Janny de Moor Janny de Moor

Finnish barley bread


Baking tool:

  • a (fluted) loose-based baking tin,
  • top 28 cm /underside 26 cm /rim 2,5 cm,
  • greased with butter


Batter (makes one round loaf):

  • 175 g barley meal (health food shop)
  • 150 g quick cooking pearl barley
  • 500 ml buttermilk
  • 1 ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 g salt

On top:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Our culture is still quite young, and Finland has not been affluent. In wintertime outdoor temperature can be  minus 40 degrees Celsius. So you can imagine that the first thing earlier generations were interested in was how to survive! How the food tasted was a secondary issue. Nowadays we Fins can afford a youthful enthusiasm for our own traditional dishes and local specialties. We got an eye for our clean and pure environment and are proud to present our landscape to foreign visitors.


This was what famous chef Sami Hiltunen wrote to me ten years ago when I asked him to describe the cuisine of his country. That those traditional dishes are absolutely worth while is proven by this flat barley bread Ohrarieska. According to the Fins a meal without bread is no meal. ‘Better bread than gold’ as the phrase goes. And so they developed original loaves from cold-resitant grains such as rye and barley. When these were not available they baked for ‘a rosy complexion’ even bread from pine meal (white inner bark of pine trees). The extremely healthy rye bread – Sami called it the Finnish insurance against hard times – had a hole in the middle and was hanged on the ceiling  of the kitchen to dry, where it became pretty hard. His sisters and he lost their milk teeth while eating it. The barley bead Ohrarieska from a region near the polar circle is somewhat softer. Sometimes the batter is spread on cabbage leaves before baking or small pieces of smoked  bacon or ham are added. The warm brown clour is due to the reaction of bicarbonate of soda with buttermilk, an invention in itself.

  • Mix the barley meal and pearl barley in a bowl with the buttermilk. Cover and leave to soak for a night at room temperature.
  • Heat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F.
  • Put the buttermilk mix in a blender and make a somewhat granular batter. Spoon into the bowl. Mix with soda and salt. Smooth out into the baking tin.
  • Bake immediately on the middle shelf of the heated oven. Brush with the butter after 25 minutes; bake for a further 15 minutes or until the upper side is deep reddish brown. Cool slightly, then unmold and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Eat with breakfast or for example with ‘boiled’ fillet of salmon (Keitetty lohi): for two persons bring 500 ml water to the boil with 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon minced onion, dill seed, a bay leaf, salt and much white pepper. Put in 350 g of salmon, bring to the boil again. Take from the stove and leave to stand covered for 10 minutes. Melt 20 g butter, sauté 1 level tablespoon plain flour in it. Stir in so much sieved cooking liquid that a supple sauce is appearing. Let simmer for a few minutes. Mix with finely cut parsley and chives. Pour over the salmon. Serve with a salad of pointed (sweetheart) cabbage dressed with a vinaigrette.

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