April 04, 2009

Giving Denmark credit

I really feel I have to give Denmark some credit, now when I am since long home again and recovered from the yellow onion shock! We returned home for Christmas, spent at my parent´s in southern Sweden and then A got back to Aarhus on January 6th to continue his admission. D and I stayed home for another ten days, me writing job applications and D hanging out with his little friends, re-learning how to sleep and also fine-tuning his crawling technique, getting up on his hands and knees for gaining further speed.

When we came flying back to Aarhus in mid-January I was in much better mood than the last time. We would stay for only two weeks, and also in a better place: instead of a smoke-infused appartment we lived in a really small 1800th century cottage in a cosy cobblestoned street. And the kitchen felt like a kitchen, in a real home, with lots of odd pots and pans and bowls instead of a starting box from IKEA. And no longer a dish washer, but that didn´t matter when I could do the washing-up looking out into a little garden behind the house.

In that tiny kitchen I cooked a lot of good food, even if the Swedish crown was even weaker this time and we still found the prices crazy. I also treated myself to more coffees and good things than before Christmas, wanting to make the most out of my long, lonely days. A was away from 7 to 7 most of the time and a baby is very lovely and we had a lot of fun - but the possibilities for stimulating conversations are limited...

All that said I now have a set of culinary recommendations for mothers with young children or indeed others who are spending some time in Aarhus, Denmark!

  • The café/restaurant at department store Salling is a nice place for a cup of coffee - light, airy, lots of room for the pram and the coffee is good and the price OK. From the large windows you have a great view over the city.

  • Danish lenten buns was a nice surprise - normally I refuse to eat lenten buns before mid-February but now I was abroad, having "treat time". Firstly, the bun was Danish - buttery, flaky, melting! Under the lid was not only cream, but also custard and raspberry jam, and the last touch: a dollop of chocolate icing on the top of the lid! This was a little pricey, but on the other hand very filling.

  • Child-friendly Café Slabberas on Frederiksgade was a water-hole for me during both stays, I went there at least once a week to give D a chance to be around other kids. Very nice setting, nice staff, good food (try their brunch plate) and after your coffee you can shop for children´s clothes in the basement while your offspring is playing happily in a crate.

  • Nursing rooms - here Sweden is waaaay behind. At Åhléns, the large department store in Stockholm there is a teeny tiny nursing room in the children´s department with two grubby sofas, only one place for nappy-changing and a single toilet which costs 10 SEK to enter (and that is expensive in Sweden!). Lousy. Then I experienced the nursing rooms at Salling and Magasin, the large stores in Aarhus. In Salling there was two large, stylish leather sofas where you could sit and nurse your baby, and a large nappy-changing room with at least five beds, bright and fresh and free. There was also a free toilet, and a microwave oven. The changing facilities at Magasin was a little less comfy, but still working, and there was a really large room with both sofas and chairs, a nice view, microwave and lots of Brio wooden toys. It was nice to go there after a few hours shopping, feed D some fruit and milk and then set him loose on the floor to play and stretch out.

  • For me as a dairy-junkie Denmark was paradise, so much to choose from! While many of you remain indifferent in front of a dairy counter in the supermarket I really enjoy being able to choose from umpteen different fat rates and kinds of buttermilk, and even cow´s breeds! How about some Jersey cow buttermilk from a small dairy company somewhere in Denmark? That I had to stick to the cheapest all the time is a completely other thing...

  • Honningbombe (photo above) was a cookie I found before Christmas, but not after. It was a large disc with delicious soft spicy honey sponge cake in the bottom, then custard, then honey cake again and then a chocolate coating. Delicious! I someone has a recipe for Danish honey cake I am more than happy to get it. I also really enjoyed the flaky, crunchy and really large "French waffles"

  • Last but not least I discovered aebleskiver, round and comforting and cardamom-scented - Dagmar has already written all about them! We had them at cafés and at home before Christmas and after Christmas all foodstores had them on sale for just a few nickles. Apparently a typical Christmas cake but we enjoyed having them in January too!

Enjoy Denmark and Aarhus! I am sure you will find your own little pearls in this nice city (but next time I think I will go there in summer)

December 05, 2008

It´s all Denmarks fault

You must think I am crazy or something, a hiatus again. But this time I have a better excuse than just lacking inspiration; just a few weeks ago A came home from work (a certain Swedish telecom company) and said that they wanted him to work in Denmark for a while. Then we heard almost nothing for a week, and then it happened all at once. The Danes wanted them (there are two more of his colleagues) to start in late November, so could we just leave in five days? Ummm - yes...?
So a lot of quick packing and preparing and looking up the best way to get to Denmark with a 8 months old baby - last Sunday we were on our way in the car. We drove to Varberg on the west coast and the baby slept almost the whole time(!) and then after meeting a dear friend and spending the night at a very nice hotel we took the ferry over to Grenå, Jutland, Denmark on Monday morning and then drove down to Aarhus where D and I now is spending our time in best possible ways until daddy comes home from work. Our kitchen is tiny with almost no kitchen utensils and food prices are insane so the most exciting thing I have made the last week is potato soup (I decided after much pondering to buy a bag of onions so I could add one to it - it was really too expensive. I mean. Onions. Yellow onions! And they are so expensive!) Nothing to blog about, in other words!

Now don´t think I am complaining too much, or that I don´t like Denmark because I do! I like the city Aarhus and the nice people and the language (oh yeah, really) and I might even blog occasionally - but well, I am not sure. We go back to Sweden for Christmas and then I hope to get going again.

November 12, 2008

Japanese surprises from San Fransisco!

It was such a long time since I participated in a BBM exchange, almost two years! And I almost missed this one too - if not the lovely Stephanie had let me in at the last minute...what a stroke of luck!
Anyway, on Mondays I am out with the other mums taking a walk with our little ones and when I got back to the house there was a message from Federal Express that they had been there with no luck but they would try again "automatically" three times and also they left a warrant to post on the door that I allowed them to leave the package on the doorstep if I wasn´t at home. So far so good. On Tuesdays we go to a baby singsong thing where the kids have fun and get tired and the mums can have coffee afterwards, very nice. And I got home to - nothing. OK so maybe on Wednesday. No. So I called them, and it turned out that to get that second "automatic" delivery you would have to call them. So this Thursday, finally!!! I got my longed-for package from
Bonnie of Kumquat connection who very thoughtfully had put a large box toegther for me, filled with her own favourites. And mine, as it turned out! "Japanese I wrote in the title for this - it wasn´t all Japanese but lots of it. And I happen to looooove Japanese food, and I happen to not buy Japanese things very often because all the shops are in Stockholm and it is quite expensive and you don´t know how to use everything (Thanks to my friend Maiko I know some at least, after a guided tour at JFK, Japan Food and Kitchen a couple of years ago. Ocha-zuke, ocha-zuke!).

Well, Bonnie also has got me addicted to Trader Joe´s "Everything" Pretzels which probably are impossible to get hold of here - very inconvenient. I will have to get a wishlist here on the blog like Anne does, in hope for nice people over there to send me a new bag now and then. Sigh.

Enough said: here are the full contents of my package!
  • Large bags of Pretzels like I told you, incredibly tasty!
  • Box of Bonnie´s favourite crackers, Ak Mak´s - similar to Swedish hardbread and also very nice, my man has already finished most of it
  • Bag of candy corn, seasonal this time of year. Bonnie said people tend to love or hate it, she loves it and I do too, this bag exists no more
  • Small bar of chocolate with bacon, intriguing! Bonnie said that this probably was the craziest thing in the box but actually I had already heard of it. I am a big fan of chocolate with salt so also this one exists no more
  • Jar of grilled bell peppers from Trader Joe´s, looking very tasty. Grilled peppers are a staple also at my house so I really appreciated this! I love to use it for example in a feta cheese spread.
  • Udon noodles, which I have wanted to try for a very long time but never got round to, but with Bonnie´s guidance they exist no more. I made a delicious soup on that very evening!
  • Noodle soup base with that fantastic Japanese umami taste that makes you want more and more - I hope to find something similar when this bottle is finished
  • Japanese chili spice, also for the soup. A little smoky, a little sweet and very hot!
  • Rice spice mix with wasabi and seaweed and other things, to sprinkle over rice
  • And finally that delicious tea I always drink at sushi restaurants but have not found - it is hard to know which is which at a Japanese shop with no Swedish or English instructions! Bonnie included neat little unfilled teabags, like a small pillowcase to fold in a little of the tea and soak in hot water.

Thank you so much for all this Bonnie - and above all the small tips you gave on how to use everything. Now I feel inspired to use also the soba noodles I have in the cupboard, and I will certainly approach the shelves at JFK next time I am in Stockholm. A special thank you also to Stephanie, who arranged this event and very kindly let me participate although I was one day late...

November 07, 2008

My first bread pudding

Bread pudding seems to be quite common to serve in for example UK but here in Sweden you seldom hear of it. Since I had some bread going stale today and planned on the not so very filling dish baked potato with prawns for dinner I decided that it was time to try it - all recipes I have seen sounds so good. But now when I was in a hurry I couldn´t find a single one of course, except one in Nigella´s Feast which just this time seemed a little wrong with lots of eggs and stuff. None of my basic Swedish cookbooks could provide me with what I wanted and my last hope was the very old cookbook from 1925 I bought at a flea market last year.
Bingo! Apparently even Swedes made bread puddings back then. I altered the recipe just a little, soaking the raisins in a little rhum inspired by Nigella and replacing kidney suet (something I can say with perfect confidence that I will never ever buy. Eww.) with some butter. We had it with vanilla custard and I knew from the first bite that I will so make this again. Stale Lucia buns would be very nice for this I think! The result was perfect: warm and comforting, soft with crunch on top and a subtle taste from the raisins. A real carbohydrate schock too, I could feel my eylids getting heavier....and heavier...

There you see what can happen when you for once open a cookbook from 1925!

Bread pudding
Serves 4

Stale bread, I used about 3-4 rolls
100 ml of milk
about 100 ml raisins soaked in a little rhum for about 10 minutes
25 grams cold butter, diced
3 tbsp sugar
zest from one orange, the original recipe called for candied peel which would be nice
1 egg
225 ml milk
pinch of nutmeg

Peel off the bread crust with a sharp knife and dice the bread. Soak in a little milk for a couple of minutes (the original recipe recommended 30 minutes and then to stir the bread to a mush - I wanted a little crust and decided to keep it diced!) When the bread has absorbed the milk add in the raisins, sugar, butter. orange peel and nutmeg. Stir carefully and then add in the milk and the egg. Mix again and pour into a dish lined with melted butter and breadcrumbs. Bake in 180C for about 45 minutes and serve with custard.

November 05, 2008

A broken promise

No, I don´t mean that I promised to write more often and then didn´t because I told you I have so much to do with the baby and all. I mean my foodie resolutions for 2008, which I just imported from 2007 when I didn´t keep them either. Make my own pasta, take a fish class, wine dolmadas? Fat chance! Maybe possibly we will make sausages but I am not sure.
And the last one: "I will not feed my baby food from a jar unless it´s an emergency". Blah. I have changed the resolution to "I will not feed my baby food from a jar if I wouldn´t consider eating it myself" and everyone is happy at the moment. You see, I have found that the jars are sooo fantastic- even when I am not in an emergency. Especially the ones with porridge. Oh I love the porridge you just bring along to cafés and activities. And when you try to find out what the baby likes and not it is so much easier to open a jar of lasagna than making a whole lasagna with no salt and then maybe he doesn´t like it, or is allergic to tomatoes. I have come to terms with the jars, they will be part of our lives. But not the veg ones! Oh no. Not after trying broccoli!

You see, I had heard that babies like broccoli and wanted to try it but thought that maybe I could buy a jar the first time. I opened it, frowned at the terrible smell of it but heated it and stuck a spoonful of it in D´s mouth at which moment he just looked at me with a "You have got to be kidding" look at his face. I tried it and agreed with him. The contents went into the kitchen sink and I made broccoli for him from scratch which he didn´t like either but at least I don´t risk teaching my child that broccoli is brownish and tastes like a fart smells. Look at the picture and try to guess which is which!

September 18, 2008

Salmon with pink peppercorns and root veggies

I really do have enough cookbooks, but recently I treated myself to another one, anyway. Ha!
I got a gift card from someone and really wanted this: Saras kök, Sara´s kitchen, by Sara Begner. She was the chef of the Swedish TV show Toppform some years ago, and then she has had another TV show with the journalist Ann Söderlund about family food. I wasn´t too impressed by them, but her cookbook is nothing but excellent. Tempting recipes, nice photos, nicely written - it inspires me!
A and I have tried several of the recipes and some of them will show up on this blog - first out is this delicious and easy salmon, baked in the oven with three different kinds of onion, wine and my favourite; pink peppercorns. Serve it with just boiled new potatoes or try the root veg mash - although you have to use winter potatoes for that. I like recipes where you can serve each part on its own - the mash would be good with meat, the onions with rice served as a vegetarian dish, and the salmon with a cold sauce perhabs...

Salmon with pink peppercorns and root veggies
Serves 4
600 grams fillet of salmon
1 tbsp pink peppercorns
2 tsp flake salt
1 leek
1 red onion
1 yellow onion
200 ml white wine
100 ml cream
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar

Cut the salmon in four pieces and put them close together in an ovenproof dish. Crush the pink peppercorns and salt to a coarse powder and spread it over the salmon.Cut the leek in slices, the red onion in wedges and the yellow in rings (or as you wish). Mix it all and spread it around the fish.Pour wine, cream (use any fat content you are comfortable with, I used some cooking cream) and olive oil over the onion and sprinkle over the sugar. Bake in 175C for 20 minutes.

Root veg mash

800 grams potatoes
200 grams parsnips
200 grams celeriac
1 cube veggie stock
juice and finely grated zest from one lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of white pepper
1 "bunch" of dill - hmm. Maybe a good handful is enough? Parsley is good too

Peel and cut all the root veggies in pieces and boil them until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain.Melt the stock cube in 100 ml boiling water, pour in lemon juice, lemon zest and olive oil. Spice to taste with white pepper. Pour it over the soft root veg and mash it up coarsely.Chop the dill and stir it into the mash. Serve with salmon and enjoy.

August 12, 2008

Carrot coconut soup

Some things are just not photogenique. Like this soup, or most soups come to think of it. A fish soup can be nice to look at but not many more.
Anyway. One of my current favourites on my cookbook shelf (ahem, shelves more like) is Tillsammansmat, a great book published in close cooperation with the Swedish church. Tillsammans means together, and the book is meant as an inspiration for all who wants to take back the opportunity to meet around the table, share a meal together - instead of just watching TV and running around not caring for each other. A nice thought, I think!
I didn´t take a photo of this soup from the book but I recommend you all to try it anyway, it is well worth it! Very tasty, very easy to make and with ingredients you probably keep in the house most of the time (at least I like to have a tin or two of coconut milk at home). The recipe in the book is for 10 people so I have cut down on it, plus I don´t use more than one tin (usually about 200 ml) of coconut milk, for me it is enough. The recipe calls for 1500 ml for 10...

Carrot coconut soup
Serves 4-5

2 large yellow onions
about 12-15 carrots
500 ml water
1 regular tin of coconut milk
2-3 cubes of vegetable stock
salt and pepper

Peel and chop carrots and onions. Fry it until a little soft in a big pot and pour over boiling water, coconut milk and the stock. Boil until soft, it doesn´t take long, and then wizz it with a mixer or in a blender or something. Spice to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with some parsley.