Many years ago our niece Gina and her husband gave us a little spiral-bound cookbook, Fine Finnish Foods. Compiled by Gerry Kangas of Palo, Minnesota and published in 1988, it is still in print and includes a lot of recipes passed down from mothers to daughters.
Here is a beautiful main dish that tastes as good as it looks. Even better, it is surprisingly easy to make.
For the dough:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chilled butter or margarine
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
For the filling:
4 T butter
1/4 lb. mushrooms
2 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef, veal or pork
1 medium-small onion (about 2” in diameter)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar or Swiss cheese
1/3 cup milk
2 T milk
Sift the flour and salt together. Cut the butter or margarine into the flour with a fork or pastry blender until the flour looks like coarse cornmeal. Beat the egg into the sour cream, then stir it into the flour mixture. Work the liquid into the dry ingredients until you have a soft ball. Wrap it in waxed paper or plastic film and refrigerate the dough for an hour.
Make the filling while the dough is cooling. Clean and chop the mushrooms into a quarter-inch dice. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet and sauté the mushrooms for about six minutes. Add the meat, onion, salt and pepper and cook them until the meat is done and the juices have evaporated. Lower the heat if necessary, so the meat and onions do not get crisp.
Preheat the oven to 375º and grease a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet.
Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the meat to cool for five or six minutes. Grate the cheese while the meat is cooling, then mix the cheese and milk with the meat.
Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a six by fourteen-inch rectangle. Put one rectangle on the cookie sheet and spoon the meat mixture into a ridge along the center of the dough. Shape the meat into a loaf, leaving about an inch of dough around the meat. Brush the exposed dough with a little milk.
Lay the second rectangle of dough on top of the loaf and trim the dough to make a neat rectangle. Seal the edges with a fork. Beat the egg and milk together and paint the dough. Prick holes on top to let the steam escape.
Bake the loaf for thirty-five to forty-five minutes until it is golden brown. Remove it from the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then cut thick slices to produce six to eight servings.
Serve with sour cream and lingonberry or cranberry sauce.
NOTES: I have modified Mrs. Kangas’s recipe slightly by including a little salt and pepper and using only two and a half pounds of meat.
OPTIONS: If you like spicier foods, you can add a little more salt and pepper to the meat mixture, but be especially careful with the salt, as some cheeses are quite salty. Some recipes call for three or four tablespoons of finely chopped parsley along with garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce. Try them if you want, but the Finns like to keep things simple.