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Lõhe ja tilli pão de queijo (salmon and dill cheese buns)

If the name of this dish seems unfamiliar, that's because it's a multilingual fusion. Estonian and Brazilian Portuguese to be precise. Culinarily speaking, there aren't many points where the two cultures intersect, which made me contemplate which food items could be put together in a complementary way.

The cheese buns in their final form
The cheese buns in their final form

Smoked fish and liberal sprinklings of dill feel characteristic to the Estonian food I've enjoyed over the years. Meanwhile, pão de queijo (cheese bread) has been a familiar treat throughout my life, together with a cup of coffee, and occasionally on the table alongside a black bean stew.

And so I ventured into the test kitchen—ok, just my home kitchen—to see what was possible. After some experimentation, and after seeing something similar done with quiche, the idea to combine dill with the batter of these cheese buns came about.

What's particularly enjoyable about these buns is the way the cassava flour (or alternatively, tapioca flour) results in a chewy, stretchy texture. And when you put salmon or eggs on top, they become quite substantial. So be prepared, they will be devoured quickly if anyone is around.

The serving size of this recipe is a dozen.


  • 9 sprigs of fresh dill
  • 1 cup of grated semi-soft cheese (such as mozzarella or young Gouda; if you can find it, you can also crumble Minas cheese)
  • 2 cups of cassava flour (or tapioca flour), available from many specialty food stores
  • garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • fresh black pepper
  • two large eggs
  • 1/3 cup of oil (olive or canola)
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • butter
  • a package of smoked salmon (or fresh salmon if you'd prefer) to top the buns
  • as many eggs as you would like to boil, as an additional topping

Method of preparation

Equipment needed: one large bowl, a sieve, one medium bowl, a whisk (or a fork), a piece of parchment paper, a muffin tray, an immersion blender, a ladle

1) Take nine medium-sized sprigs of fresh dill and rinse them in your sink. Shake the water off these thoroughly and put two sprigs aside for a garnish. Separate the thin dill leaves from the remaining seven sprigs and place them in a large bowl. Pause and relish in the lovely aroma of that dill for a moment.

2) Next, grate 1 cup of cheese into the large bowl along with the dill. Minas cheese, crumbled into pieces, would be most ideal (available in Ontario), but more convenient would be a nice, semi-soft mozzarella or even young gouda if you want to mix more Nordic flavour into the recipe.

3) Sift 2 cups of cassava flour (or tapioca flour) with a sieve into the large bowl. The sifting makes the blending process a little bit easier later on. Put a pinch of garlic powder, a quarter teaspoon of salt, and a crack of fresh black pepper into the bowl as well.

4) Get a medium-sized bowl and crack two large eggs into it. Pour 1/3 of a cup of olive oil (or canola oil) into the same bowl.

5) Pour 3/4 cup of milk into the liquid ingredient bowl. Whisk the oil, eggs, and milk together until the mixture turns into a consistent yellow colour.

6) Then take a thick slice of butter, and with a scrap of parchment paper wrapped around it, grease a muffin tray.

7) Get your apron on now, it's going to get a bit messy. At this point, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 190 degrees Celsius). While you're waiting for the oven to warm up, pour the contents of the wet ingredient bowl into the larger dry ingredient bowl. Bring this batter mixture to the sink, plug in your immersion blender, and start blending the batter.

8) Start off with short blasts from the immersion blender to break down the thickest clumps of the batter. Then move the blender around more, reaching the edges of the bowl. You want to remove any batter stuck to the bottom of the bowl. You'll know it's ready when it's a bit thinner and has the dill distributed throughout it.

9) Take a kulp (ladle) and pour a generous amount of batter into each receptacle of a 12-muffin tray. Put it in the oven for 15 minutes, at which point you'll start to see the buns puff up. Turn off the oven but leave the cheese buns inside the oven while you prepare the toppings.

10) Pull out the package of smoked salmon and cut some generous pieces to lay on top of the buns.

11) Boil an egg (or more, depending on how many people are eating) for seven minutes for a slightly runny yolk. Carefully place each egg in cold water, peel off the shells, slice the eggs, and put pieces of egg on top of the buns. Use the remaining sprigs of fresh dill to garnish the buns.

12) Brew some fresh black coffee and serve that on the side for a compelling combo of flavours.

With everything assembled, gather around and kick off the day with a satisfyingly cheesy, protein-filled breakfast, or put it together for a midday snack that serves a hint of both South American delicacy and rustic Estonian comfort.

Head isu! Bom apetite!

Pulling apart one of the cheese buns
Pulling apart one of the cheese buns

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