The perfect blini is soft and fluffy on the inside with a crispy shell on the outside that forms when they’re fried in clarified butter in cast iron skillets.
It’s easy to see why blinis have become such a restaurant staple during the early months of the year in the south of Finland – a food tradition brought by Finns who fled the parts of Karelia ceded after the war, and now quite distinct from the thin blinis found in many Russian kitchens.
“New Year is a classic day to start with some blinis on the menu” explains Lars Wahlman, Head Chef at the Sokos Hotel Tapiola Garden.
“I would say the classic accompaniments are smetana, the chopped red onion, pickled cucumber and honey. Maybe that’s the classic” he says.
The sweet wild honey on the salted cucumber couldn’t be more local to Chef Wahlman’s kitchen as it comes from just a few dozens of meters away from two hives in Tapiola’s Silkkiniitty park.
It pairs perfectly together, to accompany other popular blini accompaniments.
“Some people want to use cold smoked salmon, smoked reindeer, the roe is always there it can be salmon or we have a mushroom salad some variation in what we use.”
Unsurprisingly, blinis are the most popular dish on the menu at Sokos Hotel Tapiola Garden during January and February,
On the range in his kitchen, Chef Wahlman has been heating up the little iron skillets and pours in the batter mix of tatar flour, wheat flour, egg, milk and egg is poured in one by one to form a thick batter.
“Most people don’t like to make blinis at home because you use quite much butter, the clarified butter and the normal butter so it’s quite messy at home” he says, not to mention rich, indulgent, comforting and tasty.
Changing menus adapt with food trends
Although the classic Finnish blini recipe has remained unchanged for many years, chefs are innovating to keep up with food trends.
At Helsinki city centre’s Lasipalatsi Restaurant they’ve been featuring blini menus at this time of year for more than two decades.
At the start of each day the kitchen team can make 100 liters worth of blini mix, with up to 60 iron skillets at a time cooking on the range.
“I remember a young gentleman enjoying 13 blinis in one sitting, but usually eating two or three blinis in one meal is as many as most people have” says Head Chef Petri Simonen.
This year sees the introduction of new a new vegan blini recipe – all the blinis served at Lasipalatsi are already lactose-free, with gluten-free blinis available as well.
The vegan version come with oat yoghurt and vegan mayonnaise, vegan sour cream, beetroot apple tartare and pickled vegetables among the side dishes.