“Bermuda, Bahamas, come on pretty mama”…
This week’s cooking bonanza had us fleeing the dark and stormy autumn streets of Stockholm, for a dark and stormy of another kind, one typically enjoyed on the lusciously pink sandy beaches of Bermuda (well… fleeing by way of our tummies at least). Our weekly guest also holds a very special place in Kryddhyllan’s hearts… not only is she fire at whipping up some epic, gourmet home-cooked meals, she is also the raison d’être for half of our dynamic duo. Yes indeed friends, our weekly guest is none other than Alex’s lovely mother, Joy. Hailing from the sunny tropical tax paradise otherwise known as Bermuda, Joy is yet another one of the many victims of the grand Swedish seduction scheme. She left the sunshine and palm trees behind in favour of meatballs, darkness, and of course: l’amour (but not before taking time to live in all possible corners of the globe).
After greeting us warmly, she wasted no time getting down to the business of showing us how to prepare one of her favourite Bermudian specialties: Paw Paw Casserole… otherwise known as Green Papaya Casserole. Now, for those of you who don’t know much about papaya (ourselves included), get ready to have your minds blown. Papaya is both a fruit… AND a vegetable. Yes, it all depends on how ripe it is. When it is green and fresh from the tree, it can be cooked like a vegetable, which is how we enjoyed it today. When it’s bright orange, the metamorphosis into fruity deliciousness is complete. Then it can be enjoyed raw (Joy says it’s best served with ice cream, and we can’t argue with that, because everything pairs well with ice cream… yes you heard us, everything). This casserole is easy, delicious, and perfect for enjoying on a chilly autumn evening. Read on to find out how you can transport yourself to Bermuda’s beaches by way of this unique casserole.
“There wasn’t a lot around except for some sad looking cabbages”
RECIPE FOR THE HEARTIEST CASSEROLE YOU’LL EVER MEET
Serves: around 4-5 hungry people
Duration: about 1.5 hour, including prep (depending on if you skip arm day, you’ll need some muscles for peeling and chopping the papaya)
This casserole is the perfect solution for all your last minute dinner prep woes, especially when you have quite a few guests coming over and don’t feel like making lots of smaller dishes. It’s also a great dish to bring to a potluck, as it can easily be reheated and you can impress all of your friends with your newfound papaya knowledge (disclaimer: we will not be held responsible if this, for any reason, doesn’t end up being the highlight of the dinner discussion… it probably means you need to do some more reading up on the topic; you’ll wow ‘em next time, promise).
Listen to: the classic sounds of the Beach Boys, Barry Manilow, or Frank Sinatra, all obvious fans of Bermuda’s laidback beach vibes.
Pair with: Kickstart your night with a nice Dark n’ Stormy (liberal pouring of the rum is encouraged), and pair your delicious Paw Paw Casserole with a nice, robust red for the ultimate cosy evening in. You’ll find a recipe for a kickass dark n’ stormy here: http://www.esquire.com/food-drink/drinks/recipes/a3747/dark-and-stormy-drink-recipe/)
Bermuda Paw Paw Casserole
- 3-4 green (aka unripe paw paws… ask for papayas at the grocery store to avoid any confused reactions)
- 4 large tomatoes
- 1 large white onion
- ½ lb of ground beef
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt (season as desired, we went full on salt bae here)
- 1 package of crushed tomato sauce
- 1 cup of grated cheese of your choice (we used aged white cheddar)
- Preheat oven to 225ºC
- Cut the papayas in half lengthwise. Scoop out the little seeds.
- Peel them and dice into small-medium cubes.
- Cook them (either by steaming or boiling) until tender, or until the consistency is easily mashable. Mash them with a potato masher or a fork.
- While the papaya is cooking, sauté the ground beef and onions in olive oil and season with salt. Cook until the onions are translucent and the beef is nice and brown
- Layer the bottom of a baking dish with the mashed papaya.
- Add a layer of sliced tomatoes and pour the tomato sauce over
- Add a layer of the ground beef and onion
- Sprinkle a layer of cheese
- Add another layer of the mashed papaya, tomato, ground beef, and cheese, and continue layering, finishing with a layer of mashed papaya.
- Sprinkle the cheese over everything (the more cheese the better because… well… cheese).
- Place in the oven, and let the power of fiery heat do its magic for around 30-40 minutes (until the top layer is nicely browned and the cheese is bubbly and melty but also crispy)
- Serve garnished with parsley or coriander or whatever your spice of life happens to be! Pair with a nice red wine, and round off the meal with a dark n’ stormy.
After digging in to our 100th portion of Paw Paw Casserole, we refilled our wine glasses and found out about some of Joy’s most memorable food experiences from her travels all around the globe, her traumatizing initial encounter with Swedish grocery stores, and her deep appreciation for husmanskost.
Kryddhyllan: What is your favourite food from home?
Joy: I think Bermuda fish chowder.
Kryddhyllan: Why is it your favourite?
Joy: Well, it’s very typical of Bermuda, we have lots of varieties of fish. It’s a very tasty and spicy dish.
Kryddhyllan: Yum! What brought you to Sweden?
Joy: Oh, the usual… l’amour *laughs. I met a very nice, handsome Swede.
Kryddhyllan: And what was one of your favourite dishes after moving to Sweden?
Joy: Oh… Um…. I think at first it was meatballs, köttbullar. And now I’m a big fan of… hmm what’s that dish with the beef…
Kryddhyllan: There are quite a few…
Joy: Biff Lindström! That’s the one I really like. It’s delicious and you don’t find it really anywhere else. Oh yeah, and the other thing would be varmrökt lax. That is just fantastic. Oh and Swedish strawberries too, they’re delicious.
Kryddhyllan: They are definitely the best. So before moving to Sweden, what did you know about Swedish food, if anything?
Joy: Hm, good point. Well I knew about salmon, I knew that was part of traditional cuisine in Scandinavia right throughout. The Swedes that I met actually introduced me to some very basic foods, and also to små grodorna *laughs
Kryddhyllan: Very important! What kind of basic foods did they introduce you too?
Joy: Potatoes cooked the Swedish way of course, like Hasselbackspotatis… very simple to make but excellent. Good, warm winter food.
Kryddhyllan: For the dark, endless winters… So they essentially taught you about potatoes?
Joy: Oh yes. I really didn’t eat potatoes before… except for the occasional French fries. So the main impression I had when I moved was that Swedes ate a lot of potatoes *laughs.
Kryddhyllan: Can’t argue with that! So once you figured out what Swedish food was all about, what would you say was the best and worst thing about Swedish food?
Joy: Well, you have to remember that I moved to Sweden before it became a member of the EU. So the influences with EU membership have been tremendous in every way. It hasn’t diluted the Swedish table, but rather, it’s enhanced it, because there are so many more fresh vegetables and condiments… like really good mustards, different sauces available, which were there before but not… you really had to hunt for it. You had to find the special boutique grocery that brought in really nice Greek olive oil, and great French cheese and the rest of it. Once you did that you could really eat well… but you had to hunt. Now it’s just out there! It’s become a very dynamic kind of eating in Sweden.
Kryddhyllan: What was it like when you first arrived?
Joy: Oh, it was a challenge… Because we had moved there from Strasbourg, and Paris. And living there, you are definitely spoilt with the French “gourmandise”. Being pregnant with Alex didn’t help because I really craved fresh fruits and vegetables. And we moved to Stockholm in the autumn, so there wasn’t a lot around except for some sad looking cabbages *laughs.
Kryddhyllan: Sweden is good at cabbages.
Joy: They certainly are… but it’s definitely 200% improved since then. Then again, the other interesting thing for me is that prior to enjoying EU membership, I think I actually participated in more of the traditional Swedish ways, which you don’t do as much anymore.
Kryddhyllan: Like what?
Joy: Like Christmas cooking, making mandelmusslor… people do still do it but to a lesser extent. I used to make a herring with yoghurt and green apple, which was really good (I thought). Then there’s the julbord, which we do still do a lot, but I like to have my own special additions for an exotic touch *laughs.
Kryddhyllan: Now that we’ve discussed the worst things, what would you say are the best things about Swedish food?
Joy: Hmm, I think that husmanskost is quite nice… it hasn’t really changed that much but has maybe become more refined… If we’ll talk about cabbage again now there are new ways to make cabbage, like cabbage rolls for example. The other thing that I think is really fun is how you go into the forest and pick your own mushrooms. I mean, it’s amazing that we can go into the forest and if you know where to look, pick whole baskets of kantarell mushrooms that could cost over 1000kr at the grocery store in any other country because they’re such a delicacy! It’s a beautiful mushroom….fungus *laughs.
Kryddhyllan: Agreed, they’re delicious. So, next question- if you had to pick one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Joy: Oh boy… *laughs. Oh my god, ummm… I would have to say really and truly that I would go back to my Bermudian roots and have papaya…. it’s one of the healthiest foods around. Green, it’s eaten as a vegetable, which you’ve seen with this recipe, and when it’s yellow it’s eaten as a fruit and is delicious with ice cream. Another thing is that it’s a fantastic digestive. The enzymes in papaya are really good for you, not to mention the vitamins.
Kryddhyllan: So you would just have papaya?
Joy: Yes of course. How many other vegetables can be both a fruit and a vegetable? *laughs
Kryddhyllan: A few… isn’t avocado a fruit?
Joy: Yeah, but then it’s just a fruit…once it’s there it’s there, it’s not a fruit and a vegetable as such. Papaya is a vegetable and cooked when it’s green, and then when it’s ripe it can be eaten raw… it has this wonderful consistency. It’s almost like a mango, which is another fruit I could definitely eat forever and ever. But I love the variations in how you can prepare papaya. And in Bermuda, it grows wild. The birds drop the seeds and they grow. I grew up on papaya- we had fresh papaya and my mother used to cook it in the recipe that we’ve made tonight.
Kryddhyllan: Understandable, it was delicious! What about spices, what’s your spice of life? One spice to flavour your food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Joy: Is cilantro a spice?
Kryddhyllan: It could be sure.
Joy: It’s also a herb… anyway, I think if you put it in the right proportions, it’s a very lemony tangy flavour, it’s just really nice. It really gets the taste buds going.
Kryddhyllan: That’s very true, it does get the taste buds going. People either hate it or love it. Some people think it tastes like soap.
Joy: Oh no.
Kryddhyllan: Yeah, it’s a genetic thing.
Joy: Well, it must be, because it sure doesn’t taste like soap to me, I mean I’ve tasted soap *laughs. Depends on the soap! That’s an idea, cilantro soap, that would be nice. Rosemary soap, thyme soap.
Kryddhyllan: we’d buy that for sure. If we think about the best meal you’ve ever had and why?
Joy: The best meal I ever had?! Oh boy, that’s going back a long way…
Kryddhyllan: Well we have time!
Joy: I’ve had so many good meals. I think the food on Chinese New Years in Singapore was amazing, because you had literally everything. You had foie gras, you had fresh seafood, you had the tossed lucky salad.
Kryddhyllan: It was for luck?
Joy: Yeah, it’s tossed, with salmon, sesame seeds, shrimp… certain vegetables and spices. And it’s done so well, the flavours just blend and the noodles were wonderful. The Chinese New Year, that to me was one of my best memories of food. They honor everything, their own food and other dishes, and it’s a wonderful mélange.
Kryddhyllan: Sounds memorable.
Joy: It definitely was. And Alex used to get the little red packets, so that was memorable for her too.
Kryddhyllan: An amazing experience! Ok, final question before we help ourselves to some more food, what is your favourite restaurant at the moment and why?
Joy: I really like Riche in Stockholm. They do a really great burger and amazing köttbullar. In Montreal, I really like a restaurant called Holder’s in Old Montreal, because they have a great gourmet salad and nice fish, and people are friendly. I mean you can usually always find great food anywhere you go. What I love in Stockholm is how many new restaurants have sprung up. It’s a great gourmet city. There are so many places with great arctic char, smoked char almost rivals smoked salmon, and you can find it up in the north of Sweden, so I love finding that in restaurants in Stockholm (and anywhere else).
Kryddhyllan: They found a piranha up north as well. Someone had accidentally released it into the water and a guy fished it up… but then let it back in again. But they found it again (hopefully it was the same one).
Joy: Oh dear. Ok. Oh, one more thing! Living in France many, many years ago, my very best meal was something called grilled loup and it was grilled over wild fennel. It’s a fish from the Mediterranean, and it was absolutely delicious. I mean each country you travel to can have something special to offer. And when we talk about our favourite foods it also has something to do with our favourite areas where we want to be, where we’re happy. It has a lot to do with the atmosphere and the people.