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!

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
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!

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