Latvia, The land of flowers

It has been some time since my last In My Kitchen post. Some months actually. This time I will tell you a bit about one adventure this past summer and the inspiration it gave me once I made it home. Our garden has been producing nicely and so the Carrot Top Pesto potato salad below is made with mostly fresh produce from our own little patch. A few things I had to buy, the potatoes and beans. The end result was delicious. Currently Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings currently hosts IMK. Thanks for hosting! Check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.

The past year has had so many ups and downs, many opportunities to learn. Definitely a year full of life. And one of my largest dreams is to travel and to try experience what others experience in their homelands. We were on a budget, so our trip could not be too long or too far away. Latvia was the perfect option. My husband had been at an international seminar and some fellow participants from Latvia told him the places that we should visit. We took the ferry over the Baltic Sea into Tallinn. Estonia has many lovely places to offer but this time our goal was see Latvia. We left Friday evening with another couple, one of our best friends. Most of the summer we had spent with our families and so a little adults-only get-away felt wonderful. My words lack to describe the sense of freedom we had for a few days. No baby schedules to follow, and no one asking are-we-there-yet in the back seat. I do love my kids, mind you. But I realized once again how funny my husband was. We DO have a sense of humor afterall! Often in the everyday scramble, life is carried out and finding the moments to stop takes a bit of effort.

Turaidas pils

 

I know that as a tourist, only the tip of the iceberg is often uncovered. But there are many ways to travel, and perhaps we had a chance to uncover some of the true Latvian spirit, as we drove through the countryside and visited places that the locals visit as well. It truly was the Land of flowers. It seems as if every yard was shown so much love. Even the tall, concrete apartment buildings driving into Riga, from the era of Stalin had flowers generously decorating many of the balconies. Every once in a while, along the roadside there would be a table with flowers for sale. And they were always arranged so nice. If we didn’t have such a long way to go home, I would have brought home a large bouquet. Someday it would be nice to linger a bit longer and maybe get into a conversation with a local. There independence is still quite fresh and the political scientist in me would like to find out how life has changed in the past thirty years. Did they care for their gardens with the same intensity during the era of the Iron Curtain. Was that the thing they held onto and showed their national pride even if their independence was taken away, similar to how the as the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians held onto their tradition of singing and formed the Singing Revolution with the remarkable Baltic Way human chain a peaceful political demonstration that involved about 2 million people that stood hand in hand spanning 675.5 km. (419.7 miles) all the way from the Old town of Tallinn to Riga and then on to Vilnius, singing songs spontaneously.

Riga

 

The countryside was full of gently rolling hills, more so than Estonia. And the season was farther along than in Finland as the grain had taken on a golden hue. In the middle of the fields a few large oaks had been left standing, majestic and strong. As we drove amongst the fields we would occasionally spot a few roe deer. Latvia has wild boars, but those we did not spot them in the wild. But we did spot several pairs of glowing eyes in the dark as we drove back to our hotel after dinner.

Since we were just the four of us, we were able to make random stops. We didn’t make it to the famous beaches, Jurmala or Liepaja, this time but next time they will be places to go to. We did stop by some smaller beaches and even if there was a strong wind, there was still a bit of summer in the air. Next time we will have to play in the waves.

Our intention was to spend our second night in Kuldiga which is a small medieval city in the western part of Latvia. It has the River Venta  running right through the town, which actually is Europe’s broadest waterfall although it is not very high. But we had accidently reserved rooms at the quaint little bed and breakfast, Kursu Krogs which was about 50 km from Kuldiga. It turned out to be the best mistake ever. It was such a lovely place with the most attentive service.

Kursu Krogs, a lovely B&B with friendly service. It used to be part of the old postal route.

 

We decided to drive to Kuldiga for the evening. We found the loveliest restaurant there, Bangert’s. The food was delicious and service was perfect. It seemed like we met so many friendly people in Latvia. The thing I really like about Bangert’s was they had many locally sourced options.

 

The story goes that Captain Bangert brought the house from Paris as a wedding present for his fiancée. The building standing there today is the replica of the original. It sits among large trees, next to a parkway and overlooks the River Venta.

 

Today I will share a recipe for a potato salad that has just the right amount of tartness to it and uses plenty of in-season produce. This dish is perfect to share at a party or get together. And because my garden is full of fresh carrots and I’m in love with the tart pesto the carrot greens make, the potatoes themselves are dressed with Carrot top pesto. The recipe can be found here.

Carrot Top Pesto potato salad

 

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

1 kg/ 2 lbs waxy potatoes, cooked and cooled
Carrot top pesto (recipe in the previous post and can be found here.)
A mix of fresh lettuce and kale
A generous bunch of string beans
3 large kale leaves, stem removed and roughly chopped
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt
chili flakes
black pepper

Boil the potatoes until tender but be careful to not overcook. Pour the water out of the pot and place the lid back on. Allow to cool for a few hours at room temperature. Make the Carrot Top Pesto (recipe here) and set aside until potatoes are cool. If the potatoes used are new potatoes, leave the skins on and cut into quarters or sixths depending on the size desired. Gently fold the carrot top pesto with the potatoes and set aside to marinate in the refrigerator.

Before serving. Spread the cleaned string beans or haricot vert onto a parchment lined oven sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle sea salt and black pepper. Bake at 160 C/ 320 F until they have a few brown spots and are nicely sizzling. (about 12-15 minutes). On another parchment lined baking sheet place the roughly chopped kale that has the stem removed. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and a few chili flakes. After the string beans are done bake the kale chips at 150 C/ 300 F for about 15-20 minutes or until they are dried but not too dark in color.

To serve the salad. Finely chop the remaining kale and mix in with the roughly chopped lettuce mix. Place the greens on a large platter. Next remove the potatoes from the refrigerator and layer them on top of the greens. Next place the roasted green beans on top of the potatoes and right before serving garnish with the kale chips.

blogging reality

As I was making the salad in the kitchen, our Hugo had parked his cars right in the midst of my photoshoot. First I started to move them, but then I thought to leave them. It is real life afterall.

The story of Latvia continues in the next post. I have posted pictures and moments from our trip on Instagram, feel free to check it out.

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

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23 Comments

  1. Some “mistakes” are just the luckiest! Your trip was lovely from my point of view. Just to escape the busy life a bit is a special opportunity to remember why life is good…injecting that bit of humor again…Wonder if I’ll ever make my version of potato salad again. Yours is so pretty and many different things in it. Pictures sure help to tell the story. Enjoyed this one just like all the rest. Thank you, my dear…

    1. Yes, isn’t that true! 🙂 We realized the day of that it was 50 km off of our destination. It certainly had received good reviews and perhaps that is why we chose it, and at the time we didn’t realize that it was a bit out of our way. But we were on vacation and not on a strict schedule, so we just went with the flow. And it all turned out better than perfect! I can just taste your potato salad right now…perhaps you might share the recipe? ❤

  2. what a wonderful break you had. I would so love to go to latvia and estonia! it looks just gorgeous. and your potato salad sounds very rustic and hearty. thanks for joining in IMK with us this month. cheers sherry

    1. I can definitely recommend the Baltics. Hopefully next time we will make it to Lithuania. The countries are fairly small and so it is fairly easy to see quite a bit in just a few days. So fun to join IMK after a long break! Thanks for hosting!

    1. Thank you Moya! The pesto in the potatoe salad could be replaced with a tart chimichurri if carrot greens are not readily available…but if they are, it is the perfect way to use them as I find them a bit tough to use in salads.

  3. Wonderful post! Yes, it is lovely to explore countries this way. Take advice from locals is the key. Kuldiga sounds like a great place to explore – particularly if there is a fantastic restaurant, too. Great potato salad and I remember bookmarking your carrot pesto – a must try when we get back from our own holiday.

    1. I certainly wouldn’t mind going back to Kuldiga and explore it a bit more. We ended up only having an evening there. But yes, Usually the locals know the best spots. Hope you have a chance to try the pesto when you return! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I am so happy you had this lovely time away in Latvia. And I am happy to know more about Latvia. Now I guess it’s back to the normal routines and the new school term. And you will all be looking forward to the first snowfall. 🙂

    1. Yes we are back into the normal routine. We returned on Monday evening in the beginning of August and the kids went back to school on Wednesday…so they have been in school for month. Still trying to memorize everyones schedules as they all have different ones and it changes everyday according to the day of the week. Perhaps by Christmas I’ll have it down pat 😛 Thanks for stopping by, lovely Gallivanta!

  5. Beautiful photos!

    You seem to have no language problems. Did one of your group speak the local languages? Or do the people there share another language with you?

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  6. Beautiful post and wonderful photos. When I was in Dublin, there was a parade of lovely Latvian women – don’t remember what the event was, but they were so beautiful, in their costumes and with flowers in their hair.

    1. So interesting to hear about your heritage. When did your grandmother move from Estonia, or was it the next generation that did? We are planning a road trip with the kids and are hoping to visit the area next summer. Hope you have a chance to try the potato salad, it tastes like summer 😊

  7. Hello, I haven’t been to your site forever and always enjoy reading it and seeing your photos and trying your recipes! My grandmother left Estonia when she got married to a Finnish Karelian in 1919 and visited I think once before it fell to the rule of the soviet union. She wasn’t able to get back to visit her family for at least 20-25 years in Estonia. Now we have kept in touch with many of the relatives and I have been there myself a few times. My mummi was a “seto” from setomaa.

    1. Opps…correction! My grandmother was born in 1919. My grandparents got married in Aug 1938 and went back one time in spring of 1938. Then in 1967 my grandmother went back to visit her family – whoever was still living at that time. She was the youngest of 9 children. My grandparents and their 4 children immigrated to Canada in 1957.

      1. So interesting! The stories families carry are incredible and it is wonderful if we have the opportunity to get know that part of us. After all it makes us who we are. Thanks for sharing!

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