Wednesday, 8 July 2015


In my professional life I spend quite a bit of time trying to get people outside Sweden (and within!) to discover Swedish music, old and new. I don't know quite how we have managed to get ourselves in the situation that we are in in relation to our own art music in Sweden, but generally speaking it has such a low profile that most people, including a lot of musicians seem to be almost unaware of its existence! Hopefully this can be rectified relatively easily - by performing the best works more often and to do it extremely well. And if we start playing it at home, chances are that more people will get curious of it abroad too. At least this is how I see it, slightly simplified perhaps, but then I am on holiday at the moment. Which brings me to... Swedish food!

I don't think you could say that Swedish cuisine is keeping a particularly low profile these days; Swedish chefs seem to do extremely well all over the world, both in prestigious cooking contests and as award winning restaurateurs, and the romantic notion that we all go into the woods to pick mushrooms  berries and to shoot birds and beasts certainly seem to strike a chord internationally. But not all Swedish food is about things gathered in the wild, and in fact most traditional dishes rely mainly on farm produce as it would have been far to time and energy consuming to go foraging in the old days. 

Today I passed through Katrineholm where my friend Peter runs a great butcher shop called Landet i Centrum, and I bought some really lovely local neck of lamb, which I turned into dillkött (literally meat with dill) for our supper. Dillkött is one of those hearty, yet summery dishes that Swedes remember being served by their grandmothers. It contains a few of the trademarks of traditional Swedish cuisine: the fondness for exotic spices and the combination of sweet and sour tastes, and of course it is served with potatoes. (Food in Sweden used to translate almost exclusively into meat or fish and potatoes as recently as 25 years ago!)

Here is how I make it: 

500g neck of boneless lamb (or veal) + bones (optional)
1 medium onion, quartered
2-3 carrots, cut into chunks
the white part of one leek
5 white peppercorns 
5 pieces of allspice
2 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of thyme
single cream
copious amounts of dill
75ml caster sugar
75ml water
2 tsp spirit vinegar 

Cut the meat into 2 cm dice and put in a pan (along with the bones if you have them) covered by cold water. Bring to the boil and let simmer for a few seconds. Drain off the water using a colander and rinse the meat under cold running water. Clean the pan and put the meat (and bones) back in along with the onion, carrots, leek, peppercorns, allspice, cloves and bay leaves. Cover with water and put in 1 tsp salt for each liter of water. Bring to the boil once more, skim off any foam that rises to the surface and then let simmer in a covered pan for about an hour or until the meat is tender. In the meantime combine the sugar, water and vinegar with the stalks from the dill in a separate pan and bring to the boil. Check the balance between sweet and sour in this liquid - it should be the same as in a good Chinese sweet and sour sauce. Set aside. 
In a new pan, melt a good dollop of butter and whisk in a tablespoon or two of flour. Let the roux sizzle for a little while without getting browned. Ladle in some of the cooking liquid from the meat and whisk vigorously until you have a smooth and quite thick velouté. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat and carrots into the velouté and add some cream. Season with salt and by adding a few spoonfuls of the sweet and sour vinegar and sugar solution. Add more cooking liquid if needed. Chop the dill finely and add it to the finished dish just before serving to ensure maximum dill flavour and to prevent the dill from turning grey in the sauce. Serve with new potatoes.

No comments:

Post a Comment