It is time for another post on traditional Swedish food – husmanskost – and this time one of my father’s absolute favourites. Isterband is a smoky, slightly acidous and grainy sausage made of heart and tongue, originally from the Småland region. It is typically served with stewed potato and pickled beetroot, and to me it tastes of autumn like few other things – it belongs with the smell of burning leaves and crisp air. It is hearty, warm and packed with flavour.
– 1 pack of Isterband (this will be difficult to get a hold of outside of Sweden, but could probably be substituted with some other kind of large smoked sausage).
– One heap of fresh dill, chopped
– A few tablespoons of flour
– About 100 grams of butter
– A few decilitres of milk
– 1/5 kg of potatoes, a firm variety.
– Salt and white pepper to taste
– A jar of sliced pickled beetroots
Dill stewed potatoes is a mild, standard side to any smoky Swedish food, and very easy to make. It relies on the usual suspects for flavouring (dill and white pepper) together with the creaminess of milk and butter. Start by peeling, slicing and boiling the potatoes. Make the slices thick so that they don’t break in the water, and be careful not to overcook them. Start frying the sausages on a low heat in a wide pan (they should fry for about 25 minutes). Then make a bechamel base by melting the butter in the pan, and carefully whisking in flour until you have a thick paste.
Add milk slowly to the paste, to make a thick, creamy sauce. You can choose how voluptuous you like the sauce to be – if you want the supreme, extend it with cream or a bit of creme fraiche. If you’re feeling frugal, go with milk, which is the classic way of making it.
One you’ve reached a thick, smooth consistency, add salt and white pepper (you can be rather generous). Add the chopped dill and some nutmeg, then pour the sauce over the potatoes. Take the sausages off the pan and serve immidiately. The heavy smokiness of the sausages is rather dominant, and the potatoes are there to provide a smooth, mild balance. By serving this with pickled beetroot you also get a sweet contrast to the rest. It’s a well-balanced, autumnal and most warming meal.
I know Quesadillas are technically Mexican, but the whole idea is simply cheese and some other ingredients trapped inside a tortilla to create melted awesomeness. I took this idea really liberally and made quesadillas with goat’s cheese, feta, beetroot and chopped herbs. Yes I am probably as far as I could be from real quesadillas, but it was really good and sometimes you just have to use what’s left in the fridge.
This can hardly be called a recipe but you will need:
- Goat’s cheese (the crumbly kind)
- Feta cheese (blue cheese would be amazing too now that I think of it…)
- Chopped herbs (I had chives, parsley and wild rocket).
- Tortillas (fresh corn ones if you can, it tastes nothing like the Old El Paso/Sainsbury’s/Discovery flour tortillas – sadly I only had that kind this time).
Start by heating up a non-stick frying pan. Throw a tortilla in there (no oil or butter!) and leave it until golden. Turn it around and start adding the cheeses. On top of the cheese add the beetroot and the chopped herbs. Fold the tortilla in two and make sure it is gold on both sides. To serve, I like to cut the quesadillas in triangles and dip them in some kind of salsa/sour cream. Voila, easy, healthy lunch in 10 minutes or less (I am competing with Mr Oliver here!).
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:
Being back in Sweden for a month with blizzards and temperatures reaching -5, making healthy salads to become beach fit has felt very far away. Instead I’ve been stuffing myself with hearty stews and kebabs (Malmö kebabs are legendary).
However, I found an interesting ingredient in my dad’s fridge: Sweet liquorice sirup. I have no idea what it is but think it’s meant to go on ice cream. However, I found out it also works as a great ingredient in salad dressings. With some inspiration from this dish, I decided to make a beetroot and liquorice salad, warm, weird and filling in the windy Swedish spring, but also very healthy.
Mixing beetroot with liquorice gives a very interesting flavour and it might not be to everyone’s liking, however it is definitely worth a try. I’ll be making this again.
- 5 beetroots
- The leaves of those beetroots, cleaned with the stems cut off
- Some salad leaves – I used some crispy iceberg.
- 2 eggs
- Bulgur or cous cous
- 2 tsp liquorice sirup
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil (I prefer rapeseed oil for Swedish cooking. Olive oil doesn’t go well with this, as the flavour is too strong)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- some ground ginger
- the zest of half a lemon
Start with chopping off the leaves and ends of the beetroots, quarter them and then put in plenty of unsalted water to boil for about 40 minutes.
In the meantime, make your dressing by mixing everything that goes in it. The liquorice sirup is very sticky and can be difficult to mix with the rest. I solved this by putting the container I was making the dressing in in a hot water bath. So if you use a jam jar, Jamie Oliver-style, for making your dressing, just lower the bottom end into the boiling beetroot water for 20 seconds and then give everything a good shake. Cook your bulgur in some salted water and drain. When the beetroots are coming close to being done, blanche the leaves in some salted water so they soften. Then mix the beetroots, salad leaves, beets leaves, bulgur and dress it whilst it’s still warm. Fry two eggs in a pan and place on top of the salad. Done!
This is perfect summery picnic food as it’s almost more delicious cold than hot. Smoked salmon pie is my farming gran Svea’s recipe, but it’s been quite changed here to adapt for what’s available in England. It is still delicious, though. Large cubes of gravad lax is too expensive in London to make pie out of – or to be eaten by students full stop – so we made it with sainsbury’s smoked salmon trimmings instead. The pie crust was the same Read the rest of this entry »