Monday, April 20, 2015

Moving on

Well, times they are a-changing, and suddenly I find myself with a new set of priorities, motivations, and goals in life. More good news on that later, I hope. Until then, I´m attempting to clear my desk, so to speak, finish a few things that I promised to do, simplify routines, and soforth. One thing is the blogging.

I have decided to continue all my blogging on "One Sketch a Day" and simply shoe-horn everything I like to write about into it. All the food-blogging will be categorized under "recipes".

Welcome to One Sketch A Day!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Gravad Lax - Raw Spiced Salmon

While I am no fan of raw meat, raw fish is another thing. We eat gravad lax a lot, and it is salmon that is cured in salt, sugar, and dill - although there are lots of variations on the recipe. Many make their own and my sister-in-law has introduced us to one made with gin and elderflower saft. You make it thus:

Take a 900 grams (2 pounds or thereabout) salmon filet with the skin still on. It should have been frozen for a few days. Make sure all bones are removed. Cut the salmon in half. Mix 4 tablespoons sugar, 4 tablespoons salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, and the zest from one lemon. Rub this mixture into the salmon filet. Place one piece on top of the other, thin side on top of thick side. Put them in two plastic bags (to prevent leaking) and pour in 4 tablespoons concentrated elderflower saft (which is a syrup, basically) and 3 tablespoons of gin. If your supermarket doesn´t have saft you can try at an IKEA near you, or look for something called Elderberry flower syrup that is used to mix drinks. Or substitute the gin and saft for any fruity liqueur that you like.

Put this on a plate in the fridge for 2-3 days. Turn the bag once a day.

When it´s done you just wipe off the spices and slice the salmon thinly. We enjoy it with mashed potatoes, a salad, and a mustard sauce (from the store or done the simple way: mix 2 dessert spoons each of mustard, vinegar and oil with 2 teaspoons brown sugar, salt and pepper), but it´s great on bread, or just as a snack. If you don´t cure the fish yourself, it is pretty fast food, actually. And mighty healthy.

The word gravad (same as in grave) comes from when fishermen in the Middle Ages (and no doubt earlier, too) buried salted fish on the shores to let them ferment before they were eaten. Similar methods are used on Greenland with seal and here in Sweden we ferment herring in tin cans.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Chocolate Sizzle

I am pretty sure I blogged this elsewhere before, but I don´t mind repeating myself. One of the restaurants in town has this wonderful dessert on the menu, and I had it again the other day:

It´s chocolate cake (a very rich-flavoured one of the type called kladdkaka - related to the brownie) in a sizzling hot chocolate sauce, served on a cast iron skillet with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. This is heaven!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fondue - Festive and Lazy at the same time

Start with potatoes, they take the longest.
When I was a child, the traditional meal on Christmas Eve was fondue bourgignon, a meat fondue. It´s a very festive kind of meal, takes a while to eat, and it feels a bit primordial to gather round "the fire", as it were. My siblings and I all still make it, but more or less modified from how my parents made it. For example, my father disliked potatoes, so my mother served rice. The only one who still insists on rice is my middle sister, who is the most conservative of us and maintain family traditions for her little boys. My youngest sister, who moved to Switzerland some years ago, sometime eats it with crisps (chips for Americans), because that´s done there. We have been influenced by having fondue in Paris, and will gladly have potatoes au gratin or chips (French fries for Americans). We usually have it on the 27th, but it´s not a deliberate tradition, it is just that it´s hard to make for more than six people, and it´s a great break from the regular, Swedish Christmas food.

So, this is what we do: We often buy ready-made potatoe wedges (sometimes sold as Pommes Chateau = Palace Potatoes), particularly when I´m all cooked out after the holidays. They just go into a casserole dish and into the oven for 25 minutes. While that bakes, we make a tray with small or wedged onions, fresh mushrooms (champignons), bite-size pepper, and sometimes baby corn. We mix a sauce from mayonnaise and chopped up capers (I use about 100 ml of capers to half a jar of mayo, but use your own judgement) and get out a bottle of barbecue sauce.

We were keen to try my home-pickled onions, but they
 are not a regular constituent of the fondue table.
We heat 750 grams of coconut butter (1½ packet, it´s enough to use one if there are only the two of us) in the fondue pan, on the stove. You know it´s hot enough if you dip a wooden toothpick in it and it bubbles. You can use cooking oil, or stock even, but oil spatters dangerously and stock makes the meat more boiled than fried. Also, the coconut gives the meat a really nice flavour. With the sauces and the salted potatoes I don´t find it necessary to put salt and pepper on every piece of meat, but I know some do. Whatever makes you happy.

Oh yes, almost forgot, we dice up the meat, of course. We use filet of pork and beef, and, if we can find it, horse and reindeer and elk. You can use chicken or turkey as well, but I wouldn´t think fish is particularly suited to this method of cooking. The pieces should be about 2 x 4 centimeters or thereabouts.

We used to use methylated spirits (T-sprit), but now we use a kind that´s special for these kinds of burners - it produces less soot, which makes washing up easier.

Lazy people mix the caper sauce straight in the mayo jar.

Love the blaze! There is reindeer to the left and pork in the forefront. 

It is important to mark all the fondue forks differently, so that each person can recognize their own.

We keep the potatoes warm under a lid - this meal easily take an hour, or more.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Vegetarian "Steak"

When I left my parents´s house and set up my own home, I knew little to nothing about how to cook. My mother was on the one hand not very amused by cooking, on the other she liked to do it alone - she is neat and tidy and don´t like messes. As a teenager I was very clumsy - as many teenagers are - and I got pretty much grounded from the kitchen area after a series of catastrophes. At least, this is how I remember it.

My first cookbook was this one, published by Cranks, a vegetarian restaurant business in the UK, which opened its first restaurant on the legendary Carnaby Street in 1961, when London was swinging. There are no original Cranks restaurants left and I never got there; I planned to go with my brother when we were in London in 1988, but he fell ill that day, and just as well - the original Cranks that I knew from the cookbooks was already gone by then (but I didn´t know, because there was no internet). I think I would have been very disappointed.

The recipes are all vegetarian, wholefood, and very British. This suited me, who was a strict vegetarian (lakto-ovo) between the age of 17 and 23, when I started eating fish. By 26 I was back on meat, though I will never be a lover of bloody steaks and this recent fashion for raw meat is not to my taste at all. I still love vegetarian food and will eat it out if it is on offer, but serving a meal without even a small sausage for the husband makes him look somewhat forlorn and I do want to please him. However, I have decided to make those old favourite dishes again, after having whipped out the recipe for "nut-steak" (really, I don´t know the name of it in the original English, so this will be a case of translating back to English, which is always a bit hazardous) for a vegetarian guest over Christmas. This is a dish that works well to substitute meat on a regular buffet; we had potatoes au gratin and sallads that everyone could eat. I have actually served it to people who thought they were eating meat! (This makes me suspect that many people eat with their eyes rather than with their noses and palates.)

You need 225 grams of mixed nuts (I like hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, almonds), 1 onion, 100 grams of breadcrumbs, 300 ml vegetable stock, a dollop of butter, and spices (I stick to salt and pepper, but go crazy if you like). The recipe also calls for 2 teaspoons of brewer´s yeast, which I skip, but then I like to add a can of sliced mushrooms instead.

Grind the nuts in an almond grinder. Fry the choped onion and the mushrooms in the butter. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with the stock to the consistency you´d like to have if you were making a meatloaf (which is what this will look most like). Put the mixture in an oven proof casserole dish, sprinkle breadcrumbs over it and shove it into an oven heated to 200 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, until golden brown. You can fry it hamburger shaped also, if you like, but that´s more work and not as healthy.

It´s great with a brown gravy, or onion rings (perhaps stewed in cream), potatoes of any kind, or cumberland sauce. It works on bread too, with a beetroot salad. Also, it freezes well. Anyway you like, really.

"Nut steak" with mash and fried onions. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fridge Chocolate Balls

I have, over the years, become increasingly suspicious about having plastic tools in the kitchen. Plastic is relatively soft does not age well, it seems to crumble after a few years, and it makes me worry about getting those crumbles into my food. I have gotten rid of most of it by now. I am, though, rather fond of plastic bags, which are disposable. As long as plastic is properly recycled (which we do) and not put in garbage dumps or ending up as huge plastic islands in the sea, I am fine with it.

Lately, I have replaced my Melitta filter holders, which were plastic and had to be replaced every so often because they started to change colour and crack. On Ebay, one can still get the oldfashioned filter holders in china ware and aluminium. I got one of each at real bargain prices, the china one doesn´t even look used at all. Very happy with that. I hear that aluminium is supposed to not be good for cooking in, but I use it for my cold brew coffee (haven´t tired of that, love it in combination with milk - makes a very potent café au lait).

When I´m feeling the urge for something sweet and chocolaty, I often make these candy balls that used to be called negerboll when I was a child. I am pretty sure the name had nothing to do with African-Americans at all, but was probably a loanword meaning "black ball". However, in the 80´s, as we became more culturally oriented towards the Americans rather than other Europeans, the word became increasingly offensive. Now, it´s impossible and in my cooking book from 1994 it goes by the name Chocolate Balls. I have seen similar recipes in England called Fridge Balls, which is rather apt, I think. Whatever, it is a great recipe.

Take 100 grams of butter, room temperature soft, mix with 150 ml sugar, then add 1½ teaspoon vanilla sugar, 3 tablespoons cocoa, and 500 ml rolled oats. Splash some water, coffee or liqueur (I favour arak, but citrus is also good) to make it stick together enough so that you can make balls of it. Personally, I make half a batch as I can´t leave a single one for the next day, and I just fridge them for a bit as they are. You can also roll them in pearl sugar, shredded coconut or stick a toothpick in them and dip them in melted chocolate, which makes them prettier if you plan on offering them to guests. I pretty much keep them all to myself, haha!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Rice Punch

This last summer, we went to a Korean restaurant and I tried rice punch, which is a soft drink. It sounded really weird, so I had to try it. It tasted weird too, not in a bad way, though, but I don´t think I´ll go looking for more. There were actual rice grains in it.