I’ve been banging the vegan activist drum quite a bit recently so this week, inspired by a big tidy-up of my recipe collections, I thought I’d get back to basics, and one of my real passions: vegan recipes. I’ve been busy filling the gaps in my ‘World Vegan’ scrapbook and this week, the focus has been on Swedish food. Earlier this year we took our third trip to Sweden. This time we made it all the way to Stockholm. Unfortunately it was just too far in the time we had left to drive a further 1000 km to the Arctic Circle, but it’s still on my wish list. Maybe a boat trip would be more environmentally responsible.
Some great inspirations come out of Sweden: Ikea, Oatly and, of course, Greta Thunberg. It’s a great country for vegan food. When you think of Swedish food, probably the first thing that comes to mind is meatballs, especially if you’re an Ikea fan. Next, it’s probably fish, and it is true that the Swedes do eat a lot of fish – soused herring and Gravadlax being top of the list. But it is actually quite easy to veganise many of their traditional dishes, just leave off the hunks of carcinogenic animal carcass.
Way back in December 2016 I blogged about our Swedish Vegan Christmas. Since then, I’ve made Swedish vegan meatballs many times. The recipe bakes up a batch of about 36, so they’re a great stand-by to keep in the freezer. Brilliant with mashed potatoes, chips or pasta. There’s a great sauce recipe over at one of my favourite blogs Connoisseurus Veg and an alternative meatball recipe, too. But Swedish cooking is not just about meatballs or fish. Some of the traditional recipes include Janssons Temptation, a dish based on potatoes; Smorgasbord, a type of open sandwich; Knackbröd, Swedish crispbread; Raggmunk, a potato pancake and Ärtsoppa, yellow pea soup. All of these are eminently veganisable.
I’ve been making a version of Jansssons Temptation for many years. In fact, it was one of our favourite way back in the days when we first started campervanning. We used to call it ‘anchovy potatoes’. The fiddliest thing is slicing the potatoes into matchsticks, but don’t skimp on this as it will cook best if they are all about the same size. I’m not sure who Janson was or why he was tempted by this dish – some reports say it was the Swedish opera singer Pelle Janson, others that it takes its name from a 1928 film Janssons frestelse. It’s basically a potato gratin, and in the original version is flavoured with smoked sprats or anchovies. All I do to veganise the dish is swap out the tin of anchovies for capers and use soy cream or soy gratin cream preferably, rather than dairy. If you can get hold of Oatly crème fraiche all the better. Capers don’t have quite the same flavour as smoked fish, but overall it is pretty near perfect autumn comfort food.
Four large potatoes, cut into matchsticks
One onion, sliced finely
Two-three cloves garlic
Two tbsp capers
250ml brick of soya cream or Bjorg Soja Gratin
Two-three tbsp fried breadcrumbs (garlic fried is extra good!)
In a large frying pan, heat a generous glug of olive oil and fry onion and garlic until softened. Then, layer the potato matchsticks with the onion mix in an ovenproof dish, sprinkling a few capers in each layer. Pour cream over the top and scatter with breadcrumbs. Cook at 180c for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Serve with a green salad, or steamed green vegetables such as broccoli or green beans.
On the subject of winter warming comfort food, we are now approaching the soup season. Unfortunately, Mr VV is not a big fan of soup, but this version of Ärtsoppa is so thick with its chunky potatoes that it’s a meal in itself. Yellow split peas are quite easy to find in France. Look for netting bags near the dried beans in the vegetables area, or buy en vrac in your own bags from the BioCoop. The advantages of both of these meals are that, not only are they easy to make and filling, but they are also quite cheap to rustle up, too.
Ärtsoppa: yellow split pea soup
One onion, diced
Two or three garlic cloves, minced
One cup yellow split peas, washed and drained
Two or three large flurry potatoes, peeled and cubed
Two tsp Marigold vegan bouillon powder
Two tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
Salt and pepper
Colza or olive oil
In a large heavy lidded pan heat a little oil and sauté the onion and garlic until golden. Add the potatoes, stir well and put on the lid to steam for five minutes or so. Then add the split peas, bouillon powder and enough boiling water to cover all the contents. Stir well. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently until both the potatoes and the split peas are cooked. It’s difficult to give a precise measure of water to add, but make sure it does not dry out while cooking, top up if necessary. When the soup is ready remove half the potatoes with a slotted spoon, then add the nutritional yeast and seasoning. Use a stick blender to puree the soup to your preferred consistency. You can add a bit more water if necessary. Then add the whole potatoes cubes back, stir well and serve. You could garnish with some chopped herbs or a few chilli flakes for added zest.