Toffee soaked rhubarb and apple crumble

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.

You need:

  • 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.


Advertisements

Classic Swedish herring sandwich (sillamacka på kavring)

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.

Another sillamacka, with light walnut bread and some dark caviar.

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.


Review – British tapas at The Somers Town Coffee House

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:


Review – Yoshino Sushi

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:


Some love for the greengrocer – Stoke Newington Green

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.

Both shops can be found on the map here and here.


Review – Dragon Palace, great dim sum in Earl’s Court

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.

From left to right: Cheung Fun, Shangai dumplings, and Needle noodles.

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.


Caramelised almond cake (toscatårta)

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.

Pardon all the instagrammed photos… left my camera in London.

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.