Smoked Reindeer Soup and Nordic MasterChef


Last night was a Nordic evening in MasterChef. I didn’t know that when I decided to do my Smoked Reindeer soup, but it was a happy coincidence as I was on a homely, smoky, Nordic mood when I sat down in front of the telly. The MasterChef finalists were cooking stunning Nordic food in two amazing restaurants in Stockholm. The first one was a fish restaurant where there is no menu, they just come up with dishes based on what fresh produce their suppliers bring each day. In the second restaurant everything is cooked on open fire.

Creamy soup with smoked reindeer and mushrooms

They were mostly doing seafood and fish, some of it very familiar to me like sander and arctic char. There was lobster, scallop, roe, tar, pickling and smoking of this and that. One of the contestants cooked a lovely looking lump of reindeer, but unfortunately it was under as we say in chef lingo. But under is better than over, mused the whiskered wannabe MasterChef and scraped through to the next round.

My favourite finalist is Simon, a humble, shy and nervous father of four, who always plates his food really beautifully which is surprising taking into account how much his hands shake. I can relate to it as a very shaky person myself. I remember playing Sibelius’s Valse Triste in a school graduation ceremony. Dad had to prescribe me diazepam. But Simon, he cooked a lovely meal of turbot, and the two Swedish chefs liked it a lot and thought Simon’s plate was yust beautiful.

They were very huggy, the Swedish chefs. Swedish blokes are a bit soft like that, which probably is why the Finnish blokes with the emotional capacity of a crowbar think they are all girls. I actually have quite warm feelings for my Nordic neighbours. Notice how I’m not joking about the Muppet Show Swedish Chef here even though this would be the golden opportunity. But I know the Swedes don’t think it’s funny and they think he doesn’t sound Swedish at all but Norwegian which to a lot of us in neither here nor there. My Swedophilia probably stems from the time I lived in Sweden. It was my gap year before going to university and instead of going backpacking in Australia I made the sensible decision to spend the year backcombing my hair and drinking Johnnie Walker Red Label in Stockholm.

Last night I wanted to do a trial run of the smoked reindeer soup. I have made it before, but wanted to remind myself how I did it and if it is as good as I think it us, because I want to make it for my parents’ Royal visit in May.

It was very good, maybe slightly on the salty side, I made the mistake of seasoning the soup quite well before adding the salty smoked meat, so have to remember that when doing it for my parents. I also noticed that unlike loads of foods this one doesn’t improve with reheating. I heated some for lunch today and the fantastic smoky saltiness of the meat somehow had disappeared into the liquid. It was still very good but if I want to prepare it ahead in future I will do the soup part and add the meat only before heating it up before serving.

Slices of smoked reideer from Finnish Lapland

Recipe: Smoked Reindeer Soup (serves 4)

1 leek
1 stalk of celery
1 carrot
200g of mushroom
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp plain flour
5 dl of game (or beef) stock
2-3 dl of milk
1 dl of sour cream
1 dl of cream
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp fresh rosemary 
1 tbsp fresh parsley
200g mushrooms
100g smoked reindeer meat

Chop the leek, celery and carrot, half of the the mushrooms (the other half is for later) and mince the garlic. I had shiitake and cremini mushrooms, funnel chanterelles would be the most authentic for this recie. Heat oil in a deep pan. Fry the leek, celery, carrot and mushroom for a few minutes seasoning it lightly with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic once the rest of the vegetables have softened a bit, continue to fry for a few minutes, then add the flour and fry for a minute or two. Add the stock, milk and half the chopped herbs and let simmer on low to medium heat until the vegetables are soft. Blitz with a handheld blender until silky smooth. Add the sour cream or soft cheese and cream, you can also add a splash of water if it looks too thick.

While the soup is simmering slice the rest of the mushrooms and fry them in a bit of butter seasoning them with salt and pepper and the rest of the herbs. 

Just before serving add the finely chopped reindeer meat and the fried mushroom slices into the soup reserving a few mushrooms for decoration, check seasoning and ladle into soup bowls. Decorate with a swirl of sour cream or cream, the fried mushroom slices and sprinkling of fresh parsley. Bork bork bork!

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