Monday, 27 September 2010

Chicken burger with quinoa salad

I had such a bad day today, you know one of those days when you really should not have bothered getting out of bed. Monday, rain, too much work, delayed trains.... When I'm in a bad mood and I just want to punch someone, anyone, I cook instead. Once I've chopped through an onion I'm at peace again. Cooking and food, that's my kind of therapy.

This chicken burger is packed with flavours, hot chili to get that chill out after waiting for the bus in the drizzle, zingy lemon and ginger and lime to help you escape the bleakness of a rainy September night that feels like November. If you like me feels like Life has kicked you in the stomach, this will hopefully make you feel a least a little bit better. And if you're happy and content already, good for you and this will still be a fantastic meal. I served this with a quinoa salad and yoghurt dressing, but another option would be to serve as traditional burgers with maybe lightly toasted ciabatta and sliced avocado.

Chicken burgers (12 small burgers, or 6 portions)
700 g chicken fillets, finely chopped to a mince
1 bunch of spring onions
3 red chillies, finely chopped
4-5 pressed garlic cloves
zest from 2 limes
3 cm fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tsps lemongrass paste
1 egg
salt and pepper
olive oil

It's easy mincing chicken fillets, it just takes minutes with a sharp knife to mince the meat. Or you can use a food processor if you have one.

Mix the minced chicken with all the other ingredients, adding the egg last.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, form the chicken mince to small burgers and fry on both sides until golden. Make small burgers, this will make it easier to turn them when you're cooking them, and also makes it easier to make sure that they're really cooked through properly.

This burgers freeze well if you want to eat them later.

I served the burgers with this easy quinoa salad. Quinoa is one of my favourite grains, actually quinoa is not a grain but the seeds from a plant related to spinach and weeds like tumbleweed, but biology lesson aside, it's filling and healthier than other grains like couscous.

Quinoa salad (4-6 portions)
2 dl quinoa
chicken stock
3 small courgettes, thinly sliced
200 g cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 small bunches of coriander
Juice from 1 lime
1 pressed garlic clove
salt and pepper
olive oil

Cook the quinoa in chicken stock on gentle heat until soft, drain of the excess water

Fry the courgette with the garlic in olive oil until golden. Add the tomatoes, red onion and spring onions and fry for a couple of minutes.

Mix the quinoa with the vegetables, coriander and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This salad is good warm, lukewarm and cold, perfect for the lunch box.

Yoghurt dressing
1 dl yoghurt
2 tbs sweet chili sauce
1 small pressed garlic clove
Juice from 1 lime
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Mix all of the ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste.

The other thing that always make me happy is music. This is one of my current favourites, from Swedish electro clash band Alice in Videoland, listening to this I just want to dance.

Happy Monday all of you!!!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Salmon pudding (laxpudding)

Salmon pudding (laxpudding) is a classic Swedish dish, but maybe not as well known as I thought. I made this for my Swedish flatmate and a couple of our Swedish expat friends yesterday, and turned out that three of them actually didn't know what it was (although that didn't stop them from accepting the dinner invitation, or from stuffing themselves once the food was on the table). After a lot of discussion on from where in Sweden salmon pudding origins (the province of Halland apparently), we moved onto children's TV shows (Solstollarna and Vilse i pannkakan, no wonder our generation is a bit... confused...), politics (Swedish general election today), and how incredibly expensive the flight tickets to go home to Sweden for Christmas already are. Important stuff for expats.

Anyhow, I can't guarantee that this dish will result in meaningful (?) conversations for everyone, but it is an easy all in one pot dish, and as evidenced by yesterdays limited leftovers, quite tasty and popular.

Salmon pudding (6-8 portions)
500 g salted, cured or smoked salmon, skin- and boneless
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs salt
1.5 kg potatoes in thin slices
2 large leeks, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1-2 dl dill, finely chopped
6 eggs
2 dl single cream
4 dl milk

I prefer using salted salmon, and it is very easy to make yourself. This is a fast way of curing it. However if you want to cure salmon properly to eat it without any additional cooking, you need to cure for 24-48 h in the fridge, and should then freeze it for an additional 24 h before eating it.

Mix sugar and salt and rub it in on both sides of the salmon. Place in a dish and cover with clingfilm. Either let the salmon cure for a couple of hours in the fridge, or 30 min in room temperature. The result is a firmer fish, as the salt and sugar draws out a lot of the moisture. Salted salmon fillets are also gorgeous just fried and served with boiled new potatoes and maybe a hollandaise sauce.

Butter a large ovenproof dish and layer potatoes, leeks, onions, dill and salmon. Do several layers, starting and ending with a layer of potatoes.

Beat the eggs with the milk and cream and pour into the dish. If you use smoked salmon, you might want to add some salt to the egg mixture. Grind over some black or white pepper.

Cook for around 1 h at 200C until golden brown and the potatoes are soft.

Serve with lemon wedges, clarified butter and a fresh salad. I made the salad below yesterday, it is nice and crisp.

Crisp lemony salad
1 bag of watercress, spinach and rocket
2 small little gem salad heads
1 yellow pepper, chopped
10-12 radishes, finely sliced
3 cm of a leek, finely sliced

Peel and juice from one lemon
1 tbs olive oil
1 pressed garlic clove
salt and pepper

To add some Swedish atmosphere to your dinner, or just because it is a great song, listen to Swedish band Johnossi's 'Man must dance'.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Apricot and red lentil soup

Now when summer sadly is over, I'm really in the mood for hot soups. This soup is filling, slightly spicy and with a sweetness from the dry apricots. I made this today, and I'm already looking forward to having it again tomorrow for lunch.

Apricot and red lentil soup (4 portions)
2 dl red lentils
15 dried apricots, chopped
2 cans of plum tomatoes
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red chili, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 bay leaves
0.5 tsp ground cumin
0.5 tsp dried thyme
3 cardamon pods
5 dl of chicken or vegetable stock
zest and juice from one lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Garlic yoghurt
1 dl Greek yoghurt
1 pressed garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onion, garlic, chili, apricot gently in olive oil.

Add the cumin, thyme, cardamon pods, bay leaves, tomatoes, lentils, lemon zest and stock. Let simmer for 20-30 min until the lentils are soft. You might need to add some additional water after approx half the cooking time to avoid the soup going to dry.

Mix the yoghurt with garlic, salt and pepper.

Take out the bay leaves and cardamon pods (if you can find them). Blend the soup. If you like a chunkier soup, only blend half of it. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. The trick is to get the right balance between sweetness, salt and lemony zing.

Serve the soup topped with a spoon of garlic yoghurt and fresh bread.

Cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns (kanelbullar) are probably one of the most popular baked goods in Sweden. You can buy them in every coffee shop and grocery store. Cinnamon buns even have their own day in Sweden, it can be celebrated on the 4th of October. Everyone loves cinnamon buns, and maybe no one more than Swedish expats. It's just something so comforting, so much like home to have a warm newly baked cinnamon bun and glass of cold milk. That they also taste divine is a bonus.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I brought a cake on the wrong day for the cake club at work. To remedy this, I decided to bake cinnamon buns and bring into work the following Monday. This was met with protests from my Swedish flatmate, she thought it was very unfair that I would bake cinnamon buns when she was away from London and couldn't have any. I had to promise her to leave a bag of buns in the freezer for her for when she would be back. Like I said, cinnamon buns brings out a lot of feelings.

This recipe is again from the fantastic Sju sorters kakor cake recipe book from ICA bokförlag.

Cinnamon buns (45 buns)
150 g butter
5 dl milk
50 g yeast, fresh or equivalent quantity dry (I like Sainsbury's own as there is no need to reconstitute it first)
0.5 tsp salt
1-1.5 dl sugar
1-2 tsp ground cardamon
approx 13 dl strong white flour

100 g room tempered butter
1 dl sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground cardamon

1 egg

Melt the butter and add the milk, warm to 37C (finger warm).

If using fresh yeast, dissolve the yeast in some of the warm milk, then add the remainder of the milk and butter, salt, sugar and cardamon. If you use dry yeast, mix it with the flour before mixing it with the milk, sugar etc.

Then add the flour, start with approx 2/3 of the flour (so mix the dried yeast with only 2/3 of the flour, or you might not add all of it...), and work the dough until smooth and not sticky. Add more flour if necessary.

Let the dough rise to double size in bowl covered with a tea towel (or use clingfilm, it works as well). This usually takes 30-60 min.

Work the dough in the bowl for a couple of minutes, and then move it to a work surface lightly sprinkled with flour.

Divide the dough into two pieces, and, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a large rectangle, roughly 0.5-1 cm thick. Cover the dough with a thin layer of butter, sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and cardamon.

Start rolling together from one of the long edges until you got a long roll. Divide the roll into 1-1.5 cm thick slices. Place the slices with one of the cut surface facing upwards in paper forms (I use the ones for muffins/cupcakes) and place on a oven tray. Cover with a tea towel and let rise to double size. This again takes 30-60 min. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Heat the oven to 225C (if using electric fan oven) or 250C (if using a conventional electric or gas oven).

Brush the cinnamon buns with egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar. In Sweden you would use a type of sugar with larger granules, pärlsocker (pearl sugar), but normal granulated sugar works as well.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 8-10 min.


Fyris apple cake

Where I work we have a cake club. Every Monday we take turns bringing in a homemade cake, and this is truly the highlight of that day (sometimes week I'm sad to say), and we had some glorious cakes so far. My memory is not fantastic, and I was convinced that it was my turn to bring a cake on the Tuesday after the August bank holiday, so I decided to do one of my favourite cakes. It turned out to actually not be my turn, but I don't think anyone really complained about getting cake on a Tuesday instead of a Monday.

My mum used to bake this quite often in particular during the autumn when the apples are at their best. The combination of cinnamon and apples are a classic, and this cake is so easy to make that I highly recommend it. I've taken the recipe from a classic Swedish cake recipe book, Sju sorters kakor (Seven types of cakes) from ICA bokförlag. The title refers not to that the book only contains recipes for seven types of cakes, but to the tradition that if you invited someone over for coffee in Sweden, you should serve them at least seven different types of cakes or biscuits. This would be called having kafferep in the olden days, and I guess is the Swedish version of cream tea. Having a proper break for coffee and maybe a cake or cinnamon bun, called fika in Sweden, is still very popular. Fika can be just a short break at work, or last for hours at a cafe or at home. One of the things I miss most about living abroad is meeting up for a fika.

Anyhow, here's the recipe for this lovely cake. I have no idea why it is called Fyris apple cake, maybe it refers to the Fyris stream flowing through my Swedish hometown, Uppsala?

Fyris apple cake
125 g butter
1.5 dl sugar
2 eggs
2.5 dl plain flour
1.2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
3-4 apples - for example my favourite, the Braeburn apple
1-2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Heat the oven to 175C

Butter and bread (use bread crumbs, can be bought in some grocery stores, or polenta) a round tin form, 24 cm in diameter. Using bread crumbs or polenta makes it easier to remove the cake without it sticking to the tin.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add one egg at the time, and then the flour mixed with the baking powder. Stir in the milk to a smooth batter and pour into the form.

Slice the apples thinly and stick into the batter.

Mix the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the cake.

Bake for 30-40 min in the lower region of the oven (if you have an electric oven, otherwise in the middle).

Enjoy as it is or with a good custard or vanilla ice cream.

If you want to make a larger one, just double or triple the recipe and use a large oven tin and cut into squares.

Puy lentil salad with goats cheese

I love a filling salad, and I eat them all year around, in particular for lunch. Lentils are one of my favourite pulses, for salads I prefer the small slightly spicy puy lentils whereas for soups I prefer the softer red lentils. Lentils, in contrast to most dried beans, don't need to be soaked prior to cooking and cook quite quickly. This salad is beautiful together with chicken or steak, but will also be very good on it's own. It also holds quite well for a couple of days in case you make a larger batch or get any leftovers, and is delicious both slightly warm and cold.

I do this salad a lot with slight variations. I quite often add some mustard, a little bit of sugar, and finely chopped fresh tarragon instead of the blushed tomatoes, and add Parmesan cheese instead of goats cheese. Or add other salad leaves like spinach. Or add chopped dry fruit like apricots and toasted cashews. Or finely chopped coriander, lime juice and zest and finely chopped red chili for a more Asian flavour.

Puy lentil salad with goats cheese (4-6 portions)
200-250 g puy lentils
4 bay leaves
chicken, beef or vegetable stock
250 g cherry tomatoes, halved
one bag of rocket leaves
250 g blushed tomatoes
2 tbsp capers
150-200g soft goats cheese
zest and juice from one lemon
1 finely chopped red onion
2-3 finely chopped garlic cloves
1-2 handfuls of chopped fresh basil
1 sprig of finely chopped fresh rosemary
finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Start by rinsing the lentils in cold water and then boil in stock together with the bay leaves. Drain the lentils when they're soft but still slightly chewy, this should take 20-30 min, and remove the bay leaves.

During the time it takes to boil the lentils, finely chop the red onion, herbs, garlic and blushed tomatoes. Mix with the still warm lentils and also stir in the lemon juice and zest, capers, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. As the lentils are still warm, they will soak up a lot of the lovely flavours from the garlic, lemon and the other goodies.

Quarter the cherry tomatoes and add to the salad. Once the salad is slightly warm/room temperature, add the roughly chopped rocket. Add salt and pepper according to taste, top with chunks of goats cheese and serve.

Scallops with broad beans and pancetta

It's been ages since I last up-dated my blog with new recipes. It's not that I haven't been cooking, actually I have been cooking a lot, but holidays abroad, work and other commitments have gotten in the way of blogging. The good news I got plenty of new recipes to share with you now.

I've also done some changes, it should now be possible to leave comments. Please do, and let me know what you think of the recipes.

I love scallops and don't eat them nearly enough considering how easy they're to cook. There's this view that scallops are fancy and expensive, but actually they're not that costly (at least not here in the UK) and you can quite often buy nice hand-dived ones also at larger grocery stores. For at starter, like this recipe, you really don't need that many. I made this a month ago for a couple of my friends, and everybody loved it. It is quick, zingy, and very fresh. I've used broad beans, but you can also use runner beans, and instead of pancetta use chorizo.

Scallops with broad beans and pancetta (4 portions)
2-3 scallops/person - this really depends on if you buy king scallops or the smaller size. If using the larger ones I would halve them
150 g pancetta cubes
150-200 g broad beans (podded weight)
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 garlic clove finely chopped
zest and juice from 1 lemon
2-3 tbsp creme fraiche
olive oil
black pepper
1 lemon in wedges for serving

Start with boiling the broad beans for 3-5 min, then rinse in cold water and split the pods along the seam to push out the beans. Then double-pod by slitting the outer skin with your nail and push out the bright green inner beans. Leave the broad beans in cold water until use to preserve the colour.

Fry the pancetta in a pan until crisp. Remove and let drain on kitchen paper. Set aside the frying pan, leaving the bacon fat in it.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and gently fry the chilli, garlic and lemon zest for a couple of minutes. Add the broad beans and toss with lemon juice and creme fraiche.

Return the bacon pan to high heat and fry the scallops for 30 sec on each side until lightly caramelised and ground over some black pepper. Serve immediately on top of the broad beans together with lemon wedges and some nice fresh bread to soak up the juices.