Many of you I am sure have either heard of, or indeed already subscribe to Tim Hayward's excellent Fire & Knives journal that's dedicated to off-beat food writing. For those of you who haven't, I am sure you'd love it and I implore you to sign up for a subscription.
I recently wrote an article for the 6th edition, which rather geekily uses Strauss and Howe's Generation Theory to explain our relationships with the food writers Britain has cyclically cherished during the 20th century and looking forward to predict how things will evolve in the future.
It argues that Elizabeth David was a product of the GI Generation; how Delia Smith was the embodiment of the Silent Generation's traits; how Keith Floyd was Boomer to the core; how Jamie Oliver couldn't be more Generation X if he tried; and offers some thoughts on who might emerge as the Millennial Generation's foodie darling.
Piercingly clear air. Baskingly warm sunshine. An almost un-Scandinavian feeling of camaraderie. Smiling faces sipping coffee. Children let loose from their reins. Beseandled feet. The most enchanting day so far of 2011.
I rarely get a weekend to myself in Gothenburg. So when they pop up I tend to try to indulge in all the things I love about this city. After a stimulating swim and sauna I tend to head to the fish church to stock up on seafood for the week ahead.
I always have my eye out for something a bit different and today an array of corral red shrimps caught my eye. They made the standard prawns look beige by comparison. The fishmonger explained that they were Scandinavia’s version of the King Prawn (Kungsräkor), from the deep chilly waters off the West Coast of Sweden and Norway. He said that they aren’t much known about and have a more lobstery taste than standard prawns. Interestingly, they very proudly display their provenance – indicating that these were from the waters around Styrsö and were caught at a depth of 280 metres. For those of you who thought that prawns were prawns, think again. They take their shellfish so seriously over here that they don’t just tell you where they were from, but also how deep they were caught.
Feeling more than a little bit giddy about the thought of eating my Kungsräkor (King Prawns) I quickly decided that they would make the perfect jewels in a regal shrimp sandwich. I picked up some glasört (samphire) and then headed off to my favourite café and baker (Da Matteo) where I found an exquisite loaf of rye sourdough that seemed to weigh as much as an ingot of gold. A slurp of their amazing cappuccino and a naughty chocolate croissant restored my energy levels and sent me speeding back on my bike to my apartment.
I inspected my Swedish Shellfish bible by Leif Mannerström and found a recipe for Shrimp Sandwiches. I loosely followed his advice but broke two of his golden rules – I switched the homemade mayonnaise for crème fraiche and tossed aside his dictat to only ever consider using soft white bread. I also added samphire and avocado to make it more indulgent. But the rest of the recipe isn’t far off. And it Is in line with his simple, rustic and honest approach so I am sure he wouldn’t shot at me too much. And to appease him further I kept the shells as he implores and made them into an incredibly rich stock.
500g of Kungsräkor with roe 3 slices of rye bread 3 tablespoons of crème fraiche 3 radishes ½ avocado Wedge of lemon Salad leaves Handful of blanched samphire Salt and pepper Method
Peel the prawns and chuck the shells into the pan you’ll make your stock in later. Plop the roe into a separate bowl. It’s a bit fiddly because the shells are thinner and more clingy than normal prawns, but it’s quite therapeutic.
Slice the rye bread and smear with crème fraiche. Lay the samphire on top and then create a layer of prawns that look as though they are spooning each other. Arrange some salad leaves around the outside, lob on a few slices of avocado and radish. Then finish it off with a smattering of lemon and a gung ho scattering of salt and pepper. Then anoint with the crimson roe.
In Sweden you can barely move for shrimp sandwiches. But it's hard to find a really good one. Too often there's too much mayonnaise and the prawns are tasteless. But not so here. The rye sourdough added texture, sweetness and acidity which helped to make the special shrimps taste even more of themselves. And the radishes and samphire, inspired by our trip to Aamanns in Copenhagen, turned this from being a standard shrimp sandwich into a superior shrimp sandwich.
As regular readers know I am partial to a risotto. But with my loose adoption of the Nordic Diet, which spurns simple carbohydrates, I’ve not been able to enjoy them as freely as I’d like to. Trina Hahnemann instead suggests using whole grain risotto rice, but I’ve struggled to find it in Sweden – and even struggled to lay my hands on any on a recent trip to Florence. So instead, like a heroin addict trying to find a cure, I found solace, not in cough medicine, but in spelt. Sure, it doesn’t give you quite the same smack as a true risotto, but it packs twice as much protein and less sugars, so is better for you, without being too worthy.
In Sweden spelt is called dinkel, which is a name I rather like. Partly because it reminds me of Claudia Winkleman, but also because it just sounds so innocent. I bought a packet of dinkel grains from a brand called Saltå which I can’t recommend highly enough. Now, when I look on my shelves, I see a line of beautifully designed packages, replete with an iconic, lino cut image of an old fashioned mill, stamped onto reassuringly thick brown paper. I’ve got their whole grain spaghetti, their spelt flour, their red rice, their quinoa, their amazing porridge oats and now their spelt. Many of their products are bio-dynamic, most are organic, all are superbly made and none have ever let me down. They’ve managed to make the terribly dull world of goody two-shoes carbs, just a little bit sexy.
Not knowing quite what to do with my spelt I consulted Twitter and was sent in the direction of the Sharpham Park website which suggested using pearled spelt as a risotto rice substitute. I’ve shamelessly stolen the term “speltotto” from the chaps at Sharpham, although maybe Dinkelotto would be more fitting. As ever, my beetroot fetish continues unabated and it always goes well with smoked mackerel, a splodge of goat’s curd and a sprinkling of chives. Previous experience of making beetroot risottos has meant that I’ve given their recipe a sharp tweak to get the maximum beet-impact.
100g Dinkel / Spelt per person 1 smoked mackerel 1 finely chopped shallot 1 glass of white wine Goat’s curd or goat’s cheese 4 beetroot Chives 1 litre of stock Olive oil Butter Salt Pepper
Peel the beetroot and dice them very finely. Then add them to a pan, cover with the stock and simmer until the beetroot is tender. Reserve the liquid, for this will be your ruby red stock. Sharpham Park suggest grating, but if you do this, I think you miss out on texture and colour.
Fry the shallot until tender. Add the spelt as you would do with risotto rice. Then after it has crackled for a minute add the wine. Let it huff and puff like a thirsty dragon and then add the crimson beetroot stock and reserve the beetroot solids. Continue until the spelt has absorbed the liquid and has softened which could take anywhere from 20 minutes to 50! (You can reduce the cooking time by soaking the spelt overnight). Add the beetroot pieces towards the end.
Then when the spelt is cooked beat in some butter and season with gusto. Integrate the smoked mackerel and goat’s cheese. And finally, sprinkle over some chopped chives.
It’s an earthy, toothsome, beast, so works well with something piercing to offset the deep flavours – a decent glass or two of dry German Riesling would hit the spot. My final piece of advice, aside from not wearing white, is to make a big batch and enjoy it for lunch the next day and also as alarmingly coloured arancini.
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: