Wild Mushroom Sauce — Latvia

 

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Food-wise, Latvia has many things in common with its neighbors, Estonia and Lithuania. Potatoes, wheat, barley, and rye are staples. Meat is the centerpiece of many meals. Latvia is a huge producer of dairy products, and you can see this in the cuisine. Sauerkraut is a favorite, each family preparing sautéed sauerkraut its own way. Cranberries and other wild berries are turned into deserts. Foraging is a common way to gather food, and foraged mushrooms are pickled or prepared as a sauce, as they are here.

Wild Mushroom Sauce - Latvia - 193 Countries

I wanted cook a traditional Latvian food for this project. This mushroom sauce is very simple, but it’s also a celebration of Latvia’s foraged mushrooms. If I were making the most authentic, Latvian version of it, I might make it with boletus mushrooms, which are abundant in Latvian forests and one of the most popular varieties for cooking. I didn’t have access to any boletus mushrooms, so I used locally grown shiitake mushrooms from my CSA share. You can use your favorite locally grown or foraged mushrooms in this sauce.

Shiitake Mushrooms

I first came across this sauce in this 1984 archived New York Times article on Latvian cuisine. I also saw it mentioned as a favorite in this blog post about foraging in the Gaujas National Forest, and this blog post on common varieties of Latvian mushrooms. Some versions of the sauce include bacon or ham, and others don’t. I have chosen a bacon-free version to suit my own preferences.

I served the sauce spooned over peeled and boiled potatoes, topped with parsley, for a hearty lunch.

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Porgandipirukas (Carrot Pie) – Estonia

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This is the very first recipe in my 193 Recipes Project.

Why did I start with Estonia? I figured I would begin with one of the Baltic states because I don’t know too much about the food in this region. This challenge is about eating new foods and learning about far away places. I certainly didn’t know what Estonians ate before I started to research.

My local library didn’t have much information on Estonian cuisine, but I found the information I was looking for on Wikipedia, Estonia’s Ministry of Rural Affairs website, and several Estonian food blogs. There’s a lot of meat and fish in the national cuisine—  I saw many recipes that called for ground beef, pork, or fresh fish. There were a number of baked pastries and soups, as well as pickled vegetables and fermented foods. What I didn’t expect is how seasonal and fresh Estonian food is. There are many plant-based dishes, featuring fresh carrots, potatoes, peas, foraged berries, apples, and many varieties of local wild mushrooms.

For my recipe, I chose to make porgandipirukas, a savory carrot pie.

Estonian Carrot Pie

There are many variations on this pie, but the filling base is always boiled or sautéed carrots and onions, seasoned with salt and pepper. Sometimes a chopped boiled egg, cheese, smoked meat, fish, or chives are added to the filling. The pastry is Danish dough. Home cooks use frozen Danish dough, or make a quick yeasted enriched dough with butter and cheese. The pies are most often shaped into a long rectangle, and sliced thinly to serve— that’s what you’ll see in this post. Some cooks also make hand-pie versions, and others make open-top pies.

The version of porgandipirukas I made is filled with grated carrot, minced onion, and a  chopped boiled egg, and wrapped in a buttery yeasted dough. The filling is sweet from the carrots, savory from the bit of onion, and almost meaty from the egg. The pastry is made in two parts— first milk, yeast, and flour are whisked together to form a wet dough, then a crumbly, buttery mix is kneaded in. It’s a simple yeasted enriched dough, but the two-part process also makes it pleasantly flaky and light. (There’s also an easier shortcut variation in the recipe notes.)

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193 Recipes: Guidelines for This Challenge

Yesterday, I wrote about my personal challenge to cook a dish from every country around the world. Today, I’m writing out my guidelines for this challenge. Not because I need a formal set of rules— this is a just-for-fun side project— but because I think typing out some rough guidelines before a big project like this will give me some basic structure and sanity.
Here are my guidelines.

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193 Recipes: Cooking My Way Around the World

Cook one dish from each country around the world. 
This is my personal challenge. What better way to get to know the variety of cultures and cuisines on our planet than by cooking a dish from each country?
There are no timelines, and no target dates. This is a challenge, but it’s also meant to be fun. “Every country” is a fuzzy concept, and somewhat controversial, but I decided to use the United Nation member states list as my benchmark. I’ll update the count + link the recipes below as I work my way through this list. Here are my guidelines for the challenge.
Current status: 2/193

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