Gordon Ramsay in Lapland: eating reindeer meat

We already talked about chef Gordon Ramsay trying Finnish food for the first time. I already said in that post that they should have given him some reindeer meat to try. Dishes with this kind of meat have always been my favorites of the Finnish cuisine.

A dish made with reindeer meat
A reindeer dish. It looks amazing. Source (CC: by)

And that’s what they have done this time: Ramsay went to Lapland, the North of Finland (to the Finnish city of Ivalo, to be exact) to try some reindeer meat. All of it framed by the Christmas time in Finland. ThisisFINLAND’s twitter account shared this happy link during this time of the year.

Gordon Ramsay visits Lapland

When I first watched this video of Gordon Ramsay tasting reindeer meat, and heard it starting with the first notes of “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” from Tom Waits (his song “Big in Japan” inspired the title of this blog), I knew it was going to be a great video.

Ramsay said that he heard that reindeer meat tastes like the best beef, and goes to Lapland to prove this theory: You can see him taste it and cook it in different ways.

Gordon Ramsay
Chef Ramsay. I am a huge fan of his Master Chef USA. Source (CC: by)

Gordon Ramsay cooks and tastes reindeer meat: the video

This video is short but intense: about 15 minutes. Under it I wrote some highlights, by the minute, so you can conveniently skip to the part that interests you most.

The video is part of the “The F word” series. F of “food“, I presume, but another word that Gordon says a lot also starts with “F”. In some segments of this show he prepares some traditional dish for a celebration. This is the cause for his visit to Lapland: it’s Christmas time.

1.00 – Ramsay shows us the menu of a restaurant in Ivalo, a place where there are less cows than reindeer, and less people than reindeer too. He tastes the reindeer meat in different ways: smoked, sautéd and as a steak. He definitely likes this delicacy of Lapland.

2:35 – Ramsay meets with a Sami (the indigenous people from Lapland) that breed and hunt reindeer.

5:35 – Ramsay and the father of the family talk about whether it is better to hunt reindeer or take them to the slaughterhouse. Ramsay starts to get ready to hunt a reindeer.

7:10 – The last considerations and pulling the trigger.

8:20 – They skin the reindeer and show the reindeer meat.

9:40 – Ramsay has everything ready to cook the reindeer meat. He is going to prepare a stew with it. He uses local ingredients including lakka (cloudberry): a celebrated berry indigenous to Lapland in the north of Finland. He uses snow instead of water to add to the stew (I wouldn’t do that: it may contain – let’s say – some organic matter).

12.25 – Ramsay makes reindeer carpaccio from the meat and also prepares some glögi.

13:45 – The Sami family try the dishes of chef Ramsay and give their approval (they eat reindeer meat about 6 times a week, but Ramsay prepares it in a different way to how they are used to). As a token of thanks, they give Ramsay some dried reindeer penis meat – or that is how it seems, until the surprise is revealed.

The video ends, and it seems to me to be a great feature about cooking and eating reindeer meat in Finland and Lapland. Maybe it is a dish to consider when you prepare your Christmas dinner or your new year’s dinner.

Have you tried reindeer meat? Would you after watching the video?

A letter to Santa Claus: how to do it and his address

When you want to write a letter to Santa Claus, you have to take into account that he is a busy man.

We all know he lives in Lapland, specifically in Rovaniemi, where you can go and visit him in his office.

Santa Claus and his first lady
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus in their Lapland house. Source (CC: by)
If Lapland is too far away for you this year, but you still want to tell Santa Claus your Christmas wishes and make sure your letter reaches him in the Arctic Circle in Finland, you’ll need to know how to write to him.

Sending a letter to Santa Claus to his correct address

Each year in late November, the Christmas season is inaugurated in Finland. Joulupukki (the Finnish name of Santa Claus) visits every Finnish city or town in person, usually in the main square, to wish everyone a merry Christmas. It is extremely easy to go and meet him because normally the streets near the center have a system of underground heating that melts the snow and makes it easy for people to walk around.

You should know that any letter that says “Santa Claus” will magically reach its destination: post offices all around the world are warned and know how to handle the letters to Santa Claus.

But if you want Santa to know that you were so interested that you researched his address, you can put his correct one on the envelope.

Your letter to Santa Claus will reach him
Some kids meeting Santa Claus in person. Source (CC: by-sa)

Santa Claus and his elfs (called Tonttu in Finland) will appreciate this detail and will know you worked for your presents. This is his address:

Santa Claus
96930 Arctic Circle,

That’s right: the letter to Santa Claus will go all the way North to the Polar Arctic Circle, the imaginary line above which the sun doesn’t rise at least for a day per year, and where it doesn’t set at least for one day a year.

And here comes the best thing: if you add your return address, he will write you back. Isn’t that great?

How to make your letter to Santa Claus better

There is no magic recipe or template to make your letter to Santa Claus right, but there are some tips that will assure that you’ll be in his good graces.

Santa Claus doesn’t want you to sugarcoat the truth. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so lying in your letter will make you look bad. It is better to acknowledge that there are some areas where you can work on to be better next year, and tell him how you became a better person this year. Being good is a constant process.

Thank him for last year’s presents, even if they weren’t 100% what you asked for. He has to handle a global operation each year after all. And don’t ask for too much! If you need something – a bike to ride to school with, something warm to wear for the extreme cold of winter in Finland – make sure to tell him that. He prefers to read that you wish for things you need, not just want.

Santa Claus, Joulupukki, in Helsinki
Joulupukki in Helsinki, measuring this girl’s back to send her a fitting coat. Source (CC: by)
All those tips were given to me by Joulupukki in person, so if you want to be on good terms with him, tell him that you are friends of Big in Finland and you’ll get the VIP treatment.

Good luck with this year’s Christmas gifts! This is our list of 12 ideas of Finnish Christmas presents, to give you inspiration. May Santa Claus and his Tonttu be generous, and you a good girl or boy.

Do you have some extra advice for the letter to Santa Claus? Some tip that worked for you?

Glögi: hot spiced wine in Finland

Jouluppuki (Santa Claus) is coming to town, and adults in Finland warm their bodies and hearts with Christmas markets, lights in the streets and some hot beverages. We will talk about one of these beverages today: the Glögi.

What is Glögi?

Glögi is one of the traditions of Finnish Christmas. It is an unknown beverage in Southern Europe (Hot wine? With spices? Nobody ever dared to think of it), but in Central and Northern Europe mulled wine is a classic winter beverage: each country has its own version of it.

Glögi is its Finnish name, and as the headline revealed it is made from hot red wine and different spices such as cinnamon, sugar and clove. The Scandinavian and Nordic versions sometimes add almonds and raisins, which give their version of the mulled wine a nice finish: when the beverage is gone, you can have a nice bite with the same flavor and a bit of nuttiness.

The German version, arguably the most well known, is called Glüwein and is served at all hours in the Christmas markets that flood the cities and are full all day. So, when I ordered some and asked them why the name wasn’t Glögi, they looked at me in a strange way and told me that no, it was just called Glüwein. That is how I had the idea for this post.

A pot of Glögi
A pot of hot Glögi with almonds. Source (CC: by)

The first time I tried Glögi

My first time with this beverage in Finland was in the house of a Finnish friend. He was preparing it in a big pot on the stove. The first time, I didn’t like it very much, as it was such an unusual taste for me; but in the end its taste grew on me.

That wasn’t the last time I drank Glögi, though. It is available in every Christmas market and every bar. If it is not too cold, many places have outside kiosks that sell it “to go” as well, so every year I get one or two cups to join the Christmas spirit. There is also a version that I favour, the one that has a bit of rum in it.

DIY: the recipe for making Glögi

I never learned how to do it, but the recipe – if you want to do it at home too – is this one:

1 bottle of red wine
2-3 tbsp Madeira wine (optional)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of raisins
1-2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 orange peels
1/4 cup of peeled almonds
1/4 cup of vodka or rum to add the extra kick (optional)

Heat it all up – don’t cook it though – and have a nice pot of Glögi. Let us know your tricks for it on the comments, and we can all try different variations this Christmas time.

The priests that holds Heavy Metal masses in Finland

Heavy Metal is one of Finland’s exports: it is said that they have more Heavy Metal bands per capita that any other nation in the world. It is no coincidence, then, that they also took the next step and created a Heavy Metal mass.

Finnish Metal

I am more inclined towards other kinds of music, and therefore my knowledge of Finnish Metal is limited. Nonetheless, I was in Finland when its Heavy Metal band formed by monsters won the Eurovision festival. It was Lordi.

Heavy metal in Helsinki
A band performing in Helsinki. Source (CC: by).

Since then, on the Spanish version of Big in Finland, we have a section about Finnish Music, in which we review Finnish albums thanks to our guest blogger J.A. Vidania. Today we start with our section on Finnish Music here with this blog-post.

The masses with Christian Heavy Metal in Helsinki

I first learned about this topic through this article on thisisFINLAND: a Finnish priest has been touring Finland and organizing Heavy Metal masses in different Finnish cities.

Since 2006 Haka Kekäläinen, a Lutheran priest, comes into the church with a six-member Heavy Metal band. The priest also looks pretty metal, sporting long dark hair and a goatee. In church, though, he leaves his leather jacket in the wardrobe and dons the traditional clothing for a priest.

In religious hymns that the Heavy Metal band plays the lyrics are not changed, but the rythm and music are and many people – also non-religious – drop by the church to witness this curious mass of Christian Heavy Metal. A curiosity: none of the members of the band are religious, but they put in the extra effort to make their performance a religious experience.

Heavy Metal masses in Finland
The priest and his altar boys and girls. You can see the Heavy Metal band in the background. Source (by-sa-nc).

The first mass of this kind was held in Helsinki, in the spectacular Temppeliaukio church (a church dug into a rock), which was completely full – some people even had to stand outside. Since that day where he guided the mass in front of 1.300 people, the priest and his Christian Heavy Metal band have held more than 95 masses throughout Finland and recorded an album. The album sold out its 8.000 copies.

What are the plans for the future for this peculiar priest? A weekly mass in Helsinki and the recording of a new album. There were almost no opposition voices in the Lutheran Church – I assume that was because Finland is a Metal lover – so his plans seem feasible. Will he perform in the iconic Chapel of Silence of Helsinki? Only time will tell, but it seems unlikely.

What do you think of this way to fill churches in Finland? Are you a Heavy Metal fan? If so, tell us your favorite band in the comments.

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