Swedish Split Pea Soup

sps1Can you make lunch today?” my mom asked one chilly morning while I sat down for coffee. 

Sure!” I said, not really knowing what to make. 

My parents and I always divided up the cooking duties during my visits back home. This yearly sojourn in Sweden has become a veritable feast of new recipes to discover on top of my old favourites I still get to enjoy. Food is a huge thing for my family. Almost daily trips to the grocery store, planning and prepping. So much fun. 

I took a sip of coffee and we started to plan the dayplan the food. We were talking about soup. How we all love soup. All kinds. Savoury, sweet, hot and cold.

“Almost,” my mom interjected. Her hand had reached out and touched my arm. “There is one I am not fond of.” 

It was the classic, Swedish split pea soup. 

Really? I thought. Perhaps she just hadn’t had a great version of it yet. sps2Back in the middle ages, Sweden, while still a Catholic empire, Friday was a day of fast. So, on Thursdays, people started making a hearty soup with yellow split peas, cooked in a delicious broth of pork and served with hard bread, mustard and cheese. 

Long after The Catholic Church lost its grip here, Thursday is still called ‘soup day’. Today’s Special in restaurants is often soup and most schools serve soup for lunch. 

Today was not Thursday. It was, however, a perfect day for hearty soup. This in mind, I jotted down items I needed to get for lunch. My mom, sharp eyed as ever, spotted ‘yellow split peas’ on the list. She looked at me. I looked at her, smiled and nodded. She smiled back. 

I’m looking forward to it,” she said. I assured her she’d love it, all the while quietly praying I would be right. 

This is a very simple recipethough a bit time consuming to preparethe results are rustic and beautiful. My dad loves split pea soup, so I wasn’t worried about him. My mom’s verdict? Well, one wouldn’t take seconds if one didn’t like it, correct?

Jens sps4

2 cups yellow split peas

8 cups water

1 large onion

2 carrots

2-3 bay leaves

300g bacon

5 whole allspice corns

2 tsp oregano

2 tsp thyme

4 cloves garlic

1 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp dijon mustard

1/2 cup crème fraîche

pinch of salt

pepper

Place the peas in a large bowl and fill up with water. Leave to swell for 6-12 hours.

Drain the peas and transfer to a large sauce pan. Add most of the water. Cut the carrots in 2″ pieces and peel and quarter the onion. Add to the pot along with bay leaves. Bring to a boil and let simmer, uncovered for 30 min. Fold half of the bacon in half and tie together with kitchen string. Add along with the rest of the spices and let simmer for another 30 min. Stir once in a while and add water as needed. Remove the bacon and set aside. Let the soup cook until the peas are soft and starting to break down. 

In a frying pan, fry the rest of the bacon until nicely browned and crisp. Cut into small pieces and place in a serving dish. 

Remove carrots, onions, bay leaves and allspice corns from the soup. Cut the bacon from the soup into small pieces and add back to the soup. 

In a bowl, mix together mustard, creme fraiche, salt and pepper. 

Decorate the hot soup with a dollop of mustard crème fraîche and sprinkle with fried bacon. Serve with crisp bread, butter and Havarti cheese.sps3sps5

Tomato Tartelettes

tt4Appetizers are often on the menu when hosting a more formal dinner party. The smaller of the first two courses, yet perhaps the most important one. Guests have just been seated to a beautifully set table. Candles are lit, music drowned by cheerful chatter and laughter. Napkins lifted, airborne for a second before landing on peoples laps. Wine glasses chinking and cutlery clinking.

This is why the appetizer is so important: They are the first culinary experience guests will have and often a prelude to adventures to come.  I like to take the time to observe expressions around me. See how they observe what’s on their plate. Watch them lean slightly forward, better to catch a whiff of aroma.This is when you must impress your guest. If the appetizer is visually appealing and the first  bite a hit, they will know they are in store for a treat the rest of the evening. 

Now, despite what I just said, don’t become a slave to the kitchen just to impress your guests. I used to be that slave and I decided it had to end one dinner party when, just before dessert, one of our guests walked into the kitchen just to see if I was still in the house. She hadn’t seen me most of the evening. From that dinner on, I set limits for myself. Years later I am still sticking to them. When thinking of a potential dish for a dinner party, if much of it can’t be made in advance, then it’s off the list. I like to make sure 75% of my time is spent with my guests and the rest in the kitchen, not the other way around. 

Remember, planning is key. Choose dishes which are easy to make and where part of the dishes can be made in advance. The more that can be done in advance the less stress you will have hosting a multi course dinner. It wont be so daunting. tt3

These tomato tartelettes are a great “prepared in advance” appetizer. All the steps except final assembly and baking can be done before anyone arrives. You only need 5 minutes to assemble them. Then go and hang out with your guests while they are baking. 

The people around the table are your family, friends, or simply someone you want to get to know better. You wouldn’t have invited them otherwise. Relax and enjoy. Make sure you see them. Remember, they are coming to your house to eat good food, sure, but mostly they are coming to your house to see you.

Jens

tt1

Crust:

200 g sifted flour

100 g unsalted, cold butter.

1 egg

pinch of salt

2 tbsp ice water

Filling:

1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded

5-6 sun-dried tomatoes

75g goat cheese, room temperature

2 tomatoes

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

pepper

Crust:

Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Add the egg. Pulse the food processor and add the tablespoons of ice water one at a time. Keep pulsing until it forms a ball of dough. It shouldn’t take more than 30 to 45 seconds. You may need a third table spoon of ice water.

Remove from the processor and flatten the ball somewhat. Dust with flour, and place in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour to rest. It is important not to over manipulate the dough to ensure flakiness.

 

Preheat oven to 400F.

Roll the dough out as thin as possible, ideally about 1/8”. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Line 4 4” diameter pie shell. Prick the bottom with a fork, fill with dry beans or pie weights and blind bake in the middle of the oven for 10-12 min until cooked. Take out of the oven, remove beans or pie weights and let cool.

In the mean time, finely dice the jalapeno pepper and sundries tomatoes. In a bowl, mix along with the goat cheese. Divide the mixture between the tarts and spread out along the bottom of each pie crust. 

Slice the tomato in 1/4” slices, and place one slice in each tart.

In a bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Add the liquid to the tarts until it just covers the tomato. 

Sprinkle with a little bit of grated gruyere cheese.

Bake in the upper half of the oven for 20-25 min until set and golden brown.tt2 tt5

Semla

s2Take a freshly made, golden brown bun, cut the top off. Scoop out the centre of the bun and fill it with a delicate, soft almond and marzipan paste flavoured with vanilla. Cover the paste with lightly sweetened whipped cream before placing the top back on and dusting the whole creation with icing sugar. Sounds delicious? Well it is. 

This is the very traditional Swedish semla. It originated a long time ago and was only eaten on one day of the year- the day before the Lenten fast begun. The Lent was a six week long christian fast ending on Easter Sunday. Preparing for this meant loads of very fatty food were consumed on this day – always on a Tuesday. The day is still known as Fettisdagen, or Fat Tuesday. s4

Nowadays, semla is more or less the only thing that reminds us about this out drawn fast. And this almond and cream bun is sold and eaten for 3-4 months out of the year, rather than on this one very special day. It’s not bad though for a little bun to gain it’s own day. If you happen to be in Sweden tomorrow, on February 9th, which is Fettisdagen this year, go ahead and treat yourself. You can’t escape them this time of year. Enjoy it with a rich dark coffee or a nice cup of your favourite tea.

Jenss3

For the buns:

75g butter

1 1/4 cup milk

50g fresh yeast (5 tsp dry)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp horthornsalt

1 2/3 cup cake and pastry flour

2 cups all purpose flour

1 egg

For the marzipan filling:

Enough for 6 semlor   ********?

200g almonds with skin

3/4 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract

1 egg white

25g marzipan

1/4 cup whipping cream

centre of 3 buns

1 cup whipping cream

1 tbsp icing sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

In a small sauce pan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the milk and warm to a temperature of 98F (37C). Remove from the stove and add the yeast. Mix well and let stand for 10 min. 

Meanwhile, in a blender add salt, sugar and egg. Beat well. Sift together horthornsalt and flour. Add the yeast to the egg mixture while stirring and then slowly add the flour, a little bit at a time. Touch the dough to feel if it is too sticky to handle. If too sticky, add a tbsp or more of flour until the dough can be handled. It’s very important not to add too much flour, or you will end up with really dry buns. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest, in the bowl, for about 30 min. 

Preheat oven to 485F.

Scoop the dough onto a flat surface dusted with flour. Kneed into a ball and divide into round balls, roughly 2″ diameter. Place on a baking sheet, cover and let rest for another 20-30 min. They are ready when you gently poke the buns and they spring back up. Brush them with lightly whisked egg. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 min or until golden. Transfer the buns to a rack and let cool. The buns can be stored in the freezer and thawed as needed. 

Only prepare as many buns as you need. 

Cut off the top of the buns, about 1/2 down. Pick out some of the bread in the centre of the bun, and crumble it into a bowl. Crumble Grate the marzipan into the bowl and add the sugar, cream and vanilla. Stir until you get an even paste. It should be quite loose, but not runny. Fill the centre of the buns with the marzipan filling. 

Pipe or scoop some whipped cream on top of the filling and finally place the ‘lid’ back on. Dust with icing sugar and place on a serving platter.

Note: The traditional way of eating semlor is to start with the lid. Scoop some of the cream onto the lid and take a bite. Once the lid is gone, the rest of the bun can be eaten with knife and fork, but I prefer to see who manage to take a bite without getting the tip of their nose covered in whipped cream!s1s5