beet salad with eggs, green peas and dill mayonnaise

plated

You could call this recipe a ‘happy accident’. A mash-up of sorts, the initial concept created from various leftovers in the fridge.

Not just any leftovers. I’d just completed two catering jobs within the space of one week, both of which focused largely on canapés and healthy finger-food. After plating everything from mushroom and truffle pies to artichoke and pea crostini, I naturally had bits and pieces left in Tupperware containers throughout the fridge. Being one who hates waste, I set to work on ‘being inventive’.

It wasn’t that hard really. I’m a naturally intuitive cook so I soon turned leftover rice paper rolls into a Thai-inspired salad (with a spicy lime dressing) and excess cheese into an artichoke and goat cheese flatbread. Leftover herbs became a herb-infused oil that slicked brightly across boiled new potatoes, whilst excess stone fruit was char-grilled and paired with the last wedge of roquefort.

beet2 stems

Towards the end of the week, I tackled some leftover condiments that were specifically made for the catering jobs (in other words, I hadn’t sterilised jars for long-term canning, hashtag amateur). There was a tub of beet relish, two jars of Thai peanut sauce, a jar of creamy herb mayonnaise and a Tupperware container of lemon avocado cream.

The peanut sauce was easy. It loaned itself beautifully to tofu stir-fries and Asian dishes, whilst the avocado cream was simply piled on toast (before being liberally adorned with chilli flakes). I used half of the herb mayo in a potato salad with bacon and shallots and then, on a whim, I decided to use the rest in ‘something Swedish’.

aioli

If you’re new to this blog, I’d better explain: Sweden wasn’t just a random culinary destination. Aaron and I have family in Malmö (on the Southern-most tip of Sweden, separated from Denmark by the Øresund Strait) and we spent our Summer holidays there in mid-2014 eating plenty of rye bread, salmon and thick mayonnaise (read about our trip here and here).

Swedes definitely like mayonnaise. In fact, they even sell mayonnaise in squeezy toothpaste tubes, same with caviar and mustard. I figured the residual mayonnaise would work beautifully with the leftover beet relish in a salad of sorts, combined with butter leaf lettuce, boiled eggs, shelled green peas and fragrant dill.

aerial aiolispoon

The salad was rather beautiful to eat. Summery and fresh, crunchy with fresh vegetables and creamy from the dollops of herb mayonnaise. It wasn’t exactly rocket science; the flavours aren’t new and I didn’t reinvent the Scandinavian wheel. However, we ate it with roasted sweet potatoes and something tomato-ey (roasted, I think) and both Aaron and I were happy. I was just glad to have conquered the pile of leftovers. It was good.

For that reason, I didn’t think further of this salad until late last week. It slipped into the corner of my mind, replaced by notes for chia puddings (my next post) and spelt sourdough (I am so excited Sandra!). But last Friday, Aaron and I were walking the dog in a local park when he stated: ‘I really liked that salad you made, the one with the eggs in it?’. ‘Oh, yeah, you mean the beet one?’. ‘Yeah, I think so. It was good’.

It was good.

Let me put this in context. Aaron hardly ever comments on my cooking these days, unless something is exceptionally good (e.g. this slice) or exceptionally bad (I once knocked a jar of smoked sea salt into a roasting tray of hand-cut chips). So, to get a comment from him about a salad made from leftovers? That’s enough for a blog post.

beets

So, fast forward to today and this little post on leftover salad. I decided to write my recipe notes down with some photos in case, you know, you’ve got leftover mayo and boiled eggs in the fridge (and a husband who likes both!).

As per most salad recipes, it’s more of a concept than a science, so I’d encourage you to play with substitutions and inclusions if you like the basic premise (beetroot + mayonnaise + eggs + dill). Steamed asparagus, extra capers, cooked quinoa or sliced avocado would combine beautifully, as would a little grated horseradish or mustard in the mayonnaise.

top

I switched my original use of butter lettuce to spinach and beet greens for the purposes of this blog post, mostly as I love beet greens and I hate waste (the larger, more robust leaves from this bunch were eaten last night, sautéed in olive oil with shallots, garlic and a little bit of salt). However, both Aaron and I ate some of this salad for lunch today and his preference is still for the lettuce (because, crunch). My vote is for spinach and beet greens, so… each to their own, I guess.

Either way, give this salad a go. It’s a beautiful accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats, pumpernickel or rye bread, gravadlax (for the true Swedish feel) or crispy-skinned salmon. I’d even go as far as serving horseradish on the side, for a spicy little kick (just make sure it’s from a tube!).

Beet salad with eggs, green peas and dill mayonnaise

Serves 2 as a light meal, 4 as a side salad

for the beets:

  • 1 bunch raw baby beets (leaves still attached, if possible)
  • 1/2 small Spanish (red) onion, thinly sliced
  • good quality olive oil
  • aged balsamic vinegar
  • red wine vinegar
  • a drizzle of honey or rice malt syrup
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

for the salad:

  • 2-3 boiled eggs, sliced into rounds
  • 1 cup cooked green peas (preferably fresh)
  • 1 cup (packed) washed and dried baby spinach leaves
  • torn soft green herbs (optional, I used both parsley and mint)
  • extra dill, extra to serve
  • extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
  • freshly cracked black pepper

dill mayonnaise:

  • 1/2 cup (150g) homemade aïoli or whole-egg mayonnaise
  • 1 tbs finely chopped green olives
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (some chopped fresh chervil or tarragon wouldn’t go astray here)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

To cook the beets: preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (356 degrees f). Detach leaves from beetroot, wash the small, tender ones well and set them aside (you’ll add these to your salad later. Keep the rest of the beet greens!).

Wash your beetroot well under cold running water, trim any stray roots and tough bits of skin with a small, sharp knife. Pat beetroot dry with a paper towel, then cut them into even-sized wedges. Place them into a shallow, foil-lined baking tray then splash over some good olive oil, some aged balsamic, red wine vinegar, water, sea salt and cracked pepper (I don’t strictly follow any quantities here… basically, you want to create enough liquid for the beetroot to initially steam, then caramelise with a sticky, delicious glaze. Make sure there’s about 0.5-1cm of liquid covering the base of your tray before putting it in the oven). Toss to coat, then cover with another layer of foil.

foil

Place your tray into the preheated oven and cook for about 30 minutes until the beets start to soften. Remove the foil and add in your sliced onion, then return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, mixing occasionally, until the liquid has reduced, the onion is translucent and slightly browned and the beetroot is caramelised and soft. Remove the tray from them oven, then allow to cool.

Mayonnaise: while the beets are cooking, mix all of the ingredients for the dill mayo in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside until you assemble your salad.

To assemble: I like to do this in layers. Start with a handful of spinach, a few of the larger beet greens, some soft herbs, peas, beets and caramelised onions. Dollop over a little of the mayonnaise, then carefully place over some rounds of egg. Repeat the process, finishing with some extra sprigs of dill weed and a drizzle of any pan juices from the beets and onions (this creates lovely pink splashes on the egg and mayonnaise. You can skip this step if you think it’s a little garish!).

table

leaving sweden + gun’s köttbullar (swedish meatballs)

countryside

It’s a bittersweet day today. As I write, I’m aboard an aircraft due to arrive in Berlin, Germany, in approximately half an hour. Pretty darn exciting. But in spite of our pending German adventures, I’m carrying a weight on my chest that refuses to dissipate. I’m sad to be leaving Sweden behind.

The last two weeks have passed in a blur of nasal congestion and activity. Fourteen days of precious family time, the highlight of which was my cousin’s wedding last Saturday night. Aaron and I felt incredibly honoured, humbled and blessed just to be on the guest list, never mind being part of the family. My cousin and her groom are two of those rare gems that you hope to meet in a lifetime: warm, generous, fun and completely genuine. It was a privilege to see them commit the rest of their lives to one another, surrounded by those who love them the most.

It’s been fifteen days since I wrote the two paragraphs above. Over the past two weeks, Aaron and I have traveled from Malmö (Sweden) to Copenhagen (Denmark) to Berlin and Munich (Germany). This morning, we boarded a train to Venice (Italy) where we will spend the next three days before traveling to Florence, Siena and Rome.

Tiring? Yeah, a little. But after seven years without an overseas adventure, I’m savouring every moment.

flowers

sunsetAnyway, in my last post I promised to share my Aunt’s Swedish meatball recipe with you. However fragmented internet access has delayed my intentions. Below, you will find the notes that I took whilst cooking with my Aunt several weeks ago. As you can see, measurements are approximate (largely as my Aunt adds seasoning by sight rather than precise quantity). The recipe is rather forgiving, however I’ll add any adjustments as required when I have the opportunity to recreate this recipe at home.

But for now, please enjoy this second visit to my Aunt and Uncle’s Swedish kitchen. Thanks again Uncle Harlen, Aunty Gun, Nattis, Rach, Dani (and the little ones) for your immense generosity, warmth and love. Until we meet again.

plate1

Gun’s Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs)

Makes approximately 70 meatballs

  • 800g pork mince (not too lean, you need a little fat for moisture)
  • 800g good quality beef mince
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 egg, to bind
  • lots of seasoning, probably about 3 tsp total (my Aunt uses Aromat seasoned salt, citron pepper (lemon pepper) and mixed ground pepper; if you’re game, season and mix before dabbing a tiny bit of mince on your tongue. It should be rather salty, as the seasoning will lessen after frying)
  • 1 tsp white caster sugar
  • 1 brown onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
  • plain flour, for rolling
  • butter* for frying
  • To serve: boiled potatoes (season with salt), steamed green peas or beans, lingön sylt (lingonberry sauce; available at most IKEA stores) and brunsås (brown gravy).

In a small dish, combine breadcrumbs and milk. Stir well. Leave to soak for five minutes (or until the breadcrumbs have expanded to absorb all of the liquid).

Add to a large bowl with the pork and beef mince, egg, onion, garlic (if using), sugar and seasonings. Mix well (you may need to use your hands).

mincemixing mixing

When combined, dab a tiny bit of mince onto your tongue to check for saltiness. If you can’t taste salt, add more (my Aunt advises that it is better for it to be a ‘tiny bit too salty’ as the seasoning will be less intense after frying).

When you are happy with the flavour of your mince, place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill (this might not be necessary on a cold day). Prepare a shallow bowl of flour for rolling and dab about 1 tbsp of butter into a heavy-based frying pan in preparation for frying.

When your mixture is firm and sufficiently chilled, roll 1 tbsp of mixture into a firm ball. Gently toss the meatball into the flour mixture, ensuring an even coating. Tap off any excess flour and place the meatball onto a clean plate in preparation for frying. Repeat with the remaining meat mixture and flour.

rolled

To fry: heat the butter over medium heat until frothy. Add the meatballs in an even layer (you may need to cook three batches to avoid overcrowding the pan) and turn the heat up to medium-high. Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes or until browned and cooked through. frying

Drain on paper towels before serving 6-10 meatballs per person. For a traditional Swedish meal, accompany the meatballs with brunsås, lingön sylt, plenty of boiled potatoes and green beans.

meatballs plate2

*Do not substitute oil for butter in the frying stage or the meatballs will not taste the same. If you’re concerned about the butter burning, add a splash of neutral flavoured oil to the pan alongside the butter.

malmowaterfrontreflection

kanelbullar (swedish cinnamon buns)

outoftheoven2

With each day that passes, I feel more and more blessed to be in Malmö, Sweden. Each morning, Aaron and I have woken to dappled light through curtains and the gentle sound of waves against the nearby pier.

Upon entering the kitchen, we’ve been met with a heaving table full of rye bread, cold cuts, various cheeses, jordgubbe marmelad (strawberry jam), fruit, butter and hot tea. The generosity of this spread has only been surpassed by the warmth of my Uncle and Aunt’s hospitality; they are truly the most beautiful of people and I feel blessed to call them family.

lauraharbor

Despite suffering from a persistent cold over the past week, I’ve seen quite a lot of the Southern part of Sweden (Skåne). We’ve eaten fried herring and gravadlax (cured salmon) by the seaside, climbed the rocks of Ales Stenar in Kåseberga and toured the town of Ystad (of Henning Mankell’s Wallander fame). We’ve also taken multiple trips down to Malmö harbor to sit, breathe and watch the sun set. 

Last week, we also become acquainted with a Swedish specialty, Kalles Kaviar and uh… the video series below pretty much reflects my tasting experience. Let’s just call it ‘Swedish Vegemite‘.

 

However, despite the negative Kalles experience, there are many Swedish foods that I’ve actually loved. Surprisingly, one is Mimosa Sallad (a mixture of fruit and mayonnaise, to be eaten with cold cuts and bread) which I’ve pretty much eaten every morning since I arrived. Yes, I dislike mayonnaise, but… it’s good. Go figure.

mix

Last Sunday, my Uncle and Aunt also treated me to a day of Swedish cooking lessons, beginning with Kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon buns) and ending with Köttbullar (Swedish meatballs).

After an afternoon of kneading, mixing, frying, chatting and drooling in a cinnamon-scented cloud, the entire family came over for a traditional Swedish dinner: piles of köttbullar, boiled potatoes, peas, brown gravy and lingon sylt (lingonberry jam) followed by hot coffee and warm kanelbullar.

flour

Aaron and I were in Swedish food heaven. So were the rest of the family, judging from the contented sounds and expressions around the table. By the end of the night, our table of seven adults and two children had devoured around thirty kanelbullar. It’s not our fault, they were baked whilst the köttbullar were frying, so… uh, we ate a few as an entree. And a few more with hot milk before going to bed.

Warm cinnamon buns can do that to you.

My Uncle and Aunt were both kind enough to share their recipes with me so that both you and I could reproduce traditional Swedish fare at home. Today I’m sharing my Uncle’s recipe for kanelbullar (which was passed to him from his friend Annette) so get ready to enter your own cinnamon scented cloud of sweet content…

outoftheoven

Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Buns)

Makes 40

Please note: I had a little bit of trouble with metric conversions (as Swedish cooks tend to use ‘litres’ and ‘decilitres’ for measurement of dry ingredients) but hopefully the quantities below are correct; please let me know if you have any difficulties.

Dough:

  • 50g fresh yeast
  • 150g salted butter or margarine
  • 500ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 175g white caster sugar
  • 1.5kg plain flour

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the milk, salt and sugar into the butter, then heat until ‘finger warm’ (lukewarm). Transfer into a large bowl and crumble in the fresh yeast. Stir until completely dissolved.

flourbowlf

At this point you can either use your hands (old-fashioned kneading) or use a mixer with a dough hook attachment. If using a mixer, gradually add in the flour until the mixture forms a ball (there should be no visible flour left in the bowl). The dough should be smooth and non-sticky to touch. Cover with a clean tea-towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place to rest for 30 minutes.

If hand-kneading, turn the mixture out onto a clean, floured surface when the flour is thoroughly combined. Knead until the dough is smooth and non-sticky (my Finnish/Swedish aunty said that her mother used to ‘throw the dough on the table for the yeast to activate’). Return to the bowl, cover with a clean tea-towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

dough

Whilst the dough is resting, make your filling as follows.

ingredients

Filling:

  • 120g salted butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar*
  • 100g white caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp powdered cinnamon
  • to glaze: 1 free-range egg, lightly whisked

Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk by hand or with a whisk attachment until smooth, thick and creamy.

* If you can’t find vanilla sugar, just add in an extra tablespoon of caster sugar and about 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste.

filling

Set aside in a cool place (not the fridge, as it’ll be too difficult to spread later) until the dough is thoroughly rested.

To assemble:

Set out two flat oven trays. Place 20 paper patty pan cases onto each, then set aside.

Prepare the kanelbullar: after 30 minutes, your dough should have doubled in size. Turn it onto a floured surface and punch out the air. Cut the dough into four pieces for easy rolling, then roll the first piece into a large rectangle (about 5mm thick).

preparingdough1 fillingspread

Evenly spread 1/4 of the cinnamon filling over the dough with a butter knife or spatula.

Roll the dough away from you into a tight cylinder.

roll cut

Cut into ten pieces (about 3cm for each), then place each piece into a patty pan case (cut side up).

buns

Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.

Cover each tray of kanelbullar with a clean tea-towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place for another 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Half way through the second resting time, pre-heat your oven to 225 degrees C (435 degrees f). When the kanelbullar have rested, use a pastry brush to glaze each bun with beaten egg.

glaze1 glaze2

Bake each tray for 8-10 minutes or until risen and light golden brown.

These buns are best eaten warm, straight out of the oven with a hot cup of coffee. They definitely won’t last long (the picture below is annoyingly out of focus as little fingers were moving too fast… but I love it anyway. My cousin’s five year old daughter managed to eat five kanelbullar on her own, with keen fingers and an excited grin. Impressive!).

aliciabullar

If you don’t consume these buns within two days, freeze them in an airtight container or bag for up to one month (just microwave each bun for a few seconds until warm and soft again).

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