If you’re sick of rice and tuna, you might want to try pea soup.

Did you spend all your lunch money on Christmas gifts or traveling home to spend time with the family? Are you sick of eating tuna and rice or macaroni and cheese? You are in luck! Although the Italians might not agree, the traditional Finnish cuisine is both cheap and delicious. Try these simple, but nutritious recipes in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Pea soup or ”hernekeitto” is the national Thursday meal in many school cafeterias. Most students buy their pea soup as a ready meal, but when making it at home, you might as well cook enough for a few days and freeze some. You will need 4 decilitres of dried peas, about 2 litres of water, 500 grams of smoked bone or knuckle and salt.
Steep the peas in water over night. Boil them in the water, add some more water and add the smoked bone. Cook at a low heat for about 2 hours. Then, take out the meat, separate it from the bone, cut it in pieces and add back to the soup. Add a little salt and onions and carrots if you wish. You might also want to try adding a bit of mustard or marjoram. For a veggie-version, add a vegetable bouillon cube to the water.
Milk gravy or ”maitokastike” is one cheap side dish to potatoes – the core vegetable of all Finnish meals. Fry three table spoons of flour in about two table spoons of butter and add add 5 decilitres of milk slowly to the pan. Remember to mix all the time. Add salt and white pepper and gently fried onions if you wish. Milk gravy is usually served with boiled eggs.

There are several interpretations of French toast  in Finland. One of them is an ”emergency dish for surprise visitor”, ”Pappilan hätävara”, the perfect way to sooth you sweet tooth and get rid of dry bread. Mix milk and eggs and steep the slices of dry white bread in the mix for a few minutes.
Fry the slices and serve with whipped cream and jam. For a less greasy version, you can also make ”Pappilan hätävara” by crushing dried cake or cookies in a bowl, moisten the crumbs with a splash of juice and adding the cream and the jam on top. In this case let the dish sit in the fridge for two to three hours before serving.

Marja Honkonen

Source material: The Finnish Martha organization www. martat.fi, Finnguide www.finnguide.fi.