Red Lentil Fritters

(or are they actually burgers đŸ€”)

So we’re going back to my childhood again. Well… maybe not childhood. My mom really wanted to cook nice food for various vegetarian (girl)friends that me and my brothers started bringing home at some point. And nice food to my mom meant no store bought, ready made stuff, no short-cuts, no I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-meat… stuff. You know? Real stuff.

I have no idea where she got these ones from, or if they’re something she more or less came up with herself, but they became a real staple food at home. The base is red lentils but I think what give them their defining character is rather the mix of root vegetables that result in a sweet, earthy taste which I became really fond of.

What’s a bit weird is that despite making them regularly for, well, fucking twenty years, I’ve never really settled on a pairing. Sometimes, it’s roasted potatoes with bearnaise sauce. Other times it’s the wonderfully Swedish “stuvade makaroner”, i.e. macaroni boiled in milk, or perhaps mashed potatoes with browned butter. So you know, throw em in somewhere and see how it feels.

That’s at least what I’m (still) doing (seriously..? Twenty years? TWENTY?! Well. I’m old I guess).

Created with Sketch. 1 hour Created with Sketch. About 10 burgers

Ingredients

  • 130 gred lentils
  • 130 gyellow onion (1 normal sized onion)
  • 130 gcarrot (1 big or 2 smalls carrots)
  • 80 gparsnip (1)
  • 4 eggs
  • 30 gpanko (plus som for coating the burgers before frying)
  • Some salt, pepper and whatever you like in stuff
  • A dollop of tomato purĂ© and/or mustard if you're feeling fancy

Directions

Making these ones are ridiculously easy. The only thing to really learn is how the consistency should feel to make the burgers keep their shape, but not be too compact when fried in the pan. I’ve included pictures and a video to help but as ever, practice makes perfect.

  1. Boil the lentils (130 g) in salted water (or if you like, broth) until they’re soft
  2. Finely chop the onion(s)(130 g) and finely grate the carrot(s)(130 g) and the parsnip(s)(80 g). Squeeze some of the water from the grated carrot. Then put everything in a bowl.
  3. Add the boiled lentils (not the water of course), then mix the eggs in. Finally add the panko (dried bread crumbs), some salt and black pepper and stir everything together. It should look something like this:
  4. If you have the time, let it set for a while in the fridge (overnight is also fine if you end up with un-fried left-overs), this helps with consistency. Make an oversized golfball of burger-mix in your hand and dump it in a bowl of panko/ dried bread crumbs. Cover it with crumbs and place it in a pan with medium hot oil, then gently press down on it with a spatula to make a burger. Fry for 2-3 minutes before flipping. Naturally, you can prepare several breaded over-sized golf balls before putting any in the pan.




Obviously these can be endlessly added to and experimented with, but I wanted to give you the base, the original, first.

I often add feta cheese, fresh herbs (thyme is a good one), as mentioned in the list of ingredients but not in the instructions; mustard and/or tomato puré

Maybe French Apple Cake

(stealing is that thing geniuses do right?)

This really isn’t my recipe. It just might be my favorite cake though. Our mum passed a couple of years back and she really loved to make it, so maybe there’s a bit of nostalgia mixed in there, but… anyway. Me and my brother Olov especially love this cake. And you know, he had a food blog called “Falsk Mat” (it’s in Swedish, I’ve linked to it before). And he also wanted to tell the world (more precisely Sweden) about this cake. But it’s not his cake either. He named it: “Mammas franska Ă€ppelkaka” (“Mum’s French Apple Cake“). Suck up much Olov? I kid. I really shouldn’t use such an arrogant tone as this is unquestionably yet another chapter in “posting recipes that Olov has already posted”.

So it’s our mum’s cake? Well, she did have a real good run when she made it on an at least semi-regular basis. But it’s not quite her cake either, though she did tweak it to become much better (suck up much… myself?).

It’s from the Swedish cook book “VĂ„r kokbok” (“Our Cook Book”) or possibly “Annas mat” (“Anna’s Food”) where the cake is called “Hanna’s franska Ă€ppelkaka” (“Hanna’s French Apple Cake”). So it’s a French apple cake out of a Swedish cook book from a time in which I really don’t think Sweden had other food cultures quite nailed down. I’m not sure if it’s really that French is what I’m trying to say.

To us though, it really is our mum’s cake. At first, I wasn’t completely sure if I remembered what she changed, but I had a feeling she primarily upped the batter to apples ratio. I spoke to Olov about it and said that I kind of remember something about mum liking the batter a lot and that she might have increased it in the recipe. He said…

“oh yes, she really loved the batter. I remember her saying, about the amounts in the recipe from the cook book ‘It has to be a mistake…‘”

….which I had completely forgotten but jolted me back to hearing her say it, which was really lovely.

Then I spoke with my dad, who sent me the recipe from the cook book in which mum had made notes about increasing the batter (+50%). Well… she adjusted it further upwards since, to almost +200%! Aaaaand I’ll be honest… when I did it from a recipe that mum jotted down for Olov, I actually thought “It has to be a mistake…” because there was sooo much batter. I guess we’ve come full circle 🙂 So, you know, dial it back by a third if you like, but be sure to try mum’s maxed out version first!

I’m counting on that this mind blowing exposition has led you straight to the heart of the issue? We’ve ended up with a heck of a cake here. Combined with home made vanilla ice cream it’s downright dangerous.

Do it right away and never look back. And hey, if it goes well: why not dedicate it to a parent?

Special Equipment

  • Ice cream maker
  • Immersion blender
  • Thermometer
Created with Sketch. 60 minutes + oven time Created with Sketch. 10 (cake), 5 (ice cream)

Ingredients

  • For the cake
  • 5 large apples (adjust if you use smaller apples)
  • 200 galmond
  • 300 gbutter
  • 320 gsugar (ca 4 dl)
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 lemons
  • For the vanilla ice cream
  • 4 egg yolks (ca 80 g, take 5 yolks if the eggs are smaller)
  • 2.5 dlcream
  • 2.5 dlmilk
  • 1 vanilla rod (or 2 if you're feeling wealthy)
  • 70 gsugar (just short of a dl)

Directions

  1. Start with the ice cream. This is basically this recipe but with vanilla instead of popcorn, so I’m gonna go through it pretty quickly. Slice the vanilla rod and scrape out the seeds. Heat up the milk and cream with the vanilla rod. When it comes to a boil, take it off the heat.

  2. Whisk the yolks (4) and the sugar (70 g) together. Pour the hot milk/cream- mix over the whisked sugar and yolks while whisking.
  3. Put the resulting mix back on the stove on medium to low heat. While stirring with a flat bottomed wooden spoon or spatula, let the mixture reach 82-84 C and then take it off the heat, and let it cool down in the fridge (let the vanilla rod stay in the batter). After an hour and onwards, it’s ready for the ice cream maker.
  4. Now for the cake: peel the apples and cut them into big pieces (roughly 1/4). Put them in a pan, cover them with water and add 1 dl of sugar. Bring this to a boil and let it simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Mix the butter (300 g) and sugar (240 g) together.
  6. Crack the eggs (6) and divvy upp the white and the yolks in different bowls.
  7. Add the juice from the lemons (3) and the peel from one lemon to the yolks. Then add the almonds (200 g) and mix with an immersion blender until the almonds are really smashed into pieces (the consistency should be like a loose-ish porridge). Stir this in with the sugar/butter- mix.

  8. Put the oven to 200 C.
  9. Whisk the egg whites into a thick foam.
  10. Put the boiled apples into an oven shape, turn the egg white foam into the almond/yolk/sugar/butter/lemon- mix, and pour everything over the apples.

  11. Bake in the oven on 200 C for about 30 minutes.

Let it cool down for at least 20-30 minutes before serving. If it’s at all hot when serving it’s gonna look more like this…

…than this…

…in which the cake has had time to set (in the fridge no less). Just fyi.

I’m not recommending you to it it cold mind you. I’m just preparing you for the reality with regard to the esthetics. When I sent the first picture (in which it’s more of a “pile” than a “piece” of cake) to Danilo for illustration he just replied: “I can’t illustrate that, it’s just a blob”. So, you know… it’s not a beautiful cake is all I’m saying.

Oh, and by the way, this is my mothers original recipe flaunting her rather insane hand writing.

Miss you mum.

Lemon Risotto

(the unexpected risotto)

It was probably early two thousands, and together with a friend we managed to crash a fancy graduate lunch in a fancy restaurant in Napoli (Zi Teresa), that was only intended for the close family and teachers of this other friend of ours. The family was clearly not super happy about our presence, but we made friends with a couple of teachers. For the first time I had Lemon Risotto. It was good, but not exceptional. While we were dining, and commenting on it, the very Professor that discussed my friend’s thesis, leaned towards me, and in a complicit tone said: this one is made with butter, which together with the lemon gives it a bit too much of a cream cheese feeling. You should try with an egg yolk instead, it’s much better.

The professor was absolutely right, and I never had the chance to thank him, so here we go: thank you professor, that was a good tip.

Created with Sketch. 30 min cooking + 30 for making the vegetable stock Created with Sketch. 2

Ingredients

  • for the vegetable stock
  • 1 potato
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • for the risotto
  • 1 onion
  • olive oil to taste
  • 160 grCarnaroli rice
  • 150 grwhite wine
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 egg yolk
  • parmigiano to taste

Directions

Preliminary notes:

  • in a perfect world everybody should be able to have access to the Amalfi coast lemons, the most beautiful and intense lemons ever, but since most of you readers don’t live in the south of Italy, well, I’m sorry. Try to find the most beautiful and fresh and expensive lemon, because lemon is key here.
  • you can choose to use or not use the parmigiano in the end, I like both versions.

  1. Start by making the vegetable stock: throw one potato (peeled and halved), one stick of celery, one onion (peeled and halved) and one carrot in a pot of salted water, and let it cook for 30 min. You can do this in advance, but the stock must be hot when you start making the actual risotto.
  2. In a different pot on medium/high heat, pour a couple of tablespoons off olive oil, add the onion finely diced, and let it sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the rice and stir it continuously. Let it toast for a couple of minutes, the rice will develop a hard surface, which will slow down the cooking process a bit, adding to the final creamyness. Add the white wine and keep stirring until it evaporates.
  4. Finely grate the peal of the lemon, and then squeeze out the juice. Add half of the peel and half of the juice to the pot, stirring again and again.
  5. Now you can start adding the broth: again, stirring the rice continuously, add a first ladle of stock and keep stirring until the stock is consumed: you have to be quick with the next ladle of broth or you will burn everything.
  6. Repeat point .5 until the rice is cooked, about 15/20 minutes in total. It’s important that the final risotto is on the firm side. Please don’t all a lot of stock all together, we want the starch to come out of those grains a little at the time to make the risotto more creamy.
  7. Take the pot off the heat and finally add the rest of the lemon peel and juice, the parmigiano (if you want to), and the egg yolk: be very quick to stir in the egg yolk. If you let it sit there for too long without stirring, you will end up with an unpleasant taste of cooked egg.
  8. Feel free to add some black pepper, freshly chopped parsley, and some more greated lemon peel.

 

Salmon Pudding

(don't worry, it's not a fish dessert)

This is a real Swedish classic. As in Britain, also in Sweden a “pudding” can be both a dessert and a savory dish (unlike in Britain it can also mean an attractive person). This is… kind of a gratin I guess? There’s another traditional thing in Sweden called Cabbage pudding (coming on the blog sometime in the future), which is completely different from Salmon pudding so the Swedish word for savory “pudding” doesn’t mean much more than “stuff put together in an oven shape”, at least not to my knowledge. As you never now how traditional something you perceive as traditional really is, I did some light googling to get a sense of the history and it does seem to have been around quite a while. It is mentioned in the early 19th century, thou I would guess the recipe has gone through some changes since then. Presumably lemon wasn’t something that people had in general. On the other hand, maybe Salmon pudding wasn’t something ordinary people had? The good news is that all you ordinary people can have it now!

As it turns out, it’s also perfectly adapted to modern society as it’s an ideal lunch box meal. Easy to divvy up in pieces, well suited to be reheated in a microwave and you know…. ridiculously good, which is a big plus in my book.

It’s also one of these dishes that almost makes itself. Yes, there’s a bit of light seasoning but for the most part, the flavors come from the ingredients themselves and there’s not many of those. The only real hassle is slicing the potatoes and the onion which is why you should really have a kitchen mandolin handy.

Let’s get to it!

Special Equipment

  • Kitchen mandolin
Created with Sketch. 2 hours Created with Sketch. 8

Ingredients

  • 1 kgpotatoes (low starch)
  • 500 gcold smoked salmon
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 1 pot of dill
  • 6 normal sized eggs
  • 3 dlmilk
  • 3 dlcream
  • 350 gbutter
  • Some salt and black pepper

Directions

  1. Put the oven on 225 C.
  2. Smear the bottom of an oven pan with butter (50 g). Thinly slice potatoes and onion (preferably with a mandolin) and spread across the bottom. Sprinkle the surface with salt and black pepper. It’s hard to give any exact measure regarding the salt. It depends on how salt the salmon is, but it shouldn’t be a lot.
  3. Add a layer of salmon, then another layer of potato, onion and dill. Another sprinkle of salt and pepper (for each layer of potato). Repeat until you’re out of stuff.

  4. Mix the eggs (6), the milk (3 dl) and the cream (3 dl) in a bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt and a couple of dashes of black pepper, then pour the mix over the layers of potato, onion and salmon.
  5. Finish by spreading the surface with flakes of butter (100 g), more dill, the juice from 1/2 a lemon and another light sprinkle of salt.
  6. Put the pan into the oven for about 40-45 minutes (225 C). When it’s done the potatoes should have some firmness left and the top of the pudding should be ever so slightly burnt.
  7. Serve with clarified butter (200 g), some fresh dill and a slice of lemon.


This is actually a sort of summer dish, probably because of the fresh dill, but don’t let that stop you!

Pancakes

(Fluffy McFluff Face)

American style pancakes are our Saturday breakfast beloved routine, so much beloved that I often want to go to bed early on Friday night so the morning comes faster. There is a lot of fuss and strange recipes to achieve fluffy pancakes, but I donÂŽt think itÂŽs that difficult really. This recipe is the product of years of little tweaks and adjustments, and now is probably close to perfection, and itÂŽs very easy. You won’t have to use weird coconut oil, or whip the egg-white separately, or align the flux-capacitor before hitting 88 miles per hour. No, just put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix them for 30 seconds, and you’re done. ONLY if you feel fancy, add a tablespoon of ricotta for extra creamy – but still fluffy! – consistency (I love it).

Special Equipment

  • hand mixer
  • good non-stick pan
  • plastic spatula
Created with Sketch. 10 minutes Created with Sketch. about 10

Ingredients

  • 130 gbread flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoonnatural oil
  • 170 mlmilk
  • 2 teaspoonssugar
  • 2 teaspoonsbaking powder
  • 1 pinchsalt
  • 1 tablespoonricotta (optional)

Directions

The only tricky part of pancakes is the batter consistency, that has to be just right, not too thick and not too runny, thick BUT able to run slowly and nicely off of the spoon. The amount of milk in this recipe works perfectly, but since different flours absorb liquids differently, you never know. I actually don’t measure milk, I add it a little at the time, until I reach the desired consistency. Once again, experience is key. If you use a good frying pan, unscratched, you won’t need to grease the pan to cook the pancakes; otherwise, a flake of butter will do the trick.

 

  1. Put your best non-stick frying-pan on medium-high (if the pan is good, no butter is needed to grease it).
  2. Put all the ingredients together in a bowl, mix them but not too well, I feel like the pancakes come even fluffier when the mix is not super smooth but still a little bit lumpy. Quite soon the batter will start bubbling a little thanks to the baking powder action.
  3. Scoop the batter in the frying pan (a 24 cm frying pan will accommodate three 10 cm pancakes) with a small ladle, or a big spoon, or a 1/2 dl measure: using something that can contain just the right amount of batter will help achieving evenly-sized pancakes.
  4. After about 20 seconds, bubbles will start appearing on the surface of the pancakes: it’s time to flip them! Use a good plastic spatula, and with a gentle but firm wrist movement, you’ll do it (again, it takes some experience): the pancake should have that kind of golden/brown color; if not, adjust heat and cooking time accordingly. After 20/30 more seconds, the first batch is ready and you can pile your pancakes on a plate.
  5. Continue until you run out of batter, and the pancake tower is ready to go to the breakfast table.

Pancakes are of course best served still warm. My absolute favorite way of eating them is with plenty of butter, bacon and maple syrup. But of course you can use fruit, honey, whipped cream, why not ice-cream. I mean, you do you.

Lemon & Meringue Tart

(when life gives you lemons, great!)

In Shanghai, me and Hanna lived close to one of the real hot spots for expats: Yongkang Lu. People mostly went there for the numerous bars. To eat, barhop and have a good time. This however didn’t sit well with the locals (living on the second floors along the street) who regularly started throwing things from their homes down to the street when the clock past 10PM – the official curfew.

Things deteriorated further I guess, as Chinese authorities closed the street shortly after we moved back to Sweden. Anyway, we didn’t go there much for the drinking but we did frequent a cafĂ© called Pain Chaud. A surprisingly wonderful French cafĂ©, though everyone weren’t aware of that. One of the first time we went there the Chinese waitress serving us asked what “Pain Chaud” meant and which language it was 🙂 A french cafĂ© yes, yet unabashedly Chinese.

Most importantly, they made great cakes and best of the bunch was this lemon/ meringue tart. I’ve tried to recreate it and I think I’ve done a decent job. I’ve pieced it together from a version of the filling in Greg’s tangy lemon tart, a less sweet variant of this simple pie dough, and this Leif Mannerström Italian meringue recipe. The result is different from the thing we had, but very good.

Special Equipment

  • Bunsen burner
  • Electric mixer
  • Thermometer
Created with Sketch. 2 hours Created with Sketch. 15 pieces

Ingredients

  • For the dough
  • 150 gbutter
  • 180 gflour (3 dl)
  • 60 gsugar (≈ 0.6 dl)
  • 5 gbaking powder (1 tsp)
  • For the filling
  • 3 lemons
  • 120 gsugar (ca 1.25 dl)
  • 5 eggs
  • 150 gdouble cream, i.e cream with ca 40% fat (1.5 dl)
  • For the meringue
  • 120 gsugar (ca 1.25 dl)
  • 37 gwater
  • 60 gegg white (ca 2 egg whites)
  • 5 glemon juice (1 tsp)

Directions

Start with the dough.

  1. Put the oven on 180 C.
  2. Melt the butter and mix it with the dry ingredients.
  3. Spread the dough evenly in a pie tin. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork.
  4. Coat the dough with aluminium foil, then fill it with (in order of preference) coins, rice, or beans. The purpose of this is to keep the dough from collapsing and generally keep its shape.
  5. Bake the dough for ca 15 minutes then take it out of the oven, remove the coins/rice/beans and the aluminium foil. Continue baking in the oven until golden, then let it rest.

  6. While the pie crust is baking, prepare the filling. Grate two of the three lemons (should result in ca 30-40 ml peel).
  7. Squeeze out the juice from all three lemons (should be 100-150 g/ 1-1.5 dl).
  8. Crack the eggs and mix them with the sugar. Whisk until reasonably smooth.
  9. Add the cream, the lemon juice and the grated lemon peel.
  10. Pour the filling into the (baked) pie crust. Bake in the oven on 130 C. It should be finished in about 30 minutes but depending on the shape of the pie tin (and the oven) the time can vary quite a lot. The lemon filling should be just set. If overcooked it becomes a bit to eggy.
  11. Let it cool for a bit outside the oven.
  12. And now for the Italian meringue. Mix 110 grams of the sugar with the water in a pot and bring it to 125 C. Let it cool to ca 115 degrees.
  13. Add the egg white, the lemon juice and the last 10 grams of sugar to the sugar solution whilst mixing with the electric mixer on the highest (most intense) setting for about three minutes. It’s very important that you’re mixing while you’re adding the egg white, otherwise you’ll get a very sweet omelette instead.Continue mixing on a slightly less intense setting until the meringue is fluffy and firm (ca 5 minutes).
  14. Spread the meringue across the surface of the pie.
  15. Give the top of the meringue a nice burnt tint with the Bunsen burner. You can do this with the grill setting on the oven (on warmest setting) but it doesn’t become as pretty 🙂

 

I just love love love this pie but it does require a bit of practice. I’ve made several ones that I haven’t been quite pleased with. The lemon filling is really so much better if the time in the oven is timed perfectly and the meringue can be a little bit tricky. Easily worth it to put in the time though.

Enjoy!

Dumplings

(bingo, bingo, bingo!)

When I was still in school I lived in Shanghai for a bit. I have… shall we say mixed feelings about China. On the one hand it’s a super cool country, buuuut on the other hand they’re not that great at democracy and individual liberty and stuff. While being there, I wrote a thesis on sports betting and had to enlist my brother to register himself at various bookmakers as this is definitely not something you can do from China. You also can’t use google. Or Facebook. Or many other things we take for granted on the internet. And this is of course only scraping the surface, from the vantage point of a privileged westerner. The Chinese people have more alarming concerns than not being able to use Google. Millions of people being moved to clean up the city for a world expo for example. Or citizens waiting 15 years to be allowed a passport. Stuff like that.

China’s oppressiveness is camouflaged juuuust enough for you to forget that it exists if you don’t pay attention. But if you start looking..? Well, then it’s… it’s pretty bad.

All of this said – I do miss Shanghai. A city full of life and possibility. A place were you can start the evening playing bingo at a luxurious restaurant were a waiter drives the top bingo-prize (an electric scooter) through the restaurant honking at every turn yelling “BINGO, BINGO, BINGO”. Then, you continue a couple of floors up the building, befriend a German billionaire with childhood issues and see the sun go up from his 20 000 € per night suite on the 84th floor of The Bottle Opener.

Nothing remotely similar has happened to me in Stockholm, I’ll tell you that. But Shanghai is really a crazy place, in good ways and in bad ways.

Similar to Stockholm though, Shanghai is a city with great food, both at the high and the low end of the price spectra. You can easily find a good meal for less than two dollars and you can (obviously) spend however much you want.

I miss the weird breakfast street pancakes with the brown, gooey, chili stuff and the crispy cracker. I miss the Hongkong duck at my go-to lunch place. I miss the street side wooks. Most of all though, I miss the dumplings at Ruijin Road. They’re just these simple dumplings in broth for 13 or so RMB (≈2$). But man… I got seriously hooked.

I’ve tried to recreate them with this recipe. They’re close enough to vividly remind me of the real deal, but I know they’re not as good.

They are very good thou! You should try them.

Special Equipment

  • A little "dumpling-maker"- tool is advisable (see pictures below) but not necessary
Created with Sketch. 45 min Created with Sketch. 4-5 people

Ingredients

  • 2 litersof vegetable broth, preferably home made of course
  • 50 dumpling wrappers
  • 500 gminced pork
  • 1 egg
  • 250 gpak choi
  • 1 yellow onion or ca 3 leaks
  • 1 pot of cilantro/ coriander (ca 15 g)
  • 1 fresh chili (ca 15-20 g)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (15 g)
  • 1 tbspgrated fresh ginger (20 g)
  • 1 dlpanko (30 g)
  • 2 tbsprice vinegar (30 g/ml)
  • 2 tbspJapanese style soy, e.g. Kikkoman soy (30 g/ml)
  • 2 tbspsesame oil (30 g/ml)
  • Some salt (ca 5 g) and pepper
  • Sichuan pepper if you have it!

Directions

  1. Make a simple broth. Chop up some onions, carrots and whatever and bring to a boil. Add salt, pepper corns and bay leaves. Simmer for and hour (or more if you have the time) and you’re done.
  2. While the broth is boiling away, you have plenty of time to do everything else. Put the pork in a big bowl. Grate the fresh ginger, press the garlic and chop everything choppable and mix it in with the pork.
  3. Lightly beat the egg and add it to the mix. Add the sesame oil, rice vinegar and soy.
  4. Add the panko and stir everything together thoroughly.
  5. Take an appropriate amount of pork-dumpling-batter and put in a wrapper. Seal with the wrapper tool or if you don’t have it, a plain ol’ fork.



  6. Repeat until you’re out of batter and/ or wrappers. Easy!
  7. Now, you can cook these in different ways. I really like them boiled. The you just sift away the vegetables from the broth, add the dumplings to the boiling broth and cook them for 2-3 minutes.
  8. In Shanghai they quite often “steam-fry” them. Then you put some oil in a pan, heat it up to medium/ high, and add the dumplings to the pan. Then you add just a bit of water to the pan and put a lid on. “Steam-fry” them like this for 4-5 minutes. The bottom becomes fried and a bit crispy, while the top gets steamed. Quite good!
  9. And you can also just regular-steam them. I’ll leave that up to you to figure out.

If you want, dip them in three parts soy (e.g. Kikkoman) mixed with one part rice vinegar and some sriracha, but really, they’re great just as they are. And if you’re of the vegetarian persuasion, replace the pork with mushrooms (e.g. champignon) long fried in butter and I think you’ll be pretty pleased.

It really is surprisingly easy to make dumplings (if you don’t think it’s super easy, if you think it’s super easy you’re right on the money). At least if you don’t make the wrappers yourself. I’m sure that can be fun but I’m very pleased with the ones I can get at my local China-store (those I use are called “Gyoza skins”).

And just to have said what really goes without sayin’. IF you are in Shanghai and find yourself close to Ruijin Road. DO NOT tell me about it. I will be consumed by jealousy.

Almond balls

(vegetarian meatballs for the people)

We’re an almost exclusively vegetarian household. My girlfriend is vegetarian you see (or actually a recent convert to Pescetarianism, so fish if back on the menu, yeiij!). This has led me to develop a lot of  vegetarian alternatives through the years, which has been really great. I’m not especially fond of the concept of mimicking meat. Soy meat, quorn, oumph, pulled oats, beyond meat… I mean, I get it. If people like it: cool. I’m just sayin’ that the best of that kinda thing I’ve ever had has never been anywhere close to the meat equivalent. Often, they just feel like attempts to create a vessel for heavy spicing.

I like when you try to use unprocessed stuff and make something different but equally great. Like portabello hamburger, or black been tacos, or carrot and parsnip burgers. Or: almond balls. So let me get the irony out of the way. Yes, they look a lot like meatballs. Yes, they kinda taste a bit like meatballs. But they’re not meatballs. And they’re made from scratch.

The challenge when making vegetarian alternatives to burgers or ball-shaped things is consistency. It’s real easy to make something that sticks together if you’re fine with the end result being dry and dense and boring. It’s equally easy to make something juicy that’ll fall apart. I think this recipe strikes a real good balance, but it can take a while to get a hang of the nuances. I got the gist of this recipe from my girlfriends mother (something akin to this Swedish recipe I think), but I’ve tinkered with it quite a lot through the years.

Some of the ingredients are cooked before going into the batter and the balls are boiled in broth before being fried in the pan. All this adds up to a really juicy and rich end result. The consistency can be tricky however. But practice makes perfect so let’s practice!

Special Equipment

  • Kitchen wizard/ Blender/ Immersion blender
Created with Sketch. 60 minutes Created with Sketch. 5-6 servings (or ca 40 almond balls)

Ingredients

  • 150 galmonds
  • 150 gmushrooms (any mushroom really, I use forrest champinjons)
  • 150 ggouda cheese
  • 1.5 yellow onions (about 150g)
  • 100 gcarrots
  • 50 gbutter
  • 25 gChinese soy
  • 40 gbread crumbs
  • 10 gpotato flour (or normal flour)
  • 2 slices of white bread
  • 4 eggs (or 5, depending on the size)
  • 5 gsweet mustard
  • Some sriracha
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the broth
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 2 carrots
  • Bay leaves, salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Put a big pot with 3 liters of water on the stove. Peel and roughly chop 2 onions and 2 large carrots and add them to the pot. Add salt, pepper and bay leaves. Let it come to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Don’t salt to much as it will reduce somewhat. The end result should be a quite lightly salted broth.
  2. Chop the mushrooms and add them to a pan with ca 2/3 of the butter and some rapeseed oil. Start out on high heat, then lower to low/medium. Add salt, white pepper as well as the mustard and some Sriracha. Let this fry for 10-ish minutes before adding one chopped yellow onion.

  3. While the above is frying on low heat (under a lid if you have it), quickly boil the almonds in water (like a minute). Rinse the almonds under cold water. Now peel the almonds….. I know. Fun. Two things: 1) You can skip it and just use them with the peelings. 2) Alternatively, put the almonds in a colander and take handfuls of almond and squeeze them together over and over. This removes most of the peels and really makes the whole thing a lot more bearable.
  4. Crack the eggs (all four) in a mixer (or in a bowl if you’re using a immersion blender), then add the almonds. Mix to a paste. The consistency varies with the size of the eggs and the type of mixer. If it’s a bit loose, don’t worry. You can either add some more almond now (not too much thou, less than 50g) or adjust the consistency at the end (see instruction number 11). The important thing is the the almonds are properly chopped/blended.


  5. By now, the mushrooms and onion should look something like this.
  6. Add it to the egg-almond-mix and blend it a bit.

  7. Peel and finely grate the carrots. Squeeze out the carrot juice. You can throw away the juice, or save it. Or drink it. Grate the cheese finely. Add the grated carrot and cheese in with the rest and stir.
  8. Rip up the bread into small pieces (or dice it with a bread knife). If the edges of the bread are hard, don’t use them. Put the pieces of bread in with the rest, add the soy sauce, the vinegar, the bread crumbs, the potato flour and some salt and pepper. Stir together.
  9. At this point, you can add whatever. Making these for Christmas? Add som allspice why don’t you? Or maybe som fresh parsley, some chili or basil? Taste and adjust with salt, pepper, soy, vinegar and/or other things to your liking. The level of salt and such should be as you want the end result to taste.
  10. The consistency should now allow you to make quite firm balls from the mix. Like such:
  11. If you think it’s to dry: add another egg. If it’s to loose: add some bread crumbs and/or flour. Roll a lot of balls with a diameter of about 3 cm. “Quite small meatballs” to ball-park it for you.
  12. (You can skip this step and go straight to frying, I commonly do. It does add something thou) Now we’re going to boil the balls in broth before frying them. Sift the broth to remove the onion and carrot pieces. Put a frying pan with some butter and oil on medium/high heat. Bring the sifted broth to a boil and add 10-15 of the almond balls. Let them simmer in the broth for ca 3 minutes before adding them to the frying pan. Be careful as the can be quite fragile. Turn them gently after a minute. Continue to turn them in the pan until brown all around. Repeat.


  13. They’re best as they’ve cooled down a tad but not too much, so eat them promptly!

These are really great as a vegetarian alternative to meatballs but they’re also just awesome in general. We usually have them with what’s on the plate in the first photo: mashed potatoes, sweetened lingonberries and garlic sauce. Mmmmmmm.

Get the hang of the consistency, add some of your favorite flavors and make’ em your own!

Carbonara For Dummies

(there is hope!)

“I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe. I’ve seen cream, and onions mixed together, and for some reason green peas and bacon. And ketchup, oh my goodness, ketchup! All these things will hopefully be lost in time, like egg whites in a drain”

According to a Peer Reviewed Study conducted by Professor John Rigatoni at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 99.7% of Carbonaras made in the world, are done wrong. Sometimes very wrong, stuff like cream or ketchup. But the reality is that Carbonara is not easy to do well, the very issue is quite tricky, even in Italy.
The dish origins in fact from central Italy, and calls for very few, precise ingredients: pasta (spaghetti or rigatoni), eggs, guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino romano cheese, black pepper. Each of these ingredients is essential. If you don’t have one, that’s no Carbonara you’re cooking and no, you can’t use pancetta or bacon instead. Despite being a very basic preparation, people tend to overcook eggs that end up being scrambled, and that’s when you get what I like to call ‘pasta with frittata’: it’s quite disgusting. Instead, a good Carbonara needs a smooth creamy mix of eggs and cheese, the eggs must start to gelatinize, but never to coagulate too much. It’s tricky, it’s very difficult to achieve the right consistency, either you overcook it with the results described, or you undercook and the eggs remain too liquid. So I came up with a method for Dummies that works all the time and I’m very happy to share it with you, so that you can spread the word, and maybe one day all the atrocities and mayhem will stop, and people will not put ketchup on Carbonara any more.

Special Equipment

  • a whisk
Created with Sketch. 30 min Created with Sketch. 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 200 grrigatoni
  • 2 eggs
  • 80 grguanciale
  • 50 grpecorino romano
  • 0.5 teaspoonblack pepper

Directions

 

  1. Start to put a big pot of water on the stove for cooking the pasta, as described in the related article here.
  2. Slice the guanciale in small strips, put them in a frying pan over medium/high without any oil, it’s not necessary: guanciale has a delicious fat/meat ratio of something like 85/15 so really, any extra fat here is redundant. Fry until crispy.
  3. In a metal bowl, or a sauce pan, mix together one full egg (white+yolk), one egg yolk, the grated pecorino cheese, and a lot of ground black pepper. Quantity of black pepper is up to your taste, but the recipe calls for A LOT. Mix it well using a whisk, you want everything to become as smooth as possible.
  4. Now the “for DUMMIES” part.  This is when you have to pay attention to the procedure. Put a small sauce pan with some water on the stove and bring it to a boil, place the bowl with eggs+cheese on top of it, add one tablespoon of pasta cooking water (yes, in the meanwhile you’re cooking the pasta of course).  The pasta cooking water is perfect for this (and for a lot of other pasta dishes) for two reasons: it’ s already salted, and contains the starch released from the pasta itself, that will help the egg sauce to get nice and creamy). Mix it all using the whisk. The steam coming from the boiling water underneath will very slowly help to gelatinize the egg mixture, the process is so slow that you can have full control over it and stop when you feel the consistency is right. If you feel like it’s getting too thick, or start to coagulate too much, remove the bowl from the boiling pot, and maybe add some more cooking water and keep on stirring.
  5. When the pasta is ready, drain it well in a colander, and without further ado, put it in the bowl with the egg mixture, add the fried guanciale, stir it well over the boiling water for one more minute, and quick as a flash serve it. 

Just to show you that I am a nice person open-minded and all, I tried to do carbonara with bacon. It was fit to be consumed as food (this is the definition of “eatable”, I like it!) but it was no carbonara really.

It all comes down to how guanciale and bacon are made: the curing processes are in fact very different. Guanciale is cured for three months, hanged in dry cold rooms after being dry-rubbed with abundant salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary. Bacon is brine-cured for a few days in salty water only, and then cold-smoked (at least, most of the time). Plus guanciale has a very different fat-meat ratio, as we have seen. All this is very important for the final taste: the delicate spiced flavours of crunchy guanciale are paramount in the final dish, while bacon’s smokyness is a very big NO-NO.

EXTRA TIP: If you’re cooking this for more than two people,  you will need to use more eggs of course. Try always to keep the eggyolk-eggwhite ratio 2:1. Or even 3:1 if you’re making a lot of it.

Swedish Meatballs

(originally from Turkey or something of course)

We’re not getting around the most Swedish of the Swedish foods right? Nope. As a Swede I don’t have that strong of a bond to meatballs. I mean, they’re pretty great and all but I eat them on holidays like Christmas and sometimes I make’em at home (but really, it’s quite rare). I think my most common interaction with the little suckers is when I spend time with my girlfriend’s nephews because listen: “Mamma Scans köttbullar” is the bleeding bedrock of any household that includes kids. Back in the day I ate those type of meatballs as well (not that much though). They weren’t that great really. Lately though, I personally think they (“Mamma Scans”) have improved somewhat. But whatever, let’s get on with it.

In my opinion, Swedish meatballs should be made with quite a lot of onion, some sweetness and above all have a really smooth taste. The smoothness comes from a mix of cream/milk, egg and bread of different types. Some recipes use potato (grated, either boiled or raw) which plays a similar role. A friend told me that his grandpa, who in his family is the often challenged but ever undisputed champion of meatballing, put potato purĂ©e in his. Not mashed potato, potato purĂ©e, the finished product. Top marks for ambition and originality (btw: I imagine that’s a pretty good idea actually).

Anyway, here’s how I make mine.

Ingredients

  • 500 gof minced meat. Use a mix of pork and beef. 70/30 or 60/40 beef/pork is good.
  • 1.5 yellow onions
  • 1 egg
  • 50 gmilk
  • 50 gcream
  • 1 sliceof white bread
  • 15 gbreadcrumbs (preferably the Asian variety "Panko")
  • 50 gbutter
  • 7 gof vinegar
  • 7 gof sweet mustard (can be substituted for the Swedish speciality "pickled sprats", most famously used in the holiday dish "Jansons Frestelse")
  • Some salt, white pepper and sugar (just a sprinkle of sugar)
  • Some allspice (if you like that sorta thing)

Directions

  1. Chop one onion roughly and fry them on medium to low heat in a pan with half the butter until golden.
  2. While the onion in the pan is frying, grate or finely chop the remaining half onion.
  3. Tear the bread into small pieces.
  4. Put everything in a bowl, including the fried onion with the residual butter from the pan. Mix with your hands or with a fork.
  5. If the mixture seems too loose/wet you can add some more bread crumbs but be careful to not make the mixture too firm.
  6. Taste and adjust with salt/pepper/sugar/vinegar.
  7. Roll the mixture into balls with a diameter of about 3 cm.
  8. Fry ’em on medium heat in a healthy amount of butter (the other half of the 50 grams) and some oil.

 

It’s all a bit confusing as a Swede – the talk about Swedish meatballs. But, it’s really good, especially with some killer mashed potatoes, chanterelle sauce and lingonberries or maybe pickled cucumbers. Mmmmm. So make ’em for gods sake. What could go wrong?