Something Swedish


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Veggie Progress

The first month of my 12-part “Resolution Evolution” (read about it HERE)  is over half way done, so I thought an update was in order. So far it has been a successful and interesting eye opening experience. It’s difficult for a non-vegetarian to not eat meat for a month (even if I do still have fish once a week), but I’m pleased with the results.

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Success: I haven’t caved and eaten any meat (who knew that veggie schnitzels and filets are so tasty?), I have been taking my vitamins every day, I pay more attention to what I eat, I’ve tried new recipes and discovered foods that we didn’t know we enjoyed.

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 Interesting: A side effect I didn’t expect is that I’ve been cooking almost everyday and my love of cooking has been rekindled. It’s a lot harder to make a meal without meat and takes a lot more thought to “mix it up.” Because of this and since most of our meals revolve around vegetables, I’m getting better at planning meals ahead and wasting less food.

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Eye-opening: Mostly though, I’ve “walked a mile in their shoes” – vegetarians that is, and it’s uncomfortable. On the social level I found it shocking and aggravating how many people are almost offended by ME not eating meat for a month. There was a lot of “But why would you do that? Meat is awesome” or “You’re not becoming one of them, are you?” or “I don’t understand vegetarians, it’s so stupid.” My reasoning was constantly dismissed and I was given strange looks for wanting to try something new. I can only imagine what real vegetarians have to go through to defend their choice. I hope people aren’t so blunt to people who have a reason/principle/belief behind not eating meat.

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On a logistical level, being a vegetarian is difficult because your options are so limited when eating out and you always feel like an inconvenience. Unless you are going to restrict yourself to eating french fries and mozzarella sticks, it’s hard to find decent vegetarian food at most places. Even if you know you’ll find something wherever you go, it becomes a huge awkward discussion with all the attention centered on your eating habits. I’m on a mission to find good vegetarian options in town and make a list of the best fast food veggie burgers for the next post, along with my top 5 favorite vegetarian recipes of the month (Spoiler: vegetarian chilli is in the lead).

Does anyone have any vegetarian recipes for me to try?


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Cooking Swedish: Semlor

Semlor day is here again! Read all about the history, meaning, and traditions of Fettisdag and semlor (And a review of the best semlor in Halmstad) in last years posts: HERE and HERE.

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This year, learn how to make your own beloved Swedish classic! c’mon be a little Swedish! These sweet buns are eaten until Easter, so you have time!

semlorblog


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Cooking Swedish: Fläskpannkaka

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine made a traditional Swedish dish called fläskpannkaka, or pork pancake. I’ve read about this food before and was curious about it because it seemed very simple and easy to make in addition to something that Swedes love to eat!

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It’s not just regular pancakes with pork, but instead a thicker version baked in the oven. The fläskpannkaka I ate was thinner and had spinach in it and I’ve read other recipes with parsley or other spices to give it a little different flavor and add some color. Below is the basic traditional way to make fläskpannkaka, enjoy!!

FLÄSKPANNKAKA

We used two different types of pork, as we didn’t have enough of either. Bacon works great, but the pork you’re supposed to use is called “rimmat fläsk” or “salted pork.” Many people prefer to bake the bacon or pork for 10-15 minutes instead of frying it by using the same pan as its going to be cooked in. Four eggs, 2.5 cups (6 dl) milk, and 1.5 cup (3.5 dl) flour with a sprinkle of salt and sugar into the batter.

Smaklig Måltid! Bon Apetitt!

Julbord: Christmas Table

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I’ve eaten Christmas dinner in Sweden four times now, but it wasn’t until this year that I realized how traditional it really is. A week before Christmas we had lunch at a restaurant, which happened to be serving a “Julbord.” Christmas in Sweden is all about the Julbord – think “Smörgåsbord” but with all the classic Christmas foods. The restaurant Julbord was serving the exact same Christmas foods as I’ve eaten in Sweden the last few years; it’s not just a family tradition.

Come noon on December 24th (Swede’s celebrate on the eve, or afton) our Julbord looks something like this every year:

Except this year we somehow forgot the boiled eggs – a Swedish tragedy. So, whats on this Christmas Table? Let’s see!

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Julskinka: Naturally, The Christmas Ham – only eaten after smothered in mustard.

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Dopp i gryta: “Dip in the pot” -  Using the rich flavored Christmas Ham broth, it is very traditional to dip dark bread and to eat the soaked bread along with Christmas dinner.

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Janssons Frestelse:  “Janssons Temptation”a delicious dish with very thinly cut potato ‘sticks’ is cooked in the oven with a secret ingredient that makes many non-swedes squirm…

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Anchovies. and anchovy juice.  Sounds gross, I know, but it’s awesome and full of flavor!

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Kålpudding:  Cabbage pudding. Thinly chopped cabbage, fried with syrup, baked with a thick layer of seasoned ground beef in the middle.

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Some Kålpudding and Janssons Frestelse  preparation.

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Fläskkorv: large pork sausage

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Prinskorv: “Prince sausage”  mini hotdog-like sausages

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Köttbullar: The homemade meatballs, of course.

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Brunkål: Brown Cabbage, served as a side dish. Cabbage is boiled and fried and seasoned with vinegar, salt and syrup.

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Christmas Bread

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Cheese, bread, butter, and salad.

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My Christmas feast. Bottom center is the Kålpudding and Janssons Frestelse.

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Alongside we drank Julmust, beer, and snaps.

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Julmust is a very popular cola beverage that is Christmas themed and has a distinctly different “holiday” flavor.

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After dinner and before the presents we eat Struva and glögg - a Swedish mulled spiced wine served warm with raisins and almonds.

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Later that evening we enjoyed Swedish cheesecake, icecream, jam, and cream with coffee, tea, and liquor.

If we had any young kids in the family our Christmas eve festivities would be very different, having to schedule around the must-watch 3:00pm Christmas cartoon, “Kalle Anka,” or as we know him – Donald Duck.  Every year half of Sweden faithfully sits around the television and watches “Kalle Anke och hans vänner önskar God Jul” or “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.”

Which would probably be followed by a mysterious Santa knocking on the door and giving out presents.

Christmas eve is also filled with tons of chocolate treats and candy, both as dessert and presents.

On Christmas Day, as if we aren’t full enough, we have our next food tradition – Lutfisk served with boiled potatoes.

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Lutefisk is a white fish that is air dried to later be re-hydrated with water and lye. The fish soaks in the lye water for weeks before it is ready to be cooked. The fish has a strange consistency the first time you eat it, but it is easily forgotten because it is served with a ton of white sauce, salt, and pepper. There are very small bones in the fish,  so be careful!

One last thing – it is very popular to make gingerbread houses in Sweden, as well as to eat ginger bread cookies throughout the month.

This gallery contains 23 photos


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A Swedish Thanksgiving

Figures that the first time I host my own Thanksgiving dinner, I’m in a country that doesn’t celebrate it! My first year away from my family traditions and celebrations, I wanted to start my own – so I brought Thanksgiving to Sweden, to share it with my Swedish family.

Turkey nails for the occasion

On The Menu:

Turkey & Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, String Bean Casserole, Cauliflower Casserole, Fruit & Walnut Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, Pumpkin Cookies, Cannoli Cups, Mulled Apple Cider

Eight over-sized American dishes I’ve never cooked before for seven new Swedish family members who have never tasted my cooking? No Pressure! It’s not as if I only started cooking a year ago and have hardly stepped foot in a kitchen before then or something… No Problem! Thankfully my husband helped me through it all, my mother-in-law made sure the turkey was cooked and made the gravy, and my sister-in-law brought the apple pie and vanilla sauce.

Chopping nuts and veggies at 9 am, handling a knife this early is just not safe!

My Swedish Thanksgiving breakfast.

Initially I thought celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving in Sweden would be hard to do, as Turkeys aren’t really sold here, but about a month ago I was shocked to see a small part of the freezer in Hemköp filled with small-medium sized turkeys! And about a week later, it was empty. I guess there are other American expats out there! Thankfully my in-laws were able to buy one in time. The store “defrosted” it for us for three days – but it was still half frozen!

We placed the turkey in the cold laundry room with the window open overnight, while it was brining in a pot of water, salt, sugar, and spices. After it didn’t fit in the refrigerator we didn’t know were to put it! I’ll never forget my husband running around with a huge turkey pot, “New Plan! New Plan!”

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is the canned cranberry sauce. I asked my cousin to mail a can, but neither of us thought that it was worth the $13 shipping. I spotted fresh cranberries two weeks ago, thought it was normal, and didn’t rush to buy any. When they were gone, my husband said he has never seen them being sold fresh before. Luckily we found frozen cranberries and I made my own. It was easier than I thought: cranberries, water, orange juice, white & brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, salt & pepper. Tasty tasty.

I was tempted to buy an extra pumpkin after Halloween, because canned pumpkin isn’t sold here in Sweden and I thought I would have to make my own if we were to have a traditional pumpkin dessert. Then, I heard rumors of it being stocked in the international section of MAXI. I made Pumpkin cookies instead of pumpkin pie; they were gobbled up quickly, being compared to different sorts of Christmas cookies. I also made a batch of cannoli cups, which were a hit.

My cousin sent me a care package with some Thanksgiving essentials like a turkey baster and French’s fried onions – without which, a classic dish would have been missing (Yes, I added bacon):

She also sent festive turkey napkins and paper plates. The decorations pulled it all together.

As soon as we arrived I realized I forgot the marshmallows at home. THE MARSHMALLOWS! A Thanksgiving tragedy, I thought – our poor sweet potatoes!  Seeing as I already cut out half of the sugar and mixed in white potatoes to make this dish more “Swedish” the lack of marshmallows was probably a good thing.

When we started talking  about celebrating Thanksgiving one of the first questions was, “Are we going to stuff the turkey??” Having seen Thanksgiving celebrated on T.V and movies, I guess this part of the meal was a staple for my Swedish family’s knowledge of the holiday. At first I said “Sure!” which lead to a bit of disappointment when I decided not to do it, as it can be potentially dangerous, too salty, and too much work for a first timer.

I was probably just as nervous about the fruit & walnuts stuffing as I was about the turkey. It came out very good, and now I know what to do to make it better next year! (Smaller, torn pieces of bread)

Next year I need to make more cauliflower casserole and green bean casserole:

Of course we had  to Swedify Thanksgiving a bit and have some boiled potatoes and meatballs -

Once all the side dishes were done, and the kitchen was clean (Thanks to my incredibly helpful & supportive husband, who also did all the peeling and mashing) we had time to sit back for an hour before we started prepping the bird.

Being in Sweden means having no roasting rack or pan, but we made do with what we had!

Hubby had the honor of  washing, handling, and carving the bird, while I prepped the flavoring.

While it was cooking everyone was in the kitchen saying “luktar så gott!” – “Smells so good!”

I tried the method of cooking it upside-down for half of the time, which seemed to make the breast less dry and more tasty. The gravy from the juices was delicious!

Tasted, smelled, and felt like home.

Thanksgiving in Sweden was officially a success! Everyone took seconds, and had a favorite dish. The next day we all enjoyed a full plate of left overs. I took home enough sweet potatoes and stuffing to last a few days. Looking forward to next year with notes of improvement from this very first Thanksgiving! Happy Gobble Gobble Day!

Vocabulary

Turkey: Kalkon

Give thanks: Ge tack

Family: Familj

Tradition: Tradition


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Cooking Swedish: Falukorv med Bostongurka

Today we pondered what we can have for dinner and my husband told me to look up “Falukorv med Bostongurka”  After looking at a few photos, I chopped a few veggies, spread some condiments, sprinkled some cheese, baked, and enjoyed!

 

Falukorv is a large traditional sausage made of pork, spices and potato starch flour. It is commonly eaten fried in a few popular meals, as well as atop of a smörgås. Bostongurka is a type of pickled relish that is very popular in Sweden.

This is a pretty common Swedish meal, something kids learn to make in school. It would be considered a “vardag” or “husmanskost” food, because it is simple, traditional, and made with common local ingredients.

Vocabulary

Sausage – Korv

Cucumber – Gurka

Pepper – Peprika

Tomato – Tomat

Onion – Lök

Cheese – Ost

Dinner – Middag


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Kanelbullens Dag: Cinnamon Roll Day! And…100th Blog Post!

Did you know that cinnamon roll originated in Sweden? Neither did I!

Not only is today  Kanelbullens Dag,

but also the 100th Something Swedish post!!

What better way to celebrate the 100th post than to research, bake, buy, photograph, and eat this beloved Swedish treat and then blog all about it!?

From the first time I visited Sweden I noticed that cinnamon buns were a big part of the culture, especially when it was time to fika [here]. While many pastries are enjoyed with coffee in Sweden, cinnamon rolls are the traditional choice. They’ve been popular in Sweden since the 1920′s, but it was in the 1950′s when baking them at home became a big deal.  In 1999 an organization called Hembakningsrådet (Home Baking Council) [here] created the day to highlight this especially Swedish pastry and to “kick off” the Autumn season, when home baking is best.

I’ve never baked cinnamon rolls before, so I gave it a shot! Thankfully, my oh-so-Swedish husband has made kanelbullar many times in his life, so I had some help. I always knew that kanelbullar and cinnamon rolls were very different, but it wasn’t until I started making them that I saw why my husband doesn’t even consider them to be the same pastry.

American Cinnamon Rolls vs  Swedish Kanelbullar

Kanelbullar are a lot less sweet than cinnamon rolls (as are most pastries here, Swedens sweet tooth is not nearly as decadent). The sugary sweet icing I salivate over when I crave a cinnamon roll isn’t what you will ever find in Sweden – instead a simple sprinkle of pearl sugar is the topping of choice.

Kanelbullar are baked with  kardemumma (cardamon – a popular pastry spice here) into the dough, giving it a very distinct flavor.

The cinnamon roll recipe called for almost twice the amount of sugar and twice the amount of filling, with a lot of brown sugar – which is not used at all in kanelbullar.

Instead of baking the cinnamon rolls squished together in one pan like in the U.S., kanelbullar are baked completely separate, like muffins or cookies.

Overall, both kinds were really yummy, but really too different to compare.

Kanelbullar are a lot easier to make (less sticky, less filling, no icing, less clean up) and you can easily eat more than one. + points for being a lot more photogenic, too.

Having American cinnamon rolls was very comforting as they reminded me of home – an overly sweet bite of NYC.

Recipe:

25  g of yeast
75g butter
1  cups milk
0.5 cup granulated sugar
1 pinches of salt
1 tsp ground cardamom (If you don’t have cardamom, then add a little bit more cinnamon to the filling to make up the lack of flavor – although it’s not the same at all.)
7 cups flour

Filling:
50g butter (softened)
0.5 cup granulated sugar
0.5  tablespoon cinnamon

Brushing:  1 egg

Garnish: Pearl sugar

1. Crumble the yeast in a bowl .
2. Melt the butter, add the milk until lukewarm (Test with your finger, should feel comfortable). Make sure to stir and that it doesn’t get too hot or the yeast dies.
3. Add yeast until it is dissolved and then salt, sugar and cardamom. Stir.
4. Start adding and mixing the flour into the liquid (use an electric mixer with dough hooks)
5. Let the dough sit and rise until doubled in size (30-45 minutes ).
6. Meanwhile, whip the filling ingredients together until smooth.
7. When the  dough is ready , knead it into a flat rectangle on a floured surface.
8. Spread on the filling and roll up
9. Cut about 1 ½ cm thick slices and place them in the muffin forms.
10. Let sit so that dough can rise again (30-40 minutes).
11. Meanwhile, whisk the egg and turn on the oven..
12. Gently brush on the whisked egg  and sprinkle with pearl sugar .
13. Bake in oven at 400 ° F  for 9-10 minutes  until a golden brown color.


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Pastries, Parties, and SFI Kurs Test

Today my SFI class had a party for those of us moving on to the next course (D kurs). This type of party is an Avskedsfest – “Departure party”. In the Swedish spirit of things (Read here), the four of us that are leaving brought cakes, cookies, chocolates, soda, etc., for everyone to enjoy. We listened to music and spoke to each other about our lives and played a game in Swedish.

I decided to bake some sweets for the class, as I had a recipe (here) that I wanted to try but didn’t want to eat so many pastries at home by myself! They are a spin off of cannolis, a popular Italian pastry, which I was shocked to find that no one has ever eaten or heard of. I already knew that they are not known in Sweden, as I introduced my husband to his first cannoli, but with a classroom filled with people from around the world I thought someone would know.

It really put the American melting pot into perspective, I appreciate that I have eaten so many food from different cultures.

The test to go to the next level course is available every 5 weeks, which means having an Avskedsfest again soon, hopefully! Something to look forward to!

A little about the C level course test:

There are 5 parts you get graded on (split into two days):

(VG) Reading comprehension
(VG) Listening
(G) Speaking
(G) Writing
(G) Word comprehension

Grades in Sweden range from Underkänd “U” (Fail), Godkänd “G” (Passing), and Väl Godkänd “VG” (Passed with Distinction)

Above are the grades I received for each section. The teacher said my writing could be “VG” if I stopped forgetting the accents over å, ö, and ä.

Reading: (40 mins each) Two very straight forward, multiple choice tests based on text. There are different types of texts, such as newspaper articles, time schedules, menus, advertisements, letters, and stories.

Listening: (40 mins) You will be able to read all the questions and multiple choice answers before listening to the recording, which  you will hear two times. Pay attention to details as most of the answer choices are mentioned but not exactly related to the questions being asked. This part is a bit difficult as they speak quicker than our teachers prepare us for, I suggest listening to the radio or tv to prepare.

Speaking: (20 mins) Pretty laid back and informal group conversation about a given generic topic, for example: is better to live in a city or in the countryside? Our teachers helped move the conversation along if we got stuck.

Writing: (60 mins) Write a page about one of four topics. Make sure to follow the instructions and stay on topic. For example, if you need to write a letter make sure to structure it properly. C level test had simple topics like driving, childcare, job interviews, or computers. D level  moves onto things like town hero’s and politics.

Word Comprehension: Based off of your writing and speaking tests and a few vocabulary questions in the reading test.

Hopefully that will help anyone who is testing soon! Lycka Till! (Good Luck!)


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Thursday Swede-ness: Pea Soup, “Ärtsoppa”

There is a very special tradition on Thursdays in Sweden: Eating pea soup - “ärtsoppa.” I moved here 8 months ago and have been avoiding this tradition ever since. My husband insists that I am never going to be accepted in Sweden if I can’t sit down and eat ärtsoppa like a grown-up, or even a kid… or at all. I can’t even think of it without grimacing!

Today was the day I finally gave in. And it wasn’t bad! My taste buds seem to be adjusting to this Swedish life. And besides, who doesn’t love a filling, cheap, and easy meal?!

The tradition of eating weekly ärtsoppa comes from needing to fill-up the belly for fasting on Fridays and has continued through the Swedish armed forces being served this every Thursday since WWII.

Swedish ärtsoppa is made of yellow peas and usually contains pork and mustard (which some say is the most important part). Crisp hardbread is usually eaten alongside and Swedish (crepe) pancakes, pankakor with jam as dessert (read: reward). Punsch, a traditional sweet liqueur served warm, is the side beverage of choice. The pancakes and jam are sometimes served together with the  ärtsoppa, as it is more part of the meal than an actual dessert.

Many restaurants offer ärtsoppa on Thursdays, along with school meals, and work cafeterias. It is also common to eat it at home either homemade or store bought – like many foods in Sweden, it is sold in a plastic tube.

 Next time we will make the homemade recipe. If your looking for a way to be more Swedish, try setting aside your Thursday to be Ärtsoppadagen!


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Cooking Eggplant: “Aubergine”

My dad always says you can judge a pizzeria by the quality of its eggplant, weather its on a pizza, on a hero, or eggplant parmesan. So, when I had the craving to make eggplant for dinner last week I felt a bit of pressure for quality and knew it is a dish that can turn out less than good. I didn’t let that stop me as eggplant is one of my favorite foods and I’ve wanted it ever since spotting some in the city square market.

I learned that the first key to good eggplant is draining out the bitterness. Once you cut them (And peel, if you choose)  you sprinkle salt on each piece to make it sweat out a dark juice. This meant having two colanders sitting around and waiting for 30-60 minutes for each one, then rotating in the next batch.

Something to do in advance, before you are actually prepping or else it will feel incredibly stressful and tedious to wait for since you can’t do much else until after it is done. Make sure to pat them completely dry with paper towels when you are finished. You can set up the bowls for breadcrumbs with flour &  seasoning and one for the beaten egg. Don’t forget to set up an area with paper towels to place the eggplant on to absorb the access oil.

The second key is the thickness of the slices. They should be 1/4 – 1/2 inch (between .6 and 1 cm) and all uniform thickness to cook evenly. I think I cut mine a little bit too thick, on the 1/2 side.  As you can see in the photo above I must have gotten tired because I had a monstrously thick slice in the mix. Don’t do that :)

I think next time I will cut the slices length wise instead, should make it easier and quicker- both to fry and to place in the dish.

When I finished frying up each slice of eggplant (2-3 minutes on each side in oil) I realized that while this is one of my favorites my husband might not like it, ya know…since there is no meat! When he came home and saw the cooking process (aka, The Big Mess) he asked what I was making and “Is that all?” I could tell he was hesitant.

Over all it is a pretty time consuming dish to make and I have to admit I was frustrated and found it tedious by the end. Now that I know what to expect though it won’t be so bad.

Thankfully it was a success and he admitted that he was sad to have a vegetarian meal but that he liked it a lot and it was better than he expected. Overall the dish came out yummy enough to put up with the peeling/draining/frying process, (and the mess) the rest is easy – just make sure you have enough sauce!

Is eggplant a common food in Sweden? I was a little surprised to see it at the city market but I don’t recall ever seeing it where I buy groceries. Does anyone else have any eggplant recipes to share? Suggestions? Eggplant parm had to find its way into my recipe book- I’m looking on improving it before then though!

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