June 29, 2006

Summer in Gamla stan

Just a short "sign of life" post while waiting for some photos to upload for a work thing. It is some bug or other in the system and it is soooo slow.
Outside the window summer in Gamla stan is in process. Västerlånggatan is full of tourists, enjoying the sun and the shops and the icecream and every now and then a horse-drawn carriage goes clippety-clop outside the office - it is a guided tour which seems quite nice. The sun has come to stay, they say, and I work today and on Monday, then I go on vacation for four weeks. My man works for another week before we head off to Riga and at first I had lots of wild plans for my lonely week - but I think I will just stay at home and cook! Well, maybe I will sit on the balcony reading books and sipping ice tea too, once or twice. And maybe, possibly, meet some friends. But mostly, I will cook. My kitchen cabinets are bursting with groceries I want to try, and my calendar is bursting with recipes I have scribbled on small papers. I will cook, and I will blog about it too - something I haven´t really had time for these last weeks.

See you in the kitchen and on the balcony next week! Tomorrow I am heading for the west coast of Sweden, meeting friends and above all meet a little boy for the first time. I hope you too will have a nice weekend!

June 23, 2006

Glad midsommar!

... or Happy Midsummer to all of you! Before I did anything else this morning I prepared the strawberry cake for this evening when we are having a little party in a cottage by a lake - very Swedish and very nice, I hope. First, though, I will spend all afternoon folk dancing and also helping out in the traditional dancing and playing around the pole. Our strange habit to jump around a phallic symbol and singing "koackackack" like frogs must be described in all guide books. Our town is head quarters for the big medical company Astra Zeneca and every year I stumble apon a totally fascinated Englishman och Australian who wants me to translate what we are doing. Well, I try my best!

Strawberries are what we long for this time of year, next to new potatoes. The ones in the picture are the first I bought this year. They are much more expensive than the German and Polish ones on offer, but if there are Swedish strawberries I want Swedish strawberries, no matter what they cost. They are small and knobbly but the taste is unbelievable! This evening we will have a very traditional meal. First new potatoes, matje herring and sour cream. Then we will grill some meat, and then we will finish with my strawberry cake. The base is a french yoghurt cake, my recipe comes from Clotilde of Chocolate and zucchini. Then I have filled it with a mix of chopped strawberries and vanilla custard. I poured some elderflower cordial in the custard when I made it yesterday but cannot really detect the taste today - will have to experiment more with that since strawberries and elderflower is soo tasty together. Before we eat it we will spread it with whipped cream and cover with strawberries, eat and enjoy the sunset.
And tomorrow, like almost all years, we will try to find some yellow chanterelles. More than once we have found a bunch on Midsummer´s day...

June 20, 2006

Rooibos ice tea

I have just watched the football game England-Sweden for a full 20 minutes or so, but really - I couldn´t be bothered. Oh yes, it is fun if they win but don´t force me to watch it! Perhabs if I take a book and some popcorn I can keep my football-loving man company on the couch...

But first: ice tea! My favourite beverage in summer. Refreshing and stimulating, a great pick-me-up after a long, hot day. We have had some sunny days and as soon as the first weather forecast came about the heatwave I made my first jug of ice tea. First I made some lemon ice tea but didn´t have any lemons in the house. It was good, but a little too sweet and too little lemon flavour. Perhabs the teabags were a bit old. I am still practising making ice tea from scratch, before I have bought these ready bags with a powder you just dissolve in water. It is good, but you don´t know a thing about the contents really. I will save the factory-produced ice teas for the occasional bottle of Liptonice on my way home from work...

The wonderful ruby red beverage in the picture is from my second batch of home made ice tea. This time I used some roooibos teabags I had in the cupboard. I don´t like it warm but as you know I don´t want to throw away things. Hence the tryout with rooibos ice tea! And it is *very* good, I think. This brand of rooibos, the only I have tried so far, is very spicy with a clear ginger note.

I used three teabags to 1000 ml boiling water in a jug and let them sit for 3-4 minutes. Then I added some fresh ginger and a tablespoon of sugar and let it cool off. Put in fridge for a couple of hours and enjoy with some ice cubes if you like.

Now I wonder what tea to use next, I have quite a few just sitting in the cupboard... Green tea perhabs?

June 18, 2006

June veggies

Ooops, I ate it all before I could photograph it - but believe me when I say my steamed fresh white cabbage was goood, and beautiful. Summer is here to stay and Swedish fresh veggies can be found in the shops again. Long time, no see!

Yesterday I took my bike and went down to the square, returning with the following: a bag of new potatoes - walnut-sized and with the delicate thin peel already hanging loose, a small head of white cabbage, a light green, loose knot, and a bag of the tomatoes you see in the picture (sorry, blurry). Here in Södertälje we have one of Sweden´s biggest suppliers of organic tomatoes and these little darlings had travelled approx. 2 kilometers from the plant to the square. I like! I tried them for lunch with some halloumi, on the balcony of course.

Here´s a little thingy you can do with delicious new cabbage - cauliflower or white cabbage are equally delicious. Leeks are also very good with this ham stew. This is an old-fashioned and typically Swedish dish and I make it quite often in summer.

Stewed cabbage with ham
Cut the cabbage in large pieces and steam them or cook them in as little water as possible, with a little salt. Just cook it until just tender, not mushy! Drain off and save the fluids. Keep the cabbage warm.

Take some smoked ham or bacon and cut in little pieces. Chop a small onion. Fry ham and onion in a little butter until the onion is a little soft. Powder over some flour, maybe 3-4 tbsp and stir, then add the fluid from the cabbage and let it simmer until the sauce thickens a little. Add some cream or milk and let simmer for a couple of minutes, spice to taste with a little white pepper and pour it over the cabbage. Serve with new potatoes.

June 15, 2006


... you know, when Sweden played against Paraguay this evening I walked home on a normally busy street and not as much as a cat in sight. Everyone but me was inside, watching TV. And now we won - well, that´s OK I guess. I would have felt sorry otherwise, for all the people who have bought blue and yellow sweaters, hats, socks, balls, underwear and God knows what more. Now they can use the stuff for a couple of weeks more.

June 14, 2006

Warmer than Greece...

... was the headline in my local newspaper yesterday. Now it is cooler but the good weather will return tomorrow. I am enjoying the feeling that my vacation is drawing nearer and nearer, today in two weeks is my first day and then four weeks off! I really need to relax, since I work with politics and the elections is coming up in the middle of September. My holiday plans: first a weekend in Gothenburg visiting one of my best friends. Then a couple of days up north with my grandfather and grandmother. Then our famous trip around the Baltics beginning on Saturday evening July 8th when the ferry leaves for Riga. And then some sailing.

But, well, before I can relax the days are hectic and I don´t cook much at the moment - I read food blogs and magazines though and the pile of untried recipes is growing. I know most foodbloggers bookmark recipes to try but I write them down on small pieces of paper and store them in my calendar. This was the last I wrote down, picked from the magazine Land "the magazine for us who enjoy country living". I read it at work and their food section is really good. Doesn´t this sound tasty?

Rinse three fennel heads and slice them very finely. Squeeze over the juice from one lemon and add 50 ml of olive oil. Then gently squeeze the fennel with your hands until it softens a little, spice to taste with salt and pepper and serve as a salad.

What are your summer plans and what recipe do you look forward to try?

June 12, 2006

Stockholm foodie tips

Woohoo, I just realised I crossed the 100th blog post barrier with my latest posting on the rhubarb! Imagine, how time flies...

The weather today is just...fantastic! (Very typical for Swedes, the weather obsession). The sky is blue, the sun is shining and above all it is hot. Almost 30 degrees. I will really try not to complain - this is what I have wanted for over six months. Old Town where I work is full of tourists and I feel inspired to make a quick lunchtime posting about some of my favourite places here in this part of town. I will try to write more some other time about other parts of the city too.

Whatever you do when you are in Old Town, don´t waste too much time on the main street Västerlånggatan! Lots and lots of people, tacky souvenir shops and expensive restaurants. That said, I can continue with the rest, the best... When you come walking from the Parliament Västerlånggatan there is a pharmacy (Apotek) on your right. Turn right after the pharmacy on Gråmunkegränd, walk down one block and you are on "my" street, Stora Nygatan. On the right side a few blocks up is a wonderful tea shop, Gamla stans te och kaffe, where you can find among other things my favourite: champagne tea with strawberries! (If you take right one block up on Stora Nygatan and walk one block down you are near my favourite lunch place at Postmuseum.)
Now back to Stora Nygatan. A few blocks further up the street on your left hand you can shop for good-quality and unique clothes at Gudrun Sjödén. Her design is very special but just right if you like colours and bright patterns. I like her "basic" clothes. Towels, carpets, bed linen and such also available, in the same style. Continue on Stora Nygatan as far as you can, then take left up to the square Järntorget where you preferrably go to Café Järntorget for a sandwich or an ice cream in freshly baked wafer. Good value and great food!
Now take right and continue around the corner on Österlånggatan with lots of cool shops and galleries. Choose any alley up the hill and you reach the "real" Gamla stan with calm, narrow streets, small parks and all the wonderful old houses. Sooner or later you come to Stortorget, another tourist spot but well worth seeing, it is a beatiful square surrounded by old buildings. In the corner opposite the entrance to the castle courtyard you find another favourite, Grillska huset, a café and restaurant run by an organisation for homeless people, Stadsmissionen. This is the place for lunch, the food is always delicious and their salad table... yum! Lots of food and salad and water and coffee for about 70 SEK. Try their roof terrace.
Now back to the castle. The large yellow building with the Nobel museum is well worth a visit. Then take the street going down to the left of the building. Visit Burkina Faso boutique if you want cool gifts to bring home, and dried mango. Take right, and you are soon on Västerlånggatan again. Walk 50 metres or so down Västerlånggatan and on your right is a shop called Wistra with Swedish non-tacky souvenirs and - most importantly - a good selection of Swedish food souvenirs such as jam, spices, bread and kitchen utensils. Another 75-100 metres up the street, also on your right, is a wonderful sweet shop where you can get old-fashioned Swedish candy like polkagrisar. They also sell hand made chocolates from Åre chokladfabrik.
Watch out for pick-pockets and enjoy your stay in Old town if you ever can make something of my tour advice!

June 09, 2006

Rhubarb/raspberry cheesecake

My rhubarb muffins turned out all right, but not more. It got stuck in my muffin pan for example. What´s the use for a teflon pan if you still have to grease it? Hmpf.
But I bring you another lovely rhubarb recipe instead! I made this cheesecake last Saturday for dessert when we had dinner for my in-laws. Actually I am not a huge cheesecake fan since they often contain digestive biscuits - a cookie I can live without. But for my birthday I got a wonderful book from my sister, Strawberries and rhubarb, Jordgubbar och rabarber, by Sandra Leigh Draznin. I want to try everything in this book and started with this cheesecake, partly because I could find a use for my old (but not too old) ginger snaps from Christmas.

I tweaked the original recipe by using a little less cream cheese (because I didn´t want to buy three packets) and by adding some raspberries from the freezer to the jelly. The author of this book must have found some other kind of rhubarb because her jelly was bright pink. Mine would have been light green and I didn´t think it would look so great... Next time I make it I will add some more rhubarb for a more intense taste, in this it was quite light. A matter of taste, of course, and on which kind of rhubarb you use. Next time I will also make the cookie bottom and the cheese one day and the jelly the next - makes it easier to cut... And yes, a LOT of sugar in this but hey - it is a dessert and it is delicious!

Rhubarb/raspberry cheesecake
10-12 pieces in a spring form with diameter 22 cm

250 g ginger snaps or digestive biscuits, crushed
75 grams butter, melted
4+3 gelatine sheets
350 grams rhubarb, peeled and finely sliced (will use more next time, at least 400 grams)
200 ml water
120 ml sugar
100 ml raspberries + some tbsp sugar
500 ml cream cheese
3 tbsp sugar
1 vanilla pod (I used some tbsp vanilla sugar)
1 egg white
3 tbsp sugar

Mix the cookie crumbs with the butter and press it out evenly in a spring form. Soak the gelatine. Boil the rhubarb with the water and sugar until soft. Drain it and save about 200 ml of the fluids. Press the water from 4 of the gelatine sheets and melt them in the warm rhubarb mush. Whip sugar, cheese and vanilla (scrape out the seeds) and fold into the rhubarb. Whip the egg white with the sugar firmly and fold it in too. Spread it as evenly as you can over the cookie bottom. Cover and put in fridge for about 2 hours so it settles.
Heat up the raspberries and mix with the rhubarb fluids so it is about 200 ml on the whole. Melt the remaining gelatine in this and pour over the cake. Let it settle in the fridge and serve.

June 06, 2006

Swedish National Day

Today is June 6th, our National Day here in Sweden. I have spent the afternoon in this outfit, my costume from Södra Unnaryd/Västbo, a place in the south-western part of Sweden. Both my maternal grandmother and my father´s family comes from this region so it feels just right to wear it! I have always had a national costume, when I was little I wore one from where my mother grew up in northern Sweden but then I got my grandmother´s old costume on my 12th birthday. I have outgrew it, but my mother has made a new skirt, apron and vest during the last couple of years. The skirt is dark blue with a red edge, the vest is striped differently in different villages (this stripe pattern is from the village Reftele) and the apron is printed cotton. On the side I wear a loose pocket and I wear a silver brooch on the blouse

The Unnaryd costume is one of the oldest described costumes in Sweden with details dating back to the 17th and 18th century - such as the model of the vest and the hat which is for unmarried women. I have never wore it until today but decided to try and wear a correct costume (adult women are supposed to wear something on the head) for this festive occasion - as you can see I also wear my silk shawl since I wasn´t going to dance so much today. Otherwise I wear a simple white cotton shawl when I dance because in this costume you wear the shawl inside the vest and you don´t want to sweat in fragile silk...

All in all a good day! And that hat protected me from the blazing sun... Now I am going to make some rhubarb muffins for tomorrow, I hope they turn out fine so I can write about them!

June 04, 2006

Sunday lunch

We go sailing for a couple of days each summer and how to make good food is always an issue. The ingredients has to be rather sturdy, and preferrably not in need of a fridge. All we have is an isolated bag... Then it cannot be too fiddly with a lot of chopping and different procedures because the kitchen is miniscule (although you can stand up straight there...) with two gas flames and a little sink with sea water and fresh water. Washing up is complicated too so you don´t want too many pots and things to be used either. It also has to be safe, and so far I have never ever cooked pasta during the days at sea - it is simply too dangerous having a big pot of boiling water waving about. And this is such a pity, because a warm, tasty pasta is exactly what the crew craves! I have often made risotto instead, but now I have found several recipes in a short time for pasta cooked "risotto-style" and decided to give it a go for Sunday lunch.

And, my friends, I have found a solution to our food problems at sea! The slow cooking makes the pasta really tasty, you get a lot of flavour from it. This is also a great way to use leftovers! Yes, a success. This just has to be the perfect way to cook pasta! No fuss, you can use anything and it is sooo tasty and easy.

Pasta the risotto way à la my fridge this afternoon
Serves 1 very hungry person

100 grams good pasta, I used a tasty wholemeal version
about 200 ml hot stock or water, I didn´t have any stock cubes at home so I used some white wine (leftover!), water and herbes de provence
3-4 sundried tomatoes, soaked in hot water or in oil (leftover from Saturday night)
1 finely chopped yellow onion
fresh herbs, fresh tomatoes or whatever greens you have on hand (we made filled pork loin yesterday so I had some left of a lovely parsley/basil/sundried tomato mix)
3-4 slices of streaky bacon (also a leftover from this week)
some good strong cheese, like parmesan, but I always substitute Västerbotten cheese which is a lovely strong and flaky Swedish cheese

Chop the onion and sautée until a little soft in some olive oil. Add the pasta and stir until it is covered with oil and a little shiny. Add the wine or water or stock or what you use, it should just cover the pasta. Boil on low heat until the pasta is done and check it once in a while if it needs more fluid. If some fluid is left when the pasta is done don´t drain it, it has lots of flavour. Serve immediately with crispy bacon, veggies and some cheese on top.