I don’t think I have ever been so keen to see a year out the door as 2020. I think it’s safe to say it’s been a rough year for all of us and even worse for those affected by disease or loss. There is so much uncertainty at the moment but starting a new year feels promising. A year of vaccinations and strength so that we hopefully can resume some of our much missed activities later in the year.
Until then, I try to look back on 2020 with kindness and gratitude and making sure to remember the good times. Personally I’m still savouring my trip home to Sweden and the two and a half weeks of quality time I had with my parents after quarantining. It was the best way to see 2020 out and starting 2021, with them; my core family! As usual, we ate and drank really well and had a wonderful time. With some pictures from our party of three I wish you all a healthy and happy 2021!
As we find ourselves in another lockdown in the UK I will try to find time to finally write up the recipes from the last two lockdowns. I have cooked a lot while in Sweden too and want to share it all with you.
Thank you so much for your support! If you have any suggestions for future blog posts or recipes (other than my extensive back log), please let me know in the comments!
I received a comment and a request on my Swedish blog, to write about my cooking now, in lockdown. Something I of course have addressed on my instagram accounts, which are more ‘in the moment’ than the blog.
I completely understand it might not be of interest for you readers to read my reviews of restaurants from before lockdown, that are now shut. But the reason I have carried on ‘as normal’ (or as normally as I can right now) is because I think those good restaurants that I didn’t have time to write about before lockdown need to be mentioned. My blogs don’t have a huge following, but they are read by a few of you and if I could have some influence on where you spend your money when all this is over of course I want to contribute to that. To cast a limelight on restaurants I really like, large or small. Regardless of what kind of backing some restaurants had before lockdown, I think all business owners are now in the same boat; worrying if they can bounce back. If they can afford to take this hit or if it’s better to throw in the towel.
But I hear you; that’s the past, and the present is strange and can be tricky to navigate, especially when you’re forced (more or less, depending on where you live), to cook more at home, to come up with new dishes, while maybe not having access to all the food items you’re used to.
I feel quite equipped for this, strangely. Maybe because I taught myself how to cook when I lived away from home for the first time (with a patient mamma at the end of the phone guiding me when I got stuck), or because I made sure I would enjoy cooking for one after a breakup when I was around thirty, or because I loathe throwing food away and get immense satisfaction out of using up every single little morsel leftover; be it a quarter of an onion, a small piece of chicken or a little hunk of cheese. I use them all up and have come up with some interesting lunches over the years. And maybe also, because I love to cook for other people.
You see, the first three weeks of lockdown I utilised all my cooking for one tips, as I was alone in London making sure I didn’t develop the virus. At this point it was hard for people to get food in general so I relied on my freezer stash, my ability of using up food and coming up with good substitutions and to buy food where the regular person wouldn’t shop. I felt this was a small thing for me to do, but could mean that somebody else (maybe a whole family) could access that delivery slot or those groceries, because frankly they needed it more than I did. I waited for Natoora, one of my favourite vegetable and delicatessen shops, to open up their restaurant slots to the general public and bought lovely things like British asparagus, burrata and dolce latte. This might seem extravagant in a crisis, but my thinking was that I get more satisfaction out of these more luxury food items than the average person, I can afford it, and I don’t eat very much and can therefore stretch the produce quite far if I need to. And I wanted to support a wonderful business that with restaurants closing had a huge excess of food they needed to sell. Which I, of course, was oh so happy to take off their hands.
So I ate very well those three weeks. But I didn’t eat much meat, because they don’t sell it (other than in delicatessen products), and I made sure to buy some flour (any flour!) so that if I couldn’t get a delivery slot at least I could make bread, pasta or pizza. I wanted to avoid shops as at this point they were still crowded which scared me!
Then after those three weeks, feeling safe enough I didn’t carry any nasties with me, I went out to the countryside to join my boyfriend and his mother, who were in the midst of moving house. So I put on my apron and started cooking for them. Which was very different than cooking for just myself. But very helpful to both them and me. I have invented new dishes (so satisfying), come up with different ways to cook something because of a lack of ingredients (also very satisfying) and although the food look (and taste) great it’s not as glamorous as instagram suggests of course (check out my stories to see failed experiments, substitutions and lots of leftovers). Yes, all the leftovers get eaten!! Sometimes reimagined as something else and sometimes just reheated as they are.
So in the coming weeks I will try to share some helpful recipes where I’ve had to think differently, using what I’ve had to hand. Being in the countryside has proved a lot easier when it comes to food though. Two small local shops carry necessities like eggs, milk and bread. And one of them is a greengrocer too! The village farm sells eggs like they always do, and we have managed to get slots to pick up food from supermarkets (some far away, but we could get slots) and since Ocado opened up more slots a couple of weeks ago I have used them too. So I realise we’re very lucky. But I hope most of you are too. That if you can’t go out somebody can deliver to you or a neighbour could do the shopping for you.
PS. Moving house in lockdown was really hard work, so I haven’t been able to post very much, but I hope I will have more time in the coming weeks.
I never miss a food market when I’m travelling! Apart from in Barcelona when it was closed when we were nearby.
But when I find them open I always seek them out and make sure to pop in. It’s fun mingling with the locals, checking out the local produce and buy some culinary mementos to enjoy at home.
Copenhagen’s food market Torvehallerne, is a very sleek version of the food markets you find in other cities. The two buildings are all glass and modern, and although you can buy fresh produce it’s also interspersed with restaurants.
I think I’ve sampled them all, and one favourite we always come back to is Tapa del Toro with its many pinxtos to choose from.
Although we had just enjoyed a lovely gourmet lunch we wanted a little taste of both the food market atmosphere and the lovely pinxtos. Because sitting here sipping cava and biting into baguette with Jamon Iberico while people watching and chatting to your friends is just such a big part of what we love about Copenhagen.
When we finished we walked next door to a new interior shop Maria had discovered and had a look around enjoying the colour scheme and pretty things for sale.
Only to return to Torvehallerne and The Coffee Collective for a coffee before our next shop. Maria and Daniel had espressos but I decided to try their iced latte, which turned out to be the best one I’ve ever had! I don’t usually have milk in my coffee but it works really well if it’s a strong iced latte like this one. I was always skipping with joy drinking this!
It’s November! Already?! October just sped past and now it’s time for one of my least favourite months. Why? Because it’s colder, darker, rainier and more depressing. BUT November is also leading the way to December and the holiday season, so I have learned that if I light as many candles as possible and concentrate on everything cosy and Christmassy then November isn’t quite so bad.
And another good way of making November more bearable is through food. Warm hearty soups, some nice stews and a few sweets and it suddenly feels a lot better.
When my friend Therése came to visit in April we had a really lovely weekend with shopping, dinner in and amazing sushi out. And the last day we went all out with a trip to the V&A and the dreamy Dior exhibition followed by a wonderful afternoon tea at Berners Tavern, that I will tell you all about now, and some beauty shopping in Liberty’s. Such a perfect girlie day!
As we walked into Berners Tavern we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the dining room with its pretty chandeliers and amazing ceilings and picture covered walls, which felt both grand and relaxed at the same time.
We sat down at our table and immediately admired the china (you may know I have a thing for blue and white china!) and were greeted by our lovely waiter explaining the menu in details with us.
What I really like about an afternoon tea, is of course all the goodies, but also the ceremony around it; the nice china, the silverware, the pouring of the tea and just letting everything take its time.
With the napkin in my lap I once again admired the china pattern when our kind waiter told me it was especially made for the restaurant, and the pattern is made up of the chandeliers in the ceiling that are originals from when the building was first built. Isn’t that amazing?! I love the attention to detail.
Just as much attention to detail had been put into the sandwiches, scones and sweet treats for the afternoon tea. Such a stunning spread!
The savoury spread from left to right; chicken and mushroom mini baguette; smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill sandwich and savoury scone with mild goat’s cheese and herbs. All delicious!!
The scones were also perfect and came with and without raisins and we got individual silver pots of clotted cream and jam!
The sweets were gorgeous too! From left to right; strawberry macaron with creamy ginger filling (my favourite!); chocolate and yuzu tart and a creamy raspberry and meringue cake.
Just look how beautiful the sandwiches are close up! Love that the chefs take such care in the presentation.
The same goes for the sweets; they were like little works of art! Our whole afternoon here was puree perfection from the service to the tea refills to the food and ambiance. Berners Tavern definitely have that little extra that makes it feel like a special place without being stuffy at all. We could just relax and chat away – which we do so well!
I hardly think I’m the first person to think of this combination, but since I like to pair burrata witheverythingtomato-y here we are. And it’s a winner! I love the classic bruschetta but the burrata adds another dimension with its creaminess and makes the dish a little more sophisticated (but also more difficult to eat with dignity).
I could start every dinner party, luncheon and gathering with this and some rosé from now until August and have happy guests – I’m sure of it. Or if you want to skip the bread, make a classic caprese salad (basically the same ingredients) but with burrata instead of mozzarella. That’s what I did with the leftovers and it was delicious too! But bruschetta is great for a crowd as you don’t need plates (although they are quite handy), just serve these with plenty of napkins!
Hanna’s bruschetta with burrata, serves 4-6 as a starter or as nibbles
1 large baguette
1 garlic clove, cut in half
4-5 vine tomatoes
1 handful fresh basil, finely chopped
sea salt, black pepper
2 small burrata or 1 large, at room temperature
Slice the baguette thinly on the diagonal. Place on a parchment covered baking tray. Drizzle with oil and rub the bread with the garlic. Toast the bread in a 200C oven until golden, approx 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile chop the tomatoes and place in a sieve or colander to remove the excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl. Chop the garlic used for rubbing the bread and mix that in as well as the basil. Add oil, salt and pepper.
Remove the toasted bread from the oven and leave to cool slightly. Place on a plate or platter, top with the tomato mixture. Tear the burrata into smaller pieces and put some on each bruschetta. Drizzle with olive oil and top with black pepper. Serve immediately with plenty of napkins.
I’ve been back in London for a little more than a week and my holiday in Sweden is already starting to feel like a distant memory. It’s funny how quickly one settles back into the groove.
Monday was mainly about catching up at work, but I felt up to speed by the end of the day, having caught up with my emails and paper work. When I got home I started to put all my things away from the trip. I always unpack my suitcases as soon as I get home, whatever time of night that is (I like to maximise my time away and often fly back late). I don’t know why but I find it so satisfying to unpack straight away, but I’ve done it for years! But of course I don’t put everything away immediately (that takes too long) so that’s what I did on Monday night. And laundry of course, even though I made sure to do laundry in Sweden too.
Anyway, the next evening after work the book club girls came over for some nibbles and pizza on the roof terrace followed by pudding back in the flat as the sun had started to set. It was lovely catching up with them and decide on the new book to read (this one if you’re interested) and as all of us contribute to the dinner it’s never stressful to host.
Wednesday I made pizzas and we watched The Handmaid’s Tale (OMG it’s so good – draining, but SO good). Thursday I packed for the weekend, had some more pizza and watched some more The Handmaid’s Tale.
I had the day off on Friday which was wonderful so after a lie-in we drove up to Northamptonshire where we stayed over night. Friday night we had dinner and watched Joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat at Kilworth House and the next day we just took it easy before going back to London in the evening.
Sunday I did some more chores, unpacked and made another pizza (with leftover dough that I froze on Wednesday). I think I need a break from pizza now actually…
Some days in Seville were lovely and warm with 23C and sunshine. Those days were spent relaxing by the pool, enjoying the sun on my skin and a good book. So in the evening I would get ready for a stroll around town and a nice dinner.
One such evening I made my way to El Pintón and was extremely lucky to snag a table outside without a reservation. After I got that table they turned away so many people. So make sure to book in advance.
This place is different to the usual tapas bars around town. They do serve tapas at El Pintón but always at a table, so there is no busy bar area to hang out in. Instead it’s a civilised affair with only table service.
A concept I was perfectly happy with. Just like I was happy to watch the world go by while sipping an excellent glass of cava.
But I had food too, of course. First a lovely egg dish with truffle. A combination I love. Add to that some crunch and a smooth potato créme. Mmm…
Next up was the calamari sandwich with lemon aioli. Simple but lovely! And the squid was the most tender I’ve ever had.
My last dish here (I wish I could have had more, but the portions were rather generous as you can see) was a recommendation from my friendly waiter; presa Ibérica tataki with sweet potato purée and pistachio sauce. The meat was exquisite and so so tender and the sweet but mellow flavours worked so well with the pork.
This; dining on excellent food al fresco, is partly what holidays are about for me. Pure joy!
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!
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.
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.
Boiling crayfish, basic recipe
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
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:
Spring. Oh, how I love thee. If I feel tired and gloomy during the cold and dark winter months, I now feel awake again. It’s easier to get out of bed in the morning and being outside, even if it’s just walking to the tube, is a pleasure not torture. On Saturday I just walked around town for two hours because the sun was out and it was spring in the air.
Lots of the spring flowers are in full bloom, and the first British asparagus has arrived in some shops together with the wild garlic. This, my dear readers, is my favourite time of year. I love summer and warmer temperatures, but now before summer is here, we have it all in front of us and it feels like the best present ever. Then we blink and it’s September, but I really want to try and enjoy the little things every day between now and then. The taste of all the fresh produce; the asparagus, the jersey royals, the first British strawberries and so on. Sitting in the sun having a coffee or an ice cream, walking to work and hearing the birds chirping. All of that makes me so very happy.
And one of my favourite dishes this time of year, is a real celebration of spring. It’s fresh and simple but full of spring flavours. I’m talking about fresh local asparagus, homemade wild garlic mayonnaise that’s just divine and to top it all off, a drizzle of a nice olive or rapeseed oil and a scattering of parmesan shavings. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!