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Tag Archives: Denmark

How NOT to Hygge

October 25, 2018 | Leave a comment

How NOT to hygge

Note: Post written by Bronte Aurell. She also writes books about food. Her website is here.

It has been two years of listening to people not from Scandinavia tell us what Hygge is – and what it is not.

This time of year, the media once again start to try and sell us new blankets / underpants / fluffy socks – and we just always feel the slight urge to set the record straight. It just doesn’t quite feel… right.

Bear with us while we get a few things Hygge off our chest, okay?

1. Hygge means ‘To appreciate the moment you are in while you are in it’. That’s it, really.

2. It’s pronounced Who-Guh. It never, ever rhymes with Jiggy.

Just for the record, none of these are right: Don’t learn from this. Also, definitely don’t learn from this.

This is the correct way to say it: Learn from this.

3. The word is not just Danish; it comes from Norwegian too. Swedes will understand what you mean if you say it, but they use ‘mysigt’. In Norway, they also use Koselig.

4. Hygge has NEVER been marketed in Scandinavia. We don’t have hygge candles, hygge underpants, hygge blankets. It’s a word; a feeling. Part of our culture and being. Never has anyone tried to make it a thing-to-buy.

5. A Dane will use the word Hygge maybe 10-20 times in one day. He might say ‘The office feels hyggeligt this morning’ or ‘Shall we go back and have a hyggelig dinner later’?

6. Nobody Scandinavian ever purchased a pair of socks with the intention of going home to hygge snuggling up next to a nice designer lamp.

Also, just for the record: We use scented candles in the bathroom. Not often in other rooms 💩

7. Hygge is not a winter thing. It has NO season. It’s all year round. You can hygge in a tent, on a boat, on a plane, in a church, in a hut, in your kitchen, in your bed… Alone or together. Hygge is all about being in the moment.

8. Uhygge means scary. Literally, it means un-hygge. This works in both Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. A horror movie is u-hyggelig. Scary, horror and terrifying is un-hygge.

9. Food helps hygge come alive. Especially chocolate and wine. It’s very rare people evoke real hygge with a low calorie salad. Celery is uhyggeligt.

10. You can hygge with someone or alone. The room can be hygge-ligt. The room can never be hygge, only hyggeligt. Hygge is a verb. You can’t use it when describing a room. You can go home TO hygge – you can’t go home and BE hygge. 

11.The purest state of hygge is called raw hygge. Råhygge. It’s when hygge is so pure you almost can’t take it – pure, raw hygge. No, you can’t make a candle out of it; leave it alone.

Photo: Dog experiencing råhygge. We think, anyway. He looks like it.

12. Scandinavians find it most peculiar when people try to make hygge into something it’s not. Most, we find it odd that people are chasing something that can only be found when you stop running.

13. You don’t need to spend ANY money to hygge. It’s free. Just switch off your phone, sit down with people you quite like. Share some food or snacks, talk, breathe and forget about time. Done.

The pub is actually a good place to start. Just saying.

Use the word with love and togetherness – because thats what it’s all about.

We hope this was a little bit helpful.

Have a hyggelig day x

Ps – while we don’t sell smelly candles or hygge socks, we do stock the UK’s biggest selection of Scandinavian foods – and we deliver all over the UK and rest of the EU.

    Smash – Choc Covered Corn Snacks 3 x 100g
    £8.97 £4.99
    OLW Cheez Doodles Pack of 3 x 160g (Ostepop)
    £7.47 £6.99
    Scandi Treat Box – 10 for £10
    £19.49 £10.00
    Smash – Choc Covered Corn Snacks 100g
    £2.99
    Tupla King Size – Chocolate Almond Nougat Bar 85g
    £1.59
    Fazer Moomin Fruit Candies 80g
    £2.29

How to make the original Danish pancake balls (æbleskiver)

October 9, 2018 | Leave a comment

How to make traditional Danish Æbleskiver pancake balls

Technically a little challenging the first few times you make these, but well worth the effort, these little pancake balls are super delicious and fun to make.

Danes love eating Æbleskiver on Sundays in advent and all through December – this recipe is from Bronte Aurell’s cookbook ‘Fika & Hygge’ (Alternatively, we stock ready made ones in the cafe during Christmas season, so pop by and grab a bag or two).

You can vary your pancake balls as you see fit – we’ve made them with saffron, chocolate sauce, savoury (Noma famously used to make one with a little fish sticking out of them)… But these are the most traditional version.

Danish Christmas Pancakes (æbleskiver)

Ingredients

3 eggs, separated
300 ml buttermilk
100 ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon caster sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
250 g plain flour
grated zest of 1 medium lemon (or to taste)
50g butter, melted for frying
icing sugar, for dusting
raspberry jam, for dipping (optional)

You need: an ‘æbleskive’ pan, Japanese takoyaki pan. If you use a frying pan, they will look like mini pancakes instead. You can get basic pans on Amazon.

MAKES 30

Method

Mix together the egg yolks, buttermilk, double cream and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients including the cardamom.

In another clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff using a handheld electric whisk on high speed.

Add the egg and cream mixture to the dry ingredients, then carefully fold in the beaten egg whites and lemon zest. Leave to rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before using.

Place the pan over high heat to warm through and add a little melted butter to the pan to stop the pancakes from sticking. If you are using an æbleskive pan, carefully add enough batter to each hole so that it reaches about 0.25 cm from the top. If you are using a normal frying pan, add spoonfuls of batter as you would if making normal small pancakes. Leave to cook for a few minutes until the edges become firm then, using a fork or knitting needle (knitting needle is easier!), gently turn the pancakes over to cook on the other side. If you have filled the holes too much, this can be tricky – you’ll get the hang of it after a few.

Once browned on both sides (3–4 minutes per batch), keep the cooked æbleskiver warm in the oven until you have finished frying.

Serve dusted with icing sugar and a little pot of raspberry jam for dipping.

Recipe from Fika & Hygge published by Ryland Peters Small – priced £16.99. Photo by the amazing @PeteCassidy.

Kagemand – Danish Kids Birthday “Cake Man”

September 6, 2018 | Leave a comment

Kagemand - Danish Birthday Cake (Danish Baking Feature)

Kagemand – Danish Birthday Cake

Ask any Dane about a traditional birthday cake and chances are they’ll try to explain the Cake Man or Cake Lady. What on earth is that, you ask! It is exactly as described: a cake base, in the shape of a boy or girl, decorated with lots of sweets and treats. While it’s mostly a kids’ cake, adults do like it too.

These cakes have never really travelled – we’re not quite sure why. They didn’t even make it to Sweden or Norway – it is a truly Danish thing that has stayed there. For many years, we’ve had Danish ex-pats ask us to make these and ask us for the recipe – and now, finally, we’ve made one of each and decided to pop the recipes up here as part of our Danish Baking Feature that we’re doing in August and September this year (Sweden and Norway will follow later).

There are several traditional bases you can choose, depending on what you like. Here, we give you the recipes and basic instructions for:

  • Danish Pastry base (Wienerbrød)
  • Brunswick Bun base (Brunsviger)
  • Sweet rolls base (Boller)
  • Choux pastry base (Vandbakkelse)

To be fair, you can actually make it any which way you want – and cut it into whatever figure, but these are the most traditional versions – and, as is the tradition, decorated with the help of a kid, usually the birthday child in question. Thank you to Elsa, 8 (nearly 9) for the help with these Cake men (quite a few sweets went into her belly instead of making it onto the cake, it has to be said). By the way, Elsa says to remind you all that her birthday is September 23rd and she’d like a telescope, Hogwarts Lego and tickets to the Alan Walker Concert at the Roundhouse in December (?!).

These recipes can’t be found in our books – although a lot of the base recipes can (we will make sure to make this clear later in this post).

Few points to note:

  • The size of one of these Cake Men is so that it fits on one of the wide oven trays – approx. 40 x 50 cm and these recipes fit that.
  • It’s helpful to draw out your base shape on the baking paper before you pipe or shape.
  • This is a kid’s cake – get them involved! This is not a cake where you will win awards for presentation, but a wonderful birthday treat where the birthday child can help out, whether he or she is 2 or 10.

Danish Pastry Cake Man

(pictured above)

Makes 1 – although there is likely to be a little excess of dough. Make some extra pastries.

1 x batch of Danish Pastry dough – Recipe HERE

1 x batch of Remonce filling – Recipe HERE

Raisins (optional)

Egg for brushing

50g covering marzipan or fondant

150g approx. Icing sugar

1-2 tbsp cocoa powder

Lots of sweets and a packet of sweetie laces for ‘hair’

This dough is the hardest of all the options to work with and few people tend to attempt it at home seeing as the local bakers make these to order all the time. However, making Danish Pastry might be on the tricky side, but the taste is worth it.

Follow the steps to make the dough.

Turn your oven to 225C fan.

Roll out the dough, carefully, to a rectangle size approx. 40 x 30 cm. Cut it into 3 strips lengthways. Pipe or spread a line of remonce filling in the middle – add some raisins too if you want – and then close the packet, folding the sides over the remonce, just. Flatten slightly – and – importantly – turn over so the fold is underneath. We do this because we don’t need the layers to flake up for this one, but if you prefer the flaky version, leave with fold up. It will look less neat, but give a flakier result.

Prepare a baking tray – ideally with slightly raised sides as it might leak butter into your oven otherwise.

You can either cut pieces of the dough (a stick man, for example) or –as we did here – make two C’s and put them together back to back to form arms and legs. We then used the last piece to make a round shape for the head, with the last bit as the neck, connecting in the middle of the two Cs.

Leave to rise for 10-15 minutes, brush with egg and then pop into the very hot oven. Bake until done – 20-25 minutes, but do check as oven times vary depending on your oven.

Remove from oven to cool down. Meanwhile, make the icing. Around 150g icing sugar to be mixed with enough hot water to form a liquid icing, consistency of thick treacle. Once done, remove a little to another bowl and add a few teaspoons of cocoa to colour it brown – you may need to add a bit more water. Spoon into piping bags.

Roll ¾ out the marzipan in a circle – this is the face. We find it easier to decorate the face with the chocolate icing before we move it to the kagemand. Add a tie, shirt or whatever else you fancy.

Use the white icing to make a pattern on the cake and then decorate with sweets while the icing is soft.

Brunswick Bun base (Brunsviger Kageman)

Recipe for Brunswick Bun can be found in Bronte’s book Fika & Hygge.

This base is essentially an open cinnamon buns. Shaped as a little man or just baked in a massive tin and sliced, this cake is very popular all over Denmark.

You can use the same based dough as cinnamon buns – find the recipe here but only make HALF a portion.

For the topping, you need:

85g butter, softened

120g dark brown soft sugar

2 generous tablespoons golden/light corn syrup

2 tsp ground cinnamon

a dash of vanilla extract or sugar

Lots of candy and some candy laces to decorate

100g icing sugar, to decorate

 

Line a big oven tray (40 x 50cm approx.) with baking paper.

Make the dough as directed. When it has rested, knead through. Draw your desired shape on your baking paper – please remember this dough rises and spreads, so leave good spaces.

Shape your cake-man, then flatten it down so it is around 1 cm thick only. Leave to rise for about 15 minutes.

Heat all the topping ingredients in a saucepan and allow to come right to the boil, then turn it off. Whisk well to combine to a smooth topping.

Using your fingers, poke holes all over the bun – this is for the topping to fall into. Using a pastry brush, add a general amount of topping all over – but reserve about 1/3 and set aside. Leave to rise again for another 10 minutes while you heat your oven to 200C.

Pop the cake in the oven – it will have filling spilling, this is normal. Bake for around 20 minutes or until done. Remove from oven and immediately use the rest of the topping, as needed all over, to ensure every bit is sticky and gooey. Leave to cool for a bit.

Decorate with sweets and treats and make an icing using icing sugar and enough hot water to make it the thickness of treacle. Pipe a face on the bun – we also like to outline this one with icing as it is otherwise quite a dark bake.

 

Bun Cake-Man or Cake-Lady (Bollemand og Bollekone).

So, when the parents think the other cakes have too much sugar or are too much of a fuss to make, they go for this option. We do love this – it is very cute, made out of little sweet buns.

You CAN use the same dough as for cinnamon buns – but it is quite cardamom flavoured and some  younger kinds don’t love that. Instead, this recipe for birthday buns from our book Fika & Hygge is really great. Depending on how big you want your bun-man or bun-Lady to be, you can stick with a small recipe as noted here – or double up and then just made extra buns with any leftover dough. They will be eaten, don’t worry.

Ingredients for buns

200 ml whole milk

50 ml single cream

25g fresh yeast (or 13g active/dry yeast)

50g caster sugar

400g white strong bread flour

1 teaspooon salt

1 egg

80 g, softened

beaten egg, for brushing

a large oven tray, lined with baking parchment

Topping:

100g icing sugar

Lots of sweets and candy laces for hair.

Mix together the milk and cream and heat to finger-warm (around 36–37°c). If using fresh yeast, add the yeast and warmed milk-cream to a stand mixer with a dough hook attached. Mix until the yeast has dissolved.

(If using dried/active dry yeast pour the warmed milk and cream into a bowl. Sprinkle on the yeast and whisk together. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes to activate and become frothy. Pour into the stand mixer with a dough hook.)

Add the caster sugar and stir again, slowly adding half the flour mixed with the salt, bit by bit. Add the egg and softened butter and keep mixing. Slowly add the other half of the flour. You may not need all the flour or you may need a bit more, but keep mixing until you have a slightly sticky dough that is starting to let go of the sides of the bowl. This should take around 5–7 minutes.

Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for around 35–40 minutes or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead through with your hands, adding only a little more flour if needed.

Cut the dough into equal pieces (as many as you need for your bun-man or lady – usually 14, with one being bigger (for the head)) and roll them into uniformly round balls. Place on the prepared baking tray with a bit of distance between, but still in the shape of your bun-man or bun-lady – then flatten down slightly. Cover again and leave to rise for a further 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.

Brush the buns lightly with beaten egg, then bake in the preheated oven for around 10–12 minutes or until golden brown.

Leave to cool before decorating. Make a simply icing by mixing icing sugar with drops of hot water until you have a treacle consistency icing. Use a piping bag to make your patterns and the face, then decorate with sweets and treats.

To eat, break off a bun, cut open and spread on copious amount of butter.

Choux Cake-man (Vandbakkelse)

Finally, the Choux version of the Kagemand. This version, luckily, does not require splitting and filling with cream like éclairs, so it is pretty straight forward. You do need a piping bag and a large piping nozzle though, or is looks even more messy.

Ingredients for the choux pastry

250ml water

125g butter

125g plain flour

2 tbsp icing sugar

pinch of salt

3-4 eggs

Other

150g icing sugar

1 tsp cocoa powder

Sweets and treats and candy laces for decoration

Method

In a saucepan, add the water and butter and bring to the boil to melt the butter.

Meanwhile, sift the flour onto a piece of baking parchment with the salt and sugar. Mix the eggs together in a bowl and set aside.

When the butter has melted, whisk and then add the flour mixture in one go and whisk vigorously until everything is combined. Take off the heat, too.

Your mixture will start to let go of the sides of the pan. Leave to cool down for 15-20 minutes (speed up by moving to a colder bowl).

Meanwhile, line a big baking tray and pencil in the shape of your cake-man or cake-lady. Turn the oven to 200C fan.

When the mixture has cooled slightly, you can add the eggs. Using a wooden spoon, add one egg at the time and beat until incorporated. You may not need all the egg: You need so much so that the mixture can form good peaks, but too much and the peaks will flatten down and your choux will be flat. This is the tricky bit.

Once done, move to a piping bag with a large nozzle. Pipe your choux onto the stencil on the baking tray.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until done, but do not open the oven door at all for the first 20 minutes and ideally as little as possible during the last, as your choux can collapse.

When baked through, remove from oven and prick a few holes in it to allow the steam to escape. Leave to cool, then make the icing by adding drops of hot water until the mixture is treacle like texture. Remove a spoonful of icing and mix with cocoa to make a dark colour for making eyes etc. Add icing to piping bags, decorate with sweets and treats and of course the all important candy lace hair.

We’d love to see some of your bakes – tag us on Instagram with #CAKEMAN.

 

 

 

The Law of Jante – explained

August 16, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

The Law of Jante explained

Our Bronte writes quite a bit, not only cookbooks. In her book Nørth you can find lots of articles about Scandinavian life in general, including how we live, love, dress, dream and why our walls are always white. North can be bought here and of course also on Amazon.

This article is similar to one in Nørth (but not the same).

The Law of Jante
Lately, in the UK media, people have been asking themselves if this Law of Jante that exists across Scandinavia is the secret to living in a harmonious and happy society. Clearly, this set of cultural and society rules are a little more complex than simply looking at them and assessing whether they would fit elsewhere. To understand how the Scandinavian society works – and why – we need to go a bit deeper.

The Laws of Jante go back to a fictional book by the Norwegian writer Axel Sandemose. In his brilliant book from 1933 called A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks, he writes about the Danish town called Jante and the unwritten social code that defines everything in it. This novel describes the author’s alter ego, Espen, a sailor who sets about discovering himself through his childhood in a town. In fact, what Sandemose really did was document this social code that was present all over Denmark and Norway and to an extent Sweden, too. Across all of Scandinavia, this peculiar set of ‘laws’ or rules exists. Not mentioned, but always there, silently enforced by everybody in unison. These are known as ‘The Laws of Jante’:

The Ten Rules of Jante
1. Don’t think you are anything special.
2. Don’t think you are as good as we are.
3. Don’t think you are smarter than we are.
4. Don’t convince yourself that you are better than we are.
5. Don’t think you know more than we do.
6. Don’t think you are more important than we are.
7. Don’t think you are good at anything.
8. Don’t laugh at us.
9. Don’t think anyone cares about you.
10. Don’t think you can teach us anything.

Janteloven (the Laws of Jante) aren’t that unlike most countries’ cultural codes that silently ensure some sort of peace and common ground is upheld. However, because the laws were actually formalized by Sandemose, these cultural values became much starker and obvious when seen in print.

To understand how they are applied so strongly in Scandinavia, you need to look at our general culture: Scandinavians love being equal in everything – from what we do in our work to how we like to live in our homes. Nobody is to have too much more – or less – than everyone else. We like having the same car as the neighbours, we like earning similar salaries. We like not having a huge class divide –it makes us feel like the world is a fairer place when things are shared between us.

It goes back and touches a bit on the concept of Lagom, too – from the old Norse word meaning ‘Laget om’: around the group. We share what we have so that there is enough for everyone and this creates a balance between everybody. It means we are all sort of on a level playing field and it makes us content in our daily lives. It is how we preserve harmony and social stability, to an extent. It has existed for many years, even before it was written down – and can be found in old sayings such as the Swedish proverb: ‘Noble deeds are done in silence’, for example.

Many people, when they first hear about it, think the Law of Jante is something that is consciously applied. We do not, however, have Jante-enforcement officers hanging around street corners, trying to catch people out who are getting too big for their boots. The reality is much more subtle: it stirs. It sits inside every family, every work place, every school, every person. It is engrained in us from a young age – to a lesser or bigger extent. It is simply part of the Scandinavian way of life – and most people don’t spend time questioning its existence.

The Law of Jante is not so much about people not wanting to see you drive down the high street in your new fancy Aston Martin, though. Scandinavians can absolutely appreciate someone’s good fortune. Instead, it is much more about making sure Benny Hansson down the road doesn’t feel bad that he doesn’t have an Aston Martin. The first would be simple envy, but it goes deeper than that: By stepping outside the social norms we have created, the invisible barriers that define our sociality, then you make Benny Hansson feel bad for not buying an Aston Martin. You break the group, you break the rules and if we’re all going to live together in harmony, we need to consider eachother’s feelings. And thus, the Law of Jante is reinforced. By the way, you see very, very few flashy cars in Scandinavia.

It is different to Tall Poppy Syndrome in that the latter is all about knocking the poppy down, stop him being too big for his shoes – whereas The Law of Jante is still about the group and not making others look bad. It’s not about you, you know.

When you look at how the Law of Jante is applied across cultural norms in Scandinavia, it is perhaps also easier to see how many democratic social policies have been easily accepted. It is not because of you; it is because of others around you: The greater good, all of us and our collective social happiness. Enough to go around for us all – and we can all live happily ever after.

Things are changing, however, as the world gets smaller and our cultural norms are shifting slightly with the influence of the more capitalist mindset of the have-it-all and the look-at-me-how-great-I-am culture. We’re all a bit more bling and we are brave enough to stand out more. The Millenials are changing the rules faster than many generations before them – and with every me-generation that has followed, the rules are being blurred more and more. In the big cities, the laws of Jante are often now seen as a bit of a myth. People who have built successful businesses are ok to talk about it now and, by and large, being successful is ok (as long as you don’t claim all the praise for yourself). As long as you share your new-found status and wealth with society, you are fine to have it.

Indeed, you can easily still spot Janteloven still in use in everyday conversation with Scandinavians from any of the countries. If a Scandinavian person is singled out for doing a really good job, they will immediately say it was only possible because of their team and dismiss personal efforts. Thinking of running for class rep? Wait for someone to nominate you. Just hit a number one in the charts with your new song? You only got there because people bought the record. It is never just about you, it is always about us.

You are free to do anything you want and can in Scandinavia – as long as you don’t appear different to any of us and stand out. Ever. And perhaps forget about that new shiny Aston Martin for now until you understand the social rules. Because if you over step these rules, well, then don’t think you can come here and teach us anything. Do you think you’re better than us? You’re not. Don’t think you know more than we do… and so it continues.

Bronte Aurell

Photo taken from North: How to live Scandinavian by Bronte Aurell, photo by Anna Jacobsen.

Midsummer in Scandinavia

June 19, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

Midsummer in Scandinavia

Midsummer, to Swedes especially, is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. In Sweden, the date moves each year, as it is an official holiday – and it is always celebrated on a Friday. With the official midsummer day of the year being 23 June, it is always moved to the closest Friday (for 2018, this is 22 June and 21 June for 2019). In Denmark and Norway, the date doesn’t move – it is always celebrated on the evening of 23 June.

In Sweden, Midsommar is simply known as that, whereas in Denmark and Norway
the name has changed to St Hans Aften (‘St John’s Eve’). That’s the official name, although it’s also known as Midsommer.

As the longest day of the year, midsummer was a very important day in the pagan
calendar. The Vikings used this night to visit healing water wells and had huge bonfires to ward off evil spirits. These celebrations go back to Freyia and Freyr, the Norse gods of fertility. The Vikings worshipped fertility on this day – and hoped for a rich harvest.

Today, you see the remains of these old traditions both in Sweden and Denmark.
Sweden’s midsummer symbol is now a midsummer pole, Midsommarstång, decorated with flowers. (It was originally a Maypole, likely brought over from Germany, but there weren’t enough flowers to decorate it in May so it is now used in June instead.) In Denmark and Norway (and parts of Finland), the bonfires won out and are still the main symbol of midsummer.

In Sweden, schools and offices close and it is the time for friends and families to get together. People wear flower garlands in their hair; some wear traditional dresses or just long, light-coloured dresses. Younger men wear traditional accepted Stockholm clothing for Swedish dudes: light-coloured, tight trousers, pointy shoes, fashionable sunglasses and slicked-back hair. Maybe a crown of flowers.

The flower garlands are a major part of the outfit. Most people make their own while
sitting in a field, waiting to celebrate and for someone to crack open the aquavit. People gather wild flowers and the garlands are made for grown-ups as well as children. This adds to the picture-perfect setting – everything becomes wonderfully colourful and happy, as people sit in nature and enjoy the lightest day of the year.

Thus properly attired, they gather to raise the midsummer pole, which is decorated with more flowers and leaves and can be anything from small poles in private
gardens to massive poles in the town centers.

Where food is concerned, everybody brings a picnic or has a midsummer lunch together. Lunch always consists of pickled herring, new potatoes with dill, meatballs, cheese… Not dissimilar to food at other Swedish celebrations, but with a lot more strawberries, as these are usually just in season when midsummer comes around. This is also a big day for smörgåstårta – a popular dish for high seasons. Essentially, this is a massive sandwich made with white bread, covered in a litre of mayonnaise and decorated in the best 1980’s style. Then eaten like a cake, by the slice. With this, people enjoy aquavit, in shots (nubbe). Roughly one shot to every two beers and Bjørn will be playing footsie with Gunhilde before you know it.

Drinking songs, such as ‘Helan går’, are sung, shots are enjoyed and after a few of those, almost everybody will feel ready to dance. Don’t worry if you can’t sing songs in Swedish, after two or three nubbar, people automatically develop a peculiar singsong fluency in Swedish. The party then gathers around the midsummer pole to hold hands and starts to run around in circles, pretending to be little frogs with no ears and tail. This is the traditional Swedish song – sung at every party – called ‘Små grodarna’ (the ‘Little Frogs’). If you are ever invited to join in, you must oblige. It would be rude not to and nobody feels embarrassed about this dance. Once it’s over, you’ll be allowed to get back to more food and aquavit.

The afternoon is usually spent playing games, such as Kubb (Viking chess) and an odd version of rounders called Bränball. When people have finished eating and playing, the dancing continues – as does the drinking. The party will go on until last man standing, with darkness never setting on this lightest day of the year.

On this night, it is also tradition to pick seven different kinds of wild flowers. Put them under your pillow before going to bed and you will dream of the person you will marry. This makes Tinder-swiping a whole lot easier as you will now know what he or she looks like.

In Denmark and Norway, people are a little more controlled in their midsummer celebrations. It is not a public holiday and, while it is still a big celebration, it is by no means as big as in Sweden. The celebrations centre around big bonfires, usually by the shore or in town centres. Bonfires, originally intended to ward off evil spirits, have become slightly warped in Denmark over the years. Nowadays, they signify the burning of witches. Each bonfire has a witch made out of straw, dressed in old ladies’ clothing and stuffed with whistle crackers. The fire is lit and everybody waits for the witch to catch fire, the whistles signifying her screams. Legend has it that, by doing this, you send the witch off to the Brocken mountain in Germany to dance with the Devil.

As they watch the witch burn, people sing songs about how much they love Denmark. There is usually a guy with a guitar and no socks. He plays songs slowly, with his eyes closed. There may or may not be skinny dipping. At midsummer in Denmark, kids will usually be making snobrød (‘twist bread’) – its bread dough wrapped around .a twig and baked on the fire. Except it never bakes, so you everyone ends up with a stomach ache from eating raw dough covered in jam. The fire ends and people go home. Unlike Sweden, this isn’t a massive party, but a much calmer affair (save the burning of witches, of course; some may find this rather sinister).

From the dancing and the ancient traditions to the seasonal food and togetherness, Midsummer in Scandinavia is an enchanted time and writing about it doesn’t do it full justice. The light is entirely spellbinding – and it’s something to be experienced. The day after Midsummer in Sweden, in particular, is a whole different ball game – and it’s yours alone to deal with. The ‘where are my shoes?’ questions will inevitably start to be pondered on. Who are you? Who am I?

For anyone who has partaken of a traditional Swedish Midsummer, the day after is likely to be long – and very slow. But you’ll always have the memories.

Or not.

ScandiKitchen is celebrating Midsummer – we even have a Midsummer pole and every year, we have to stop drunken Swedes from trying to walk off with it. All part of the fun. Stock up on your Midsummer foods in our London grocery store open every week day until 19:00 and Saturday until 18:00. Online here www.scandikitchen.co.uk

Extract MIDSUMMER taken from our Bronte’s best selling book Nørth: how to live Scandinavian, published by Aurum, with stunning photography by Anna Jacobsen. Get your copy on Amazon – it has everything you need to know to live a Scandi life, from Hygge to Lagom to how to wear a Norwegian jumper.

Available in Italian here
Available in German here
Available in French here

In America? Get it here.

In Canada? Get it here?

Get it signed here (or pop by the cafe in London, Bronte will be super happy to sign it for you and have a chit chat if she is around. She is not at all scary)

Seven things about Nordic Midsummer

June 1, 2018 | 1 Comment

 

Seven things about Nordic Midsummer

The longest day of the year is very important to us Northern people. We have light! And not only that, we have so much of it we hardly see dark and we get to make up for all of those months of candle lit cosiness and snow.

We all celebrate the day slightly differently, so here are a few facts to get you started in the preparations.

Sweden treats Midsummer like it’s national day. Actually, Sweden’s national day is a few weeks earlier, but everybody celebrates Midsummer instead. It’s always celebrated on the closest Friday (this year, 22nd June) and it’s a public holiday.

In London, it’s celebrated on the Saturday because we need to not be at work when we do it – this year the 23rd of June.

In Denmark and Norway the evening is celebrated on the actual day (23rd June, no matter if it’s a Friday or not) and there, it’s called St John’s Eve as well as Midsommer Aften – Sankthans or Sankthansaften. In Finland it is commonly known as Juhannus or also Midsommar.

Sweden and Finland celebrate with Midsummer poles. These are a bit like May Poles, except it’s not May and ours have a lot of fertility symbols associated with them. The Midsummer poles are covered in flowers and greenery. Everybody wears flower garlands in their hair and very summery clothes. Some Swedish people try the yellow/blue flag combo for clothes, but it is rarely a good look. You’ll also see little flags on the table – adding to the festive feeling.

Danes burn witches on Midsummer eve. Much like the British burn Guy Fawkes, the Danes like to burn witches on this evening and send them off to Blue Mountain in Germany to dance with the devil. All while the (usually stuffed hay effigy) witches are burning on the bonfire, Danes sing songs about how much they love Denmark (usually a lone guy on a guitar will lead the singing – he always sings with his eyes closed and is very serious).

It’s still all about food. For the Swedes, it is all about the day long picnic and being outside. Meatballs are featured and it is high season for Sandwich cakes, too. The Danes tend to celebrate in the evening with dinner at home, but spend the evening trying to bake stick bread on the embers of the bon fire (it never works), and in Norway people will either have a picnic on the fjord (in a boat or on the beach) or have hot dogs around the bonfire. (For a classic midsummer picnic, you can check out our midsummer selection here.) In Finland Midsummer often marks the beginning of the summer holidays – so many Finns celebrate in their summer house by a lake, perhaps sipping a few Lonkero whilst soaking up the midnight sun.. aaand relax.

What about the little frogs? The Swedes, at every given opportunity but none more so than Midsummer, will sing songs about little frogs with no ears and no tails, whilst jumping around the Midsummer pole. Old, young, everyone. It’s a thing and it looks odd – but it is super fun. Do join in.

Swedes and Norwegians pick seven wild flowers on Midsummer eve and put them under their pillow. They will dream of the person they will marry. Some don’t even wait that long, as the birth rate spikes in Sweden every year exactly nine months after Midsummer.

There are Midsummer events held all over the UK – both Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian. Local churches are a good place to start for information on where to go.

There is no big official London picnic (there never is – it’s all a bit spontaneous) but people tend to gather in patches in the different parks and just bring a picnic. Ask local Scandies for details or just wander around and look for the people with flowers in their hair. You’ll find them.

If you fancy a picnic in the park we offer a ready made midsummer picnic box here – and if you’re hosting at home you can find everything you need here.

WIN The Bridge DVD Box Set Seasons 1-4

May 24, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

WIN The Bridge DVD Box Set Seasons 1-4

Love The Bridge? Want to keep Saga Noren in your life on 13 DVDs after the last episode of the popular Swedish/Danish crime drama Season 4 of The Bridge (Broen/Bron) has aired on BBC2? Then you want to enter this competition to be in with a chance to win the complete box set for Season 1-4. Just imagine the binge weekend up ahead!

ScandiKitchen has teamed up with Arrow Films for this fantastic prize to celebrate the release of the DVD Box Set of The Bridge (out 29th June 2018):

You can win:

• Box Set of The Bridge Seasons 1-4 on DVD/Blue Ray
• A big box of Swedish goodies to eat while you watch it
• A big box of Danish goodies to eat while you watch it
• A ‘I wish I were Danish/Swedish’ T-shirt from ScandiKitchen


We’ll make sure the winner has the Box Set as soon as it is released so you have time to plan your long weekend, turn the phone off and tell the world you’ve gone away to a dark, dark place.

To be in with a chance to win, just answer this question:

How long is The Bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden? (the bridge, not tunnel bit)

a) 5,492m
b) 7,845 m
b) 14,341m

Answers to iloveherring@scandikitchen.co.uk before 15th June 2018. Winner will be picked from all correct entries.

Usual competition rules apply – including no alternative prize, the prize has no cash value, no cheating, one winner only. The responsibility of this competition lies with ScandiKitchen and Arrow Films. One entry per email.

Catch The Bridge Season 4 now on BBC2 on Friday evenings and on BBC Iplayer.

Swedish Valdemar and Almost-Danish Adam, posing with the box of goodies. What handsome chaps indeed.

The Bridge – hotdog style

May 18, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

The Bridge – hotdog style

When it comes to food, we Danes and Swedes have our little differences. Take our hotdogs, for example – and here’s our The Bridge Hot Dog version. Do you prefer you hotdog Danish or Swedish?!

The hugely popular Nordic noir TV series The Bridge Season 4 is currently showing on BBC 2 on Friday nights. It is the final series and the one that will hopefully provide all the answers.

For those who do not know, the story started when a body was found on the bridge that connects Denmark with Sweden – with half of the body on the Danish side, half on the Swedish, forcing the two crime teams to work together.

For us Scandies, The Bridge provide an amazing way to experience both different languages spoken in one series, with everybody understanding what is going on. The funny thing is, there’s only 600 words difference between Danish and Swedish, so we actually do understand each other most of the time, even when we just speak our own languages.

Watch this space for an upcoming competition to win the entire box set of The Bridge season 1-4 along with LOTS of Danish and Swedish goodies to go with it. More details will be released next week. A massive 13 DVDs: you will literally not need to leave your house for the entire weekend if you win this box set and all that food.

We’ll be running this competition together with the nice people at Arrow Films. More next week.

Koldskål & Kammerjunker – Danish buttermilk dessert

May 7, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

Koldskål & Kammerjunker – Danish buttermilk dessert

Ask any Danes and they’ll agree this dessert signifies the height of summer.

We stock this in our online shop and our café deli in London (get your stash right here), but if you fancy having a go at making it at home, here’s a great recipe that tastes ‘just right’.

This recipe requires the simple buttermilk usually sold in litres. You can find fresh buttermilk in larger supermarkets and in a lot of Eastern European shops, too. We prefer the Polish buttermilk that comes in one litre – some of the UK types can be a bit too thick.

‘Kammerjunker’ biscuits are crisp, but sweet, biscuits, lightly crushed or added whole to the soup. They need to be super crispy to carry the lightness of the soup, hence why they are returned to the oven after the initial first baking to ‘dry out’ and bake twice. If you cant be bothered to make the biscuits, fresh strawberries work really well too.

Ingredients

For the soup:
1 litre buttermilk
150ml Greek or natural yoghurt
2 egg yolks (this dessert contains raw egg yolk)
60g caster sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
Zest from ½ lemon
Juice from ¼ lemon

For the ‘Kammerjunker’ biscuits
150g flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g caster sugar
50g butter
1 egg
1 tsp good vanilla sugar or extract w seeds – or seeds from one vanilla pod
½ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
Zest from ½ lemon
2 tbsp cream

To serve
Seasonal fruit – strawberries, quartered

Method

To make the biscuits
Combine the baking powder with the flour. Add the cold butter, cubed, and mix in until you have grainy result. Add the sugar, then the other ingredients and mix again until you have an even dough.

Leave to chill for 20 minutes before rolling the dough.

Turn the oven to 200 degrees C

Roll the dough out and cut 35-40 small pieces, roll them and place them on a lined baking tray.

Bake for 7-10 minutes (depending on your oven). Remove from oven and cut each biscuit across the middle so you end up with two flat halves. Return to the warm oven and leave them to finish baking, at 170 degrees, for 8-10 more minutes OR until golden and crisp.

To make the soup/dessert

On high speed using a mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk egg yolk and sugar until white. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, then the yoghurt and start to add the buttermilk whilst continuously whisking.

Add lemon juice to taste – the soup should be sweet but have a good punch of lemon flavour coming through.

Serve the cold soup in bowls, topped with strawberries and biscuits.

This soup should really be eaten on day of making it as it contains raw egg.

Scandinavian Easter: 7 random things

March 22, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

7 random facts about Easter in Scandinavia

  1. In Sweden, the children dress up as little Easter Witches on Easter Sunday and go door to door, asking for sweets and treats.
  2. Norwegians are obsessed with reading who-dunnit-crime novels at Easter – sales triple all over Norway in the run up to the holidays. Norwegians like to go to their hytter (cabins) for Easter – and there, they read crime novels when they are not skiing. So obsessed are they there are even little crime stories printed on milk cartons over Easter so they never have to stop reading. Solving crime over breakfast? So very Norwegian, it seems.

    paskekrim melkekartong norwegian Easter milk carton
  3. Scandinavian Easter Egg traditions are people buying an empty cardboard shell and filling it with their favourite sweets, rather than just a huge chocolate egg. We like a mix of everything – sweet, sour, salty, liquorice, chocolate, marshmallow, and perhaps and extra Kvikk Lunsj, Kexchoklad or marzipan eggs for good measure.

    Easter eggs
  4. The Easter lunch is usually a huge Smorgasbord (with various regional variations and names). There will be pickled herring, every sandwich topping your mother and grandmother combined can think of, and lots of egg things. Maybe dyed, maybe scrambled, fried or boiled.

    Picture: TT via dn.se

     

  5. Easter in Scandinavia is called Påsk (Sweden), Påske (Denmark, Norway). An Easter egg is known as a Påskägg / påskeæg / påskeegg – and is gifted on Easter morning. We also like decorating with little chickens – usually slightly deformed with a leg out their head or an eye on their bum. They are, of course, called ‘påsk-kycklinger’ / ‘påskekyllinger’ – Easter chickens.
    Easter egg chicken decorations
  6. You’ll see many places with decorated twigs – feathers and other types of decorations, depending on area. This is a Påskris – Easter Twigs – to signify Christ’s suffering – originally used to lash out at people as a tease – and in some areas, get people out of bed on Good Friday morning. Nowadays, used mainly as decorations.
  7. Easter is the absolute last time you will see Semlor anywhere in Sweden. Most of these lovely luscious Lent buns are already gone at this time of the year, but for those still clinging on, Easter marks the final hurrah, signalising the end of the season. No more semlor until next year.
    skarsgaard semlor

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