Rachel Khoo said adieu to her little Paris kitchen and, following her heart, moved to Stockholm. Here she opens up about fridge foraging, falling in love and one thing that makes everything better, and shares recipes from The Little Swedish Kitchen.
We know you for The Little Paris Kitchen. What are you doing in Sweden? I moved to Paris for the love of pâtisserie, but I moved to Sweden for love. I fell for a Swedish man I met at a party. We got married three years ago and last year I had a baby boy.
What’s the best thing about living there? There are many things I love about Stockholm. It’s a small city with lots of green space, clear air and it feels very close to nature. I love London and Paris, but they can feel a bit polluted.
Anything else? You pay a lot in tax, but you get your money’s worth. The health and social care are amazing. My husband, Robert, took nine months off work after the birth of our son, which gave me time to write The Little Swedish Kitchen.
What’s the catch? The winters can be tough, when the sun barely rises at 9am and goes down at 2pm. You just have to embrace it – and a vitamin D supplement helps!
Have you gone native? I light candles at breakfast now, that’s how Swedish I’ve become! As for the language, I am probably at the level of a three-year-old, but I can get by. The problem is that everybody speaks such good English.
How small is your little Swedish kitchen? We live in a flat and it’s a very small galley kitchen with units from, yes, Ikea. It’s white and grey, very minimal and simple.
And the food? Meatballs and pickled fish, right? That’s what most people think. Apart from famous Michelin-starred restaurants, there is a tradition called husmanskost, or home-cooked food, which is what the book is all about. But I’ve put my spin on the recipes – this is very much my take on Swedish food.
So where do we start? One thing I do a lot is stewed spinach eggs. Chilled cucumber soup with beetroot yoghurt granita is perfect for hot weather. And there’s nothing wrong with meatballs! I love them even more since moving here. I’ve also learnt that Swedes seem to love falafels almost as much.
Earliest food memory? Baking gingerbread people with my mum and a friend from primary school.
Guilty pleasure? Salt and vinegar crisps – not the fancy kind with sea salt and balsamic vinegar, but the bog standard ones you get at a newsagent.
Most useful kitchen gadget? A sharp knife is a must.
Favourite tipple? A really cold gin and tonic with cucumber, not lime.
What did you have for breakfast today? Two soft-boiled eggs, dark rye bread with a few fennel seeds in it and lots of butter.
Food hero? My mum, who cooked tasty meals on a budget every day for the family – a skill that has rather been lost.
Signature dish? A fridge forage, where I look in the fridge, see what’s there and make something up.
Food philosophy? Butter makes everything better.
Your three essential ingredients? Butter, of course, a good hard mature cheese – something like västerbotten in Sweden, cheddar in England or comté in France – and frozen herbs, which are super-handy.
Where next? My books have been translated into Japanese and my TV shows are being aired over there, so I’m going to Japan in September for some promotion, which is very exciting. But I’ll be returning to Stockholm!
Rachel Khoo recipes from The Little Swedish Kitchen
Inspired by classic Swedish savouries such as smörgåstårta (a sandwich ‘cake’, with bread for the layers), this is a total, utter mash-up, but absolutely delicious. To achieve the ‘red velvet’ look in the picture, you’ll need my homemade beetroot flatbreads; otherwise use a good dark rye bread or whatever you have to hand. The key thing is that the bread doesn’t have too many holes, otherwise the filling will fall through.
While writing the book I quizzed a lot of my Swedish friends and family for their favourite foods, and this was one recipe I particularly loved for its simplicity and wholesomeness. I often have cravings for green leafy vegetables, especially when I’ve been travelling a huge amount. Eating out is fun, but nothing beats some home-cooked comfort food.
I found out there’s a bit of a falafel restaurant scene in Malmö, the biggest southern city in Sweden. It’s hardly a surprise when you think about it, given the deep national love for meatballs (as well as their beany counterparts). You could fry these as you would traditional falafel, but I’ve taken the lazier route (nothing to do with it being the healthier option) by using a muffin tin to cook them in the oven.
Ubiquitous in Sweden, pancakes come in many different forms, thicknesses and sizes. In essence, you just need some flour, eggs, milk, a good pinch of salt and a generous amount of butter to fry them in. These are between American pancakes and French crêpes in size, but with a slight saltiness and crispy edges to make them extra moreish. You can also serve them sweet.
This is a Swedish comfort-food classic – one you’re unlikely to see served outside of work canteens or someone’s home. It’s usually accompanied by rice, but I like mine with pasta and a few capers in the sauce for a bit of a kick.
Chilled cucumber soup with beetroot yoghurt granita
There are a couple of days in the Swedish year when the mercury in the thermometer hits temperatures that could compete with a warm summer day in southern Europe. And on those days, nothing beats a refreshing chilled cucumber soup.
SAVE 25% ON RACHEL’S NEW BOOK
The Little Swedish Kitchen by Rachel Khoo will be published by Michael Joseph on 26 July, price £20. To pre-order a copy for £15 until 29 July visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.