Darina Allen: Food inspired by a recent trip to Sweden

Here are a few of Darina Allen’s favourite Swedish recipes

For me there are two kinds of holidays, a totally chilled, lying-by-the-pool, soaking-up-the sun holiday and an ‘away from home’ break, where I visit lots of farms and food producers, craft brewers or distillers and check out new cafes, restaurants, farmers’ markets … you get the picture. It’s a holiday but one where I get to keep in touch and learn lots more about the food scene in whatever country I’m visiting. Believe it or not I find the latter type of holiday much more relaxing.

I spent a few days in Denmark and Sweden recently. This is particularly easy, just fly into Copenhagen and whizz across the 16km Oresund Bridge and you’re in Sweden.

I’ve been wanting to visit Skane for years, an area that is often referred to as the breadbasket of Sweden.

We were on our way to visit Mandelmann, a traditional and virtually self-sufficient farm. Gustav spent years studying medicine and Marie studied art and sculpture. They eventually
decided that they couldn’t stand another minute in the city — there had to be another way to live your life — so they bought 100 hectares and a traditional Swedish farmhouse and went back to the land with their children. They set about growing food, rearing cattle and pigs and chickens. There are lots of springs on the land so they created ponds and streams surrounded by bulrushes and willow, herb and meadowsweet, a haven for ducks and geese.

There are apricots and mulberries hanging from the trees and gardens full of vegetables
intermingled with flowers and herbs.

Not surprisingly, Swedish TV discovered them and is now filming a second series which has been a smash hit among the many who have fantasies about moving to the country to grow some of their own food without realising the phenomenal amount of work it all entails, but life is a tradeoff.

When they shear their sheep they use some of the wool on paths to suppress weeds and do a huge amount of preserving. There’s also a café. When I visited several local girls were in the kitchen of the café making halloumi cheese from the milk of the small white cows and another was stoning a huge basin of plums for jam.

The gardens and farm are open to the public and now there’s a café and several greenhouses packed with heirloom tomatoes, under-planted with grapes and pumpkin, basil and French marigolds even a Sichuan peppercorn tree.

The staff party was on the night we visited and had long tables under the grape vines and kiwi fruit in the greenhouses.

They had huge bowls of salads and the sweetest lamb from the farm.

The farm found work for all these young people and there’s a long waiting list to apprentice, learning valuable skills.

Such is the popularity of the farm that one has to book ahead to visit and tickets are limited to 400 a day.

There’s also a cook book, Sjalvhushallning Pa Djupadal, by Marie and Gustav Mandelmann but it is Swedish — thanks to Ted Berner for translating the recipes.

Here are a few of my favourites, plus my lunch box suggestions of the week as promised.

Plum and Apple Jam

Delicious on bread or toast but only good with cold pork or ham.

Makes 6 x 450g (1lb) jam jars

900g (2lb) blood plums

450g (1lb) bramley cooking apples

150ml (quarter pint) water

1.1kg (2.5lb) granulated sugar

Cut the plums in half and remove the pips, then cut each half into four. Peel and core the apples and cut them into chunks. Put the plums and apples into a wide, stainless-steel pan with the water. Cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes until the apples and plums are both soft.

Meanwhile, heat the sugar in an oven. When the fruit is soft, add the warm sugar and cook, uncovered for about 8-10 minutes, until the jam is set.

Pour into hot, clean jars. Cover and store in a dry, airy cupboard.

Variation: Damson and Apple Jam

Substitute damsons for plums and proceed as above. Remember to skim off the stones and scum with a perforated spoon (this is time-consuming but worth it) as they rise to the top. Pour into hot jars and cover. Store in a dry, airy cupboard.

Marie and Gustav Mandelmann’s Rhubarb Juice

2 kg rhubarb, washed and roughly cut

1.5 l water

600 g sugar per litre of rhubarb juice

Boil the rhubarb in the water for 15 minutes. Strain through muslin. Measure the juice and add the sugar. Boil up again until sugar is dissolved and bottle in clean bottles.

Taken from Självhushållning På Djupadal by Marie and Gustav Mandelmann

Marie and Gustav Mandelmann’s Rosehip Soup

700 g fresh rosehips

1.5 l water

130 g sugar

1.5 tbsp potato starch

Lemon juice

Clean the rosehips well and remove any stems and remnant flower. Boil the rosehips in water for 20 minutes, stir and mash. Pour this through a sieve. With this liquid add the sugar. Add a little of water to the potato starch and whisk it down into a soup. Bring liquid, sugar and potato starch to the boil, dissolve the sugar and taste. It may need more sugar or lemon juice.

Taken from Självhushållning På Djupadal by Marie and Gustav Mandelmann, Translated by Ted Berner

School Lunch Box Suggestion Temari Sushi (Clingfilm) Sushi

Makes 20-30 pieces

Sprig of dill or chervil or coriander

Half quantity prepared sushi rice

25g (1oz) smoked salmon, cut into 2.5cm (1in) squares


10 cooked prawns or shrimps


Half cucumber, sliced wafer thin and cut into 2.5cm (1in) pieces


25g (1oz) rare roast beef, thinly sliced and cut into 2.5cm (1in) pieces

To Serve

wasabi paste

pickled ginger (optional)

Sushi Rice

450g (1lb) sushi rice ‘No 1 Extra Fancy’

600ml (pint) water

Vinegar Water

50ml (2fl oz) rice wine vinegar

1.5 tablespoons sugar

2.5 teaspoons salt

Lay a piece of clingfilm, about 10cm (4in) square, on a clean work surface and place a sprig of dill, chervil or coriander face down on the cling film
and then a piece of cucumber or smoked salmon at the centre of it. Put a
teaspoonful of sushi rice on top of it.

Pick up all four corners of the clingfilm and gather them in the middle. Twist the clingfilm to compact the rice and form a small ball. Repeat the
process with the other toppings.

Keep each piece of sushi wrapped in the clingfilm until just before serving. You may want to put a dab of wasabi under the rice if the temari sushi is being served as finger food. For a starter arrange on a plate and serve with pickled ginger and a little wasabi and soy sauce.

Preparing the Sushi Rice and Vinegar Water

Rinse the rice for 10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.

‘Wake up’ the rice by sitting it in 600ml (1pint) cold water for 30 to 45
minutes. In the same water, bring to the boil and then cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.

Do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds
before turning the heat off. Remove the lid, place a tea towel over the rice,
replace the lid and sit for 20 minutes. Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl until dissolved.

Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden). While the rice is still hot pour the vinegar solution over the rice and mix the rice and
vinegar together in a slicing action with the aid of a wooden spoon. Don’t stir.

You must do it quickly preferably fanning the rice with the fan. This is much easier if you have a helper. Allow to cool on the plate and cover with kitchen paper or a tea towel. (It will soak up the liquid as it cools.)

Hot Tips:

Bayin Peanut Oil: John and Katrina Crawford set up Bayin to bring a taste of Myanmar to our table. They import cold pressed, naturally produced
sesame and peanut oil from Myanmar and recently won a Great Taste Award for their peanut oil. It was described as having a “lovely delicate colour with good clarity. It has a good nutty aroma and sweet taste”.

bayin.ie/ Telephone Katrina on 086 1522653

Toonsbridge Dairy Cheeses and Real Olive Company produce from the English Market and can now be purchased online. Customers can have mozzarella delivered to their door anywhere in Ireland, fancy that. 

therealoliveco.com or email Jenny-Rose jenny@therealoliveco.com

Irish plums are in season but hurry, it is almost over. Next up are damsons so keep an eye out at your local farmers market. Rose Cottage in Co Laois had an excellent crop of Victoria, Jubille, Opal, and Hagenta varieties.
Tel: 057 8732666.

Irish Seed Savers, Scarriff, Co Clare, have a range of workshops and events through autumn and winter. Creating an Orchard, Permaculture, Winter Pruning in the Orchard, Organic Gardening plus craft and skills courses. irishseedsavers.ie; 061 921866.


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