Oct
31
2008
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Comfort Fish

Look what landed in my fishing net!

Look what landed in my fishing net!

“Ugh! Not fish again!” If you are used to hearing this complaint each time that you serve up this most nutritious of foods, you need the recipe, below. As it gets colder, fish can also mentally feel like too light a food. Doesn’t winter conjure up thoughts of great meat stews with a rich brown sauce? Here in Scandinavia everyone begins to think wild meat stews during this season. Right now, however, I want to give a little shout for fish as a warming winter comfort food.

Before I continue my little shout for fish, I really must point a few things out about purchasing fish. Sometimes these days, I wonder whether I can buy fish with a good conscience at all. Watching those great trawlers hauling in everything left in the seas (or so it seems), doesn’t make eating fish feel great. Yet there are certain types of fish that you can consume with a good conscience and you can find out more about that at the World Wildlife Fund’s Fish Yes List . You’ll also be able to find out a lot more about eating fish responsibly at the upcoming new healthy and eco-smart food directory at www.nordicwellbeing.com (launching December 2008).

This week, I chose Sej which in English is Coalfish or Coley. This isn’t everyone’s first choice because many think it tastes too ‘fishy’. However, it is widely available and a good nutritious fish with a nice firm white meat that one can eat with good conscience where I live. If handled properly in the kitchen, just as with any good fish, it gives amazing results. According to my family, I handled the Coley well this week. They gave me a 4 out of 5 for the recipe below which means something from these discerning eaters!

The potato and sauce in the recipe makes this a wonderful winter comfort dish but at the same time means that you must eat it mindfully. That is, just because there is fish in it, it isn’t a super light dish. Serve with a green salad with viniagrette dressing or even a Cabbage Salad (see recommendations below).

Comfort Fish

800 g or 1.8 lbs Coley fillets or other sustainably harvested fish with white meat
Lemon pepper

For the sauce:
1.5 tbsps flour
3 dl or 1.5 cups milk
1/2 fish stock cube
1 tbsp chervil, parsley or dill finely chopped

For the mashed potatoes:
1 kg or 2.2 lbs potatoes, cooked and peeled
1.5 dl milk
Butter or margarine
Salt & White Pepper

Preheat your oven to 225 C or 437 F. Rinse and pat dry the fish fillets. Place in a greased oven-proof dish and season with lemon pepper and salt. Bake for 7 minutes.

Prepare the sauce. Place flour in a small cooking pot, gradually stir in the milk over low heat until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Add in the stock cube and stir until thoroughly blended in and the sauce has thickened a little. Sprinkle in the herbs last. Set aside.

Prepare the mashed potatoes. Mash the potatoes in a cooking pan. Add a few clicks of butter and pour in the milk. Season with salt and pepper. Blend together over low heat until the potatoes have reached a smooth consistency.

Assemble the dish. Raise oven temperature to 250 C or 482 F. Place large round spoonfuls of the mashed potato around the perimeter of the baking dish (on top of the fish). You can also pipe the mashed potato around the perimeter of the dish. Pour the sauce over the middle where the fish is still visible. Bake 10 minutes or until the potato is slightly browned. Garnish with a sprig of leftover herb and serve with a green salad. Cabbage Salad works well (see this blog). Don’t forget to visit the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook where this recipe and many more are gathered together!

Oct
22
2008
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The Rotten Cookbook for Good Health

Yummy Vegetables!

Tummy Trim Vegetables!

Oh dear. “What is she thinking now?”, you might wonder. Isn’t a title like “The Rotten Cookbook for Good Health” just naturalness gone too far? No, not really although I do agree that a book with that title might not make the bestseller lists.

This was just my crazy little way of calling your attention to the value of controlled fermentation in the kitchen for good health. Cultivating good bacteria in order to mature foods in ways that are good for our stomachs and that appeal to our palates is a very old art used in many parts of the world, including in the Nordic region. Lactic fermentation of root vegetables and cabbages is one good example. This technique was originally a means of preserving the vital nutrients that these vegetables could provide until the next warm season could deliver new nutrients. What is lactic fermentation? It means using the watery liquid (the whey) that is left when you drain out the creamy part of yogurt or other forms of ‘live’ dairy product. What is a ‘live’ dairy product? It is one that contains live bacteria good for maintaining your digestive flora (check the labels!).

When I thought of “The Rotten Cookbook for Good Health”, I thought of a whole host of foods that would fit in. All kinds of interesting combinations of tasty vegetables that could be fermented and bottled, wonderful sourdough breads, home-made yogurts and more. The idea just gets bigger all the time!

Now let’s get down to practicals. During the past days, I have made classic Nordic fermented root vegetables. A serving of this a day is guaranteed to keep your digestion in good form! Here is the basic recipe:

Tummy Trim Vegetables
(makes 3 liters or 3 quarts)

2 kg or 4.4 lbs root vegetables and cabbages of your choice (I used white cabbage, swede, carrots and turnip) roughly chopped
1 liter or 1 quart yogurt or buttermilk (filmjölk in Swedish) drained through a cheesecloth overnight
Salt
Water

Place the chopped vegetables into a large clean glass or ceramic container that can be sealed. Pour over the whey (the milky liquid) that has been separated from the cream. Mix the vegetables into this liquid and place a heavy weight on them (I use my limestone rock paper-weight) so that they are compressed and just covered with the liquid. Seal and leave to ferment in a warm place in the house for 12 hours. Open and add salt water if the vegetables are not covered in liquid. The recipe for salt water is 3 tsps to one liter or quart of water. Place the weight on the vegetables again and seal. Leave in the same place to ferment for 3 days this time. After this time you can bottle the vegetables and liquid as you like and refrigerate or keep in a cool place. In contrast to most foods, these just improve with time! Consume as a side dish with almost anything. For extra seasoning, add in paprikas, onions and your favorite herbs such as rosemary or dill on the first day of fermentation. This makes a mean “rotten” side salad!

Visit The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for a further selection of great recipes!

Oct
15
2008
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The Ultimate Fruit Salad

The Makings of a Great Fruit Salad!

The Makings of a Great Fruit Salad!

There are fruit salads and then there are FRUIT SALADS. I recently invited some friends over and one of them insisted that she must bring along her fruit salad: “I make a mean one”, she said. “O.K., O.K.”, I thought. Must let the guests participate.

My friend arrived here with several plastic bags full of fruit and promptly asked me for a large bowl. Within a short time, she walked in with the most luscious looking fruit salad that I have ever seen. Just the visuals were a joy to behold. The taste was out of this world. I was humbled. Never doubt the guests!

I asked my friend for her fruit salad recipe but she preferred to offer me a few principles which I share with you here:

Tips for the Ultimate Fruit Salad

1. Squeeze lemon juice into the bottom of the bowl.

2. Start with the apples – they are firmest.

3. Cut in small bit-sized chunks – no big challenging chunks!

4. Make sure you remove the peel – the secret to the softness of this delightful fruit salad.

5. Add in other fruits starting with firmest and progressing to least firm. Bananas always come last.

6. Don’t throw in any crunchy stuff – nuts, raisins, etc. – keep this a smooth affair!

7. Just prior to serving, pour over a fruit smoothie with a light color. Make sure you choose a high quality smoothie with low sugar and high fruit content. You can make this yourself or buy one from the supermarket.

8. Garnish with some decorative fruits such as physillis.

I warn you, if you do this right, it is an other-worldly experience!

Don’t forget to check the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for other great fruit recipes!
Oct
09
2008
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Scraping the Cabbage Bowl

Lovely White Cabbage

Lovely White Cabbage

Last night over dinner I thought I was hallucinating as I watched my 10-year-old son scraping the bottom of the empty cabbage salad bowl. “Mmmm….that was really good Mamma. Is there any more?” My jaw dropped as my daughter added in a complaint that everyone else had hogged the cabbage salad and she’d barely got any.

Cabbage isn’t exactly the thing that you expect your 10-year-olds to crave more of. In fact, it isn’t the sort of thing that most people crave more of. However, it is one of those things that all of us should be eating a lot more of. Healthwise, its benefits are second to none, particularly when eaten raw.

So, are you going to get your family to devour not only cabbage, but raw cabbage? Let’s take this one step back: how are you going to get yourself enthusiastic about it? Here is a recipe that won’t fail to stir the enthusiasm when served as a side dish or as a base filling in tacos, pita bread or wraps. It is VERY quick to make, VERY simple, VERY inexpensive, VERY good and VERY healthy. You cannot get more VERY!

Tangy White Cabbage Salad

1/4 large white cabbage, core cut away and chopped into small bite-sized pieces
1 dl or 1/2 cup olive oil or canola oil (rapeseed oil)
3 tbsps apple cider vinegar
2 tbsps water
2 tbsps light mayonnaise
1 tsp mustard
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

Prepare the cabbage. Mix together the remaining ingredients into a smooth dressing with a manual beater. pour over the cabbage and toss. Done!

For more great cabbage recipes visit The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook!

Oct
03
2008
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Solving the Squash Dilemma

End-of-season vegetables from my garden

End-of-season vegetables from my garden

If there is one thing I can always rely on my kitchen vegetable garden to produce in quantity, it is squash. My children walk into the kitchen holding specimens that could double up as baseball bats.

It’s costs me next to nothing, it grows in large quantities outside my kitchen window, it’s good for your health, so isn’t this an ideal food for this season? We should be head over heals…As soon as my husband sees me chopping the squash for the evening meal, he already starts planning that little pile of squash that is going to be left on the edge of the plate when the meal is done. My son isn’t crazy about the stuff either. Only my daughter and I down it like the true good food soldiers that we are.

In a bid to transform squash, in this case zucchini, into everyone’s favorite food, I set about exploring recipes. I found a seemingly exciting recipe for squash muffins in a recent “gourmet” magazine that unfortunately ended up tasting like sugar cake with green bits in it. I tried all sorts of stir-fry variations but that little heap of uneaten squash kept piling up on the edges of plates and returning from whence it came (the compost).

One evening I lacked lettuce to serve with the meal but there was that trusted zucchini on the counter. I decided to chop it rough and toss it with a few tomatoes in a bowl. How could I spice it up? Here is what I did:

Curried Zucchini Salad

1 medium zucchini chopped into small chunks
2 medium tomatoes chopped into quarters
1 red onion chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1 dl or just under 1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp water

Sauté the onion with curry powder in a little olive oil for 2 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from heat. In a mixing bowl blend with zucchini and tomato. Beat together the remaining ingredients into a dressing. Pour over the zucchini and tomato. Toss and serve on a bed of lettuce or ruccola.

With this recipe there were no zucchini Tower-of-Pisas on the sides of the plates at the end of the meal. Surprise! Surprise! The salad bowl was empty.

Another fantastic squash recipe I cannot but help share with you is for summer squash (yellow or light colored). Even if you are a squash skeptic, this one will warm your heart like a soft, warm blanket.

Summer Squash Soup with Chili

1 large summer squash, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red chili, center removed and finely chopped
4 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps flour
4 dl vegetable or chicken stock
Salt & Pepper to taste
Herb-flavored olive oil

Saute the onion, garlic and chili for 2 minutes without browning. Add the squash and saute for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle over the flour. Gradually stir in the stock and return to the heat. Cover and allow to cook on low heat until the squash is softened (about 10 mins). Puree in a food processor. Add further stock if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a swirl of herb-flavored olive oil.

Adding sliced squash to home-made pizza also works well, but we’ll take that another time!

For more great recipes with Nordic inspiration visit The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook.

Written by Julie in: Salad,Soup,Squash,Vegetables,zucchini | Tags: , , , ,
Oct
01
2008
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Apples, apples and more apples

Divine Aromatic Apples

Divine Aromatic Apples

If there isn’t something sweet available in the kitchen as the day wears on, I begin to hear a certain scrounging going on in the kitchen. Empty chocolate wrappers get frustratedly thrown into the garbage and family members begin to look around in the various little dried fruit jars and other “sweet” storage containers I have around the house. My family is rampant with sweet tooths!

Any doctor will tell you to cut out the sweets. Your body doesn’t need anything sweeter than fruit. Still, there is that longing for a little extra beyond the wholesome apple – so why not make something good with it that isn’t hard to prepare (with a little practice) rather than having everyone scrounging for those wrappers?

17th century map of the first Swedish Apple Orchards

17th century map of the first Swedish apple orchards

If there is something that is easy to come by in the autumn where I live, it is an aromatic apple. In a local newspaper article, I just noticed a very interesting historical fact discovered about apple growing in my vicinity: a newly-discovered map drawn sometime during 1630-1640 shows that Sweden’s oldest apple orchards were located near here in a place called Färingsö on Lake Mälaren. In the international apple world, Sweden has a reputation for most flavorsome and greatest variety. It’s got to do with our blissfully long summer days in which there is an intensive build-up of sugars, fruit acid and aromatic substances and our short nights in which those processes take a short break.

Steeped in history, I set about making something sweet for the family using the overflow of apples I have in my kitchen at this time of year. The result was pleasing – 4 out of 5 stars from the family. I used a bit of the leftover apple sauce I had prepared for visiting one-year-old twins this past weekend underneath the fresh cut apples on top of the pie with a tangy and lagom (a very useful word in the Swedish language unavailable in English meaning just right) moist result without loosing the crunchiness. Pie takes a little effort in the beginning but once you perfect the crust, it really isn’t a big deal. Remember – efficiency and convenience is often also about skill honed by practice! You can also go for the ready-made pie crust but it’s not as good and you don’t have control over ingredients which is an important feature of a healthy kitchen.

Lagom (Just Right) Apple Pie

For the crust:
2 dl or 3/4 cup wholemeal flour (grahamsmjöl)
1 dl or  1/2 cup white flour
1 dl or 1/2 cup wheat germ
100 g butter in cubes
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200 C or 392 F. Grease a 22-23 cm or 9-inch pie dish. Mix all crust ingredients together in a food processor until they wrap into a ball of dough. If the dough is too loose, add a tablespoon of flour. If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of water. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a floured surface. Alternatively use my little trick of rolling it out in between two sheets of floured baking paper, making it easier to lift into the pie dish. Line the pie dish with the dough. Cut away remaining dough (don’t waste it! line a mini-pie dish if you have one with what is left). Bake 7 mins. Remove from the oven and add filling.

For the filling:
4 dl or 1.5 cups apple sauce (preferably made at home with honey – see recipe)
4 medium-sized tart apples washed and cored (if you like a crunchier recipe, keep the peel on)
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsps brown sugar
1 dl or 1/2 cup chopped almonds
A few small cubes of butter for the topping

Prepare the apples and slice into a bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice, cinnamon and brown sugar, and toss.  Spread the apple sauce evenly over the pie crust. Place apples in a round arrangement sprinkle over the almonds. Place a few butter cubes on top of the pie (be sparing!). Bake 25-30 minutes, making sure that the nuts do not burn.

Honey Apple Sauce

4 medium-sized tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks
Finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon
2 dl or 3/4 cup honey
2 tbsps corn starch or other sauce thickener
a little cold water for mixing the corn starch into

Place all ingredients except for the corn starch and water in a cooking pan over low heat. Stir gently with a wooden spoon as the honey begins to melt. Allow to cook but not boil until the apples are soft. Test consistency. If thick enough, leave corn starch aside. If too watery, mix corn starch with cold water in a separate bowl and add gradually to the cooking pot until the sauce has reached the desired consistency. Purée if desired. Enjoy just as it is or in my lagom apple pie!

If I’ve just awoken your curiosity about apples (I sure hope so!), check out the archived articles Wisdom Tree and An Apple A Day and the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for more superb savory and sweet apple recipes.

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