All posts filed under “Recipes

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Sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee pudding

This is one of my favourite desserts of all time. While sticky toffee pudding has a very explanatory name, it is also a little banal, which is unfair to this total babe. The spicy, plump cake is soaked overnight in toffee sauce, then doused in more hot toffee sauce, and finally served with a scoop of ice cream. It’s lavish, and has everything a dessert needs – cream, butter, sugar, a little earthyness, and perfect consistency. And it’s messy.

You need:

  • 250 g dates
  • 175 g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 85 g butter
  • 140 g brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp treacle
  • 100 ml milk

For the toffee sauce

  • 175 g brown sugar
  • 50 g butter
  • 225 ml ful fat cream
  • a small pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp treacle

Sticky toffee pudding ingredients

Start by soaking the de-seeded dates (cover them with boiling water in a small bowl). Cut the butter into small bits and let it soften on a plate. Whisk the eggs in one bowl. Mix the flour and the bicarbonate soda in another bowl. In a third, larger bowl, start combining everything, by mixing the sugar and butter. Add the eggs, bit by bit. Then fold in half of the flour, followed by half of the milk. Whisky lightly before adding the rest of the milk and flour. Add the treacle. Finally, mash up the soaked dates with a fork, and stir them into the mix.

Sticky toffee pudding mold

Pour this into a buttered and floured form (or 10 small ramekins) , and put in the oven on 180 degrees for about 45 minutes (or 20 minutes for ramekins). While the pudding in baking, make the toffee sauce by melting the sugar and butter in a pan. Stir frequently, and keep an eye on it when it starts to bubble. After about two minutes of bubbling, add the treacle and half the cream and raise the temperature. Let it bubble away for an additional two minutes, then take it off the heat and stir in the rest of the cream.

Making toffee sauce

Once the sauce is done, you just need to watch the pudding. It should be soft and sticky to touch, but not wobbly, when you remove it from the oven. You can slice up into pieces and serve right away, drowned in the toffee sauce and accompanied by some perfectly softened ice cream. If you want the pudding to be hyper-sticky, leave it soaked in the sauce overnight, then heat up the following day, doused with some additional hot toffee sauce. If you make them in ramekins, they are the perfect freezer dessert. All you need to do at a later date is make the toffee sauce, which you drizzle over the puddings once they’ve spent two minutes in the microwave. Desserts never were so easy, moreish, or sticky.

Pudding and toffing

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Kohlrabi and beetroot salad with honey mustard dressing

Earthy summer salad with spicy and sweet undertones
Kohlrabi salad

Kohlrabi is quite a comical vegetable, both in name and shape. It’s got nothing to do with Jewish rabbis, but the name is old Austrian German for “cabbage turnip”. But since its appearance is so endearingly strange, I decided to try grow them in our terrace garden. I had to weed some out to give space for a very dominant cabbage, and discovered that it adds great crunch and a mild cabbage flavour to salads. It’s great mixed with sweet, earthy beetroot, bitter salad leaves like rocket, salty cheese and savoury chives, and topped with a sweet mustard dressing. The thin kohlrabi slices look rather posh too, if you’re trying to impress someone.

Kohlrabi

The kohlrabi you grow at home can be harvested before it grows larger than an apple, as it might become too wooden later. If you buy from the shop, it might be fully grown and therefore have a hard peel which you need to remove. Either way, you can slice it very thinly, and eat it raw to best appreciate the mild flavour.

RocketYou need:

– 2 handfuls rocket,
– 2 large beetroots, cooked and roughly chopped
– 2 young thinly sliced kohlrabi, with chopped leaves (if they look cheery enough)
– Half a bunch scallions, chopped
– Half a feta cheese bloc, cubed
– Half a handful chives, chopped
– Honey mustard dressing (mix one quarter each of apple cider vinegar, honey, dijon mustard and a neutral oil + 1 teaspoon salt)
– Salted peatnuts

No complicated instructions needed here: just toss all the ingredients together and add a few tablespoons of dressing. The dressing benefits from standing for a while, so it’s good if you can make it in advance. To slice the kohlrabi as thinly as possible you might want to use a potato peeler, unless you have some sort of kitchen gadget that will do that for you.

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The deep fried mars bar

Deep fried mars bar

I approached this dish with both fear and awe. So mythical, so extravagant, so often portrayed as the epitome of obesity on the British Isles. Medical journal The Lancet even conducted a telephone survey to established how widely it could be linked to the Scottish dietary environment. Mars bars are against rhyme and reason, yet also tantalising. I aimed for my hipster peak by battering them with Belgian Honey beer, Barbar (8%), and served them to a panel of two Swedes and one American. The verdict?

  • “Excellent, especially with beer. Nine out of ten”
  • “One small bite met many expectations”
  • “Nice mix of savoury and sweet, much fudgier than expected.”

They were delicious, even tough none of us really wanted them to. The mars bar goes all fudgy and light. The beer batter tastes salty and rich. They aren’t even as oily as you’d expect. Served up hot with some cold vanilla ice cream, they would be killer desserts.

Mars bar in batter

Ingredients:

  • Mars bars (the small ones are the best size, for the avoidance of over-eating)
  • 1 dl beer of choice (Belgian Honey beer was a good match, but I’m sure any dark ale would work wonders too)
  • 2 dl self-raising flour
  • A pinch of baking powder
  • Two pinches of salt
  • 1 egg

Start by putting the mars bars in the fridge, as they deep fry better cold. Mix all the batter ingredients together briskly, then set in the fridge to cool down. When you’re ready for action, set your deep fryer to 170 degrees, and skewer one of the mars bars with the end of a knife or long wooden tooth pick (you need to be able to hold the end of it). Coat it with batter, and carefully lower into the fryer. Once the batter has taken hold around the bar, carefully remove the knife or tooth pick, and continue the process with the remaining mars bars. They only need a minute or two in the fryer, and should be taken up when golden and crispy. Serve immediately, with something smooth and cold.

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Lehsuni daal – cumin & garlic lentils

Lentils with cumin and garlicCurries are the most incredibly tasty but difficult thing to get right. Living in gloriously curry-filled Birmingham for three years there wasn’t any point for me in making it at home, when take-away was so reliably tasty and cheap. It seems to me that nothing gets as good, and as unpretentious, as Birmingham curries. No London eateries seemed to mend this feeling, and in Brussels I rarely come across curry houses. These lentils are just perfect, as after lots of trial and testing I think I’ve somewhat managed to replicate a sort of Brummie daal at home.

I believe the trick is in the golden brown abundance of garlic, toasted cumin seeds and fenugreek. As a bonus, your place will smell of curry for three days afterwards.

Lehsuni daalYou need:

– 1 mug red lentils
– 3 mugs water
– 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
– 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed in large pieces
– 1 tsp turmeric
– 8 garlic cloves
– 1 1/5 tsp whole cumin seeds
– 1-2 tbsp butter (or even better, ghee)
– 2 tbsp Worcestersauce
– 1/5 tsp Ground fenugreek
– Salt
– Nutmeg
– Dried chili flakes (adjust to your preferred heat)

Daal ingredientsRinse the lentils, and boil them on low heat together with the onion, potatoes, mustard seeds and turmeric. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes have softened and the lentils have broken down. You want a consistency somewhere between a stew and a thick soup.

When this is about done, melt the butter/ghee in pan, fry the cumin seeds until they stop sizzling, then add the garlic and fry until it’s light brown. Toss in a few pinches of fenugreek for aroma. Stir this mix into the lentils.

Flavour with chili flakes or cayenne pepper for some heat, add plenty of salt, and worcester sauce until (I know this sounds like an odd addition to a curry, but it’s brilliant). Serve with plenty of condiments (lime pickle, hot sauce, chopped coriander, yoghurt and mango chutney) and eat yourself into a slight food coma.

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Foraging nettles (and how to make nässelsoppa)

Young nettles

Did you know that the best way of taking revenge on being burned by at nettle is to eat its relatives? In Sweden it’s common practice. They are picked by high and low in early spring, and used mostly for nässelsoppa (nettle soup) but also as a healthier substitute to spinach (and even added into smoothies). Nettles contain lots of iron and are a great vitamin boost, and taste like a mild, grassier form of spinach. It’s one of my favourite things to forage, because it grows in abundance just about everywhere and it difficult to confuse with anything else. And as long as you wear gloves, the stinging isn’t a problem.

Caroline foraging

Caroline hunting down nettles in Fôret de Soignes.

They key thing is to be out early  – they should be tall enough to be easily pickable, but not so big that they’ve grown large leaves. If picked too late, their consistency is too wooden and stringy. However, should you miss the first leaves, you can also settle for picking only the youngest leaves at the top – however never after the nettles have bloomed. Avoid picking them from ditches and busy parks, as they tend to grow where chemicals and other fluids abound.

PIcked nettles

Freshly picked nettles – pick the top of the nettle in the forest, then remove the leaves from the stalks at home.

The consistency may not be to everyones liking, but as long as you have a powerful food blender that shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a good way of picking your own tender spring greens for free. In Sweden, nettles are mostly used to make nettle soup (nässelsoppa). It’s easy, tasty and nutritious, and always served with a poached or softly boiled egg. For 4 servings, you need:

– 5 litres newly picked nettles
– 1 small yellow onion
– 1 tbsp butter
– 1 litre vegetable stock
– 1 tbsp flour
– 1 dl creme fraiche
– 2 eggs

Nettle soup

Chop the onion finely, then fry it in the butter until soft. Add the nettles and make them wilt, adding some water. Once the mix has  softened, blitz it with a blender or food processor until it’s a fine paste. Add the flour and let it fry with the nettle mix for a little while.  Add the vegetable stock and get it simmering for a few minutes until it has combined somewhat (although it will naturally separate after stirring, due to the high amount of nettles).  Whilst the soup is simmering, soft-boil or poach your eggs. Add creme fraiche, salt and pepper to the soup, and then serve up on four plats. Carefully add half a soft-boiled egg or an entire poached egg on top. Sprinkle with some newly crushed black pepper and chives. Serve.

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Beetroot & goats cheese swirls

Beetroot swirls

Beetroot is a strong vegetable. Its earthy flavour is not everyone’s cup of tea, and a small beetroot spill can ruin the most sturdy clothing. In Sweden, beetroot salad is eaten with cold meatballs in a “köttbullsmacka” (meatball sandwich) and I remember ruining my first trendy coat with a small but powerful dollop of beetroot salad on my sleeve. However, it did nothing to chill my love for the vegetable itself. I believe we should eat much more beetroot, not only because it’s so healthy, but because its sweet, earthy flavour is delicious. Even more so when tossed with blue cheese, or baked in the oven with feta. The following recipe -beetroot swirls – is a perfect picnic snack, very moreish, but not too unhealthy. The carrot in the dough keeps them moist and fresh for longer than usual buns.

Small dough

You need:

– 4 beetroots
– 200 grams goats cheese
– 2 carrots, grated
– 2 dl polenta
– 8 dl wheat flour
– 25g fresh yeast
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– A few sprigs thyme
– 1,5 dl water
– 1 egg
– 1 tbsp olive oil

Big dough

Start by setting the oven to 200 degrees. Crumble up the yeast and dissolve it in the water, which should be finger warm. Add the olive oil, salt, carrots, all the polenta and almost all the flour. Knead the dough for about ten minutes, until it’s supple. Let is rest under a kitchen towel for 20 minutes. While the dough is resting, grate the beetroot and mix it with the chopped goats cheese.

Beetroot and cheese on doughOnce the dough is done resting, divide it in two, and use a rolling pin (or in my case, a wine bottle) to knead it out the first half over a floured surface. Roll it out into a large rectangular shape, and then spread half the beetroot mix over it. Roll it all up (just like when you make cinnamon rolls), and divide it into 15-16 bits. Cut off the ends if they look dry. Repeat with the second lump of dough. Put the pieces on two trays lined with baking paper, brush with an egg and garnish with some crumbled thyme.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they are golden (the lower played tray will need a few more minutes than the top one). Eat with the next two days, or store in the freezer for picnics.

Small swirls

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Baked eggs with salmon and horseradish

Baked eggs with salmon and horseradish

Small things are great. My love of breakfast has found yet another friend in ramekins – small glass cups that you can make a miniature of just about anything in – ice cream, pies – and lovely eggs. These baked eggs are perfect for brunch, adapted from Jamie Oliver’s baked eggs with haddock. I like a bit of spice in my breakfast so went for smoked salmon with freshly grated horseradish instead. Together with silky creamed spinach and crunchy spring onion, it’s really quite delicious.

For two baked eggs, you need:

  • 2 small oven-proof dishes (or try bake two eggs in a medium dish, it should work as well)
  • 2 slices of smoked salmon
  • a handful of shopped spring onion
  • two handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1/2 dl grated horseradish
  • Cream
  • Nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste

Horseradish, spring onion and spinach

Start by setting the oven to 180 degrees. In a pan, wilt the spinach, then squeeze it dry in a colender, and chop it roughly. Grate the horseradish and chop the spring onion. Mix the spinach, spring onion and horseradish with some cream, and add nutmeg to it (freshly grated is nicest). Dish these out in two buttered ramekins, and place a slice of smoked salmon on top. Finish it by carefully cracking an egg on each, and adding cream around the edge of the egg whites so that the salmon is fully coated. Add some salt and pepper on top, and put in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the whites of the eggs have just set. Serve with toast, orange juice and coffee for a simple but delicious brunch.

Preparing baked eggs and salmon

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Flying Jakob – Swedish 70s curry

Flygande Jakob

Flygande Jakob (flying Jakob) is a modern Swedish classic, invented in the 70s by an airline freight man called Arne. I love its savoury weirdness, as it mixes whipped cream, ketchup, curry and banana. The original includes chicken and bacon, but I enjoy this one with quorn. In trying to become a half-veggie, recipes such as these are a good way of substituting chicken, telling no substantial difference whatsoever.

I tend to be skeptical of meat imitations, because vegetarian food holds it own very well without copying meat, and also because imitations rarely taste as good as the real thing. But this tastes marvellous, and I over-binge every time we make this at home.

Cream and ketchup

For four portions, you need:

  • 2 bags of defrosted quorn (or 500 grams of chicken)
  • Bacon (optional, for the meaties)
  • 4 dl cream
  • 1 tsp mild madras curry powder
  • 1 1/2 dl ketchup
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 handfuls peanuts or cashewnuts
  • Basmati rice and sriracha sauce to serve

Quorn, banana, and cream mix

Start by frying the quorn pieces in a little bit of the curry powder and oil. Once they’ve taken on some colour, let them cool while you whip the cream. Mix the ketchup into the the cream, and add the rest of the curry powder. Cut the banana up in fat, coin-sized pieces, and scatter it with the quorn in an oven-proof pan. Distribute the whipped cream evenly on top, and let it sit in the oven at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until it has  browned on top. About five minutes before you think it’s ready, scatter the nuts on top, and put it back into the oven.

Flygande Jakob out of the oven.

Take it out and let cool slightly while you open a cold beer and set the table. Serve it with basmati rice, and some sriracha chili sauce on top for those who want heat with the savoury sweetness. Needless to say, this really does taste better the day after, and makes for a perfect lunchbox. We’ve tried making it healthier by substituting cream with Turkish yoghurt, but I would not recommend it.

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Smoky sausage with dill creamed potatoes (Isterband med dillstuvad potatis)

Isterband med dillstuvad potatis

It is time for another post on traditional Swedish food – husmanskost – and this time one of my father’s absolute favourites. Isterband is a smoky, slightly acidous and grainy sausage made of heart and tongue, originally from the Småland region. It is typically served with stewed potato and pickled beetroot, and to me it tastes of autumn like few other things – it belongs with the smell of burning leaves and crisp air. It is hearty, warm and packed with flavour.

Isterband ingredienser

You need:

– 1 pack of Isterband (this will be difficult to get a hold of outside of Sweden, but could probably be substituted with some other kind of large smoked sausage).

– One heap of fresh dill, chopped

– A few tablespoons of flour

– About 100 grams of butter

– A few decilitres of milk

– 1/5 kg of potatoes, a firm variety.

– Nutmeg

– Salt and white pepper to taste

– A jar of sliced pickled beetroots

Stuvning

Dill stewed potatoes is a mild, standard side to any smoky Swedish food, and very easy to make. It relies on the usual suspects for flavouring (dill and white pepper) together with the creaminess of milk and butter. Start by peeling, slicing and boiling the potatoes. Make the slices thick so that they don’t break in the water, and be careful not to overcook them. Start frying the sausages on a low heat in a wide pan (they should fry for about 25 minutes). Then make a bechamel base by melting the butter in the pan, and carefully whisking in flour until you have a thick paste.

Stuvning

Add milk slowly to the paste, to make a thick, creamy sauce. You can choose how voluptuous you like the sauce to be – if you want the supreme, extend it with cream or a bit of creme fraiche. If you’re feeling frugal, go with milk, which is the classic way of making it.

Stuvning

One you’ve reached a thick, smooth consistency, add salt and white pepper (you can be rather generous). Add the chopped dill and some nutmeg, then pour the sauce over the potatoes. Take the sausages off the pan and serve immidiately. The heavy smokiness of the sausages is rather dominant, and the potatoes are there to provide a smooth, mild balance. By serving this with pickled beetroot you also get a sweet contrast to the rest. It’s a well-balanced, autumnal and most warming meal.

Stuvad potatis

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Swedish roast chicken (Djurrödskyckling med pressgurka)

Swedish roast chicken

This is my great grandmother Rut’s recipe, and perhaps my favourite recipe of all time. My grandmother, who would make this on Sundays, was born in a small unpronounceable village called Djurröd in Skåne. Only 84 people live in Djurröd. The centre of Djurröd looks like this, and perhaps the desolate nature of Djurröd explains why my family still eats chicken with plums and apples when other Swedes save it for medieval themed-feasts. But who cares – the sauce accompanying this chicken is superbly savoury, creamy and sweet, and the cucumber pickle goes beautifully with it.

Apples and prunes

You need:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 apple
  • 12 prunes
  • Chicken stock cube
  • 2 dl cream
  • Flour
  • 50 grams butter
  • Chinese soy
  • Sugar, salt and white pepper to taste
  • Boiled potatoes, to serve

Start by cleaning and preparing the chicken. Untangle the wings if they’ve been tucked into the back, cut off unnecessary fatty bits (by the neck and back), and remove any leftover feathers. Cut the chicken in half through the filets with a sharp knife, and rub it all over with the salt and white pepper. It’s handy to keep it in a mix on the table as you prepare the chicken.

Trimming chickenTrimming chicken

Cutting whole chickenRubbing chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you’re done preparing the chicken, melt the butter and some tablespoons of oil in an oven-safe pan on the stove (it’s good if it has a lid, and can be put into to oven, but you can also start in a frying pan and move the chicken to an over-proof dish later). Add the chicken to the pan, and let it fry gently for about five minutes on each side. Brush it with chinese soy whilst it’s frying. Then add three decilitres of water, one cube of chicken stock, and put it into the oven on 200 degrees. In the meantime, peel the potatoes and let them rest in cold water until it’s time to boil. Start making the cucumber salad (recipe below).

Chicken with stock

After about 30 minutes, take out the pan, prick the chicken and pour the juices from the pan all over it (make sure the filets face upwards). Add the prunes and apples to the dish, and put it back into the oven. Try to push the apples and prunes towards the bottom of the dish, or below the chicken. After another 15 minutes, take it out again to again douse it in juice. Put the pan back into the oven, this time without the lid on. After about another ten minutes, the chicken should be ready to take out. Watch the chicken carefully if it’s smaller, as the cooking time may range from 40 minutes to over one hour depending on size.

Chicken with apples and prunes

Remove the chicken from the pan, leaving the juices inside. Let the chicken rest as you prepare the sauce, keeping it somewhere where it keeps its a moderate heat. Remove the potatoes and the prunes and put somewhere else (they’re not pretty, but you can serve them as condiments to the chicken later on). Sift the leftover juices if you prefer the sauce thin (I never minded random bits of chicken in it), and then carefully scoop out excess fat with a slotted spoon, holding the pan at an angle. Mix in some flour with a whisk, as well as sugar, and let it come to the boil and thicken. Then add two deciliters cream (or to taste, depends on how strong you want the sauce), and add more with salt, white pepper and soy according to taste. Remember that the sauce should be a little bit to strong in flavour on the tongue on its own, as it needs to liven up both the chicken and the potatoes. Serve the newly boiled potatoes with the pickled cucumber, chicken pieces and sauce right away.

Pressgurka is a classic component of Swedish traditional food (husmanskost) and can be served alongside most dishes where lingonberry jam would also feel at home. It is sweet and tangy, and contrasts perfectly to salty Swedish dishes such as roast chicken, fried herring, or even meatballs. You need:

  • Half a cucumber
  • 1 dl water
  • 1 tablespoon ättika. Ättika is a form of Swedish vinegar, you’ll be able to get it at any Nordic shop. I haven’t tried making pressgurka with other kinds of vinegar, but perhaps that would work too. The proportions would have to be different, though: ättika is 24% acetic acid, and is therefore very strong and inedible to use just as it is; malt vinegar has typically 3% acetic acid, and balsamic vinegar about 6,5%.
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • A small bunch curled leaf parsley (flat leaf is also fine, as the taste different isn’t huge: however the curled leaf smells more like fennel and dill to me, which is closer to the Nordic cooking tradition).

Making pressgurka is very easy. Slice the cucumber with a cheese-slicer, and squeeze it gently with your hands for about one minute. Mix together the ättika, water, salt, white pepper, and parsley, and put in the fridge for at least one hour. Serve alongside the chicken.