A traditional smörgåsbord doesn’t have to be complicated. It is, in essence, the Nordic version of a buffet, so as long as you follow a few traditional rules and know when to eat which bit, you won’t go wrong. We basically have the same smörgåsbord for every high season, with a few seasonal dish changes.
This version is designed so that you can shop and put it together in a morning, provided you’re organised about the whole thing. For this reason, we have provided UK supermarket equivalents for some ingredients, but if you do have time, pop by our shop and pick up the authentic Nordic essentials or make everything from scratch if you want to impress.
How to serve and arrange a smörgåsbord.
Laying the table: Arrange in the middle of the table or, if serving for many people, at a side serving table. Served as a lunch and should take around 2-3 hours to eat. The focus here is on slow eating and drinking, with much talking and being together.
Drinks: Lagers such as Tuborg and Carlsberg will provide authenticity – but any good bottled lager is fine. Wine is fine, but less traditional (wine really doesn’t go with herring and shots of aquavit).
Aquavit (aka snaps): We recommend shots of a good, super-chilled OP Andersson or Ålborg. Crisp and strong, they’re perfect partners for pickled herring. If you can’t get hold of aquavit, you can use chilled Absolut Vodka. Leave the bottle in the freezer for a good few hours before serving in shot glasses.
How to arrange the dishes
If arranging on a separate buffet table (recommended for 15 people or more), always arrange the fish at one end, starting with the herring, followed by any other fish dishes. Follow it with cold meats, then warm meats, side dishes and finally bread and butter. Cheese can be placed by the bread section or served separately at the end as a cheese board. Dessert is not brought out until the main smörgåsbord has been eaten. If arranging the food where people are sitting around a table, add all fish dishes first, then cold meats. Bring out any warm dishes as needed. The main thing is to let your guests know that they have to:
1) Always start with herring and aquavit (butter some rye bread or crisp bread, add a few slices of herring on top, eat with a knife and fork, drink a shot of aquavit, and everybody cheers together).
2) Once the herring is eaten, enjoy any other cold fish dishes – from prawns to salmon, egg with roe, and so on. Make your own little open sandwiches on the plate, but always use knife and fork. Never hands!
3) Sliced meats are next, and so on. Then repeat.
4) Warm dishes come next!
5) Replenish as you see fit throughout. We graze for hours, going back to our favourite sections again and again.
Arrange each seating with a large plate for main part of the meal and one small plate on top, for herring only. Herring has a very strong flavour, so once everybody’s done with it, the first plates are usually collected so the rest of the meal isn’t herring-flavoured. If you hate washing up or simply just love meatballs that taste of herring, knock yourself out.
We do like to sing a few songs as we drink our snaps. These are called ‘Snaps-visor’. After a couple of shots of aquavit, it is generally accepted that most people speak fluent Danish, even if they come from Middlesbrough and the closest they have been to Copenhagen is watching The Killing. Plenty of songs to be found on the internet. If you don’t fancy trying real Nordic songs, just pretend to be the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.
Every family has they own version and way to make a smörgåsbord. This is our version – make changes as you see fit. There is no smörgåsbord police (there might be smörgåsbord police in Sweden, actually).
Two kinds of herring
1 jar of ABBA Mustard herring
1 jar of ABBA Onion herring
Waitrose and Ocado have good versions of pickled herring, but don’t go for rollmops, as those are too sour.
Prawns and boiled eggs
6 hard boiled eggs, halved, placed on a serving dish. Add a bit of mayonnaise on each egg half and top with good quality prawns
Smoked salmon with lemon
Arrange about 60-70g of smoked salmon per person on a serving tray. Decorate with lemon wedges and a bit of fresh dill
Fold together in a bowl the following:
200g gravlax cured salmon cut into bite size pieces
150g cooked, cooled, sliced new potatoes
100g blanched asparagus cut in pieces
A handful of green peas
100g cooked, cooled green beans
8-10 halved cherry tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons of dill and mustard sauce
Arranged on a serving tray, top with chopped chives
Dill & mustard sauce:
You can make your own or get it at our place.
Most UK supermarkets have some form of it too these days.
Sliced and cold meats tray
6 slices of good quality ham
12 slices of Danish salami (or whichever you prefer)
Pork liver pâté – we love Stryhn’s or Per I Viken, but you can go for a good quality UK version too – just keep it smooth.
Meatballs. Always meatballs.
Make your own, or use a ‘Swedish Meatball’ variety from the supermarket to keep it simple
In Sweden, we also eat a lot of ‘prinskorv’ mini sausages (heated).
We stock these, but you can get frankfurters in supermarket and cut to smaller pieces and serve alongside the meatballs
Where’s the lamb?
We actually don’t eat much lamb on the Easter buffet table. We agree that this does seem like a bit of an oversight. If you want lamb, have lamb. Make a small lamb roast and serve alongside the warm dishes. Lamb goes well with Jansson’s Temptation
Additional Side dishes
Choose as many of these to make as you fancy… (you do not need to make them all)
Cheat: Ocado sells real ScandiKitchen Beetroot Salad. As do we in the shop
New potato salad
500g of new potatoes, cooked and cooled.
Mix with a simple vinaigrette and chopped red onion.
Cheat: Buy a potato salad, but not the type drenched in mayonnaise
Jansson’s Temptation (warm)
A potato and cream gratin made with Swedish Grebbestads Ansjovis
(NEVER anchovies – this is one dish where no alternatives will suffice) and cream
(approx. 1 hour prep time)
Cheat: Get a potato gratin at the supermarket. Add small amount of chopped Grebbestads Ansjovis before baking
Västerbotten Paj (warm)
Swedish cheese quiche (1 hour prep time plus pasty making)
Cheat: Buy a good quality cheese quiche
Skagenröra (Swedish seafood salad)
Gubbröra (Egg and fish salad)
Mix together. Serve in a bowl.
If you prefer a creamier version, add a dollop of crème fraîche.
Egg & Roe
Arranged sliced, boiled eggs on a serving tray. Top with either Kalle’s Kaviar (creamed cod roe, in a tube, available in the shop or at Ocado)
Dollops of lumpfish roe kaviar and finely chopped shallot onion.
Sauces, pickles, dressings (As needed).
Bowls of pickled cucumber, sliced pickled beetroot, Mustards, mayonnaises, remoulade. And whatever condiments you fancy.
Selection of crisp bread (we love Leksands and Pyramid from the shop)
Selection of sliced rye bread
Crusty white bread
Our ideal cheese selection would be:
Västerbotten cheese (Our place, Waitrose, Ocado)
Norwegian Brown Cheese (our place, Ocado)
Riberhus Danish cheese (our place)
A good quality blue cheese
Cheat: Get whatever cheese you like.
Arrange in each serving glass: