I had my first portion of reindeer meat on my first trip to Finland a few years ago. It was in a fancy and pricey Saami restaurant, and the dish had a poetic Finnish name that translated as “reindeer of the northern lights”. My friend who is currently visiting us bought a package of frozen reindeer meat at the local grocery store because she wants to make the most of her Swedish holiday and that includes eating local delicacies such as reindeer meat. I don’t know how to prepare the Finnish “reindeer of the northern lights”, but I have learned another way of making reindeer meat, the Swedish way, and this is how I served it to my friend. The “northern lights” part came as a plus (for real).
I learned how to prepare reindeer meat earlier this year, visiting Swedish friends. I had never dared to buy reindeer meat before because it’s a little out of budget in my usual grocery haul and I was unsure if I would be able to cook it at all, but after I tried it home-made and saw it was actually quite easy to prepare, I decided to give it a try. Reindeer meat in my supermarket comes frozen, in thinly sliced pieces of steak by the brand Polarica.
To prepare reindeer stew for 3 people you will need:
- 500 g reindeer meat
- 1 medium onion
- 300 g mushrooms
- 400 ml cream (15% fat)
- white pepper
First of all, make a nice soffritto: cut the onion in small pieces and braise it in a pot with a little hot olive oil. Lower the heat after the first 5 minutes and stir from time to time so that the onion will keep cooking but won’t burn. In the meantime, cut the mushrooms (cultivated mushrooms) and add them to the frying onion. Add some salt and, if desired, aromatic herbs (I used a herb that my mom gave to me, it grows up in the mountains where my parents live, and I only know its name in dialect, so I can’t even look for the English translation of it. It’s a crushed dried mountain herb anyway). The mushrooms will release some water, keep cooking until it evaporates.
When the mushrooms are cooked and the water has evaporated almost completely, add the frozen reindeer meat to the pot. There is no need to thaw it. Frozen, the thin slices are gathered in large chunks, but the heat will make them separate. Facilitate this process by moving them around in the pot. Add the white pepper and some more salt. Only when all the slices of meat have separated and look cooked, add the cream and cover the pot. Lower the heat and let it stew. Although this dish can be prepared quite quickly and this lid-on step can last only a few minutes, the longer it stews, the better as the reindeer meat could be a little chewy. Take the lid away and let the excess liquid evaporate. You might need to adjust the salt after adding the cream, and your reindeer stew will be ready to be served. As a side dish to this I made some instant polenta.
Truly Swedish, really tasty, and unbelievably easy to make despite the fancy type of meat. Best enjoyed with a glass of red wine and northern lights out of your window.