February 28, 2006

Semlor: update!

I have caught the flu - olympic fever perhabs? So no cooking and no photos (because of absent camera) today. Before I lie down again I want to share with you the recipe for the traditional semla, which you are supposed to eat today as a Swede. Semlor is nowadays on sale from right after New Year, which I think is a real cheat. I prefer to wait at least until February but if other, weaker, souls buy them for the office fika already in January, since I am a polite person I eat without complaining.

All over the Christian world it is traditional to eat rich pastys and food before fast, and this is the Swedish version. I always make a batch, but maybe not this year since I am ill and cannot stand too long on my legs, out of this recipe from the Swedish standard cookie book Seven kinds of cookies. Thankfully also available in English, I got myself a copy a couple of months ago and it is good since I wouldn´t be able to translate anything today...

Update, Wednesday: Not a very long-lasting flu (hence not a flu?). But that was not what I wanted to tell you. Visit Anne, Pille and Dagmar for more information on semlor - and an Estonian recipe at Pille´s of course. And visit Kinna if you know Swedish.

If you don´t want to make the buns it is fine to buy some sweet wheat breadrolls and take it from there...

Semlor, or lenten buns
12-15 (if you don´t want 12-15 semlor just keep the rest of the buns in the freezer)
Oven temperature 250C/450F
The bun
100 g butter or margarine (I never use margarine)
300 ml milk
50 g fresh yeast or 2 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
100 ml sugar
1 egg
about 1000 ml all-purpose flour
(optional, some ground cardamom)
1 beaten egg to brush

The filling:
150 g almond paste
about 100 ml milk
200 ml whipping cream
powdered sugar

Melt the butter and add the milk. Heat to 37C/100F, if using dry yeast heat to 45C/115F
Crumble the yeast in a large bowl and add salt, sugar, milk mixture and egg. Stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour little by little and knead until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes in the bowl.
Pour the dough out onto a floured working surface and knead again, add some more flour if it is too sticky. Form into round balls. Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled in size. Brush with beaten egg. Bake on the center oven rack for 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

Cut off just the the top of the buns, maybe 10 mm thick, and scoop out the contents in the middle of the bun, I like to scoop out as much as possible but that is a matter of taste.... Crumble the contents in a bowl and grate the almond paste into the crumbs. Add the milk little by little, stirring until the filling just sticks together. Refill the buns with this mixture.
Whip the cream and put a spoonful on each bun. Cover with the lid and press gently so the cream pipes out on the sides. Sift over a little powdered sugar just before serving. Preferrably you can let the ready semlor sit for a little while in the fridge before you eat them, they get more moist that way.

Enjoy, and don´t get the flu if you can help it.

February 26, 2006

The Big Birthday Weekend

Have I told you I am very forgetful? It is a good thing my head is firmly attached to my neck, otherwise I would put it somewhere and run off and not missing it until it is far too late. In August for example I made a big song-and-dance about forgetting my wallet at my parent´s, not noticing until I was well on my way on the train. I also had almost zero battery on my cell phone. Long story.

No, no - I didn´t forget to bring my camera to my brother´s birthday. I forgot to take it back home again. So it is at my parent´s containing lots of lovely pictures of the food, the friends, the cats, the BBQ on the mountain, the birthday cake... Luckily my sister also was visiting, not going home until tomorrow. In ten days she will attend a conference in Stockholm and - tadaa - bring the camera. And she is not forgetful.

The weekend´s food, though, was unforgettable. The birthday party was a great success, the birthday boy very happy and the friends very cheerful even though we missed one chair and had to take it in turns to sit down.

Here´s what we had on the buffet table - simple yet delicious!
  • my standard pasta salad (the trick is to pour over a good dressing while it is still warm) with tomato, peppers, corn, cucumber, rocket salad und so weiter
  • a large plate of Italian charcuteries from Arabusta (finally I got to visit and the first thing I saw was my own write-up on my brother´s christmas present, printed and put on the wall along with some newspaper clippings *blushing*)
  • mozzarella caprese with layered tomato and mozzarella, sprinkled with fresh basil and olive oil
  • sourdough grissini (not homemade)
  • the fantastic bread, (made by my mother)
  • marinated pork loin in thin slices (also made by my mother)

For dessert we had Gino, which as far as I know is a Swedish "Italian" dessert named after a restaurant in Stockholm. Very tasty although we forgot the icecream... You simply choose three kinds of fruit, one green, one white and one red as the Italian flag, cut it in pieces, put in an ovenproof dish and grate white chocolate over it and bake in oven until the chocolate is melted and a little golden... We used honey melon, kiwi and strawberries. And as I said, serve with icecream but if you for some reason forgets to bring the icecream from mother´s freezer - no worries. The guests will still be happy!

For more info and pictures I am afraid you will just have to wait until next Tuesday or so. Ahem.

February 23, 2006

Nothing food related

Sorry for my long silence but I am having another crazy week, working and going to meetings and watching the Olympics. No cooking though apart from a quick pasta with carrots, zucchini, smoked salmon and blue cheese the day before yesterday.

May I just point out that Sweden has done its best Olympics EVER - and it is not over yet... We have never won so many medals, and today we will get another one, either silver or gold, in curling. Also Anja Pärson is skiing today again and we have a medal hope in snowboard and tomorrow semi-finals in hockey.


Tomorrow I am going to my parent´s for the weekend, celebrating my brother´s 30th birthday. He has asked me to cook for his birthday party (*flattered*) and Mum is going to help out too. On Saturday we will do like we did when he was little - celebrate his birthday with family and friends by grilling hot dogs in the forest, then go inside for birthday cake. If I remember to bring the camera this time I will give a full report when I get back.

February 16, 2006

Blå Jungfruns muffins

Now I am going to share another too-good-to-be-true recipe from my mother. Blå Jungfrun (Blue Virgin) is a small island just off the south-east coast of Sweden and there are quite a few tales about it connected to witches, Easter etc. which I will tell you another time...

Why these muffins are named after this island I don´t know. What I do know, however, is that they are super easy and fast to make, you usually have all the ingredients at home, they keep long in the fridge and freeze very well. This is my most tasty and practical recipe for when I need a quick chocolate thingy for some reason.
I used my new muffins tray as you can see in the picture, and it was excellent - when the paper cups got a little support the muffins didn´t spread out like they tend to do otherwise...

Blå jungfruns muffins
makes 12

175 grams butter or margarine
100 grams dark chocolate, roughly chopped or broken in pieces
2 eggs
250 ml caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
pinch of salt
100 grams chopped hazelnuts (optional)
150 ml plain flour
(one thing I haven´t tried, but may be good, would be to add a splash of really strong coffee...Maybe next time)

First put 12-14 paper cups on a baking sheet or in a muffins tray.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a skillet.
Then stir in sugar, eggs, salt, nuts and flour
Then fill 3/4 of the paper cups with the batter
Bake for 10 minutes in 200C/392F and then put in a cool place. I know, they are quite irresistible right out of the oven, but fact is they are much easier to eat when they are cold. Or else you could just use a teaspoon when you indulge them! Problems are meant to be solved. Keep them in the freezer or in the fridge.

February 13, 2006

The fantastic bread

"Oh, such a humble hostess!" my friend A said when I mentioned the name for the bread I made for the blog dinner party last week. But it is true, it is called The fantastic bread and nothing I can do about it.
Well, the bread also in fact is fantastic. The recipe is from my beloved food guru Anna Bergenström and I always make it when I expect guests. It is so incredibly tasty, crusty and easy!
Sadly I have no picture of it but instead you can admire my mothers little cat Lasse, born this summer and now round as a ball and very cuddly.
Just look at his face: "Are you going inside? Can I come with you and curl up on your lap? Pleeeaaase?" Isn´t he sweet! To connect with the bread: go inside, have a bowl of soup and a piece of bread and enjoy the company of a furry friend.

The fantastic bread

500 ml tepid water
100 ml milk
25 grams fresh yeast
2 teaspoons salt and 1 tbsp honey
1250 ml plain wheat flour + flour for the baking surface

Mix the water and milk. Crumble the yeast into a big bowl and add the salt and the honey. Pour over some of the milk/water mix and stir to dissolve the yeast. Then add the rest of the fluid and the flour, go a little easy so you don´t get too much of flour in! The dough should be loose, but not too sticky. Powder over some flour, cover with a clean towel and let it rise for 1-1 1/2 hours, the longer the better I think.

Put some flour, about 100 ml, on the baking table and spread it out. Warm the oven to 240-250C/480F. Tip out the dough on the floured surface, put more flour on top and very carefully flatten it to a rough rectangle about 2 cm thick, with your floured hand. Don´t knead it, whatever you do! After the long raising time the dough is full of big bubbles and you want them intact.

Use a sharp knife or similar to cut the dough in 6-7 cm stripes. Then cut each stripe in 2-3 pieces diagonally, so you get rough triangular shapes but they don´t have to be neat (mine never are!), just make sure they are about the same size. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets and bake them immediately in the middle of the oven .

Let them cool uncovered on a rack so you get as much crust as possible. This bread is best baked on the same day you eat it. The next day (if you have something left) it is a little more chewy, but still good. Then you have to put it in the toaster to enjoy it but don´t worry, it won´t last that long!

February 12, 2006

BBM4 from Sweta

This week I was the lucky receiver of a new BBM4 parcel, this time from Sweta in Milwaukee Wisconsin USA. She doesn´t have a food blog but loves to cook.
We have had an exceptionally gloomy week here in Sweden with icy winds, wet snow in shoes, delayed commuter trains etc. when this kind of surprise is extra-extra welcome. I picked up the parcel on my way to work and decided to bring it with me to work in case there was something in it which would freeze during the day in the car. Hmm, the real reason was I couldn´t wait until late in the evening to explore the contents... Anyway the CD inside came in handy during the day when I wanted to get some rest from nosy colleagues! So there.

I have never been to USA and it is rather hard to get foodstuffs from USA too here so the contents was really exotic to me! Also Sweta included some Indian food since she comes from India.

This is what I got from Sweta:
  • String cheese and white cheddar with cranberries - Wisconsin is the dairy state apparently. I love cheese and can´t wait to try them! American cheese is impossible to get hold of here.
  • A jar of Wisconsin cranberry mustard which I haven´t tried yet but it smells delicious. I think I will try it with pork chops or something like that
  • Chocolate coated raisins and coffee beans from a local coffee shop in Milwaukee ( I have such a soft spot for coffee beans in chocolate!)
  • A nice bag of candy coated almonds, some with saffron and some plain
  • 2 boxes of ready-to-eat Indian food, one chick pea curry and one dessert which both look very good. I like Indian food but finds it a little hard to pull off with all the spices and stuff. But, this is easily fixed with the...
  • ...box of various Indian spices and the recipe Sweta also included!
  • 2 packs of Reese´s peanut butter cups (only one in the picture, the other seem to have disappeared very mysteriously)
  • and last of all a CD with a great mix put together by Sweta´s husband, which also turned out to be very very good although I have only heard of two of the groups... This really shows that we not only get to know new foods through this exchange, we also can get to know new music (music was the theme for BBM4)

Thank you Sweta (and your husband!) for this lovely parcel, and thank you Jason for hosting this. I look forward to the next round!

February 10, 2006

Lingonberry ham

My mother works part time in a school canteen (I can tell you, those pupils are lucky to eat her food!) and I got this recipe from her. It is a true crowd-pleaser, easy to make for many people since you just whack everything in the oven and very very tasty (hmm, that made me sound like Jamie Oliver.) My out-of-Sweden readers who would want to try this can find lingonberry jam in IKEA.

Lingonberry ham
Serves 4

500 grams ham, shredded
1 tbsp dark soy
150 ml cream (choose your own fat amount! I use what I have on hand)
pinch of salt
small pinch of ground white pepper
1 stock cube or 1/2 tbsp stock powder
100 ml lingonberry jam
2 teaspoons potato starch

Put the meat in an ovenproof dish. Add the soy and stir a bit.
Whisk the potato starch in the cream and add spice, stock and lingonberry jam. Pour it over the meat.
Cook in the lower part of the oven 200C/392F for about 40 minutes, cut a piece of meat to check it is cooked properly. Stir once or twice during the time in the oven. If the sauce seem to thicken too much add some water.
Serve with potatoes or rice and lots of steamed vegetables like carrots, cabbage or what you please.
This dish freezes very well so make a double or triple batch while you´re at it!

February 07, 2006

Salmon in oven, version 14818... or something like that

One favourite in this house is salmon fillet in oven and has been so for many years, in thousands of versions. It is easy, it is quick, you can use almost everything you have on hand and it is always very tasty.

This evening when I came home very happy after a date with my fellow foodbloggers Anne and Kinna (we had a lovely time, of course!) I made this with the salmon left from the soup cooking this Saturday, and some other leftovers. I think I will enjoy my lunchbox very much tomorrow!

Salmon in oven with fetta, olives and basil
(Sorry, no proportions!)

Take a piece of a salmon fillet, it is not necessary to skin it. Rub in some salt and pepper and put it in a slightly greased ovenproof dish.

In a bowl, mix together a large crumbled piece of fetta cheese with some chopped basil leaves, some pitted olives (I used some kalamata, leftovers from the tapenade making) and a good splash of olive oil. Spread this over the fish and bake in oven (200C) for about 20-30 minutes. Serve with what you please, rice or potatoes or quinoa or pasta or just a salad.

February 06, 2006

Melting chocolate pudding

On demand: The melting chocolate pudding from Olive, tried out successfully this Saturday...

Melting chocolate pudding
Serves 6 (at least)

150 g self-raising flour (or, I can figure, ordinary flour with a tbsp of baking powder mixed in)
4 tbsp cocoa powder
50 g ground almonds
100 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
200 g caster sugar
175 ml milk
50 g melted butter
1 egg

150 g dark muscovado sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
300 ml boiling water

Heat the oven to 180C/356F
Start with the pudding. Mix all the dry ingredients together in one bowl, milk, butter and egg in another bowl. Then mix the dry into the wet and spoon into six individual ovenproof dishes (but I would guess you can get eight!) or, as I did, in one large. I greased it a little but don´t think it is necessary.
Then make the sauce by mixing cocoa powder and sugar together and stir in the boiling water little by little. Spoon this over the pudding mixture and put in the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 170C/338F and bake for another 10 minutes until the sponge or pudding feels firm to the touch (with a wooden spoon for example). Serve immediately with cream the recipe suggests, I also added some fresh fruit.

I didn´t believe it at first, but the pudding rose over the sauce when baked! Fantastic. And then you just knocked through the chocolate shell and saw the gooey chocolate-y melting chocolate underneath...mmmm...

February 05, 2006

A new aquaintance

One of the many nice things about having a food blog is that you get to know new nice people, for example Maiko from Japan. She was invited to my dinner party yesterday and very kindly contributed to the menu with this warm dessert - a sweet bean soup served hot with sticky rice cakes in it. It is called "zen-zai" and was very easy to prepare with the canned beans from the tin I am holding in the photo and ready rice cakes cut in small pieces. You can also make it from scratch of course but yesterday these tins came in handy! Everything can be found in Stockholm, for example at "JFK" just by Södra station. Go ahead and try it, it is perfect for cold winter evenings!

Blog dinner

I like to celebrate everything celebrateable (did I invent a new word there?) so yesterday five friends, frozen stiff from a belated journey on the commuter train, joined me to celebrate my now 2 500 visits on my blog. On the picture you see some leftovers - as usual I forgot to take photos before the guests gobbled up the food - but don´t they look tasty anyway?

I have planned this for quite some time, considering different dishes and approaches, but decided to go for a rather simple and hearty menu. I wanted to be able to relax and enjoy my dear friends´company!

For a starter I went for the same as on New Year´s Eve with some Italian charcuteries, crostini with tapenade and Knäckisar with red pesto. I served it in the living room where we chatted away and warmed up!
For the main course I turned to my own food guru, Anna Bergenström, and her wonderful cookbook Kärlek, oliver och timjan (Love, olives and thyme) in which there is a "swedish-french fish soup" I have been wanting to try for a long time. It suited me perfectly since you can prepare it in advance. When my guests felt a little warmer I just went out in the kitchen, heated up the soup and added the fish. 8 minutes later I told them to be seated and served them the soup with some freshly baked bread (another of Anna´s recipes, called The fantastic bread. More on that another time, I bake it very often), and aioli. It was very good, but I wish I had checked my supply of fish stock in advance. Turned out I had two packets of meat stock, two packets of chicken stock and one packet of veggie stock but no fish - gaaaaah! I bought a new packet today...
For dessert I made the melting chocolate pudding I got in the EBBP parcel from Celia in UK. The recipe can be found in the February issue of Olive but it is a keeper so I will make a post about it some time too. Verdict? "Oh!" "This is the best I have ever had" "Just like fondant au chocolat". And some of the guests just groaned! It was really very very good. Not too sweet, very much chocolate and also dead easy to make! I didn´t have individual ramequins but made it in a bowl and it was fine. I served it with fruit salad and some whipped cream.
Then dessert number two was served, see the individual post on that one!

And then my guests practically rolled out of the door. A very successful dinner party!

Swedish-french fish soup
serves 4
600-700 grams fish fillet, I used salmon and coal fish (sej)
2 chopped yellow onions
3 chopped garlic cloves
olive oil
1 fennel (350 g), shredded
1 carrot in "toothpicks"
5 raw potatoes, diced
1200 ml fish stock
a good pinch of dried thyme
1 tin whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
0.50 grams saffron
200 ml dry white wine
400 grams prawns, peeled
juice of half an orange
fresh basil or thyme

Step one, can be made a day in advance or in the morning if you want to:
Prepare all the vegs, then fry onion and garlic for some minutes in olive oil in a big pot. Put in fennel, carrots and potatoes and the fish stock, then the tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and let simmer with lid on for 15 minutes. Then add the saffron and the wine and let simmer for another 15 minutes.

Step two:
Bring the soup to a boil and add in the fish, cut in large cubes, and let simmer for 3-6 minutes until ready (but don´t overcook!). Add the prawns and spice to taste with orange juice and fresh herbs. I served it with aioli "my way" which is mayonnaise mixed with a little creme fraiche and some garlic.

February 01, 2006

Post museum again

I just came back from lunch at the restaurant at Post museum just around the corner from work. Today they served salted boiled brisket with potatoes and horse radish sauce, along with their as always exquisite salad buffet. Read more in a former posting...