Recipes

Spinach Soup with Egg Halves and Carrot Slaw

ss1We all have them. They come and go. Difficult to avoid. I’m talking about the days where you just want to stay in bed. Not move, not care, not anything. The reasons might be all different but the feeling is universal. I recently had one of those days. The weather was cold, grey, rainy and windy. Coffee didn’t even lift my spirit, which is rare. I knew I had to get up and get on with my day and was looking for something to cheer me up. 

This Swedish spinach soup came to mind. Traditionally served with egg halves and hard bread. I recently picked up some local eggs from a nearby farm and the yolk is the brightest orange you’ve ever seen. This in turn inspired me to go crazy with the colour. A refreshing carrot slaw with ginger and orange zest became a great side snack to the soup which offers subtle spinach, onion and a hint of freshly ground nutmeg. The meal did lift my spirit. Thanks to both flavour and colour. Try it. It’s the perfect lunch on a day when feeling a tad blue.

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Soup:

2 tbsp butter

1 large onion, finely diced

2 1/2 tbsp flour

5 cups vegetable broth

500g frozen spinach

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

salt

white pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 boiled eggs

Carrot Slaw:

4-5 grated carrots

2 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

zest of 1 orange

2 tbsp orange juice

salt 

pepper

In a bowl, mix together the ingredients for the carrot slaw. Set aside to marinate while you make the soup.

In a large pot melt the butter over medium-high heat. When slightly browned add the onion and turn the heat down to medium. Sauté for 2-3 min until slightly translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and mix well. Let cook for another minute. Add about a cup of the broth and stir well. When simmering add the rest of the broth along with the spinach and nutmeg.

Let simmer for 10-15 min. Take of from the heat and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup along with the boiled eggs. The carrot slaw can be served on crackers or hard bread or on its own on a side plate. Serves 4.ss5
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Pommes Duchesse

pd1Think potatoes. Now think mashed potatoes. Keep thinking. Fantasize how you would possibly make something more out of this dull white mash. How to make attractive, individual servings of mashed potatoes? Think, think, think. This is most likely how this delicacy came about in France, many years ago. Pommes Duchesse. Yes, a French name, yet this is also a real Swedish classic. I’ve done a lot of research about traditional Swedish food over the past few years so this came as no surprise. Many of the traditional dishes in Sweden originate from France. Who else would come up with such delicious bites. They are a classic and though, at the moment, slightly out of fashion in both Sweden and France they deserve as much attention as possible.

They not only look impressive and irresistible to the eye, they are just as delightful to eat. A beautifully fluffy centre with a nicely browned almost crisp exterior. All with the subtle hint of freshly ground nutmeg. Presenting a platter with Pommes Duchesse at the dinner table as a side to meat or fish rather than regular stubby mashed potatoes will certainly make your guests squeal with excitement.

Smaller versions are also perfect as an hors d’oeuvre. Throw in some finely chopped fresh herbs and garlic before piping them out and make them bite size. They are delicious, versatile little morsels.

Happy Easter!

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1.5 kg Potatoes

150g butter, melted

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup cream

3.5 tsp salt

pepper

1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 500F.

Peel and boil the potatoes until very soft. 

Using a potato press, press potatoes into a large bowl. Let cool slightly. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend together. Transfer the potato mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and pipe the potato into mounds, about 2″ x 2”, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the upper part of the oven for 15-20 min or until golden brown. Make sure the tips don’t burn. Serve immediately. Serves 4

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Lobster Risotto

lr3Omelettes, pies and risottos. What do they have in common? Not much you might think. I tend to agree, to a degree. They are however perfect for the ‘It’s time to clean out my fridge’ category. I can’t speak for your fridge but here, there are always leftover vegetables lurking. Take celery for example. Who ever use all the stalks of celery when buying it for a recipe. Most (this one included) call for one, two or three stalks. The rest goes back in the fridge and becomes part of the ‘leftover vegetables’ pile. Even though the base is the same (an omelette is an omelette, pie dough is pie dough, rice is rice), throw in different vegetables or meats and you have a whole new dish every time. Perhaps that’s why I fall back on them quite often. It’s brilliant.

My lobster risotto came about this way and it has become a big favourite. It’s light and the taste of orange makes it summer fresh. Do I even need to mention it goes beautifully with our Golden Russet Cider? Or our pinot noir for that matter. I find the key to a great risotto is to give it a little bit more stock than you think it needs. By the time you bring the dish to the table and everyone sits down to enjoy it, the rice will have soaked up more of the liquid. A dry risotto can make it feel like you are eating sticky porridge. Risotto should not resemble sticky porridge.

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1 carrot

1 shallot

1-2 stalks celery

1 tbsp butter

1/4 cup calvados

2 cups arborio rice

5-6 cups chicken stock

zest of 1 orange

juice of half an orange

1/4 cup finely chopped dill

1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce

200g lobster

200g shrimps (save shells)

2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar

Finely dice (brunoise) the carrot, shallot and celery stalks. In a large sauce pan, sauté brunoise in butter on medium-high heat for about a minute than add the calvados. Let cook for another minute then transfer the vegetables and leftover liquid to a separate bowl. Set aside. 

Peel the shrimps and set aside. Wrap the shrimp shells in cheese cloth and tie with kitchen string. 

In the same large sauce pan, add the rice along with 2 cups chicken broth and the shrimp shells package. Bring to a simmer on medium- low heat. Stir frequently and add more broth when needed. Add the orange zest, juice and dill along with the fish sauce. Let simmer for 20-30 min until rice is cooked through and soft.

Roughly chop the shrimps and lobster meat and add to the risotto. When the shrimps are cooked (turned pink) add the vegetables. Let simmer for another couple of minutes then add the butter and vinegar. Add another splash of chicken broth if you feel it’s too dry. Serve immediately.

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Swedish Pirogies

p1I can honestly say that I have never been on a picnic using a red-white checkered cloth. Yet, for some reason, every time I see the pattern, that’s exactly where my mind goes. Picnics are fun and I admit we don’t go on them as often as we should. Living in Prince Edward County I feel somewhat spoiled. Since the county is surrounded by water, there’s no shortage of beautiful spots to unfold that checkered cloth whether on a crisp spring day or a balmy summer evening.

As much as my mind refers to the word picnic when I see this particular pattern, I also associate these Swedish Pirogies with the same word. They are quite different from the original polish ones. These are much larger in size and baked rather than boiled. They are also made with a yeast dough. The filling can be switched out for something else but ground beef is the traditional (and in my opinion the best) one. Growing up, these patties were often found in the freezer at home. It’s a perfect afternoon snack but also the ideal picnic food. Easy to eat, no mess. No plates or cutlery required. They are as good cold as they are hot.

I think we all should make an effort to go picnic-ing a bit more this season. Make a day of it, or even an afternoon. Let’s enjoy the beautiful world around us. Sitting in your back yard is not the same thing as sitting under a tree by the water. Unless of course you happen to live right by the water with a big tree throwing the perfect amount of filtered shade. Then all you need is the red-white checkered cloth, these pirogies and a glass of The Old Third pinot.

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Dough:

5 tsp dry yeast

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup cream

100g butter

2 tsp salt

3 eggs

3 3/4 cup flour

 

Filling:

1000 g ground beef

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large or 2 medium leeks

3 cloves garlic

1” piece fresh ginger

1 large carrot

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp basil

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp ground cloves

3 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp soya sauce 

1.5 tsp sambal oelek

2.5 tsp salt

Dough:

Activate the dry yeast according to the packaging. In a pot, melt the butter. 

In a blender, medium speed, add yeast, milk, cream, butter, salt and eggs. Sift the flour into a bowl and transfer, a little at a time, into the yeast mixture while on medium-low speed. When a ball is formed, remove from the bowl and kneed on a lightly floured surface until nice and even. Shape into a ball, and place in a clean bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rest for about an hour.

Filling:

Finely chop the white and green part of the leek, garlic and ginger. Grate the carrot. In a cast iron pot, on medium heat, fry the ground beef until cooked through in olive oil and butter. Add the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Stir and let cook for 10-15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Cut the dough into 20 even pieces and roll each piece out to a circle, roughly 6” diameter. Alternatively, if you have a 6” round cookie cutter, roll out the dough in one piece, 1/8”-1/4” thick, then stamp out the circles. Add ~ 1/4 cup meat filling into the centre of the circle, then fold over in half. With a fork, push down along the curved side to seal. Brush with whisked egg. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 min or until nice and golden. 

Eat hot with a side salad, or cold when out on a picnic or as a quick snack. They freeze well. 

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Swedish Dreams

d6I have a dream…So simple yet so powerful. Dreams are what keep us going, give us hope. Sometimes easy to forget, yet without them there would be no change. We’d be lost. These Swedish cookies have been given this name for a reason. Dröm. Dream. They encourage you, just for a brief moment, to pause and reflect over the meaning of the word before taking your first bite. This is where you realize why this nondescript-looking creation was given such a powerful title. They are white as snow, a crunchy fluffiness difficult to describe. As it vanishes in your mouth you are left with a velvety smooth taste of vanilla. You will most likely close your eyes and let your mind pay full attention to this decadent and short lived dream. I dare you to eat a whole cookie without licking your lips.

d4150g butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

2/3 cup sunflower oil

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ammonium bicarbonate

2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 300F.

In a blender, on medium speed, whisk butter and sugar until light and airy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the oil and vanilla. Sift ammonium bicarbonate and flour into a bowl then slowly, while whisking on medium-low speed add to the butter mixture. Blend well then stop.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and kneed into a ball. 

Pinch pieces of dough and roll into 1″ size balls. Place, 2″ apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 min. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool.

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Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Shots

s2You might think this is very much a fall post. That is true. It would be a perfect fall post. Except it’s not. March has finally arrived and spring is just around the corner. The long winter months are over and we can start looking forward to seeing the the earth come to life again. In anticipation of the new season, with all that it will give us, I find celebrating what has kept us alive throughout fall and winter is a nice gesture. In the olden days root cellars were very popular. Before grocery stores became what they are today and before modern refrigeration, this was the way to survive. Everything that needed to stay cool was put down there. Potatoes and carrots, apples and onions, squash and pumpkins were stored along with preserved vegetables and fruits. Perhaps even a few bottles of wine. I really love the traditional Swedish root cellar. They were outside of the house, dug into the ground and covered with dirt so that they resembled a grassy mound with a small door.  I would love to eventually build a one behind the house. I will tell you more about them in another post. So, this will be one of the last ‘winter posts’ for a while. These butternut squash and apple cider shots are a great amuse bouche or hors d’oeuvre for your next dinner party. I am using The Old Third Golden Russet Apple Cider of course.
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1 butternut squash

1 medium onion

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

6-8 fresh thyme sprigs

fresh ginger, one 1″ piece

4 cloves of garlic

3 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cup dry apple cider

1/4 tsp nutmeg

salt & pepper

1/2 cup cream

1 package sliced bacon

 

Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1″ pieces, discarding the centre core. Peel and roughly chop the onion and ginger. In a frying pan heat up the butter and olive oil. Sauté the onion and ginger 2-3 minutes, then add the squash and garlic as well as the thyme sprigs. Sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock, apple cider and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then simmer until squash is soft, 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, fry the bacon crisp, either in a heavy skillet, or on a baking sheet in a 450F oven. Let the bacon cool then crumble it together into small pieces. Put aside. 

Remove the soup from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour into shot glasses just before serving.Decorate with the crumbled bacon. Makes 24-30 shots or 6 appetizer size servings. 

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Mise en Place

mise6Countless were the times when I was wrapping up a dish and I’d take one last look at the recipe. Staring back at me was that one ingredient I failed to prepare. Julienned carrots, finely diced fennel or blanched pearl onions. Suddenly I was balancing between dropping that one item or, delaying the completion of the dish in order to correct my oversight. Countless were also the times I was in the middle of cooking when realizing that a vital ingredient to the dish I was making was nowhere to be found. I was certain I had had it at home. These scenarios might not always be crucial or end up a culinary disaster, however, they’re no fun.

mise4I have watched cooking shows on TV for as long as I can remember. One thing that used to annoy me was how everything was always prepared ahead of time. All the ingredients were there, within arms reach. The vegetables were chopped and diced and placed on plates. Dry ingredients pre-measured and added into cute little bowls. How tidy. How ‘mise en place’. I remember thinking it was so ridiculous. I mean, who cooks like that? Slowly but surely I became accustomed to the idea. It’s clearly done to save time and to make sure not to miss any ingredients. One day I thought, let’s try this method and see how well it works. And so I did. I brought all the ingredients out on the counter. I prepared all the vegetables and herbs according to the recipe. I chopped, sliced, diced and minced. I put everything in bowls and on plates. I measured and I weighed. Then I started cooking. 

mise1If you haven’t yet, you really should try it. Not only does it eliminate the chance of missing an ingredient, but it also slims the chance of forgetting to prepare that one ingredient, should it require julienning, dicing, or blanching. At the same time it encourages you to read through the recipe before starting, something you should always be doing no matter what you are planning on making.

Today, years later, the ‘mise’ is my best friend. There will be a few extra bowls and plates to wash up when finished, but it certainly makes cooking so much easier and much more enjoyable. 

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Rustic Oven Baked Pancake

rp8Brunch. I love that word. For me it’s tied with fun times with friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Almost festive. This Swedish oven baked pancake is a wonderful option next time you have friends staying for the weekend. Traditionally chunks of bacon are added to the batter before baking, although I prefer it without. The reason being has nothing to do with taste or flavour. Serving it plain gives you the opportunity to consume it savoury or sweet. A side of fried bacon or sausages drizzled with maple syrup is a mouth watering salty option. Whipped cream and strawberry or blueberry jam with a dusting of icing sugar is ideal for the sweet tooth. It’s easy to make and its moon landscape surface is sure to make a longer lasting impression than the more common flat pancake.

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3 cups milk

1 1/3 cups flour

5 eggs

pinch of salt and sugar.

Butter

Pre-heat the oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, sift the flour into the milk and whisk together until a smooth mixture forms. 

Add the eggs, salt and sugar and keep whisking until well blended.

Pour into a buttered 11”X17” baking tray and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes or until browned and bubbles have formed. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

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Dream Squares

dr4 Drömtårta, or Dream Cake is a real classic at the Swedish coffee table. Did you know that traditionally, Fika, the Swedish word for coffee with dip, includes seven different kinds of cookies? More about that in another post. Drömtårta is often made sure to make an appearance as one of the seven. This was one of my favourites growing up. Traditionally it is served in a rolled-up version, just like the Budapest Roll in an earlier post, then cut into 1″ pieces. Today I decided to turn it into bite size squares for a change. A very decadent, hint of vanilla filling, wrapped in a fluffy subtle chocolate cake. It is as good with a glass of milk as with a nice hot cup of java. Your choice. This recipe calls for all purpose flour but feel free to substitute it with potato flour for a gluten-free version. It works just as well.

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Cake:

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 tbsp cacao

1 tsp baking powder

Filling:

100g butter, room temperature

2/3 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

Preheat oven to 480F.

With a blender, whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flour, cacao and baking powder into a bowl then slowly, while whisking on medium-low speed add to the egg mixture. Blend well but make sure not to over beat the batter. 

Line a 11″x17″ baking sheet with parchment paper then pour batter. 

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 5 min, or until cake is set.

On a rack, place another sheet of parchment paper, sprinkle with sugar and flip the cake on top of the sugared paper. Carefully peel off the parchment paper from the cake. Let cool.

Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the filling. Spread evenly over the cooled cake. Cut the cake in half, crosswise, then flip on side over the other – filling agains filling. Cut into bite size squares. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

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Vegetarian Lasagna

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bestvegetarianlasagna3A few nights ago we had some friends over for dinner. One of the guests was a vegetarian and the other ones loves meat.  It was a pretty cold and chilly night, so I thought lasagna would be lovely. To please everyone around the table I decided to split things up. Instead of your traditional meat lasagna, I made this vegetarian version filled with mushrooms, spinach, ginger and nutmeg. For the meat lovers I slow cooked a beautiful prime rib in red wine, beef stock, a couple of chopped onions and carrots along with a few bay leaves. The lasagna itself however, is filling enough and is perfect as a meal on its own.

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Filling:

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp truffle oil

One medium size fennel

Fresh ginger, about a 2″ piece

4 cloves of garlic

15 sage leaves

200g shiitake mushrooms 

200g crimini mushrooms

4 baby bok choy

350g fresh spinach

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1-2 tsp sambal oelek (hot chili paste)

pinch of tarragon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Salt & Pepper

Béchamel Sauce:

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

3 cups milk

White pepper

Salt

3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups grated gruyère cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Thinly slice the fennel and finely chop the ginger, garlic, sage leaves and mushrooms. Roughly chop the book choy. In a large cast iron pot, heat up the truffle oil until hot but not burning. Turn the heat down slightly and add the fennel and ginger. Sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic sage and mushrooms. Sauté for another couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bok choy to the pot along with the spinach and the rest of the ingredients. Make sure everything is well combined, and let it simmer until the liquid is almost gone. Turn the heat off and let cool.

Béchamel:

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sized sauce pan. When melted, lower the temperature and start adding the flour. Whisk constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Cook the butter/flour for a couple of minutes, whisking non stop. Add the milk, a little bit at a time. Keep stirring! Raise the temperature back to medium. As the sauce thickens add more milk. The sauce is ready when coating the back of a spoon. Season with salt & pepper.

In a large oven proof dish, start putting the lasagna together. Coat the bottom of the dish with the béchamel, cover with sheets of pasta and sprinkle some of the vegetable filling on top. Drizzle béchamel over filling. Repeat layers twice. Place the sliced tomatoes on top of the third vegetable layer before putting down one last layer of pasta. Sprinkle the cheese. Cover with the rest of the béchamel sauce. 

Bake in the middle of the oven for 45-60 min, or until golden brown and pasta is soft.

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