Year: 2011

A magical evening with Ulf Wagner at Sjömagasinet, in Gothenburg 2011

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro with house elves at jultide, Sjömagasinet 2011

Restaurant decoration at Sjömagasinet. In Swedish folklore well managed farm houses was looked after by their own house elf or elves. They were quiet and mostly invisible but kept themselves informed from the animals if everything was done right and proper. The house cat was their eyes and ears during daytime. If the people were good, the elves would help take care of the house and the family that lived there. Eventually these elves merged in Swedish lore with the later idea of a Juletide Tomte that brings the Christmas gifts.
Text and Photo © CM Cordeiro, JE Nilsson and T Eliasson, 2011

In the past years, we’ve dined enough at Sjömagasinet in Gothenburg (2009a, 2009b, 2008, 2007) to feel quite at home at what was once the old outfitting warehouse for the Swedish East India Company (1731-1813). In the 18th century their ships made round trips from Gothenburg to China and back where each trade voyage took about two years, bringing back immense fortunes for the participants.

During their many voyages these ships would dock at various ports around the world including Cadiz in Spain, to pick up silver and Batavia in Indonesia for spices, before reaching Canton in China. Besides tea, silk and spices they contributed significantly to the cultural exchange of knowledge between Sweden and Asia and brought back many important influences, not the least within the medical and culinary field that is so intriguingly interconnected. In this wharf equipment were stored such as sails, masts, spars and all things you might imagine being needed on a wooden ship about 50 meters long. The spirit of these adventures is still felt in the very walls of this building.
Continue reading “A magical evening with Ulf Wagner at Sjömagasinet, in Gothenburg 2011”

Christmas Eve morning at Saluhallen in Gothenburg at 09:01 hrs

Going to the market, is just … going to the market, isn’t it? So mundane a task that it’s hardly a concept to be discussed by most. But come Christmas in Sweden, and come the darkest days of the year, the Swedish Christmas markets that glow a warm orange and red whether they be outdoors or indoors become central gathering nodes for the people of the city.

Christmas Eve morning at Saluhallen 2011, chairs.

And all was apparently still on Christmas Eve morning as the doors to the marketing heart of Gothenburg that is Saluhallen was opened.
Text and Photo © CM Cordeiro and JE Nilsson 2011

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, in the morning at Saluhallen in Gothenburg, Christmas market 2011

The early morning calm didn’t quite stop me gushing in haste when my eye caught a table decoration I so wanted at home at our Christmas table!

Everyone has a Christmas foodlist for their own Julbord to tend to, making Christmas Eve marketing all the more festive. And amidst waiting in queue for your number to be served, you can hear the hearty exchange of Christmas recipes amongst those waiting in line for baked ham, pickled herring and roasted spare ribs that gives a heartwarming preview of what others are about to have this evening at home.

In my number of years in Sweden, I’ve visited these Christmas markets year after year, with Saluhallen and Haga in 2010; 2009a, 2009b; Kronhuset in 2009; a compilation of Saluhallen and Haga in 2008; Haga in 2007, to which I’ve always found something new in my explorations and visits.

This year’s visit is a slight variation, an authentic visit to a market on Christmas Eve for some Christmas marketing, instead of visiting a ‘Christmas Market’.

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Jultide traditions in Sweden

GUSEE Julbord 2011 - Sandra Lam-Carlsson, Cheryl Marie Cordeiro and Jenny Yu.

An office Julbord 2011, Sweden.
L-R: Sandra Lam-Carlsson, Cheryl Marie Cordeiro and Jenny Yu.

Text and Photo © PO Larsson, CM Cordeiro, JE Nilsson 2011

In line with the underlying ideals and innovative thoughts in the culinary field from this year’s Prins Bertil Seminar 2011 at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, that raised the level of consciousness about food in general, from farm to restaurant table and how the best dishes can be had from simply using the freshest ingredients and not necessarily the most fancy and exclusive of raw produce, we thought we’d put a little bit of rustic into the jultide table traditions at work, in Sweden.
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Second Sunday in Advent


Lussekatter, usually makes its appearance on St. Lucia which is 13 December.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2011

There are definitely some things more than just tradition when it comes to cooking and preparing during the Advent weeks that lead to Christmas. It’s in the air, a solemn feeling of silent expectation.

In all of this, I find it very much soothing to the busy mind, all too often kept spinning by the daily transactions, to relax and just spend the whole day baking.
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Lujiazui by night, Shanghai

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro at Lujiazui, Shanghai 2011

Lujiazui by night. In the background, lit blue, the Oriental Pearl Tower.
Text and Photo © K Meeks and CM Cordeiro 2011

When in Shanghai, the last place I expected to find myself exploring come sundown is Lujiazui, the city’s financial district, as the more popular of nightspots would include Xintiandi or even the quieter street of Hengshanlu lined with all sorts of eateries from Turkish and Thai to Hunan cuisine.

Shanghai World Financial Center

Shanghai Word Financial Center (SWFC).

Still, walking down the pristinely clean streets of Lujiazui lit blue and orange from the surrounding buildings, called to mind the quiet of Raffles Place and Singapore’s very own Central Business District by night, where all at once, despite the glittering globes of the Oriental Pearl Tower in festive blue ahead, I couldn’t help but feel at home, thinking – this is Asia! – and how much I miss its vibes when living and working in Scandinavia. Continue reading “Lujiazui by night, Shanghai”

Chicken liver Pâté and Cumberland, a precurse to Julfika


Oven baked chicken liver pâté served on toasted white bread, with cornichons and a slice of orange.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

Part of our Christmas tradition in Sweden is to prepare and subsequently feast upon, the many dishes that go into our the traditional Swedish Julbord or Christmas Table. In reality the dishes are so numerous that it would be impossible to sit down and enjoy them all in one sitting as a grand jultide smorgasbord as intended. So, we have found it better to start well in advance and use the dark months ahead of the mid-winter celebrations for various cooking experiments.

One of those many dishes that just came to mind was various pâté to be served with a wonderfully fruity cumberland sauce. When it comes to liver pâté there are lots of recipes on line. The traditional ones ask of you to mince and mix the ingredients first and then bake the pâté in a water bath in the oven. The more modern ones if one might say so suggests that you can fry the ingredients first and then just put all of it in a blender and voilá, pâté. Both methods work and the blender method is of course faster. It also gives the benefit of better control of how much you cook the liver, since liver doesn’t benefit from over cooking. Really tasty and flavourful liver should hardly be cooked at all or at least as little as possible. Then again the slightly browned crust you would get from oven baking is also delicious so, I have done both and if I have the time, prefer to bake the pâté.
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Autumn mushroom crepes


Autumn mushroom crepes.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

If there was a culinary disadvantage to be named whilst growing up in an almost mono-seasoned (you could optimistically consider wet and wetter to be two different seasons coming with the monsoons) equatorial climate, it would be that you hardly have the distinct seasonal food groups that come with a Nordic climate. Coconuts and bananas for example, seemed always in season when I was young. So now when the leaves on the trees in Sweden are turning from a vibrant green to shades of mellow gold and red in our garden, serving up some creamy mushroom crepes to an autumn themed meal felt just about right.
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With a penchant for olives

With a penchant for olives

Making your own tapenade – the French Italian classic olive paste – is quick and easy.
Photos © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

Weekends are the time when I read, plan for the work week ahead, and cook. Besides all other good things that could be said about preparing your own food, I find the sometimes long winded and perhaps monotonous preparation of food very calming. It lets your mind wander in any direction it might, encouraging the formulation of new ideas, where you find yourself combining familiar things in creative ways both in your mind as well as in your pots.

By what you cook, you can also revisit places you wish to see again that right now are inaccesible for such mundane reasons as that your work lets you travel, but to a different continent.

This weekend I revisited the South of France and the North of Italy by means of a black olive tapenade and a generous slab of home made ‘Ciabatta’ style bread.
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A Swedish-French Onion Soup

Onion Soup

Onion Soup.
Photos © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2011

French onion soup evokes memories of those student days where you wanted to see your friends at your own place for some home cooked food, and the most of what you could offer was hospitality and friendship but not so very expensive food. And while everybody else’s task was to see to that they brought their own wines and beers, your task was to come up with the food.

During such events, catering was always an option but it gets boring in the long run, besides which, showing off some cooking skills was always fun? Well, at least if the dish worked out well and the guests in general approved of the food served.

However much you progress in your career, your history continues to remind you of your previous success and failures. And these days, what I have at work are Tuesday breakfast meetings to cater to, on a rotating roster.

So, what comes to mind is

French Onion Soup.
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Happiness in a paper cup

Raisin muffin I

Paper petal.
Photos © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

In a busy and often complicated adult life, I often wonder if happiness and bliss can’t sometimes come by the simplest means with little need for preparation and effort. Like a wish to embrace the moment in childhood for example, where happiness is a collection of colored stationary, some really cute erasers and a whole set of pens and pencils in all the colors of the rainbow.

So in all the rush of things to do, people to meet, events to plan and execute… sometimes what I really want are just plain – unembellished – raisin muffins. No fuss. The simple dough, stirred in with good handful of plump raisins and voila… a little bit of magic in a tiny petal paper cup. Perfect to round off the day!
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Tångbröd, from Grebbestad, Sweden

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro and Ola Dahlman of Tångbrödsspecialisten, Grebbestad Bageri AB, Sweden.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, with Ola Dahlman of Grebbestad Bageri in Sweden.
Photos © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

It was back in the early 1990s that I was first introduced to Nordic hard-breads or crispbreads in Singapore, where I found them most unpalatable, having had no clue what those crispbreads could be good for if not as complement to soups or generously lathed with butter (not margarine) before biting into.
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Wearing TOD’s in new light: Diego Della Valle’s “POLITICI ORA BASTA”

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro 02102011 490

When what you wear speaks the collective subconscious of the people: wearing TOD’s with a new sense of pride and purpose.
Photos © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

While I and many others in politics and business management alike have been preoccupied in getting adjusted to China’s recent rise to wealth and importance in the world, a full-page newspaper advertisement this Saturday (01012011) signed by the founder of Tod’s luxury leather goods, brought me back to the realization that it is not “poor China” that needs to be saved. They are doing just fine with a 10 percent annual growth in their economy. It is good old Europe that needs to be saved, if something.
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Ten minutes in the life of a pear

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, autumn pear picking 2011, Swedish west coast.

After work and back home, pear picking in the garden this autumn, 2011, where they sat happily bathing in the autumn rain just a few weeks ago.
Photos © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

Pears. They never featured prominently in my repertoire of non-tropical fruits when growing up in equatorial Singapore. In the markets they were often pushed aside, their presence at supermarkets and fruit baskets overwhelmed by the lush appearances of its more juicer alternatives such as sun ripened mangoes, mangosteens, chikus or creamy custard apples etc.

In Sweden the situation is different, the tone of voice among the fruits are calmer and everyone gets their say during the autumn harvests. While the apples this year were far from abundant, the plums and for the first time, the pears came along very nicely. While I have had my eyes directed towards finding someone having quincekvitten in Swedish – in their garden and being at a loss about what to do with them (fat chance), our own pears were a more viable option for today’s harvesting.
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Cushions on the ceiling

Restaurant Familjen in Gothenburg

Restaurant Familjen in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Photos © CM Cordeiro 2011

I confess, I love space and clean, free straight lines that invite your eyes to peruse and absorb the dimensions of the room the minute you step into it. At Restaurant Familjen in Gothenburg, it was more a full-stop when entering the door, where you are almost forced to halt your senses the minute you step in, cautious, else you bump into someone immediately in front at the bar, situated just as you enter the restaurant at after five on a Friday.
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Mazariner rustico – Swedish almond tarts, country styled

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Swedish Mazariner, revisited.

Making Swedish Mazariner.
Photos © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

A while back in May 2011, I spent the weekend putting together some Swedish signature Almond Tarts / Cakes called Mazarin (mazariner for plural), giving a brief description of the Italian-French heritage and etymology of the word, the tart made popular in large part to Cardinal Jules Mazarin (1602-1661).

Today, these attractively shaped morsels, usually round or oval, capped with a white icing lid are a standard staple on the tea biscuits menu in just about any café in Sweden. If there is a café, in Sweden, there are Mazariner. Simple as that.

It was at the time interesting to discover the stunning difference in the flavour between the homemade ones and the sad samples usually offered for sale in the cafés. The ready made ones are just nothing near in fullness of texture and flavour to what you could produce yourself at home in just under an hour’s efforts. To make your own Mazariner is like reviving a lost art, giving life to a tradition in Sweden that perhaps not many think about these days. Consistency, flavour well the whole idea with the cake is different, if you make them yourself.
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Chili chicken


Chili chicken with whipped cream and cashew nuts.
Photos © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

Chicken is one of the most versatile fowl dishes there is. It is also a stable on our table. The meat is tender with a soft texture and a warm, mild flavour of its own. I find that chicken is also one of the easiest things there is to cook. Some butter and soy sauce, a dash of black pepper and salt, and then into the oven until done. Delicious.

Chicken also lends itself to all kinds of flavouring. In Sweden you probably can’t help but be introduced to a popular dish called ‘flying Jacob’. This just so happens to be a prize winning ‘child friendly’ chicken recipe that made its way to eternal fame (in Sweden) a few decades ago. Basically it is an oven baked chicken in cream and chili sauce, flavoured with bananas, bacon and peanuts. Me, not being too interested in flavours that are too sweet in general, turned out this variation a few days ago which I don’t mind sharing.
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When things get perfect…

Lingonberry jam and pancakes.

Swedish pancakes, with homemade lingonberry jam.
Photos © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

I believe Swedish pancakes served with lingonberry jam, a dish now made globally popular by Ikea, to be one of the first few dishes I was introduced to when I landed in Sweden for the first time, about twelve years ago. Yet, it was only yesterday that something said click! in the learning process and for the first time, ever, I managed to make the perfect Swedish pancake, the ones with little bubbles in the middle and a crisp brown frilly edge.

Swedish pancakes are much like French Crepes though I believe the proportions of the milk to flour and eggs would be slightly different. From what I gather, you’ll have more eggs and less milk to flour in French Crepes compared to Swedish pancakes.

To get these pancakes, it was 500 ml milk to 150g (or 2.5 dl) flour, just one egg and a pinch of salt to taste. A brisk stir and you’ll have the batter ready in a zip! Finding the combined aroma of warmed cinnamon and cardamon intoxicating, I added to this batter a dash of both spices. Traditionally, these pancakes were fried in lard. I used butter in this case, and lots of it!

As for the jam, it was simply to boil the fresh berries together with castor sugar, the proportions of which are half sugar in weight to the total weight of the berries. The boiling process should take no more than twenty minutes, let cool and pour into jars for keeps. Lingonberry jam was the single Swedish import I found in the Singapore grocery shelves long before I had even arrived in Sweden. I grew to love this sweet-tangy jam after a couple of tries, having it mostly with filmjolk or the Swedish version of ‘sour milk’. After a decade or so being here, I find it highly rewarding to finally be able to make my own lingonberry jam from fresh berries, almost ribboning the red berried jars as they go into the fridge for storage.

Cooking this dish on my part, has taught me that perhaps learning processes take time in themselves and are best left, unhurried. When you live and breathe the environment, the food, the culture and the people, things will somehow, one day fall in place. And like the last piece of jigsaw puzzle that slides neatly into the larger picture, after much experimentation, pondering and fixing, you get… perfect lingonberry jam and pancakes. A classic for lunch or dinner, or why not with a dash of whipped cream or ice cream for that afternoon fika.


Autumn plum harvest

Plum cobbler with vanilla ice-cream and a light dusting of cinnamon.

Rum plum cobbler, served with vanilla ice-cream and a light dusting of cinnamon.
Photos © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

A couple of years ago, heavy rains during the late spring and early summer along the Swedish west coast meant that the plums on the tree suffered in terms of harvest. Similar heavy rains this summer kept us holding our breaths till when the plums were ripe for the picking, even after careful pruning of the fruits so that each had room to grow.
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Facets of Gothenburg to L*O*V*E …


A favourite day tour for most visitors is the former health resort and summer paradise in the southern archipelago of Gothenburg.
Photos © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro Nilsson and Kevin Cordeiro

This post is coming to you in the early autumn of 2011. The first weeks of September brings a certain cooling of the climate even in southern Sweden, where the light in the days get more mellow, casting long shadows as you walk the streets in the evenings. You might still find warm days to come but days with fully brilliant sunshine tinted crystal blue and gold is something that is typical in Sweden in high summer.
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In from the rain

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro in Donna Karen

Making it in through the front door just barely, from the sudden downpour.
Photos JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

Tropical storms, the kind with flashes of lightning and deep rolls of thunder is common in the equatorial region from where I come from, but not all that common in Scandinavia, in particular along the Swedish west coast.

But today was one such day here in Sweden, with dramatic dark clouds, the low rumble of thunder that comforts and discomforts at the same time, and warm fat drops of rain that drench through clothes, thoroughly wetting the skin.

I managed barely to escape the rain stepping in through the door just when the first large drops of water fell.
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Processes behind a Chocolate Hazelnut Spread


Hazelnuts… the beginning of some decadent comfort in the kitchen.
Photos JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

In the overlapping realm of academia and education management, time to reflect on daily activities and events, makes a large part of the learning process. Whether on your own or in a group, this time aside is specifically to encourage the exchange and innovation of ideas. And for me, I find spending time in the kitchen, in the process of cooking – chopping, pounding, stirring – most therapeutic and self-pertaining to the extent that it gives me that much needed reflection time, sometimes admittedly, at the cost of the final dish. But in academia, it works.

It’s weekend and the household would decidedly look more inviting with a few jars of chocolate hazelnut spread complementing the dark oiled kitchen counter. And in the midst of chopping, grinding, melting and stirring some of the most decadent chocolate bars into a smooth molten concoction, I pondered the varying values management in organizations through glasses tinted Swedish blue and yellow.
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Swedish west coast Harbour Festival, Donsö 2011

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Donsö Hamnfest 2011.

The perfect weekend thing to do – picking up both old and new finds at the annual Donsö Harbour Festival in the Swedish west coast archipelago of Gothenburg.
Photos JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

There’s a distinct feel in the air in the past week that the summer that has lingered through the months of July and now August, is beginning to wind down. Though the air is still warm, there’s a chill in the evening breeze that indicate the cold weather that is to come from end of November, carrying on with the months thereafter.

So what better time of the year than right now to celebrate with a little Harbour Festival at Donsö, in the Southern Archipelago of Gothenburg?

Just about 16 km south of the city of Gothenburg, Donsö is one of the larger islands. With its about 1,500 inhabitants, Donsö is a lively community with a bustling business of shipping and ship owning and whatever services else needed to keep a modern business community going. While it is today a part of the Gothenburg municipality of Sweden, until 1974 it was a municipality of its own together with Styrsö and the neighboring islands in the archipelago.
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A Frangelico Chocolate Fudge Cake and a sunset, at the Swedish west coast, 2011

Frangelico Chocolate Fudge Cake

A Chocolate Fudge Cake laced with Frangelico.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

It is during the last weeks of July to mid-August in the southwest of Sweden that people can experience the full warmth of the summer sun. The sea water is warm and the hours of daylight stretches long into the late evenings and gives enough light to go for that evening swim, just before sunset around half past nine in the evening.
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Swedish west coast inspirations in ceramic form

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro Vävra Keramik II 098

Sitting with some of my favourite items made by Helen Kainert at her boutique studio, Vävra Keramik that is located just before Marstrand along the Swedish westcoast.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

Driving along the Swedish westcoast in the area of Kungälv towards Marstrand from Gothenburg, a red house with two flags at its door post with a friendly sign that said ‘pottery works’ loomed large, and we couldn’t help but pull into its sand filled driveway to check-out the creative assortment of ceramic pottery works inside, meeting with owner and artist herself, Helen Kainert.
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In the footsteps of Anna Ancher and Marie Krøyer at Skagen, 2011

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Skagen 2011

At the very, very northernmost point of Denmark is Grenen, the point where the two
seas of Skagerrak and Kattegatt meet. Here you can literary stand with one foot in each sea.

JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

In a landscape of muted pastels that continued to appeal even under the grey of the rain clouds hovering above, I felt it was surprisingly heavy and tiring to walk in the shifting sand of the long beach that led up to Grenen. An aspect that might not be immediately apparent when just looking at the famous paintings by Peder Severin Krøyer of the Skagen Painters that have Grenen as a theme, just north of the northernmost fishing village Skagen at the very tip of the Danish peninsula.

Krøyer was probably the most well known of the artists that lived and worked here from the late 1870s until the turn of the century, and it is his paintings too, amongst all Skagen artists, that attract me most. In fact, a reproduction of one of his most famous paintings, Hip Hip Hurra!, of a summer party held in Michael Ancher’s garden in 1884, adorns one of our guest room walls at home. Ancher belonged to Krøyer’s circle of artist friends, though with a different temperament altogether.
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Conversations over Pulut Serikaya

Kuih Seri Muka, Pulut Serikaya or Kuih Salat

Depending on your heritage, this kueh / kuih is known as Pulut Serikaya (Straits Chinese – Nonya), Kuih Seri Muka (Malaysian) or Kuih Salat (Indonesian). It’s a two layered dessert common in Southeast Asian cuisine, made of coconut milk custard that’s flavoured with screwpine leaves known as ‘kaya’, atop glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk. Sweet and creamy in consistency.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

Low summer sun on the horizon… in the kitchen along the Swedish Westcoast… sitting on some pandan leaves is a bit of Pulut Serikaya, cooled and sliced from its earlier steaming in the day.

If someone had told me that one day, I would be putting Nonya desserts such as this one on the table made with what feels like little effort, I would not have believed them. But then again, I never thought I would end up in Sweden either, ABBA being the only thing Swedish I knew of when growing up in Singapore.

From a Swedish or indeed a general western perspective, this small delicate delight is a complete unknown, from ingredients that are just barely available except through specialist Asian food stores in the big cities, to its history and tradition. Yet most anyone – given the chance to try it – sways to its alluring fragrance, and to place it with more familiar Nordic desserts, find themselves thinking of it as textured ice cream or warm pudding (if eaten immediately after steaming) for lack of closer references.

Today’s small afternoon tea treat of this kueh is the result of years of dialogue in the kitchen with my mother. From extracting the green juices of fresh pandan leaves to the making of kaya over a firewood stove, and pouring the custard over white polished glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk… the smell of it all coming together in the kitchen was pure heaven!

Through conversations with my mother, come information that in time turns to knowledge, maturing farther in time to a certain wisdom. Today’s tip from her was simple… “Next time you do this, don’t put so much coconut milk to the pulut.”

I smiled, looked at her over the now empty plate, and nodded.

A litte bit of sunshine …

Rulltårta with red currants.

Spending summer in Sweden. A traditional Swedish rulltårta,
with red currants from the garden for a rainy summer’s afternoon.

JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

Coming from the tropics and having been in Sweden for almost a decade, I’ve known Swedish summers to have their own personalities. Right now, outside my window, the month of July in Sweden is rainy and cold. The weather report confirms too that after today, there will be … more rain.
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Enoteca de Paco Pérez, Hotel Arts Barcelona

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Enoteca, Hotel Arts, Barcelona, Spain.

Contemplating art in culinary form, through the Mediterranean perspective of Chef Paco Pérez at Enoteca, Hotel Arts Barcelona.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

I think Spain is one of the places where you should go today, to refresh the eyes with aspects of art, design and architecture that are cutting edge creative and new.

In the 1910-20s Spain and Barcelona were part of the movement that invented modernism, but when you visit Barcelona today, you realize that they didn’t stop there. They just went on, turning and twisting every rock they met on the road of human artistic expressions. This progression of ideas is most visible in architecture and unexpectedly, in modern culinary art.

It is also obvious that while being sat on by suffocatingly conservative forces like Generalissimo Franco and his likes for the best part of the 20th century, this vital people never stopped expressing themselves and just found new ways of doing exactly what they wanted anyway.

And while contemplating your impressions of the city of Picasso, Miro, Gaudi and Dali I can suggest no better place to sit down and enjoy an avant garde meal, building on these very traditions, than at the Enoteka de Paco Pérez at Hotel Arts in Barcelona.

Maybe enoteca is not an ideal name of the restaurant run by the El Bulli trained chef Paco Pérez, but wine is certainly an important part of the experience.

Enoteca carries the meaning of a “wine library” or a wine bar where you can try out wines by the glass, and of course the Enoteka de Paco Pérez at Hotel Arts is a little bit beyond that.

The cooking is brilliant but bordering to eccentric and somehow you sense the influences from all the artists that has made Barcelona famous. Personally I would also like to say that this is not where I would bring my friends for a dinner without asking them first what they would want from a night out.

Barcelona is so full of very good tapas bars and rustic Catalonian eateries that a restaurant that might in fact have picked up plenty of inspiration from the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, might not be a first on your Barcelona bucket list.

The ambiance also adds to the overall experience. This library of wines is reflected in the design of the place. Stacks of bottles of wines replace library books in black shelves that cover the walls.

Enoteca, Hotel Arts, Barcelona.

If you feel like you would like to try this out, the Barcelonians who also frequent this place, like to dine late, so as a jet-lagged tourist you would actually find yourself happily first in the cue in a more or less empty restaurant.

Enoteca, interior.

The dark wood and dim orange tint from the lighting of the interior of the restaurant gives a feeling of being swept away into your very own corner of the world, a comfortable cocoon of space and time, where in the next couple of hours, you’re left to explore at will, any culinary whim and fancy that the restaurant can offer!

With so much passion and wide eyed wonder at what goes on in the kitchen as was explained to us during our sitting, it was difficult for us to keep a cool front and not bounce from our table straight into the kitchen to get a glimpse first hand on how all of this was orchestrated.

Our pictures are in no way representative of what an evening here can offer but just a few random samples we don’t mind sharing.

Enoteca Tasting Menu I.

Some bread, just for a start.

Enoteca Tasting Menu II.

Besides that the presentations of the dishes were on the whole different and ingeniously combined for each dish, the ambition was as I see it, focused on bringing out the inner soul of fairly common ingredients and actually surprise you with what things you thought you knew could actually taste like.

Enoteca, wines.

The dining experience was softly overseen by your personal sommelier who suggested different wines throughout the dinner that in various ways enhanced or changed how the different dishes came out.

Enoteca Tasting Menu III.

The menu offered many opportunities to get a glimpse of what Paco Pérez’s creative directorship and artistry in the kitchen could create.

Enoteca Tasting Menu IV.

If you care to ask anyone of the friendly staff, that probably had marveled at the same thing as you did, you might find them well prepared to explain what went on in the kitchen, how each dish was put together and the techniques behind the making and presenting of the food.

Enoteca Tasting Menu V.

A dinner here takes time, interest and a sense of humour. Why humour you might say, well, ultimately food is there to be enjoyed and sometimes maybe the imaginative efforts of this extraordinary kitchen is stretched just a tiny bit too hard. The food is good, it really is good, but hey – come on – some of the dishes are there just to make you smile.

To come up with a single recommendation regarding Enoteca de Paco Pérez, I can do no better than to suggest to take the evening off and dine with the broadest of mindsets, expecting the unexpected. Sit back and enjoy the ride from beginning to end and focus on selecting your favourite wines together with the amicable help of the restaurant’s sommelier.

“Una xocolata calenta si us plau”

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro at the Museu de la Xocolata, Barcelona, Spain.

At the Chocolate Museum, just outside the kitchen where the museum holds classes on chocolate confection.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

Although Spain’s connection with Mexico in the 1500s means that cacao beans and chocolate would be as native to Spain as coconuts and pineapples are to Singapore, I must say that it still took some doing exploring the numerous cafés in Barcelona, before I settled for a favourite place of mine that served my cup of hot chocolate with an added shot of espresso in it!

If you’re a chocolate lover like me, then perhaps nobody can stop you from immediately hitting any café in sight as soon as you get off the plane in Barcelona for a cup of Spanish hot chocolate. At least, that’s what happened to me.

But with that done I brusquely encountered a cultural difference of what a cup of hot chocolate laced with espresso is in Spain.
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Miró, Miró on the wall …


From Castell de Montjuic silent large-calibre guns overlooks the sea and port as well as the metropolis of Barcelona itself. On the west side, stands an ornate memorial to General Francisco Franco. An unintentional but vivid commentary on the history of Spain and Barcelona as good as any history book would offer.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

The headline pun is, of course a play on the words from the English translation by D. L. Ashliman of the definitive edition of the Grimm’s Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Berlin 1857), tale ‘Snow White’, in which the Queen asks her magical mirror “Mirror, mirror on the wall / Who in the land is fairest of all?” The tale takes a dramatic turn when the mirror tells her an unwanted truth.

In a similar manner, the period around the early 1900’s was extraordinarily volatile when it came to artists and architects communication with the public. Many of the art movements that enriched the early 1900’s in Europe were protests against those in power that for their winnings sake drew the world into war. Various kinds of repression caused new ways of commenting on society to appear.
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Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, in Barcelona, more or less

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.

The Mies van der Rohe Pavilion is but a short walk downhill from the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, or the MNAC. It’s situated at the foot of the Montjuïc hill. The outdoor café outside the Museu Nacional offers a much needed refreshment.
JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

Just below the Museu National on Montjuïc, towards the Placa d’Espanya and on its original site lies the newly rebuilt Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, originally the German Pavilion, built for the 1929 world exhibition held here in Barcelona.

The Pavilion is to me, a fundamental architectural monument from a time when the hope towards a unified and better Europe prevailed. Even beyond the field of arts history and architecture, the German architect and designer of the early 20th century, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969) was known for his works being some of the most influential of the time. He was one of the founders of modern architecture and a proponent of simplicity of style.

He coined the phrase “less is more” in referring to clarity of shapes and thoughts. So influential were his ideas from the early 1900s that today, these clean lines are visibly noted in the design of just about every current shopping mall or airport in the world. It could even be argued that the very typography of this blog, looking as it does, could be traced back to him.

Because of this, it is a little mind boggling that I found myself in the very building that in architectural form, presented this new ideology to the world, considering too that this was the fruitful result of a flow of ideas between the Russian constructivists, the Bauhaus design school in Berlin and the De Stijl group in the Netherlands, who no doubt also fetched energy and ideas from the modernists here in Barcelona.
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Culinary Paradiso at Los Caracoles, Barcelona

Los Caracoles, the restaurant

The outdoor dining culture of Barcelona is vibrant and not easily outdone. The competition between food outlets is fierce and the variety of food offered in this city is staggering. People are spoiled for choice when it comes to eating out, and it would take more than a lifetimes’s living here to fully discover all interesting restaurants, tapas bars and cafés.

One interesting restaurant sits on Carrer Dels Escudellers, just off Barcelona’s most famous boulevard – La Rambla – in the Barri Gothic quarters of the city. Founded in the early 19th century by the Bofarull family, this interesting restaurant is serving authentic Catalonian cuisine.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro Nilsson, Los Caracoles, Barcelona.

At Table 2, Los Caracoles. The restaurant has split level floors for seating for more than a hundred persons, discovered only after you walk past the short and narrow bar at the front of the restaurant. The walls of the restaurant are lined with photographs of previous patrons of fame.
Photo: JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

There were many curiosities about this restaurant that caught our attention on our visit. Their signature dish of Snails, prepared quite differently from the French escargot, got the restaurant so locally renowned in the early 1900s that the owners threw out their own last names in favour of the name of the dish calling the restaurant eventually, Los Caracoles or “The Snails”.

Many regular patrons will also tell of how you can’t possibly mistake finding the place because they fry their chickens rotisserie style outdoors on the actual road crossing. The combined visual effect of dancing vermilion flames on the street corner licking at chicken that is gradually turning golden brown, and the enticing aroma of the gently spiced meat that greet you along this narrow street is in itself an overwhelming experience to those who pass by.

But the entire visit, from beginning to end made us raise our eyebrows, first in curiosity and then with awe, mounting up to an extraordinary dining experience!
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Marmalade from the Garden of Eden


Dulce de Membrillo is a traditional Catalan marmalade made from quince, and a perfect addition to the cheese tray. The fruit has a long history. It is divinely fragrant and because of this, the ancient Greeks are said to have offered it to the Goddess Aphrodite, as well as used it themselves in wedding ceremonies amongst mere mortals, where the bride would perfume her kiss with a nibble of quince prior to entering the bridal chamber.
Photo: JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro Nilsson © 2011

There are more ways to discover your heritage than reading about the country, its national dress, traditions and beliefs. In my case, Quince, an ancient fruit imagined by some to be the forbidden fruit of Eden, referenced in the Song of Songs and written about by the ancient Greeks, turned out to be one of the more interesting discoveries on my visit to Barcelona.

Of course I had met with dulce de membrillo before. However, it took some doing before I recognized this certain red marmalade, being a staple on the breakfast table here and constantly meeting with it in just about every wet market or food store I visited. I eventually got curious enough to enquire after it, and thus re-discovered this long lost acquaintance.
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Creps at la Boqueria, Mercat de Sant Josep in Barcelona 2011

Mercat Boqueria, Barcelona, La Rambla.

The entrance to La Boqueria is about midway along the famous Catalonian Boulevard La Rambla in Barcelona. The Boqueria wet market opens up at a side road called Mercat de Sant Josep. This market, that has a history from the early 13th century, is today frequented as much by locals as by tourists alike.
Photo: JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

A lot of things in Barcelona are labelled “touristy” and as a result, sneered at even by the locals just because they are popular with the tourists. But Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria tells a different tale.

La Boqueria, as it has been known since the early 13th century when it was established here in the Old City district, began as a convenient network market located near the old city gate where traders from the nearby towns such as Les Corts and Sarrià (now only a 25 minute bus ride from La Boqueria itself) gathered to trade and sell their produce. The market remained here through the centuries, got a firmer structure in the early 19th century and in 1915, an iron roof with its inset stained, colored glass was added, giving the modernismo touch of the time to the place.
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Dining with Picasso

Els Quatre Gats, street.

Els Quatre Gats or 4Gats bar, brewery and restaurant. The beautiful façade displays stained glass, ornate lamps, painted numbers on doors, intricately carved wooden door frames and then looking upwards, balconies draped in light swinging vines, filled with potted flowers in bloom.
Photo: JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

It was just about at the right time of the day that we found ourselves outside of Els Quatre Gats restaurant in the labyrinth of winding small roads in Barre Góthic, the late Roman part of Barcelona. From a balcony just above the ‘Four Cats’ restaurant entrance, a friendly dog looked down on us, just as if to confirm the many idiosyncrasies this city is so full of.

For anyone interested in Picasso, this restaurant is a must. Indeed, it is one of those living examples of what the industrialization period about the turn of the century one hundred years ago was all about.

The Modernisme had started earlier, in France as Art Noveau and in Germany and Austria as Jugend, but after the First World War, it was impossible to turn back time again to the dusty and suffocating drapes of romanticism. The time had changed and in all this, Barcelona played an important part.
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¡Hola, from Barcelona!

Sangria, in Barcelona

Sangria along La Rambla… there can’t be a warmer hello than this, in Barcelona!
Photo: JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

It’s extremely warm in Barcelona, almost tropical though minus the high humidity.

Below, some pictures taken from La Rambla. Amidst running into the Swedish soccer team who are here in Barcelona for the weekend games, witnessing the protest in the main square and meeting people speaking languages from all corners of the world, you can settle down to a very large glass of Sangria and that favourite gelato, absorbing the central vibe of the city of Barcelona.
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Karl Bergström at Canevaz Gallery

Karl Bergström

At Karl Bergström’s vernissage that opened today, Galleri Canevaz, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Photo: Magnus Lilja, JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

Whilst the city of Gothenburg was out in full force today concentrating on its physical wellness through is popular 21km marathon GöteborgsVarvet for all interested, I found myself in a cozy main street Galleri Canevaz in the heart of the city, just next to the Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law. Being on that particular street on a Saturday, not on business, is surreal. It’s like looking at my life from a tangent angle, whilst delighting in the company of a friend and talented artist Karl Bergström.
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A small part of Sweden in Wilmington, USA


The two first Swedish ships – we know of – to arrive in America, were the Kalmar Nyckel and Fågel Grip. In Wilmington, Delaware, USA, docks a sailing replica of the Kalmar Nyckel, where the first settlers landed.
Photo: JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

Kalmar Nyckel calm beyond reeds.

The Kalmar Nyckel replica is a smaller cousin in design to the Swedish East Indiaman Gotheborg III replica.

We visited the Kalmar Nyckel at what seemed to be at its most quiet and resting period. Beneath the apparent quietness however, were all kinds of repairs and upkeep being done inside and out, with parts of the rigging being indoors undergoing new lacquer treatments. Over the whole area lingered the sweet fragrance of linseed oil and tar.
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Long summer’s nights, warming both body and soul…

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro-Nilsson, Indiska patch-work dress, Emilio Pucci bag.

In an Indiska by Jade Jagger patch-work dress and Emilio Pucci bag.
Photo: JE Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

Luckily in Sweden, together with the long winter’s nights comes the equally long summer’s nights.

The Midnight Sun and the Nordic Light are recognized concepts that both refer to the long evenings that seamlessly transforms into almost sunlit nights, that after allowing for quick skinny-dips in the sea eventually develops into equally magical mornings where the birds contest each other in all manners of the word, telling their females that specifically his nest will be the one best suited for a family. You ponder at the meaning of life and the beauty of it all and you think these evenings are so ideally suited to be spent in the garden, talking to friends and philosophizing on things that are, that you can almost, but just barely, forgive the climate gods that created the winters of this place.
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Långedrag Värdshus at Talatta

Långedrag Värdshus

Beautiful dining even on a grey day…Långedrag Värdshus, Talattagatan, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Photo: C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

There’s something about lunch dining in the middle of a busy week at Långedrag Värdshus that puts a spring in your step regardless of the weather or the agenda for the day you have to deal with.

The location is one of the most significant in the history of the industrialized Gothenburg, being the location of the most famous of all pleasure sailing societies of the late 19th century where the rich burghers sought to gain some of the sun and fresh air that was not found inside of their dark, stale city offices.

The idyllic seaside location of the restaurant and the meandering drive from the city center of Gothenburg, out to the tip of land that connects land with the southern archipelago, literally relaxes both spirit and mind. Greeted by sea breeze on your cheeks as soon as you’re out of the car, the smell of the sea, warm coloured wooden panels of the building and billowing white and cream coloured chiffon curtains, for a brief hour or so, you’re transported to a Nordic Tiamo and can disconnect from your hectic day’s schedule. Here, you can mentally cast loose and set sail out in the open sea, trading in your daily chores towards the fierce competition of a sailing regatta of days gone by.
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Nordic Laksa


Scand-Asian Laksa with Nordic shrimps, some generous chunks of tasty cold water North Sea cod, and a dash of white wine.
Photo: J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

I don’t know of anyone who’s ever visited Singapore for some time to have failed to try out the popular spicy noodle soup, Laksa, from the Peranakan culture. This richly spiced noodle soup, made with coconut cream has as its heritage, a merger of both the Chinese and Malay culinary cultures. Laksa is most popular prominently in Singapore, Malaysia (with Penang having their own variety) and to some extent, Indonesia. After living for a number of years in Sweden, I felt it natural to create a western Swedish version of the dish with the ingredients originating from this region.

Pictured here is my take on a Scand-Asian Laksa after a glance at Wendy Hutton’s recipe in Singapore Food (2007), but with Nordic shrimps, some generous chunks of the tasty cold water North Sea cod and a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice to offset the scorching heat of the chilli.

As a last consideration – a dash of white German Riesling.

Mazariner – The Swedish Almond Tarts

Swedish Almond Tart or Marzarin

In Sweden, you’ll recognize Mazariner as oval shaped tarts topped with a white icing glaze. A variation of it has raspberry jam either in the tart or on top of it.
Photo: J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

These Swedish Almond Tarts, called Mazariner (Mazarin for singular) are possibly 400 years old cousins and variations of the Italian crosata di mandorle or torta di mandorle. Their heritage is apparent in their etymology, named after the Italian-French cardinal and politician, Giulio Raimondo Mazzarino or Jules Mazarin (1602-1661). He was born in southern Italy and raised in Rome. Apart from suceeding the powerful Cardinal Richelieu, Cardinal Mazarin was a food lover who together with Anne of Austria (Queen of France, 1615), with whom he had good relations with, was one of the few Italians who widely promoted pasta throughout France. It’s thus little surprising that these almond tarts who have his name to it, found their way in variations across Europe, seeing that Cardinal Jules was Chief Minister of France at the time with numerous foreign relations.
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Dame Vivienne Westwood, Anglomania glitter…

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro-Nilsson, Vivienne Westwood, Celine.

As if caught in mid-sentence, trailing off in an idea… Dame Vivienne Westwood’s seemingly haphazardness in her designs…a thing thrown in, a loose fold swinging… is what draws me to her creations. She is one of my favourite designers that exude an anything goes attitude that conceals the meticulousness behind each creation.
Photo: J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

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The ham sandwich, generations down from Eliza Leslie’s

Ham and egg on whole wheat bread.

Easy lunch – a soft dark bread sandwich with fried smoked and salted ‘kassler’ ham, soft boiled eggs and caviar with homemade mayonnaise and a dill and mustard sauce.
Photo: J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

Sandwiches were never at the top of my list of wonderful things to eat, perhaps because I grew up in Singapore associating it with school excursions and picnic food. Sandwiches were packed and brought along wrapped in tin foil or placed in Tupperware only because you were going to eat on the school bus that day. What we’d end up with halfway through the scorching day-trip would be a cold and soggy thinginabox for lunch. Not too appetizing and certainly not something you’d voluntarily order on a plate, for any substantial meal.

Though notably English in etymology with the Earl of Sandwich giving a name to the concept of eating meat on top of bread and butter, it was the American culture that distinctly drew my focus on the sandwich as a meal per se. For example, I completely enjoy the segment on A Sandwich a Day in Serious Eats, looking forward to new pictures of sandwiches posted from different parts of the USA every other day. It’s never boring.
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While the Easter Witches were out…

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro-Nilsson, long weekend, Sweden.

A much appreciated long weekend in Sweden!
Photo: J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

With a caffè latte in hand, I couldn’t help but sit back, enjoy the weather today and observe with delight, plenty of Swedish children decked in their cutest Easter gear, as little Easter Witches. Several were daring enough to come trick or treating at the door with basket in hand, to which they were rewarded with some Italian made Easter chocolate eggs!
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Things I love about Philly!

The Philadelphia Museum of Art at Fairmount

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest museums in the USA. Still, when asking for directions in Philadelphia people might not immediately recognize what the huge building at the small hill near the river is, but if you ask about the “Rocky” stairs … aha!


An ongoing exhibition here that is not to be missed is on Italian fashion designer Roberto Capucci: Art into Fashion that goes on until June 2011.
Photo: J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

Far from being a cliché, running up and down the “Rocky Stairs” is exactly what people do up until today in Philadelphia. That, and posing in front of the Rocky statue for pictures.
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Pizza Rustica


A traditional Italian dish also known as Pizza Ripiena, usually eaten on Ash Wednesday and then again on Easter.
Photo: J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

It was an article in the New York Times that I came across Pizza Rustica. I’ve always been a fan of quiche, so I could not stop myself from trying my hands at creating a version of this typical Italian Easter dish. There are so many things that seem more fun when the sun finally arrives back after a long cold winter up here in the North of Europe. Cooking is one of them.
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Postcards from Philadelphia, USA

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro-Nilsson, Philadelphia, March 2011.

In Chinatown, just outside the restaurant Penang in Philadelphia, USA. It was colder than usual for this time of year in Philly with temperatures hovering around 0C. In this picture on me, a beige wool coat from Patrizia Pepe, a mole coloured wool knitted scarf by Isabel Benenato, both Italian designers. Brown denim jeans from Warehouse, a deep pink wool sweater by Karen Millen. Boots are from Clarks.
J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2011

Cherry blossoms were supposed to be in full bloom during this time of year that is end of March in Philadelphia, USA. In fact, Washington DC is right now celebrating its Cherry Blossom Festival, but where I was in Philadelphia, it was chillier than usual with temperatures hovering between -3C and 3C.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro-Nilsson, University of Pennsylvania, UPenn, USA.

The University of Pennsylvania or UPenn has got remarkably beautiful grounds. In fact, their school’s Quad is featured in the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 2009.

I was in Philadelphia on conference as one of several invited speakers, to be part of a panel discussion on Singaporeans living and working abroad. The conference was held at Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, where I thought the univeristy grounds were breathtakingly beautiful, despite the chill.

Philadelphia warms my heart. And I’ll be back in short, with why.