Growing up in the countryside in the south of Sweden I didn’t realise how lucky I was to grow up in such an idyllic place. Fast forward to present time living in a big city, where getting fresh herbs and locally grown vegetables can be quite tricky at times.
So my first night in Sweden this summer I cooked us a fairly standard summer meal of pork fillet, salad and potatoes. Normally I would cook the meat on the barbecue to get that charred flavour, but due to the first barbecue ban in my life time (even in your own garden – it was that dry) I had to make do with the stove and oven. And sitting outside in the sunshine it was still a lovely meal.
Mainly because of the sauce I literally threw together on the spot. It’s a simple cold sauce with mainly creme fraiche and a little mayonnaise as a base (us Swedes make sauces like this ALL the time), but what made it so nice was the mix (and quantity) of fresh herbs from the garden. An absolute treat for this city girl and something I used to take for granted when I lived at home.
Garlic and herb sauce, serves 3-4
300 ml creme fraiche
2 tbsp mayonnaise (preferably Hellman’s)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp Acacia honey
3/4 small garlic clove, finely chopped
approx 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley
salt and pepper
Mix creme fraiche and mayonnaise. Then add mustard, honey, garlic and herbs and leave for a while for the flavours to develop before serving. Season to taste.
Once again I have Nigella to thank for the inspiration. In her book Simply Nigella she uses caramelised onions in a yoghurt sauce, and since then I’ve started using caramelised garlic in just anything I can think of.
The taste is sweet and humble and far from the fierce raw garlic you but into the oven, which means you can actually use a lot of it, so put a few extra garlic bulbs in the oven, just in case! They’re highly addictive, so you can thank me later!
PS. It goes really well with the chicken dish I posted the last week and potato wedges.
Caramelised garlic sauce with creme fraiche, serves 10
2 large garlic bulbs
1 litre creme fraiche
100 ml Hellman’s mayonnaise
bunch of chives, chopped
salt, white pepper
oregano and thyme flowers to decorate
Caramelise the garlics when you’re using the oven anyway – they take up little space and won’t make anything taste of garlic as they’re wrapped in tin foil.
Cut off approx 1/2 cm of the garlic bulb on the top so you can see the cloves. Wrap separately in tin foil and place in the oven until soft (just squeeze them to check if they’re ready). It doesn’t really matter what temperature the oven is at, everything between 150 – 220C works, just be aware the cooking time will differ.
Leave to cool slightly. Mix creme fraiche and mayonnaise in a mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Unwrap the garlic bulbs and squeeze out the soft garlic paste and add to the sauce. Make sure you get every morsel. Mix well and adjust the seasoning. Leave for a little while before serving. Add the chives and herb flowers when ready to serve.
I’m a planner. Not all the time, but I like to plan ahead in several areas of my life. Especially when entertaining. So I had decided on a menu for the lunch I was hosting for a few friends in Sweden long before I even got to Sweden.
But the draught threw a spanner in the works. Three days before I was leaving for Sweden the government issued a BBQ ban in most areas and it was forbidden to barbecue even on your own property. All to prevent any more wild fires. Totally logical and something we all had to accept. But since my original lunch plan involved lighting the barbecue I had to think of something else to cook. I thought this would magically come to me as ideas so often do, but no.
So, in this moment of crisis (well not really, but I was starting to panic a little as my days were packed full of activities) I turned to my trusted cook book collection in the beach house and as usual they helped me out. This time it was a recipe in Nigella’s book Summer that saved me! This slow-roasted lemon and garlic chicken is summery (and delicious) enough to make you forget all about your beloved barbecue and appreciate a dish that basically cooks itself in the oven.
And if you don’t find butchering chickens as therapeutic as I do, I would suggest you either ask your butcher for help or buy a mixture of skin-on chicken breasts and chicken thighs.
Nigella’s slow roasted garlic and lemon chicken, serves 4
1 chicken cut into 10 pieces
1 bulb of garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
1 lemon, cut into chunky eighths
1 bunch fresh thyme
3 tbsp olive oil
75-100 ml white wine
salt and black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
Put the chicken pieces in a roasting tin, season and add the oil. Toss the chicken pieces in the oil so they’re coated all over. Place skin side up. Add garlic cloves, lemon chunks and thyme. Sprinkle over the white wine and put in the oven to cook for 2 hours.
Turn up the oven to 200°C and cook the chicken for another 30-45 minutes, by which time the skin on the meat will have turned golden brown and the lemons will have begun to scorch and caramelise at the edges.
I found a recipe for confit garlic in an issue of Bon Appetit and I liked the idea, but thought using butter as the recipe suggested seemed a bit risky so I did it my own way, with oil.
It still amazes me how different garlic can taste depending on how it’s prepared. I love the sweetness from caramelised garlic and the punch of frying fresh chopped garlic with mushrooms for example. The confit garlic is somewhere in between the two; it’s less sweet than caramelised garlic but a lot softer in flavour than raw. I used the confit garlic to make garlic bread and it was, as I suspected, absolutely delicious!
Why not try wild garlic bread or cheesy garlic bread next?
1 whole garlic
approx 100 ml neutral oil
Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Peel the garlic and place the cloves in a ramekin. Cover with oil. Place in the oven until the garlic is soft, approx 30 minutes. Leave to cool. Remove the garlic. Save the oil for roasting potatoes and vegetables in the oven. Keeps in the fridge.
Confit garlic bread
the confit garlic above
100 g salted butter, softened
a bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 baguette or other preferred bread
Remove the garlic from the oil and mush into the butter. Add parsley and mix well.
Make slits in the bread and spread with the butter. Wrap in tin foil and bake for 10 minutes in 180C until the butter has melted.
Place the remaining butter on a sheet of cling. Shape into a roll and place in the fridge or freezer. Use for garlic breads or as a flavoured butter for fish or meat.
I love burrata, the creamier cousin of mozzarella, a lot but I struggle to find it in Sweden. I’m sure they have it in some of Malmö’s better cheese shops but I thought it easier to bring a fresh one with me from my local Whole Foods.
We had it as a starter one evening soon after arrived to Sweden, together with slow roasted tomatoes, a nice olive oil, grilled bread and a bowl of buttery nocellara olives.
It almost felt like we were by the Mediterranean; being sat outside, next to a fig tree, sipping rosé and eating the creamy burrata with slow roasted tomatoes. Such a lovely evening.
Slow roasted tomatoes, serves 3 as a starter
150-200 g small tomatoes, halved
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
some chopped basil
a splash of olive oil
salt, black pepper
fresh basil to garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 125C. Place tomatoes, onion, garlic, and basil in an oven-proof tray. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and stir so the oil coats everything evenly. Place in the oven and leave for 2-3 hours. Remove the (now brown) basil from the tray. Plate the rest, garnish with fresh basil leaves and a good splash or olive oil.
Before I left for Sweden my mother emailed me and asked how many girolles I wanted when I got there. ‘How many is there?’, I asked. ‘I bought three kilos’, mother said. ‘Well, could I have one kilo, please?!’
A whole KILOGRAM of my favourite mushroom – I feel rich! But before I went home I needed to make space in the freezer for my treasure and used up the last of the girolles from last year making this gorgeous pasta.
Fettucine with browned butter, girolles, garlic, parsley and parmesan, serves 2
2 balls of De Cecco fettucine (my favourite dried pasta brand)
50 g salted butter
150 g girolles
1 small garlic clove
butter for frying
a bunch chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta al dente. Brown the butter in a large saucepan (it splatters a bit); put on medium heat until it smells nutty and the butter underneath the from has a nice brown colour. Remove from heat.
Fry the girolles in butter on medium heat. Add the chopped garlic towards the end. Season and scatter with parsley.
Drain the pasta and mix with a few tablespoons of the browned butter (avoid the sediment on the bottom) and mix in with the girolles. Adjust the seasoning and add more butter if you like. Scatter with grated parmesan and serve.
On Sunday my visiting friend Carina helped me make pasta, and it was a lot easier to have someone helping me roll it out on the pasta machine.
We were both tired and wanted something satisfying but not heavy, so instead of a creamy mushroom sauce I opted for fried mushrooms with quite a lot of butter (instead of a sauce), garlic, parsley and truffle oil served with grated pecorino.
This is a very simple dish, yet absolutely delicious. This certainly proves (yet again) that good produce is all you need to make good food.
Homemade tagliatelle with mushrooms, garlic and parsley, serves 2-3
double batch pasta (made form 200 g flour and 2 eggs)
150 g fresh mini portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 handful mixed dried mushrooms (girolles, black trumpet and cepe), soaked in water and drained, kept whole
2-3 tbsp salted butter
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 handful parsley, chopped
salt, black pepper
Make the pasta and cut into tagliatelle. Scatter on a platter or tray with polenta so it can dry out a little without sticking together. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
Melt half the butter in a frying pan and fry all the mushrooms on high heat. Add the garlic towards the end. Season and add the parsley. Keep warm.
Cook the pasta for 1-2 minutes. Drain and return to pan. Add the mushrooms. Melt the remaining butter and add that too along with a few drops of truffle oil. Mix well and plate. Serve with grated pecorino.