Saturday, August 8, 2009
We've decided to spend the summer holidays in Estonia this year, as travelling with our kid, especially to somewhere where the weather would be nice and hot to our standards, but probably intolerable to his, would probably be a bit of a pain.
And we've had a chance to remind ourselves how beautiful Estonia is in the summer.
So first we rented a lovely little cottage on a lake in Mulgimaa for a couple of days. For most of our group it was mostly about fishing.
Some of us (alas, not me) literally spent a day and a half with a fishing pole in their hand. The result was that they had a pregnant pet cat (who got most of the fish they caught as they were too small for anything else) and a fat pet duck (!), who hung around and ate all the bread and leftover worms.
But they did manage to catch some fish that was for human consumption, so I made a camping and fishing trip classic - Ukha (a clear Russian fish soup, uhhaa in Estonian and Russian). For the soup you basically need onion, potato, carrot (maybe also leek, but that is less important), dill and fish. All the veggies go in in big chunks. I’ve heard that it turns out best if you boil it on an open fire in a kettle, but I took the more civilized route myself. They caught perch, but unfortunately not enough of it, so I had to cheat a little and get some pangasius and some trout from the nearby store :).
Perch is wonderful in taste, but really difficult to clean (especially to get the scales off), so I boiled it separately and then strained the good broth into the soup and picked out the meat. No scales. Needless to say the contrast between the smells accompanying boiling a freshly caught fish versus store bought fish bring tears to ones eyes.
The soup was lovely. The humongous pot was no challenge at all.
After that we went to Narva Jõesuu, it's a small resort-town in Eastern Estonia, quite near to the Russian border. In fact it's closer to St. Petersburg (150 km) than it is to Tallinn (200km). Due to that it has heavy Russian influences everywhere - in food, in customer service, in the language environment (you rarely hear anything but Russian, as the locals who live there are mostly Estonian Russian). It has the nicest white sandy beach in Estonia (also the longest stretch of 7.5 km) and it used to be called the Northern Riviera in the beginning of the last century, when it was a famous resort especially for Russians. It's lost some of it's glory since then, but they're in an active process of restoring it now.
There we had one of the greatest surprise-meals of our vacation. We randomly wondered into a very modest looking open air eatery called the Blue Lagoon. It was adorned with the most delightfully tacky plastic plants and monkey statues, the team came in a Soviet style porcelain pot and the menu written on the blackboard left something to be wished for as far as spelling goes.
But they had sturgeon on the menu! Sturgeon shish-kebabs! I had never ever had anything like it and it was flawless.