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.