To Scandinavians, rice pudding means comfort, winter and probably Christmas. In Denmark, though, we don’t just eat it at Christmas, we eat it all through the cold, dark month.
The main difference between British rice pudding and Nordic pudding is that we don’t put that much sugar in the actual porridge, nor nutmeg – and we cook it on the stove top, rather than in the oven. Our chosen topping is cinnamon sugar and a knob of butter. Therefore, it can be a meal it itself, or breakfast or a treat for pudding.
In Scandinavia, rice pudding is also traditionally eaten at Christmas. In Denmark, bowls of hot rice pudding is often left out in the barns or attics for the ‘Nisser’ – the little house elves that we have to treat with extra gentle care during the festive seasons, or they will play tricks on us during the rest of the year (house elves are the ones who hide your remote control and steal your socks… Now you know).
Ris a la Mandes is a dish that is made from cold rice pudding. This dish is only served at the actual Christmas table. It is made with whipped cream and almonds, as well as cold pudding.
Recipe: Rice pudding – the ultimate comfort dish
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Bronte Aurell
200g pudding rice
1 litre whole milk
1/2 vanilla pod or a bit of vanilla sugar
1 tbsp caster sugar
Pour the water in a thick-bottomed saucepan and add the rice. Bring to the boil and cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring.
Turn down the heat to low and add the milk in one go. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the vanilla pod to the pudding (if using icing sugar, wait until the end before you add).
Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally as to ensure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
When the rice is cooked (keep tasting: You don’t want overcooked rice) and the pudding is nice and creamy, add a spoonful of sugar as well as a good pinch of salt. Do not add the salt until the rice is cooked and the dish is almost ready.
You may find the rice pudding seems a little ‘wet’ – don’t worry, it will thicken up as it cools and it will become a lot thicker. At any point, if you pudding starts to thicken too much, it means your rice are very starchy – just add more milk or water to thin it and continue cooking as instructed.
Serve with a knob of butter in the middle – and dust with cinnamon sugar (1 part cinnamon, 5 parts sugar).
We get asked about 11 times a day on average how to do the special topping (julskinka griljering) for the Swedish Christmas ham. It is not secret and we’re super happy to share a recipe.
Swedish Christmas Ham (‘Julskinka’) is made special by its mustard crumb topping. It’s really delicious – it adds texture and crunch and a lovely tang from the mustard.
You only add the topping before you serve, so first you need to get yourself a cooked ham. We sell the real Swedish hams ready cooked – and ready to eat. Delicious, lovely and succulent – perfect for your Swedish Christmas Julbord.
If you are using a pre-cooked ham, first open the packet, then remove the netting. Then clean up the ham by cutting away the fat layer on top – this can take a little while, so be patient and use a good sharp knife.
Once the fat layer has been removed, place the ham on your oven tray.
For a truly Danish Christmas, you have to serve Roast Pork – also known as Flæskesteg.
At ScandiKitchen, we use a pork loin cut, scored across at 1 cm sections. Ask your butcher to do this as it is quite hard ot get right at home and the cut of the pork is really important to get the right type of crackling.
This is the classic Christmas meal in Denmark. This recipe serves four people, at least.
2kg loin of pork with the skin on, and scored all the way down to just before the flesh in lines 1cm apart (ask the butcher to do this if necessary)
1 or 2 bay leaves
400-500ml boiling water
few sprigs of thyme
Preheat your oven to 250°C.
Place the pork joint skin side down (yes, ‘upside-down’) into a roasting tray. Add just enough boiling water to the tray so that the skin is submerged.
Put the pork in the oven for 20 minutes.
Use a clean tea towel to hold the pork in the roasting tray so you don’t burn yourself while you carefully pour away the water.
Turn the oven down to 160°C, then flip the pork over so it’s the right way up (skin up), and coat the skin with a generous amount of salt and pepper, making sure you get into the crevices created by the scoring. Be careful of your hands at this point, the pork will be hot! Stick the bay leaves into the crevices as well, then add the carrot, onion and thyme to the roasting tin, and pour 400-500ml fresh, cold water in.
Put the pork back in the oven for about an hour or until it is done. Check about halfway through to see if you need to top up the water if it’s starting to evaporate too much.
Using a meat thermometer, check the temperature of the pork after the hour. It should be somewhere between 68-70°C. Pour out the fatty residue into a bowl to use as stock for the gravy.
Increase the oven temperature back up to 250°C and put the roast pork back in to make the crackling. This can take a good 15 minutes, so use the grill if you want to kickstart the process (but keep a close eye on it, or else you could end up with a burnt crackling).
Remove the roast from the oven and check the temperature again. It should be between 70-75°C. This should mean it isn’t overcooked – pork can be terribly boring if you have to gnaw your way through it.
A traditional accompaniment to Danish roast pork. It’s a bit sweet so we only eat these once a year.
1kg peeled and cooked small new potatoes (don’t be afraid to use tinned potatoes for this) – must be COLD.
Add the sugar to a cold frying pan and spread it evenly across the bottom. Melt it on a high heat while you stir for about 2 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium while you add the butter. Turn up the heat to high again.
Put the potatoes in a colander or sieve and run them under a cold tap, then add to the pan. As you can imagine, it’s going to splutter and spit a bit, so be careful.
Get the potatoes covered in caramel and brown them for between 4-6 minutes, turning them carefully. If it looks like they’re getting a bit too dry, add a drop of water (again, take care doing this).
Serve the caramelised potatoes along with normal boiled potatoes – as these are very sweet, they’re more of an extra side dish for the pork rather than a replacement for potatoes altogether.
NOTE: Always use potatoes that are completely cold. If you’re preparing them yourself, peel and cook them the day before. Each potato should be about 3-4cm in size – think salad potatoes. Tinned really is a good option for this dish.
Pinnekjøtt is one of many Christmas dinners eaten in Norway. Traditionally eaten on the west coast of the country, but it is gaining popularity elsewhere too. In many places in the west of Norway, you’ll know it is Christmas when the church bells chime in the afternoon of the 24th and the air has a faint smell of pinnekjøtt cooking. As the sun sets and people move inside and out of the cold, julefreden senker seg. Christmas peace descends across the country.
Pinnekjøtt is ribs from lamb that have been salted, and sometimes also smoked, to preserve it. For preparation, the meat needs to be soaked in water to remove most of the salt. The result is an intensely delicious and savoury piece of lamb – quite unlike anything else, and very very good (why yes, the writer of this recipe is Norwegian – but strictly objective, of course).
Side dishes vary between families, but a type of swede mash is always present. The natural sweetness of swedes works really well with the meat – finish off your plate with a dollop of lingonberry jam and have a shot of aquavit to drink. Some people also serve plain boilt potatoes and green beans, although this is not part of the traditional meal.
Pinnekjøtt is a very easy dish to prepare – just make sure you start it in time.
Serves 5 – allowing approx 400g per person – remember most of the weight is bone.
For the meat:
2 kg Pinnekjøtt
Big bowls for soaking the meat in
The day before eating: Place the meat in casseroles or big bowls (or a pyrex dish – anything will do) and cover with plenty of water. Leave in room temperature for approx. 30 hours.
Why do we do this? Pinnekjøtt is meat that has been salted and dried, soaking it ensures it regains its consistency – as well as making it palatable by removing most of the salt. How long this takes depends on the thickness of the meat, as well as the temperature of the water. Tepid water will speed up the process.
On the day of eating, 3 hours before you plan to eat: pour off the water and place the meat to one side.
In your biggest casserole(s), place a metal rack or birch branches in the bottom. Add water until it covers the rack or your branches. Place your meat on top and cover with a lid. Leave to gently steam cook at low heat for approximately 3 hours. Sausage can be added to the casserole for cooking for the last 15-20 minutes; chop into chunks of 2-3 inches to ensure they cook through. It is done when the meat falls easily off the bone.
The traditional side dish to Pinnekjøtt is Rotmos, a mash made from swedes, carrots and potatoes. The amounts of each vary, feel free to adjust to your liking. This is our Mormor Marit’s version.
Serves 5 generously – always very popular though so make a lot!
Swede Mash – Rotmos
1.5 kg Swede, peeled and chopped
3 medium carrots, washed and chopped (peel if you want to)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
50 ml double cream
50 ml single cream
4 tbsp salted butter
75 ml cooking stock from the pinnekjott
Pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
Peel your vegetables and chop coarsely into even-sized pieces. Boil until tender in lightly salted water. Leave for 3 minutes to dry, then mash by hand. Add cream and butter and give it a good stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a pinch (not too much – this has a very strong flavour) of ground nutmeg if liked – the slight sweetness goes really well with the salty meat. If you think the mash is too thick, loosen it with some of the pinnekjøtt cooking water.
Serve with pinnekjøtt, lingonberry jam, perhaps some freshly boilt potatoes and a good shot of aquavit.
This dish is a must on most Scandi Christmas Smorgasbord tables. Mostly in Sweden, where it is absolutely essential. No beetroot salad = no Christmas.
It’s super easy to make it – have a go at home, but please do try to use a Scandinavian pickled beetroot for the best result. It just works better.
Recipe: Rödbetsallad Apple and Beetroot Salad
Author: Bronte Aurell
1 jar of pickled beetroot 300g (drained weight approx. 280g)
50g Crème fraiche
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbs chopped chives (optional)
Drain the beetroot well and cut into bitesized pieces. Peel and cut apple into similar sized pieces.
Mix the beetroot and apple in a bowl, add mayonnaise and crème fraiche and stir. You are looking for a good creamy consistency and a medium pink colour (if the beetroot is not drained properly, you will get a runny consistency).
Season to taste (add sugar if using a tart variety of pickled beetroot). Add more mayo and crème fraiche, if a creamier salad is desired.
The colour of the salad will go darker once it sets. Leave to set in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight. If it goes too dark, just add a bit more crème fraiche or mayonnaise just before serving. If using chives, add chopped on top before serving.
Glögg is an essential part of Christmas all over Scandinavia. This is recipe was created by my sister-in-law Annika in her Gothenburg kitchen. It’s so very easy to make glögg at home – give it a go. You can reduce or increase the sugar to your liking – and do play around with adding and taking some spices away to make your own signature mulled wine.
Serve Nordic ‘Glögg’ mulled wine warm in smaller glasses with raisins and almonds.
Make your own ‘Glögg’ mulled wine at home
Recipe Type: Drink
Author: Bronte Aurell
1 bottle red wine (quality doesn’t matter)
1-2 sticks cinnamon
5g dried root ginger
5g dried Seville orange peel (or other orange if you can’t get Seville)
7 green cardamom pods
15-16 whole cloves
To serve: flaked almonds and raisins
Splash of either vodka, aquavit, rum or cognac (optional)
Pour the wine into a pan, add the spices and heat to around 80C/176F, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour.
Strain the mixture and return the mulled wine to the bottle – use a funnel to make life easier for yourself. The wine can be kept for around a week.
To serve, pour the wine into a saucepan and heat it.
Place a few flaked almonds and raisins in the bottom of your serving cups, and pour the glögg over the mixture.
If you want to give your glögg a kick, add a splash of either vodka, aquavit, rum or cognac just after you’ve reheated the wine.
It’s December, it’s the weekend – this can only mean one thing: Glögg party.
We Scandinavians do love any excuse to pop over to each other’s house and have a tipple and some homemade cake or biscuit. Those dark December days are just perfect for this: Spend time with lovely people, letting them know you care – and serve delicious mulled wine to give everybody rosy cheeks before they head back into the cold air.
If you are in Scandinavian, you may attend 2 or even 3 of these parties in a weekend, because everybody hosts Glogg parties. You will find that the ‘Glögg’ mulled wine tends to be served in smaller cups in Scandinavia, mainly because we would otherwise be hammered by the time we reach Auntie Agneta’s house and we would, inevitably, end up making a comment about her slightly weird collection of garden gnomes. However, if you are outside Scandiland, you will probably just attend one or two a weekend, so feel free to go for it. Jut be warned: Glögg mulled wine will make your nose red like Rudolf and your ears will feel very warm. Basically, you turn into Elf if you overdo it. You’ve been warned.
Here’s how to host your own Scandinavian Glögg party this Christmas
Set the scene.
Think lots of candles, simple decorations… Hearts, spruce. No tinsel, just nice, stylish cosy Christmas decorations. Maybe a tree – but if you are going to do a tree, make it a real one. Scandinavians don’t ‘do’ fake trees. It’s better to have no tree than a fake tree. Did we mention candles? We did? Get some more. We over-do candles. Have you never seen the candle section in Ikea? Made for us and our candle obsession. If in doubt, buy some more.
Think less Wham, more ABBA. Michael Buble becomes an honorary Scandi at this time a year before we put him back in the cupboard on the 28th December. Use spotify and search ‘Scandinavian Christmas’ and you should be fine. Expect a few cringe additions. Blame Spotify.
Offer your guests ‘Glögg’ mulled wine. Glögg is not the same as British mulled wine. We will claim it is infinitely better (it is) – and this is because we use cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, dried Seville orange and cloves.
You can get the spices you need at our shop – or you can buy ready-made good stuff online. Swedes swear by all Glögg from Blossa. The red top is 10%, standard and works for all. The orange top is 15% and gives you a even redder nose. The see-through ‘Rum’ and ‘Cognac’ Blossas are 21% and you drink these in bigger glasses, in your arm chair front of the log fire. The purple bottle ‘14’ is the annual exciting new flavour – this year, it is Lavender (it’s nice, but nicer drunk a bit colder than normal Glögg).
To serve you glögg, heat it up so it is warm (not boiling, or the alcohol will evaporate) – and serve in little mugs of thick glasses. Add almonds and raisins.
If you are doing a Danish Gløgg party, you need to make or get your hand on some Æbleskiver. These are little doughballs, made from a pancake like batter. Serve warm with jam and icing sugar.
Biscuit wise, Danes favour ‘Brunkager’ (as do Norwegians) – and Pebernødder. Both are variations of ginger biscuits.
Swedes will expect you to serve Saffron buns. Delicious yellow wheat buns. We sell them at the café but you should have a go at making some at home – they are not hard to make and they taste amazing when just fresh out of the oven.
Want to make your own ginger biscuits? Get the dough and simply shape and bake. Easy peasy.
Want to fill up the fika table? Add other buns and biscuits. Swedes like to make ‘knäck’ toffee and the Danes love to make little marzipan and nougat petit fours. You can also make ‘Chockladbollar’ or ‘Romkugler’ no-bake treats. Find the recipe on our blog.
If you want to add a bit of a savoury element, maybe serve cheeses and crispbread. In particular, get hold of some really nice blue cheese and serve this with ginger biscuits: It’s a really, really nice combination.
Lastly, these events are usually in the afternoons, not evenings. After lunch, usually lasting a few hours, no more. Just so you can fit in 2-3 in the same day if you need to.