Chocolate Balls – For all ages

c7Once in a while, the sweet tooth aces for attention and I suddenly feel the urge to whip up something sweet and tasty. When ever this phenomena occurred growing up, these chocolate balls was an often recurring star. It takes minutes to throw together and is made with ingredients already often found at home. 

You might think it’s more of a kid’s treat than an adult’s but I beg to differ. I am pretty sure my parents ate as many of these as my sisters and I did. They might absolutely, totally and 100% disagree, but who would you believe anyway? 

As a great addition to a kid’s party, roll them in colourful sprinkles and sparkles. For the adult party, add a splash of your favourite rum or cognac, and cover them in the traditional coconut flakes or pearl sugar, or why not try chopped pistachios? 

For those of you who still think this is not for me, well, listen to your inner child. Don’t deny it, we all have them. Listen carefully. I think it’s time to give him or her a treat! 

Jens

c2

100g butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup oats

3 tbsp cocoa

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp cold coffee

shredded coconut or pearl sugar as garnish

In a bowl, beat together butter and sugar. When well mixed, add the cocoa, vanilla and coffee. Blend until smooth. Stir in the oats.

Roll into small 1″ balls, and roll in shredded coconut or pearl sugar.

Makes 15-20

c4c3c1c5

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

Nectarine and Raspberry Flaugnarde

f3Clafoutis. Such a beautiful word for an equally decadent dessert. Fresh fruit enclosed in a firm custard, scented with a hint of vanilla. The name is easy to pronounce and most people have heard it. A little while ago I got the worst craving for clafoutis.It hit me like a brick. I was standing in the kitchen and I suddenly said loudly to myself: “I have to make a clafoutis”. I’m not quite sure where this all came from since it’s safe to say I haven’t thought about this creation for years.  

Here is the funny part. While researching what went into and how to actually make a clafoutis, I noticed that some recipes referred to the clafoutis as flaugnarde ([floɲaʁd]).

That is odd, I thought to myself. Continuing my research I found out why. Clafoutis is the proper name for this French dessert ONLY when baked with black cherries, which is what was traditionally used. Any other fruit used when making clafoutis, it is not actually a clafoutis, but a flaugnardePerhaps not as pretty of a word or easy to pronounce, yet it is proper. f4

Clafoutis was made using fresh black cherries, pits still in. When baking, the pits gave the dish a hint of almond. Nowadays, as an easier, safer and more elegant way of eating it, pits are removed before baking and almond extract would be added in their place. 

Whenever you make a flaugnarde or clafoutis, remember to always use fresh fruit. Frozen fruit is too broken down and will produce too much liquid. Also remember that the final product will not be a fluffy airy cake. In fact, it won’t be cake like at all. Think very thick and firm custard, almost like a creme caramel.

I happened to have fresh nectarines and raspberries at home so, flaugnarde it was. Next time I will make a traditional clafoutis full of black cherries. Who knows. Perhaps I’ll even leave the pits in.

Jens

f5

4 nectarines

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

1/4 cup butter

3 eggs

1 1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut the nectarines into 1/2” pieces into a bowl and mix with the raspberries. Set aside. 

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt along with 2 tbsp of the melted butter to a mixer. Blend well, then sift in the flour while mixing and mix until smooth. 

Pour the rest of the melted butter into a 9” baking dish and spread evenly on bottom and sides. Add the nectarines and raspberries in an even layer, then pour the batter to cover. 

Bake in the middle of the oven for 45-50 min. Turn it around halfway through to make sure you get an even bake. When done, the center will have a slight wiggle and it will be golden brown. It will most likely deflate a touch when cooling but that is normal. When cooled for a while, dust with icing sugar. f6 f2

Chicken Curry with Cauliflower and Chickpeas

c1Years ago we were invited to dine at a friends home. I remember it vividly. It was winter. Cold and dark. A crazy snowstorm. We were contemplating canceling but decided to brave the storm. The idea of someone cooking for us trumped staying home. Dinner was a casual affair. We were all crawled up on the sofas around the fireplace the entire duration of the evening. Blankets and pillows all around. Great music, lots of candles and one of the best currys I have ever had. 

Our friend told me that she didn’t have a recipe but just winged it. So, that’s what I did too. I’ve made it many times since then. Mostly on cold winter nights. Spiciness level vary slightly depending on my mood but the whole point of a good curry is to warm you up – Make you sweat a little. You get ready for the next bite with a smile on your face, thinking, this, is good. 

Stay warm out there. Remember. Spring is just around the corner…ish.

Jens

c2

12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion

4 garlic cloves

2 cups chickpeas

4 cups cauliflower florets

2 1/2 cups coconut milk

2 cups chicken broth

4-6 tbsp curry paste

1 1/2 tbsp cumin

2 tbsp ground coriander

1 1/2 cups green peas

1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

3-4 tsp salt

Black pepper

Finely chop the chicken thighs. Sauté in the olive oil over medium-high in a large cast iron pot heat until browned. No need to have the chicken cooked all the way through at this point. Remove the chicken and set aside. Leave leftover oil and liquid in the pot.

Finely dice the onion and garlic cloves. Add to the same pot along with chickpeas and cauliflower florets. Sauté over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut mill, chicken broth, curry paste and coriander as well as the chicken. Bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 30 min. Stir occasionally. Pull off the heat and stir in the peas and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

Let sit for 5-10 before serving with cooked rice or cous cous. 

Garnish with fresh cilantro, green onions and hot peppers.

This is also a great vegetarian option for a dinner by excluding the chicken and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. c3 c4 c5

Creamy Beef and Dill Stuffed Buns

b1This is a perfect cold and rainy or snowy lunch dish. I discovered it years ago flipping through one of my moms old food magazines. It was just a day like today. Dark and gloomy. The kind of day where you really don’t want to get out of bed. Howling winds and rain hitting the roof is anything but inspiring. Not much can be done about it. So, why not put on your comfiest of clothes and spend the day in the kitchen? That’s what I usually do.

The original copy I had of the recipe for this dish is long gone but this is how I remember it. I have to admit, horseradish and dill in a ground beef mixture was something new to me. It does work really well. I may have brought up the spice level a bit from the original, but tastes do change with time.

I find dill a very underrated herb. It’s not often used unless with fish or seafood. Another dill and meat dish that I love is a Swedish classic: Lamb cooked in a dill sauce. I have a feeling it will be featured in its own post in the not so distant future. But until then, why not try these crunchy, creamy and full of flavour buns. You’ll love them.

Jens

b5

1 large onion

3 cloves garlic

1/2 zucchini

1 tbsp freshly ground ginger

1 1/2 tbsp grated horseradish

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

600g ground beef

1/2 tbsp dijon mustard

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp sambal oelek

1/2 cup finely chopped dill

1/2 cup water

1 cup crème fraîche

2 tsp salt 

1 tsp white pepper

1 1/2 cup grated cheese

5 large french white buns

Preheat oven to 450F.

Peel and finely dice the onion, garlic and zucchini. In a large cast iron pan, heat up the butter and olive oil. Fry the ground meat over medium-high heat until browned. Brake it up well with a wooden spoon and stir often. Transfer the ground beef to a bowl, but leave the juices in the pan. Add the onion, garlic, zucchini, horseradish and ginger to the liquid and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Stir often. Pour the beef back into the pot and add mustard, tomato paste, sambal oelek (or other hot chili sauce), dill and water. Season with salt and pepper. 

While the beef is simmering, cut the top of the buns, about 1″ from the top. Scoop out some of the centre and chop it into small pieces. You should have about 1 cup of diced bread. Add to the meat sauce along with the crème fraîche. The filling should be fairly dry to prevent the bottom of loaf/buns getting soggy. When well mixed, add the filling. Let it mound a bit. Sprinkle with freshly grated cheese (I use a mixture of mozzarella and gruyère). Bake in the upper part of the oven for 10-15 min until cheese is melted and nicely browned.

Enjoy with a green salad.b4 b3 b2

Swedish Sugar Rings -Christmas 3/3

s6If you ask a Swede if they have ever had Sockerringar, they would most likely say yes. How they became a Swedish classic on the cookie tray I don’t know, but I am happy they did. Light, crisp and fluffy rings, generously sprinkled with crunchy pearl sugar.  So delicious.

Traditionally, when inviting guests for more formal coffee parties, 7 different cookies were the norm. Cinnamon buns and a selection of soft and hard cookies. The more elaborate the better. I remember how sometimes on Sunday after church, we would enjoy ‘church coffee’ with fellow churchgoers. What a treat for a young kid. By the time I was done mowing down cinnamon buns and cookie selections, nothing more was needed until dinner time. Perhaps not the best lunch for a growing boy but quite worth it once in a while. 

Although Swedish sugar rings are not considered a Christmas cookie per se, they have always reminded me of christmas ornaments. Perhaps it’s the pearl sugar. Who knows. Just tie them up in a string, hang them in the tree and voila! Pretty edible treats within an arms reach.

Jens

 s3

3/4 cup cream

1/3 cup water

2 1/2 tsp dry yeast

300g butter (room temperature)

4 1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup pearl sugar*

 

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a medium sauce pan, heat up the cream and water to 98F (37C). Place yeast in a bowl and add the liquid. Let sit for 10 min. 

Add the yeast mixture to a mixer along with the butter. Mix well. On low speed, sift in the flour, a little bit at a time, until well blended. Transfer the dough to a flat surface dusted with flour. Roll out the dough until 1/2″ thick. 

Using a 2 1/2″ cookie cutter, make rounds in the dough. Then using a 1-1 1/2″ cookie cutter, make smaller rounds within the large ones. Remove the centre of the small rounds. Carefully lift up the rounds and dip the surface in pearl sugar. Place on a sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 min. 

In the meantime, collect the cut out pieces of dough, kneed it into a smooth dough, roll back out and repeat until all the dough is used up. Once all the cookies are baked, turn the oven down to 200F. Place all the cookies on a baking sheet (one big pile) and let sit in the oven for 1-2 hrs to dry. 

These cookies are quite easy to make and they will keep well in a sealed container and won’t need to be kept in the freezer. Makes 50-60 cookies. 

*Pearl Sugar, also known as Nib Sugar can be found in specialty food stores. The great thing with pearl sugar is that it does not melt when baked but stays nice and crunchy. Also great to sprinkle on top of cinnamon buns.s7s13s10

Creamy Beet Salad -Christmas 2/3

b6Christmas in Sweden is all about food. Traditional Swedish Christmas buffets are found in most homes and eating establishments. Beautifully decorated with cranberries, red apples and rosemary, overflowing with all kinds of goodies. Pickled herring, omelettes with mushroom béchamel, Christmas ham, gravlax, meatballs, cooked red cabbage, Jansson’s temptation, cheeses, sausages, soft and crisp breads only to mention a few. Traditionally you go back to the table several times, each time grabbing different items. In good company, you’ll be eating for hours.

This beet salad is another member of the buffet table. Pickled beets, apple and red onion tossed in a crème fraiche and mayonnaise sauce with a touch of mustard. How simple is that? It will take about 10 minutes to assemble and it will add a lovely punch of colour to your table. Even if not planning a full fledged Swedish Christmas buffet this season, this beet salad would be a great side dish addition to any dinner table. I also love serving it as an hors d’oeuvre on crackers.

Jens

b5

400g pickled beets

2 apples, peeled and cored

1 small red onion

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup crème fraîche

1 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp pickled beet juice

Salt

Pepper

Cut the beets and apples into 1/2” pieces and add to a bowl.

Finely dice the red onion and add to the same bowl along with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. 

Cover in plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for a few hours, preferably over night to marinate. Stir occasionally.b9b12b3b7

Swedish Saffron Buns -Christmas 1/3

s3Lucia. The old Scandinavian tradition where girls dress up in white dresses with a candle-lit wreath on their head and guys, often rather embarrassed, in tow wearing funny pointy hats while holding a big golden star. Dating back to 3rd Century Syracuse, Sicily, Saint Lucy supposedly brought food and aid to those in need, spreading light and peace in the dark winter months. The candle-lit wreath was used to free her hands in order to carry more food. 

Lucia always falls on December 13. This is when these soft golden saffron scented buns with raisin decorations are first introduced for the season. They are then served at most coffee breaks until shortly after Christmas, when they will not be seen again until the following year. Often served along alongside gingerbread cookies and a hot cup of Swedish glögg or coffee. I love eating them slightly warm with a glass of cold milk.

Jens

s1 

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup dark rum

2 tbsp dry yeast

2 cups milk

1 pinch saffron strands

1 cup ricotta cheese

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

7 cups flour

100g butter, room temperature

2 eggs

Soak the raisins in the rum. 

In a small sauce pan, add 1/2 cup of the milk along with the saffron. Stir and heat up to just below boiling to extract colour and flavour of the saffron. Let cool.

In a medium sauce pan, add the rest of the milk and heat to 37C. Remove from heat and add the yeast. Let stand for 10 min. 

In a mixer, add the milk/yeast and saffron along with the ricotta cheese, sugar and salt. Blend well. Slowly add the flour while mixing on slow. When well incorporated, spoon in the soft butter and mix until smooth. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest 40-50 min.

Preheat oven to 450F. 

Cut dough in half. Cover one half and roll the the other half into a long rectangle, about 6” wide and 1/2” thick.

Cut in thin strips and roll into shape. Place on a baking tray, add the raisins, cover, and let rest for another 30 min. Repeat with the second half of dough.

Brush with whisked egg. Bake in oven 7-10 min or until golden brown. s6s5 s4 s2