pork and pear stew

Despite being a big city girl (Swedish standard) I come from a family of hunters. My granddad and aunt’s husband were big hunters when I grew up, so a visit to my grandparents inevitably meant moose for lunch/dinner (or maybe deer or boar every now and then). My aunt also has a farm where they raise beef cows (Aberdeen Angus and Herefords), so if I wasn’t having game I was having beef.

So I’ve pretty much grown up on lean meats. Moose is probably one of the leanest things you can eat, and with a mother who – whether she meant to or not – transferred her aversion to butter, whipped cream and deep fried foods to me, I have never been a fan of fatty foods. I don’t like butter or fat milk, I don’t particularly like whipped cream (a little can work) or battered and deep fried foods. I don’t like mayonnaise and thus there are certain sauces I don’t like (Béarnaise, Hollandaise…). I also don’t like vinegar, which means there are a lot of salad dressings I don’t like.

This means that often when I eat with people who don’t know me they mistake my dislikes for trying to be healthy or being on a diet, which is actually quite annoying. I understand that/why people jump to that conclusion, but it still bothers me because what they don’t know is that this dislike for fatty things is more than weighed up by a love for sweet things.

Anyway, where I’m trying to get with this is that I have never been a big pork fan. S thinks bacon is one of the best things in the world, whereas I would often choose something else. Leaves more for him though – so I’m sure he doesn’t mind! Recently, however, I have started to cook more with pork tenderloin. I made that goulashy stew, a pork cider stew (that I haven’t posted yet because it didn’t photograph that well), bacon wrapped pork tenderloin (twice – on S’s request) and now this pork and pear cider stew. Something about pork makes it go very well with fruit, and having a sweet tooth I like the sweetness of the cider and the soft pears in this so much. Also, while we’re on the topic, can I just say that the expression for liking sweet things is so much better in Swedish! In English you have a sweet tooth, but in Swedish you are a sweets (/candy) pig. How much better is that?

The other pork cider stew I made was less sweet than this one, but I think that was partly because it had carrots and parsnips in it instead of fruit. That one was made using apple cider, whereas this one has pear cider (to go with the pears). I would recommend using a cider with a slightly higher alcohol content, to get more of that cider flavour. I had to buy mine in the supermarket which meant that it only had 2.2% alcohol, so it was very sweet and didn’t add the same depth of flavour to the stew. But it was still very nice.


20161125_185551 (2).jpgIngredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil

500g pork tenderloin

1 medium onion

4 garlic cloves

2 tbsp flour

500 ml pear cider

2 medium pears

100 ml cream


Heat half of the oil in a pot and fry the pork on high heat until browned. Set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining oil and the onion and fry for about 8 min, until soft. Then add the garlic and fry for another few minutes.

Add the flour and stir thoroughly. Increase the heat, then add the cider and let it boil for 5 minutes.

Return the pork to the pot, season with salt and pepper, then reduce to a simmer and leave to cook for 10 minutes, covered.

Peel, core and cut the pears into 16 slices (so 8 each). Add them to the stew and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes, covered. Then add the cream and stir thoroughly.


I chose to have my stew with mash potatoes, but the recipe I found online recommended crusty bread. I think a good mash was really good with this though, especially now that it’s colder outside and I want comforting food. Bread is probably very nice with this in spring, but for now I’ll settle for mash.

/t

potato and leek soup with bacon

Did I tell you I was in a soup mood? I wasn’t kidding! For the past few weeks I’ve made the carrot and sweet potato soup twice, a roasted red pepper and tomato soup (which was much better than the other one I made)  and now this potato and leek soup with bacon. I have to admit I was a bit worried about this soup because I’m not actually super keen on leek. But since it’s the texture rather than the flavour I don’t love, I figured it should be ok.

I’ve been feeling a bit rough lately as well – my back and shoulders ache, and not just in an exercise pain way. I feel like it’s difficult to do certain exercises – well more difficult – and I get an ache behind my right shoulder blade when I sit at my desk at work.

I also haven’t been that great with what I’ve been eating lately (a few too many sweets and buns) so I’m trying to go down a slightly healthier route now that we’re in the last few days before the Christmas food starts popping up everywhere, hehe!

Anyway, this soup turned out really nice, warming and hearty and perfect with some toasted bread. The recommendation is to serve it with some crispy fried bacon – which was lovely – but it’s just as nice with just some bread.


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Ingredients

3 baking potatoes

400g leek

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

3 rashers of streaky bacon (in the soup)

1.4 litres stock

140 ml cream

butter

salt

pepper


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Chop up your ingredients.

Melt butter in a pot. Throw in your onion, garlic and bacon and cook until browned/golden.

Add your potatoes and leek and cook for 5 minutes.

Add your stock – I haven’t specified which stock here because the recipe says vegetable but I used 900 ml chicken and 500 ml vegetable to get a fuller flavour – and being to boil. Leave for 20 minutes.

Blitz the soup with a hand mixer or in a blender until smooth.

Add the cream and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with crispy bacon rashers.

review: poké bowl

I have never understood the traditional English ’workday lunch’. You know the meal deal from the supermarket, made up of a (often dry and boring) sandwich, a bag of crisps (that’s chips for you American English speakers) and a fizzy drink. First of all it’s so boring and unsatisfying and second, it doesn’t fill you up properly. And it’s not even nice bread – it’s plain white bread that’s not toasted though it’s made for toasting! (Side note on this: S and I have a standing ‘argument’ about the fact that I call it ‘toast bread’ because that’s what we say in Sweden whereas he says it’s just plain white bread. But if it’s meant to be toasted then it should be called toast bread. There is such a thing as a normal white loaf, but toast bread is not it.)

In Sweden it seems more common to have a cooked meal for lunch – we always got cooked meals in school, from kindergarten to age 18/19 when you finish high school – but in Stockholm it’s also very popular with salads. Almost everyone in my ‘lunch group’ at work has a salad most days of the week, and I just don’t understand that either. Sure, with a salad you can have more variation than with a plain sandwich from Tesco, but they also feel quite unsatisfying. Especially now that we’re getting into the cold part of the year.

Enter the poké bowl. Poké bowls have become extremely popular overnight it feels like, and within a five minute walking distance of my office there are at least three or four places where you can buy them.

Poké bowls are usually made up of sushi rice and some sort of protein and vegetables. Many people therefore seem to think they come from Japan, but it’s actually a Hawaiian thing. The most common bowl is sushi rice with salmon and some veggies – maybe avocado, edamame and pickled ginger – but I have also seen chicken versions and noodle versions. I don’t think a day goes by without someone at my office having a poke bowl.

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Since I love sushi I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I liked this poké bowl – it’s basically sushi in a bowl. Since I don’t like mayonnaise I skipped the ever-so-popular chili mayo and poured soy sauce over my bowl instead (I love soy sauce).

I don’t think I would go out and buy a poké bowl, because if I’m going to spend 120 SEK (about £10.40 atm) I’d rather just buy sushi. I wouldn’t say no or be unhappy if someone else bought me one, but I think they’re a bit of a hype right now and, like you’ve already figured out if you’ve followed my blog for a bit, I’m not too keen on hypes. If something becomes a hype I tend to want to go the other way and not use/wear/eat it until the hype has died down a bit. But since this was a work lunch I was more than happy to eat it, hehe.

I did really like it though, and I would actually consider making it myself at home – since it’d be a lot easier than making your own sushi. Although making your own sushi is a lot of fun.

So all in all I thought it was very nice but I don’t get the hype and I don’t get people having the same bowl several days a week.

hasselbackspotatis (with bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin)

I think most people have that one staple party food they like to make when they have friends coming over for dinner. You know the one that you have tried and tested, that looks impressive but isn’t actually that difficult to make? For me it’s hasselbackspotatis.

Hasselback potatoes are a kind of Swedish baked/roast potato that was invented in the 1950’s by a chef student or principal (the story differs) at Hasselbacken, a Stockholm hotel and restaurant. It was established as a restaurant in the mid-1700’s (under a different name), served as a cookery school between 1947 and 1969, and in 1992 it opened up as a hotel and restaurant after eight years of building and renovations.

The background story is (supposedly) that the baked potato was just starting to become popular, and that either a student or the principal of the cookery school thought that slicing the potato up would make it easier to cook because it would be quicker. And the rest is history as they say.

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Hasselback potatoes with venison steak, asparagus and red wine sauce I made for NYE

Hasselback potatoes are now really popular, especially in the US it seems, and even Nigella has a recipe for them. They look impressive, taste great, and have so many possible variations you can try out. But once you’ve learnt how to slice them thinly without slicing through them, they’re not very difficult to make.

Traditionally you are supposed to use ‘normal’ potatoes, but I prefer smaller and oval ones, such as mandelpotatis (almond potatoes) or aspergespotatis (Ratte potatoes). If you’re in the UK, Charlotte potatoes are good too. I find the smaller ones cook quicker and are easier to slice.

The general tip when cutting Hasselback potatoes is to place the potato in a wooden spoon. I have actually never tried this, but I’m sure it works. The general thought is that this will prevent the knife from slicing all the way through.

Because I like smaller potatoes with a soft skin, I also prefer keeping the skin on – and this is how most of the recipes I’ve seen do it as well. I keep my potatoes plain (just butter, oil, and some salt, pepper, and rosemary if I have it at hand), but many recipes say to put breadcrumbs on top. I’ve also seen American recipes that stuff them with garlic, cheese, and/or bacon, and I have to admit I’m quite tempted to try the cheese and bacon ones. But with a nice bit of meat and a good red wine sauce I think plain is the way to go.


20161104_182553-2Ingredients

500g potatoes

butter

oil

salt

pepper

rosemary

280g bacon

600g pork tenderloin


Start by slicing your potatoes, leaving a bit (around 5 mm or maybe ¼ of an inch) at the base so they don’t fall apart. You want the slices to be spaced evenly at about 2-3mm apart, but when you first try to make them you might want to try a bit wider at first – to practice.

Once they’re all sliced, melt some butter and oil in the tray that you’re going to bake them in. How much is really up to you, but the estimate for 500g of potatoes I would say is 30g butter and 3 tbsp oil. Place the potatoes cut side down and shake around for a bit, so that the butter and oil seeps into the cuts. Turn them all onto the uncut side and if any of them look dry, spoon some of the butter and oil over them. Salt and pepper, and why not add some fresh herbs.

Bake in the oven at 225 degrees Celcius for 20 min. Then remove from the oven and spoon the butter and oil mix over the cut side of the potatoes again. If you want to add breadcrumbs or cheese or something – this would be the time to do it. Return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes.

Because I was making bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with my potatoes, I cooked them first and set aside. The pork needs to cook at 175 degrees Celsius, but to get that crispy texture of the potatoes I wanted them in at 225 degrees Celsius.

To make the pork, place the bacon on a cutting board and then the tenderloin on top. Wrap it up and tie with cooking string (no Bridget Jones accidents here!).

Sear the bacon in a frying pan before you pop it in the oven – to make it crispier. Then cook at 175 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Because we were having guests and I didn’t want to be cooking all the time, I have to admit to using a ready-made red wine sauce. It was really tasty though, so I don’t regret it!

/t

all hallows’ day – the swedish version

In Sweden we have never really been that into all this Halloween stuff until it became popular because of American culture.

However, we have been celebrating All Hallows’ Day since the 700’s. In Sweden there’s a difference between All Saints’ Day and All Hallows’ Day. All Saints’ Day is always on 1st November, but All Hallows’ Day is since the 50’s the Saturday that falls between 31st October and 6th November.

When Sweden became protestant, All Saints’ Day was supposed to ‘disappear’ since saints were a Catholic thing. So in 1772 it was removed as a public holiday. In 1953 we caused a split between All Saints’ Day and All Hallows’ Day by making All Hallows’ Day a fluctuating date and reinstated it as a public holiday. So we have All Hallows’ Eve (31st October), All Saints’ Day (1st November) and All Hallows’ Day (varying).

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Since about the 1800’s, Swedish people have been lighting candles at graves on All Hallows’ Day – particularly children’s graves. This was already commonplace in Sweden, but had usually been done on Christmas Eve. The practice grew, and after the Second World War it became even more so as it was picked up by Catholic European countries.

It still remains a tradition among Swedish people today, and Skogskyrkogården (the Stockholm cemetery that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site) say they have around 70,000 visitors on that weekend.

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Seeing as I had S and one of his friends from London over for the weekend, I decided to ask if they wanted to go to Skogskyrkogården. This mass-lighting of candles at All Hallows’ Day is not something that’s really done in the UK, so I thought it would be a nice experience and something very Swedish to tell people in London about.

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Greta Garbo is buried at Skogskyrkogården, and a lot of fans had been there to light candles.

As we were walking around the cemetery it started snowing, and it hasn’t really stopped since. There’s an old farmers’ tale that says that “if the sun doesn’t shine long enough for you to saddle a horse on 1st November, it’ll be a cold winter”. I hope they’re right.

/t

pick ‘n’ mix

If you’ve ever been to a Swedish supermarket you will have noticed something: there’s always a huge selection of pick ‘n’ mix – often taking up a whole wall on its own. It’s in all supermarkets and almost all corner-shops. Swedish people love their pick ‘n’ mix. We eat on average 16 kg per person per year, or 1.2 kg per week for a family of four. The European average is 7 kg per year – meaning we eat almost 10 kg more than the average European!

Pick ‘n’ mix was introduced in Sweden in the 1980’s, and since then we’ve doubled our consumption. Before then sweets were sold from behind the till, so you had to point and ask the shop assistant to pick the pieces you wanted and put them in a bag for you. Obviously I wasn’t alive at that time, but when I was little it worked the same way at my riding school.

When I moved to the UK I was shocked at the poor quality, low availability, and high price of pick ‘n’ mix. I knew people abroad don’t really do salty liquorice, but I didn’t know they don’t really do pick ‘n’ mix. So when I went back to Sweden I would always end up buying lots of pick ‘n’ mix to satisfy my cravings after not having had it for months.

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Now everyone has their take on pick ‘n’ mix. I love salty liquorice, but am not too keen on chocolate. So my mix will often look like the one above. Sweet jelly sweets, salty liquorice sweets, and some sour ones. I want a mix of sweet, sour and salty. You need that variation to enjoy it to the max!

However, not everyone is a fan of my mix. S goes mad every time I put salty sweets (which in a way is kind of an oxymoron) in the pick ‘n’ mix bag, because he says it makes all of it salty. So we have to use different bags and different bowls so that I don’t contaminate his sweets, haha.

I really am a sweets and sugar person (not that keen on fatty things) and like my mum says “sweets are never not nice”.