Quick to make Italian style prawn spaghetti

After the thrilling Sweden-Switzerland game during the FIFA world cup in Russia, we needed some carbs to soak up the beer we’d had while watching.

This is probably a more American-Italian style spaghetti then genuinly Italian. It’s a bit resembling to an “angry” arrabiata sauce though, but without oregano. I also had some parmesan cheese on, which is a no-no when it comes to seafood in Italy.

This was a really nice, and easy to make, seafood or prawn (or shrimp) spaghetti. I made it quite spicy with a load of toasted chilli flakes, but just skip most of them if you want a less spicy version.

We had garlic bread on the side (might also have something to do with the game beers we had), a bit unneccessary but also delicious.

What you need (for 2-3 servings)

12-15 peeled prawns

About 300 grams of fresh good quality tomatoes (or use canned)

3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

About 250 grams of spaghetti

Fresh, finely chopped parsley

Dried chilli flakes

Olive oil

1. Chop the fresh tomatoes relatively finely. Use a sharp knife or this will be frustrating.

2. Heat olive oil in a pan. When the oil is quite hot, add the chilli flakes and give them a nice toast for 30 seconds or so. Then add the garlic and fry for a short while until soft, but not burnt. A little bit of colour is okay though.

3. Add the prawns to the oil, cook a shirt while on each side until cooked through but before they get rubbery. This does not take long, so watch them. Remove shrimos from oil and set aside (they will go back into the sauce later).

3. Add the tomatoes to garlic-chilli oil. Let simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Add some water if it reduces to quickly.

4. Cook spaghetti until properly al dente (with a bite – slightly undercooked). Save a half deciliter/ quarter cup of cooking drained pasta water.

5. Add the spaghetti and reserved cooking liquid to tomatoes in pan. Combine together for a minute or two on low eat until the sauce and pasta is properly mixed. At the last 20-30 seconds, add prawns and fresh parsley, and toss.

6. Serve immediately! I also used parmesan, because I am a sinner, and it was really good too.

Easy peasy lobster roll recipe

It might be the tastiest food there is; succulent lobster meat, toasted brioche, mayo, a sprinkle of chives. Maybe a couple of crunchy chips. Maybe a glass of pink champagne too?

Well the best part is that while it’s not inexpensive, it is not that much of an effort to throw together if you use store bought mayo, a pre-cooked lobster and ready made brioche. You could of course do it all from scratch. But then again, sometimes it’s okay to take the easier route.

What you need (for two rolls)

One big, or two smaller lobsters

About 2 tablespoons of mayo, make your own or buy a nice one such as Hellmans

2 Brioche buns (I use Swedish brand Garants brioche hotdog buns)

Chopped chives for decoration

How to make the lobster roll

1. Cut the lobster in half lengthwise, remove all shell and hard stuff and save the lobster tail, claws and meat in a bowl.

2. Add mayo to the lobster meat, toss.

3. Heat up a pan and toast the brioche buns until slightly charred on the outside.

4. Fill buns with the lobster mayo mix and top with a sprinkle of chives.

5. Serve with chips, a glass of pink champagne, normal champagne or just a cold beer. Enjoy!

Three days in Baku (with lots of food)

Since I learned about the new Azeri “Asan Visa”, an e-visa, replacing the former tedious process of applying for a visa at an Azerbaijani embassy, I’ve been really keen to go. Who can’t remember the promotions for the country during the 2012 Eurovision in Baku (Yay, Sweden won!); Azerbaijan – Land of Fire; Azerbaijan – Land of Horses, and so on, clearly I needed to go.

Last Winter I scored tickets to Baku during the Swedish public holiday of Kristi himmelsfärd this May, and hence, our visit turned into a short Thursday till Saturday night-affair.

Stockholm-Istanbul-Baku with Turkish Airlines

We flew with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and the entire trip, including a three hour stopover took about 9 hours. I should add that Turkish is surprisingly good with entertainment screens at every seat and free food and drinks. On our return leg from Istanbul to Stockholm we flew in a widebody jet with even better standard and space.

When landed in Baku, we were struck of how nice the airport was. Clean, modern and with fast free wifi. The line to immigration wasn’t as great though and took about 40 minutes. I visited neighbouring Armenia last year, so they asked me about the stamp and where in Armenia I’d been before letting me in.

We had a pre-booked airport pick-up by our hotel, the surprisingly excellent Holiday Inn Baku. Since we landed at 5 in the morning, it was very nice to just jump into a pre-arranged car and be on our way, despite triple the price of an Uber which we later realised (it was still only about €20 though).

Arriving our hotel, our room wasn’t ready despite a confirmed early check in. To compensate, they offered us free breakfast, and of we went to our first taste of the Azeri cuisine.

Azeri (and international) breakfast at Holiday Inn Baku’s Marina restaurant

I’d read beforehand about Azeri breakfasts and was keen to try flatbreads with local Motar cheese and honey. Fortunately all were available so together with some other stuff like tasty vegetables, made-to-order omelettes and hummus we got to tick them off the list accompanied with a cup of tea before we went to pass out.

Turkish breakfast at The House Cafe Baku

The House Cafe Baku is located in the swanky Port Baku Mall, just across from our hotel, the Holiday Inn Baku. It might not be the most genuine of restaurants or breakfast places; but oh my good was this place good. We ordered a “big breakfast platter” that in reality meant that they covered our entire table with little platters and bowls of delicious stuff. There were feta cheese pastries, honey, local cheese, fresh veggies, bread, toast, clotted cream, nutella, olives, fried eggs, fried halloumi; coming to think of it – much like an ‘oriental’ afternoon tea. Oh yes, tea was included too, in fact two glasses each, encouraging watching the view and other people during a prolonged breakfast. Loved the place.

Firuze restaurant, Fountain Square Baku

Close to Baku’s beautiful old town is the Fountain Square, surrounded by Western chains such as Mcdonalds and KFC, as well as a few tourist traps according to rumour, and also a couple of really nice Azeri restaurants. By some reason they all (Narqiz, Firuze, Dolma) were located in cellars below ground. We tried two of them, the first being Firuze.

Lyulya kebab (minced lamb) with sliced raw onion on a lavash flatbread. In the background: choban salad with finely sliced cucumber, tomatoes, onion, parsley, dill, olive oil and lemon juice.

A Central Asian staple is the plov. As I understand it, originally from Uzbekistan, this rice pilaf is eaten all over the region. The Azeri version was served with the rice and the meat/stew separately (in other countries everything is mixed like, say, an Indian biryani. The above plov featured falling-off-the-bone tender lamb, apricots, raisins, plums, quince juice and chestnuts, on top of fluffy, buttery rice.

We also tried their mangal salad (top left), which consists of coal baked vegetables that are roughly chopped and mixed with olive oil and lemon into a sort of a salad.

Our last dish at Firuze was qutab (top right): flatbreads stuffed with spinach, cheese or pumpkin and then fried. A bit like a quesadilla I guess. Very delicious too.

Price

All, washed down with one glass of local beer and one glass of local red wine each came out at roughly €25 in total.

Website (tripadvisor)

Dolma Restaurant, Fountain Square Baku

Dolma is, like Firuze, located in a basement without windows and hence the pictures aren’t that exciting – but luckily, we had our best meal of the trip here. Chicken Sadj (cooked on coals at the table), Turkish spicy Adana kebab, plov Sabriz with lamb, greens, tart plums and of course buttery rice. Also another round of my Azeri favourite; mangal with flatbreads. Hillside Prestige red wine to drink.

Price

Prices were again very affordable; we paid 45 Manat (~25€) for two persons with three drinks and four shared dishes.

Website

Sumakh Restaurant Baku

Doing research for the trip, Sumakh reappeared several times as one of the fanciest places in town if you wanted to eat local Azeri food. Owned by the Beat Group that has a couple of venues around town, it is definitely at least in part aimed at foreigners with an English website, with menu and all. The restaurant is quite nice, with a local feeling to it. Although fancier than the places mentioned above, it did not feel overly luxurious and prices were quite humane except for the beluga caviar starter below.

A short story: last year we went to Georgia, and upon returning to Sweden we had a spare €100 in Georgian Lari with us that we forgot to change. In Sweden they told us the bills were worthless due to an upcoming switch of bills in Georgia. We then took them to Frankfurt Airport on another trip, Moscow on another. We finally brought them to Baku, a year later, and said that if we’d be able to change them we’d have beluga caviar during our visit. And guess what…

Said and done, we ordered the Caspian Sea Beluga Black Caviar (~€60) and two shots of vodka. It felt very oligarchy, and extra cool being just a few blocks from the actual Caspian Sea. Dissapointingly though, I did not find it that spectacular taste wise. It was salty, fishy and had some extra bite to it compared to “regular” roe or caviar, but in my mind not warranting the price. It was served with local black bread, shaved butter and lemon which I did not really get either.

Fortunately, despite the slightly dissapointing caviar, the rest we had was great. The lyulya kebab above was incredibly crunchy on the crust, probably due to being wrapped in lamb fat before frying, and then yet very soft in the center. Totally delicious.

Mangal salad with coal baked tomatoes, flatbread and local red wine.

More delicious Azerbaijani plov pilaf.

Dolmas, tiny parcels with meat wrapped in vine leaves. Mmmm mmm. These dolmas were the best I’ve ever had.

Dushbere: small dumplings in a clear broth.

Fancy, but not posh. Sumakh offered a great dinner with tasty food, efficient service and relatively affordable experience. Not counting the €60 Beluga Caviar, our tab would’ve landed at €40 with vodka, wine and loooads of food. Now, in total, it came out at roughly €100.

Website

Wine tasting at Domaine Chandon in Yarra Valley

During our stay in Melbourne, we spent Christmas Eve, which is the big day in Sweden, with a trip to the nearby Yarra Valley for a bit of wine tasting. Instead of snow, heavy food and Disney’s Christmas there was lush scenery, actual heat and of course wine drinking.

Based on a recommendation we went to Domaine Chandon, which is owned by LVHM, that is Louis Vuitton Moët Hennesy, eg. the French luxury conglomerate making fancy bags and of course the Moët Chandon champagne.

Splash tasting at Domaine Chandon

We opted to do a little tasting before having lunch, and paid I think $20 AUD each for a ‘splash tasting’ of five different wines – four bubbly and one red. Everyone quite delicious and we ended up buying a bottle of their blanc de blancs (eg. made with just chardonnay grapes) for our upcoming New Years Eve celebration.

After the tasting lunch was literally on the menu. We tried half of the dishes on their menu, and it was all delicious. Cheese and charcuterie boards, a trio of crostinis as well as a plate of crunchy fat chips with a good quality mayo. Paired with a glass of their aged cellar bubbly and a view over the vineyard this was another highlight of our visit, and sort of a must do if you’re visiting Melbourne.

My best ever fish and chips at Bridge Fish & Chips, Mordialloc

After five days of South East Asiaing in Singapore, it was time for the next destination. After a sort of painful red-eye flight, that was prolonged by a tropical thunderstorm, we found ourselves at the Mornington Peninsula, just outside of Melbourne, Australia.

As I have relatives there, Christmas in Australia was sort of the main goal for our trip, despite only spending five days there.

Anyway, after managing skybuses, commuter trains and finally some walking we ended up at my relatives’ house. Fortunately they had anticipated our state of mind, and fried food was on the agenda.

Close to where we stayed, there is Mordialloc. To me, it sounds like some vicious creature straight out of Harry Potter, but fortunately it’s a quite nice little suburb by the ocean that also happens to have a nice fish and chips shop. We opted for take away and brought a load of deep fried seafood goodies, chips and white Aussie and New Zealand wine and crashed down on a bench next to the ocean. It might’ve been reaching firm ground after the painful flight and all that, but this was the best fish and chips I have ever had. The calamari was ridiculous. Not even a bit chewy – soft meat, crunchy coating. The fish was flaky and with equally crunchy batter. The prawns, oh the prawns. Juicy, sweet and with a beautiful crispy coating as well. Great chips, tartare sauce (I love that stuff so much), a squeeze of lemon, and cold white wine. A red sunset for dessert. Couldn’t be much better.

Website (their page on Tripadvisor)

Meat-mayo-marrow mayhem at Burnt Ends Singapore

One of 2017s best meals was at Burnt Ends Singapore, sort of an Australia meats (sorry) United States-style barbecue restaurant – in Singapore! Ranked as 10 on San Pellegrino’s Asia’s 50 best list, reservations is a must and we made ours a month or so in advance. We sat at the bar where dinner is enjoyed facing the open kitchen, and you are handed the dishes straight from the chefs while sipping cocktails and wine served by the waiters (that also serves food to the rest of the restaurant not sitting at the kitchen bar). A foodie dream more or less.

Above is the skirt steak with bone marrow and burnt onion. So rich, so good.

“Garlic shoots and gremolata”. A little bit like very thin asparagus served with a tart gremolata and a really nice mayo.

Burnt Ends’ Sanger with pulled pork shoulder, cole slaw, chipotle aioli in a brioche bun. Really decadent and delicious. Not very refined, but just plain tasty.

Beef marmalade and pickles”. Pulled beef-y marmalade with crunchy sweet and sour pickled cucumbers, on grilled sourdough smeared with mayo. So my kind of food and so delicious.

Price

Burnt Ends’ menu of the night to give you an indication of prices. We paid slightly over $200 (SGD) for two including a shared bottle of wine and water (there’s free tap water though which the servers ‘forgot’ to mention to us which was a bit annoying). Anyway, despite that a really nice dinner.

Website

What is a patty melt? (recipe)

Had a really decadent breakfast the other day. Saw this creation fly past on Instagram a couple of times in the last month, and decided i had to try. I mean a burger meets grilled cheese… I couldn’t resist. Behold the patty melt.

What you need (for one patty melt)

1 burger patty (I used store-ground chuck roll)

4 slices of cheddar cheese

2 Slices of toast bread (preferably rye or brown bread)

A couple of pickles

Butter

Salt

How to make the patty melt:

1. Fry the burger patty until cooked, season with salt. Finish with two slices of cheddar and allow to melt on top.

2. Spread butter on the bread slices.

3. Fry bread with butter side down in a frying pan, turn, and let fry on the other side as well.

4. Add one slice of cheddar on the buttered side of each bread slice. Add burger inbetween the two slices. Return to pan for a few seconds to allow the cheese to melt if needed.

5. Cut the patty melt diagonally into two triangular sandwiches. Serve with pickles. Enjoy (and then go out for a walk)!

Update: Next time I’d probably add some mayo, raw onion and possibly pickles on my patty melt.

Philly cheese steak sandwich recipe

The other day I found a piece of Provolone cheese in my next door supermarket. Many years ago (I sound really old now) I tried to make Philly cheese steak sandwiches at home, featuring thin slices of rib-eye steak/entrecôte, fried peppers & onions as well as a thick layer of melted provolone cheese. Needless to say I loved it. Hence, I though it might be time for another round of cheese steak sandwiches last weekend, and I must say they turned out really well. Not to mention it’s really easy to make.

What you need (for two)

About 150 grams of flank steak

One green bellpepper

One red onion

One clove of garlic

2 soft bread rolls (I used brioche hot dog rolls)

Provolone cheese (I also used some leftover burger cheddar)

Vinegar, salt, pepper

Cooking instructions

1. Trim, and then rub the flank steak with salt and pepper. Let rest in room temperature. Also set your oven to 150 degrees celsius or similar.

2. Slice bellpepper and onion in thin slices. Finely chop the garlic clove.

3. Heat a pan until it starts to smoke (eg. is really hot). Sear the meat on both sides until your prefered cooking grade. I go for medium rare. Let the meat rest while you continue with the preparations.

4. Fry bellpepper, onion and garlic in oil on medium heat until soft. Splash over about two teaspoons of vinegar as well as salt and pepper. Take off the heat.

5. Start with the sandwiches. Brush the breads with a thin layer of dijon mustard (skip this if you’re no mustard fan). Slice the breads and put the fried vegetables on top of the bottom part of the bread. Add sliced cheese and put in the oven for about a minute to melt the cheese. Put in the top breads at the same time but separated to get them warm.

6. Slice the flank steak as thinly as you prefer and stack it on top of the cheesy vegetable bottom bread. Add the top bread. Done!


Where to eat in Bologna (and why I gained 3 kilos in 3 days)


La Grassa, or the fat one, is the nickname of the Italian city of Bologna, lovingly named so by the rest of Italy, because of its, well fatty, cuisine. You could also call me the fat one, as I gained 3 kilos or about 6.5 pounds during my three days in Bologna recently.

So what is it that makes the cuisine of Bologna, the capital of the region of Emilia Romagna so good, that you just can’t stop eating while visiting. I’ll tell you what.

Mortadella.
The fatty sausage-meets-ham mortadella is one of Bolognas most famous foods. In Northern America, and probably in some other places too there is a similar thing called Bologna sausage, or ‘baloney‘. Mortadella is a sausage made of pork, with at least 15 percent of small fat cubes incorporated into it, which makes it remarkably delicious. Above is mortadella, salami, mozzarella, bread, cappuccino and some other breakfast stuff served at our hotel, Hotel Touring, which was pretty nice.
Hotel touring


Piadina.
These delicious quesadilla-y (sorry Italians) fried flatbreads are made out of a dough that includes lardo, which is pig’s fat. Okay, sometimes the lard is substituted with olive oil. Above is a piadina at nice wine bar Vineria Favalli, stuffed with bresaola (air cured beef), goat’s cheese and rucola/arugula.

Burrata.
A very delicious burrata cheese (sort of a runny mozzarella) served caprese style, meaning with tomatoes and basil. Maybe not that particularly Bolognese, but very, very good. This was at the same place as above, that is Vineria Favalli.
Vineria Favalli

Gelato. 
The first one is from Stefino, which makes both crazy ice cream flavours such as wasabi, as well as more traditional ones like the one above which was gianduia and raspberry respectively.
Gelateria Stefino


Gelato from Zanarini just next to Piazza Maggiore in the center of Bologna. Above are lemon and hazelnut flavours.
Caffé Zanarini


Cold cuts and tagliatelle al ragú at Trattoria Da Me Ancoranoi.
The dinner at to me highly anticipated Trattoria Da me was really something. We started with a platter of antipasti that featured an assortment of mixed cold cuts such as mortadella and salami, as well as deep-fried “crescentine” bread pockets, runny local cheese, pickles and fried onions. Mm-mm-mm.
Being a huge fan of the sacrilegious bastardisation of Bologna’s national dish, spaghetti bolognese, this was paradise to me. Tagliatelle al ragú is the original version of what is lovingly known as for instance spag bol in most other parts of the world, and the above version, which I had at Trattoria Da me is absolutely the best I’ve had. Including my own which I’m usually quite pleased with. The tagliatelle pasta was out of this world, the sauce was thick, meaty and very firm, and the parmesan cheese the natural binding-everything-together component. So. Good.
Trattoria Da Me


Pizza.
We had a fantastic pizza experience at Regina Sofia, just off Piazza Maggiore. We were seated in the back of the restaurant, which actually was in an alley, adding to the Italian experience. The pizzas were ‘Napoli style’, meaning thicker and doughier than usual thin crust pizza. Above is a capricciosa with fior di latte (mozzarella-like, made with cow’s milk) cheese, cotto (cooked ham), mushrooms, artichokes and small olives. It was so good. As everything else in Bologna.
Pizzeria Regina Sofia


Aperol Spritz.
Our hotel, Touring, had a rooftop bar called Terrazza Mattuiani where you could watch the sunset, eat some snacks, aperitivo, and drink aperol spritz. The only problem is that you need to pay €10 if you’re a hotel guest (includes a drink and snacks) or €15 if you’re a walk-in guest. Worth it in my mind, but more expensive than most other places in the city we visited. They do lack the views though.
Terrazza Mattuiani

One of the arcades for which Bologna is famous. There is actually 40 kilometers of them around the city, protecting its visitors and residents from the elements. First constructed in the late middle ages, and adding a lot of charm to the strolling which hopefully removes some of the mortadella or pasta weight gained.


Lasagne verde and tortellini in brodo.
Finally, Bologna is also famous for two dishes we had at a fantastic little restaurant called Al Sangiovese. The first one is lasagne verde which consists of green (spinach) pasta sheets, bechamel sauce and ragú (meat sauce). The other one is tortellini in brodo, or small pasta pockets filled with minced pork and served in a flavoursome and quite light broth. A sprinkling of parmesan wasn’t to be turned down either. Both dishes were delicious, especially washed down with a nice glass of Sangiovese wine.

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!