Tuesday, 15 February 2011
My beetroot fetish is getting out of control. Like an alcoholic slipping a slug of vodka into his orange juice at breakfast time and a dash of whisky into his coffee on the way to work, I’ve found beetroot weedling its way into burgers, meatball, salads, gnocchi and souffles recently. When I wake up with beetroot ice cream slathered over my chest I’ll know it’s got the better of me.
One of my favourite discoveries since moving to Sweden has been a very stylish cookery book called Aquavit by a Swede called Marcus Samuelsson with an Ethiopian background who now lives and cooks in New York. It’s full of imaginative ideas that set the mind thumping and photographs that make you want to tear off the page and serve it for supper. His recipe for roasted beets in an orange and ginger sauce set off my beetroot radar and wouldn’t let me go until I had cooked it.
Roasted Beets in Orange-Ginger Sauce – from Aquavit cookbook review on Amazon.
Serves 4 to 6
“Roasting beets on a bed of salt keeps them moist and flavorful (you can do the same with baked potatoes). Garlic roasts alongside the beets, then the soft garlic pulp is added to a tangy citrus sauce flavored with traditional Swedish seasonings.
About 2 cups coarse salt
8 medium beets, trimmed and scrubbed
2 heads garlic
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon honey
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2. Spread a layer of coarse salt on a small baking sheet and place the beets and garlic on it. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beets are fork-tender and the garlic is soft enough to squeeze out of the skin; the garlic may be done before the beets. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, combine the orange juice, stock, honey, ginger, and cardamom in a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until reduced by half. Strain the sauce into a saucepan and set aside.
4. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. Put in a medium bowl. Separate the garlic cloves, squeeze the garlic pulp out of the skins, and add to the bowl.
5. Reheat the sauce over low heat, stirring a few times, and pour the sauce over the beets. Garnish with the tarragon and serve.”
I roasted some chicken legs along side the beetroot and boiled some cracked wheat to add some ballast. It was healthy, tasty, creative and slaked my beetroot thirst for another day. The tangy orange and ginger sauce is incredibly moreish and would be a great complement to a pork chop or duck breast. And having discovered roasting beets on a bed of salt from Marcus Samuelsson, I've not cooked beetroot any other way since. It keeps them moist, full of flavour and stops them losing their colour.
Thursday, 10 February 2011
One of the reasons Brits get on so well with Gothenburgers is a shared love of the risible pun. Folk from Gothenburg will chortle with rosy cheeks and mischievous grins when they slip a cheeky double entendre into a punishing business meeting. It’s one of Gothenburg’s defining characteristics and sets it apart (so I am told by locals) from the rest of straight laced Sweden.
Whenever cartoons call for a comic character they always have a Gothenburg accent, whilst the posh protagonist tends to be from Stockholm and the rural dim wit inevitably hails from southern Sweden’s farming region. It seems like every country has their own version of the Englishman, the Irishman and the Scotsman joke.
Another of Gothenburg’s defining characteristics is a love of herring which is called “sill” on the West Coast and “strömming” on Stockholm’s East Coast. So it’s quite fitting that one evening after a long day at work I had the “sill-y” idea of creating a Gothenburg version of the Caesar salad which switched the increasingly overfished anchovy with plentiful herring. To my glee it worked far better than I had imagined and I’ve got a feeling that you could bottle this stuff and sell it up and down the West Coast to pun loving Swedes. So here is my Swedish Caesar Salad – AKA The Swaesar Salad™. I adapted a herring themed caesar salad recipe on Canada’s Food Network website.
2 table spoons of minced pickled herring without the liquid
2 cloves of garlic
2 egg yolks
Juice from half a lemon
100ml of sunflower oil
50g of hard Swedish ewe’s cheese – like Pecorino
1 Iceberg lettuce
100g of lardons
100g of böckling (hot smoked herring which isn’t unlike kippers or more accurately bloaters)
2 slices of pumpernickel cut into small squares
Swedish sheep’s cheese or alternatively Pecorino or Parmesan
Begin by whisking the egg yolks with the garlic, herring and lemon. Then add the salt and pepper. Then, as if making mayonnaise pour in the oil, in a thin, slow stream. Whisk as you go until it thickens. Taste for seasoning. It will be quite salty from the herring so don’t go mad on the white stuff. Plus you are going to add salty bacon and cheese. Put the dressing in the fridge and then when you are feeling hungry assemble your salad.
To do this cut the flappy leaves away from the lettuce and concentrate on the crunchy leaves in the centre. Give them a wash and then fry your lardons in a heavy bottomed pan along with the cubes of pumpernickel. This won’t take very long. The chocolaty brown bread will add some sweetness and crunch to the salad and give it a much more interesting flavour than the normal white bread croutons.
Dress the leaves with the Swaesar™ sauce in a large bowl and then grate the hard sheep’s cheese on top. If you can’t find a suitable Swedish cheese then Parmesan or Pecorino will do. Add the lardons, pumpernickel and chunks of bokling and tuck in.
It’s not very Swedish to speak about yourself let alone your own achievements, but I’m very proud to say that this is one of my favourite creations to date. The sauce tasted authentically like Caesar dressing but with a noticeable Swedish flavour of subtle herring which arguably makes it even more savoury than the classic dish. The pumpernickel along with the lardons does a great job of giving the dish a sweeter note that stands up to the more savoury aspect. The böckling’s smokiness then gives the whole plate an extra level of sophistication.