Monday, April 20, 2009

Friends' book club

Yesterday my daughter Disa hosted a meeting of her Friends' book club. They were discussing a 15 years old, but relatively recently translated to English, thriller by a very successful Swedish writer, Henning Mankell: The Man Who Smiled (Mannen som Log). They were mostly Americans in the group, but also a few Swedes, either by birth or - like Disa and me - by citizenship.

Thus the discussion was lively and showed interesting observations of Sweden and Swedes, as described in the book. Unfortunately I can't give more details, as the book is a thriller and a resume of the discussion would give aways the plot and the ending. So let's talk about food Disa made, instead.

Since the book is Swedish and its main character, detective Wallander eats mainly sandwiches throughout the book, Disa served a variety of typical Swedish sandwiches.
There were cheese sandwiches with cucumber on a typical Swedish bread, limpa, purchased at IKEA.

A digression:Limpa is slightly sweet and its sweetness has an interesting origin: during WWII Swedish government came to the conclusion that Swedes were undernourished, so it decreed that all bread baked in Sweden had to have added sugar. More than half a century has passed, the law is no longer, Sweden now has various types of bread, most of them without any sugar, but limpa persisted, although it is by far not as sweet as it used to be even in the seventies, when I immigrated to Sweden and could not abide by Swedish bread. Now I eat it, too, and like it. :-)

Another typical Swedish sandwich is one with a French pate (here a duck pate) and tiny marinated cucumbers, called cornichons, served on a French baguette.
Another digression: In the XIX century Sweden underwent a serious franconization, reflected in its upper and middle class cuisine, franconization of Swedish last names, especially of its middle class, etc.

But the king of Disa's sandwich table was a Sandwich Cake (Smorgastorta) a la Skagen.

Sandwich Cake, of which are many varieties, is a typical Swedish party fare.
This particular one ( a la Skagen) refers to the Danish fishing village turned resort of Skagen, famous not only for its sand beaches but, first and foremost, for its fantastic and unique light, which has always attracted painters from near and far
Summer afternoon at Skagen - a painting by Peter Severin Kroyer

Disa chose this cake, because the main character of the book spends some time in Skagen.... and because it is very, very tasty and very Scandinavian.

Here is a recipe for the Sandwich Cake a la Skagen:

8-10 servings Prepare 24 hrs in advance.

Bread:9 square slices of white bread (you want to find a denser bread rather than fluffy "wonder bread"). Cut all crust off. 3 slices next to each other make one layer


3 hard boiled eggs chopped,

1 lb peeled shrimp (pref small salad shrimp)

1/2 c mayonnaise

1/2 c sour cream

2 oz lump fish roe (the red kind)

1/2 c chopped dill

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing it gently with a spoon.

Note about shrimp: the Swedish shrimp are boiled in salty water before they are sold, thus making the taste different from the shrimp sold here. To get the same taste: 1. buy the peel-and-eat shrimp at IKEA (you will need about 1.5 bags and do a lot of peeling) or 2) buy peeled salad shrimp but sprinkle them with salt and let them soak it in over night. If you are at IKEA, you can buy the roe there also in 2.8 oz jars (use rest for garnish.)

Place 1/2 mixture on the first bread layer (it will be "stacked") making sure you have filling out to the edges.Place second row of 3 bread slices on top of the filling. Put remaining 1/2 of filling on top of that bread layer. Cover with the third bread layer.

"Frosting": 1 c sour cream1/2 - 1 c mayonnaise

Stir together until well mixed. "Frost" all sides of the "cake" I take a little less of each and add Greek yogurt, but that's just a taste preference. Makes the frosting a bit tart.

Garnish:Roe (rest from jar), Shrimp (about a cup of shrimp), Dill, Lemon Decorate the sides with dill. Arrange the roe and shrimp as you like on the top. Add lemon 1/2 moons to add color. Alternatively or in addition; smoked salmon "rosettes" can be used as garnish. Refrigerate over night. Take out 30 min before party (depending on room temp) so the "cake" is not cold when eaten. Enjoy!

Another very typical Swedish sandwich creation is ham on a Swedish flat bread with mimosa salad. Yummy!

And my only contribution to the preparation of this feast was to peel 2 kilograms of shrimp!

Cats were banned to the bedroom for the time of the meeting, as they made an awful nuisance of themselves, begging for shrimp leftovers, while I was peeling them, and there was a risk they would do the same to the guests. (Disa commented that I let them get away with anything!)

But they dis not seem to mind at all!


zooms said...

Would you like some lemonade to wash it all down with?
There is an award for you over at my blog.

Minerva said...

thanks a bunch, zooms! A lemonade stand award for attitude! :-) I love that!