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“I’ll cook it and eat it, if I can forage it, gather it, grow it, catch it or make it myself!”

 

I’m a father, businessman, salsa dancer, dog trainer, son of my wonderful parents, brother, uncle, traveler, adventurer, seeker, great believer of personal growth and positive thinking, and passionate about food and cooking.

My friends simply call me “Chef Without A Licence”, and 

this blog is a journey in life to the magical world of food and cooking.

 

Early childhood memory

My brother and me : Mom, can we have hamburgers and pizza, while you are at work this week?
Mom : Sure, but why do you want those?
My brother and me : Well, that’s what all our friends always have.
Mom : OK.

…2 days later (parents coming home from work)
My brother and me : Mom, can you prepare some real food for us?
Mom : But, haven’t you had the hamburgers and pizzas we got for you?
My brother and me : We don’t like those, those are disgusting.

So, real food it was, fresh vegetables, fish and good quality meats. And, over the years I have learned that hamburgers and pizzas can be real food as well, when made from quality ingredients, instead of bought from the supermarket.

To understand my relationship with food, you need to know little bit of my background

Growing up in the Finnish country side, I was surrounded by a mix of flavors and kitchen discipline. My parents have always worked in the restaurant industry; they’ve pretty much done and seen it all. They have both worked the kitchen as well as the dining room and served all kinds of people from everyday town folk to the highest level of corporate customers.

we kids learned to prepare our own meals at young age

It was normal for our whole family to come together for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper. Snacking and eating by your self was totally foreign to us. However, since working in restaurant industry, my parents were often at work, and we kids learned to prepare our own meals at young age. When I say preparing our own meals, I mean cooking from scratch with fresh products.

During the summer and autumn, we spent plenty of time out in the woods gathering berries and mushrooms. The forest was full of amazing colors and flavors in the form of bilberries, lingonberries, cloudberries, red rasberries. In addition to these, my mom had a garden, where she grew the most delicious strawberries, and red and black currants. The most common mushrooms were from the leccinum and lactarius genus. However, our favorite mushroom was “Korvasieni“, which we would use to bake a pie, or sautée in butter with onions and make into a bechamel sauce to go with fresh potatoes and pan seared whitefish. So Delicious! Later in life, when I moved to southern Finland, I fell in love with black chanterelle, chanterelle, porchino and yellowfoot mushrooms.

With our father we hunted wild game, mostly hare, duck (mainly Mallard) and grouse (Willow Grouse, Hazel Grouse, Black Grouse and Capercaillie), and caught our own fish from the fresh water lakes and streams.

duck confit

One of my favorite dishes: Roasted wild Mallard with black chanterelle risotto, roasted carrots and lingonberry sauce.
(Mallard caught by my dad, carrots grown by my mom, and mushrooms and lingonberries foraged by me)

Fishing was something that went on around the year, so we always had fresh fish to eat. The most common catch were Lavaret (European whitefish), Vendace (small whitefish), Perch and Pike. Roe from Lavaret and Vendace, usually served on special occasions, is highly renowned for its delicate taste and we always took great care to collect it. My fly fishing hobby made sure that we had trout and grayling in the table, as well. Our favorite way of preparing fish has always been smoking.

Smoked whitefish and perch, and the white summer nights, are amongst the best things I know in life.

Catch of the Day

My Dad and me with a gillnet full of Vendace in the summer of 2011

I started this blog after several requests from my dear friends, who have always encouraged me to follow my passion for food and share it with people around. I’ll be opening up my world of flavors in an attempt to show my appreciation to all those people who have helped me on my path.

Sincerely,
Sampo, The Chef Without A Licence

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