Five minutes with Rachel Khoo
We caught up with cook and author of My Swedish Kitchen, Rachel Khoo, to ask her a few foodie questions. Find out what we learned…
What’s your first memory of food?
It might not be my first but it’s one that has stayed with me. I remember on my first trip to Malaysia, when I visited my Dad’s side of the family, an old man who would cycle around my Granny’s neighbourhood with a whole cooking set-up at the front of the bicycle. He had a special call (imagine an ice cream van but in bicycle form) and would make wantan mee (wantan dumplings with noodles and soup) to order.
I remember taking my bowl and chopsticks out with my Granny to meet him and he would ladle in a hot flavoursome broth into our bowls with plump dumplings and bouncy noodles. It would be finished off with spicy speckles of chilli sauce and pickled chillies. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water!
What’s the first recipe you learned to cook?
I remember when I was at primary school my mum baked gingerbread people with me and a school friend. We used raisins for the eyes and would nibble on the leftover dough while the sweet, spicy scent filled the kitchen.
What’s the recipe you can’t live without?
At the moment I can’t get enough of Swedish ‘knäckebröd’ crispbread. It’s so versatile: not just for a snack but for lunch, an accompaniment, a garnish on a dish or even as a cereal. It keeps super well and is great if you get back from travelling and have nothing in the fridge. You always have a meal with Swedish crispbread and a topping of some sort.
There are over a dozen of varieties I discovered from living in Sweden. I recipe tested countless different versions for the TV show My Swedish Kitchen but have now found my perfect recipe. It uses a sourdough starter (which adds a slight tang to the cracker) and hardy rye flour which makes it super flavoursome. No cardboard-style crispbread here!
What’s the one ingredient you’d take to a dessert island with you?
Cheese. When I lived in the UK it was good mature cheddar. During my time in Paris I loved an 18 month-old comté and now I live in Sweden it has to be Västerbotten cheese. It’s my go-to cheese for cooking with now but tastes just as good on top of a hardy Swedish crispbread.
What’s the meal you’d miss the most?
Fika. It’s a Swedish tradition of coffee served with, usually, a sticky cinnamon or cardamom bun. When I first moved to Stockholm and was making friends, they wouldn’t say ‘let’s meet for a coffee’ but ‘let’s go for fika’.
There’s often a dispute between my friends about the best place in Stockholm to get a bun. A good bun should be quite dense, heavily spiced, never dry and with a slight crunch from the sugar spiced filling. If they are really good they should have a caramelised bottom (where the sugar and all the butter have merged together during baking to create a salty spiced caramel).
You can have a one-off dinner party on your island…who would you invite?
It would definitely have to be my maternal Grandma. I have many fond memories as a child in her kitchen where she would make apple strudel (my mum’s side of the family are from Austria), Sachertorte, chicken dumpling soup, Schnitzel and other delicious Austrian home-cooked dishes.
She was the person who instilled my love of butter (she always told my mum to put more butter in dishes when she cooked). Unfortunately, she never lived to see me cook professionally, so I never got the chance to cook for her. I would also have my mum and my aunt who have all played a big role in making me who I am today. It would be lovely to bring together three generations of women together.
Which cookbook would you take with you to the island?
I have an old copy of Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking which I got from my Granny. It has some of her notes/amendments scribbled in there.
Rachel Khoo: My Swedish Kitchen starts on Thursday 22 August at 9pm and 9.30pm on Food Network