Currently I’m having very mixed feelings of insane pride and excitement that I want to shout out, but at the same time I’m scared of having people grow tired of my (not so very humble) bragging. As such I also didn’t really know what to choose as title for this post, because everything I tried out felt a little off. Anyhow, I’ll cut to the chase and ask you to be patient with me patting my own back (I promise you a really nice lunch recipe for tomorrow – deal?).
My book, my baby, was last week featured in the New York Times. In the New York Times?! It feels just as insane as it sounds. Still pinching myself a little in disbelief (yes I clicked the link more than many times to check that it was still there, and it is). What’s even more crazy about this story is that the book hasn’t been (to my knowledge) actively pitched to the editorial team. I, at least, have not sent them any copy. So, my conclusion here is that Florence, who is obviously my new favourite columnist, has picked up my book out of the many, many fantastic cookbooks out there. And then she liked it enough to write about it. I mean COME ON. To me it was big when I realised that was with the same UK publisher as food super-star Alison Roman. And when my best bookstore in Daikanyama, Tokyo started selling the book. But this? Side note: Florence has written 12(!) cookbooks herself.
They’re the sort of nourishing, comforting plates that are easily made and frequently feature vegetables. They’re also enjoyable to serve one or two but no more than four: perfect for troubled times in sequestered households. – NYT
When I started out writing and photographing The Japanese Table in early 2017, I could have never imagine this. That my “just for fun” project would turn into such an incredible thing. I’m so happy I spent those nights and weekends turning my idea into something real, and that I dared to send it out to publishers around the world. Because at that time it was a little nerve-wrecking, and even more so when it was release to the stores – because what would people think? Would they like it? But now I’m so proud to be able to say that I created every single part of the book. The food, the text, the photos, the design. It encapsulates so many of my memories and feelings from Japan and their kitchen. So to have it received this way, I’m at a loss of words.
To end with even more self-promotion: if you want to buy the book you can get it most places you get books (adlibris, amazon or elsewhere) and I would be so happy if you share with me when/if you try out a recipe or two, @shellsten #thejapanesetable
End of brag.
One benefit of working from home during current (bizarre) time is that I have unlimited access to my collection of tea, teapots and cups (yes, we will talk about them at some point, I’m sure). Tea is a passion of mine, and I always prefer it without milk or sweeteners. With the exception of masala chai that is. To be totally honest it wasn’t until quite recently I had a cup of real chai, and was convinced on the spot that this I something I need to reproduce. Because I’m not talking about pre-made chai powder or syrups mixed in with milk. No this requires a little more love than that but it warms you up from the inside the same way the spring sun does your skin. So without further ado.
Masala Chai recipe
about 4 cups
500 ml milk or oat milk
1-1,5 ml sugar (brown is preferable but caster works well)
2 sticks of cinnamon
2 star anise
15 green cardamon pods (not the black pods or the black seeds for this one)
1/2 tbsp dried mint leaves
2-3 cm fresh ginger, sliced
3-4 tbsp high grade black tea
Put everything into a pan, heat until boiling and boil softly for a few min, stirring to avoid the milk burning. Then lower the temperature and let rest for a few minutes. Repeat a few times, for approximately 20 min. Pour trough a sieve and either drink right away, or let cool to store in the fridge and reheat to drink. Keeps for about 2 days or so. If the flavour is too strong add plain milk to taste .
Ok. Here are some things to consume while hanging out at home this weekend. Maybe for those moment when you’re looking to entertain yourself between walks and Netflix bingeing. Also perfect reasons to stay in bed, or crawl back into it.
Stumbled upon this 1970’s 6 min video advertisement for Swedish grocery chain ICA, and it is fantastic. Love the close-ups of cheese and how pleasurable grocery shopping looked in the 1970’s (according to this polished video). Kind of makes me want ditch food delivery services and dress up for the shopping (also, going to the grocery store might be the only occasion to dress upp these days?!).
Had to buy The Best American Food Writing 2019 since it was flashing by in my feed every now and then. I’ve been getting nerdy with this one over the past few days, marker in hand and post-its ready. Just three stories in and have already both laughed and read out loud because of the fantastic writing.
Can we PLEASE talk about how much I feel the need for making another nice pot of beans. Ever since queen Carla and her team at Bon Appetit released this how to video. If anyone has a little chicken or duck fat they need to get of their hands I’m your gal.
Really feeling a renaissance of sourdough going all around these times of quarantine. Most excited about this online workshop, which one of my best friends Maya shot and edited. Convinced my bf attend it with me over the weekend.
Another tip is to head over to @frederikbillebrahe – the mastermind behind Atelier September & Apollo bar (amongst other great Copenhagen food places) – where he’s sharing some of his best recipes now people can come out to eat them but have to #stayhomecooking. Made a huge batch of his granola this week and it is the only one you’ll ever need.
Also, would love it if you join me over at Instagram @shellsten for daily scenes.
I might not have had this for breakfast today since the waffle day obliged me to follow suit, but let’s talk about waffles some other time and instead focus on this combo (I’d be exaggerating if I was to call this a recipe) which I feel is much more interesting. It came about one weekend morning last winter when I was squeezing the best out of Tokyo. The Japanese citrus fruit season was in full swing and I was trying to eat Hassaku on every possible occasion (and almost ruining myself in the process). Breakfast seemed like a good place to insert it, and so I did. With my yoghurt. Very much to my own surprise, as I’ve mixed feelings when it comes to the citrus and dairy combo. But, doubling up on on the fat (yoghurt + sesame) balanced the bitter and sour of the fruit very nicely, add a little sweet and you’re home. Eat for breakfast or even dessert. Here I swapped the Hassaku for grapefruit since I’m yet to import them. You could also add a few toasted walnuts on top without hesitation.
A nice breakfast
serves as many as you make it for
High fat yoghurt (greek, turkish, russian)
White grapefruit (any citrus works but I prefer bitter/sour over sweet in this case)
Peel the fruit by hand, including the tough-to-chew “skin” of the wedges, leaving the raw flesh exposed. Place all in a nice bowl. Eat.
*Nutty butter’s and pastes are no hard sell, so I’m sure I don’t have to convince you to try the deliciousness that is Neri goma. To put it simply, it’s a sesame paste, very similar to tahini but made with unhulled sesame seeds instead of hulled ones. Which gives you a smoother, cleaner paste which is usually quite runny. Perfect for dressings, dipping sauces – or like in this case – sweeter stuff.
Hello – and so good to be here!
These are strange times to start this blogging business, but maybe also the very best of times? Knowing that we all, now more than ever, will be in the need of a good piece of food (or distraction for that matter) I’m so excited to start sharing thoughts and photos on food with you! Albeit, a little nervous of course, since I don’t know any of you who might eventually turn up here?
When I got the question to join the other fantastic women at TWWP to write a little about food I was super flattered, but aslo a little bit at a loss. Because where do you start? Do people still read food blogs? Do I need a niche? What food do people really like to cook? Should it be personal? Recipes only? You get it. So please bear with me until I’ve figured out the recipe here (pun totally intended).
Since the ultimate point of beginning this is somewhat obscure to me at the moment, I’ll start with a fact: I love to eat good (tasting) food, and I really dislike to eat bad (tasting) food. I’m aware this might come as across as snobbish, but why go through the effort of getting produce (that such hard work went into!) and then spend (even the smallest amount of) time to make something which is – meh? I don’t get it. As much as I feel sad eating a bland dinner I’m over-joyed when there’s something extraordinarily good on the plate before me. I make funny sounds and hum embarrassingly. Like I imagine Dumbledore with a bag of lemon drops. Though, I want to make something clear from the get-go, “good food” does not mean complicated food. Rather the other way around; less is almost always more, I prefer 5 ingredients to 10, and 2 steps to 8. Cooking should be fun, at times challenging, but always pleasurable. To me it’s a way to meditate, hands moving without even thinking.
So back to the question, what does one start with? A recipe (maybe come back for that tomorrow?)? A short introduction is maybe in place? As I mentioned my name is Sofia and I’ve been cooking for fun, for what feels like forever. My favourite dish as a kid was Pasta Carbonara (and tortellini ofc). I LOVE citrus fruit. And any kind of dumpling. Also I have a weird but beautiful relationship to Japan, and their food culture – let’s talk more about that at some point. Recently I wrote and photographed a cookbook on Japanese food (which you can get here). The mandoline slicer is my best friend (and worst enemy) and I only feel really safe with a huge piece of parmesan in the fridge. Don’t know what you should do with this information but there you go. Maybe I should mention that I’m writing in English since I’d feel weird excluding some of my friends around the world, but also it’s a little bit out of habit. However, feel free to reach out in Swedish (or Japanese for that matter!).
What else do you want to know?
Sofia Hellsten, cookbook author & photographer, although main trade of work at the moment is Creative Director at podcast platform Acast. Her book “The Japanese Table – Small Plates for Simple Meals” was released fall of 2019. This will with some probability be a space with recipes of simple (but GOOD) food, a constant quest for the perfect breakfast or just some good old inspiration to life’s important details – flavour and form. Based in Stockholm, but always longing for Japan.