Swedes all over Love their crayfish party and there are many ways to host this type of party, and this week, our People’s Hero Roxanne shares her way of celebrating through a few simple questions.
Where do we usually find you during the crayfish festivities and what are the essentials?
This is a tradition I usually celebrate back home in Sweden. You would probably find me at my friend’s house sitting in their garden (warning the neighbors beforehand about the loud singing that might occur throughout the night)
One of the essentials – except for the actual crayfish – is of course the aquavit (snaps). And it is law amongst my friends to sing a ‘snapsvisa’ called ‘helan går’ (everything goes) before we take a shot of Skåne aquavit.
What do you eat at the crayfish party?
Crayfish of course –a lot of them. We usually also have a lot of other sea food such as prawns as everyone don’t like crayfish. To our crayfishes we serve a variety of other food that goes really well with the sea food.
We always have Vasterbotten quiche, different types of bread (crispbread of course), cheese with caraway or with cloves and many different styles of nibbles (sour cream and onion crisps being my favourite to snack on throughout the night).
Is there any essential that is a must have?
Snapsglas! (shot glasses) how would you drink all the snaps otherwise?
What is your advice for the crayfish rookies that want to host the festivities?
Well – don’t go dressed as you were going to meet the queen – when eating crayfish you have to be ready for the mess.
Swedes all over Love midsummer (you might have seen Alicia Vikander on Jimmy Fallon..? If not, we’ve included the clip for you below). There are many ways to celebrate, and this week, our Thérèse shares her way of celebrating. Over to you, T!
” Hej! I am Thérèse and I’m located in Stockhome. I recently moved to London from Sweden. It doesn’t matter where I am this time of year – I always celebrate midsummer.
Photo credit: Conny Fridh/imagebank.sweden.se
Midsummer for me is all about having fun, celebrating with friends and eat a lot of food. I often celebrate the holiday on the actual midsummer eve (this year – 24th June) ‘midsommarafton’ – but it really depends on when my friends are free to celebrate.
Growing up I spent most of my summers in the summerhouse in the west of Sweden, and we would usually go to the closest local midsummer event to celebrate there. These days the place of the celebration varies – either in a park or at someone’s house – usually the friend with the best garden. One thing remains the same wherever though – flower garlands in my hair. It’s essential.
What do we eat at midsummer?
Food is of course very important during midsummer. My friends and I often prepare a buffet together. We cook most of the food ourselves but we usually buy some things, like nibbles, ready made. That way we can nibble whilst we cook and take our time with it. We usually get snacks like sour cream and onion crisps, dill crisps, cheese corn snacks and some beer to drink.
The buffet has certain ‘rules’ to it – the first round is all about herring and bread. Having a good range of herring is essential. My favourites have always been the mustard herring, onion herring and the herring in roe, but a good midsummer spread usually includes even more – such as dill herring or herring in curry (You can browse our range of herring here).
We also have a variety of crispbread, rye bread and polar bread – as well as new potatoes boiled in a lot of dill. We eat the potatoes sliced up on your bread of choice with a bit of herring. With this we also serve cured or smoked salmon; seafood salad is also always included in our buffet. I like to top my salmon sandwiches with dill and mustard sauce.
In addition to the herring and fish, we often have a barbecue with different meats, spicy sausages and new-potato salad and chips with Vasterbotten cheese – lovely with a fresh dip! To drink we have lagers (beer) and aquavit. Of course, in true Swedish fashion, we have to sing some drinking songs.
Finally we’ll have a lovely strawberry cake (we have a nice recipe – click through to view) and perhaps some of our favourite sweets and chocolates. If we feel really merry we might search for a midsummer pole to do some embarrassing little frog dancing around.”
Don’t know what Frog Dancing is? Have a look below, where the Oscar winning Swedish actress Alicia Vikander shows Jimmy Fallon how it’s done. Happy Midsummer all!
Every January, the excitement builds because our customers know it is almost time for ‘Semlor’ buns. Scandinavians celebrate the start of Lent in different ways, but all of us like to eat as many of these addictive treats as physically possible (rumour has it there are no calories in Semlor if you eat them with your eyes closed).
13 g dried yeast or 25 g fresh yeast *(see below)
250 ml whole milk, heated to 36–37°C (97–98°F)
80 g butter, melted and cooled slightly
40 g caster sugar
300–400 g white strong flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 egg, lightly beaten
100 g marzipan paste
good dollop of custard or Crème Pâtissière
500 ml whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
icing sugar, to dust
piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle
*If using fresh yeast, add it to the finger-warm milk and mix until dissolved. Then pour it into the bowl of a food mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.
If using dried yeast, sprinkle the yeast granules into the finger-warm milk and whisk together. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes to activate and become frothy and bubbly. Pour into the bowl of a food mixer with a dough hook and stir in the melted butter. Add the sugar and stir again. Add half of the flour as well as the salt, baking powder and ground cardamom. Add half the beaten egg (reserve the other half for brushing before baking).
Mix well until all the ingredients are incorporated and then start to add more of the flour, bit by bit, until you have a dough that is only a little bit sticky. Take care not to add too much flour. Knead the dough for at least 5 minutes in the mixer. Cover the bowl with a dish towel or clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm (not hot) place until it has doubled in size – about 30–40 minutes.
Turn the dough out to a floured surface. Knead again for a few minutes, adding more flour if needed. You want a firmer but not dry dough. Cut the dough into 12 equal-sized pieces. Place, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet. Leave to rise for 25–30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.
Brush each bun with the beaten egg and bake for 8–10 minutes or until baked through – keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly. Remove from oven and cover the buns with a lightly damp dish towel immediately – this will prevent them from forming a crust.
When they have cooled completely, cut a ‘lid’ off the buns – about 1.5 cm/1⁄2 in. from the top. Scoop out about one-third of the inside of the bun and place this in a separate bowl. Mix it with the marzipan paste until it forms a very sticky mass – add a dollop of custard or Crème Pâtissière at this point to help it along. You want a spoonable, even mixture. Spoon the filling back into the buns, equally divided.
Whip the cream with the vanilla sugar until stiff, then use a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle to pipe cream on all the buns. Put the ‘lids’ back on and dust lightly with icing sugar.
Every language contains a few untranslatable words. In Denmark and Norway, “hygge” is generally used as an example for a general state of lovely cosiness. In Sweden, the word that is hard to translate literally is ‘Fika’.
‘To Fika’ is a good old Swedish word that basically means to ‘meet up, have a coffee and a chit-chat’. We Scandinavians love nothing more than to meet up for a Fika. This can be done at any time – and a Fika can take anything from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on how good you are at Fika-ing. If you’re in Norway or Denmark you don’t use the actual word Fika, but the rules of the game are the same.
For a good Fika you’d be expected to serve good Scandinavian coffee. People in the Nordic countries drink more coffee than anyone in the world, even the Italians. This is because we love our filter coffee – and it needs to be very strong and served in abundance. When you have a Fikarast (coffee break) at work or meet someone for a Fika it is not unlikely to polish off a good 2-3 cups of filter coffee in one sitting. Each. Perhaps this abuse of caffeine goes a little way to explain why the Norwegians always sounds so happy and why we’re one of the biggest producers of Europop: Our veins are constantly beating in tune to Basshunter hits.
Once upon a time, back in the day, when men were men and women wore twin-sets and went to bed with rollers in their hair, people knew how to treat their guests when they popped by for a Fika. No pre-packaged cakes, no just popping out to M&S for a roll of digestives and a ham & egg sub. No, no, back when Granny ruled the roost, things were made from scratch, guests were treated to coffee in the finest china and nobody had to help with the washing up.
Back in the forties, a book was published in Sweden entitled ”Sju Sorters Kakor” – meaning, Seven Kinds of Biscuits. It does contain recipes for well over a hundred biscuits and cakes, but the reason for the title was simple: seven was the number of different homemade cakes a good housewife should offer any guests that popped over for Fika. Hmmm, yes. Six kinds and you were stingy (and probably lazy), any more than seven and you were a show off. Lagom.
This lovely book quickly became part of Swedish culture and every household owns at least 4 copies and swear by the fact it is the most influential book since the Bible. Almost. Every time a distant relative dies, you are guaranteed to receive a few more copies. Despite the fact that it is illegal to throw any copies of this book away, it is still in print and new editions are churned out every couple of years. There is a fear Sweden may sink into the ocean one day from a surplus of Sju Sorters Kakor books. Seeing as very few people still offer you seven kinds of biscuits when you pop over, one can conclude that someone somewhere is slacking in the baking department.
In Denmark, a similar fashion arose at around the same time. In the south of Denmark, near the German border, a tradition known now a days as Sønderjysk Kaffebord, literally Coffee Table from Sønderborg, seeks to rival the Swedish housewife’s offering. There, you are also expected to serve seven sorts of biscuits – as well as seven sorts of soft cakes – from carrot cake to chocolate cake and layer cakes. Considering the generation of South Danish ladies who lunched at each others’ houses did not have to be carried around by pick-up trucks, one must conclude that restraint is in the back bone of those Danes.
While the average Scandinavian household no longer has a mini production line of home baking going on (the same as most British household no longer serve high tea on a daily basis), Scandinavians still do love their coffee breaks and we always take time to fika when we can – it is simply part of our culture and still today, it is generally accepted you can pop over to visit your friends without having to synchronise your Blackberry diaries 2 week in advance. Whether you choose to take your fika breaks with seven kinds of cake, or simply pop out for a skinny soya decaf with vanilla syrup in the sun, make sure you spare a thought for the poor grannies that had to stay at home baking all day fretting about how to look better than the neighbour without over stepping the ‘lagom’ rules – and maybe have a go at making a few of your own (Ask any Swede and they’re bound to have a few spare copies of ‘Seven Kinds of Cakes’ recipe books lying around).