Back from summer vacation. Sitting infront of the screen again comes with mixed feelings. An inexplicable blues, side by side with the relief that comes with getting back into routines. I don’t know about you but I have to take deep breaths upon facing the fact that also the fall will be spent mostly wfh (held onto the naive wish I’d at least be partly working from the office again) Either way, the best screen experience since getting back was flipping through a few rolls from this spring/summer that I developed. Too many to share them all in one go so I’d thought I’d start with a few from our trek up north. We walked the most southern part of Kungsleden (The King’s Road) from Hemavan to Ammarnäs. Despite forecasts of days and days of rain we enjoyed a week of mostly sun and pleasant winds. Oh I love the mountains. Always feel a little bit like Julie Andrews in Sound of music (minus perfectly styled hair and long skirts). I got mountain FOMO on our way down the last section of the trail, so we turned around and walked back up for another 24h on the mountain side. Impeccable decision. So here goes, a selection of 35mm.
Excerpt from The Japanese Table – Small Plates for Simple Meals
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
½ teaspooon white sweet miso
2 tablespoons water
⅓ teaspoon dashi powder
1 tablespoon butter
2 slices of white bread
1 leaf of crispy lettuce
Start by mixing the mayonnaise with the miso and set aside.
Cut the crusts off the bread and rinse the salad in cold water. Set aside while you cook the egg.
Whisk together eggs, water and dashi powder in a bowl. Heat a frying pan (skillet) over a low heat, add the butter and leave it to melt, then pour in the egg mixture. Let the egg set a little, then push the edges in towards the middle and tilt the pan so that the liquid spreads evenly over the base of the pan. Repeat until the egg is almost set, then fold the sides gently towards the middle so that you get a squarish shape. Turn the omelette over and fry swiftly on the other side. Set aside on a plate.
Toast the bread lightly and spread the mayonnaise on both pieces of bread. Place the lettuce on the bread and put the egg in the middle. Cut in half and serve with a good cup of pour over coffee
If you buy mayonnaise I highly recommend the Japanese Kewpie. I can’t really explain why, but the flavour is really something different from your regular store-bought mayonnaise. You will want to put it on everything, I promise.
Long time no see. I’ve been overwhelmed by screen time and window renovations over the past few week. Spending very little time in the apartment, and even less time in the kitchen (as it has been unplesantly encapsulated – letting in neither light nor sight). But let’s not dwell on that but get onto this lill’ spritzy drink.
Right now is peak elderflower (very soon to be over) and last week I made some customary cordial. Now given that we’ve been struck by a wave of heat I (who normally is a proponent of warm drinks) have been craving only the coolest of cool. Usually I’m somewhat of a purist when it comes to Matcha in it’s liquid shape – however I was reminded of a matcha/beer drink I once had in Tokyo and this sparked this idea of adding some seasonal sparkle to the matcha.
1/2 tbsp matcha powder
30 ml water
2 tbsp elderflower cordial
150 ml sparkling water
Sift the matcha into a bowl and add the water. Whisk together until no lumps remain (preferably with a chasen if you own one). Place ice and cordial into a glass, pour in the sparkling water and then the whisked matcha.
A simple spring lunch, or light and bright dinner.
one portion somen (90g)
other spring green of your choice
dipping sauce (measurements are very approximate – taste it!)
sesame paste (2 tbsp)
dashi (100 ml)*
soy sauce (1-2 tbsp)
rice vineagar (1 tbsp)
mirin (1 tbsp)
Julienne the greens or slice in bite sized pieces. Whisk together the ingredients for the dipping sauce. Cook the somen and chill immediately in running cold water. Blanc the asparagus in saltet water and chill at once. Place the vegetables on the noodles and the dipping sauce in a small bowl. When eating dip noodles and greens in the sauce before slurping!
*either use powdered or “teabag” version if you can get hold of it, boil with water and let cool. Or make your own: soak konbu (4x4cm) in 500 ml water for 30 min. Slowly bring to an almost boil, remove from heat and add a large handful of bonit flakes. Let soak for another 15 min. Strain and salte to taste. Leave to cool, keeps in the fridge for a couple of days – use for eg. miso soup or other noodle sauces/soups.
(If you’re looking for a more classic Somen recipe I have one in my book The Japanese Table which you can order where you get books)
Right now is my favourite time of year. Nature is bursting everywhere and nights are still getting longer. I start every morning with a swim, taking long, deep breaths. Bird cherry blossoms (Hägg) are filling the air with the scent of spring all over Stockholm, and one of the zen moments I had this weekend was making use of these wonderful flowers. Carefully cutting off one flower at a time to place in a jar with vinegar – to use for salads over the coming months. A little bit of spring to keep in a bottle.
The past week has also been filled with much longed for conversations with friends and birthday celebrations lined with great (albeit limited) company and food. Even though social encounters are still limited and restricted it feels fantastic to be able to alternate at home time infront of the computer with seeing someone dear face to face.
one small bottle
3o bunches of bird cherry blossoms
250 ml vinegar (white wine or apple cider)
As the bird cherry tree wood and bark is poisonous be careful to cut away the flowers from the stem, right where the green is turning white. Place the flowers in a clean jar and pour the vinegar on top. With a spoon or fork carefully push the flowers down to be covered by the vinegar. If you jar doesn’t have a laid “pushing down” the flowers making sure they are covered by vinegar you can place a plastic bag inside the jar, filled wth air to make sure the flowers are held down and covered by the liquid. Leave in the fridge for 5 days and then strain. Use the flowers on any vegetable or fish dish, and keep the vingar in a bottle for dressings.
Frankly, I’ve been getting used to short weeks and long weekends lately (perks of spring in Sweden are all the national holidays that are lined up), so these two past days went by so quickly. Lingering by the breakfast table to make it feel lite time is passing more slowly, walking at a very unhurried pace to let the mind and eye rest in the environment.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon in the kitchen pickling cucumbers (will let you know in a week how that turns out), prepping a dough for Sunday morning bake off and cooking the apricot marmalade you find below. Ended up not having any energy or inspiration to cook dinner for myself so went for a classic “vegetable tray in very hot oven”, can recommend nevertheless. The marmalade is really a very easy feat, and you’ll have it ready in no time. It will give you this jar of creamy goodness. Smooth and bright both on the eye and the palate. Great as a present or just when you feel like adding something sweet to the Sunday breakfast spread. Scroll for recipe.
one jar of marmalade
1 apple, peeled (can be swapped for a few more apricots)
2 dl sugar
1 dl jam sugar
1/4 tsp burbon vanilla powder
1-2 star anise
Wash the fruit, peel the apple and cut in small pieces. Quart the apricots and remove the pit. Place in a pot with 1-2 tbsp water. Bring to a soft boil (the fruit will start releasing liquid as it softens). Add the vanilla and star anise. Let simmer until the fruit is soft enough to easily mash. remove the star anise and mix the fruit smooth. Add the sugar and boil for another 10-15 min, removing any foam that surfaces. Test if the marmalade is ready but putting a small amount of marmalade on a cool plate and the “draw” a line in it with a spoon or the like (why not finger?). If the marmalade stays parted it’s ready. Otherwise boil for another few. Note, for this marmalade made it quite loose, as I like for it to me more of a creme than a marmalade actually. When still hot pour in a clean glas jar and let cool before placing in the fridge.
Eat with loads of butter on walnut bread.
I love me some Caprese. However tomatoes are only in season a very small part of the year and eating flavourless fresh tomatos in the middle of winter, will to be honest, never make sense to me. Canned, yes. Dried, yes. In a paste, yes. Fresh, yes during a few summer months, no at any other time. So, enter the solution to the Caprese problem – mozzarella with apple. Apple, that just like the tomato is both a little sweet and a little tangy, and so goes perfectly well with a fatty mozzarella. I also swapped the basil for tarragon, but honestly that’s up to you. I dare you to try this, and tell me what you think.
Green apple Caprese
Serves 2, or 4 as a starter
1 green apple (with a tang, Granny Smith works wonders)
1 ball of mozzarella (or buffalo mozzarella)
juice from 1/3 of a lemon
high grade olive oil
freshly ground Timut pepper (or regular black)
Wash the apple and grate roughly into a bowl, taking breaks squeezing some lemon juice on the meat to prevent from browning. Add a small pinch of salt and mix. Tear the mozzarella into pieces, plate together with the grated apple on a serving plate. Top with tarragon, pepper, salt and a good dash of olive oil.
Gnocchi, or if you will, “Small pillows of delight”. One of my all time favourite dishes. The sweetness from the potatoes in contrast to a buttery, caramelized surface is just !!! Also, they require a lot less than making your own pasta does. And I dare say it gives you double the pleasure? Just don’t forget to salt the water properly and use enough butter when frying. So as per request on instagram I’m now publishing the recipe here.
400g potatoes (I used Amadine bcs love the flavour but a mealy one works fine)
180g (3 dl) wheat flour
60g (1 dl) durum flour
1/2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until soft (15-20 min ish, depending upon size). Peel and press trough a potato press. Mix flours and salt and place in a wide bowl or on you kitchen counter, make a hole in the middle and add potato, egg and olive oil. Pinch together and then knead until you have a smooth dough, add a little more flour if too sticky.
Divide the dough into 6-8 pieces and roll out to lengths, ca 1 cm in diameter. Cut the lengths in 1 cm slices and place on a well floured tray/plate (make sure the gnocchi is spread out, if stacking or touching the will stick together. Continue with the rest of the dough. Add durum flour as you need to prevent from sticking.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add plenty of salt and boil the gnocchi in batches (maybe 20 at at time?), they are ready to be picked up with a perforated ladle when they rise to the surface. Keep going until you’ve boiled it all. The pre-boiled gnocchi can be stored in the fridge and fried another day, but best eaten at once ofcourse.
Fry with a good amount of butter and olive oil and a handful of sage leaves, in a pan until golden. Don’t stir too often as this will impede the caramelization process. Serve with black pepper and pecorino/parmigiano. I added som aparagus I needed to finish, but really they are superflous.
Cooking is meditation for me. Kneading dough, washing rice or slicing greens. Moments where my mind wanders only as far as what my hands are doing or mouth tasting. Sometimes watching someone else preparing the produce can be almost as soothing – thus here follows three of my favourite online cooking content.
Dianxi Xiaoge has been my go-to since summer of 2018. Her videos is what I wish all cooking videos would be. Real. No talking, no explaining or looking into the camera. She’s literally just making food (also collecting the produce first), albeit traditional Chinese food that I have never experience myself – so some kind of escapism I suppose? One of the best parts is how you can hear the pleasant sounds of washing freshly picked mountain vegetables in a small stream, the crushing of a handful of garlic cloves with the blade of a knife or frying chillies in an enormous wok. It so relaxing. The only back side is that I now have a ridiculous longing the vibrant Yunnan produce readily at hand (I must have a Sichuan pepper tree in my future garden).
Naoko Ideno makes some of the most beautiful tea ceremonies online (also in reality I assume, but I’m yet to experience that). We met briefly once in Kumamoto, but unfortunately not with enough time to sit down for a cup of tea – next time I hope. Until then I thoroughly enjoy every single one of her beautiful instagram stories.
Shirley & Mathieu running, The Social Food account, are the only french foodies you have to follow, trust me this duo is something extra. We share the same love for Japan and they are a constant inspiration behind the camera and in the kitchen. Currently they are doing a #QuarantineCooking series (complete with recipes!) on a daily basis – with beautifully composed videos and photographs. All and everything is incredibly mouthwatering and makes you want to dig in at once.
Last year I spent all of April walking up and down the mountain side of Onomichi, under blooming cherry blossoms and with the intensely blue the Seito Inland Sea spreading out below. I’ll talk more about the circumstances another time, and now focus on some of the magical food I ate during that time. Because I did not only walk the small paths of the mountain side but I also spend a lot of time in a kitchen, both making, tasting photographing food. At that time I ate some of the most beautiful food I’ve had in my entire life, both visually and in flavor. Right now I’m trying to occupy myself as much as I can with things that takes focus from the fact that I painfully miss hanging out with my friends and family (already failed miserably twice) – and focusing for a bit on these serene dishes proved a soothing remedy.
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.