Category Archives: Sweden

It’s no longer chicken soup for the soul ladies and gents…


It’s raspberry cheesecake and chilli chocolate muffins.

Not to out do Martha Stewart… after a day of boredom… i decided to bake… bake… and bake. Not great when you’re on a “diet”… I need to lose boob and tummy weight… even though everyone says I don’t need to (especially the boob section) but I suppose I just made that a but harder… in any case… I got a message from a friend a few days ago… asking how I was and if I wanted to meet up (in Toulouse) next week… But to be honest, I don’t know if I should. I mean, (and I am still confused about this part) after I left Stockholm, I got back to uni… and everything had changed. My guy friends just… “dropped” me. Why? I have… no idea… this guy (who I really liked… as a friend… and may I say… he tried to sleep with me a fair few times… not that THAT was going to happen) just decided… he didn’t want to be friends anymore… well to be more correct when after 3 months I still hadn’t gone for a drink with him, I asked him straight out why we had not seen each other… and he said “I don’t have the same desire to see as I did before”. Now, to be brutal… I was floored. We had never been uber close… but close enough to know each other pretty well…

So what did I do?

I got up, and made myself some new friends! Partied like a crazy person, worked hard and got over it.

So… why do I suddenly get this… request to “meet up for a drink it’s been ages”…? I have no idea… argh. Even I can’t try and psychoanalyse this shit. So I am going to have a slice of cheesecake, and a giant glass of wine… or diet coke… whatever I can get my hands on first.

If you want the recipes… here we go (at least something positive can come out of it) :

Baked Raspberry Cheesecake 

Ingredients

  • 8 digestive biscuits
  • 50g butter , melted
  • 600g cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 175g caster sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, plus 1 yolk
  • 142ml pot soured cream
  • 300g raspberries 
  • icing sugar

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Crush 8 digestive biscuits in a food processor (or put in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin). Mix with 50g melted butter. Press into a 20cm springform tin and bake for 5 minutes, then cool.
  2. Beat 600g cream cheese with 2 tbsp flour, 175g caster sugar, a few drops of vanilla extract, 2 eggs, 1 yolk and a 142ml pot of soured cream until light and fluffy. Stir in 150g raspberries and pour into the tin. Bake for 40 minutes and then check, it should be set but slightly wobbly in the centre. Leave in the tin to cool.
  3. Using the remaining 150g raspberries, keep a few for the top and put the rest in a pan with 1 tbsp icing sugar. Heat until juicy and then squash with a fork. Push through a sieve. Serve the cheesecake with the raspberry sauce and raspberries.

Dark Chocolate and Chilli Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • Chocolate cupcakes :
  • 175g (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 140g (5 oz) light muscovado sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
  • 115g (4 oz) dark chocolate, melted
  • 1 or 2 red chillies, deseeded and very finely chopped
  • Chocolate frosting :
  • 175g (6 oz) dark chocolate (above 70% cocoa solids)
  • 2 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar
  • 150ml soured cream
  • To decorate :
  • Red and green coloured marzipan
  • Red sugar sprinkles

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cases.
2. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Gradually mix in the eggs and stir in the golden syrup, flour, melted chocolate and chopped chillies.
3. Spoon into the paper cases and bake for 20 minutes or until just firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. To make the chocolate icing: chop or break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a bowl placed over a pan of steaming water, stirring until smooth. Remove the bowl to the work surface and beat in the sugar until dissolved, followed by the sour cream.
5. Spread the frosting over the cupcakes and decorate with chillies, or hearts moulded from coloured marzipan or sugar paste icing. Scatter over red sugar sprinkles.
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Let’s All Say Goodbye…. to 2011


Time Flies When... ?

Time Flies When... ?

This year has been full of ups and downs. So… what happend?

I started the year in the wonderful city of Stockholm. I had just spent six months of pure bliss there (apart from the fact that my bank account was constantly bone dry, was really only a minor bump in the road to be honest). But, the year 2011 definitely started in style. January came and went, and it thus meant I had to leave the snowy north, and return to the chilly south of France to finish my History degree. February past, and I was taught that sometimes friends do nasty things, and that sometimes you need to cut people out of your life, because they are not worth the time you spent crying about them. So I said my second of my goodbyes in the beginning of 2011. Sadly it wouldn’t be the last. However, at university everything was great, good marks, and here came March. I met some new people and made new friends. Life was back on track. I was happy at home, at university and hurrah! I found a work experience placement in an art gallery. I even lost two kilos that month! We are now slowly creeping into April… nothing particularly interesting here. Between weekends with friends, and weekends back at home to see my family, life was as mundane and everyday as you could get. With May came exams… and big decisions… What am I going to do next year? Where am I going? And what the fuck am I going to do with my life? 

Well… now here is a certain “crise existentielle” (existential crisis)… but hey, I am far too busy with exams and the occasional (or not so occasional) knees up with friends, so I am not thinking about it. 

End of May. Results… Passed! Woo hoo ! Now… here starts my month of work experience. My first day I meet two girls who are also working at the gallery like me. We shall call them Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. I get along really great with both of them, and in particular Jane Doe 1. She is moving to Bordeaux next year to finish her history of Art degree. I decide to do a second degree and join her. That explains mostly why I am now living in Bordeaux. June in finished. July is here… and I pack up my apartment, and leave to join my parents. I go back and forth between Toulouse (where my friends are) and the pyrenees (where my parents are). The summer is hot, and I decide to get my first tattoo (which, don’t worry I had been planning for many a moon). July has finished… and like every summer, I am tan-less and freckle covered. 

August is here. I start work at a restaurant with a friend as waitresses. It is fun, but very tiring. I don’t see the month pass, and I am already moving again to another town. Goodbye Toulouse, Bordeaux here I come. I arrive in Bordeaux sans flat… so like any good natured hobo, I sleep on my friends’ couch for about 2 months. Around this time, I met some guy on the internet. He seems nice, I enjoy chatting with him… and then he suddenly decides we can’t talk anymore (I will admit… I still don’t understand what the frack happened there !). In any case, we are now in October, and I have a place to live end of the month! On the seventh of October, I get a call from my mother, who announces the death of a friend. I have not known many people that have died, but I feel heartbroken. I cry and cry. For some reason, I feel like moving around so much, changing towns, cities, countries and meeting new people, I end up saying more goodbyes than hellos. Jane Doe and I have been at our new university, and I have met some amazing new people, a few I know I will be friends with for a long time. I cannot forget the past, but I decide to continue, because this is one of life’s curve balls, and I know that I need to pick myself up again, and see all the greatness in the world. 

November is “move in” time. The apartment is far too big for my little old self, so I fill it with art. I have parties, we meet new people. I get a job interview for a pub. They like me and I’m hired. I also get a letter from the Musée d’Aquitaine in Bordeaux offering me a two month work experience placement! Joy indeed. December is here, I need to buy presents and I spend far too much money on my parents, but they have made so many sacrifices, that I just want to spoil them. December is nearly gone, and it’s the 25th. I turn 23. Then it’s the 31st. A friend and I order sushi and we see the new year in sober, but that’s exactly how I want it to be.

This year has been a real eye opener. 2011 was the year of “goodbyes”. 2012 I have decided will be the year of big decisions and “hellos”. I don’t want to say anymore “goodbyes”. So I have decided to live forever. Become a millionaire, and travel the world saying hello. I will never say anymore “goodbyes,” and just say  “see you laters”. I don’t want to make any new year resolutions, because I know I won’t stick to any of them, but I also know that you can’t predict what is going to happen next, so why try and pretend we are prepared for what is going to happen, and just continue biting our nails, smoking cigarettes, sleeping around, gaining weight etc. Let’s just live life, try our best and stay true to ourselves. Yes it’s corny. Yes you’ve heard this a million time. But we all know that the same shit always happens again and again, so let’s be mentally prepared this year.

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Snow and Why it Sucks


As usual when the christmas season arrives, most people take this as an opportunity to praise the amazingness of snow. These people are utter idiots and here is why. Snow is a wet, cold substance that when it comes into contact with heat, melts. It falls from the sky at exactly 0° annnnnd is rumoured to make children very happy. It is also useful when enjoying so called “winter sports” and various “snow like activities”. It also is a figure that is deemed “christmassy” and is a common theme found in cards during the holiday season. This is how this “substance” is perceived by the public.

THEY ARE MISTAKEN.

Snow is neither a “happy” outcome of the bad and cold weather. It is a pain in the arse. Snow only appeals to those who never have any where they live… or to those who live sufficiently far away to not be obliged to have to live with it on a daily basis, ie: a person who lives in Toulouse may LOVE the snow and enjoy going snowboarding… and yet doesn’t live in a place which say, like living in the Pyrenees mountains, would have much snow, (thus not having to live with the disadvantages of snow). This person may enjoy snowboarding… but doesn’t realise that there is such thing as having “too much snow”.

I know what it means (now at least) to have “too much snow”.

– Too much snow is… not being able to drive from A to B because between these two spaces… a tree has fallen down and no one has moved it.

– Too much snow is… being too cold (and thus too lazy) to go out and get food at the shop (so you eat very random meals such as pasta with tikka masala sauce (really not that tasty), tinned peaches with stale bread (also not that great) and tea with out milk (and to all British people the world over, this is a travesty).

– Too much snow is… having to dress up like the Michelin man every time you leave your dingy (yes… snow = winter THUS = less sunlight, and in my situation also means light-bulbs have also given up hope and I being lazy (cf: example 2) have not bought any new ones.

– Too much snow is… annoying when you have to wear boots that are not always that good when coming into contact with a wet, slippery surface (and thus falling down, to the amusement I have now discovered of the Swedish population).

– Too much snow… is spending your evenings cooped up inside because there is sweet F-A to do (because of example 2 again).

– Too much snow… is having to clear a path everywhere and also having to hold on to railings when walking down stairs in case you might DIE because of the risk of said “neck braking” incidents.

– Too much snow… is just an average pain in the arse because people seem to think its not “ok” to through balls of this horrible substance at you, and this in the name of “good old fashioned (and now deemed “wholesome”) fun”. No… you can keep you snow and it’s clichéd vision of winter. Snow is great when you’re inside, warm and eating mince pies and looking out of a window. Preferable with the lingering idea of never having to leave said “house” for a long period of time (i’d recommened the whole winter season to be on the safe side).

Not to mention the risk of ILLNESS when coming in contact with this wet, cold and slippery substance. People don’t warn people enough on the dangers of snow. When mummies little darlings are outside rolling around in the snow making snow angels and what not… they don’t realise in their innocence that they are in fact rolling in a danger zone for insects, excrement, bacteria… and of course the cold (which brings deceases that KILL (cf: the flu! Ok well maybe not as much any more… but it still kills old people and weaklings!).

I will concede that this rant has taken the form of a sort of soliloquy BUT in my defence… I am in Sweden where it is undoubtably cold, wet and snowing and I can’t say this is reminiscent of any “happy memories” concerning snow (apart from the occasional seasonal card with “snow” on it). That said, I have joined in on the “snow fun” on wordpress by making my blog “snow” (but only until January 4th that is). Why do I hear you saying at your computer? Well, because THIS snow is digital. It does not bring me any of the disadvantages of real snow, and yet it keeps what the lamen call  “a Christmassy feel” etc.

Having grown up in London, where “snow” (if you can call it that) is a sludgy greyish substance that you see maybe once or twice every two to three years, I didn’t generally associate snow with christmas and the winter season. Now, living in Sweden (but having may I add the same problem in the Pyrenees mountains) snow is an occupational hasard I could gladly live without. The extreme cold I can live with… snow… not so much. I neither snowboard, ski, or play in the snow. I merely look at it through my window with disdain while I see people trudge to university or to the shops for milk.

Does everyone enjoy snow really? Are those who enjoy snow those who never have it or those who in fact come into contact with it often?

A friend from India once said that she was “jealous” that I was surrounded by snow… I on the other hand was more objective saying that I didn’t mind snow in small quantities… but neither did I envy the heat she was accustomed to in India. Are we ever satisfied with what we have? Which leads me to wonder if some people will “enjoy” the change in temperature that the world is coming into contact with due to climat change. Of course the outcome is much different. The reheating of the planet melts more icebergs… which raises the sea levels… which then return floods certains very large areas (like the shores of Bangladesh for example). Thus giving us less living space for an increasingly large population (and thus less growing space for food and meat) and there are even more ecological aspects to take into account such as the inevitable loss of certain plant, animal species for example.

This is undoubtably another subjects… which leads me to say… (and I hate to admit it)… let’s leave the snow in Sweden (and where it’s meant to be) and instead find better ways to deal with the discomfort (at least for moi!) of having to live with it… all the while not polluting (would be good too).

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Ice-Skating 101 : How Not To Fail


Ice Ice Baby!

Actually this is just me being a bit cocky! I’ve only been ice-skating once (and that was… about three hours ago). But, in my defense, I only fell once, and I went four whole times around the rink without falling ONCE! Ha! I feel however pretty good about it, and I want to share my amazing skills with you all!

This is how it sent down. It was only 50kr at Kungsträdgården. The shoes (or whatever they are called) were pretty uncomfortable (to say the least!), but once on the ice, and after the first ten minutes it really wasn’t that hard, and I went faster and faster (but in this context I just realised that it sounds like I actually was going around very fast, but please do not get your hopes up, I still was slower than everyone else!). I was very happy to say that I went round the ice rink a few times without needing to hold the edges too!

I think the trick here is to skate as though it were roller blading, I felt like it as exactly the same (except that in my opinion the stakes are much higher due to the fact that (I think) smacking your face on the bare ice slightly more dangerous than… say on concret, but I am in no way of saying which one scientifically causes more pain or damage. Safe to say that both do, but that ice has the added (bonus?) to have a cold surface, which I don’t believe to be great!

They did play a lot of pretty lame music at the ice rink, but I wasn’t expecting Frank Sinatra or Billy Holiday anyway, so I will live with the black eyes peas and flo rida to accompany me around the ice. All I can say, is that flailing your arms about and leaning forward were my friends, and I believe my moderate success was due to these two things!

I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t so many stalls around the rink. I thought there would be lots of christmas music, with shops selling mulled wine and hot chocolate… and apart from a Pressbyran selling anything from hotdogs to drinks…. there wasn’t much. We did however take a hot chocolate which warmed us up amazingly!

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You Gotta Eat Your Greens… No No I Mean Oranges!


Everyone knows that in Sweden it gets dark in winter… really early. So what to do during the night hours? Ah ha! Well that’s for you to decide. But what is important is eating your oranges… or to put it simply, you need you vitamin C!

Vitamin C is important to fight SAD disorder. You think I’m joking don’t you. A disorder called SAD? Really? Yes really! SAD stands for “Season Affective Disorder”.It is in fact a type of depression that tends to occur (and recur) as the days grow shorter in Autumn and Winter. It is believed that affected people react adversely to the decreasing amounts of sunlight and the colder temperatures. So, to put it simply, it is a disorder which makes you depressed because there is little sunlight and heat.

How do we counter this? Well there are many ways. Some suggest going in front of very bright lights for a certain period of time (which is also called phototherapy). Some say changing climats to a warmer one (which I think is pretty obvious). Of course there are antidepressant medications (but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are really suffering really badly!) but a lot of people say that eating a good variety or fresh vegetables and lots of vitamin C can help a lot too.

So, what shall we do in Stockholm right now? I think we should all run around in the sunlight eating oranges and tangerines all the while screaming and laughing and listening to crazy party music until we are all tired. I have a few friends who also recommend having sex with all the lights in too, and I’m sure that that will help some of you (but I’m pretty sure not all of you!).

So, eat your oranges!

YUMMMMMMMY!

 

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System Bolaget… or Getalob Metsys (If You’re REALLY Drunk) – Which is Unlikely!


 

Woo Hoo! (not!)

Here’s their site in case what I say next is unbelievable : http://www.systembolaget.se/Applikationer/Knappar/InEnglish/

So what is this “System Bolaget”? Well to put it simply, is Sweden’s answer to pissing on someone’s parade! No really.

I totally understand where they are coming from, and after visiting Helsinki earlier this month, I now realise why! (but i’ll mention that later on). Anyway, System Bolaget is a state owed organisation (or company) who has the monopole on alcoholic beverage sales in Sweden. It only sells alcoholic drinks over 3,5 % degrees (so basically everything if you’d want to get slightly tipsy on). You see, you wouldn’t be that annoyed about that if it was only that… except that it isn’t! System Bolaget also has an annoying rule that only over twenty year olds can buy alcohol, so woo hoo for me, wah wah for anyone under that age (and on an Erasmus!). It also however has an slightly albeit understandable time table too. Weekdays (apart from Friday) most stores are open from 9 to 18 ou even (if you know where to go!) 9 to 19! Wow! And on weekends, if I am right I believe they close between three and five in the afternoon!

So if you go on their site, they will give you a lot of info telling you what an amazing system it is and whatever. Now I don’t really care about that, I mean I can really understand where they are coming from but it does also stop average people coming home from work and wanting to have a glass of wine with their meal to do so. But, after a short visit to Helsinki I do realise why it can be a good idea too.

In Helsinki, I was very shocked at the amount of drunk people outside, and I don’t mean a bit tipsy but really really drunk. Not just young people but a host of middle ages business men, young and not young me and women too. Some of these people were so drunk they could barely walk, and one girl looking like she was dead on the floor! Now don’t get me wrong, I have lived in London for a long time and I can assure you that we Brits sure know how to drink (among other things) but never have I seen with my bare eyes people that drunk and in that quantity. I am not passing judgement on the Finnish, I can remember about two times where I have been ridiculously drunk and I honestly regret that. We all learn from our mistakes.

So, I don’t know how wide spread this is in Scandinavia but if it was very common then I am not surprised that since the nineteenth century has there been the System Bolaget. What people fail to realise is that since Sweden joined the European Union, state decisions (like this alcoholic beverage monopoly) have to be vetted and agreed upon by the Swedish people themselves via referendum… and they do want to keep this organisation! So maybe we other Europeans have something to ask ourselves about. Is this the way to go or not?

If we look at Holland where Cannabis (in certain quantities) is legal, have they become a country of lazy cannabis smoking weirdos? No. They have taken the stance on legality concerning strong substances and it is thus up to the person to decide whether of not he wishes to take them. This is utter freedom. Sweden’s response to alcoholism in another stance on the situation, not banning but total control. Both of them seem to work, so maybe… and this is strange to say, but maybe regarding these issues, being moderate doesn’t work? Or is it all a matter of culture?

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Strömming : To Taste or not to Taste, That is the Question !


 

Stekt strömming

Many people have heard of this delicacy but many do not call it by name! Fear not! Because I and I alone have (and will again) face the devilishness that is “Strömming”!

This elusive product can only be found in Scandinavia (or is very strange and posh retail shops around the globe). You may ask why. Well it has ve deemed “illegal” to transport this product via airplane because it has been defined as a “risk”. True, it is less scary than a terrorist with a ten kilos of C4 strapped to his body but… the effect is nearly (and I stress nearly) the same!

Have I sparked your interest? Maybe I have and maybe I haven’t but he is what you have been (or not) dying to know. What is “Strömming”? It is by definition (and I quote the Swedish Tourist Board!) “…or fried Baltic herring is one of hundreds of recipes based on the smaller-sized eastern relative of the North Sea herring. Swedes often say that Baltic herring is better the fatter it is, but the truth is perhaps that all Baltic herring tastes good.”

All I can say… is mmm yeah right! Now true true I am biased in this situation because I hate fish and all things fish-related. That said I hurled myself head forward and tasted and prepared this very dish myself. (I will supply the recipe at the end, for all those who are of an enquiring nature).

You are probably asking yourself what this big furore is about. Well it’s all about the smell. Or should I say stink! It is also known known colloquially as Scandinavian rotten fish, is a northern Swedish dish consisting of fermented Baltic herring. Any of this tempting you yet? If so, then good for you! I applaud you! For the rest of you (including myself) I have resigned myself to the following : Strömming doesn’t taste that great, and nor does it taste amazing either BUT it is an important part of Swedish culture and, like Reindeer steak… should be tasted!

I do recommend however opening the can of herrings under water, such as in a bucket… and outside. The smell is lessened this way, thank god!). Strömming doesn’t look that appealing either (are you surprised?) You can buy it at a small place in Gamla Stan too.

However, I fear I have not given you enough incentive to eat it and truthfully I can’t… the only thing I could say is that you should do it out of curiosity and out of courage!

Stekt strömming – The Recipe

 

Ingredients

4–6 servings

1 kg (2¼ lb) Baltic herring filet
coarse rye flour
salt, white pepper
butter

Marinade:
350 g (12 oz) sugar
300 ml (1½ cup) distilled white vinegar (12% alcohol)
600 ml (3 cups) water
2 tbs whole allspice
2–4 bay leaves
2 red onions

Preparation

Place the Baltic herring filets skin side down on a cutting board or similar surface. Salt them and give them a few turns from the white pepper mill, then put together the filets in pairs. Roll the filets in coarse rye flour and fry them in butter until golden brown on both sides. Eat them right away with potatoes and lingonberries, as in the photo, or make a marinated version as follows.

Marinated fried Baltic herring:
Mix all the marinade ingredients and boil for a few minutes in a pot. Place the finished fried Baltic herring filets, while still warm, on top of each other in a deep bowl or dish. Pour the warm marinade over them. Let stand until cool. Peel the red onion, divide it in two, slice it thin and sprinkle on top.

 

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