Archive for ‘Travel’

November 24, 2012

Karjalanpiirakat – Karelian Piroques – Recipe – a Traditional Finnish Savoury Pastry

by Ciaran Burke

Karjalanpiirakat – Karelian piroques ready for eating…

Karelian Piroques are a popular Finnish pasty, originating in the east of Finland, Karelia. Every visitor to a Finnish house will be served these tasty savoury pastries. Home made ones are the best, variance occurs. Hanna’s grandmother taught her how to make them, the authentic Karelian way, and of course everybody’s granny makes the best ones! Otherwise known as Helsinki granny, she was a Karelian native who moved to Helsinki after the war when a large part of Karelia was given to Russian as part of a peace treaty in 1945.

What makes a real Karelian piroque authentic is that the rye based pastry is rolled really thin. The filling is added, the pastry folded and pinched to make pleats and then cooked in a really hot oven. The pastry cooks hard, but upon removal from the oven, melted butter is brushed on top of each piroque. The melted butter soaks into the pastry, leaving it soft and tasty. Karelian piroques are best served warm and an ample dollop of egg butter on top.

The traditional fillings were either barley porridge or mashed turnip. These days the most common filling is rice, like rice pudding but savoury. Potato is also commonly used. My favourite is turnip, but other fillings could be used such as beetroot or pumpkin. There is plenty of chances to experiment, sweet potato and butternut squash are two alternatives and there is no reason why one could not add spices to the mix.

Hanna decided it was time to pass on her familial recipe and technique to me, to share the tradition of Karelia with her Irish man. The real skill is mastering the pulikka, the rolling pin used for Karelian piroques. After a couple of odd shaped attempts were produced, i started to get the hang of it, and after the batch was completed Hanna reckoned Helsinki granny would be proud of my effort, that there was a happy granny looking down from the heavens.

Wrap the butter piroques with greaseproof paper and leave for 10 minutes so that they soften. If you make too many, they freeze well.

Karelian Piroques – Recipe



  • 200ml water
  • 1tsp. salt
  • 450ml rye flour (It has to be rye. You can get in health stores)
  • 100ml white spelt flour (or wheat)

Rice, potato and turnip fillings


1)   potato mash


2)   turnip mash


3)   Rice porridge

For the potato mash:

  • 10 potatoes
  • 1tbsp. butter
  • salt


For the turnip mash:

  • 1kg turnip
  • 1tbsp. honey or syrup (mixture of golden syrup and black treacle 2:1)
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • salt and pepper

For the rice porridge:

  • 300ml rice (short grain like for rice pudding or follow instruction on package for amount of rice to milk)
  • 1, 5 l milk (or soy milk)
  • salt

For brushing: quite a bit of melted butter

Fillings – Method

  • Make first the porridge or the mashes. For the porridge: boil the rice in milk until soft and thick (porridge). Add salt. Let cool.
  • For the potato mash: peel the potatoes and cook in salty water until very soft. Take care that they don’t become watery. Mash and mix with butter, add salt to taste. Let cool.
  • For the turnip mash: peel the turnip and cut into small cubes. Cook in salty water until very soft. Try to cook all the water away, not to pour it away. Mash and add the honey/syrup, ginger, salt and pepper. Let cool.

Kakkara – the Finnish name for Karelian piroque pastry balls

Method for the pastry:

  1. Mix flours, water and salt with hands until you get flexible pastry.
  2. Make a ball and roll it into a fat sausage. Then cut into 25-30 pieces.
  3. Cover with some flour to stop trying.
  4. Put the oven to heat as hot as you can. Ideal would be 300°C, but most of the modern ovens heat only upto 250°C.
  5. Take then the pastry pieces one by one, clean excess flour off, roll between your hands to a ball and flatten against table. These are called kakkara.
  6. Cover each formed kakkara with some flour  to stop them drying.
  7. Take kakkaras one by one. Brush of the excess flour and roll with rolling pin on a floured table to very thin circles. The thinner the better.
  8. Finnish rolling pin for these type of pastry is pulikka, a piece of wood which gets thinner towards both ends. While rolling the kakkara should turn under the rolling pin in circle. This might need a bit of practice… In fact most of the Finns don’t know how to do this, so roll whatever way you want as long as the kakkaras get thin.
  9. Lay rolled kakkara aside and cover with flour. Lay next kakkara when rolled on the top of the first one and cover with flour as well. Continue like this until you have all the kakkaras rolled, and a pile on flat round pastries.

Rolled pastry

Filling – Method

  1. Take the one on the top of the pile. Brush carefully off all the excess flour from both sides. Lay on the table and put filling in the middle along the whole diameter of the pastry circle.
  2. With your fingers pinch the pastry up on both sides of the filling to form pleats. The pastry should be now oval in shape and in the middle a filling stripe should be visible. Put on a buttered oven tray.
  3. When all pastries are prepared put them in the oven and bake for 12- 15min at highest setting.
  4. Remove from oven and  brush with melted butter while they are still hot.
  5. Wrap into baking / greaseproof paper to soften for 10min.

Tray of piroques ready for the oven, use a pastry brush to remove excess flour

Eat when still warm. If you eat them later they are better to be heated up. Traditionally they are eaten with butter or eggbutter.

Karjalanpiirakat – Karelian piroques ready for eating…


  • 3 eggs
  • 50g butter
  • salt


Boil the eggs hard and mash roughly with fork. Add the butter and salt to taste and mix well.

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March 30, 2012

Cashel House Hotel, Connemara, Co. Galway

by Ciaran Burke


As we drove along the coast road that hugs every curve of the ocean carved land, the sun broke through the cloud and the illuminated waves welcomed us. We had arrived in Cashel, a scenic bay on the Atlantic coast where the sun always seems to shine when we arrive at Cashel House Hotel and Gardens to give a gardening course.



After checking in and a quick and cheerful chat with Ray the manager, Hanna and I took a walk around part of the mature gardens of the hotel. The mild spring is fooling the plants and tricking our minds, it could be May, but there are no leaves on many trees, Kerria japonica ‘Flore Plena’ is flowering like mad, so it must be March, but the bluebells are flowering, nothing is making sense. Perhaps it is best to just admire the beauty, whether it is the wood anemones in the shade, the masses of green leaves waving in the sunlight; a sea of montbretia under the trees, twisting and turning the sunlight or the colourful rhododendrons or azalea mingling with Mexican orange blossom, Choisya ternata, there are beautiful plants everywhere.



After our walk amongst the flora, it was time to meet our gardeners and go for dinner in the dining room where five courses of delicious Cashel House cuisine awaited. The sea air gives one a good appetite!



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July 29, 2011


by Ciaran Burke


I have been in Finland for the last couple of weeks with my wife Hanna, a native of this beautiful tree filled land. Finland is the most forested country in the EU. Approximately 74% of the country is covered in forest. One gets the impression that even the biggest towns and cities are living areas carved from the forests, trees are never far away. The green gold of Finland provides an important source of income, but the forests are more than resources to be harvested and sold.

Driving through the country, large pines and birches tower either side of the road. The roads are like veins and arteries carrying civilization, through a forested body; it is in this arboreal body in which the Finnish soul resides.

In European folklores, the woods are scary places; big bad wolves attack innocent girls on their way to visit their grand mothers. In Finland however the forests are considered a place of beauty, where most people spend their summer holidays, surrounded by the beauty. In summer as you drive along one of the arterial routes of civilization, you are sure to see people walking to the forests with empty buckets in search for berries or coming from the woods with baskets of mushrooms. Gathering food from the forest floor is a national pass time, or in some cases an obsession.

The two most numerous berry types are lingon berry and wild blueberry, bilberry, or froachan as we call it in Ireland. Both are species of Vaccinium, the former, V. vitis-idea and the latter V. myrtillus. Finns may love their forests, but they are intensely proud of their berries too. Ask them and most will tell you that the Finnish blueberries are the best. Families often have their own preferred places for picking; this information is not shared with others.

Last week we were in Hanko, the southern most tip of Finland. Here the forest is chiefly composed of tall pines. We got a report that the blue berries were plentiful, we went for a walk to see. As often happens in this wooded land, a short stroll became a berry picking expedition. The hot and high afternoon sun filtered through the open pines to dapple light patterns on the sandy forest floor. Mosses and lichens made a soft bed for heathers and blueberries to grow in the shade. We picked a litre of berries and returned home.


Early the next morning we visited the market in Hanko. Here in a car park in the town, adjacent to a filling station, wild blue berries were piled high on a table. The berry sellers were Asian women, Burmese refugees. They pick them in the woods and sell the in the market, their produce marked clearly that they are Suomi, Finnish. Farmers sold vegetables, there were stalls for locally caught fish too. The vegetables stalls sold potatoes measured in kappa’s. A kappa is a wooden box, a 5 litre box is a full kappa, a 2 litre is half. These are traditional measurements used for selling potatoes, converted to metric measurements, the boxes complete with official stamps. Most fruits and vegetables are sold by volume and not by weight at the Finnish markets. French beans, green and yellow are measured in litre and half litre measuring cups.



We purchased an additional litre of blue berries and potatoes and vegetables for dinner; then we cycled home to make some jam.


In a saucepan I cooked the berries with a small amount of water until the fruit had become soft, a wonderful fruity fragrance filled the kitchen. After about ten minutes of slowly cooking the fruit I gradually added 500g of sugar, made from Finnish grown sugar beet, unlike Ireland they saved their sugar beet industry from EU eradication. When all the sugar was added and dissolved, I turned up the heat and the jam boiled hard. I continued cooking the jam, stirring occasionally until the jam was not running off the wooden spoon.


The messiest part of jam making is always when I fill the jars. The jars were heated in the oven so as to sterilize them; they were first washed, then dried and placed in a cold oven. I heat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius and the jars remain in the oven until I am ready to fill them.


Later when the filled jars had cooled and the jam was set, we ate Finnish oven pancake over which we spooned this delicious wild blue berry jam. We ate it with home made buns, on bread, and spooned straight from the jar. There is nothing quite like home made jam, wild blue berry jam made with berries from the woodland, delicious!

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