Archive | October, 2010

Stories from Italy: Power cut, turtles and a grilled fish.

31 Oct

It does not take long until you become a part of the slow-paced village of Buriano. Already the day after we had arrived, we were as sleepy as the environment around us. The day had passed quickly and the time was already 3 pm. Knowing that the power cut we discovered earlier in the morning would not let us cook as usual, we had to figure out how we were going about the dinner. In the spirit of the town, Johan, Janna and Pelle, suggested that we should go out and eat, but I refused to. With my inspiration that day, going out to eat would be such a waste. I was going to cook no matter what. How? By doing it the stone-age way… Over a fire.

As usual, Johan was enthusiastic and the one that took on me. The car drove down the winding roads of the hill down to the maremma, then west with the final goal the fish market in Castilligione della Pescaia. My memories from that fish market were few; but what I remembered always made me want to go back; fresh fish everywhere, a boat delivering its catch, old men shouting in Italian, big swordfish heads, first time I saw the tuna fish outside the can… etc.

When we had reached Castilligione twenty minutes later, we parked the car somewhere near, probably on a piazza, and headed towards the harbour. It still looked the same. Fish everywhere – sold from trucks, boats and small shops. But there was something weird. The atmosphere was wistful and ghostlike. There was no one to sell the fish, nor to operate this whole market. Despite the heat, black and grey heavy clouds filled the sky.

To sum it up, me and Johan were the only 0nes more alive than the fish…

Not really knowing where to go and where we could find anyone, we randomly decided to into some whole in the wall. Other than feeling ghostlike, this little fish shop felt even emptier. Or not necessarily empty, but laconic and very mystical. Like someone was observing us. Inqusitively we moved around in the shop and looked at some poster with information about the fish they were selling. After reading that, we looked at the fish, feeling very enlightened by the poster. We both knew what we were going to buy… They had all sorts of fish; tuna, mackerel, swordfish, snapper. It was so inspiring to look at.

Suddenly, a man, come god knows whence, stood before us – between us and the fish. He said something in Italian and showed us a big blue bowl full of water. The man was peculiar. He was short, old – maybe in his eighties – and had a nose like Pinnochio.

Having a closer look at his bowl, me and Johan spotted two small baby turtles swimming round and round, apparently very unhappy with their current living situation. He tried to sell the turtles to us, but his unbelievably enthusiactic body language and charming Italian accent did not convince us.. We did not want to have anything to do with these two illegal items and all we brought from that shop was a fine tuna.

Leaving the shop was like entering a new world. Outside it was sunny, people were cheering, screaming and laughing in Italian, a boat unloaded the catch of the day, a fisherman sold a fine sword fish steak – and behind us we could see the man with the turtles smile. The wistful atmosphere had altered to its opposite.

The fish market was now more alive than ever.

So was we.

On the way home we passed by a farmers market and bought the rest; herbs, lemon, olives, chili, olive oil and charcoal.

When entering the sleepy town, we both knew that this time we would not let the town catch us in its slow pace. We ran from the car to the house; Janna and Pelle welcomed us. They lighted the grill, I took care of the fish and eventually we all sat on the pergola enjoying one of the best meals I have ever cooked. We were all quiet, the atmosphere laconic. Before us the ceaseless beauty of Italy. In our mouths, the taste of it.

Despite all the compliments I got for the fish and all the different conversations about how this trip would evolve, there was only one thing I could think about:

The man with the turtles.

1 Big whole fish

3 Garlic cloves

1,5 tablespoons of salt

1 tomato ( sliced)

1 onion (slices)





1/2 chili

1/2 tablespoon of sugar

1 lemon in slices

olive oil

green olives

1. Stuff the fish with all the ingredients above and grill it in foil on a grill

2. Serve with a fresh salat and potato


WEEKEND BRUNCH SPECIAL: Thai basil peanut pesto

29 Oct

1 jar


pecorino romano, aprox 0,3 lbs

1 cup of thai basil

160 g dry not roasted peanuts

1/3 cup olive oil

1 lime

2 garlic cloves

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 big chilean pepper

a mixer

1. Put the peanuts in a mixer

2. mix

3. Add all the ingredients

4. Mix. While mixing, add olive oil so it gets smoother

5. Serve

Wonderful kidney bean burgers

27 Oct

4 servings

2 eggs

2 potatoes

1 can kidney beans

peel of 1/2 lime

juice of 1 lime

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1/2 cup freshly chopped cilantro

3 cm ginger

1/2 can corn

2 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons flour

Sesame seeds

1 bread slice

1/2 lemongrass, finely chopped

2 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp whole cumin

1/3 teaspoon saffron


1 small yellow onion

1. Chop the garlic, ginger, chili and onion

2. Add it into a big bowl

3. Add all the other ingredients except the flour

4. Mix properly with your hands, crush the beans, but not too much

5. Add the flour

6. Form the mixture into burgers

7. Heat up olive oil in a pan

8. Before putting the burgers in the pan, dip them in sesame seeds

9. Serve with a fresh salat, for example “as fresh as the norwegian mountain breeze”, some guacamole, indian salsa, thaibasil peanut pesto and pita bread

Lemongrass fried crab with bok choi and veggies

25 Oct

4 servings

1 lemongrass

1 cup of crab meat

2 tbsp hoi sin sauce

2 tbsp fish sauce

juice of 1/2 lime

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 bok choi heads

1o slices of eggplant

Oil for frying

1/2 red chili

1. Heat up oil

2. When hot, add lemongrass, chili and garlic

3. Add eggplant

4. After four minutes, add bok choi

5. fry for three minutes then add crab meat and the sauces

6. After three minutes, serve!!

Serve with rice and fresh beansprouts

Four weeks in Tuscany. Four weeks in paradise

24 Oct

Just as my mother always wanted to go to Malaysia, I always wanted to go to Italy. In contrast to my mom, it was not a school project that was the source of my interest. In stead it was the stories of my godfather Johan. He always told me exciting stories about Italy, mostly about the food. Everytime he told me – the stories true or not – made me wanted to go more.

His wife Janna’s family has a house in Tuscany and as a result they have been going for years. Unlike my mother’s childhood dream about Malaysia, I did not have to get 20 years older and be a single parent with two kids in order for it to come true. The Easter 2006 I came along Johan, Janna and their son Pelle, on one of their many trips down south.

This was the part in my life when I grew more than ever and almost never could get full. As a result I could eat immense amounts, but staying only for a week , I feel I explored the surface of what Italy had to offer – I remember lovely pizza slices, grilled tunafish, a whole boiled octopus in lemon, chili, salt, red pepper and olive oil. This is a trip I always will remember. But it was nothing compared to my return trip three years later – a trip that has marked my taste buds for life.

Driving from south of Sweden through Europe was a culinary experience in itself, but maybe not in a good way.

Arriving late in the evening in Tuscany, I had a vague picture of what I was going to see the next morning. It was nothing like that. Going out on the pergola, an Italian terrace, one of the most beautiful views my cornea ever will registrate, struck me.

Their house is an old stone house situated in the village of Buriano in Tuscany. Buriano is a small village dating back to the etruscs, occupying the top of one of the countless forested hills rising over the Maremma. Buriano is peculiar in many ways, maybe mostly because of that the inhabitants seem as old as the city. It is a sleepy city where people notice if their neighbor has cut his nails and in today’s stressful society, I think this is one of those impenetrable fortresses that always will be the same, as the world outside slowly succumbs.

However, this was a sunny day. In my nose – the smell of rose, my eyes – sunflower, olive, wine fields and the ocean for miles, my feet on the ground – standing on a wistful history immense and profound. All these impressions coming to me at the same time, I knew the next four weeks here were going to be something extraordinary. But I could not even dream of to which extent.

Of all the food memories from this trip – ranging from everything from simple pizza slices and ice cream by the beach to being served “vegetarian” dishes containing lots of meat – there are four memories that stands out in particular.

Keep your eyes open for them….

To be continued….

WEEKEND BRUNCH SPECIAL: One of my favourites: Tunafish salat – brunch n breakfeast

22 Oct

This delicious tunafish salat is great to have on sandwiches. This is the spread I have grown up with; eating it for brunch countless weekends.

1 package of sour cream

5 tablespoons of mayonaise

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 apple, chopped

1 lime

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 red oonion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of sambal OELEK

1 or 2 cans of tuna

1. Add the tuna in a bowl (after you have poored all the water away)

2. Add the oliveoil, garlic, sambal, onion, lime juice and apple then mix properly

3. Add the mayonaise and the sour cream

4. Serve!!! with fresh baugette and cucumber

Fresh sesame, sumac, pepper – and peanut roasted scallop with mango, lettuce and vietnamese dipping sauce

21 Oct

I love this dish.

Made it one week ago when I had some friends over for dinner.

The scallops get a nice texture, a caramelized surface and an exciting, spicy-roasted-salt- sour taste.

The mango gives this dish some sweetness and together with the lettuce some freshness.

The dipsauce provides the acidity and some sweetness. The dip sauce is a sauce my mom learned how to make when working at a macrobiotic restaurant in NYC in the eighties.


2 servings

8 scallops

1 cup sesame seeds

1 tablespoon chiliflakes

2 teaspoons sumac

1/3 cup coarsely grounded salted peanuts

Black pepper

olive oil for frying

1 sweet mango

1. Mix the sesameseeds, peanuts, pepper and sumac. This is the breading for the scallop

2. Dry the scallops on a piece of kitchen paper – they must be thoroughly dried!

3.Slice the mango into pieces as big as the scallops.

4. Heat up oil in a pan. The hotter the pan is, the better. You want the scallops to get a nice caramelized surface, not to cook in their own juice.

5. Put the scallops in the pan. They do not need much time. Roughly one minute on each side. They are done when they are not as transparent.

6. Put the mango in a lettuce leaf and then put the scallop on top. Drip some Vietnamese dip sauce with fresh spring onion over it and eat!

Vietnamese dip sauce

2 tablespoons of water

2 tablespoons of lime

½-1 table spoon of fish sauce

1 teaspoon of rice vinegar

½-1 teaspoon sesame oil

Roasted white sesame seeds

Finely chopped spring onion

Finely chopped chili

Finely chopped koriander

1.Roast the sesame seeds in a frying pan(no oil)

2.Chop spring onion, chili and koriander finely

3.Press some lime in a bowl. Add water, sesame oil, fish sauce and rice vinegar and taste.

4.Garnish the sauce with springonion, chilli, koriander and sesame seed

Serve with scallops or spring/summer rolls

Better than soft drinks – luxurious lime/ginger/mint/cinnamon/apple water

20 Oct

Water with apple, lime, cinnamon and ginger

1 Green Apple

1*1 cm ginger

Cinnamon stick

1 liter cold water

Fresh mint

1 table spoon of freshly squeezed lime

  1. Grate the apple on the big hole side of the grater
  2. Grate the ginger on the fine hole side of the grater
  3. Poor cold water into jug
  4. Add the grated apple and ginger and the lime to the water
  5. Add the cinnamon stick
  6. Cut some fresh mint and at it
  7. Done, ready to serve. But it tastes better if it gets to stand for a while

Pics from Samuelsson group work this weekend

19 Oct

PART 2: The smell of durian and the taste of reality – homecooking in the Malaysian countryside.

19 Oct


It was so hot that day. The strong sun was heating up the streets of Kuala Lumpur, making it almost unbearable to be outside. If a normal person could not stand this heat, it was even worse for me. At the time I was very sensitive to the sun and heat so I convinced mom we had to go to the coast where we could swim and get away from the stressful, humid and polluted city.

Just as on all our other trips with mom – did not matter if we were the middle of nowhere in Egypt, up in the Indian mountains or on some picturesque Greek island – we were going to travel the local way, this time by bus.

I remember how we, after running in the streets of the crowded city, got on the bus.

I do not know what I expected when we got of, but it surely was not what struck me. I got of the bus, exhaled – nice to have reached the destination – and took a deep breath. But there was something wrong. In stead of fresh sea air, a very strange and weird smell hard impossible to describe if you have not felt it, filled my nostrils. Even though we walked, the smell did not seem to disappear. Eventually mom explained that this was the smell of the fruit durian. Before us we saw it. Durian, durian durian. And durian. Everywhere was durian – tons of it. The bus had dropped us of near some durian-market-festival-sort-of-thing. There were all versions of the spiny fruit – frozen, dried, mixed, fresh edible things to hats made of durian.

Trying to get away from the smell, we walked and walked. Eventually the smell was replaced by a lovely smell of food. The air was full of it. The durian now a distant memory. We noticed how hungry we were and passed by four, five restaurants in our journey trying to trace the source of the lovely smell.

The source of the smell is one of the main reasons why the biggest influence in my eclectic cooking is Asian. Thus, you understand, the source was not something regular.

When we found it we could not really believe that was it. Out from little hole in the wall with six chairs and two tables a  came smell that would attract the crassest of chefs. The owner was a mother and the hole in the wall an extension of her simple home – an  attempt to make life a little easier. For fourty(!!!) cents, you could get rice with six different dishes. I instinctively went for some green veggies. When writing this, I can feel the taste in my mouth. Crispy, fresh, garlic, somewhat hot, a little salty, but the dominating ingredient – the passion of a mother.

The following days became a walk between the beach and this place. Three times a day we enjoyed the lovely food and everytime we sat there wondering how it could be so good. Even though the food was totally awesome, I in the back of my mind was longing for the dish I had had the first day.

Full of curiosity, we could not avoid asking what the secret ingredient was, why the food turned out so good. The mother ( the cook) just laughed. My mom took it to the next level and asked if we possibly could join her some day in her cooking. At first, the mother was a little shocked – and I think embarrassed – so she just said no. But after seeing the excited gaze of me, my sister and my mother, she agreed. She told us to come 7 am the next morning.

7 am. “The kitchen” equaled minimal back yard where she had a big wok over a gas thing. I remember how she handled the ingredients as they were her own children and when we saw her passion, we all understood why the food tasted as it did. She made a variety of dishes ; fresh shrimp in tomato masala, fish in coconut, fried rice – and finally the dish I ate the first day. By my appearance I guess she read how much I wanted to help out with this particular dish. We made the dish and it was first when I noticed how focused I had been. The backyard was not longer was it once had been. Now it was full of people… Her kids, her sisters, her husband, and many locals had made the back yard even smaller. They stared at us wondering what we were doing. The atmosphere became wistful and inquisitive.

Totally laconic, I looked at them and smiled.

They smiled.

Happiness filled me.

We did not have to say anything.

We knew. They knew.

She knew.

In a few seconds, the strained atmosphere altered to its opposite.

The birds filled the sky, the people started to talk. Everybody was cheering

For the people, that was the beginning of another day in the life on the Malaysian countryside.

For me it was the day when I learned one of my favorite dishes.

Today it is the reason why I started to cook Asian food.

Morning glory

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 cup of water

Morning glory

½ red chili, fairly spicy

2 teaspoons of salt

Oil for frying

Serve with rice


1. Heat up oil in a wok, the highest temperature, preferably a gas stove

2. When hot, add the morning glory, chili and garlic

3. Stir properly so the garlic and chili does not get burned

4. After four minutes, add the water and the salt, mix properly

5. Serve over rice

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