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
Method:
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.

Chantarelles


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
Method:
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. 

Cassis
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
Crayfish party in the local park

Old timer band take to the bandstand. 

Easter lunch

For Easter lunch with my family back in Sweden I served a roast leg of lamb,  sticky garlic roast potatoes, bean gratin and some of my grandmother’s home-made bread.  And plenty of red wine, of course.   The leg of lamb was a bit tricky to track down, but I managed to find one in Östermalms Hallen.  Pierced with garlic and rosemary and then slow-cooked, the meat goes really tender and releases plenty of juices for gravy. 

I haven’t made cheesecake in ages and had developed a bit of a craving.  There are very few things that go with a cup of coffee as well as a really decadent cheesecake.  And although there is a time and a place for the baked variety, I prefer the unbaked New York version.  It also works particularly well if you are entertaining for a large crowd as it doesn’t need to go in the oven, which may well be overloaded already.  

This one has a little bit of what you fancy for one and all- soft, sweet fruit, bitter chocolate and a great crunchy, buttery biscuit base (old news by now, but I couldn’t resist).  Because we are nowhere even remotely close to raspberry season in Sweden, I used the frozen variety.  This means that once they are added, the cream cheese mixture goes quite cold, so when you pour in the melted chocolate, it solidifies.  Keep stirring and you’ll get little flecks of chocolate.  I like this Stracciatella-effect and decided to make it a bit of a feature.  You could, of course, exercise a bit more patience and wait for your raspberries to defrost a bit (or, if making this in the summer, use the fresh kind- although, beware, this will make for a much pinker cake).  However, I think this version is a delight and would heartily recommend it.

Think about the kind of chocolate you want to use- the higher the cocoa content, the more intense, even slightly bitter, the flavour.  Adjust accordingly with the sugar content or, if you have a really sweet tooth, use milk chocolate (and about half the sugar content). 

Raspberry Stracciatella Cheesecake 

You will need:
180 g digestive biscuits
75 g melted butter
150 g chocolate (min. 60% cocoa solids)
300 g cream cheese
200 ml double cream
100 g sugar 
150 g frozen raspberries 
chocolate melted, to serve (optional)

Method:

1.  Start with the biscuit base.   Crumble the biscuits using your favourite method- either bashing in a bag with a rolling pin or using a food processor.  Add the melted butter and mix to distribute evenly, until all of the crumbs have absorbed the fat and changed colour slightly.

2.  Line a spring form tin with the crumbs and use your knuckles to push into place.  Put in the fridge while you carry on with the rest of the cake.  

3.  If you have a microwave, pop 100g of the chocolate into a bowl and blast it until melted.  Otherwise, melt in a glass bowl over simmering water.

4.  In a medium sized bowl, whip the cream cheese, cream and sugar together until combined and smooth. 

5.  Add the frozen raspberries and gently stir to evenly distribute.  Swirl the chocolate through the mixture, some of it will harden slightly when it comes into contact with the frozen raspberries, but this is what you want, keep mixing.

6.  Scoop the chocolate-raspberry-cream-cheese-mixture into the cake tin, over the biscuit base.  Use a knife to evenly distribute and then put back into the fridge for at least 4 hours.

7.  To serve, melt the remainder of the chocolate and smooth over the cake and leave to set for a few minutes to set.  Alternatively, grate chocolate over the cake and decorate with some fresh raspberries.