S isn’t here this weekend, so I’ve spent all day cleaning the flat. I’ve been really good – have cleaned the kitchen, cleared out the storage rooms, hoovered the whole flat, sorted out clothes and done laundry. Tomorrow I’m going to clean the bathrooms and mop the floors, but after 7 hours of cleaning and sorting I just didn’t feel like doing any more today.
So I went down to the supermarket to buy something for dinner. I’ve felt like having homemade pizza for a while now and decided to go for it. Feeling a bit lazy I bought a ready to bake pizza dough, and some mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella and something called lomo. I’ve never seen it before (though I’m usually busy looking for the parma ham) but apparently it’s leaf thin slices of pork tenderloin that have been salted and slightly spiced and then air dried. It was actually really nice with the mushrooms and the tomatoes.
Now I’m sat in a flat all lit up by candles and watching tv, trying to ignore the fact that tomorrow is another weekend day without S.
In the UK, the star of the Christmas dinner is the turkey. Everything else (well, apart from the rice pudding) is just an accompaniment really, a side dish. In Sweden I wouldn’t say that there’s that one centrepiece. Since Swedish Christmas dinners often have the three parts – fish, cold cuts and hot food – each part has their own pièce de résistance. (I should probably add a disclaimer that this is just my personal opinion.)
But if I were to choose the nearest Swedish counterpart to the turkey it would have to be the ham. I have always loved Christmas ham (there’s something special about it just coming from it being called ‘Christmas’) and it’s one of those leftover foods you don’t mind having every day until New Year’s.
I also can’t think about Christmas ham without thinking about my mum. Pretty much every Christmas we’ve spent at my grandparents’ the story about when my mum tried to make Christmas ham has come up. My mum – not having the slightest interest in cooking really – didn’t realise you need to boil the ham, so all she did was cover the raw joint in the mustard mix and breadcrumbs and place it in the oven for 15 minutes. I guess this sets the prelude to why she some years later told her friend they should bring a grilled chicken to a barbecue, hehe. (You know I love you mum, even if you can’t cook.)
Anyway, I’ve never made my own Christmas ham, since my grandma or aunt always makes it, so as we were doing Christmas at ours this year (well, last year technically) I thought it would be the perfect time to try out the new slow cooker my MIL had given me as an early Christmas present. However, the smallest joint they had in the shop was 2.5kg, so it didn’t even fit in the slow cooker! I had to use my 6 litre stew pot and even then I had trouble fitting enough water in to cover the whole joint. A bit of the top was left above the water, but it worked out ok in the end.
In comparing my slow cooker recipe with the regular recipe I noticed that all of the ‘condiments’ were missing. The regular recipe just called for the ham joint to be covered by water and left to boil, where the slow cooker recipe added spices and vegetables to the water. Because I’d already bought everything, and because I thought it sounded nicer, I still added the condiments to the water despite not using the slow cooker – so if you want to simplify this you can remove all the spices and vegetables and just cover the ham with water and boil as specified below.
2.5 kg ham
1 yellow onion
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp whole white pepper
2 bay leaves
0.5 tsp salt per litre water
2 tbsp mustard
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp sugar
100-150 ml breadcrumbs
corn flour or maize starch
Rinse the ham joint in cold water (leave the netting on) and stick a meat thermometer in it. Place it in a large pot.
Chop up the carrot and onion and add to the pot with the allspice, pepper, and bay leaves. Add enough water to cover the ham, and then 0.5 tsp salt per litre water.
Cover the pot with a lid and bring to boil. When it starts boiling, bring it down to a simmer and leave to cook until the thermometer shows 70-75 degrees Celsius. The estimate is 1 hour per kilo of ham – so in my case that was 2.5 kg.
If you instead want to use a slow cooker, cook on low heat for 9 hours.
Once cooked, leave the ham to cool down before taking off the net and cutting off any excess fat you don’t want.
Then mix together the egg, two mustards and sugar. Put some starch or corn flour on the top of the ham (this helps to keep the mustard mix from sliding off too much) and cover with the mustard mix.
Pour the breadcrumbs over the mustard mix, then grill in the oven at 225 degrees Celsius for 10-15 minutes.
Again, this is a Christmas recipe that isn’t very difficult. It just takes a bit of time. But since you’re going to serve it cold it’s perfect for making a day or two in advance – if you can keep your hands off it in the meantime – so you don’t have to stress on the day.
My Christmas was actually very relaxed cooking wise. I had made the gravlax and the ham in advance so they were ready to serve. I got up around 9 am to roll up some meatballs to be ready to fry later, and then just boiled some eggs and potatoes, fried the meatballs and sausages, and cooked the sausage meat and pigs in blankets (S’s additions) in the oven. The bread and cheese and ready-bought sauces obviously didn’t need any preparations. So the only thing that was a bit of a hassle was the rice pudding, and that was mainly because I’d picked a bad recipe since I’d never made it before – so I had to make a second batch following another recipe, which turned out much better.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I’ve been feeling quite autumny lately, even though the weather has been really nice. It’s a bit chilly in the mornings and evenings, but the days are usually sunny and quite warm. But the cold and wet spell we had a few weeks ago has made me feel like it should be time for knitted jumpers and ankle boots.
That’s also spread to my cooking, and last week I made this goulash-ish stew. The reason I’m calling it goulash-ish is that it’s very simple, but the original recipe from BBC Good Food calls it a pork goulash.I like simple stews though – I don’t want to have to buy 20 ingredients to make just one dish.
Before simmering down.
I made a really nice goulash once, but then (like with the blueberry and lemon cake) I didn’t save the recipe. The last time I tried making a ‘goulash-in-a-dash’, as it was called, it was too tomatoy. But this one felt a lot better.
The original recipe was a stew with dumplings, but I didn’t want to make that, so I put potatoes in mine instead. That way you don’t have to serve it with anything else.
Ingredients (4 portions)
600g pork tenderloin
400g tinned, chopped tomatoes
250 ml beef stock
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp paprika
Start by browning the pork loin in some oil. Set aside.
Chop the garlic (and if you like onion you can add an onion too) and brown in oil. Throw in the peppers and pork loin, and add the paprika. Pour over the chopped tomatoes, passata, and beef stock.
Add the potatoes – I usually quarter mine – and season with salt and pepper. Then throw in the bay leaves.
Leave to simmer for around 20-30 minutes to reduce the liquid.
It isn’t harder than that! Very simple, with a lot of ingredients you will possibly already have at home.
I got three large servings out of this – but as you can see my plate was overflowing! I served it with some crème fraîche and a nice slice of bread, and enjoyed my autumn-feeling. Bring on the cinnamon buns and hot chocolate!
I’m going to share a picture with you in this post that’s either going to make you laugh – or think that I have a slightly childish sense of humour. I also want to apologise that these pictures are a bit rubbish – but I had this for lunch at work and thus only had the opportunity to take pictures with my phone in the office kitchen (which has terrible lighting).
I don’t remember if I said in my previous gnocchi post, but gnocchi is one of my favourite comfort foods. It’s quite a stodgy food in itself, but can be paired with light and refreshing foods if wanted. I often pair it with things I would pair pasta with – hence getting a pasta-like dish that’s a bit more filling and more comforty.
I found this recipe on Ica’s website and thought it looked interesting. I really like that the Swedish supermarkets carry crème fraîche in so many different flavours – because it makes lazy cooking so much easier! (This recipe calls for pepper and chili crème fraîche, but if you can’t get hold of that, maybe you could use normal crème fraîche with some peppers and chili in it – or just replace it with a pasta sauce of some kind?) In the original recipe, however, the protein was turkey. That’s why I was drawn to it – because though I’ve had turkey in different circumstances, I’ve never really had it like that in a main dish. It’s usually on sandwiches or the rare (read ‘when I get forced’ lol) Sunday roast with the in-laws in London.
What I didn’t realise was that turkey is more expensive than chicken, and I didn’t know what I’d think of it – so since my supermarket had a good deal on pork tenderloin I got that instead! I thought it would mix really well with the chili and pepper flavours of the crème fraîche – and it did.
Ingredients (2-3 portions)
500g pork tenderloin
2 medium-sized tomatoes
200 ml chili and pepper crème fraîche
Sear the pork tenderloin in a pan on high heat, then cook at 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes (until it’s around 72 degrees Celsius inside). Leave to rest wrapped in aluminium foil for 10 minutes.
Cook the gnocchi. This will take about 2 minutes usually – and you know it’s done when they’ve all popped to the top. Drain and pour in the crème fraîche, and put the pot back on the stove for a minute or so to warm the crème fraîche if you want.
Chop the tomatoes (and take out the insides if you want – it makes it less watery) and add to the gnocchi and crème fraîche.
Serve with the sliced pork tenderloin.
See how easy it is? Hardly any ingredients, and the only thing is that if you want to cook your tenderloin in one piece in the oven you need a meat thermometer.
I prepared my tenderloin in the oven, which took about 20 minutes. It then needed 10 minutes to rest, and because gnocchi is so quick to cook, and goes very mushy in my opinion if left too long after cooking, I didn’t cook it until the pork was resting. If you want to fry your pork, you can cook the gnocchi earlier.