Cleaning out my pantry

When I moved into the house I am in now, I was worried about the size of the kitchen, or the lack of storage space to be precise. At least I thought this was going to be a challenge, but it turns out one 200x40x60 cabinet is all I need to store my dry goods (except for spices which are kept in a box on top of the cabinet). This is a brilliantly designed pull-out cabinet, where access is as easy to the items in the back as the ones in the front of the shelves. Positive news for the future: I can make do and be completely happy with a tiny kitchen!

As for the contents of the cabinet, that's an interesting story. I love cooking, especially experimental cooking and trying out foreign recipes and new dishes. In order to do this I have occasionally purchased unusal ingredients, and when it has turned out that I don't like the recipe tried, or that it was too complicated to make on a regular basis, I am stuck with ingredients that I have no other use for. Several of these are creeping towards their expiry dates and some have already passed it. I mentioned that I really dislike throwing things away, well this is especially true for food. Food should be eaten not discarded. Time to use up some of the ones that have been bothering me the most!

Picky eater as I am, I can't just boil my brown basmati rice from the Himalayas and gobble it up, or spread my white almond paste on crisp bread and take a bite. No, I need to find something interesting to make from these ingredients, so that eating my way through them will be at least somewhat pleasant, even though I'm pretty sure that no matter how delicious these findings may be, I will stick to white basmati rice and avoid chickpea flour in my future grocery shopping.

So the coming weeks I will be cooking with
  • The already mentioned organic brown basmati rice from the Himalayas (Expiry date 19.05.2011)
  • Sushi rice (Expiry date 30.01.2012)
  • Organic white almond paste (Expiry date 22.11.2012)
  • Organic chickpea flour (Expiry date 06.11.2009 - ouch! Still smells fine though)
  • "Naturally tasty" tahini without salt (Expiry date 28.10.2011) 
  • Agar flakes (Expiry date 01.01.2009)
I also have half a bottle of agave syrup, from a cake frosting experiment for my brother's wedding. The syrup turned out to be too sweet, and didn't really add anything else, except an beige color that wasn't very suitable for wedding cake, so I used white cane syrup instead. This bottle doesn't expire anytime soon, but its presence annoys me, I bought three bottles of imported Mexican sweetener that I didn't use, when I could've just chosen locally produced cane syrup in the first place. It won't be very difficult to use up, though. I just drizzle it over my breakfast yoghurt instead of honey.



    View from my favorite breakfast spot. A good morning starts with my cat Cocijo climbing up on my stomach after the alarm goes off. He lies there staring at me until I get up to make breakfast. We have our breakfast on the verandah steps on warm days, where we watch the sun glittering in the dew drops.

    I was quite upset when we got back from a friend's wedding last weekend and there was no Cocijo there to greet us. He never strays far from home, and he's always the first to come and greet us when we come home. Like any cat he hates rain, and on this Sunday it was pouring. We asked the nearest neighbours (they're 200 m away, and he never walks that far) but no one had seen him. After a few days we decided we'd better get used to being without him. It was not pleasant thinking of him as fox food or injured in the bushes somewhere. So when one of our "far away neighbours" from out by the road pulled up in front of our house Chris sat down and I held my breath, both of us expecting the worst. And then we find out that Cocijo has been happily living on their porch since Sunday evening!

    Speaking of weddings, three weeks ago my older brother married his wonderful girlfriend in our hometown. I'm not a religious person and not very sentimental, but I couldn't keep my tears back during the ceremony in the church, or during the speeches at the reception for that matter. Seeing the two of them, so happy and in love, and all the people who care for them so genuinely, wishing them well... I'm very glad I was there to share their day.

    The week before my brother's wedding we did a house swap with Chris' parents. His father is amazing at tracking down great mushroom spots. He had barely gotten out of the car before he had picked a bucket full of mushrooms. And when he told me he found plenty of chanterelles just outside our house I had to go exploring. I didn't find any in the spot he suggested but it turns out there are a few good spots around the horse paddocks. I managed to pick a kilo. Some of them I turned into delicious chanterelle pie, the rest I stuck in the freezer. Now the only thing I want to do on my free time is scan the woods for more orange gold!

    Chanterelle pie

    Pie crust of your choice
    (I'm not good at pie crusts, recipe suggestions are more than welcome)

    1,5 tbsp butter
    300 g chanterelles
    2,5 dl /1 cup mature cheese, grated
    (I used the Swedish cheese Västerbotten, but I think parmesan or a mature gruyère would also be nice)
    0,5 dl cream
    2 eggs
    1 tsp salt

    Set the oven to 225 C (approximately 400 F). Brush off any dirt from the chanterelles and cut them into manageable pieces. Sauté them in the butter. Lightly beat the eggs and mix with the cream, cheese, salt and chanterelles. Pour into the pie crust and bake for 45 minutes. Top off with fresh herbs for instance thyme or parsley.

    I also made o-nigiri a while ago, inspired by my japanese food adventures. I used a recipe from Just Hungry. In japan I had them filled with barbequed or warm smoked salmon. I only found cold smoked salmon at my grocery store, so I decided to steam it. The o-nigiri turned out pretty well but I need to tweak the cooking time for the rice, it was slightly too hard. It takes some planning to cook the rice, but it wasn't as much of a hassle as I thought it would be. And the o-nigiri are perfect for lunches and snacks to bring with you. Two of them fills me up perfectly, three of them leaves me stuffed.



    One of my best friends has been living in Japan for a while, and I recently spent some time with her there. I wish I could've seen more of the countryside, but with my very limited japanese ("hai", "arrigato", "sushi" = yes, thanks and - well - sushi, all you need to know) and my japanese-speaking friend's busy schedule, I spent most of my time in cities. Still I enjoyed it very much and found Kyoto, where I stayed most of the time, a very relaxed and interesting city to wander around and get lost in.

    Kamo-gawa, southern Higashiyama, Kyoto. My first impression of Kyoto.

    Tokyo was different. I'm glad I went there, but I've never ever felt so alone, small and "gaijin" (=foreign) before as I did during those three days in Tokyo. I'm very glad I don't live there. Everything seemed to circle around consuming. What does one do in Tokyo without spending money? I could only find two things that didn't cost anything: Yoyogi park and walking along the concrete/neon lined streets. A few things that did cost money, but didn't involve any shopping that I enjoyed were riding the subway and the rest of the excellent public transit system, visiting various parks and gardens, watching the view from the top of tall buildings, and a boat-ride in the harbour.

    One of my best memories is from Tokyo and Koishikawa Korakuen gardens, where I spent 3 hours on a rainy wednesday morning. A well needed break from the people, concrete and city noise.

    Koishikawa Korakuen Garden. Water lily pond.

    Koishikawa Korakuen Koi.

    Another oasis in Tokyo, Meiji Jingu, a shrine in the Yoyogi park. Here, a camphor tree with hundreds of votive boards circling the trunk.

    Tokyo. The city that never ends. Taken from Roppongi Hills, a supermodern shopping/culture/business complex. Not my typical place to hang out in, but I quite enjoyed the hours I spent on the 52nd floor, waiting for sunset. And they had really good gelato.

    Kurama-dera on Kuramayama (Kurama mountain), north of Kyoto. A little stone shrine. I love the mix of Shinto and Buddhism at Japanese temples and shrines, different religions don't necessarily have to clash, they can actually carry on side by side, and maybe even merge on some parts as they seem to have done in Japan.

    Kiyomizu-dera temple, Kyoto. Beautiful ornamental paintings on the insides of the pavillion roofs. Orange is typically Shinto, the ancient Japanese religion.

    Buddha statue at Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto.

    Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto. Lanterns.

    Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto. Prayers, fortunes or wishes, tied to strings. Which, I'm not sure, my japanese wasn't good enough. But they make pretty motifs.

    Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto. A three-storey pavillion, where 2 storeys are covered in gold. Impressive, and interestingly, buddhist.

    Kennin-ji, Gion, Kyoto. I spent three hours searching for the temple that houses these twin dragons, until I realised I was in the wrong part of town. At least it was 3 fun hours of discovery.

    Maruyama park, Kyoto.

    Japanese rebellion at it's best. The green and white sign says that bike parking is prohibited, as it is in most of downtown Kyoto except for bike parking garages where you have to pay for a space. Ridiculous in a city where everyone bikes everywhere.

    Fushimi-Inari, One of my favorite places in Kyoto. The hills in this area are lined with orange "torii", shrine gates. I would have loved to come back here at dusk and wander around with a torch. Both my friend and I to paint and draw, so we brought materials and got some sketching done.

    Another favorite memory. Yakiniku, japanese barbeque on the shore of Lake Biwa. Great company, good food and a stunning view. A few people even brought their own smoke-box, made of a grill and a cardboard box lined with aluminium foil. Clever! My friend and I brought sake-cured salmon and new potato salad to add a Swedish touch to the buffet.

    Arashiyama, Kyoto. Bamboo, a lovely piece of nature in an otherwise over-exploited and quite drab area. A bit of a tourist trap, except that it didn't cost anything to watch, and hey, I've never seen a bamboo grove before.

    Kyoto. Moss gardens, a concept I think more Swedish people should adapt, instead of the constant struggle most people put up with against moss, to grow the perfect lawn.

    Food is one of my favorite parts of travelling. The japanese food was no exception. I made my friend take me to a new place each evening, this particular evening japanese smörgåsbord was on the menu: cold soba, tempura, sashimi, sushi, smoked fish, egg dishes, pickles and rice of course. She also introduced me to food from Korea, Laos and Nepal. In Tokyo the best eats I found were ridiculously expensive and equally fresh sashimi at Tsukiji (the fish market), and ridiculously cheap o-nigiri at the conbini stores. Why can't we have fast food like that here. Out with the hot dogs and in with seaweed-wrapped rice pouches filled with grilled salmon. Yum!

    Also, Kyoto is known for it's tofu. Walking around downtown I didn't see many signs of that. But then, surprisingly, on an aimless walk in the neighbourhood where my friend lives I found a tofu café by the great Fujino - apparently a very famous Kyoto tofu-maker. In retrospect, although the tofu sampler platter I had was interesting, I wish I had gone there for dessert rather than lunch.

    And finally, Downtown Kyoto. Citylife has its perks too. One of my very favorite things to do is to aimlessly walk around in cities at night.


    Enjoying life

    Herbs and lots of pots of tomatoes. This year we have Currant tomatoes (they grow like the berries and are the same size), Green Zebra tomatoes, Tigerella tomatoes and Black Russian tomatoes. Looking forward to july/august when they start to ripen...

    Rhubarb ginger ice cream, nom nom nom....

    Watching the cats watch nature...

    Our four-legged, furry icelandic neighbours, out for the season again. I still haven't learnt the name of this lady. It could be Milla.

    The cats (here Cocijo) socializing with the horses. Last year when we had just moved here the cats were terrified of the horses, they would stay at a very safe distance and when they got too near the horses (we tried to introduce them) they would hiss and puff up to twice their normal size. Now you would almost think they've missed each other...


    First day of spring?

    Prey and Hunter. Winter is still clinging on to the shadow side of the house.

    Watching spring in action. Not many snowy spots left on the fields now.

    My own lookout spot. Complete with fika, knitting and t-shirt temperatures.

    Cocijo helping out with the yarn.

    Ear grooming or secretly planning how to break into the yarn stash? We'll never know...

    Now what is this tangly mess?

    It's braided, it's coiled and it's not finished yet!

    More red craftiness...

    Red Dahlia (Thanks!)

    Milk cartons. To be continued...