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This weekend, the boyfriend and me made Knäck!

That sounds wrong. Let’s try again.
This weekend, the boyfriend and me made traditional Swedish Christmas caramels! I feel so Swedish now!
And it wasn’t even hard – surprising for anything that contains the words “caramel” and “candy”, Knäck is amazingly easy to prepare.

Knäck is a kind of Toffee, made with sugar, syrup, butter, cream and almonds. The consistency varies depending on local tastes, from fudge-y to stick-to-your-teeth hard. The longer you boil the candy, the harder it will become after pouring. Ideally, you should be able to stack them in a jar without them sticking together.
The candy comes in little paper cups that look like muffin cups but are thimble-sized! They are sold all over in Sweden during Christmas time and usually, the back of the packet contains the recipe.

Since we doubled it for our purposes, this recipe makes about two jars of Knäck. That is quite a lot!

The ingredients:
3 Tsp. butter
4 dl sugar
4 dl light syrup (Swedish “light syrup” seems to be best translated to inverted sugar syrup)
3 dl full fat cream (whipping cream is fine)
150g sweet almonds, peeled and chopped.
The Container:
Lots of those tiny little paper cups. We made about 120 with this recipe, which is half a packet.

The recipe?
Dump everything but the nuts together in a thick-bottomed pot. Boil for approx. 30 minutes.
When it reduces and becomes a darker shade, try dripping a spoon or so into a glass of cold water. If you can easily mold the caramel after fishing it out, without it crumbling apart, it’s done.

During the time it boils, prepare a lot of those small paper cups, best on a baking tray so that you can move them close to the pot for pouring. You should have them all set up and ready to be filled or you won’t manage!

Mix in the nuts and put a spoonful into each paper cup. Be careful to keep the pot over low heat in the meanwhile so the candy doesn’t harden in the bowl.
(Or, in the immortal words of my great-aunt: “And then we don’t throw away the pan…”)

Let cool at room temperature, then store. I had brought out my pretty Christmas-themed candy boxes, but the boyfriend said they looked best in glass jars.

And they do!

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Bento #157

I finally cracked and made my own potato salad and “meatball” bento – looks Scandianvian, doesn’t it?
Homemade potato salad though, and the “meatballs” are falafels. They come pre-fried and just need microwaving – very handy! Then there’s some gardengrown salad and some cherry tomatoes, a skewered pickle and some red beets (which were the last of my freezer stash).

Pretty simple bento, but I came home late from training and STILL made the potato salad from scratch then. (I make my own mayonaise – I can’t stand salad with storebought mayo.) So – simple-looking, but not that simple.

Potato salad

About 600g of potatoes, boiled and still warm! Boil while you make the rest.

Mayonaise: 1 room-temperature egg
unflavoured oil (I use corn or sunflower)
Salt
1 Tsp. mustard

Beat up the egg a little, then beat in the oil in a thin stream until emulsion forms. Add salt and mustard. I did the whole thing in a food processor and added 4-5 small pickles in the end, which got chopped up in the mayonaise. Saves time.

Salad
2-3 Tsp. Sourcream (I don’t like sourcream all that much, so I use thick yoghurt. It gives a different taste though, which is somewhat rougher than sourcream.)
1/2 red onion, chopped
2-3 Tsp. vinegar (preferable apple, if you have it)
Mix with the mayonaise. Add salt and pepper to taste (and don’t be afraid to file on the recipe a little until it matches your taste!)

Peel the potatoes and chop them into slices. Toss with the salad while still warm. Cool at room temperature and enjoy!

It’s not the most spectacular recipe, but I needed it written down somewhere :)
I’m not fond of Austrian style (non-mayo) potato salad, which is made with broth. But my grandma swears on making her own mayonaise for mayo salad, and I love that! Adding yoghurt or sourcream makes it a *little* less fatty, which is also good, and fresher.

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Happy new year 2008!
For myself, 2007 was entirely too stressy for my own taste. I hope that 2008 brings, if not relaxation, then stress of the positive, challenging kind!

While Christmas is pretty much the same everywhere (the only difference being that the presents are opened on the 24th evening in Austria and Sweden, and not the morning after as is the case in most English speaking countries), new year has a lot of different traditions everywhere.

The Austrian one (“Silvester”) includes (amongst other traditions):
The operette “Die Fledermaus” will be played on TV sometime during the evening
Typical new years eve dinner includes: fondue, meat table-cooked in soup, water or oil, with various sauces and pickles.
The new year starts with the giant bell in St. Stephan’s church in Vienna ringing, followed by The Blue Danube waltz on the radio. It is mandatory to waltz!
Little cheap talismans are exchanged with friends and family.
In the morning, the new years concert will be played on TV (see the embedded video – my first time embedding, I hope it works!). Also mandatory, but not to waltz this time because most people will be too hung over.

The Swedish one includes:
A black and white version of the theatre skit “Dinner for one” will be played on TV sometime during the evening.
Just before midnight, there will be a recitation of a poem (always the same poem) on TV. It always ends at exactly 00:00, at the first ring of the bell. This is mandatory to watch, but not to cite.

And of course both include fireworks, cheering and clinking of glasses, partying and staying up late!

I hope you had a lovely new year’s eve, whatever it included. And if your country has any different new year traditions, please tell me! I’m incredibly curious to learn about different traditions that I never heard of!

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And here they are, the saffron cakes! They are actually yellow, much more so than normal cakes. The smell of saffron is now an integral part of my christmas… mmm!

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Now that I’ve written so much about Austria, I should write something about Swedish christmas traditions too.
Today in the morning, I tiptoed into my work’s garage, where in the dark, surrounded by test cars, prototype engines and various tools my colleagues sat at tables by candlelight, drinking mulled wine on work time.

December 13: St. Lucia day in Sweden

St. Lucia is a wonderful Swedish christmas tradition – that is, if you unlike me have no problems with getting up early and can actually enjoy music then.
On Dec 13, before it gets light, St. Lucia walks the rooms of Sweden waering a white dress and a wreath of lit candles in her hair.
Traditionally, it is the youngest daughter of the house who is Lucia, accompanied by the rest of the children in similar robes. They carry candles, sing christmas songs and bring breakfast – coffee, mulled wine and the traditional yellow, spiraled-S shaped saffron buns – to their parents.
At offices and schools the tradition is also kept. It is very beautiful, and many places put much pride in their choir singing. The picture above is an unfinished sketch I made from my impression of seeing it at university the first year I spent in Sweden – girls singing by candle light in absolute serenity. Mmm… winter and darkness are so much more bearable with such traditions!

I may post a picture of the traditional saffron cakes later, if I can pick one up on the way home. I don’t like posting stock photos…

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October 4th is Kanelbullens (Cinnamon rolls) day in Sweden!
Have you had yours yet?

I didn’t bake any though because my company and a consultant company both invited me to one already. Mmm, freshly-baked, aromatic cinnamon rolls…
I’d have taken a picture of the tray but they were gone faster than you could say “plague of locusts”. But I managed to save one for pictures at my desk! (Excuse the bad quality. My phone cam sucks *cough* not that I’d be allowed to take any photographic device to work anyway…)

But I am planning to make some in my new food processor soon, and post a recipe for “real Swedish” cinnamon rolls!

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I lived in Sweden for a few years now and am still discovering weird new foodstuff those Scandinavians have! So I figured I’ll have to introduce a new category: “Weird Swedish Food” for whenever I stumble across some.

Today’s new discovery is something I saw when I first came to Sweden a long time ago, when all food was still weird to me. So I forgot until now, when I mentioned something about rosehips to my boyfriend (I believe I asked if you can do the same things to the big fruits of the garden-hedgeroses – which also grow wild here, weirdly – as you do to the small wild ones). He suggested that I should try some “Nyponsoppa”, and being the sucker for weird exotic food that I am, of course we did.

Nyponsoppa is a sweet, soup-like stuff made from the pulp of rosehips. It is eaten warm with vanilla icecream (according to the BF, anyway) and sometimes little almond biscuits.

Since it was warm (and the icecream very unwilling) the picture didn’t come out so well. I added a few mint leaves since I figured they might fit the taste well (I was right) for color contrast.

So what’s the verdict?
It smells – weird. Sour, somehow. *wrinkles nose* But it actually tastes a lot sweeter, and has the aroma of rosehip berries. I missed having some nuts or those biscuits though – it was way too souplike for my tastes, especially when it had melted all the icecream. The taste is quite nice though – although I think I would prefer it to be a bit thicker so I can use it as marmelade instead. It seems like it should be a great comfort food having just a bowl of it with some buttered bread.

The packet lists another recipe: “Put soup in a bowl. Cut a banana into slices and add to the bowl. Sprinkle crumbled knäckebröd on top. Eat.”
O_ô
Okaaaaay.

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