My Favourite Latvian Foods

I love food, so I just thought I’d share with you my favourites since arriving here.

  1. Karums (don’t know the generic term for them) – for those non-Latvians reading this I better explain what they are. They are a small block of cottage cheese blended with full fat cream, given a flavour and then given a very thin layer of chocolate. My favourite is probably blueberry, Inta’s vanilla. Incredibly fattening I imagine but yummy with that first morning cup of coffee.
  2. Chilled beetroot soup (auksta biesu zupa) – now every cook in Latvia will have their own version of this in terms of ingredients and quantities. The version I love, uses small beetroots including the stalks, keffirs, cucumber, radish, spring onion, hard boiled egg, smoked ham and of course the obligatory dill. I just love it. In fact could eat it every day. It’s so refreshing yet at the same time filling.
  3. Pankukas – now these are not the large thin pancakes, but what would be termed back in the UK a drop scone. Again every cook will have their own version, some will use milk – others keffirs, some will use baking powder others yeast. I love Inta’s version when she use’s keffirs and adds cottage cheese into the mixture. Served with full fat sour cream and jam they are addictively yummy.
  4. Potatoes – Why potatoes you may ask? Well they just taste different than the ones back in the UK. I have only eaten so far the ones that come from the farmers market or from Inta’s village and they are yellower than the ones than the ones from the UK supermarkets and definitely have more flavour. Is large scale farming to blame?
  5. Sour Cream – buy it direct from a farmer at a local market. It has a much higher fat content but it’s delicious. Much more versatile than mayonnaise. You can use it on savoury and sweet dishes.
  6. Silkes kazoka – This is a layered salad, whose essential ingredients include – shredded cooked beetroot, salted or marinated herring, hard boiled eggs, cooked potatoes and shredded cooked carrots. In the layers there will be a sauce. It will vary what it might be, but is essentially a mixture of sour cream, mayonnaise and horseradish.
  7. Zefirs – These are like a firm flavoured creamy, marshmallow, coated with sugar. They are very fattening, utterly addictive and great with coffee. My favourite is Lama’s blueberry.
  8. Dill – In the UK I used to cook a lot, but hardly ever used to use dill always parsley. I always thought it had no smell or flavour, that was until Inta re-introduced it to me. Its so fragrant and you can use it on any savoury dish. A very versatile herb.
  9. Mazsaliti gurki – These are small cucumbers marinaded in brine with blackcurrant, horseraddish and garlic leaves. You only leave them to marinade for a short period of time. You can eat them after just a few hours, Delicious.
  10. Negi (Lamprey in English) – Virtually extent in the UK due to over fishing. They look like an eel but are in fact a fish. They are about 30 cm long from memory, and use their mouths as a sucker to attach themselves to rocks. Had them fresh last October in Salacgriva. The fisherman barbecued them for us. Ate them whole, head, tail everything. They are not boned and gutted. They have no bones. Very delicious.

Love to hear what Latvians favourite Latvian foods are. Must go Inta has just made pankukas. Byte for  now

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52 Responses to My Favourite Latvian Foods

  1. andrisbb says:

    I know it is not a season yet, but I would kill to get hands on new potatoes with dill and “baraviku” or “gailenu” souse.
    Missing all this stuff while living in UK 😦

    Like

  2. Annija Mikelsone says:

    I see you starting to like sour cream too much*) xxx
    NEGI with fresh black bread and butter is fantastic

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  3. Daniella says:

    Oh my god, latvian potatoes… They are so waxy and flavoursome, miss those!

    Like

  4. Linda says:

    Oh , I dont know how you enjoy eating negi, but I have to agree with you dilles are the best, and my grandmother uses them with almost everything, And now for me when there are no dilles food always seems to be missing something!!

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  5. Rupjmaizes kartojums is a childhood thing for me. And I still love it.

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  6. Luīze says:

    Great post! btw, Kārums means smth between a ‘Treat’ and ‘Dainty’ 🙂

    Like

  7. Egita says:

    Have you tried a “rosols” already? That and a cold beetroot soup is two of my (and I guess all Latvians) favorite foods of all the times. Especially the “rosols”. Especially with quick-salted salmon slices.

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    • aedoxsey says:

      Thanks, will have to try

      Like

    • Kūka says:

      May I just add that this is another food that is different in each household? This is one of the foods that is served… always. Christmas, New Years, birthdays, name days, Jāņi, Lieldienas, weddings, funerals, whatever. Which means that if you go visit people, chances are you will taste quite a few variations.

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  8. Aelita says:

    One of my favorites is Skabi Kaposti – sauerkraut with a different twist – people who hate sauerkraut will love the Latvian version (if you convince them to at least taste it – never failed for me or my mom….). There are variations to the recipe. I will give a quick version of my family recipe. Rinse the sauerkraut till you hardly taste the brine/vinegar – to a point of blandness. Cut up small pieces of bacon and onion, saute them, add to the sauerkraut in large pot, add caraway seeds, tomato sauce, paste or ketchup for coloring (not too much), cook stirring somewhat frequently – let some burn lightly on the bottom, scrape it up, stir, continue, then add a little sugar, keep stirring, burn a little more for an hour or two, lower the heat. Can eat it after cooling, but if kept in refrigerator overnight, and heat the next day, the flavor is better. If by chance there is any remaining sauerkraut, then the third day is the best! Eaten as a side dish, or by itself, and my family loved it on Latvian Black Rye bread with butter (open face) – The Best!

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  9. Kristine says:

    did u try any sweet Latvian dishes,like ”buberts” with berry souse<or one of my favorite soups ''skaabu kaapostu'' soup with boiled potatoes with skin what u put in the soup at the end peeled and skaabo kreejumu or ''peleeko zirnju'' soup with skaabo kreejumu!!mmmm miss home now,because here in Ireland nothing tastes the same 🙂

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  10. aelita52 says:

    Latvian Black Rye Bread, Smoked Whiting Fish, Smoked Eel, Galeta (pieces of pork, skin, etc. in a gelatin mold eaten with sprinkled vinegar) yum!

    Piragas (our version of Pierogies which are made with a sautéed bacon and onion mixture into a rolled piece of dough (made with egg and butter -makes for a richer, softer dough) rolled up into a crescent shape, pinched slightly and curved on the pointed ends, baked with the tops brushed with butter. Make a huge batch – they go fast!

    Another dish I love is Spinach Soup (again, bits of sauteed onions and bacon in it, any broth (chicken or beef or the standard veggie) eat with a hard boiled egg dropped in the bowl of soup and top it with a dollop of sour cream.

    Of course we all should know about the well loved Latvian Janu Sieris (St. John Cheese) – mostly made for the Midsummer Solstice Festivities (or any time throughout the year, if one chooses to put in the amount of time and back breaking efforts to make this cheese at home… well worth it!

    My mom used to make a recipe I drooled over, which is made with our traditional Pankukas. She would make them on a large frying pan, large enough to add the meat and form them and fry up. Mom would make a beef roast, used a meat grinder – one of those (now antique) that clamp on edge of table, grind up the beef several times over till it had a soft texture but not too mushy -enough where there were no long strings. Sauteed onions in bacon grease (for flavoring) and other seasonings were added to the meat. Put the meat into the middle of the pankuka, shaped it into something like a square burrito – fold over once, take both sides and fold inward, then finish folding. Folded part goes into a hot greased pan first, fried, cook both sides several times till golden brown and a little crispy.(just a little). Very tasty and filling!.

    Now, my very favorite is Skabu Kaposti – sauerkraut with a different twist – people who hate sauerkraut will love the Latvian version (if you convince them to at least taste it – never failed for me or my mom….). There are variations to the recipe. I will give a quick version of my family recipe. Rinse the sauerkraut till you hardly taste the brine/vinegar – to a point of blandness. Cut up small pieces of bacon and onion, saute them, add to the sauerkraut in large pot, add caraway seeds, tomato sauce, paste or ketchup for coloring (not too much), cook stirring somewhat frequently – let some burn lightly on the bottom, scrape it up, stir, continue, then add a little sugar, keep stirring, burn a little more for an hour or two, lower the heat. Can eat it after cooling, but if kept in refrigerator overnight, and heat the next day, the flavor is better. If by chance there is any remaining sauerkraut, then the third day is the best! Eaten as a side dish, or by itself, and my family loved it on Latvian Black Rye bread with butter (open face) – The Best!

    Like

    • aedoxsey says:

      Love pankukas, so will try those a try

      Like

    • Kūka says:

      Come autumn, you will think half the country has gone mad. Mushroom picking time!

      I never did realise just how different this all may seem. Food, that is. And how most of these recipes kind of require you to either grow things yourself or know someone who does. And all of them, including those found in comments (perhaps with a few exceptions) are known by just about everyone.

      It takes an outsider to point out facts like that I suppose 🙂

      Like

  11. What no Pīrāgi ?

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  12. Clumsy says:

    Karums- biezpiena sierins (eng. curd snack)

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  13. Zane B. says:

    Thanks, Linda from Expat Eye for recommending the blog, loving it. 🙂

    Nice to see that foreigners appreciate dill as many people dislike it. 😀

    As for my recommendations:
    1) Any latvian cakes. My favorite is Honey cake or Meduskūka (http://www.dukats.lv/images/stock/IMG_2016.jpg)
    2) Chickpeas with bacon (zirņi ar speķi) is usually a traditional Christmas dish, but it’s tasty in any time of the year (http://i.redigo.ru/c600x338/4ee0aaf5b57f7.jpg)
    3) Not actually a Latvian but Russian dish – soup “Soļanka”. Very rich in flavours, with at least 4 different meats, olives, lemon, potatoes. The best dish when you have hangover. 🙂 http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-WmnbeYH0Azc/TwBpxGcRaDI/AAAAAAAABM0/wF2QLMqGGQU/s1600/DSC07781.JPG
    4) Sklandrauši – can’t translate that one, basically it’s carrot pastry. http://spi1uk.itvnet.lv/upload/articles/17/175812/images/Latviesu-edieni-12.jpg
    5) Chanterelle sauce with “young” potatoes. Just.. pure heaven: http://krista.lv/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/gailenu_merce-500×375.jpg

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    • aedoxsey says:

      1. Love this, where is the best place to buy it though?
      2. Yes, we call them black peas where I come from in the UK, and they are traditionally served on Bonfire Night on the 5th Nov
      3. Yes like Solanks
      4. This is yummy
      5. Not had this but look forward to it.

      Thanks for your contribution

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      • Zane B. says:

        1. Well the best ones are homemade, but I usually buy them in Mārtiņa Beķereja.
        2. For us it’s usually New Years eve. There is a belief/tradition that you have to eat all peas before midnight as they represent tears. If you don’t – you’ll cry in the New year.
        5. These mushrooms usually show up in the beginning of July.

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  14. mildao says:

    I’m happy to read that you like so many of latvian foods. If you’re asking about the readers’ (then also mine) favorite latvian foods, I can say: every recipe presented in my parents’ food blog, http://www.garsigalatvija.lv !

    They created it so that latvians all around the world, when thinking: “Oooh, that was delicious back then…I wonder what was the recipe?”, could find some of their favorite recipes again. The foods put there are the ones for which kids ask their parents: “Will you make this again, mom/dad/granny?? Please?” 🙂

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  15. Renāte says:

    Congratulations – You’ve come to live here in the right season! You’ll have tons of opportunities to try all the vegetables and fruits of the season, so be ready 🙂 A couple of suggestions to try – nātru zupa (soup with stinging nettle. Sounds strange, some of us don’t like it, my mom makes it so amazing I can’t wait for season and this soup with very first nettle. It contains lots of iron, so i’ts healthy. We add it to any salad with fresh vegetables and sorrel. Sorrel soup (skābeņu zupa) is also must-try if you already haven’t).
    Also very delicious are kartupeļu pankūkas. Recipes vary, so does serving – with sour cream, spices (dill, spring onion, garlic etc), ham, mushroom souce or with cowberry jam (brūkleņu ievārījums).

    Jams are also a very important part of Latvian cuisine. With porridges (mannas, putraimu, auzu pārslu, rīsu) in desserts (sometimes in our family when porridge made too much, we make ķīselis and eat it with the porridge). There is amazing variety of ķīseļi (don’t know how it is called in English): made from fresh fruits and berries right from the garden, made of jam or juice, made of dried fruit, cocoa, served with whipped cream, pudding, milk, porridge, biezpiena sacepums (my favorite) and kompoti. Make sure to try all the possible desserts with rabarberi (rhubarb) while it’s season. Delicious uncooked, fresh and eaten with sugar.

    Also try kāpostu tīteņi. Meat with seasoning and rice in cabbage leaves sauted till it melts in your mouth. (Well, now I’m hungry. Again). And kabači (pankūkas, karbonādes, sautējumi etc). And liver (love it!) and hearts (not so fond of) in different ways.

    During summer vacation if you’re adventurous, use http://fotoreceptes.lv/. It is a wonderful site with lot’s of traditional foods we eat everyday and on special occasions, as well as more exotic meals from other countries. Parts dedicated to saldie and ziemas krājumi contains of mostly very popular dishes. Lot’s of Latvian slang, but simple with step by step photo instructions.

    Please, keep updating, I just love yous blog. And, before midsummer (Jāņi), it is the best time to pick up plants for herbal teas, so visit friends and relatives in the countryside so you can participate. Tastes even better if You’ve done it yourself.

    Like

    • aedoxsey says:

      Some knowledgeable people in the UK make nettle soup. I’ve never tried it but will definitely try it now. Inta makes potato pancakes and yes they are yummy. I think we could talk about food all day, so many tasty things to eat in Latvia.

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  16. Zane says:

    Heey, zefirs is not fatteing, on the contrary – it’s one of the best sweet yet low calorie snacks that nutrionists advise 😉

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  17. Juune says:

    Kārums is a “biezpiena sieriņš”, I don’t think it has a proper translation in English. Literal translation would be “a little cottage-cheese cheese” or something like that 😀 About just before Latvia joined the EU there was a joke that Karums would be made illegal because Brussels has no classification for it 😀

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  18. When I was home in January, for the first time I went to check out the sweet stuff they bake in Kukotava on Terbatas street. I had the most delicious slice of Honey cake (Medus kuka) ever. I do bake the cake myself and it’s always disappear quite quick but I do admit that Kukotavas slice was piece of Heaven.

    Like

  19. Ilze says:

    (1) Cheese cake made of curd, marmalade and ‘Selga’ biscuits. A cake that never fails in a home made version.
    http://www.garsigalatvija.lv/biezpiena-torte/

    (2) Chocolate roulette called also a Sweet Brunette.
    http://kikasvirtuve.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/sokolades-desa-salda-brunete.html

    (3) I think mentioned already somewhere in the comment trail, but in an early autumn do try the creamy chanterelle souce with new potatoes and dill. So simple, but heavenly delicious.

    As a side note, thanks very much for your blog! Latvia may not be the easiest place to live for a foreigner, but behind the somewhat reserved nature and initial distrust, you will find a warm-hearted, proud little nation. Latvia is a hidden gem, just not for everyone – you have to look closely and explore carefully to find out why it is a special place.

    All the best to you and may your time in Latvia is unforgettable and truly enjoyable.

    Ilze

    Like

  20. baibabruuka says:

    Try boiling new (baby) potatoes, then at the end drain the water, add butter and dill and quickly shaake it through while “cooking” on low gas for like 30sec, just to get the butter melted through. AMAZING.

    As for Karums, it is pretty interesting, as that is the first thing I made my friends here try and they loved them so much (they go now every week to a local corner (polish and eastern shop) to buy tons of them. Weirdly, here they are kept in freezers.

    I actually have a recipe how to make them at home as well so I can share if you like. 🙂

    Like

    • aedoxsey says:

      Love the recipe please!!! Thanks for your contributions, it’s great to now when someone is reading the blog

      Like

      • baibabruuka says:

        To make:
        – 4 packs (200g) cottage cheese ( I use 5% one from Valmiera)
        – 200-300g dark chocolate
        – 40 gr butter
        – 2 packs vanilla sugar
        – 3 packs cream hardener (not sure this is the right term – saldā krējuma cietinātājs)
        – 2 tbsp cream
        – 2 tbsp condensed milk with sugar (iebiezinātais piens ar cukuru)
        – lemon (use by choice)

        obviously the amount used can change accordingly to the cottage cheese – if it is more dry or moist.

        The filling:
        1) Blend all the cottage cheese to get it to as even mass as possible
        2) Add vanilla sugar, 2 tbsp cream and 2 tbsp condensed milk, mix it all in (can use mixer if it is easier)
        3) Then add the cream hardener 1 pack, mix that in, check for a taste, if wanted add the lemon (or other things for taste).

        Making:
        1) When you are happy with the taste (added all you want in – nuts, fruit etc) it is time to make the forms. The mix is going to be a bit of a nightmare to form, so this is when we use other packs of cream hardener – pour it out on a plate, put a spoonfull of the mix on top and form the mass in the little pieces you want using the hardener.
        2) Put the pieces in the fridge for an hour.
        3) After an hour, making the chocolate topping: melt the butter using water bath method (boiling water in the pot and the butter is put in a separate bowl, smallet put etc and put in the pot, avoiding burning it), add chocolate to the butter, mix in until even.
        4) wait for it to cool down to a medium temperature, closer to cold, cover the pre-made pieces with chocolate top, remember that the chocolate topping is hardening pretty fast.
        5) keep them in the fridge afterwards, use when you like 🙂

        Obviously, they are a bit different than the ones you buy, but they taste amazing, and home-made stuff is always way more cool.

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      • aedoxsey says:

        Thank you, thank you, thank you, I’ll let you know how I get on.

        Like

      • baibabruuka says:

        Typo by the chocolate topping – Smaller pot*

        Like

  21. Vika Crowder says:

    Thank you for the Kārums recipe! I live in America now and we don’t have any such thing in my town, and I have been craving them so much! I really want Latvian food now after reading this post! 🙂

    Like

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