Recipe: baked mussels two ways

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My love for seafood started at an early age with our family eating prawns every single Friday. I still love it, although it’s difficult to get hold of Atlantic prawns in London. But that means that every time I go back to Sweden I make sure to eat as much seafood as I possibly can.

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One evening this summer I made these baked mussels as a starter, and they went down a treat.

I had two different toppings but I would say they were both equally yummy. The green ones were inspired by Oysters Rockefeller and had spinach and cream in the filling and the white ones were just topped with homemade aioli.

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Baked mussels with aioli

2-3 large mussels per person

1 batch homemade aioli

Rinse the mussels a few times in a colander to remove sand. De-beard the mussels and rinse again. Discard of any mussels that won’t close their shell when tapping on it. Put the mussels in a pan of boiling water with a little salt. Put the lid on and cook for a minute or so or until the mussels have open. Drain in a colander. 

Open the mussels and discard the empty halves. Dollop aioli onto the mussels to they’re covered. Place in a oven-proof dish and bake until golden in 200C or under the grill, about 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread. 

Baked mussels a’la Rockefeller

2-3 large mussels per person

1 shallots, finely chopped

1 tbsp butter

3 nests of frozen chopped spinach (or the equivalent of fresh spinach)

4 tbsp double cream

grated nutmeg

salt & white pepper

Rinse the mussels a few times in a colander to remove sand. De-beard the mussels and rinse again. Discard of any mussels that won’t close their shell when tapping on it. Put the mussels in a pan of boiling water with a little salt. Put the lid on and cook for a minute or so or until the mussels have open. Drain in a colander. 

Fry the shallots on medium heat in a small saucepan until translucent but not brown. Add the frozen spinach and let the water bubble away. Add the double cream and nutmeg and let the mixture reduce a little. Season well. 

Open the mussels and discard the empty halves. Spoon the spinach mixture into the shells and place in a oven-proof dish and bake until golden in 200C or under the grill, about 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread. 

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Recipe: cream of mushroom soup with sherry

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This creamy mushrooms soup with sherry is a new favourite of mine. The humble ingredients really come together here creating a delicious soup, definitely worthy of becoming your next dinner party starter but also perfect for a warming weeknight supper with some crunchy bread to go with it.

Cream of mushroom soup with sherry, serves 2

1/2 onion, sliced

1 small garlic clove, sliced

oil and butter for frying

250 g chestnut mushrooms, cut into quarters

50-75 ml fino sherry

300-400 ml boiling water

1/2 stock cube

salt

1 proper sprig of thyme

5 pieces dried porcini mushrooms

30 ml single cream

salt, white pepper

Fry the onion and garlic until soft in the butter and oil in a large saucepan, without browning too much. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes until the mushrooms have shrunk somewhat. Add the sherry and let some of it evaporate. Add the water and stock cube, a small pinch of salt and the thyme. Also add the dried porcini. Bring to the boil and let it boil for 5 minutes. 

Remove the thyme and then mix everything until smooth in a blender. Pour the soup back into the saucepan and add the cream. Bring to the boil again and add the cream. Season with salt and white pepper. Serve in bowls and garnish with a few drops of cream and a sprig of thyme. 

Gnocchi with creamy butternut sauce

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I’m a very seasonal person. Despite the mainly chilly weather at the moment I can’t face putting tights or warm jackets on. Because it is summer. Instead I layer up on my upper body but keep my legs bare (if I’m wearing a skirt or dress for work). I’m used to this approach but people in the office think I’m a little strange. Fair enough, I think.

But when it comes to food it’s harder. Sure, I incorporate as much asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, tomatoes and new potatoes into my diet as I possibly can, but instead of craving salads I still want warm filling food. So while this autumnal recipe of gnocchi with a lovely creamy butternut squash sauce with both cream and parmesan may suit the post-bikini season better it’s what I fancy eating right now. Until summer arrives. Then bring on the salads!

Gnocchi with creamy butternut sauce, serves 2 

1/2 butternut squash

olive oil

salt & pepper

approx 300 g gnocchi, cooked according to the instructions on the packet 

50-100 ml single cream

finely grated parmesan

a few sprigs of thyme (sage works too!)

Peel the squash and remove the strings and seeds. Cut into even-sized pieces and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Stir to coat all the pieces with oil. Place in the oven and roast until the pumpkin is soft, approx 35 mins in 200C. 

Cook the gnocchi and keep it warm.  

Purée the roasted squash with a stick blender. Add (cold) cream until you have a nice thick sauce. Season with salt, pepper and grated parmesan. Heat up the sauce in a non-stick saucepan while stirring, if needed. Pour the sauce over the gnocchi, top with more grated parmesan and some thyme leaves. 

Clams with sherry and potatoes

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Seafood for me is Friday food. Probably because we had Atlantic prawns every Friday of my childhood (it’s pretty normal in Sweden, actually). First of course, because it’s yummy and, second, it doesn’t take long to prepare, which is why my mother thought (and still thinks) it’s the ultimate way to start the weekend.

These clams with cream, sherry and potatoes are just amazing as a Friday evening dish. Serve with bread and maybe some aioli if you want a more elaborate meal. For me, this and a glass of bubbly is all I need.

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Clams with sherry and potatoes, serves 2

500 g clams

3 medium potatoes

a knob of butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

50 ml dry sherry

100 ml cream

salt & pepper

chopped parsley

Peel and cube the potatoes. Boil until soft, approx 15 minutes. Drain. 

Rinse the clams in a colander and discard any clams not closing. Melt the butter in a saucepan and fry the onion for a few minutes on medium heat without browning. Add the sherry and let some of it evaporate. Add the cream and then the clams. Put the lid on and wait for a minute or two. Check that the clams have opened. (If not, put the lid on for another minute.) When the clams have opened, season the sauce and add the potatoes. Scatter with parsley and serve immediately. 

Gnocchi with Stilton sauce and spinach

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Homemade gnocchi is easy to make and unlike when you make pasta you don’t need any machines or tools. Just a bowl, your hands and a fork. I also prefer home made gnocchi to the store bought ones as I find they go soggy faster (and in a different way).

For me, the best ways to serve gnocchi is either boiled with a simple sauce or for a bit more texture, fried with some pancetta and vegetables. During the winter months the sauce option is to prefer and this creamy Stilton sauce with spinach is just wonderful. Pure comfort.

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Gnocchi with Stilton sauce and spinach, serves 2

Inspired by a dish at Carluccio’s in London.

1 batch gnocchi

200 ml cream 

100 g Stilton

grated nutmeg

salt and white pepper

150-200 g fresh spinach

Make the gnocchi ready for the pan. Heat up the cream in a non-stick saucepan and add the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large sacuepan, add 1 cm water and bring to the boil. Add the spinach and put the lid on. Remove the lid after a minute and stir until the spinach have wilted. Drain from water in a sieve. 

Add the gnocchi to boiling water in a large saucepan. When they float up to the surface remove with a slotted spoon. Heat up the sauce. Divide the gnocchi and spinach between two plates. Spoon over the sauce and serve. 

Raspberry gateau

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Last time I baked for the office I made Mary Berry’s fantastic white chocolate cheesecake and this traditional Swedish gateau.

It is easy to be home blind, and I didn’t realise how much cream we use in Sweden until I moved here. We have it in a sauce instead of gravy and in or with pretty much any cake.

This is a pretty standard gateau with jam (crushed berries with sugar works too), custard and cream. The sponges are made without butter and that makes them slightly less moist, but also less crumbly and lighter, so it is very easy to assemble this cake.

Raspberry gateau, serves 8-10

Sponge:

4 eggs

200 g caster sugar

1 1/3 tbsp water

160 g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

Flling:

150 ml thick custard 

150 ml firmly whipped cream

200 ml seedless raspberry jam 

To decorate:

300 g whipped cream

20 g fresh raspberries

Beat sugar and egg until pale and fluffy. Add the water. Mix flour and baking powder and incorporate well. Divide the mixture between two even sized spring forms, greased and lined with a round of parchment paper. Bake in 175C for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

Let the sponges cool completely before assembling the gateau. Mix custard and cream. Spread raspberry jam on top of the first sponge base then slather with the custard cream mix. Spread jam underneath the second sponge and place on top. Cover the whole cake with cream and pipe decorations on top. Decorate with fresh raspberries.