Being located in Northern Europe, Estonia’s four seasons are the creative inspiration for the connoisseurs of good cuisine who are keen to prepare and enjoy food made from fresh, flavourful seasonal ingredients
In choosing quality and savoury ingredients for the Estonian kitchen, we greatly value what Mother Nature seasonally provides us with. Here, in Estonia, we have the special privilege of being able to enjoy a unique form of synergy, which derives its strength from both the pristine nature that surrounds us and the appreciation that Estonian farmers are developing for the principles of organic farming.
This is a vision, which, hopefully, will help to shape the continually developing New Estonian Cuisine, in which local rustic cooking is blended with the world’s chic culinary trends. As all the other fields of activity, which, in a country bursting with renewed energy, have to realign their priorities, the Estonian culinary world is now facing the enjoyable challenge of presenting the best creations that it possibly can. Estonian culinary specialists are gladly accepting this challenge, in order to create one of the most colourful and striking segments of the bright and aesthetically pleasing mosaic known as Estonia.
We are used to countries using their cuisine as a calling card and in many cases, even as a symbolic emissary. Most people are not indifferent to matters concerning food in an ever more globalising world, however cuisine art remains one of the most neutral and pleasing impulses in culture today. I would like to believe that a people’s eating habits along with their knowledge of natural, local produce can be a distinguishing feature, which helps to present to the rest of the world that nation’s traditions, present values and visions of the future.
Throughout history, the cuisine of many other nations has influenced Estonian cooking. This has been beneficial in many ways. Among other things, it has strengthened the Estonians’ determination to retain their own unique cooking and eating traditions, keeping only that, which has stood the test of time and of quality. Life is in a constant flux, as are the culinary demands of contemporary society. Therefore, it seems that the appreciation and retaining of culinary traditions can not only have a stabilising effect, but can also be a source of strength for any nation.
At the same time, it is essential to discover the creative culinary possibilities that each day has to offer. This makes it possible to make maximum use of the wonderful and unique ingredients that can be found in Estonia.
Spring, the beginning of which is always greatly longed for, returns with spring lamb and veal; goat’s cheese, rhubarb, wild leek, and fresh sorrel; and perch from our clean inland waters.
With the arrival of the energy boosting and flourishing summer, comes time to enjoy all the wildest, headiest flavours imaginable. There are herbs, berries from the garden and the forest, chanterelles and new potatoes; and our ever-popular fresh perch, eel, and crayfish. These all play the lead in Estonia’s midsummer symphony.
When autumn arrives, there are opportunities galore to make what is good even better. From bushes and fruit trees come wild cranberries and boysenberries, hazelnuts and the black salcify. From the farmer’s barnyard comes the traditional goose and fish lovers can choose from lamprey, dwarf herring, and plaice. The best part of autumn is, however, the hunting season. It is hard not to be impressed by the variety of game available in our primeval forests and on our coastal islands: pheasant, elk, boar, and wild goat all enrich the Estonian dining table.
During the dark and seemingly endless series of short days, which constitutes our sombre winter, it’s invigorating to eat smoked meat with sauerkraut, roasted roe deer, the traditional black pudding, and Christmas blood sausage; and to drink mulled wine and nibble gingerbread.
I sincerely hope that I have been able to transmit the notion of synergy with the above descriptions of our immensely enjoyable dishes, so as to lucidly demonstrate the ultimate Estonian culinary creation as a whole. Nowadays, it is important for food to do more than merely fill our stomachs. The desire to achieve every nuance of taste and harmony of ingredients must be kept in balance. Less is more - the world is full of brilliant examples of this, where the blending of just a few right ingredients can result in a small miracle.
It is essential to recognise both the ingredients offered to us by our environment and the culinary creativity given to us by the muses. With the help of the concept of a comprehensible whole, one has to search for essential additional nuances and innovations, which will lend added value to the raw ingredients in the New Estonian Cuisine. It is important that these complement one another. Not to mention the aesthetics involved. It is wonderful to see the earnest aspiration to offer the best meal, coupled with the desire to ensure that Estonia’s culinary future will offer all of us unique and enriching sensations for the many years to come.
Head isu sõbrad!
Bon Appetit, mes amis!
Written for the MFA by Imre Kose, Chéf de cuisine, Vertigo Catering