Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pea Soup Day (with Shrove Buns)

People in warmer climes have their carnivals, but in Finland the onset of Lent is celebrated with tobogganing followed by slow-cooked pea soup and Shrove buns (laskiaispulla/fastlagsbulle in Finland, semla in Sweden).

Shrove buns

Pea soup landed here during the 12th-century Crusades when the Swedish crusaders would fortify themselves for the Friday fast by filling up on this hearty dish on Thursday, which is how pea soup became a traditional Thursday meal in both Finland and Sweden (later on followed by a dessert of oven-baked pancake). Naturally this was the first soup I thought of when reading about A Veggie Venture's Soup challenge.

Pea Soup

The best pea soups are cooked in giant 100+-portion batches, and so my version is far, far larger than what I expected six lunchers to eat, especially knowing what was for dessert. (With two pounds of dried peas I really expected to have a week's worth of leftovers, but a lot of seconds were had. So, maybe three days' worth, then.) The soup is fairly predictable and gets its deep flavor from being cooked with a bit of smoked pork shank, but the buns...

Shrove buns

I've already talked about our sweet buns at some length. Shrovetide buns are plain "pulla" buns with a filling of ground almonds and whipped cream (there is some controversy between righteous almond-proponents and blasphemers who prefer to corrupt the creamy Shrovetide experience with jam, which I won't go into beyond saying that I AM RIGHT). You can eat them as is, but the REAL way to go is to serve them on a deep plate with steaming hot milk. The bun soaks up amazing amounts of milk and becomes a warm, mushy mess, the whipped cream retains a bit of cool distinction before melting in your mouth, and the almond filling is the crowning glory, tangy and creamy and intensely almond-y.

with almond & whipped cream

Pea Soup

pea soup

1 kg (2 pounds) dried green peas (in Sweden they use yellow peas, so I'm sure you'd be OK with either)
5 l (1¼ gallons) water
1 kg (2 pounds) smoked pork shank (ask your butcher to cut it in two)
2 large onions
2 tsp dried marjoram
black pepper
hot mustard to taste
salt (depending on how salty your meat was)

Rinse the peas and soak them overnight in plenty of water. Transfer (with the soaking water) to a large pot and bring to a boil. Peel the onions and cut them into chunks. Add the rest of the water and the pork, onions and marjoram and let simmer on a low heat for about two to three hours, until the peas go all mushy and start clouding and thickening the water.

Either I screwed up with the water or the recipe calls for way too much of it - this is supposed to be very thick and goopy. I wound up having to separate solids from the liquid for a while and reduce the latter by a good half or so, which was a bit of a pain. Next time I'll be conservative with the water and just add more as the peas soak it up.

pea soup

Remove the pork shank from the pot and scrape the meat from the bone. Shred the meat into small pieces and place back in the pot. Season with hot mustard and pepper (and salt, if needed) to taste.

Pea Soup

This is at its best made the day before and slowly reheated. It's served piping hot, with everyone adding more hot mustard and, in our family, garnishing with a dollop of smetana (sour cream).

Shrove Buns

makes 12 smallish buns, recipe from HBL 28/2/2006
Shrove buns

for the buns:
50 g (1¾ oz) fresh yeast
200 ml (6¾ fl oz) milk
100 g (3½ oz) butter
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 egg
450 g (1 pound) flour

+ 1 egg, lightly whipped

for the filling:
about 4-5 tbsp half-and-half
1-2 tbsp melted butter
grated peel from ½ a lemon
250 g (9 oz) almond paste
1-2 drops bitter almond

whipped cream

to serve:
plenty of hot milk

To make the buns: in a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in a few tbsp of milk. Melt the butter and pour in the rest of the milk. When the milk-butter mixture is lukewarm, add it to the yeast along with the cardamom, sugar, and egg. Mix in half the flour and work to a smooth, goopy dough. Let rest for a minute or two, then work in the rest of the flour in batches, kneading (or working with the dough hook in a mixer) until you have a shiny, springy dough. (You probably won't need all the flour - this is supposed to be a fairly loose dough.) Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, about 40-60 minutes.


Gently press down the dough, kneading a few times, and cut into twelve pieces. Form each piece into a smooth, round bun (this is the part that gives me hives) and let rise for another 20 minutes or so on a baking sheet. Brush with lightly whipped egg and bake at 225°C for about 15 minutes. Cool on racks.

out of the oven

Once the buns are cooled, cut off about a third of the top and scrape off a bit of the bottom part. Take the scraped-out filling and mix it with the almond paste (easier if you've shredded it), lemon peel, bitter almond and enough butter and cream to form a soft paste.

carved out

Fill the bottom parts with almond mixture and pipe some whipped cream around the edges of the bun. Top with the caps you cut off earlier and dust with icing sugar.

filled buns

Can be eaten as such or in a deep bowl with almost-boiling milk poured on top.


Alanna Kellogg said...

Moi, Mia! I lived in Vantaa as an exchange student (too many years ago to admit!) and still stay in close contact with my family there. So I am particularly touched with your entry to Soup's On! Thank you!

And I'm inspired to make the buns, which I remember so well -- haven't made pulla in the longest time and I think, yes, this is the week if not the very day.

Kiitos paljon! "Puhun vahaan suomeksi nyt"

Anonymous said...

My brother claims there's no way to make pea soup better than what they get in the army. Maybe I will send him to your place for some of the left overs!

You can't go wrong with almond paste. Where do you find bitter almonds?

Astrid said...

My goodness Deinin, you are off to a flying start with your blog! Stunning photos, varied and exotic recipes, lots of energy in all your descriptions... Keep it up!

Mia said...

Alanna: yay for Vantaa! As for the buns, 'tis definitely the season...

Tiinu: actually, I think your brother's probably right (at least according to my father and brother) - it does do better the larger the batch, and they have those "soppatykki" things and... but this was very very good!

The bitter almond I have is some very fake "karvasmanteliaromi" from some supermarket, I think Jättijako.

Astrid: thank you! This is a good season for me to think and write about food - I love hearty, stew-y recipes and while it's still cold and blustery outside, it's not so dark anymore, so I can actually get some pictures of what I cook.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

I love your photos! And the pea soup sounds marvelous. I have a Swedish friend who's always ordering pea soup, but I never thought to ask him if it was a traditional Nordic food. Now I know!

Freya said...

Those buns look delicious!

Mia said...

Homesick Texan: thank you! Swedish pea soup is a bit different, they tend to use thyme and, um, some fattier cut of pork I don't know the Enlish term for, and yellow peas instead of green ones, but there's really only so much you can do with the pork + peas combo.

Freya: thanks! They're very photogenic, at least until you drench them in milk and they turn all soggy and yummy.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Well, hello there! The next time I smoke some pork, I'll have to incorporate it into a version of this soup. This is a very fun read and I thank you for the education, as well as the scrumptious photos. I'll be dropping by again, soon (I'll put a link up to remind me, thanks!) I look forward to reading you again....

Mia said...

Hi, D-man! I have to confess I was a bit worried about being overly lecture-y, but on the other hand there are VERY few (I know of one) Finnish food blogs writing in English, so...

Thanks for the link! I think it's my first :)

Bron said...

Those buns look delectable!
Thanks for dropping by my blog so I could discover yours!!

Brilynn said...

Those buns sound amazing, I've never had one before!

Mia said...

Bron, thanks! I've been lurking about in the foodblogosphere for several months now and finally got the courage to get all active 'n stuff.

Brilynn, they are SO good. I don't think anyone's ever heard of them outside of Scandinavia though. (Maybe in areas with lots of Swedish immigrants?)

Pille said...

Deinin - funny to read that our Shrove Tuesday menu is exactly the same on both sides of the Finnish bay - pea soup (I really missed not being able to eat any in Italy last week) and Shrove buns (NO soaking in the milk though!!)

Anonymous said...


Tämmöinen blogi on jäänyt minulta ihan pimentoon! Ihania ruokia ja tosi hyviä kuvia! :)

Mia said...

Pille - I had no idea you did it in Estonia, too; I thought it was just a Swedish thing we had adapted. The rest of the world can keep their pancakes!

Sohvi - kun pikkublogini kaksviikkoissynttärit taisi olla tuossa eilen niin ei sitä kovin pitkään ehtinyt pimennossa olla! :P Kiva että tykkäsit, nyt alkaa olla päivänvaloa jo sen verran että saa siedettäviä kuviakin otettua.

Anonymous said...

I like semla... and your photos look gorgeous!

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Those buns sound amazing, I've never had one before!
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