Recipe: boiling crayfish

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The last few years I have made sure to invite my London friends to a proper Swedish crayfish party, as it’s my favourite non-holiday holiday in my native country. I usually buy the pre-cooked frozen crayfish from the Swedish shop but last year I actually found a crayfish seller who sold fresh crayfish caught in local lakes or ponds. The price was almost the same, and the quality so much better, but I also really wanted to cook my own crayfish!

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Compared to lobsters who you usually cook in boiling water, we cook crayfish in a sort of brine that we then leave the crayfish in until we eat them, adding a salty dilly taste to the crustaceans.

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My London friends love crayfish as much as I do, so I ordered 7 kg for 12 of us, which may sound like a lot, but we ate every single one. It was a little tricky cooking that many with not that many large pans to hand but I managed*, and had a good time in the process experimenting with two types of brine; one with just salt, sugar and dill and one with beer in (a common practice for cooking crayfish) that add more depth to the flavour.

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Boiling crayfish, basic recipe

20 crayfish

2 1/2 litre water

75-100 ml salt

1 tsp sugar

plenty of dill flowers (dill seeds can be used instead)

Make sure all the crayfish are alive, discard any dead ones. Rinse in cold water. Bring water, salt, sugar and dill flowers to the boil. Put the crayfish in a colander and lower it into the boiling brine to cook the crayfish. Cook for 10 minutes, from the brine starts boiling again. Leave to cool in the brine, keep cold and eat within 24 hours. 

Boiling crayfish, with beer

20 crayfish

2 1/2 litre water

1 litre beer

75-100 ml salt

1 tsp sugar

plenty of dill flowers (dill seeds can be used instead)

Make sure all the crayfish are alive, discard any dead ones. Rinse in cold water. Bring water, beer, salt, sugar and dill flowers to the boil. Put the crayfish in a colander and lower it into the boiling brine to cook the crayfish. Cook for 10 minutes, from the brine starts boiling again. Leave to cool in the brine, keep cold and eat within 24 hours. 

*The trickiest part was actually storing 7 kgs of crayfish in its brine in a cold place. The fridge surely wasn’t large enough and it was full of all the other food we were having with the crayfish, so I put them in bowls and pans in the bath and filled it with ice. Bonus pic:

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Recipe: Beef Rydberg (a Swedish classic)

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Typically when I buy fillet of beef to make a steak sandwich or a pizza with steak and bearnaise sauce, I get some steak leftover. A first world problem I know, but this is the best way I know to use up those bits of steak. (Please note that only fillet of steak will do here as you want small tender uniform pieces.)

Beef Rydberg is a real classic Swedish restaurant dish served with fried onions and potatoes, a dijon crème and plenty of grated horseradish. It’s both hearty and sophisticated somehow and very comforting during the colder months.

Beef Rydberg, serves 2

ca 300 g fillet of beef, cut into (not too small) cubes

1 yellow onion or banana shallot, finely chopped 

400 g firm potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

butter for frying (and a little oil) 

salt and black pepper

Dijon crème:

100 ml thick creme fraiche

2-3 tsp dijon mustard (to taste)

1 tsp runny honey

salt, white pepper

To serve:

fresh grated horseradish 

chopped parsley

Mix the dijon crème and keep it cold. Bring water to the boil in a saucepan, add salt and the potato cubes and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, fry the onions until soft in plenty of butter on a low-medium heat, without browning. Remove the onions and fry the drained potatoes in butter. Add salt, pepper and a little sugar abd fry until golden on the outside and soft inside (pierce with a knife to check). 

Pour the sauce into a little bowl or an empty egg shell, chop the parsley and keep the the onions and potatoes warm in separate pans while you fry the steak on high heat in butter and oil for approx 2 minutes (you don’t want the meat well done and it cooks quickly when it’s cut up like this). Rest the meat for a few minutes, then plate up. Scatter with parsley and serve with plenty of grated horseradish. 

Seafood feast at home

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Me coming home to visit is usually a good enough reason in my family to break out the bubbly and have a seafood feast! It’s important to celebrate the times we’re all together and make them special so we take every opportunity we get.

It may not be seafood every time we have a feast, but it’s quite often the case. We had this fabulous meal in December when I last visited and it was just wonderful, and the type of food we enjoy cooking, and eating, together.

We started with oysters, that were quite difficult to shuck without an oyster knife (we’d left it in the summer house), so we all did a few each. Good team effort, they’re quite strong the little molluscs. We had the oysters in the most simple, and our preferred, way with just lemon juice and Tabasco. What a treat!

 

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Our second course (although that sounds too fancy for peeling prawns) was smoked Atlantic prawns with home-made mayonnaise (a team effort by dad and me), which I just love. The taste is much more complex than fresh prawns and although it may sound strange to smoke prawns, it really works.

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We had a really nice bottle of bubbly, to drink, a Marquis de Haux Cremant de Bordeaux. It’s not readily available in Sweden, but shouldn’t be hard to find in the UK or the rest of Europe.

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For the main event, we had lobster. Something we usually only have as a starter, but I love it as a main course too. Again it was a team effort getting the food ready. I made the skin-on oven fries (that turned out great by the way), and was also in charge of picking the lobsters apart while mum made the lovely sauce. Good effort, team!

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This is our family version of lobster Thermidor with mushrooms, mustard. cognac and matured cheese and we all find it divine. When we think of something special to eat at home, this is always a contender. Most often we have it as a starter, rather than as a main, but after this meal I find it quite likely we’ll have it as a main-course more often than not.

As these were fresh lobster it was almost (but only almost) a sacrilege to coat them in a creamy sauce, so we all had a claw au natural with a dollop of mayonnaise to really taste the lobster.

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We had a lot of lovely food over the Christmas break, but this was my absolute favourite meal. We just had such a good time cooking together and dining together.

Homemade mayonnaise, serves 3-4

1 egg yolk, at room temperature 

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp white wine vinegar

approx 200 ml vegetable oil

1/2 lemon

salt, white pepper

Most important when making your own mayonnaise: 

  1. All ingredients (especially the egg and the oil) should be at room temperature 
  2. Whisk by hand, usng a balloon whisk (gives a better texture)
  3. Season to taste

Mix egg yolk, dijon and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk it together using a balloon whisk and add the oil drop by drop while whisking. Once the mixture has thickened you can add the oil in a little trickle, whisking continuously. Whisk until you have a thick and pale mayonnaise. Season to taste with lemon, white pepper and plenty of salt. Sprinkle a little paprika on top (to decorate) before serving. 

Skin-on oven fries, serves 4

800 g firm potatoes (Maris Piper is great)

2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180-200C, with the fan on. Wash the potatoes and then cut into sticks. Rinse away the starch. Pour the oil into a large oven-proof tray and add the potato sticks. Add plenty of salt and pepper. Massage the oil into the potato sticks using your hands and spread them out on the tray. Bake in the oven for approx 35 minutes or until crispy, golden and blistery on the outside and cooked through. 

Christmas Eve 2015

 

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In Sweden Christmas Eve is the big day. Christmas day is for going clubbing (no thanks!), early sales (again, no thanks!) and just chilling (much better).

In my family we open the stockings on Christmas Eve morning. Christmas stockings are not a Swedish tradition, but my family thinks it’s nice and cosy. But we only open a few presents in the morning as Father Christmas always comes by in the evening with a sack full of gifts (no chimney action in Sweden).

Then at 3pm, the whole country is glued to the television watching Donald Duck and other Disney cartoons. It sounds silly, but it’s one of the fundamentals of a Swedish Christmas Eve.

Then in the evening, probably after coffee and cake while watching Donald Duck and then glögg and gingerbread a bit later, it’s time for dinner. In most families this comprises a julbord; a smorgasbord with lots of  Christmas food, like herring, smoked salmon, cooked ham, meatballs, sausages, cabbage, sprouts, Janssons temptation, patés, ribs etc etc).

We took an alternative route this year, stepping away from the traditional heavy food, and instead enjoying, a still festive, and a little Christmas-y, menu.

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Our evening began with prosecco and these lovely parmesan biscuits, then Toast Skagen as a starter followed by halibut and boiled potatoes, cooked peas and the most heavenly sauce for fish for mains.

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For pudding we had the same as we do on Christmas Eve; Ris a’la Malta. A cold rice porridge with a lot of whipped cream folded in, served with a berry sauce, but as this dessert is seriously rich we served it in individual bowls. (It’s usually served in a large bowl it an almond hidden in the porridge and you try to eat as much as possible to secure the almons and receive a gift. )

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This alternative approach to the Christmas dinner suited my family perfectly. It felt festive (more festive than ham, cabbage and meatballs actually) and even though the food was still on the heavy side it’s nothing compared to the julbord. 

 

Hot smoked salmon spread for crostinis

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The London crayfish party was a success and so much fun! There was only ten of us but we managed to demolish 5 kgs crayfish and drink two bottles of snaps (as well as beer and wine) and sing snaps songs. Thank you to everyone involved for embracing my country’s silly traditions and being such fun guests!

Before we started on the crayfish though, we had some prosecco and nibbles. I usually start a dinner party with nibbles as I think it’s such a nice informal way to start the evening and get people chatting. One of the nibbles I made was this hot smoked salmon spread. I just put it in a bowl and the guests assembled their own crostinis.

Hot smoked salmon spread, enough for 5 people as a nibble

Adapted after and translated from Arla’s recipe.

350 g hot smoked salmon fillets (no bones)

200 ml soured cream

2 tbsp freshly grated horseradish

1/2 bunch chives

1/2 lemon, the juice

salt, black pepper

Check the salmon for bones and remove them and any skin. Place in a bowl and mush it with a fork. Add soured cream, horseradish (Ocado has the fresh stuff) and lemon juice. Add the lemon juice and season to taste. Keep refrigerated until serving. 

Crayfish!

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As I’m hosting a crayfish party tonight I thought I’d share these pictures from my last crayfish dinner in Sweden. I managed to eat crayfish twice in the two and a bit weeks I was at home, and lots of other lovely seafood too, but I am just as excited about tonight’s festivities with my London friends.

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But back to the crayfish party in Sweden. It was just a family affair so we started with rösti, Kalix roe (bleak roe from Kalix), creme fraiche and chopped red onions. This is such a Swedish classic it’s almost a cliché but I absolutely love it (as do most Swedes!). IMG_6758

We had two types of crayfish, both fresh, Swedish and Turkish. They were both nice but the Swedish ones were the nicest. 
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We also had a typical Västerbotten cheese quiche (here with fried girolles on top) which is a must with the crayfish, bread, cheese and of course snaps. 

Crayfish party or not – have a nice weekend!

‘Lertallrikasill’ (eggs, anchovies and dill on toast)

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This mixture of boiled eggs, anchovies, red onion, dill and butter is a classic Swedish dish called lertallrikasill (herring on clay plates). It’s quite similar to gubbröra but instead of sourcream or creme fraiche binding everything together this dish is held together with butter (eve better, right?!).  Delicious!

Lertallrikasill, serves 3 as a starter

3 small slices of white bread, toasted (granary or German rye bread works well too) 

3 semi-hardboiled eggs 

1 tin anchovies fillets

1 red onion

dill 

50 g salted butter

Chope eggs, anchovies, red onion and dill and place in a bowl. Melt the butter and let it cool a little. Mix into the eggs. Season to taste with white pepper (salt is not needed). Divide between the bread slices and serve.