Recipe for perfect spaghetti cacio e pepe

One of my favourite pasta dishes (okay I admit that most pasta related dishes are my favourites) is the simple yet delicious Roman dish’cacio e pepe’. Cacio e pepe means cheese and pepper, and that is pretty much the dish, with the addition of spaghetti and a splash of cooking liquid.

Despite being a quite simple dish in terms of ingredients and time comnsumption, it’s kind of hard to get that perfect silky coating of cheese ‘sauce’ around the spaghetti. My previous versions have been a bit “lumpy”. But recently I fortunately learned a great trick: mix the grated cheese with cold water before mixing with the pasta.

Ingredients

Spaghetti (I use Martelli or De Cecco)

Pecorino cheese (in emergency use parmesan, but won’t be the same)

Black pepper

Cooking water

Salt

Preparation

1. Set pasta water to boil. Add lots of salt.

2. Mix about 2/3 of the pecorino cheese with a little bit of cold water to form a thick “paste”.

3. Cook spaghetti quite al dente (will cook some more in the sauce).

4. Drain spaghetti, but save a deciliter/half a cup or so of cooking water.

5. Combine the drained cooked spaghetti, a splash (maybe half) of the cooking water, cheese mix and a proper amount of black pepper in the cooking pot. Add heat and stirr (I use a kitchen tong) until most liquid has evaporated and the spaghetti is coated by a velvety, ‘glossy’ sauce. If needed, use the back up cooking water.

6. Serve immediately topped with remaining cheese and extra black pepper.

What and where we ate in Santa Maria on Cape Verde’s Sal Island

The country of Cabo Verde, or Cape Verde in English is a small group of islands (10 that counts), situated approximately 450 kilometers from mainland Africa. The country gained independence from Portugal in 1975, and hence you’ll find a few Portugese influences in the local food. Since we visited Santa Maria on the island of Sal, the article will only cover that area of Cape Verde.

The local fare is quite hearty. The national dish is catchupa, a stew with vegetables, sweet potato and for instance, fish, pork, chicken, chorizo or all, or some of them. The national cocktail is, as in other former Portugese colony Brazil, the utterly delicious caipirinha. But instead of cachaca liquor, the local spirit “grogue” is used. The result however, is equally delicious. Since Sal and especially Santa Maria has a lot of tourists visiting, many restaurants are quite international in their offering, and you’ll find Italian restaurants, British pubs, Indian restaurants in addition to the local Cape Verdean food.

Below is what we had during our week in Santa Maria.


Leonardo Cafe

An Italian restaurant in Santa Maria town, quite close to the pier. We went there after craving pizza and red wine for our Sunday dinner. Leornardo Cafe delivered just that for decent prices, about €9/900 CVE for a pizza, and €4 for a glass of wine. I tried their pizza diavola with spicy salami.
Website (with menu)


La Tortue at the Morabeza Hotel
Since we stayed at the Morabeza Hotel, we visited La Tortue, that is located within the hotel a couple of times. Food quality is actually quite good with for instance a nice take on the local Catchupa stew as well as grilled meats and fish, international and local dishes, and desserts. Try their local cheeses with papaya jam if you want something local.
Website with menu


La Tortue tapas
La Tortue also have a tapas menu which we found was the best they served. Delicious mini burgers, Canary Islands “papas arugadas” potatoes, coconut prawns and a nice cheese board. Bonus tip: visit between 6.30-7.30 pm for a 50 percent discount on house wine, local beer and delicious caipirinhas. Added bonus is the tasty fried dough snacks that are served complimentary with drinks.


Les Palmiers at the Morabeza Hotel
The other of Hotel Morabeza’s main restaurants. Menu similar to that of La Tortue above. Prices are slightly higher. We had the catch of the day, which actually were four different choices of fish, including tuna. Prices were around €12. When you select a grill item from the menu (this also applies to the Morabeza Beach Club below) you will get a ticket that you bring to the grilling station where you will get your meat/fish/lobster and where you also pick your condiments such as rice, fried potatoes, veggies, sauces and mayo by yourself. The other a la carte dishes are brought to the table by the service staff though. Food quality is good, but nothing out of the ordinary, what you can expect from a 4-star resort.
Website with menu


Chez Pastis
The fancy restaurant on the island according to most people we met and what we also read about in advance. Since the restaurant is tiny – it’s located in an alley a block from the main street in Santa Maria, Chez Pastis is a place where you actually need a reservation. Numerous people walked in and were sent away since they hadn’t reserved a table during our visit. We made our through our hotel three days in advance. The restaurant is run by an Italian man and has both Italian dishes as well as a focus on Brazilian premium beef. We tried both the pasta as well as the steaks and everything was quite delicious. The food is rustic and not very refined, so it’s nowhere near a Michelin star kind of place, but tasty and quite reasonably priced compared to other restaurants in the area.
Website (no menu)


Morabeza Beach Club
The third place owned by Hotel Morabeza and only open for lunch. They serve quite straightforward food such as pasta, salads, club sandwiches and also the local grilled lobster. As mentioned above, you’ll receive a ticket when you order grilled food to pick up yourself. The lobster is quite pricy at about €35, but for that you’ll get a whole lobster and there was no problem to split it on two persons. Condiments for both was included. The other dishes are priced around €10.
Website (with menu)


Caipirinha bar
Situated on the beach, between Morabeza’s Beach Club and the Santa Maria pier, the feeling is quite Copacabanaesque. It might have something to do with the Brazilian flag, the guys playing volleyball nearby and that you sit down on plastic chairs in the sand and drink tasty caipirinhas (€3) and fried salty dough snacks.


Cretcheu
At the beginning of the Santa Maria pier, Cretcheu is situated. They serve both lunch and dinner featuring stunning views (from the second floor) of the Santa Maria Beach and serve a local Portugese:ish fare. We went for lunch and had the lobster club sandwich which was decently tasty, but not great for the price (€15). We also went for dinner and had a tasty filet mignon with Portugese style chips. Cretcheu does also serve the volcanic Fogo island Chã wine by the glass which is the only place we visited doing that. Since it’s quite pricey for Cape Verde (€6,5 a glass), this is a good chance to try it without having to order a bottle.

 

Odjo D’Agua restaurant
This was a pre-booked “Cape Verde night” through our tour operator Ving. I mention this though, since the food was really good. Probably the best we had on Cape Verde. I also heard that Odjo D’Agua run standard (open for anyone) Cape Verde buffets that I guess feature pretty much the same food. Despite the bad quality pic, everything was so tasty with fresh grilled tuna, chorizo, rice, sweet potatoes, grilled chicken and pork, salads and catchupa.
Website (with restaurant menus)

Recipe for homemade truffled spaghetti carbonara

The other day I went to have dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in Stockholm; Urban Deli. There, I found that they sold fresh Gotlandic autumn truffles. The lady working the deli part of Urban Deli kindly allowed me to have a sniff before I decided to go ahead and buy the tiny but great smelling truffle.

When that was done, the mission was to figure out what to cook with it. I was craving carbonara, and since truffle is good with eggs, and sort of mild flavours, I’d thought I give a truffle spaghetti carbonara a try. Below recipe is my go to for a ‘normal’ carbonara. So it’s very much usable without any truffle. 🙂

What you need for the carbonara (2-3 portions)

300 grams Spaghetti (I used Martelli)

4 good quality eggs (I only use the yolks)

About 100 grams of guanciale, pancetta or bacon (preferably in quite thick slices)

Cooking water

1 deciliter of grated pecorino cheese, or parmesan cheese

Olive oil

Salt and black pepper

1 black truffle (optional)

How to cook

1. To start with, add quite a lot of salt to water in a cooking pan and set to boil.

2. Combine the four egg yolks with about 3/4 of the grated pecorino/parmesan cheese. Add a bit of salt and some black pepper (but not too much so the truffle is overpowered). If you’re not using truffle, go wild with the pepper though.

3. Slice guanciale/pancetta/bacon in to quite thick cubes.

4. Cook the spaghetti al dente, before draining the pasta reserve a deciliter/half cup of the cooking water in a cup or similar.

5. Put the cubed pork in a cold pan before putting on heat. This will make the fat render, which you’ll need to make the creaminess. Fry until crisp and set aside.

6. Gently combine spaghetti, egg-cheese mix, cooking water and fried pork, including the fat from the frying, over low heat, continously folding/stirring so the eggs won’t set. When the spaghetti is coated with creamy sauce and most liquid’s gone, immediately remove from heat and serve.

Top with grated or shaved truffle if using, and an extra sprinkle of the remaining cheese. Enjoy!

Chips with dip 2.0

I’ve heard about versions of this chip and dip ‘dish’ throughout the years, but haven’t got myself to try it until recently. 

The flavours of this decadent little nibble are very Swedish – it’s sort of like a small condensed version of Midsummer. When you, after a day of schnaps and singing realise that there’s only leftovers remaining after the herring feast, and you’re having cravings after something nourishing. You find chips, you find some leftover sour cream, “oh, there’s löjrom (vendance fish roe) in that half empty bucket”, and you also find dill and chopped red onion. What to do? You scoop everything up with the chips you found, of course.

There you have it, (Swedish) chips 2.0. Below is a guidline recipe for a slightly less brutal version.

You need:

Kalix löjrom (Vendance roe from Kalix)

Finely chopped red onion

Sour cream/creme fraiche/smetana

Finely chopped dill

Salted potato chips (preferably a bit thicker)

Place a bit of every ingredient on nice sturdy potato chips (see picture above). Enjoy with a glass of bubbly or a good quality beer.

Stockholm’s best cinnamon bun (kanelbulle)?

Kanelbullar or cinnamon buns is probably Sweden’s most famous contribution to the world of sweets. A buttery cinnamony creation that at its best can elevate the simplest fika to something great.

So, you wonder where to find the best version of the kanelbulle in Stockholm. Well, of course opinions will be divided, and I feel slightly bad for recommending a chain. But the kanelbulle at Fabrique (a Swedish bakery chain even available in London, UK) is in my mind among the best I’ve tried. Buttery, soft yet firm and just plain delicious. They make good coffee too, which is the classic drink paired with a kanelbulle.

Other great places for a kanelbulle

Magnus Johanssons Bageri in Hammarby Sjöstad. Haga Bageri at various places around town. NK department store’s bottom floor sells (at least used to) great kanelbullar.

Any other suggestion for a good quality kanelbulle in Stockholm? Let me know!

Fabrique’s website

Autumn weekend in the archipelago

Spent last weekend in the archipelago, probably for the last time this year, since Sweden’s getting a bit too cold for country home life during Autumn and Winter. For me that is.


As per usual, food was eaten. Above is a very tasty pork roast that we slow-roasted for almost three hours and served with a creamy risotto topped with fresh shaved truffle from Gotland. Almost mandatory charcuterie was enjoyed as well.


Walking, champagne drinking and sauna on the island of Gåsö, a short boat ride from Saltsjöbaden or Älgö just outside Stockholm.


Dinner day two: a 9-hour cooked Bolognese with chipotle chilli, giving the sauce a smokey rich flavour. Buttered fusilli pasta and parmesan cheese too. So good.


A final eggs and bacon before heading back to the city.

Bratislava, Slovak wine country and Vienna


img_2200.jpgBratislava’s beautiful Old Town, close to the decently good and well located Crowne Plaza Bratislava where I stayed.


Last weekend I visited the Slovak capital of Bratislava. I’ve been wanting to visit the city for quite a while, and finally it was time. The easiest way to get there, at least from Stockholm, is to fly to Vienna in Austria, situated about 70 kilometers from Bratislava. Bratislava actually have its own airport, but there aren’t that many flights, and no direct ones from Stockholm. So instead we flew Austrian Airlines, which was a nice airline with free drinks and friendly staff.


Bratislava castle. The Bratislava weather in mid September was in the high 20’s Celcius with about 28-29 degrees and great clear blue skies.

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Bryndzové Halušky is the national dish of Slovakia and consists of gnocchi like potato dumplings served in a creamy sauce of bryndza sheep’s cheese. The dish is additionally topped with fried bacon and in our case chives. A surprisingly delicious dish. We tried it at Zylinder restaurant in central Bratislava that was very nice.

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The second day we went to L’Olive at the five star Arcadia Hotel. This was supposed to be the highlight of the trip, but unfortunately the food was quite bad. It tasted like it had been kept warm for a couple of hours, and the experience was borderline disaster even though the staff were friendly, the wine good and the restaurant itself nice. But it all comes down to the food for me, and it wasn’t good, at all.

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One day we took a day trip to the small city of Modra in the foothills of the “Small Carpahtian” mountain range. The area is a wine region and we visited the Ludvik Winery for lunch and a wine tasting. We were also able to visit the vineyards, situated a couple of kilometers from the vineyard on a hill overlooking Modra.

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Hearty but delicious lunch at Ludvik Winery. Pumpkin puré, slow-cooked beef cheeks, vegetables and jus.


We tried five different of Ludvik’s wines. All were delicious, but the cabernet sauvignon rosé and the pinot gris were extra good. Had to buy all of them except for the grüner veltliner (also good, but not as spectacular as the others) with me home. Slovak wines were surprisingly delicious in my mind.



A quick visit to the mini-cellar at Ludvik (they have their big one outside of the winery).
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We also had time to try the delicous ice cream at Luculus in Bratislava.
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Last dinner in Bratislava. Another hearty but quite nice meal at Modra Hviezda. A large piece of deer served with purple potato mash and a cognac-caramel sauce. Not very refined, but totally edible, and a very nice atmosphere in the restaurant.

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Then a quick hop over to Vienna, Austria. A very nice thing in Vienna is that if you’re using the airport train, you can check your bags in at the train station (like in Hong Kong for instance), and then you won’t see your bag before you’re back home again. We had a couple of hours to spare before our flight from Vienna and was happy to not have to drag our bags around while exploring the Austrian capital.
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When in Vienna, eat Wienerschnitzel. We tried it at the famous Figlmüller that’s been serving up schnitzels for the last 110 years. The veal schnitzel was delicious, but I actually liked the cheaper pork schnitzel more. It was juicier and had more taste. Shame on me, I guess. The schnitzel came with no condiments, but we ordered the field potato salad that was really good.

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Another must do for me in Vienna is pastries. We had the above creation, a raspberry white chocolate cream sort of thing, and a delicious cappuccino at Vidoni, close to were the airport express leaves at Wien Mitte. It was really good and pretty much everything I hoped for in a Viennese café.

So, that was a weekend of eating in Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austria. Both were very nice cities, and I can really recommend Bratislava. Inexpensive, beautiful and easy to navigate.

Crayfish season


Above: non-traditional crayfish party spread with the addition of moules frites and garlic bread.

August in Sweden means (hopefully) dark but warm summer evenings, usually the first chanterelles (at least for me), and first and foremost: kräftor, meaning crayfish.

The crayfish season is mainly in August with a couple of jumpstarters in July and then a late season continuing into September. What happens in August is the kräftskiva which pretty much is a crayfish party. You eat crayfish, a few condiments and sidedishes. You also drink beer, schnaps, sing songs and, at least according to tradition, you wear silly pointy hats.

Being slightly allergic to shellfish I usually focus on a couple of crayfish tails as well as on the sidedishes. My favourite is the Västerbottens cheese pie, a high calorie delight comprising of aged cheese from Västerbotten in Northern Sweden not surprisingly called “Västerbottens cheese”. The pie also include onions, dough and eggs. Here is a recipe I wrote a couple of years ago.

Apart from pie you usually also find bread, I usuallt serve good quality baguettes. There should also be butter, more aged cheese (go for the Västerbottens cheese if available) and perhaps some kind of sauce. We usually make lemon mayo which goes well with the crayfish meat.

Kräftskiva is definitely one of my favourite Swedish festivities. So if you find yourself in Sweden in August, try to join one. Skål!

Creamed mushroom soup with fried chanterelles


August is here, meaning autumn in Sweden is approaching. Fortunately, being in the final month of summer isn’t all sad, as we are able to sample autumn delicacies such as chanterelles. Today we had this delicious little mushroom in a soup and on a sandwich.

The soup is actually a mushroom soup topped with fried chanterelles since we were too cheap to buy only chanterelles (the price is approximately $30 a kilo). Anyway, here is the recipe. Serves about two persons.

What you need
About 500 grams of button mushrooms
1 onion
1 garlic clove
about 5 cls of Whiskey (or white wine, or just leave it out)
3 stock cubes, I used chicken
100 grams of Celeriac
Olive oil for frying
1 deciliter of cream
Tomato pure
Thyme
Salt
Blackpepper

How to do it
This soup is supposed to be mixed, so no need to fancy it up with nice little cubes or similar. Just peel everything and then roughly chop it.

1. As mentioned above, peel and roughly slice mushrooms, the onion, garlic and celeriac. Fry the vegetables until browned. Add the thyme, salt and pepper and stirr well.

2. Add tomato pure to an empty spot in the pan and let it roast for a little while (maybe 30 secs). Then add the whiskey/wine and use it to de-glaze the pan, eg. get all the burnt stuff in the bottom to let go. Stirr everything well once more.

3. Add water and stock cubes until it covers the vegetables. Then let simmer for about 30 minutes before you add the cream. Let reduce for a couple of minutes. Taste, and season if needed. Then remove from the heat.

4. Mix the soup in a blender or with a hand blender. Serve topped with butter-fried chanterelles, finely chopped parsley and a few drips of olive oil.

The above chanterelle toast is great as a side with the soup. It’s made with more butter-fried chanterelles on top of a grilled slice of sourdough bread.

Sunday breakfast: ‘smashed avo’, feta and chorizo on grilled sourdough


One of my favourite breakfast dishes is the, at the moment (and for some time) quite trendy, ‘smashed avo’ sandwich.

In this weekend’s version I used fried chorizo “crumble” to add some fatty, spicy and meaty crunch to the dish.

What you need (for 2 persons)

1 fresh chorizo (remove the casings)

2 eggs

about 100 grams feta cheese

2 quite thick slices of good quality sourdough bread

1 avocado per person

Fresh Coriander/cilantro

Blackpepper

Salt

How to make it

Fry the de-cased chorizo in olive oil and use a wooden spoon to divide the sausage into small pieces like minced meat for the chorizo crumble. When it’s crisp, turn off the heat and set aside.

Use a griddle pan or an actual bbq to char the sourdough bread. It should have nice char marks but not be too crisp, so a minute or so per side depending on the heat should do the trick. Of course you could just toast the bread as well.

Poach the eggs by adding cracked eggs to just boiling water (with salt and vinegar in the cooking water). Let boil for a minute and a half, then pick them up with a slotted spoon or similar. Set aside while making the final preparations.

Take the pit out of the avocado and mash the flesh together with a little bit of salt. Put the mix on the grilled bread. Crumble feta cheese on top of the avocado and finally a poached egg. Top with the chorizo crumble, coriander and chives.

Serve with a cup of coffee, a bloody mary, or why not a glass of bubbly – it’s still weekend after all!