Sunday, October 20, 2013

Woolsthorpe apple sauce; or, small, sour, and influential to mashed, sweet, and wholesome.

The best-laid plans of mice and men--but then Summer. That is one way of explaining the lack of updates from our cooking postdoc in recent months. Not only is Summer the time of year when many a pleasant evening is spent in a pub garden, and sunny afternoons are for walking down to Grantchester in search of cheese scones; Summer is also conference season, and the period when both home-grown crops (those beans, again) and research are harvested. In the latter case, harvesting means "writing up papers"."Writing blog entires", on the other hand, is put on hold.

As good as this Summer had been, Fall inevitably had to follow, with all the chilly rainy days and obligations that season entails. Confronted with these things, and with harvests completed, this postdoc felt he was in need of inspiration. Philomath being too far away, and not accessible by UK public transport, he turned his attention northward instead, to Lincolnshire.

Isaac Newton looms large over Cambridge, and indeed Natural Philosophie in general. It was at Trinity College Cambridge that the young Newton was educated, and later became a fellow and Lucasian professor. But it was in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth in the county of Lincoln that he spent his formative years, experimented with prisms, and got inspired--by an apple tree. For once, this is a good story that appears to be based in actual fact, as Sir Isaac himself acknowledged the input a particular fruit tree had on his theory of gravity...

While Newton is one of the most influential scientists of all times, and his bones rest in prominence in Westminster Abbey, his humble assistant in his search for scientific discovery quietly remains in Lincolnshire, still blossoming in Spring, flourishing in Summer, and producing a bountiful harvest in Fall. Yes, the original apple tree, sire of the apple tree outside of Trinity College, is still there, and still inspires. After a road trip with a kind friend with a car, our postdoc was able to not only behold Newton's apple tree, and sample its fruit, but also bring, at the price of a 50 pence coin, a little piece of Lincolnshire worthy of a genius home: a small bag of unassuming and somewhat sour cooking apples, packed with hidden treasure, came down to Cambridge, and forms the basis of today's blog content.

-5-6 cooking apples (Sir Isaac's are of the Flower of Kent variety)
-1 lemon
-1/2 cup of brown sugar
-1 stick of cinnamon
-a pinch of salt

Peel the apples, core them (save the seeds for planting), and quarter them. Peel off about four or five strips of lemon. In a pot, mix the ingredients, including the cinnamon stick and the sugar, and add enough water to cover everything. Cut the lemon in half, and squeeze the juice from the half lemon into the pot. Add a pinch of salt.

Turn on the stove and wait for the water to boil. Then turn down the heat and let simmer for about half an hour. In the meantime, prepare the jars. Clean the jars carefully, using boiling water. 

Taste the sauce to make sure it is sweet enough; if it isn't, just add a little more sugar. If it is on the sweet side, add some more lemon juice (you still have a reserve half lemon, right?). Once you're satisfied with the level of sweetness, and once the apple pieces feel soft enough, fish out the cinnamon stick and the lemon peel. Then pour off surplus apple juice into a glass as necessary (it is a pretty yummy drink in its own right), then mash up the apple pieces using a wooden spoon or a potato masher. 
Fill up your jars with apple sauce, and you're done. Enjoy with yoghurt or porridge for breakfast, or with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Feel inspired.

Serving suggestions: Taylor's of Harrogate breakfast tea, "Martin Carthy" by Martin Carthy on the side. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Arise!; or, Yorkshire Pudding.

Yet again, the Swedish-Cantabrigian food blog has been dormant for a (large but still finite) number of months. If the last previous entry had later than August, at least the postdoctoral research fellow could have claimed to have been hibernating--but more than six months would have to be considered somewhat excessive.

So what has happened in the meantime, after the harvest of the last of the beans? Well, our blogger has moved to a new house; same neighborhood, but new and improved, and with a housemate.  He has joined a Cambridge college and occasionally eats there, and enjoys informal after-dinner conversations with fellows and students over coffee, in leather armchairs. He has written papers and has taught a class to students doing the so-called Part III. He still listens to a lot of music and gets stuck on pretentious reading projects. New crops have been planted, and will no doubt be documented to excess over the course of their growing period, and when they get turned into meals.

Occasionally, when he is not doing math, the Cantabrigian Swede-Pole cooks. Sometimes he teams up with his housemate and invites friends over for dinner, and sometimes such dinners occur on Sunday and require traditional delights, such as the legendary Yorkshire Pudding. Here is how to make them in your own home, be it in Yorkshire, Sweden, Oklahoma, or elsewhere.


-250ml of white all-purpose flour
-200ml of milk (milkman-delivered)
-4 eggs

-salt & pepper
-vegetable oil

Set the oven to 230C/440F. Using a measuring cup, fill a plastic bowl with 250ml of flour. Add four eggs one after the other, while mixing flour and egg in the process. Add the milk, and beat the combined ingredients into a batter. Keep beating the mix until it is completely smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

After the batter is ready, take out a muffin tin, and pour a little vegetable oil into each hole. (Yorkshire pudding was allegedly originally known as dripping pudding and made using dripping from the roast it gets served with.) Slide the muffin tin into the oven for a couple of minutes to heat up the oil. The trick is to make sure the tin (and the oil) is very hot. In the meantime, transfer the batter to a jug for easy pouring. Once you're satisfied that the oil is hot enough, take out the tin and carefully fill each hole roughly 2/3 of the way up with batter. And into the oven the proto-puddings go.

Watch the spectacle of the rising pudding: first, not much happens, but soon they start gaining in volume, and escape, mushroom-like, out of the confinement of the tin pits in which they are trapped. Amazingly, the batter doesn't simply overflow--it just keeps on risin'. Eventually, this process terminates, and the little puddings concentrate on getting their tan on.

Now, by decree of the Royal Society of Chemists, a candidate pudding must achieve a height of at least 4 inches/10cm in order to be awarded the prefix "Yorkshire".  Hence, as you remove the puddings from the oven after approximately 7 minutes, keep your fingers crossed you will be eating a genuine Yorkshire delight. (If you are very pedantic, and concerned about quality control, measure each individual pudding before allowing it to join you at the table. Your friends may, however, think you are insane.)

In any case, serve the puddings warm, with lots of yummy gravy. Don't forget roast potatoes and plenty of vegetables!

Serving suggestions: "Blue" by Joni Mitchell on the side; a bottle of Simcoe IPA by Kernel Brewery in London.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Home-grown bean salad

"Attractive purple pods that turn green upon cooking." This is what it said on a package the Cantabrigian Swede-Pole found in his local whole foods store when looking for things to plant in his little town house garden. You got me at purple, you might say! As is well-known to some readers, our food blogger has a thing about that particular color. Hence, purply-podded French beans were sown in early April, and their progress and growth, and struggles and misadventures (primarily related to the activities of the Cantabrigian Slug), have been dominating the life of our blogger ever since.

While the beginning of summer was cold and wet, the weather in Cambridge picked up towards the beginning of July. Happily, the sunny days that followed repelled the slugs, and encouraged the by now famous beans to blossom. Soon little podlings appeared. The excitement! The postdoctoral research fellow then went off to Stockholm for a week to do his postdoctoral thing, and visit his old haunts, and was greeted upon his return by some (very attractive) purple pods that seemed ready to be eaten. Excellent!

After a week and a half of not having done any cooking and hence feeling lazy, and not having a lot of groceries at his house, our blogger came up with this little evening meal. It turned out pretty delicious, and really allowed the beans to showcase their wholesome (and attractive) homegrown flavor.


- 1 handful of (attractive) purple pods
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 3 tomatoes

- salt
- black pepper
- fresh cilantro leaves

Rinse the pods. Fill a small pot with water, add some salt, and bring it to a boil. Throw in the pods, and watch as they (attractively) turn green. Be careful not to leave the beans in too long, we don't want them to get soggy. 

In the meantime, finely chop the half onion. Wash the tomatoes and chop them up also, then mix onion and tomato in a bowl. Take a handful of cilantro, wash it carefully, and shred it into the bowl. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top of everything and give it a mix.

Once the beans are done (this will only take about 2 minutes or so), chop them up into smaller pieces. (The average pod into three, say.) Let the beans cool off for a little while, then mix them into the salad. Done!

Serving suggestions: "Harvest" by Neil Young on the side, a bottle of Manchester Bitter from Marble Brewery, Manchester.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Key Lime Pie, Finally!

It has really been a while since this food blog was last updated, and in fact, during a recent visit to Stockholm, the status of the blog was enquired into (by more than a single person!)--had it been abandoned?

As usual, there are many explanations and excuses our Cantabrigian Swede-Pole could try: math research and a busy travel schedule taking up all his time; the twin temptations of pubs and coffee shops preventing evenings being spent cooking at home;  the continuing battle with bean-eating slugs and snails leaving him exhausted and despondent. These are all pretty lame--a better excuse is that our mathematician's house has been receiving a fair amount of visitors, both local and from abroad, in these last couple of months. This has been very nice indeed, as the British would say, and a lot of cooking (and even BBQing in the garden!) has been happening; writing a food blog post is, however, a solo activity really.

Another thing, beside food blogging, that used to be happen more frequently, at least last summer and fall, was the making of key lime pie--that empress of deserts! It really is the world's most delicious pie, and it's pretty easy to make; so it seems very hard to come up with reasons for not eating it more often. ("Every day! With bacon, for breakfast! Try the high carb high fat (HCHF) pie diet!")  Clearly, this current reduced intake of zesty pie would eventually have a detrimental effect on our blogger's health. (Citrus fruits are good for you!) And so, on this sunny evening, a delicious key lime pie was made, and enjoyed in the garden together with a cup of tea and some Kingsley Amis.

Advertisement: the availability of home-grown french beans seems to be within the realm of possibility, so stay tuned for blog entry featuring bean casserole.


4 limes
1 can of condensed (sweetened) milk (400g/14 oz.)
4 egg yolks

250 ml/1 cup of flour
150g/5 oz. of butter

1 pie form

Start by preparing the pie crust. Preheat the oven to 325F/150C. Cut the butter into strips, and then into little cubes. In a large bowl, mix the flour and the butter carefully. Add cold water, about half or one third of a cup, until the dough has the right texture. Sprinkle a little flour on the counter and use a pin to roll out the dough; it should be pretty thin. (And adapted to the size of your pie form obviously). Prepare the form, making sure the "walls" of the form are lined, and then place the crust in the oven.

While the crust is in the oven, it's time for some lime action. Wash the limes carefully, and then zest them, using one of those cool zesters if you have one (I don't), or a grater. Keep the limes; we'll need the juice! After you're done with the now not-so-green little fruits, it's usually a good time to remove the pie crust from the oven.

Pour the lime zest into a large bowl, add 4 egg yolks, and whisk everything together. Pour the condensed milk into the bowl, and give the filling another beating. Finally, cut the limes in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Give the filling a mixing in between the individual limes. (You'll notice that the condensed milk reacts in an interesting way with the acid in the lime juice; the texture gets a little thicker. Apparently there are versions of key lime pie that are not baked, but rely on this souring process alone.) Depending on your preferences and the brand of condensed milk you're using, you may want to add a little sugar to the mix.

Finally pour the filling into the crust slowly, and use a spoon to make sure it is spread evenly. Bake the pie at the center of the oven for about 15 minutes. Take out the pie and let it cool off. Done!

Serving suggestions: "The Life Pursuit" by Belle & Sebastian on the side, a cup of Taylor of Harrogate's Yorkshire tea with milk.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Roasted & Squashed again; or, The Blog is Back!

What is this--"the blog is back?" And what exactly is a Cantabrigian, and are they nice?

For readers joining us for the first time, here is the back story. A while ago, as a new PhD, a Swedish mathematician of Polish extraction found himself living on the plains of Oklahoma, working in the Mathematics Department at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater. Before he left Stockholm, some of his friends expressed a desire to follow the Swede-Pole's adventures in the American South on the internet. Our hero was wary of blogging at first (what would he write about? he is a little boring.), but then it was suggested he should write about his meals (there were some doubts whether he would be able to feed himself in the Sooner State--he mostly eats vegetarian meals and beef is one of Oklahoma's main exports...). A blog about cooking sounded like a good compromise--and the Swedish-Oklahoman Food Blog was born!

Our blogging hero's Oklahoman year was an interesting and in many ways very rewarding experience; and he did make many good friends in Stillwater and elsewhere. (Interested readers may learn more from the Swedish-Oklahoman Food Blog Archives.) But in June 2011, it was time to keep on movin' on, as the songs have it. After spending a few months back in Sweden at Institut Mittag-Leffler, an institute for research in the mathematical subjects located in the suburbs of Stockholm, it was time for our old mathematician/blogger to try his luck in famed Cambridge, home to so many great scientists, writers, politicians, and royals over the years. (And at one time, Nick Drake and Syd Barrett were Cantabrigians, or inhabitants of Cambridge, too. ND was an English Literature student in Fitzwilliam College.)

Our blogger certainly feels very lucky and privileged to be part of this remarkable academic institution, and is excited about the scientific possibilities that await. Cambridge is also a very pretty town, located in an area of England known as the Fens that used to consist of marshland, and that used to be the center of the eel industry (true story). And yes, Cantabrigians are very friendly. More on Cambridge soon--

But now it is time for dinner. After moving to Cambridge, our blogger was delighted to discover that the delicious butternut squash is readily available in England; after all, the roasting of a beautiful homegrown squash he was presented with by a colleague back at OSU was the subject of a blog entry. New, improved, and served with pasta--the squash is roasted again!


1 butternut squash
1 yellow onion
1 bell pepper
4 cloves of garlic

passed tomatoes

olive oil
salt and pepper

aluminum foil

Turn to oven to 200C/400F, cover an oven tray with some aluminum foil . Start by cutting the butternut squash in half (N/S direction). Scoop out all the seeds and put them aside for the moment; they will be roasted later. Next, cut the squash into smaller pieces to make peeling easier. After you get the skin off, cut the squash into medium-size cubes.

Soak the squash cubes in some olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Pour the squash onto the foil covered tray, and into the oven it goes!

While the squash cubes are roasting, chop up the onion and slice the garlic cloves. In a frying pan, sautee the garlic and the onion in olive oil. Slice the bell pepper (we want longish strips) and add to the pan. Turn down the heat a little, season with salt and pepper, and add the tomatoes. After a while, turn down the heat and let the sauce simmer.

Check on the squash. We want the cubes to be soft, and a little crispy around the edges. If the squash is done, remove the tray from the oven, pour the squash cubes into a bowl and cover them.

Next, pour just a little olive oil onto the foil and add the squash seeds. Make sure they're evenly spread, and put the oven tray back into the oven.

While waiting for the seeds, cook the pasta. It is not difficult, just follow the instructions on the package, if necessary; just make sure to serve the spaghetti al dente.

Once the seeds are roasted, turn off the oven, and toss the spaghetti with the sauce. Prepare a serving of pasta on a plate, add the squash, and the roasted seeds as topping. Done!

Serving suggestions: "The English Settlement" by XTC on the side, a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from Chico, CA.