Stockholm i mitt hjärta (Stockholm in my heart)

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:
2 eggs
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
Lingonberry red.
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.


Chantarelle Toast
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

Raspberry tart

Breakfast on the back porch.
Blackcurrants in the garden

Blackcurrant Jam
Crepes with blackcurrant jam and crepes
Blackcurrant Jam
For about 2 L of jam
You will need:
1 kg black currants
250ml water
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. 

A cup of coffee and a sit down…

I think I have a problem. An addiction.  I’ve realised I can’t get through even a single day without sitting down to a cup of tea or coffee and something sweet. 

I blame being Swedish.  It is a country, after all, with its own word to describe this sinful act: fika.  The issue is that my daily fika has developed into so much more than just a quirky scandi ritual, it’s become a necessity without which my withdrawl symptoms are palapable- I become cranky, clumsy and a have a feeling that something isn’t quite right. 

To spare those around me, I’ve decided to give in to my sugar and caffeine fix for now.   I thought, however, I’d at least try to make my fika a home-made indulgence, as often as my schedule permits.  That way at least that way I know what I’m getting and can add a bit of goodness like grains, seeds, nuts and wholemeal flour.

These simple cookies are a case in point.  I’ve lowered the sugar amounts considerably and used raisins- already so sweet.  To make these cookies gluten-free, use the same amount of gluten-free plain flour with an additional teaspoon of xanthan gum and gluten-free oats.  You could also use wholemeal flour, if you prefer. 

Now, I’m not saying they are totally guilt-free, but I’m fairly sure they beat a kit kat.  So make a double batch, they last for a few weeks in an airtight container. 

Oat and Raisin Cookies

You will need:
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
75g sugar
75g light brown sugar
100g raisins
300g oats
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
3. Add the sugars to the dry ingredients, and mix. Add the oats, and stir to combine well.
4. Add the softened butter, beaten eggs and vanilla, and mix until the dough comes together. It will be very thick, and a bit difficult to stir.
5. Drop the cookie dough by rounded tablespoon on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. 
6. Place in the middle of the preheated oven, and bake for about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown all over.  They should have a bit of crunch on the outside and still be soft on the inside.  Allow to cool before dunking into a cup of milky coffee or tea.  

Stockholm’s Café Culture: Greatest Hits

I’m back from a still very wintery Sweden to find London in full Spring.   It’s a relief to finally be able to put away my mittens, but the weather didn’t dampen Stockholm’s beauty or distract from the wide range of things to see and do. 

I often get asked by globe-trotting friends for tips on where to eat in Stockholm.  Now, I am by no means an expert not least because it seems that every time I go back the city has changed, with an array of new restaurants and cafés to kept me on my toes.   But here’s a list of a few of my all time favourites for a bite, a drink or a ‘fika’ (a glorious word describing the act of sitting down, having a cup of coffee and something sweet).  

Stockholm glimpsed from Djurgården

Rosendals Trädgård,  Djurgården

If you fancy a walk and some fresh air, the obvious choice is to head out to Djurgården.   Although this part of town houses many of the city’s museums, galleries and an amusement park, venture a bit further off the beaten track and you’ll have a haven of peace and quiet right in the middle of the city.

The best place to go for a coffee, a slice of cake or some lunch is by far Rosendals Trädgård. This cluster of buildings right by Rosendals Slott (a palace in minuscule) is actually a garden centre, shop, bakery and café.  They serve hearty lunches and a collection of gorgeous cakes.  They also published a wonderful cookbook in the 90’s which, remarkably, hasn’t dated a bit and remains one of the greats in Swedish cookbook publishing (and the Swedes buy more cookbooks than any other nation, so that’s quite something). 

Rosendals Trädgårdscafé
Rosendals Terrassen 12
115 21 Stockholm

Easter decor at Rosendals

Catching some winter sun
Hallon grottor (Raspberry jam biscuits)


The café at Rosendals

Gorgeous glass objects for sale in the shop- and a sign reminding you to clear away your dishes

Icicles on the walk back into town


This brand new fast-food restaurant opened in the new swish MOOD galleria last month.  Although Vigårda has the distinct whiff of a would-be franchise, I was nonetheless impressed by the concept.  You can only choose between slow-cooked pork, beef, chicken or cheese and veg, a selection of sides and dressings (curry and apple, mustard and ginger or lingonberry and black pepper to name a few).  Bread and crunchy salad are included, the service is quick but friendly, the restaurant design is gorgeous and the food is really rather tasty- if a bit messily presented. 

Vigårda Barbeque
Norrlandsgatan 13
111 43 Stockholm

Café String in SoFo

The rather ridiculously named SoFo (South of Folkungagatan) in Södermalm (or simply ‘Söder’- ‘South’ to the locals) is apparently home to enough second hand clothing shops and hipster cafés to merit a New York-style moniker.  In reality, you will need a map of the area and to do some preliminary research to find any signs of contemporary subculture, especially because all the streets look pretty much the same.

Café String is a bit of a hub in SoFo and although the coffee may not the best in the area, it is a great place to people watch.  So sit back with your Macbook or latest issue of Monocle and take in the passing world.  I recommend any of their fruit pies, served with lashings of vaniljsås- a kind of lighter take on custard.   I had a friend who lived around the corner for a while and so have many happy memories of wasted afternoons here. 

Café String
Nytorgsgatan 38
116 40 Stockholm

Blueberry pie drowning in custard and a latte.

Macbooks and geeky glasses at the ready

Café Saturnus

This café is slightly tucked away on a side street as you head out of the Östermalm’s main drag along Birger jarlsgatan.  Saturnus is a bit of an institution, serving as it does the largest cinnamon buns in town.  One will be more than enough for two of you at this Swedish take on a French brasserie.  Go when you are really hungry.  It also does an unmissable weekend brunch. 

Café Saturnus 
Eriksbergsgatan 6  
114 30 Stockholm

 Café Rival

Café Rival is a lively spot for a fika.  Part of the Rival complex which comprises a hotel, theatre, bar, restaurant and bakery, it is owned by none other than Benny Andersson himself.  Located on Mariatorget (Maria Square) in Söder, it is a perfect pit stop between perusing the little boutiques (don’t miss the Stockholm Tea Centre- pick up a bag of their Earl Grey Special, in fact, that may well be the best tip in this post) lined along ‘pucken’ (bump) on Hornsgatan before heading on to the buzzing Götagatan for a fashion fix.  Go for a coffee, treat or light lunch. 

Café Rival
Mariatorget 3
118 91 Stockholm

The walls are lined with photos of famous ‘Söder’ residents

Östermals Hallen- a foodie’s paradise 
A must-visit for anyone with even a remote interest in food,  Östermalmshallen (Östermalm’s food hall, basically a large covered market) is a veritable culinary mecca.  It has been stocking Stockholm’s fridges and pantries with delicacies since 1888.  You can find the very finest in meat, fish, seafood, fruit, veg, bread and cakes with prices to match (you’re in the posh bit of town now).  
An insider’s tip is to go to one of the several cafés or restaurants tucked into the market’s corners for a weekday lunch.  The specials usually hover somewhere around a tenner and include bread and butter, salad and a drink.  I love the classic Swedish ‘husmanskost’ dishes at Tysta Marie (‘Quiet Marie,’  although there’s nothing quiet about it so get there early).  

Östermalms Saluhall
114 39 Stockholm
Roberts Coffee next to the main entrance does a mean cardamon bun

Fresh fruit and veg

Fresh fish and seafood at Lisa Elmqvist, which also has a restaurant in the market
Lunch special at Tysta Marie: fried herring, mash and lingonberries. 
Morfar Ginko/Pappa Ray Rays
Finally, a place to go for a drink.  Morfar Ginko (Grandpa Ginko) is, if I’ve understood it correctly, the bar whereas Pappa Ray Rays is the restaurant.  Anyway, it makes no difference as you can order a burger or some moules marinieres from the bar or enjoy a couple of cocktails at the restaurant.  The bar has live music, djs (a rather good and unobtrusive one was on the decks the night we went), a quiz and even ping pong tournaments.  In the summer, try to grab one of the tables that line the pavement.  Not far from Mariatorget, the bar at Hotel Rival makes a great precursor to an evening spent here. 
Morfar Ginko
Swedenborgsgatan 13
118 48 Stockholm

Other places worth a mention: 

Riddarbageriet, Mossebake theatre and bar (wonderful in the summer), Trädgården, Debaser for drinks and gigs, Cajsa Varg, Ejes Choklad, Granit and PUB for cooking and dining ware, the cafés at Fotografiska and Moderna Museet, Restaurang Grill, Smak på Restaurangen… and many, many more!

A midweek moment of peace…

… fika*- Tosca cake and strong scandi coffee at the Nordic Bakery in Soho.

* fika: a Swedish word to describe the act of sitting down with a hot or cold drink and something sweet to eat.