There is so much more to Nordic food than pickled herring and little meatballs. Stretching from the darkest Northern Norway to the southern most Germanic parts of Denmark, our food culture is as varied as an English summer.
Still, several dishes and ingredients link the food together and bring a unique Scandinavian food journey to life – created by thousands of years of heritage and interlinked culture. And a bit of pillaging.
Scandinavian food is simple. We call it “husmanskost”: farmers’ food, natural and honest, made with the staple goods found on the land. In our opinion, trying to turn our traditional dishes into fancy-schmancy food is not true to what we are. When you work with amazing produce, there is no need to overcomplicate it: just pick(le), serve and eat.
Literally, “Buttered table”. An array of little dishes – both warm and cold – laid out starting with fish at one end, moving to cold meats and warm dishes towards the other end of the table. Finish with cheese. In Sweden, the Smorgasbord is always laid out in advance – where as in Denmark, smaller dishes are sent to the main table throughout the meal. A traditional lunch can take hours – and aquavit is enjoyed at regular intervals.
Popular dishes for any smorgasbord are bowls of pickled herring with rye or crisp bread, Beetroot & Apple Salad, Meatballs, different pates and different types of cured or smoked salmon.
The most popular fish to eat is herring – we prefer this pickled but we also smoke it or fry it. Scandinavian pickled herring is less sharp then Continental varieties as the brine is sweeter.
We also love any kind of cured or smoked salmon – such as Gravad Lax (dill cured salmon). Smoked mackerel is very popular – as is less common smoked fish such as Artic Char.
Seasonally, we celebrate the Crayfish season in August and love hosting parties where we eat bowls of freshwater crayfish – washed down with little tipples of aquavit.
In the Southern regions, pork is very popular. In Denmark, pork roast is called Flæskesteg and is often eaten with caramelized potatoes and thick brown gravy. In the Northern regions, game is popular – from Reindeer fillets to Elk sausage – and even bear sausage in some places. Norwegians in the North eat a lot of smoked, dried lamb as well.
At last count, there were about 38,721 different recipes for meatballs. Actually, this is probably an underestimate: Every household has their own way of making these. By country, the also vary by type of meat used: In Sweden, a mixture of pork and beef is common, whereas the Danes only use half pork, half veal. In Norway, it varies by area, but beef is popular. In Sweden, they are small, in Norway they are big. If you’re going to learn to make authentic meatballs, you need to start with a base recipe and put your own mark on it.
Usually served with potatoes – boiled or mashed. Add a dollop of lingonberry jam if you are in Sweden or Norway. Any leftovers are great on sandwiches.
Think of Scandinavian baking and you will inevitably think of cinnamon. Cardamom is also very popular in baking across Scandinavia. Combine the two and you can call yourself Kalle from Karlskrona.
Most popular is the Cinnamon bun – where the dough also has notes of cardamom. A versatile thing, this can be eaten morning, noon and night and if you eat it in the dark the calories don’t count (allegedly). In Denmark, we are also famous for the Danish pastries. Many bakeries across the world have tried to replicate a real Danish pastry, but you only need to go to a traditional Danish baker early one Sunday morning and eat a freshly baked flaky ‘smørsnegl” to see how they have all failed.
Popular cakes in Scandinavia include many cakes using fruit and berries – and of course the infamous sticky Swedish brownie called kladdkaka; the gooiest chocolate cake you will ever eat.
We love rye, in any shape or form. Rye bread, rye buns, rye grain used in different dishes. In fact, give us grain in our bread and we’re very content.
We also love crisp bread – again, with lots of rye and fibre and seeds.
When we’re being non-healthy, we love artic bread and sweet bread such as Vörtbroöd and Limpa and Franskbrød.
From time to time, the media likes to talk about how we eat rotten fish. Truth is… We actually do. Sometimes.
Surströmming – a fermented herring – smells really bad but tastes really good. Open outside. Bought in tins (store in the fridge).
Fermented shark is not sold in the UK and we do not stock it.
Lutefisk – Cod preserved in lye. We stock this seasonally.
We serve open sandwiches, salads and other amazing things based on the Nordic staple cuisines: grains, fish, cured meats.Read more