May
09
2011
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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.

Jun
28
2010
1

Classic Gubbröra renewed

 

The Crown of Swedish summer dishes: Dill

Gubbröra is one of those Swedish summer classics that never grows old. It is typically made with strong-tasting ingredients, including anchovies, and eaten on rye crisp bread or with new potatoes. It makes for a light lunchtime meal which is satisfying, not salad (!), and yet leaves you feeling light and mobile on a hot summer’s day. 

Anchovies are not most childrens’ cup of tea, so to speak, and so I decided to come up with a variation on Gubbröra that they might be able to enjoy as well.  The only thing that I was not willing to change in so far as ingredients was dill. It is that supreme herb of Swedish Midsummer that gives whatever you are eating that relaxing summer flavor. Here is my family-friendly answer to Gubbröra:

Family-friendly Gubbröra

8 thin slices of smoked salmon cut into thin strips
1 red onion finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Juice of half an orange
Salt/Pepper
2 hard-boiled eggs sliced

Combine all ingredients. Toss. Place in a serving dish and top decoratively with boiled eggs. Serve with crisp bread or new potatoes.

Apr
27
2010
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Nettle Soup

Wear rubber gloves when you handle them until they are cooked!

How could we miss it? The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook hasn’t got a nettle soup recipe until now! If you don’t already know it, those stinging nettles that shoot up around your compost or wherever there is a bit of nutritious soil, are one of the very first fresh spring ingredients of the Scandinavian kitchen. And how fortunate we are that they kick in first! Nettles launch us into that green season of lighter foods with a healthy dose of iron.

You can pick nettles for use in the kitchen throughout the warm season – use them dried as a herb in cooking and bread baking, sprinkle them dried on a bit of yogurt or buttermilk for enjoying on a hot day, bake them into pies – but we are out after the smallest and earliest leaves for nettle soup. Follow the instructions for preparing nettles as in the recipe for Spring Nettle Pie up to cutting the ball of cooked, pressed nettles into strips. Then follow this recipe reprinted from the invaluable food chapter of On My Swedish Island by yours truly.

“For every amount of fresh nettles that you use, you need half the amount of broth (for 1 quart or 1 liter of fresh nettles you need 1/2 quart or 1/2 liter of broth). Add the cooked, pressed nettles to the broth and gently warm, mixing together. Add whatever: a couple of  tablespoons of butter, cream, or creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. You can also stir in an egg yolk or two. As garnishing serve with either a dash of sour cream, or finely chopped hard-boiled eggs. There are so many ways.”

Written by Admin in: Herbs & Spices,Nettle,Savoury Food,Soup | Tags: , ,
Mar
16
2010
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Eating Naturally

Still working on using up last season's carrots

Still working on using up last season's carrots

We’re being asked to do so many things when it comes to food and diet these days. The new drive to combat obesity spear-headed by Michelle Obama in the United States is long overdue yet at the same time opens the floodgates for all sorts of new diets suggesting a host of rules and regulations about eating and food preparation. Today it is common knowledge that rigid diets do not serve us well over the long term. They might reduce weight for a time but they won’t do anything for us as the years go by. So what do we do?

At the same time as we are being urged to think about how to eat for healthier weight, we are also being asked to choose in relation to the environment, taking climate change, pesticide use and genetic modification into account. On top of all of this we should prioritize fair trade, meaning the purchase of food products which improve the working and living standards of producers in developing countries.

All of this seems a tall order. You could be forgiven for standing in your kitchen holding your head in your hands. It was with all of these various new demands in mind, the experience of winning over a food disorder and the strong desire to have a natural relationship to food that I came up with The Natural Eater system for thinking about food choices. On the concept page you can read about this values based idea for having a relationship to food that feels freeing and healthy rather than constraining and leading only to short-term health solutions.

With The Natural Eater system in mind, I’m freeing you up with a refreshing little recipe for using up whatever is left and creating a hearty meal out of it. One of the operating principles of The Natural Eater is that food is creativity. For this to be so, it’s important to have enough food preparation skills so that you can look into your fridge or pantry at any given time and prepare something good to eat. Limitation is the mother of invention if you have certain basic food preparation skills. The idea of using whatever is left also relates to another important Natural Eater value which is that food is solidarity with the planet and its peoples and therefore we do not waste it.

I opened my fridge at about 5 pm this weekend and found a few carrots, a carton of champignons, a bit of cottage cheese, a stick of mozarrella cheese and some remaining soured cream.  I had a few other odd ingredients around and wondered whether I should instead shoot off to the supermarket to reduce my thinking time. Then I thought of one of my favorite food programs shown on BBC television for years in which a well-known chef was asked to prepare a meal with a bag of inexpensive ingredients purchased by a regular everday person who would be their assistant. Using this program as my inspiration, I came up with the following:

Carrot & Champignon Lasagne (serves 8 persons)

1 package of lasagne sheets
6 carrots, peeled and grated
dried or fresh herb such as parsley, tarragon or nettle
1 box of champignons, rinsed and sliced
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 dl or 1 cup soured cream
2 dl or 1 cup cottage cheese
500 g or 1 lb mozarrella cheese
3 dl or 1.5 cups milk
canola or olive oil
salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 C or 390 F. Grease a rectangular pyrex (mine is 30 x 17 cm or 12 x 7 inches)and cover the base with lasagne sheets. Set aside. Prepare the lasagne fillings. Toss the grated carrot with 2-4 tablespoons of herb. I used dried nettle which you cannot find in shops but parsley, tarragon and a host of other dried or fresh herbs work just as well. Drizzle over a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss. Set aside. Drizzle some olive oil into a pan and saute onions and garlic over medium heat for two minutes. Add the sliced champignon and saute for another two minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. In a mixing bowl blend the cottage cheese, soured cream and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the mozarrella thinly.

Assemble the lasagne. Spoon half the carrots onto the bottom lasagne sheets and cover with a new layer of pasta. Spoon half the mushrooms onto the new layer of lasagne sheets and cover with half of the milk mixture. Cover with another layer of lasagne sheets and repeat the layers once more, finishing once you have spooned over the rest of the milk mixture. Cover the surface of the lasagne with mozarella slices, season with salt and pepper and drizzle over oil. Bake for 20 minutes or until the lasagne sheets are soft and the mozarella is lightly browned. Serve with your favorite salad.

I thought the dish would last us for two days. It didn’t. We probably ate one too many portions, but at least you know that this recipe lives up to the taste test!

Dec
01
2009
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Looking for Real Flavor

Real Flavor
Real Flavor

In general, I’ve always harbored an old-fashioned suspicion of the many ‘easy’ and ‘convenient’ flavorings available on the supermarket shelves.  Instant sauces and mixes have never been my thing and on each occasion that I’ve used them just because someone left the box behind, I’ve always ended up throwing the results in the bin. Once you get used to seeking out the real flavors in true ingredients, food that is flavored with highly processed substances just doesn’t taste right.

In so far as health goes, there have long been scares about the effects of flavor, color, texture and preservation additives in food. Now that information is becoming increasingly well-researched and specific. The publication in Sweden of “Den Hemlige Kocken: Det Okända Fusket med Maten På Din Tallrik” (The Secret Chef: The Unknown Cheating with Food on Your Plate) by cancer survivor Mats-Eric Nilsson is a food tsunami that will hopefully leave the food industry in Sweden changed forever. This book reveals that 9 out of 10 of the additives that we regularly consume are  cosmetic. That is to say, that we don’t really need them.  Many are plainly not good for us to consume. The cancer survivors that I know are on the lookout for most of them and look at those stock cubes that we regularly throw into our recipes to create flavor with horror. In times when we need to think seriously about the environmental effects of our consumption patterns, these unnecessary additives which require considerable energy to process and turn into something that we can use should come into question.

When it comes to stock cubes, I am guilty. I have provided recipes using these in the past but this has been one of my few evils which it comes to recipes. Now I am repenting by giving you some of my best ideas about how to flavor food without stock cubes. During the past months, I have made divine soups and sauces without a stock cube in sight. Give it a go. It is an interesting and very worthwhile journey.

How to Find Real Flavor

Dried & Fresh Herbs & Spices: Familiarize yourself with the wide range available and what types of foods they fit best with. Use them generously. If you live in a cold climate, try to go for the dried herbs in the winter. It is kinder from a climate perspective. Strong spices such as ginger, garlic and chili can easily transform a dish. Learn to use them. Use spices in non-traditional

Lemon & Lime: These can work wonders in terms of flavor, providing a tangy acidity. If you need to watch your salt, note that lemon and lime juice are a salt substitute. Using the rind (do remember to wash well before using it) adds a strong flavor punch to your dish.

Make your own stock: Keeping a good, strong vegetable stock on hand in the freezer can be a great way to add flavor. Cover some chopped carrots, parsnips, onions, pepper corns and bay leaf with water. Cover and cook on slow heat until the vegetables are soft. Add salt. Drain the liquid into freezer containers that you can defrost for use in making soup. Note that the liquid left over when you prepare mussels makes an excellent fish stock (although watch out to inform those that are allergic to shellfish).

High Quality Ingredients: The flavor that you can generate in a dish depends most of all on the quality of the basic ingredients – vegetables, meats and fruits – that you use. Transfer your budget for highly processed food flavorers to the best quality ingredients you can find and you have just taken one gigantic step towards finding the real flavor in food.

Keep your Pepper Grinder sharp and use good quality flake salt.

Written by Admin in: Herbs & Spices | Tags: , ,
May
27
2009
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Packing a Pre-Summer Health Punch

lima_beans

My favorite butter beans

I’m not giving you my little secret for getting through that warm weather day foodwise until it really is warm. Here in the Mälar islands it is windy and although we are all trying to wear summer clothes, the odd sweater creeps out even with the best intentions of being summery.

So, even if the early summer weather is playing tricks on us with wind and rain, as it is supposed to do if we are going to have a good harvest, there is some great healthy Nordic-style food to be enjoyed in the spirit of getting fit and energized for the season. If you’ve been out for a long walk in the park in this sort of weather, you’ll be hungry and this is just the dish for you.

If there are three ingredients that I find to be very Nordic, they are root vegetables, oily fish and beans. All three have played a major role in the kitchens of this part of the world and all three are clear winners when it comes to your health. The question is can you combine these successfully to create a meal with fantastic taste and a real health punch.

As I found myself out on my deserted island with just those three ingredients and a hungry husband to feed a few days ago, I came up with the following which is a delightful meal on windy, cool pre-summer days when you are trying to give your body something really good. Years ago, I learned that with food limitation is the mother of invention and you should always remember this when trying to find inspiration in your kitchen. Here is the recipe.

Mashed Root Vegetables with Sardines and Butter Beans
Serves 4

For the mashed root vegetables:
6 medium potatoes
2 large carrots
50 grams butter
1/2 dl milk
A pinch of ground muscat
Salt/Pepper

For the bean topping:
1 large zucchini, julienned
380 g lima or butter beans (cooked)
4 tbsps canola oil or olive oil
1 clove garlic

2 cans sardines (including at least 4 whole sardines)

Peel the potatoes and carrots. Cover with water in a pan and add a pinch of salt. Bring to boil and cook on medium heat until you can easily pierce with a fork. Drain away the water. Mash the vegetables with a fork or potato masher. Add butter, half of the milk and place over low heat, blending together the ingredients. Add the remaining milk, if needed and season with muscat, pepper and salt. Cover and keep warm.

Saute the garlic and zucchini in olive oil for 3-4  minutes on medium heat. The zucchini should not be too soft. Add the cooked beans, saute for a further 2 minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Assemble on individual plates. Spoon a large ball of the mashed root vegetables into the middle of the plate. Spoon the bean and zucchini mixture over and around the mashed vegetables and top with a sardine, preferably broken into two pieces.

Artistic, delicious, full of energy, divine! Remember to check the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and Paavo’s Bytes for more recipes!

Apr
23
2009
1

It’s Nettle Time

Nettles around my compost

Nettles around my compost

As I sauntered past my compost container yesterday, I noticed the first tender leaves of nettle forming small umbrellas over the rich soil.  Although it is a bit of work, this is the best time to clip away a liter (a quart) or two for preparing that iron and calcium boost you need this spring.  So, if you’ve got some nettles starting to grow in your vicinity, pull on the gardening gloves  and clip away as much as you can (no need to worry about it not growing back – it is a very determined plant!).

In Scandinavia, nettles are a main feature of spring cuisine. Every newspaper and magazine in April is running its own nettle soup and other prickly green recipes. I remember sitting in the offloading room of a major restaurant in Stockholm in April and gaping at a local who had just walked in with several crates of nettles. The man who had leather hands declared that he never picked with gloves on!

I’m starting with my favorite nettle recipe which isn’t the typical nettle soup (that’s next). If you haven’t got nettles you can use baby spinach leaves instead.

Spring Nettle Pie

Pie Crust:

3.5 dl or 1.5 cups whole wheat flour or Grahamsmjöl
1 tsp baking powder
100 g or 3.5 oz. butter
Pinch of salt
1 egg

Filling:

2 liters or quarts nettle leaves detached from the stem
Water for cooking the nettles
1 white onion, chopped finely
2 tbsps canola oil or extra virgin olive oil
150 g or or 5 oz. feta cheese or other goat cheese
2 eggs
3 dl or 1 cup creme fraiche
Salt & Pepper

Garnishing:

Red currant jelly or other favorite berry jelly

Preheat your oven to 200 C or 392 F. Mix the dough ingredients in a food processor until they clump together in a thick sausage shape. Roll out in between two sheets of baking paper (so as to avoid the dough sticking to the counter and the rolling pin). Scatter a bit of extra flour onto the bottom sheet of baking paper before rolling out to avoid stickiness. Remove the top sheet of baking paper and turn the dough into the pie dish, peeling away the other layer of baking paper once the dough is nice and flat in the pie dish (ca. 11 inches or 28 cm).  Cut away any extra dough that hangs over the edges. Sounds complicated but it’s actually very simple once you get the hang of it!

Place the pie crust in the oven and allow to bake for 7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Now to the nettles. Brush off any soil. Pluck the leaves off the stems, place in a pan with just a few tablespoons of water and gently bring to boil. Let boil for only a minute or until you see the leaves wilting. Place in a collander and press all of the water out of the nettles. Roll into a ball and press more water out. Cut the nettle mass into fine strips. Saute the onion for two minutes over medium heat. Do not let them brown. Remove from heat and blend in the nettles.

Beat the eggs and blend with creme fraiche,  a pinch of salt and a turn of the pepper grinder.

Assemble the pie. Cover the base of the pie with the nettle and onion mixture. Crumble feta or other goat’s cheese on top. Pour the creme fraiche mixture over the contents of the pie and cover evenly using the back of a spoon. Ready for the oven!

Bake for 25 minutes or until the pie is lightly browned on top. Serve with red currant or other fruit jelly of your choice. If you are enjoying this as a main dish you can also serve it with some cold meats and almost any type of salad.

Jan
17
2009
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Not done with cabbage yet!

More Cabbage!

More Cabbage!

Just when you thought that I couldn’t possibly come up with another cabbage recipe, here it is! This isn’t just any old cabbage recipe, it must be my absolute favorite and fits well with so many savoury dishes. Since you know all about the fantastic health benefits of eating raw cabbage (mainly heart and cancer protection), I know I don’t have to convince you. Dill, by the way, was once used a means of getting small children to sleep better – it might work on you too!. Here it is:

 

Dill White Cabbage Salad

1/4 head of white cabbage, center cut away and chopped into small, bite-size slivers
fresh dill, a handful chopped finely
1 dl or 1/3 cup olive or canola oil
4 tbsps apple vinegar
Salt/Pepper to taste 

Place the cabbage in a large salad bowl. In a small mixing bowl, blend the liquid ingredients and dill with a manual beater. Pour over the cabbage. Add salt and pepper. Toss, taste, add more salt and pepper if needed.

 Serve as a healthful and delicious side dish.

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