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Swedish Candy!

I’ve been doing work in Sweden lately and staying a couple weeks at a time. Last time I traveled there, I thought I would bring home a large assortment of Swedish candy, which is quite different from the Canadian Candy we know. I picked up a small assortment myself, but I mentioned this to my Swedish colleagues, and they surprised me with a large sac full of assorted candy.

In this post, I’ll place a description of each type of candy under its photo as well as a review and rating. There are a few distinct categories of candy here:

  1. Gummy and gummy variants
  2. Licorice – Salty, sweet, hard and soft.
  3. Deliberately unpleasant candy
  4. Astounding chocolate

So here we go:
1. Gummy and gummy variants
This includes gummy and semi-gummy marshmallowy candies which seems to be in abundance.

Gummies 1

Half-citrus, half-berry gummies. A little more solid than classic gummies. Very nice.Gummies 2

A mix of red and black licorice. Again, more solid than gummies. A little less solid than the tougher licorice. Not salty, but sweet licorice. Good stuff. Gummies 3

Absolutely classic, quintessential gummy bears. The original. Truly soft and gummy. Pretty much perfect.

Gummies 5Cross between the tougher gummies and marshmallows. This is a fairly common candy type there. Chewy, fun to eat, sweet and kind of meh.

Gummies 6Juleskum! LOL. Christmas time treats. Christmas marshmallows that are kind of the texture of the marshmallow peanut candies that are ubiquitous in North America. Of the flavour, I can only say that they’re pink and white flavour…

2. Licorice
Licorice comes in huge variety in Sweden. Various levels of hardness, saltiness, and sweetness make for dozens of offerings

Licorice 1Tough gummies that are salty licorice. You can see the salt and sugar coating. Not too salty, and very pleasant.

Licorice 2These are salt licorice versions of the tough, marshmallowy cars above.  I couldn’t taste the difference between the black and brown ones but then the a-salt (ha!) on your tongue after a couple leaves no ability to discern subtlety.

Licorice 3Just like the fish above, but more of the skull and crossbones shapes. Coated in a salty coating.

Licorice 4I liked these the best of the licorice. Basically a wonderful variation of the licorice all-sorts. Fresh, tasty and full of variety. Will definitely buy more.Licorice 5This was an interesting mix of licorice and fruit paste flavours. Salty but nice.Licorice 6Gummy licorice with only a little salt. Nice.Licorice 7More sweet and toothsome. My favourite pure licorice.

3. Deliberately Unpleasant Candy
We have this category in North America, too (sour patch? super-hot cinnamon? hello?) It seems their thing is salt and heat, but mostly salt. My goodness, but some of this stuff is salty.

Unpleasant 2Unpleasant 4To be fair this is Danish Candy  (I picked it up at the Copenhagen central train station). These were terribly, disgustingly salty. They had a very salty outer coating, sweeter hard candy and then a powdery centre of ultra saltiness.  My goodness, but these were awful.

Unpleasant 3Well, these were the three-alarm variety. This is candy for those who like things hot — folks who find the hottest hot sauce. Not for  casual enjoyment.

4. Chocolate

Chocolate 1Chocolate 6Oh. My. Goodness. This may well be the best chocolate treat ever invented. In Canada we have Caramilk — a chocolate bar enrobing soft caramel. Imagine excellent European chocolate surrounding salty-sweet licorice that’s as sooth as caramel. Unbelievably good.

Chocolate 2 Chocolate 3So, while Canadian chocolate has not been ruined like much of the American chocolate that’s broadly available, Scandinavian chocolate is simply wonderful. Creamy and delicious, without being waxy or too sweet.Chocolate 4 Chocolate 5Paradis is kind of like a super high quality Swedish version of Pot O’ Gold chocolates. A holiday tradition and every Swede seems to know all the flavours.  Again, amazing chocolate quality and lovely fillings, although tuned to the Swedish sense of what makes a good filling. Elderflower and others may seem strange to the North American palate.

Tennesee Country Ham

Ah… country ham. It’s pretty much unknown here in Canada. It’s a southern treat that has a character all its own and completely distinct from the “city ham” we are used to here. Here‘s a breakdown of how they differ.

On our first trip to Nashville, we had country ham for breakfast one day, served with Red Eye gravy. It was a revelation. Salty, meaty and with a depth we weren’t prepared for. Of course it goes perfectly with the gravy made from the ham drippings, some black coffee and a little brown sugar.

For a family holiday dinner this year, I decided to try a whole salt and sugar cured country ham, bought by mail order from the Loveless Cafe out of Nashville.

A country ham is no picnic. It’s a multi-day prep process to make this ham ready to eat. When you remove the wrapping, it’s covered in a fine mold from being hung for up to two years, kind of like an aged cheese. It was also well, a little funky. After a good brushing, the ham needed to soak in water for two days with complete water changes twice a day. Removing the hock (the large knot of bone at one end of the ham) is optional but requires a saw. I opted to leave it in.

Country Ham 1Country Ham 2

Country Ham 3Country Ham 4After the skin is removed, you score the fat and bake the ham for 4 hours or so. With an hour to go, you brush on some glaze to caramelize onto the ham. I used some of Loveless Cafe’s amazing peach preserves, ginger and some grainy mustard.

Country Ham 5Country Ham 6

Country Ham 7Country Ham 8When the ham was finished baking, the glaze was shiny and cooked on and the ham smelled delicious. I let it sit for a half-hour before carving  into slices with an electric knife. It was juicy, smoky, sweet and a little salty with more depth and complexity than other ham I’ve had.

Country Ham 10

Country Ham 13We served the ham with biscuits, scalloped potatoes, a brussel sprout hash made with pecans and a maple basalmic vinaigrette, mustard pickles, and some of those best-ever peach preserves.

Country Ham 9Having the freshly carved ham is great, but the next morning, having it with freshly baked biscuits is really the raison d’etre for this ham. It’s its calling. There’s a reason ham and biscuits is a time-honoured Southern tradition, and now it’s one of ours.

Texas in a Bowl

I’m not a huge fan of bottled salsas. Something is lost in the translation from fresh. They are often too hot or too sweet with no real depth of flavour. I can barely tell one commercial brand from the next. Even smaller boutique varieties with their mango and corn entries, tend to miss the mark. In a word they are …boring. Recently one of my neighbours brought by a bottle of locally made Texas salsa. I was skeptical as I am with all bottled salsas now. I have since tried both the regular and smoky varieties and can affirm that both are excellent. I won’t buy any other salsa. My search is over. Texas salsa combines the right textures, a rich, smoky, roasted tomato puree with small chunks of onion, jalepeno and avocado, brightened with lime, cilantro, cumin and some back heat. Pairs well with ultra thin tortilla chips (we like Xochitl) without breaking. Not being super chunky makes it a perfect taco topper as well. Available at corner stores in Sandy Hill in Ottawa and at some farmers’ markets. A portion of sales benefit the homeless which is indeed very nice but should in no way affect your reason to buy this product. It stands on it’s own as the best bottled salsa I have tried to date.

Texas Salsa 1Texas Salsa 3

Goan Dinner Party

I have wanted to cook Goan food since our trip to Austin, Texas and a visit to G’raj Mahal in February. The layered, warmly-spiced, creamy sauces are intoxicating. Goa, being a northern coastal region of India, incorporates a lot of chilies, coconut milk and seafood into their dishes. The heat of our current summer also made me want some spice and beer, to share with good friends on a lazy weekend.

Indian food is the kind of cooking I love. It begins with perusing my cookbooks and the web for recipes, a trip to an ethnic grocery store, and an entire day cooking in the kitchen. Zen.

Naan bread was purchased from our local Indian takeout joint. Unless you have a tandoor oven, naan is never quite right.

Our Menu

  • Naan
  • Chicken Makhani
  • Saag Paneer
  • Aloo Gobi
  • Goan-style Coconut Shrimp Curry
  • Coconut Scented Basmati Rice
  • Coconut Sport Ice Cream with Grilled Pineapple and Candied Fennel Seeds


Chicken Makhani
(adapted from online recipes posted by Sayed Saquib)
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, slit to absorb marinade.

Marinade:
1 tsp kosher salt
2 1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 cup yogurt (I used goat’s milk yogurt)
1 cup white vinegar
2 tsp ginger/garlic paste (available at Indian grocers)*

Sauce:
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
1/4 cup grated khoya
1/4 cup ground cashews**
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, plus 1/4 juice
1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp all spice
2 1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 cup cream

Method:
1. Marinate chicken for at least 15 minutes or longer. Remove from marinade and discard marinade.
2. Grill chicken on bbq for 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes and then cut into large chunks and put aside.
3. Heat butter in a large saucepan and saute ginger/garlic paste until it begins to brown.
4. Add khoya and ground cashews.
5. Stir in remaining ingredients except cream and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
6. Turn heat to low and stir in cream.
7. Add chicken back in and heat through for 10 minutes.

Serve with basmati rice or naan bread. This recipe is even better if made in the morning and left to sit all day in  the fridge so the flavours can develop.

* Ginger/garlic paste is sold in small and large bottles. It is a nice time saver in many Indian and Asian dishes that call for both ingredients, and provides a more mellow flavor than raw ginger and garlic. You will not find yourself burping up garlic after the fact.

**I use an electric coffee grinder to grind spices and nuts (I don’t grind coffee in it ever as that would flavour both the spices and the coffee).

For a printable version of this recipe, click HERE.

 

Ginger-Garlic Paste – a nice time-saver.
Ground cashew – a wonderful, rich thickener.

Saag Paneer (adapted from Canadian Living Magazine, September 2009)
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
11 ounce pkg of spinach (baby spinach, washed and ready to use)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seed, toasted for about 10 seconds and then ground in a mortar and pestle
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbsp ghee or butter
3 tsp garlic /ginger paste or 3 cloves of garlic minced and 2 tsp finely grated ginger
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp cayenne and a pinch of Kashmiri red chili powder if you have it. It adds a nice heat.
1/2 tsp salt
1/ tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch cinnamon
3 plum tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped***
Just under 1/3 cup of cream
1/3 cup roasted cashews, ground
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp garam masala
8 ounce pkg paneer, cubed

Method:
1. In a large pot of water, blanch spinach until just wilted; drain, chill under cold water and drain again. Reserve a 1/4 cup of cooking liquid. Puree the liquid, cashews and spinach in a food processor or blender until smooth.
2. In a large, deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and ghee, cook until onion is golden, about 8 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium and stir in garlic/ginger paste. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in fresh cilantro, cayenne, kashmiri red chili powder, salt, ground coriander, turmeric and cinnamon. Cook, stirring until very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and continue to cook until tomatoes break down, about three minutes.
4. Stir in spinach mixture, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until steaming hot, about more three minutes.
5. Measure out the cream in a small bowl. Whisk a little of the hot spinach mixture into the cream to temper it so it won’t curdle. Add to hot saucepan. Stir in lemon juice and garam masala. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and add paneer. Cook covered until heated through, about two minutes.

*** To peel tomatoes easily for this recipe, put a large saucepan of water on to boil (you need it to blanch the spinach anyways). Cut deep crosses in the bottom of the tomatoes. When water boils, drop them in for about 15 seconds. Remove and run under cold water while slipping the skins off.

For a printable version of this recipe, click HERE.

Aloo Gobi (adapted from www.quickindiancooking.com)
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
3 very large red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 cauliflower cut into florets
1 tbsp ghee
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp garlic/ginger paste or 1 clove garlic minced and 1/2 inch ginger, grated
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup frozen peas

1. Heat the ghee and fry the onion and garlic/ginger paste. Throw in the potatoes, turmeric, chili powder, coriander and cumin.Add about a 1/2 cup of water, cover and cook the potatoes.
2. When the potatoes are almost cooked but still a little resistant to a fork, add the cauliflower. Cover the pot until cauliflower becomes soft. Be sure to add the cauliflower before the potatoes are fully cooked otherwise they will overcook. Toss in the frozen peas and heat through
3. Add salt and garam masala. Dish should be dry.

For a printable version of this recipe, click HERE.

Goan-style Coconut Shrimp Curry (Adapted from Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur)
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
2 pounds wild-caught gulf shrimp
1/2 tsp kosher salt plus 1/2 tsp
1/4 tsp black pepper plus a 1/4 tsp
1/8 tsp cayenne and/or Kashmiri red chili powder for more heat (this dish is not hot)
Juice of two limes
1/4 cup canola oil
4 dried red chilies
2 tsp garlic/ginger paste or 2 cloves garlic minced and 1 inch ginger, minced
1 sweet, white onion, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
8-10 curry leaves (optional)
1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tbsp tamarind paste concentrate (available at Asian Markets)
1/2 tsp medium curry powder
1 can coconut milk
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Method:
1. Peel and clean shrimp. Place in a resealable freezer bag. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, cayenne and lime juice. Mix well. Put in refrigerator and marinate for a half hour but not longer. If you need more time for prep or waiting on guests, take the shrimp out of the marinade at this time so the citrus does not “cook” the shrimp.
2. In a saute pan over medium-high heat, combine oil and chilies and cook for about two minutes. add 1/4 tsp black pepper and cook for another minute. Add garlic/ginger paste, onion, and 1/2 tsp salt. Saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ground coriander, turmeric, shredded coconut and curry leaves. Continue sauteing for another minute until fragrant.
3. Reduce heat to medium low and add tomatoes and their juices and the tamarind paste. Stir, scraping sides and bottom of pot, for 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.
4. Stir in curry powder and cook for 1 minute. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil and add shrimp. Simmer until shrimp are opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in cilantro.
5. Serve with basmati rice.

For a printable version of this recipe, click HERE.

 

Coconut-Scented Basmati Rice
Using the traditional stove top method or in a rice cooker, make enough rice for your guests. Substitute coconut water, widely available now, for the water or cooking liquid.

Coconut Sport Ice Cream with Grilled Pineapple and candied Fennel Seed
Purchase cardamom, coconut (coconut “sport” or macapuno, being a mutant variety of coconut with softer, juicier meat), or mango ice cream, whatever your heart desires. Get a denuded, cored fresh pineapple at your grocers and cut it into 6 rings. Grill it to cook it and bring out its sweetness. Get some nice grill marks on there. Take it off the grill and cut it into chunks and toss with a little brown sugar and butter. Serve over ice cream and sprinkle with candied fennel seeds –  which Rob could not find at the Indian Food market but curiously found them at Loblaws.

The meal was a huge success. Here are our impressions of each dish:

  • Naan – We didn’t make this but it was great Naan – rich, slightly sweet and savoury and great for not wasting a drop of those amazing sauces.
  • Chicken Makhani – Rich and luscious.  The goat-yogurt marinated chicken was grilled before adding to the sauce, so the charred and caramelized smokiness was a great foil for the bright tomato and yogurt flavours.
  • Saag Paneer – This was surprisingly the spiciest item on the menu, no doubt, due to the Kashmiri red chili powder. This dish tasted like it had the most ingredients of the night. This saag was unlike others I have tried which tend to be simpler side dishes.
  • Aloo Gobi – Potatoes, cauliflower, chilies, spices, peas — yum. What’s not to like?
  • Goan-style Coconut Shrimp Curry – The star fo the show to be sure. Creamy, coconut-sweet, rich, spicy, but never overpowering the sweet delicate flavour of the shrimp. This is the style I yearned for the most since our visit to G’raj Mahal. The best of Goan-style cuisine.
  • Coconut Scented Basmati Rice – A great staple dish to carry the sauces.
  • Coconut Sport Ice Cream with Grilled Pineapple and Candied Fennel Seeds – A fitting tribute to the tropical, coastal flavours of Goa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Diner with ‘tude!

It’s another gorgeous summer day in the windy city. We have a leisurely start and decide to take a mini road trip to Wisconsin for a late lunch. Frank’s Diner in Kenosha has been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”. Frank’s covers “diners” and “dives”.

The drive to Kenosha is unremarkable highway. The Smith Falls-sized town is pretty in parts especially along the lake shore, where the mighty Lake Michigan is an incredible jade-green blue. Frank’s resides in a less picturesque part of town, the part that time left in the dust. The residents have not forgotten however, and Frank’s, a narrow, oak, ancient train car diner is orchestrated chaos at lunchtime. Diners are lined up behind the row of counter stools waiting their turn amid shouts to clear the door way that leads to a narrow addition added on to provide minimal booth seating. Outside tables are also available but you really want to be inside at the counter where the action is. And by “action”, I mean a high-speed ballet of cooking, plating and food delivery that is remarkable in such a tiny space.

Took this when we left – AFTER the lunch rush. It was far too packed and chaotic when we arrived.

From our counter stools we have a perfect view of the ancient kitchen and the short order cook. There is no room for a mise en place. Another woman reads the order tickets and places what the cook needs beside her for each order. The menu is fairly extensive for the size of the kitchen. Meanwhile, three to five others shout, take orders, berate customers, take payment, deliver plates, clear plates and grab ketchup. Barely organized chaos. But they still have time to chat and make sure each customer is happy and looked after.

Frank’s is decorated in – layers. Layers of cooking oil, layers of kitsch, layers of attitude. The patina of grease cannot be faked. Even my lungs are coated. Smoke hangs in the air over the flat top. This is no faux diner. A customer at the counter wants ketchup. The counter guy gives him a good-natured hard time. Another diner asks him if he is the owner. He asks her why she thinks that. She says “because you sound like a guy who would own this place.” He distainfully says “no, I sound like a guy with a few more years of school left then I’m outta here.” It’s that kinda joint — fast moving fast talking, slow food cooked to order.

Rob and I order the house special: The Garbage Plate. You can order half, so we each ask for half. Hash-browns, eggs, cheese and meats of your choosing, peppers, onions – jalapenos if you like. I choose cheddar with their homemade corned beef hash and Rob orders sausage and pepper jack. While we wait a server dances by briefly holding cinnamon rolls under our noses. “Yours?” No, but wow…wish they were. We continue to watch the short order cook load order after order on to the flat top….several garbage plates, burgers and pancakes one inch thick cooked to golden perfection. The show is worth the drive. I’m thinking the cook is surprisingly efficient but really she can be nothing but. The kitchen is so tiny the deep fryer is out back somewhere.

Our food arrives and it is hot and melty-delicious. Jalapenos add a nice heat. The plates come with delicious homemade toast that has been slathered in butter with an extremely heavy hand. A little grape jelly sends the toast into another dimension.

Yes. This is HALF a garbage plate.

After lunch, since we are in Kenosha, you have to visit the Jelly Belly factory in the neighbouring town of Pleasant Prairie, don’t ya? It’s on the way out of town so we stop for the 15 minute tour on the Jelly Belly Express, an interesting “Mr. Roger’s style” look at the factory that produces the tiny flavoured beans.

We learn that many flavours contain natural elements – coconut contains coconut flakes for example. I am hoping it doesn’t, but I didn’t ask if the Harry Potter vomit flavour contains any. The signature is stamped on in cornstarch ink, and that the rejects are called belly flops. All in all it was a fun tour and the factory shop has a sample bar and tons of goodies to purchase. Cue Homer Simpson voice: Mmmmmm…chocolate-covered Very Cherry Jelly Bellies.