Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Potato “risotto” with smoked mackerel and horseradish crème fraiche

Potato and smoked mackerel risotto

Regular readers will know of my fondness for risottos. What’s not to love about a dish that’s more comforting than a hot water bottle? The only downside is that they have a tendency to be somewhat bad for your waistline. In essence they are the equivalent to the first year you spend at university where it is almost impossible not to put on a stone or two of not very solid fat!

Given that I am trying to eat more healthily and cook with a more Scandinavian mindset, risotto hasn’t really had much of a look in. But when I found myself with a bag full of ageing potatoes that needed cooking I felt as if a compromise might be achieved. Marcus Samuelsson soon came to the rescue with his recipe for potato risotto which I took inspiration from and tweaked with the ingredients that lay expectantly in my fridge.


I bag of potatoes, peeled and finely diced
2 shallots
1 clove of garlic
½ litre of vegetable stock
100 grams of peas
100 grams of spinach
2 mackerel fillets, torn into pieces
3 tablespoons of crème fraiche
Grated horseradish
Olive oil


Peel your potatoes. Then finely dice them. This is quite laborious, but sadly, essential.

Sautee the shallot and garlic in olive oil then add the potatoes. Stir for a minute or two and then add hot stock and keep stirring. Add the thyme and tarragon. Then add more chicken stock and continue until the potatoes are tender. Be careful not to overcook. For me it took around 15 minutes.

Add the frozen peas and spinach and let them cook through. Then add 2 tablespoons of crème frache and a knob of butter and stir until the risotto is creamy. Don’t be as aggressive as you would be with rice because you don’t want to mash the potatoes.

Add the smoked mackerel and allow to rest so that the fish warms through. Season and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche on top and some grated horseradish and garnish with dill.

Potato and smoked mackerel risotto close

It was delicious. And for some reason felt healthier than a normal risotto. The combination of potatoes, dill, horseradish and smoked fish was unmistakably Scandinavian. I loved every single mouthful and went to bed dreaming of eating the leftovers for lunch!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Beetroot and Smoked Mackerel Soufflé

My working life is quite unpredictable in Sweden. I never seem to be settled in my flat for longer than a few days before I’m heading off to the airport at 5am or coming back at 11pm. I’m absolutely loving it, but it does make cooking somewhat hard to plan. But when I do get a moment in the kitchen, I find myself treating it as entertainment as much as feeding myself. And given that I am cooking for one I’m finding that posting the recipes on here is my way of sharing my meals, albeit with none of the intimacy or fun!

As a result of being always on the run, I’ve got better at having a few hardy supplies in my kitchen that I rely on. I’m not sure where I’d be without beetroot, a stick of horseradish and a few smoked mackerel fillets in the freezer! They have come to my rescue on many occasions.

When I was researching this recipe I found quite a few people writing about either soufflés made with smoked fish or plain beetroot. The closest thing I discovered to a beetroot and smoked mackerel soufflé was a chilled one made with gelatin. So as far as I know this particular recipe is “original”. But given that nothing ever is and all ideas are simply mashups of existing ideas that doesn’t really count for much anyway. Either way, if you enjoy bright red, light egginess and smoked fish, the chances are you’ll love this.


3 egg yolks
5 egg whites
25 grams of flour
25 grams of butter
300ml of milk
1 smoked mackerel fillet – mashed
4 beetroot
Some grated horseradish
Goats cheese
Oil and vinegar
Salt and pepper


Peel and dice the beetroot and boil till tender. Then whizz in a blender.

Make a roux with the butter and flour. Then add the warmed milk. Stir until it has formed a smooth béchamel. Then add the blended beetroot and the mashed mackerel. Season with pepper and then grate in as much horseradish as suits your palette.

Allow to cool and then when it is warm rather than hot beat in 3 egg yolks.

Then whisk the whites until they reach stiff peaks and fold into the mixture in 3 goes. Be careful not to loose the lightness. So imagine you are Craig Revel Horwood when you are performing this rather effete task.

Beetroot and mackerel souffle mixture

You can then either spoon the raspberry ripple mixture into individual ramekins or load it all into one big oven dish like I did. It just depends on what your style is. I find that my soufflés work better in larger dishes. I’m not sure why.

Beetroot and smoked mackerel souffle in bowl

Bake in a preheated over on a medium heat for 30 minutes or so until the top is looking deep red rather than pink and the texture has taken on a firmer appearance. It should have risen a fair bit as well!

When your soufflé is almost ready whip up a salad with goat’s cheese, walnuts, beetroot tops and dress with a simple oil and dressing combination. Season with salt only once the soufflé is cooked. Add a spoonful of the soufflé to the side of your salad and tuck in.

Beetroot and smoked mackerel souffle plated

The earthy quality of the beetroot complements the smoky flavour of the fish brilliantly and the creamy tang of the goat’s cheese isn’t bad either. The walnuts add texture. But the best bit was the colour. If you hate boringly coloured food as much as I hate “magnolia” coloured walls, then you are in for chromatic overload.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Restaurang Brygghuset, Fiskebäckskil

After a fantastic lunch at Peterson’s Krug on the idyllic island of Käringön our Midsummer’s extravaganza adventured north to the charming seaside village of Fiskebäckskil. Our odyssey was punctuated by jaw dropping bridges, brief ferry hoppings and avenues of silver birch trees with the ubiquitous backdrop of a sky so blue that a Manchester United fan would have gone red in the face with fury. Fox gloves set the shady woods ablaze with soft pink petals amid the impossibly green grass.


We stayed at the Gullmarsstrand Hotel which looks out across the sea to Lysekil’s towering church spire. We sat back in our sun loungers and basked in the Scandinavian sunshine languidly sucking up gin and tonics and building up our appetite.

Decking church girls 2

Restaurang Brygghuset is a fish restaurant floating in Fiskebäckskil’s picturesque marina that specialises in seafood and warm hospitality. We sunk into our comfortable seats and gorged immediately on a basket of sensational bread.

Crazy herrings

Dad had a starter that was bizarrely brilliant. The sound of herring cured in pomegranate and rhubarb and a horseradish cheesecake was almost scary. But the flavours worked wonderfully.

Scallops with beetroot and goats cheese

Mum’s perfectly cooked scallops with marinated beetroot and a log of goats cheese sprinkled with bacon dust was a sensational. It’s the sort of thing Heston Blumenthal might be tempted to knock up if he was exploring Swedish cuisine. The tangy goats cheese, salty bacon and sweet earthy beetroot combined to become far more than the sum of their parts.

Prawns on toast

My prawns on rye bread was more simple. But none the worse for it. A smoked prawn and a peripheral ring of caviar helped to elevate this prawn sandwich above the run of the mill.

Cod with shellfish sauce

Mum’s baked cod sat on top of a pond of rich shellfish sauce. The skin was as crisp as ryvita but with the thinness of paper and the flesh flaked perfectly in glorious contrast to my halibut at lunch time.

Fish stew

But the real star was a rich fish stew bejeweled with mammoth mussels, dinky prawns, moist scallops, crispy skinned salmon and cod so good that it might well be the best piece of fish I’ve ever eaten. My fears about the fish being overdone because they all cook at different speeds were swept aside. And the sauce brought it all together with a luxurious injection of lobster and crab based bisque. It’s just a shame I had to share it with Dad! The glossy boiled potatoes it was served with would turn even the most die hard Atkins fan into a greedy carb guzzler.

We thought our lunch at Peterson’s Krug had been good. But our dinner at Brygghuset, overlooking the marina, was flawless and deeply memorable for all the right reasons. We rolled out of the restaurant into the twilight glow of the temporarily shy sun and forceful moon that lit the inlet up like a scene from a spooky film. It’s a moment in time that is now imprinted onto my mind and causes my mouth to twitch into a smile just by thinking about it. All it was missing was John Nettles and a few comically complicated murders.

Moonlight boating

Midnight swimming

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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Peterson’s Krug on Käringön

My parents came over to visit me in Sweden for the Midsummer celebrations. The whole of the country goes crazy for the weekend and dances around maypoles shaped like giant cocks whilst imitating frogs and getting hammered in the depths of the Swedish countryside. I didn’t think this was particularly suitable so we hired a car and explored the West Coast. Armed with some fantastic recommendations from my new friends at work we went in search of seafood, sunshine, stunning scenery and serenity. And I’m pleased to say that we found it.

We drove to Hallevikstrand where we caught the ferry to a tiny island called Käringön which has become a playground for wealthy Norwegians and the yacht-set from Stockholm and Gothenburg. The journey there was idyllic with the blue sky unraveling to infinity. Yyves Klein would have probably tried to sue the sky. You’ll get the vibe from these photos…

Buzz the boat 2

Blue sky


Thin yellow and blue flag

Karingon boats

Karingon harbour

Peterson’s Krug
is renowned for it’s super fresh seafood and relaxed atmosphere. As we settled down for lunch we found ourselves comparing it to the other seafood restaurants we’d all eaten at. In terms of setting it knocks the socks off anywhere we’d been in the UK with its 270’ views out to sea.


For those of you who can read Swedish (Manne that’s probably just you!!!) here is the menu. For the rest of you, the menu is heavy on fish with oysters (ostron), mussels (musslor), sill (herring), salmon (lax) and halibut (halleflundra) making it hard to resist simply asking for the whole menu.

Dad, being the brave soul that he is, dived in with both feet for the pickled herring platter.

Pickled herring

Pickled herring is one of my favourite discoveries since moving to Sweden. Like many people I had a natural prejudice against what I thought were vinegary bottom feeding scum. But how wrong I was. Sill as they are called in Sweden is served in a seemingly endless range of cures. This platter featured from left to right, honey, mustard and dill; soured cream and chive; dill; and a medley of all spice, bay and onions. It’s almost a meal in itself and had Dad purring like a Siamese cat who has just nudged the dog out of the prime spot in front of the fire. As ever the brown bread was stunning.

Prawn starter

Mum’s prawns on toast held together with soured cream and anointed with bleak roe and chives was delicious. Nothing fancy. But given the surroundings it was perfect.


My four oysters from the island were some of the best I’ve ever had. They were so rich in minerals I half expected Rio Tinto to turn up after lunch with a permit to mine my stomach. It makes you want to give up eating oysters simply to cherish the memory of them being so special.

Fish soup

Mum and Dad both fell for the fish soup which was large enough to keep us picking at it all week. Packed with mussels, prawns and flakes of cod it was as rich as a Norwegian oil magnate and intriguingly flavoured with all spice and dill. It was a great choice and an interesting diversion from the classic French version.

Hallibut Classic 2

My halibut was almost brilliant. Sadly it was fractionally overcooked so rather than flaking it tore. Given halibut’s leanness it needs to be cooked with as much care as you’d take putting your contact lenses in for the first time. But leaving this issue to one side the combination of asparagus, golden butter, silky potatoes and a topping of grated horseradish was inspired. It seems this is a classic Swedish combination and I am delighted to have discovered it. I’m going to try it myself soon, so keep your eye out for it.

Raspberry puddings pre

Dad went a bit Oscar Wilde and gave into temptation, once again, with a trio of raspberry desserts which matched his very seasonal shirt. The sorbet and cheese cake were both exceptionally good.

We lingered over coffee almost horizontally enjoying the view and wondering whether this is the best setting we’d ever encountered for a restaurant. In England this would have been packed, snooty and rushed. Here it was completely the opposite. I think we could have stayed all week if we wanted!

I’m told that when the lobster and crayfish seasons come around, this place turns things up an extra gear and goes crustacean crazy. Like the Pensionat on Styrso, Peterson’s Krug on Käringön is worth the mission. In fact, in many ways the journey is what makes the meal so special. For those of you living in along the North Sea in England, why not hop on your sailing boat and head here for lunch. You won’t be disappointed. Alternatively catch the Ryan Air flight to Gothenburg, hire a car and you can here in time for a stunning dinner.

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Saturday, 10 July 2010

Mushroom Mania - Soufflés and Stuffing


My local supermarket, in Gothenburg, tempts me every week with their treasure trove of mushrooms. Ranging from field mushrooms the size of dinner plates to what I've assumed are golden chanterelles and oriental varieties as well as the more expected button mushroom and a selection of very expensive dried fungi. After 3 months of sniffing, groping and ogling like a lecherous red-faced outcast in a dirty rain raincoat, I gave in.

My mushroom fetish went into over drive and led me into uncharted fungal waters. My mind wouldn’t let go of the thought of stuffing the enormous field mushroom with other mushrooms! In a sort of pseudo-infinite-fungal-regression. With a glut of mushrooms and only one mouth to feed, I spent most of the week inventing new ways to eat mushrooms. Here are the two that are most interesting…

Field mushroom stuffed with chicken liver, chanterelles and goats cheese


1 massive field mushroom – skinned and destalked
About a dozen interesting small mushrooms such as chanterelles
Olive oil
3 chopped chicken livers
1 finely chopped shallot
2 beaten eggs
1 clove of garlic
Goats cheese


Season your massive mushroom and brush with oil and butter. Then roast for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in butter until they have browned and released their juice.

Sauted mushrooms

Then add the shallot and garlic and sauté until soft. Remove from the pan and then sauté the chicken livers until rare.

Combine the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, crumbled goats cheese, thyme, beaten eggs and livers in a bowl and then spoon on top of the large mushroom. Season. Then bake for a further 25 minutes at a medium temperature.

Serve as a light lunch. The liver, eggs and double hit of mushroom is a great flavour combination for autumn or a cold summer’s day as you tend to find in Sweden.

I’m not much of a wine expert, but I imagine it would work well with the subtle oaky notes you get in a good white Burgundy or with a piercing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to pick up on the acidity of the goats cheese.

Close up mushroom

Mushroom stuffed mushroom

Field mushroom with wild mushroom soufflé


1 massive field mushroom – skinned and destalked
5 small mushrooms
50 grams butter
50 grams of flour
400ml of milk
1 clove of garlic
4 eggs
Goats cheese
Crème fraiche
Salt and pepper


Start by poaching the big mushroom in the milk. You may need to weigh the mushroom down as it tends to float! Season with pepper and throw in a chopped clove of garlic. Poach for around 20 minutes until it is soft and the milk has become mushroomy. Remove the mushroom and squeeze to remove the milk. Brush with butter and bake whilst you move on with the rest of the recipe.

Make a roux using the butter and flour. Then after a few minutes of cooking the flour add the hot mushroomy milk. Stir until it has turned into a silky béchamel worthy of featuring in a Dulux ad. Then crumble in some goats cheese.

Meanwhile sauté your smaller mushrooms in butter and oil. (If I had some cognac to hand I would have added a glass at this stage.) Once cooked blend to a pulp and add to the béchamel. Then split your eggs. Add the yolks to the now warm béchamel and whisk the whites to stiffness in a very clean bowl. Fold in the egg whites in three batches.

Remove the large mushroom from the oven and spoon the soufflé mixture into the mushroom’s cavity. Return to the oven and bake on a medium heat for 25 – 30 minutes. Resist the temptation to open the oven!

When the soufflé has risen and is looking golden on top, whip it out and serve with a dollop of horseradish crème fraiche and a sprig of parsley. A salad of goats cheese, walnuts and greenery would also be delicious.

Mushroom stuffe with mushroom souffle

The mushroom soufflé is also great on it’s own. Especially if you make an incision in the top and drizzle in some horseradish cream. Next time I am also going to make some croquetas from the glossy mushroom and goats cheese béchamel. These would be awesome either as tapas to go with a very dry sherry or as an accompaniment to a pork chop or chicken wrapped in parma ham.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Heavenly Lunch at Pensionat on Styrsö

Gothenburg as a city is great. But I have learnt recently that it’s real trump card is the string of islands that slip out into the North Sea like a double helix. The Southern Archipelago is reachable by a hop out of the front door, a skip on the number 11 tram to Saltholmen and a jump on the ferry. Seeing as the last time Cowie came over to Sweden the whole place was bound by ice, we thought we’d explore the real DNA of what makes Gothenburg so special.

Boating crop

We headed off to Styrsö, which is the most populated island on the Southern Archipelago where we’d heard we’d find a good restaurant called Pensionat Styrsö Skäret. The journey itself was idyllic. The sea was calm and the sky was marbled with deep blue and fluffy white clouds – just like the opening credits in The Simpsons. We watched impressive yachts tootle around with not the slightest care in the world and supercharged ribs go flying past like Jeremy Clarkson on an trying to show off to a German cop on an Autobahn. We arrived on Styrsö with our appetites whetted by the sea air and in such a good mood that a micro-waved chicken kiev and a lukewarm banoffee pie would have been enough to send us packing with glee.

As we stepped off the boat we were greeted by a couple of "flakmopeds" which buzz around the island instead of cars, transporting luggage and supplies. It was our first glimpse of island life and we fell in love with Styrsö immediately.


Motorised buggy

We soon found our restaurant sporting the almost mandatory Swedish flag, pale yellow wooden exterior, terrace and red roof.

Pensionsat 2

Pensionat White Guide

Pensionat inside

As you can imagine from the photo above, the White Guide plaque and the fact that this is on a fairly remote island the prices aren’t cheap, so we kept things simple and only had one course each. I also didn’t want to spoil the mood so didn’t take any photos. I’ll let the scenic photos do the job of giving you a flavour and hope that my words can do the meal the justice it deserves.

We were treated to the typical array of Swedish breads. Rich, toffee nosed, soft rye bread should be served with a note from the Surgeon General suggesting you eat it in moderation. It is sooo good you’ll seriously consider giving up all other brads and just eating this one. It was flecked with apricot and walnut and was as close to Soreen as you can get without it becoming a malt loaf! I’d be raving about their crisp bread studded with caraway and white sourdough if the brown stuff hadn’t stolen their thunder.

Our glasses of Australian Riesling arrived with a complimentary shot of glossy potato and mussel soup that was so good that we almost asked for seconds and for them to cancel our main courses. The mussel flavour was subtle, but fishy and the texture could have been weaved by a silk worm.

I’ve had many a good fish soup in my short time in Sweden. But this version is very special indeed. Rather than the dusty brick red version you get in France this one was the colour of richly churned butter melting under an amber sunset. Lemon aioli rather than rouille also distinguished this from its French cousin. If French fish soup is male, this was its virginal bride.

Amongst the saffron flecked creamy fish broth swam mussels, enormous prawns, barely cooked scallops and hunks of cod that flaked like strung out film-stars. Dabs of lemon aioli made me purr and Cowie lost count of the times I decried it as being the best I had tasted.

Cowie’s scallop and tuna salad with vermicelli was like a helium balloon. Super light, attention grabbing and not something that will ever make you appear masculine. The scallops were so well cooked they should be sent off as examples to all the gastro pub chefs across the UK who regularly ruin them and the tuna was immaculately rare.

Tea cup

We retired outside to the garden to drink coffee and play Scrabble whilst overlooking the sea and a croquet lawn and basked in the Swedish sunshine wondering whether life could be any better.

Croquet 2


The Pensionat on Styrsö is idyllic. And it was no surprise to find a box as we left the island belonging to God. There can be few more heavenly places to spend a sunny Saturday than Styrsö.



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