Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Chinese Cold Sesame Noodles

I am not sure how Chinese these noodles are but they serve them at every hole in the wall Chinese take-away place in New York city. 

These should be eaten from a paper cartoon, in your pajamas, with your best friend, watching TV or perhaps having a good gossip.  Shoebox-sized, cockroach infested apartment, optional.

½ pound (250 grams) dried egg noodles
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cucumbers, peeled, and cut into fine strips
1 carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips
A few cabbage leaves, cut into fine strips
2 scallions, trimmed and minced

¼ cup minced cilantro
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 cup chicken broth 
(or water with one chicken bouillon cube)
2 teaspoon soysauce
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, depending on how sweet your peanut butter is
Black pepper to taste
Red chili flakes, to taste

Boil the noodles in a large pot of salted water until tender. Drain, and fill the pot of noodles with cold water, and then drain again.  Toss the noodles with sesame oil.  Cover and put in the refrigerator.

In a large bowl, combine the tahini, peanut butter, rice vinegar,
 chicken broth, sugar, black pepper and red chili flakes.  Whisk until smooth.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  You can add a teaspoon more soy sauce if it needs more salt.

Add the cold noodles and toss until well coated.  Add the cucumbers, carrot, scallions, cabbage and cilantro.  Toss well and serve cold.

If you are planning to make this ahead of time, toss the noodles with a quarter of the sauce, so that it can soak in and flavor the noodles.  Save the rest of the sauce and the vegetables and toss together right before serving.  If you toss it all together, then the noodles will soak up much of the sauce and the dish will be a bit dry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Apple and Blackberry Cake

Autum has decidedly arrived here in Stockholm.  I love these cold crisp days, particularly when the sun is out as it has been this past week.  This last weekend, Oscar and I went over to Farfar's house and picked the last of his blackberries and filled a basket with glorious red apples.

The Swedes use the word mysig to describe the feeling of coming into a warm house, after a fresh day outdoors, curling up on the sofa in front of a warm fire. Clearly a cake enhances the mysig feeling!

This is a homely cake with a rich buttery crumb, covered in spiced apples interspersed with a tart spurt from the blackberries. The edges are a bit browned and crispy, while the inside is tender. The batter is a cinch to whip up.  The only fiddly bit is peeling and cutting the apples and arranging them neatly over the batter.  You can certainly make this cake with only apples, which I do often.  It would also taste lovely with pears and raspberries.

About 8 to 9 slices

8 tablespoons butter (225 grams), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 apples, preferably of a sour cooking variety
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/3 cup golden granulated sugar
1 cup blackberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190C).  Generously butter an 8 inch square baking dish. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat until well incorporated.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt
and vanilla.  Beat until all ingredients are mixed in.  The batter will very thick. Spread the batter into the baking dish, making sure that the corners are filled.

Peel the apples, slice into
quarters and take out the cores.  Slice each apple quarter into three or four slices, depending on how large your apple is.  Put the apple pieces into a bowl and add the cinnamon, cardamom and golden sugar.  Mix so that each
slice of apple is coated.

Press the apple slices into the cake batter in an overlapping patter in 3 to 4 rows.  Sprinkle the blackberries over the top.   If the blackberries are very sour, you can sprinkle a tablespoon more golden sugar on top of them. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, darker at the edges and a knife pressed into the batter comes out clean.  Serve warm or at room temperature. Gild the lily with a dollop of whipped cream or a drizzle of custard sauce.

P.S. Sorry about the terrible format!  The editor on blogspot seems to get worse and worse.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Swedish Cabbage Pudding (Kålpudding)

The other day, I was was at the absolutely lovely Ulriksdal slottsträdgården which is a huge kitchen garden where you can pick your own vegetables and herbs, as well as apples and berries.  As well as the gardens, they have a beautiful set of greenhouses where they sell plants and garden accesseries. Last but certainly not least, they have a great cafe where they have a vegetarian brunch which is cooked with the vegetables they grow in their own garden.  It is a very happy place.  I had my eye on some beautiful artichokes but they were all gone!  So, I settled for some corn and a beautiful cabbage.

With the weather here in Stockholm becoming colder and the rains starting, classic Swedish dishes start sounding very tempting.  So, I used my cabbage in a classic, very-old fashioned dish, Kålpudding. If you are a fan of cabbage rolls, then you will have an idea of how this tastes, since it is basically like a big huge cabbage roll.

In Sweden, cabbage rolls are called kåldolmar, after the Turkish dolmar using grape leaves.  The earliest Swedish recipe for dolmar is in a famous cookbook by Cajsa Warg in 1765 version, which I just happened to receive a few weeks ago in a suprise gift from my husband.  I really love kåldolmar, but it is a lot of work making all those little bundles, so imagine my joy when I came across this recipe from my favorite Leif Mannerström in "The Art of Home Cooking."

Kålpudding eptimizes what I love about Swedish cooking; taking humble ingredients, in this case mainly cabbage, potato and minced meat and turning it into something delicious.  As is often the case with these old-fashioned recipes, cooking with love can be time consuming.  So, while there is nothing difficult about this recipe, preparing the cabbage is time consuming.  But still, puttering around in the kitchen for an hour or two on a weekend is a small price to pay for deliciousness.

Here is my recipe, slightly adapted from Mannerströms:

Serves 4 to 6 persons

800 grams to 1 kilo of mixed beef and pork ground meat (blandfärs)
1cabbage head (white or Savoy)
1 large onion
1 medium sized boiled potato
2 dl milk
1 dl dried breadcrumbs
2 eggs
6 tablespoons soysauce
2 tablespoons syrup (ljus sirap, light corn syrup, or golden syrup)
2 tablespoons concentrated veal stock (kalvfond)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
butter for frying and garnishing
salt and pepper to taste

First put a big pot of water to boil that will fit your cabbage.  Core the cabbage by taking a narrow knife and carving out the car at the bottom.  Some of the outer leaves will fall out as you do this, and that is fine.  Add some salt to your boiling water and put in the cabbage head, including the outer leaves.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes (closer to 15 if it is a white cabbage) until the cabbage has softened.  (If you do not have a leftover cooked potato, then you can add a peeled potato to the water.  Depending on the size, it may take about 20 minutes to cook) Take out the cabbage and let it drain and cool slightly. Remove each leaf carefully and cut out the hard central core.  Set the leaves aside, saving the core bit and the tiny leaves at the center.
Coring the cabbage.  It is not a precise art.

After boiling, separate each leaf, and cut out the thickest part of the vein.

A nice pile of leaves when you are done.
In a large bowl, put in the boiled potato and mash it with a fork.Add the breadcrumbs and the milk.  Stir and set aside to allow the breadcrumbs to absorb the milk.
Not very pretty but it will taste good.
Chop your onion finely and chop up the leftover cabbage bits.  Fry the onion and the cabbage in a blob of butter until it is soft and the mixture is just starting to get some color.
Onion and leftover cabbage bits frying.
In your bowl with the breadcrumb mixture, add the meat, the soysauce, the kalvfond, the syrup, the two eggs, and the onion mixture.  Add a generous grinding of pepper. Mix it well with a spoon.  In the frying pan, take a small blob of the meat mixture, fry it up and taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Mixing the meat mixture with all the ingredients.
Get out a springform pan, if you want it to look elegant.  Otherwise you can use any kind of caserole dish.

In the frying pan, add a blob more butter.  Fry each cabbage leaf quickly on both sides.  They are done when they just start to wilt a bit more and get a tiny bit of color.  This is a fiddly job and takes a bit of time to fry all the leaves, but don't skip this step.  If you don't do it, the cabbage will not cook sufficiently and you will have hard cabbage not melt-in-your-mouth cabbage.
Fry each cabbage leaf on both sides until there is a slight big of color.
Put a layer of cabbage leaves at the bottom of your baking dish, roughly a third of the leaves.  Add half of the meat mixture and smooth it down, pressing it to make sure it is level and covering the whole dish.  Put in another layer of cabbage leaves and then the rest of the meat.  Put in a final layer of cabbage, saving some nice large leaves for the top.  Smear a bit of butter on the top and give it a nice grinding of pepper.  Then sprinkle some brown sugar on top. This may feel strange, but believe me that the sweetness goes beautifully with the cabbage.
Add the cabbage and meat in layers.

Ready to cook after a smear of butter and a sprinkle of sugar.

Put in the oven at 200 degrees C (400F) and cook for about 40 to 45 minutes in the lower half of the oven.  If you are using the springform pan, set it in another pan, just in case some of the juices leak out.  Check the pudding half way through to make sure that it is not burning on the top since the sugar will carmelize.  If you feel it is browning too fast on the top, you can put a piece of foil over it. It should be beautifully browned on top from the carmelized sugar.
The finished pudding! It looks a bit funny because I had some dark green leaves mixed with some light yellow leaves.
Let it sit for 10 minutes or so, and then remove the rim and serve it in wedges, hot.  Traditionally, Swedes would serve lingon jam with it and boiled potatoes.

This dish can be made in advance and then re-heated before serving.
Eat it with lingon if you are Swedish!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce and Homemade Stirred Lingon

Last weekend, the family was in the forest looking for mushrooms. We got a nice bunch of chanterelle but the forest was too dry for anything more.  To make up for the somewhat dissapointing haul, I decided to pick some lingon and make my own "rårorda" lingon, which roughly translates as "raw stirred". It was easy and satisfying to make the lingon conserve, although it took a bit of arm work stirring until the sugar dissolved. My solution to that was to make my son do it.
Gustaf loooooves stirring lingon.
And with the lingon, what should we have?  Why, meatballs, of course.  Meatballs are probably the most well-known of Swedish dishes.  And they are definately delicious.  They are made with a combination of pork and beef, which makes them both mild and juicy.  Served with a creamy sauce and eaten with the lingon, and mashed potatoes, it is one of my favorite meals.

These days, most Swedes buy their meatballs pre-made.  And while the store bought ones are pretty good, it is a pity because home-made meatballs are a treat.  They are not hard to make but they do take a little time because of all the rolling into balls.  Plus, you have to fry them up in batches.  Put the whole family to work rolling and frying, and mashing potatoes and you will all feel happy and content as you sit down to a great meal.

About 60 meatballs, serves 6 persons

1 pound (500 grams) ground pork

1 pound (500 grams) ground beef
½ cup dried breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups milk
½ teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons concentrated
veal stock (kalv fond)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cream Sauce:
1 cup cream
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon flour
soysauce and/or kalv fond to taste

In a large bowl, pour in the breadcrumbs, milk, sugar, soy sauce and concentrated veal stock.  (If you don’t have the veal stock, skip it and add in a teaspoon of salt). Stir and let stand so that the crumbs soak up the milk.  Meanwhile, chop the onion finely.  Make it as fine as you can be bothered to do.  As these are meatballs, if you have large pieces they will stick out of your meatballs.  Put a pan on the stove and put in a generous knob of butter.  When the butter is hot, add in the onions and cook for a few minutes until they have softened.
Breadcrumbs, flavorings and milk don't look yummy.

Softening the onions.

Add the eggs, meat, onions, and a good grinding of pepper, to the breadcrumb mixture and mix until well combined.
It looks like a lot of liquid but it will all mix in.

I use my hands to mix it, if I am in a hurry.
Check the seasoning of your mixture by frying a bit of it in the pan and tasting it.  Adjust the salt and pepper, if needed. Shape the mixture into round balls, about walnut sized.  You can make the meatballs bigger, but the downside is they take longer to cook and it is hard to get them to cook nicely in the middle before the outside burns.

Fry the meatballs in butter, in several batches. Shake the pan frequently to get the meatballs as round as possible.  In between each batch, rinse out the pan with a bit of water, reserving the juices for the gravy.  I usually put the finished meatballs in a serving dish in the oven to keep them warm while I finish the rest of the meatballs.
If you are good, you can "toss" the meatballs.  I just use tongs.
When all the meatballs are done and set aside, put the pan juices back into your pan.  Add a tablespoon of flour and stir it in, cooking for about a minute.  Add in the water and stir vigorously, scraping the pan to blend in all the flour.  Add in the cream and let the sauce come to a boil, stirring all the time.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  If it is a bit bland, you can add in a bit of the veal stock and /or soy sauce.  When the sauce is slightly thickened, it is ready.
All the browned bits will make your sauce tasty.
Serve the meatballs hot with the cream sauce over, with mashed potatoes and lingon (recipe below). 
That is a tasty dinner.

Rårörda (Raw-stirred) Lingon
5 dl fresh lingon
2 dl sugar

Put the sugar and lingon in a large bowl. 
You can adjust the amount of sugar to your liking.
 Stir until the sugar is dissolved and no longer crunches against your spoon.  Transfer to a clean jar and store in the refrigerator.  If you want to keep it longer than a few weeks, then sterilize the jar.
Have to pick more lingon next time so it fills the jar.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Classic American Brownies

Every American kid grows up eating brownies.  Lately, however, they have morphed from chewy chocolaty yumminess with a glass of milk to an adults-only super rich chocolate fudge of which you can only eat a tiny piece.  Now, I have nothing against these new-fangled brownies.  I will pretty much eat and enjoy brownies in any form, cakey, fudgey, with nuts or without.  However, in my humble opinion, a brownie should be chewy, but not fudgy; chocolatey but not overly so.  You should be able to eat a large square or two or three, happily. Moreover, it should be thin and have a crunch on the edge (my favorite part!).  It is the moist chewiness of the brownie that is the distinctive brownie quality.  If it is too cakey or fudgey, then it may be delicious, but it is not really a brownie.
These are so cute, it makes me want to scream.  Fortunately I can overcome that urge by shoving one of these into my mouth

In my quest to get back to the brownie of my childhood, I have tried many many many brownie recipes. Yes, it was hard work but I was happy to make the sacrifice. Most fall on the fudgey rich side.  Finally, I really went back to the brownie of my childhood (and probably yours, too if you are of my generation) and I used the Baker’s brownie recipe.  When I was growing up, Baker’s chocolate was the cooking chocolate of choice.  Indeed it was the only one available.  There was no Vahlrona, Giradelli’s or Scharfenberger chocolate to be had.  And voila!  There it was --the chewy, crispy brownie of remembrance past.  Below is my take on this classic.

You know you want this right now.
Now, the chocolate you use will make a huge difference in the flavor of your brownie.  If you use a very high cocoa content chocolate, then your brownie will have a richer chocolate flavor.  I was partial to Scharfenberger when I lived in Berkeley.  Here in Sweden, there is a limited selection in the normal supermarket so I just get whatever they have. Sometimes, I throw in some semi-sweet chunks of chocolate (the same chocolate I use for the brownies, but chopped into chunks with a knife), just to get in a bit more gooiness, and I also love nuts in mine.  But both are optional.

Finally, brownies go from moist and chewy to dry and overdone in a minute.   Keep on eye on your brownies and start checking about half-way through the time.  If you are using a convection oven, you definitely want to check at least half-way, if not before.  When you insert your toothpick it should come out with moist crumbs sticking to it, but not liquidy.  Much better to err on the underdone side, then overdone.

A nice shiny crust.
I have used a Nordicware pan in the above pictures that molds the brownies into little chocolate bars.  So, you are actually seeing the underside of the brownie.  If you were baking in a normal pan, then you would see the nice shiny crust.

If you have never made brownies before, then know that it is easy. Very easy.  It is so easy, that in fact, I have relinquished my brownie making duties to my 11 year old son.  Which is why I have no pictures of the actual process.

4 ounces (115 grams) semi-sweet chocolate
1 and 1/2 cups (3.5 deciliters) sugar
¾ cup (170 grams) butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (2.5 deciliters) flour
1 cup chopped nuts, either pecans or walnuts, optional
3 to 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chunks, optional

Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with foil, so that the ends of the foil extend of the sides of the pan, and generously grease.  If you have a non-stick pan which you feel confident about, then you can skip the foil part.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, microwave 4 ounces of chocolate with the butter for approximately 2 minutes, until the butter is melted.  The heat of the butter will melt the chocolate. Gently stir the chocolate and butter mixture until the chocolate is completely melted.

Stir the sugar into the chocolate/butter mixture.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Add flour and mix well.  Fold in nuts and chocolate chunks, if desired.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread batter into the corners.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it.  Start checking the batter at about 20 minutes to make sure that you don't over cook them.  Cool the brownies in the pan.  Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil on the sides as handles.  Peel off the foil and cut into squares.
Let them cool a bit so you don't burn your mouth.  And do share them with your children.  They appreciate that sort of thing. It is generally considered rude to eat the whole pan by yourself.  Especially if your kids made them.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Kallops: Swedish Beef Stew

This morning I woke up to the sound of thunder and rain beating down on my rooftop.  I lay awake for a few minutes listening and feeling warm and snug in my bed. Then I became aware that there was a suspicious dripping sound.   I tried to ignore it.  It didn't work.  I had to get up and investigate. I had left my window open last night and there was a significant puddle of water dripping down the window sill. After wiping up the watery mess, I understood that stew would be required for dinner.  Not just any stew, but Swedish stew.  Warm, comforting, and simple.

Kallops has nothing fancy in it.  It is, in essence, just beef, carrots and onions. A bit of seasoning takes it from ordinary to sublime: bayleaf, clove, and allspice.  I use Leif Mannerström's recipe, as I defer to him for all things Swedish, especially husmanskost (roughly tranlated as home cooking).

Traditionally, this dish is served with plain boiled potatoes and pickled beet root.  However, I am not Swedish and I like to mix things up, so I often serve it over, mashed potatos, couscous or on buttered noodles. Here is my take on this classic stew, with a large helping of Mr. Mannerström.

Serves 4

1 kilo stewing meat
 2 onions
2 carrots
1 tablespoon flour
4 bay leaves
5 all spice corns
3 cloves
2 tablespoons soysauce
2 anchovy fillets, optional
a bit of oil for frying the meat
salt and pepper to taste
About 4 to 5 cups water

Cut the meat into bite-sized cubes.  Peel the onion and carrot and roughly chop into chunks.  Heat up a pot and brown the meat in two or three batches of a single layer of meat, making sure that all the sides are nicely colored.

It can be helpful to deglaze the pot in between batches.  You do this by swishing a bit of water around the pot and scraping off the brown bits on the bottom.  These juices contain a lot of beautiful caramel flavor and are the basis for the sauce.  I find that if I don't deglaze between batches of browning the meat, then the browned parts sticking to the pan start to burn, ruining the flavor of the dish.
Browned bits
Deglazed with water
Once the meat is all browned, sprinkle in the flour.  Using a spatula, spread the flour about and stir it around, letting it cook for a minute, but watching to make sure that it does not burn.  Add in a cup of water and use your spatula to deglaze the pot (again), making sure you get all the browned parts melted off the bottom of the pan and into the water.  Pour in all your browned meat (if you hadn't already) and pour in the meat juices from earlier deglazing, if you have it.  Add in the carrots and onions, the spice, the soysauce, and anchovy fillets if you are using them.  If you don't have any anchovy fillets, you can add a bit of worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovies.  If you don't have that, then just leave it out.

Add in the water until you cover the meat and vegetables.  Bring
After adding all ingredients.
the liquid to a boil and then turn down the heat and let it simmer, uncovered for about 1.5 hours, until the meat is very tender and the liquid has thickened.  Stir occasionally while it is cooking, just to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom.  If it looks like too much water is evaporating, feel free to add some more.  If at the end, the meat is down but you feel it is too watery, then just turn up the heat to high and let the sauce boil until it is at the desired thickness.  The broth should just be slightly thickened and have a bit of body.  Adjust the salt and pepper, and serve hot.
Finished stew with thickened sauce,