Sunday, 21 May 2017

Cheat's treat: Thai chicken, mushroom, coconut and noodle soup (kosher, gluten-free)

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Some of my secrets to weeknight dinners are noodles and rotisserie chicken. Together they make this quick, easy and delicious Thai chicken, mushroom, coconut and noodle soup. 

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Recently I was interviewed for the biggest paper in the country in the search for tips for speeding up cooking those weeknight meals. Seeing how I was (again) in a company so much better than myself (the other person they interviewed is a Michelin-starred chef...) I didn't dare to say everything I was thinking of. 

But we're all friends, right? So I don't mind sharing my #1 secret - you know, just between the two of us. 

You guys ready?

Here it comes. 

Order in. 

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That's it: have someone else do the cooking and  order in instead!

Especially this spring my head's been working overtime just trying to stay on top of my body (let alone on top of all the things she's supposed to stay on top of) that it's actually rather disgraceful, how often I've happily outsourced the catering to a variety of home delivery services. And how often my dinner has been a delivery from Pizza Hut (BBQ, Italian crust) is downright shameful. What kind of a food blogger am I?!

But yes, I do cook, too. And I do cook using those tips I was giving out in that interview. One of my favourite shortcuts is using rotisserie chicken (or parts of it). 

That makes a robust salad in no time (such as my recipe for St. Tropez chicken and pasta salad), a spread to make a sandwich or to be served with a jacket potato (my favourite is this chicken and avocado salad) adds body to soups (you've got to try this Mediterranean chicken and roasted pepper soup!). 

Chicken cooked on the bone just has so much more flavour and juiciness than those vacuum-packen, anemic bra-fillers.

Good noodles are another shortcut I'm a big fan of - they only take fraction of the time cooking pasta would. 

This thai chicken, mushroom, coconut and noodle soup combines both of this hacks. Oh, and coconut, which I favour over cream any time. As it comes in a tin, its shelf life is so much more convenient than that of cream. Which is why I always have some at home.

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serves 4

Thai chicken, mushroom, coconut & noodle soup:

2 chicken breasts on the bone (or two ready grilled ones from the shop)

1,5 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1,5 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 red chillis, finely chopped
200 g shiitake mushrooms, sliced 
7,5 dl chicken stock
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
50 g noodles (for gluten-free soup use mung bean vermicelli or rice noodles)
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp fish sauce (or soy sauce) 
(½ - 1 tbsp brown sugar) 
½ bunch coriander, leaves chopped
½ bunch (Thai) basil, leaves chopped

to serve: lime wedges
rest of the herbs
toasted peanuts (optional)

In case using raw chicken breasts, roast them at 180°c for 45 minutes until cooked through. Baste with the liquid in the bottom of the pan every now and then. Let cool and in the meanwhile prepare the stock.

Measure ginger, garlic and chilli into the pot along with the chicken stock. Bring to boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add mushrooms and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. 

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the bone and shred the meat into desired chunks. Add into the stock with spring onion and coconut milk. 

Bring to boil and add the noodles. Cook for a couple of minutes until the noodles are done. Add the herbs.

Season with fish sauce. Check the taste and adjust to your liking by adding fish sauce and/ or sugar.

Divide into serving bowls, scatter remaining herbs (and peanuts, if using) on top. Serve with a drizzle of lime juice. 

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How about you guys - would you fancy a bowl of my Thai chicken, mushroom, coconut and noodle soup?

And hey - don't forget to share your own tips for surviving the mad weekend dinner rush? What are your secret short-cuts?



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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Day trip to Marstrand - straight out of a storybook

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Marstrand, less than an hour from Gothenburg, is straight out of a storybook. A perfect day trip destination!

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On my last day in Gothenburg the sky has taken on an ominous dark hue. The scorching temperatures of previous days are so gone. 

Not that I'm complaining (not that I could, either), seeing how my face is so shinged even the thought of moving it hurts.

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The capsule wardrobe I put together for the trip, oozing nautical elegance proves to be highly insufficient for this kind of weather, so my OOTD (that's Outfit Of The Day for those of you not fluent in the professional blogger lingo) winds up consisting of literally every piece of clothing I've brought with me and yet another jumper I nick from Gothenburger.

(What a clever plan - soon he'll have no clothes left and will have no choice but to walk around in all of his naked glory. Mmmmhhhmmm...)

But weather is just a... state of mind, right? So, feeling foolishly hopeful, we set out on our day trip.

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By the time we reach Koön all hope is dead. 

Not only is it cold, but the grey skies start to spit out the first drops of water. By the time we step on the Koön-Marstrand ferry the rain gets riotous.

Gothenburger curses the rain blasting on our faces and retreats to shelter; I on the other hands clap my hands like a manic monkey. On meth. 

The ferry ride over only takes a couple of minutes and I'm already in love with the scenery of Marstrand guest harbour about to receive us on the other side. 

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The first impression of the candy coloured wooden houses remind me of all those quaint English seaside resorts.

"Coming here is so much nicer in the summer", my date grunts. "Though then the place is swarming with them bloody tourists". Ah, the all-conquering power of positive thinking! 

I on the other hand can't wait to explore the place. The colourful wooden villas, the narrow cobble-stoned alleyways, the cheerful ambiance that hangs above the rooftops dancing polka... Everything is just so adorably Swedish. 

My inner Pippi Longstocking has come home. 

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I honestly couldn't tell you what is the most charming thing about this place: the Swedish flags our Western neighbours so joyously like to fly everywhere, the architecture echoing Astrid Lindgren storybooks or the fact that even our ferry is called Nisse. 

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Located less than 50 kilometres from Gothenburg, Marstrand's cuteness charms even on a bad day. It makes for a perfect day trip destination, especially for a Villa Villekulla-maniac such as yours truly who never fails to get all giddy in gingerbread house paradises such as Porvoo, HankoJurmala and Åland

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While Marstrand was granted city privileges already in 1200's it does feel a tad grandiose to refer to this place as a city - the population is, after all, mere 1300.

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Owing to its coastal location, Marstrand has witnessed its share of the fights between the Swedes and the Danes; never quite agreeing on where to set the borders. 

Following the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658 Marstrand and the surrounding area of Bohuslän became Swedish, but on two brief occasions (1677-1679 and 1719-1720) the Danes managed to take over again.

(Since then they've been focusing on what they do best: chain-smoking and pastry-making.)

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Marstrand's location and its port, ice-free all year round, turned it into a significant trading hub.

In 1775 it was granted free port status, as a result of which the city enjoyed certain autonomy over the rest of the state. The special privileges featured - among other things - freedom of migration and religion.

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This attracted hundreds of Jews to settle over here: in Marstrand they were free of the heavy restrictions imposed on them everywhere else in Sweden. 

As a result Marstrand left its mark in the Jewish history at large: in 1780 the city became the location of the first ever synagogue in the whole of Scandinavia. 

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The Jewish community of Marstrand, consisting mainly of artisans and merchants, turned out to be shortlived. After a couple of decades majority of them relocated to Gothenburg. 

By 1805 all but one family had left Marstrand. 

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Smuggling got out of control and so the free port did not turn out to be as profitable enterprise as the state had envisioned. As a result the privileges were revoked in 1794.

That also coincided with the end of the greatest of all of the great herring periods (1747-1808).

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The Great Herring Period. I bet that got your imagination to run wild, like the Chelsea FC fans after a Spurs game, huh?

Oh, yes. The Great Herring Period.

It's an event that occurs roughly once a century. That's when the herring comes in exceptionally huge quantities and traditionally boosts the local economy into a massive growth.

Once the Greatest of All The Great Herring periods and the free port privileges came to an end, Marstrand wilted back into an impoverished little village.

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The latter half of the 19th century saw the trade and fishing pick up again, but the thing that helped Marstrand's new coming was the fact that somewhat surprisingly it became one of the first and most popular seaside resorts in the country.

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The thing that made Marstrand particularly attractive destination was the fact that this was The Place that King Oscar II, the great-grandfather of the current King was so fond of and spent all the summers of his reign (1872-1905) holidaying in.  

(Let's face it: nothing makes a place more desirable in the eyes of the likes of Hyacinth Buckets everywhere than the knowledge they'll be "holidaying in the very spot where the aristocracy with their unrivalled pedigree and outstanding understanding of the finer things in life likes to entertain themselves away from the prying eyes of the commoners")

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Sure enough the monarch did like to entertain himself and the upper echelons of the society in Societetshuset, opened in his honour in 1887.

Not surprisingly it continues to be a very popular venue for weddings and other festivities still today. 

(I'm sure Hyacinth herself wouldn't pass on an opportunity to host one of her famous candle-lit suppers here.)

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In addition to Societetshuset the other significant landmark (and one of the most popular sights) is Carlsten's fortress, towering over the rest of Marstrand. Throughout its history it's also been used as a prison.

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It also served as the venue of one of the first outdoor tennis courts in Sweden, commissioned by the tennis-loving King Oscar II himself. 

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These days Marstrand is a popular destination especially among the sailing enthusiasts. The island hosts annually several sailing competitions such as Marstrandsregatta and Match Cup Sweden.

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Though Marstrand is the promised land of summer houses that exchange hands for some serious money, it hasn't forgotten its past.

The first weekend of each June the island celebrates a Weekend of the Herring - festival. Herring is also proudly depicted in the Marstrand's coat of arms. 

(Fun with flags, everyone!!!)

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Inlands Bryggeri, island's very own small brewery makes sure that you'll stay hydrated even after feasting on all  that herring (pickled, marinated, fried... you name it!)

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In the end the rain just gets to be too much: in addition to Gothenburger's patience and my shoes, it's about to wreack havoc on my camera, too.

Sunday afternoon is drawing to an end and the few places open today are all starting to close their doors.

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We, too, decide to give up and seek refuge in the heated terrace of Marstrands Wärdshuset, located right next to the port as the sanguine singing echoing from the inside (without a doubt fuelled by impressive amounts of beer) imply that we've found one place that's not about to close anytime soon. 

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The daily catch of langustines has already sold out, but some herring (well, how else?) and a bowl of steaming hot, gloriously creamy fish and seafood soup nurture our bodies back to life.

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And whaddayaknow - after our late lunch even the rain has decided to take a break and our expedition continues. 

"I'll take you back in the summer", Gothenburger vows. "Even with them tourists!"

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Bus from Gothenburg to Marstrand costs about €7 one way, for time tables please see here.

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So, how's that for an eye candy (hope you're not still thinking about the naked Gothenburger - I meant the island!) ? 

Does Marstrand make your heart melt as well?



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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Sjömagasinet Gothenburg - classic for a reason

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Sjömagasinet is one of the lost beloved restaurant institutions in Göthenburg and a classic for a reason. Low treshold Michelin feast - perfect for lunch!

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It's only barely noon, but sun's out in full force;  blazing from a clear blue sky. Temperature is about to hit 30ºc and Finland, with its snow, sleet and hale storms seems like a crap Monty Python joke. 

In honour of our day off together, we've decided to dedicate the whole day for having fun and what better way to start it than over a lovely, leisurely lunch!

I lean closer to Gothenburger and sigh contently. Right now life couldn't be better 

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In my quest for restaurant recommendations in Gothenburg, 90% of the time I get the same answer: Sjömagasinet, which especially the Gotheburgers seem to consider the best restaurant in the city.

Well, all but one. 

"Yeah, it's ok", mumbled my Gothenburger. "I mean, I've eaten there and all".

His response to my question (accompanied with a cheerful grin) would probably be something along the lines of Max (a Swedish burger chain) or Sibylla (Swedish sausage kiosk chain)

But this is not his blog and so this won't be a report of Swedish fast food, but a story about one of the most beloved restaurant institutions in Gothenburg.

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Already its location at Klippan plays a crucial role in sea-faring Gotheburg's history, built on the importance of maritime trade.

The red shed dates back to 1775, when it was a storage for the Swedish East India Company, founded here in Gothenburg in 1731. The restaurant opened in 1984 and between 1994-2010 was headed by a local culinary legend Leif Mannerström.

In 1999 it was awarded a Michelin star, which it succesfully retained until 2010.

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That's when the restaurant was purchased by its current owner (and another culinary giant) Ulf Wagner. Along with the sale Sjömagasinet automatically lost the star, but regained it again in 2013.

White Guide Nordic gives the place 81 points, making it 3rd highest ranked restaurant in Gothenburg.

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But hey - statistics aside and on to the point!

The place offers low treshold gourmet already on the account of being the only Michelin restaurant in the city that's also open for lunch.

While the dinner menus start at 895 SEK (appr. €92), their 3-course lunch will "only" set you back €62.

Of course you don't have to go for the whole shebang - instead you can freely choose your food from the lunch á la carte (starters roughly €20, mains €20 - €38).

A reservation, though, is highly recommended as without one getting here is usually next to impossible. 

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Though the place is definitely a bastion of fine dining (what with its pristine white table cloths, napkins which have been discreetly re-folded as you return from the loo and specifically designated little tool they use for brushing off the bread crumbs) the overall ambiance is surprisingly laid back and free from any kind of awkwardness. 

Even when Chef Wagner himself is doing rounds in the dining room, making sure everyone's enjoying themselves. 

Perhaps it's the jolly nature of Gothenburgers? Or perhaps we've become one of those pompous snobs about to choke on our inflated sense of importance (hardly - we did see prime examples of those in the clientele...) ? The old building, too, lends the atmosphere a suitably rustic and homely touch.

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As the rest of the world wailed and held vigil for Donald Trump's first 100 days in the Oval Office (and, subsequently, in charge of the largest nuclear weapon arsenal known to man), we focused on something altogether more cheerful: my birthday. 

So we kicked off our lunch jovially with Champagne (Taittinger Réserve Brut, 180 SEK/ €18 a glass).

After all, how many times does one get to celebrate her 27th 30th well, birthday?

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We continued with the Champagne through the first course, too.

Beautiful and light dish where the tastes and textures were just so spot on. 

"This has a whole host of... flavours", the date pointed out, clearly delighted.

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The truffle beurre blanc which accompanied the main course was dreamily light and billowy. And come on - it came with deep-fried oysters! What's not to love!

(There's rather a vulgar expression in Finnish which would state "at this point I was peeing honey". Good job I'm not vulgar...)

Halfway through the dish Gotheburger stopped and just stared at the dish, sighing how he never wanted it to end. 

Coastal Sweden on the plate. And it, my friends, is glorious. The wine pairing for this was a beautiful Sancerre picked by the sommelier (140 SEK/ 14.50 € a glass). Deeeelish!

(While I do love Gothenburger more than anything, part of me couldn't help but longingly think of Cat Blogger who at this point would have launched into one of her unimitable reviews along the lines of "could I please have this in powdered form so I could just snort it directly into my brains?")

Oh yes, good job we're not vulgar at all. 

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The pudding's consistency couldn't have been more perfect, though the rhubarb compote wasn't an instant hit in my eyes. The ginger snap did, however, lend nice contrast in both taste and texture.

(PS. Do notice my date's Outfit Of The Day- posing fingers, so religiously employed by all those 13-year-old "fashion and lifestyle" bloggers. Perhaps his explosure to the blogosphere has reached a point where it's no longer healthy...?)

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With espressos and two bottles of mineral water the total for the lunch came to roughly €208.

And what did the burger bro say? "Dear me that was delicious! Why don't I come here more often?"

I would say the choice was excellent. Max and Sibylla can wait until next trip. Though, between you an me, I think I'll go ahead and book a table at Koka, too

You know, just in case.

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Do you have any recommendations to Gothenburg? What are the places that have stolen your hearts (and waistlines...) ?

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Adolf Edelvärds gata 5
41451 Göteborg

tel. +46 31 775 59 20

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