Small things are great. My love of breakfast has found yet another friend in ramekins – small glass cups that you can make a miniature of just about anything in – ice cream, pies – and lovely eggs. These baked eggs are perfect for brunch, adapted from Jamie Oliver’s baked eggs with haddock. I like a bit of spice in my breakfast so went for smoked salmon with freshly grated horseradish instead. Together with silky creamed spinach and crunchy spring onion, it’s really quite delicious.
For two baked eggs, you need:
- 2 small oven-proof dishes (or try bake two eggs in a medium dish, it should work as well)
- 2 slices of smoked salmon
- a handful of shopped spring onion
- two handfuls of fresh spinach
- 1/2 dl grated horseradish
- Nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste
Start by setting the oven to 180 degrees. In a pan, wilt the spinach, then squeeze it dry in a colender, and chop it roughly. Grate the horseradish and chop the spring onion. Mix the spinach, spring onion and horseradish with some cream, and add nutmeg to it (freshly grated is nicest). Dish these out in two buttered ramekins, and place a slice of smoked salmon on top. Finish it by carefully cracking an egg on each, and adding cream around the edge of the egg whites so that the salmon is fully coated. Add some salt and pepper on top, and put in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the whites of the eggs have just set. Serve with toast, orange juice and coffee for a simple but delicious brunch.
I’m currently hiding away in a little cottage in the vast forests of Småland, after six consecutive nights of heavy Swedish Christmas dinners. The next few days I intend to eat only pizza and salad, and possibly a curry if I can be bothered making one. But it’s Christmas, so most likely I won’t. Since I’ve had the pleasure of being served food by everyone I’ve visited this Christmas, I will not present any recipes in this post, but rather a little run through of what Swedes eat at Christmas, and why it’s amazing despite its gluttonous repetitiveness (at Christmas, we tend to eat a variation of this for all too many nights).
The basis of Swedish Christmas food is our love for sandwiches – its basically sandwich food, just a bit over the top, and without much bread. Southern Christmas food (Skånskt julbord) tends to be the most over-the-top of them all, in line with the Southern tradition of exaggerating and bragging through food. You must start with the fish dishes (it’s always a buffet, all you can eat-style), and here the herring takes up most of the space. It’s normally eaten with eggs, caviar, boiled potato and dark bread. You will have several versions of home-made pickled herring (inlagd sill) and the guests are normally expected to contribute with a few kinds of their own. One of the tables I visited this year had ten different varieties, including the classics with mustard and onion. My undisputed favourite remains my stepdad’s curry herring with apple. It sounds weird, but it’s amazing.
The second staple of the fish table is gravlax. Ambitious people make this by themselves, by rubbing a salmon in sugar, salt, dill and pepper, and leaving it to ferment lightly under something very heavy in the fridge for a couple of days. The method of making gravlax actually stems back to VIking age, when people used to bury fish deep into in the salty banks of beaches, as a way of preserving it until they wanted to eat it. It tastes somewhat similar to smoked salmon, but with stronger hints of spices. The sauce that goes to it (gravlaxsås) is sweet, tart and full of dill.
However, the real star of the fish table is the smoked eel (rökt ål). It’s normally served with scrambled eggs, and its delicate smoky creaminess is simply sublime when done well. The conscious reader will know that due to over-fishing, fishing Baltic eel becomes illegal every now and then. However, stubborn traditionalists will still sneak it up on the table for Christmas with a sly smile to the general applause of other traditionalists. I’m not too bothered with tradition, but eel is one of my favourite kinds of food ever… and my aunt promised me that this year’s eel came legally, from a nearby lake.
Now, moving on to the meat table, the meatballs (köttbullar) are obviously a key feature, served with beetroot salad. The meatballs are so central that in some families, you will have several different batches of meatballs. One year my mother, gran, aunt and cousins had all set about making meatballs, with the obvious competition to go with it. Some opt for modern takes on meatballs, like putting thyme and parmesan in them. Others go with revival recipes from the 19th century which include sweet anchovy brine. My favourites remain my mothers: she makes them small, juicy and hot with white pepper. One thing is clear: never make them all beef, and never, ever, replace the butter with olive oil.
The Christmas ham (julskinka) is another central feature of the meat table, with different strong mustards (home-made, as seen in the background, makes for the strongest kind), cheeses and dark, sweet bread. One of Sweden’s most famous Christmas songs is about a julskinka that ran away. Julskinka is also the reason why you will be served so many home-made hawaii, capricciosa or other ham-based pizzas after New Years eve. No matter how much ham you eat, it just never ends. Adding to this equation, people tend to assume that the larger hams are tastier.
Danish paté (dansk leverpastej) with Cumberland sauce and cornichons is a sandwich-linked must-have on the Southern table. With home-made cumberland sauce it’s one of my favourites, as the aroma of the orange peel is delicious together with the creaminess of the paté and the salty pickle.
Janssons frestelse (The temptation of Jansson) is a creamy, potato based dish with onion, breadcrumbs and anchovies. Sometimes people sneak caviar into it for the perfect amount of saltiness. It’s eaten with the ham, meatballs or eel, or just about anything on the table. Beside the köttbullar and julskinka, Janssons is one of the most common things found on any Swedish Christmas table. No Janssons, no Christmas.
Lutfiskpudding is a weird one. This dish, prepared with white dried fish, butter and rice, is loved by many of the older generation but sadly not quite understood by me. But apparently there’s something irresistible about the crusty surface and the lutfisk flavour eaten together with loads of butter.
No julbord would be complete without sausages (julkorv). There are normally a few varieties of these, including reindeer, wild boar and normal smoked salami with green pepper. They are normally accompanied with four or five kinds of cheese as well.
All the savoury food is served with beer and frozen snaps of course, which is taken every five minutes with a rowdy or happy Christmas song. If you’re confused regarding which snaps to go for, always opt for Linie aqvavit, which is a safe bet and enjoyed by most. Try Piraten or Beska droppar at your own peril.
The dessert of the julbord is called risgryngröt and is a form of sweet porrige. In Sweden, it’s tradition to eat risgynsgröt with an almond smuggled into in. Whoever eats the almond is said to get married the following year. My aunt tends to cheat and add four or five, so that people have a bigger chance of getting married. 25 years and it still hasn’t worked. And for someone who’s not into desserts much, I have little love to spare for risgrynsgröt. It’s quite heavy, with lots of cream, and in the South it’s normally served with raspberry sauce (normally just wild raspberries, in the freezer since summer, and then gently simmered with some sugar on the stove). The anomaly on the picture is the Norwegian way of eating it, with butter and cinnamon (as preferred by my stepmum).
Of course, this is far from a comprehensive overview of what Swedes eat at Christmas, as I’ve left out dopp i grytan, rödkål, brunkål, svampgaller, lutfisk and many other dishes. But since it’s Christmas and I’m feeling lazy, I leave you with this for now. God jul!
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:
- 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)
- 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.
As most Portuguese girls when it reaches March/April I go into beach-prep mode. I know it all sounds very superficial and silly but if you’ve lived in a country where the sun shines 80% of the time and people start going to the beach as early as March you know there is some preparation ahead of that…haha. Whether you’re on beach-mode like me or are just looking for some alternatives to butter on toast (my most favourite breakfast) here are some slightly healthier breakfast ideas (no none of them include eating just carrots or juicing…):
Easiest breakfast ever! All you need to do is fry and egg or two (you could poach it to be even healthier but I love the combination of the salty fried egg and tomato), slice one big tomato and season with lots of salt and pepper. I sometimes add a piece of toast to this.
This breakfast asks for a bit more prep but is fairly easy too. You will need around 60 grams of smoked salmon (or two slices of ham), a whole avocado sliced, a poached egg and, again, lots of salt and pepper. If you’re a bit weird like me you can add a bit of tabasco or chilli sauce to the avocado…yum! This also works with a whole mango, sliced.
Home-made granola with Greek yoghurt. (Sorry no picture!)
While this might seem like a lot of effort you can make the granola ahead of time and it lasts for a really long time. For the homemade granola you will need:
- 500 grams of rolled oats (you can buy big bags at big supermarkets).
- A handful of dried nuts
- 50 grams of butter (this might not seem very healthy but is much healthier than ready-made versions)
- 3/4 tablespoons of honey
- Some cinnamon (optional)
All you have to do is melt the butter and then mix it with everything. The mixture then goes in the oven at 180 degrees until it looks golden. Then all you have to do is wait for it to cool down and put it in a container. Serve it with Greek yoghurt, some honey and whatever fruit you have lying around.
Make sure you have some fatty meals the rest of the day to balance out all the healthiness…
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 »