She specializes in Finnish cuisine–but loves fusion cooking | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

MEAT Loaf (with Brussels sprouts and apple mash)

When she’s cooking in front of the television cameras, Chef Sara La Fountain is all serious business.  In “New Scandinavian Cooking” and “Perfect Day,” shows which she co-hosts and which are aired on the Asian Food Channel, she’s very hands-on, doing the chopping and mixing herself, for dishes that seem to be not just delicious but also very doable. Still, even as she demonstrates the proper methods of preparing a dish, there’s a glimpse of the ebullient charm underlying the personality of this fashion model-turned-chef.

Adventurous eater

The charm was certainly very palpable when she met members of the press last Monday in Edsa Shangri-La’s Heat restaurant. She was all smiles as she posed for the cameras and told everyone how much she has enjoyed her stay in Manila. “I’ve even tasted balut,” she said, sounding very adventurous.  Part French-American and part Finnish, she’s based in Finland, where she’s a popular media personality, with her own TV shows, “Avec Sara” and “Market Kitchen.”  Her cookbook “A la Sara” has won the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Award in the Best First Cookbook category.

Passion for food

Sara’s passion for food probably stems partly from her father, who manages a restaurant in New York and partly from her childhood adventures in the kitchen with her Finnish grandmother. “When she would come to our summer cottage, she would have a big basket and ask me to pick blueberries, so I’d be in the woods picking berries for her.” Or sometimes she’d be asked to pick wild mushrooms, which are plentiful in the Finnish forests. Being very traditional, her grandmother never threw anything away. “We used up everything,” she recalls, “and it was great learning these traditions from her.” 

Finnish feast

For the press conference at Edsa Shangri-La, Sara prepared typical Finnish dishes. For starters there was salmon soup, a light, creamy soup of salmon chunks and root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips, garnished with salmon head fish roe.  Served with the soup was a slice of rye bread, which was moist and tasty despite having been brought all the way from Finland.

Next came vorschmack with marinated beets. According to culinary lore, vorschmack was brought to Finland, possibly from Poland, by Finnish statesman and war hero Marshall C.G.E. Mannerheim. Made of minced herring and lamb, it was a robust dish perked up by the tartness of marinated beets and sour cream.

Next came a summer salad of crayfish, which are smaller versions of lobsters that are abundant in the waters of Finland.  Sara says that in August, families would feast on pots of crayfish, which would then be in season. In fact, she says, Finnish cuisine can be defined by simplicity and seasonality. Having long harsh winters and short summers of constant sunlight, the Finnish depend a lot on the availability of ingredients and the need to keep cool—or warm.

The karelian stew that Sara served next would certainly take care of the keeping-warm aspect.  Made with chunks of beef and lamb slowly simmered with vegetables, it’s a hearty dish that would certainly provide comfort on chilly winter nights.

While she cooks a lot of Finnish cuisine, Sara says she also likes doing fusion.  She loves the flavors of Asia and often concocts dishes that incorporate traditional Asian ingredients such as ginger and cilantro.

Here, Sara shares her recipe for meat loaf with Brussels sprouts and apple mash.  It’s a very rich and delectable meat loaf.  Not the least of its appeal is the bacon that enwraps the meat.  As the meat loaf bakes, the bacon imparts moistness and flavor.  By the time the meat loaf is fully cooked, the bacon has formed into a crust, adding a crisp texture that complements the tenderness of the meat.

Starting July 2, “Perfect Day” and “New Scandinavian Cooking” will air on the Asian Food Channel Monday-Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Meat Loaf (with Brussels Sprouts and Apple Mash)

Makes around 5 servings

½ k ground beef

½ k ground pork

1  egg

100 ml (1/3 c + 1 tbsp) breadcrumbs

2  tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

½  tbsp sugar

100 ml (1/3 c + 1 tbsp) cream

2½  tbsp  Dijon mustard

2  tbsp chili ketchup

1½  tbsp horseradish paste

Salt and black pepper, to taste

300 g bacon (around 8 bacon strips, each around 12 inches long)

CHEF SARA La Fountain

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).  In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except the bacon.  Line a baking pan with baking paper and place the meat mixture on it. Shape the meat mixture into a large-size loaf shape (see tips below).

Arrange the bacon strips lengthwise on the sides and the top of the meat loaf, covering all surfaces. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Raise the temperature to 450°F (230°C) and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes.

Let cool slightly then slice into serving pieces. If desired, serve with boiled Brussels sprouts and apple mash (or applesauce).

For more tips, recipes and stories, visit author’s blog and Facebook fan page Follow on Twitter@NormaChikiamco

Cook’s tips

If you can’t find chili ketchup, use plain tomato ketchup (do not use banana ketchup).

One way to shape the meat mixture into a loaf is to use a standard-size loaf pan as guide. Pat the mixture into a loaf pan (approximate size of 8 ½” x 4” x 3”) so it acquires the shape of a loaf. Then invert the loaf pan onto the baking pan lined with baking paper and carefully release the meat mixture from the pan.

Instead of Brussels sprouts you can serve this with other vegetables such as boiled carrots and cabbage.

Dijon mustard and horseradish paste are available in large supermarkets, usually in the sandwich condiments section.

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