thai (chicken) meatballs

We have a restaurant in Stockholm called Berns Asiatiska which I’ve always heard is supposed to be really good. The venue is a hotel, restaurant, night club, and event venue – for example there are often shows there during Stockholm Fashion Week – and I’d been to the night club before, but not the restaurant. I’d heard a lot about it though, especially the brunch buffet. It’s quite expensive, but apparently worth it with a number of sushi, dumpling and other hot food options available. But they say the best thing is the dessert buffet.

In February we were getting an influx of new people at work (they have two big dates – one in February and one in September – where all the newly graduated lawyers start) and decided to go for a group lunch at Berns. Because we were such a large group we were given three options to pre-order our lunch from, and I chose their Thai meatballs in red curry. I’m not usually a huge fan of curry – I have too many bad memories of curry powder flavoured things from school – but the other two dishes had too many things in them I didn’t like and I’d heard good things. Thai curry is also more to my taste than Indian curry, because it often has coconut milk and lemon grass and such in it. Either way though, I was definitely both impressed and pleased with the dish.

Fast-forward to yesterday and the eternal ‘what do I do for dinner today while my slow cooker makes food for the week?’. I’d had a lingering craving for Asian food since we’d had Thai takeaway on Saturday and had found a chicken and cashew nut recipe for the slow cooker I was going to throw together for my lunch boxes for the week, but still couldn’t shake that craving. So I was browsing Ica’s Asian recipes and came across a recipe for chicken meatballs in a Phanaeng curry which made me think about the Thai meatballs at Berns. Though I don’t think they were made of chicken and I know they were served in a red curry sauce, I figured that the Ica recipe would still be a nice way to fill that craving.

The recipe was very simple and called for basically four things: sesame seeds, chicken mince, Phanaeng curry sauce, and a wok-mix of vegetables. However, my local Ica didn’t have the ready wok-mix, so instead I just bought some of what was in it and chopped it up myself. You could probably use frozen vegetable mixes as well though, depending on what you want in yours. Also, I added bread crumbs to my meatballs, because I didn’t feel like they were holding together very well when I was first trying to roll them.


Ingredients (3-4 portions)

500g chicken mince

1 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tbsp bread crumbs

0.5 tsp salt

4-600 ml Phanaeng curry sauce (‘Paneng curry grytbas’ at Ica – one tin is 400 ml)

90g broccoli

90g carrot

100g white cabbage

or 300g wok-mix vegetables

1 tsp oil

3-4 portions rice


Boil the rice as per the instructions.

Mix the mince, sesame seeds, salt, and bread crumbs and shape into balls. I found the mince mix very sticky and felt that it helped to grease my palms with a bit of oil.

Bring the Phanaeng sauce to boil in a pan/pot, then add the meatballs and reduce to a simmer. Cover the pan/pot with a lid and leave to simmer for 8 minutes, turning the meatballs over halfway through.

In the meantime stir-fry your vegetables in the oil.

Remove the meatballs from the pan and add the vegetables. Stir so they’re well-coated, then return the meatballs to the pan. (I didn’t do this, I just plated up, and I felt like my vegetables didn’t get covered enough by the sauce.)

Serve with rice.


The original recipe said to use 300g mince, but because they only had chicken mince in 500g packs, I used the whole 500g and therefore got three quite big portions out of this. In fact, I didn’t eat all the meatballs with each portion, so I could have probably made it into four portions instead.

I would, however, recommend that if you do use 500g mince instead of 300g, you also increase the amount of sauce somewhat. I only used the 400 ml stated in the recipe (and above) and I felt like I would have wanted a bit more. Whether you want to add more vegetables is up to you, but for three portions I thought it worked out quite well.

/t

slow cooker mexican shredded beef burritos

When I worked in London we didn’t have a lot of nice lunch places around the office. Most often that meant having just a ready meal or sandwich from a local supermarket or something from the office restaurant (which was always a, shall we say, interesting experience…). But sometimes when the weather was nice and I didn’t feel stressed I would walk over to Embankment and treat myself. Some days that meant getting a Katsu curry at Wasabi, other days it meant getting a fully loaded Mexican Burrito from Wrap It Up!. The burritos were so good – huge and filled with shredded beef or chicken, rice, black beans, salad, cheese, guacamole and sour cream. Freshly wrapped up in foil, with the cheese melting with every step, I’d carry it back to the office and tuck in.

Lately I’ve felt a bit been-there-done-that with many of the slow cooker recipes I’ve been looking at since pretty much all I’ve had this autumn and winter have been soups and stews. I also had a real craving for Mexican (or European Mexican shall we say) food, and being in London over the weekend made me remember the cheesy, spicy burritos I sometimes had for lunch. So I went looking for slow cooker beef burrito recipes online and came about this Mexican shredded beef recipe. Often the pulled pork/shredded beef/chili recipes require lots of different ingredients that I don’t have or can’t that easily get hold of – especially since they’re often American. This required some spices I didn’t have at home but that I knew I could get at my local supermarket, so I decided to give it a go.

I don’t think it’s very often when you try and remake something you’ve had when eating out that the result exceeds your expectations, but this time it really did. It was exactly what I was craving and it really did feel like I was eating one of those Wrap It Up! burritos. I first had it for lunch, reheated in the microwave, with guacamole and when I bit into that first bite with the melted cheese and the spicy beef I knew I had found something good.

I should warn you though that this recipe makes a lot of beef ! And I mean a lot. Especially when you add rice, sweetcorn and beans like I did. I used 4 portions of rice, 200g sweetcorn and 380g (one box) ready to serve black beans. This mix is very beef-heavy, so if you want a more equal mix between your beef and the rest I would probably recommend using the same amount of rice, sweetcorn and black beans, but halving the beef (or cooking all of it but using half for something else). Unless you’re cooking for an army, in which case feel free to double the rice, sweetcorn and beans.

I would also recommend actually letting the sauce reduce down for at least 10-15 minutes, as it says in the original recipe. I didn’t have time to do that since I was doing the last bits in the morning before going to work, so mine only simmered for about 5 minutes. This unfortunately meant that the flavour of the sauce wasn’t as intense and there was way too much of it since burritos can’t be too liquid – or the tortilla will just become sloppy. Apart from that the result really was fantastic.


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Ingredients (many portions)

Spice Mix

1.5 tbsp chipotle powder

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp oregano

1 tsp All Spice

1 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

black pepper

Beef

1 – 2 tbsp olive oil

1.5kg beef brisket

5 garlic cloves

1 onion

0.75 cup orange juice

2 tbsp lime juice

400g crushed tomatoes

500 ml beef stock

Burritos

4 portions long grained rice

200g sweetcorn

380g black beans (cooked/ready to serve)

grated cheese

soft tortillas

guacamole and/or sour cream


The original recipe recommends cutting the meat up into three similar-sized pieces, but I chose to keep mine in one large piece, since I’ve learnt my slow cooker seems to make the meat drier than some others.

Combine all the spices for the spice mix in a bowl, then sprinkle a few teaspoons over the beef and pat it in.

Heat the oil in a pan and brown the meat on high heat. Remove the meat from the pan and add to the slow cooker.

Fry the garlic and onion on medium heat until soft.

Add the orange juice and lime juice to the pan, then add the remaining spice mix.

Pour the contents into the slow cooker together with the chopped tomatoes and beef stock. Your beef should be mostly covered, but if it’s not – add water until it is.

Cook on low for 6-10 hours – the bigger the piece(s) of meat the longer the cooking time.

Remove the beef from the slow cooker and shred it with two forks. Set aside.

Pour the sauce into a pot. Simmer on the hob until thickened enough for your liking (at least 10-15 minutes), then pour as much as you like over the beef (though not all!).

To make my burritos:

Measure out four portions of long grained rice and cook according to the instructions.

Drain the black beans and rinse thoroughly.

Mix the rice, sweetcorn and beans into the beef.

Put a good-sized dollop of burrito filling in the middle of a tortilla. Top with as much cheese as you feel like, then fold it and wrap it up in foil.

Serve with guacamole and/or sour cream.


This is one meal I’ve made that I won’t grow tired of having both for lunch and for dinner several days in a row.

/t

swedish scones

If you actually read this blog you’ll know I made English scones for the first time in August when we had a birthday afternoon tea fika for my mum. I was pleased with how they turned out, and though I like English scones sometimes there’s just that craving for a Swedish one. Swedish scones are nowhere near as dense as English scones, and they’re usually (at least among my family and friends) made as a bigger but flatter round shape which is scored with a cross in the middle – creating four tear-apart triangles when baked.

The Swedish scones also, for some reason, feel a lot easier to make – but I guess maybe that’s just because I’ve grown up with making them? In any case there’s only four ingredients and whipping them up takes almost no time. You just need to have the patience to wait for them while they’re in the oven – and even that is only about 10 minutes!

On Monday last week I had no food at home and really didn’t feel like cooking something for that night. I was tired after a week of bad sleep because of my pulled muscle (it’s getting much better by the way) and having gone to bed at 2:30 am after coming home from London and landing a bit after midnight. I had planned to throw something into the slow cooker to make food for the remainder of the week, but I didn’t feel any inspiration or want for dinner that night. But then when I was browsing recipes online I saw a post for scones and the craving hit me like walking into a brick wall. It was all I felt like then.

So I went to the supermarket and got my beef stew ingredients, whipped up the scones, whacked them in the oven, chopped up all my stew ingredients and threw them in the slow cooker, and then sat down in front of the tv to enjoy my still slightly warm scones with jam, cheese, and a cup of tea. It was heaven.

Now the recipes for scones usually say that the quantities below make for 4 servings. As I’ve shown they can clearly also make for one. I have to say that I don’t agree with the four though, unless you have a lot of other things that you’re serving too, because they make rather small triangles. Instead I’ve opted to say it makes 2 servings. If you want to make more (I didn’t becasue I knew I would eat them all) you can easily double or tripple the recipe.


Ingredients (2 servings)

100 ml flour

1 tsp baking powder

25g butter

100 ml milk

a pinch of salt


Mix together baking powder, salt and flour.

Add butter and ‘crumble’ until it’s a fine mixture without big lumps.

Add milk and stir together to a slightly sticky dough.

Press the dough out into a round shape. The bigger the round, the thinner the scones (obviously).

Score with a cross through the middle and bake at 250 degrees Celsius for 8-12 minutes (depending on how thick).

Enjoy with jam, cheese, butter, or whatever else tickles your fancy!


The texture of these really is so much fluffier, and even if you decide you don’t like them you should at least try them once.

/t

chicken noodle soup (ramen-ish)

This looks so drab and boring but it actually wasn’t! Of course it’s not the most exciting noodle soup I’ve ever had, but at the time it really filled a craving.

I was heading home from work and didn’t have any inspiration for what I wanted to eat.  I had one leftover chicken breast from something and I felt like I should use it, but I didn’t know what for. Browsing the supermarket recipe selection I came upon this recipe that they called Asian chicken soup and it sounded simple yet excotic-ish enough to fill me needs that day. It’s not a very complicated, several ingredient Asian ramen, but it fit the bill then and there.


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Ingredients (1 portion)

1 chicken breast or thigh

4 mushrooms

0.75 red chili

0.5 yellow onion

1 clove of garlic

0.5 tbsp fresh ginger

2 tbsp chicken stock

300 ml water

50g noodles

Thai basil


Fry sliced mushrooms, chicken and onion in oil in a pot for a few minutes.

Add chili, ginger and garlic and fry for another minute.

Pour over chicken stock and water. Add the noodles and cook for as long as the instructions on the pack says.

If you want to, add Thai basil (I had it at home already) or spring onion to your soup. I can really recommend Thai basil because it brought an extra flavour-note to the soup.


And that’s it. Not including chopping time this will take you max 10 minutes to make, and when you’re craving Asian food or just want something light and simple it’s a perfect quick fix.

/t

beef stew with chili and chocolate (a slow cooker conversion)

So, as I mentioned in my how-to post, I converted a normal recipe to a slow cooker recipe for the first time this week!

Apart from the fact that I felt the stew was too liquid when it was done, I think it turned out very nice. When it had cooled in the fridge for a few hours the liquid had set a bit more, so it wasn’t as liquid as it was when I first took it off the heat. The flavour was definitely good (though more beefy than winey since I added more stock than wine) but the carrots were a bit too mushy. So I would recommend either adding them halfway through the cooking process or putting them in aluminium foil and laying them on top of the meat, mushrooms and liquid.

As I also said in the how-to post, I not only adapted this recipe from a regular one to a slow cooker one – I also had to adapt the ingredients slightly. My local supermarket doesn’t stock venison, so instead I got what we in Sweden call rostas, which is the inner muscle of the beef rump (basically the inner bit of the roast beef bit), and then I added mushrooms as well. I also didn’t use any coriander or chili powder, and bought tinned tomatoes with garlic rather than plain tinned tomatoes. Either way it turned out really good and served with mashed potatoes it’s great comfort food.


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Ingredients (6 portions)

1 kg beef (or venison if you have it at hand)

2 large carrots (ca 200-250g)

250g mushrooms

1 red chili

1 yellow onion

390g tinned tomatoes (with garlic if you wish)

2-300 ml beef stock (I used about 400 ml which felt like way too much)

250 ml red wine

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp thyme

1 cinnamon stick

3 tsp vegetable oil

40g dark chocolate (70%)

water + cornstarch


Chop up your onion and fry until golden in 1 tsp oil. Pour in 2 tsp oil into the slow cooker and add the onion.

Cut your beef into big-ish chunks and add to the slow cooker. If you wish you can sear them before putting them in the slow cooker but this time I didn’t have the energy to and I can’t say I noticed too much of a difference.

Cut up your carrots and mushrooms into similar sized pieces and add to the slow cooker. Alternatively; add the mushrooms to the slow cooker and keep the carrots aside until halfway through, or wrap the carrots in foil and set aside.

Chop up your chili and add to the slow cooker.

Add tomatoes, red wine, beef stock, cumin, thyme, and the cinnamon stick to the slow cooker. (If you have wrapped the carrots in foil, place them on top now.)

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

If the stew is too liquid, add cornstarch to water until there are no more lumps then add to the stew and cook on high for 30 minutes.

Add chocolate and stir so it mixes in.

Serve with mashed potatoes, or boiled potatoes, or maybe even add potatoes to the stew? BBC also say that it’s really good as pie filling, but then you’ll want to make sure it’s not too liquid.


I know I often say so, but I’m definitely making this again. I might play around with it some more, but I’m pleasantly surprised with how this turned out, seeing as it was the first time I tried my hand at making a non-slow cooker recipe in the slow cooker!

/t

 

how to: convert recipes to slow cooker recipes

I tried my hand at converting a normal recipe for the slow cooker this week! I found this recipe for a spiced venison stew with chocolate on BBC Good Food, and thought it sounded really nice. I always wanted to try a stew or chili with chocolate – to see what kind of a difference it may make. I like dark chocolate with chili in it – and when I lived in Italy my favourite ice cream shop made an amazing chili chocolate ice cream – so the idea of that hint of chocolate in a hearty stew was intriguing. However, my local supermarket didn’t stock venison, so I had to go with beef instead.

Having experimented a little with my slow cooker so far (the three bean chili, a beef stew that turned out way too dry, two different batches of peanut butter shredded chicken, and a parsnip and apple soup that was more reminiscent of apple sauce) I’ve come to believe that mine is a bit stronger than may be usual. When I made the beef stew and the first batch of shredded chicken I followed the cooking time exactly and they both turned out really dry. For the second batch of chicken I took off 30 min of the lower estimate and it was still a bit dry. I don’t know if there’s any way that you can figure out what the heat is (instruction manual maybe) but since I was cooking beef I figured I’d be ok even if it was a little bit underdone.

Scouring the internet for how to convert recipes I found a number of articles that set out very similar tips. Essentially it seemed that your best bet is to take soups or stews since they’re often ‘slow cooked’ anyway and since they contain a good bit of liquid. Lifehacker provided me with a slow cooker conversion chart by One Good Thing by Jilliee, but like I said above I made my own adaptions to the cooking times.

Conventional recipe time    Slow cooker time on low     Slow cooker time on high

15-30 min                           4-6 hours                             2-3 hours

35-45 min                           6-8 hours                             3-4 hours

50 min – 3 hours               8-10 hours                           4-6 hours

My stew falls into the last category (about 2.5 hours) but my previous experience has shown that cooking the food on the low setting for the time specified as the high estimate on the high setting (i.e. cooking the stew on low for 6 hours in this case) may be the way to go. So this time I went with my gut.

There are also a few things they say you should think about in terms of the ingredients – the big thing being the liquid. If your recipe is a soup or stew, or something else that already has liquid in it, the tip is to reduce the liquid by half. If your original recipe doesn’t have any liquid (or sauce) in it you should instead add 100-125 ml water to it – to create the steam needed for the slow cooker to reach its cooking temperature.

As for meat and vegetables, the general tip is to brown/sear any meat – unless you want to shred it – and seafood going in the pot. Obviously you don’t have to sear the meat, but they say it enhances the flavour and it helps in that it removes some of the excess fat which otherwise will just end up in your broth. Onions and garlic on the other hand should apparently always be browned first, or it will be too strong in flavour.

I like my vegetables with a bit of a bite still in them, and have found that even on the low setting, 6 hours in a slow cooker does mushy things to them. Most of the tips I read online said that hard vegetables like carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, swede, parsnips, etc. can go in right at the beginning, but I would say that if you’re able to (i.e. you’re not cooking it overnight or while you’re at work) it’s nicer to add your vegetables halfway through. Softer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, peas, etc. should always be added nearer the end, or they’ll disintegrate in the stew. Another tip on the root vegetables (if you have to add them at the beginning) is to wrap them in foil and place on top of the beef, and then stir them in when the cooking time is over. This way they’ll stay a little bit firmer.

I haven’t yet tried a recipe containing dairy products or rice or pasta so I can’t comment on the next tips, but apparently any dairy products – milk, cheese or other – should be added in the last 30-60 minutes of cooking, and rice and pasta should be parboiled and added at the end – with just enough time left to heat through.

If your recipe calls for a thickening agent to be added to the sauce/broth, wait until the end. My tip (based on what I’ve done with my other stew) would be to reduce the cooking time by 30-45 minutes. Once finished cooking, combine cornstarch and water  until no lumps remain(the quantities vary but a good basis is 4 tbsp water and 2 tbsp cornstarch) and add to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 30 minutes. Another option is to remove the broth/sauce from the slow cooker and reduce it on the hob (stove in American), or to simply remove the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 30 min. I haven’t tried the last way, but the cornstarch approach is tried in tested in many regular recipes, so I’ll probably keep using that.

When I was doing my conversion prep I read somewhere that the liquid in your recipe should still cover your meat and vegetables completely. When I had halved my wine and beef stock it was nowhere near covering everything, so I added the other half of the stock to make up the full amount. However, when the stew was done, there was then way too much liquid, and even reducing it on the hob with added cornstarch mix didn’t make it thick enough in time for me to pop to work this morning. So I think I should have maybe stuck with the halving of the liquid rule. (Also, adding more beef stock compared to the wine will have changed the flavour of the stew compared to the original recipe – for better or worse I don’t know.)

Either way I’m going to keep experimenting with my sloow cooker until we’re best friends and I know all its secrets, likes and dislikes. And I’ll post my adapted recipe for the stew tomorrow or Thursday.

/t

three bean chili with sweet potato (my first slow cooker recipe!)

I’m so tired today. It’s been a long week and I haven’t been sleeping very well most nights. I’m pretty certain I’ve pulled/strained my left chest muscle, so all week I’ve been waking up during the nights because I’ve moved and it has hurt.

It must have been during boxing last Tuesday that I did it, but I first properly felt it on Thursday when I did yoga. Then after a day of carrying heavy boxes around the office, it really started hurting on Saturday. On Sunday it was so bad certain movements made me feel like crying. Since then it’s gotten a bit better – the pain is not as sharp now, it’s a duller kind of pain, but sometimes it still surprises me how much it hurts. Like when I sneezed yesterday and thought I was going to cry. On top of this I’m of course getting a cold – at a time where I can’t sneeze, cough, or blow my nose without being in pain.

In addition to this, I slept really badly both last night (pain) and the night between Wednesday and Thursday when I woke up at 1am, 4am, 5am and 6am, thinking I’d overslept each time. So it wasn’t just the waking up and rolling over in bed, it was the waking up with your heart jumping out of your chest because you thought you were running late (and then trying to roll around without incurring that still somewhat shooting pain in my chest muscle).

So it hasn’t been a great week. I also haven’t been to the gym since Thursday’s yoga, and I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do next week either. You don’t really realise just how much you use/tense your chest muscles in your everyday life until it starts hurting when you do it – just getting up from the sofa, turning around in bed, or laughing has become something painful. I’m going to be really careful about the gym though, because we have a conference with work next weekend at a ski resort in the Alps and I’m not planning to miss out on the skiing.

Anyway, I’m long overdue on this, but I’m going to post the three bean chili recipe that was my first slow cooker attempt! I found it online somewhere where it was a recipe for three bean chili with pumpkin. I’m not overly keen on pumpkin though (and the recipe called for tinned pumpkin which I doubt I’d be able to find in my local supermarket) so I decided to swap it out for sweet potato. I think it turned out nice, but the first portion didn’t give me that ‘wow’ feeling I had hoped for. I then added frozen sweetcorn to my remaining portions and that upped the game a lot. So I think when I make this again I will skip out on the sweet potatoes and instead add sweetcorn (after the chili has cooked for the prescribed time).


Ingredients (6 portions)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion (approx. 150g)

4 cloves of garlic

1 red pepper

425g chickpeas

425g kidney beans

425g black beans

425g sweet potato

425g tinned tomatoes (crushed or passata)

2.5 cups beef stock

2 tsp oregano

1.5 tsp chili flakes

1.5 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

0.5 tsp sea salt


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Fry the onion in 1 tbsp oil until translucent. Add the garlic and fry for another few minutes.

Add 1 tbsp oil to the slow cooker, then add all of the remaining ingredients.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

It really can’t be simpler.


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Next time, however, I’ll try:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion (approx.. 150g)

4 cloves of garlic

2-3 red peppers

425g chickpeas

425g kidney beans

425g black beans

425g tinned tomatoes (crushed or passata)

500g sweetcorn (add after cooking)

2.5 cups beef stock

2 tsp oregano

1.5 tsp chili flakes

1.5 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

0.5 tsp sea salt

Also, this obviously isn’t vegetarian because it has beef stock in it, but if you swap the beef stock for vegetable stock you’re good to go. I just prefer the slightly heartier taste I feel like the chili gets with beef stock.

/t