Dec
22
2010
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Healthy Nordic Alternatives for your Holiday Season Table

Don't let Christmas weigh you down!

It’s Christmas again and with this a time when your healthy kitchen could take a nose-dive. But not here at Julie’s Kitchen! With all due respect to saffron buns and Christmas ham, we really do need to start to think along different lines. Christmas mingles in Sweden usually offer up gingerbread biscuits, hot spiced wine and a host of other delicacies which unfortunately often include an overdose of refined flour and sugar. Yet the Scandinavian traditions of Christmas also offer unique opportunities for healthy eating that will leave your digestive system feeling light and bright. So here are a few suggestions of healthy Scandinavian elements to think about introducing into your Christmas that will also make your Christmas smorgåsbord or mingle especially interesting.

Starter Ideas

Focus on crisp breads with different types of smoked fish toppings. Make a luxurious pate using your favorite smoked or preserved fish topping by pureeing the cooked or smoked fish with olive or canola oil, a twist of lemon, salt and pepper. Combine in a food processor, adjusting ingredients to give you just the right consistency. Sardine is a fish that is hard to beat in pate.

Experiment with sour, vitamin C rich berries such as cranberries or rowanberries as a tangy topping for crisp bread combinations.  Place small bowls of berries in between the crispbread and toppings. Try not to sweeten too much – just a sprinkling of sugar and a bit of cinnamon will do it.

Main Dish Ideas

Make vegetables the focus! What could be better than a steaming platter of honey-baked grilled root vegetables accompanied by some festive tossed kale? For the root vegetables (beets, potatoes, parsnips, turnips and more): peel and cut into large chunks, toss in olive oil and rosemary or bay leaf, and a bit of salt and pepper. Bake at 200c or 390 F for 40 minutes. 10 minutes before the end of the baking drizzle over a bit of honey. For the kale: Chop roughly and saute for a few minutes in olive or canola with onions, golden raisins, salt and pepper. The kale should keep some of its firmness. Serve the vegetable dishes with some Turkish or Greek yogurt (not Scandinavian but it’s a great topping!).

Dessert Ideas

That’s simple! Lay out clementines, mandarins and oranges in generous bowls interspersed with small bowls of walnuts. If you want to provide an extra special touch to the walnuts, melt some good quality dark chocolate and bathe the walnuts in it. Place spoonfuls of chocolate walnuts on baking paper and allow to harden in the refrigerator.

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Check The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and Paavo’s Bytes for many other great suggestions for your holiday season table!

Jul
17
2010
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Cooking Fish

The best food in the world, if you treat it right

The fresh perch that we’ve been catching recently in our lake has reminded me that great food isn’t at all about complicated recipes, particularly when it comes to fish. Why is it that so many children dislike fish? Because the fish that lands on their plates is most likely over-processed, over-handled and not particularly fresh. While not everyone has a lake to pull their fish out of every day, one can certainly address the first two points.

Making a great fish dish has much less to do with what you throw into the frying pan or pot (other than the fish), than it has to do with how long you cook it. Due to phobias about bacteria in fish, we usually consume our fish overcooked. A bit of salt and pepper, a bit of butter or olive oil and the courage not to overcook  usually delivers excellent results when it comes to fish.

So what happened to the perch? I filleted them, melted  a dollop of butter and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan, lowered the heat to medium and placed the fillets in the pan. Fillets suffer from over-handling. So, don’t start shuffling and flipping until you see that the fillets are starting to turn white around the edges. Flip once and then remove from the heat. If your fillets are very thin, which is usually the case with perch, leave the pan uncovered. If you have thicker fillets, cover the pan with a top so that a bit more cooking takes place.

Serve the fish with a few new potatoes and steamed vegetables. There are few main courses that beat this.

Written by Admin in: Fish,Fish Dishes,perch,Savoury Food | Tags: ,
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
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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