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DATING

A course in seduction

Finding a dishy date is often the easy part. Ronnie Gilghrist offers culinary tips on how to keep your date coming back for more.

After three months you finally built up the courage to ask the girl from work out on a date.

She said yes, surprisingly enough. Why the hell did you wait three months?

Christine is blonde, tall, blue-eyed. Or were they green? You’ll have to look better next time. In any case, she is everything you ever dreamed of. Now, shortly after arriving in Sweden, the land of opportunities, you will realize all your ambitions.

So the night has arrived: you have invited Christine to dinner at your place. You open the door of the cupboard and realize that the only thing you have to offer her is half a pack of Pringles, sour cream flavour, a curry you made three days ago and a can of Carlsberg.

You open the Carlsberg and think of how best to impress Christine, so that this will not be the last date but the first of many cosy nights together reflecting on how it all began.

You have to show her that you are a modern man capable of looking after yourself and, more importantly, her. That’s why you suggested your place and not a restaurant; you want to show her abilities that you don’t show to just anybody.

So how do you impress the would-be girlfriend in the space of three hours, with no food in the house, and not knowing how to cook?

You look despairingly into the fridge, hoping to find you answer amongst the contents. You take a swig of your beer, you take another swig, and only then do you start to think of the perfect meal: simple, traditional, romantic, fast and cheap.

The meal

Three courses are necessary to show that there was a lot of effort put into this banquet. Effort means that you are willing to put yourself out for this girl, that she is special. It is kind of like telling her that you love her without committing yourself to anything.

It is often said that revenge is a dish best served cold. Well so are the starter and the dessert. It is amazingly complicated to cook a meal with more than one hot course. The timing is extremely difficult. By the time one course is ready, the other is cold. Or you realize while munching on the main course that you have managed to burn the dessert.

Starter

For a starter I would recommend Gallia melon with Parma ham. When serving this dish, take it to the table before pouring Muscat wine over the melon and ham. This will increase the olfactory sensation and look impressive in front of Christine.

Gallia melons are easy to find but not always the ripest, so take the oldest one on the shelf even if it has bits that are unusable. You will not need the whole melon. Parma ham is also available in most local ICA/Konsum stores.

Important note: wine is only available in a shop called Systembolaget and the opening hours are not great. They close at 3pm on a Saturday so by the time you are thinking about the evening ahead, the shop is already closed. Always invite girls for dinner on Friday — the shop is open until 7pm and you will have time to buy the wine.

Main course

When it comes to the main course I would suggest a coq au vin. Even though it is not so fancy it will mean that your tiny apartment will smell succulent when she arrives, activating her taste buds instantly.

It will be ready to eat while you are polishing of the starter. This makes the timing of the courses even easier.

To prepare:

Heat oil and 30g of butter in a large saucepan and add the bacon.

Roll the chicken pieces in seasoned flour. Add them to the pan. Cook on each side until the chicken is golden.

Peel 8 garlic cloves and add them to the pan. Add a whole shallot, sliced, and half an onion.

Pour in a bottle of red wine and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Simmer for 50 minutes to an hour, until the chicken starts to fall off the bone.

Serve good quality bread.

Dessert

The dessert is by far the most important course for most women in the world. Christine will appreciate the sugar and chocolate is a natural aphrodisiac that must be employed.

A dark chocolate cake is the easiest thing in the world to make.

Preheat the oven to 190C and lightly grease a round cake tin.

Place 200g of chocolate and 200g of butter in a small bowl. I would recommend Lindt chocolate with 70% cocoa, which is available in every ICA/Konsum store.

Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and stir until the mixture is melted.

Add 200g of sugar.

Remove the bowl from the heat. Sift in the flour and some cinnamon. Do not forget the cinnamon: Swedes love it and so will she.

Slowly incorporate 3 eggs until the mixture is well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes.

This whole meal will take you approximately two hours to cook. But with any luck the night will last much longer.

English/Swedish glossary

Butter – Smör

Chicken – Kyckling

Flour – Mjöl

Cinnamon – Kanel

Wine – Vin

Ham – Skinka

Oil – Olja

Sugar – Socker

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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