Friday, March 28, 2014

Swedish word/phrase of the week - Elma edition

This is a special Swedish word/phrase of the week because it features a phrase that I'm not entirely sure is commonly used, or even used at all, by anyone other than my friend Elma. But it has stuck in my head since last summer when we were teaching a lindy hop class together based around changing roles and improvisation. 

The world was unfortunate enough to lose Elma in January this year. I'm still trying to understand that she's not around anymore. I will be writing a bit about her to try and let the wider world get a sense of how amazing she was and how catastrophic losing her has been. But I want to start here, with a phrase that I learned from her and will always remember.

Det kittlas så skönt i själen

Direct translation : It tickles so beautifully in the soul

Translation that is a bit more idiomatically English in nature: I'm so delightfully tickled by this, deep down in my soul

I want to quickly tell you the story of how I came to learn this phrase. As I mentioned, last summer Elma and I taught an intermediate lindy hop course over a weekend. I say we, but I was mostly there as Elma's sidekick. When we met up to plan the classes, she had already determined most of what was going to happen and we just had to fine tune the details. 

One of the exercises she wanted to do in this class was something she had learned from an improv workshop she had attended. It was a kind of team building exercise (as much as I hate to use that term because it sounds wanky and Elma was anything but wanky). 

Here's the exercise, everyone stands in a circle, relatively close together. One person starts by clenching their fists and putting both hands into the circle and saying loudly "Maaaaaaaaa". Each person adds their "Maaaa" and fists to the circle in turn until everyone is doing it. Once the group feels that are at the end of their breath, they bring their hands in by their sides and finish the word together, ".......zunga".  

I have a very clear vision in my head of this Mazunga we did at that workshop. I can see Elma smiling, holding her hand to her chest and saying "Det kittlas så skönt i själen". And she was right. As much as I am generally not a fan of these kind of things because I feel like a bit of a dick, having Elma lead it and being involved did tickle me. It felt good and I left that weekend in awe of Elma and her ability to bring a group of people together and infect others with her joy. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Potato cakes/scallops -FODMAPs friendly

I have a cohort of Australian friends here in Gothenburg. We have all agreed that the lack of potato cakes/scallops in Sweden is something that is a wee bit shit. 

So back in December we decided to make our own. We also tried dim sims from my FODMAPs cookbook, but we underwhelmed with how they turned out. They tasted fine, but using rice paper for the wrappers didn't really work very well. 

We discovered there were different recipes around for how one might make them and ended up with a mish mash of a few different recipes, combined with some of my old methods for making BBQ potatoes work. 

We used the opportunity of getting together at my house to also watch an episode or two of the Australian comedy Upper Middle Bogan. It was a very Australian Saturday afternoon and I look forward to doing it again. 

I present to you the efforts of our labour, and following that, how you too can do this at home and make FODMAPs friendly potato cakes at home. 


750g large old potatoes
2 cups spelt flour* or gluten free flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups soda water
oil for deep frying
extra flour
extra salt 


Wash and peel the potatoes. 

Cut them into thin slices, 0.5cm and arrange on a large plate in a monolayer.

Microwave them for 1 minute on high.

While they cool, prepare your batter.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Gradually add the water, stirring as you go to create a thick batter.

Once the batter is ready, get your oil to temperature. You can test it by dropping a bit of batter in the oil. If it sizzles and rises to the top, you're onto a winner.

Coat the potato slices lightly with the extra flour and shake off the excess.

Dip each slice into the batter to cover it well, removing excess on the side of the bowl.

Deep fry them a couple at a time, until they are golden brown.

Remove with a slotted spoon from the oil and drain on absorbent paper. 

You can refry them a second time, but we found it to not be necessary.

Sprinkle with salt because despite what my father believes, salt on potato cakes is a necessity. 

*I used spelt flour because I've found that I tolerate it well. If you are on the elimination part of the diet I would suggest trying gluten free flour instead to be on the safe side because I've known of FODMAPpers that have had difficulty with spelt. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A knitted carrot and potato - a knitting commission

The back story:

Two friends of mine were in New Orleans around the time of the girl's birthday. The boy was buying lots and lots of music and the girl said "At this rate, you'll only be able to afford a carrot and potato for my birthday."

Lo and behold, on her birthday she was presented with a delightfully wrapped gift box, containing a carrot and potato.

Since then that gift theme has been reproduced at various time points. 

The commission: 

The boy cornered me at a PhD dissertation party in late November and asked if I could knit a carrot and potato for the girl for Christmas. I was enthusiastic about the project and went about getting it sorted. 

The execution: 

I found a tutorial for both the potato and the carrot. I also found some orange yarn in a shop, and brown and green yarn in my stash to knit them up. 

They were fun to make and very quick. I am most pleased with the outcome. Moreso with the carrot than the potato, but the potato did its job in looking vaguely potato like.

I was reliably informed that they were well received and I am really glad to have been able to bring a bit of fun to them at Christmas. 

Here you can see the finished products. I can see myself getting involved in making more fruit and veg in the future. Maybe some apples and pears, seeing as I can't eat them anymore.  

carrot and potato 2

carrot and potato

Ravelled here

Monday, March 17, 2014

On travel and illness and the small girl with the Darth Vader voice

We are just home after a month in Australia. The trip home was epic. It included the following features to make it as memorable as possible :

  • I was travelling solo with the wee one (TWO)
  • my period started the afternoon before we flew out
  • we were delayed in Abu Dhabi for 18 hours
  • TWO vomited on the flight just before we landed in Amsterdam
  • the whole thing took 44 hours
The good news is that we are home safe and sound. TWO has unfortunately picked up some kind of respiratory infection and is currently wheezing in her sleep next to me on the couch. She has been sounding like Darth Vader since last night, which also included a fever and very little sleep.

What a delightful welcome home to Sweden.