There’s definitely a chill in the air. I’m not sure where summer went exactly but I’m fairly confident it ain’t coming back. It was 7C this morning when I woke up (at an ungodly hour for some reason). Is it just me or has this has been one of the worst summers in recent memory? I’m normally quite strict about turning on the heating before 1st of October, but that went out the window last night. When it comes to food, though, I don’t feel quite ready to switch to hearty beef stews, pumpkin soup and large glasses of red wine. I’m still clinging on to lighter, fresher dishes, at least for the time being. This recipe is basically a transitional piece, perfect for when the sun still feels quite warm once the day gets going, but it may well rain later. It’s the food equivalent of a trench coat. But maybe in a bright colour.
This lighter take on a classic chilli is made with chicken and lots of fresh green veg, chilli and lime. A bit of heat and freshness in a bowl! Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients, this is a super simple and quick supper and a perfect way to use up any leftover chicken.
Summer Chicken Chilli
serves 2 with leftovers
You will need:
1 green pepper
1 whole green chill
1 clove garlic
1 banana shallot
1 lime, juice and zest
1 small bunch coriander
1 tbsp olive oil
300g cooked chicken, shredded
1 L good quality chicken stock
1 tin butter beans, drained
150g asparagus tips, cut into bite-size pieces
100g peas, fresh or frozen
100g broad beans, fresh or frozen
spring onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
lime wedges, to serve
tortilla crisps, crumbled, to serve
1. Begin by blitzing the pepper, chilli, garlic, shallot, lime zest and juice in a food processor or mini chopper along with the stalks from the coriander. Whizz to a chunky paste. Heat the oil in large saucepan and add the paste, stirring over a medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant.
2. Add the chicken and stir for a further couple of minutes to combine. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the butter beans, peas and broad beans and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
3. Divide into bowls and top with the spring onions, avocado, a little coriander, crumbled tortilla crisps and lime wedges.
I came across these beautiful greengages in a local fruit and veg shop the other day and had to buy them. When I was a kid, we had a hammock hanging between the plum trees in our garden in Sweden. Endless summer hours were whittled away, snoozing, reading and swinging underneath their leafy shade. Looking up, I would sometimes spy a tiny unripe green plum – a promise of later treats. As with all fruits and veg, plums come into season much later in Scandinavia. The plum harvest was notoriously and particularly unpredictable – if we were lucky we would be able to taste one or two when they’d just started to turn a patchy yellow-purple, but more often than not we’d be long gone by the time they were ripe.
These honeyed green plums reminded me of all the recipes I missed out on, so I couldn’t resist taking some home for the jams and tarts I’d always dreamt of making. But I should warn you that this is small-batch cooking, I’m afraid, as I only bought a kilo of the fruits home. The jam recipe makes two small jars, just and the tart recipe is for a mini dessert, enough for a 18cm pie dish. This turned out to be ample for the two of us for dessert over a few days, including a trip to the proms (the queue is an excellent excuse for a fancy picnic style dinner). To serve more, you could of course double the recipe and use a larger pie dish.
Greengage and vanilla jam
Makes 2 jars
You will need:
1 small vanilla pod
400g caster sugar
knob of butter
1. Wash the greengages well and place in a large pan with 100ml of water and the vanilla pod. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for about 20 mins until the fruit is completely soft.
2. Add the sugar off the heat and stir to dissolve completely. Bring back to a rolling boil for about 15 minutes, until setting point is reached. You can test for this by placing a small plate or saucer in the freezer. Drizzle a little hot jam over the plate and allow to cool. If the jam is ready, it should crease and create a ripple-like wrinkle effect when pushed across the saucer with a finger.
3. Fish out any stones which should by now how floated to the surface. Add the butter and stir until melted and any scummy froth has disperesed. Pour the jam into hot steralised jars and allow to cool a little before sealing.
Greengage and Calvados Tart
You will need:
1/2 pack ready-made shortcrust pastry or make your own
125g brown sugar
400g greengages, pitted and patted dry
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Roll out your pastry to line a small pie dish, circa 18 cm in diameter. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm up.
2. Meanwhile, place the calvados and 50g of the sugar in a small pan. Simmer slowly until thick and reduced by about half – this should take about 15 minutes. Allow to cool a little, then combine all but a few tablespoons with the fruit, sifted ornflour, cinnamon and remaining sugar.
3. Tip the greengages into the pie shell and bake for 45 minutes, until the fruit filling is soft and jammy but not liquidy. Cover with tinfoil if the pastry is getting too brown.
4. While the pie is in the oven, return the remaining calvados to the pan and reduce to a syrupy consistency. Drizzle over the warm tart and serve with a dollop of greek yoghurt or ice cream.
When I was younger we had rhubarb growing in our garden. It was a seemingly magical plant, with massive leaves and bright stalks and I was always amazed that this almost tropical-looking beast could be eaten. We put it in crumbles and pies mostly, normally picking the stalks on rainy days when baking seemed like a good activity for two bored and restless little girls. I was incredibly sad when it was cut down a few years ago by an over-enthusiastic lawn-mowing family member. Still searching for forgiveness for that one and that particular patch of the garden seems strangely empty now.
We’re right at the end of the rhubarb season – you may still be able to get a few pink stalks in the supermarket. For me, it’s a summer fruit rather than a spring one, as the season is a bit later on in Sweden than in the UK (as with all fruits and veg due to our northerly location). Rhubarb is not just for puddings, it goes exceptionally well with oily fish like mackerel and can be made into sharp cocktails and cordials. Perfect for sipping on a hot summer’s day. The tart flavour may not be to everyone’s taste – my husband hates the stuff even when it has been doused in sugar- but I urge you to give one or two of the easy recipes below a go and see if you aren’t converted.
Rhubarb and Ginger Custard Crumb Cake
Makes16 to 18 slices
You will need:
For the crumble
100g unsalted butter, melted, plus a little extra
125g golden caster sugar
140g plain flour
For the cake:
400g rhubarb, quartered lengthways then cut into 3cm bars
2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 balls stem ginger, finely chopped and 2tbsp stem ginger syrup
200g plain flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g icing sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
250ml good quality custard
1. Preheat oven to 175C. Butter a 22cm square cake tin and line with baking parchment. To make the crumble, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Add flour and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Toss the rhubarb with the brown sugar, 1 chopped stem ginger ball and 40g of the flour. Combine the remaining flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt in a small bowl. Beat butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs and vanilla, beating well after each addition. Finally, add the flour mixture a little at a time, alternating with the custard. Stir in the remaining stem ginger and the ginger syrup. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and then spread with the rhubarb mixture. Finally top with the crumble.
3. Top with rhubarb mixture, then top with prepared streusel. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until golden and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake (beware that the custard will still be a little moist, however). Allow to cool completely then cut into slices.
Rhubarb and Vanilla Cream Soda
You will need:
200g rhubarb, cut into 1 cm chunks
75g golden caster sugar
1 split vanilla pod, seeds scraped
soda water or fizzy water and ice, to serve
Put the rhubarb chunks, sugar, vanilla pod and seeds into a saucepan along with 100ml of water. Slowly simmer until the rhubarb is soft and completely collapsed, adding more water if necessary. Allow to cool a little then strain in batches through a fine mesh sieve to get all the lovely pink syrup out. It may help to add more cold water to the mixture. Allow to cool completely. Pour the syrup into a bottle and chill until needed. When ready to serve, pour over ice into tumblers and top with soda water.
Rhubarb and Cardamom Compote
You will need:
400g rhubarb, cut into 1 cm chunks
juice and zest of 1 orange
2 cardamom pods, crushed and ground in a pestle and mortar
3 tbsp golden caster sugar
Place all of the ingredients in a medium sized pan and simmer over a low heat for about 20 mins, until the rhubarb starts to collapse and is soft and spreadable. Add a splash or two of water if starting to look dry. Serve with yoghurt for breakfast or over ice cream for a simple pudding. Keeps in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Over the past few months I’ve been working with Scan Meatballs on a number of different projects including hosting a food blogger’s event and taking over their twitter and facebook feeds in the run up to Sweden’s National Day and Midsummer’s Eve next week. They’ve been a fantastic company to work with as they are keen to promote Swedish food and culture over here in the UK and to get away from some of the more traditional views of Scandi food. As such they’ve given me free reign to create some recipes for them.
Meatballs are perhaps a bit of a stereotype of Swedish cuisine and with good reason: a classic Meatball sarnie is a staple in every Swedish café. I always have one on one of the boats that take you out to the Stockholm archipelago, with a cup of coffee or a cold beer. However, meatballs aren’t just limited to the stereotypes. Families regularly have meatballs for dinner in all manner of guises and Swedish food mags contain countless variations with inspiration from all over the world. And so with this in mind, I’ve created a Meatball Mushroom Stroganoff and a sticky sweet Teriyaki meatball served with rice in crunchy salad cups.
Classic Swedish Meatball Sandwich with Quick Pickled Cucumber
You will need:
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp caster sugar
pinch white pepper
small handful dill, roughly chopped
1 x 230g pack Scan Meatballs
2 cooked beetroots (not in brine)
2 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp mayo
2 wholegrain or rye bread rolls
To serve: salted butter, salad leaves, radishes, dill
1. Begin by making the quick pickle. In a small bowl, combine the sliced cucumber with the white wine vinegar, sugar, white pepper, a little dill and a pinch of sea salt. Set aside while you make the rest of the sandwich.
2. Cook the meatballs according to packet instructions, either in the oven or on the hob.
3. Dice the cooked beetroot and mix with the creme fraiche, mayonnaise and salt and white pepper. Slice the bread rolls and spread with butter. Top with lettuce, cucumber, beetroot salad and finally the meatballs. Scatter a little extra dill on top, if you like, and serve immediately.
Meatball Mushroom Stroganoff
You will need:
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
2 onions, sliced
200g mushrooms, such as chestnut or shitake
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 x 395g pack Scan Meatballs
200ml chicken stock
100g creme fraiche (about 4 generous tbsp)
1 tsp dijon mustard
small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
Rice or pasta
Gherkins or capers, Pickled Red onions, optional
1. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan and gently cook the onions over a low heat for about 10 minutes, until golden and soft. Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, heat the remaining oil and fry the mushrooms in batches. Set aside.
2. Tip in the meatballs into the onion pan and fry for about 5-7 minutes, until golden. Add the garlic, thyme and paprika cook for another couple of minutes.
3. Add the stock and creme fraiche and simmer for about 10 minutes, until thickened. Sitr through the dijon mustard and add the mushrooms. Season to taste before sprinkling with chopped parsley. Serve with rice or pasta as well as some pickled red onions, gherkins or capers.
Teriyaki Meatball Salad Cups
You will need:
300g Jasmin or Basmati rice
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
small thumb fresh root ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 pack Scan meatballs
4 Little gem lettuces, leaves picked
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp toastec sesame seeds
Small handful corriander, roughly chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
1. Cook the rice according to packet instructions. In a small bowl, whisk together honey, soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, grated ginger and garlic. In a separate and even smaller bowl, mix the cornflour with 1 tbsp of water, stirring until milky and all lumps have disappeared. Add to the teriyaki sauce and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the meatballs. Fry for about 5-7 minutes, until just starting to go golden. Add the sauce and heat through over a low heat until thick and really sticky – a couple of minutes.
3. To serve, lay out the remaining ingredients on your table. Let everyone help themselves to make the lettuce cups by topping each leaf with a spoonfull of rice, a couple of meatballs, spring onions, sesame seeds and coriander. Squeeze over a little lime and dig right in.
It seems like ages ago now, but for almost two glorious weeks around Easter I was in Italy on what can only be described as a gastronomic tour to give both Elizabeth David and Elizabeth Gilbert a run for their money. It was also a most efficient holiday as I managed to spend time with my husband, my family and friends all in one trip. We started in Rome, without plan or agenda, simply walking the streets in search of new sights and good food and wine. On our first day we gave the Easter crowds a wide berth by avoiding the Centro Storico and Vatican. Instead, we headed to the neighbourhood of Monti, with its quieter streets, more peaceful squares and treasure trove shops. This was followed by a walk to Said chocolate shop, which has been producing treats for the Romans since 1923. After stocking up on truffles and Easter eggs, we nipped in for dinner at Pastificio San Lorenzo across the road. An excellent place to try a few dishes that veered away from the pasta/pizza fare of the centre of town and the perfect place to people watch over an aperitivo.
After this city break and in the midst of the Easter rush, we escaped to the countryside. After surviving what was possibly the most terrifying taxi ride of my life (our driver felt he was quite capable of turning around and chatting to us at length while speeding down the motorway), we picked up our car at the airport and drove up through Lazio into the heart of Umbria and where my Dad is gradually semi-retiring. We met him in his tiny little village near Orvieto, perched at the top of a hill with views stretching out into Tuscany.
Umbria is sometimes overlooked by tourists, but this relative quiet really only adds to its charm. It is known as the il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy) because of its verdant hills and agricultural abundance. It certainly seemed like everywhere we turned there was wonderful produce – from the olive groves and vegetable patches around the village we were staying in, to the nearby vineyards and saffron fields. Over the Easter period there were plenty of markets in the nearby towns and villages, manned by proud farmers showing off their produce. We particularly enjoyed a blustery afternoon spent in Citta della Pieve, tasting salame, cheeses, beers and hog roast panini.
After a few peaceful days in Umbria, I waved goodbye to my family and headed up the country to Florence, where I met a group of girlfriends for a long weekend. Walking around the city was a strange experience, it seemed like there were ghosts of a past life on every corner, echoes from a long time ago. I lived in Florence for a year when I was 16, my father’s infatuation with Italy brought the whole family there at the turn of the millennium. I went kicking and screaming, not wanting to leave my friends and established life behind. Of course when we moved from Italy year later, it was in further floods of tears. I’d fallen hard for the city, the weather, the people (Italian boys, of course!).
Every street in central Florence brought back a memory, a conversation I had forgotten, a person I’ve lost touch with, a smell or a taste I can’t quite seem to place. It was eery and a bit sad, but also wonderful to be reminded that yes, this did actually happen half my life ago and it was great and came to shape who I became as an adult.
Not least in terms of food. I had a wonderful friend that magical year in Italy, called Hannah. She was the daughter of the priest at the American Church in Florence (who from what I could tell spent most of his time marrying Japanese tourists, even answering the phone with a cheery ‘moshi moshi!’) and she was in the year above me at school. She had bright pink, red or purple hair (depending on the week) and cooked like a goddess. It was the first time I had met anyone my age who loved food and loved cooking to that extent. Before living in Italy, I’d been a bit embarrassed by my love of food and kept it hidden and separate from the rest of my life. It was something I shared with my family and only revealed to friends at the occasional school bake sale.
But Hannah made it not only seem like the coolest thing in the world (I remember watching in awe as she chopped a peach sans chopping board, delicately segmenting each slice in the palm of her hand), but also a viable career option – she always knew she wanted to be a chef and eventually open a restaurant or bakery. Even at that young age she was taking birthday cake orders from all the moms at our school. Although I haven’t seen her in many years as she now lives in Texas, from what I understand from social media she is well on her way to making that a reality.
My year in Italy was sandwiched between the two summers I worked at Lisa Elmqvist in Östermalms Hallen, Stockholm, gutting icy herring and rolling meatballs all day long – hard, physical and sometimes monotonous work creating those classic Swedish dishes. And I loved it. So I guess that year when I was 16 cemented my future in food. I went about it in a pretty round about way, but got there in the end.
I was immensely fortunate in my choice of travelling companions over that weekend. We all share an obsession with good food and drink and so rarely went for more than an hour without eating, drinking or at least planning where our next meal was going to be. Highlights from the weekend included the Cantinetta Verrazzano for the most delicious focaccia (the truffled mushroom was out of this world) fizz and coffee taken standing up at their pastry-laden counter. The Enoteca Fuori Porta was also well worth the hill climb for a favourite for crostini and lengthy wine list. Then there was the piazza Santo Spirito for nightlife and watching the world go by. I also managed to pick up some wonderful curtains and prints from the monthly Santo Spirito antiques market.
Of course, I had to fill whatever small scraps of space in my suitcase with loot from the Italian supermarket. Olive oil, parmesan wedges, dried mushrooms, biscotti and sauame all came with me. As did a paket of curious greens that caught my eye in the vegetable aisle. I wasn’t completely sure what it was, but decided to take a risk and do some research when I got home.
It turns out I hit the jackpot – agretti, or ‘barba di frate’ (Monks’ beard) has all but sold out in the UK, I later found out. It is quite delicate and subtle in flavour that is slightly spinach-like. Cooked properly it has a lovely bite, a bit like samphire. It likes classic italian flavours – garlic, anchovies, lemon. Although it’s not so easy to get hold of, it is well worth picking some up if you do happen to stumble upon it. I also had to take some artichokes back as they were absolutely everywhere we went and wonderful to cook with. The recipes below are inspired by these ingredients and the simple, delicious dishes that Italy is so renowned for.
Agretti with Chilli, Ricotta, Caramelised Lemon and Pine Nuts
You will need:
Large bunch agretti
2 tbsp olive oil
1 chilli, finely chopped
20g pine nuts, toasted
small handful greek basil leaves
1. Remove any tough ends of the agretti before plunging into a large pan of boiling, salted water. After about a minute, drain and season with salt and pepper as well as a drizzle of olive oil.
2. Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions. Meanwhile, strip the lemon of it’s zest using a zester or a sharp knife to create little shards of zest, avoiding any pith. Heat a little olive oil in a large pan and cook the zest until golden and beginning to caramelise. Set aside.
3. Drain the pasta and toss in little olive oil. Add the agretti, lemon zest, chilli and ricotta as well as a squeeze of lemon juice. Season and serve, topped with pine nuts and basil leaves.
Roman Baked Artichokes
You will need:
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp grated pecorino cheese
4 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
4 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped oregano
2 tbsp chopped basil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
4 medium sized artichokes
150ml dry vermouth
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. In a small bowl, combine chopped anchovy fillets, minced garlic, pecorino, breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon juice and zest. Add the olive oil and mix to form a thick paste.
2. Cut off about 2 cm of the artichoke tops and rub with the leftover lemons. Pry oven the individual leaves and stuff with the herby breadcrumb mixture. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and the vermouth. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes, until tender. Uncover for the final 10 minutes to allow the artichokes and breadcrumbs to crisp up. Serve with chunky bread and a crisp green salad.