Summer Rhubarb

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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. 

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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

Metod:

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.  

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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

Method:

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.

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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

Method:

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.

Swedish Meatballs

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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  
Serves 2

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

Method:

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.  

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Meatball Mushroom Stroganoff  
Serves 4

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
To serve:
Rice or pasta
Gherkins or capers, Pickled Red onions, optional

Method:

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. 

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Teriyaki Meatball Salad Cups
Serves 4

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

Method:

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.

Always So Hungry is Away…

I’m away in Sweden for the next two weeks.

I’m going to try and do the odd remote post, but will probably be blogging with less frequency than of late.   However, I will hopefully come back with a stash of new pics and recipes to make up for it. 

In the meantime, do check out my latest contribution to Prospect Magazine on the Scandinavian food trend.  You can read it here.

Photos courtesy of the lovely Emily Kerr.

Shoulder to Shoulder

I have a confession to make about food presentation.  Whereas I really enjoy photographing ingredients, the cooking process and even puddings and baked goods in their finished state, photographing dinner plates often eludes me. Most of the time, I’m simply too hungry and eager to tuck in to be bothered enough to plate things up prettily before snapping away with the patience the dish deserves.  And I don’t want my dinner going cold either.  It’s something I need to try to find a way around and certainly practise a lot more.  Getting a decent camera might also help.  

For this post, I feel the final photo lets the product down.  But this shouldn’t put you off as this is a really tasty dish made with a revelatory cut of meat- yes, I’ve discovered the pork shoulder.  Cheap as chips (almost), it usually comes in cuts large enough to feed several mouths over several days.

First off, I found this recipe for a roast with a spicy crackling and apple relish.  I followed it to the word, as you can see from the picture below.  But I’m not sure about the method for making the crackling, so I’ve adapted the recipe below to include a way that I know makes perfect crackling, with less of a smoke-filled kitchen to contend with.

From one pork shoulder dish to another- the following day, I used the leftover meat to make a pork stroganoff, which meant that I stretched a £3.50 joint to 5 (large) servings.  Not bad.
 

Spicy Roast Pork Shoulder with Apple Relish

 You will need:

1 pork shoulder, about 3 kg
150ml cider
4 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp peppercorns
2 tsp dried chilli
4 tsp sea salt
6 garlic cloves
zest and juice of 2 lemon
4 cooking apple
3 tbsp golden caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of crushed dried chillies
Good grating of whole nutmeg

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. In your pestle and mortar (or, if you don’t have one, fold into a tea towel and roll a glass over it) crush the fennel and coriander seeds along with the peppercorns.

2.  Add the chilli, sea salt, garlic and lemon zest and give this a good bash to mix to a paste.

3.  Using a very sharp knife and of course being very careful, remove the skin from the pork and set to one side. Rub about half the paste over the meat, drizzle with olive oil, 150 ml of the cider and the juice of one lemon.  Roast in the oven for about 2.5  hours.  If the paste at the top of the join begins to burn, simply turn over, basting as you go. 

4.  Meanwhile, prepare the spicy apple sauce by peeling, coring and chopping up the apples into chunks.  Add these to a pan with the sugar, chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg and what’s left of the cider.

5. Bring to a simmer before reducing the heat and covering.  Cook until you have an apple sauce-like consistency.  The relish can be stored in sterilised jars and kept for up to 1 month. 

6.  Finally, prepare the crackling.  Cut some slits into the skin of the pork an stuff the remainder of the paste into this.  Turn the heat up in the oven to about 220 degrees C and roast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, until the skin is crisp.  Serve with some roast potatoes that have been toasted in olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin seeds and some lemony greens.   Get it while it’s hot.  Put the camera down. 

Au Courant Currants

I still have an awful lot of raisins and currants left over from the mince pie cottage industry I practically started before Christmas.  I’ve been using them in my porridge every morning, but this has failed to make a dent in the currant mountain that has taken over our kitchen cupboards. Thankfully, hope came in the shape of this recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  However, as is so often the case with hope, it didn’t quite live up to expectations. It was just a bit too sweet.  I’ve amended it accordingly below and think it should be just right now- think a more cakey flapjack. 

Apple and Currant Crumble Bars


You will need:

200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200g unsalted butter, softened
150g soft light brown sugar
200g rolled oats
300g Granny Smith apples
4 tbsp cornflour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
120 g currants

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 170 degrees, gas mark 3.  Line a baking tray.

2. Peel and core the apples, then cut into thin slices.  Mix these with the cornflour, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and set to one side. 

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl, add the butter and rub together until it is roughly the consistency of breadcrumbs.

4.  Stir in the sugar and oats.  Press about half the mixture into the baking tray, using your knuckles to create an even, compact surface.

5.  Peel and core the apples, then cut into slices.  Mix these with the cornflour, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

6.  Place the apple slices in lines on top of the pressed oaty mixture in the tray.  Sprinkle over the currants.

7.  Spoon the remaining mix over the apples and currants and then carefully press down to create another compact layer.

8.  Bake int he oven for 30-40 minutes until the mixture is golden brown- taking care to ensure the currants don’t puff up and burn to a crisp.  Leave to cool before tucking in, if you can wait that long!