Nov
22
2008
0

The Indomitable Potato

An exhibition of pest-resistant potato types

An exhibition of pest-resistant potato types

During the past years potatoes have come under attack for being high carbohydrate foods that send our blood sugar soaring. As always, with extremist conclusions about good ingredients like the very best of potatoes, there are plenty of arguments that one can make to the contrary. Potatoes are very low in fat if handled the right way, they can be an important source of B vitamins and important minerals such as potassium and magnesium and they may even have a preventive effect against certain viruses and cancer due to the presence of antioxidants. The most important thing, a with all foods is to eat them in moderation.

In the Nordic region potatoes are today regarded a basic ingredient in traditional food. However potatoes have only been around as a staple food in this region since the 18th century. Before this time they were often regarded as the food of the devil from faraway lands (South America).

During this cold season we want more out of potatoes than just plain boiled. There needs to be a little extra – some excitement that combats the dreary season. The problem is that most of the excitement that you can add to potatoes is also fattening.

Here is a basic recipe for potato gratin that got the thumbs up from my family. It fits well as a side-dish with most meals and it isn’t the carb bomb that most gratins are.

Slender Potato Gratin

8 medium potatoes, washed, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large white onions, peeled and thinly sliced
5 dl or 2 1/4 cups milk or lactose-free milk product (soy or oat milk)
Salt/Pepper
50 g butter, in small cubes

Preheat oven to 225 C or 437 F. Grease an oven-proof casserole dish and create a bottom layer of potato. Cover with a layer of onion. Season with salt and pepper. Continue with this sequence until all of the potatoes and onions are used up. Pour over the milk. Scatter butter cubes on top of the bake. Bake for 40-50 mins or until the potatoes are soft.

For another great Scandinavian idea about how to use potatoes the slender way visit my article, A Light & Satisfying Winter Meal. Visit the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for more great recipes!

Oct
31
2008
0

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
0

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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