Oct
24
2011
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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!

 

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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Best Braised Lamb

It was a good life...

It was a good life...

When Rita turned up at my door with the pieced lamb that I had ordered this autumn from the local Sheep Association, I suddenly had 10 kilos or 22 pounds of high quality grass-fed lamb to prepare this holiday season’s dishes with.  I remembered that I had once tasted a lamb stew that was one of those meals that you remember for all of your life. It was so good, that I contacted my neighbor down the road to find out how he had produced that memorable dish. He mentioned that he had got the recipe off of a woman whom he meets when he is walking the dog. They exchange food notes while standing around watching their dogs frolicking in the park. He no longer had the recipe but he would get a hold of it.

The next day, my neighbor was at my doorstep with the recipe in one hand and a lead holding back his highly active dog in the other. “I got it from her,” he said victoriously. So, with Rita’s lamb in my kitchen, I got to work. This recipe takes less effort than it does cooking time, determination to find the right cut of lamb (lammlägg in Swedish or leg of mutton in English meaning the lower leg parts of the lamb), and a big, sturdy casserole dish with top suitable for the oven.

Best Braised Lamb
(original recipe by Petter at meny.se)
Serves 4

4 pcs leg of mutton
white flour for coating
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tbsps tomato puree
0.5 dl or 1/4 cup balsamic vinager
5 dl or 2 cups red wine
1 sprig of rosemary
2 sprigs of thyme
Olive oil
Butter
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 150 C or 302F. Coat the lamb with flour. Warm a click of butter and a few tablespoons of olive oil in a deep oven-proof casserole dish with top and saute onions and crushed garlic over medium heat. Do not brown. Set aside the onion mixture. Increase the heat, add olive oil, if needed and saute the lamb so that it is browned on all sides. Add the onion mixture back to the pot and add in vinager, wine, tomato paste and herbs.  Cover and allow to cook for 2.5 hours until the lamb falls off the bone. Serve with a green salad, boiled potatoes or some bread for lapping up the delicious sauce with.

Oh, just a note about the Christmas ham, if you are having it. Remember, PLEASE to order it from an ecological farm that takes good care of its pigs. We’ve just had the most horrible experience here in Sweden learning about how our pigs are treated before they become Christmas ham. I’m ordering from Årstiderna. Try to find an equivalent where you live.

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!

Dec
03
2008
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Just Right with Rutabaga

Rutabaga & Kale - Staple Nordic Winter Foods

Rutabaga & Kale - Staple Nordic Winter Foods

I recently asked my friend, Paavo from Finland who caters to some of the more illustrious tables of Manhattan, what some of his favorite memories of Christmas food from Scandinavia were. I expected something elaborate and well, frankly, upmarket, but certainly not Rutabaga Casserole. I shouldn’t have been so suprised, Paavo is, after all, a master of suprise.

So what is rutabaga? It is what I have previously called turnip or yellow turnip in this blog; a marvelous mixture between a turnip and a cabbage (thus deserving of its Scandinavian name, kålrot, which literally means cabbage root) that will henceforth be known as nothing other than rutabaga in this blog.

Rutabaga has had a hard time in northern Europe.   In hard times it has been a food of last resort, making it a food of no resort during good times. Its rehabilitation has been tough in Germany where it earned a reputation as famine food. In Scandinavia those associations are not quite as strong and there has been some creativity around rutabaga. After all, it comes from this part of the world – it is thought to have spread its way westward from Siberia and Finland during the 17th century – so we ought to know how to handle it!

Aside from its original taste, rutabaga is both nutritious and eco-smart. It is a good source of vitamin C, folate and fiber. The down side is that it is a high GI food, but on the other hand low in fat. As with everything else, consume in moderation. On the environment side, it grows in cold climates, reducing the need for pesticides.

Finns are the grand masters of rutabaga, particularly in the form of Rutabaga Casserole which is a classic during the holiday season. It’s got a bit of cream in it to give it that festive flavor. However, if you want a superb light rutabaga recipe that got 5 stars from my family (can you believe it?), you’ll want to try my low-fat rotmos or Mashed Root Vegetables. This dish is an exciting alternative to the much less interesting mashed potatoes and healthier too! Here are both the casserole and mashed root veg. recipes.

Rutabaga Casserole

1 medium rutabaga, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 medium potato
2/3 dl or 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2/3 dl or 1/4 cup cream
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3 tbsp butter

Cover rutabaga and potato in water with a dash of salt and cook until soft.  Drain off the water and mash. Mix the bread crumbs with cream and allow to soak for a few minutes. Add nutmeg, salt and egg. Fold this mixture into the mashed root vegetables. Pour into a casserole dish, dot with butter and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake in 350 F or 175 C for about one hour until lightly browned on top.

Mashed Root Vegetables or Rotmos

1/4 medium rutabaga, peeled and roughly chopped
4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt/Pepper for seasoning

Cook the root vegetables until soft. Drain and save the liquid. Mash by hand or in a blender so that the vegetables are smooth. Return to the cook pan and over low heat blend in a few tablespoons of the liquid until the rotmos has reached the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

For more recipes visit The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook!

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!

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