Jessica’s Black Forest Gateaux Trifle

“Så mörk är natten i midvintertid.

Men se, då nalkas Lucia.

Hon kommer, den goda, med ljuset hit.

Hon kommer med hälsning om julefrid.

Hon kommer med ljus i sin krona.”

Yesterday was Santa Lucia day – the celebration of light. It’s one of my favourite Swedish traditions. The origins is the story of Saint Lucy and marks the beginning of Christmastide. It always falls on the 13th December.

The legend of the martyr Saint Lucy is rather grim. During the Roman Empire, the Christians were being persecuted. Many hid in the catacombs, and Saint Lucy would venture down there with trays of food. As it was so dark, but in need of full use of her hands, she wore a candle lit wreath on her head to light up her way with her tray of food. She was later killed for refusing to marry a pagan.

Nowadays, we all get up super early and head to our church. Normally fighting through snow and frost and huddle up inside. We all pile in to the church and sit down in the pews. The church will be decorated beautifully and everyone seems happy, in spite the early rise. And in spite of having to sit so close to one and other. (Swedes don’t like to have sit close next to strangers.)

Then we patiently wait for Lucia to enter the church. Wearing a white dress (white representing innocence. Cheerful!) and a red sash (red symbolising the blood of martyrdom. Again, cheerful.), and a gold wreath/crown with candles on her head (the candles symbolises the fire that refused to take Saint Lucy’s life….Yep.), walking at the head of the procession.

And it gets me every time.

The Nordic countries have very little sunlight in winter.

And from the darkness that engulfs the church, suddenly this glorious light appears, gradually filling the space. The heat from the candles warming us.

And the singing. The beautiful hymns. Softly in the beginning and then progressively building in strength.

(Have a look and listen here)

This year I was invited to talk about Lucia at my daughter’s school. I dressed up in my white dress and crown, (yes, I have my own set!), brought extra white dresses and candles for our very own Lucia procession and gingerbread cookies.

My goodness. It was so beautiful. The kids were so curious and asked lots of questions like:

From “which candle is your favourite?” (Pointing to the candles in my crown)

“Is that your nightdress?” to “when are we eating the cookies?”

We all sang Lucia songs and ate the gingerbread cookies.

Because that’s the other thing about Lucia day. It’s a Feast and we eat. A lot.

Speaking of Feasts – I tried a new trifle recipe that went down very well with my friends that I’d like to share with you. It was so easy to make! I’ve tweaked a recipe my friend Erika shared with me.

Jessica’s Lucia Black Forest Trifle

Ingredients

Good quality custard

100g good quality chocolate

400 g brownie bites

50g Black cherry jam

About 100g Cherry brandy

300g cherries (pitted, if you can get them)

100g amaretti biscuits

400ml double cream

Decorations:

100g Toasted flaked almonds

Chocolate curls

Cherries

1. Melt the chocolate, either in a microwave in short bursts or over a bowl of simmering water on the stove. Leave to cool but not to get too stiff.

2. Gently stir in your custard and mix the two together.

3. Now cut the brownies or chocolate cake into fairly thin slices and arrange in the bottom of the bowl. Spread one layer of cherry jam and then continue with the second layer of brownies and spread over more jam

4. Pour over the cherry brandy, then sprinkle over the cherries.

5. Put your amaretti biscuits into a bag and bash gently with a rolling pin until a coarse like sand consistency. Don’t worry if there’s smaller and bigger bits. The difference in texture will taste wonderful.

6. Sprinkle your amaretti sand over the cherries.

7. Now pour over your custard in an even layer.

8. Put some clingfilm over your trifle and leave to chill until just before serving.

10. Whisk the double cream in a bowl until it forms soft peaks, then smooth this over the custard.

11. Decorate with your toasted almond flakes, chocolate curls and cherries.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess

Travel Review – Swiss Farm Henley

Travelling with kids – Camping…

I know. Why would you voluntarily put yourself, and your whole family, in a tent for the weekend?

Not only that – but you’d bring all your friends along too! (though good thing obviously!) And a dog!

We’ve been going camping since Jackson was in Reception with a few of his school friends and we always have a blast. It’s a firm favourite of ours and we always look forward to it every year.

The kids play and parents get to chill, drink wine, eat and catch up.

The Girls

We normally have a BBQ and make s’mores, (also firm favourite!) and we all and chip in and share food and snacks. It’s beautiful.

It’s completely stripped back, with all our focus firmly on our kids.

TENT

We have a fantastic bell tent that we bought from Soulpad a few years back. I can’t recommend this tent enough. It comfortably fits us all (2 adults, 3 kids and a dog), all our gear and food. It’s relatively cool in the day time and warm at night. Check out the website – I promise it’s worth every penny.

Inside our Bell Tent

This year we decided to head to Swiss Farm in Henley and boy – it was fabulous. It’s a great camp site! I completely understand the hype now. Staff are so helpful and nice from the get go at reception. We stayed in a deluxe pitch (with electrical point, park bench and water point close by) and it was well worth the extra. We had so much space! The site is very well looked after too – everything is super clean and accessible. The showers and toilets were fantastic, and easy to find. Again, really fresh and super clean.

Blue Skies

We loved the pool area. We were lucky (?) to travel here during the heat wave so the water was a welcomed break. I don’t know how well I would have coped inside the tent when the sun was blazing down on us. Buddy the dog could come to the restaurant next door to the pool and this was a life saver. It meant one of us could sit and have a coffee with the dog whilst the rest of the gang went for a swim. But it also meant that he could come with us when we went for a beautiful cooked breakfast in the morning!

The only gripe was that people were putting towels out in the morning session to save sun loungers in the pool area. I mean… Really?

Mags.

Some of the families left their towels on the sun loungers, then kept popping out for lunch and later dinner – making those sun loungers out of action in between… Anyway. I was desperate to get an umbrella for the baby and my porcelain skinned children! Next year I will bring my own umbrella.

We had dinner in the restaurant twice and it was really nice. I can really recommend a visit here if fancy a break away from the usual camping food. Order the fish and chips – it’s amazing! Followed by any of the breakfast dishes. You’ll thank me later!

Eggs Benedict. Beautiful.

The staff are so friendly and service minded. Always smiling. They can’t do enough for you. Our food order got mixed up twice, but they were quick to rectify the problem.

The Gang

Livermore Top Tips:

  1. Bring your own pool umbrella. No joke.
  2. They’re meant to operate a “one session per day system” whereby you can use the pool for one particular 2 1/2 hour session only, but this wasn’t in place when we where there so the pool was rammed. I reckon head for the early slot if you fancy a swim with little ones.
  3. Head into Henley if you fancy a change of scenery. It’s gorgeous.
  4. Check the calendar before you head here. There was some sort of music festival in Henley when we stayed and the music was SO LOUD. We didn’t sleep.
  5. There is so much for the kids to do here. Playgrounds, swings, walks through the woods, the pool. You’ll be spoiled for choice
Erika and Karen
Sunkissed.

Sticky Toffee Pudding + Chocolate Fudge Cake (or Kladdkaka)

As you know, I like my coffee.

Sweden is in the top 10 coffee consumers in the world. We like coffee in Sweden.

I mean, we reaaaaaally like coffee.

On a work trip to Stockholm a few years back my English colleague Clara didn’t slept at all that week due to the copious coffee consumptions.

But we not only drink coffee. You also eat buns, biscuits, patisseries, and cookies alongside it.

And you chat. You hang out in your favourite cafe for hours.

This is called FIKA and is part of the Swedish DNA.

More than often than not you’ll find Kladdkaka (Sticky Chocolate Cake) on the fika menu. It’s a firm favourite amongst Swedes and it’s easy to see why.

I added some Swenglish flavour and added dates to the recipe. The result was beautiful! Similar to a Sticky Toffee Pudding, but in Fudgy Chocolate Cake form. YUM.

Here is the recipe:

• 60g plain flour

• 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

• 1 pinch salt

• 2 eggs

• 275g caster sugar

• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

• 110g butter, melted

• 3 medium sized dates, cut into fine chunks

1. Turn the oven on 175°.

2. Melt the butter in a pan. Remove from the heat once melted.

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; and set aside.

4. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla into the pan with the butter.

5. Now stir in your dry ingredients. Mix well.

6. Finally add your chopped dates. Stir the mixture.

7. Pour the batter into a well greased pan and put into the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes.

8. The cake will end up quite flat, with a hard surface and gooey centre. (Yay)

9. Let the cake cool on a metal rack.

10. Serve with some whipped cream or ice cream and fresh fruit.

Enjoy ❤️

Love, Jess

Lemon and Tomato Stuffed Sea Bream

My dad is a Fisherman, so fish was always been part of our weekly diet.

Growing up, I didn’t really appreciate the freshly caught fish on our dinner table. I didn’t realise how fortunate I was. But I do now. I crave it.

I don’t like to mess around with the fish though. It’s truly beautiful gently oven roasted with a few accompanying ingredients.

My husband had to have a major operation this week and nothing says “I love you” as a home cooked meal.

* So the night before my husband’s big operation I made him some beautiful oven cooked Lemon and Tomato Stuffed Sea Bream.

Here’s the recipe:

2 whole sea-breams (cleaned and gutted)

5 large potatoes (for the mash)

50 ml whole milk (for the mash)

2 garlic cloves

6 small tomatoes on the vine

1 tbsp olive oil

2 lemons

Couple of sprigs of thyme

Good quality butter (for mash and the fish)

1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. 2. Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and, put in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and add salt, cook for 20 minutes or so. (Depends on the type of potato you’re using).

Once cooked, drain and start mashing. Add a little bit butter and milk for taste and texture.

3. Rinse the fish properly. Now slash the fish through the flesh down to the bone.

4. Season and rub with the olive oil.

5. Slice the lemon into medium slices. (In term of the thickness, think a pound coin.).

6. Add the lemon slices to the cavities of the fish.

7. Now add your washed tomatoes to the belly cavity and a sprig of thyme.

8. Chuck in some pieces of butter on top of your fish fillets.

9. Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes.

10. Baste the fish occasionally during the cook.

11. Serve with your mashed potato and vegetables.

Enjoy ❤️

Love, Jess

* Yes. I know. If you know us well you’ll know fish isn’t Brooks’ favourite protein. But fish will keep you strong and felt appropriate somehow. ❤️

Easy Peasy S’mores

“First I drink the coffee, then I do the things.”

Sums me up pretty accurately.

It can’t be any kind of coffee though. I’m quite particular. It has to be strong, with a healthy helping of frothy milk in a nice mug or cup. Yes, slightly OCD perhaps but there we are. I am a mum of three, I don’t have lots of luxuries left in this world.

But I also really like to experiment with coffee beans. I like to mix in some hazelnut coffee with my normal coffee beans. In time for Halloween and thanksgiving it’s Pumpkin spice.

Not the syrup mind you – it has to be the actual bean. I find the syrup too sickly for my liking.

My absolute favourite is an Amaretto Flavoured coffee from the Little Coffee Box Co. Just like dunking a gorgeous biscotti in your coffee!

Recently I discovered S’mores Coffee and it’s amazing. It tastes just like you’d expect it to. I can imagine sitting by the campfire with a cup of coffee slowing devouring some scrummy S’mores at the same time.

Speaking of S’mores. I found a really easy peasy recipe online I’d like to share with you.

Most S’mores recipes call out for Graham crackers. Unfortunately we don’t have them in England and so I was thrilled when I discovered this recipe which uses McVities Milk Chocolate Biscuits.

This recipe is so simple. Honestly, It’ll only take a few minutes to prep, cook and eat.

You’ll need:

⁃ Milk Chocolate Digestives

⁃ Marshmallows

⁃ Skewers or thin sticks

• Place the biscuit on a plate, chocolate-side up. This will be the base of your S’more.

• Set the top biscuit close by.

• Prep your bamboo sticks by soaking them in water

• Thread your marshmallows on the bamboo skewer

• Toast your marshmallows over an open flame until they’re hot and soft in the middle. If they catch on fire, just blow them out and continue toasting until browned. They’ll be even nicer!!

• Slide the toasted marshmallows onto the biscuit (chocolate side) and sandwich the top cookie on top.

• Press down slightly until the marshmallow oozes out the sides a little… Heaven.

Enjoy ❤️

Love, Jess

The National Trust and the unfortunate tale of Lady Arabella Stuart

When I was little I used to subscribe to a Swedish comic series called Kamratposten. It tackled all the issues a nine year year old might face; friendships, jealousy, love, hate, and most importantly not getting Applejack for a Christmas present.

I’m still upset about that one.

In my teens I moved on to Veckorevyn. The Swedish equivalent of Teen Vouge if you like. It had lots of teen advice, interviews with Hollywood and pop stars, make up tips and shiny posters. Who doesn’t need to know what Jason Priestley and Luke Perry’s favourite breakfast cereal is?

(Seriously though. What are their favourite breakfast cereal?! I might have to find out!)

And don’t worry Petra – Luke Perry is still yours!

As an adult I’ve tried a few subscriptions – a certain popular health mag, (in the hope that I would somehow become more healthy just by reading it), a monthly cookbook club, the National Geographics, Science magazines, Mother&Baby, Snack subscriptions and more.

There is one subscription though that I would wholeheartedly recommend, and it’s a gem.

The National Trust

(https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk) describes themselves like this:

“We look after special places throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland for ever, for everyone.

…We restore them, protect them and open them up to everyone. For the Trust, conservation has always gone hand-in-hand with public access.”

We are so fortunate in this country to have so much history, so many stunning places to visit, and just being able to walk around these grand old estates and houses, learning about its past owners.

We’ve been to quite a few National Trust places and they all have their own individual charm.

There’s generally beautiful gardens and/or woods to explore, gorgeous food – often locally sourced and a gift shop. (I love a gift shop.)

It’s the perfect day out for the whole family.

When we go there’s mum and dad, grandparents, a 90-year old great granny, kids, a baby and dog. A tall order!

When we stayed in the Peak District last we visited Hardwick Hall.

Built in the late 1590’s the house and the furnishings were very impressive, but what really stuck with me was the story.

Its first owner Bess of Hardwick was an extraordinary woman. She came from humble beginnings to becoming the second wealthiest woman in the country, after Queen Elizabeth. She married four times, and seemed a remarkable woman for her times.

This is also a stark contrast to poor Lady Arbella Stuart, Bess of Hardwick’s grand daughter. Related to the Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, she was thrown into the middle of royal intrigues and was practically imprisoned at Hardwick Hall for most of her life.

Bess brought her up to be fit for the royal court. She was introduced to Queen Elizabeth who was very impressed by the girl. But when Arbella’s aunt, Mary Queen of Scots was executed she fell into Queen Elizabeth’s bad books and Bess had to keep Arabella away from all society.

As an only way out of her house arrest, Arabella fought for her right to marry a man of her own choosing.

She almost did manage to escape to France with her beloved, William Seymour, but was caught and put in the Tower where she died aged only 39.

How there’s not been a series about this house, and these remarkable women, is a mystery to me!

And we’ll need a King James and a William Seymour. I wonder if Jason Priestley and Luke Perry can do English accents?

Love, Jess

Swedish Meatball Puff Pastry Rolls

A match made in heaven?

I noticed him straight away. He was very tall and handsome and had luscious floppy hair. He was charming and confident with a cheeky smile to match.

He asked me where I was from and I said Sweden. He said he liked meatballs from IKEA. I asked where he was from. I said I really like a Sunday Roast.

We would end up being in the same class at Uni for three years but our love didn’t blossom until our third year when we were cast opposite each other in a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Being a Swenglish family means we get to pick and choose the best bits from both cultures. I make foods that I love from home, as well as dishes from my new home country.

Some purist would say one shouldn’t mess with perfection but I think fusions enrich our lives.

So the humble Swedish meatball. And an English sausage roll.

I decided to marry the two and the result was beautiful.

Here is the recipe:

Jessica’s Swedish Meatball Sausage Rolls

Best served with a lingonberry jam creme fraiche dipping sauce on the side.

250g Beef Mince

250g Pork Mince

1 dl milk

1 dl single cream

1 dl crumbs

2 eggs (1 for the mixture, 1 for the egg wash)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground white pepper

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp sugar

Margarine (for frying the meatballs)

For the Dipping Sauce

⁃ Lingonberry Jam (Ocado and ScandiKitchen sells this in the U.K.)

⁃ Creme fraiche

Add your cream and milk to the breadcrumbs and let it stand for 10 minutes. Stir gently.

Put your Mince in a bowl and mix in your spices carefully, followed by your egg and lastly the breadcrumb/cream mixture.

Get your pan ready. Now wash your hands and get rolling! Start by rolling the meatballs and putting them one by one on a side plate, ready for some frying.

Once you’re done with the rolling, start frying! Make sure you shake the pan from time to time as you want an even cook.

Once cooked take them off the heat and let them cool completely.

Get your puff pastry and cut into thin strips.

Now roll your meatballs up into little rolls, just like you would a sausage roll.

Once you’ve wrapped the meatballs in pasty, get some egg wash on them. This will give the pastry a nice shine.

Put your meatball puff pastry roll into a hot oven (180, fan assisted) for about 10-5 minutes – or until the pastry is nice and golden.

In the meantime, mix your lingonberry jam with a bit or creme fraiche into a nice thick dipping sauce.

Take your meatball roll out of the oven and serve.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess