Visiting Arctic Roe of Scandinavia, for a taste of sustainable luxury, Småland, Sweden 2021

Swedish black caviar by Arctic Roe of Scandinavia, AROS, Småland, Sweden. This black caviar comes from the Siberian sturgeon, Acipenser Baerii, in the family Acipenseridae.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2021

A two-hour drive from the city of Gothenburg took us to Strömnäsbruk in the beautiful region of Småland. I was curious to visit AROS (Arctic Roe of Scandinavia), one of two producers in Sweden of sturgeon black caviar.

Strömnäsbruk is one of many small industrial villages that would be all but forgotten today as watermills went out of fashion for powering up workshops and industries if it wasn’t for creative entrepreneurs. In this case, the robust building of a former paper mill has been repurposed towards rearing Siberian sturgeons in a humane and ecologically sustainable manner. The product is black caviar or the black gold of the Caspian sea, that has all but driven wild sturgeons to extinction.

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Oven baked chicken and farm-to-door, Swedish west coast, Sweden

Oven baked chicken, with chicken sourced from close quarters, Kött på Riktigt, a farm located in Västra Götaland, Sweden.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2021

Oven baked chicken in the making, using chicken sourced from a local farm, Kött på Riktigt, Gothenburg, Sweden.

How different can a chicken taste? I wondered as we fingered the options of meat boxes presented to us by Kött på Riktigt. We live in the southern archipelago of Gothenburg, and representatives from the farm, Kött på Riktigt were up and about, taking orders.

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Seven flowers and a Midsummer’s sirloin barbeque, Swedish west coast

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Midsummer 2021

The ritual of The Seven Flowers. Collecting flowers for the table at Midsummer’s, Swedish west coast, Sweden.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2021

Going wild with our Midsummer’s menu with grilled ryggbiff and Béarnaise sauce instead of preserved herring.

Sweden’s classic lunch menu when celebrating Midsummer’s is singing and snaps, with a side of preserved herring topped with sour cream. So much so that occational visitors to Sweden think that Helan Går is our national anthem. It isn’t. A few weeks ago, we happily received our order of a meat box sourced from a farm that practices regenerative agriculture, Kött på Riktigt, located in Gothenburg. We could have let the beef mature slightly longer, but we couldn’t wait. So we went a little wild this year with our Midsummer’s menu with ryggbiff or sirloin steak, with a side of Béarnaise sauce.

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Truffle prosciutto on a savoury chocolate and avocado parfait

This truffle prosciutto topped chocolate avocado parfait was inspired by the three ships of Christopher Colombus, the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria that sailed from Europe to the Americas between 1492 and 1502 in his quest for finding the fountain of chocolate and avocados. And chili.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2021

Small coincidences of events led to the putting together of this parfait. A few days ago, we were at the local grocers who had on-going, a mini-foodfair at their meat counter. Amongst other bites they offered a taste of their truffle prosciutto which I found nice and interesting.

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Styrsö Valborg 2021, Swedish west coast, Sweden

At the quayside at Styrsö, Valborg weekend, Gothenburg southern archipelago, Swedish west coast, Sweden.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2021

Since the Middle Ages, Sweden has celebrated Walpurgis Night or Valborg on the last day of April. Valborg marks the quarter point in the sun-wheel between the vernal equinox and midsummer. The Nordic countries will usually switch over to summer hours and the day is celebrated by spending it outdoors, grilling, song singing and general merry making.

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Pâté smörgåstårta

Pâté smörgåstårta made with lamb mousse, and heart and liver pâté.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2021

One of the more fantastic party culinary concoctions you can buy at grocery stores in Sweden is called the smörgåstårta, or the sandwich cake. A smörgåstårta is made by stacking white sandwich bread generously smothered inbetween with crème fraîche mixes such as the skagenröra, gubbröra or any other type of röra you prefer. The cake is then decorated with shrimp or ham on top, and dusted all around with dill or any other delicate salad leaves of your liking. They make attractive center pieces when dining at a party table, and it is versatile enough so that everyone can get just the right sized slice for themselves.

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From the week of the Spring equinox 2021

In celebration of the spring equinox week 2021, with some cake and Lent lilies on the table.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2021

There´s been a flurry of small activities in the week following this year´s spring equinox. From making a chocolate banana fudge cake to a sausage and bacon frittata for breakfast, I´ve been celebrating the start of spring in a variety of ways.

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Focaccia

Focaccia, infused with garlic, herbs de provence and topped with cheese.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2021

There is something about kneading dough with my hands that I find meditative and therapeutic. I love baking breads early in the morning, just before sunrise when it is still fairly silent all around. Dough playing, I find myself usually standing at the kitchen table, looking out over the soft lapping ocean waves with meandering thoughts over the week´s activities and happenings. And when did that bread dough begin to come together from sticky flour and water, to form a pliable soft ball? I haven´t a clue, but after about an hour of kneading, it usually does that on its merry own.

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Soufflé pancakes

Soufflé pancakes, served with a dollop of butter and a lacing of honey.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2021

Soufflé pancakes

It´s all in the flick of the wrist. At least, that´s one of the elements of success in making this soft as cloud, soufflé pancake. Plus, my lemon custard cravings of late meant I had plenty of egg whites to put to use for all sorts of meringue related recipes.

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Saffranssemla

A saffranssemla. Like a semla, only with saffron added, along the Swedish west coast, Sweden.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

I did a post-Christmas grocery store run yesterday in Sweden. To my horror, I saw trays of semlor being brought out from the bakery department. I took a double take on the trays, to see they were not actually large cream puffs, because, why not? But, there were no cream puffs. The trays were filled with luscious marzipan and cream filled semlor, headed to the bakery shelves. A lovely sight, but a little early, I thought.

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Sugee cake, Styrsö julbord 2020

The Eurasian sugee cake.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

A short compilation of photos and videos of sugee cake making at Styrsö, Sweden for Christmas 2020.

I learnt to bake semolina cake or sugee cake from my father. I began with cracking of the eggs for him, and separating the egg yolks from the egg whites. No shells or yellows in the whites allowed.

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Janssons frestelse, Mannerström´s Christmas recipe

Traditionally known as a dish for a quick supper fix, Janssons frestelse is a family favourite, and not to be missed at a Swedish Christmas table.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

Janssons frestelse, using Leif Mannerström´s Christmas recipe.

One of the first dishes introduced to me when I landed in Sweden is the classic Janssons frestelse. With heavy cream and potatoes with slivers of anchovies, this dish makes a substantial meal for that after party downtime, if you´re still awake.

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Gravad lax, Styrsö julbord 2020

Making gravad lax or cured salmon, is an annual tradition in our household. Salmon in itself is an extremely flavourful fish, the reason for as little herbs and spices used as possible for curing. As with years past, what you´ll need to find is an excellent piece of salmon.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

The Nordic oceans are renowned to produce meaty, flavourful fish such as cod, monkfish, saithe and salmon. These fish are delicious mostly on their own, and need very little herbs and spices to bring out their flavours. I like to pan-fry or lightly grill cod and salmon in a bit of butter, with salt and pepper to taste. But at year´s end, we often go with historical Nordic culinary traditions, where fish and meat are preserved by drying, salting or smoking.

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Candy apples

Candy apples to brighten any dessert section at the Christmas table this jultide season.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

The jultide season is characterised by tinsel, mistletoe and gleaming red apples that bejewel the julbord. Making candied apples is a quick project. I had seven small apples to work with, so the glazing took under 20 minutes, or the time that your sugar takes to come to between 140°C to 158°C (hard crack candy stage).

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Pineapple tarts and pirate coins Pieces of Eight

Making pineapple tarts in semblance of Spanish ‘Pieces of Eight’ colonial ‘pirate money’ or cob coins, to the value of eight reals, along the west coast of Sweden.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

Pineapple tarts, the making.

I last wrote about making pineapple tarts in March 2010. My thoughts then were focused on the method of making pineapple tarts. The open-faced tarts with a cross over the top was something I grew up learning to make in the Eurasian household. As a child, I remember that there were many more rules from my mother about how to make pineapple tarts. It had to be shaped in a certain manner, crossed over the top and pinched over the crosses in a certain manner. I thought these were rules of good, and proper baking. I was never told why we made tarts in the semblance of a coin with a cross on top. I always thought it was a show of kitchen craftsmanship and that you tried to make the tart as pretty as possible.

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Chicken and duck liver pâté

Chicken and duck liver pâté served with a slice of red wine marinated cheddar.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

A medley of different pâté recipes here, using grated ginger to Herbs de Provence.

Liver pâté is a food that is terribly unsexy to photograph. The eating of it however, is a different story. Rich and velvety on the tongue, chicken and duck liver pâté, made with a hint of your favourite port wine is a taste of sheer luxury.

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Norsk ribbe and reflections on environment adaptation

Norsk ribbe, oven grilled pork belly with crackling over the top. The signature feature of the Norwegian style grilled pork belly is its thick layer of ultra crispy crackling.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

This festive season, my personal reflections are on questions of personal adaptation to new environments, and new living conditions. Adapting to a new environment and culture can be challenging. In my case, I´ve found myself adapting to being in new places and living conditions elastically, meaning to say, some fittings are easier done in some contexts than others. Taking the example of local food appreciation, it took me several years of living in Sweden before I stopped shopping at local Asian grocery shops. Food is closely connected to personal childhood experiences, the reason why from Proust, madeleines can have their moments that draw you into another world that once was yours. And there were so many petite madeleines that made up my personal Singapore narrative that it would have been a point of decision to live forward. So it took me a few years before I began to genuinely enjoy Nordic foods, from where they were cultivated at local farms, to how they were processed (salting, drying, smoking etc.) and how they were served. So while even some Swedes would disagree with semla hettvägg, I am for one, loving it.

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Saffron brioche

Saffron brioche, a Lussekatter variation.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of brioche to be found in the baked confections section of Swedish grocery shops. These new bakes were certainly Instagram worthy, sitting in neat rows on the display counter. I loved how they looked and most of all, the confectionary section of the shop drew crowds from the dofting aromas of combined caramelized sugar and butter.

Cafés got around into producing brioche bakes too. Popular variations of brioche that can be found in Swedish cafés include kanelbullar brioche, and chocolate pull-apart loaves. Sold on the idea of brioche, one advantage of starting Christmas bakes early is that you get to experiment with variations of recipes and styles to the confection. In this case, my interest for Lussekatter haven´t waned, so I tried a brioche version of these saffron buns.

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A revbensspjäll winter medley

A revbensspjäll winter medley.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

Jultide along the Swedish west coast city of Gothenburg is characterized by long winter nights, the warm glow of street lamps over cobbled stone streets and its markets.

From about the second week into December every year, the city comes alive with julbord events or Christmas table sittings. The julbord or Christmas smörgåsbord is something to experience because it contains quintessential Swedish traditional foods that you can try in one sitting. From various flavours of preserved herring, warm prinskorvar snipped at each end to resemble tiny pig trotters, Swedish meatballs served with lingonberry jam, lutfisk served with green peas, winter spices and a copious amount of melted butter, to Ris à la Malta with the hope of finding that one almond in the entire pot for dessert, the julbord is a feast for the palate and a culinary narrative in itself. And yes, I wouldn´t forget, the neat display of double chocolate fudges at the dessert table.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Saturday morning 14Mar2020. Thoughts on the Nordic Food Lab testings with animal blood in Nordic cuisine

This dish of slow cooked beef tongue, animal blood and eggs takes on a dark burgundy, dark chocolate colour after cooking. On top, a dollop of setertype smør, a Norwegian butter with 4% salt.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

I was in Gothenburg, Sweden, the past weekend, and with Europe now being the epicenter of Covid-19, I´m currently sitting at home in quarantine for 14 days. This weekend, I thought I´d research a familiar but marginalised ingredient in Nordic cuisine – animal blood.

This morning´s food adventure is around the marginalized and forgotten food, animal blood, in Nordic cuisine. Animal blood has a long culinary use in Nordic and European food. Blodpudding / Black Sausage / Sanguinaccio or Biroldo / Blodpølseare all variations of blood sausages that you can find across Europe. In Sweden, blodpudding is eaten fried, with a side of boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam. This dish is absolutely delicious, particularly when fried in lard or butter.

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Duck eggs from Lofoten. Sunday breakfast, Tromsø, Norway, Mar.2020

Duck eggs from Aimee´s Farm in Lofoten, each dated on the day they were picked.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Last Friday (28/02) was farmer´s market evening at Tromsdalen in northern Norway. Farmers from the surrounding region, from Balsfjord to a little farther south, Moskenes, gather in Tromsø to sell and distribute their products. At this small make-shift market, you´ll find traditional Norwegian smoked salmon, farm made yoghurt, eggs and various cuts of meats from lamb, sheep, cow and pigs. I noted that one farm, Aimee´s Farm (located in Lofoten), had duck eggs for sale. My eyes lit at the information.

In Singapore, salted duck eggs are served together with Teochew porridge and salted duck egg yolks are used in custard to fill soft steamed buns as well as the mid-autumn festival staple, mooncakes. The last I remember eating a duck egg was when I was a little girl back in Singapore. So I could not help but jump at the opportunity to purchase 30 of them. I was totally curious about the flavour profile of duck eggs compared to chicken eggs.

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Experiential dining onboard the M/S Bjørnvåg, Tromsø, Northern Norway

Standing with the M/S Bjørnvåg co-owner and Chef de Cuisine, Eivind M. E. Austad.
Text & Photo © F. Boije af Gennäs, JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

The clear night sky was a velvet obsidian, and the air was winter crisp. Standing dockside in Tromsø harbour whilst waiting for the taxi to arrive, I marveled at how Tromsø night sky shades could range from variations of deep blues to vantablack, depending on the time of year. That the seasonal mørketid is all dark is not true. Experiencing a winter´s night such as this in January and February (just past mørketid), when the region records its lowest annual temperatures, releases in you a feeling of the intense magic associated with living in a city located in the Arctic.

As my taxi left the Tromsø harbour for the main road, I watched how the light from the street lamps lining the Tromsø bridge were mirrored in the water below. I said to the taxi driver, that it was a beautiful winter’s night. “Yes” he replied, keeping his eye on the road. “It is a nice night. But too much snow.” Not hearing any reply, he added with a slight touch of cynicism, “We are near the North Pole you know.” Still looking out through the window, I noted how the boats moored at the quay swayed with the wind. One of them was a beautifully restored wood hulled passenger boat from the 1950s. Its name is M/S Bjørnvåg.

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