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Also just before the holiday season, I was invited to an event by Seafood from Norway to highlight the seafood delights from that Nordic country; this was a one-off supperclub to promote sustainable Norwegian Seafood in the UK and it was to be catered by Signe Johansen, cookbook author and brunch/supperclub hostess extraordinaire. The location was Republic of Fritz Hansen in central London, a gorgeous shop selling the best of Scandinavian design (why has no one told me of it?!).

The table was already starting to fill up with delicious morsels while people were arriving to the shop. Cured salmon with a shot of Linie aquavit, rye pannekaker, sour cream and pickled fennel was a delicious, and substantial, bite – I loved the pickled fennel with the sour cream and the cured fish.

Cured Salmon with a Shot of Linie Aquavit, Rye Pannekaker, Sour Cream and Pickled Fennel

If I had to choose favourites though, the other canape floated my boat more – the Sweet Norwegian prawns with wild dill pollen mayonnaise, lumpfish roe, pickled cucumber on sourdough crisp bread. These light little bites were perfectly balanced – creamy, crispy, sweet, salty, sour. Yes, yes, I do like Norwegian prawns, thank you very much.

Sweet Norwegian Prawns with Wild Dill Pollen Mayonnaise, Lumpfish Roe, Pickled Cucumber on Sourdough Crisp Bread

Battered cod cheeks with dill, anchovy and pickled cucumber salsa were another favourite; we were burning our fingers and spilling that moreish green sauce everywhere as we hastily scooped it up.

Battered Cod Cheeks with Dill, Anchovy and Pickled Cucumber Salsa

At this point, Signe emerged from the kitchen to tell us all about her Norwegian background and her love for seafood. The menu was sort of a taster of what a Norwegian Christmas table could feature if it was only all about the seafood (I think meat does feature traditionally). Completely unbeknownst to us, the woman sitting to Signe’s right in the photo below was the award winning Bridget Hugo, who runs Bread Bread in Brixton.

Bridget and Signe

Bridget’s breads were pretty spectacular. The brown one below was made of all rye and included slightly fermented rye grains. The half whole wheat also included some white flour and rye flour. Both were great with a good schmear of butter and we ate plenty of it just as is.

Rye Bread White/Whole/Rye Bread

We also scoffed quite a bit of bread with the next dish – Lightly-cured halibut with lemon and elderflower. Elderflower and fish? It was absolutely fantastic and I could have easily cleared the entire platter. It was my first time eating halibut in this cured way and I loved it.

Lightly-Cured Halibut with Lemon and Elderflower

Platters of salt-baked celeriac and a colourful kale and spelt salad now appeared on the table, ready to accompany our main course of Roast haddock with bacon and rye crisp.

Salt-Baked Celeriac Kale and Spelt Salad

And here was my plate. A modest serving as I had filled up on uh…prawns on crispbread. The haddock was lovely but I’m not a fan of the rye bread crisp on top. I understand that this topping is commonly used to top apple crisp in Sweden… and at last year’s Swedish Blind Date, it was made clear to me that it is perfectly awful. It’s indeed one way to use up leftover bread but I’ll give it a miss!

Roast Haddock with Bacon and Rye Crisp

After the meal, Signe then cheerfully brought out shots of aquavit for everyone…

Signe Brings Out the Aquavit

…which I passed and instead went straight for her fantastic homemade pepperkaker. A brick of brown cheese was also brought out and surprisingly, it pairs well with the pepperkaker.

Pepperkaker

Thank you very much to Lisa from Bray Leino for the invitation! It was a great introduction to Norwegian seafood and Norwegian cuisine prior to my business trip to Oslo.

For Norwegian Seafood in London, ask your local fishmonger or supermarket fish counter. I’ll be on the lookout for those prawns. To try some of Signe’s cooking, take a look at her website for updates.

I was very keen to visit Pierre Herme (in Paris) in the summer as I knew ice creams were going to be available at that time of the year. We chose two Miss Gla’Gla ice cream sandwiches and gleefully ran off to a nearby park bench to share the contents of our cold silver boxes.

Miss Gla’Gla from Pierre Herme

The Miss Gla’Gla Infiniment Chocolat was filled with chocolate ice cream speckled with nougat with cacao nibs and fleur de sel and Sarawak pepper. Sandwiching this filling were two chocolate macaron biscuits. Yes, this was as rich as it looks! (Recently I’ve not been able to finish large, heavy chocolate desserts.) I did love the use of thin macaron shells in the ice cream sandwich and the ratio of ice cream to biscuit.

Miss Gla'Gla Infiniment Chocolat

The Miss Gla’Gla Montebello was bright green and contained a swirled mixture of pistachio ice cream and strawberry sorbet between the macaron layers. This was probably my favourite of the two as it was more refreshing and not as rich. The downside? We found a whole pistachio shell in our ice cream sandwich – I hope this was a one off!

Miss Gla'Gla Montebello

Each Miss Gla’Gla was €6,20. They’re not a bad little treat and I do hope they bring them to London!

Pierre Herme
We went to the branch on rue Bonaparte.

Our adventures with Swedish food didn’t end with the last post – Anna very kindly sent us all home with products she had brought over from Skåne. They’re all things I probably should have brought back with me the first time I visited Sweden but y’know… the pepparkakor seemed more important at the time!

This loaf of brown rye bread has gone a long way – it keeps well in the fridge or freezer. It’s dense and has a slight sweetness that’s delicious paired with just about anything – I served some chickpea and spinach stew over a couple slices. Any leftovers of this brown bread are used to make the topping for the traditional Swedish apple crumble.

Brown Rye Bread

This is knäckebröd that we must find again! Studded with seeds, it’s hands-down the best crisp bread we’ve ever had and really changed our opinion on the stuff! If you ever see this brand, buy it!

Knäckebröd

The Abba brand is a classic and I’m upset that it’s no longer stocked by Ikea (they now stock their own brand of foods). This mustard herring was delicious on top of the brown bread.

Abba Mustard Herring

Priest cheese was so named when milk was used to pay tithes to the church. The priests would make cheese of it – another story was that the cheese was directly used as payment. Whatever the story is, it’s a delicious cow’s milk cheese that goes well with plain pickled herring.

Priest Cheese

Speaking of pickled herring, this Ättika is the traditional vinegar used in its preparation. Ättika is available in both 12 and 24% strengths and our bottle of 24% comes with suggestions on its use – including for cleaning! It goes without saying that it’s probably best not to consume it neat. Peter taught us the 1-2-3 ratio to pickle our own herring at home: 1 part ättika, 2 parts sugar, 3 parts water.

Ättika 24%

Finally, a bag of Jätte Salt liquorice. I still haven’t opened this as I’ve been wary of salty liquorice after a not great experience with some Dutch stuff. Any and all encouragement is welcome!

Jätte Salt

And now, as promised, the recipe for Peter’s veal stew – thank you very much to him for sharing it! It was mentioned during dinner that lamb will also work with dill and I’d like to try the recipe below with it.

Veal Stew with Dill Sauce
by Peter J Skogström
serves 4.

500 g prime rib of veal, boneless
1 leek
1 carrot
2 parsnips
a small piece of celeriac
1 medium onion
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp allspice
5 stalks fresh dill
2 tsp salt per litre of water

Dill Sauce
500 ml water
2 tsp ‘ättiksprit’ Swedish vinegar (12%) – if not available, I think any white vinegar is substitutable
2 tsp sugar
5 stalks of dill, roughly chopped
400 ml stock from the first part of the recipe
1.5 tsp white flour
1 tbsp butter
100 ml cream
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of white pepper
100 ml of chopped dill

Cut the meat into small pieces. Place the cubed meat into a casserole dish, cover with boiling water and place over medium heat. Skim off the scum as required. Slice the leeks, carrots, parsnips and celery into equal sized pieces. Add to the boiling meat. Season with the dill stalks, allspice, bay leaf and salt. Lower the heat and leave to simmer until the meat is tender. Strain the stock and save for the sauce.

To make the sauce, bring the dill stalks, vinegar, sugar and water to a boil. Melt the butter in a pot, sprinkle over the white flour and stir in to make a roux. Add 200 ml of stock and whisk together until smooth. Pour in the rest of the stock and add the cream, stirring continuously. Add the sieved vinegar preparation and the chopped dill. Season to taste with salt and white pepper and a dash of vinegar if needed. Remove the dill stalks and bay leaf and then pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

Serve with boiled potatoes.

I was invited to a chocolate tasting by Lindt being held at Pearl in Holborn. Jun Tanaka, head chef at Pearl, had recently developed recipes using latest range of Lindt Excellence flavours: chilli, wasabi and sea salt. I like Lindt chocolate and it’s a brand I buy often at home (usually the 85% bar) but I had looked sceptically at some of these new flavours on offer, particularly the wasabi.

The New Range

To my surprise, I loved the wasabi flavour – its characteristic flavour and burn coming through slowly when you bite into the dark bar. I didn’t think much of the chilli chocolate (not much heat and I couldn’t discern any chilli flavour) but I adored the sea salt bar that was quite easy to put away.

But we were there for the dishes too. No, not the two dishes below but the four dishes, two savoury and two sweet, created. Working alongside Chef Tanaka was Stefan Bruderer, one of Lindt’s Master Chocolatiers, and he was also on hand that night to answer our many questions about being a Lindt master chocolatier (apart from the creation of new flavours there’s a lot of admin).

Jun Tanaka and Stefan Bruderer

We first sampled a Cured Salmon with Pickled Chilli and Wasabi Mayonnaise. No chocolate here but it featured all the flavours in the new bars.

Cured Salmon with Pickled Chilli and Wasabi Mayonnaise

We closely guarded our Braised Chilli Chocolate Beef Cheek with Celeriac Mash and Glazed Beetroot after our first tastes and eyed up the portions of those around us. “Are you gonna finish that?”, we hissed at those who ate slowly. The beef cheek had been braised to tenderness and the glossy sauce was a reduction of the braising liquid and plenty of Lindt’s chilli chocolate. I didn’t even mind the glazed beetroot and thought the wilted wild garlic was a nice addition too.

Braised Chilli Chocolate Beef Cheek with Celeriac Mash and Glazed Beetroot

Unsurprisingly, the wasabi chocolate proved to be the most difficult to use in a recipe. Jun Tanaka did well then to turn to the cuisine where wasabi features most – Japanese – and created a Wasabi Chocolate Maki Roll. This sweet rice roll was wrapped around pineapple and a chocolate ganache and served with pickled ginger and melted wasabi chocolate. We were instructed to eat it in one go, piling the ginger on top of the maki and dipping the whole thing in the melted chocolate. With cheeks bulging, we savoured the combination of creamy chocolate, sweet pineapple and hot wasabi and ginger.

Wasabi Chocolate Maki Roll

We ended with – surprise, surprise – more chocolate. The Dark Sea Salt Chocolate Moelleux with Cherry and Yogurt Sorbet was absolutely gorgeous with the moelleux’s melting centre and the fresh (and out of season and overpriced) cherries and sorbet. I’m not sure it even needed the extra chocolate sauce on top.

Dark Sea Salt Chocolate Moelleux with Cherry and Yogurt Sorbet

It is possible to recreate the recipes developed by Jun Tanaka as they all can be found on the Lindt website – I definitely hope to recreate the beef cheeks and in the meantime, I found myself putting in more dark chocolate than usual into my chili con carne over the weekend. I’m a bit chocolated out now though!

Thank you very much to Lindt and Burson-Marsteller for the invitation.

I’d been aware of Hot-Headz, an online hot sauce vendor, for a while but had never ordered hot sauces online, preferring instead to pick up a bottle here and there when I was at markets or on my travels. I think I was of the impression that they only sold those crazy hot sauces but they’ve actually also got a good range of Mexican classics that I’ve been looking for.

I need to say this upfront but I wasn’t fond of their press release they sent out for Christmas: it was geared towards men, suggesting that men might enjoy receiving hot sauces in their stockings (wait, that’s not how it should sound…). Well, I will stand up for everyone, male or female, and say that anybody of any gender will enjoy hot sauces and do enjoy hot sauces! Anyway, Hot-Headz sent me five bottles to try and from first impressions, they ranged from very mild to incredibly terrifying.

Tasting

With five bottles, I thought a little tasting was in order. This was set up in my office and well….here are the results. Comments from my colleagues are in bullet points.

Brother Bru-Bru’s Mild African Pepper Sauce
This was the mildest of the bunch and one of the tastiest too. Family friendly.

  • More about taste rather than being hot – good.
  • Tasty!
  • Nice flavour.

Tapatío
Ah, a classic that I thought was made in Mexico but is actually American (and they export to Mexico). I slathered some on my burrito today.

  • Very tasty.
  • I can’t determine the taste. A bit sour? Not hot.

Pyromania!
Looks scarier than it is. I mean, a she-devil? Its name even sports an exclamation mark. Texturally, it’s lumpy, like one of those posh ketchups.

  • Nice smoky flavour.
  • Like barbecue sauce with a hint of spice.

Who Dares Burns Crushed Naga Bhut Jolokia Chilli Sauce
I originally thought this was going to be the hottest sauce as I’d read about the naga bhut jolokia – supposedly the hottest chilli in the world.

  • Good amount of spice.
  • It’s very hot!
  • Still has flavour. It is hot but manageable.

Mad Dog 357 Hot Sauce
Oh geez, this hot sauce is not actually meant to be eaten, is it? Our tongues BURNED for a good long while after tasting it. It is stupidly hot and it incapacitated some of my colleagues. I picture it more as a sauce to add a bit of to a chilli con carne to give it heat or one just to buy if you feel you need to prove something.

  • Owwww! My tongue! It delivers the desired effect.
  • OMG! Crazy spicy.
  • Well eating a healthy dose of this certainly changed the course of my morning for the worse.
  • It has no flavour – it’s just hot.
  • I thought the flavour was fire.

The five sent turned out to be a great range with four definitely usable sauces and one um… jokey one? I know it’s the Christmas season and you’d probably expect to hear that hot sauces are great as stocking fillers (each bottle is about £4 with the exception of the 357 which is about £7) and all that jazz but you know what, if I received a selection like this for my birthday (in the summer), I’d be quite thrilled!

Do you like hot sauces? What’s your favourite and what do you put it on or in?

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