I can’t remember the last time I had a big birthday bash. Dinner and drinks, yes, absolutely. It’s a great excuse to get a few friends together at a favourite watering hole for a nibble and natter. But there’s normally just a few of us. Low key and lovely.
But, but. This year I’ve got a bigger birthday and that merits a bit more in way of celebrations. Three sound about right. So I had a summer lunch with family back in Sweden a few weeks ago, dinner at the delicious Brawn on the day itself and finally a do at Wilton’s Music Hall on the following Friday. Why not, after all?
The lunch I made for family and friends back on the island in Stockholm was a cross cultural affair with recipes inspired by my time at Leiths mixed in with a few family favourites. A sort of pan Moroccan-Swedish smörgåsbord with spiced lamb, tahini and aubergine meeting smoked fish, saffron and Västerbotten cheese. I’m not saying it necessarily made any kind of logical sense as a menu, but I figured it was my party and I’d cook what I wanted to. I’ve copied the full menu below.
|Jasmine from the garden|
Admittedly there was a ridiculous amount of food but in my defence, there were 23 of us! And my family are pretty good eaters, it must be said. Luckily, I had some help from Toby, my trusted sous chef, who was particularly proud of the Moroccan meatballs he made (they have been mentioned several times since) and he insisted I post the recipe. The quiche calls for delicious Västerbotten cheese (a tongue-tingling tangy Swedish cheese), which is available at Waitrose and Ocado, however, a strong cheddar works just as well. For the terrine, I used a large rectangular bread tin, no need to go out and buy a special dish.
|Lemon, Tarragon and Olive Chicken|
|Tahini Green Peppers|
(Lamb meatballs in tomato and cinnamon sauce)
A Recipe from Leiths Cookery Bible
You will need:
250g minced lamb
1/2 onion, peeled and grated
1.5 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp mint, chopped
1.5 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
salt to taste
For the sauce:
250g chopped tinned tomatoes
1 tsp parsley, chopped plus extra
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3-4 cinnamon sticks
salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the mince in a large mixing bowl and combine with the onion, parsley, garlic, spices and salt and pepper. Mix well.
2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large pan and add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add parsley and cinnamon and stir. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken for about 15-20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, shape the mince into meatballs. Add to the sauce and simmer gently until cooked through. Remove the cinnamon stick and check the seasoning, adjusting with salt, pepper and sugar.
4. Serve scattered with parsley and accompanied by a bulgur salad and flatbreads.
Smoked Mackerel, Trout and Saffron Potato Terrine
Adapted from the Chef’s Chef website.
For 1 large terrine mould, you will need:
600g Smoked mackerel (whole, approx 400g if you are using fillets only)
300g Floury potatoes
About 4 Smoked trout fillets (or two packets)
75g Butter, softened
two generous pinches of Saffron
1 tbsp Dill, finely chopped plus extra
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Boil in a large pan of salted water along with a pinch of saffron. Line a large terrine mould or bread tin with a double layer of cling. You may find it easier to do this if you lightly wet the sheets of cling first. There should be plenty of overhang.
2. De-bone mackerel and remove the skin, separating the flesh into fillets.
3. Place mackerel fillets on the base and sides of the mould, packing tightly. You should find that the fillets will easily mould to each other and can use any smaller pieces to patch up any gaps.
4. Once the potatoes are cooked through, drain them and return to the hot pan for a minute to get rid of any excess moisture and fluff them up a bit. Add the butter, dill, a little lemon juice to taste. Mix together so that the potatoes begin to break up a bit. Season with salt, pepper and another pinch of saffron if desired.
5. Layer the centre of the mould with the potato mix and smoked trout and close the terrine with the rest of the mackerel.
6. Close cling film over the top of the mould and weight lightly for 4 hours minimum in the fridge, ideally weighted down and overnight.
7. Remove from the tin and from the cling. Cut into generous slices and scatter with dill.
|Look who I found hanging out by the cake…|
Back in the day, not so long ago, pretty much all Swedes were simple country folk who slaughtered their pig at Christmas. And so, even now, most Swedish Christmas food is pretty pork-centric. The piece de resistance on the Christmas table (yes, a smörgåsbord, if the term must be used but ‘julbord’ is actually more appropriate here) is a big ham.
This is accompanied by a spice-packed rye bread, hard bread, sausages, meatballs, ribs, potatoes, red cabbage, terrines, Janssons Temptation (a potato and anchovy gratin), roe with sour cream and red onions, herring in many different forms (mostly pickled in things like mustard, sour cream, fresh herbs, and less conventional concoctions with oriental flavours like soy), a herring salad, prawns, salmon and a sort of filled almond-pastry case called an ‘almond mussel’ with cream and berries for pudding. I think that’s all I can remember. This is all washed down with copious amounts of beer and snaps or a sort of shandy called ‘mumma.’ And glögg, Swedish mulled wine to start with. Pretty intense, basically!