthwise and pop a sausage inside and top with mustard and tomato sauce. Or you can eat as is.