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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The Tarv, Tórshavn, Færoe Islands

The Tarv is a steak house that serves traditional Faroese cuisine together with en eclectic selection of barbecued specialties. It is newly established in the former premises of Poul Hansens Heilsøla in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands. The white façades, to the left in the row.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

Some of best restaurants in the Faroe Islands are clustered around its oldest center, the Tinganes, which has served as the governing center of the islands as long as written history can tell. Around this peninsula are the two harbours of Tórshavn. If given the opportunity to return to the Faroe Islands, I will definitely revisit The Tarv.

The Tarv is located at the corner of the larger of the two harbours of Tórshavn. It´s a restaurant that serves some of the best of Faroese raw produce, fish and meat, in one of my preferred methods of cooking, grilled. The essential list of side dishes that accompanied grilled meats included Béarnaise sauce and pepper sauce were enough to make my evening.

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Etika, Japanese cuisine with a Færoese twist, Færoe Islands

Etika, the only sushi restaurant in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, serving a fusion of Japanese cuisine with raw produce sourced from the Faroe Islands.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

With Japanese sushi restaurants being found everywhere on earth it was a given first thing to do to see what a sushi restaurant could do on the Faroe Islands, where access to fresh seafood – whitefish, salmon, shrimp, mussels, whale – are abound. Etika opened in July of 2009 and in 2019 seems to remain the only sushi restaurant on the Faroe Islands. Etika serves classic Japanese cuisine with a Faroe twist. Its modern and cozy interiors extends to its flavour innovations reflected in their dishes served. Just the tiniest hint of orange made the salmon maki intriguing.

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West coast shrimp sandwich à la Tromsø

West coast shrimp sandwich, with shrimps from Tromsø, Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

I’m often amused when coming across shrimp at the local grocery store in Tromsø, the shrimps being at least twice the size of the ones found at the stores in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Shrimps are probably one of the fastest means to meal that needs little time in preparation if you’re in a hurry and/or haven’t got the time to sit and cook/plan all meals. Haul a kilo or so of shrimps home and you have the main ingredient to some ready-to-go-meals. Peeled shrimps can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days and we love to have it over bread in a traditional Swedish west coast räkmacka with egg and mayonnaise.

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Black sesame seed bread

Black sesame seed bread.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

A few years ago when in Singapore, I came across a café that served hamburgers with black buns. It was a novelty at the time. I asked the kitchen to the café how the buns were made, and they said they used food colouring. I searched both online and in bakeries where I spotted black loaves of bread, for various means to bake black buns. My search returned several alternatives. Some recipes used squid ink, others used charcoal. One of my absolute favourites used black sesame seeds.

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Pickled cucumber Swedish style

Inlagd gurka / pickled cucumber, Swedish style.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

The crown dill and Västerås cucumbers get ripe for the picking at almost the same time in the garden. This harvest timing is probably what makes them a perfect pairing for the cucumber pickling. There are variations to pickling the cucumber that can be found online. The pickling used here includes mustard seeds, horseradish and chili. The pickling is done in two stages. First is the overnight soaking of the cucumber slices in salted water. The next day’s work is to concoct the vinegar, sugar and salt bath that will keep the cucumber slices happy and flavourful till time to serve. Best served with a favourite pâté .

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Postcards of late autumn, Styrsö, Sweden

On the grill in late summer, along the Swedish west coast.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

Spring is often the more colourful season, with trees coming back to life and flowers blossoming. Bees are a delight to sit and watch as they make their rounds around the garden flowers. Come late summer and early autumn, the garden tends to take on a more varied hue of green. We’ve managed to change that some over the past few years by growing different types of garden friendly vegetables. Or at least, Swedish west coast garden friendly vegetables. The Swedish west coast has relatively shallow soil with rocky soil beds that need clearing out before planting. So we built a few sand boxes and experimented some to see which vegetables felt at home in them. Carrots were a hit a few years ago. This year’s harvest is also interesting with garden sweet peas, Västerås cucumbers (great for pickling) and different types of lettuce. A small harvest of tomatoes also seems on the way. Most delightful are the herring wood barrels filled with rainwater. We use them to water the plants, “indoors-outdoors, can-can”.

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Oxtail soup

Oxtail soup.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

It was during the 1980s that Singapore saw a number of restaurants that served European styled food using recipes from France and Germany that I was introduced to a tomato based oxtail soup. My mother at the time was working for a German company with its Asia-Pacific headquarters located in Singapore. It was those years that we had the opportunity to try classic German goulash served with large chunks of meat, as well as oxtail soup. Soups in the restaurants were served together with heavy grained breads, and that’s how I have oxtail soup today as well.

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European food fair, Tromsø, Norway

My absolute favourite moment on the Saturday city walkabout. When the perfect song begins to play when you’re at the perfect food stall at the summer food fair in Tromsø. “Sugar, ah honey honey”, The Archies from their album Everything Archie’s. (1969)
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

Tromsø is a little city that sparkles. Almost every other weekend sees some kind of exciting event. This weekend, 1-3 Aug. the Tromsø Skyrace was complemented by more grounded activities such as this petite European food fair held in the small square located adjacent to the city centre’s main shopping mall, Nerstranda. At Torgcentret, some couple of hundred meters from Nerstranda, was an ongoing Saturday farmer’s market and flea market.

This European food fair was exciting. Condensed into a small space, you could literally taste several of Europe’s most famous produce and dishes, from fudge, Belgium waffles served with raw, farm produced honey, to candied dried fruits.

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Art Café Tromsø: A passionate combination of art and food

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro and Ivonne Wilken, Art Café, Tromsø, Norway 2019

At Art Café with Ivonne Wilken in Tromsø, Norway. Ivonne is a writer and artist. Her sculpture exhibition titled “Connections” is currently on display at Art Café, Richard Withs plass 2, 9008 Tromsø, through the months of August and September 2019.
Text & Photo © Art Café, T. Altintzoglou, JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

The summer months of Tromsø is warm, languid and beautiful. The university is closed for the summer holiday and this makes a marked difference to the atmosphere of this city, that has as its core activities, education, medical expertise and tourism. Tourists still dock off from the majestic looking cruise ships that pass by, but the crowds are fleeting and transient. What is, are the long hours of summer sun, to be enjoyed at one’s own pace if you’re spending your summer here.

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Pear and double cream chia pudding

Chia pudding made with pears and double cream.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

In the canteen of the convent in which I grew up, CHIJ Katong Primary in Singapore, there was a corner stall that sold drinks in bright colours of green, purple, yellow and rose pink. The last drink was called bandung, a drink made with evaporated or condensed milk flavoured with rose cordial syrup. A lot of these large plastic drink tanks had in them chia seeds, that complemented the colours of the drinks, and which would draw the attention of the little ones, including myself. I used to call the chia seeds, frogs eggs. We had tadpoles and frogs in the school ponds when its monsoon season, so I thought they really were frogs eggs served in those drinks. It was gelatinous and tastes pretty much like smaller versions of tapioca pearls that go into the much loved bubble tea found in most Southeast-Asian countries.

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Schweriner Schloss Localitäten, Schwerin Palace, Germany 2019

At Schwerin Palace, Germany, July 2019.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

We were headed to Lübeck, Germany, as one of Sweden’s favourite summer things to do. A visit to Lübeck for hypermart grocery shopping is practical for when you’re catering for large parties, summer or otherwise. Else, it is for anyone with food insecurities and believe that enough food to fill 3 family pantries for 2 years on any average day of the year is perfectly normal.

Since we’ll be in Lübeck, I googled the map to find places of interest to visit that was in driving distance from Lübeck. It was a Tromsö moment for me when I clicked on Schwerin and a gorgeous fairytale castle [1] appeared on screen as the feature of Schwerin. I fell in love with what I saw onscreen. It looked magic! I could not not visit this castle, especially when docked at Lübeck for a day or two.

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Vaniljbullar the Swedish pastéis de nata

Vaniljbullar, the Swedish variant of the Portuguese pastéis de nata.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

A souvenir I often bring home after travelling to a new country, with the opportunity to sample their local fare, is to try to recreate a version of what I love and have experienced, right back at home. In this case, it was not much of a challenge, but rather, something nice to do on a summer’s afternoon in Sweden – to bake vaniljbullar (custard tarts), which is the Swedish version of the Portuguese pastéis de nata.

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TOPO Belém, Lisbon, Portugal

At TOPO Belém, Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

Dining at TOPO Belém, on the 3rd floor of the Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB) is surreal. This bar and restaurant was a serendipitous find. The intention was to visit the modern art collections in the Museu Coleção Berardo museum, but thought to have a coffee just before the walkabout. We asked the information counter where we could find coffee, and maybe some food. We were told, “There’s a restaurant, you go to the 3rd floor.”

The CCB is both spacious, and built to accommodate a sense of space. It sprawls 140,000 m², catering for exhibitions, conferences and other activities/events. And you certainly got this sense of vast sprawl when looking for TOPO Belém. It was quite a walk to the third floor of the CCB getting to the restaurant. For a moment, it looked more like we were entering a different wing of another modern art collection. But restaurant it was.

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Breads and pastries in Lisbon, Portugal

Padaria do Bairro, Rua da Misericórdia, Lisbon, Portugal
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

I could eat cake for breakfast. But when in Lisbon, I discovered that this eating cake for breakfast could well be epigenetics at play, because in Lisbon, a lot of people eat a lot of cake for breakfast. It felt very much like home when upon entering the morning breakfast spread at the hotel, where I was greeted with what seemed like two-thirds of the total breakfast spread dedicated to various breads, cakes and pastries. Breakfast could take some time in Lisbon, I thought.

The Portuguese do pastries so well that they simply did away with the cumbersome Danish (pastry), and the bread around the Norwegian Skolebrod to produce one of their conconctions of greatest repute, the custard egg tart, pastel de nata or in Lisbon, also known as Pastéis de Belém. There are variations of this around the globe, such as the Cantonese or Hong Kong egg tart, or in Macau, known also as pastel de nata. But pastel de nata is but one sweet temptation. Walk into any bakery or pasteleria in Lisbon, and you’ll find an array of gorgeously prepared pastries that even if you didn’t have a love of sweet bakes, would encourage you to sit and sample. And this, one could do almost anytime of the day, beginning at breakfast.

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Spanish orange almond cake to Easter, Styrsö, Sweden

Spanish orange almond cake, with orange crème anglaise, a variation of the Eurasian almond sugee cake. Topped with meringue.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

One of my favourite things to do when back in Sweden is to bake, and oddly enough, go back to cooking Straits Chinese / Peranakan dishes. Easter culinary traditions (as with Christmas, weddings etc.) however, are most often influenced from my Portuguese / Spanish heritage. This year, I thought to bake a variation of my father’s mother’s Eurasian sugee cake, a Spanish orange almond cake [1], layered with orange crème anglaise and topped with meringue. David Lebovitz has a brilliant recipe to orange crème anglaise to which anyone can refer/use [2].

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Chengdu by night, China 2019

Night scene at the intersection of Shangdong Street and Chunxi Road, Chengdu, China.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro 2019

According to a World Economic Forum 2019 [1] article Chengdu is among 10 cities that the UN predicts will break the 10 million mark by 2030, bringing the global number of megacities to 43. About 55% of global population live in urban areas today, compared to the less than one-third of the global population living in urban areas in 1950. In one generation to come, the proportion of people living in cities is expected to grow by 68%, adding to our current already crowded cities.

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Passion för Mat 2019, a focus on seafood

Skrei (wild captured cod), as presented in Sweden at Sweden’s most prominent gourmet food fair, Passion för mat 2019. The event (1 to 3 March, 2019) was held at Åbymässan, an conference and exhibition venue located in Mölndal, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

Sweden’s most prominent gourmet food fair, Passion för Mat 2019 took place between 1 to 3 March 2019 in a new conference and exhibition venue, Åbymässan, located in Mölndal in the outskirts of the city of Gothenburg, Sweden. An upside to this location is certainly, more parking spaces for visitors. Stepping into the exhibition space, the atmosphere was electric, as it always is for food enthusiasts, with a pleasant mix of people of the trade whom you’ve gotten to know over the decade and some new exhibitors with whom we can spend time with getting acquainted in their trade and product.

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Skrei season in the north of Norway

Skrei season in Norway is during January to April each year. This is when the fish arrives to the northern coast of Norway in order to spawn. In Northern Norway, this seasonal fish is traditionally served as a dish called mølje. As such the fish is boiled together with its liver and roe and served with a side of potatoes and carrots. This particular skrei was captured at Lofoten and bought at the main market square in Tromsø, Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

The Norwegian skrei season is a miracle that repeats itself.

For those few unfortunate that are not yet familiar with skrei, it is a North-East Arctic cod that lives in the Barents Sea, in an area enclosed between Franz Josef Land on the north, Novaya Zemlya on the east, and Svalbard on the west. Skrei is the Norwegian word for wanderer.

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Knekkebrød, a Norwegian variety

Knekkebrød, a Norwegian variety made with different seeds.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2019

A tiny brown paper package that contained some crispbread / knekkebrød turned up at my kitchen table counter top during a gathering in early December 2018. Next to that was the cheese platter, laid out with different types of honey, fruit marmalade and jam. I assumed that the crispbread was a variety of Wasabröd, except this version was peppered with different types of seed. Wasabröd is a crispbread that is quite ubiquitous in Sweden and I usually pay little attention to it as a food item when grocery shopping. Why eat that when you can have intoxicating kanelbullar dribbled with pearl sugar?

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Christmas at Styrsö Gothenburg, Sweden 2018

Christmas market tranquil at Saluhallen in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2018

Even if the markets are not as populous in Scandinavia as they are in Southeast-Asia where I grew up, there’s always a certain sense of panic with last minute shopping, especially during festive seasons, like Christmas. I was however, pleasantly surprised to find the main market hall Saluhallen in Gothenburg, in complete calm during the late afternoon on the eve of the eve of Christmas, Christmas eve being the big family meal for most families in Sweden.

So it was thoroughly enjoyable doing this year’s Christmas marketing, picking up a bit of liver pâté, an assortment of cheese and some more preserved herring to add to our existing collection of flavoured herrings for the home Christmas table. Since Gothenburg is a coastal city, our own Christmas table very much reflects the culinary traditions of the region with an emphasis on piscatorial dishes. A favourite this year seemed to be smoked rainbow trout. That, and there’s always room for dessert. This year’s favourite was caramelized baked apples with vanilla cream. The vanilla cream was made the old-fashioned way with lots of egg yolks, and vanilla beans.

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Coffee as an art form at RISØ Tromsø, Norway

Kawaii cat cappuccino. RISØ Tromsø, Norway, takes coffee customization to the next level.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2018

If there was a must-visit café in Tromsø, then RISØ, located along Strandgata is it. A walk-past on most days will find this café filled with guests for want of an excellent, personalized cup of coffee. Their cinnamon rolls (closest to Swedish kanelbullar I’ve found here in Northern Norway) and coffee cake are good too.

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Egon Tromsø, Norway

A festive season pizza buffet on a Sunday? Super. At Egon Tromsø Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2018

The Egon chain was established in 1984 with headquarters in Trondheim. Having worked as a waitress at Chili’s Grill & Bar when they first opened in Singapore prior to my university years, I was skeptical. Due to my experiences in bridging between kitchen and customers at Chili’s, I knew both what to expect and what not to expect at the same time. But any misgiving about bar and grill franchises dissipated stepping into Egon Tromsø. With warm friendly smiles from the service frontline to the complimentary coffee to each meal, I found very little not to like about Egon Tromsø.

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Julebord at ROAST Tromsø Scandic Ishavshotel

Eyes on the view of the harbour that is just outside our table by the window at ROAST Tromsø. We were there for a traditional North Norwegian Christmas table sitting. ROAST restaurant is located at Scandic Ishavshotel, at Fredrik Langes Gate 2.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2018

This would be my first jultide spent in Northern Norway. It was mentioned several times in the course of various conversations had that the long Norwegian coastline has given rise to slight variations of culinary traditions and Norwegian culture within the country. And I could expect it to be much different from the culinary traditions of the Christmas tables in Gothenburg, along the Swedish west coast. As such, I was curious about the Northern Norwegian julebord or Christmas table. How different is it from the Swedish west coast julbord?

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Culinary journeys in Tromsø, Norway

Tromsø harbour, walking along Sjøgata, Norway.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2018

After the oil and mineral industry in Norway, fish is an USD 11 billion industry in Norway [1], making it the make the second largest industrial sector in the country. Tromsø with its location in the arctic region and access to the Arctic Ocean and Barents Sea makes it perfect to serve up some of the world’s freshest seafood on a daily basis. Something of the most prized culinary experience here is to go out on a boat and catch your own white fish, in particular, cod, whose fish stock is currently abundant and has been expanding northward since 2004 [2]. And if not, there are many eateries and resturants around the city centre that serve an array of sustainable seafood that is fresh caught from the Arctic Ocean from king crab (a 2015 Seafood report ranked Red King crab from Norway’s Barents Sea–Pot as best sustainable source [3]) to minke whale meat [4].

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Cradle of the sun, Castle Hill, Nice, France

On a walk up to Castle Hill, Nice, France.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2018

“Shall we go for a short walk?”, was the question that came just about before the 93m climb of a large limestone rock called Castle Hill in Nice, France. The walk was indeed short, but unfortunately more or less straight upwards.

Because it offers such spectacular views of Nice from sunrise to sunset, the place is romantically called ‘cradle of the sun’. I’ve been on walks before, but this vertical experience was challenging under the clear skied Mediterranean summer. Once at the top however, the panoramic views of the pebbly beach of Nice is priceless, on condition you’re not too out of breath or cross-eyed to view the scene after the climb.

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