Jan
03
2009
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Light-on-the-Butter Salmon Casserole

Hello Mr. Salmon

Hello Mr. Salmon

Laxpudding or Salmon Casserole is one of those absolute staples of the Swedish kitchen. If you don’t eat it once a week, things aren’t really ‘kosher’.This thinking heralds from a time when salmon was at one point in Swedish history the staple food of the peasantry. The servants ate it on most days.

One of my problems with Laxpudding is that it can become rather buttery and can feel heavy. That adoration of melting butter over everything might also be a little hangover from peasant culture where it was a luxurious food item to be eaten sparingly.

Here is my best shot at Laxpudding, maintaining its traditional ingredients, but lightening it up a bit and keeping an eye on the butter.

Laxpudding or Salmon Casserole

300 g or  11 oz. gravad lax or dill-cured salmon, sliced into strips
1 large white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
10 medium cooked potatoes, thinly sliced
1 dl 1/2 cup chopped dill
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps butter or margarine
2 dl or 3/4 cup light creme fraiche
3.5 dl or 1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
salt and white pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 C or 390 F. Gently saute the onion and zucchini in olive oil for about 2 minutes. Layer the potatoes, zucchini, onion, salmon and dill in a greased casserole dish, starting and finishing with a layer of potato. Blend the creme fraiche with a small quantity of the milk and then gradually add in all of the milk. Add eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend until even and pour over the mixture in the casserole dish. Dot with butter or margarine. Bake for 45 minutes or until fully set. Serve with a green salad.

Just a little added note concerning new books out on Husmanskost (the food of the common man). If you read Swedish, I can very warmly recommend ICA’s new book Hela Sverige’s Husman (ICA AB, 2008) which is packed full of the best recipes for traditional Swedish food that I have tried so far (and that is a lot!). Why? Because it truly gathers together the best recipes of the common people FROM everyday people! If you do not read Swedish stick to our Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and you’ll find a treasure trove of new and old Nordic cuisine for your good health there!

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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