Char Siu Bao - first attempt

As I hinted in the post about Char Siu there was more Chinese cooking coming up. With the left over BBQ pork we of course had to make Char Siu Bao: steamed buns with char siu filling. I actually didn't like those at first in Hong Kong (what was up with my taste buds then? Char Siu Bao is delicious!), so Markus always got them to himself. But they grew on me, and by the end they were one of my favorites, competing with chicken and glutinous rice in lotus leaves, and another steamed dumpling which I believe had pork in it plus some kind of nuts and vegetables, and was served with a super hot red dipping sauce. They can be seen in this picture (sorry it's a bit blurry) - if anyone can identify it and tell me exactly what's in them, pretty please leave a comment!

So, Char Siu Bao. We turned once again to The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-Ta Hsiung and a recipe for steamed buns (you'll get it below), and immediately encountered four problems:
1. The recipe called for dry yeast. I have never used that before so I was a bit apprehensive. I know some people are uncomfortable using fresh yeast, which I don't get - baking with fresh yeast is easy, just make sure the liquid isn't too hot. Turns out, using dry yeast was super easy too. Okay, problem solved. Problem number two was a bit tricker though...

2. We were almost out of flour, and it was raining cats and dogs, as the Brits say (could I please get a mixture of tuxedo cats, soft coated wheaten terriers and Whisky?), so another trip to the grocery store was not too appealing. But if you kind of filled the measuring cup and really shaked the bag to get every teeny grain of flour out, and also used some special bread flour with extra protein (= develops more gluten) that we also had to squeeze out every last bit of, we could get the correct amount. Almost. In hindsight, we should have gone to the grocery store. Keep reading and we'll tell you why.

3. The recipe said to use self-rising flour. We don't have that in Sweden, but a quick googling told me what amount of baking powder to add to the flour (it's 1½ tsp baking powder for one cup flour). With that out of the way, we turned to the biggest issue:

4. The Chinese Kitchen didn't tell us how to make Char Siu Bao. Of course we could have googled and for instance used this recipe but for some reason we didn't. Instead we said "well, the english version of the dim sum menu said that it's BBQ pork and oyster sauce in the filling, so let's go with that!" We cut up the left over Char Siu and added oyster sauce according to the "do you think this is enough? Well, how the hell should I know? Well, I don't know either. Ok, just a little bit more"-principle.

The dough was a charm to work with, and we got our buns to be quite pretty if I may say so myself. Wanna see 'em in all their pre-steamed glory?

After steaming and tasting, it turned out that problem two and four had impacted the end result quite significantly. First of all, appearance wise: the buns got way too shiny. I understand that it's probably hard to get that really white color with the kind of flour we have here, but I also think that the extra gluten might have impacted the color of the buns. It also affected the texture: the buns got a bit too rubbery and tough and didn't have that right "short" consistency. And then the filling. Well, that was just way too boring and flavorless. Next time I'll just send myself here, type in "char siu bao recipe" and I'm sure that we'll get a much better result.

It wasn't a complete failure, we still ate all of the buns (yes, six each, they were our dinner), and they didn't taste bad or even super far from the original (just pretty far...). But there was definitely room for improvement, and we'll for sure let you know how our next attempt turns out. Anyway, here's the recipe for the steamed buns. Just follow it closely (i.e. go to the grocery store if you don't have enough flour) and I'm sure they will turn out great!

Mantou (steamed buns)
From The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-Ta Hsiung

Makes about 24 buns (we halved the recipe and it worked well)

For the dough:
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp dried yeast
10 fl oz (3 dl) warm water
4 cups self-rising flour

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the water and let it stand for 5-10 minutes until the mixture is frothy. Sift the flour into a bowl, the gradually stir in the liquid. The dough will be firm. Knead for 5 minutes, then cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest in a warm place for 1-1½ hours.

After resting, knead the dough again for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out into a sausage shaped form. Cut into 24 pieces. Flatten each piece with your hand, and then roll it out to a disc about 10 cm in diameter.

I won't give you a recipe for filling here, but these buns can have both sweet and savory fillings. Take about a tablespoon of your chosen filling and place in the middle of the dough. Gather the edges together to meet at the top (see above pictures for how it should sort of look). Twist to enclose. Let the buns stand for at least 20 minutes before cooking.

Place the buns on top of a cheesecloth or on individually cut out pieces of parchment paper on the rack of a steamer (we use a Chinese style bamboo steamer, it worked great). Cover and steam vigorously for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.


Daring Bakers May: Strudel

Another month, another Daring Bakers' challenge. After last month's challenge, which put our creativity to the test, we were now presented with a task which was all about technique:
The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.
Well, actually not all about technique: we didn't have to make apple strudel but could decide the filling ourselves. Some went for sweet, some went for savory, some went nuts and made strudel after strudel after strudel...! To see the other Daring Bakers' creations, visit the Daring Kitchen. For the recipe, visit our hosts, Courtney and Linda.

Pastry dough is always a bit intimidating, but this one, unlike other pastry doughs I've come across, did not involve folding and rolling in of copious amounts of butter. Actually, it doesn't have any butter at all, which means it's not terribly unhealthy. Making the dough was easy and straightforward, and while it rested we prepared ourselves mentally for the really challenging part - rolling out and stretching the dough.

I have to admit, I'm not 100% satisfied with our performance on that part. Judging from the photos of other Daring Bakers, we didn't get it thin enough - while others really got it tissue thin, we only made it to paper thickness, and I think this did have some impact on the end result. I believe the problem might have been that we worked too much flour into the dough while rolling it, which made it too hard. The dough was still very easy to work with, but it wasn't as cooperative as other Daring Bakers have described it. I wanted to make a second strudel attempt, with a different filling, but frankly I never felt up for it in the weeks prior to the reveal. But we'll get back to it in the future, promise!

So, what about the filling?! Oh, guess I forgot to tell you that. It involves this:

Unpasteurized Camembert cheese. Smelly, gooey, French and wonderful! Inspired by a very tasty, and somewhat retro, desert - deep fried Camembert cheese with cloudberry jam* - we filled our strudel with slices of Camembert and home made cloudberry jam.

Look at that beautiful jam! To make it we simply boiled cloudberries (thawed frozen ones since fresh ones are almost impossible to find here, at least at this time of the year) with sugar. Weigh the cloudberries and add sugar equal to 20% of their weight. Let it cool before using.

We baked our strudel for 25 minutes, and was unfortunately greeted with this when we got it out of the oven:

Serious leakage! I can see why it leaked from the end since we probably didn't close it well enough, but that leakage from the middle was weird because we didn't have any holes in the dough. Oh well, at least most of the filling had stayed inside the strudel. Wanna see it?

I want it to be flakier and have more layers- we can blame that on our inability to stretch the dough to the max. It was still mighty tasty though, and we devoured it with sweet wine. The natural choice was of course an Austrian one, Andert Josef 2007 Grand Cuvée Beerenauslese, which worked like a charm with the Camembert-cloudberry strudel.

Thank you Linda and Courtney for challenging us with something we never would have made if it weren't for the Daring Bakers. We're definitely making this again: over dinner Markus came up with the idea of making spring rolls using the strudel dough. Just imagine: mini desert strudel spring rolls... We'll get back to you...!

*How to make this goodie:
Cut chunks of Camembert cheese and coat them in 1. flour 2. lightly whisked egg 3. breadcrumbs. Deep fry until golden brown. Serve with cloudberry jam.


Char Siu

Oh Hong Kong food, how can I count the ways I love and miss thee? Crispy pork buns, sweet and sour pork, chicken in lotus leaves, spicy noodle soups, wontons, Shanghai soup dumplings.....why oh why aren't you available in Sweden?!

Well, one way to solve the problem is to make it yourself. We decided to start off lightly, and attempt to make char siu, Cantonese BBQ pork. After consulting The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-Ta Hsiung we set off on a mission to find crushed yellow bean sauce and red fermented bean curd - quite a daunting task in our culinary challenged town. We had no luck with the bean sauce, but after a visit to (the only?) Chinese store in Uppsala, there's now a rather big jar of bean curd standing in our fridge. The same store also had frozen chicken feet and canned durian, so we now know where to turn should we ever feel inclined to give those a try again.

Making the char siu was straightforward, but a bit time consuming. The marinade smelled right (it smelled kind of like Hong Kong, minus the traffic fumes and weird dried sea animals) and after tasting we had to say that we got it pretty damn close. Next time we'll use some other cut of pork, the pork loin got a bit too dry. Any ideas? We had to skip the crushed yellow bean sauce, but if we do find a jar of it somewhere, we'll make sure to get back to you to report if that got the taste even closer to right.

We used our very fancy, very expensive made-of-wood-that-you-shouldn't-buy-because-it's-bad-for-the-environment chopsticks for the first time, to eat our homemade char siu- we think it was a fitting way to inaugurate them. Now there's leftover Char Siu in the fridge and we have plans for that, oh yes we do...!

Char Siu
From The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-Ta Hsiung

2 kg pork loin
3 tbsp honey, dissolved in a little hot water

For the marinade:
2 tbsp sugar
(2 tbsp crushed yellow bean sauce - we skipped this since we didn't have any, add it if you do)
2 tbsp Hoi Sin sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp red fermented bean curd
4 tbsp rum, brandy or Chinese liquor (we used dark rum)
2 tsp sesame oil

Cut the pork into about 1½ cm thick slices. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade. Place the meat in a shallow dish or in double plastic bags (we prefer plastic bags) and add the marinade. Blend well so that all the meat is covered in marinade (this is where it's easier to use plastic bags, simply seal them (well!) and then you can "massage" the marinade into the meat from the outside). Let marinade for at least two hours, turning occasionally.

Set the oven to 220°C (425°F). Arrange the meat on a wire rack - save the marinade for later. Place the rack over a baking pan with about 2 dl boiling water in it. The water will give some steam in the oven and the pan catches the marinade that drips of the meat. Place the whole deal in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 175°C (350°F). Baste the pork with some of the reserved marinade, turn them over and baste again. Cook for another 8-10 minutes.

Brush the pork with the dissolved honey on both sides and let it brown slighly under a medium broiler for 3-5 minutes, turning once or twice. Our oven don't have a medium broiler, so we simply turned on the grill function of the oven (strong heat from above) and positioned the meat closer to the oven roof.

Allow the meat to cool before serving. Make a sauce by boiling the left over marinade with what has collected in the baking pan. Strain before serving. We ate this with rice, some sauce and a little thinly sliced leek (that's how the university's lunch restaurant served it). Char Siu is really never eaten alone as a main course (few Chinese dishes are) but rather as an appetizer, as a part of a larger meal or as an ingredient in other dishes. More on that last part later...!


Swedish flag macarons

So, this was an idea we had for our equivalent of Independence Day, which it technically is: the modern day Kingdom of Sweden was founded on June 6th 1523. Having been an independent nation for almost 500 years, it's somewhat taken for granted nowadays... but since it's been a day of historical importance throughout the years, other noteworthy events have been scheduled for this date, such as the 1809 Instrument of Government, which provided legislative power to parliament and freedom of expression and press. June 6th is sometime called “Day of the Flag” here, so in honor of that, we decided to make macarons in the colors of the Swedish flag. Now how do you get macarons to be blue and yellow? And what's this post doing long before June 6th?

None of us is going to be home for June 6th, so we decided to skip the date, and just make blue and yellow macarons (I'll be on a conference in Boulder, Colorado May 31st–June 7th if anyone happens to be in the neighborhood).

Now, blue and yellow macarons, preferably with a Swedish connection... As you've perhaps noted, I make a killer lemon curd that's excellent for filling, and which is also yellow. So, how to make blue shells? Why, flavor them with bilberries! Bilberries are called “blåbär” in Swedish, which literally translates into “blue berries”. There's endless confusion between blueberries and bilberries, but both are more or less blue... probably have to help the shells with some coloring though...

For the lemon curd, see this recipe. And for the bilberry macaron shells you need:

200 g Confectioner's Sugar
100 g Almonds
100 g Egg Blues
1 tsp Lemon Juice
30 g Sugar
1 dl Frozen Bilberries
Liquid Blue Food Coloring

Wait a minute, egg blues? What's that? Well, basically blue egg whites... and in anticipation of future genetic improvements of domesticated birds, we have to rely on egg whites and liquid food coloring. It's hard to give exact measurements of how much food coloring is needed, but the before and after pictures below gives a hint of what to aim for.

So, to make the shells, start by making the bilberry jam. Heat the berries in a pan, they will start to disintegrate and leak, which is fine, we're aiming for something jam-like here. Let them reduce for a while, and then cool. Purée the bilberries through a strainer to get rid of the peels. Since the shells are teeming with sugar anyway, we opted to make the jam altogether sweetener-free.

Grind the almonds to a flour. We have a purpose-built mill, but a food processor might work as well, or maybe you can get almond flour at your local store? Mix the almond flour with sifted confectioner's sugar in a large bowl.

Whip the egg blues and lemon juice. Add the sugar and whip it to a meringue. Fold in the bilberries.

Egg blue meringue in the making

Fold the meringue into the almond mix without over-working it. Use a plain tip pastry bag to squeeze out small rounds on parchment covered baking sheets. Let them sit at room temperature for at least ½ hour before baking for 7–8 minutes at 175°C. Let the shells cool before removing from the parchment. The shells keep well in the freezer, but won't make it more than about a day in room temperature. To assemble, just put some lemon curd between two equally sized shells.

In hindsight, we probably should have gone for more bilberries and less food coloring, but there might be a June 6th next year as well...

Swedish flag macarons


Daring Cooks inaugural edition: Zuni's Ricotta Gnocchi

We are very excited to tell you that the Daring Bakers now have a sister group: The Daring Cooks! The premises are exactly the same as for the Daring Bakers, except that this is about cooking rather than baking. Cool huh?! Mark the 14th of every month in your calendars, because that's when the monthly Daring Cooks challenge will be revealed, here and on foodie blogs all over the world!

For this inaugural edition, our hosts are the founders of the Daring Bakers: Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice. They have done a tremendous job these past months with the sparkling new website for the Daring Kitchen and the creation of the Daring Cooks. For the first Daring Cooks challenge they chose Ricotta Gnocchi from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers.

We were sure that gnocchi always includes potatoes, so only by hearing about this challenge we learned something new. After following the discussions on the members-only Daring Kitchen forums, we also learned that it's possible to make your own ricotta! It seemed so simple that we decided to skip the store-bought stuff in a plastic jar, and go at it from scratch. We weren't sorry: we are never buying ricotta again, as making it was dead simple and also much cheaper. We found the ricotta recipe at Eggs on Sunday (it's originally from Gourmet). Seriously, how easy isn't this?!

Homemade ricotta

9½ dl milk
1 dl heavy cream
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1½ tbsp lemon juice

Line a colander with a cheesecloth and set in a large bowl.
Combine milk, cream and salt in a sauce pan. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent it from scalding in the bottom of the pan. When it has reached a steady simmer, add the lemon juice and stir gently, just to blend. Let the mixture sit for about one minute - turn down the heat if needed - it should be simmering, not boiling. When one minute has passed, stir again, and let it sit for another minute or so. The liquid should now have separated into curds and whey. Drain the mixture in the cheesecloth at room temperature for about one hour. Transfer the ricotta to a covered container and store in the fridge. We got about 220 grams of ricotta from this.

See, that wasn't hard, right? And it tasted really nice; I normally don't care for plain ricotta, but this stuff could be eaten with a spoon! Anyway, after making the ricotta, it was time to get to the gnocchi. The recipe itself is very simple, all you need is drained ricotta (the drained part is very important!), eggs, melted butter and finely grated Parmigiano cheese. Flavorings such as herbs and/or lemon zest are optional. For the full recipe and all the how-tos of ricotta gnocchi making, visit our hosts!

From the forums we had tales of gnocchi refusing to be shaped, disintegrating while cooking and tasting like eggs (the latter is not good in Markus' book). Fortunately, none of this happened to us. The trial gnocchi that we cooked first fell apart a bit when we plated it, but for the rest we followed the advice of a fellow Daring Cook, Audax Artifex, and used boiling rather than simmering water, which resulted in firmer gnocchi.

The sauce was our chance to be creative. We decided to go with mild flavors, as not to overpower the delicate gnocchi. The original recipe comes with a butter-based sauce (as in melted butter+water), and butter is always better so we decided to do a butter-based sauce as well. We wanted something a bit more substantial, and one thing that works well with butter is aubergine - it soaks the butter right up. So thin slices of aubergine went into the pan, together with a big lump of butter, some lemon zest and fresh thyme. After a while the aubergine had soaked up all the butter, so we had to add some more, along with freshly ground black pepper.

We served the gnocchi and the sauce together with grated Parmegiano cheese and toasted pine nuts, plus a twig of fresh thyme for garnishing (its butter-soaked cousins didn't wanna get in front of the camera).

As can be deduced from above, this tasted really good. Just don't make a habit of eating stuff with melted butter on top - we had this for lunch on Saturday, and for dinner we had the mussels in our previous post.... and on Sunday, we rested.


BBQ mussels

We had the BBQ premier for this season at a friend's place this weekend. It was nice but cold, as BBQ night usually are in Sweden, at least prior to July. Everybody brought what they wanted to BBQ and being who we are, we of course couldn't come with some plain ol' meat. Instead we ate these lovely blue mussels that we baked in foil over the BBQ.

The recipe comes from the lovely book Citrusköket by Caroline Hoffberg, which I'm sure I have raved about before. We made some minor changes, as usual.

Mussels pre BBQ-ing. I took an after picture as well, but it's too blurry - it was so cold I couldn't keep the camera still...

Mussels with chorizo and saffron

For 2

500 g fresh blue (common) mussels
1 dl dry vermouth

For the chorizo butter (which will melt into a lovely sauce...):
1 small shallot
50 g chorizo
75 g butter, at room temperature
Zest from ½ lemon
1 garlic clove
0,25 g saffron (½ "envelope" in Sweden)
2 tbsp chives
3 drops tabasco
Pinch of salt

Clean and sort the mussels, discard those not alive. Finely chop the shallot, chorizo, garlic and chives. Mix with the rest of the ingredients for the butter.

Place two large pieces of foil on top of each other. Place half of the mussels in the middle, pour half of the vermouth over them (fold the foil around the mussels first, to avoid alcohol abuse!) and top with half of the garlic butter. Fold the foil around the mussels into a package (keep the opening on top for easy eating later) and repeat the procedure with the remaining mussels, vermouth and butter.

Place over the BBQ (we used a "normal" one with coals), or bake in the oven at 250°C, for about 20 minutes. By that time, all the mussels should have opened - discard those that haven't. Serve with bread to soak up the tasty sauce.


Paper chef 40: Prosciutto, potatoes and thyme on Mother's Day

We really liked participating in Paper Chef for the first time last month, and of course wanted to have another go this month. The ingredient list did contain some intimidating stuff (trotters, kidneys) and other things we don't even know what it is (broccolini?) but we said that even if the picks were tuna, kidneys and blood oranges, we would have a go.

We were almost a bit disappointed when last month's winner, Bron Marshall, announced that the random picks for Paper Chef #4o was prosciutto, floury potatoes and thyme. Instead of picking a fourth ingredient, Bron picked a theme: Mother's Day (as Sunday apparently was Mother's Day in the US; it is another day in Sweden).

Actually the common-ness of the ingredients, and the fact that they go so well together, made coming up with something creative harder than we would have thought. In the end we went down a fairly common route: the most daring part of our entry is the sauce. It did taste very nice, and I'm sure my mom would eat this happily, mother's day or not. Our make-believe Mother's day main course ended up being (drum roll please):

Lamb patties
with Thyme Scented Prosciutto-Potato Swirls with Chèvre
and Spiced Red Wine Gravy

Savory gravy covered lamb patty... *drool*

Makes 3 servings

For the lamb patties:
500 g ground lamb
1 egg yolk
2 slices of prosciutto, cut in small pieces
1½ tsp dried thyme
Salt & Black pepper

For the Prosciutto-Potato Swirls:
500 g floury potatoes
100 g chèvre
1 dl milk
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
25 g butter
Salt & White pepper
Thin prosciutto slices

: see below

Mix the ingredients for the lamb patties and refrigerate. Set the oven to 175°C. Peel the potatoes and boil until soft. Add chèvre, milk and butter and mash the potatoes. Season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Place a slice of prosciutto on a flat surface. Cover it in a 1 cm layer of mashed potatoes, and then roll it up. Continue until you're out of either prosciutto or mashed potatoes. Place the prosciutto-potato rolls, standing up (press them down slightly to make them stand), in a lightly oiled pan. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. While they're cooking, fry the lamb.

Get the mixture for the lamb patties out of the fridge. Shape it into 3 patties. We make the patties by putting a third of the lamb mixture between two parchment covered flat plates and press them silly. This makes nice, fairly round, almost 1 cm thick patties, which will contract a good amount when fried. Fry in butter on medium-high heat. Keep the patties warm while making the sauce.

For the sauce, we used some left over spiced red wine that we had saved after making figs poached in red wine for one of our creations for last month's Daring Bakers challenge (scroll down for the saffron cheesecake with poached fig). We had saved the wine which was spiced with a small cinnamon stick, a star anise, some sugar and one black peppercorn. It had been sitting in the fridge for a couple of weeks, so it had really gotten a lot of flavor from the spices, and it smelled so much like Christmas - lovely! To make the sauce, we simply poured the spiced red wine into the pan where we had fried the lamb patties. We added more red wine, a splash of soy and few drops of Worcestershire sauce. We let it reduce for a while and then strained it.

The potato swirls worked like a charm, the salty flavor of the prosciutto complemented the mashed potato beautifully, and the fresh thyme provided a good link to the lamb meat. The spiced wine sauce worked surprisingly well with its warm and Christmasy flavors. It was a bit sweet, which went well with the salty and cheesy prosciutto-potato swirls. All in all a splendid combination.

Thyme Scented Prosciutto-Potato Swirls with Chèvre. Yum!


The best blondies

I could write and ode to these blondies in many, many words. About their gooey delishiousness, about how they only take minutes to make (plus about 20 more in the oven), that they create very few dishes, and that you can put just about anything in them. I am already thinking about what to try next time. Maybe almonds, dried cherries and bourbon. Or white chocolate, white cacao liqueur and raspberries. Or dark chocolate, candied oranges and Cointreau. Or... Well, you get the idea; just like the originator if this recipe, Smitten Kitchen, says: these are infinitely adaptable. And infinitely delishious.

Good stuff blondies
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Anne's Food)

110 g butter, melted
1 cup sugar*
1 egg
Pinch of salt
1 cup flour

For flavoring I used:
30 g dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup hazelnuts, chopped
3 small bananas, mashed
2 tsp espresso powder
3 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream

Mix the melted butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg. Then add salt, flour and the flavorings. Pour into a buttered 20*20 cm pan (or do like me and use a round one). Bake at 175°C for 20-25 minutes. It's better to underbake than to overbake - it doesn't matter if it's still a bit gooey in the middle. In the unlikely case of left overs, these freezes and reheats well.

*The original recipe has brown sugar, I was out so I used regular sugar instead.


Swedish meatballs

There's been somewhat of a lacking in the “traditional Swedish” section lately, so we figured it's time to make up for that by presenting the most Swedish thing in the world (as far as food stuff goes anyway, there's always the “Dala-horse”, moose-warning traffic signs and the ever present IKEA department stores): meatballs! So, here's our recipe for Swedish meatballs with traditional condiments. No matter what your local IKEA restaurant tries to sell you, meatballs are eaten with lingonberries (usually in jam form), potatoes (mashed, boiled or whatever) and “brown sauce”.

Today we're making lingonberry jam, mashed potatoes, meatballs and rosemary/juniper infused brown sauce. And yes, the last thingy is experimental, we planned to make green pepper brown sauce, but were out of green pepper.

For the mashed potatoes, all you have to do is boil the potatoes, mash them up and add some dairy product (we used plain milk) and butter. Work it smooth, and season with (a lot of) salt, white pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

For the lingonberries we used frozen ones which we brought to a boil with a splash of water and some sugar (use whatever amount you like, but beware of the extremely tart flavor of the berries). Let it reduce somewhat and you're done. This can be done well in advance, since it's supposed to be cold anyway.

For the tricky part, the meatballs and sauce, you need:

500 g Ground meat (we used a 20/80 mix of pork and beef)
1 Onion
Black Pepper
Whatever spices you fancy (we used Paprika powder and Cumin)
Butter to fry in

Rosemary and juniper infused Brown sauce
~2 dl Milk
some Rosemary twigs
3 Dried juniper berries
1 Black Pepper Corn
1 tbsp Flour
1 dl Milk
dash Soy Sauce
dash Worcestershire Sauce

Finley chop the onion and combine all the meatball ingredients in a bowl. Put it in the fridge, it's easier to handle when cold.

Bring the 2 dl of milk to a simmer with the rosemary twigs, juniper berries and black pepper corn. Let it simmer for a few minutes and then let it cool slowly.

Heat a frying pan with butter (on our stove we use heat 5 out of 6). Bring out your bowl of meat from the fridge and start rolling small balls of meat and drop them into the pan. If you don't feel fast enough, roll them all before putting any of them in the pan. Fry until they're cooked through and remove them from the pan while making the sauce.

Mix the 1 dl Milk and the flour. Pour it over the fat left in the pan. The brownness of the brown sauce depends on how long you fry it before adding the infused milk, but we usually don't let it fry too long (never really figured out how to get the coloring this way), but instead add a dash of soy sauce to brown things up. Let it emulsify to a thick sauce. Add any other spices you fancy (we used Worcestershire sauce, but you can use anything really).

”Smaklig måltid!“
(Bon apetit)

Traditional Swedish meatballs

Now the sauce wasn't that big of a hit, it tasted good, but maybe not all that extra good compared to the work of infusing and everything. We basically just had a few twigs of rosemary left over and decided to roll with it. All of this is really on a hunch kind of cooking, but then again, the particulars aren't all that important in traditional cooking anyway. :-)

TNT chicken salad?

I had no inspiration whatsoever for dinner cooking tonight, and I also felt very particular about what I wanted to eat. It had to be quite light and preferably a bit fruity, but I also wanted something... well, gooey is probably the best word actually.

After much cookbook page turning and searching through the brain-based recipe index, I actually found something that seemed up that alley. In the Thanksgiving and Christmas chapter of Nigella's book Feast there's an Asian-style salad with left-over turkey in a peanut butter based sauce (Nigella calls it Bang Bang Turkey for some reason I can't quite comprehend). We didn't have any leftover turkey (we have never had any leftover turkey, seeing as us Swedes aren't big turkey eaters other than smoked turkey breast on sandwiches), and I couldn't find all the ingredients for the sauce in the grocery store so I played around and as usual, my version bears little resemblence to the original recipe (which by the way can be found here if you don't happen to have a copy of Feast. Scroll down about half way for the Bang Bang recipe).

Anyway, it was quite light and fruity and definitely gooey so it did do the trick! In the spirit of Nigella I will also name this dish after explosive noises. Or you could just call it Peanut and Hoisin Chicken Salad, if you're boring like that.

Big badaboom chicken salad

For the sauce:
3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
2 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 tbsp water
2 tsp neutral-tasting oil

1 whole grilled chicken
50 g spring onions
½ cucumber
1 mango
1 handful of fresh cilantro

Start with the sauce: simply mix all the ingredients and put aside.

Remove the skin from the chicken and get the meat off the bones. Shred the meat by tearing it apart using your hands. Put the chicken meat in a bowl, add the sauce and mix around so that the chicken is coated in gooeyness.

Finely chop the spring onions. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and then in thin half moon slices. Cut the mango in smaller pieces. Put all the veggies and on a plate (this salad should be served on a large plate, not in a bowl) and mix around. Top with the chicken. Bang - you're done!


New record!

Wow, I turn my back for two days, and the “absolutely unique visitors” counter jumps over 300 by a good margin. Wednesday's record peek of 45 visits probably helped! The old visits record of 22 was actually no less than doubled!

We'll have to put in some ads to cash in on y'all! :-)