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Friday, December 17, 2010

Finnish Carrot Casserole, Porkkanalaatiko

Tonight we had a traditional Finnish casserole for dinner, it is made of carrots and rice baked in a custard of eggs and milk.  When I was an exchange student, we always went to the Rotary club meetings with our hosts and enjoyed the delicious buffet they served, and this was one of the dishes that was almost always on the menu.  It is a hearty, filling dish perfect for a wintry day.

I took my recipe straight from a cookbook in my collection, The Finnish Cookbook by Beatrice Ojakangas.  The link to this book is at the bottom of this page.  It was first published in 1964, and her intent was to make Finnish recipes accessible to American cooks.  

The recipe is:

1 cup cooked rice
2 cups milk
5 medium carrots, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 eggs
3 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup fine bread or cracker crumbs

Combine the rice, milk, carrots, salt, sugar and eggs.  Pour into a well-buttered 1.5 quart casserole.  Melt the butter in a separate pan and stir the crumbs into it.  Sprinkle over the top of casserole.  Bake in a moderately hot oven (375 degrees Fahrenheit) about 40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.  Serves 6,

Fortunately, I have a six-year old "automatic" carrot peeler and shredder, he works for Christmas cookies:

The food processor would've shredded the carrots more quickly, but I didn't feel like getting it out.  I already had the breadcrumbs in the freezer, I save all the bread heals and extra toast to make breadcrumbs.  Must be a holdover from growing up on a farm, I hate to waste anything.

A rice cooker easily cooked the rice, it would have been nice if I'd had some leftover rice.  I used short grain, sticky rice.  In Finland they sell "puuro riisi" which has a lot of talc.  To substitute, I use sushi rice or pearl rice (which is available in the Mexican food section of groceries, our Wal-Mart even carries it).  

I mixed the carrots, milk, eggs, salt and and brown sugar directly in the rice cooker pan so there would be less dishes to wash.  I'm still cleaning from yesterday's cookie baking!  I should've measured the salt a little more carefully, between the carrots and brown sugar, it is a very sweet casserole and a little extra salt would have been good.

Here is how it looked in the casserole dish, I did butter the dish as called for in the recipe, but I'm sure it would've been just as good to use cooking spray.

It looked like it needed a few more breadcrumbs on top, my casserole dish was slightly larger than 1.5 quarts, and had a little more surface area.  The breadcrumbs soaked in melted butter make a wonderful crust on top.

I cooked a couple of sirloin steaks and made some gravy with the drippings, mushrooms, cornstarch and cream.  A touch of brown sugar in the gravy makes it delicious.  We also had mashed potatoes.

My family wasn't as excited about the casserole as I was, but my teenage son had two helpings.  My Finnish husband wrinkled his nose and said he wasn't sure if he had eaten it before, I believe the quote was, "It looks like it tastes like carrots."  Daughter said it was a little sweet (gotta remember to add a bit more salt next time).  My first grade helper didn't eat it, again tonight.  But he had had a big party at school today, and I caught him in the Christmas cookies later.  It is hard to make a casserole that can compete with the cookies from last night!  Maybe they were worth all the work.

I think I'll stick the leftovers in the freezer where the rutabaga casserole is already waiting for Christmas meals.

If you are interested in buying the cookbook that I used, it is available from the following link on Amazon.  My only complaint with the Finnish Cookbook is that it doesn't have photos of the dishes, but the recipes are written for American cooks.  Beatrice Ojakangas' other books below have beautiful pictures, but are not as comprehensive.  


  1. Tried this out tonight! My carrots were a little on the small side, so I don't think I had enough with 5. I'm French-canadian (and part Finn of course!) and we cook in a similar fashion (brown sugar is in most things), but we usually pair it up with nutmeg. I'll try that next time just to see how it changes the taste.

    Overall good recipe, though it is very very starchy (makes sense for Finland... French-canadian dishes are also starch-heavy so that the « big strong men » could work long hours on the farm).

    Thanks for this recipe (and all the others). It's allowing me to discover part of my heritage that would otherwise have been lost.

  2. Thanks for the recipe!!!! I live in Soutcentral Alaska and have A LOT of carrots and was trying to think of different ways to use them. I too was a Rotary Exchange student and remember this casserole with fond memories. I'm gonna whip some up tonight to go with the ham left over I have in the freezer:) A little Finnish Christmas in September:) Kiitos!

  3. I love carrot casserole. I too married a Finn and live until later this year in the US. After 40 years in the US we will move back to Finland. I can hardly wait! I'm working on adjusting our diet to be mostly vegetable based, so will try this tonight, substituting cauliflower rice for the rice. I may need to add just a little potato starch or something else to hold it together better. We'll see. I really want to eliminate as many carbs as I can. I'll work on the substitutions until I get it right!

    1. The egg custard will keep it together. :-) You can also add cheese.

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