White chocolate ricciarelli

Perhaps these ought to be called bastard or fake ricciarelli, if they can be called ricciarelli at all. Real ricciarelli are meant to be this beautiful, and not have white chocolate anywhere near them. Perhaps think of this as the rural cousin of the ricciarelli, with a weird accent, ugly dress and too much make-up. The white chocolate adds an almost buttery base to the fresh and sweet almond crispness of the biscuit, and they are perfect snack size for your afternoon coffee. They are also quick and easy to make!

For the recipe, which is based on this Swedish post, you need:

  • 250 g almond flour
  • The peel of 1/2 lemon
  • 150 g sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 drop of bitter almond extract
  • 100 g white chocolate

Start by mixing the almond flour and half of the sugar in a bowl. In a different bowl, whisk the egg whites into a foam , then add the other half of the sugar, whisking along until you have a shiny kind of meringue base. Carefully add the lemon, almond-sugar mix and almond extract. You’ll get a sticky mix, which you can shape into little rounds or whichever shape you prefer (these are the quick and dirty sort of ricciarelli after all). Put them into the oven at 160 degrees for no more than 10 minutes, and keep a careful eye when they bake as they easily dry up. Take them out of the oven and let them cool whilst you melt the chocolate in a water bath. Dip the bottoms in the chocolate (or smear it on if that’s easier), and then let them rest on a sheet of baking paper. If you’re the restless kind, you can hurry up the stiffening of the chocolate through putting them in the freezer.

Enjoy a handful of them with your afternoon coffee.


Hot smoked salmon salad with apple and dill

Here comes another post about Swedish food, as I’ve been stuffing myself with it for the last month. Seafood is central in Nordic cuisine, and one of my favourite everyday fishes, described as “salmon candy” by the people at The Local, is hot smoked salmon (varmrökt lax). It is supposedly the inferior, cheaper version to what is known as smoked salmon (or gravadlax if you’re eating somewhere pretentious where they a) can’t spell to gravlax and b) are trying to overcharge you for something that tastes and looks just like smoked salmon). But despite its pitiful wikipedia entry, hot smoked salmon is in fact WAY better than cold smoked salmon. It is less greasy, less oddly textured, less likely to leave an unpleasant smell on your fingers. And it is more fully flavoured, richer, warmer in its toners and just generally more moreish. Incidentally, it also goes incredibly well with tangy apples and buttery King Edward potatoes in a creamy dill and dijon dressing. So here is the best salad I’ve tried for at least a year.
You need:
  • 500 g hot smoked salmon
  • 5 king Edward potatoes (or some other soft kind, this is important as it draws up the dressing)
  • 3 large green apples
  • 1 lemon squeeze (for the water you put your apples in if they’re waiting around to be mixed in the salad)
For the dressing
  • 5 tbsp rapeseed oil (as mentioned in previous posts, olive oil is not at home with Swedish flavours)
  • 2 tbsp white vine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 large bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 pack of chives, finely chopped

Start by peeling and cutting your potatoes into the salad size you prefer, then boil under a careful eye as they really shouldn’t be overcooked – King Edward is a sensitive sort for this. In the meantime peel, core and and thinly slice your apple slices, and put them in a bowl of water with little lemon juice in it to keep them from browning. Make your dressing by mixing everything but the finely cut herbs in a jar, and give it a good shake. Then add the herbs, and put to one side. If the potatoes are done at this point, you may want to mix them with your drained apples and softly mix in the dressing (be careful not to crush the potatoes whilst doing this). If you want the salad to look pretty, cut out a beautiful part of the salmon and place on top of your potatoes and apples, with some dill decorating it. However, it tastes better if you – again, carefully – mix it all together as the round smokiness of the salmon then infuses with the apple.

Serve with some rye bread and blonde beer. Enjoy.

Just look at that beauty.


Traditional New York style cheesecake with wild raspberries

One of my favourite things about Sweden is going foraging. But since foraging season has barely started, this past month back in Sweden I’ve had to go foraging in the freezer box instead (where last seasons foraging finds are kept) which then led to this mix of traditional New York-style baked cheesecake and wild raspberries. If you’ve ever tried wild raspberries you will know that they are incredibly different from commercially grown ones, and have one of the most floral and sweet yet full-bodied flavours of the forest (indeed so strong that my mum won’t eat them because she finds them over-powering). So they really add something to a voluptuous and creamy New York cheesecake. But you can, of course, melt any berries you like on top of this cake, it will still taste divine. Just be prepared – this cake doesn’t take up much of your time, but it takes a long time to make, and it HAS to be given its time in the fridge or you will be sorely disappointed.

I kind of followed Nigella’s recipe for this cake, and for the base, you’ll need:

  • 250 g digestive biscuits (guess it’s meant to be Graham crackers but they’re impossible to get a hold of in Sweden)
  • 150 butter (melted)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
For the filling:
  • 3 1/2 dl sugar (225 g)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 600 g cream cheese
  • 6 eggs yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 heaped teaspoons vanilla sugar, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150 ml full fat cream
  • 150 ml sour cream (I used Swedish gräddfil, it worked just as well)
  • the zest and peel of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
For the topping
  • Wild raspberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/1 tbsp cornflour
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+ Patience. The cake is best the day after you made it. A springform will be helpful, but I made it in a clay one.
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Start by crushing the digestive biscuits and mixing them with the sugar and butter. This is probably done easiest by using a food processor, but you can also crush the biscuits by hand (I did). It just takes some time. Then add it to the bottom of the form you are using (pre-greased with butter), and press it out evenly and hard. Put in the fridge to rest for an hour. When the base has been in the fridge for a while, put the sugar and cornflour together, then mix in the cream cheese. Don’t be fooled by my whisk below, at this early stage you’re better helped by something spatula-like (as I quickly discovered…).

After this is mixed together, add the cream, the sour cream, the egg yolks and the lemon zest & peel. Stir constantly whilst mixing these things together. Put your oven to 170 degrees.
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In a separate bowl, with a separate whisk (this is important or the eggs whites will react to the traces of other ingredients), whisk together the egg whites with that half teaspoon of salt. You need your whites to turn into stiff peaks, which takes a while since there is no sugar in this mix. Whisk, whisk, whisk until it look something like the thing below. You may also, as below, need some assistance in doing this, for it really does tire out you arms (I was up sawing birchwood on the morning of making this cake, and that seemed easier somehow…) .
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Then, very gently, fold in the egg whites into the cream cheese mix.
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Take out your base from the fridge, and fill it with the cream cheese mix. Smooth off the top with a spatula or something else flat.
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Bake in the oven for about one hour or a bit more, depending on your oven and the tin you are using. Mine ended up being a little over-baked in the edges so for beauty-reasons I cut off some of the upper ends before applying the melted berries. Once your cake has turned golden at the top, yet hasn’t settled properly in the middle, turn the oven off and leave your cake in there for another two hours without opening. Then open the oven and leave the cake in there for another hour with the door open. Towards the end of that hour, melt your berries on the stove with the sugar until they are all half-crushed. Then stir in the the cornflour, and when it is time to finally take the cake out of the oven, apply the melted berries evenly at the top, and put into your fridge to set for a few hours. Note that it REALLY needs a few hours in there or it won’t be smooth.
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It takes some time, but in the end you will have something as smooth, dreamy and beautiful as this to look at, and most importantly, to eat! And it’s really, really worth the trouble.
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The Salted Cod Makes Sushi

If you know me, you’ll know that I have a love/addiction relationship with sushi. I am not really sure when this started, but for a few years now I have been completely in love with Japan’s most famous export. While there are many good places for sushi in London, Birmingham, where I lived for three years, was a bit of a no-sushi-land. Since I couldn’t really afford (or justify) coming to London every weekend to get my sushi fix, I had to learn how to make it at home.

It might seem complicated at first, impossible even (and you might end up eating sushi at 2AM when you started at 7PM like when I first made sushi), but with a little preparation making sushi at home is not that difficult and is definitely worth it. So prepare yourselves, and embrace the sushi chef in you*

What you will need, for two people :

For the rice (double the recipe if you want to stuff yourself with sushi like me):

  • 250 grams of sushi rice (you can find this in most supermarkets these days and in all Chinese supermarkets in Chinatown).
  • 340 ml of cold water
For the sushi vinegar (to be mixed after the rice is cooked):
  • 60 ml rice vinegar (again available at most supermarkets and at all Chinatown supermarkets).
  • 30 ml Sugar
  • 5 ml Salt
For the Tezu mixture (to be used on the rice bowl and to handle your sushi):
  • 250 ml of water
  • 30 ml of rice vinegar
  • 5 ml of salt
For the sushi:
  • Sheets of Nori (available at some supermarkets, the Japan Centre, and most supermarkets in Chinatown).
  • Sushi rolling mat (same as above).
  • Your choice of very fresh fish: I am using 200 grams of tuna and one small mackerel (the easiest one to cut and use is salmon). It is essential that the fish is fresh, otherwise you are going to get tasteless and weirdly textured sushi.
  • Your choice of vegetables/fruit: I am using avocados, but cucumber or mango are great too.
  • You choice of condiments: I am using sriracha chilli sauce and mayonnaise for the spicy tuna rolls and spring onions.
  • Wasabi (you’re not going to get the real thing outside of Japan so just buy any you can find).
  • Soy sauce
Ok. So you want to have everything ready by the time your rice is cooked. Start by washing the rice. To do this put the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Move the rice around with your hands. You will see that the water becomes cloudy. Drain and repeat until the water is clear. Cover the rice with cold water and rest for 20 minutes. The rice should look like this before you cook it:
While the rice is resting prepare the Tezu and the sushi vinegar. For the Tezu just mix all ingredients in a bowl and put aside. For the sushi vinegar mix all ingredients in a saucepan and heat them until the sugar is dissolved. Then transfer it to a bowl and set aside for it to cool down. Now it’s on to cooking the rice. Put the rice and the 340ml of water in a pan which has a tight lid. Bring it to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the water has evaporated. When the water has evaporated remove the pan from the heat and leave it to rest with the lid on for 10 minutes. While the rice is finishing cooking wet a wooden bowl with a bit of the Tezu. When the ten minutes have passed transfer the rice (carefully!) from the pan to the wooden bowl. Mix in the vinegar mixture little by little, until the rice cannot absorb any more liquid – you might not need the whole mixture. Now cover the rice with a tea towel and put it aside to cool down. The rice should look like this when cooked – sticky and fluffy:
While the rice is cooling down start preparing your fish. Start with the hardest ingredient to prepare so that everything keeps as fresh as possible. In this case I started with the mackerel which had to be filleted and de-boned. To do this (like for most fish) cut the fish just below the head and then slide the knife close to the spine to separate a clean filet. After this you will need to take the bones out (easy to do with tweezers) and to slide the filets off the skin (hold the filets from the tail/narrowest part of the fish and slide a sharp knife under it – it should slide down easily). If these instructions are not too clear you can find videos of this on youtube (which actually gave me the idea for our video demonstrations…), but the process goes more or less like this:      
Now to cut the fish for sashimi or nigiri. You want to use a very sharp knife and cut it against the grain of the fish.
The easiest fish to do this with the first time is salmon. All you have to do is take a corner and cut a slice diagonally against the grain. This ensures that the fish has a smooth texture, is more flavourful and is not chewy.
If you are preparing just nigiri, you can either use the same technique or you can finely chop the fish, depending on the kind of texture you are after. To make spicy tuna rolls (one of my favourites!) you will have to finely chop the tuna and mix it with some mayo and sriracha sauce. It should cover the fish completely but it should not be too gloopy – you want to taste the tuna.
Cut any other ingredients into slices so they can fit the sushi rolls. And now onto the rolling!
Start by preparing a clean surface and all your ingredients. You will also need you sushi rolling mat, and the nori sheets which you will have to cut to 3/4 of their size.
And now get ready for my incredible sushi making and Mr Salted Cod’s amazing filming skills! Here is a video tutorial of how to roll and cut  a sushi maki and how to prepare sushi nigiri.

I hope I have managed to turn everyone into sushi addicts by the end of this post! And please feel free to ask any questions – I am always happy to help a fellow sushi lover.

*I do not in any circumstance consider myself a sushi chef or a master in the art of sushi making..If you are either Japanese or a sushi chef please do not feel insulted by my attempts. It might not be the perfect recipe and might not follow every tradition you’re supposed to, but I really really like sushi and this is the way of making it at home.


Nigella’s apple & almond cake

This cakes really melts in your mouth, because it contains no flour. It contains no flour because it is Nigella’s cake for passover. However, flourless, eggless and yeastless as it is, it is absolutely delicious and therefore you should make it. Imagine a dense, slightly coarse mousse made out of tart apple and ground almonds. This looks like a cake but in fact it tastes very little like one, and therefore I love it (because most of the time I don’t really like cake). It should be noted that this is the kind of cake I make when someone else is paying for the ingredients: almond flour is expensive (but so incredibly flavoursome and lush to bake with) and 8 eggs for one cake may seem a bit frivolous (although as a southern Swede I feel some affinity with this*). But it’s a winner for special occasions (or if you need to make cake for a gluten-allergic, with different frosting it could definitely pass for a posh birthday cake). You will need the following ingredients:

  • 376 g almond flour
  • 250 g sugar
  • 8 eggs (!)
  • 3 apples
  • 1 lemon
  • Flaked almonds
  • Pearl sugar (optional; Swedish topping as described in this post)
  • Plus a spring form, baking paper and a food processor/mixer for making it. Lacking this it might be difficult to make. Although perhaps one can experiment with muffins tins and stuff.

Start by melting the apples together with the sugar and some lemon juice on the stove. While they are bubbling away, mix all your other ingredients (apart form the pearl sugar and flaked almonds) in the food processor (if you, like me, only have a mixer, you can pre-mix the stuff in another bowl and the blitz as much as you can get into the mixed bit by bit). The apples should be a bit cooled down lest they start cooking the eggs prematurely, so after they’ve softened ont he stove for ten minutes you may want to create a makeshift cold water bath int he sink to speed up their cooling process before you mix them with the rest.

Once you’ve blitzed all your ingredients and put them in the cake tin (greased and lined of course), put it in the over at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes. The result will be a bit gooey and wet, but it’s meant to be. Nigella says to eat it whilst it is stilla little bit warm, but I actually preferred it two days old. It’s so juicy the concept of “stale” goes nowhere near it.

* Swedophiles may be interested to learn that old southern Swedish cooking usually involved obscene amounts of eggs. Partly this was the result of an attempt to distinguish southern cuisine as rich in eggs, cream, and butter from that of the starving North, and particular the bastard Stockholmers. (The Treaty of Roskilde making Skåne Swedish was signed in 1658, but not everyone is over it yet).


Review – Franco Manca Chiswick

I must admit I knew about Franco Manca for almost two years before visiting for the first time last week. It’s not that I don’t like pizza or that Chiswick (or Brixton) is very far from where I live. What happened is that since I’ve moved to the UK I have not yet encountered a decent pizza, let alone a decent Italian pizza (there is an exception to this – an amazing butternut squash and caramelised onion pizza at bar room bar in Birmingham two years ago… unfortunately it was a special and I never tasted it again)*. I mean I lived in Brussels for almost ten years where Italian restaurants and amazing simple pizzas are a common sight in every neighbourhood. Even in Lisbon, a place not wildly known for its breadth of Italian restaurants, I can direct you to at least 3 very good pizzerias. And so… after three years of failing to find any good pizzas, I had kind of forgotten about it. The other day, while shopping around Chiswick High Road I passed Franco Manca and saw lots of people having what seemed like great pizza in their outside tables. My faith in pizza was almost restored and I decided to come back later in the week… and I am so happy I did.

                            

We were greeted by a huge pizza oven and hams and garlic hanging from the ceiling and were seated quickly. We started with the two panouzzi (flame baked bread) – one with Serrano ham from Brindisa and the other with artichokes, mozzarella and sundried tomatoes. While the ingredients were fresh and incredibly tasty the bread was more flame than baked. However, I think I would have this again just for the toppings. This was followed by a glass of Madregalo Rosso (a combination of Sangiovese and Montepulciano, two of my favourite grapes) which was very good – if a bit too light – and great value at £3.30. We quickly moved on the main event of the night, the pizza…

Mr Salted Cod went for a tasty Ham, Mushroom, Ricotta and Mozzarella pizza, while I stuck with more classic flavours in what can only be described as puttanesca on a pizza – olives, capers, anchovies and tomato – with the addition of mozzarella. As you can see in the picture this pizza ticks all the ‘perfect pizza’ boxes: fresh and simple ingredients, puffy crust, charred bits and thin base. My ‘puttanesca-like’ pizza was incredible – a perfect mix of salty from the anchovies and olives and sweet from the tomato sauce and the cheese. While I liked the other pizza too, I prefer to stick to more classic flavours when it comes to a tomato-based pizza (I just think it goes better with the sauce). On top of this, this pizzas tick the extra ‘perfect pizza’ box, price! At less than £7 each this is what I expect a pizza to be – fresh ingredients, thin crust and an acceptable price tag, just like in Italy, Belgium or Portugal. So thank you Franco Manca for restoring my faith in pizza in the UK – I feel like this will become my local.

Franco Manca Chiswick

144 Chiswick High Road

W4 London

Rating: 9 meatballs out of 10.

*Also I must admit that I have had some very good pizzas from Osteria Basilico, but these are quite expensive and I only have them as a takeaway so don’t really count as a great pizza.

EDIT: Osteria Basilico and Basilico the delivery service are not the same, sorry for the misunderstanding.



Review – Al Frash (Birmingham)

Amy and a massive Peshwari naan.

A few weeks ago I was finally back in Brum, city of dreams for a curry loving food blogger. Who cares about abandoned warehouses, ugly motorways and the worst accent in the country when you can eat like a Mughal Queen for less then a take-away pizza in London? Apart from the excellent curry houses Sundarbon, Jyotis, Desi Express, and Miss Salted Cod’s Favourite Chamon (a curry-mini guide to Birmingham will be on the blog shortly), Al Frash truly stands out among the lot. And I’m far from the only one raving about this pearl…

Al Frash is quite brightly lit and not particularly cosy, but it is incredibly friendly, and the atmosphere is loud and cheerful – it’s BYOB like most curry houses in Birmingham. If you don’t book in advance you may have to wait a moment for a table, in which case you’ll be seated in the waiting area to read reviews and newspaper clippings about the chef Azam.

We visited on a Saturday night but were seated rather quickly. Our slightly hungover selves were incredibly grateful for the jugs of water quickly placed at the table, as well as the popadoms with chopped onions and raita. Of course, this is standard for curry houses, but at Al Frash you aren’t charged for any of it, and you get their excellent sweet and hot tamarind sauce instead of some boring mango chutney.

For starters we ordered a mixed grill to share, which came at £12 but was well worth it. We were given tender masala fish, savoury onion bhajis, succulent lamb chops and hot tandoori chicken wings and thighs. It was all delicious, hot and spicy, and steaming fresh off the grill. With a refill of the delicious tamarind sauce and cooling raita we politely licked our fingers to the very last bit.

Our mains took a while, however the service was attentive in the meantime so we did not mind. There was a birthday party of probably 30 people being served before us and we were quite impressed by the speed by which the cheerful waiters managed to get food out to everyone, especially seeing how one of the slightly intoxicated guests from the birthday party insisted on helping on serving it, for which they had given him a waiters outfit and all. When our mains did arrive they all came in sizzling balti dishes, as is the custom for Birmingham curries – after all it was here the balti style of cooking gained its fame. Jessi was not entirely happy with the strong masala flavour of her achar gosht (lamb with pickle), but one of the waiters quickly picked up on this and had it back to the kitchen for a change. When it came back a few minutes later (with some extra rice for comfort) she was pleased.

Me and Beth had an amazing dish called afrodisia, made out of finely chopped king prawns and chicken mixed with plenty of coriander and oyster mushrooms in a hot green chili sauce. It sent me sweating but also smiling like a drunk out of food happiness. Amy had a sweet and sour chicken Pathia, and Aurelie a really strong chicken Jalfrezi. They were all lovely and hot, and together with the truly massive, almond-filled and honey drizzled Peshwari naan we ordered to share we really felt quite satisfied. “Large naan” does not quite do it justice in terms of its size, as you can see from the photo at the top. Despite it’s terrifying size, it is velvetly soft but crispy in the bottom, so if I came back I would go for the big size and just not get any rice.

To the food we also ordered some mango lassi (soothing my burning tastebuds) and coke which was cheap at £1/can. If you fancy some beer or wine to your dinner, the staff will recommend a nearby off licence.

The best thing about Al Frash is not the food – although the massive naans, grill starters and Afrodisia dishes are absolute beauties and worth the journey on their own – but the familiar service and the atmosphere inside the restaurant. The waiters are engaged and helpful, advice about your dishes and clearly take the food very seriously. Watching the birthday party leave, we noticed that everyone gave the two main waiters either a handshake and a “cheers boss” or hug and peck on the cheek. The waiters also made sure all us girls came home from the restaurant safely in a pre-booked cab. Finally, for all this loveliness Al Frash is also very cheap – we ended up forking up less than £15/each for the whole meal. Therefore, we jointly awarded it 9 meatballs out of 10.