Saturday, 29 May 2010

Foodbuzz 24x24: Swedish Food Fest

i am so thrilled to be able to take part in this months Foodbuzz 24x24 event! and even more excited, as i get to share some of my Swedish recipes with you's that have been passed down through generations and generations to end up here on NJA for you all to enjoy.

the idea was to be able to enjoy some of the recipes i remember from my childhood, to try out new recipes i've heard of but never attempted, and moreover to invite some wonderful people for their first taste of Sweden.

when i was a child we used to go to Sweden on holiday. my family are from the southern part, in and around Gothenburg (Göteborg); so we used to stay in the lakes, the islands and travel in and out of the wonderful city. 

so many of my childhood food memories come from these trips; picking wild blueberries in the forest until my fingers were purple, fishing on the lake and barbecuing the fish straight away, eating lots of hönökaka smothered in kalles caviar for breakfast, a bucket full of prawns from the local fish market and having competitions to see who could shell and eat the most the fastest (my little brother would always win!), consuming bags of little kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls) that were so cinnamon-y and sweet you would feel just so perfectly happy.

and then there are the sort of foods that Farmor, my Swedish grandmother, still cooks, and i have had the pleasure of enjoying when i visit her (she and my grandfather live only 1 hour away from me, which is such a treat!) - things like proper meatballs, potato salad with dill and smörgåstårta on Christmas eve. 

so as well as including these gorgeous memories and inspirations, i wanted to add a few extra things that really help to define the Swedish food scene - gravadlax, pytt y panna, pickled herring, to name a few. 

the real joy of Swedish cooking is it's simplicity and cleanliness of flavour. it's not about artistically mixing ingredients, it's about celebrating each individual taste and relishing in seasonal produce. it's a style of cooking that is very much connected with the earth, and a lot to do with preserving (well, Farmor did have to ski to work when she was a youth, so it does get quite cold!)

the first step to creating this feast was to create a menu plan, and so i followed Farmor's footsteps and did a menu diagram to show how the food would be laid out on the table - that way you can see what utensils and bowls you need, and notice any obvious unbalance in the food choices

next to order some proper Swedish food, i got my delivery from totally swedish, and received some really scrummy goodies, including the invaluable parlsocker (pearl sugar) and kardemumma malen (ground cardamoms) which you just can't get anywhere else

now for the low-down on what we ate:

♥  ärtsoppa med fläsk (swedish pea soup) - the traditional Swedish thursday dish, which we eat in our house at least once a month, because it's so simple and very tasty! i love a really thick mushy pea soup.

simply, soak some dried yellow peas in water overnight. then fry some bacon/pork, cubed celery and a diced onion in a pan until cooked through, add in a little dried thyme, oregano and seasoning's then cover with stock and add in the soaked peas (rinsed well). cook for about 1 hour at a low temperature, adding more stock if necessary. leave overnight for the flavours to absorb and the peas to go a little more mushy. eat for lunch or dinner the following day with a little knäckebröd

♥ köttbullar (meatballs) - one of the most 'Swedish' foods ever! and they are just great when served with some chopped hot dogs - which is how we have them every Christmas eve!

to make them, mix a little milk with some breadcrumbs, add in some salt and pepper, dried dill and fresh chopped parsley, mix in an egg and a finely chopped onion, and then scrunch in a pack of minced pork and pack of minced beef. roll them into little balls and put them into a hot frying pan with a little olive oil until cooked through.

crunchy salad - inspired by the jamie does book - with grated carrot, finely sliced radishes, sliced red onion, chopped cucumber, fresh dill, olive oil, salt and pepper

pytt y panna - really simple and very tasty, this is another family recipe

simply dice some carrot, potato, onion, beetroot and pork/bacon lardons, fry them all together in a pan with some olive oil for about 20 minutes, and then put in an oven proof dish on a low temperature (120c) for a few hours so the flavours can mesh, then turn the heat up just before you want to serve.

gravadlax - this is something i've wanted to try for a while, but i was a little too nervous, but i finally plucked up the courage...and it's actually fairly simple.

take a piece of salmon (i used wild alaskan here) and cover it with rock salt and then sprinkle with granulated/unrefined sugar, then flavour it with whatever you choose - i did beetroot and dill. put in a pan with high edges, cover with cling film and layer on water bottles or something else that is quite heavy to press the salty mix into the fish. pop in the fridge for two days, then take it out, wash it off and slice it up!

♥ potatissallad (potato salad) - a classic at any swedish buffet or smörgåsbord, especially in our house, my Farfar (grandfather) makes the best ever potato salad, made even better when it includes some of his homegrown new potatoes

half some new potatoes, wash them off and boil them up until a knife easily passes into them, wash them off under some cold running water and then leave to drain. once cool enough to handle, chop up into small pieces and mix with mayonnaise, yogurt, dill, chopped gherkins, salt and pepper

kalles kaviar and boiled egg on homemade knäckebröd - one of the most simple swedish pleasures i can imagine. i followed this recipe for the flatbreads, which was incredibly tasty but didn't quite turn out crispy enough!

laid out in the summerhouse, the food looked rather beautiful! there's a little svensk senap (swedish mustard), dill sild from ikea, prawns, hönökaka, gravadlax and soured cream and mustard sauce. there was also a bowl of rödkål (red cabbage), cooked with raisins, apple and cloves

the wonderful eaters: my mum, steph, yvette, zoe and me!

♥ smörgåstårta - one of the most beautiful and memorable dishes at any swedish celebration, layers of bread, cream cheese and fish make a gorgeous savoury cake - check out the video at the end for a full description and how to instructions!

still enjoying the food, as each of our bellies grows and grows. the meal started at 2:30pm, for a family tradition called middan, which combines lunch and dinner and lasts for a couple of hours, or all the way into the evening.

pepparkakor and kanelbullar - both incredibly delicious, and full of Sweden's favorite spices!

to make the pepparkakor, mix together 1tbsp ground cinnamon, 1/2tbsp ground cloves, 1/2 tbsp ground ginger with 150g butter and 1 small egg. add in 50g honey, 1tbsp golden syrup, 50g light brown soft sugar and 50g caster sugar, add in 150g spelt flour and 300g plain white flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda. roll out to 3mm thick and cut out. bake for 10 minutes in batches, or until golden.

the pepparkakor are particularly delicious when double dipped in hot coffee!

we also had some organic blueberries with filmjölk, and tried some Polly's, Plopp and Marabou as well - fairly memorable sweeties from when i was younger...

and that just about sums up our eventful afternoon. after finishing one course, and all being particularly full, my mum whipped out a quick Swedish quiz, and we had a laugh trying to all pronounce Swedish words...

everyone really enjoyed trying out some new foods, and we had a great time talking and taking the time to chill and eat really good food.

did i tell you that i love swedish food? well my love for it has definitely stepped up a notch...and i hope you all feel inspired to try out some tasty Scandinavian treats...

thanks so much for the wonderful crew at Foodbuzz for enabling this event to take place! and don't forget to check out the other participant entries to the May 24x24 event...i am sure that they are all fantastically delicious too!

Friday, 28 May 2010

sweet potato and kale stir fry with a punnet of strawbs

hello to all my lovely readers!

i hope you are as excited about tomorrow as i am...the big swedish feast for foodbuzz 24x24 event is going to be awesome! i have been a baking machine for the last couple of days, and not only will i be posting plenty of photos of us eating, but i will be posting recipe and a video...

i'm just hoping for good weather, as it's england so anything is possible. if it's nice then we'll be headed for a picnic at a national trust house and gardens, but if it's looking likely to rain (the forecast says it is at the moment) then we'll be eating in our summerhouse. lots of lovely ladies are coming to the event, and i just know its going to be a hilarious time :)

lemon and ricotta spelt pancakes - these are the best! lots of love for this breakfast, and i think perhaps i'll have it this evening too...or maybe for lunch today?!

punnet of strawberries, ready to be devoured

vegetable stir fry with sweet potato and kale, covered with grated organic parmesan, mmm

salad with celery sticks, crispbread and hummus

this was a particularly yummy salad, topped with bacon and mushrooms

♥ buckwheat porridge and banana with hot lemon water - a tremendously energising breakfast, and really tasty too (you all know i don't believe in nasty tasting health food!)

currently listening to: bbc radio 1 live - because i'm guaranteed to listen to something new whilst i'm cooking all day

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

sweet strata and roasted beetroot

hey everyone, my event on saturday went well, and i can finally get back into preparations for this saturday! i'm going to be practising a few of my grandmother's dishes for the event...

the crazy hot weather here in the uk has meant that i've been craving smoothies and salads, basically lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. so, i've been popping out to top up quite frequently at waitrose, as well as snacking on what we've got in our garden pots.

as for the non-foodie side of my life, i've been utterly confused lately. i guess i sort of feel like i was supposed to figure stuff out in my early twenties, and so far it's not quite going according to plan. and am sort of getting faced with the reality of never knowing what my true 'calling' is in life. worst of all, all this stress of not knowing has been making me ill, and breakout, eurgh.

as part of my life coaching sessions, i have to write out a paragraph about where i visualise my life in 2 years time. it's tremendously difficult, but i think i can see it taking shape. something like waking up, going for a short bike ride, coming back to cook an amazing breakfast, writing a couple of articles, doing a little bit of gardening, making a video, eating a delicious big salad, walking the dog, visiting a beautiful national trust house for inspiration, taking plenty of photos, reading a classic novel, having a hot cup of vegetable soup, going out to the cinema with a friend, going to sleep in a massive king size bed.

recent eats:
the most delicious and pretty summery dessert ever! fresh strawberries and blueberries with sheepsmilk yogurt and agave nectar, amazing!

mustard baked trout with stir fry vegetables - this was divine

full cooked english breakfast - naughty but nice. i'm not sure why the meatballs are in this photo, as i didn't eat them together!

there is such simple pleasure in roasted beetroot

sweet breakfast strata - i've had this idea for a long while (actually ever since watching The Family Stone) and so the other day i actually tried it out, and it worked!

simply soak wholewheat/seeded bread overnight in soya milk/cream mixed with beaten eggs, freshly grated nutmeg, chopped dried apricots and anything else you like (banana and dark chocolate would be an awesome combination!)

currently listening to: safe by phil wickham

Thursday, 20 May 2010

skin breakouts: the causes and cures

hello lovely readers!

so, i hope this is interesting to you all, i hope that some of the information is new, and helpful to all of you. i think most people can relate to this, as almost everyone has breakouts from time to time. and if you keep getting them in the same area, then this could totally help you! if you haven't seen the skin breakouts video yet, then don't forget to check it out.

if you know the cause of your breakout, then you might just find the cure...

basically, chinese diagnosis / face mapping would highlight that a breakout in a particular area is a sign of a particular organ not functioning as well as it could. so, here is my diagram showing which areas correspond to each other:

and here's a more detailed analysis of how you can help each organ to function better:

bladder - reduce the amount of sugar you eat, increase the amount of water you drink!
digestion - cook simple, nutritional food with clean ingredients, eat green leafy vegetables before a big meal, enjoy eating whole grains, chew your food really well and take time to enjoy it with friends,
liver - reduce your consumption of processed foods, switch to 'whole' foods that are as fresh and organic as possible. check for food intolerances with your doctor, eat more fiber, try to do a mini-detox for 2 days each month where you only eat fruit and veg, take a lipotropic supplement
kidney - drink lots of water each day (about 8 glasses), try eating more blueberries, eat cleansing green foods like celery, cucumerb and asparagus, eat lots of garlic, try a calcium supplement to help support your systems
lungs - keep your immune system in top condition (by getting enough sleep, eating well and not pushing yourself too hard), get out into the fresh air to exercise and get the stagnant air in your lungs removed and refreshed
hormones - eat a diet that's low in animal products to help reset your own hormones (as the hormones of animals can affect your own)
stress - chill out, relax and adjust your lifestyle; get a massage and take regular walks (see my healthy living tips video about this particular subject) - try all sorts of things to reduce the stress on all organs of the body for maximum beauty power!

other factors that can cause breakouts:
after a facial - stimulating the skin in a different way can help to unclog your pores, and in doing so it may cause a few spots or pimples to appear
during detox - when the body detoxes it lets out the toxins through the skin, so you may experience some breakouts at this point, but it's a really good sign of great cleansing action and it reminds you to not let too many toxins in in the first place!
comedogenic products - makeup and skincare products can often cause a breakout because it upsets the PH balance of our skin by often being too acidic/alkaline, choose a mild cleansing milk to avoid disruption and opt for sensitive products and breathable mineral foundations for using every day
oily hair - change your shampoo, and use one that doesn't have comedogenic ingredients.
bad skin-touching habits - be aware of how frequently you touch your face and where, and try to stop doing it! use phones on speaker, or keep them clean to stop breakouts around your jawline
illness - boost your immune system with anti-oxidants, and drink water regularly to flush out bacteria and viruses. take time off to rest and recuperate when you are ill, in order to get your body back into it's natural rythyms quicker
diet - fresh, organic, local and delicious food eaten with friends and family is the best way. try an elimination diet if you aren't sure about the effects of a particular food or food group. raw foodists have the most amazing skin ever, and this is a true testament to the power of fruit and vegetables in causing a glowing, youthful complexion
pillowcases -  change tand wash them regularly to stop the spread of bacteria. try silk cases and anti-allergenic pillows
poor circulation (to get the glow) - get some exercise!, try eating more raw fats from avocadoes, nuts and raw olive oil on salads, add more spices to your cooking to really get that blood going, avoid smoking/smokers and drinking too much alcohol, keep your anger under check

my experiences:
i usually get spots around my chin/mouth area each month due to hormones, and the only remedy for this is lots of good exercise and eating lots of fruit and veg so they heal very quickly and don't get too red.

i used to have breakouts on my forehead, although these have ceased since i reduced the amount of dairy and increased the amount of fresh fruit and veg i am eating. and i used to get frustrating ones around my hairline, which was partly due to shampoo/conditioner (which i changed) as well as habits of touching them which spread them all around the hairline.

i sometimes get bad spots around my jawline after i've been unwell (with diabetes), which are frustrating, and take a long time to heal - because after i've been ill my immune system isn't so good at healing!

i find that my skin is at it's best when i'm exercising and sleeping well. it glows and looks really healthy! it also looks way better after a trip to spa waters (i go to Bath spa, where the natural waters are full of beneficial minerals) which must help to extract toxins and clean out the system.

swedish honokaka recipe

hi all! i do hope you are having a glorious day :)

as part of my swedish feast for next next saturday, i decided to try out one of my favorite things that reminds me of sweden, hönökaka. it's a sweet flat bread/cake that comes from the Gothenburg area, which is also where my grandmother comes from.

this is a taste that truly reminds me of childhood, and i never thought to actually try and make it myself, as the shop bought variety has such a classic taste that i thought could not be replicated easily at home...

well, so i found a recipe online at the fresh loaf and translated it into workable british/american measures (and edited it slightly of course), see after the photos.

the shopbought variety is no doubt sweeter than homemade, and lighter, but there's only so much lightness you can get into bread at home without a commercial mixer! i think it probably has a little more syrup, salt and butter in too, which i might add in next time i make a batch. instead i drizzled on some agave nectar, and smothered each piece with butter and salty kalles that's the taste of sweden to me!

i am so happy with how it turned out, and can't wait to take a few pieces out of my little freezer bag for eating later...mmm!

hönökaka recipe

2 sachets dry yeast / 25g fresh
500ml milk
1tbsp golden syrup/honey/molasses
1tsp salt
2 cups rye flour (sieved)
4 cups plain flour
25g butter (softened)

 - dissolve yeast in milk,  by heating the milk through till warm and whisking. add in the syrup and salt and whisk until all dissolved.
 - remove from heat and add in the rye flour (through a sieve) until well combined.
 - work in the plain flour until combined and it is thick enough to knead.
 - knead until the texture is smooth. then add in the softened butter (not melted). shape and then leave to rise until doubled in size.
 - cut into 6 pieces. shape into balls and leave to rise whilst the oven heats up to temperature - or at least 20 minutes.
 - roll each piece out into a circle, that is about 1/2 cm thick, then spike with a fork all over (so there are no air bubbles, as well as to make the honokaka look beautiful!)
 - bake each piece on a tray in a very hot (250c) oven for 3-4 minutes until golden (as one finished i had prepared another, so i was able to repeatedly use the same two trays).
 - enjoy hot from the oven with butter and kalles kaviar, or freeze and enjoy later.

honokaka goes brilliant with a combination of sweet and salty toppings, try honey, jam, pickled herring, fish, fruit compote, yogurt, butter, tangy cheese...and let me know of any other delicious combinations you come up with!

currently listening to: oh! hark! by lisa mitchell

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

beautiful swedish food inspiration

hi everyone! so as you may know, i will be taking part in this month's 24x24 Foodbuzz event, and for it i will be cooking some very delicious swedish food. so as part of my preparation, i've been clambering through the internet to find some tasty looking ideas, and today i stumbled upon this little gem.

kokblog - an illustrated cooking blog
it's absolutely gorgeous, and the recipes look really delicious. after struggling to find something clear, useful and interesting in the realm of Swedish food blogs, i couldn't be happier!

it's the kind of recipe blog i adore (much like cannelle et vanille) which has gorgeous images mixed with health conscious - yet indulgent - cooking, with a little European twist.

i was hooked after reading through her recipes, lots of gravlax, berries, pastries using ground almonds, and lots of exciting vegetable recipes that i wouldn't have thought of. there's some really classically swedish dishes in there, most of them with a bit of a twist which keeps things fresh.

i also really like these (you may have to use the google translate, if you don't happen to read swedish - and i don't know that many people that do!):
lineas skafferi

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

banana oiaj and organic parma ham

last weekend, as a celebration of things that have past and things yet to come, my mum and i went to bournemouth overnight. it was intended that we celebrate in some way to mark her finishing a job, and me passing a particular goal (i am now a youtube partner, wahey!) - it was spur of the moment, and it felt great to get away from home, even though it was for less than 24 hours!

bournemouth in the morning - the beach was empty and the cloud cover meant that it was pretty warm. there were plenty of people cycling, running and walking their dogs along the front, and it was beautiful to experience the peace that the ocean brings... 

a burger with red cabbage and lentil stew - particularly filling after a long day shopping in Bournemouth!

random mediterranean inspired lunch - organic parma ham, smoked salmon pate, gem lettuce, houmous, celery and cashew butter, sundried tomatoes, i love random lunches!

smoked salmon pate with olive salad and some crispbreads and fresh tomatoes

banana oiaj - although really i should have mushed up the banana and added it instead of slicing which did cause a little bit of a problem!

lunchtime salad, sprinkled with parmesan

the most amazing breakfast ever - how else are you supposed to celebrate the last day of work! a whole punnet of blueberries, lots of maple syrup drizzled over delicious pancakes, some crispy bacon and a pot of tea!

mushrooms on toast are the perfect work-from-home lunch, along with a little salad and feta stuffed olives

ah, the love of my life is back, maple pecan booja booja stuff in a tub - i can't believe i went without this for so long, and even though the price has gone up yet again, i couldn't help but purchase a tub from the health food store last week! and yes, it's all already gone - i have NO will power when it comes to this's so ridiculously good!

a final view over bournemouth beach - i love how the water is so still, and how the light reflects in different places because of the clouds, which made it even more beautiful

preparations are well under way for my 24x24 event, and i will be testing out some of the recipes this week! i am so excited about it, i actually cannot wait!

currently listening to: i am not a robot by marina and the diamonds

Monday, 17 May 2010

samphire and smoked salmon pate

yes i know this was promised a few days ago, but i've been ridiculously busy and instead of posting i've been catching some sleep. i'm so sorry. anyway, the very very VERY exciting news that i have to share is that the wonderful Foodbuzz (check out the links in my sidebar) have chosen me to be a part of their next 24x24 event - which is taking place on the 29th of this month. i'll be creating my ultimate feast, including a video and lots of photos and recipes - which will involve lots of swedish recipes, many that i inherited from my grandmother!

i'm very excited to share this with you all, and i can't wait to practice all my recipes before the big event!

on a totally different note, here's some of the delicious things i ate last week:

bombay mix with no additives or preservatives - a tasty experience, but one that i  wouldn't go out of my way to repurchase...

asparagus and fried halloumi with cherry tomatoes - the simplest lunches are the best ones

waitrose organic spinach and mozzarella pizza - very good, very crispy, but i still got a headache

♥ honey spelt poppies- i love trying out new foods, especially when they have something to do with breakfast!

cinnamon french toast - i am loving getting back into cooking and eating this more frequently :)

organic smoked salmon pate with watercress and sundried tomato salad - another simple lunch that just hit the spot!

i saw samphire at the fish counter, and thought i'd try it out and see what it was like, and i'm glad to say it was delicious!

we ate it with some fried fish (can't remember what kind, oops) and a delicious salad

currently listening to: nothing because i have a little bit of a headache and am unwinding before going to bed...