The Pumpkin Pie of Mari El

It’s Sunday and time for the “free choice”-day. As our first week has been about the eastern parts of Europe, we’ll finish it off with something truly special: a pie from the Mari El Republic.

Maris are of the same Fenno-Ugric language family as Finns are (earlier we covered another part of the same family, Hungarians) even though we live thousands of kilometers apart.  So, in a way they’re our eastern cousins or something like that. The Mari have their own republic within the Russian Federation, but are still under a campaign of heavy russificiation, with closures of many Mari language newspapers and such. If you wish to learn more of their struggles, click here for further reading.

Some time ago Ville Haapasalo, a popular actor in both Finland and Russia, hosted a new travelling tv-show called “Suomensukuiset 30 päivässä” (or “The Finnic people in 30 days”) where he travelled in various republics of Russia meeting Finnic people. In one episode he participated in baking this pie with local Mari women and it looked so great we just had to try to reverse-engineer the recipe. This is what we were able to decipher from the episode, if there are other unmentioned ingredients, we’re completely unaware of them. However the pie is very tasty even like this and puts your pumpkin harvest into great use!


Paluš (Палуш)

2 dl soy milk
1 tsp baking powder
0,5 tsp salt
5 dl wheat flour

2 dl rice
1 ball basic seitan
about 50 g margarine
4 dl pumpkin cubes

Mix soy milk, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add enough wheat flour to form a soft dough.

Bring water to boil, add the rice and cook 10 minutes. The rice should be only half cooked. Dice the seitan. Melt about 1 tbsp margarine on a frying pan and fry seitan until lightly browned. Mix rice, seitan and pumpkin together and season with salt.

Roll about 3/4 of the dough into a large circle. The circle should be big enough to cover bottom and edges of a oven proof dish with some dough overlapping on edges. Put the dough to the dish and add the filling on it. Put lumps of margarine on top of the filling. Roll the rest of the dough into a smaller circle, put it on top of the pie. Pinch the edges of the doughs together tightly to create a decorative edge. Bake in 175-200 Celsius degrees 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.


According to the tv-show, this pie is eaten at various festivities. It’s also quite filling, so if you plan on not freezing leftovers or so, invite a couple of friends over and have a good time.


It’s also a bit hard – or at least was to us – to keep the pie in one piece after cutting it. Maybe that is how it’s supposed to be.



Savoury Veggie Strudel

Strudel is a roll shaped pie, which is typical in Eastern Europe, but also in Germany and Austria. The filling can be sweet or savoury. This savoury strudel recipe is from Linda Majzlik’s A Vegan Taste of Eastern Europe, and I promise this is the last recipe we’re posting from it. The recipe is for 300 g filo pastry, but we found only 450 g packages from the store, so I made a little more filling and made a bigger pie. A big slice of this strudel with salad is enough for dinner, and smaller slice is a nice snack or party food.

Aren’t our Mole plates just great for Eastern European dishes?


Vegetable Strudel

300 g filo pastry
vegetable oil
poppy seeds

50 g (1,5-2 dl) textured soy protein
1 tsp vegetable broth powder
3,5 dl hot water
2 big carrots
2 turnips (or 1 huge)
2 big tomatoes
1-2 bell peppers (green and red)
1 onion
1 celery stalk
2 garlic cloves
scant 1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds
black pepper
salt if needed

Mix the textured soy protein, broth powder and water together and let soak 20 minutes. Peel and grate the carrots and turnips. Chop the tomatoes and bell peppers, you can also scald tomatoes if you prefer. Peel and chop onion and garlic. Thinly slice the celery. Heat the oil in a big pan and fry onion, garlic and celery until soft. Add soaked soy protein and all the remaining liquid to the pan, and add all the rest of the filling ingredients. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and allow to cool.

Cut the filo sheets in half. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put a half filo sheet on it, lightly brush with oil, put another filo sheet on it, and continue until you’ve used 1/4 of filo pastry. Spread a third of the filling on the pastry, but not to the edges. Repeat twice and put rest of the filo pastry sheet on top, brushing with oil between layers. Tuck the pastry edges under the strudel. Brush the top with oil and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake in 180 Celsius degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown.


Summer-starter Quiche

We picked some nettles yesterday while bicycling around and today we were thinking of foods you can use it in. Nettle is a great source of iron and calcium (even better than spinach) and grows wild over here. Since you can use it to substitute spinach, it’s pretty easy to find a multitude of recipes.

A friend of us had recently given us a few packages of firm silken tofu, so naturally we came to the conclusion we should try to utilise both of these ingredients. Because we didn’t have enough time to make any slow-cooking food, we opted of a quiche. It was a good call, as it was simple to make and the results were absolutely delicious.


Nettle and Tofu Quiche

100 g margarine
1 dl whole wheat flour
2 dl wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp water

2 l nettle leaves
3 handfuls of dried funnel chanterelles
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp oil
pinch of chili powder
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

1 package (349g) firm silken tofu
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard

bell pepper strips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 225 Celsius degrees. Crumble the margarine, both flours and baking powder in a bowl. Add a little water to form a dough. Grease a pie dish and spread the dough in it. Bake 10 minutes.

Boil the nettle leaves 2 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry. Chop finely. Soak the mushrooms in hot water. Chop the onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a pan and add chili powder. Fry half a minute and add onion. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauté until onions are almost golden.  Add garlic and basil and sauté a minute more. Mix the tofu, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and salt in a bowl with hand held blender until smooth. Mix all the filling ingredients together and spread on the pre-baked crust. Top with bell pepper strips and bake 25-30 minutes or until the quiche looks ready.

Cabbage Pie

We had a lot of leftovers from the wedding, including a ton of cabbage salad. There was too much of it to eat as a salad before it gets bad, so we used it as a pie filling. The dough recipe was from cookbook and for the filling I sautéd 2,5 l cabbage salad. But here’s the recipe for the original filling too.

Cabbage Salad with Tahini Dressing
(for 4-8 persons)

500-600 g cabbage
2 carrots
1 bell pepper

2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of sugar
1 garlic clove
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp water

Thinly slice the cabbage and put to a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and squeeze with your hands until the cabbage starts to get soft. Peel and shred the carrots, dice the bell pepper and mix with the cabbage. Combine the dressing ingredients and mix with the salad.

Cabbage Pie

3 dl water
20-25 g yeast
0,5 tbsp salt
0,75 dl oil or margarine
about 500 g wheat flour

3 l cabbage
3 tbsp oil
5 dl water
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
1,5 tbsp distilled vinegar
melted margarine

Dough: Put 1,5 dl lukewarm water and dissolve the yeast in it. Add 2 dl wheat flour, mix well, cover with a towel and allow to rise. Add rest of the water, salt and some wheat flour. Add the oil and more wheat flour and knead. Cover with a towel again and allow to rise.

Filling: Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the cabbage until it starts to brown. Add water and simmer until cabbage is soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and let cool.

Punch down the dough and divide it in two. Take the bigger piece of dough and roll it to a baking sheet sized rectangle. Spread the filling on it. Roll the other dough ball to a little smaller rectangle and put it on top of the filling. Brush the edges with cold water and close tightly. Brush the pie with margarine and bake in 200 Celsius degrees 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Potato And Rice Pies

Vatruska is a Karelian small pie with potato crust and rice or semolina filling. This was my first attempt to make them, and I think it went well. The recipe is veganized from Pirkko Sallinen-Gimpl’s cook book Karjalainen keittokirja.


1 kg floury potatoes
water for boiling
pinch of salt
1 dl soy or oat milk
2 dl wheat flour + more for baking

3 dl rice
6 dl water
2 tbsp margarine

melted margarine for brushing

Boil the potatoes. Peel and mash them. You can also peel and half them before boiling. Allow to cool a bit and add the rest of the ingredients. You should have a dough that is sticky, but can be handled.

Filling: Bring the water to boil, add salt and cook the rice in it until it has absorbed all the water (15-20 minutes usually). Stir in the margarine.

Pat the dough into about 15 cm circles, use flour generously to avoid sticking. Put some rice on one half of the circle and fold the other half on it. Bake 10-15 minutes in 300 Celsius degrees. Brush with melted margarine and cover with towel until served. They’re best when they’re still warm.

Rutabaga Pie From Karelia

Kukko is a rooster in Finnish, but it’s also a certain type of pie, typical for eastern parts of Finland, Savo and Karelia. The crust is made of rye or combination of rye and wheat, and the dough can be sour or not. Most famous is kalakukko, which is filled with fish. Other common fillings are meat, rutabaga and potatoes, but even rutabaga kukko usually contains meat.

I wanted to try to make vegan rutabaga kukko. I combined four or five recipes I found and made some changes to make it vegan. The result was very good, and I think I’ll make more kukkos with different fillings in future.

Rutabaga Kukko

1 kg rutabaga
about 2 dl water
1 tbsp uncooked rice

4 dl rye flour
4 dl wheat flour
1 tsp salt
3 dl water

Peel the rutabagas, cut them in four or six wedges and slice thinly. Put them, water and some salt to a pot and simmer until rutabagas are half done. Drain

Mix the dough ingredients in a bowl. Roll into a circle or oval, edges can be thinner. Sprinkle the rice in the center of the circle/oval, it will absorb all the extra moisture. Put some rutabaga slices on the dough, sprinkle with salt and put few dollops of margarine on top. Continue until you have all the rutabagas on the dough. Put more margarine dollops on top. Fold the edges of the dough on top of the pie. Close tightly, water and gentle rubbing will help.

Bake in 200 Celsius degrees 1-1,5 hours. Brush with mixture of melted margarine and water. Wrap in greaseproof paper and then wrap in a towel. You can then either wrap it in a blanket or put back to oven if it has cooled to 100 or less degrees. Keep wrapped at least couple of hours, but over night is good too. This simmering part is important, it makes the crust softer and enhances the flavours of the filling.

Serve with margarine.

Meatless Meat Pie

Many countries have their own meat pies and so does Finland. Here in Finland you can find two types of meat pies: smaller that are made with yeast dough and they’re deep fried (this type is sold in stores and grill kiosks) and bigger are made with puff pastry and baked in oven (usually home made meat pies are this type). Veganizing a meat pie would be easy with textured soy protein, but I like to use mushrooms instead, I learnt this from my granny. Many years ago I was visiting my grandparents and my granny had made meat pie and similar mushroom pie. I can’t remember if she made it because I was already vegetarian or because mushroom pie tastes good. Anyway, the pie was great and she said that she had used the same recipe for both pies, but used chopped milk-caps instead of ground meat in the mushroom pie.

Meat pies are often made with eggs and/or dairy, so substituting meat with mushrooms doesn’t turn it automatically vegan. But here’s one recipe for vegan “meat pie”, a.k.a. mushroom pie. I usually plan making it beforehand, so I can make mashed potatoes or rice for dinner and use the leftovers to make the pie.

Mushroom pie

Potato Dough:
300 g potatoes (4-5) or leftover mashed potatoes
250 g margarine
6 dl wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder

Or use 1-2 packages store bought puff pastry

about 5 dl boiled milk-caps (1-1,2 l fresh)
or whatever mushrooms you have
1,5 dl rice (porridge or risotto rice is better than long rice) or barley
3 dl water
2 tbsp oil
2 onions
2 garlic cloves
salt, white pepper
herbs, for example parsley and chervil
1 dl oat or soy cream

Optional: ketchup, mustard, Chopped pickles (or cucumber relish) and chopped onion for serving.

Make the dough firs. Boil the potatoes and peel them. Mash the potatoes and add about 0,5 dl water to get a smooth paste. If the potatoes are still hot, let them cool a bit. In a bowl rub the margarine, flour and baking powder together with your hands until crumbly. Add mashed potatoes and mix well, don’t knead. Add a little water if you can’t form a nice dough ball. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

Cook the rice. Chop the onion and mince the garlic. Chop the mushrooms. Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute onions and garlic until soft. If you use mushrooms that don’t need to be boiled before eating, saute them in the pan with the onions. Add the chopped milk-caps to the pan at the end of the sauteing process. Mix all the filling ingredients together.

Take a piece of parchment paper that is as big as your baking sheet. Divide the dough in two equal sized balls and roll one of them on the parchment paper. Spread the filling on it, but leave about 1,5 cm edges without filling. Roll the other dough ball into same size rectangle and put it on top of the filling. I like to roll it on another piece of parchment paper, because then it’s easier to move it without breaking it. Close the edges with a fork and poke some holes on the pie. Brush the surface with cold water and bake 30-40(?) minutes in 200 Celsius degrees.

P.S. Have you seen the list of all the mofoers? Check here.