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


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!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

...flour by any other name does taste as good!

I like to think of myself as being quite organised.  I almost always remember to bring bags with me when I go shopping and generally prepare a shopping list in advance, based on a sort of flexible menu for the week.  A bit OCD, but there you go, this is my 'thing', this endeavour of cooking and eating, so I've been improving my shopping technique for a while now.

Last week I went grocery shopping with mountain man for the first time in Malmö and somehow didn't think about the language barrier.  I imagine I expected the universal language of food to be sufficient.  Mostly it was.  I don't need to know the word for onions in order to select the ones I want (I now know it is 'lök' by the way and garlic is 'vitlök' which I must say I enjoyed learning, as the two are related botanically too).  I did need to know the word when it came to weighing them though, that was fun.  I'm sure other shoppers thought I was a bit mad as I dashed from shelf edge to scales repeating the word over & over under my breath for fear I would forget it before I had pressed the right button.  Most of the food we put in our trolley was fresh fruit or veg, so there was repeated dashing from shelf to scales, with the associated muttering.

Fresh fruit & veg selected, I headed for the baking aisle.  I'm not particularly brilliant at producing baked goods.  This is partly because I enjoy cooking savoury food more, but also because I don't want to turn into a roly-poly pudding with diabetes and heart problems (which has much more to do with sugar and refined flour than fat by the way, but that's another story)

I do like to make wholegrain breads and spelt pizza dough and for that I need certain kinds of flour.  Ahhhhhh, but I have no idea what it's called in Swedish.  The baking aisle had lots and lots of different flour and in the end, I chose purely on 'feel'.  I ended up with a wholegrain ('fullkorn') and plain ('vete') wheat flour (I think) and last night mixed them together to make pizza dough.  It seemed stickier to knead than it would at home and the plain flour looked rather yellow to me, unlike the bright white of flour at home, but maybe plain flour in Ireland is bleached?

The result was hugely successful.  Lovely crunchy & slightly chewy pizza bases and a small loaf of foccacia, drizzled in sunflower oil (higher burning temp than olive oil) rosemary & salt and baked for 20 minutes, then dipped in olive oil and guzzled down. I have no doubt it wouldn't pass the test of a fussy Italian, but we both loved it and managed to eat the entire loaf of foccacia.  The lesson in my grocery shopping adventure?  Don't be scared to make mistakes, sometimes the best discoveries happen that way.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sure you'd be mad not to!

Ever been sofa-window shopping on an empty stomach?  Not a good idea, it's something I try to avoid.

This morning, I woke early, incredibly excited, thinking 'We have somewhere gorgeous to live!'.  While we are renting a lovely place on Norra Vallgatan at the moment, sadly our landlord has decided to sell, so no sooner than we have moved in, we have to move out again.  Ah well, s**t happens.

Last night, we negotiated our behinds off with a new landlord and finally landed on a rent that we could afford for a pretty swish apartment in the Slussen area of Malmö; just east of the centre but still within a 10 minute walk of all the action.  I was like a kid on Christmas morning when I woke up and suddenly remembered that I don't have to apartment hunt anymore!  Yippee!

So, after a walk in the crisp September sunshine first thing in the morning, followed by coffee and cake (was that breakfast!? Ummmm, yes...oops...we just had to) we went sofa-window shopping.  Sofa-window shopping basically involves going through all the motions of buying a sofa without actually buying the sofa.  What fun!  Not advisable on an empty stomach though and given that my breakfast was, ahem, not the most substantial, I was all of  sudden HUNGRY.  Mountain Man knows better than to mess with me when I'm hungry, so immediately focused on finding food, without breaking the dwindling budget and finally landed on Mad Miss Molly's.

This place is cool.  They do salads, toasted ciabatta, smoothies, sandwiches...everything incredibly fresh and very very tasty.  Also worth noting, nothing is all that expensive.  Eating out in Malmö aint cheap, but in Mad Miss Molly's we had 2 gorgeous toasted ciabatta with a surprise super fresh and tasty side salad for €15.  Water infused with raspberries sits on the counter for you to help yourself if you fancy and I can vouch for it's yumminess.  The staff are lovely and oh so cool, without being snooty and of course, speak English beautifully.  The interior (another passion of mine) is brave - lots of concrete and steel combined with plush sofas and traditional coat stands.

Our visit to Mad Miss Molly's provided the perfect pause from furniture perusal and is somewhere I would definitely return.  I noticed that they also prepare picnic baskets, even renting the basket if you don't have one, so if you are visiting Malmö it's worth popping in.  I'll definitely be trying out their picnic basket next time.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pickled Fish?

I am sitting in our kitchen, flooded with light, enjoying the beautiful view over rooftops and into the courtyard below.  The fact that I am sitting here, rather that on the bed, balancing my laptop on my knees is cause for celebration.  You see, yesterday, we bought a dining table and chairs.  In the process we also made some Swedish friends.

Using a most wonderful Swedish institution (it seems) we searched for second hand furniture and found what seemed like the perfect, inexpensive pine table and 4 chairs for just 300kr.  We contacted the seller and agreed to visit to take a look yesterday afternoon.  When we arrived we were shown the furniture, but also a beautiful walnut table and 6 chairs which were for sale too.  This lady is completely decluttering her house, her daughter piped up from indoors that she had already sold her bed and had to sleep on the couch!

For just 50kr more (that's about €5.88) we agreed to take the walnut table and chairs and proceeded to get everything into our car.  Following a rather sweaty 20 minutes, the lovely Hanna and Sten offered us a cup of coffee.  My inner introvert said 'No, I need to get going' while my lovely sociable husband beat me to it with a 'Yes, we'd love to'.

We stayed.  We drank coffee, sitting in their back garden in the sun.  We ate delicious little Swedish biscuits.  Maps were pulled out and we both shared stories and tips for our respective countries.  Sten has lived in Malmö all his life and was full of suggestions on where to shop, where to buy fish and on which day.  I grilled them on how to pronounce the new Swedish vowels that I am working hard to get my mouth around and I think I am a little closer to 'getting' it.  Susanne, their daughter was dying to hear all about Ireland and where she should go to experience a genuine Irish village with a proper pub & thatched roofs.

It seems that Malmö does not quite fit into the Swedish stereotype when it comes to food.  They are not big fans of the pickled fish that I have heard about, in fact Hanna advised we steer clear and wrinkled her nose at the thought of the smell alone!  They do not seem to have a particular favoured dish or speciality.  Perhaps this is because Hanna hates cooking?  She did get very excited when she started talking about a cake they enjoy in January & February called Semla, a combination of cream, sponge and marzipan. Not sure it would be my cup of tea, but I will certainly give it a try!

2 hours later, we departed with promises to keep in touch and help each other learn English & Swedish.  This is not the Swedish stereotype that I have been hearing about.  I did not expect to be welcomed into someone else's home so easily and so warmly.  There were so many jobs on my to-do-list yesterday, but I truly wouldn't have chosen to spend the day any differently.  Thank you Hanna, Sten & Susanne.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Welcome to the House

So...we made it.

Mountain Man, little brother (not so little anymore) and I left Ireland last Saturday, got the ferry to France (somehow reminding me of that Kerrygold Ad) and drove for 3 days across France, Belgium, Germany and Denmark, arriving in Malmo on Tuesday at 5pm, local time.

Some might call it an amazing adventure.  I would call it pretty tedious to be honest.  Miles and miles of motorway, ugly motorway motels, bad food.  I would generally make a big effort with food for long road trips, to avoid eating rubbish from service stations, but this time the packing got the better of me and all I had were some nuts and a few packets of Nak'd Bars.  My digestive system is still considering whether forgiveness is an option.  A good friend of mine could probably find movie material in it, but I am very very glad that part of the 'adventure' is over.

Yesterday we registered with the tax office - very important if you want to function in this country.  Without your 'personnumer' you cannot open a bank account, buy a mobile phone on contract, get insurance for anything... We were so chuffed with ourselves we bought a double scoop of home made icecream from Dolce Sicilia, a Sicilian ice-cream parlour around the corner.  I think this must be the best ice-cream I have ever had, made with organic ingredients, they also serve amazing fairtrade coffee to boot.  Worth a visit if you are ever in Malmo.  Watch out for the icecream, I suspect we will have to resist finding an excuse to have one every day...

 Something else we achieved yesterday was to buy some vegetables and yoghurt in the little health food shop on the ground floor of the building in which we are renting.  Outside, the perimeter of the shop is littered with small squash and gourds - obviously Autumn is something they celebrate here!

 It felt so good to be shopping locally and most of the produce seemed to come from Denmark, Sweden and Germany.  Lovely.  To top it all off the gent who served us was an absolute delight.  When he realised I hadn't a clue what he was saying, he switched to English and asked that next time I'm in, I remind him and he'll adjust for me.  I mentioned, excitedly, that we had just moved in upstairs and he made my day with 'welcome to the house.'  I couldn't stop smiling.  What a beautiful sense of community.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rocket Fuel

I woke this morning at 5am, struggled to get back to sleep and eventually dragged myself out of bed at 6.30.  I suspect the tension of moving country had something to do with it.  Maybe it was also because this morning was my last chance to visit Mahon Farmers' Market before heading to Sweden?

This is where I buy my food.
This morning, the lovely pink shirt clad 'Rocket Man' in the photo sold me my lunch, which turned out to be dinner when lunch got sidetracked by packing.  Stomach comforting, whole food goodness. Thank you Rocket Man.

Almost every Thursday morning I can be found at this market.  I think it is one of the best in the country.  It is dedicated almost entirely to food, with a couple of flower stalls thrown in, just to cheer us up.  There are 3 or 4 excellent coffee & cake stalls, of course, to keep the punters awake & sugar fuelled, but more importantly for me, there is an organic meat and eggs stall.  Organic, local, grass fed beef, chicken and lamb.  Wow.  I love it and do a little dance inside my head as I give my hard earned euros directly into the hand of the farmer.  Alongside Dan Aherne's meat, there is the local veg grower, so fresh you can tell their produce was picked that morning.  The Real Olive Co. provide the most delicious buffalo mozzarella I've ever had, from their very own buffalo reared in Toonsbridge, West Cork.  I could go on and on about how incredible the food is there.  On a sunny day it's one of my favourite places to be.  On a wet day, the stallholders retreat indoors, so no matter the weather, you can always buy this kind of incredibly good food.

How will Malmo compare?
Will I be able to eat as well as I do here, without blowing the budget?

We leave our little house in Cork tomorrow and depart for France on a ferry from Rosslare on Saturday.  Then comes a 3 day road trip.  Bring it on.