Sunday, 15 April 2012

Quick lunch at Natural kitchen

Teriyaki salmon with butternut squash, Greek salad and mange tout

I had a great weekend in a mostly sunny London. Saturday was one of those days when you have no idea what to wear, I had both sun glasses and umbrella with me, and a cardigan, and ended needing all of them at some point. Though I did lose my cardigan somewhere when bar hopping in Angel later. Can live with losing the cardigan, but quite sad that I also lost my favourite scarf :( I really need to get better on keeping track of my possessions!

Earlier on Saturday I managed to go to the gym and then went for a quick lunch on Marylebone high street. I went to Natural kitchen, which is a combination of deli and cafe, and ordered from their counter on the ground floor. At Natural kitchen, they have a long counter with loads of different salads, quiches, chicken and salmon to choose from. You can also order from a selection of cakes and drinks at the counter, and then take a seat at one of their tables. Upstairs they have a more formal cafe with table service.

I got teriyaki salmon with three different salads, butternut squash with pine nuts and sage, Greek salad with tomatoes and feta, and mange tout and green beans with Parmesan cheese. The salmon was tasty, and the salads were yummy as well, in particular the one with butternut squash. To drink, I ordered a refreshing kiwi, apple and mint smoothie, and cafe latte. All together for £14, which I though was pretty reasonable.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Smoked salmon mousse canapes

For the Easter celebrations, I did a smoked salmon mousse served on crostini as canapes. To me this is a very Scandinavian dish, with a traditional combination of smoked salmon, dill and lemon. To make it more festive, you can top the canapes with caviar, I used red caviar, which comes from lumpfish (stenbit), and sea roe, which comes from the capelin fish (lodda). In Sweden, you can buy jars of different types of caviar in every supermarket and it is used in a lot of different seafood dishes. The most common type of caviar sold in Sweden though is smoked cod roe, this is sold in tubes (Kalles kaviar) and a popular spread on crisp bread or on boiled eggs. I love Kalles kaviar, I can eat it as it is directly from the tube... It is one of the things I really can get serious cravings for.

In the UK, caviar is not as common, I usually only find the red or black from lumpfish at Waitrose, or I buy it from one of the Swedish shops, Scandinavian kitchen or Totally Swedish. Not everyone I served caviar to has really liked it though, I remember once when I still worked at KCL, when to celebrate finally publishing a paper, I brought cava and canapes with red caviar to work. The only people that really liked it where from Luxembourg, Russia, Scandinavia and France....

Anyhow, caviar is delicious, and if you get a chance you should try it. However it's actually not an ingredient in this salmon mousse, so don't worry if you're not a caviar fiend. This is an incredibly quick and easy festive dish, done in minutes.

Smoked salmon mousse canapes (around 30)
200 g smoked salmon, finely chopped/minced
150 g philadelphia cheese
0.5 dl creme fraiche
1 dl dill, finely chopped
0.5 dl chives, finely chopped
0.5-1 lemon, juice and zest
1 small pinch of chili flakes or cayenne pepper, or a few drops of Tabasco sauce
1 pinch of black pepper

Stir together the smoked salmon, soft cheese, creme fraiche and herbs. If you want a smoother texture and pinker colour, you can mix it using stick blender but I like it a bit coarser

Add chili flakes/cayenne/Tabasco and black pepper, and the zest from half a lemon and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste, and add more lemon, salt, and pepper if necessary

Serve on for example crostini or crackers, or you could serve this on crisp lettuce leaves as well. Garnish with caviar, dill, chives, slices of smoked salmon or lemon

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Imaginative brunch at Providores

Chorizo with sweet potato, egg, garlic labne
and star anise cashew nut praline

Providores at Marylebone high street is by far one of my favourite places to eat brunch, and is considered by many as one the best places for brunch in London. They have a lot of interesting dishes with influences from all of the world, like Turkish eggs with yoghurt and chili butter, but also traditional fry-ups. A word of advice though, if you want to have brunch when they open at 10 am on weekends, you better get there before they open, as it is very popular and fill up quickly.

I last went to Providores a couple of weeks ago, and had a beautiful plate of grilled chorizo with sweet potato and miso hash, a soft boiled egg, garlic labne and star anise cashew nut praline. It sounds a bit weird but worked very well. The star anise praline added an interesting dimension to the dish, giving it a bit of crunch and a sweet yet salty aniseed flavour. The hash though was more like a mash. A very nice mash, but I guess I was looking forward to more of hash or hash brown with a crunchier texture. It was still very tasty, and an excellent start to the weekend together with a nice cup of flat white coffee.

Asparagus, egg, and spinach on toasted cornbread

My company choose a dish with British asparagus, egg, and spinach on toasted cornbread that went down very well, but a dish of sweet potato tortilla with feta and urfa chili yoghurt was a slightly disappointing as it was served cold. As this was quite a chilly morning with a light drizzle, it was not the right dish for the day.

Tortilla with sweet potato and feta

Anyhow, if you want a brunch with imaginative dishes, I recommend a visit to Providores. They also do amazing tapas in the evening, but if you want to go to the tapa room on the ground floor, where the brunch is also served, you might have to queue for awhile unless you arrive early. Upstairs, in their dining room, they also serve tapas and larger dishes, and it is possible to reserve a table there.

Mussels with garlic, chili and bacon

I know it's a bit late to now, in beginning of April, to write about new years resolutions, but better late then never. One of my resolutions this year is to cook more things I rarely or never cook, and to be honest, this may be the only resolution I have any chance of fulfilling...

I feel like a need a bit of a challenge, and hope this will give me a chance to improve as a cook. Among the things I wanted to try is spare ribs, that I did for the first time earlier this year (Korean spare ribs), and other dishes include mussels, squid, duck, quail, pate, crab, and souffle.

First out after the spareribs was mussels. I love mussels, but I hardly ever cook them. Stupid really, because they cook really quickly, are cheap and delicious. I decided to do a version of the classic moules mariniere with an addition of smokey bacon and a little heat from red chili. The result was so tasty that I vowed to cook a lot more mussels during this year!

Mussels with garlic, chili and bacon (serves 2)
1 kg of mussels, cleaned
3 rashers of smoked bacon, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chili, finely chopped
1 dl white wine
0.5 dl single cream
1 handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil

First clean the mussels under running cold water and remove the beards/barnacles. Discard all open mussels unless they close directly when you tap on the shell.

In a large pot, heat up the olive oil and saute garlic, chili and bacon for a couple of minutes on high heat.

Add the mussels, wine and cream, and cover the pot with a lid.

Steam the mussels for 3-4 min. Stir the mussels after 2 min of steaming.

Stir in the parsley. Discard any mussels that are not fully open.

Serve in large bowls with the broth and fresh bread.

Smaklig måltid!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Fantastic dinner at Roti Chai

From front to back: Thoran, hyderbadi haleem, chicken chaat

A couple of weekends ago I went to Roti Chai, an Indian restaurant close to Marble arch, with my sister and brother in law. They are also fellow foodies, and whenever they come over to London I try to find interesting new places for us to eat. I had read a lot of good reviews of Roti Chai, and the restaurant more than delivered. The food was amazing, the service was good, and it was a nice venue with a lively atmosphere, I really recommend a visit!

The restaurant has a bar and seating area on the ground level for their street food inspired dishes, and below that a dining room with a more extensive menu. We went to the dining room, and realized we were quite lucky to manage to book a table that same very day, as the restaurant filled up quickly. On the menu they have small plates of street food inspired dishes, that you can either have as a starter or combine in the manner of tapas, main courses from different Indian regions, and a couple of desserts.

When we went there was on offer as part of the London restaurant fortnight, with a cocktail, starter, main and dessert for £25. We all choose to take the set menu, and as you could choose between four different starters and mains, we all took different ones so that we could share all of them between us. As I had read a lot of positive comments regarding their chicken 65, a common Indian street food dish with spicy chicken, we also ordered that.

Chicken 65, coconut and guava bellini

We started with a coconut and guava bellini which was tasty with a light coconut flavour. The cocktail list was amazing, and I'll definitely will go back just to try more of their cocktails. The starters we ordered, in addition to the chicken 65, was chicken chaat, a tandoori style chicken dish, crispy thoran, a dish with stir fried curried vegetables, and hyderbadi haleem, a stew of pounded wheat and lamb. All dishes were divine! The Chicken 65 carried a serious punch of chili heat, the chicken chaat was light and with zesty citrus kick, the vegetables in the thoran were so light and crispy with a lovely curry flavour, and the hyderbadi haleem, a dish I never had before, had a light cardamon flavour and a creamy, almost cheesy texture. It was a great start to the meal!

Front: Rajma chicken, chicken ishtu, spicy potatoe wedges
Back: Roti and naan, tarka dahl, Keralan fish kary

Next we had ordered three mains, Keralan fish kary, rajma chicken and chicken ishtu. These were served with steamed rice, roti, and we also ordered a garlic naan. In addition, we got two more dishes as compliments from the kitchen, spicy fried potato wedges, and possibly the best yellow lentil tarka dahl I have ever had. Seriously, I could just have had that tarka dahl and I would have been happy. The Keralan fish curry had a light coconut and curry flavour, very tasty. The rajma chicken was a stew of chicken and red kidney beans, flavoured with cardamon and cinnamon, delicious! Again something I haven't had before. The chicken ishtu was a chicken coconut stew, with a light flavour of ginger, curry and anise, also very good. I need to also mention the bread, the cumin flavoured roti and the garlic naan were all very very good, light and not greasy.

Chai creme brulee

After all that, we were all groaning after eating far more food than we should. But how could we not? The food was so yummy! Somehow we still managed to find space for dessert though, a lovely silky chai flavoured creme brulee. It was a great finish to an amazing meal. I will definitely go back, for a full meal or just for a couple of cocktails and small plates of street food inspired dishes.

Artichoke and feta dip

I don't know how you feel when you leave work, but I'm usually starving. In fact, I would say that I'm pretty ready at that stage to do almost anything for something to eat. And I hate anyone who gets on the train with food (I'm talking to you, blonde girl who gets on in Harrow with a hamburger every night!), because I so envy them.

This is the worst time for me when it comes to trying to eat healthily, as I have absolutely no will power when I'm hungry and it is so easy to buy some nuts, a muffin or crisps on my way home. I've tried taking fruit with me to eat on the train home, but find that it doesn't really satisfy me, and for awhile I've instead brought mini houmus pots and some vegetables.

I really like houmus, I do, but recently I find it quite boring, and the full fat one is quite heavy on the calories anyway. The broccoli dip I posted about quite recently is an attempt at getting away from houmus, but it's really best when freshly made, so not ideal for me as I like to be able to do a batch and use it for a week.
Check Spelling
So I needed to come up with something new. A dip that would be salty, savoury, easy to make, and could be done as a batch. The solution was this artichoke and feta cheese dip. It is not pretty, to cite my friend Sigrid - the winner of Swedish Masterchef, 'I do ugly food that tastes good'. So no, it won't win any beauty contests, but wow, does it taste good! This is definitely my new favourite dip. Great as a dip for vegetables, and also as a spread on bread. You could also have it on crostini and serve as canapes.

Artichoke and feta dip
180 g of grilled artichokes
100 g feta cheese
2 tbsps quark (or you could use cream cheese, sour cream or creme fraiche)
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp lemon juice
0.5 tsp honey
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 pinch chili flakes

Mix all the ingredients, I used a stick blender

Taste, and add more lemon or spices if needed

Serve as a dip for vegetables or as a spread on bread

Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, it will last up to one week (well, it can be stored that long, but if you're like me, it really won't last that long...)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Salty licorice chocolate truffles

Hi, my name is Saga and I'm addicted to salty licorice.

Salty licorice is hugely popular in Scandinavia, and it is by far my favourite type of sweets. I really do get cravings for it, and I cannot have it at home without devouring it immediately. Anytime anyone comes to visit me from Scandinavia, they have to bring salty licorice to me. When the cravings gets to bad, I also usually go to Scandinavian kitchen at Great Titchfield st or Totally Swedish on Crawford st for a hit. Cyber candy in Angel and Covent garden also have salty licorice, but the most impressive store is a new sweets shop in Covent garden on Long Acre, Sugar sin. It is owned by two Swedish sisters, and they have an impressive range of Scandinavian sweets that you can pick n mix. The shop is so cute, with old-fashioned sweets jars. I highly recommend a visit if you like sweets, and in particular if you share my addiction of salty licorice.

Sugar Sin. Picture borrowed from Hop Interiors, where you can see more pics and read an interview with the owners of Sugar Sin.

I love the combination of salty licorice and chocolate, it is a match made in heaven combining to great things into one! My favourite one is Fazer's Salmiakki, with a soft salty licorice centre encased in milk chocolate. Marabou Black, with milk chocolate and splinters of salty licorice, is pretty good too. Inspired by these two, I decided to try to make my own chocolate truffles with salty licorice. After a quick googling I found a recipe at Söta saker, that I tweaked by adding milk chocolate and adding more salty licorice. The result was delicious! I will definitely make these again.

Salty licorice chocolate truffles (20 truffles)
100 g milk chocolate, chopped
100 g 60% dark chocolate, chopped
1 dl double cream
1-1.5 dl salty licorice (I used Turkisk peppar), crushed

Start by splintering the salty licorice. Place the salty licorice caramels into double plastic bags, and place onto a tea towel. Using a hammer, crush the caramels. You want a quite coarse powder with some larger pieces.

Heat up the cream, and pour into a bowl over the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has completely melted and you have a soft even mix

Stir in the salty licorice. Reserve 1-2 tsp of the finer powder for decoration. How much salty licorice to add is a matter of taste, I added quite a lot.

Pour the truffle mix into a small square tray lined with baking paper. The truffle mix should be approx 1 cm high.

Sprinkle with the licorice powder, then leave the tray in the fridge for about one hour

Transfer the now hardened truffle to a cutting board and remove the paper. Using a sharp knife, cut it into 2 x 2 cm square truffles

Store in the fridge until serving

Lemon curd chocolate truffles

This Easter have been very food orientated, went to two Easter dinners two days in a row for example, and really indulged in heaps of delicious food. For the first dinner, I made white chocolate and lemon curd truffles, and they were a definite hit. My only creative streak is cooking, as was very clear when we during the party played the boardgame Cranium... As part of the game, I had to try to make a microscope out of clay, you would think with me being a scientist that would be easy, but I so failed at that. Very embarrassing.

Anyhow, this is an incredibly easy recipe, and the result is amazing. Soft lemony centres encased with white chocolate, yummy! I used Sainsbury's Taste the difference lemon curd (my preferred ready made one) as I didn't have a lot of time, but of course the truffles may be even better with homemade curd. Something I really would like to try is to do the same with blood orange curd or rhubarb curd, I think that would be really lovely too.

For the white chocolate encasing the centres, I used white chocolate chips. These melt at a higher temperature, and thus doesn't melt as easily in room temperature, making it easier to serve and eat the truffles

Lemon curd chocolate truffles (20 truffles)
200 g white chocolate (I used Green & Black's), chopped
1 dl lemon curd
1 tbsp double cream
200 g white chocolate chips

Melt the white chocolate. I usually melt chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave the following way and find that it usually gives a perfect result without burning the chocolate: Start with 1 min at full effect, stir the chocolate, and then stir every 10-15 sec at full effect until completely melted

Stir in the double cream.

Stir in the lemon curd, one tablespoon at the time, until you have smooth glossy mixture.

Leave the filling in the freezer for 1 h

Using a melon scoop or a teaspoon, take out balls of the filling and use your hands to shape them further into spheres. This is quite messy to do, try to work as quickly as possible to avoid the filling to become to soft and start melting

Put the chocolate/lemon curd balls back in the freezer for 1 h to harden before dipping them in white chocolate

Melt the white chocolate chips.

Stick a toothpick into each lemon curd ball, and dip them into the melted chocolate. Leave on a sheet of baking paper to harden.

Store in the freezer or fridge until serving