This is a rather short post, just a little shout-out to the best herring sandwich I ever had (I wrote about this Swedish delicacy and how to make it at home a while back). Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending my cousin’s wedding in the Swedish mountains, at Hotel Fjällgården in Åre, close to the border of Norway. The scenery is, as might be expected, breathtaking, but being an utter food-pig this sandwich was the star of my weekend. (Apart from the beautiful bride, of course).
This sandwich was more voluptuous than a normal matjessillmacka, as it was much bigger and, frankly a bit excessive. It had all the key building blocs: delicious matjes herring (the best kind, in my humble opinion), Swedish soured cream (gräddfil), red onion, chives, potato, warm sweet dark bread and boiled eggs. In addition, it was sprinkled with small bits of beetroot and capers, which sharpened the salty-sweet scale. But the magic ingredient was clarified butter, which was doused (very generously) on top and gave it a sweet, even caramelised flavour. Hardly healthy, of course, but ridiculously delicious. Not that one passes by Åre every other day, but if you do, make sure to take a trip up the ski slope to Fjällgården, for this sandwich is absolutely worth the hike.
After the disillusion of Chowda’s lobster roll I took it to my online bible of American food – Serious Eats – to find some tasty food for my next few weeks in Boston. I began my search for a place to have lunch around my office – Downtown Crossing – and came accross Chacarero’s, a small place that serves enormous Chilean sandwiches called Chacarero’s. I came back to the office and quickly messaged Miss Meatball to tell her about one of the best sandwiches I had ever had. This thing was gigantic and so so good. It’s basically and white homemade bap, smeared with avocado, topped with your choice of beef, chicken, or both (I tried chicken but really should go for both next time), munster cheese and then runner beans (yes, runner beans), tomato, lettuce, and an incredible mistery green spicy sauce.
All the ingredients were incredibly fresh and every sandwich was made to order. A large chacarero came to 8 dollars (that’s roughly 5 pounds) which fed me for both lunch and dinner (it is a really big sandwich). This made me think about the amount of times I had a horrible sloppy sandwich from Pret or worse, Sainsbury’s, simply because there are no other affordable options around (read Holborn). If only I could have walked five minutes from LSE and pay five pounds to have a gigantic, fresh and made to order (no Pret making your sandwiches in the morning doesn’t count as ‘fresh’) for five pounds. But on to more food from Boston.
On my third day of work I was asked by my boss to replace someone at a talk at MIT.It was a conference on food trucks and mobile payments (yes these exist) and while it was totally useless from a work point of view I got to find out a lot about the Boston food (and fashion) truck scene. I found out that Boston is one of the cities in America with the most food trucks per capita and I have made it my mission to try as many as I can. I started by having my leftover sandwich with some rosemary french fries from Clover – one of Boston’s most famous food truck enterprises (they have over 5 trucks and a restaurant) which has one of its trucks close to my hotel on the Boston Common. These fries were so good – crisp outside and soft inside and speckled with fried rosemary. At first I thought the rosemary was just a gimmick but then I started thinking about all the possibilities of dishes that could be sprinkled with fried rosemary – which made the herb milder than usual and very crispy.
My next food truck experience was my next day’s lunch at Bon Me. Sadly I have no picture of my food so you will have to drool on this image of their menu from their Flickr page. Bon Me is a Vietnamese food truck and serves three main dishes plus some extras (no more noodle soup). You choose your base then add your filling. I had the Bahn-mi with bbq pork which was incredible. Fresh bread, pork pate, punchy pickled carrot and daikon and smoky bbq pork topped with fresh coriander. This was amazing and incredible value for $6. The truck stops quite close to my work on Fridays so I will be sure to try the other options next week. Now I’m off to SoWa open market to test as many food trucks as I can.
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.
- Cream cheese
- Strong cheddar (and preferably one of these to slice it with)
- Generous amounts of newly milled pepper
- Very thinly sliced celery
- Crispy lettuce
- Thick slices of bread (nice granary from the bakery section of your local supermarket, or an actual bakery, is the nicest, but granary slice works perfectly fine too)
- Optional: you can go crazy and add all kinds of salad. I tend to make it when i’ve got nothing else at home, but I’m sure fresh spinach and crushed walnuts would sneak in very easily.
Slice up your bread, spread on a layer of cream cheese on each side and mill lots of pepper on both sides too (it’s important to get the pepper in at this point as it flavours are drawn out in the cream cheese a little, especially if it will be sitting in your bag for lunch, and that tastes very nice). Add a generous layer of celery on one side, put your cheese on top and finish off with crunchy salad. Since there aren’t many ingredients for this one, the key is to think generously for all of them. Press together, slice up to a door stop (or whatever shape you prefer) and pack up in your lunchbox. Easy as that. Enjoy!
Making food to bring to uni can be a bit of a bitch, as it requires too much preparation or doesn’t fill you up enough (I suffer from the latter as my metabolism works at the speed of light). And there isn’t a microwave anywhere. My solution to this has been making a humongous sandwich every day. Current favourite is this:
It’s quick to prepare as you can make the filling on monday morning and have it last to Thursday. Replenish the bread and salad stocks if necessary mid-week. You need:
- 3 peppers
- Rocket/baby leaf salad
- Cottage cheese (can be exchanged for hummus if you’re a chickpea fanatic)
- Feta cheese (Sainsbury’s value for 50p works well as is doesn’t need to be fancy… and it’s cheap)
- Good bread in thick slices – this is usually the trickiest thing to get a hold of in London. I’m lucky living close to a Turkish bakery (Pekünlü on Shacklewell lane for the Dalstonites out there, super nice and super cheap. Got a sesame and aniseed batch this week for 80p) but the high street supermarkets usually have something in their bake-sections.
Roast the peppers in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and some Herbamare (staple in Sweden, if you don’t fancy swinging by your nearest Holland & Barret to pick some up you can just use salt). Roasting is easily done at the bottom of the oven whilst you make dinner some night.When they have cooled off, mix them with the cottage cheese and crushed feta cheese. Spread this onto your bread, add some pepper from the mill and cut down some herbs if you happen to have some. Because the sandwich contains so much cheese and stuff it keeps you full for longer. Or at least that’s my theory!
This sandwich is way cheaper than eating at uni, as the ingredients cost about £7 altogether and last you for four days (1,75/day). It also tickles the tastebuds more than the packed sandwiches sold at the uni outlets!