Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘elementary cooking’ Category

that rotten fish

I ate rotten fish last Wednesday. Alright, it wasn’t actually rotten but rather, fermented. Nevertheless, it did smell and taste rotten.

So why eat it, you ask? Well, because in these parts, this fish dish is rather (in)famous and a very important feature especially in the culture of Northern Sweden (where we are). So I vowed that I must taste it, even if just once in my lifetime.

Over here, “that rotten fish” is called surströmming = soured herring. And to prove how significant this food is in Swedish culture, the calendar even marks one day as surströmmingspremiär!

P1010150

The author Kim Loughran writes:

The third Thursday in August is the unofficial opening of the fermented herring season. This is Baltic herring soaked in lactic acid and packed in cans that literally bulge with odorous gases (hydrogen sulfide, butyric acid, etc.).

Because the Baltic Sea is brackish, not saline, northern Sweden used to lack easy access to salt. Innovation was needed to preserve food. Pickling, curing and drying are still widely used. The herring was sealed in barrels left outdoors for the spring sun to heat. Statistically, heat would spark the process in mid-April. Eight weeks later, trucks would load the cans and speed out from the salting-house gates promptly by the third Thursday in August.

Ever faithful in helping me integrate, Britt and Rakel invited me to a special lunch last week. It was to be their own surströmmingspremiär and, in their tradition, the only time they will eat this dish for the entire year. (I told you it was special, didn’t I?)

P1010115For obvious reasons, we had to eat outdoors. Here, Rakel waits for Britta to finish putting things in order so they can open the can together.

P1010118Almost there, here it comes!

P1010121And here it is!

As soon as the liquid oozes from the lid, one immediately gets a whiff of that infamous foul odor. But while Wikipedia defines that smell as “overwhelming”, I honestly didn’t think so. It wasn’t strong enough to make you turn away or want to gag. No, no, no, not at all. It was a very tolerable rotten smell, even when you put the fish near your nose before you take a bite. I was…underwhelmed. But that’s just me. Could it be that my receptors have been desensitized by trips to Filipino public markets? Hmm…possibly :-)

P1010125

So what did it taste like? Well, for the first few seconds, it was very salty. In Iloilo, we have this dried salted fish called “uga” or “pinakas” which I consider very mouthwatering, especially for breakfast with rice (Mmm!). So I would have loved surströmming if only it remained just that: salty.

But then came the strange aftertaste: surprisingly not sour (as one would expect from the name), but bitter. I had to load my mouth with big portions of potato to mask the icky taste, and then drown it in gulps of Coke. Altogether, it wasn’t super-duper-awfully bitter, just mildly awful and rather tolerable. So I went on to eat the entire tiny fillet.

And that was all I had and ever will have.

End of story.

Well not quite.

Britt and Rakel finished six fillets each. Every now and then they would exclaim, “Mmm, vad gott!” (How good [this tastes]!), which made me laugh because it’s a wonder how some consider so heavenly what others find repulsive. This reminds me of people’s attitude towards the durian, or the balut, or even the century egg — either you love it or hate it.

P1010124

By the way, surstömming is usually eaten with tunnbröd (thin bread — either crisp or soft) spread with butter, potatoes, cheese, onions and tomato, or with sour cream and dill, which we didn’t have that day.

P1010130

The ladies were thoughtful enough to provide an alternative lunch:

P1010127…thin slices of roast beef!

And to cap off our surströmmingspremiär:

P1010136…afternoon coffee! Of course.

Thank you, ladies!

.

.

Read Full Post »

It is said that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

When I moved here in August 2007, one of my earliest observations of Swedish culture was that when in Sweden, learn to make cinnamon buns!”

After two years, I finally did it.

P1010083

.

__________

A big thanks to Joy for her recipe and Angie for her instruction.

Read Full Post »

It felt like the middle of summer on that Sunday afternoon. The heat of the sun beat down on us as we sat on the open grounds of Sturmsgården during the ecumenical service of Lutherans, Baptists and Pentecostals. But though it felt like summer wasn’t going away very soon, the reality of the changing of seasons was staring right at us.

P1010054.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The leaves of the beautiful maple were showing hints of yellow.

Autumn was approaching.

.

.

.

.

That week, we also noticed another sign of the beginning of fall: the abundance of locally grown apples. We were lucky to have gone apple-picking last year because our former apartment had apple trees in the backyard. This year, we resorted to getting them from the supermarket.

P1010064

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.
I find that our Swedish apples are not as sweet as the imported ones from Belgium, France or Spain. Thus, they are meant more for cooking than for eating fresh. And for folks up here, the popular way of enjoying them is by making apple pie, apple juice, apple purée and apple crumble.

We recently received this postcard ad from the local newspaper…

P1010046

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

…and Jaakko made it a good excuse to pester me in finally making apple crumble. His charm won me over.

.

.
We modified the recipe just a little bit and this is how it turned out.

P1010061

1,5 dl white flour ♦ 1 dl oatmeal
150 g butter ♦ 0,75 dl sugar
0,5 dl honey
Mix the above ingredients with a fork. Oil the pie form with butter. Slice 5 apples thinly and arrange them in the form. Add the oatmeal dough. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon powder all over the top. Bake in a 200° oven. The pie is done when the top is golden brown and the apples are soft.


P1010066

I also made vanilla sauce to complement the apple crumble: 1 dl butter and 0,75 dl white flour into the heated pan; add 1,5 dl cream, 2 Tbsp white sugar and 3 Tbsp vanilla sugar; mix until the sauce thickens. Regular recipes require eggs and the richer flavor of vanilla in a pod, but we didn’t have those in the pantry. Nonetheless, I think it turned out rather well.

P1010076

Mmm…the blend of flavor and aroma of apple, cinnamon and vanilla. Sweet, mushy, creamy. I hate to brag, but it was really delicious.

Then again, there is always room for improvement. Next time, I think I’ll add more oats.

.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday, two sweet ladies invited me to join their “Annual Raspberry Picking Day” at the property of a friend in a nearby village.

We arrived just before noon.

P1000995

Britt and Rakel set up our lunch boxes in the porch. We couldn’t go in because the house was abandoned three years ago. Berta, the owner, became too weak to take care of this large property all by herself. She now lives in an apartment in the town center.

We began the “work” before lunch.

P1000996

The containers must be tied around the hips, so both hands are free to fend off the bushes and pick the berries.

P1010014

This is the bush that we raided. It continues on behind the barn.

P1010022

Some raspberries could be plucked easily when they are found along the perimeter.

P1010005

But most of the time, we had to “wade” through thick and thorny bushes. And then there were the occasional pestering nettles, which “burned” our hands.

P1010006

The berries were sweet and in the beginning, I think I ate as much as I saved in the box.

P1010003

Oh, lookie! There were red currants…

P1010012

…and gooseberries, too! (Both aren’t very tasty though.)

P1010017

I was able to fill up just one puny box (excuse: I was mostly taking photos)…

P1010018

…while Britt and Rakel took home two containers each. Good work, ladies!

P1010023

After lunch, we picked more raspberries to share with Berta, as a gesture of thanks for allowing us to harvest in her land.

¤  ¤  ¤  ¤  ¤

I knew exactly what to do with these berries!

Inspired by Joy’s blueberry picking and subsequent pie, I decided to bake a raspberry version. Here is the recipe that I followed, albeit unfaithfully, replacing the 1 dl of white flour to graham’s flour, which made the dough rather sticky, which discouraged me from rolling the last third of the dough to lay on top of the pie.

P1010033

As expected, the filling had a seedy texture, but as not expected, it was a bit sour (they tasted sweet when fresh). The redeeming thing is that when one eats it with the thick crust, the sourness is neutralized. Altogether, with whipped cream and vanilla sugar on top, this should make for a good dessert.

Now the raspberry isn’t really my favorite fruit for a pie, nor am I an avid fan of any pie. But I relish in the fact that this is the product of my first serious try at berry-picking and more so, wonderful fellowship with two kind, faithful souls.

So the best part of yesterday wasn’t the pie, really, but rather the picking.

.

.

Read Full Post »

And now for another chicken recipe, I give you the world-renowned (hmm, I think so) Filipino dish — the adobo! Wikipedia states that adobo is actually the Spanish word for “seasoning” or “marinade”. But when the Spaniards colonized the Philippines, they named this indigenous vinegar-based stew as adobo, and it has stuck ever since.

¤  ¤  ¤  ¤  ¤

P1000829.

In high heat, sauté the chopped garlic in olive oil until they brown.

.

.

.

.

P1000831

.

Lower the heat to medium and place all the chicken cutlets*
(5 drumsticks + 5 thighs) in the pan. Sprinkle with black pepper.

.

.

.

P1000833.

.

Let it brown on both sides.
.

.

.

.

.

P1000836.

Add 3 dl water, 2 dl soy sauce, 1 dl applecider vinegar and 1 dl white sugar.

After much trial and error, we have settled on this proportion. It is rather easy to remember and with this determined ratio, I don’t have to keep taste-testing the mixture until I get the proper flavor.P1000837

.

.
Drop some peppercorns and dried bay leaves.

.

Cover and slow boil for an hour.

.

.

.

Serve it with white rice that has been fried in the adobo liquid.

P1000838

This dish, with its distinct sour-salty-sweet flavor absorbed well into the very tender chicken meat, is a consistent winner. Jaakko once commented to his parents: I bet you haven’t tasted chicken this tasty, huh?

__________

*The common alternative is pork, or one can even have both types of meat in the recipe.

Read Full Post »

Before today, we have been using chicken legs 99% of the time for our chicken meals. Our use of chicken breasts has been limited (only for arroz caldo and curry, which we hardly ever eat) because neither of us has found a recipe that could transform this bland meat into, well, something tasty, at the very least.

But then…enter Jamie Oliver and his Ministry of Food! A few months ago, we watched some episodes in this series where he became teacher and mentor to inexperienced-in-the-kitchen Brits, and they promised to pass on their cooking skills to their similarly inexperienced friends.

One of the first easy recipes he taught them was this fried chicken breast with parmesan and prosciutto. He made them pound on the meat with all the toppings, and I thought that was a rather cool idea to get the chicken breasts well flavored. I knew then that I must try it some time. And that “some time” came today.

So in the spirit of Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food, here’s “passing it on” to you.

¤  ¤  ¤  ¤  ¤

kycklingfileer

I decided to make the chicken breasts thinner by slicing them in half, into 1 cm thick fillets.

kycklingmedpepparP1000827

Sprinkle black pepper and lemon juice. There is no need to put salt at all because the prosciutto later on is already salty enough.

färskpersilja

P1000812

Top with fresh parsley leaves (or one can use dried ones). Jamie Oliver used thyme, though.

.

P1000814

Add shredded parmigiano-reggiano.

We did not check the price of the cheese before we bought it because we thought, “a little bit of cheese won’t cost so much, right?” We were soooo wrong. I looked at our bill and was shocked! ___ kronor for 300 grams of this?! Oh my goodness! I can’t even say how much it was because it’s too embarrassing. I wanted to return it but was too embarrassed to do that. So we just charged it to experience: Never ever buy parmigiano-reggiano again…(and Jaakko adds)…unless we become obscenely wealthy.

P1000815

Top with the “posh ham”, prosciutto.

P1000818

Cover with a clingfilm and pound on it with any convenient tool until the toppings are meshed/smashed well into the meat. And fry in medium heat, with the ham side down first.

P1000845

Thank you, Mr. Oliver!

Read Full Post »

afghani meatball stew

in Swedish, “afghansk köttbullegryta”

We live in a small city/town that takes in many refugees from Burma and Afghanistan. After meeting them through my Swedish classes last year, I have come to call some of these gentle souls my friends. Their warmth and open affection remind me so much of home.

A few weeks ago, Nowbahar from Afghanistan invited Cleide and I to lunch and we jumped at the chance to learn one of her dishes. We helped her prepare this meatball stew. With tomato as base, I knew Jaakko would love this, so I made it for him a few days ago.

afghanmeatballs

afghanstew1

img_34561. The meatballs. Combine the ground meat, crushed tomatoes, onions, egg, and spices.

Roll small chunks into balls and set aside.

2. The stew.

a. Saute the chopped onions in oil until they they become translucent.

b. Add the tomato sauce, sliced paprika and spices, and let the mixture boil.

c. Add the chickpeas without the water in its can.

d. Carefully place the meatballs on the stew and arrange them so they don’t lie on top of the other.

e. Add enough water to cover all the meatballs. Let it boil, then simmer under very low heat.

f. Wait for the meat to cook and the water to reduce. I estimate that everything should be done after 45 minutes.

3. The rice. While the basmati rice is boiling in the rice cooker, add olive oil and salt and pepper to it.

img_3498

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »