These rich, buttery, rice-filled pies are a Finnish staple. They originated, as their name suggests, in Karelia (Karjala), a region of eastern Finland; where my partner Jani grew up. Now they are in every Finnish supermarket, sold both fresh and frozen, and are eaten for lunch or as a snack topped with anything from the traditional ‘egg-butter’ or munavoi, to ham, cheese or just a thin layer of unsalted butter. There are two traditional fillings: rice, as my recipe contains, or mashed potato. If you have some left over mash, whip in some extra butter and salt and use it to fill these crisp, wholesome pastry cases – another delicious way to eat these!
When I first came across karjalan riisipiirakat, on holiday in Finland, I found it really strange eating pastry with a starchy filling topped, as if it were bread, with ham or cheese. Jani maintains that because of the harsh winters in Finland they needed as many calories and as much energy as they could cram into one small pie, and this is how Karelian Pies came about! I don’t know, but they certainly taste amazing and add some extra sustenance to lunchtime if there are slim-pickings in the fridge.
So here goes…
for the pastry:
- 250g Rye Flour
- 1 Tsp Salt
- 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 200ml Water
- Plain Flour for dusting
- 75g Unsalted Butter
for the filling:
- 150g Pudding Rice (Short-grain)
- 250ml Water
- 750ml Milk
- 1 Tsp Sea-Salt
To make the Pies:
- Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
- Start by making the filling. Place the rice in a saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Add the milk and continue to cook over a low heat for 30-40 minutes until most of the milk has been absorbed and the mixture has the consistency of thick rice pudding. Don’t forget to stir occasionally, as the rice may stick if left untouched.
- Add the salt and stir well before setting aside to cool whilst you make the pastry.
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
- Put the rye flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and add the oil.
- Gradually add the water, mixing by hand until the ingredients come together to form a dough.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a long sausage shape.
- Using a Scottish Scraper (or a large knife), divide the dough into 20 pieces and roll each piece into a ball.
- Using a floured rolling pin, roll each into a thin round, roughly 10cm in diameter.
- Place two tablespoons of the rice filling into the centre of each round, leaving about 2cm of pastry around the edge.
- Using both hands, begin to lift the edges of the pastry in towards the filling and pinch together with your thumb and forefinger. Repeat this until the edges of the pastry are upstanding and are encasing the filling (see picture above).
- Pour the melted butter into a wide shallow bowl (I used a large Tupperware tub for this), and, using a slotted spoon, lower each pie into the butter so it is fully immersed, then place on one of the prepared baking trays.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crispy around the edges.
I really hope you love these as much as I do! Please let me know how you get one making these and what you think 🙂