Lussekatter AW 2020

Lussekatter AW 2020.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

It is a couple of weeks to the annual St. Lucia celebrations on 13 December in Sweden, and if I seem a little saffron bun nuts at this time of year, well… I am. I do however have some comfort in that the Nordic grocery shops are already bringing out lussekatter, saffron buns and gingerbread cookies to brighten the long winter nights at home. So why not have a go at making batches of saffron buns at home too, St. Lucia being one of my favourite days that lead up to Christmas itself, and it being one of the highlights of the jultide season.

Lussekatter compilation AW 2020.
Video & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

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Nordic julstämning 2020

Nordic julstämning in November, 2020.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

I walked into the stores just about end of October and saw a curious sight of a juxtaposition of Halloween and Christmas decorations. At the meat counters, Christmas sausages and pâte were out for the buying, right after you´ve walked past the large orange pumpkins at the fresh vegetables counter for the Jack-o’-Lantern carvings.

So it seemed a little bit of a close call for festive seasons in the Nordic region when Christmas threatened for a minute or two to swallow up Halloween. But on second thought, in Sleepy Hollow spirit, I don´t think Halloween would mind it at all.

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Pirog

Pirog with a Saison 1858, Brasserie Du Bocq.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

My first encounter with a pirog (a meat filled bun) was in a summer in Sweden at the ferry terminal called Saltholmen. Located along the Swedish west coast, Saltholmen is the gateway terminal to the southern archipelago summer bathing places of Gothenburg. The breezy boat ride, the scenic routes and the occasional street food sellers that bring with them pastries, ice-creams, sweet and savoury buns and summer fruits all make for pleasant trips out to the southern archipelago along the Swedish west coast. Although quieter this year over the summer, there were enough local and international visitors to the southern archipelago for the ferry terminal to set up specific queues for each incoming and outgoing ferry to the islands.

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Autumn ragout, a recipe from the Netherlands

An autumn ragout of veal, puff pastry and roasted vegetable sides.
Text & Photo © JW van Hal, CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

Personally, I think it’s fun to share recipes with family and friends, particularly if they live in a different part of the world and have different culinary traditions and heritage. The current global pandemic also seems to have the effect of bringing out that home cook in us. With digital video conferencing tools that enable shared cooking and culinary experiences online, I know of a couple of friends who cook and dine together in the virtual realm in real-time, generally having a good time with interesting conversations.

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Festive egg halves

Egg halves topped with skagenröra, trout roe and dill.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

One of my favourite appetizers is the Swedish style egg halves. I love the festive and luxurious look of them sitting polite and snug on the plate, patiently waiting for you to pick them up and savour them. They are no doubt, a staple at the Swedish julbord (Christmas table), where restaurants and homes will each have their favourite versions.

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Down peanut butter lane

Chocolate peanut butter jelly cocktail, made with juleøl (Norwegian Christmas beer) and cognac.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

There was only ever one time in my life when I was growing up in Singapore that I tried Smucker´s Goober Grape. I often heard of peanut butter and jelly (jam) sandwiches from watching Sesame Street as a child, but growing up in Singapore, the school lunch looked rather more like mee siam, fishball noodle soup and chicken rice rather than peanut butter and jam sandwiches. If my mother would pack lunch for me, it would come in a two compartment tupperware. On one side would be a peeled hard boiled egg, and on the other side, some baked beans. My lunchbox content was considered fairly “western” because other mothers would pack fried rice with spam or stir-fried bee hoon with spam for their children in their lunch boxes. I loved my hard boiled egg.

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Black custard, in celebration of Old Halloween

Black custard, topped with crème fraîche.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

I love blood sausages. I was first introduced to blodpudding in Sweden when I moved there in the early 2000s. Blodpudding, also known as black sausage in the UK is a northern England creation that uses the blood of pigs, cows or sheep, combined with suet and grains to make sausages. Blood sausages are some of the oldest forms of sausages. Recipes of how to make them date back to the 1600s, although I would not be surprised if black sausage recipes date further back to the Viking era. Traditionally, black sausages are made and eaten in celebration of Saint Martin´s day or Martinsmas, as well as Old Halloween or Old Hallowmas Eve, celebrated on 11 November each year.

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Autumn equinox barbeque 2020

Autumn equinox BBQ 2020 along the Swedish west coast, Sweden.
Text Photo & Video © D Neikter Nilsson; JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Our family had the most amazing Bistecca alla Fiorentina experience in 2008 when in Florence, Italy, courtesy of a good friend who had recommended and booked a table for us at the restaurant 4Leoni. Located between Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti, in one of the historical pizzas of the region´s capital city, Piazza della Passera, the interior of the restaurant is fairly small, but utterly cozy. It was a double birthday celebration night, and it seemed the full moon was out to greet and celebrate with us in Florence, standing perfectly centre over Ponte Vecchio as we walked by. I remember the food and service at 4Leoni to have been excellent. Our steak arrived grilled to perfection, carved and served with skilled hands. The recommended accompanying wine was just heavenly.

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Weekend breakfast at RISØ, Tromsø, Norway

Weekend sunshine with RISØ´s CEO Arne Risø Nilsen. Arne is co-founder and co-owner RISØ, a café and coffee bar that serves some of Tromsø´s best coffee brews.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

As the weekend rolls around, morning coffee and breakfast at a local café in Tromsø is something to look forward to. It´s pretty much autumn here in the Arctic, where you can typically get a string of grey and rainy days. Depending on personality, I think rainy autumn days are perfect to grab that mug of hot chocolate, cozy under your blanket with your favourite book and read. As it happened, it was a weekend of brilliant weather with sunshine and clear skies. Which meant, a café breakfast morning.

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Pickled cucumber Swedish style 2020

The Swedish Västeråsgurka is a late summer harvest. Often turned into a delicious pickle for sandwiches, we hope this year´s harvest will make enough jars to find their way to the Christmas table.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

It´s rewarding to see your spring planting efforts bloom and fruit. This year´s growing was alright. There was a short strawberry season, literally lasting about a month when we could get strawberries from the garden. But the tomatoes and Västeråsgurka (a variety of cucumbers known to grow in Västerås, Sweden) are still growing, and we get small harvests now and again.

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Summer BBQ, Styrsö, Sweden 2020

Fava bean burger with ketchup, tzatziki and mayonnaise, Styrsö, Sweden.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Swedish summers are marked by numerous BBQ-parties. Sometimes, it can feel as if you´re in an implicit neighbourhood race to fill the air with the aromas of BBQ grilled foods. I was in fact, introduced to the Swedish BBQ-party on my very first trip to Sweden when I was still in my university days. It was mid-May and a warm 10 degress celcius outdoors. I met with a group of young men with beer in hand. They lounged in nothing but shorts in beach chairs pulled up close to the smoking BBQ pit. I wore an orange knitted turtleneck sweater and thought I should really have brought a light jacket with me. I was promptly introduced to the group of BBQ party-goers, some of whom looked at me as if they had questions to ask. My introduction was then followed by “she´s from Singapore”, to which there was an acknowledged round of nods. Even if the smell of meat on the BBQ grill was fantastic, after ten minutes, I politely asked if I could go indoors to warm my hands on the oven stove.

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Black turtle beans with Herbs de Provence marinara sauce

Black turtle beans or svarta böner as they are known in Sweden, baked in the shape of spheres, served atop fresh tagliatelle. The baked black turtle beans are smothered in a marinara sauce infused with Herbs de Provence and parmesan. The delicate green leaf-stems on top of the dish is Olivenurt (Santolina Viridis). This herb is native to the Mediterranean and in this case, was imported from a cultivator from Denmark. It is highly aromatic of olives and popular uses include pasta, pizza, salads, meat / fish cooking.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

An pan (Japanese red bean bun), Dou Sha Bao (Chinese sweet, steamed, red bean buns), Penang Tau Sar Piah made with savoury green bean filling and Ling Yong Bao (sweet lotus seed paste steamed buns) are some identifiable warm aromas of the Singapore morning hawker centres, usually located adjacent to wet markets. These sweet and savoury food items were also some of my early childhood favourite eats.

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A walk around Marstrand island, Sweden

Onboard a ferry, going across to Marstrand island, Marstrand harbour, Sweden. The ferry ride is about 5 minutes, crossing the channel.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

The high cirrus clouds signalled fair weather for the day and it looked perfect for a drive up along the Swedish west coast. We headed for Marstrand, a pearl of an island for summer visits located in the Kungälv Municipality of Sweden. This island is a well loved tourist destination. We too, love this place and this day’s drive would be the second sweep around Marstrand to see if we would make it out to Marstrand island this summer.

Under the global circumstances of uncertain international travel and increased domestic travel in 2020, an indication that it was a good day to hop across to Marstrand island was the short and quick moving queue of people waiting to board the ferry. There are 2 ferries that run consecutively, which allows for fewer passengers onboard, without the sacrifice of travel time to Marstrand island. In the summer of last year, the ferry queue snaked around the ticketing house and up into the lanes where the nearest grocery store is located. On this visit, the ferry queue was short, going about less than 20m from ferry terminal to where the fruit stand was located. For sale at the fruit stand were locally grown, organic strawberries. Lovely and delicious reds in boxes if you wanted to bring some with you to Marstrand island.

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Sinnenas Trädgård, Marstrand, Sweden

At Sinnenas Trädgård, Marstrand, Sweden.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

After completing the morning’s errands of some grocery shopping, the brilliant Swedish west coast weather beckoned us in taking a slightly longer drive up the length of the coast. We decided to head to Marstrand, which was a comfortable distance from our grocery shopping place of the day. Driving up into the roundabout of the ferry terminal to Marstrand, we noted that it was not overly crowded. Perfect indication to buy two ferry tickets to cross over to Marstrand.

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Swedish sugar cake and Irish Moss marmalade

Irish moss / sea moss.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

A couple of months ago, I had an intense interest in learning about the different seaweed varieties and their uses in Nordic cuisine. There are some that are being cultivated in the Nordic countries for commercial purposes, but the more palatable varieties of red and green seaweed are often harvested wild. I found a seaweed company in Ireland that harvested seaweed from the Irish coast and acquired a sample variety of red and green seaweed, one of which is called Irish Moss or Sea Moss.

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Swedish meringue kisses / maränger

Chocolate tiramisù topped with soft baked / chewy meringue (higher heat, less time in the oven).
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

In Sweden, small meringue / maränger kisses can be found in the stores, located usually close to where the ice-cream is sold, the suggestion being that meringue kisses are complementary toppings to ice-cream. Popular in the summer, larger disc shaped meringue can be store bought too, for the purposes of using to build a marängtårta or variations of pavlova. Depending on purpose of maräng use, here’s the Swedish basic recipe for a crisp maräng:

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Kungälvs Havsdelikatesser, Kongahälla Shopping Center, Swedish west coast 2020

Shrimp, salmon and cheese salad at Kungälvs Havsdelikatesser, Kungälv, Swedish west coast.
Text Photo & Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Although culinarily fairly homogeneous (take for example, varieties of preserved herring and boiled potatoes and/or meatballs with lingonberry jam), the food in Sweden does carry regional variations and characteristics. Seafood and fish tend to distinctly characterise west coast Swedish regional food, not only in terms of the variety of food types but how they are prepared, plated and eaten.

There is little chance at getting bored with the vareity of pescatarian food creations in the Swedish west coast region. This year’s new find is Kungälvsröra and the Kungälvsbakelse from Kungälvs Havsdelikatesser. Kungälvsröra is a creamy mixture of shrimp and mayonnaise with red onion and dill. Kungälvsbakelse, is Kungälvsröra served on top of seeded dark rye bread and topped with savoury lemon gel. These delicious mirror glazed lemony confections are sold in neat squares that on quick glance over the counter, resemble a sweet lemon curd dessert.

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Styrsö Bratten, Styrsö, Sweden

Text & Photo / Video © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

A morning view from a ferry from Styrsö Bratten. Styrsö is a southern archipelago island to the city of Gothenburg, located along the Swedish west coast with about 1400 inhabitants. The island has several popular summer bathing spots that include Uttervik (north-west of Styrsö), Sandvik (north) and small sandy beach pockets right at Styrsö Bratten (north-east of Styrsö) where the boats dock.

Tjörn and Restaurang Tjörnbron, Sweden

Along the Swedish west coast across the islands of Tjörn and Orust, Sweden, Summer 2020.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

If you take the E6 expressway from the city of Gothenburg by car, you’ll get to the islands of Tjörn and Orust in about 45 mins. The twin islands are perfectly charming places to visit particularly during the summer months, with many antique shops for browing, and cafés to serve as rest stops.

It was just about lunch time when we drove across the Tjörn bridge, so we thought to try lunch at Restaurang Tjörnbron. Known for its excellent menu and friendly service, Restaurang Tjörnbron is located at one of west coast Sweden’s most scenic spots, at the top of a lookout point into the waters of Tjörn, right at the corner of the bridge.

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Styrsö summer 2020 in a 1980s abstract print jumpsuit

1980s style print jumpsuit, Made in Denmark, 100% cotton.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

It’s brilliant summer weather outdoors along the Swedish west coast. This evening, it’s high winds. A challenge for BBQ-ing, but perfect for sailing.

I haven’t put on any 80s-vibe clothing since the 1980s, and not even watching Stranger Things made me want to don some of Eleven’s more fantastic 80s pop fashion items. But today I enjoyed finding a 1980s abstract print jumpsuit. The 1980s was a decade of kaleidoscopic fashion that is characteristically difficult to create – and wear. Jean Paul Gaultier is one of my favourite designers for exactly that reason, and that in a career that has spanned more than 50 years, Gaultier had consistently created gorgeous kaleidoscopic pieces, haute couture. Gaultier announced that his Jan. 2020 Paris show would be his last [1]. And I will certainly miss his creations. Signature to Gaultier creations are the multispectra use of contrasting-complementing material, textures, colours and clothing shapes.

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Creel caught Scampi (Langoustine): A Swedish west coast delicacy

Scampi (Nephrops norvegicus) is a stable population European crustacean that live primarily in the Nordic oceans. Differing from sweet water crayfishes, this crustacean is available all year round only depending on demand and weather. These scampi are KRAV-certified [1]. KRAV is a sustainability standard for the labelling of fish that has been farmed / harvested ecologically in Sweden.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

While food quality has always been a topic of discussion, food sustainability has in the past decades become a subject of increasing interest for consumers [2-4]. Consumers today are more educated on food ecology and the impact of food production on the environment and climate. They often inquire at the shops after product origin and methods of harvest / farming. They also want to know about plant (how much use of pesticides?) and animal (how humane were the animals treated?) welfare. In the Nordic countries, even prior to Covid-19 travel and trade restrictions, short food supply chains (SFSC) were in the early 2000s, being discussed and implemented as means to sustainable food consumption and food safety [5]. In Sweden, “närodlat” (regionally produced) and in Norway, “kortreist” are selling arguments that allow for agri-products and food services to command higher prices.

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Midsummer’s reflections 2020

Pickings from the garden.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

On Saturday, 20 June 2020, Sweden celebrated Midsummer’s Day. A celebration that traditionally coincides with the summer solstice. Usually the inevitable – How’s your Midsummer this year? question, would be answered with the similarly inevitable reply; – As usual. Plus 10 degrees, and rain. – Ah, same as New Year’s eve then, – Yep.

It might sound sarcastic but really, I can’t think of a sunny Midsummer’s Day since I first landed in Sweden in 2002. I remember when I first landed that I wrote home to my parents and told, “Sweden got only two seasons leh”. They had winter, which was cold and wet, with possibility of some snow, and summer, which was cold and wet, with no snow. This year was certainly different. There’s been as much sun as you could wish for, in Sweden. I can only assume that this, in some kind of quantum entanglement of weather, is dependent on me having relocated to Tromsø, the very arctic part of Norway. Living in Tromsø by the way, has given me a completely new understanding of winter, and summer. Tromsø also has only two seasons. Winter, without daylight, and summer, with daylight. Endless dayligt. Sunrise in February and sunset basically in November. This said, to be fair to Sweden, I have over the years managed to get some nice midsummer pictures in my album labelled “Sweden”.

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A touch of rosé in celebration of the spring-summer transition

Côtes du Rhône Rose Millésime 2017, complementing a shrimp sandwich.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

In celebration of the spring to summer transition, this is a period of the year when the days get gradually longer till the summer solstice on 20 June 2020. Complementing the shrimp sandwich is a bottle of Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2017 by the Guigal family. The wine is a lovely hue of peach-rose that reflects beautifully with the evening light. Light and fresh with burst of red fruits, the aroma and flavour of the wine complements the slight saltiness of the peeled shrimp.

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Salvia officinalis and Stellaria palustris

Salvia officinalis and Stellaria Palustris
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Salvia officinalis (native to the Mediterranean region) and Stellaria palustris (native to Britain, Ireland and the Nordic region) make an unlikely combination in a flower vase. What they do have in common however, is that they are perennial and come warmer spring weather, they grow in the Nordic garden year after year.

Stellaria palustris or Meadow Starwort are some of the most beautiful flower blooms you can encounter in the Nordic countries. Reputedly growing in peaty soil, I’ve seen these flowers grow sturdy in much different soil conditions too. Soft and flowing when the evening breeze sweeps in, they look like a waterfall of flowers lining rocks and garden paths.

Salvia officinalis or Garden Sage might not look like much, but it makes a wonderful tea. Belonging to the mint family, Lamiaceae, and native to the Mediterranean region, this plant has naturalized and taken root in the Nordic region, growing outdoors without problems. Savoury and peppery, this herb has appeared in European cuisine from the 14th and 15th centuries, used to enhance sauces and condiments and often paired with turkey, chicken, pork and sometimes, fish.

Midnight sun, Tromsø, Northern Norway

This was filmed at ca. 0130 in the morning. Tromsø coast, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

“It must be so romantic, to experience the Arctic midnight sun!” She said.
“Yes, it is.” the Other She replied. “But you can´t sleep either.”

The prosaic quips above reflect but only a partial reality of what I find unique about living in this compact Arctic city of Tromsø in Northern Norway.

Special on this part of the globe is the shifting polar light from spring/summer to autumn/winter. Most travel brochures speak of the spectacular Northern Lights that appear when the skies darken over the winter months, and when the sun hardly rises above the horizon. At this time of year however, it is the opposite. The sun hardly ever sets. From 18 May to 25 July 2020, the sun does not go below horizon in Tromsø. The midnight sun is not much advertised in travel brochures as an experience to be lived for long because for those who are sunlight sensitive with functioning circadian rhythms, this might mean a whole lot of lack of sleep days. It is not unusual to observe nightlong parties and people out on the streets of Tromsø at 0200 hrs, as if it were late afternoon in southern Europe.

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20200523 Weekend walk along Tromsø coast, Northern Norway

Outdoor gym and meeting seagulls on a weekend walk along Tromsø coast, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

It´s been some frustrating weeks for everyone with the current global health pandemic that has led to disrupted lifestyles and socioeconomic consequences. In Northern Norway, society is cautiously opening.

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Nordic style oven baked fish gratin

Nordic style oven baked fish gratin.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

One of the absolute easiest Nordic dishes to put together when expecting friends for dinner is a fish gratin. It’s like an all-in-one recipe. You take a freshly caught cod, have it filleted, put it in a glass or ceramic tin, add some butter, salt and white pepper. Add a cover of white bechamel sauce, stir in some dill. Wait for the magic to happen in the oven and dribble some newly peeled shrimps on top just ahead of serving. A slice of lemon and a fresh piece of dill adds merriness to the eyes. Freshly boiled potatoes – or why not surround the fish with a generous surrounding wall of mashed potatoes, or Pommes duchesse; great either ways as long as you are generous with the butter – and bake the whole thing together. Wine paring is easy as long as it is Chardonnay but admittedly now when the spring is approaching, I’d consider a rosé while the gratin is taking care of itself.

Upon arriving in Northern Norway slightly more than a year ago, a main curiosity was to find out what the region had to offer for traditional dishes. Tromsø’s main historic economic activities were being base to arctic hunting and whaling. It is today well known for landing some of the world’s freshest, highest quality fish. It is thus not surprising (or I might have well guessed, but didn’t) that fish pie or fish gratin served with mashed potatoes on the side is one such traditional dish. As testament to its popularity in households, you can find ready made fish gratin sold in individually packed boxes at the local grocers in Tromsø.

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Marta’s (Swedish) Chocolate Slices and a walk down culinary memory lane, Singapore

Märtas skurna chokladkakor or Marta’s Chocolate Slices are the quintessential Swedish chocolate cookies that are a staple at cafés in Sweden. When I got to Sweden in the early 2000s, I found these chocolate cookies in large boxes sold in grocery stores. These distinctive looking chocolate cookies are also available at grocery shops in some Nordic countries.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

In the past weeks, I’ve taken a culinary walk down memory lane to when I was growing up in Singapore. I’ve been revisiting in my mind, bakeries and coffeeshops of where I’ve eaten and spent time for afternoon tea with my parents and father’s mother from when I was five or six years old. Katong and Marine Parade were favourite areas to spend Sunday afternoons. Katong is the predominant living quarters of Eurasians and there were many confectionaries and bakeries that sold pastries and cakes liked by the Eurasian community. Two places I frequented as a child with my parents, and with my father’s parents were Katong Red House, at 75 East Coast Road, and Chin Mee Chin Confectionary at 204 East Coast Road. Chin Mee Chin was located at the corner of Chapel Road where the Holy Family Church is still located. They opened in the 1920s and was famous for cream horns and chocolate éclairs, the favourite pastries of my father’s father, and my father. I grew up eating plenty of those, together with Portuguese egg tarts.

Labelled as “old school” pastries and biscuits in today’s context in Singapore, some of my absolute favourites were the basic mix and bake of flour, butter/ghee and sugar (lots). Chocolate biscuits or cookies were certainly on the list but they hardly came plain. Most chocolate biscuits in cookie jars at home were made to sandwich lemon or coffee cream frosting. The vanilla cream frosting filled chocolate Oreo cookie, was a much later addition to my cookie repertoire even if it was launched in the early 1900s in the USA. In a seeming quantum moving of Time backwards, it has also been interesting to observe the 2012 limited edition Lemon Twist Oreos (a variation of their original lemon Oreo in 1920s) because that flavour combination took me back to when I was five or six years old, eating lemon cream frosting filled cookies from Singapore neighbourhood heartland bakeries.

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Drömmar och havreflarn

Drömmar / Dreams, the Swedish version of sugee / shortbread cookies. On the side, chocolate truffles and a glass of chocolate-coffee yoghurt parfait.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Shortbread is one of my mother’s favourite cookies. Growing up in Singapore, you could find the Singapore version called sugee cookies in the smaller covenience stores in the neighbourhood heartlands. They were sold in plastic cookie jars and you could buy one for about ten cents a piece. From the 1980s onwards, as Singapore developed, the smaller convenience stores gave way to larger grocery stores. Favourite places of mine to visit, food shops and streets changed. Available consumption developed too, the shortbread consumer market segmented and grew more sophisticated. You could now find luxury versions of shortbread, as well as neighbourhood heartland versions.

For a few years after I had left Singapore in the early 2000s to live in Scandinavia and upon my return trips, I found it increasingly difficult to find heartland neighbourhood baked sugee cookies. There was of course Bengawan Solo sugee cookies, but there were some variations I felt I missed. One afternoon, my mother thought it nice to roam Chinatown. She wanted to buy some cotton threads with which she could crochet a new blouse. As we walked the inner alleys and streets of Chinatown Singapore, I chanced upon a shop that sold traditional, old school biscuits. I identified the biscuit tins immediately and could not help but pull my mother inside the shop with me in swift motion.

“Mommy! Look!” I cried, “They have these traditional biscuit tins!” I was excited and beyond disbelief. It’s been some years since I even laid eyes on such biscuit tins! My mother smiled and nodded. “I haven’t seen these in the longest time – what, since I was a child?” I said, exploring the biscuit tins that seemed to stand from floor to shophouse ceiling of the shop. The biscuit tins were designed each with a see-through panel on the front, so that you could always tell exactly which type of biscuit it housed.

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Tembok-tembok

Partial ingredients to a ground spice paste (rempah), commonly used in Nonya cooking in Singapore.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

“Suzie! Come in here! I want you to watch, we’re going to do the rempah for buah keluak so next time you know how to do for yourself!”

Susan’s mother, Li, waited for a response from her daughter. Not a sound from little Suzie. Li glanced sideways at her own mother, Cecilia, who already head a firm grip of hand on the batu lesung. Cecilia called the stone mortar and pestle tembok-tembok, so named because of the material, but also the empty hollow of the sound made when using the stone mortar and pestle. Once, a housing and development board (HDB) surveyor visited Cecilia in her newly built Queenstown 2-bedroom apartment. The train track ran just behind that block between Malaysia and Keppel Road Railway Station in Singapore [1]. The surveyor wanted to know if Cecilia and family were doing well, and if it was overly disturbing with the noise whenever the train passed, “So Aunty, how is it you find living in this new block? Is the train very noisy and disturbing?” Li sat on the modest sofa in the tiny living room with her mother, translating into Baba Malay for Cecilia, the English questions posed by the surveyor. “Yah, whenever train pass, you can feel so strong kejung-kejung! kejung-kejung! But otherwise, this place nice la.” Cecilia replied. Li kept a straight face throughout the interview visit from the surveyor, but could not help but blurt in Suzie’s direction the minute the little girl was old enough to string two words together, “Your grandmother, don’t talk about her la. When you ask her about the train, you know what she said, the train goes kejung-kejung, kejung-kejung. Ah, that’s your grandmother for you.” At age two, Suzie’s wide eyes spanned the face of her mother. It was a beautiful face that Suzie had the privilege of peering at everyday.

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Oxtail soup, Asian light

Oxtail soup, Asian light.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

When you´ve lived almost an equal number of years in one part of the globe (Asia) as another (Scandinavia), it comes a point in time when you realize – right, I´ve managed to get some oxtails from the nearby farm, super! Now what and how to do with them? And that question is legit because I found myself standing over the kitchen counter, staring at the oxtails unwrapped from their paper package, with at least 3 recipes in mind. Coupled with recipe juggling, I wondered who in the family was going to enjoy which version the most. The go-to recipe in Scandinavia is based on the classic French style, using tomato puree, root vegetables such as carrots, celery and herbs such as thyme, bay leaf, parsley, then topping it off with some port/sherry. You have the Eastern European recipe sans tomato puree but using chopped tomatoes, potatoes, leeks and ground allspice. “I’m bored with my cooking. You come up with something.” was the feedback. When in Scandinavia, that meant, go as Far East as your recipe books take you, and see what inspiration you can find.

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Telegrafbukta, Tromsø, Northern Norway

Telegrafbukta / Telegraph Bay, Tromsø, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Telegrafbukta was one of the first places I visited when I landed in Tromsø. Known as Northern Norway´s Gran Canaria, Telegrafbukta is the choice location of the annual Tromsø Bay Festival, one of Northern Norway´s most popular music festivals. It has also been the case that every time it´s been decided to gather at Telegrafbukta, the weather decided otherwise. Windy and icy-cold, it gets difficult to hold a coherent conversation when your teeth literally chatter.

Short walk by the beach at Telegrafbukta. Beautiful when warm, but when it gets clouded over and it´s windy, it is cold.

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Lapis lazuli to steel grey, Tromsø, Northern Norway

Spring in Tromsø, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

When I moved to Tromsø just over a year ago, it challenged the notion I had that tropical Singapore was the only place where you could have rain in your backyard and sunshine in your front yard. This Arctic island city has minute shifting weather. Clear blue skies one minute and in another, clouded over, threatening ice-cold rain against a background of steel grey.

But I´ll take the moments in time. It´s spring. The lapis lazuli of the ocean hypnotizes.

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20200419 Sunday inspiration in synopsis

Pärlhyacinter or Grape Hyacinth, currently blooming in the garden along the Swedish west coast.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Sights and sounds from the west coast of Sweden inspire me. The calm and still of the ocean in the early hours of the day, the call of the sea gulls and the smell sea water lightly salted. While Tromsø is slowly thawing into spring, the west coast of Sweden at the southern archipelago of Gothenburg is in spring bloom. These flowers, the purple pärlhyacinter and the Russian blue star are in full flourish in archipelago home gardens. They´re beautiful. In Sweden, a signature sight in early spring are park gardens carpeted in these little blue flowers. Tromsø will have its flowers in bloom too, albeit just a little later.

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20200413 April snow, Tromsø, Northern Norway

In April snow, Tromsø, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

From the pages of Ken Wilber´s One Taste [1]:

“As the Witness, I-I do not move through time, time moves through me. Just as clouds float through the sky, time floats through the open space of my primordial awareness, and I-I remain untouched by time and space and their complaints. Eternity does not mean living forever in time—a rather horrible notion—but living in the timeless moment, prior to time and its turmoils altogether. Likewise, infinity does not mean a really big space, it means completely spaceless. As the Witness, I-I am spaceless; as the Witness, I-I am timeless. I-I live in eternity and inhabit infinity, simply because the Witness is free of time and space. And that is why I can drink vodka in New York and get drunk in L.A.

So this morning I went jogging, and nothing moved at all, except the scenery in the movie of my life. (p.68)

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Eggshell blue and spring florals in a dress, Easter 2020

In a pencil dress by Zara. Loving the eggshell blue and light florals that reflect spring in this dress. Violet sunglasses are Gucci. The velvet purple belt is a vintage purchase from a second hand boutique here in Tromsø, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

In the early 2000s, I was obsessed with all things fashion and fashionable. From nail polish colours (only Chanel) to skirts, dresses, shoes and bags (only Louis Vuitton), I wanted to know and own the latest. It was a period in my life where I thought next week´s store items were outdated, and there is no such thing as one too many pairs of stilettos. I mean, nude doesn´t go with everything right? Reading some comments to my fashion blog posts from the early 2000s, “bimbotic” didn´t even bother me for the reason, I liked it.

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Hemgjord leverpastej and pâté de campagne

A Swedish hemgjord leverpastej [1] is a rich spreadable pâté that complements most festive tables in Sweden from Christmas to Easter. Here, it´s served with cumberland sauce and French cornichons.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

In the midst of my 2019 Christmas marketing in Gothenburg city´s oldest market place, Saluhallen, I picked up by chance, the most wonderful rustic/country pâté made with the livers of duck, chicken and pork. The terrine that sat on the market counter simply read “3 Confit – Duck, Chicken, Pork” and it looked like a fine spreadable pâté. We bought some, took it home for our Christmas table and it was such a treat that I went back to Saluhallen, determined to wrap some to bring with me to Northern Norway for after the New Year´s. But there was none to be had, with the reason given by the charcuterie, “That is a very special dish, we only order it for Christmas.”

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The colour of Easter: Seafood custard

Easter treat: Seafood custard made with duck eggs and topped with crème fraîche.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Following nature´s seasonal cycles, eggs are plentiful during this time of year, the reason for Easter food recipes filled with eggs, from rustic pies to custards and braided breads baked with the use of whole eggs. Apart from eggs, seafood and shellfish feature prominently in Easter food traditions in Swedish west coast fare, as well as in Northern Norway. Some familiar dishes are smoked salmon and/or mackerel, gravad lax, variety flavours of preserved herring to egg halves topped with shrimp and caviar.

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Marina in early April 2020, Tromsø, Northern Norway

April weather in the Arctic. Snow dusted over a thin layer of ice in this marina along the coast of Tromsø, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Different from the Swedish west coast marinas and Tromsø marinas is how the boats remain moored through the winter season. On my walk this morning, I found several people tending to their boats, doing spring cleaning of sorts on the inside. Temperature outdoors this day is around -3°C with alternating snow and sunshine. Along the Swedish west coast, no one would consider tending to their boats if temperatures were in the minus outdoors.

Thursday, 19 March 2020 marked the spring/vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere. In Tromsø, you can feel daylight stretching to cover more hours over the day. There´s still snow outside but there´s much more sunlight too, which cheers people up some. I wonder if the neighbour´s heavy dragging of metal over the balcony floors meant they were readying the barbeque grills for the summer? Here in the Arctic, seasons don´t really languidly morph from one to another. Overly long winters means that summer rather rushes up at you as a concrete floor to your face when you´re in free fall, so best to bring out those summer things already now.

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20200328 A different bruktbokhandel in Tromsø, Northern Norway

A Saturday used books haul, Tromsø, Northern Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

In the past week, I´ve returned to reading some of Ken Wilber´s works that appear in scientific journal articles. In particular, my favourite paragraph thus far is from an article of his that appeared in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology in 1982, when Wilber unpacks structural analysis and deep structure in cognitive development:

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