Rustic Rye Crackers

 

 

Here’s a relatively easy way to make Rustic Rye Crackers. This is one of those things that when you serve it to people they’re amazed because you “don’t make crackers, you just buy them!”

Alright, let’s look at how we did this!

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This is what you’ll need:

  • 200g whipping cream
  • 200g water
  • 260g rye flour
  • 320g white flour (for bread)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 packet of ‘Fast Acting’ yeast
  • caraway seeds (for topping)
  • sea salt (optional for topping)

 

Add the cream and water together in a small saucepan

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Warm this mixture until it’s warm to the touch, but not hot. You want to activate the yeast later, not kill it!

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Get all your dry ingredients and a large mixing bowl

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Add both the rye and bread flour.

Add the salt and the yeast!

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With a whisk make sure all the dry ingredients are well mixed.

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Pour the warm cream and water into the bowl of dry ingredients.

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Stir as you pour!

Keep mixing until you have a well mixed dough.

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Pour your dough out onto a nice surface dusted with rye flour.

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Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes

Slice the dough into 6 roughly equal sized pieces

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Okay, so this seems to be working …

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Roll the slices into balls of dough.

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Let the dough rest somewhere warm for 20-30 minutes, covered

While we’re waiting, let me tell you a little secret. This is actually our recipe for Swedish Hardbread (knäckebröd). Turns out, it’s perfect for making crackers too! I’m going to show you a few ways to prepare it now!

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Once the dough has risen, take one ball and place it on some parchment paper with a dusting of rye flour.

 

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Roll until very thin or the dough has gotten about 30cm in diameter.

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Get some of those toppings! (we use caraway and salt, but you can also use sesame seeds, dill … heck, experiment!)

Sprinkle on your toppings, then roll once to really get them set into the dough (if you don’t, your topping will just fall off once it’s cooked)

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Now, use a fork to make many, many little holes! This is what will keep the dough from rising up … it’s gonna make it a cracker.

Place dough in oven at 475F for approximately 5 minutes. Flip over and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Watch to make sure it doesn’t burn!

Option 1 – knäckebröd:

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Place dough in unaltered. Let cool on a wire rack after.

Option 2 – Rye Crackers:

Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and place on a baking sheet.

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Pop them in the oven!

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Nice rye crackers!

Option 3 – PLAY AROUND!:

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This one we added dill. Put whatever toppings you’d like on a cracker!

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Serve it will cheese or pâté (or if you’re doing the Swedish thing, a little sil (herring) is always good!)

 

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So, there you have it! Rustic Rye Crackers you made yourself.

Bon Apetit!

“Grandma” Cookies

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It’s the time of year when we start thinking about family. For some of us, this means a warm, happy feeling …. let’s follow that!

Growing up Claire would visit her Grandma in Hamilton, Ontario and at some point they’d end up making these cookies.

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Based on a wartime recipe, clipped off the back of a cereal box in post-war London, these cookies melt in your mouth and somehow give you that warm feeling of family.

You want that, right?

Here’s how they’re made:

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You’ll need:

  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 5 oz of white sugar
  • 3 packets of vanilla sugar (if you can’t find this, letting a vanilla bean sit in white sugar for a few days will create vanilla sugar)
  • 1 package of Crisco
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips (or more if you like!)
  • 4 eggs
  • candied cherries (for garnish)

 

Add flour to the mixing bowl

 

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White sugar!

 

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Baking powder.

 

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Here’s the vanilla sugar we mentioned.

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Add that to the mix.

 

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Blend all those ingredients together.

 

While that’s mixing, add the chocolate chips!

Once that’s done, turn off the mixer.

 

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Slice the Crisco into small pieces.

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Now add that to the mixing bowl.

 

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Mix until the Crisco is blended with the dry ingredients. It will still be lumpy, don’t worry!

 

Add the eggs!

 

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Again, we’re mixing until it’s blended.

 

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The dough should still be a bit lumpy, but look like ice cream. (Doesn’t this look like chocolate chip ice cream?)

Let the dough chill for a few hours in the fridge OR you can roll it into large balls, wrap them in wax paper, and put them in the freezer to use at a later date.

We’re gonna make them now!

Take a small amount of dough. Roll it in your hands and place it on a cookie sheet. Flatten the ball into a round cookie shape

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Repeat this step! If you have children or grandchildren, you have a workforce to help you out at this point, go for it!

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Go get those very sticky candied cherries and cut them into pieces.

Place the cherries in the centre of each cookie. You can obviously play around here. If you have a child work force, this may be a good time to let them get creative!

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Into the oven at 350F for approximately 12 minutes. Watch for the cookies to start to get golden around the edges and take them out (these cookies do not get brown … unless you burn them).

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And there you have “Grandma” Cookies! Serve them with a nice cup of milky tea or a cold glass of milk. Perfect to leave out for Santa Christmas Eve!

Bon Apetit!

Pumpkin Pie

So, Thanksgiving is upon us … if we’re American. Up here in Canada we also have Thanksgiving, but it’s in mid-October. We call THIS holiday “American Thanksgiving”. We celebrate it by watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and some NFL football during our lunch break at work!

In honour of our American friends, we made a holiday classic, Pumpkin Pie!

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For our recipe, you’ll need the following:

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  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • medium-small size sugar pumpkin (or pie pumpkin)
  • 2 pie crusts (yup, this makes 2 pies!)

Cut your pumpkin in half.

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Clean out the halves and save the seeds for roasting! (I’ll give you a quick recipe for this later, for now, keep focused on that pie!)

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Roast your pumpkin for approximately and hour at 350F, until a fork can pierce them with ease.

The pumpkin should be easy to remove at this point with a spoon. I’d suggest waiting a little while for the pumpkin to cool a bit, as this can be really hot after an hour of roasting! Set the pumpkin flesh aside  for now.

Add 2 eggs to the bowl and just the yolk of the third.

Mix in the brown sugar, white sugar, salt and spices.

Add the orange zest and continue to mix until smooth.

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Now add that pumpkin!

While mixing pour in the cream … Yes, in case you were wondering, that is Pippi in the background of the lovely mixing GIF above … she’s always helping!

Keep mixing until you have gotten the smoothness you want. We keep it a little lumpy for a more rustic-style pie (shows off how homemade your pie is to your guests!)

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Add your pie filling to a prepared crust. You’ll have enough to make two pies, so one to keep and one to bring to the office and impress your coworkers … or, maybe two pies to keep (who am I to judge you?)

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Bake in the oven at 425F for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350F for 45 minutes or until a knife pressed into the pie comes out clean. I have bamboo skewers that are great for testing a pie without causing too much noticeable damage!

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Let your pie cool for a few hours. It will have risen in the oven, don’t worry, it won’t stay all puffy

Now cut yourself a slice and serve it with some vanilla whipped cream!

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There you have it! Pumpkin Pie!

Bon Apetit!

 

 

 

Turkish Coffee

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Of the many way there are to prepare coffee, one of my favourites is Turkish Coffee. Prepared on a stovetop, this full bodied, flavourful coffee warms you up and wakes you up!

This is what you need

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You’ll need:

  • dark roast coffee beans
  • grinder
  • small pot
  • cardamom (optional, often used during Ramadan)

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If adding cardamom, you’ll need to shell the pods

The grinder you see above actually belonged to Claire’s great grandparents! It’s from circa 1915 in Syria. This grinder as gone from Syria to Lebanon to England to Hamilton, Ontario and now resides in Montreal, Quebec!

Her grandmother told stories about how her and her brothers would have to sit and take turns grinding coffee when guests were coming over!

Okay, you’re probably looking at these photos and saying “I don’t have a grinder like that!”.  You just need beans ground at the finest setting (most grinders have a ‘turkish’ setting). It is almost a powder when ground.

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Add beans to grinder … You can also add the cardamom at this point if you wish. (make sure you have removed the outer shell!)

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Grind, grind, grind!

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Pour grinds into pot. Now, add the water. You’ll want to make enough for a few cups, but remember that Turkish Coffee is served in small cups (you aren’t going to have a Grande Turkish Coffee … well, not if you want to sleep anytime in the next week!)

If you are using pre-ground coffee, you can add ground cardamom at this point to your grounds.

 

Bring pot to just under a boil on your stovetop.

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Watch closely or pot will boil over! You want to make sure to keep it from boiling so you don’t ‘break the crema’ on top.

Pour a little into each cup and return it to the stove, repeating the step above. Continue this until the cups are full. Your kitchen should smell like coffee by now!

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I don’t tend to add anything to Turkish Coffee, but you always can add sugar or cream (add before you pour the coffee). The cardamom will act as a natural sweetener.

Serve with lovely treats. Again, we got these lovely treats at Adonis Market in Montreal.

There you have it, Turkish Coffee!

Bon apetit!

 

Sunday Gravy

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It came from an Italian American tradition. On Sunday, after church, all the grandmas would spend the afternoon preparing a big meal for the family, a “Sunday Gravy”. As I am neither Italian nor American, please be lenient on my take on this classic.

So, what did I use?

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For today’s meal (it will be slightly different each time):

  • 5 hot Italian sausages
  • 5 mild Italian sausages
  • 3 pork shanks (osso bouco style)
  • 2 lb pork roast
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 Spanish onion
  • 1 kg of rigatoni (sometimes I use a penne)

Usually I will have meatballs as well, but today, since I wasn’t making it for a large group, I didn’t add them. Many people will say meatballs are mandatory, but I always encourage you to improvise!

The meats you choose are up to you. I’ve used lamb neck, veal ribs, beef short ribs … basically, stuff with a bone is good. Also, since it’s going to simmer for many hours, don’t get expensive cuts of meat. Anything becomes tender after that amount of time.

Sunday Gravy is really just a type of braise. Here’s how it’s done:

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Add some olive oil to a large pot (and trust me, you want something large. After the meat is added you’ll be surprised how much of the pot is full).

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Grab your meat! (Sorry vegetarian pals, this one is gonna be meaty).

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Brown the meat in the pot.

Once it’s all done, remove the meat to a separate dish.

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Good ol’ plate of meat!

Chop up your onion.

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Add that to the pot with some garlic and cook them until they start to get clear. Make sure they’re getting all the little brown bits of the meat mixed in!

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Add the cans of tomatoes.

Add some oregano and  stir!

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Time to put the meat back!

You may have noticed I did not cut up the pork roast. If you get a well marbled piece of meat it’s going to basically fall apart in the hours of simmering ahead so you don’t need to worry!

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Make sure to pour in those drippy juices that came off the meat while it sat on the plate … that’s a lot of flavour you’d be losing!

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Lovely!

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Bring it to a slow boil, then turn the heat down to low. Cover the pot and walk away. This is going to simmer for a minimum of 3 hours! (it’s a recipe for a nice Sunday afternoon … go watch football now!)

Okay, internet magic time … those 3 hours have passed, time to get the pasta ready.

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Add your pasta to boiling water. Get this cooked to a nice ‘al dente’.

 

Now we’re going back to our pot. Looking great, time to remove the meat!

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Place the meat on a separate dish.

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Is .. is … is that a plate of meat????

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Yes it is Pippi … yes it is!

Now, go get that pasta out … I’m sure it’s cooked perfectly by now!

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Add that pasta to your sauce!

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Now that it’s well mixed, go grab a serving bowl.

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Put the pasta in the bowl. A big thing about this meal is it’s for a large group or family! You serve it on big platter, let people take what they want!

Serve it with garlic bread, add a caesar salad … enjoy it! Make this when you have a people over to visit … they may never want to leave!

There you have it, my version of Sunday Gravy!

Bon apetit!

Chicken Tagine

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Our friends came back from their honeymoon in Morocco with a fantastic clay tagine for us. A tagine in a type of earthenware cooking pot with a conical lid made to keep heat and moisture in the food as it slowly cooks.

The tagine has been used historically in North Africa, due to it’s unique ability to trap steam and moisture … a very practical thing when you’re living in areas where the water supply is limited

For this recipe we do recommend a tagine, but any deep, oven-proof, dish with a cover can be used!

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So, for this recipe you’ll need the following:

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 small cauliflower
  • 1 lemon
  • handful of dried apricots
  • spice rub (detailed below)

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Spice rub:

  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves

Spices are key to North African cooking. Although you can buy spices that are already ground, I’d suggest buying whole spices and grinding them yourself with a mortar and pestle like you see pictured above.

Freshly ground spices have much more flavour and the aromas you’ll get while grinding will give you a greater knowlege of what each spice is adding to the mix.

Spice rub is created by just combining the ingredients and mixing well.

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Now, go get those chicken thighs and the spice rub you just made.

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Pour the spice rub over the chicken thighs

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Rub in the spice rub … why did you think we called it that? Make sure chicken is entirely coated!

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Now, coat the bottom of your tagine with olive oil.

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Chop the carrots, onion and cauliflower and add them to the tagine.

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Place the chicken on top of the chopped vegetables.

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Put the dried apricots on top of the chicken thighs.

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Slice the lemon and place the slices on top of the chicken thighs as well! If you want you can add a little water or chicken stock to the bottom of the tagine, but it’s optional.

Now, we have to finish preparing the tagine itself!

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Brush the inside of the lid with olive oil (make sure to coat everything)

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Now your tagine is ready to go into a cold oven. Since the tagine is clay, it must never be placed into a hot oven,

Place the tagine on a baking sheet (to make it easier to take in and out) and put it in the oven. Heat the oven to 325-350F

Let the tagine cook for at least an hour …

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And through the magic of the internet and hour has passed and here’s your finished tagine!

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I’d recommend you serve it along with some couscous. Here I’ve added some chick peas and fava beans to the couscous.

If you live in the Montreal area, we’ve found the best place to find any ingredients for Middle Eastern/North African cooking is Adonis Market!

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There you have our Chicken Tagine!

As always, feel free to make this recipe your own and let us know the results!

Bon apetit!

Gravad Lax

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One Swedish dish that feels very familiar to this Canadian Jew is Gravad Lax. This salmon that is cured in a salt and sugar mix has similarity to my beloved lox. Both are incredibly delicious, but Gravad Lax can be made at home with relative ease!

Okay, let’s see how this is done.

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The ingredients:

  • fresh salmon filet (try to find one with good marbling … uh, like well striped)
  • 100 ml of table salt
  • 100 ml of white sugar
  • 1 tsp of white pepper
  • fresh dill
  • gin (optional … heck you know me, it’s my go to option in just about everything!)

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Add the salt to the sugar and mix it well!

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Add the white pepper to the salt/sugar mixture. Mix it all until it’s a uniform colour.

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Coat the salmon is this mixture. Make sure every bit of the salmon is covered. Don’t be afraid to get your hands messy, this is where most of the flavour will come from!

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Line the bottom of a large casserole dish or tupperware container with fresh dill.

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Place the coated salmon on top of your dill … uh … carpet?

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Cover the salmon completely with more fresh dill.

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The salmon should be pretty well hidden!

Now, my little trick …

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Pour some gin over the entire dish. Don’t soak it, just a splash for flavour.

You can also use vodka or aquavit for this step. It’s optional, you’ll get pretty good Gravad Lax without doing it … but you don’t just want pretty good do ya?

Now your going to cover this and let it sit for 3 days in the fridge!

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Once every 24 hours make sure to uncover the salmon and flip it over on to the other side. This will prevent the salmon from curing unevenly. Remember to cover it back up before putting it back into the fridge!

Through the magic of the internet, 3 days have passed! Time to get our salmon out!

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Take your salmon and rinse off all the curing spices (that’s the salt, sugar and pepper mix)

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Make sure to get both sides!

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Slice your salmon into thin slices. Make sure to cut against the grain or the slices will fall apart.

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Use a slow sawing motion and push away from the larger piece as you get to the skin. The skin is much tougher than the flesh of the salmon and the knife will stop as you hit the skin. Pushing away will get the flesh to easily lift from the skin (I know, I say it like it’s gonna just happen … don’t worry if it takes a few slices to get the hang of it).

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Try your best to get the slices thin and uniform. Hey, this is a Swedish dish, we don’t want any piece outshining any other pieces! (fun socialism joke for all my Swedish family!)

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Serve it on hard bread with some mustard sauce!

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There you have it, Gravad Lax!

As they say in Sweden … OM NOM NOM!

The Ice Hotel (Sweden)

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Located about 220km north of the Arctic Circle, on the banks of the Torne river, is Sweden’s Ice Hotel. This was a destination that Claire had been talking about since we met. In February of 2014 we actually got a chance to do this!

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We began our trip from the town of Luleå. We’re fortunate enough to have family there (I’ll tell you much more about the town in a future post!) and they offered to drive us to the Ice Hotel, located in Jukkasjärvi, about 20 minutes outside of Kiruna, a large mining town in Northern Sweden.

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The two hour drive was spectacular. The snow and isolation made it seem like a dream. Trees had curved all the way to the ground under the weight of snow. Every so often, we’d pass a reindeer standing along the side of the road.

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After about an hour and a half of seeing nothing but snow and reindeer, Claire’s cousin announces that she “knows this great little place to get a coffee and perhaps a treat”  (Fika, as it’s called in Sweden). Sure enough, she pulls off the road and drives up to this tiny little cafe in the middle of this arctic panorama.

Yes, it was a great place for Fika

Half an hour later, seemingly out of nowhere, it appeared.

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HOLY CRAP WE’RE ACTUALLY AT THE ICE HOTEL!

What seemed like a crazy idea was happening. We had somehow come from Toronto all the way to this remote village 220km north of the Arctic Circle … in February … and there really was a hotel made entirely of ice.

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Now, the Ice Hotel has two main structures. One is permanent, and is made of wood and brick and all the things we expect. It’s heated and it’s where you check in, store your bag (your stuff will freeze if left in the rooms), go to the washroom and the sauna.

The other structure is what we came to experience. A hotel made entirely of ice and snow. Carved and assembled every year, as come May the hotel melts back into the Torne river. We were staying at the 24th Ice Hotel.

We checked in, got our guest lanyards (it has become a tourist destination where people come just to see it, but don’t stay overnight, so guests have special lanyards telling staff they’re the brave ones who are going to stay!)

Now it was time to go inside, take a tour of the facility and the special art rooms. These art rooms (a special few rooms out of the approximately 60 rooms), were individually designed and carved by artisans flown in from around the globe. Each had a special theme or story.

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Walking inside, first thing we noticed were the ice chandeliers in the hallways. We walked on until we came to our first art room.

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This fun room was called Pole Dancing, featuring images and sculptures of dancing polar bears having a party. Claire decided to join in for a while!

My favourte was the room called It’s Alive!

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Carved and designed to invoke the laboratory of a mad Dr. Frankenstein, this room was stunning. Not only levers and dials, but the ‘tesla coils’ on either side of the bed would flash with a strobe whenever the big red button was pushed. (I pushed it far too many times for any grown man)

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Here, in a room entitled AfterThe BIg Bang , you can go to sleep in a shattered snow globe … okay, so that’s pretty cool

Alright, so we had seen a lot of rooms. Yes, they were all amazing. Now, wasn’t there supposed to be an Ice Bar?

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HOLY CRAP, I AM IN THE ICE BAR! (the holy crap moments seemed to happen often here)

The bar was full of interesting and odd sculptures

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This ice fish done by a Japanese artisan was a great place to take the obligatory “help, I’m getting eaten by a giant ice fish” picture

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This “spin the bottle” table seemed like a cute idea, until some ladies from Liverpool got a bit too drunk and thought that you had to follow the directions … it was law! We don’t have any video of a drunk woman trying to dance on an ice table, but I’m pretty sure how you imagine it turning out in your mind is exactly how it went.

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Claire found a nice booth for us to sit in. Yes, it’s all made of ice. Reindeer skins are there for … well, kind of decoration. They neither keep your butt warm nor make the seat soft. BUT LOOK HOW COOL THAT LOOKS!

Enough playing around … this was a bar damn it!

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Drinks, as it turns out, were not insanely “gotta sell the car” expensive. At the Ice Bar, you never need ice in your drinks, the glass is a block of ice

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skål!

(Claire drawing upon her Swedish heritage here, holding the ice cup without gloves … stupid Vikings!)

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One last photo in the bar. After all, inside the Hotel it’s around -5C at all times, so eventually you need to go warm up.

Time for dinner!

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Yes, the restaurant is in a separate, heated building across the street. (the look on my face is “I am hungry, are you finished taking pictures so I can eat now?” You see that a lot in my photos)

With a truly captive audience (where else are you going to go?), this restaurant didn’t have to be great. Happily, it was spectacular

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Claire had some amazing grilled Arctic Char. I’d like to be able to tell you all the other side dishes on the plate … but this was almost 2 years ago and I’m lucky to remember what I had for dinner last night!

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I am having reindeer filet … trust me, if you ever get a chance to have reindeer, you have it! Best meat I’ve ever tasted. Like a very tender beef with that slight mineral taste of something like liver … okay, that may not sound as awesome as it did in my head, but it was so good!

I can tell you that I have some shitake mushrooms on my plate that were grown in the depleted mines in Kiruna. Amazingly, everything on both our plates was sourced locally.

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Sure, it’s cold, but ice cream!  Served in an ice block bowl (because, why not?) and flavoured with arctic berries. Spectacular finish to a spectacular meal!

Okay, it was still early (it had been dark since 2pm). Time to explore!

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The Ice Hotel has a bunch of these ‘kick sleds’ or ‘sparks’ all around the facility. It’s actually a great, quick way to get around. Also, FUN!

We took them all the way down to the Torne river and along it. We were having fun, and were brave, but weren’t going to get too far from the only heat and shelter we could see in the arctic, in February, at night …

Unfortunately it was cloudy that night, so no Northern Lights (again, that will be another post from when we went even further north after the Ice Hotel!)

After a bit of sledding fun, we went back up to the hotel.

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This ominous looking place was actually an Ice Church. Turns out, many people like to use this place for a destination wedding! In fact, there was a wedding going on when we first got there.

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The Ice Church, so you can pray you survive the night in the ice.

Now, one thing we didn’t expect when we went here were all the British tourists who had come. Okay, we have British relatives, so I feel comfortable in saying this … Brits are some of the WORST tourists in the world! Before you judge me, let me explain:

While we were out exploring this stunning landscape, the Brits (admittedly, not all of them) had set up in the lobby of heated building, having lager and crisps while texting on their phones. The next morning at breakfast they could also be heard complaining about how cold their rooms were … in a hotel MADE OF ICE! Sigh … okay, rant done.

Time to investigate our room!

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The room had light coming from the base of the ice bed. No windows in any rooms, as protection from wind is more important than seeing outside. Also, you have a doorway, but no door, just a heavy curtain. This is because the snow and ice (snice, they really call it that) that make up the walls will be constantly settling and a door would almost immediately become stuck and unable to open.

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So, how does one survive a night in a room that is -5C and sleeping on a bed of ice?

Short answer, in a thermal sleeping bag

You place all your belongings in a large locker in the heated main building. Again, anything in your room WILL FREEZE overnight. Next, you strip down to long johns (thermal undies if that makes more sense). You don’t want layers between you and the thermal sleeping bag, or you won’t generate enough body heat in the bag to stay warm.

You grab the bag just before heading to sleep (you want them to have been in the heated main building as long as possible). Now, the run …

There is no direct connection between the building and the Ice Hotel. You have to go outside and through a doorway. This means you are going to go outside in nothing but your thermal undies, carrying a sleeping bag, and heading to your room. Even once you’re at your room, it’s -5C.

Basically, as quickly as you can, you head to your room, unzip the bag, get in and zip it back up … oh, and make sure to shut the light first. You don’t want to have to climb back out to shut that. In case you are wondering, no, of course there is no plumbing or toilet in the Ice Hotel. If you have to pee in the night, you are doing a very cold run back to the main building. Advice … don’t drink too much before bed!

So, how was our night on the ice?

Actually, we both found it incredibly comfortable

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In the morning, since there are no windows or clocks, one of the staff will come into your room at 7:30am to wake you. I just remember hearing this lovely little Swedish accented voice saying “Good morning”, looking up at a blond haired, blue eyed angel who had hot lingonberry juice for us and was letting us know we had lived!

After our hot lingonberry juice, it was off to have a quick sauna … spending the night in -5C, you need it. Another fun British tourist fact … they won’t ever get naked. EVER. So, the sauna was just me and a nice Swedish tourist. We chatted about the incredible experience of the place, about Sweden in general … making sure we never looked at each other’s junk …

Standard Swedish breakfast of hard bread, cheese, liver sausage and processed meats to follow!

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So, that was our one night at The Ice Hotel. We caught a shuttle bus to Kiruna that dropped us at the train station. We were taking a train further north, to Katterjåkk, where the family has a cottage. That will be a whole other blog post!

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Hej då!

If you’d like to have hot lingonberry juice at home, it’s pretty easy.

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Grab lingon concentrate from the food section of IKEA. Just add little to water, heat to simmer and pour.

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You can always add spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves to add that holiday feel. (Also, as I usually suggest, adding gin makes this a great way to warm up on a cold winter night!)

To learn more about Sweden’s Ice Hotel, click here: TELL ME ABOUT SWEDEN’S ICE HOTEL

Infused Vodka

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We like having guests over to our home. Something that always gets people talking are Infused Vodkas.

Sometimes you can infuse them with a theme in mind (as you’ll see later in our Christmas vodka), or maybe to remind you of a special place. We’ve actually infused vodka using young branches from birch trees near our cottage, so every sip reminds us of our times there.

Today, we’ll show you our Creamsicle, Earl Grey Tea and Christmas Vodka Infusions!

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This first one is always popular,

The CREAMSICLE vodka infusion

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For this infusion you’ll need:

  • 250ml of vodka
  • one orange
  • one vanilla bean

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First we take our vanilla bean and slice it in half. That slice makes sure we get the vanilla to infuse. Oh, and it also smells amazing!

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To get the orange zest, you can just use a standard vegetable peeler if you don’t happen to have a zester. If you do have a zester, that’s odd. You probably have a melon baller too.

Add the sliced vanilla bean and orange zest to the vodka

Now, honestly, you just wait 24 hours for the flavours to infuse the vodka.

It may seem like a long time to wait, but wait until you taste the results!

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You can remove the bean and zest anytime after this, if you keep them in the vodka they’ll look pretty and the flavours will continue to become stronger!

the EARL GREY TEA vodka

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For this one you’ll need:

  • 250 ml of vodka
  • one teabag of Earl Grey tea
  • one lemon

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When I first was thinking of combinations, the idea of Earl Grey tea came to mind. Looking for a complimentary flavour, it was pretty obvious to add lemon to tea!

I’m sure you can guess the next step here … add the teabag to the vodka with the zest of one lemon

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Now, with a teabag the infusion happens much quicker. I’d recommend removing the teabag after about 12 hours, but you can keep it there if you want something stronger

We love to play around with recipes like this. Try another type of tea. Maybe and herbal tea like hibiscus or something floral like a chamomile!

For the holidays, we like to make something that really has the flavours of the season. So, if the lovely Christmas glögg isn’t enough Christmas cheer, try our next infusion!

the CHRISTMAS vodka

This one is always popular during the holidays. Once you taste it, you’ll know why

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For this one you will need:

  • 250 ml of vodka
  • one orange
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • one whole nutmeg
  • cloves (to taste)
  • cardamom (to taste)

You’ll also need a hammer … don’t ask, just keep reading!

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Crack your whole nutmeg with a hammer. If you don’t crack that tough outer shell, the nutmeg really won’t infuse too well

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Add the zest of one orange, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom and half of the nutmeg to the vodka

Again, let it sit for a day

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There’s a lot going on in this infusion and the cinnamon sticks being wrapped up by the orange zest makes for a pretty presentation. If you made this a day before having guests over, you can leave in all the ingredients just to show off how cool you are … but if there is any left over, you’ll probably want to take them out to stop any further infusing.

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So there you have it!

Three very different infused vodkas.

The most fun is trying your own combinations. We once did one using roasted golden beets (shockingly tasty!)

Let us know some of the combinations you come up with. Send us pictures too!

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Salut!

Spaghetti Carbonara

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One of my wife’s favourite dishes is my take on spaghetti carbonara. It’s a tasty, smokey, creamy meal that is pretty quick to make

Let me show you how I do it!

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For this one, you’ll need the following:

  • 100 grams of lardons (or pancetta)
  • 1 medium Spanish onion
  • cremini mushrooms (usually about 2 handfulls)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100 grams of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 250 grams of spaghetti

As you can tell, my recipe has a very flexible measuring method. Remember, recipes are guidelines. Unless you’re baking or making candy (oh, the horror stories I have!), feel free to put in the amount that feels right for you. If you’re a big fan of bacon (YES YOU ARE), go ahead and put in more!

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Start by grabbing a nice, deep frying pan and adding some olive oil.

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Once the oil is heated cook up the lardons. For those of you not sure what that is, it’s just chunks of bacon. You can also use pancetta, which is equally awesome!

Let that cook until the fat starts to go clear

Now, we chop the onion …

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You’ll want to slice it into bite-size pieces. If you refrigerate the onion ahead of time, you’ll find it much less ‘tear’ inducing when you chop it

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Unfortunately I don’t often take my own advice.

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Add the onions to the lardons and cook until the onion starts to get tender

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Quarter the cremini mushrooms. Again, this is MY version of spaghetti carbonara so if you aren’t a fan of mushrooms, go ahead and leave them out!

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Add the mushrooms to the pan and let the whole thing cook while you get a pot of water boiling.

Okay, you’ve got the water boiling … so let’s add the pasta!

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You want the spaghetti ‘al dente’, so around 7-8 minutes.

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Now that you have the spaghetti boiling and the pan is cooking, let’s go make the wonderful, cheesy, goopy sauce!

Crack your eggs into something it will be easy to pour from. I like to use a measuring cup.

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That’s one …

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Two eggs … let’s do this!

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Some nice hot chili flakes should give the sauce just a bit of a kick

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Add the Parmesan to the eggs

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Now whisk until all that cheese is mixed up with the eggs. You should have something that basically looks like a yellow paste at this point.

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Go grab that perfectly al dente cooked pasta (I know you did it right, I trust you!)

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Add the spaghetti to the pan and mix it well. At this point you can take the heat down to low.

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Pour your goopy egg and cheese sauce into the pan …

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Now stir!

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Our cat Mogget cheers me on, voicing his encouragement. Let him encourage you!

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Keep on stirring, you should notice that the sauce is starting to thicken from the heat of the food.

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And there you have it!

One dish that is simultaneously pasta, cheese AND bacon!

Bon apetit