It’s been some time since my last post (apologies). My excuse is that I’ve been on holiday and took so many photos (on that crafty new camera), it has taken ages to sort through them all. But, finally, to Stockholm and another summer holiday. I have spent at least some part every summer there, so for me the two are inexorably linked. Summer and Stockholm forever hand in hand. One is not quite the same without the other.
And of course, it is perfectly possible to pass an entire trip to Stockholm in city break mode, browsing boutiques and museums, surrounded by the achingly hip locals who seem to have come straight out of central casting. And as much as I enjoy sipping a designer coffee on a terrace or pavement café, ogling the eye candy while contemplating my next course of window shopping, this is not what pulls at my heart strings.
|Goodbye, Stockholm. Hello, Archipelago.|
For me,you have to leave the city, preferrably on the Vaxholm Bolaget’s boat service and head out, out, out into the sea for at least an hour. The further you go, the more remote the landscape becomes, but even just an hour’s trip will land you pretty deep into the Stockholm archipelago or skärgården.
Here, the islands come in as many sizes and shapes as you can imagine, each with its own character. While some are covered in troll-like forrests or open fields, others are barren and craggy. Some are densely populated with summer houses or whole towns and villages. Others have only the occasional visiting seagull or seal.
The island I call home is relatively accessible, only a handful of bridges and a short ferry ride separate it from the mainland. It’s also very close to the lovely seaside town of Vaxholm. Once on the island itself, there’s not a whole lot to do but read, relax, maybe have a swim for the brave and, of course, cook.
To begin this recipe roster, allow me to introduce my grandmother, or ‘mormor,’ Thorborg. She doesn’t live in the archipelago, but she does make a mean chocolate cake which I enjoyed on her sunny balcony in Södertälje. It’s a dense, gooey cake that lies somewhere between a brownie and a torte. For some reason it is often given a french moniker in Sweden, so I’ve always thought of it as Mormor’s french chocolate cake. Surprisingly, it’s incredibly easy to make and gets its intense choclatey flavour just from cocoa powder.
|Mormor’s chocolate cake.|
Mormor’s French Chocolate Cake
You will need:
300g caster sugar
125g butter, melted
1 pinch of salt
100g plain flour
4 tbsp good quality cocoa
1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla essence
1. Whisk the egg and sugar until frothy and light in colour.
2. Add the melted butter
3. Stir in the salt, flour and cocoa and vanilla.
4. Beat or whisk until smooth.
5. Pour into a round, greased and floured tin.
6. Bake in a 175 degree oven for 30 minutes. Serve with a dollop of cream.
|On Mormor’s balcony|
|Time for some coffee and cake in the archipelago town of Vaxholm|
|Cake at Hembygdsgården, Vaxholm|
|The streets of Vaxholm|
Famously, the Scandis are big foragers and we had timed our trip to straddle the berry and mushroom seasons. This meant that we could enjoy the last of the blueberries, raspberries, lingonberries and blackcurrants that were left on the bushes of the island’s forrest. The chanterelle season, by contrast, was in full swing, although not on our island as some keen mushroom pickers had got there first (possibly my godmother, who admitted to hiding a patch of young mushrooms with branches in order to come back later and get them at their plumpest). Fortunately for us, Vaxholm’s market were selling them by the punnet full.
Carefully brush the mushrooms with a clean paintbrush, pastry brush or similar.
Heat a large frying pan until really hot.
Add the mushrooms just as they are, no oil or butter at this stage.
Leave them to cook for a couple of minutes and to release some of their juices.
Toss occasionally, don’t crowd. Add a knob of butter, a splash of really top quality olive oil.
Cook until slightly golden. Sprinkle with sea salt and some chopped parsley.
Serve on toasted and buttered sourdough.
|Picking berries- rasp and blue|
|A-foraging we will go|
|Breakfast on the back porch.|
|Blackcurrants in the garden|
|Crepes with blackcurrant jam and crepes|
For about 2 L of jam
You will need:
1 kg black currants
1.5 kg sugar
Wash the berries carefully.
Add to a large pan with the water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes over a gentle simmer.
Add the sugar and wait until dissolved, stirring occasionally.
Do the jam test.
Pour into sterallised jars.
|Afternoon tea on the veranda. The view.|
|A slice of princess cake- sponge, jam, custard, cream and green almond paste. What’s not to love?|
|Burgers and beer on the jetty.|
The end of July and begining of August is also traditionally crayfish season in Sweden. Although these delicate little critters are now available all year round, the tradition of gathering your friends together at this time of year to gorge on the lobster-like creatures and sing snaps songs lives on. My cousin and her friends treated us to a feast and we also enjoyed the island’s annual crayfish party in the local park. They set up tressle tables and you bring your own chairs, crayfish and booze. A band of local old timers kept everyone dancing till the wee hours.
|Crayfish party in the local park|
|Old timer band take to the bandstand.|