Reindeer is synonymous with Sami culture and life but the Norsemen have certainly cottoned onto the goodness of reindeer cuisine. A dish that is an icon of Norwegian culture is finnbiff or reindeer stew. This rustic meal is perfect for cold Winter nights and packs you with energy for the next day of playing in the snow.
The dish has some unusual methods to create its earthy flavour. No onions or garlic are used (or needed) to enhance the flavour, nor any stock. The one-pot stew cooks fast and doesn’t need thickening.
To make finnbiff, Norwegians use thin reindeer shavings. This can be bought in the frozen food section of the supermarket all year round. You can also get fresh reindeer during the slaughter season in Autumn. Reindeer is also sold as roasts or dried/cured meat off the bone but not as steak. This is because game meat can get a little tough when cooked on a grill.
People often think that fresh is best rather than freezing meat, however, finnbiff needs to be frozen to get such thin shavings. If you buy a fresh leg or roast, freeze it and then shave off slices from the frozen meat. These thin shavings will defrost quickly ready to cook.
The reindeer shavings (defrosted), chopped bacon and mushrooms are browned in a pot. Then water is added – to the boil and simmer. This process actually creates a natural stock from the reindeer meat.
Crushed juniper berries, sour cream, milk, thyme, and brown goats cheese is added. The juniper berries gives the freshness of the dish and enhances the earthy flavour of the meat.
The brown cheese adds a caramel flavour. The cheese and cream melt to make a thin sauce with the natural stock. There is no need to simmer this dish for hours to get the reindeer tender. This is why the reindeer is shaved thinly – to make this quick!
The meat stew is usually served with mash potatoes and green vegetables – brussel sprouts, beans, peas, broccoli, etc. The stew is naturally a little more runny than normal as there are no thickeners added but it gets soaked up by the mash. It is also served with a sweet cowberry sauce (fresh cowberries and sugar – enough to take out the sourness of the berries).
Finnbiff / Reindeer Stew Recipe
500g reindeer shavings
100g fresh mushroom (or more to taste)
butter for browning
3 dl sour cream
1 dl milk
3 slices of brown cheese (with goats milk)
5 cruched juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown the meat, bacon and mushroom on a high heat in the pot. Add water and bring to boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the rest of ingredients and simmer for five minutes. Serve with mash potatoes and green vegetables.