Canary Islands part two: Palm Oasis Maspalomas Hotel

After our first two days in Playa del Inglés, we managed to make a last minute booking for the Palm Oasis Maspalomas. Their cheaper studio apartments were sold out, but instead we secured a 70 sqm apartment for about €120 a night, which I found very affordable given the hotel’s ratings, the apartment’s size and the general luxurious feeling of the place. In the taxi from Playa del Inglés going to the Palm Oasis, I saw a palace-like structure and secretly wished it was the actual hotel, which it was.

In room-cooking

A very nice aspect of the hotel was the fully equipped kitchen. I usually never cook when abroad, but hey, we were in the Canary Islands for 8 more days than planned, so why not save some money. Above is our apartment-made green olive tapenade ‘pintxos’ and a chilli-butter-red wine slow-cooked meat sauce served with spaghetti and parmesan cheese. The kitchen was extra convenient since the Palm Oasis Maspalomas has their own supermarket within the hotel (with slightly but not that much inflated prices), as well as there is a Spar supermarket a 3-4 minute walk away on Calle Einstein with a proper deli, quite an assortment of wine and beer and so on.

The room/apartment at Palm Oasis Maspalomas

Above is the view from the terrace that came with our apartment. You could see all the way to the Maspalomas dunes as well as the pretty pool area just to the right in the above picture. There were also two sunloungers so you could laze around your room all day still getting a tan. Our apartment also featured a big flatscreen tv with great picture quality; well-functioning wifi; a separate bedroom, and a bathroom that even had a jacuzzi hot tub.

The main restaurant

On two occassions we tried the hotel restaurant. Not much to write home about, but the food was decent enough. Above is from the ‘Gran Canaria night’ buffet which featured local delicacies such as the wrinkly Canarian potatoes ‘papas arrugadas’ with mojo rojo and salsa verde as well as grilled food, a few salads and some not-so-Canarian desserts. Some of the dishes (especially grilled entrecôte, chorizo and papas) were actually quite tasty, but most was standard buffet stuff.

Location

The location is a bit off from the beach, but the hotel has solved this with a free transfer bus to Maspalomas beach that leaves four times a day and also return back to the hotel in the afternoon. To reach the Faro lighthouse and its restaurants or eg. Yumbo shopping center (both close to beach and restaurants) is about 4-5 euros with a taxi that the hotel happily order for you.

Since we had not planned on staying in the Canary Islands for more than three days we had no real idea what to do. One of the days though we went for a whale and dolphin tour with Spirits of the Sea tour company. It was actually very worthwile. We paid roughly €30 per person including hotel pick-up and got to see loads of dolphins playing around the boat. No whales unfortunately. Still a great trip though with a friendly crew.

The hotel in summary

Nice rooms, great pool area, and friendly staff. A bit far from the beach and good restaurants, but I would stay again given the easy and free transfer bus to the beach and affordable local taxis.

 

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)!

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.

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!

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

Homemade spaghetti bolognese recipe


If I were to spend the rest of my life on an island, eating only one dish of my choice, it would almost certainly be a classic spaghetti bolognese. Most people are very aware of this Italian classic (although they call it ragu) and there are probably almost as many versions of this dish as there are people cooking it each day. Anyway, this is my version of spaghetti bolognese.

If I cook a bolognese or “spaghetti och köttfärssås” as we say in Sweden, during the week I usually skip both bacon, red wine and finishing butter. So feel free to do the same if you want the dish healthier or for instance without pork. This is a dish that’s almost required to be accompanied by a glass of red wine while you cook and then eat it. But only almost.

What you need (for roughly four persons)
500 grams of minced beef
1/2 package of bacon (or pancetta if you feel fancy)
2 carrots
1/2 small head of celeriac
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 can of finely crushed tinned tomatoes (I usually use Mutti brand)
2 cubes of chicken stock (or substitute with your own)
3 tablespoons of dried oregano
2 teaspoons of tomato paste
Spaghetti (I usually use De Cecco or Martelli – but eg. Barilla is fine too)
Parmesan cheese
Olive oil for frying
Red wine, about a large glass

Salt
Sugar

How to cook it

1. Start with the chopping. Peel and finely slice garlic and onion. Also peel and dice the carrots and celeriac into small cubes, about the size of a pea. Slice bacon or pancetta into quite thin slices.

2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add the bacon/pancetta and let fry until browned, but not crisp. Add the beef mince to the bacon and let fry until it begins to brown as well.

3. When beef has cooked, using a different pan if possible (otherwise just add into beef pan) fry the garlic, onion, celeriac and carrots until soft.

4. If not in the same pan already, pour the fried veggies into the beef and bacon pan and add red wine, tomatoes, oregano, stock cubes and a pinch of sugar. Cover with a lid, add low heat and let simmer for 2-8 hours, occasionally stirring and adding water/wine as the sauce reduces.

5. About 15 minutes before the sauce is ready, boil the pasta in plenty of salted water. Remember to keep some of the cooking water  before draining the pasta as it is needed to finish the dish.

6. When pasta is cooked, set aside some cooking water and add a knob of butter into the meat sauce. I usually also add some extra oregano as this stage, about a teaspoon or two.

7. Add spaghetti and about half of the meat sauce into a pan together with about a deciliter of the cooking liquied. Stirr over heat until the water has reduced and the spaghetti is covered with meat sauce.

8. Serve spaghetti, with extra meat sauce on top. Of course a generous serving of Parmesan cheese is also required. A glass of red, a tasty bread and a simple salad dressed with balsamic vinegar and good quality olive oil is almost mandatory.

Enjoy my favourite dish!