For my beloved Brother who introduced me to the art of cooking, who taught me how to taste and truly love food. Without him I'd never be able to be where I am today.

December 24, 2011

                                                Mini Teeny Tiny

As those of you who follow culinary trends know, mini is the new maxi. And no wonder, small is cute. There’s no doubt about it. Girls and women go AWWWWW pouting their lips, making that certain face... They just can’t help it. Neither can I to be quite honest. Bakeries have started making tiny cup cakes, mini tarts, mini what-have-you instead of rather unaesthetic overly big versions. In my opinion, it’s all for the best. Firstly, mini pastries and desserts are awfully cute and tempting. Secondly, you don’t feel half as bad after eating them. And thirdly, it might come as a surprise to those of you with a severe sweet tooth, but one or two bites maximum will do the trick most of the time. All in all, perfect I would say!

We decided to skip the traditional Christmas food this year. It’s a bit boring, it’s heavy and no one in my family is especially fond of it. Not a big loss, in other words. Of course I had ideas for the whole alternative Christmas menu, but there was something teeny tiny that I really wanted to do and Christmas would be the perfect occasion to carry it through. So even though there won’t be a traditional Christmas meal in my house this year, we’ll certainly be very full and very satisfied anyway.

A festive meal prepared with love will for sure guarantee the satisfaction, but the whole shebang isn’t complete without a dessert.  But what to do – I’m unable to make up my mind and choose one yummy dessert over another! Solution: several mini desserts! Here we go…

I really had trouble choosing four mini desserts out of the million ideas I have in my mind, but I think I nailed it down pretty well. As tonight’s dessert I’ll serve:

Mini cinnamon & orange crème brûlée
Mini blackcurrant-blueberry-Cointreau jelly
Mini gingerbread biscuits with Brie-cheese filling
Mini chocolate truffles with a touch of cardamom & Himalaya salt

I did most of the preparations last night already and it has been hard not give in to a tiny "sneak peak". I hope everything will taste divine because if not, I‘ll be devastated.  I hate to serve something that I myself don’t regard as the best I can do.

Merry (mini) Christmas! Be good to your belly!

December 18, 2011

To Each His Own

I've eaten some pretty weird things in my life. Taking into account that I've lived four years in Vietnam and travelled  across most on South-East Asia, I feel that I can say 'been there done that' to eating most insects, eye bolls and other less appetizing foods. Best of all, I've learned not to knock it until I've tried it. And I'm happy about that. It would be a shame not to give my taste buds some very exotic and bizarre excitement ever once and a while. Then again, I won't lie and say that I loved eating eye bolls when I was eight years old, but that is a question of taste and preference…As in Swedish "smaken är som baken" (literally: the taste taste is like the bum) - there's no accounting for taste. Eyebolls might be someone favorite food! But when I encountered locos for the first time, I seriously had to pause before putting the thing in my mouth.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you: Locos - strange little creatures of the sea, I must say. Thanks to Wikipedia I can offer you a more descriptive definition:  "Concholepas concholepas, common names the Chilean abalone or loco in Chilean Spanish, is a species of large edible sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk." Apparently, locos are only available in Chile and Peru and there people eat them like tuna. Or something. Now you might wonder why I, physically located in Southern Sweden, managed to get a hold of them. Well, it's a pretty funny story.

Me and my boyfriend were walking home late on a Saturday night after a nice meal accompanied by some nice wine. Even though we were completely full, both of us had a sweet tooth for something. Luckily, we live in a very un-Swedish area in town and noticed that there were many small Oriental grocery shops still open. One shop had a sign saying "Chilean specialities" so picked that one as my boyfriend has been living in Chile and wanted to see what they had to offer. We entered and found all kinds of funny "specialties", all from ahi pebble sauce to mate. As we headed toward the counter, our shopping basked was filled with the most random items. We thought it was hilarious, of course. The wine had probably something to do with it. We were about to pay for all the nonsense we'd most certainly regret buying the following day, as my boyfriend got very excited and grabbed a tin can from the shelf behind the salesman. It was canned locos. At that point I was already completely lost with all the products I had never seen before, but this was beyond all comprehension. The salesman started to eagerly promote the product by explaining that "it's very good for men".  Oh haven't I heard that one before. In Vietnam they made the Western men eat almost anything by guaranteeing "it's good for men". Usually it was just a funny practical joke to see how the idiot tourist would seconds after swallowing puke is brains out because of the nasty thing he just ate… My boyfriend got so convinced that he took two cans. Turned out locos were not just "good for men", but also worth a fortune. Kindly, without a word, he paid for his locos and turned to me and said: "They better be amazingly good!".

Three months later, the locos were still sitting put on the shelf where we had placed them that night my boyfriend spent a fortune on  some weird sea snails. I knew that we had to start packing all our stuff in boxes in a couple of days because our current rental contract is about to come to an end. It was a perfect deadline for eating the slimy delicacies. We decided to serve them as a side snack for the welcome toast I'd do for our Finnish pikku joulu (little Christmas) party the next day. Glögg and locos - the combo of the year - would definitely bring our party to an excellent start.

Minutes before our friends came over, I opened the can of locos. As soon as I saw the creatures in their juice and took a closer look at them, I knew there would be a risk of me I not being able to appreciate them in the way I probably should. It happened to me once preparing a whole goose. When you yourself are the one doing all the sometimes a bit nasty preparations, you end up not being able to block those images from your thoughts and end up not being able to enjoy the end result. Well, that happened to me this time. I simply couldn't get over the fact that the locos very accurately resembled something I'd rather not eat… You can make your own judgement based on the photo.

Although I wasn't going to enjoy it fully myself, I proudly presented the little pre-appetizer snack to my guests. But because of my rather bawdy humor, I simply had to crack a stupid joke. I couldn't help myself. See I served the locos cut in smaller pieces so it wasn't that obvious what they had looked like before. Turned out, I ruined the tasting for some, but made it even more enjoyable for others. Fair enough.

One shouldn't argue on matters of likes and dislikes, even though someone not liking something as delicious as garlic or mushrooms might seem almost like a blasphemy for a foodie. Neither should you knock it until you've tried it, may I add in defense. Even though the locos look a bit shady, they actually taste rather good. I'm sure that when freshly prepared, they're even better. When I'll one day travel to Chile I'll definitely have another go, I swear. To each his own!

December 6, 2011

Sausages! Sausages! Sausages!

There are many foods that are totally underrated and misunderstood if you ask me. Some because they're too ancient, or because they're no longer considered “sexy”, trendy and/or healthy enough – Others simply because the contemporary version of the product is a far cry from the real thing, from what it once used to be. Some foods make comebacks though, like different root vegetables and beats have done recently. This winter gourmet chefs in played around with the wonderfully coloured different beetroots for example. And to think that root veggies used to be labelled as poor man's food… I guess it also comes down to demand, supply and availability. If there's too much of something and its value therefore declines, it's no longer as exceptional and fancy, trendy and cool.

Judging by the title of this post, I'm obviously talking about sausages in particular. I, myself come from a country that truly has its own idea of what a sausage should be like. To give you an idea, our most eaten sausage might as well be classified as pastry! How on Earth? Because, the beloved HK Sininen Lenkki® consists of only 43% meat. The rest? Don't even get me started. Let's just say it's everything but a sausage if you ask me. 'Sausage' in Finland means something completely different than sausage in Southern Europe for example. Sausages in Finland are seen as fatty, nasty and uninteresting food par excellence. It's only in the summer that the makkara seriously takes over the nation.

I have always liked sausages of different sorts. And as the selection and availability of all kinds of sausages from all over the world get bigger and better, I'm even more convinced about my love for them.

Today, on December 6th, I celebrated Finland's Independent's Day - in Sweden. I told my flatmate that in Finland we usually eat a Finnish type of knackwurst called nakki with potato salad and stick Finnish flags on toothpicks on everything… We weren’t going to do that this time, but still I insisted on having some kind of sausages. I was busy at work, so the only guideline I gave her when she went grocery shopping was: “Get real sausages with 80% meat minimum”. As she's a big meat lover, I knew I could trust her.

She didn't let me down, that I can assure. The smell captured me already at the first floor (we live on 4th) as I entered the building after a long day at work. Floor by floor, the smell got better and better. Real, meaty, smoked sausages awaited me! I crammed the key into the keyhole and ran into the kitchen. There they were, nicely side-by-side, sizzling on the oven grill. Dark red-brownish, meaty sausages, “They're Slovenian, are you satisfied?”, my flatmate asked with a smile on her face. Was I satisfied?! I was exultant!

I've tasted some pretty awesome sausages in my days, but these particular ones were heavenly, smoky, not too salty, not too spicy, but still had a nice subtle sting to them. I couldn't but write about them and my overall love for good quality sausages. If you think fatty, nasty and unhealthy when you think about sausages, then you're being way too judgmental. Sure sausages are heavy food, but when you're picky enough, I bet you'll be surprised how absolutely fantastic sausages can be. I'm hoping that among you, dear readers there are some loyal sausage fans (excluding vegetarians), but if not, find out if you have a good quality charcuterie in your hometown and go and buy yourself some good sausages. Maybe they'll even have some Slovenian ones. And just for the record, I think sausages are very hip and trendy, but above all, sausages for me represent honest and yummy real food. Plus they're fun and surprisingly easy to make yourself, at home.

Say cheese sausage!