Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Stockholm Miscellany

A few photos from Stockholm, that didn't really fit in with any of my other posts.

Starting with the biggest crispbread I've ever set eyes on, which caused me to get my camera out in the middle of Lidl:

This is one of the cutest gargoyles I've seen - he's trying to be scary, but he's not quite making it:


This jackdaw had been pecking around inside the bin, looking for scraps, but came and popped his head out to pose for the camera:

In the UK some supermarkets lay on free buses, but I'd be a happy girl indeed if there was an IKEA bus to my house:

And finally, just because it's pretty:

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Oat & Raisin Cookies

I'm on such a cookie-kick at the moment, but I wanted to make something a little less chocolate-focused this time. Oat & raisin is a classic combination. With a little imagination, I can persuade myself these are basically porridge, and therefore an acceptable breakfast food. I would probably have used wholemeal flour instead of plain to further increase the "health food" illusion, except I'd run out.

Oat & Raisin Cookies
Makes about 24

2 cups plain flour
2 cups whole rolled oats
1 cup soft brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs
250g butter (USA: 2 sticks)
1tsp vanilla essence
1 cup raisins

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (except raisins) in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Melt the butter, and add to the bowl along with the eggs and vanilla essence.
  4. Knead together into a soft dough.
  5. Add the raisins and knead until evenly distributed.
  6. Use a desert spoon to scoop out cookie mixture, form into a ball between your fingers, and arrange on baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Monday, 22 August 2011

An Unusual Letterbox?

These little boxes were everywhere in Stockholm. We're not sure, but we think they might be mailboxes. They often seem to be decorated in the same style as a nearby building, presumably the one they belong to. Whatever they are, they're a fun way of doing it.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Cherry Chocolate Cookies

I made these when some friends came round last weekend, and there weren't any left, so they must have been appreciated! It's a variant on my usual cookie recipe (aren't they all?) but I used dark molasses sugar for an extra depth of flavour, which I think worked really well with the chocolate. You could throw in some chocolate chips for extra decadence (probably half to one cup would be about right).

Cherry Chocolate Cookies
Makes approx. 24 cookies

3 cups flour
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 cup molasses sugar
2/3 cup soft brown sugar
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla essence
250g butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups glace cherries (halved)

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Melt the butter, and add to the bowl along with the eggs and vanilla essence.
  4. Knead together into a soft dough.
  5. Add the cherries and knead until evenly distributed.
  6. Use a desert spoon to scoop out cookie mixture, form into a ball between your fingers, and arrange on baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until starting to firm.
  8. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

PhotobucketTickled Pink at 504 Main

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Boats in Stockholm

I love boats. If you missed the part where I lived on a narrowboat for a few years (before I started blogging)... well, I'll tell more stories about that another day. Suffice it to say that the romance wore off for a while when day-to-day life was all about emptying chemical toilets and running out of drinking water, but now that I'm firmly back on dry land my daydreaming has taken a distinctly nautical turn again.

It follows that Stockholm, built on a series of islands, was daydream heaven.

One of the first boats we really noticed (after our hotel) was, actually, more of a private cruise ship. Can you imagine owning something like this, all for yourself? You'd have to invite all your friends just to avoid rattling around.

At the other extreme of bare-bones functionality, this awesome racing catamaran certainly stopped me in my tracks. I was only sorry not to see it in action.

Which would you prefer to try out? If I only got a short trip, I'd go for the racer, although if I had chance to own one then I'm sure I'd get more use out of the super-yacht! But I'd be a bit sorry to have a ship with no sails. This 'for sale' ad might just capture my perfect ship.

PS the lovely Krysten at After I Do has kindly posted a review and interview about Rebellion. Go check it out!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Quick & Easy Potato Salad

We're having a BBQ this afternoon, so I've spent much of this morning in the kitchen making kebabs, salads, and cookies.

This super-quick potato salad is a perfect party side dish for summer eating - tasty, but almost instant (once you've cooked the potatoes and allowed them to cool). You can use vegan mayo if you're catering for a variety of diets.

Potato Salad

1200g cold, cooked potatoes (boiled or steamed)
250ml mayonnaise
12 spring onions
1 medium red onion
Salt & black pepper to taste

Chop the potatoes into pieces, about 1-inch cubes. Chop the onions and spring onions finely, and combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl. Chill until needed.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Ginger Chocolate Brownies

I always took my own packed lunch to school, so I didn't regularly buy anything from the high school canteen, but once in a blue moon I'd bring a few pennies of my pocket money and split a cake with a couple of friends. When we did this we would invariably go for the chocolate cake. The chocolate cake for sale at our school was made as a traybake and had a slightly unusual feature: it had a ginger crumb base.

This recipe is a nod in that direction, but I've made it much richer (more brownie than cake) and added extra ginger pieces. I also decided to skip the extra layer of milk chocolate on top, although of course you could add this easily if you felt so inclined.

I used this as an excuse to fill up both of my new loose-bottomed muffin trays, and try them out in the oven, but you could equally well use a large rectangular tin and slice after cooling.

(If you don't fancy the ginger, I posted a more traditional brownie recipe earlier this year.)

Ginger Chocolate Brownies
Makes 24

For the base:
250g ginger biscuits
100g butter

For the brownie:
200g dark chocolate (70% cacao)
200g butter
400g soft brown sugar
5 medium eggs
1tsp (5ml) vanilla essence
150g plain flour
50g cacao powder
75g candied ginger pieces

  1. Chop the candied ginger into tiny cubes (about ½cm).
  2. Melt the chocolate, and set aside to cool.
  3. Crush the ginger biscuits in a large bowl (or pestle & mortar).
  4. Melt the 100g of butter, and stir through the biscuit crumbs.
  5. Divide the biscuit mixture between the 24 muffin tins, and press into the base (1 heaped teaspoon per tin).
  6. Chill the bases while you prepare the rest of the mixture.
  7. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
  8. Cream the butter and sugar together.
  9. Break the eggs with a fork and add to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing slowly, and then add the vanilla essence.
  10. Check that the chocolate has cooled to room temperature, and add to the butter/sugar/egg.
  11. Fold in the flour and cocoa, to make a thick paste.
  12. Add the ginger pieces and stir until evenly distributed.
  13. Divide the mixture between the muffin tins (about 2 heaped teaspoons per tin), and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops have cracked.
  14. Cool in the tin before serving.

Tickled Pink at 504 Main

Monday, 8 August 2011

An Unusual Hotel

Finding a hotel is usually a straightforward affair, especially in a major city. Skip through a few major sites (Lastminute.com, Expedia, Opodo) and pick something central and reasonably priced, preferably with reviews including words like 'clean' and 'good breakfast' (I have my priorities straight!). Unlike with transport, where it's usually better to book a long way in advance, the best hotel deals seem to appear a week or two before you need them. But when we started looking at Stockholm, the usual approach didn't seem to be working.

And then my husband found this...

The Malardrottningen is a hotel on a boat, moored permanently right in the middle of Stockholm. Since Stockholm itself is built on a series of islands, being on the water felt appropriate, and we certainly had a great view from the breakfast table (below), not to mention the extensive breakfast buffet.

The bedrooms were unsurprisingly small, but comfortable enough. We had a bunk bed in our room, which wouldn't have been our first choice, but it was worth it to stay in such a unique spot in the middle of town. We'd love to go back and see more of Stockholm, and we'd certainly stay here again.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Mae Thai: A Stockholm Takeaway

We were strolling through Stockholm looking for something to eat, pausing frequently to assess restaurant menus, and keeping track of where we might go back to. We were also getting towards the end of this particular road, and we agreed that we'd turn at the next junction and make our way back. And then we came upon this little booth selling Thai food. It calls itself a takeaway, but wooden fences screened off four small tables, and after a quick glance at the extensive menu we grabbed the last free seats.

There was a vegetarian option for almost every dish on the menu, and the (very reasonable) prices were simply determined by whether you wanted vegetarian, chicken, beef, or whatever.

I went for the vegetable phad thai with tofu, and was impressed by the range and evident freshness of the vegetables, the generous sprinkling of peanut and sesame, and the option to make it as hot (or mild) as I wanted by choosing how much chilli to stir through. There were also little pots of soy sauce and sweet chilli, jugs of cold water on the tables, and biodegradable plates.

We visited twice during our short stop in Stockholm, and would certainly go back again given a chance. In fact I wish I could have folded up the whole place and brought it home with me!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Night Train to Stockholm

The first couple of days of our Baltic trip were spent almost back-to-back travelling. Trains to and across London, and out to Harwich. The overnight ferry to Esbjerg in Denmark, and then a somewhat unexpected rush to catch the coach to catch the train to Copenhagen.

We took a breather in Copenhagen to get a bite to eat, settling for a pizza-and-pasta buffet near the train station, and then straight on to the next train to Malmo.

We had a couple of spare hours there, to meander through the streets and drink coffee and reflect that it would be a nice place to come back to. And since it's such a short train ride from Copenhagen, I'm sure we will visit again.

Then we had to make our way back to the train station, for our sleeper train to Stockholm.

I've slept on trains before, but usually in a two-berth cabin, or occasionally in a four-berth with two upper and two lower bunks. This was a three-birth, meaning that the available beds were top, middle, and bottom. And the top one was very high, so we were glad of the huge nets to keep us in place in the night. What really surprised me was the tiny wash basin tucked into the corner of the cabin, perfect for cleaning our teeth without having to venture out. I actually really like sleeping on trains, even if I do wake up almost every time the train stops at a station. This one was a relatively short journey, though, so when we arrived at six in the morning I really felt I could have done with just a little more sleep.

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