Food & Design: Uncommon Delights

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As you may or may not be aware the last few months have been a tad turbulent, to say the least! But now things are starting to settle into a rhythm here in Malmö and there are exciting things on the horizon. With that in mind I’ve decided to do a Top Ten list of some design and food products that are essential for a new home. I’ve curated my list from UncommonGoods.com who have an extensive range of gift ideas for men, women and the home, to name but a few. I don’t know what your priorities are for feeling at home after you’ve moved in somewhere new, but mine centre around food, wine and home decor so check out these links for more great ideas!

Sustainability is at the heart of Uncommon Goods’ mission as well as providing environmentally friendly and socially responsible products. They work with a wide range of producers and companies, both large and small. I particularly admire their mission to become as paper free as possible, moving the majority of their business to online. In addition to that they’re keen to promote handmade, recycled and organic products wherever possible and this is all to the good. There are plenty of big companies out there that offer amazing products but there are also plenty of smaller producers struggling to make their mark.

 

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1 – Infused Oil & Vinegar Trio

Anyone who knows me (or has read the rest of my blog) knows I’m a sucker for flavoured oils and vinegars. Doesn’t matter what you’re cooking, sweet or savoury, they add a flavour kick that can knock your cooking into overdrive. Consisting of Blood Orange, Lavender and Basil flavours consider this your new home starter kit for transforming your salads, desserts, side dishes and even your breakfasts (if don’t believe me then try some of the Blood Orange Oil in porridge with a dollop of marmalade and some vegan crème fraîche!).

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2 – Flavoured Simple Syrup Set

In a similar vein this little set of syrups can be used equally creatively to up-level your cooking or indeed form the basis of some delicious cocktails. Featuring some really interesting flavour combinations including cucumber habanero and grapefruit basil, combine with a flavourless oil to impress your friends and family with some daring dressings for your salads.

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3 – Salts of the World Test Tube Set

Salts can be used in a variety of ways and not only to simply sprinkle on top of your dishes before serving (although that’s also totally legit!). Try the Himalayan Crystal Pink Fine Grain salt on the rim of a cocktail glass for a touch of class or combine the Spanish Saffron Salt with some classic rice pudding for an extra dimension.

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4 – Wine Aerating Tool

We all enjoy a good bottle of wine but sometimes you can forget to give it time to breathe before you serve. Every kitchen drawer should contain one of these little beauties for those moments when you’ve been rushed off your feet but still demand that your wine tastes its absolute best.

 

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5 – Wine Pairing Towel Set

Now this one is basically a cheat sheet for anyone who doesn’t know their chablis from their chiantis! We can’t all pretend to be Jilly Goolden but these towels will give you a bit of a head start, if nothing else you’ll definitively know whether to serve a red, white or a rosé with your food. No one wants a creamy risotto with a rich, full bodied red so make sure you’re clued up. Alternatively, this could be a great present for that friend or relative who needs a little revision!

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6 – Oval Oak Salt and Pepper Shakers

These classy shakers from Sagaform will definitely add a dimension of class to your dinner table. Scandinavian design classics, these will flexibly fit in with country kitchen or sleek and minimalist styled decor. And as I own the matching wine carafe, these would suit my interior to a tee.

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7 – Boxcar Planter Set

These delightful little planters are a great addition to any modern interior. Handmade in Portland, Oregon, from gorgeous deep walnut, these are the best way to show off your succulent/cacti collection. Plus, artist and designer, Joe Gibson was inspired by the classic American boxcar design, so these moveable planters, look good alone or next to one-another.

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8 – Sea Spell Doormat

This cute doormat would go perfectly in our new apartment in Malmö! Not only is it in my favourite colour, teal, but look at the cat-mermaid. I repeat, CAT MERMAID. That is all 😉

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9 – Kitchen Utensil and Tablet Holder 

How much of a cool product is this?! It’s so useful for someone who, like myself, loves cooking in the kitchen. This handmade stoneware utensil pot, gives you an easy way to follow a recipe on your tablet. Or if you find cooking to be an arduous task that needs to be endured rather than enjoyed then you can put your tablet in the holder to listen to music/watch videos whilst you get on with the job!

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10 – White Earthenware Bowl with Stand

This cute bowl is totally Mid-Century inspired, with it’s copper legs giving you that atomic vibe. Channel that Don-Draper (or for that matter Peggy Olson) vibe into your place and be the hippest cat in town!

 

 

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Food: Columbian potatoes

This is my take on the Colombian dish, Papas con Salsa de Aguacate (potatoes with an avocado sauce), using sweet & purple potatoes, topped with a creamy intense avocado hit. My version has a spicy tomato base to transform it from a traditional side-dish into a tasty plantbased meal.

You’ll need:

  • 3 Sweet potatoes, roughly chopped
  • 3 purple potatoes/ potatoes roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tin of peeled tomatoes
  • 1tbs tomato pureé
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1tbs Pimentón
  • 1tbs ground cumin
  • 1tbs ground coriander
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red chilli, chopped finely (de-seeded if want less hot!)
  • Black pepper
  • Oil for roasting.

For the Salsa de Aguacate:

  • 1/2 a tub of Oatly fraîche
  • A glug of garlic infused oil
  • 1 avocado
  • Handful of coriander, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Some red onion
  • Salt & pepper

Garnish:

  • Salt for garnishing (I used Saltverk Birch smoked salt)
  • Handful of chopped coriander

Start by parboiling the potatoes in salted water. As they’re boiling, place a baking tray in oven on it’s hottest setting, with a layer of oil (just like you’re making roasties). Whilst they are cooking, fry off the onion & garlic in a pan. When they are sufficiently softened the potatoes should be ready to take off the boil. Drain and place into the baking tray and oil. Flip over until they begin to sizzle. Place back into the oven to start roasting and crisping up.

In a baking dish, place the now softened garlic & most of the onion with the tomatoes, spices and the chilli. I’d recommend roughly chopping up the tomatoes. Season, mix thoroughly and spread evenly across the bottom of the dish.  After around 10-15 minutes, take the potatoes out and place into the baking dish, on top of the spicy tomato base. Place back into the oven, with a lower temperature of 180°C. Cook for a further 30-40 minutes before taking out. Leave to cool slightly, before serving.

Whilst the potatoes are in the oven, you can make the indulgent bit, the avocado sauce. In a food processor, place the Oatly fraîche, avocado, coriander, garlic oil, lime juice and the rest of the fried onion. Whizz up until it forms a creamy sauce. Scoop into a bowl. Season to taste. If too thick, you can loosen it up with a bit more lime juice.

To serve, drizzle on the sauce, the chopped coriander and a sprinkle of salt flakes. I used Saltverk birch smoked salt, which matched the smoky spicy taste of the potatoes.

I’d reccomend serving this with a couple of cold cervezas. I paired it with some Columbian Cerveza Aguila.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Update: We are moving to Malmö!

My Facebook friend’s know and a few other people, so just in case you haven’t heard yet, I will be moving to Malmö in late July/ early August.

Tom has got a job teaching in nearby Lund, at Lund International school and as for myself & jobs, I have a few things up my sleeve 😉  Lund, btw is a stunning university town, home to one of Europe’s most prestigious of Uni’s, Lunds universitet. Only being roughly 10 minutes away from Malmö on the train, if you come visit Skåne, take some time to see Lund!

Jag kan inte vänta! (I can’t wait!)

I’m writing this morning, with news that the Brexit Bill put forward by PM Theresa May passed in The House of Lords last night, with no amendments to the original Bill; which doesn’t guarantee EU citizens rights living over here. It doesn’t guarantee for people who have set up their homes and families in the UK, who have paid their taxes. Instead, it will no doubt use EU citizens & their rights as bargaining chips when the negotiations start with the European Union and its 27 members. We will be effected by this, but It is better to try before the whole opportunity for young, working class people like myself to live & work within the EU fades into the ether.

The language isn’t much of a barrier, with Malmö being both in Sweden, where proficiency in English is impeccable, and it being a World city, I can get around with my English. However, this does not mean I’m not going to learn Swedish. Being interested in languages it’s a must. Having been learning the language on & off for years, now is the time to get my head down and learn it!

I have wanted to move to Norden for years and visiting Copenhagen/ Malmö 3 times in the last 12 months I had truly fallen in love with it! So before Brexit totally stops us, we are trying. We cannot do more than simply try.

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A reason I love Malmö is how multi-cultural it is! Supposedly the city is home to people from 170 countries of this world. Which is bloody fantastic! It is so important, in these times, seeing the rise of Rightwing populism and xenophobic rhetoric and attitudes, that we expose ourself to as many cultures as  we can. Hopefully then, people will humanise eachother which stops the main strategy of the current Right; to de-huminise and see people from different nationalities as ‘other’ and usually, therefore, lesser.

Being only across the bridge from Copenhagen (and a hell of a lot cheaper!) loads of infrastructure has crossed over. So, whilst Copenhagen is the top city for cyclists in the world, Malmö is also in the Top Ten.

Ever since the Öresundsbron/Øresundsbroen  (the setting for the Nordic Noir drama, The Bridge) opened in July, 2000, Malmö has benefitted from being Linked to it’s Danish sis. These days Malmö is a young, creative city, reportedly one of the most inventive cities in the world. So much is happening these days, so many startups! Like the Studio Malmö, or Media Evolution City.  Malmö even, recently hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2013, following singer, Loreen taking the crown in Baku, Azerbaijan with her song ‘Euphoria’.

 

As a foodie, the city seems like heaven for me! There’s new places popping up all the time, providing great food/ drink. From the new gourmet/ artisan food market, Saluhall, Djäkne kaffe, a quality coffee shop & great place for fika, the HQ of one of the most innovative vegan brands in the world, Oatly to Wunderchef, a new innovative food delivery service, serving up home-cooked food.

Or for the restauranteur, there’s, Michelin starred, Bastard, to amazing concept canteen, Saltimporten. You can pretty much get any cuisine in the city, with it being so diverse. The shawarma you can get there, is one of the best I’ve ever tasted and as a Brit, thinking i’ll miss the unctuous cuisine of back home, well no fear, theres even a fish & chip shop in Malmö. I love it!

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And as a design lover, it’s simply amazing. Being only 30 mins from the Design Mecca that is Copenhagen, you are spoilt for choice in Malmö. There are plenty of design & interior shops, written about here. The city is home to Scandinavia’s tallest structure, The Turning Torso, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. There is also the Form Design Center, home to the famous and coveted Cocoa Ögon poster by Midcentury master, Olle Eksell. The city is home to my friend’s design brand, Emerybloom. Check them out if you’re looking for amazing prints for your interior! Malmö even has its own Moderna Museet, it’s like the Comparison between Malmö and Stockholm; Stockholm is bigger, Malmö is smaller, but both are as cool as eachother!

 

I cannot wait to move! If you haven’t noticed I’ve fallen completely in love with the city;

Jag älskar dig malmo! Ses Snart!

Food:Pep up your porridge!

Everyone knows a good breakfast is the cornerstone of a good day, right?

 

Sometimes we skip it, thinking we’ll grab something on the way, or worse sometimes, we settle for a breakfast that’s merely adequate rather than sublime.

Now, most people wouldn’t think of porridge as being sublime, but the nice people at GRØD would humbly disagree. This Danish company has taken porridge (Grød, after all, is the Danish word for porridge) and in 2011 was determined to “show the world that porridge can be delicious, delicate and versatile”. It’s more than just chucking a load of ingredients in and hoping for the best, there is a knack to it.

Ever since I visited their porridge boutiques in Copenhagen, I’ve been inspired to make an original and interesting bowl of porridge every Sunday morning.

So, with that in mind, here’s a handy guide to bringing your ‘A Game’ to breakfast.

Compotes & jams.

Jams can make what was a dull, hearty gloop into a sweet treat! But, as much as ‘a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down’ you can use jams and compotes to elevate the humble porridge gastronomically.

Whenever I go abroad, I stock up with all of the interesting jams that you can’t get back home. For instance, In Germany I found a raspberry & passion fruit jam, in Poland – chokeberry, Sweden – Cloudberry and in Denmark – Sea buckthorn. My case is normally bulging from the jars & pots of things I’m determined to return home with! Whilst I’m not asking you to travel the world and smuggle kilos of sugary, interesting goodness back home, I’m asking to think laterally about the traditional flavour combinations that we regularly fall into doing in this country.

Compotes are an easy way to make your own flavour combinations. As I work in a supermarket, I tend to try and snaffle any reduced fruit they have, to make compotes. It’s a challenge sometimes, as some of the fruit I’ve never had before! However, through trial and error I’ve come up with some stonkingly good ones, like peach & rosemary, pomegranate & rose or liquorice and blackberry. Plus, making a compote couldn’t be easier.

Simply fill a pan, quarter way up with water, add a sugar of your choice and then the fruit. Bring up to a boil. This is now the time to add in the spices/herbs/botanicals of your choice, turn down to a simmer and allow to thicken. Once all the flavours are in harmony take off the heat to cool.

Salts.

Hear me out. If you look up the Traditional Scottish porridge they salt their oats, then add the sweetness later. Plus, salt over the past 10 to 15 years has become far more than just a seasoning.

These days you can get salts for everything in a variety of different flavours, all designed to bring some extra dimension to your culinary creations. Seasoning porridge is absolutely essential, otherwise, regardless of whatever else you add to it, the basic ingredient will be bland and lifeless.

So, why not go a little gourmet and interesting? One of my “go to” salts comes from Halen Môn, a homegrown company based in Anglesey (Ynys Môn). Their vanilla salt is a delight sprinkled on caramel, anything chocolate or used as a base for porridge. While the salt brings out the sweetness, the vanilla enhances it. If you’re looking for a variation you can go with Norður Salt, an Icelandic company, who specialise in a range of interesting flavours. They do a blueberry salt and a rhubarb salt which can be paired brilliantly with the other ingredients you decide to add to it.

Perhaps my absolute favourite (though, I may have one or two detractors on this one!) is Saltverk’s Liquorice Salt.
Creamy toppings.

Nothing seals the deal on a great bowl of porridge like a bit of cream! It helps balance the flavours, brings sharpness and adds a touch of velvety luxury. As I tend to cook plant based, the creams are dairy-free. I’ve found that a dollop of ‘Oatly crème fraîche’ (made from oats, naturally) is perfect for giving that extra bit of decadence to what was once a peasant staple. I also use soya products from Alpro like their soy yogurt and quark substitute, ‘Alpro Go On’. I have found that the soya yogurt tends to be flavoursome, a little sweet and quite runny, while the quark gives great acidity and has a great thickness.

Combine the salts, compotes and creamy toppings and you not only improve upon a very simple and hearty breakfast, but personalise it too. The combinations and possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Be creative, flex those flavour muscles and try something new!