A vignette of Swedish woodland and a recipe for potatoes and blueberries.
If I was a tree, I’d be
a wind bent pine
with a view of the sea.
Flying over Sweden you see a lot of woodland and coming from the patchwork, cultivated and agrarian land of England it felt like a significant contrast. The abundant greenery below me explained how Sweden can be twice as big as England in size, but contain 55 million less people. It seems whilst the Swedes value their trees, we value our sheep. I still have strong memories of English woodlands, thick oak trees, coppiced hazel, and grand horse chestnuts. I think of Autumn, learning the trees by leaves, yellow wellington boots and hiding; the woods I remember weren’t small, they were an open canvas and a wild swipe of paint.
Soon, I was no longer looking down at the overstory, but walking the woods.
There was a sweet smell of pine and a coolness in the air; a snow-like crunch echoed the winter left behind and the one yet to arrive. The crunch, played by feet, came from the luminous light-blue moss which carpeted the rock and shared the dense forest floor with the blueberry plants. Leaning down, I picked myself a handful and threw them into my mouth. The path was a little precarious and my choice of Birkenstocks seemed sensible (fashionable) when leaving, but after remembering the threat of tics, I found the abundance of air afforded to my feet less freeing than expected.
We were searching for a ‘hidden’ cliff, recommended to us by a helpful neighbour. The cliff, which was apparently easy to find, would offer views of a bay, the archipelago and the last of the days’ sunshine. We were under the time constraints of dinner: potatoes were resting in a blanket (yes, a blanket) and the salmon was ready to be hot-smoked.
Dad once said to me, “I feel like I belong to this forest”. A shared sentiment. The colours, the smell, the sounds, the forms of trees and animals. We know where to find the blueberries and lingonberries, we know which mushroom to pick and where they hide. As kids we’d scream, ‘chanterelles, reveal yourselves’, we still do and sometimes they listen.
The weakening sun emphasised the nascent heather’s purple tops which moved smoothly in between the dark green pine needles, faded grey rocks and pastel blue moss. We scrambled over rocks, used tree branches to keep balance and searched the ground for a way through to the opening which we could just about make out. The view from the cliff opened over the archipelago, the sea was flat and seemed captured like a photograph by the evening light. The tiny details of the forest floor which my mind had been focusing on gave way to the blue. I saw three things: the sky, the water and a bent pine looking out to sea.
Returned home, legs checked for evil insects and potatoes unravelled from their warm, woollen home, it was time to eat.
Ingredients: Potatoes, water, a blanket.
After you have discovered wrapping your potatoes in a blanket it will be hard to turn back: they are always perfectly cooked, it is ridiculously easy, and any country which treats its potatoes with such love must be doing something right. Below is the technique for blanket-wrapped potatoes and a recipe blueberry pie.
Grab yourself some new potatoes, some straight from the soil if you can. Boil them for four minutes, then when the four minutes are up, drain the water, put a lid on the pan, wrap it up tightly in a blanket and leave for minimum 25 minutes. Once you unwrap the potato-present you will be greeted with perfectly cooked spuds ready for whatever dish you wish to create. I think butter and salt is all they need.
Blueberry Pie Recipe:
Hofta: To prepare and cook food solely on intuition. To trust your gut. To shoot from the hip.
Ingredients: Blueberries, Flour, Sugar, Almonds, Pearl Sugar, Oats, Butter, Syrup.
This recipe is malleable, which is why I haven’t been too specific. You can replace the blueberries with blackberries, replace the almonds with hazelnuts, just make sure it is made with zest.
Put the oven on to 225 degrees. Then pour your blueberries into a baking tray.
Mix a bit of flour and water and sprinkle on the blueberries.
Mix whole almonds, pearl sugar, oats, butter and a squeeze of syrup into a mixer. Blend together until it is loose and smooth. Play with the amounts, until you get the taste you desire.
Sprinkle the mixture over the pie, and bake until it has transformed to gold.
Serve with cream, custard or ice cream during the last weeks of summer.
EP and MZH