Nettle soup and poached egg

Equipped with gloves and a pair of scissors, it’s time to open the door to nature’s own pantry and look for spring’s first primeurs – which are also completely free of charge – the young, tender shoots of stinging nettles that’ll make a delicious nettle soup.

Ow, ow you might think, that doesn’t sound like something I’ll fill my mouth and stomach with! Well, don’t eat them raw and be careful to wear gloves when picking and clearing them. When soaked in water, cooked or dried the stinging chemicals are destroyed and you can handle and eat the nettles without getting stung.

Nettles are extremely nourishing and rich in vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. When cooked they taste pretty much like spinach and in most recipes containing spinach you can replace it with nettles.

Nettles are also high in nitrogen and therefore an excellent fertilizer that’ll make your garden and vegetables sky rocket. To make the liquid manure, fill up a bucket with nettles, fill the rest up with water and allow to steep for a week or so until water starts to stink (cover with a lid if too unpleasant) and gets a browny color. Throw the used nettles on your compost pile where they’ll speed up the decomposition process. Dilute one part of fertilizer with ten parts of water before using and you have just made yourself a very potent, environmentally friendly and to no cost at all (here I go again) fertilizer. Just don’t over-fertilize!

Well, back to my nettle soup, this delicatessen, that highlights SPRING and is a common use of the plant especially in Scandinavia and certain parts of Eastern Europe. For most people though, I guess, the stinging nettle is just regarded as an unpleasant weed in their gardens, just like the ground elder which can actually be used just the same way as the nettles. So my advice to those of you who struggle with these intruders is simply: If you can’t fight them – EAT them!

Here goes

Nettle soup with poached egg

4 servings

  • 1.5 liters of  nettles
  • 1 liter of water
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 pressed garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 deciliter of cream
  • salt
  • chopped chives for decoration
  1. Clear the nettles and remove any sharp stems.
  2. Place the nettles in a large bowl and fill up with water.
  3. Stir occasionally to make sand and dirt sink to the bottom.
  4. Repeat this process once more with new water.
  5. Boil water with a little salt and add the nettles and give them a quick boil.
  6. Strain the cooking water and add the stock cubes and bring to a boil again.
  7. Fry onions and garlic for a couple of minutes until soft.
  8. Squeeze liquid from nettles and let them fry with the onions.
  9. Dust with flour and dilute with the broth little by little and let simmer covered for about ten minutes.
  10. Blend the soup in a food processor, little by little, bring to boil again and add the cream.
  11. Adjust seasoning according to taste.

Poached egg

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 liter of water
  • ½ deciliter white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  1. Boil water, salt and vinegar just before serving.
  2. Crack an egg at a time into a cup and gently drop the egg into the water when it starts boiling.
  3. Immediately remove the pan from the burner.
  4. With a spoon, nudge the eggwhites closer to their yolks and let stand covered for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Lift eggs out of pan with a slotted spoon and place on a towel.
  6. Divide soup into four bowls, gently add the eggs and garnish with chopped chives.

If you prefer you can just as well serve the soup with hard-boiled eggs cut in halves. That’s what I generally do, but as I have never poached an egg before I thought I would give it a try.

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Spinach lasagna with bacon

Without being fanatics I and Devoted Husband have made some major changes in our way of living over the past two years. We are more conscious about our health and have increased our physical activities, leaving the car at home and walk or bike when possible, which is almost always – it just  takes a few minutes more. We are also more aware of what we eat and have replaced much of fast carbs like ordinary rice, pasta, potatoes or white bread with whole grains, beans and vegetables (especially broccoli and cauliflower, I just love them!). That doesn’t mean we can’t indulge “junk or unhealthy food” now and then. We do! I still believe you can eat everything, just not always.

Well, occasionally though I can get a craving for a good lasagna and today was such a day. So when Devoted Husband returned home after a hard day’s work he was treated with this spinach and bacon lasagna, once given to me by Alex(andra), my daughter-in-law, and since then a recurring favorite.

Spinach lasagna
Serves 6

This is what you need

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

  • 450 grams of frozen spinach
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 2 pressed garlic cloves
  • 2 cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cubes of vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons of sambal oelek
  • 15-18 lasagna sheets (I use whole wheat)
  • 1 package (4 deciliters) of pre-made cheese sauce (of course you can also make your own)
  • 1 package of bacon, 150 gram

Method

1. Thaw the spinach and squeeze dry.

2. Fry the chopped onion and pressed garlic until soft.

3. Add the chopped tomatoes, spinach, vegetable cubes and sambal oelek. Season with salt and pepper to your own taste and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Alternate spinach/tomato sauce and lasagna sheets in layers and finish with the sauce.

5. Drizzle the cheese sauce on top and bake for about 30 minutes.

6. While baking the lasagna cut the bacon in small pieces and stir fry until crisp.

7. Sprinkle bacon over the lasagna when ready.

Personally I serve the lasagna with steamed broccoli, chrushed walnuts and a dressing of olive oil, white vinegar and flakes of sea salt.

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Before leaving you for now I just want to share some of Devoted Husband’s pictures from one of the most magical live performances I’ ve seen – The Crane dance at Lake Hornborga.

Walnut bread

I’m so excited! I’ve just finish baking my walnut bread for tomorrow’s five hrs roadtrip to the Lake Hornborgarsjön.This is one of Europe’s most important bird lakes and is a vital resting place for birds on their way north in the spring and south in the autumn.

Early Friday morning we will be there by the lake 15 minutes before sunrise (about 5:15) and watch when about 25 000 cranes come flying in from the northern part of the lake to perform the great crane dance. A spectacular and magic show of intricate dances to attract mates according to those who have seen it.

Well, slices of walnut bread, a thermos of hot soup and coffee will hopefully make me and Devoted Husband feel good and warm in the cold morning air while enjoying the performance.

Walnut bread

  • 5 deciliters of water
  • 50 grams of yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 10 deciliters of whole wheat flour
  • 2 deciliters of fine rye flour
  • 1deciliter coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 deciliter pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of anis seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of fennel seeds
  • 3 teaspoons salt

Heat the oven to 225 degrees

  1. Dissolve the yeast with some of the water and add honey and oil.
  2. Add hand-warm water (37 degrees).
  3. Combine the rest of the ingredients and stir into the yeast mixture.
  4. Work the dough vigorously for about 8-10 minutes (preferably in a food machine if you have one).
  5. Add some more flour if the dough is too sticky.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and leave it in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a floured work-surface and knead it and fold it three, four times.
  8. Shape the dough into a loaf and a smaller bun and place in floured special rising baskets (? Hope you understand what I mean) or molds.
  9. Cover and let them rise for another 40 minutes.
  10. Gently turn the loafs over to a baking tin and bake in the oven.
  11. Place a cup of water in the bottom of the oven to get a nice hard crust.
  12. Decrease the heat to 175 degrees after 10 minutes and bake for another 40-45 minutes.
  13. Cover with baking paper if the loafs tend to get too dark or burnt.
  14. Let cool uncovered on a rack.

EAT and ENJOY! 

 

Pea soup, punsch and saffron pancake

Over the past 20 years, Easter weekend has always been spent in our little summer cottage, our Paradise, in the north of Hälsingland. One of our Easter traditions is to invite friends and neighbors on Good Friday for a get together on the frozen lake and treat them with my homemade pea soup, punsch and saffron pancake.

This year was no exception and we enjoyed a seven hour joyful gathering in the sun with friends, food, drinks and music.

If you ask a Swede what’s for dinner on a Thursday the answer would most likely be “Pea soup and then pancakes for dessert”

Pea soup, or as we say ‘Ärtsoppa’, is a traditional Swedish dish you’ll find on almost every restaurant’s Thursday menu. It is also a popular dish when you invite a lot of friends for an informal party, simply because it is easy to make in large amounts, it doesn´t cost much and most people like it. At least if they have the punsch to go with it.

Punsch is a Swedish liqueur with the base ingredient of arrack that’s often served (then hot) with the pea soup. The peak of the Punsch consumption in Sweden occured during the nineteenth century when it became part of the cultural life and festivities in the universities’ student associations at the time and still is.

Saffron pancake (saffranspannkaka) is a traditional dish from the province of the island Gotland (the larges island in the Baltic Sea) that’s served with blue raspberry jam (salmbärssylt). Blue raspberry is a cross  between raspberries and blackberries and grows wild on Gotland.

Here are my homemade versions of pea soup and saffron pancake, so enjoy!

Pea soup

Serves 6

  • 500 grams of dried yellow peas
  • 2 liters of water
  • 2 + 2 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 teaspoons marjoram
  • 1 cube of vegetable stock
  • 300-400 grams of salted pork
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons sweet (and coarse-grained) mustard (Swedish mustard is often sweetend)

Just double the ingredients if you want a larger amount. The soup is also perfect to store in the freezer for meals to come.

  1. Rinse and soak the peas along with 2 teaspoons salt for 6 – 12 hours.
  2. Boil fresh water with peas, pork, the remaining salt (don’t take all at once, remember the pork will add some salt too) and herbs.
  3. Let simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours
  4. Remove the pork when tender and add the onions, whole.
  5. Cut the pork into cubes and add at the end. Season with mustard (and salt) to taste. Let it simmer for 1,5 – 2 hours.
  6. Taste the peas to make sure they are completely cooked and soft.

Serve with mustard on the side and a shot of hot (or chilled punsch).

 

Saffron pancake

This is what you need to serve 10-12Preheat oven to 200 degrees

  • 4 x 500 gram rolls with rice porridge ( I make it easy for myself and buy rolls with ready-made rice porridge, but of course you can cook your own.
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 dl of single cream
  • 1 gram of saffron
  • 0.5 dl sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla sugar
  • 100 grams of finely chopped almonds
  1. Whisk eggs, cream and almonds mixed with sugar and vanilla sugar together.
  2. Fold into the rice porridge and mix well.
  3. Pour batter into a greased dish and bake for about 1 hour. Check with a stick that the cake has set and the stick comes out dry.
  4. Cover with waxed paper or foil if the cake starts to get too much color.
  5. Serve lukewarm with “Queen’s jam” (drottningsylt – a mixture of blueberries and raspberries) and whipped cream.

Bird nests – easy made Easter sweets

Haven´t had time to do your own Easter goodies? Here is a last minute tip for your sweet tooth.

Bird nests

This is what you need

Makes 22-24

  • 200 gram milk chocolate bar
  • 4 dl All bran
  • About 50 jelly beans
  • Small paper cups

 Melt the chocolate in the microwave oven or in a bowl over hot water.

Fold the All bran into the melted chocolate, carefully not to break the sticks.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cups and make a hollow in the center and place three jelly beans in each cup.

Put in the fridge to set for an hour.

Remember, they can be rather hard coming from the fridge, so watch your teeth when you take a bite.

Almond crispbread

One of the first things foreigners get to taste when visiting Sweden may be the so called knackebrod (knäckebröd), a kind of crispbread, that is part of most our meals. If you haven’t tried it, look out for it next time you visit Ikea.

This crisp bread, made from three different kinds of flour, is always on our Christmas, Easter and Midsummer smorgasbord (buffet). It’s perfect with a piece of smoked salmon or cheese, for instance chèvre (goat cheese) or camembert, with some marmalade.

If you don’t want to buy a lot of different flours, you can use just one or two kinds. The bread will come out just as well.

Almond crispbread

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees

  • 3 dl coarse rye flour
  • 2 dl flour
  • 1 dl whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar / raw sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole anise
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 dl water

Sprinkles
Mix 1 cup chopped almonds and 1/2 cup chopped pumpkin seeds.
Salt flakes

  1. Crush caraway seeds and anise and mix with the dry ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Add water little by little while blender is running.
  3. Shape the dough, which shall be rather firm, into a roll and divide into 8-10 equal parts.
  4. Flour the work surface with coarse rye flour and roll each part into a circle not too thin.
  5. Sprinkle the surface with some of the chopped almonds and pumpkin seeds along with some salt flakes and place a waxed paper on top.
  6. Gently press the almonds/seeds into the dough with the rolling pin and continue to roll the dough quite thin.
  7. Place two flatbreads at a time on waxed paper and bake for 4-5 minutes on each side.
  8. Beware the breads don’t burn, the heat might differ between ovens.
  9. Let cool on a rack and store dry.