June 30, 2016 |
November 14, 2014 |
We have snow. Real snow. Lots of real delicious fluffy picture postcard snow.
Our countryside looks like this
Santa is from up here.
Okay, so we can’t quite agree where he actually lives. The Danes believe he lives on Greenland. The rest think he lives in Lapland. Or in Finland. Or both. We do know, however, that he lives up here somewhere. He’s one of us.
Father Christmas actually visits us for real. None of this ‘He’ll turn up while you’re asleep’ nonsense: We wait on Christmas eve and there he is. Okay, sometimes he’s had too much glögg, sometimes he looks like your Uncle Björn. Sometimes both. But he’s there, at your house.
We have Christmas elves.
Actually, we have house elves all year round, but we believe in them mostly at Christmas time. Little mini elves with red Christmas hats – Lady elves, male elves… They live in our houses and barns and we put food out for them at Christmas time, because if we don’t, every idiot knows they’ll hide the remote control for the rest of the year.
We get to celebrate a day earlier than everybody else.
Our Christmas is 24th December in the evening. Some say this stems from Viking times when we believed a new day started as the sun went down – meaning at sun down on Christmas eve, we can celebrate. While everybody else has to wait until morning.
We have Julebryg.
Delicious, amazing Christmas beer from Denmark. The fourth best selling beer in Denmark – despite only being on the market 10 weeks of the year. We have that, it’s a thing. Try it.
We have Glögg
Red noses, red cheeks, sneaky kisses under the mistletoe.
It’s also our thing. No, not mulled wine. We don’t add drabs of left over stuff to our glögg, nor do we add half a litre of orange juice. No. We carefully blend spices, sugar and red wine… heat it up and add secret yuletide cheer to every pot. Why is Glögg so much better than mulled wine? Cardamom, pomerans, cinnamon cloves, ginger are the scents of a truly Scandinavian Christmas.
Lucky us, we escape the turkey. Instead we have succulent roast pork… Or delicious sweet ham with mustard. Or dried lamb sticks. Or fish preserved in lye. Eh, yeah, lye. But it’s delicious.
Pigs: Little pigs made of marzipan. Without these, nobody can win the prize in the almond game.
We hide an almond in the Christmas dessert. Find it and get the pig and status of Marzipan Pig Winner. It’s prestigious.
A real tree
Real, like, from the real forest. We don’t do plastic.
We do clean lines, silver, gold and red. We don’t do flimsy tinsel.
90th Birthday party
Okay, this is New Year, but it’s as important as everything else. It’s a 10 minute sketch from yonks ago. We like to watch it every year. The same sketch, the same exact one. We always laugh. Its shown the same time every year. Okay, it’s a bit odd…
We like to watch the same old seventies Donald Duck show, every year. At 4 pm on Christmas Eve. Everybody, the same time, every household (at least in Sweden). Also agree this may be a bit odd. In Norway, they watch ‘3 nuts for Cinderella’ instead which is a really old 1980’s Czech Tv movie about Cinderella and her, eh, three nuts.
We hold hands and dance around the real Christmas tree. Together. The tree has real candles on it and someone usually singes their hair a bit. It all adds to the smell of Christmas.
13th December each year, we have the day of St Lucia, the festival of light. Boys and girls dress in white long robes and form processions in every town, bearing candles. This is the darkest night – and the darkest morning, broken by the bearing of light to fend off the darkness and dark spirits. We drink glögg, a girl is the town’s Lucia Bride and everybody knows it’s Christmas again.
We own those. They are ours. We rule at ginger thins.
Swedes go nuts for anything with saffron, especially saffron buns. But other products containing saffron sell out too. Chocolate with saffron, other pastries with saffron. You can probably get saffron shampoo, too. Maybe. And saffron meatballs. Actually, that sounds gross.
Little apple pancakes with no apples in them. So, like, doughballs. Dipped in sugar and jam. Danes go nuts for these. A great way to ensure you can have another Christmas beer.
The Swedish Christmas coke. Outsells coke in Sweden every year. Coca Cola hates that. Swedes loves that. And nobody outside Sweden understands the obsession with Julmust.
See above but replace Sweden with Norway. Norway’s Christmas soda. It’s a Norwegian thing.
Iceland has 13 different Santas.
Not content with just one, Iceland has 13 Santas, each one a Santa for a different reason and cause. Skyr Santa, Sausage Santa, Door slamming Santa and many more.
Christmas lasts a long time after Christmas.
We don’t put up our decorations until December. We don’t overdo it in the shops. We don’t put up the tree until we need it. And we don’t take it down on the 26th, either. We keep the tree until well into January sometime.
Fra alle os til alle jer:
November 13, 2014 |
Our annual ScandiKitchen Hamper box is now available to order online (Edit: sold out). Every year we put together a lovely pan-Scandinavian selection of goodies – perfect for you to send to any scandophile or homesick Scandinavian. All the coodies come wrapped in a really nice red box with a fancy white silk bow.
UPDATE: Check back near Christmas for 2015s version!
We can deliver it all over the UK.
Fancy winning one? Just answer this easy peasy question to be in with a chance of getting a box sent to yourself or one of your friends (what an easy way to sort the presents, huh?)
When do Scandinavians usually open their Christmas presents?
a) 5th December
b) 24th December
c) 25th December
Answer to firstname.lastname@example.org before Tuesday at noon. Winner will be drawn at random from all correct entries by a lady wearing a sparkly dress and a man wearing a fancy top hat. There may be music. Winner will be notified by email. All usual rules apply and no cheating allowed. No alternative prize. One winner. No substitutions. Deadline 18/11/2014
September 25, 2014 |
Time for Fika
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).
Shop around for more scandi food…
Let’s face it: We have quite a few to choose from. Here’s our selection
Dear old Harold. Not only did he have a blue tooth, but he was really good at unifying and connecting places – such as Norway and Denmark, where he ruled for many years. And this is why Bluetooth is called Bluetooth today: all because of good ol’ Harold and his incredible social skills.
Ragnar is our choice because he has a great name. Also known as Ragnar Lodbrok or Ragnar Hairybreeches, it is likely this Viking ruler wore pants made out of fur. Either this or he was extraordinarily hairy. The sagas say Ragnar Lodbrok may have worn those renowned breeches as protection from the venomous serpents he battled to court his second wife, Swedish princess Thora. Fathered a lot of sons – so many so that historians dispute whether he actually existed or was several different people.
Australian actor Travis Fimmel plays a Ragnor in ‘Vikings’ – although his character is only very loosely based on the real Ragnar. And no hairy pants.
Our fearsome Viking lady. Freydis was the daughter of Erik the Red (of America fame), married to a spineless man called Thorvard, she joined him on expeditions around the world. One time, Thorvard left her behind in Vinland (North America), fought the natives on her own whilst pregnant, became a farmer, gave birth to her son – until Thorvard came back for her, eventually. She joined Thorvard on several more expeditions, also taking part in battles. Later on she became a bit too brutal for her own good and was feared amongst other Vikings for slaying men and women regardless. She also invented the sleeping bag (apparently).
Not much is known of this Viking, other than he probably had a bit of a bad hair do.
Son of Erik (see below), brother of Freydis (see above), Leif was the one to discover North America nearly 500 years beforeColumbus. For that alone, he is on our list. Most likely born in Iceland.
Erik the Red
Our favourite ginger of all and founder of Norse settlement on Greenland (after he was thrown out of Iceland for murdering a few locals). A master of marketing, he deliberately named Greenland to be more appealing to other potential settlers (having seen what Iceland had done to itself by not naming their island ‘valleys of green and warm earth showers’). Father of Leif and Freydis.
Actually, his real name was Eysteinn Hálfdansson, but in one of the sagas, he’s named as Eysteinn Fart. Why? We guess he had a bit of a flatulence problem. He was Norwegian, and in Norwegian he is known as Eysteinn Fjert, meaning fart. Lived 720-768 where he was blown off his ship by a ‘gust of wind’.
This lady was rather awesome. Wife of the man with the hairy pants, Lagertha was a Viking shieldmaiden from Norway. Her name most likely came from Hlaðgerðr.
‘Ladgerda, a skilled Amazon, who, though a maiden, had the courage of a man, and fought in front among the bravest with her hair loose over her shoulders. All-marveled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back betrayed that she was a woman.’
Ragnar dumped Lagertha to marry a Swedish princess, but when he got into trouble in battle, Lagertha still came to his aid bringing 120 ships for him.
The character in Vikings is loosely based on her.
The 10th-century Earl of Orkney, this fearsome named Viking was born on Orkney. The mother of his five sons was Grelad, a daughter of “Earl Dungad of Caithness” and Groa, herself a daughter of Thorstein the Red. Thorfinn died a very old man and is buried in Hoxa. The modern Orcadian beer Skull Splitter is named after him.
Cnut the Great (Old Norse: Knútr inn ríki) born c. 995, more commonly known as Canute. King of Denmark, England, Norway, and ‘some Swedes’. Son of the infamous Sweyn Forkbeard, his grandfather was Harold Bluetooth, so he was from good Viking stock. Often had to be careful when spelling his own name.
Cnut is often described as being exceptionally handsome ‘except for his nose’. Cnut was buried at Winchester Cathedral, where some remains are in chests above the choir.
Shop around for more scandi food…
September 4, 2014 |
1. The zip.
Without the zip, your pants would be around your ankles or you’d be wearing braces. Thank the Swedes for this one.
2. The cheese slicer
Seriously, can you imagine a world without a cheese slicer? Just don’t enter into a discussion with us about the different types… (metal for hard cheese, plastic for the softer ones – and the string cheese slicer for any of the Danish cheeses).
Boom. Thanks, Alfred Nobel. Oh, and thanks for the Nobel prize, too.
The biggest toy company in the world. We can’t get enough of Lego and parents the world over thoroughly enjoy stepping on that missing two’er that never seems to make its way back into the box.
Yes, that handy thing your juice is in. You know, the special type carton. Tak, Sverige.
6. Safety matches.
Yes, thanks again, Swedes.
7. The Loudspeaker
Peter L. Jensen invented the loudspeaker in 1915. Okay, he launched it in America but he was Danish.
8. The adjustable wrench.
Also known as Monkey wrench. You need one of these if you want to be handy around the house and assemble (mainly Swedish) furniture and stuff. Ikea is also Swedish. Coincidence? Not.
9. Gas turbine
Thanks to the Norwegians. Who also invented brown cheese (that has nothing to do with gas turbines, but we wanted to get it in there because brunost is utterly awesome).
10. Clap Hat
Thanks, Denmark, for your glorious contribution.
August 15, 2014 |
When most people think of the Scandinavian seasons, they either think of the bitter cold and round the clock dark winter days – or the vibrantly colourful summer season with its rolling green hills and sparkling silvery lakes (although, some, admittedly, think only of blonde women, Ace of Base and meatballs, but these have little to do with this post). However, the often forgotten thing about autumn in Scandinavia is that it is certainly also a time to cherish and a time of exceptional beauty – as well as being full of some of the most amazing foodie treasures known to man.
With all the hoo-haa of Midsummer Parties and dancing around maypoles well and truly over, summer in the Nordic countries comes along in fleeting bursts and before we know it, the days are once again getting shorter and the nights colder. By the middle of September, the whole of Scandinavia has changed its green summer coat for the rustling, golden comforting blanket of fallen leaves, and it is time for long walks in the forest, for slowing down and fattening up for winter time.
Back in the Viking times, autumn signalled the time for preparing for the days when hardly any daylight at all shone through. From the summer with its abundance of fruit and vegetables, winter proved always to be a testing time and our forefathers hunted and gathered everything they could for easy storage. In the Northern countries they hunted for game which they salted and dried. In the south they fished, preserving what they could by drying and curing – as well as slaughtering a good proportion of their farmed animals. Everywhere, the Vikings harvested and milled – and stored grain and oats for the long months. Yep, it was porridge for everyone, all year long, even back then.
Autumn nowadays in Scandinavia is first signalled by the arrival of the crayfish season in August, which carries on well into September. Mainly in Sweden and Finland is this season a big celebration, with most people spending many a weekends enjoying the fruits of the sea along with the jolly company of some amazing aquavit and some good friends (whilst being attacked by the last hungry mosquitoes of the year). Plenty of “snapsvisor” – aquavit songs – are sung during the crayfish season and many a horrific hangover endured.
The game hunting season is another big autumn signal in Scandinavia. In all of the Northern countries, the moose hunting season starts and eager hunters stalk out in the forest, hoping to get the catch of the season – and that all important moose-head to stuff and display on the wall at home. Roe deer, wild ducks and red grouse, to name but a few, are also hunted. Game in Scandinavia today is not intensively farmed at all and is of the highest of quality in the world, giving it a seriously hefty price tag – but well worth a taste if you’re ever lucky enough to be offered it. Lately, the much publicised Nordic Diet has claimed that wild game is the meat we should all be eating for health reasons, likely ensuring even heftier price tags in years to come.
Scandinavia also harbours a vast amount of incredible treasures when it comes to late summer berries. From wild raspberries, the plumpest, juiciest blackberries and blueberries imaginable, you can find them all here. Of course, not forgetting the all important lingonberry either, an essential jam served with Swedish and Norwegian meatballs.
Towards the end of July to beginning of August, the much sought after cloudberry blooms across the colder areas. The cloudberry is an orange berry that looks a bit like a plump, overgrown fat raspberry but which grows on stalks instead of bushes – and the plant itself can withstand temperatures of down to -40 C. It is very difficult to cultivate and is most often found only in the wild; it is very hard to pick as the fragile berries burst instantly in the hands of unseasoned pickers. Most cloudberry is therefore made into jam and sold across the world, but nowhere is it more popular than in Sweden, where this jam is often heated and served with vanilla ice cream. Cloudberry is expensive – even during harvest season locally, prices often top £12 a litre – but the tart, unusual taste of this wonderful berry is certainly worth splashing out for.
In Finland, cloudberry is often made into an exceptional liquor called Lakkalikööri – and you can also find cloudberry yoghurt and cakes in certain shops. Lately, the humble cloudberry has also enjoyed quite a bit of press attention, which has hailed it as one of the best berries to eat if you want to follow a Nordic Diet because of its high vitamin content.
In the UK, cloudberry jam is available in a few different brands, the best, and the one that has the highest fruit content, is the Felix version – which is also less sugary than others. Fresh cloudberries or even frozen ones are pretty much impossible to get hold of outside Scandinavia.
But even if you can’t make it to the Nordic countries to collect your own fresh berries this autumn, it is easy to sample some of the other the treasured goods from the comfort of London. Arrange a bit of a crayfish and aquavit party for a fantastic, traditional Scandinavian feast. Get hold of some of the amazing autumn berries on offer – either in fresh or jam form – and get cooking and inventing for both savoury and sweet dishes. All you need then is a good bunch of mates and an autumn evening and you’re all set. Hold off on the moose hunting, though, even after the 4th glass of aquavit when it all seems like such a good idea (even in Hackney): it’s usually not.
Three easy-peasy ways with Cloudberry:
Cloudberry Jam and Vanilla ice cream
The ultimate Swedish dessert. Get hold of some good quality vanilla ice cream and heat a few spoonfuls of cloudberry jam – pour over the ice cream just before serving. Alternatively, make it a bit more exciting by adding some crushed meringue and whipped cream and gently fold in – a sort of “Swedish Mess” (inspired by the British dessert “Eton Mess”).
Cloudberry layer cake
Three sponge layer cakes (we recommend Karen Wolf “Lagkage”, which comes in three pre-made thin layers, easy to assemble, or make your own Victoria style sponge and split to three). Pop a layer on the serving tray, add a thin layer of cloudberry jam, add a thick layer of patisserie cream. Add sponge layer 2, repeat over. Cover cake with a nice layer of whipped cream all round and on top and decorate with a light dusting of chocolate shavings. Leave to set for a bit in the fridge before serving.
Cloudberry baked cheesecake
200g ‘NICE’ biscuits or other plain biscuits – most can be used, even plain Hobnobs.
75 g melted butter
800g full fat cream cheese
180 g Caster sugar
4 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
3 tsp vanilla sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
300 ml sour cream
1 jar of cloudberry jam (use as much as you need/like to – most likely just over half a jar)
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C degrees. Grease a 23cm spring form tin. Sit the tin in foil – and wrap the foil all around the side to prevent water from seeping in (the best way to bake a cheese cake is to bake it in a bain marie).
Crush the biscuits and combine with the melted butter. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the tin.
In a mixer, put the cream cheese, 160g of the sugar, the eggs, yolks and 2 tsp vanilla sugar as well as lemon juice and mix really well. When smooth, pour over the biscuit base.
Put the cake tin, which is tightly wrapped in the foil, in a larger tin or roasting tin and pour boiling water all around it, till about half way. Bake for 1 hour exactly.
Beat the sour cream, the rest of the sugar and vanilla, pour over the cake and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Remove from oven and roasting tin (discard water). Heat the jam gently and very carefully pour/smooth it over the top of the cake (you can also do this when the cake is cold). Leave the cake alone for at least 4 hours – ideally longer – to set properly- before opening the spring form (or else the cake may well crack).
Bronte Aurell is the owner of Scandinavian Kitchen in London, a place that stocks everything you need to feel truly Scandinavian (except flat packed furniture: you’ll have to go elsewhere for that).
All recipes by ScandiKitchen
July 24, 2014 |
Need a delicious salad for lunch? Look no further. This simple salad has bags of flavour and takes only a few minutes to make.
What you need:
2 medium sized courgettes
1 small bunch of rocket (you can add a bit of baby spinach, too, if you want a more leafy salad)
50g shaved Västerbotten cheese (or mature Präst cheese if you can’t get Västerbotten).
50g flaked almonds
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Shave the courgettes into thin strips length ways – this is best done using a mandolin (the slicer, not the musical instrument) or even a flat metal cheese slicer. The strips need to be quite thin.
Add the courgette to a big bowl, add the salad leaves and mix. Then add the cheese and fold again.
Make the dressing by combining the vinegars and oil in a bowl, whisk well, season with salt and pepper. Dress the salad (you will have too much dressing, you can reserve the rest for next time).
Arrange on a serving plate, scatter with toasted almonds and serve immediately.