The Horse and the Beaver

Most of our holidays are centred around walking and eating and walking some more so we are hungry again. Riga was no exception. Not knowing what to expect we were really pleased to get off to a good start by visiting Garage, a tapas bar where I had a delicious ceviche salad and Jonny had a small platter of local cheese.

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On the prowl that night for some vegetarian fast food we went to Street Burgers, open on Good Friday and serving a hearty portobello burger with a side order of fries.

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The next morning, in search of good coffee we headed for Innocent Cafe and found it was brunch time. The table was laden with strips of smoked cheese, pickled vegetables, potatoes, salads and fish.

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 To be honest my stomach was not ready for some of these savoury treats but I happily had a couple of rounds of olives, potatoes and cheese on toast.

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Later, in the Old Town, I popped into Black Magic cafe. They specialise in serving Riga Black Balsam, a herbal liqueur served in coffee or neat. It wasn’t quite balsam-o-clock yet so some more walking was called for before our next stop.

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Looking for lunch we were nearly invited into this den by the Latvian Russell Crowe but pushed on to find restaurant 1221 of which we’d read good things.

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1221 was as lovely as described with lots of people stopping to take photos of the painted exterior.

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Unfortunately however, the menu was not a good fit for a vegetarian and his vege-quarian companions.

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Although for the carnivores there was something for everyone.

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We dined that night at our hotel restaurant, which we never do but it was cold and raining so we allowed ourselves the luxury of going downstairs. The food was delicious and came with glasses of birch water, compliments of the chef.

So we managed to eat our way around Riga without resorting to pork knuckles and cabbage as some guide books would suggest. The euro goes a lot further outside of Finland too and we were very grateful to leave feeling so well fed.

Seems the only thing going hungry on our trip were these poor little guys at the airport.

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Riga’s Central Market

A review on Trip Advisor warned that Riga’s Central Market is good but only if you like the same old stuff. Ha! Depends where you come from really, because what’s same old stuff to you, may not be same old stuff to me.

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Housed in what were once Zeppelin hangars, Riga’s Central Market was opened in 1930 and covers 72,000 square metres.

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You can smell the first hangar before you even enter. Not in a bad way, but in a bustling, crowded, bouquets of dried fish on the counter kind of way.

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We stopped in the walkway to the next hangar to buy a couple of wooden spoons for our kitchen. Local honey and woollen socks were also on offer in this part of the market.

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The next hangar was full of sweets. Latvia seems to have a love affair with pastries and, surprisingly, halva, which we found was also included in our breakfast buffet in the city.

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Latvian’s are proud of their dairy production and rightly so. We saw beautiful piles of soft cheeses and curds but opted instead for some hard Dutch cheese we could bring home in our luggage.

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Then it was through to the produce market. If you love vinegar like I do, then this one’s for you.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Piles of colourful vegetables preserved in oil and vinegar were everywhere, many displayed in huge vases.

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Finally we walked past piles of dried goods: pasta, tea, ketchup and rice. Not terribly interesting products in themselves but still worth taking a photo of, because having never seen this packaging before, they are not the same old stuff to me!

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Riga Central Market

This post has been shared as part of the Show Your World feature on the Tiny Expats blog – you can find out more here.

Show Your World

How to make the best korvapuustit (three treats with one dough)

I had a baking lesson on Sunday with my Finnish sister-in-law Ilona. She baked while I took notes before having a little sample at the end.

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This dough can be used to make various sweets. To make enough for korvapuustit, a few munkit (doughnuts) and rahkapiirakat (quark pies), follow these easy steps:

Heat 5 dcl (500ml) of milk until it is slightly warmer than body temperature. You can use water if you are lactose-free. Crumble in one packet of tuorehiiva (fresh yeast) and stir to dissolve.

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Add 1 dcl white sugar, 2 teaspoons cardamom, 2 eggs and mix. Stir in 9 dcl of plain flour (unsifted) and a pinch of salt. Once the mixture becomes thick and sticky use your hands to mix. You want a balance between the dough being thick enough to roll and loose enough so it has enough air in it to rise.

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Add 100g of melted butter and lightly mix with hands. Don’t knead too much as the dough needs to stretch.  Now it needs to double in size so cover with a tea towel and put aside. A 1950s tea towel printed with Australian birds is always best.

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Heat the oven to 200°c. Once the dough has doubled in size scrape it out onto a floured surface. When making korvapuustit you can be quite rough with the dough, it’s okay to push a bit of the air out of it. Divide the dough and put aside the amounts you would like for doughnuts and rahkapiirakat.

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Roll the dough into a 1cm thick rectangle and brush with 25g of melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and then roll lengthways.

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Cut the dough into triangles with the edge of a spatula. You can freeze uncooked dough at this stage to bake later.

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Place the triangles on a tray lined with baking paper. Put them on the bottom edge of the triangle and push down (like you are squashing a pyramid).

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Leave a bit of space between them as they will grow. Brush with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes or until golden.

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For rahkapiiraka: These are easier to make if the dough has come from the freezer. Shape dough into little dish shapes with a slight well in the middle. If the dough is fresh poke a couple of little holes in the bottom with a fork. Brush with egg and then mix one tub of rahka (quark) with the leftover raw egg and 1 teaspoon of white sugar.

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Spoon the mixture into the wells and press in raisins if you like and bake in oven for about 15 minutes.

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For the doughnuts: Shape dough into small rounds with the side of your hands. Don’t be too rough as you want air in this dough so they will rise.

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Take a round of dough and punch a hole in it with your finger. Then stretch a bit by spinning the ring on your fingers. This makes a sturdier doughnut shape than if you were to make a sausage and join two ends. You can freeze the raw dough circles at this stage for later use, or fry in oil and coat with sugar when cooled.

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Yum! All three of these sweet snacks are best served warm with coffee on the couch while you watch the Men’s 50km cross-country skiing final.

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Apologies to Ilona for not getting more photos that included her lovely face. I would have also included more photos of us eating these delicious snacks but some of us were still in our pyjamas…