Monday, Menus & Missed photo opportunities

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The calm before the storm, and the loveliest tulips.

So the “Red dinner” happened last night, and happy memories and a hangover is all I have to show for it. I didn’t take any photos, and even if I had tried they would have been awful as the lighting was insufficient.  The theme was inspired by a thing in one of notebooks (the one I use as a journal) and I did use that as a starting point but didn’t follow it exactly.

It said nothing about an aperitif in my journal. I decided to treat my guests to a Negroni before dinner, and a bowl of crisps. The crisps were, sadly, not red as I had hoped. I thought they would at least be tinged with red or have red flecks as they were seasoned with smoked paprika.

The suggested menu had cherry soup as the entrée; to the best of my knowledge that is a dessert. And when I refer too “my knowledge” I mean that I googled and all that came up was a recipe for a Hungarian dessert. Cherry soup with dumplings does seem very tasty and I just might make it at some point but now was not the time. I had first thought of making a tomato and roast pepper soup but made a last-minute switch to lobster soup. I declare that a fail actually; the lobster soup was more orange than red and more importantly I remember that I don’t like lobster soup all that much. In fact, not at all. My guests liked it though so maybe not a complete fail.

The main course was roast beef with roast peppers, tomatoes, beets and red onions. That was largely based on the original menu, and a delight to both make and eat. I like the kind of food that almost cooks itself and on a grey February afternoon it is like getting a vitamin injection to stand in the kitchen and chopping up brightly colored vegetables. To that I made couscous in tomato sauce (which didn’t turn out as red as I had hoped) and I had the day before reduced a bottle of red wine with some shallots, celeriac, herbs and stock to a sauce. It does feel like you are getting robbed, as a bottle of wine yields very little sauce seen to the amount but it is packing some flavor for sure.

Dessert-wise I ran into practical problems and ethical dilemmas. The menu called for fresh strawberries and raspberry sherbet. Well, finding fresh or frozen strawberries just a few days after valentine’s day was difficult and the few ones I saw were too expensive to think about. Looking at the market offerings, there seems to be a huge demand for raspberry sherbet as I couldn’t find any at all ( or there is no demand at all until May and thus no production). Vanilla ice cream all the way basically. I did find what was called a “frozen smoothie” which was based on bananas and berries. It had this whole “no sugar, no dairy la la la healthy dessert” gospel on it. I was skeptical as I believe that people who talk about healthy desserts are either a) fooling  themselves or  b) are completely missing the point about dessert. Either way, I was prepared for it to be a complete failure and I could go “Ha! It is impossible to make a tasty dessert without sugar” but it tasted just fine. I guess I just want people who like chia pudding to be a little less smug about it and stop pretending they know everything about what is healthy. So I ended up having that frozen smoothie, frozen raspberries and pomegranate seeds in my basket, and in fear of having guests leave the table hungry and disappointed I added meringues and cream too. Ingredients that were not red but that made it more interesting to eat. And what do you know, I ended up making a version of Eton Mess yet again. It was very good, but not entirely red so another F I guess.

Having a colour themed dinner was fun; I didn’t go all in with the table setting but red napkins, candles or flowers would have added a nice touch. I did in fact have red tulips but they didn’t fit on the table in the end.

In the end I failed in that all the foods were not red, but I gave it a good effort. Everything tasted fine (if you like lobster soup), no-one went to bed hungry and I have the most excellent left overs for my lunch boxes for a few days ahead. And it was nice to sit down with friends, talk and enjoy good food and wine, which I guess was the most important thing.

-Suss

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Friday&Four little projects

As the sewing machine is out the completion of projects, big and small, happen more frequently to say the least. I’m not only using the fabric and garments in my “materials-bag” for clothes however. Some is turned into items for the home; these are a few I have made of late.

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  1. Bag made out of an old tablecloth. This had been somewhat torn and had stains so I made a little bag that I tie together with ribbon (or like a pouch maybe?). Due to the colors it has a Christmas feel. For now I will take it down to the basement and use it to store Christmas tablecloth etc. I have no space for Christmas stuff in the flat so I keep them in the basement for storage but don’t want to have them in a plastic bag (not good for the fabric). I might use this as a decoration or as wrapping for a Christmas gift next time.
  2. Lavender bags of an old runner. Lovely embroidered table runner, but stained. The time and effort that has gone into this embroidery is kind of the origin of my love of clothes and fashion. My heart aches for this kind of hand made items having become unfashionable and thrown away, or in this case just rendered obsolete when stained. I made these like pillows that I filled with dried lavender. I make these kind of things all the time (they make a great housewarming present). I will put this one in with the Christmas tablecloths so their months in the basement doesn’t make them smell or get attacked by moth.
  3. Child size duvet cover and pillowcase. My beloved Missoni sheets had been used to shreds. Many nights of sleeping, many washes and a few cat claws did they endure. When I got this set it was on sale and I had a received a gift certificate at the fancy department store for Christmas but it was such an extravagance. My mum was literally offended. Many years later I can concluded that those sheets were the most wonderful I had ever had (until I purchased jersey sheets) and worth every penny. They also made my bed look great. I managed to salvage enough to make a duvet cover and a pillowcase that I will give to a friends child; this is super-soft.
  4. Missoni handkerchiefs. Yeah, I’m gonna be wiping my nose with Missoni, I’m just extra like that. But really. A few scraps are just that and due to their softness they are excellent for wiping/polishing glasses. A few squares became the handkerchiefs you see in the photo. Bigger pieces will be saved because if I do decided to buy Missoni sheets again, those bits can be made into pillowcases. I have Missoni towels  (also good quality) and the different designs look good together so I might try that with sheets too.

-Suss

Gift guide; On the table

This category is for more than foodies, almost everyone sits down at a table from time to time. So here are a few suggestions for preparing food, setting the table and what to do when the plates are clean.

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  1. A bamboo steamer. Just after Christmas everyone swears they are gonna start living healthier, and then a steamer is a good thing to have for things like broccoli (eaten as steamed it retains more nutritional value, and taste crisper although i still like to roast it). Dumplings are also excellent food to have in the freezer and steam when time is tight. It really is some of the best fast-food. These can be found at the Asia Supermarket.
  2. Le Creuset cocottes (mini-pots). Both for preparing food in, serving in and eating from I swear by my Le Creuset mini-pots that I got as a Christmas present myself. It took me a while to start using them but I haven’t stopped since. Very convenient, a colorful addition and as affordable as Le Creuset will ever be.
  3. Nice napkins. Stop using paper napkins, reduce waste and have a little elegance in your life.
  4. Steak knives from Laguiole. These are unparalleled, and for life.
  5. Cheese board and port. In Stockholm I would suggest going to Androuet and letting them help you put something together and recommend a port (or maybe recommend a wine). I say bring back the cheese tray, don’t skimp on the crackers you hear! It is a nice gift to get as it give you something to eat on New year, or enjoy in the bleak mid-Winter post holiday.
  6. Tea from Kusmi. Tea is a nice and safe gift, I think Kusmi makes some of the best and the tins are so pretty too; I suggest going for the classics in the collection like Prince Vladimir or Anastasia.  Marriage Frères is always an option if you can get it;  expensive but very good tea. I still think often about the lovely “Casablanca-blend”.
  7. Boardgames, Jenga or a 1000 piece puzzle. How about a little post-dinner entertainment? I own a lovely backgammon set but don’t know how to play. A nice gift to me would be to teach me (and possibly print me some instructions). But in general I think that board games and puzzles are great things to do with family and something like Jenga is fun for everyone as it is easy to understand (even cats can join in apparently) and why not buy something like that?

-Suss

Monday &Meals of late

Even though it feels like life of late has been a string of deadlines, PMs and evenings with Tale of Genji, I’ve had an opportunity or two to be social, and then it has usually involved food and beverage.

There was visit to a bar, whose name shall forever be kept in darkness, partly because I cannot remember it right now and secondly it was such a boring place that I can’t be arsed to look it up. The hot dogs that followed as a late night snack left more of an impression. IMG_5767

We can laugh at hipsters for days on end, that pretentious somewhat detached quality that they, but they have done great things for junk food and thus all is forgiven. Being that serious about a hamburger as only some men with all the correct tattoos and facial hair can be is equally ridiculous and amazing. And now the wizards behind Stockholms iconic burger joint Flippin’ Burgers have turned their craft to something as trivial as hot dogs, and oh wow, “just take my money” is all I say.

These cost about three times as much as normal hot dog. But they are an entire meal, you can sit down at a table and the place, called Dogfood, has a license so you can have a glass of wine with the wiener. The fries are horrible but I assume that will change; as a reluctant veteran of  hipster hamburger haunts I have seen efforts to make “matchstick fries” happen before, and customers won’t have it. Sure, Swedes will accept politicians being openly racist and waffle about the Swedish being reluctant to handle conflict as an excuse not to “take the discussion”. Mess with hipster food? Then it gets real.

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I had the one closest to the  “camera” i.e. my phone. Fries in the middle.

I had the vegetarian hot dog which was deep-fried sweet potato. They had me at deep fried, they really did. But it tasted great, all the trimmings like the bread, salad, sauces, all of it was very tasty.

High off of carbs from that, just a few days later I ended up having lunch at Meat on a stick. Ironically I had the falafel.

So the story, as it was told to me by my lunch companion, is that the person who started Meat on a stick basically travelled the world looking for the worlds best kebab, and having learned the secrets and achieved (what I assume ) is a higher state of “kebab-eing” , he decided to open his own place.

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Unfortunately I ate all my food before realizing I should take a photo. I would never make it as a hipster.

I have only eaten there once but that was the third best falafel I’ve had outside of the Middle east (first place goes to L’As du Falafel in the Marais, Paris and second place to any random falafel joint in the Möllan-area in Malmö). This was a very succulent falafel with a yogurt and mint sauce and a salad that contained both mango and pomegranate seeds. I’m all for fruit in food, those sweet and tart flavours balanced the spices so well in this case. And yes; I paid probably twice as much for a falafel as normal but it was much healthier than the other kind (or so I tell myself).

I have only eaten at these places once, but will try to go again, and I encourge others to do the same. It is always worth going once to see what the deal is and make up ones own mind.

-Suss

Pears&Poaching

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So I keep claiming that I’m not that much into dessert, which isn’t strictly true. I don’t understand people that get all uppity about chocolate fondants and I think Créme Brûlée is overrated. However, a few things from the dessert cart can really get me going and those usually involve fruit.

This time of year is great for one of the easiest and tastiest ways to end a dinner; poached pears. Like really, very little work involved and you don’t need much more then sugar, a bit of spice and the pears. Maybe a bit of cream or ice cream to serve it with. As far as the sugar goes this is an excellent time to use the flavored sugars I have mentioned before. This time I used the Christmas flavored sugar and the cinnamon, cardamom etc. worked beautifully with the pears, and then I reduced the fluids with a little cream for an excellent sauce. These pears were soft from the beginning so the poaching no more then 7 minutes.

Poached pears; serves two

2 pears, peeled (leave the stem on, it looks nice)

3 tablespoons caster sugar (preferably flavoured)

1,5 tablespoons of water

(2 tablespoons of heavy cream)

  1. Put the pears standing in a saucepan with a solid bottom, then add the sugar and water.
  2. Put on the lid, and let it come to the boil on medium heat.
  3. Keep the lid on whilst they poach which might take every thing from 5 to 25 minutes depending on how firm they are. Do check with a kitchen needle/knife.
  4. When the pears are done, take them out and place them in serving bowls. Bring the syrup to a boil and let it reduce a bit (possibly adding a day of cream to make it into more of a sauce).
  5. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, with a bit of syrup drizzled on top.

This is moorish and I love this sort of thing after a heavier meal. If the dinner is lighter I might go all in an make a chocolate sauce to serve with the pears and ice cream, basically making it into Poires Belle Hélène. JK JK JK, even after a heavy dinner that can happen because pears, chocolate and vanilla is just the best combo, Escoffier wasn’t joking with that one.

(And yes; I’ve got the Christmas books out already. This recipe isn’t in that one though, however I think it should be. If I ever make a Christmas book I will make sure to include poached pears. It’s an integral part of the Winter kitchen as far as I am concerned)

-Suss

 

 

 

Vendredi&Vin chaud

The other morning when I left the house I noticed that it was nippy out, to the point that I should have either worn my winter coat or put on my little down west underneath the coat I was wearing. Luckily I had a big wooly scarf, and my little thermos of coffee, nice and toasty I was, huddled up with my book in the corner of the train. You can make anywhere cosy if you have good books and coffee.

Later that day however I was shivering in a bad way. Someone had lured me out on a walk in the nice autumn sun, and it was nice as long as we were putting one fot in front of the other. The minute I was standing and waiting for the underground I curled up desperatley in my scarf, and at that point the sun was rapidly disappearing and with it any warmth it brought.

So when I got home I was both hungry and cold, and very much in the need for comfort food. I ended up mixing two things (some left over ragu and one small portion of vegetable stew) I had in the freezer which I ate with pressed potatoes which really is one of the best side orders; fluffy carbs and so light compared to mashed potatoes (which I love don’t get me wrong but there is a lot of butter in that one)

While I was waiting for the whole thing to be ready I made myself some Vin chaud and read entries from Life is meals a food lover’s book of days by James and Kay Salter. I’ve mentioned this book before of course, and I will again. At this point I’ve read all the little sections for different days at least twice. It’s such a lovely kitchen companion, just the right amount to read in between, and so so good for my mood, always.

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Vin chaud; serves two

Mix equal amounts of red wine and boiling hot water in a heat proof glasses ,approx. 2 deciliter of each depending on what glasses you are using (so each glass 1 dl wine+1 dl hot water), and then add 1 teaspoon of caster sugar to each glass, stir, and then garnish with a thin slice of lemon on top. Serve and enjoy responsibly!

This is a very nice aperitif during this time of year as it is quite light, not a lot of sugar and spices as the glow later in the season. It’s easy to make too, which is an added bonus. Why more bars in this town don’t serve it is beyond me, French bistros do however, that’s how I learned about it in the first place. If you want a non-alcoholic option I will always think fondly of blackberry cordial and boiling water with some lemon and possibly cinnamon mixed up.

Now if you excuse me I have to get out some extra blankets, socks and locate the hot water flask because winter is coming, soon.

-Suss

 

Monday and My Greasy spoon adventure

Last weekend I went out to brunch, more or less. My thoughts on brunch are well known I think, but it does happen from time to time. In this case it was a lesser evil as the time for this particular brunch was actually around the time for a late lunch, and we didn’t tuck in at a buffé with scrambled eggs that have been in a canteen for ages, but a place with menus, dishes made  à la carte and there was no limit on how many refills of coffee you could take.

I’m obviously talking about the much hyped Greasy spoon here in Stockholm; they now have two places and as their second venue is located on my side of town, I ended up visiting.

I will say that they food I ordered wasn’t all that, I felt it was a bit overpriced but other around the table made better choices. There is a reason why critics make at least three visits to a restaurant before writing a review.  I probably will go again as the ambiance was nice, it is so convenient with a place that has options for all allergies, diets and convictions when it comes to food and makes it very clear in the menu what is what.  You can find out more about Greasy spoon here.

Something that I have seen in their feed as it is a sometimes “daily special” is the french toast with croissants. I do love different versions of french toast, but this was new to me. When I saw it I just thought how brilliant it was and why hadn’t I thought of it myself? However, I did make it myself.

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Croissant french toast; serves 2

2 croissants

1 egg

1 dl of milk

1 knifes edges of vanilla sugar

butter for frying

for serving;

confectioner’s sugar

fresh berries or fruit

Possibly bacon

  1. Whisk the egg, milk and the vanilla sugar together.
  2. Slice the croissants lengthways.
  3. Heat a non stick frying pan on medium, add butter.
  4. Dip the croissants in the batter on both sides. Let the sides soak up batter for a few seconds.
  5. When the butter is turning brown, add the pieces dipped in batter and fry on both sides until golden.
  6. Serve with the accompaniments of your choice.

This is so easy to make but feels like the most indulgent of breakfasts. This will most certainly become a regular feature on the weekend table.

-Suss