16 October 2016


On my trip to Sweden in October, I met up with some of my dear friends at a Lebanese restaurant, which was new to me and turned out to be a fantastic experience. The food was fabulous, and the chef/owner was well aware about it, so on the first page of the menu there were two taster options - one with 16 small dishes, one with even more.


I'd made sure not to eat too much during the day, but I was still not able to do my order of 16 dishes justice. There were 8 cold dishes and 8 hot dishes. The waiter brought the cold ones first, along with pieces of toasted pita bread and promised to return with the warm dishes in 20 minutes. Well, he didn't come back for perhaps an hour and we were still dipping away, asking ourselves how on Earth would we be able to fit in 8 more dishes. The only dish I didn't go for was the one with prawns, there's no way I'll eat those things.

One of the dishes that I particularly enjoyed was "mhmhmhmhmh-a" as I managed to explain to my parents the next day. Some research corrected this into Muhammara, a mixture based on roasted peppers that hasn't been adopted in Bulgaria. After some clicking around, I settled on Ottolengi's version, original found here.

Sadly I wasn't able to get hold of Aleppo peppers as he recommends, but I did manage to get hold of pomegranate molasses. I've bought this before and tasted and hated and thrown away. Turns out, I just didn't know what to do with it. It's not to be eaten straight from the bottle.


Makes not enough, it's that tasty.

3 large red bell peppers
50 g large breadcrumbs, preferably panko
½ tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
1 clove of garlic
50 g walnuts
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste


  1. Pre-heat the grill on medium-high. Wash the bell peppers and place on a tray.
  2. Bake the peppers under the grill until the skins blacken and the peppers go soft and collapse in. Turn to get them roasted evenly. This can take about an hour.
  3. In the meantime,mix together the breadcrumbs, molasses, cumin and chilli flakes together in a large bowl.
  4. Peel and press in the garlic. Chop and add the walnuts along with the olive oil and salt.
  5. When the peppers are roasted, place in a lidded, heat-proof dish and let cool for a few minutes, so they can be handled.
  6. Peel the pepper skin and remove stalks and seeds. Rinse the peppers if needed and pat dry with some kitchen tissue.
  7. Finely chop the peppers and stir into the walnut mixture.
    Add more salt and molasses if needed.
  8. To make it easier for dipping, process to make smoother.

Next time I'll add more walnuts. I liked the texture when everything was chopped, but the flavours mixed a lot better once I'd run the muhammara through the processor. It wasn't the same as at the restaurant, but it was very yummy indeed. I hadn't realised that roasting the peppers would take so long in the oven. I'll use my pepper roaster next time, it's much quicker. Here's what a Bulgarian pepper roaster (чушкопек, chushkopek) looks like.

9 October 2016

Sea buckthorn

While watching Den Store Bagedyst (Danish Bake Off) a few years ago, it seemed that there is a bright orange berry that was highly appreciated by the Danes. I'd not come across it previously, but some looking up on the various language versions of Wikipedia gave the impression that this is a berry used in Sweden too. It's called havtorn in both Swedish and Danish, which would translate to sea thorn. But the English common name appears to be sea buckthorn or sea berry.


As the berry picking season in the Stockholm area seemed to be coming to a close, my Mum mentioned that she'd seen people picking some orange berries from the shrubs along the promenade and wondered if I knew what they were. She'd taken a somewhat fuzzy photo of them, but they were quite easy to recognise as sea buckthorn and I got excited. How about that - the promenade is part of the estate and the shrubs were planted as decoration, not for picking. So I asked her if she could pick a few so we could try them out. And not only did she do that, she even got my Dad to help out and they picked over a kilo of these and froze. My Mum even tried them fresh and said they were extremely tart.

So when I went to visit them in October, I took the opportunity to try one of the Danish Bake Off recipes that I'd saved - Macarons with curd from sea buckthorn. For the macarons, I used my usual recipe, but swapped the almonds with sesame seeds.


1 leaf of gelatine
100 g juice from sea buckthorn (~150 g whole berries)
4 yolks
150 g granulated sugar
75 g unsalted butter, diced


  1. Place the gelatine in some water to soften it up.
  2. Make the sea buckthorn juice by placing the berries in a sieve over a bowl, then with a fork or a spoon mash them and squeeze out the juice.
  3. Place the juice with the yolks, sugar and butter in a saucepan and heat up at a medium heat, while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
  4. Remove from the heat when the cream is thick enough to stick to the spoon when you try to pour it out.
  5. Squeeze out the water from the gelatine and stir into the cream.Let cool completely.
  6. Pair up the macaron halves to matching sizes, place the curd into a piping bag with a small round nozzle, then sandwich each pair with the curd and serve.

The sea buckthorn was interesting, but not entirely to my taste, there was something about it that gave the feeling that I'd used a flavouring usually used in savoury dishes. Admittedly, the berries I used had been frozen and I'm not sure in what state they were when my parents picked them. But they have this wonderful, vivid orange colour, which just makes you smile when you see them. Once the juice has been squeezed out, it looks like carrot juice.

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The all sesame macarons were a bit in the hard side, freshly made, but I think sandwiching them and leaving overnight would have made the texture quite good. The sesame flavour was a bit intensive, I think I'll try a mixture of sesame and sunflower seeds next to make it more neutral and get more focus on the filling.

I now have a large bag of sea buckthorn in the freezer and I might try it as stuffing for a roast bird of some sort. Or maybe one of my muffin recipes. The Swedish Wikipedia states the berries are used for juice, jelly, marmalade and liqueur. The last one of which I'm tempted to explore, that might work rather nicely.