Finland can be known for its rural, stunning countryside, numerous lakes and - what I found - some of the most incredible sunsets ever seen. But what really surprised me about Finland was the strong focus and passion for home grown, fresh, local produce.

I didn’t know what to expect before going (except that it would be colder than England!) but the vast range of ingredients available in the country and the love for food from the forest, lakes and gardens was very evident, with restaurants and hotels not settling for anything but the best.

Focusing on the Siamaa region of Finland, we enjoyed a tour of the country’s culinary delights, nestled in beautiful countryside made up of vast lakes and woodland.

But that’s not to say the capital doesn’t have the same level of love for the finest and freshest foods.

The first taste of Finland’s love of local produce was in Helsinki at award-winning restaurant, Chapter. We were treated to a five-course surprise tasting menu with dishes made up of seasonal ingredients, even served in some of the owner’s handmade bowls and plates. Tasters of the freshest fish, most delicate vegetables and rich meats set the tone for the rest of the trip and that we could expect excellence when it came to food.

Foraging, growing your own and just making use of all the natural ingredients and flavours readily available in Finland’s countryside were highlighted and something its residents were evidently proud of.

A visit to Tertti Manor, a functioning farm, restaurant and hotel, showed the extent of what could be done - a vast plot of homegrown salad, herbs and vegetables, their very own farm cellar of chutneys, wines and pickles accompanied with an unrivalled buffet lunch of freshly caught fish, meats, salads and stew.

The culinary delights of Tertti Manor are regionally and nationally renowned with its food philosophy based on clean, local ingredients, mostly grown on their own land.

Our next stop was with former international model, Saimi Hoyer, at her restored Hotel Punkaharju, nestled in the tall pine trees of the Punkaharju Ridge.

Saimi is incredibly passionate about the area and nature and a great ambassador for Lake Saimaa, but she is particularly enthusiastic about foraging and mushrooms.

As well as enjoying a feast of amazing food made with fresh flavours from the local forest, lakes and farms - and being able to take home some loose leaf tea from the hotel’s shop - we were educated on what Saimi could find in the woodland on her doorstep and the fish readily available from the lake, which, amongst others, included pike-perch.

It was also here we experienced real Finnish culture - a sauna followed by a dip in the lake. This is a must when visiting the country and a definite highlight of the trip.

It was a trip back in time when we arrived at Jävisydän for dinner at the Wine Cellar Restaurant.

The vibrant resort has been run by the Heiskanen family since 1657 and is steeped in tradition, with the building somewhat resembling an Alp chalet.

The menus at Järvisydän restaurants have been inspired by local culinary specialities of the 17th century, with the food resembling winter warmer dishes of soup and steak, served on chips of wood, in pottery bowls and sizzling iron pans.

As well as sampling the local produce, we were also given the opportunity to make a staple Finnish treat at the home of Paula Okkola in the rural island of Niinisaari in the Puumala Archipelago.

Karelian pie originates from Eastern Finland and is a curiosity for many visitors. It is a rye-crusted pie filled with creamy rice porridge and cooked in a traditional wood burning oven before being served with lashings of egg-butter. The pie, which has a specific and detailed way of being made, has been made in the region for centuries and is an important part of Saimaa’s cultural and gastronomic heritage.

On our final day in the country at Anttolanhovi, we were really spoilt with a feast of fish and meat, barbecued by our own private chef, which really made our last night in Finland so special.

The trip was finished off with a wine tasting at Ollinmäki Winery in Anttola with award-winning Finnish berry wines and local tapas that were prepared from local farm products. The winery offers a range of white, red, rose and sparkling wine, ciders and liquors, and brings together domestic berries and central European wine making skills, as well as adding some Finnish flair.

You can create a wonderful food trip around Lake Saimaa, touring the finest food destinations and learning more about the incredibly vast range of ingredients and produce on the area’s doorstep.