Archive for December, 2014

Throwback Thursday Battle of the Gratins

Posted in dairy, pickled sprats, potato, scandinavian, side dish, swede, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2014 by oskila

Merry Christmas readers! The posting has been sparse this year and I don’t think I can promise lots of improvement with Nerdcuisine jr entering her second year in life rather soon.

When I started this post it was still Thursday so it counts. It’s a post I’ve been meaning to do for a whole year. It’s like this you see; last year mrs Nerdcuisine’s water broke on December 22nd. No baby came though, so we had to go in for check-ups the following three mornings. On the morning of Christmas Eve we decided to get some work done before having to go to the hospital, so we prepared some Christmas gratins. A classic Swedish one and a probably even more classic Finnish one. I usually have lot of photos in my posts, but this session was done very early in the morning, so most of the pics were mostly pointless. We’ll have to make do with just the finished products.

Gratin 1: Janssons Frestelse
Janssons frestelse (en: Jansson’s temptation) is a gratin of julienned potatoes, onions and cream, flavored with ‘anchovies’, which is, for some reason, a trade name for pickled sprats seasoned in a specific way. There are a few explanations for the name. The one I’m going with claims that an opera singer named Janzon often served the dish at his afterparties in the late 19th century. It’s been an important part of smorgasbords and late night snacks for a long time.

It’s also easy to make. Layer matchstick-cut potatoes, onion slices and ‘anchovies’ in a suitable vessel. season with salt and pepper. Smother the whole thing in double cream mixed with the brine from the anchovies tin and cover with breadcrumbs. Cook for an hour in 200 degrees C. Some people use machinery or graters for the potatoes these days (I’ve even encountered a TV chef using frozen french fries) but I consider the hand-cutting a point of honour.

Gratin 2: Lanttulaatikko
Lanttulaatikko (en: Turnip box) is a traditional Finnish Christmas dish. Since the main ingredient is mashed swede it’s a bit more like a pudding than a gratin perhaps, but Christmas is no time to be picky. The mashed swede is mixed with treacle, breadcrumbs, eggs and cream, seasoned with white pepper, ginger and nutmeg, plopped in a dish and generously sprinkled with breadcrumbs and baked at 175 degrees or so for 2-4 hours.

To ensure a nice crust on both varieties we usually put a generous helping of butter on top. Some people are content with a few dollops, but I like to slice most of a stick of butter with a cheese cutter and arrange the slices in a nice tile pattern.

These two dishes have several ingredients in common but are very different in most other aspects. One is a standalone dish or part of a buffet, the other more of a side order. And thus ends the battle of the Christmas gratins, Sweden vs. Finland. It’s probably a draw. I had a sceptical attitude towards Jansson’s well into my twenties but after being assigned to make it for student association Christmas parties I warmed to it and it is now my favourite Christmas food, along with pickled herring. My first encounter with lanttulaatikko was an anecdote dad brought home from a work-related Christmas party in Finland in the 90s. It has since entered the list of must-haves by way of my wife’s Finnish ancestry. I like it not only for flavor, but also because it’s an excuse not to boil any potatoes, since I consider eating potatoes at Christmas a waste of stomach room.

lådor
Lanttulaatikko on the left, Janssons frestelse on the right.

That’s what we did the morning of December 24th (which is the day for Christmas celebration in Sweden). Terribly early on the morning of Christmas Day we went to the hospital again, this time to induce labor. About 48 hours and a C-section later, NC jr was safe in my arms and stuff like blogs pushed down several notches on the priority list.

Merry Christmas and other holidays again dear readers. Hopefully I can squeeze another post in before the year ends. There seem to be a lot of grandmothers around this time of year…

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Preserve Parade

Posted in eggplant, mango, preserve, tomato, vegetables, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2014 by oskila

Again, very erratic posting patterns. I’ve been planning for this post for about a week now and will try to type like the wind while baby’s asleep.

For some reason the project with the citrus marmalade set something off and I’ve been boiling stuff with sugar like crazy for some time now. These three were the main events so to speak.

Mango Chutney
Mango chutney is of course a classic. I just happened to have about 0.3 mangos in the fridge and couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Added onions, mustard seeds, vinegar, chili, cumin, cinnamon, ginger and sumac. Boiled for a bit. Certainly looks like chutney to me.

chutney

Eggplant Marmalade
Eggplant may not be the most intuitive marmalade material, but I’m certainly not the first to do it – in fact, I’m quite sure I’ve eaten industrially produced eggplant marmalade. It may have been from Libanon. Mine contains finely diced unpeeled eggplant, a dash of vinegar (would have preferred lemon) and half the amount, by weight, of gelling sugar. Ordinary sugar is fine too, but the gelling sugar has some pectine added to it and thus gives better texture.

eggplant
Tomato Marmalade
After a burger night we found ourselves in possession of surplus tomatoes (mrs Nerdcuisine is allergic) so I made marmalade and gave most of it away. Once again I didn’t bother with any peeling. I don’t mind a bit of tomato peel and I think it adds flavor and probably pectin. Classic marmalade recipes usually use equal amounts of fruit and sugar, but that can be quite sweet, so in the eggplant recipe above I used only half as much. Even that proved too sweet with the tomatoes so I would have liked an emergency lemon to turn to, but we didn’t have any. This time I attempted to remedy the sweetness with a generous dose of vitamin C which is quite tart. For added excitement (and to go better with cheeses) I seasoned with black pepper and a sprinkle of chili flakes.

tomato

Well, that’s it for today. Make marmalade from anything, and remember that baby food jars are excellent for small batches of preserve.

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