Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Swedes are obsessed with coffee. They like it strong. They like it hot. And they like it many times a day. Consequently one of my favourite places in Gothenburg is a coffee shop called Bar Centro which is the hipster dive bar alternative to Starbucks. Their coffee is super strong and unbelievably good. They’ve got me hooked on something they call a 50-50 which is a double espresso super charged with hot milk. It’s a sort of lengthened version of a macchiato but without being as long or frothy as a cappuccino. It’s strong, bitter, sweet and creamy.
So when I saw a recipe for coffee roasted duck in Marcus Samuelsson’s book my eyes lit up and my pulse started racing as if I had just ingested a litre of espresso. The background story to this dish is a confluence of his Ethiopian and Swedish roots. He recalls the smell of his grandmother making coffee from scratch by roasting green coffee beans in a pan that filled their house with an enchanting scent and then layers the Swedish culture for coffee consumption on top of this to create a dish that is very unique. And delicious.
I’ve adapted Marcus Samuelsson’s recipe for both the coffee roasted duck and potato and pear ragu
Ingredients (for one):
1 duck breast
2 cups of coffee
12 cardamom pods
1 stick of cinnamon
2 handfuls of coffee beans
Potato and pear ragu
1 firm pear
4 small potatoes
3 Jerusalem artichokes
3 tablespoons of crème fraiche
150 mls of chicken stock
Wake up. Brew the coffee. Pound half of the cardamom pods and add them to the coffee along with the cinnamon. Allow the coffee to cool. Then slash the skin of the duck breast and marinate all day in the fridge.
Return from work and remove the duck from the marinate. It should look similar to the picture below. Pat it dry, sprinkle with salt and return to the fridge with nothing covering it so that the skin dries out.
Peel and core the pear leaving it in half. Simmer until tender in water with a few cardamom pods, a sprinkling of tarragon and some honey thrown in. You can cook it in red wine but I didn’t have any because of Sweden’s ridiculous licensing laws that mean you can’t buy wine in a supermarket.
Meanwhile boil the potatoes in chicken stock. When they are 8 minutes from being tender add the peeled Jerusalem artichokes. Remove from the heat and drain the potatoes and artichokes, but keep some of the liquor.
Now add you duck breast skin side down to a medium-hot frying pan and render the fat out. Shake some cinnamon powder over the underside of the duck. Drain off some duck fat. Then add the coffee beans and cardamom pods and turn up the heat. The kitchen should fill with an intoxicating smell. Once the skin is crisp turn the duck over and the heat down. Add some of the reserved liquor from the potato and artichoke pan and finish the cooking by braising.
Slice the vegetables and then return them to the heat and add the crème fraiche and some more liquor to heat through along with a touch of butter. After five minutes or so add some shredded endive and slices of perfectly poached pear. Season with gusto and add more tarragon.
Discard the coffee beans and cardamom and allow the duck to rest then carve diagonally and serve with the ragu for a very unusual, but utterly delicious dinner.
The combination works brilliantly. The duck was pink and moist with some of the crispiest skin I've encountered for a long time. It turns out that duck is tailor made for the bitter aromatic aspects of coffee. And the creamy ragu with the sweetness of pear is the equivalent of adding a tempering dollop of foam on top of an intense espresso. It's an unusual dish. And I am delighted to have discovered it.
Coffee roasted duck recipe from Marcus Samuelsson
Potato and pear ragu recipe from Marcus Samuelsson
Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine on Amazon
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
I dreamt this recipe up whilst on a run around suburban Gothenburg. I set off in a quandary about what to have for supper, knowing that after a run I would be hungry but not want anything too heavy. I knew I had a grapefruit in the fridge along with a bag of salad and some smoked mackerel. And somehow I landed up with the dish you can see above. And to make matters even better it not only tasted fantastic and was healthy but has also go the thumbs up from my Swedish colleagues!
I smoked mackerel
½ a grapefruit
6 dessert spoons of crème fraiche
Half a bag of salad
4 teaspoons of caviar
A dozen mussels (optional)
Scandinavian crisp bread
Remove the flesh from inside the grapefruit and cut the fruit into segments. Squeeze the juice that is left inside the skin into a bowl but don’t mangle the skin.
Shred the mackerel fillet. Roughly chop your mussels and add. Then mix with the crème fraiche and the grapefruit juice. Stir through 2 teaspoons of caviar. Season with pepper and a touch of salt. Then spoon the mixture into the grapefruit half and top with another teaspoon of caviar.
To make the salad empty the leaves into a salad bowl and dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or you could use the juice from the other half of the grapefruit). Then add the individual grapefruit segments and sliced avocado. Then add another teaspoon of caviar and mix together.
Serve with some crispy Scandinavian bread.
It was just what I wanted. And tasted even better for not only using everything in the fridge but also being healthy. To make it even better you could add some horseradish to the crème fraiche and make the salad a lot more interesting. The combination of acid from the grapefruit and smoky, creaminess of the mackerel turned out to be a great match. It makes for a fun change from the normal squirt of lemon and parsley with smoked mackerel pate. And I felt very intelligent the next day thanks to all the fish oils. Apart from when I sent an email to a client and called them the wrong name!
When I told Cowie what I’d made, I realised that I am cooking for her even though she’s not here.
Sunday, 13 June 2010
Cowie and I have been looking forward to eating at Y Polyn for the last 2 years. Ever since we discovered the Wellington Arms and Diana Henry’s Gastropub Cookbooks we’ve been trying to find an opportunity to get to Carmarthen in order to eat here. As Jay Rayner points out, it’s pretty much in the middle of no-where. Which is a major part of its charm.
The drive from our lovely BnB to the pub was worth the price of dinner alone. Bluebells danced like miniature ballerinas in Chelsea football shirts whilst wild garlic played the role of smelly white socks. Shade dappled, the fading sunshine dazzled and warmed the road ahead. The fact that Cowie and I hadn’t seen each other for a while just made the drive even more memorable and heightened our sense of anticipation to a dangerously high level.
We were greeted by the site of chickens plucking away in the back garden in much the same way as we were at the Wellington Arms and felt a bizarre feeling that art directors often get when they see an amazing picture. We immediately felt as if we had already eaten here. It’s hard to explain, but it was the sense of “advanced recognition”
We enjoyed a couple staggeringly strong gin and tonics whilst reading a book called The Wright Taste which is written by Simon Wright, one of the owners. He used to work for the AA restaurant guide but left and set up Y Polyn with a fellow AA critic with their wives who do the cooking. Thank goodness they switched their pens for pots and pans, because their cooking and hospitality at Y Polyn is far more exciting than reading an AA restaurant guide.
We were so at ease in the restaurant that I didn’t want to use my camera. It also seemed a shame to disrupt a peaceful room. And more importantly I wanted to enjoy our meal together. So instead I’ve done a few sketches to illustrate what we had. They are rough approximations and not exactly enough to gain me entry to St. Martins. So please excuse them. If you could be as nice about them as you were about the St. John drawings I’d be very grateful! There’s something terrifying about publishing them.
Cowie’s fish soup was perfect. And I use that word with full knowledge of its weight. It was like Goldilocks’ third bowl of porridge. Just right in every regard. Perfect thickness. Perfect seasoning. Perfect temperature. Perfect amount. Perfect flavour. Perfect croutons. And perfect gruyere. And blessedly straight forward to draw!
My shaved asparagus salad with parmesan wasn’t quite so perfect. In fact it was pretty average. If you were being kind you’d call the asparagus subtle or delicate. But the truth is that it was bland. And unfortunately overpowered by the parmesan. And worse still it was also a bugger to draw! But I imagine that anything would have seemed average when compared to Cowie’s fish soup. In retrospect my experience has all the hallmarks of food envy.
Cowie’s coracle caught Towy Sewin (sea trout) with lemon beurre blanc looked stunning. It was a shade of rosy pink that spoke of British summertime. But tragically it was fractionally overcooked. It brought back harrowing memories of when I overcooked a £75 sea trout at a dinner party. I berated myself for days afterwards. But that aside, it was still very good. It’s just agonising that it wasn’t as perfect as the fish soup.
My duck shepherd’s pie was so good I got carried away drawing it and overshaded the whole thing. But never mind. Apparently it has been stolen with pride from the menu at Balthazar in New York. There’s a time and a place for theft. And this is one of them. Rich, hot, sticky duck melted under and a topping of mashed potato and parsnip in an iron clad shell. It’s my dish of the year so far and had me seriously considering licking the dish clean.
As we drank the last trickles from our carafe of Grüner Veltliner we couldn’t resist sharing a dessert from their gobsmacking selection. It turned out to be an inspired moment of weakness. The custard tart with rhubarb ice cream and ginger crumbles that we shared was enough to make you want to hit Cntrl+S and save your taste experience to your memory bank. This has just shot to the top of my all time favourite dessert list.
As we lingered over coffee, the amazing aftertaste of rhubarb and glow of warm hospitality we wanted the evening to carry on forever. We found ourselves exploring their amazing range of cookery books and bantering with the staff. Whilst our food wasn’t quite perfect, it wasn’t far off. And the moreish mouthfuls that were spot on were as good as anywhere that we’ve eaten. It was more than worth the 1000 mile round trip in Cowie’s little car. And is further proof that Diana Henry has an eye for a good place to eat.
I guess that if you enjoyed somewhere enough to spend a total of 5 hours writing and drawing about the meal, then it’s a sign you’ve enjoyed it!
Y Polyn Website
Y Polyn Facebook
Y Polyn Twitter
Y Polyn review by Jay Rayner
Wales in Style by Simon Wright
The Wright Taste
Thursday, 10 June 2010
After the success of curing a chicken breast in brine, I thought I’d try the same thing with duck, with a bit of guidance from a recipe in Marcus Samuelsson’s Scandinavian cookbook, Aquavit.
Duck is one of my favourite things in the whole world. But only if the skin is crisp and salty. Flabby, chewy, greasy flesh gives me the creeps. The salting process helps to keep the flesh moist and leads to the perfect skin.
And when it comes to vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes as they seem to be called elsewhere) are pretty close to being my favourites as well. They bring back memories of my grandmother’s infamous “Fartichoke Soup” that was so hazardous that every window in the house had to be opened.
I thought about creating an artichoke risotto to accompany the salted duck. But, in light of the warm weather, a hearty salad balancing the sweet, sour and earthy flavours that work so well with duck seemed like a more seasonal option.
1 duck breast
2 table spoons of salt
5 Jerusalem artichokes
Half a grapefruit
Make a brine by dissolving the salt in boiling water. Once the water is clear take off the heat and allow to cool. Then once at room temperature place the duck breast in the water and weigh down with a plate. Place in the fridge overnight.
On the evening of your feast, peel the artichokes and boil in well salted water until par cooked which will take 10 minutes or so. Remove and pat dry with paper towel. Then roast in a preheated oven in a trickle of olive oil for 20 minutes. Everywhere else that I have read (apart from Corrigan) has foregone the pre-boil (and you may want to as well), but I found that it created one of my most successful vegetable dishes ever so I'd suggest it's worth the effort.
Gently render the duck breast in a cast iron frying pan allowing the fat to release. It helps if you’ve scored the skin. Gently turn up the heat and as the amount of fat rendering increases pour this over the artichokes. Once the skin is brown turn the breasts skin side up and pop in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove along with the artichokes and allow everything to rest.
Whilst everything is recovering from being blasted in the oven assemble your salad. Remove the flesh from half a grapefruit and squeeze the juice left in the hemisphere into a glass. You should get a dessert spoon’s worth. Add olive oil to the juice to make a very fresh dressing. Depending on how sharp the grapefruit is you may need a pinch of sugar. Coat the salad in the dressing and add segments of grapefruit along with parmesan shavings. If you’ve got time it might be worth caramelising the fruit for some extra flavour. To do this sprinkle with sugar and place under the grill for a few minutes.
Cut the duck on an angle and arrange the salad. It’s worth keeping the artichokes away from the salad leaves a bit because they will still be quite warm. Season with black pepper and tuck in.
The duck was succulent and blessed with crispy skin. But the stars of the show were the artichokes which were gloriously soft on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside. They couldn’t have tasted any more of artichoke and brought out the earthy sweetness of the duck. And the grapefruit simply adds a sharpness that brushes any hint of grease to one side.
Happy farting and further reading:
Salt cured duck breast recipe from Marcus Samuelsson
Chocolate & Zucchini on Jerusalem Artichokes
Wikipedia on Jerusalem Artichokes and their potential use as biofuel and their dark days as part of a failed pyramid scheme
Cooking with grapefruit
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
Since arriving in Gothenburg the two most impressive culinary experiences I’ve had have involved Bjorn’s Bar and Kock & Vin. So when my sister showed up I was naturally keen to try the third leg of Björn Persson's milking stool called Familjen (meaning family in English).
Whilst Kock & Vin ticks the Michelin box and Bjorn’s Bar covers off the equivalent of a Swedish tapas bar, Familjen is more of a rustic living-room style restaurant. They serve food with the same flavourful fingerprint, but at a more affordable price and in a setting that you would just as happily switch the telly on or order a cocktail as sit down for a meal.
The menu offers two routes in. If you choose the red pill you get transported into the magical world of an affordable set menu featuring soup, then something slow cooked like belly of pork and finishing with a homely pudding. But if you’re feeling more adventurous and choose the blue pill a universe of small dishes emerges.
Having had a large lunch and keen to avoid the shackles of a set menu, we went for the blue option.
Bleak roe from Lake Vänern with mashed potato, dill, red onion, chives and treacly brown bread croutons was just as stunning to eat as it was to look at. It’s such a simple dish, but a treat to devour when it is served with such artistry. I often struggle with raw red onion, as I find it overpowering, but along with the croutons it added a layer of texture that accentuated the smooth roundness of the mash and fish eggs.
Air dried wild goose breast is now one of my favourite foods. Why have I never had it before? It’s like a super glossy, soft version of top class Spanish or Italian ham. Its rich, regal colour and seams of silky fat are enough to make you want to vow never to eat anything else ever again. The fact that it is served completely devoid of any accoutrements is a sure sign that it’s an awesome product in its own right. Even the best caviar comes with a spoon!
Lamb sausage with a light salad of pine nuts and sharp dressing was as tasty as it was phallic. It was spiced with Moroccan flavours and was essentially a well fed Merguez. To my delight my sister left it almost entirely to me. You’ve got to respect a restaurant that serves a sausage salad with a spurt of creamy white dressing with a straight face.
Their smoked salmon omelette was one of the creamiest things I have ever eaten. I found the crème brule-esque consistency to be too smooth and would have preferred more texture. But you can’t deny it was a very luxurious dish.
I’m disappointed not to have tried more of the menu such as "farm egg from Halland with fried asparagus and black smoked pork belly" and "Helmut Walch´s air dried ham", but see that as a brilliant reason to return as soon as possible. We groaned with wide eyes as pork belly with white bean casserole waltzed past followed by bowl after bowl of upmarket apple crumble laden with custard.
Chances are that if you live in Gothenburg you'll know Familjen already. But if you are visiting Gothenburg for the weekend and are keen to get a feel for the city’s sense of style and cuisine without breaking the bank, then Familjen is the ideal place to go. Everything about the place is gorgeous – from the food, to the staff, to the glammed up diners who look as though they’ve just stepped off an Italian catwalk. Arrive with a good appetite and whatever you do, don’t miss out on the goose.
Kock & Vin
James Beard Foundation on Bleak Roe
Wrightfood on curing meats at home
Saturday, 5 June 2010
Before dining at Kock & Vin I hadn’t really come across salsify before. It made an appearance in few dishes and struck as being a hallmark of Swedish food. So when I saw the gnarly, brown protrusions in the supermarket I couldn’t help myself from placing them in my basket. Even though I had told myself to not buy anything that wasn’t on my very minimalist shopping list.
Some research revealed that salsify is known by many as the oyster plant, apparently because the taste is similar. Looking back at the dish we had at Kock & Vin with braised beef cheek, steak tartar, oysters and salsify it all makes even more sense. And two months after eating this unusual dish I am even more impressed by it.
After much searching, I found a few interesting recipes – one suggesting making them into a truffled mash, another that recommended grating them and making a rosti and most interestingly one in Aquavit that sees them transformed into a root vegetable version of tagliatelle topped with a creamy smoked salmon sauce.
It seemed like a brilliant idea, if harder work than I wanted. I liked the idea of bringing out their oystery characteristics so introduced smoked oysters into the sauce as well and switched the heavy cream for crème fraiche.
Ingredients: (serves 1)
3 stems of salsify
1 small tub of crème fraiche
Several slices of smoked salmon
1 tin of smoked oysters
2 cloves of garlic
Half a lemon
Take the skin off the salsify using a cheese slicer or vegetable peeler. Immediately after peeling place into acidulated water to stop them browning. Then, again using the peeler, slice into wafer thin strands like tagliatelle and place these back into the water. Then for each strand slice lengthways into 3-4mm wide strands and immerse in salted boiling water. Cook for 5 or so minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, sauté an onion and the garlic until soft and then add the tub of crème craiche let down with a few tablespoons of water and a squeeze of lemon juice. Then add the smoked oysters to warm through. Once the salsify is cooked remove it from the water and add to the creamy sauce. Rather than grating parmesan over it, some lemon zest will work wonders instead.
Mix through the smoked salmon and a few basil leaves, season generously and top with a teaspoon of caviar.
The fishy flavours, creamy sauce and lemony flecks are delicious. The salsify held itself together very well and makes a brilliant alternative to pasta. And the caviar adds a touch of luxury, texture and a colour contrast to the pale palette.
It would be even better with a glass of cold, minerally Muscadet and maybe a dash of horseradish cream. After such a delicious dish I can imagine the next version evolving into “salsify tagliatelle alle vongole”. If you've got any suggestions for cooking salsify please let me know, because I've got plenty left in the fridge!