Crumble is in many ways the best dessert ever, for it’s so easy to make and you usually have the necessary stuff for it at home. Most fruits or berries will do, and then you just need butter, flour and sugar in the base recipe (and oats if you fancy a bit of crunch). This is a slightly fancier version, called smulpaj in Swedish, with a toffee sauce in the base and rhubarb mixed in with the apple. It is sweet, sticky and very, very scrumptious. If you’ve planned to spoil someone with dinner this is a good dessert – you can prepare it hours before, and just leave it in the fridge for when you want to bake it. It is of course very unhealthy, but it doesn’t feel too heavy since the apple and rhubarb gives some freshness to it all. Served really hot with ice cream is the best, but this is also nice cold as the toffee gets a bit chewy then.
- 2 large sticks of rhubarb
- 1 large bramley apple
- 2 decilitres light brown sugar
- 1 decilitre light sirup
- 125g sugar, at room temperature
- 2 decilitres plain flour
- 1 decilitre oats
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar
Start by peeling your rhubarb (carefully unpick the thin skin off from bottom and pull it down in slithers) and cut it in smaller bits. Also peel and cut your apple. If you were given an incredibly unnecessary apple peeler for christmas present a few years back, this is the time to get it out.
Set your oven to 220 degrees. Place the fruit in the bottom of an oven-proof dish, and make the crumble through mixing half of the sugar, all the flour, the oats and the butter in a bowl. If the butter is at room temperature you can just tear it off bit by bit into the dough mixture. If it’s still a bit hard then cut into little squares with a knife and rub into the dough mixture until you’ve got a grainy mixture.
Then make the toffee sauce in a pan: melt a small knob of butter, and mix in the sirup together with the rest of the sugar and well as the vanilla sugar. Bring to the boil carefully and then pour it over the apple and rhubarb. Be careful with tasting the toffee – it’s delicious at this stage, but it may also burn your finger terribly (…speaking from experience).
Apple the grainy mixture evenly on top of the toffeed apple and rhubarb, and place in the middle of the oven (at 220 degrees) for about 25 minutes or until the top layer has gone golden and stiffened up a little. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream. Indulge and await sugar rush.
As any Swedophile will know, herring beats meatballs for the title of the quintessential Swedish dish. This recipe (if it can even be called that) is a Swedish classic, perhaps the ultimate herring sandwich. There’s a wide selection of spiced herrings in the land of frost and darkness: onion, mustard, tomato, curry, dill, crayfish, garlic… the list goes on. But the simple matjessill is my favourite. It’s both salty and sweet, spiced with cinnamon, sandalwood and allspice, and sometimes I get cravings for it which knows no boundaries. Every time I go to Scandinavian kitchen in Oxford circus I come home with several tins of the stuff, and then I try re-create this sandwich with English sour cream, imported Swedish bread, red onion and chives. Having served it to several people in London, I’m convinced you don’t need to be Swedish to appreciate the complex fresh flavours of this dish. It makes for an excellent starter in the summer. Or in the winter for that matter, it is always delicious.
For the sandwich you need:
- 1 tin of matjessill (can be bought at IKEA or Scandinavian shops around the UK)
- Sourcream (all the better if you can get a hold of gräddfil which is the Swedish variant)
- Red onion, finely chopped
- Chives, finely chopped
- 1 slice of dark sweet Swedish bread, kavring. This can be substituted with any sweet, dark rye you can find at Nordic bakery shops or anywhere else for that matter. In desperate times any darkish bread can do (in the picture below I used a walnut rye bread). Just make sure it’s not toast, we’re not dealing with shrimps or crayfish here!
- Bolied sliced new potatoes, cold (optional)
- Sliced hard boiled egg, cold (optional)
- Dark Swedish caviar (optional). This sounds posh but it’s just lumpfish roe. It has a delicate salty flavour to it and looks nice.
The making of this sandwich is very simple. For the base of the sandwich, you need a slice of kavring bread. This is hard to get a hold of outside of Sweden, so you can substitue with with a sweet rye kind, or make your own*. If you want to add potato or egg to make it more filling, you add them first. Spread some red onion on top of these as well as on the plate. Then add a generous dollop of sourcream on top of this, and add three juicy pieces of matjessill on top. Scatter generously with chopped chives.
* Making traditional kavring at home takes two days and lots of Swedish ingredients. I found an alternative which I refer to as fake kavring:
Good thing is it only takes one hour to prepare and bake! You need:
- 1 oven-proof pan for bread loaves
- Butter and bread crumbs to make it non-stick
- 3 deciliters sour cream
- 1 1/2 deciliters dark sirup
- 1/2 deciliters water
- 2 deciliters plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 deciliters sifted rye flour
- 1 tablespoon bicarbonate
- 1 tablespoon lingonberry jam
Butter and bread the pan for the oven. Put your oven to 180 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the sour cream, sirup, water and lingonberry. Pour into the pan up to 2/3 for a high loaf. Put in at the bottom of the oven for 1 hour until it is a dark golden brown. Let rest and then slice up thinly.
Hidden away in the rather anonymous and uncharming area between Euston and King’s Cross sits Somers Town Coffee house, an unlikely named gastropub specialising in British tapas. “That sounds odd”, the Salted cod said when I told her, but in fact it is carried off very well. The pub in itself is very pretty inside, with sturdy tables, old school armchairs and a door hidden in a bookshelf for the curious (if you dare open it and walk down the staircase you may be rewarded an invite to their “secret” supperclub) and there’s also a beer garden outside.
Me and my friend shared six tapas dishes and an excellent bottle of Rioja (there are some Tuesday lunch luxuries only dissertation writing can warrant) which came to about £25 each, so it’s not a very cheap place. But some of the dishes were absolutely fabulous. I found a favourite in the rather blandly named Cheese and onion pie, which was incredibly rich and sweet, with a heavy note of caramelised onion and creamy, light cheddar cheese. Potted crab was also lovely, with tender crab and shrimp spreading out coarsely on the different coloured toast. The salad with asparagus, goats cheese and beetroot was simple but delicious, sampling the best of seasonal without making a fuss. We also had a salmon and prawn tart wich was strong and fresh the way only cooked smoked salmon is, with strong hints of dill.
The only let-down was the beef, stilton and stout pasties which had way too much pasty on them and were too dry, with no note of stilton. The jus that came with them was sweet and lovely, and complimented other parts of our dishes well. Since we were hungry we also opted for chips as one of the plates, which were perfectly fine, especially with the jus from the steak pasties, but being… chips, there wasn’t that much to wow us about them.
All in all, it was a lovely eating experience, and we both walked out full and content. This is a good way of sampling little bits of classic British food and when I come back (and I hope I will) I’d love to try the gourmet scotch egg, the smoked applewood chunks, de-shelled popcorn mussels and the marinated pork belly lollipops. If I add that smooth bottle of Rioja, maybe I’ll actually dare enter the bookshelf staircase for the supperclub. 7,5 meatballs out of 10.
Somers town Coffee House can be found here on the map:
If you, like me, have been enjoying the insanely hot weather in London this weekend, you may have been wondering where you can grab a cheap lunch that you can bring out into the park with ease and enjoy in the sunshine. Yoshino sushi is such a place. It’s perfect for the hot weather – just grab a bagfull of maki and nigiri and go sit in the park.
You order at the counter where different kinds of nigiri and makis are packed up in groups of 3, 4 or 8, and you also have special salads and sauces, such as Yoshino’s special carpaccio sauce. One plate of 4 maki is usually around £1.20-1.50 and three generous nigiris around £2.20-2.40. For best value get lots of maki, but make sure to get at least one pack of their perfect nigiris. The salmon here always tastes round and fresh, and never has that refrigerated chewy texture. It’s simply delicious. Since Yoshino sell lots of sushi their chefs (which you can see working behind the counter) continuously fill up the stocks with new rolls, and therefore the rice is always freshly made and soft rather than hard and tightly packed. The New York Roll with tempura is very tasty, as are their various california rolls. The eel and cucumber maki is strong in flavour and not for the weakly fish-hearted. Personally I’m not a fan of the spicy fried tuna or chicken katsu sushi, the former being too fishy and the latter being… chicken. But the plates are so cheap that you may want to try out for yourself.
Yoshino used to be part of the Japan Centre, as part of promoting and introducing Japanese food and culture to the London audience. Maybe that’s why it still serves strangely cheap, authentic sushi in their small shop at Shaftesbury avenue. Admittedly the quality varies – sometimes it is spot-on, and sometimes just ok. But for the price I’m happy to go there any sunny day. 7 meatballs out of 10.
Yoshino can be found on the map here:
Pardon the following entry, I’m not endorsed by anyone in writing this but I feel so very strongly about this family-run business on Church Street and think more people should go. Think of it as a restaurant review, but for a shop. I would start by saying that Stoke Newington Green is the best greengrocer I’ve ever been to, but giving it some consideration I think it’s the best food shop I have ever come across. Perhaps the best shop full stop. (If it was a restaurant, it would receive 9 meatballs out of 10). Normally specialist shops like boutique bakeries or traditional butchers are beautiful but incredibly expensive, and exist primarly due to the proximity of wealthy yummy mummies (which, admittedly, is true for Stoke Newington). But Stoke Newington Green does three things which put it above those kinds of shops (or your local vegetable market for that matter).
1) It is cheap. Really, really cheap.
2) It is open from 7-11 every day, so most normal working people can pop by after work or on the morning jog.
3) They accept cards.
This would not be that amazing had it not for been for the fact that they stock local, seasonal produce as well as exotic spices and vegetables I’ve never heard of. Their fresh herb section involve English herbs I didn’t know existed. They have five different kinds of garlic, including incredibly aromatic fresh variants. They stock at least six different colours of courgettes and aubergines. All is beautifully stacked up inside the bamboo-walled shop and clear, handwritten signs display price (both kg and lb and sometimes per item), origin and other important details.
I just arrived home from the shop with two carrots, two onions, a celery, six mini-courgettes, one fresh garlic and two large bunches of spinach. It all came to 3,49. I wish these kinds of green grocers existed all over London. I’d eat much more vegetables, and I’d learn all about the new produce I find in the shop every day. It would be like 5-a-day heaven.
Stoke Newington Green, 39 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0LU.
Update: Newington Green Fruit and Vegetables (109 Newington green road, Islington, N1 4QY) is their sister-shop – I have now been and seen and smelled amazing things. This shop is slightly bigger and busier and just as amazing with all the things mentioned above.
Looking for a cheap and cheerful place for lunch close to my flat I searched my endless list of food blogs for a dim sum place I had a vague idea about close to Earl’s Court station. Thanks to the ever knowledgeable Mr Noodles I found Dragon Palace, a little gem of a place on Earl’s Court Road.
As recommended by Mr Noodles we decided to go for dim sum with a side of Singaporean Needle Noodles. Mr Salted Cod also had a Won Ton soup to start the meal, which was perfectly light and tasty. We had Gar Herng Yee Mai Gor (Village Dumplings) which were beautiful parcels filled with red tilapia and vegetables, Ha Gau (prawn dumplings) filled with incredibly fresh prawns, Char Siu Cheung (BBQ Pork Cheung Fun) thick rolled noodles filled with lovely barbecued pork and War Tip (Shangai dumplings) which were pan fried and filled with pork and vegetables. The dim sum was all really tasty and the parcels beautiful and thin as they should be. The accompanying noodles were definitely not necessary towards the end but were still amazing. Completely transparent and cut in small pieces, the noodles were smoky and salty and mixed with fresh vegetables and prawns in a slightly dry sauce.
Service was also really good (always an important point for me) with the waiters being extremely attentive but not too invasive. The total came to £24 for two people with service included and way too much food. All in all this is a great choice for lunch in Earl’s Court and would be great for dinner with friends as there are a few big tables.
Me and my brother had a joint 25 and 30 year old birthday party this weekend and I was responsible for desserts. Panicking over what to make – desserts aren’t my strong side – I decided on toscatårta, because it’s delicious and not too hard to make. Essentially toscatårta is a creamy Swedish sponge cake with a divine topping of caramelised almond. It’s one of my gran’s classics and I’ve finally learnt how to make it. (or, at least this variation of it got her approval, and since she’s known as queen of the cakes in my village, I’m more than pleased with that verdict.)
For the sponge you need:
- 2 decilitres plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 decilitres white sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 decilitre double cream (this is the secret to the creaminess of the sponge)
- 50 grams butter
For the topping:
- 50 gram almond flakes
- 50 grams butter
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 decilitre sugar
You also need a round cake tin with detachable sides, and butter and fine bread crumbs to make it non-stick. Start by putting your oven to 175 degrees and butter the tin on the inside (the best way of doing this is through putting a small knob of butter on some kitchen towel and grease it all over). Add fine bread crumbs by pouring some in the middle and then moving the tin around until it is all covered in them. This is the Swedish way of greasing a tin for any cake, but I suppose you could also line the tin with baking paper.
Then melt the butter on the stove and let cool whilst you whisk together the eggs and the sugar for a fluffy mix. You can do this by hand, but your cake rises better if you can fluff it up with an electric whisk.
Fold in the butter, flour, baking powder and cream, and pour the mixture into your greased tin. Put in the oven for 25 minutes whilst you make the almond topping.
Making the almond topping is simple. Just mix the butter, milk, flour, sugar and almonds in a pan on the stove, and let melt slowly whilst the cake is in the oven. The butter should become completely liquid and the sugar should dissolve, but it doesn’t need more heat once that’s done.
Once the cake has had its 25 minutes in the oven, take it out and apply the topping carefully all over the cake. Just make sure it doesn’t collect in one hole in the middle. Put back into the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the topping has gone a light golden brown.
Once your beautiful cake is done, the almond should have caramelised at the top, and the sponge gone a light brown at the bottom. Carefully separate the upper edges of the cake from the form with a knife, as they become difficult to separate once the sugar has stiffened. Let rest for a few minutes, and then carefully move the cake from the form to a plate. Decorate with berries and mint, and serve with strong, sweet coffee.
On a recent visit to Berlin, I came across Oderquelle, a well-recommended diamond for German cuisine in Berlin. Having gone through poor kebab and sushi experiences all weekend, I was desperate for some sturdy German cooking and did my research before going out. As they single-handedly re-gained my faith in worthwhile eating I figured the initial East Berlin guide would have to be amended – with a strong review for Oderquelle (if meatballs were awarded this would be an 8.5/10), and a few warnings issued for the well-recommended but terribly dry places I also happened to come across.
Oderquelle has a seasonal menu that changes daily and they don’t post anything about their food on their website, so you have to go on the day and see if anything takes your fancy. I’m sure it will. We had starters of smoky broccoli soup and handmade cumin cheese with chopped onion and parsley vinaigrette. At 3 euros these were a bargain, because they were huge portions for a starter – I was told this is the German size. The handmade cheese came with some bread and butter at the side and tasted very similar to Swedish cumin cheese eaten at Crayfish fests coming up now in August – so I was over the moon. And also rather filled up by the first course together with the generously sized southern wheat beer.
For mains, my veggie friend Tim had risotto stuffed peppers with goats cheese, Mr Meatball had veal with fried potatoes and béarnaise, and I had duck with apple and red cabbage sauerkraut and spätzle. It was all delicious, and again, very generously sized. My duck was braised to perfection and broke off beautifully with the sweet and sour red and apple sauerkraut. While I find spätzle (a homemade kind of German pasta) a little bland, it worked wonders with the strong sauerkraut and red wine sauce.
Oderquelle is close to Mauerpark and sees a rather lively nightlife pass by even on a quiet night – so we had to put up with a lone guitarist busking a screechy version of Radiohead’s Creep for twenty minutes before Romani accordion players pushed him away and started serenading individual guests at the restaurant. If you can deal with all this, Oderquelle is definitely the place to go in East Berlin for traditional German cooking in some fresh new clothes. The service was lovely and we ended up forking out only 25 euros each for the massive starters, mains and two large jugs of German beer.
If you, after eating, fancy to play some games whilst drinking more of that cheap German beer, a place around the corner (to the right as you face Mauerpark) without sign has a pool table, darts, ping pong table, playstation and other fun things to have a go at with beers starting a 1.50. Like a mix between a youth club and drinking hall for grown ups, its also worth a visit.
Avoid: The German restaurant November in Prenzlauer Berg – expensive and shabby, the kebab places close to Mauerpark (of course, there may be some good ones but in that case we missed them), and the Japanese restaurant Tabito in Friedrichshain (they supply fun toys to play with, but the Sushi wasn’t worth the price tag, and atmosphere was too sticky with a chef dressed in a “Will buy drinks for sex” t-shirt. Eww.)
Because of the terribly rainy summer, Sweden is invaded with golden chanterelles at the moment. My stepmum complains over being bombarded with everyone’s beautifully instagrammed pictures of them on twitter. The chanterelles, which only grow in the wild, have a floral, spicy and slightly nutty flavour with hints of apricot, and are known in Sweden as the gold of the forest (and the price tag for fresh ones in London suggests there’s something to that name). All the more reason to write about these tasty beauties, so here is my mini-guide to finding, picking and eating them.
Finding. My sister-in-law who is from the dark forests of Värmland has what we in Sweden call kantarellnäsa – chanterelle nose. This has nothing to do with the appearance of her cute, shapely nose, but rather to her mysterious talent of finding these mushrooms in the wild. No matter how hard I try, I never find as many as she does. Her main tips are to look on small hills in the forest with a sunny side, in areas where birches grow sparsely together with large fir trees. If you lift the lowest branches of fir trees growing in these conditions, you can often find some chanterelles. Also, stay clear of patches of the forest where lingonberry and blueberry bushes grow, because if you find one of these you’re rather unlikely to find chanterelles nearby. Chanterelles like rainy summers but also heat, so like grape vine they enjoy hillsides where they can soak up as much warmth from the sun as possible (however they tend to live in the undergrowth, so you rarely find them in direct sunlight).
Foraging. Whilst picked berries can be placed and stored in plastic containers, mushrooms should ideally be placed in an airy basket lined with newspaper, and be wrapped in newspaper in the fridge when stored at home. If you actually make your way to Scandinavia to forage, mosquito repellent and long-sleeved thin clothing is essential. Mosquitos are simply a pain, especially in the forest if it’s been rainy and hot, which means they co-exist with the chanterelles. Also, large parts of Scandinavia have ticks in high grass, who sometimes carry Borrelia, a very serious disease if it goes untreated. So make sure to check your elbows, knees and other skin creases after coming back from the forest or meadows with high grass. If you’ve caught a tick, gently remove it with a tweezer. Normally that’s all there is to it, but if you get a red circular rash developing around the bite after a few weeks, see a doctor.
A final hazard of foraging in the wild is the risk of picking the wrong kinds of mushrooms. Unless you’re an expert, stick to picking only golden chanterelles which are unmistakably golden and hard to confuse with anything else. Do not pick any white mushrooms at all, as you might accidentally pick Vit Flugsvamp, aptly named Destroying Angel in English, which looks like this. Even a small quantity can lead to a slow and painful death, so it’s important to wash your hands if you accidentally touch one.
On the upside, most of the berries you find in the forest and meadows are perfectly edible, so after all those heavy warnings, here are some cute photos of blueberries and wild strawberries.
Cleaning. Once you’ve gathered a basketfull of chanterelles for yourself, it’s time to clean them so they are ready for the pan. For this you need a small brush and a knife to remove the bottom of the stalk with. Cut the very bottom of the stalk just to remove the dirty root, and then carefully remove any other dirt on the mushroom with a little brush. You can use an egg brush for this. This is rather time-consuming, but do not under any circumstances wash the chanterelles, as this removes a crucial part of their flavour. If you’re too impatient or scared of bacteria for this process, you may simply have to stick with green-house grown mushrooms.
Cooking. With their distinct flavour, chanterelles take-over or accompany a great array of dishes and they blend beautifully in salads with apple, in reindeer stews with lingonberry, or with scrambled eggs. However, I prefer to just enjoy them on their own, pan fried in butter, and placed on toast. This is particularly delicious if you bake your own sourdough bread and toast it on high heat in the pan you’ve cooked the chanterelles in (but baking sourdough bread is something I have yet to learn and most likely requires a mini-guide of its own). Pan-fried chanterelles require a hearty spicing of butter (and if you even consider replacing it with something lighter you might as well not bother), however you must not put it in at first, but instead turn the water out of the mushrooms by dry frying them. This is a heartbreaking process in many ways, as you’ll see your large batch of chanterelles shrink considerably.
Once their water has evaporated from the pan, add a large knob of butter and let the chanterelles soak in this whilst frying for a few minutes. Remove from the pan, increase the heat and pan-toast your bread in the leftover butter. Place the mushrooms on top of the toast and sprinkle with salt and white pepper before serving. Absolutely delicious.
I am back from a blissful two weeks in Corsica and I thought there was nothing better to remind myself I am no longer there but in cloudy London than to recount my culinary adventures in the Île de Beauté. Before going there I had images of fresh fish barbecues, relaxed meals by the beach and not much to do. Little did I remember that we would be TWELVE! I don’t know how I managed to forget that my close family (bother, sister and step brother and sisters) includes 7 children plus my parents, with the addition of cousins and grandmas but I wasn’t really prepared to cook for 12 people everyday for a week (we were ‘only’ 8 for the last week) in a house prepared to welcome 7. So I thought it would be a good idea to give some tips on how to cook for big parties, maybe some of you have ridiculously big families too or just want to entertain some your close friends all at the same time…
The first thing I have to say is BBQ! This is your best friend when you are cooking for a lot of people. No need for complicated prep, not a lot of washing, and something that almost everyone will like. Before going to Corsica I was dreaming of fish and seafood barbecues, but due to the amount of people that populate the island in the summer fish was almost always unavailable or ridiculously pricey so we stuck with meats. You don’t want to spend a long time prepping when you could be enjoying the view above with a glass of wine (yes that is the amazing view from the barbecue) so just stick to simple marinades: smashed garlic, salt, pepper and mustard for pork (or pasta de pimentao/pimiento with some oil if you’re in Spain or Portugal), good old salt and pepper for beef (good steaks don’t need more than that) and salt, pepper, garlic and some mint (optional) for lamb. Make sure you leave the meat marinating for quite a long time in the case of pork and lamb and make sure to only salt the steaks close to cooking time.
Your next best friends are starters and sides. If you are cooking for many, especially in a kitchen which doesn’t have enormous pots and pans, the easiest thing to do is to prepare a lot of small different side dishes and starters. Starters can be anything from local charcuterie (coppa and saucisson from Corsica are great), to small vegetable dishes (cucumber salad, tomato and mozarella, mini quiches) or soups (gazpacho is my favourite for summertime) and are great to divide up your meal so you don’t have to cook a big dish. Also make sure you make a lot of different side dishes to keep everyone happy and to make cooking easier. My favourite sides for a barbecue are a big green salad with lots of vinaigrette and oven roasted fries. Other good ideas are grilled vegetables (that you can make at the same time as the meat), baby potatoes blanched and then cooked in butter with garlic, grilled asparagus, coriander rice or sweet potato fries. Just make sure they are easy to cook so you can juggle two or three at a time.
My final tip is to make salads! This might seem like a weak meal at first but we have provided you with many salad meals which are all but weak. My favourite remains the Swedish Meatball’s grape, halloumi and pomegranate salad but this summer my stepsister (merci Philippine!) prepared us a dream salad which consisted of mâche (also known as lamb’s lettuce), roasted pine nuts, melon and feta cheese tossed with classic vinaigrette and might just become my new go-to salad. Salads are easy because they don’t require much cooking and you can actually call your guests and ask them to do some chopping. And with that comes an extra tip: when cooking for big parties, make them cook too (and provide a lot of wine)!