Food of the Baltics

Shopping
We’ve mostly been cooking for ourselves and have been getting our food from markets and supermarkets probably about 50/50. The supermarkets are similar to the kind that you find in town centres in the UK – reasonably sized, but not huge, they generally have a deli counter, meat counter and fresh bread/pastries/cakes as well as the usual shelves and fridges of packaged stuff.

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Market hall in Riga

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Fruit and veg at Riga market

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Buying bread at the supermarket in Sigulda

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The Russian market in Tallinn

Meat
Pork seems to be the meat of choice in the Baltics. On our first night in Riga I had a really good pork and onion casserole, but there are lots of sausages, salamis and hams too. Pork is so popular that outside the covered market in Tartu there is a statue of a pig marked up with its butcher’s cuts!

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Fish
Lots of smoked fish in the markets – mostly salmon and herring (I think). Fresh fish are sold with heads intact (the smaller ones by the scoopful). We haven’t seen much in the way of shellfish, but there has been quite a lot of caviar, or other fish roe – something I’m expecting even more of as we move into Russia. In Tallinn, we also had salted herring which was delicious – something like very good sushi but served with rye bread!

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Carbs
The first time we bought a loaf of bread in Latvia it had caraway seeds in it. Mmm interesting, we thought, but let’s try to get a plain one next time. It didn’t seem to matter whether the bread was from the market, or sliced from the supermarket, brown or white, they almost all seemed to have caraway seeds. In Estonia, there’s lots of rye bread, but with the exception of one loaf we managed to avoid the caraway seeds :)

Buckwheat is a staple carb in the Baltics (and Russia and other areas of Eastern Europe too I understand). We’re really liking it’s slightly nutty flavour and have used it as a side as well as in a pilaff with caramelised onions and mushrooms inspired by this recipe. And yes, Andrew did eat and enjoy the mushrooms! :)

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Fruit and Veggies
Seem to be pretty typical of northern Europe in winter – potatoes, roots and some excellent apples. Obviously you can get bananas, oranges and lettuce too they’re just more expensive.

A special mention goes to the pickles. Lots of gherkins (pickled cucumbers) and lots of pickled cabbage too, some of it quite plain and some highly spiced, almost like kimchi.

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Sweet stuff
In the interests of research, we’ve also been checking out the region’s cakes :). We had some amazing apple strudel and chocolate cake on Easter Monday at the wonderful Mr. Biskvits cafe in Sigulda.

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And Andrew found a real locals cafe in Tallinn which served Estonian doughnuts – not as sugary and made with a proper yeasty batter so they weren’t as uniform in shape or texture as commercial doughnuts. They were sold by weight, and at approx €0.25 each we had to have a second round!

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9 thoughts on “Food of the Baltics

  1. Malcolm

    Loving the photo’s and round-up as you go along. For us armchair tourists the descriptions of your day-to-day stuff is just as fascinating as those of the ‘sights’ you are visiting. You both seem to have the happy knack of making what is matter-of-fact to you so informative and interesting (who knew that most fish over there is sold with heads on, or that pork would be so much a feature of the countries diet?). The markets seem to be great places to see ‘local’ life, as well as shop; I’m looking at the folks in the background of your photo’s too, and wondering if they know that their off-guard moments are popping-up to your friends and family in other parts of the world ;0 Love to both xxxx

    Reply
    1. Julie Post author

      Thanks Malcolm! I love the markets too – I just have to stop myself from buying more interesting looking food than we can eat :) xx

      Reply
  2. Jo

    Got to say I also dislike caraway seeds – kept picking up bread in Prague at New Year with them in. :( Other than that the food looks excellent! Has it gotten any warmer?

    Reply
    1. Julie Post author

      They don’t really seem like a proper addition to bread… It’s warming up nicely – hovering around 3 degrees during the day now. It was very grey and drizzly today though – I almost prefer the cold but bright weather! xx

      Reply
      1. Heidi

        Great… fingers crossed that comment will get posted – security question is easier!!!! :-)

        Caraway seeds – Cz also always has caraway seeds in bread… I cannot eat this at all…. :-( So fully understand!!! But natives seem to love this – not sure why…

        Loving all these posts and the ones on food are great :-) Good to see also that you can get wine in that nice cafe…

        Have you tried all the caviar and roe???

        Reply
        1. Julie Post author

          Glad to see that you spotted the wine :). We’re trying some of the local alcohol too although beers rather than wines – grapes don’t do too well this far north.

          We haven’t tried any of the caviar and roe yet but we will!

          Reply
      2. Jo

        If it’s any comfort, it’s tipped it down here all afternoon. And yesterday. It was sunny for a couple of hours first thing though …

        Reply
  3. Doc

    Yum, yum doughnuts, apple strudel – wonderful. Andrew how dare you let the side down – poisoning yourself with mushrooms!!? As for the caraway seeds, I actually like bread with them in – it adds a different dimension, so it’s not just the locals. Glad to see that you are eating well, I would hate for you not to have a good balanced diet.

    Reply

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