A taste of Gotland

250 kilometers on a bike, loads of sea and sun, sleeping in a tent 5 meters from the sea, grilled sausages eaten while sitting on a pier in the sunset, using the ocean as a wine cooler, stunning nature and loads of laughter. Those are some memories that I take with me from my two week vacation at Gotland with my mum. Gotland sits to the east of Sweden in the Baltic sea, a three hour ferry ride away. Extremely popular with tourists in the summer, but a whole other place, I have been told, off season. The nature of Gotland is very beautiful and often dramatic, as the photos below will show.

Being a foodie, I of course savored the regional treats of this island. One notable feature of the Gotlandic landscape is the sheep - loads of them, gracing huge pastures with traditional farm houses. So, lamb is a given to eat while on Gotland. Smoked fish is another "must have". Recently, black truffle has been found on Gotland (more here and here in Swedish). Buying a whole truffle was not feasible neither logistically nor financially, but I did get a jar of sea salt mixed with small pieces of black truffle to use on top of potatoes au gratin, pasta, risotto...

But maybe the most famous Gotlandic dish is a desert: saffranspannkaka (saffron pancake). Now, this dish has very little to do with American pancakes or their Swedish cousins. The Gotlandic saffron pancake is a kind of rice pudding, flavored with almonds. And saffron, of course. Until recently, saffron has been quite cheap here. Less than 2 USD would get you half a gram of saffron, enough for a big batch of traditional Swedish saffron buns for Christmas, or a large pot of saffron infused seafood risotto. But today at the grocery store I was told that there is something wrong with this year's saffron harvest, and the price had increased dramatically, to almost 5 USD for a packet of 0.5 grams. I hesitated whether to buy it, but decided that it was worth it, just to celebrate a lovely time on Gotland.

Traditionally, saffron pancake is served with dewberry jam and lightly whipped cream. If you can't find dewberry jam, blackberry or raspberry works as well.

Saffranspannkaka from Gotland

10-12 servings

For the rice porridge:
4 dl water
2 dl round grain rice
½ tsp salt
1-2 tbsp butter
6 dl milk
1 small cinnamon stick

4 eggs
1 dl sugar
50 g almonds, finely chopped
0,5 g saffron
(1 tbsp Amaretto)
(extra milk or cream)

Start by making the rice porridge. Combine water, rice, salt and butter in a large pot. Bring to a boil, and boil with the lid on for ten minutes. Watch closely, this overboils easily! Add milk and the cinnamon stick, stir and bring to a boil again. Lower the heat to the very lowest setting, and let it simmer slowly for about 40-60 minutes, until all the water is gone. Once again, watch for overboiling! Stir once in a while. I have yet to make rice porridge without some of it getting stuck in the bottom of the pot; just stir carefully as not to mix in any "well done" parts. When the porridge is done, let it cool to at least room temperature (this takes a while).

When the porridge has cooled down, set the oven to 175°C. Butter a large pie tin or a rectangular baking dish. Mix the cooled porridge with eggs, sugar, chopped almonds and saffron. A tip to get more flavor out of saffron is to mix it with something alcoholic. I used about 1 tablespoon of Amaretto (almond liqueur) to enhance the almond flavor. Just mix the saffron and the liqueur using a mortar and pestle (bashing the saffron threads also enhances their flavor), and then add it to the batter. If your porridge is very dense, you can add some extra milk or cream to make it more spreadable. Spread the batter into your buttered dish and put in the oven for about 30 minutes until the pancake has a nice light golden brown color. Serve it lukewarm with lightly whipped cream and dewberry jam.

1 comment:

  1. I love learning about cuisines from different countries, especially when I've never heard of them before. I love how you start with a porridge then turn it into a solid cake served with jam. YUM! Also, the photos of the Gotland coast are gorgeous!