Finding balance

The Little Swedish Kitchen, by Rachel Khoo, published by Michael Joseph, RRP $55.
The Little Swedish Kitchen, by Rachel Khoo, published by Michael Joseph, RRP $55.
Interest in all things Nordic has been on the rise in recent years, from furniture, interiors and now cuisine.

In her latest cookbook, The Little Swedish Kitchen, British cook Rachel Khoo shows the more family-style of Swedish cooking.

Now living in Stockholm with her Swedish husband and baby, Khoo (37) has got to know Swedish cuisine through everyday life.

''I have come to know the country and its culture over many coffees and kanelbullar [cinnamon buns].

''I soon discovered that Sweden has more to offer than flat-pack furniture, the perfect shade of Stockholm white and fika [coffee and cake breaks].

''The Swedish approach to life is all about finding balance and enjoying just the right amount of all good things.''

Given they have a short growing season, she says, they are very resourceful and make the most of what each season has to offer.

The Swedes love to celebrate every season - in winter it is gingerbread and glogg, in spring it's picnics, and in summer barbecues, and crayfish parties at the beginning of autumn.

So she has divided her book into the four seasons including starters, mains and desserts in each section.

''This is my homage to the ebb and flow of the seasons here.''

 

Potato and pea dumplings

Serves 4-6

Gluten-free

Prep time 1 hour

Cooling time 30 mins

Cooking time 40 mins

These tennis-ball-sized potato dumplings are the Bjorn Borg of the dumpling world. They are old-school champions, and can be boiled or fried, filled or unfilled (and differ in other ways, depending on which regional variety you make: Smalandska dumplings sink when they are initially boiled and rise to the top when they are finished, whereas those from Oland, an island off the east coast of Sweden, do the opposite).

Peas aren't usually added, but I like the way they give the otherwise grey-looking dumpling a lovely green pop.

I've skipped the filling in this recipe, instead piling them high with a salty, sweet and spicy topping.

Ingredients

For the dumplings
300g potatoes
300g frozen peas
sea salt
2 medium eggs
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
300g-350g potato flour

For the topping
knob of butter
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp white pepper
250g smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
handful of chopped fresh chives
sugared lingonberries or lingonberry jam

Method
Fill a large saucepan with cold salted water and peel the potatoes. Put the potatoes in the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender, then drain and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, put the frozen peas into another pan with 1 tablespoon of water. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes, until just tender.

Drain and blend to a smooth paste in a food processor. Finely grate the potatoes, then mix with a pinch of salt, the blitzed peas and eggs.

Add the nutmeg and 300g of the flour and stir to combine, only adding more flour if you need it the dough should be firm.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil with a generous pinch of salt. While its coming to the boil, roll the dough into a long sausage and cut into 12 equal pieces, then roll each one into a ball.

Next, make the topping: put the butter into a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the spices, bacon and onion, cooking until the onion is crisp and golden.

While the bacon and onion are frying, add the dumplings to the boiling water and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until they are firm but bounce back when touched. If you are unsure, cut one open: the dumpling should be cooked and hot all the way through.

Serve immediately with a generous heap of the topping, a sprinkle of chopped chives and some sugared lingonberries or lingonberry jam.

Get ahead: The dumplings can be frozen after they've been boiled. Plunge into boiling water to defrost and reheat.

 

Swedish beef stew

Serves 6-8

Prep time 30 mins

Cooking time 1½-2 hours

This stew is supposedly from the Swedish county of Skane, which is known as the garden of Sweden as it produces most of the country's produce (partly due to the fact that it lies in the south).

However, the stew is so popular that pretty much the whole of Sweden has a version of it, called simply kalops. Some people compare it to the French boeuf bourguignon, although it doesn't rely on the richness of red wine, rather on some fragrant allspice, which gives the stew a lovely warmth.

Ingredients
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 onions, peeled and sliced
6 Swedish anchovies (see tip)
2 Tbsp plain flour
1 tsp ground allspice
sea salt and black pepper
1kg chuck steak or stewing beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 thin carrots, peeled
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1L beef stock
1kg potatoes (Desiree work well)
knob of butter
small handful of fresh parsley leaves

To serve
pickled beetroot
pink pickled onions

Method
Heat 2 tablespoons of the rapeseed oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onions and anchovies.

Fry, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes, until the onion begins to turn golden brown. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the allspice and 1 teaspoon each of black pepper and salt, then toss the cubed beef in it.

Once the onion is golden brown, remove from the pan and add another 2 tablespoons of oil. When hot, add the meat (you may have to fry it in two or three batches if your pan is too small) and brown all over.

Once the meat is brown, put the onion back in, along with the carrots, vinegar and beef stock. Half cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently for 1½ hours or until the meat is tender.

Thirty minutes before the stew is ready, peel the potatoes, chop into large chunks and cook in boiling water until tender. Drain and toss in the butter and parsley.

Taste the stew and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve with the boiled potatoes, the pickled beetroot and pickled onions.

Tip: If you can't get Swedish anchovies, use regular ones plus 1 teaspoon ground allspice, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.

Get ahead: As with most stews, this is often better the day after its cooked.

 

Cardamom bun bombe

Serves 6-8

Vegetarian

Prep time 30 Mins

Cooking time 10 Mins

Freezing time 4 Hours

Equipment
Medium-sized bowl (capacity 1.5 litres)

If you happen to have day-old, slightly stale buns lying around, this is a good way of using them up. I've also made this dessert using bought buns when I've been short of time and need a quick and easy dessert for a dinner party.

Ingredients
200g golden or date syrup
200g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp fine sea salt
300ml double cream
2 litres good-quality vanilla ice cream
12-14 shop-bought cardamom or cinnamon buns

Method
Start by making a caramel. Pour the syrup into a large, heavy-based pan, followed by the sugar, cardamom and salt. Place on a hot heat.

Swirl the pot around every minute or so to help incorporate the sugar. Once the caramel starts to simmer, cook for a further 5 minutes or until a dark golden brown.

Take off the heat. Gradually incorporate the cream - be careful, as the mixture will splutter and rise. Fill a bowl with water and ice, place the caramel pot on top of the ice and leave to cool.

Take the ice cream out of the freezer and put into the fridge to soften slightly.

Line your medium-sized bowl with cling film, leaving some excess to fold over the top to cover. Cut the cardamom buns in half and place some of them cut side down in the bowl, so the bowl sides are fully covered.

Beat the softened ice cream and swirl in a third of the cooled caramel. Set aside the rest for serving. Spoon the ice cream into the bowl and press it down.

Cover the ice cream with the remainder of the bun halves. Wrap with the excess cling film and freeze for at least 4 hours.

To serve, take the bombe out of the freezer 15 minutes before serving. Open up the cling film at the top, place a serving plate over the bowl and turn upside down.

Remove the cling film and leave to thaw slightly. Right before serving, pour over the remainder of the caramel sauce.

Tips: Use a knife run under hot water to cut the bombe.

Cardamom can be replaced with other spices, such as cinnamon, ground ginger and allspice.

 

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