The summer solstice and celebration of Midsummer’s Eve

We have now passed the summer solstice and are heading for darker times again. As the pessimist I am I already see Christmas lurking around the corner.

The Midnight Sun still rules in the far north, but even we who live further south can still benefit from and enjoy long sunny evenings for a while. Even though the sun sets for a few hours it still never gets completely dark, it’s more like a magical twilight. For a few brief and bright summer months we now eagerly try to refuel light and vitamin D to last for at least a few months into the long, dark winter.

In connection with the summer solstice, we have this past weekend also celebrated the most Swedish of all Swedish public holidays – Midsummer – and I’ll here give you a short summary in words and pictures of what the Swedish Midsummer celebration is actually like.

It’s the night before Midsummer’s Eve and our friends Carin and Daniele, who are on their way from Stockholm to celebrate Midsummer with us, are stuck in the chaos of holiday traffic. While waiting for them to arrive, we went to Lake Hennan, a nearby lake, to watch the sunset, which occurred a few minutes past 11 pm.

This picture is taken at our own lake at 00:33 am and it is still bright enough to sit by the water and read. Shortly before 03 am, the sun rises again.

After breakfast on the morning of Midsummer’s Eve it’s time to pick flowers for decorating the maypole. Nature is never more beautiful than now with its lush greenery, the birds singing and the stunning flower meadows with butter cups, wild chervil, crane bill geraniums, daisies and red clover.

It almost looks a little macabre with this erected, “naked” cross on the lawn, but it will soon be adorned with flowers, birch leaves and wreaths.

Carin looking through her wreath.

Most communities celebrate Midsummer by decorating and erecting a community maypole in the local park or field where families and friends then gather to sing and dance ring dances around the pole. Ourselves, we were just pleased by sitting on the lawn, admiring and enjoying this “masterpiece of maypole” we had accomplished.

Midsummer’s Eve also means drinking and eating, especially pickled herring in various forms, marinated (cured) salmon, the first new potatoes of the year, dill and sour cream, meatballs and maybe some different kinds of pies. And finally – the schnapps (snaps), often flavored with cumin, elderberry or blackcurrant. And every shot shall be accompanied by a song, the racier the better.

All of  this shall of course be served outdoors, if possible, on the porch, lawn or jetty. And then, and this is more of a rule than an exception, just as you have all gathered at the table, put a few pieces of herring in your mouth and raised the glasses for a first toast, the rain starts pouring down. If you are not protected by a roof, the only thing to do is to quickly bring food, schnapps – you wouldn’t want the alcohol to be diluted, would you – and the seat cushions  indoors. And just when everything is brought in safety the sun breaks through and you just have to start all over again. The Swedish midsummer in a nutshell, that is!

Finally it’s time for the grand finale, the almost compulsory strawberry cream cake made of the first, fresh Swedish strawberries, regardless of price. On our Midsummer table, there were actually two cakes, an egg and nut free cheese cake especially made for Daniele who is strongly allergic.

I do not know if outdoor dances is a Swedish phenomenon, but for many the evening/night ends at some nearby outdoor dance floor, often to the music from accordions and fiddles. For us the evening ended at the local pub that offered live music and spontaneous dancing.

The Midsummer night is bright and seductive, and there are many different myths associated with it. One is to pick seven different flowers (in silence) and put under the pillow to dream of the future spouse. I do not know though if Carin, who is going to marry her Italian fiancé Daniele in Las Vegas later this summer, picked any flowers trying to find out if she’s made the right choice. I forgot to ask. But I’m sure Daniele is the right man for her.

The Swedish Midsummer night’s dream is almost over.

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Fish & chips and European Championship

The European Football (Soccer) Championship – one of the highlights this summer – has been running for a week now. After Sweden having lost the opening match against Ukraine on Monday it’s now make or break for the Swedish national team when they meet England tonight at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. It’s going to be such a nerve-wracking, nail-biting game. Some say winning isn’t everything, and they are so right, it’s the only thing and the match ain’t over until it’s over. All that matters tonight is three points.

What do you eat on a night like this? Some will probably let their teeth sink into a soggy pizza while others stick to beer and hot dogs or hamburgers, chips or some other junk stuff. Myself, I’ve made my homemade version of fish and chips with rémoulade sauce trying to win over the English gods on our side tonight. If it did the trick? Those who live will see.

Fish and chips with rémoulade sauce

Serves 2-3

Remoulade sauce 

  • 1.5 dl crème fraîche
  • 3-4 tbsp mayonnaise (Hellman’s)
  • 1 dl finely chopped pickles
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 0.5 – 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

Mix ingredients for rémoulade sauce and let stand in the fridge while you prepare the potatoes and fish.

Fish and chips

  • Filets of cod, 400 gr (if you use frozen fish let it thaw in milk (!), it’ll make miracle to the fish and it’ll turn out just as fresh from the sea)
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 dl flour
  • 2 dl panko or dry bread crumbs
  • potatoes/sweet potatoes, 6 – 10 depending on size
  • cooking oil
  • salt, pepper to taste

Heat oven to 225 degrees

  1. Peel and cut potatoes lengthwise into strips.
  2. Transfer strips to a oven proof pan, drizzle with a little oil, add salt and roast in oven for about 30 minutes. If you use a mix of potatoes, remember that the ordinary potatoes require longer time in the oven than the sweet potatoes.
  3. Stir potatoes only once while roasting.
  4. Pat the fish fillets dry and cut each fillet lengthwise in two. Salt and pepper.
  5. Coat the fillets with flour, then dip in the beaten egg and finally coat with Panko or dry bread crumbs. Ensure that the fillets are properly coated.
  6. Heat 6 tbsp oil  in a frying pan and fry the fillets until both sides are golden brown (about 2-3 minutes on each side) .
  7. Serve with roasted potato strips and rémoulade sauce.

Summer’s best little rhubarb crumble pie

Today, June 6th, is the National Day of Sweden (Sveriges nationaldag), celebrated in honour to the election of King Gustav Vasa in 1523 who is considered the founder of the modern Sweden.

Until 1983 the day was celebrated as  the Swedish flag day (Svenska flaggans dag), then it was renamed the National Day. But it was first in 2005 it became an official Swedish  public holiday, replacing Whit Monday. This swapping one holiday for another almost divided the country in two parts, as it led to fewer days off from work. Now the Whit holiday is like any other weekend with just Saturday and Sunday off while the 6th of June just periodically will make a long weekend.

We still have to wait for our own strawberries to ripe, but the rhubarb will be found all over the country by now, so what’s more suitable to celebrate the National Day with than a delicious rhubarb pie made of fresh  Swedish rhubarbs. And if you’re going to make just ONE rhubarb pie this summer (or blueberry or apple pie for that matter) let it be this one!

Summer’s best little rhubarb crumble pie

  • 500 g rhubarb, cut in pieces
  • 75 g coarsely chopped almonds
  • 100 g butter
  • 1.75 dl flour
  • 0.5 dl custard powder
  • 1 dl + 0.75 dl brown sugar (or muscovado suger)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • (cinnamon for decoration)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

Mix butter, almonds, flour, custard powder, 1 dl brown sugar and salt, preferably in a food processor, until the mixture turns into crumbles.

 

Place the rhubarb pieces in a pie dish, mix the remaining brown sugar with cornstarch and sprinkle over the rhubarb.

Spread the flour/butter crumbles evenly on top, decorate with stripes of cinnamon and bake for about 25 minutes. Keep track so that the pie crust doesn’t get burned.

 

Serve lukewarm with ice cream, custard sauce or whipped cream.

A three course meal – Part III – Cloudberry tartlet

Is there still room for some dessert and a cup of coffee?

I do not know whether you know or have heard of cloudberries (hjortron in
Swedish), the orange-yellow berries that look a bit like blackberries or raspberries and are rightly called “the gold of the North or the gold of the mashlands”. Warm cloudberry jam on ice cream or fried camembert with warm cloudberry jam are two very well-known and delicious desserts. 

For my dessert, I have chosen just cloudberry jam but it’ll probably turn out just as well with blackberry or raspberry jam.

Cloudberry tartlet

  • Puff pastry
  • Cloudberry jam or other jam
  • Heavy cream

Heat the oven to 200 degrees

Roll out puff pastry and mark circles with a glass (7-8 cm in diameter). Make sure the glass doesn’t cut through the pastry.

Cut a circle with a knife 2 cm outside the glass.


Spread the jam on the inner roundel and brush the edge with some melted butter
Bake bake for 12-15 minutes in the oven until edges turn golden brown.
Serve immediately with some whipped cream and a cup of coffee.

 
 
 
 

A three course meal – Part II Marinated pork loin with mixed tomatoes and herb cream cheese

The bean soup was to the guests’ satisfaction and now, are you ready for the main course? Well, this is not just a main course, it can just as well serve as an ideal buffet style dish.

Well, when reading what I have written below, I realize that there is a great risk of tiring you readers out, before you even get as far as to the mixed tomatoes. So I’ll give you the short version first and if that one feels tempting, then you can continue for more detailed instructions.

Rub the meat with a marinade of dried herbs, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and let stand at room temperature for a few hours. Bake in the oven until the inner temperature teaches 75 degrees.

Cut tomatoes of various sizes and colors in halves and heat in the microwave. Add pieces of asparagus, capers and a marinade of olive oil, zest and juice of one lemon, salt and pepper. Apportion mixed lettuce on a large platter and place the tomato mixture on top together with the sliced meat. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and pine nuts.

Garnish with figs and serve with cream cheese, flavored with fresh herbs, garlic, lime, and honey.

Marinated pork fillet with mixed tomatoes and herb cream cheese

6 servings as a main course and 10 servings as a buffet dish

1.2 kg pork loin, boneless centre steak

Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 teaspoons each of dried basil, oregano and thyme
  • salt, black pepper and pink peppercorns (false pepper)
  1. Mix marinade ingredients and rub into the meat.
  2. Let stand at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 175 degrees.

  1. Brown the meat and place in an oven proof dish.
  2. Pour the remaining contents of the marinade over the meat.
  3. Bake in oven until inner temperature is 75 degrees.
  4. Remove meat and let it rest for a while (or cool completely if you intend to serve it at a buffet).

Mixed tomatoes

  • 1 kg tomatoes of various sizes and colors
  • ½ dl olive oil
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1 dl capers
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (about 16 stalks)
  • 100 g mixed lettuce ( spinach, arugula etc)
  • 3 figs
  • 30 g each of roasted pine nuts and pumpkin seeds.
  1. Roast the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds in a dry pan without being burnt, (can be made in advance).
  2. Rinse and trim the asparagus stems by breaking the hard ends off . They easily snap just where they go from hard to tender.
  3. Cook the asparagus in salted water for 3 minutes and chill with cold water.
  4. Cut the asparagus into smaller pieces.
  5. Rinse and divide the tomatoes in halves, but leave some to stay whole, and place in a microwave oven proof bowl.
  6. Add the capers.
  7. Heat the tomato mix in the microwave oven for a few minutes.
  8. Stir to make sure all the tomatoes are heated up.
  9. Add asparagus.
  10. Wash the lemon thoroughly in warm water and mix zest and juice with olive oil and honey and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Pour the marinade over tomatoes and mix well.
  12. Rinse the lettuce, pat dry and arrange in a large, low bowl or tray and put the capers and tomato mixture on top and carefully toss around.
  13. Sprinkle with pine nuts and pumpkin seeds.
  14. Cut the meat into ½ cm thick slices (thinner if the meat is served as a buffet style dish) and place on top of tomatoes.
  15. Garnish with figs cut into quarters.
  16. Serve with herb cream cheese.

Herb cream cheese

  • 2 packages of cream cheese à 200 gr (Philadelphia cream cheese or similar)
  • 1 dl chopped, mixed fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, (left overs from the bean soup), thyme, or whatever herbs available
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • zest and juice of a washed lime
  • 1-2 tsp runny honey
  • salt and pepper
  1. Add all ingredients except salt and pepper in a bowl and mix together with a hand blender.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to your own taste.

A three course meal – Part I – Bean soup with basil oil

The other day we had some dear friends over for dinner. It had taken me a couple of days to decide what to cook, as I wanted to offer a three course meal, tasty as well as appealing to the eye, easy to do and where much could be prepared in advance without costing a fortune. Here is the menu I came up with:

Starter
Bean soup with basil oil and a garlic and parsley biscuit

Main course
Pork loin with a mix of tomatoes and herb cream cheese

Dessert
Cloudberry tartlet

Starting with the starter (!) each dish will be presented in a separate post.

Bean soup with basil oil and a garlic and parsley biscuit

This is what you need

Serves 4

  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 1 finely chopped shallots
  • 1 cube of vegetable stock
  • 3 dl water
  • 2 dl milk
  • (heavy cream)
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Saute the onion until soft without adding color and put into a saucepan.
  2. Add the beans, water, milk and cube of vegetable stock.
  3. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Run the soup in a food processor until smooth like purée and then pass through a sieve.
  5. Bring to a boil again and season with salt and pepper.

The soup can easily be made well in advance and heated just before serving. It should measure 7 dl, if not, fill up with cream (to give extra body to the soup) or milk.

Basil oil (can be made in advance)

First I thought of using my truffle oil (a birthday gift), but I can’t really stand neither the scent nor the taste, which to me is like petroleum, so I changed my mind and went for the basil oil instead.

  • 7-8 basil leaves
  • 2-3 tablespoons good olive oil, preferably with a lemon flavor

Mix chopped basil and olive oil with a hand blender.

Garlic and parsley biscuit

  • 2 slices of a good light sourdough bread (or other white bread)
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 dl chopped parsley
  1. Stir the butter soft and mix with pressed garlic and chopped parsley.
  2. Spread butter on both sides of the bread and fry (both sides) until the surface is golden brown.
  3. Cut each slice into two triangles.

Portion the soup into four bowls and drizzle a little basil oil into the soup. Drag with a spoon through the oil droplets to form a decorative pattern and serve with a triangle of garlic and parsley biscuit.