Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nettle Soup and Cloudberries

While we have been in Sweden we have been so well looked after by Michael and Carina.  Michael is Craig's colleague from the University of Gothenburg.  They have taken us to some great places and we have had some wonderful meals.  They are great foodies and even better company.  One such wonderful meal was had at their place on the Thursday of Easter, which for the uninitiated, should be called Maundy Thursday.  The meal was prepared in their new kitchen.  For those of you who are trendies - including my amazing children and their partners, balck and white kitchens are the rage here in the country of design. 
Carina is a keen and very good gardener.  Here she shows us her garden and you can see the glass conservatory at the back of the house.  Not a great garden photo as it was the beginning of Spring and nothing much had grown yet.

Before dinner we took a walk in the nearby forest where Michael and Carina go foraging for ingredients and, in this case for the nettle leaves for our first course, nettle soup.  They also pick lingonberries which are really lovely and used in a whole lot of sauces, both sweet and savoury.

In the woods, you sometimes see these little fellows, squirrels, with interesting haircuts.  This guy was actually snapped by Craig in our backyard at Konstepidemin

To make the nettle soup you pick the very tender top leaves off the nettle plants.  They become the green part of the soup, which is made with chicken stock. 
Michael is about to eat his soup.

He told us that after Chernobyl, for ten years they could not pick the nettles.  The funny thing was that the government told people this the day after Michael and his mother had eaten a big bowl of the soup.  "But I am still here" he said with his usual wry grin.

The next course was pickled herring.  Three kinds.  We have become great fans of this staple Swedish dish.  The pickling is quite sweet and you must always eat pickled herring with boiled potatoes while drinking schnapps.  Several varieties.  Here is Craig with pickled herring, boiled potatoes and a glass of schnapps, looking very rosy faced.  Because we were leaving for Sotckholm the next morning, I had to give him a haircut for the first time ever so he is looking quite shorn.

The schnapps is shown above at the end of the table, including two of Michael's own concotions in the blue topped bottles.  Michael makes everything from scratch if he can and makes the best biskvit, which are biscuits filled with chocolate mousse and covered in dark chocolate.
Next was smoked salmon - again with boiled potatoes.  Michael and Carina are great at making sure we can try traditional dishes. Michael always tells us about a dish and says - "and it must be eaten with potatoes".  There are a lot of different varieties of potatoes in the supermarket and, tradtionally, each one must be eaten with certain meats.

We finished off the meal with the most amazing sauce on ice cream.  The sauce was made from cloudberries which only grow in the wild in northern Sweden.  They have a wonderful flavour which is hard to compare with anything we know.  Unfortunately, the schnapps must have caught up with us by this stage because I forgot to photograph the ice cream and cloudberry sauce - and I had two servings!

We have, as I said, shared many wonderful meals with our friends.  One of the more memorable was in a Gothenburg restaurant called Linne, which is decorated with Kosta Boda glass.  I have mentioned before that we are devotees of Kosta Boda glass, so this was a special treat.  And the food was great as well.

Here is a pic of Michael and Carina in front of an assemblage of faces by one of our favourite artists, Khell Engman.  (more about him in a later blog)

Adn some of the glass pieces.  Most did not photograph well on the I Phone.

When Craig's sister, Sue and her husband Colin visited us recently here in Sweden, we had yet another great Axelsson meal.  But I can't find the photos.

More meals and travels coming up as I attempt to catch up with the blogging in the next few days.

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