Recipe: pizza bianco with butter-fried girolles and Västerbotten cheese

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For once I feel like I’ve had a proper summer. It’s been warm and sunny both here in London and in Sweden. I’ve still got a tan and I swam in the sea several times. Had al fresco meals and lots of rosé. One might think I’ve had enough of summer for now, but I would happily continue the summer for another few months. But, because we had a real summer I am also, at the same time, looking forward to autumn. To cosy nights in, lit candles, blankets, darker colours and heartier dinners. And red wine instead of rosé.

And just like the trench coat and the leather jacket are good transitional pieces in our wardrobes I feel this pizza is the ultimate transitional dinner dish.

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Mushrooms always get me excited about autumn and their earthy taste is just what I’d want right now. Before the soups and stews. And, luckily – this pizza goes well with both red and rosé!

Pizza bianco with butter-fried girolles and Västerbotten cheese, makes 1 pizza

1/4 pizza dough 

flour for rolling

2-3 tbsp creme fraiche

1/4 buffalo mozzarella, torn into smaller pieces

100 ml grated Västerbotten cheese (mature cheddar works too) 

200 g girolles

2-3 tbsp butter

a splash of oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

chopped parsley

sea salt and black pepper

finely grated Västerbotten cheese for serving

Roll out the dough with the help of a rolling pin on a floured surface. Place the rolled out pizza base on a parchment paper covered baking tray. Spread out the creme fraiche on the pizza base. Divide the mozzarella and the grated Västerbotten cheese.  Bake in a 220C (200C fan) oven for 8-10 minutes, until the base is crisp, the cheese has melted and the whole thing is golden brown.

In the meantime, fry the girolles in butter and oil on medium-high heat. When the mushrooms are almost done, add the garlic and fry until golden (but no longer). Remove the pan from the heat and season well. Add the chopped parsley. 

Remove the pizza from the oven, divide the mushrooms onto the pizza, top with finely grated cheddar and cut into slices. 

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Wine tasting at Hällåkra, a Swedish Vineyard

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When I was little Hällåkra was a farm nearby our house, but the last twelve years or so the farm has been transformed into a vineyard. In the south of Sweden. It may sounds strange as some people imagine Sweden as an eternally cold country. But it’s not. Not in the south anyway. My mother has a fig tree, so the climate here is fairly mild. Very similar to Kent in England or even northern France, yet Swedish wine was unheard of until a few years ago.

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Anyway, having a vineyard so close by I’ve been dying to go, but fitting it in on my trips to Sweden has been a little difficult, but this summer I persuaded my friends to come with me, so we went to the wine tasting in the afternoon and then walked back to my parents’ house for dinner in the evening.

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My childhood friend Karl is now a sommelier working at the vineyard and was in charge of our wine tasting. He did a great job keeping it relaxed but informative and interesting at the same time. We asked lots of questions which Karl patiently answered, and despite the heavy (London-like) rain he also took us on a tour among the grapevines.So impressive! And a lovely walk in the sunshine.

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We tried six wines, three whites and three reds, and it was very interesting to compare them.

Two of the whites were from their own production but different vintages, and it was very interesting comparing the two as they were very different. We tried the Solaris (that’s the grape) from 2015 and 2014, which were both really nice but my favourite was the 2014. Of the reds Hällåkra’s Rondo 2013 was lovely as was the Austrian Gut Oggau Josephine 2012.

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In Sweden you (unfortunately) can’t buy wine straight from the vineyards, but they can be bought through the government-owned shop Systembolaget, using what the call private import as it’s not readily available in their shops. More information, here, in Swedish.

Hällåkra Vingård, Hällåkravägen 47, 231 72 Anderslöv, Sweden 

Bolognese sauce with red wine and bone marrow

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It is not as often as I would like, that I have time to stand by the stove and look after a casserole (thank god for the oven and slow-cookers), but one Sunday I found the time and enjoyed a few hours in the kitchen. Although made with mince this bolognese was done properly; starting with a soffritto, adding the best tinned tomatoes and tomato purée and eventually red wine and cooking slowly on low heat. In the meantime I prepared some tagliatelle and baked marrow bones to add bone marrow to the casserole towards the end.

The idea to have bone marrow in a bolognese sauce is entirely Massimo Bottura’s and I’ve been thinking about trying it since I heard him speak at Taste of London in June.

I loved the addition of bone marrow but I love it in all types of dishes. This is still a subtle way of serving it, almost sneaking it in, but the depth and umami it adds make wonders for the stew. But, if you don’t like the sound of bone marrow just omit it, the bolognese sauce is still delicious!

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Bolognese sauce with red wine and bone marrow, serves 3-4

500 g pork mince 

ca 3 tbsp sofritto on equal parts onion, carrot and celery 

400 g Cirio chopped tomatoes

200 ml water

1 tbsp Cirio tomato purée

1/2 garlic clove, presser

200-300 ml red wine

salt, black pepper

optional: rosemary and thyme 

1 marrow bone

Mix equal parts onions, celery and carrot in a food processor. Use 3 tbsp about it and freeze (or keep in the fridge for other stews) the rest.

Fry the mince in a knob of butter in a frying pan. Add a knob of butter to a casserole dish and fry the soffritto on medium heat for a few minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and water, tomato purée and garlic. Leave to reduce a little. Add the fried mince and red wine and leave to simmer for about 1 hour. Season to taste and add the herbs if needed. Preheat the oven to 200C and place the marrow bone on a baking tray and roast in the office until cooked through (i.e. not red/pink in the middle but see-through and a little brown at the edges). Scoop out the marrow and add to the casserole. Season to taste one last time then serve (with tagliatelle and plenty of grated parmesan). 

Smooth chicken liver mousse with red wine and thyme

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I had a little gathering on the first Sunday of Advent treating my friends to some traditional Swedish Christmas treats as well as some other things. We started off with this heavenly smooth chicken liver mousse served with crispy crostinis. It went down really well and I am very pleased with the flavour combination of liver, red wine and thyme.

Even if you are not a serious charcuterie or offal fan, a chicken liver mousse is always a good place to start. Chicken liver is very mild in flavour compared to calf’s or lamb’s liver. And the other ingredients in this mousse don’t really enhance the liver flavour; it mere complements it.

To make the crostinis, all you need is a day-old baguette and some oil. Slice the baguette in 5 mm thick slices slightly on the diagonal and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with a nice olive or rapeseed oil, place in 200C oven until crisp and golden brown; it takes about 15 minutes.

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Chicken liver mousse with red wine and thyme, 1 batch

1/2 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, grated

1 tbsp oil for frying

450 g chicken livers (about 350 g once tubes/tendons removed), roughly chopped

1tbsp butter + 1 tbsp butter

50 ml red wine

1 anchovy

1/2 tsk dried thyme

salt and pepper

65 ml double cream

Fry the onions in the oil on low heat until translucent, add the garlic and fry for another minute.

Turn the heat up and add 1 tbsp butter and the liver. Fry until the liver pieces are cooked all the way around but pink in the middle. Add the anchovy (whole), more butter, red wine and thyme. Fry while stirring until half the liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper. 

Remove from heat and pour into a food processor. Add the cream and mix until as smooth as possible. Season to taste with salt, pepper and maybe a pinch of sugar. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve, into the serving container. The mixture is a  bit liquid at this stage but it will set in the fridge. Refridgerate for several hours (about 4-5) for the mousse to set and the flavours to develop.