How to celebrate The Latvian National festivity while living abroad

Having lived abroad for such a long time, 12 years by now, has made me appreciate Latvian culture so much more, and of course I oftentimes find myself missing the beauty fo the country side, the festivities with local foods, singing and dancing.

This year, more than ever, it has been an actual necessity to cook Latvian dishes here in Spain, as for the travel restrictions it has been impossible for me to go home and to enjoy the traditional cooking.

That is why this year for the 18th of November, The Proclamation day of Latvia, we prepared some recipes for an entire festive meal, using ingredients that should be accessible to anywhere you live! The preparations for festivities are usually so long and complicated, sometimes even tiering but you’ll see, these recipes require only a few steps! There will be recipes adapted also to those who don’t eat meat.

Remember that this is a festive occasion, don’t beat yourself over some cheese or some butter 🙂 That’s why it is necessary to eat a balanced diet on an everyday basis, so we don’t have to cry about eating hearty meals for festivities! That’s why it is a festivity in the first place, so we can celebrate and give ourselves a break too!


Recipes are made for 4 people

Spinach salad with oven-baked pumpkin

Of course, you will notice I will only be using seasonal products.You know they will be more flavourful and more sustainable as it is more probable they will be grown locally.

Ingredients

  • Oven-baked pumpkin with herbs
  • Fresh spinach leaves or other similar
  • Fresh goat cheese (we used feta)
  • Balsamic vinegar and honey dressing

OVEN-BAKED PUMPKIN

  • 250g of butternut squash or pumpkin
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Aromatic herbs, like thyme, rosemary, salvia – whatever you have on hand
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

BALSAMIC VINEGAR AND HONEY DRESSING

  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar – you can any kind of vinegar, red or white wine, apple vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard (if you want to add a touch of spicy)
Luckily I always have Latvian honey on hand (for me it is one of the tastiest there is!) and some hemp seeds,

For the dressing, mix all the ingredients together .

All that is left to do is to mix all the ingredients together. In a big dish, cover the bottom with spinach leaves, on top put out pieces of pumpkin, chunks of goat cheese and drizzle the dressing. For some crunchiness, add some walnuts or pumpkin seeds.


Latvian favourite cheese salad PinTxos

This is something I absolutely love. I know it is quite a heavy salad, but that’s why this is meant to be served as an appetiser, accompanied on a small piece of bread like the Spanish pintxos!

INGREDIENTS

  • 250 g semi hard cheese – either cow’s milk or a mixed milk
  • 2 hardboiled eggs
  • 1 boiled carrot
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp homemade mayo or store bought (look for good may with olive oil, organic, not too many ingredients!)
  • 2 tbsp yogurt (usually it would be sour cream but I prefer a lighter version)
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • sliced toasted bread to serve
Mix all the rest of the ingredients together. I usually don’t add extra salt, as the cheese has already enough salt on its own.

Pintxos

Just a little idea of what the pintxos look like. These are small pieces of bread with something tasty on top, in this case our cheese salad!


Beans with herbs and garlic

In Latvia we have forgotten legumes that used to be a very big part of our cuisine, maybe just for Christmas black peas with pork and onion are still traditional. But legumes such as peas, lentils and beans are so rich in variety, they are very healthy and full of fiber (a nutrient missing in many people’s diets, that improves digestion, lowers cholesterol, lowers incidence in colon cancer and many other benefits). They are also great to substitute meat once in a while during the week.

My advice is don’t buy canned legumes. I know it is so much easier and faster, and you don’t have to remember to soak them in water, but there might be some preservatives and there will be an excessive amount salt.

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g beans soaked overnight (the perfect amount of time is 24 hours, they won’t need to be cooked for very long)
  • A few herbs, like salvia leaves, bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • water
This is also very simple. When the beans have been soaked overnight, put them in a casserole with herbs, garlic and salt, cover with water and boil until tender. Serve with a splash of olive oil. They will be so tasty, you won’t need anything else!

GRANDMA’S KOTLETES 2.0 – MEAT PATTIES WITH Mushroom, HERBS AND SPICES

One of the most important dishes I can associate with my grandmother from my mother’s side are definitely these tasty juicy meat patties. I made this my version with some more herbs, mushrooms and a secret ingredient that makes these melt in your mouth!

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g ground beef
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • half an onion chopped finely
  • a few chopped mushrooms, I used something similar to porcini
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • some fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley or cilantro
  • 2 tbsp butter (yes, this is VERY important) cut in small chunks
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp water
Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl and leave aside for 15min.

Cook them from each side, for about 10 min until completely cooked.

Ever if you slightly overcook these, the butter will still leave them very juicy and they won’t turn dry. These will be tasty even the next day served cold!

The taste of childhood – the rice pudding with blackberry kiselis

This one is a recipe of the grandmother on my father’s side, this has always been my favourite dessert!

Rice cream

INGREDIENTS

  • 200g rice
  • 1l milk
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • vanilla – you can use some vanilla sugar, I have some ground vanilla pod that works excellent
  • Aa handful of walnuts
  • 500g whipping cream

Wash the rice under running water. In a big pot boil the rice with milk, 5 tablespoons of sugar and vanilla. Once the milk comes to a boil, lower the heat and stir the rice frequently. You should cook this until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid.

Once the rice is cooked, leave it to cool completely.

In a bowl whip the cream with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Mix the rice cream with the whipped cream .

BLACKBERRY KISELIS

  • 200g blackberry (or other berry) jam – I had my grandparent’s made jam
  • 500g hot water
  • 40g potato starch (I substituted this with rice flour)

Dissolve the jam in hot water. Dissolve the starch in some cold water and add it to the jam water. Put it in a pot and bing to boil. Stir for a few minutes and see the jam liquid become more dense.

Serve the rice cream with kiselis chilled.

If you use a blackberry jam, you can serve a beautiful Latvian flag dessert!

Happy festivities, enjoy it with your family. Be a proud Latvian!

About

Graduate in Gastronomic Sciences, Q Arabica Grader, WSET L2 in wine. Obsessed with cooking new recipes, I love visiting producers and travel for food!

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