Aug
29
2012
0

Balancing vegetarian and non-vegetarian in the kitchen

Making your hamburgers more interesting

Here in Sweden most people are meat eaters. One look at summer’s food magazines, and one recognizes that barbecued meat has become the favorite menu of the season. The strong sensitivities about how we treat the rest of the natural world in this culture means that the debate about our handling of animals, including those that we consume, rages strong. Since the famed creator of Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren, pleaded in her engaging newspaper articles for the rights of farm animals during the 1970s and 80s, there has been a lot of discussion about the alleged gruesome treatment of pigs in Denmark, the conditions that chickens live in, etc.

Though the number of vegetarian restaurants in Stockholm has increased, reflecting an increase in vegetarians in the population, one can safely say that most people look for their meat (the priority), veg and potatoes on the plate. Although my own children go to Waldorf schools in which there are probably more vegetarians than in other schools, they miss the salami when it is not in the refrigerator and enjoy a finely roasted leg of lamb with rosemary in the autumn.

Having been a vegetarian before coming to Sweden, living without meat isn’t a sacrifice, in fact I find it challenging and exciting from a culinary point of view. For my family it is a little more challenging, which is the reason that I try to keep a balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian in my kitchen. Yet, schedules and lack of time to think through the shopping list can sometimes result in that balance going out of wack. We all know that it’s important to reign in our meat-eating habits for both environmental and health reasons, so this autumn I’ve come up with three principles to keep my kitchen in balance:

1. Plan a vegetarian meal every other day and don’t mention to the family that you are doing so (no one will notice).

2. For the non-vegetarian days, find new ways to combine vegetarian and non-vegetarian ingredients (as in the recipe suggestions, below) thus allowing you to use less meat . Provide “veg and potatoes” (could be a salad or interesting grain) that are so interesting and tasty that they become the main attraction. Check the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for many options.

3. Don’t do any major food shopping without a shopping list which you’ve thought through. This can seem daunting when you have a heavy work schedule, but it makes life so much easier  and satisfying if you’ve taken a few minutes on Sunday to plan ahead and scout the recipe books for vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Planning also tends to benefit your bank account, as you don’t end up purchasing unnecessary foods.

Delicious Hamburgers with Fruit of the Autumn

500 g or 17 oz minced meat
2 slices white toast bread crumbled, crusts removed
1 onion (white or red), finely chopped
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsps tomato paste
1 large cooked beet, chopped into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the grill in your oven. Place the meat in a mixing bowl and add all ingredients. The mixture is best blended using your hands so that you end up with a smooth “dough.” Line a baking tray with baking paper and form the mixture into hamburger patties. Grill for about 5 minutes on either side. Serve with any number of wonderful salads you can find in the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook.

You can try the same recipe mixing in other types of interesting vegetarian ingredients which increase flavor, improve consistency, create bulk and reduce the quantity of meat you need to buy. For instance, try raw carrots instead of beetroot.

Written by Admin in: Beef,Beets,Meats,Root Vegetables,Vegetables | Tags: , ,
Feb
11
2012
0

New Reasons for Rose hip

Be good to yourself! Drink rose hip.

Rose hip reduces “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and lowers blood pressure. That’s the latest from a study conducted at Lund University in Sweden on mice, the results of which were so interesting that the study was extended to overweight patients at Skåne’s University Hospital. The results from this extended study showed that just 5 dl (a little over 2 cups) of rose hip drink per day over a six-week period resulted in a noticeable improvement in cholesterol and blood values.

If you’ve been reading nordicwellbeing.com and this blog over time, you’ll know that we’ve been pro rose hip for some time, not only because of its very many health benefits but also for its tangy and remarkable flavor.

In Sweden rose hip “soup” consumed as a drink is a staple food and one favored daily by children as a pick-me-up in between meals. Nypon soup is one of those things in the collective memory of a culture that brings automatic comfort when a child (or adult!) has a cold. Now, it seems, there are very good reasons to continue with that habit and perhaps share the secret with people in other parts of the world.

Rose hip has an unfair reputation for being “difficult.” Yes, the prickly bushes make picking prickly and there is a little handling to do. Yet, if you live in an area where they grow, they are usually available in great abundance and, with a little knowledge and technique, handling doesn’t have to be more challenging than with any other fresh fruit or vegetable.

Here’s raising our glasses to and filled with rose hip soup!

Rose hip soup
(for daily drinking)

Rose hip purée (prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator or freezer, see below)
Water
Corn flour
Sugar or honey
Twist of lemon

A recipe for preparing rose hip mousse is provided on this page. This is the classic technique. Here I’d like to suggest a technique which is ‘modernized’ to suit our tight schedules and which just produces an unsweetened purée. Rather than removing all of the seeds and fibers from the inside of the fruit before cooking, cook the whole fruits and then pass/press all of the fruit through a fine sieve.

Blend the purée with water over low heat with a manual beater. Blend corn flour with a little cold water and add to achieve the desired slightly thick, but still drinkable consistency. Add sweetening and twist of lemon for flavor. Allow to cool in the refrigerator. Store in a container that can be shaken before drinking.

 

Written by Admin in: Berries,Beverages,Fruits,Rose hip | Tags:
Oct
24
2011
0

Salmon burgers with dijon

Skeptical about fish? Try salmon burgers!

Sometimes a great recipe comes to you, in all of its simplicity, handed down from various sources which attest to its greatness. No one really knows the origin of these recipes, they just get passed on because they are great. One such recipe was passed onto me by my friend Johanna, who had seen the recipe in a newspaper. The paper had taken the recipe from somewhere else.

Salmon is one of those fish that even those who say they do not eat fish like eating. This recipe is bound to appeal to everyone. I served it with kohlrabi simmered in stock and blended with creme fraiche and a green salad. It works with any one of a number of combinations, but here is the basic salmon burger, in all of its greatness. One of the beauties of cooking salmon like this is that it never tastes too dry. 

Salmon burgers with dijon
(serves 4) 

300 g or 10-11 oz raw salmon (filleted, bones and skin removed)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper
olive oil for sautéing

Chop the salmon into chunks and place in the food processor with all ingredients save the onion. Blend until a smooth paste. Place the mixture in a bowl and add the red onion. Season with salt and pepper. Form the mixture into burgers. Place olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Sauté 4 minutes on each side or until the salmon is cooked. Serve warm with your selection of vegetable dishes.

Written by Admin in: Fish,Fish Dishes,Salmon,Savoury Food | Tags: ,
Oct
24
2011
0

Rose hip in stews

What can you make with rose hip other than rose hip soup?

As I was picking the fruit of the thorny rose hip this autumn out on my island I kept wondering whether there was anything else simple – other than the usual rose hip soup - I could do with these fantastic vitamin-C rich fruits of the season. There are so many excellent flavor and health benefits of rose hip that it had to be possible to find other uses for them.

While preparing the spicy red cabbage stew (see Paavo’s Danish or Swedish red Christmas cabbage) we were going to enjoy as a vegetable dish with the season’s local lamb and boiled potatoes, it occurred to me that I might try throwing in a few rose hips and see what new flavor experiences might await. Removing the top and and many seeds can be a little bit of a challenge, but if you have some good music or your favorite radio program on in the kitchen, it is just a pleasure.

I am happy to report that the flavor addition was outstanding. After this experience, I can heartily recommend that you use rose hip in any one of a number of your autumn stews (vegetarian or not), which you would like to add a tangy flavor element to. Add the rose hip in the last 20 minutes or so of cooking. Simmer gently!

 

Aug
04
2011
0

Salmon with Zing & Berries

Black currants make the meal right

As the summer season wears on, the traditional salmon, dill and new potatoes can start to feel a little mild. Particularly, as the nights begin to clear in August, and the air sharpens, it feels like time to get a little zing into that salmon dish.

During a recent dinner I found a way to do this by preparing the salmon with some of the sharper spices of the East and by serving it with a salad of tangy berries that gave the whole meal a warming, pre-autumnal flavor. Black currants have a salty flavor and therefore fit well with savory dishes.

The entire meal is a plus for health, although you’ll want to give attention to issues concerning salmon – see The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook under S.

Salmon with Zing & Berries
Serves 4

For the salmon:

700-900 grams or 1 ½ to 2 lbs of salmon fillet with skin on
4 cm or 1.5 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 length of chili, seeds removed and chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Sprig of fresh coriander, chopped
3/4 dl or 1/3 cup olive or canola oil
Salt/Pepper

For the salad:
4 cups well-rinsed fresh spinach leaves
1 cup black currants
4 tbsps olive or canola oil
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
Salt/Pepper

Preheat oven to 200 C or 390 F. Rinse the salmon fillet and place, skin down on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Mix together the spices in the oil and spread evenly over the fillet. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the salmon is baking, place the spinach leaves in a salad bowl and toss over the black currants. Sprinkle over oil and vinegar. and season with salt and pepper. Toss before serving with the salmon.

Jul
05
2011
0

What goes best with crab?

What goes best with crab? Here is the answer.

Yesterday while out jogging in the forest, I noticed the first golden chantarelle of the season. As you know from my other writings, this is indeed a glorious moment: the first glimpse of those golden nuggets plugged into the green, mossy forest bed without anyone else having yet discovered them (if they had discovered them, they would be gone here in Sweden!).

The family didn’t believe me when I returned home, so I was forced to drag them all out to the very same spot with my mushroom-picking basket, to show them that I was not hallucinating.

I had planned to make crab cakes for dinner, in anticipation of the shellfish season later in the summer. It occurred to me that the mild flavor of chantarelle might fit just perfectly with the delicate flavor of crab. And what a combination it was. So delicious with a bit of sour cream dolloped on top and some new potatoes on the side. Does it get better than this? I am not sure.

Use my usual recipe suggestion for preparing and sautéing wild mushrooms and keep them warm in the oven while you prepare the following recipe for crab cakes.

Crab Cakes with Summer Chantarelle
Serves 4

340 grams or 12 ounces of crab meat
4 pieces white bread, crusts removed and broken into crumbs
2 eggs
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/3 red chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cm or 0.8 inches ginger, grated
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for sautéing

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl until a batter forms. Form the batter into cakes that fit into the palm of your hand.  Warm oil in a pan over medium heat. Place the crab cakes in the pan and sauté for 4 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Place on a warmed serving dish and scatter the chantarelle on top. Serve with new potatoes and soured cream flavored with a herb such as chive or parseley.

Written by Admin in: Chantarelle,Crab,Mushrooms,Shellfish | Tags: ,
Jul
05
2011
0

New discoveries with rhubarb

Full of new potential

Rhubarb season is past, but I cannot resist sharing with you a couple of excellent discoveries I made with rhubarb for a couple of early summer parties. You might still be in the mood for rhubarb, with its wonderful, tangy flavor, offering so much possibility but most often relegated to that good, but a little repetitive rhubarb crumble.

A good cheeseboard is always in need of a tangy, acidic fruit contrast. For a generous cheeseboard I laid out for an early evening cocktail party (in an outrageously beautiful setting – a green clearing on a cliff overlooking a lake), I offered a large, open jar of rhubarb and apple chutney. No one knew what it was but courageously dove in anyway and spooned dollops onto the top of the chunks of cheese on crisp bread. Rhubarb seemed logical to me with cheese and the apple was a little additive to reduce the sting of the rhubarb and make the chutney a bit smoother in texture – more comfortable, perhaps? My very own harvested honey made all of the difference – raw honey rather than sugar really makes this topping into the delight that it is.

Rhubarb Apple Chutney

Fistful of rhubarb, washed, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 medium-sweet, crisp apples, washed, peeled and chopped into large chunks
Juice of half a lemon
1.5 dl or 2/3 cup raw honey
4 tbsps water

Place all ingredients in a non-metallic pan (important to cook rhubarb safely in - read more!). Allow to cook for a half an hour over low heat, or until the rhubarb is soft enough for the blender. Place the mixture in a food processor and mix until smooth. Spoon into a clean jar and seal. Serve on a cheeseboard with celery that can also be dipped into this divine mix.

At one of my early summer dinner events, a number of the guests were vegetarians, and it struck me that making a curry with lots of wonderful fruits and nuts to scatter on top would be just the thing. The idea of making a curry with rhubarb as a base wouldn’t leave me and so I decided to make my guests guinea pigs and try it out. The outcome was striking – not sure I’ve ever enjoyed curry as much as I enjoyed this one.

Rhubarb Curry
Serves 4

Fistful of rhubarb, washed, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
4 medium-sweet apples, washed, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 stalks of celery, washed, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 medium white onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3-4 cm or 1-1.5 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsps curry powder
6 tbsps olive oil
1/2 liter or 1/2 quart vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
2 tbsps raw honey

Sauté the onions, crushed garlic, grated ginger and curry for 2 minutes. Add the celery and the rhubarb and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Add the apples and pour over the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add raw honey and adjust seasoning. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Serve with bulgur, couscous or brown rice mixed with sunflower seeds. Provide a smorgasbord of condiments: banana sprinkled with lime, dessicated coconut, cashew nuts, slivered almonds and whatever else you can think of that might up the flavor and texture experience!

 

May
09
2011
0

Salmon Nettle Pie

Perfect with salmon

Alright, this sounds like a motley combination, doesn’t it? The truth is, however, that there are few flavor combinations from Scandinavian nature that complement one another as well as salmon and nettle. The flavors are serene and earthy. This is real comfort food without the hangover.

A more usual green partner to salmon is spinach, but if you take the trouble to pull on the garden gloves and harvest the nettle growing around the compost at about this time of year, your efforts will be more than well-rewarded.

To use in cooking, prepare the nettle by removing the thickest part of the stalks, as well as cleaning out any grass and soil that has come along in the picking. Blanch the nettle by plunging it into a pot of boiled water for a couple of minutes. Drain the water and once the nettle has cooled, squeeze as much water out as possible, forming the nettle into a green ball. Chop it up and freeze or use immediately in cooking.

Here is a fine recipe that family and friends will enjoy on these warming spring nights.

Salmon Nettle Pie
(Serves 6)

6 narrow cross-sections of salmon fillet, skin removed
1.5 liters or 1.5 quarts of nettle, cleaned
250 grams or 9 oz. grated mozarella cheese
Thin sheets of butter dough to cover the base of the casserole dish
Two medium-sized tomatoes, thinly sliced
Olive Oil
Twist of lemon
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 190 C or 374 F. Line a casserole dish with the butter dough. Distribute the nettle across the dough evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Follow with a layer of mozarrella. Season the salmon with lemon, salt and pepper. Lay the long fillets on top of the other layers. Decorate with tomatoes in between the fillets. Season all with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve with a green salad.

Mar
20
2011
0

Spring Nutty Cake

Use dried fruit rather than refined sugar to sweeten desserts

As everyone indulges in mounds of cream sandwiched in huge buns consisting primarily of things that really aren’t going to do us much good (white flour and sugar), it’s time to think anew. I know that I am a party-pooper when it comes to the annual semla-fest, a Swedish tradition which is also practiced in other Northern European cultures, which originated in the need to pack in the calories before the 40 days of fasting decreed by the Catholic Church at Lent.

These days most of us do not fast anymore and the on average 4-5 gigantic semla buns that Swedes consume annually are in a continuum with all of the other calorie-rich foods that continue to be consumed on a regular basis. It’s one of those familiar things that provides a short feel-good experience and then leaves you feeling a bit, well, bloated. As you know from this blog, I’m not against cream, I just find that the increasingly wide-spread consumption of foods such as semla, which are no longer limited to the time frame of tradition (that is, you can in fact consume a semla at just about any time of year), is unfortunate. 

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, it’s time for the good news. You don’t have to abstain from a sweet, even with a dollop of cream, to be healthy. Inspired by the many unused packages of dates I received as gifts at Christmas mingles, I decided to see whether these fruits, which have a strong natural sweetness could be used in making something tasty to consume with a cup of tea. Since I always have a wide range of nuts and dried fruits stored away in my kitchen cupboard, I decided to experiment with a few of these to make a cake, without refined flour and sugar.  The result was a divine, light cake with great texture that everyone in the family enjoyed, and all made without the use of refined flour and sugar!

Spring Nutty Cake

200 grams or 7 oz. ecological dates (you can also use figs)
1 dl or 1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 dl or 1/2 cup almonds
1 dl or 1/2 cup walnuts
1 dl or 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
6 egg whites
vanilla essence or vanilla sugar

Preheat your oven at 175 C or 347 F and line a baking tin with baking paper. Run the dates through the food processor so that they are chopped very fine. Add nuts and dessicated coconut and process, one deciliter or half  cup at a time. Whip egg whites until stiff , adding vanilla sugar. Gently fold the dried fruit and nut mixture under the egg whites until a batter forms. Empty the batter into the lined baking tin and bake for 45 minutes. The cake should not be baked dry and should retain some moisture inside. If you have that whipped cream craving, don’t hesitate to add a dollop to your slice of spring nutty cake.

Written by Admin in: Cakes,Dried Fruits,Fruits,Nuts,Sweet Food | Tags: , , ,
Jan
09
2011
0

Bark Bread is back

Betulin in birch bark could solve some of your health problems

Once upon a time in Sweden and elsewhere in the Nordic countries bread made using the ground bark of common trees instead of flour from wheat or other grains was basic peasant food. In fact, during the 18th century Carl Linneaus once described during his travels the dire situation of forests which could not survive the widespread debarkation that peasants’ need for bark flour resulted in.  Today science is discovering that there are clear health benefits to the consumption of bread containing meal of bark, particularly birch bark meal. In the latest issue of the scientific publication Cell Metabolism, scientists suggest that a substance in birch bark called betulin (which we have previously written about at nordicwellbeing.com in birch sap), could provide an equally effective if not better treatment for high blood pressure  and high cholesterol than the existing medicines available today.

So, bark bread, in particular birch bark is suddenlyback in again and everyone is out looking for a best recipe. I will be testing a few but for now I provide a translation of a recipe from a traditional Swedish kitchen. Ingrid Ölund from Örnsköldsvik has got a recipe for bark bread that is so tasty that she has had to move her bakery to a larger location. Here it is with a link to Ingrid at alltomat.se (“All About Food”, a popular Swedish food magazine). Ingrid notes that she only adds about 15 percent bark flour in contrast to the 50 percent traditionally used by the peasantry which produce a bitter tasting bread.

Ingrid’s Bark Bread

100 g or 3.5 oz yeast
1 liter or 1 quart lukewarm water
1 liter or 1 quart rye flour
1.5 liters or 1.5 quarts white flour
2 dl or 1/2 cup bark flour (Ingrid uses bark from her own pine forest)

Blend the ingredients and knead the dough. Allow to rise for one hour. Roll out into smaller rounds. Baking time varies according to the size of the bread.
(I suggest for medium rounds which are the size of pita breads 10 minutes at 225 C or 437 F – sprinkle water over before baking)

Learn more about the traditional uses of Nordic trees for good health, including more about betulin, in my book On My Swedish Island: Discovering the Secrets of Scandinavian Well-being (Tarcher Penguin 2005).

Written by Admin in: Uncategorized |

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