Friday 29 August 2008

swedish crayfish party

Here is yet another Swedish post from our recent travels.

This time I am writing about something very dear to the Swedish heart, and something very seasonal, since the activity takes place in August.


That translates to “crayfish party” and is one of the most delicious and humorous cultural experiences you can have in Sweden.

The basis of the party is to eat as much crayfish as you possibly can, drink snaps (no, not schnapps. I’m talking about akvavit), sing songs and have a great time. Who can say no to such fun?

The table is laden with crayfish, boiled in a dill infused broth, then served room temperature alongside is beer, bread and delicious Västerbotten cheese (strong, like parmesan). But the most interesting part for foreigners is the multitude of drinking songs that the Swedes have as an excuse to take another sip/shot of akvavit.

Every 10 minutes or so will see the party break out in singing. And once you start understanding the words, you will be shocked at how dirty they can be! Men, woman and children of all ages singing about things you wouldn’t utter out loud in normal circumstances. It’s great!

But don’t make the mistake of many first timers and drink down every shot after each song. The Swedish word “skål” means “cheers” not “drain your cup”. If you do take the whole shot you can be sure your host will politely top you up again so be careful, the alcohol is around 40%.

On the 1st of August this year, we celebrated the crayfish season with our own little party where my sister, Stinky, was able to attend. Jonas’ father and stepmother hosted us in their Kungsängen home, where we sat in the garden, overlooking Lake Mälaren, and ate kilograms of crayfish.

Jonas’ father, Staffan, prepared the broth (or lag) and it was flavoured with the traditional herb: krondill or crown dill.

Kräftor i Lag (Crayfish in Broth)
Serves 2 as main or 4 as entrée. Recipe by Bonniers Stora Kokbok.

2 litres water
750ml coarse salt
1 sugar cube
1 small yellow onion
100ml bitter porter
2-6 bunches crown dill
1kg crayfish


1. Boil all the ingredients (except the crayfish) together for 10 minutes.

2. Add the crayfish and remove when they float.

3. Cool crayfish and broth separately.

4. When they are cool, combine again until just before serving.

5. To eat, drain crayfish and serve on a platter decorated with crown dill.

Swedes are obsessed with dill. It’s in absolutely everything. Everything!

If you don’t like aniseed or liquorice-type flavours, then Sweden is not the place for you. People there seem to love that flavour over all others.

In Australia, children pick out the black (aka liquorice) lollies/candies in disgust whereas Swedish children actively seek out liquorice, and salty types at that. It’s perverse to me.

Crown dill is regular dill that’s flowered. But regardless of Sweden’s overuse of dill, I must admit that crown dill is pretty special because is usually only used in crayfish recipes and a few special pickles.

August is the time when the dill flowers and the crayfish season, so people have always cooked the two together.

Since we’re on a seafood theme, I thought I'd include in this post my photos of the Swedish West Coast where Jonas and I went sailing with his mother, stepfather and little sister.

Despite my initial paranoias of seasickness and Titanic-like accidents, it was absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed myself so much. Can’t wait to go again!

We joined them in a port near Ucklum and sailed onto Björholmen for the night.

The next day we had an amazing seafood lunch on the boat at Gullholmen and then sailed to Stora Kornön, a gorgeously quaint little fishing island with rickety old buildings and great granite mountains and rock deposits left over from ancient glaciers.

The following day we visited the famous party town of Smögen, which was overrun with tourists from Denmark, Norway and the UK. It was lively, but way too crowded and touristy. It’s a shame because it really did look like a pretty little town.

That afternoon we sailed up Sotenkanalen (canal) and then moored for two nights in the lovely Hunnebostrand. Here we barbecued mackerel that we caught ourselves and explored the various rock mountains and harbours. It was just wonderful.

If you ever have the chance to spend some summer days sailing the Swedish West Coast I highly recommend it.

That's it from me. Without further ado I refer you over to one of my fav ladies in the blogging scene, the wonderful Katie from Thyme for Cooking for the Weekend Herb Blogging round-up.


Tuesday 26 August 2008

glacé apricot, chocolate & poppy seed cupcakes

I love glacé fruit, especially apricots and peaches. There's something so exquisite about the rich, stickiness that I just had to try out my own little cupcake recipe.

I love apricot and chocolate combinations, and poppy seeds always add an interesting nuttiness, so here's what I came up with for my entry to Meeta's Monthly Mingle, where the theme this month is Fruit & Chocolate.

Hope you enjoy them!

Glacé Apricot, Chocolate & Poppy Seed Cupcakes
Anna’s very own recipe. Makes 12.
1½ cups (220g) self raising flour
100g melted chocolate, 70% cocoa
150g softened butter
2/3 cup (150g) sugar
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons black poppy seeds
110g glacé apricots, finely chopped
100g cream cheese
2½ tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons icing sugar
Glacé apricots, to decorate
1. Soak poppy seeds in milk for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 180’C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cupcake cases.
3. Beat sugar and butter until pale and fluffy.
4. Beat in eggs, melted chocolate and poppy seed and milk mixture.
5. Gently stir through flour and glacé apricots until just combined. Over mixing will create a dense cake.
6. Spoon mixture evenly between cupcake cases, making sure some glacé apricot pieces are in each one.
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
8. When completely cool, make icing by beating together cream cheese, apricot jam and icing sugar.
9. Refrigerate icing for 10 minutes to harden a little then beat again and spread over cupcakes. Decorate with glacé apricots.

Some of my other fruit & chocolate combinations include:
Apricot & Chocolate Tart
Cassata Gelata
Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding
Chocolate Raspberry Truffles
Chocolate Ricotta Mousse w Macerated Strawberries
Muhallabiah & White Chocolate Mousse w Pomegranate Salsa
Ricotta, Strawberry & Choc-Chip Muffins
Schwarzwälderkirschtorte (black forest cake)
Strawberry, White Chocolate & Almond Cannoli


Sunday 24 August 2008

glasört & smör

Glasört? Smör? What the heck are those?

Well, they are both Swedish words.

Glasört is a type of coastal succulent also known in English as salicorne, glasswort, pickleweed, sea beans or samphire.

Smör is the Swedish word for butter, so if you guessed this post is about tossing fresh samphire in a little butter, then you were spot on!

In the 1960s, Jonas’ admiral grandfather secured the lease to an idyllic property near an important naval base in the south of Stockholm’s archipelago on the island of Muskö. The family built a cute little stuga (cottage) and the lease has stayed in the family ever since, with generations experiencing summers in this very Swedish location.

The house is at the end of a winding forest pathway and overlooks a beautiful point with a small beach, jetty and forest garden filled with wild blueberry, raspberry and lingon bushes.

It’s a heavenly location but the accommodation is basic with no electric lighting and no hot water. Drinking water is pumped from a nearby lake, the toilet is a bucket in an outhouse and the shower is the sea.

We spent four wonderful days there, lazing in the sun, swimming in the Baltic Sea, drinking Gimlets and cooking over the fire. It was 30’C days, blue skies and the sun set at around 10pm every night. Bliss.

It was at Muskö that I made this basic side dish of samphire, which suited our location and provided a burst of salt while we ate on the beach. Not everyone liked it (Christian and Jonas found it very salty) but Helena and I enjoyed the texture and flavour.

I would certainly eat it again. And again. It’s my new favourite thing. Just writing about it is conjuring memories of the crunchy, salty fronds. I’m salivating!

My recipe is slapdash and rustic but it’s not at all complicated. The only thing to remember is don’t use any salt. No salt in the water. No salt on the greens. Samphire is so salty on its own that anything additional will take it over the top.

Glasört & Smör

Anna’s very own recipe.

Bunch of samphire
Knob of butter (or olive oil)
Freshly milled pepper
Lemon wedge


1. Pick over the samphire and make sure all pieces are firm and crunchy. Remove any soft ends.

2. Bring a pot of water to the boil.

3. Throw in the samphire and blanch for 1-2 minutes, depending on how much you’re making. Less time in the water is best. You want it very crunchy.

4. Drain, toss with butter and fresh pepper.

5. Sprinkle with some lemon juice and serve warm or cool.

As this is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Srivalli from Cooking 4 All Seasons, I thought I’d also include photos of Muskö to share with you some of the beauty and peacefulness we experienced.

Samphire is a succulent that grows in coastal areas, beaches, mangroves and along salty flats. A little confusingly, samphire is used to describe a few different yet all edible plants. In my case I’m referring to marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea) however rock samphire is also eaten.

Salicornia are native to the USA, Europe, South Africa and South Asia and, while there are said be over 60 species, the most commonly eaten is Salicornia europaea.

It has a woody base but the succulent, fleshy summer leaves are green and juicy, with a real salty burst of flavour similar to asparagus and artichoke. They are best eaten before the plant flowers and the leaves turn red in autumn.

The word samphire is a corruption of the French "Saint Pierre" because St Peter was the patron saint of fishermen, but marsh samphire was known in Old English as glasswort because the ashes were used to make soda ash (Sodium carbonate) for industrial soap and glass production. Clearly the Swedish name glasört has the same industrially-related origins.

Samphire is most commonly eaten pickled or simply dressed as part of a salad. It is served raw or lightly blanched and is an excellent accompaniment to seafood dishes, naturally.

Other samphire recipes:
Pickled Samphire
Salt Marsh Lamb, Samphire & Broad Beans
Crab & Samphire Risotto
Samphire Sauce
Warm Salad of Samphire, Asparagus & Crab
Fennel & Samphire Fishcakes
Barbequed Rock Lobster w Samphire
Hake in Agrodolce w Samphire
Marron & Samphire

If you’re curious for more Sweden-related recipes, or just like looking at our recent holiday photos, there are more to come! In the meantime check out:
Tokyo food
Swedish countryside photos & Pytt i Panna recipe
Thai rose apples


Thursday 21 August 2008

eating my way through tokyo

Tokyo was amazing. We tried (and saw) so many deliciously intriguing foods and I ate some of the best tuna sashimi my tongue has ever had the pleasure to embrace.

But it wasn't just the food of Tokyo that won us over: the Japanese people were so kind and friendly that we felt safe and welcome everywhere we went. People were so helpful even if they couldn't speak English and we certainly couldn't speak Japanese!!!

Jonas and I have decided that we definitely want to return to Japan (and soon)! We want to spend more time devouring ramen and miso and venture to Kyoto, the Yamagata area and down into the south of Honshu and even Kyushu.

But, in the meantime, we can salivate over our most recent memories . . .

Great sashimi: fatty tuna, mackerel and octopus.

Ito Konnyaku: sliced gel made from the starchy corm of a perennial plant known as konnyaku, konjaku, konjac, devil's tongue, voodoo lily, snake palm or elephant yam.

Udon noodles in a light broth with shredded beef.

Red bean dessert pudding with berries and cereal.

Tempura mizuna (lettuce) and other veggies.

Corn ice tea

A tomato based Japanese curry with brown rice.

Wagyu slices for shabu-shabu

Kibi-Dango are sweet millet dumplings, flavoured with things such as green tea, then rolled in soybean flour. They are street desserts from the Edo period (1603-1868).

Soba noodles doused in a cold sesame dressing.

Bontio sashimi & a yuzu chuhai (sake based cocktail)

Everywhere little dessert shops sell jelly and custard treats.

Fruit and vegetables are treated like gold and some of the best produce are sold in boxes as gifts.

Japanese beer!

One of the many milky drinks Japan excels at. This one is strawberry.

Miso drenched vegetables and seafood

Deep fried soft buns filled with sweet red bean paste.

Chicken gizzard skewers

Well, I hope you found all that interesting. We sure did!

Monday 18 August 2008

pytt i panna

Anundshög viking burial ground, Uppland

Known in English as a Swedish hash or hodge-potch, pytt i panna is the Swedish answer to using up all the leftovers in your fridge.

It’s a perfect lunch meal consisting mainly of potatoes, onions and meat: sausages, steak, ham or whatever you have on hand. It's often served with a fried egg and pickles, to cut through the fry-up, such as beetroot or gherkins.

In fact pytt i panna has become such a Swedish institution that these days you don’t even need leftovers because you can buy pre-cubed meat and potatoes in the supermarket freezer aisle or make the dish from scratch from prime cuts. There are even vegan versions available.

This is one of the meals that Jonas and I always make when we're in Sweden. It's traditionally served for lunch, but I also enjoy it as a hearty breakfast.

Pytt i Panna

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4 for lunch.

2 ½ cups diced boiled potatoes
2 ½ cups diced leftover meat (steak, sausages, ham)
1 cup onions, finely sliced
Butter, for frying
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 eggs, fried
Pickled beetroot, served separately


1. Melt some butter in a frying pan.

2. Fry onions until soft and golden. Using a slotted spoon to retain the melted better, remove onions from pan.
3. Add potatoes to pan and fry until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Add meat and cooked onions to pan and heat through, being careful not to break up potatoes.

5. Serve hot with freshly fried egg and beetroot on the side.


Since this is a Swedish recipe using earthy products, I thought I'd share some of our photos of the Swedish countryside. I'll post more themed photos with other recipes over the coming weeks.

Medieval houses near Gökholmen Slott, Närke

Alvastra Cloister ruins, Östergötland

Håtuna Kyrka, Uppland

Tiveden National Park, bordering Närke & Västergötland

Trollhättan falls, Västergötland

country avenue in Närke


Saturday 16 August 2008

munching rose apples in thailand

I’m back!

After 35 days overseas I am glad to be home and even happier to be blogging again.

It was a whirlwind holiday with the longest stay in one place being 4 nights. I guess that’s what happens when Jonas hasn’t been home for five years and we have to catch up with everyone.

First there were 3 days in Tokyo, then in Sweden we visited Göteborg, went sailing on the Swedish West Coast, relaxed on the island of Muskö in the Stockholm archipelago, Stockholm, Västra Gotland’s capital Vänersborg and then a road trip through Västergötland, Närke, Västmanland, Östergötland and Småland and finally 3 days in Bangkok.

We’re pretty tired but over the next few weeks I certainly plan to share some photos of the food and scenery we experienced.

For my first Weekend Herb Blogging in five weeks I’m focusing on the delicious chom phu, a fruit I tried in Thailand.

Syzygium jambos (syn. Eugenia jambos, Jambosa jambos), also known in English as a rose apple, Malay apple and a Malabar plum, are fruits that can also be pale green or yellow and are part of the myrtle family. They are also known by the names appelroos, champakka, chom pu, chom-phu, jaman, jambeiro, jambo amarelo, jambosier, jambu, pomarrosa, pommeroos and yambo.

The fruit tasted pleasant, and yet quite strange. It had a very thin, waxy skin and the flavour was fresh, a cross between apple, pear and something almost spicy. I found a description that summed it all up perfectly: “The flesh is crisp and watery, and tastes like a cross between nashi and bell pepper, with a very mild rose scent and a slightly bitter aftertaste.”

They aren't really related to apples at all, but I guess the crisp texture is so similar people can't help but compare.

The centre contains fluffy fibres, like an artichoke, which are inedible and best avoided.

Most sources claim the fruit is native to South East Asia, but became so common in Ancient India that the Sanskrit name for the Indian territories was Jambudvipa, meaning "rose apple land". Rose apples thrive in many environments and are serious ecological threats on the Hawaiian islands, Réunion and the Galápagos Islands as well as parts of Australia and Central America.

Rose apple fruits work very well in jams and jellies, can be turned into syrup to flavour drinks, stewed with cinnamon as a dessert or even stuffed with meat and baked in tomato sauce for a main course. The fruits, however, are very easily bruised and highly perishable so they are usually picked locally to ensure they are sold crisp.

Our host for WHB this week is Serbian blogger Marija from Palachinka, so be sure to visit her round-up.

In the meantime I hope I've whet your appetites to return over the next few weeks and check out all the food we tried on the trip.


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