I’ve already attended a couple of cookery classes at Food at 52Flavours of Italy run by school founder John and Scandinavian Christmas Baking with Trine Hahnemann. Recently, I went back to attend another of Trine’s classes, Flavours of Scandinavia.

The class focuses on the kind of simple, healthy cooking that Scandinavians enjoy at home, using ingredients such as root vegetables, kale and rye grains.

Unlike my previous classes at the school, this one was less hands on. In the other classes, we worked in pairs to create most of the recipes ourselves and made just one or two as a whole group. This time, we made nearly everything as a group. In practice, that meant we discussed and watched a lot more, but there was still plenty of opportunity to handle the ingredients, to smell and touch and taste. Where we did get more hands on experience was in peeling and chopping vegetables, forming and frying frikadeller (Danish meatballs), making individual salad dressings and frying the mushroom and rye dish and the apple and onion dish.

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What was most valuable, for me, was the confirmation of how simple and achievable this cuisine can be when you focus on everyday cooking rather than the new modern approach of the famous Scandi restaurants.

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And though I’ve had it once before, at an Abergavenny Festival class by Trine and Signe Johansen, I had forgotten how very delicious celeriac root is when baked whole after rubbing with oil and salt. It has a wonderful earthy flavour and a soft fluffy texture, much like a properly baked potato.

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Even without the three day curing, Trine’s orange and lemon cured salmon was another hit for me – I had never imagined that orange would go so well with salmon, even though it’s second nature to pair the fish with lemon. We tried a few slices of the salmon after only a dew hours, and it was super.

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Roast root vegetables are always a winner and Trine encouraged us not to peel them, for added flavour and roughage. Tossed in oil and sprinkled with a restrained scattering of fennel seeds these beetroot, carrots and parsnips were very good indeed.

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Rye grains turned out to be much like spelt grains once cooked, and make another excellent alternative to rice.

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Trine brought along some of her home made rye bread too, which is always a treat.

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The chicken, potato, kale and almond salad was good, but I’m still not as much of a fan of kale as I am of other cabbages such as savoy. The dressing was much as I usually make – vinegar, mustard, honey and oil.

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On the other hand, the kale “pesto” was wonderfully green, lemony and light. Because it didn’t have the heaviness that cheese brings, it was also a good way to eat more of this nutritious winter vegetable.

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But my favourites were the frikadeller served with fried apple and onion. Similar in taste, but not in shape and size, to the Swedish köttbullar I fell in love with during many childhood trips to Sweden these were comfort food at its most comforting.

Making good frikadeller is all about the fars, or minced meat mix, so Trine made sure we all had the chance to feel it and understand the texture we should aim for. Then she showed us how to shape the balls with oiled spoons and we formed a rotating queue, shaping and dropping into the pan, shaping and dropping into the pan.

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After the cooking (and talking and laughing) we sat down to lunch (with more talking and laughing) and enjoyed the feast.

Thanks to Trine and Food at 52 for another lovely day.

 

Kavey Eats attended this class as a guest of Food at 52.

 

Earlier this year, I had a great time reviewing the Italian cookery class at Food at 52. I loved how much we covered and that it was all hands on; I really appreciated class tutor John’s friendly, knowledgeable and encouraging approach and I loved the home-style feel of the basement classroom.

I also had a fun evening baking afternoon treats there, more recently.

This time, I was back to learn from Trine Hahnemann, the Danish cooking legend who runs a hugely successful catering business, has appeared as a regular guest chef on Danish cookery programmes and is the author of three books on Nordic and Scandinavian cooking.

Here’s my review of Trine’s second book, The Scandinavian Cookbook, and her recipe for Swedish cheese tart.

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The Scandinavian Christmas Baking class invited us to get a head start on our Christmas baking the Scandinavian way.

During the class, we made recipes from Trine’s latest book Scandinavian Christmas, including Christmas Danish pastries, Lucia saffron bread, kransekage aka almond biscuits, cinnamon biscuits, vanilla biscuits and brune kager aka brown cakes, actually another type of spiced biscuit.

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Working in pairs, I teamed up with lovely Michelle and we measured, mixed, shaped and tasted our way through the recipes, under Trine’s watchful guidance and instruction.

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Although we made most of the recipes ourselves, Trine had mixed together the dough for the Christmas Danish pastry ahead of time. She showed us how to laminate the dough (with a wonderfully outrageous volume of butter) and once it was sliced and laid on the dough, all of us took turns to roll and fold it throughout the day, popping it into the fridge between each folding.

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When the dough was eventually ready, Trine cut it into pieces and showed us how to fold it into balls, pinching them closed on the underside.

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Once out of the oven, we scarcely allowed the pastries to cool before diving in.

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Although Trine felt the pastries had not risen as much as normal, I thought they were absolutely divine! Essentially, they were like softer, richer hot cross buns and it was that softness that made me fall in love with them.

That said, during the day, one of the pieces of information Trine shared was that baked goods with oil or butter are very much best enjoyed on the day they are baked as they go stale far more quickly than items without fats. Whilst these were still very tasty the next day, the pillowy-soft texture had gone.

One of the simplest recipes we made was also one of my favourites: the kransekage (almond biscuits). Made with marzipan, Trine warned us against the cheap marzipan that is prevalent in the supermarkets; indeed she carried several logs of top quality marzipan with her from Denmark when she last visited. We used a 200 gram log in each batch of biscuits, you can see the batch Michelle and I made, below.

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These were so quick to make using a food processor and I loved the chewy marzipan with the crunch from the walnut pieces on top.

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In order for it to have time to rise, Trine had also mixed the dough for the Lucia saffron bread. After showing us the traditional shapes, the dough pieces were shared out and we were let loose to make our own buns.

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These soft buns were somewhat like brioche, an egg-rich dough with a gentle sweetness.

At this stage, in the middle of the day, it was time to stop for lunch. This was an absolute treat. With dense, rich slices of Trine’s homemade rye bread and soft fluffy poppy seed buns, we had some fantastic Danish salmon that Trine had brought across from Denmark on her latest visit. A side salad and cheeseboard were also welcome, as were fish and mushroom pates and the most fabulous pickled marrow, in a sweet sharp brine that I absolutely loved.

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Wine was enjoyed by those who fancied it (and coffee and water throughout the day).

After lunch, it was back to the baking.

The brune kager or brown biscuits need a few days in the fridge for the flavours to meld and mature. Each pair of students made up a batch of dough, which we divided and took home with us.

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I baked mine some of mine after a week in the fridge (transferring the rest to the freezer) and the combination of spices, candied citrus and almonds was just wonderful.

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For the vanilla biscuits and the cinnamon biscuits, we divided the class into two. Half the pairs made the vanilla dough, and half made the cinnamon. At the end, we cooked just a small batch of each to try, and the rest of the dough we divided so that each student took a generous piece of each home with them.

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Michelle and I made vanilla biscuits.

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The traditional shape for the vanilla biscuits is cute little rings, made by rolling small pieces of dough into sausages before pinching the ends together to form a circle.

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The cinnamon biscuit dough looked very similar to the vanilla one, though on close examination, we could see the dark specks of the vanilla seeds in one.

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After being rolled thinly between two sheets of parchment paper, the cinnamon biscuits were cut into shapes with cookie cutters, brushed with egg and sprinkled with a demerara sugar and cinnamon mix.

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As seems to be the standard for Food at 52 courses, we packed so much into our time and the hands on experience makes me feel confident that I can reproduce these treats at home.

Alongside recipes and techniques, the stories and traditions of Christmas and personal anecdotes that Trine shared with us throughout the day made this a really fun and enjoyable experience.

 

The recipes we made can be found in Trine’s latest book, alongside savoury dishes, mulled wine and cocktails, sweets, cakes and chutneys. Scandinavian Christmas is currently available from Amazon for £7.65 (RRP £16.99). (Buying via my referral link earns me a tiny fee from Amazon, thank you).

Kavey Eats attended as a guest of Food at 52.

 

It would be easy to dismiss my friend Sig’s new book as jumping on the Scandi band wagon, but it’d be completely wrong to do so. Since June 2008 Sig has been sharing the joy’s of Scandinavian cooking via her blog, Scandilicious.

Describing her heritage as Scandinavian-English-American-Irish-German-Jewish-Lithuanian (and born to a Norwegian father and English-American mother) Sig is well known for sharing an eclectic range of recipes with a distinctly Scandinavian theme. Having studied food anthropology, graduated from Leith’s and been one of the students that contributed to Fiona Beckett’s The Ultimate Student Cookbook, she has brought all her experience into her first solo book Scandilicious.

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Wonderfully warm, just like the author in person, Scandilicious is an attractive and engaging book. I particularly like the use of sketched illustrations by artist Liam Wales, though there are plenty of photographs of the finished recipes too. It really has its own style, and is not at all like any of the other Scandinavian cookbooks on my shelf.

There are many tempting recipes such as a range of fruit compotes and jams (to go with home made yoghurt amongst other treats), banana and cinnamon crispbread, raspberry and rhubarb lemonade, vanilla and sour cream waffles, a whole range of open and closed sandwich ideas, spiced blueberry juice, mor monsen (Norwegian lemon, currant and almond cake), kladdkaka (Swedish gooey chocolate cake), mustikkapiirakka (Finnish blueberry tart), Bergen fish chowder, chilled cucumber and borage soup, beetroot and ginger soup, pickled herring, Janssons frestelse (Swedish anchovy and potato gratin), lemon and nutmeg krumkaker (cornets) and lingonberry jelly. And that’s only a selection – there are many, many more appealing recipes!

This banana and cardamom ice cream is very simple but quite delicious.

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Scandilicious’ Banana & Cardamom Ice Cream

Feel free to substitute grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon or clove if you fancy a different flavour combination. If you’re making this for children, you may wish to omit the alcohol.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
300 ml whipping cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
4 small ripe bananas
50 grams fructose (or 75 grams caster sugar), plus more to taste
1 tablespoon rum or brandy
pinch of salt

Note: I had only brown cardamoms, most commonly used for savoury cooking in my house, rather than the smaller green cardamoms used for savoury and sweet. As the recipe didn’t specify, I ground the seeds from within from these enormous pods. It gave a nutty, woody flavour alongside the usual cardamom perfume; it worked really well.

Method

  • Put the cream and the ground cardamom in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes before removing from the heat. Allow to infuse for 30 minutes and cool completely.
  • Once the cream has cooled, blitz the bananas and fructose (or sugar) in a blender or mash together by hand. Add the cardamom-infused cream, alcohol and salt to the sweetened banana and either blitz or mash together, as appropriate. Taste to check the sweetness and add more fructose (or sugar) if necessary – the mixture should be slightly sweeter than you want the final ice cream to be, as it will taste less sweet once frozen.
  • The next step is to freeze the ice cream. I used my loan Gaggia machine, but the recipe also provides instructions for those who don’t have a machine.

The ice cream was delicious and the addition of cardamom and brandy to the banana was wonderful; it worked really well.

With thanks to the publisher for my review copy.


Published by SaltYard, Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking … Scandilicious is currently available on Amazon for £11.61 (RRP £20).

 

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Yes, this statement of the bleedin’ obvious is something I’ve “helpfully” been told by a surprisingly large number of people over the last 39 years… I still get it now, from time to time.

And, you know, I can even understand how using Ryvita as an aide-memoire for Kavita might help some people to remember my name more easily. Though I do wish they’d remember to switch back to Kavita instead of calling me Ryvita to my face.

Despite all that, Ryvita has a fond place in my affections, having been a sorta kinda namesake for so long!

Back in the eighties, the decade I associate most strongly with the modern obsession with diets, Ryvita was a key part of lunch boxes and light home lunches for many of the calorie conscious. I was (though I realise it must be quite a shock for those of you who know me now) quite a skinny thing back then but I quite liked the crunchy texture and enjoyed it now and again.

But I’ve not had it for years and years and years.

Chatting to a friend about nicknames recently, I was inevitably reminded about this crunchy snack.

Now that one can more readily find Swedish knäckebröd (crispbread) in the UK as well as the wonderful Peters Yard Crispbread (made in the UK in a Scandinavian style) I wondered how Ryvita would compare.

To my delight, when a PR friend learned about my long-time nickname, she arranged for some Ryvita to be sent to me for review.

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We tried our two varieties of Ryvita – Sunflower Seeds & Oats and Pumpkin Seeds & Oats – with a picnic-style spread of duck liver paté, sliced Spanish chorizo, smoked mackerel paté and a satisfyingly liquid-centred Vacherin du Haut-Doubs Mont d’Or (cheese).

To my surprise I really, really liked both varieties, particularly the pumpkin seed one with the soft bite and flavour of the little green seeds. Pete enjoyed them too.

The best topping was definitely the vacherin cheese, spooned out of the container and smeared liberally over the crispbread.

I realised that, in the many years since I’d last eaten Ryvita, I had mingled my memories of Ryvita with a number of completely different styles of crispbread – one that has a texture more akin to edible polystyrene (do you know the one I mean?) and another that is essentially dried halved bread rolls.

In fact, Ryvita crispbread is very similar in taste and texture to the authentic Leksands Swedish crispbread I rediscovered recently.

I started off tickled by the idea of a post about my sorta kinda namesake and ended up happily finding myself falling for the product itself! It’ll certainly be making an appearance more regularly from now on.

 

I’ve talked before about the times I spend in Lidköping, Sweden, as a child.

For several years, my dad took a busman’s holiday working as an anaesthetist in the local hospital there. Mum, my sister and I went with him and whiled away our days walking around town and along the river, visiting the local parks, playing in the little sandpits within our apartment complex, spending good times with the local friends we made over the years and generally enjoying our Lidköping home-from-home.

In that post I mentioned my memories of köttbullar (meatballs), punschrulle (little cakes traditionally made using leftover cake and cookie crumbs from the day’s baking, which is why they are also known as dammsugare or “vacuum cleaner”), surströmming (fermented herring) and skogsbär (fruits of the forest) yoghurt.

And I shared a recipe for Swedish Cheese Tart from The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann. At the time, we didn’t have the Västerbotten cheese listed in the ingredients, so we substituted cheddar. It was still very delicious!

But now I have good news:

Västerbotten cheese has come to town!

It’s a hard cow’s milk cheese with teeny, tiny holes and is firm but with some give. And it’s one of the many things we grew to love in Sweden.

We’d miss it so much when we returned home that we’d insist mum tracked it down; the nearest she could find in the UK back then was Danish Havarti, which has similar little holes but an altogether softer texture and not quite the same flavour.

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So, I was very happy to be sent some Västerbottensost (ost means cheese) for review, along with a packet of Leksands Knäckebröd (crispbread) and a jar of Felix lingonberry jam.

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The cheese transported me immediately back to childhood. The appearance, the smell and above all, the taste created such a strong sense of happy nostalgia and familiarity, I almost launched into a rousing rendition of Dr Seuss (“You have brains in your head, You have feet in your shoes…”) but instead, concentrated on enjoying my cheese.

Incidentally, those Leksands crispbreads are rather good too; I’d forgotten how much I like this style of crispbread – the plain variety with a wonderful crunch and mild flavour.

I did wonder, for a moment, whether I was enjoying the cheese so much because of those childhood associations. But Pete said he really liked the cheese too.

It’s not just the cheese I like, but the story of how it came to be.

According to legend, it was accidentally created by cheese maker Eleonora Lindstrom who lived in Burtrask in the far north of Sweden. She was left alone to stir the curd of a traditional Swedish cheese but found herself becoming ‘distracted’ on several occasions by visits from her lover. As the fire went out each time Eleonora became side-tracked, the curd cooled, meaning it had to be reheated and then stirred again when her attention returned to it. Due to this unorthodox method of constant heating, cooling and stirring, the cheese didn’t make the usual grade so was placed on a shelf and left there for 12 months. When the cheese was eventually tested, the taste and texture was so unusual and delicious that Eleonora’s technique was replicated and Västerbotten cheese was born.

These days, it is aged for 14 months, known as Sweden’s King of Cheeses and emblazoned with the title, “By appointment to his Majesty the King of Sweden”.

Västerbottensost is currently celebrating it’s 100th year anniversary.

As part of a collaboration between Swedish Trade Council and John Lewis/ Waitrose the cheese is featuring in a 7 week celebration of Swedish food and drink at John Lewis Oxford Street and Waitrose Bluewater. The celebration runs to the end of February. Also available to try and buy at the celebration are the crispbread and lingonberry jam above plus a range of Swedish food and drink including breads, dairy products, condiments and meats.

You can also buy västerbottensost at Scandinavian Kitchen and Totally Swedish (both in London) or from their online shops.

 

Snowflakes and Schnapps by Jane Lawson has a Scandinavian feel about it, focused as it is on hearty dishes with a winter theme. But actually, Australian-born Lawson covers a much wider swathe of Europe in this tome.

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The book’s blurb invites us to “Join Jane Lawson as she takes you on a culinary journey through the magnificent cold-climate cuisines of the snow-cloaked regions of northern, central and eastern Europe. From the seaside towns of Scandinavia, to the alpine villages of Austria, from the ski fields of France, to the fairy-tale castles of Germany, and as far afield as the white-blanketed cities of Russia and beyond, comes this enticing collection of traditional recipes with contemporary flair.”

All in all Lawson visited Germany, Austria, Hungary, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, France, Switzerland and Italy during the research for her book.

It’s a beautifully solid, sturdy book with an elegant embossed and spot-varnished cover, with the occasional spot-varnished snow flake drifting subtly across the thick pages and vivid, slightly retro-styled food photography showcasing a wide range of intriguing recipes.

Many of these catch my eye – potato flatbreads with smoked salmon, doughnut balls with mocha soup, gingerbread-spice coffee, almond hot chocolate, spiced buttermilk waffles with rhubarb molasses and orange whipped butter, pork and cabbage cakes with sweet onion relish, garlicky pelmeni with brown butter, herbs and yoghurt, slow cooked lamb shanks with Janssen’s temptation, coriander roast chicken with walnut sauce, quark fritters with honey syrup, balsamic-glazed veal sweetbreads with white bean and sage fritters, veal cutlet with wheat beer sauce and winter vegetable strudel, beef fillet in parmesan pastry with truffle butter sauce, molten black forest puddings with cherry compote and kirsch cream, prune filled pancakes baked in caramel with spiced cookie cream, roast goose with apple, cider vinegar gravy and golden potatoes…

But whilst the book is beautiful, I think the styling may have been taken a little too far. Chapter titles are a little too cute for comfort: Baby It’s Cold Outside (snacks, soups, and warming drinks); Warmed To The Core (breakfasts and slow-cooked dishes); Diamonds And Fur (more decadent recipes, bringing out the bling for entertaining); and Dreaming of a White Christmas (presumably dishes fit for seasonal and celebratory feasting).

And it’s disappointing, in a book described as a culinary journey, to find no introduction or even description of the recipes at all, let alone the places, peoples and cultures they hail from. Whilst it’s clear that Lawson has taken broad artistic license with the recipes, taking inspiration from the cuisines of the countries she visited rather than producing a faithful record of authentic methods and ingredients, this lack of background information makes it much harder to connect to the recipes, to understand their textures and flavours and be drawn into making them.

Perhaps it’s for this reason that I went for the familiar, a dish that I already associate with the snow-covered reaches of Northern Europe and remember from the many visits to Sweden I made during my childhood.

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Lawson’s meatballs with vodka dill sauce may not be exactly the same as Swedish köttbullar but they look pretty close.

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Meatballs With Vodka Dill Sauce

Ingredients
160g fresh white breadcrumbs
185ml pouring (whipping) cream
350g minced beef
350g minced pork
1 large egg
1 onion, very finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of ground allspice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon plain flour
435 ml hot beef stock
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped dill (plus extra to garnish)
80 ml vodka
Lingonberry preserves to serve

Method

  • Combine the breadcrumbs and 125 ml of the cream and leave to sit until the breadcrumbs have absorbed all the liquid.
  • Add the beef and pork mince, egg, onion, nutmeg, allspice, salt and white pepper and combine well.
  • Roll the mixture into 3 cm balls and place in a single layer on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours to allow the flavours to develop.
  • When ready to cook, heat half of the butter with the oil in a large heavy based frying pan over a medium-high heat (do not use a non-stick pan).
  • Cook the meatballs, in batches, for 4-6 minutes each, or until browned all over. Remove and set aside.
  • Add the remaining butter and the flour to the pan and stir.
  • Gradually whisk in the hot stock and the remaining cream, scraping up any cooked-on bits.
  • Add the dill and 3 tablespoons of the vodka, and bring to the boil, whisking continuously until smooth and thickened slightly.
  • Return the meatballs to the pan, along with any resting juices, and cook for 10 minutes or until tender.
  • Stir through the remaining vodka and season to taste.
  • Garnish with the fresh dill and serve with lingonberry preserves as a condiment.
  • Tip: Serve the meatballs over some sautéed or mashed potatoes or buttered noodles, with the lingonberry preserves on the side as a condiment. A shot of Vodka is a must!

Notes

We made a few changes to the recipe, mainly because we had 600 grams of minced beef and the same again of minced pork in the freezer. We scaled up the quantities of all the meatball ingredients, making a whopping 52 meatballs, 36 of which we froze for later use.

The remaining 16 (yes, we’re greedy piggies) we cooked as per the instructions, the only omission being dill, which I don’t like. Having forgotten to defrost any of our home-made stock from the freezer, we used a beef stock pot, which worked fine for this recipe.

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Our sauce wasn’t as dark as the photograph in the book, perhaps because we didn’t brown the meatballs enough or maybe because our stock wasn’t as dark as Lawson’s. However, the taste of the meatballs and cream sauce were very much in tune with my memories of Swedish meatballs and gravy.

My only negative would be that adding so much of the vodka into the sauce right at the end gave the finished sauce a somewhat too astringent vodka taste. In future, I’ll either add all or most of it before bringing the sauce to the boil or simply use less overall. (And this coming from someone who rather likes boozy sauces).

On the basis of this recipe, I’m hopeful about the success I might have if I tried some of the others, though many of them seem to be more complicated and time-consuming than I have patience for.

The problem for me remains the lack of any introduction to each recipe, and the lack of background information overall about the countries Lawson took inspiration from and the original dishes she used as a starting point for her own recipes.

That said, it is a beautiful book, the very epitome of coffee table food porn and the kind of book any food lover would surely love to receive as a gift, whether or not they go on to make many of the recipes. And I have always been rather a sucker for spot-varnishing, as my husband can attest – I’ve been known to sit stroking such varnish with a demented grin on my face. So you can only imagine how happy little dainty snowflakes of shininess have made me…

Many thanks to Murdoch books for the review copy.



Snowflakes and Schnapps, published by Murdoch Books, is currently available from Amazon for £14.99, cover price £25.

 

A short while ago I was invited to attend an inaugural food photography training session organised by Helen of aforkfulofspaghetti, run by Chris Windsor, a freelance professional photographer and hosted by the Scandinavian Kitchen, a shop, deli and café in Great Titchfield Street.

I’ve been a keen photographer since I was a child and have learned a fair bit over the decades since then; I’ve attended a few courses but mostly self-taught.

I’ve also delivered training myself (IT Training is what I do for a living) on “Understanding & Processing RAW Files In Adobe Camera Raw & Photoshop”. As well as covering topics such as white balance, exposure, histograms and contrast my courses have sometimes also covered general photography skills too such as selecting aperture, shutter speed and ISO, using the camera histogram display to improve exposure and so on. I have also sold prints and stock images, though on a very limited basis.


The first set of photos I took, out by the window


So, as I mentioned to Helen before signing up, I wasn’t sure whether the session would be that useful to me. It would depend on what Chris was intending to cover.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean that there’s nothing to improve in my photography – there is so much I could do a great deal better. I look at the photography in some of my favourite food publications and blogs and sigh with a mixture of admiration and envy!


My next images, also taken by the window

The main areas I’d like help with are food styling, which I find quite tricky and also a practical session on making better use of both natural and artificial light, particularly the latter. The other problem area for me is down to laziness rather than lack of knowledge – I seldom bother to make a proper effort to set the scene and arrange better lighting when I’m hungry to eat whatever’s just been cooked! Of course, I know no-one else can help me on that front and I just have to apply will-power!

In the end, I decided that, regardless of the content of the session, it would be fun to meet Chris and the other food bloggers attending, to visit the Scandinavian Kitchen, and to photograph and eat delicious goodies provided by them.


I took the next dish outside, hoping for a little more light


Arriving early gave me the chance to meet Chris and Helen before the session started as well as to explore the goodies on sale in the shop and start thinking about what I’d buy to take home later.

Chris introduced himself and showed us his reportage style of photography. His latest projects include providing the photography for books written by his wife, food-writer Jenny Linford, including a new edition of her book, Food Lover’s London, which he had brought along to show us. Although he has, in his long career as a professional, worked on all kinds of shoots, including studio work with lighting, food stylists and props, he does much less of this work these days focusing on some wonderful abstracts as well as more candid portraiture.

With two point and shoot users and two DSLR users, I quickly realised that the class would need to be pitched at a far more basic level than would be useful to me but didn’t mind simply enjoying the company.


This one was taken deep inside the coffeeshop, not much available light but used a little fill-in flash and reduced noise in post-processing.

Chris covered everything from available light and white balance to ISO to dialling down the intensity of one’s flash, all of which seemed really useful to my classmates.

My favourite bit of the session was the practical during the last 40 minutes. We distributed a couple of dishes of beautiful open sandwiches provided by our hosts, each took a plate or two to a quiet corner and started photographing away. In the main, I just did my normal thing but enjoyed a very brief session at the end trying out some home-made reflector boards that Chris set up using mini clamps.


This one was also taken in the darker area of the coffeeshop using Chris’ reflectors and a high ISO. I had to apply a lot of noise reduction when processing. For composition, I stuck with same as I’d used previously for the same dish.

It was also very nice to meet and chat to Swedish owner Jonas who set up the café shop with his Danish wife, Bronte. Together they have created a stylish and welcoming shop selling food from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and even Finland.

As well as eating the open sandwiches we’d just photographed Jonas kindly treated us to a true childhood favourite of mine – punschrulle, also known colloquially as vacuum cleaners. These rum-flavoured, green-marzipan coated, chocolate-dipped cakes take me straight back to regular childhood trips to Sweden and I’ve loved them ever since. These are also available from Ikea so I do indulge now and again though Scandinavian Kitchen does have a far bigger range of quality food items than Ikea!

Before leaving, I treated myself to some Swedish blood pudding and some cute gummy car-shaped sweets. The blood pudding made a great hangover-cure lunch on Sunday. We went for a protein blow out of fried blood pudding, fried eggs and grilled streaky bacon. Delicious and very reasonably priced too so I’ll certainly be popping back down to Scandinavian Kitchen for further supplies!


The beautiful Swedish blood pudding before and after cooking

Going forward, I think the classes would benefit from being split between complete beginners and intermediate users, possibly also between DLSR and point and shoot users too. For those looking for something more specific or advanced, whether it be a session on lighting or understanding their camera settings, it may be best to book a one-to-one session directly with Chris. Contact him via his website.

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