Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Love Coffee, But it Doesn't Love Me

I really like coffee.  It's a relatively new addiction.  I blame an old boyfriend of mine, who made a delicious creamy latte for me once when I was horribly hungover.  I didn't know coffee could taste the way it smells.  I had only ever experienced nasty instant or flat, dull filter coffee and I just didn't see the point.  I became hooked on one lovely, creamy, devilishly good coffee a day about 4 years ago.  I can go without.  I don't turn into an antichrist.  I have convinced myself I don't get raging headaches.  I certainly do miss it if I don't have it.  I miss the ceremony, the time it takes to make it, the luscious texture, the smell as the coffee brews.  Ahhhh....coffee...

I've decided to give it up though.  Why?  Surely one cup a day is ok.  It is, yes...I suppose, but I have noticed that I can get a bit mental if I don't have my one cup a day.  Not the usual coffee 'cold turkey', but definitely a bit touched.  I've noticed too that my energy levels are not what they used to be and my very strong and sturdy digestive system is struggling a bit.  For a mid morning snack, I used to have a herbal tea and some nuts, or maybe an oatcake with some almond butter.  Coffee has completely displaced that, so the healthy snacks have diminished and coffee has taken over.  Not good.

There is a lot of mixed press about coffee.  In a nutshell, my opinion on it is that one coffee a day, made with organic beans is probably no big deal.  However, coffee does interfere with the absorption of various nutrients, so it's probably better to drink coffee away from food for that reason.  It also suppresses stomach acid, which might sound good if you suffer from reflux, but stomach acid is really important for digestion and protection from weird bacteria and parasites.  Hmmmm....  Infuriatingly, coffee also dramatically raises adrenaline and blood sugar levels.  So, if you drink coffee on an empty stomach, it can really make any problems you might have with low energy, weight gain & insulin resistance much worse.  That's all before you get into the kind of milk in the latte.  Dairy linked with cancer and bone problems (yes, really) Soya connected with hormone problems and cancer (again) Other milks just don't cut it for me...  For these reasons, and more, there doesn't seem to be a good time or way to drink coffee.  Being a nutritional therapist, I know all of this in rather a lot of detail.

Sometimes knowledge is an annoying thing.

When we moved into our new apartment in Malmö, I realised the kitchen hob was induction, which meant my aluminium espresso pot wouldn't work (there's another problem - aluminium!).  I've been using a camping stove since then, to make the espresso I need for my daily latte.  Seem desperate?  I could have bought a special espresso pot that would work on the hob, but I didn't, because I keep toying with the idea of giving up and it would be a bit daft to buy a new kitchen gadget that I won't use, right?

To further slow down the removal of coffee from my world, I've discovered that coffee in Sweden is bloody gorgeous and meeting for 'fika' here is the social equivalent of a quick pint in the local pub.  Opting out of coffee could have dastardly effects on my brand new social life here!

I've made the decision though.  I'm giving it up.  I started my new coffee free life on Saturday the 1st of December and yesterday put away the espresso pot and camping stove.  Right now I am sipping on a cup of 'Relax' tea from Pukka and nibbling on some home made raw chocolate treats.  Gorgeous calming, soothing herbs in the tea and nourishing goodness in the raw choc treats.  No real cravings for coffee, though I have had some rotten headaches...  I do miss the ceremony, but I'll just have to find ceremony elsewhere.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Where's the craic in Malmö?

Having spent almost 3 months living in Malmö I am beginning to understand why the Irish pub scene is so famous.  I've never been a big drinker, nor a huge fan of pubs, so I have never understood what the big deal was.  Now I do.

Pubs in Sweden are very different to those in Ireland.  I'm still figuring out the reasoning, but I think it has a lot to do with controlling alcohol consumption.  In Sweden, it seems that any establishment that sells alcohol must also sell food.  Bars are designed to allow patrons to eat, so seating is dining rather than lounge style.  Everyone has a seat, so they can drink and eat at the same time if they choose to.  The result is (in my limited experience) a fairly relaxed bistro style dining experience, seating is laid out in very distinct groups, which does little to encourage an exchange between strangers.  The very high price of alcohol in bars & restaurants ensures that most socialising is done at home, with only an occasional drink shared in pubs (usually on the weekend of pay day!) 

In Ireland, a pub which is jam packed tends to be favoured over one where standing is discouraged.  Some of the best conversations take place while waiting for a pint of Guinness to settle at the bar or standing in the sunshine outside a busy pub, drink in hand, shoulder to shoulder with someone you don't know from Adam.  This approach may lead to excessive consumption, but it also leads to 'the craic' for which we are famous.  I never thought I'd say it, but I miss Irish pubs!

So, where is 'the craic 'to be found here?  I think it may be in cafés.  Of course, there are big chains here, just like home - Starbucks et al - but there are lots of independent cafés too, and they take coffee really seriously.  It's pricey, with a latté costing anything from 25-40kr (that's roughly €3-5 a cup) but boy is it good. So far I have sampled incredibly good, organic fairtrade coffee in Dolce Siciliana where they also sell gorgeous home made ice cream.  Not the most happening part of the city, but damn good coffee and a must if you are planning a trip to Malmö.

Possibly the fanciest and most aromatic coffee I have ever had was in Rosie's (mentioned in a previous post) hidden away in the posh end of Malmö.  This is clearly where the trendy types hang out, with skinny jeans, coiffed beards and thick framed glasses.   Children are welcome, which seems important here as everyone seems to have at least one.  Where we Irish might spend an afternoon supping on a few pints in a pub, the locals here choose coffee and spend hours sipping on theirs.  How a café with room for 12 people makes any money I don't know.

My favourite place so far has to be the teeny tiny Number 6, located just on the edge of central Malmö and within walking distance of my apartment (bonus).  The coffee is really really good, the atmosphere is welcoming and cosy and Steven (an Irish man, from Dunshaughlin via more countries than I can remember) is cooler than the locals.  Yep, he is.  His bicycle hangs on the wall inside and there's a bench seat outside for soaking up the sun, when we get it.   On cold wet days there are a handful of tables squeezed in the corner which are almost always full of Swedish locals, having, it seems, 'the craic'.

I don't particularly want to swap my alcohol habit for a coffee habit, but if that's where 'the craic' is at it's mightiest, then I may have to...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Whenyouhaveacold Soup

I was in Ireland recently for a wedding.  It was a glorious occasion - the sun shone, the bride and groom were beautiful and the food was divine.  I didn't take any photos though, so I won't tease you with stories of the dinner in Dromoland Castle, nothing about all five courses, the sorbet, the petit fours...oooh no, it would be too much...

Instead I thought I'd share a soup recipe I got from my father in law.  He made and served it to Mountain Man and I on the day we left Ireland after the wedding, to come back home to Malmö.  It's the kind of soup you can make with whatever you have in the fridge, is terribly forgiving and will stretch to feed whoever happens to turn up (as we did).  We gulped it down half an hour before we had to be at the airport, after a manic weekend of wedding glamour and intense visiting.  It was so good I could have had 3 bowls and curled up in a corner, happy.

This week I have been suffering from a nasty head cold and so I dug out the recipe he had emailed me and made the soup, albeit with one or two ingredients missing or replaced with something else.  I figured it would cheer me up, boost my immune system and be a fairly easy lunch for the week.  It was.  My father in law calls it 'whatsleftoverveg soup', for me it's 'whenyouhaveacold soup'.

In a nutshell, you take a couple of cloves of garlic and an onion  and dice small.  Cube 3 carrots and a couple of sticks of celery (size matters, small is good, but whatever you decide, keep it consistent) and put them with the onion & garlic into a saucepan with a dash of good quality sunflower oil and a smidge of real butter.  Saute for 10 minutes or so, then add 1 litre of stock, half a tin of tomatoes and a teaspoon of each of the following spices - smoked paprika, cummin, ground black pepper - and 8-10 whole green cardamon pods.  If you like a bit of heat, now is the time to add in some chilli powder or harissa paste.  I added half a teaspoon as it needed to suit Mountain Man too.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, then add in half a tin of beans,  half a leek and a bunch of chopped parsley & coriander.  Continue simmering until the veg is al dente and serve up with some crusty bread and butter, or as I did some Swedish 'hard bread' or crackers (more on those in the next blog). 

You may notice there are lots of 'half' things here.  That's because I halved the recipe (apart from the tinned tomatoes, which I accidentally put in an entire tin of, hence the very very red soup) but if you want, double the recipe and freeze half the soup.  I also left out a potato, as I didn't have any, but I think it is a worthy addition, so do add it in. 

The onion, leek & garlic are fantastic cold fighters, natural antibiotics and great for your immune system generally.  I am definitely feeling the benefit of a bowl every day this week and it is dead easy to make.  When you do serve it up, adding a dollop of greek yoghurt and a squeeze of lime makes it particularly moreish.  It's all run out now, so I'll have to make more tomorrow, maybe with some ginger added, for extra ooomph.

Monday, October 29, 2012

When in Rome...go to Rosie's

When I started writing this blog, while we were still living in Cork, I was really looking forward to trying out all of what Malmo has to offer; from bakeries and cafes to farmers markets and restaurants.  

It's taking longer than I had hoped it would.  Moving country is expensive.  We saved and saved for this adventure, knowing it would cost a pretty penny, and just about managed to make it last until Mountain Man's first paycheck came through the postbox (Yippee!).  Eating out, buying expensive coffees and gourmet treats hasn't really been an option, so I've been cooking and eating in a lot.  

On Friday night, we borrowed a friend's car (Thanks Lars!) and made our third trip to IKEA since we arrived here.  As tends to happen when you visit IKEA after work on a Friday, neither of us had eaten and realised on arrival that we might not make it to the cash desks if we didn't get some food into our bellies.  I use the word 'food' lightly here.  Maybe it's a rite of passage...I'm really not sure, but I figured 'When in Rome...' and queued up for an IKEA hotdog.  Never again.  I think it must be the most revolting piece of 'foodlike substance' I have ever put in my mouth.  Nasty nasty nasty.  I know it's IKEA and it's cheap, but this stuff shouldn't be called food.

On a happier note, a dear friend from home arrived on Saturday afternoon to visit for a few days.  Delighted to have an excuse to explore the city, yesterday we got her a rental bike and cycled around Malmö.  Before she left Ireland, her brother in law had begged her to find a little place called Rosie's Coffee & Wine, where they sell Coffee Collective beans from Copenhagen (he’s a bit of a connoisseur it seems). 

With a little help from Google we found it and cycled there after a lazy trip around Vastra Hamnen - Malmö's old harbour district which has been completely redeveloped and is well worth a visit, with views of the Oresund Bridge and Copenhagen.  

Rosie's is a hidden gem!  Canadian Jake explained to us how and why he spends, oh, at least 8 minutes making hand filtered coffee and how it is more like an aromatic cup of tea than the coffee most of us have grown up with.  I have never observed such ceremony associated with making coffee.  I was entranced. 

Jake also explained why Coffee Collective is so special - they visit coffee growers around the world, strike up a deal with the farmers and sell beans direct to cafes and retailers.  No coffee brokers, no middle men.  A fair price for the farmer and real fair trade in action, 25% more than the fair trade price in fact; we like.  Sadly, he had underestimated his coffee needs for that week and was only willing to part with one bag of beans for the brother in law (Other bags on the shelf had been roasted 2 weeks previously and were just too old to be sold as they would be sure to disappoint.  Holy moses, that’s dedication)

Along with a very tasty latte I had an incredibly good Croque Monsieur, which really wasn’t a Croque Monsieur at all, as it had tomato, leek and mustard as well as ham and cheese, but boy was it gooooood.  A beautiful side salad with fennel shavings, carrot, cherry tomatoes and salad leaves accompanied it, all for the price of 50SEK.  Not bad for a very filling lunch plus some coffee education! 

As far as I could tell, Rosie’s also sometimes sell organic veggies on the pavement outside, but on Sunday their focus was on coffee, tea, amazing cakes and buns and gorgeous savoury sandwiches and salads.  They opened in April of this year, so they’re still a fledgling business, but I, for one, will definitely be back.  Even if I have to cycle across town for the experience!  Find them on Beridaregatan 8, Malmö, Sweden.

Monday, October 22, 2012

I Love Sprouts!

Yes, I do love sprouts - not brussels sprouts particularly (or at all in my case) but the kind of sprouts that you can grow yourself and at this time of year add buckets of nourishment to your meals, when locally grown fresh green veggies may be a little hard to get.

I brought a little bag of seeds for sprouting with me all the way from Ireland (mad I know) and last week decided it was time to get sprouting.  We won't have any more farmers' markets on Drottningtorget, so no more local organic veggies, SOB!  I figured I had better get cracking on my own supply...

In the bag is a mix of organic radish, broccoli, alfalfa & quinoa seeds.  This is a particularly tasty mix; the resulting sprouts are quite delicate and work really well in salads or added last minute to a stir fry.  That particular mix is also incredibly rich in nutrients, some of which have growing evidence to support a theory that they can fight or protect against cancer, support immune health are antibacterial and can help the liver to detoxify.  They're also good sources of protein, so are quite filling.  Impressive!

There is another advantage to sprouted seeds, beans and even nuts.  Naturally, all of these things contain enzyme inhibitors, which Mother Nature devised as a way to protect the bean, seed or nut from sprouting in the wrong place or at the wrong time and keeps them fresher for longer.  Enzyme inhibitors also make them hard to digest, but by sprouting them the enzyme inhibitors are deactivated, so you can unlock all the goodness and digest them easily.  Even more impressive is that sprouts increase in protein and decrease in carbohydrate as the seed uses the carbohydrate energy stored inside to grow. 

I have a personal preference for mung beans and lentils, as they're bigger and crunchier and are almost a meal in themselves.  They make great snacks if you're pushed for time and want some real 'fast food'. You can sprout almost anything, apart from kidney beans, which can be toxic when sprouted.  Once it's organic you can assume it hasn't been heat treated and should sprout for you.  You don't have to buy special bags of seeds or beans for sprouting, a bag from the supermarket or health shop will do.

Here's what you do:
Find a jar and a piece of muslin that will cover the top, plus an elastic band
Buy a sprouter - either the jam jar kind or the variety with different levels for more sprouts!  A. Vogel do a lovely range of different styles and sizes.  I have their glass germinator and it has a handy stand on the lid to make draining much easier

  • Put a few dessert spoons of the seeds/beans into the jar and soak overnight.
  • Drain off the water the next day and cover the jar with muslin, or a lid & leave on the windowsill all day.
  • When you get home from work, sometime before you go to bed, rinse the seeds/beans - so fill the jar with water or just run the tap over the trays you have bought and then drain off. 
  • Rinse your seeds/beans twice a day, morning and evening, until they start to sprout.  Rinsing is important as it prevents the sprouts from getting musty and mouldy.
  • Once they've sprouted, they're ready to eat.  You can give them a day or two to grow a bit more, whatever your preference is.
  • Keep them in the fridge for a few days, but the sooner you eat them the more nutritious they will be.
Yesterday I made a rather delicious sourdough ham, cheese, chilli and mustard toastie.  To balance out the nutrition and make it a bit healthier, I added a salad of rocket, sprouts, chopped fennel bulb and sliced carrot.  Fantastic for digestive function and took about a minute to make.  Sprouting seeds and beans might sound like a lot of work and only for die-hard hippie types, but this is the easiest thing to do and notches up your nutrient intake like nothing else. 

If you'd like to give this a go and have any questions, just post a comment below and I'll do my best to answer.  Happy Sprouting!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mojito for Dinner Anyone?

When we moved into our new apartment, Mountain Man made me a promise (or threat, depending how you look at it).  'If you don't cook from every single one of those cookbooks while we're here I'm burning them'.  Oh...oops.

The poor man carried them from our house in Cork into a van and then from the same van in Sweden into an apartment in Malmö and then, into and out of another van and up 2 flights of stairs into our new-new apartment.  In my defence, I gave away at least half of them before we left Cork and I have read through lots of them.  And fondled their pages, particularly the pretty ribbons that some of them have, but I can't say I have cooked that many dishes from them.  Point taken. 

Yesterday I pulled out one of my more recent purchases, Donal Skehan's Good Mood Food and selected 3 recipes I would cook from it this week.  The first appealed because it reminded me of the cocktails we had on our wedding day just over a year ago - sigh.  Lime & Mint Mojito Chicken.

What a gorgeous recipe and so easy to make.  Basically, you marinade 4 chicken breasts (butterflied for faster cooking) in the juice of two limes, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped (Donal said 1, but I like garlic) a handful of mint finely chopped and 5 tablespoons of Rum.  Bung everything in a ziploc bag and put in the fridge for the day.  When you get home from work (or in my case when I retired from working on my laptop at the dining table) put on some rice or cous cous and fry up the chicken breasts and more lime quarters.  The chicken developes a lovely caramely crust and the limes are turned into sweet juicy nuggets of gorgeousness. 

Serve with rice or cous cous or maybe some herby quinoa (I wasn't entirely happy with the rice I made, it was a bit boring) and a side salad.  Really quick and particularly delicious, even for plain old chicken breasts!  It is that simple.  Cooking takes, oh...about 10 minutes, so total prep time is as long as it takes to cook your rice/cous cous/quinoa and um...make a mojito to sip on at the hob.  Tough work this cooking business.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Homesickness and Apple Pie

Today I am feeling a wee bit homesick.  Yesterday was the beginning of it and getting out of bed this morning was a struggle, though I managed to get around that by getting up at lunchtime.

I spent most of the day in my pyjamas and finally, the thought struck me - I know, I'll make my Mum's apple pie.  That'll cheer me up.

A skype chat later, with my sister, who gave me the proportions of butter to flour (I can never remember, even though I've made it a million times...maybe that's because I want an excuse to ask Mum?) and apple pie making began in earnest.

First, find a weighing scales.  If, like me, the battery in your weighing scales has run out and you can't find the spares you bought 6 months ago, then you can use cup measurements.

For the easy peasy-est pastry, do this:
Put 150g/1 cup of plain flour (or mixed wholegrain and plain, as I did this time) into a mixing bowl.  Then add 100g butter or margarine (I prefer butter for taste and health) straight from the fridge cut into walnut size chunks.
Do not cut them too small and don't handle them with hot hands.  I am blessed with cold hands so pastry making is a tad easier.  Then, add enough water to bring the mix together.  I'd suggest putting 100ml into a measuring jug and adding slowly, until the pastry is just coming together.  Stop adding water at this point.

I could hear my Mum's voice in my head as I did this 'Don't over work it! You only need a tiny amount of water for perfectly light pastry.'  Turn the mix out onto a floured countertop.  Roll it out, then fold into 3.  Do this 3 times, and finally, roll it out and fold into 4.   I have no idea why this series of rolls and folds are important, but it's how my Mum does it, so it's how I do it.
Your pastry is complete, leave it sit for half an hour or so and then make a lovely pie or tart with it.  I'm adding gorgeously tart local organic eating apples from the farmers market on Saturday.  Plus a handful of sultanas for some sweetness and a dessert spoon of rapadura sugar (the least processed sugar you can get, which still has lots of minerals and goodness in it and has a lovely caramely taste.
Grease a pie tin, or the lid of a pyrex baking dish and lay in your pastry, rolled out to about 2-3mm thick.  Cut around the edges.  There is a knack to doing this without making a mess.  If you hold the pie dish in one hand and trim the pastry with a knife in your other hand, turning the dish as you drag the knife along the edge, the excess pastry will just fall off.  Try to leave a bit more than you think is neccessary, as when you add the apples the pastry will settle a little bit.

Once that's done, fold (don't squish!) together the excess pastry and roll out again, to the same thickness.  Lay this pastry over the filled pie and trim as before.  Press the edges together with the tip of a fork and poke a few holes in the lid with your fork.  This allows air to escape while baking.

Bake for 30-40 mins at 180C until golden brown and smelling heavenly and allow to cool while you eat dinner, or tidy the kitchen.  I added 2 apples to this pie.  I actually forgot to add the sultanas & sugar and only realised after I had added the lid.  Oops. It was delicious nonetheless, so only add sugar if you're using cooking apples.
Serve on it's own or with ice-cream or cream and a cup of tea.  I realised as I ate mine that it wasn't the eating that soothed my homesickness, but the conversation with my sister about ingredients, making the pastry, rolling it out and hearing my Mum's voice in my head.  I do miss home, but following an afternoon feeling a bit sorry for myself I definitely feel less lonely and more prepared for what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Corsican in Malmö who speaks four languages

We moved house on Monday.  I started writing this on Tuesday and began to see double, so thought it best to wait.  We've moved house 3 times now in the the last year.  Boy am I tired of it.

I have learned a few lessons in the process though.  Probably top of the list for me is this one:
Never, ever attempt to cook the day or two before you depart House A & move into House B. It's not worth the stress of trying to find what you need, explain to your family why you need to hang onto that saucepan, that baking tray, those utensils for another day and then, more than likely, beating yourself up for abandoning ship and getting a pizza.

This time, I didn't even attempt to cook the night before we moved, or any of that day.  We found a gorgeous Thai takeaway down the road, which served us well for dinner and lunch leftovers on Monday.  At 7pm on Monday night, when we had been on the go for 10 hours, with another 4 ahead of us, we stopped for dinner.  Another wise move.  We drove our hire van into central Malmö and parked down the street from what has become our favourite pizza place, ModoMio on Stora Nygatan.

Didier owns and runs the place.  He bakes his own bread & makes the best pizza bases I've had in a while. He uses really high quality Italian ingredients, for his breads and pizza toppings and also creates what look like lovely fresh salads and pasta dishes all day (I've only ever seen them as they are whisked past my table to be served to someone else).

I'm a fussy pizza eater - I make my own, so rarely eat them elsewhere, but I make an exception for these pizzas.  I've learned from experience that, with pizza, less is more.  A light crispy base, with a selection of flavourful toppings that don't swamp the pizza and turn it into a puddle of juice and cheese is the way to go.  If that is done right, then there is very little left to say or do, except eat!  The pizzas at ModoMio are this, they are perfect.  

Didier is from Corsica originally, but has lived all over the place and speaks four languages - French, Italian, Swedish & English.  We learned all this on our first visit to his lovely little restaurant, when we shared with him our own woes about trying to find somewhere new to live (our landlord sold our first home before we had even moved in) and spending a small fortune on parking our car, while we waited to be registered in the Swedish system and get a resident's permit.  Didier listened, sympathised and even made suggestions on where to find a new home.  When his English failed him, Mountain Man asked him for the word in French and kept the conversation going.

Where else can you find service, good food and empathy like that?

I'm almost ashamed to admit, we tried pizza in a place called Mira Mare one evening before viewing an apartment to rent.  We were stuck for time and so, made a decision on where to eat with a hungry belly growling at us.  Needless to say, we regretted it after the first bite.  Fake extruded ham, cheese like glue, nasty old veggie toppings...yuck.  The pizzas there cost between 8-15 Swedish Krowns less than in ModoMio, but it's a false economy as they are almost impossible to eat.  We told Didier on our last visit that we believed his to be the best pizzas in Malmo.  He glowed with pride.  We then broke it to him that we had strayed from the path of good pizza and eaten elsewhere, but it hadn't measured up.  This stocky bull of a man almost shrunk at the news.  We had hurt him with our betrayal.  I think we have been forgiven though, it certainly seemed that way on Monday night.  This man takes his food seriously and if he fails, it's definitely personal.

Malmö truly is a diverse city, with nationalities from around the world providing a rich offering when it comes to food.  Now that we are in our new and hopefully permanent (for 2 years!) home I am looking forward to trying more of what this city has to offer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

You say gula ärtor, I say gula delade ärtor?

Grocery shopping in another language, hmmmmm....

I know I've spoken about this before, but sometimes there are minor accidents in selection.  Mostly, there are ways around the error.  Sometimes it's hard to know what you've bought exactly and if will work at all.  Yesterday I did my first grocery shop without the car.  I cycled around town, bought from market stalls and health food shops as well as a good local supermarket and piled it into my basket - loved every moment!  Well...apart from the long minutes I spent in front of the legumes shelf, pocket dictionary in hand, trying to figure out what to select.  This is usually my area of expertise and I felt like a newby!  I could have asked someone, everyone here speaks beautiful English, but I was feeling stubborn and wanted to figure it out on my own.

I had a plan to make a Coconut & Lentil Soup, made with red lentils and split yellow peas among other things.  Split yellow peas...it took me a while, but eventually I found them.  Gula (yellow) ärtor (peas).  Fantastic.  When I got home and opened the packet I realised I had bought whole yellow peas, not split ones.  I guess the photo on the packet was a giveaway.  Oh.  Dammit.  Hmmm....will it work? Will they ever cook?  Will the skins come off the peas and turn to slimy gunk?  Will I end up wasting all the other lovely ingredients if it doesn't work?

An hour or so later, I was rewarded with the most delicious soup I have had in a while.  It had a dahl like consistency, but could easily be watered down a bit to make it less viscous.  The lentils went to complete mush, but the peas kept their shape and seemed to hold on to their skins too, which made it much more interesting and less like baby food (I'm not a fan of that texture)  The whole peas definitely took a bit longer to cook, maybe 20 minutes extra, but I just added a little more water to stop the soup mix burning and hey presto, perfect result while I did some light housework!  I served a few ladlefuls over some basmati rice and it was a meal in itself.  Recipe below if anyone fancies trying it out!  It will serve 4 hungry people or 6 light lunches.

What you’ll need:
1 cup / 200g yellow split peas (or whole ones for more texture!)
1 cup / 200g red split lentils (masoor dal)
7 cups / 1.6 liters water
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter)
8 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup / 45g sultanas
1/3 / 80 ml cup tomato paste
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
2 teaspoons sea salt or Himalayan pink salt
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Cooked basmati rice for serving (optional)

  • Put the split peas and lentils into a large saucepan and give them a good rinse - strain off the water and repeat a few times until the water runs clear.
  • Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger. 
  • Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft. (Whole peas took about an hour)
    In the meantime, in a small dry frying pan or saucepan over low heat, toast the curry powder until it is fragrant. Be careful not to burn it though, just toast it gently and set aside. 
  • Place the oil/ghee in a small saucepan over a medium heat, add half of the scallions, the remaining ginger, and sultanas. Saute for two minutes stirring constantly, then add the tomato paste and saute for another few minutes.
  • Add the toasted curry powder to the tomato paste mixture, mix well, and then add this to the simmering soup along with the coconut milk and salt.  (The smell of this mixture alone nearly sent me to heaven...so aromatic and earthy...wow)
  • Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so. The texture should thicken up, but you can play around with the consistency if you like by adding more water, a bit at a time. Or simmer longer for a thicker consistency. 
  • Serve with rice or on it's own if you prefer and sprinkle each bowl generously with coriander and the remaining green onions.  I like a bit more spice than Mountain Man, so I added a dollop of harissa to my bowl, feel free to adjust the seasoning/spice as you like.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Food Orgasm in Salt & Brygga

It's been quite some time since I have experienced a meal like last night's triumph in Salt & Brygga.  Winner of numerous awards since it opened, this restaurant is a little bit special.  Most ingredients are local and organic, coffee is fair trade, organic and utterly delicious.  All of the waste produced by the restaurant is seperated for recycling and, get this, organic waste is ground down with compost mills, decomposing it and turning it into biogas.  You might expect the result of all this 'do-gooding' to be a bit earnest and um...dull, but it's not.  It's incredible.

We visited early on a Monday night, so the atmosphere was a little bit on the quiet side.  I was, admittedly, nervous about this, as I thought it had the potential to ruin the evening.  In the end I was so blown away by the food I don't think I would have noticed if there was a wild party going on around me.  

So, what did we have? Mountain Man and I both went for a set menu option, which started with 'Smoked wild duck from Skåne with sea buckthorn and pickled onions'. That description does not do this dish justice.  The duck was sublime, delicately smoked and tender.  The orangey blob in the middle of the plate is sea buckthorn sorbet.  Oh my God.  Somehow the chef managed to achieve a creamy sorbet that held together without melting all over the plate.  Wow.  Pickled onion slivers were a treat, but so too were the nasturtium leaves and delicate radish slices. 

Our main course was even better, if that is possible; 'Venison with lingonberries, preserved chanterelles and cider sauce'.  The smell seduced me all on it's own, as it wafted it's way to the table.  The menu didn't mention the incredible smoked turnip mash or the gorgeous edible nasturtium flower.  I savoured every bite of the perfectly cooked venison (not easy to achieve, I've tried and failed a few times at home, turning it rubbery and nasty) and our incredibly friendly and knowledgeable waitress recommended a dark, locally brewed beer 'South Plains' APA to complement the dish, which was perfect - rich, mellow and...6%

Dessert was the most unusual dish I think I have ever had.  For a 'modern style Skåne apple cake with apple sorbet'  I was expecting a slice of tart or cake, with a scoop of ice-cream or sorbet on the side.  How wrong!  Instead this little piece of heaven arrived at the table. I'm not sure how to describe this, but I'll try.  Close your eyes and imagine this...a collection of apple desserts - another non melting apple puree like sorbet, chunks of apple bread, apple ice cream, crunchy caramelised pieces of appley meringue and sugar and...I'm not sure how to describe the final element - a frothy dry appley foam that disintegrated in the mouth.  Oh my God...heaven.

The aforementioned fair-trade, organic and delicious coffee finished off the meal with a final whiskey for himself and a Baileys for me.  The only moment of disappointment was when we realised that while spirits are priced per 1cl on the menu, unless you specify otherwise, 4cl are served.  So, we thought we were getting an amazing bargain for our after dinner drinks and...we didn't.  They were about the same price as you would expect anywhere else.  Once we understood the system we were pretty impressed.  Imagine being able to order a quarter of the usual bar measure?  Clever.  As we headed outside to unlock our bikes and cycle home, we were already planning a return trip.

In fact, I think this place is more than a little bit special.  It is sublime.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Juicy berries and a heavenly farmers market

Harvest time.  That's what the last couple of weeks have felt like to me.  All the hard work that was done early in the year is now rewarding us with the most divine gifts.

We've been in Malmö for 2 weeks and until yesterday we had the most glorious crisp, bright, mild weather.  Leaves crunched underfoot, sun sparkled through tree branches and Mountain Man & I must have stood out like the tourists we still are, in our shorts and sandals.  We certainly got plenty of funny looks from the locals who were already wrapped up in scarves and down jackets.

And oh...the food.  Harvest time it clearly is...  The two experiences I had of the Saturday farmers market just around the corner on Drottningtorget were resplendent with organic berries, plums, sweetcorn and apples.  The market runs from the end of August until mid October, so it really is just a gloriously short but sweet taste of the bounty of local farmers.

Last Saturday I stocked up on blueberries, raspberries & strawberries fresher than I have ever seen...anywhere.  The gent who sold Mountain Man a bunch of sunflowers on our first weekend sold us a very sturdy pot of thyme on this occasion.  A few kilos of organic apples for juicing & stewing were carried home and the lovely ladies from Marcello's Farm provided us with the most beautiful red lettuce, carrots, broccoli & fresh corn on the cob (when did I last have that?).  It called to me, I really couldn't resist those beautiful silky threads peeking from their green wrapping. They provided a midday snack today, simply steamed and slathered in butter.  Taking a photo of them became less important than wolfing them down...er...ooops.


Today, as the rain came down in a relentless drizzle (just like home then) I decided to combine all the fruit I had failed to eat - and was at risk of ending up in the compost bin - into a crumble.  I baked some overripe cherries and plums with a mix of orange juice, honey, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and then mixed the perfumed, juicy piece of fruity heaven with 1 sliced apple.  This mix formed the base of the crumble and a quick wholegrain flour/butter/rapadura sugar mix formed the crumble topping.   Baked in the oven for 35 minutes and hey presto, dessert.  If anyone would like a more detailed recipe, comment below and I will post it.  For now, I am luxuriating on the bed, with a bowl of crumble and a dollop or organic Swedish yoghurt.  This Cailín is no longer hungry...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Decadence on a Monday

A jar of molasses does not travel well on it’s side. 

I know this now, but when I left Cork and packed it on it’s side, in my plastic box of baking ingredients, I didn’t.  

This was the result.  A gift really…on cleaning up the mess I discovered that quite a few packets of dried fruit were out of date and thankfully chucking them out saved me from cleaning molasses off their packets.  Narrow escape.  That task complete, I was inspired me to make something sweet.

I borrowed the recipe from Susan Jane White, a nutritionist in Ireland who creates the yummiest food, always keeping in mind food intolerances and sugar levels.  So the below recipe is a version of her Raw Cacao Brownies but doctored a bit, as I didn’t have everything specified in my dwindling box of goodies.  These are dead easy to make and full of nutrients – the nuts provide oodles of B Vitamins, Vitamin E, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Iron, fiber & essential fats as well as tummy filling protein.  There's buckets of stress busting magnesium in the cacao powder and a lovely balance of electrolytes from the salt.  One of the beauties of this treat is that it doesn't have lots of refined flour, processed sugar and weird flavourings and preservatives as so many shop bought treats do.  As well as that, it is fit to bursting with goodness, usually removed from the raw ingredients used in chocolate or sweet offering in the shops.  A decadent treat that is actually good for you, wow!

What you’ll need:
½ cup of walnuts
½ cup of hazlenuts
Pinch of Himalayan Crystal Salt
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 dsp agave syrup
5 dates (soaked in water as they weren’t all that sticky)
4 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tbsp normal unalkalised cocoa powder
50g or so of dark chocolate

Put everything except the dark chocolate in a blender or food processor and blitz until it starts to come together.  Susan Jane suggests you stop blitzing as soon as it starts to make a ball, otherwise you’ll overdo it.  I had to add the agave syrup, as it wasn’t coming together at all.  Perhaps due to my dates not being super sticky, so start without the agave and see how you get on.
Once the mix has come together, remove small lumps of the mix and roll into ping-pong sized balls between your hands.  You will get a bit messy, but you also get to lick your hands clean, so it’s worth it.

Poke a little hole in each ball and smoosh it together if it starts to fall apart.

Once that’s done melt the chocolate over a simmering bowl of water.  Once melted, put a small dollop of chocolate into each ball.  Susan Jane added probiotic yoghurt to the chocolate, but Mountain Man had finished off the yoghurt with breakfast, so I figured dark chocolate on it’s own would suffice.  Yum, it did…

If you have a little chocolate left over, as I did and some strawberries in the fridge, I’d suggest dipping the strawberries into the chocolate.  It would be a shame to waste it after all!