Swedish Midsummer eating

 

One of my favourite celebrations in Sweden is midsommar, or Midsummer. The day is usually started with a boozy traditional sillunch, meaning herring lunch (the picture above), which then continue with dance around the Midsummer pole (yes, we’re heathens) and then usually a bbq of some sort. Usually strawberry cake is inserted somewhere along the way, as is a lot of drinking. My Midsummer pretty much followed the script this year, except for us skipping the pole dancing (pun intended, sorry).

 

Poolside champagne at my uncles.

 

Midsummer barbecue.

 

Midsummer strawberry cake with cream, vanilla custard and untraditional but delicious Nutella.

 

Post Midsummer weather.

 

A forest walk to get rid of some of the Midsummer calories.

To cure the Midsummer hangover, fried food was needed. This was a very delicious, if I may say so, homemade Korean fried chicken burger. Deep-fried panko crusted chicken breast, tossed in a spicy and sweet gochujang-butter-honey sauce. Served in a grilled brioche bun together with kimchi mayo.

5 days of food and adventures in amazing Georgia

Just got back from a five day trip to the amazing little country of Georgia (not the U.S. state) nestled between Russia and Turkey in the Caucasus. I’ve been wanting to go to Georgia for quite some time. The reasons for it being the scenic countryside, Tbilisi as a city, rumours of friendly people, and most of all; the Georgian cuisine.

We flew Air Baltic from Riga, which were pretty decent apart from the final leg on our return to Sweden when I got stuck next to a space-stealing seat neighbour on Air Baltic’s cramped Q400.

 

Tbilisi is mostly a beautiful city, as can be seen on the Old Tbilisi building above.

We also took a day trip to Northern Georgia and Mount Kazbek, about a three hour drive from Tbilisi. Due to two (!) flat tires, either by unfortune or lacking maintenance from our tour operator, the whole day took forever to get through. We were picked up at 9.40 am and was back in town around 10 pm. Nevertheless, the trip was actually worth it, despite most of the day was spent on the road.

Our first stop: Ananuri fortress, situated about 70 kilometers from Tbilisi.


The main attraction for the trip, apart from amazing mountainous scenery for a good part of the trip, was the Gergeti Trinity Church, situated at almost 2200 meters height, and still surrounded by massive Caucasus mountains towering over it. To get there we took a four wheel driven jeep from Stepantsminda to reach the Gergeti Trinity Church. After a 30 minute off-road drive we reached the church, and my god what a place it was. Probably top five of the coolest places I’ve ever been, and that’s despite that they, not sure how, actually has rolled up an ugly little food truck selling burgers just outside the beautiful church.


Mount Kazbek, 5074 meters tall as seen from the Gergeti Trinity Church.

 

The following day, back in Tbilisi, we visited the Dry Bridge Market where everything from Soviet memorabilia to knives, old army surplus, wine jars and cutlery are sold. A fascinating place, for me perhaps more for the ambience than the actual shopping.

Jack London restaurant Tbilisi
After the shopping, more food was needed. The name Jack London did not sound too promising, but the menu looked nice and the food on the other diner’s plates did too.

We ordered a sulguni cheese (the cheese used in khachapuris) stuffed kabab and chicken shashlik, both served with mild raw sliced onion. The fries at this place looked great, I still regret not having them.

 

Since I try to visit as many new and different countries as possible, I of course had to visit neighbouring Armenia. Through Envoy Tours, we booked a “de-tour to Armenia” that took us through the green Lore region of Northern Armenia. I had not really understood just how beautiful Armenia would be with its rolling green hills, canyons and monasteries, some of them constructed in the 10th century. That’s pretty old. During our tour we visited Sanahin and Haghbat (or Haghpat) monasteries situated along the Debed canyon, both of them Unesco World Heritage sites and built somewhere around 966. We also briefly visited the old factory town Alaverdi with abandoned factories, train cars and cranes. Felt like something out of a zombie movie, very cool. Our last sight of the trip was akhtala fortress-monastery which was as old and cool as the two previous, but not a UNESCO world heritage site. Finally, before going back to Georgia and Tbilisi we stoped for lunch at a local family’s home. Sat down around a table with mile-long views of the valley and mountains below the 12 or so of us were served delicious home-cooked Armenian food. We started with a couple of vegetable dishes such as a carrot fritter, different pickled vegetables, bread, cheeses, spinach fried with eggs and fresh vegetables from the area. For main we had a great grilled pork, served with raw sliced onions and thick deep fried potato slices. An excellent meal in an equally excellent setting. Also bonus points to Envoy Tours for including this stop instead of just feeding us in a touristy place somewhere along the way.

A very cool tour that was quite affordable and with a great flexible and knowledgeable guide. You can find Envoy Tours website here.

Then it was time to fly back, but not before cashing in my drink voucher I received upon checking in at Mercure Tbilisi Old Town which’s sky bar was to be the last we saw of Tbilisi before heading back home.

So in summary, wow, what a place Georgia is. It’s beautiful, the food is amazing, the prices are low and you can go to an off the beaten track country like Armenia over the day. Now I’m really keen to keep exploring the rest of the region. All the good restaurants we visited are posted after this post. To just keep on reading to get inspired to visit one of my new favourite countries. 🙂

SAS plus domestic flight review

Flew SAS domestic the other day, and thought I should give some info since it’s not very much available in English about what is included. The trip I took was from Stockholm Arlanda Airport to Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, in the South.


When flying SAS plus, which basically is their intra-Europe premium economy, or business class, everything onboard is included and on the ground you have lounge access (with alcohol available in the Arlanda SAS Domestic lounge in Terminal 4, which only had lighter beer before) as well as fast track security. Since I was quite hungry, I had a little bit of everything such as delicious Ringi apple juice, mixed nuts, Marabou chocolate bar, a “Polar roll” of soft Northern Sweden-style thin bread with cheese and butter.

Danish craft beer producer Mikkeler’s Plane Ale is really tasty. Especially with a view of Sweden below a clear day.

Menu pages, for the geeks like my who likes to study that kind of stuff before traveling. 🙂


The new Cafe Lounge concept by SAS in smaller airport is pretty nice compared to no lounge at all. This one in Malmö had quite tasty muffins, a few small cookies, fruit, coffee and juice. No alcoholic beverages.

All in all, SAS plus is quite nice if you’re not paying much more for it. All the food onboard is available to both plus and go (economy) though, so you can pay for the exact same stuff further back in the plane. The seats are just the same, although you’ll sit in the front and can pick your prefered seat free of charge in plus.

Homemade Spaghetti alla Gricia recipe

This weekend, I tried the last one of the four pastas of Rome. The four pastas of Rome is carbonara (egg, guanciale/pancetta, pecorino, black pepper), Amatriciana (guanciale/pancetta and tomatoes), Cacio e Pepe (black pepper, pecorino) and the Pasta alla Gricia, with pecorino and guanciale/pancetta.

Pasta, or spaghetti alla Gricia is sort of a cacio e pepe with added crunch from crispy fried guanciale, or pancetta. The proper pork to use is guanciale, which is air-dried pork cheek. But when not in Rome, you can substitute it with pancetta, or in worst case bacon (preferably un-smoked).

What you need for Spaghetti alla Gricia (serves approximately four):

One package of spaghetti (I use Martelli or De Ceccho)

300 grams of guanciale/pancetta/bacon, cut into cubes, strips

2,5 deciliters/one cup of pecorino cheese

1/2 deciliter (1/4ish cup) of strained pasta cooking water

Black pepper

Salt

1. Add the pork to a cold pan and put on heat. This will make the fat render and make the pork crispier. I sometimes add a garlic clove to this to slightly flavour the pork (discard when done).

2. Cook the spaghetti until almost al dente, the pasta will cook some more in the sauce. Save the cooking liquid as indicated above.

3. Grate the pecorino cheese as finely as your grater allows. Mix about half of it with a couple of tablespoons of water to a smooth ‘sauce’.

4. When pork is crispy, turn off/lower the heat and add the al dente spaghetti into the pork and fat pan (remove some of the fat if desired). Toss around and then add the pecorino mixed with water as well as the reserved cooking liquid.

5. Stirr until the liquids almost has reduced and the pasta is covered in silky cheese sauce. Add almost all the remaining pecorino, salt and black pepper and give a final toss before removing from heat.

6. Serve immediately topped with the remaining pecorino cheese.

Enjoy!

Homemade crispy fried sweet potato fries

After years of testing, I last night, finally, managed to get my sweet potato fries crispy. I have my own deep-fryer at home and managed to get “restaurant quality” fries many years ago, but I haven’t mastered sweet potatos fries, until now.

You will need:
1 large sweet potato or 4-5 smaller ones
Corn starch, I used Maizena, a Swedish brand
Sparkling water (without any flavouring)

1. The method is actually very simple. I peeled and cut sweet potatoes into strips. I then rinsed them with cold water in a colander to get rid of excess starch. I then let them dry up.

2. Mix corn starch with sparkling water. We did not really measure, but maybe 4 deciliters (1,7 cups) of water and 4 tablespoons of corn starch, that is approximately 1 tablespoon per deciliter (1/4 cup) of water.

3. The sought texture of the mix is somewhat thicker than milk, but it should be runny. We just dipped our dried sweet potato sticks in the mixture and then put them straight into the hot fryer. You’ll need to insert them in batches so they wont stick. It’s a little bit of work, but very worth it.

4. After a couple of minutes they start to get slightly golden (the corn starch will stay white tough). Remove the sweet potato fries from the fryer and season with sea salt and any other spice you’d like.

Enjoy!

Egg, ham and cheese breakfast brioche sandwich recipe

Last Saturday I woke up with a slight headache after a night of Korean food and too much Riesling and beer. As it happened, I had cheddar cheese, prosciutto ham, eggs and brioche rolls – and no urge to go to the store for groceries. The idea then came to me to make something a bit like a Mcdonald’s McMuffin.

I’m not sure I even need to make a recipe out of this since it’s so simple, but just for your convenience I will.

You need (for two sandwiches):

4-6 thin slices of prosciutto ham

2 eggs + oil for frying them

2 brioche rolls (or English muffins or any roll you like – but preferably a quite soft one)

2 thick slices of cheese

Salt & pepper

How to cook the Mcmuffiny breakfast roll

1. Fry the eggs. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Put a slice of cheese and half of the han on each breadroll’s bottom part. Put in oven or micro-wave oven until cheese melts. Also toast/warm the top slightly.

3. Make the sandwich. Put the fried egg on top of the ham and cheese stack on the bottom bread. Sprinkle with chives if you have any, maybe some hot sauce too. Add top bread. Eat. Coffee is sort of essential. But tea should work too.

Lunch at Bobergs Matsal in Stockholm

Visited Bobergs Matsal in NK (Nordiska Kompaniet) department store the other day for some fine-dining lunch. Bobergs Matsal was originally opened in 1915, but has been closed until a few years ago, when it was re-opened by chef Björn FrantzĂ©n of famous FrantzĂ©n restaurant in Stockholm. 

Bobergs Matsal is a quite classic fine-dining experience, but generally only open for lunch, offering lunch eaters a in-Stockholm sort of rare opportunity to enjoy lunch with table service, white tablecloths and well executed, fancy plating sort of food.

I’ve been to Bobergs Matsal a couple of times, and it has been consistently great every time so far. My latest visit was no exception and I really enjoyed the steak tartare ‘Parisienne’ which in addition to delicious steak tartare included deep-fried capers, a creamy baked egg yolk, horseradish mayonnaise, pickled yellow beetroot, herbs and mustard. The tender steak worked really well with the pickled crunchy beets and the fatty mayonnaise. The ultra-crispy fries, topped with a fancy sprinkle of fried parsley and parmesan cheese, worked like a charm as a side. The accompanying salad was a bit redundant, but nevertheless tasty.

For dessert, I went, after much agony (was also keen to try the glace au four), for the Cardamom-baked Ingrid Marie apples. The apples were served ‘crumble pie-style’ with vanilla ice cream, a caramel sauce, an oat and dinkel crumble, and some crispy apple chips. It was a very delicious dessert, but also very rich. If you’re still hungry after your main, go for it. Otherwise, the delicious chocolate ice cream with caramelized banana and rum creme could be a good bet. I ordered a quite enormous latte to have with the dessert, and it too was very good.

Bobergs Matsal is a solid bet for a fine dining lunch in Stockholm, and during my four visits, I’ve left happy. 

Price $$$

Prices are expensive, but not crazy expensive, depending a bit on what you order, of course. Mains are roughly 200-400 SEK, desserts 65-90 SEK.

Website (in Swedish)

Two days of eating in Las Palmas

 

Our final days on Gran Canaria was spent in the capital city of the island, Las Palmas. After deciding to catch a bus from Maspalomas to Las Palmas, our taxi driver, taking us from our hotel to the bus station, catched us in our laziest baggage-hauling moment and offered us a only for you my friend-price for a door-to-door delivery to our hotel in Las Palmas. The seats were comfy, the price felt okay, and hey we were already in the taxi. So we took the offer of 56 euros for the trip and arrived about an hour later at the Santa Catalina hotel.

Santa Catalina Hotel, Las Palmas

The Santa Catalina is, I guess, the ‘grand olde lady’ of Las Palmas hotels, which we hadn’t really realized when booking. The exterior was impressive, as can be seen above with the magnificent 1890s building which was fronted by a nice garden. This felt like a place where presidents and kings (at least used to) stay. And apparently for instance Winston Churchill had done so fifty odd years or so ago. Our standard room at the Santa Catalina was a bit old and worn, but at the same time with a certain ‘old world’ charm such as actual room keys in addition to more recent stuff such as decent wifi and a flatscreen tv.

Segundo Muelle, Las Palmas

After a bit of exploring in Las Palmas, we needed food. As the Santa Catalina is a bit away from the city center, we were happy to find Segundo Muelle, a Peruvian restaurant, nextdoor to the hotel. Segundo Muelle is, as we found out, apparently a global restaurant chain with outlets in Miami, Lima, Quito (Ecuador), and of course, in Las Palmas.

 

When in Peruvian restaurants, drink Pisco Sour. Also featured in the picture is toasted salty corn. NO, it is not popcorn!

 

Ceviche with corn, cilantro/coriander, onion, chilli and possibly the star of the dish: a glazed, baked piece of sweet potato. 

 

I almost always eat lomo saltado in Peruvian restaurants. It’s so good in its simplicity as is it great in the clever combination of two of world’s greatest kitchens. It’s woked beef fillet with chilli, tomatoes, sweet pepper, onion and potato chips(!), served with rice. Asia meets South America. Yum.

 

To finish some kind of yummy cake with chocolate, peanuts and praline.

 

No bed-going before a night cap dry martini if you live in a hotel built in the 1800s.

 

No breakfast without cava and lots of delicious food on gold-plated… Err, plates, had with golden cutlery. When, exactly, staying in hotels built in 1890. Our time in the golden days of travel was now over. Back to the 2010s.

 

Hotel Reina Isabel, Las Palmas

Our last hotel of the trip, booked six months in advance in a time when we thought we’d spend our last night of vacation after seven crazy days in West Africa in some Gran Canarian style. Oh well, the Reina Isabel was a really nice hotel, despite being our fourth in the same island in 9 days. Views from the rooftop pool and bar was amazing over both the city as well as the Las Canteras beach, as seen above.

This day was also my dear girlfriend and travel buddy’s birthday, and hence we needed another good place to eat. Fortunately, we found El Churrasco.

 

El Churrasco is an Argentinian steakhouse, just off the Las Canteras beachwalk on Calle Olof Palme. We started off Spanish with a bunch of really (really, really) delicious, fat and juicy prawns sizzling in a chilli and garlic oil as they were delivered at our table together with warm, crusty and also delicious bread. 

 

Next dish was, maybe not that surprisingly, steak. A very good steak should be added. I actually called it one of my top five steaks ever, and that could actually be true, even though I’m writing this without any red wine infused passion. The great steaks (we had Argentinian entrecĂ´te and a bife de chorizo) were served with surprisingly bland and under-fried chips (still edible though) as well as a fortunately tastier chimichurri sauce. Everything was washed down with a nice bottle of Rioja.

 

To finish we shared a dulce de leche filled pancake with an unusually tasty scoop of ice cream.

A great dinner. Despite the chips.


Then it was time to bid Las Palmas adiĂłs (and almost our lives since our airport taxi driver drove like he was mad). That was that. Next stop is Paris, a first for me, in a couple of weeks.

Wapa Tapa restaurant

Our last night at the Palm Oasis Maspalomas, and on the south side of the island for that matter, we decided to head for the Wapa Tapa restaurant that had got some great reviews. 

Wapa Tapa is located in the touristy Yumbo shopping center, and was a little bit tricky to find among the other restaurants and shops in the mall. But there are signs pointing the way fortunately. When we eventually found the place we were immediately seated by the extremely, and I mean that in the best of ways, friendly co-owner that also gave us a run-down of the menu and also some suggestions of what to try. There was a chef’s choice menu with wine included for €40 a head, but we decided we wanted to choose ourselves.

Canarian papas arrugadas, the island’s ‘national’ dish. This one was made with a  breed of potatoes locally grown on Tenerife, that originally was from Peru. Served with great mojo rojo and salsa verde sauces. Both deliciously garlicky with a hint of cumin.

Hand-carved, acorn-fed Iberico pig jamĂłn. That is, the best damn ham I ever had. So nutty, fatty, tender and awesome. To the right are a bunch of almost equally good cod croquettas (much like the bolinhos de bacalau we had in Rio last year). Crispy and delicious.

Another great dish: Grilled king prawns with a squeeze of fresh lime and sea salt.

There are plenty of South American references on Gran Canaria (or lots of Gran Canarian references in South America). Here was one of our faves from last year’s South America-trip: Grilled Provoleta cheese, that we had lots of in Buenos Aires. This was even more delicious with an amazing grilled cheese crust covering the melting cheese. Served with crusty bread and tasty tomatoes. Mmmm…..

Then it was barely enough space in my belly for a small dessert. This was a pot au chocolat with white chocolate shavings. We also tried their sticky toffee pudding. Both were muy bien, but not as muy bien as the spectacular tapas dishes we had. If you find yourself near Wapa Tapa, book a table (several drop-ins were turned away during our visit) and eat some of the best tapas you might ever have.

Price: €€

We paid roughly €100 for two, with 7 shared tapas, 2 desserts and 3-4 drinks each.

Location: Yumbo Shopping Center,

CC Yumbo Centrum Local 232-12

Playa del Inglés 35100

Wapa Tapa’s website

Swedish Christmas

Just got back home a couple of kilos heavier after three days of Christmas celebrations with family. 

Swedish Christmas is mainly celebrated on ‘Julafton’, which is Christmas Eve the 24th of December. The day is usually started with some kind of Christmas breakfast. Then many people watch the 3 pm Disney’s Christmas or “Kalle” (from Kalle Anka, meaning Donald Duck). So did we, but this year we substituted the glögg (mulled wine) and gingerbread cookies with champagne and Skagen mix on Finnish rye crisps.

After ‘Kalle’ and exchanging Christmas gifts it’s time for the main event, which of course is the traditional Swedish julbord (literally Christmas table). The julbord is a buffet (smorgasbord) of various Swedish Christmas foods. We served gravlax salmon, meatballs, mini ‘prince’ sausages, cream sauce, creamed kale, red cabbage, Jansson’s temptation, pickled herring, potato salad as well as a couple of Finnish vegetable baked ‘casserolles’, since my family originally is Finnish. With this we had Christmas beer, red wine and a soft drink called julmust. For dessert a British Christmas cake as well as chocolates and Christmassy candy. On the 25th of December you basically do it all again with the leftovers.

Now it’s time to reload before the upcoming new years celebration and give heart and liver some time to recover.

Swedish Christmas recipes

If you need some Swedish Christmas recipes, visit my old Scandi recipe site Scandinaviafood.com.

God jul (Merry Christmas)!