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Tag Archives: Sweden

Swedish Princess Cake: 7 Random Facts

August 24, 2018 | Leave a comment

7 Random Facts About Swedish Princess Cake

1. 70% of all cakes sold from Swedish pastry shops are princess cakes in some shape or forms. About half a million are sold each year. 

2. Since 2004 the last week of September has been dedicated to the cake – yep – a whole week where you can indulge (although maybe best not to, not every day!)

3. Marlene Dietrich once warned against men who don’t enjoy cake (and food in general) – she deemed them ‘lousy lovers’.

4. The cake came about in the 1930s when the home economics teacher of the three Swedish princesses published her cookbook, named ‘the Princesses’ Cookbook’. The book contained a recipe for a green cake that was their favourite and it quickly became known as the princess cake instead. 

5. Sometimes you’ll see the princess cake in different colours. Traditionalists insists that the real deal has to be green – other’s say it doesn’t matter. Some places it will be called Opera torte if it is pink, Carl Gustaf torte if it is yellow, and any other colour simply called Prince torte. We don’t mind – they’re all delicious.

6. To jam – or not to jam? We like raspberry jam in ours – but this is a fairly new addition, it seems. We also like adding fresh raspberries in season. Traditional or not – it goes so, so well with the luscious vanilla cream and sweet marzipan.

7. In 2016, someone thought it would be interesting to see what happened if you cross a princess cake with the Swedish semla – the marzipan cream bun they eat for pancake day. We tried it – it was delicious. Like a mini cake, but all to yourself. 

Recommended products

    Dr Oetker Kagecreme Vanilje – Instant Vanilla Creme 3x85g
    £3.09
    Odense Marsipanlock – Marzipan Cake Cover 200g
    £5.59
    Karen Volf Lagkagebunde – Cake Sponges 3-pack
    £2.99

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.

Recipe: Prinsesstårta – Swedish Princess Cake

August 2, 2018 | Leave a comment

Prinsesstårta - Swedish Princess Cake

By popular demand, we are now posting the princess cake recipe from Bronte’s book Fika & Hygge – with a few added hints and tips for making the perfect cake. It’s not the easiest cake in the world to make, let’s be honest. But you can do it! You just need some patience and a bit of guidance… And soon you’ll have the perfect Fika cake for your afternoon tea party – and what a beautiful centre piece it is on the table. 


The cake stems from the royal household in Sweden. Back in the 1940’s when the 3 princesses were young, the Home Economist was teaching them how to cook and bake. This cake was called Green Cake and was published in the book (The 3 Princesses’ cookbook) as The Green Cake but eventually it earned the name Princess Cake as popularity grew – for obvious reasons. 

There are a few secrets to making a good Princess cake – the first is to get the ratio right of base, cream and pastry cream and marzipan. Too much of either and it is just a bit sickly. The second thing is perfecting the marzipan – it is tricky. It may take a few attempts to be able to pull the marzipan around soft whipped cream without making a mess of it – here, patience, cold clean fingers and perseverance is key. We’ve added some cheat’s steps along the way if you want to make things easier for yourself. In fact, lots of people use a few cheat steps along the way - and we think this is perfectly fine. If you use all the cheat’s steps, you can actually whip up a princess cake in 15 minutes from start to finish – and one that still tastes good and will look great. 

The original recipe can be found in the book Fika & Hygge, by Bronte Aurell, published by Ryland Peters and Small, photography by Peter Cassidy.

Ingredients

You need:

  • 3 layer cake bases
  • 1 x portion of pastry cream around 600g
  • 600 ml whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 150 g raspberry jam
  • 200 g light green covering marzipan
  • pink and green modelling icing for flowers and leaves decorations
  • Piping bag spatula, cake stand.
  • Tip: Depending on your schedule you might find it best to make the pastry cream first so it can cool and have time to set whilst you get on with the cake layers - but this is up to you.

Layer Cake Bases

In our book we do not use baking powder – which is a genoise sponge – but if you are a little unsure add the mentioned 1 tsp baking powder and your rise is pretty much guaranteed. For more experienced bakers, try without (and you avoid the baking powder slight aftertaste and get a lighter result).

  • 25 g butter melted and set aside
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 120 g plain flour
  • optional 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract or seeds from ½ pod
  • 3 baking sheets lined with non-stick baking paper (and ideally a few puffs of non-stick spray).

Pastry Cream

  • Makes 600g gram approx.
  • 500 ml whole milk
  • 1 vanilla pod seeds scraped out
  • 1 whole egg plus one egg yolk
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 30 g cornflour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 25 g butter

Make your own marzipan:

  • 200 g finely ground almonds use ground almonds, then re-grind them a few ties to make them extra fine.
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 medium pasteurised egg white
  • Green food gel

Instructions

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C, 350F, Gas 4

  2. In a stand mixer with the whisk attached, beat the egg and sugar on high until you reach ribbon stage. This means when you can see the traces of the mixture when you most the whisk through it. It will take a good 4-5 minutes to reach this stage and it’s crucial – especially if you are not using baking powder, this is your only opportunity to get air into the mixture.
  3. Using a 20cm plate, draw 3 circles on your baking paper. Set aside.
  4. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder if using. Sift this into the egg mixture and very carefully fold to combine, using a figure of eight, until all the flour is incorporated. Be very gentle at this stage, but thorough. Pour the cooled, melted butter down the side of the bowl at the end and give a final few folds to incorporate it.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the 3 circles and gently use your spatulas to guide to the drawn edge.
  6. Bake in the oven for 5-8 minutes or until baked through and lightly browned.  Allow to cool down. To remove from the baking paper, if it sticks, wet your hands and allow to damped the underside of the baking paper, this release the cakes.
  7. Trim any edges so you end up with 3 perfectly round and even sized bases.
  8. Tip: You can use 3 x 20cm baking tins if you have.
  9. Cheat’s tip: Use ready bought layers – these from Karen Volf are brilliant. Comes with 3 layers and are ready to use. They are light and not too sweet – a really good option.

Vanilla Cream Patisserie

  1. In a saucepan, heat the milk with the vanilla seeds.
  2. In a separate bowl, using a mixer, whisk the eggs, sugar and corn flour.
  3. When the milk reaches just boiling point, take it off the heat and pour 1/3 into the egg mixture, whisking continuously.
  4. Pour the egg mixture back into the hot milk, return to the stove and bring to the boil whilst whisking. Whisk continuously as the mixture thickens and keep on boil for just under a minute (this removes the cornflour taste).
  5. Pour into a cold bowl and leave to cool and set for several hours in the fridge. To avoid a ‘crust’ forming on top, place clingfilm straight on to the cream, covering the entire surface.
  6. Cheat’s tip: Use an instant cream mix – we like this one from Dr. Oetker - just mix one sachet with 500ml whole milk, whisk for 1 minute and leave to set in the fridge. It has a nice vanilla taste and does not taste powdery – this is a great pastry cream alternative. You can also use this one for baking.

Green Marzipan Lid

  1. Here’s the admission: I usually buy green marzipan. Why? Because it’s easy and smooth and it’s ready to use. You can get one that fits a 20-cm cake here – Odense Green Marzipan Lid.

    Buy a covering marzipan from the supermarket and colour it green (should be minimum 25% almonds). To colour the marzipan, you must use a gel colour NOT a liquid green food colouring. If you use a green liquid colour, your marzipan will get sticky and hard to work with - and you will have to add a lot of extra icing sugar to make it workable.

  2. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until you have a smooth marzipan. Roll the mixture into a ball and wrap tightly with cling film. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before using.
  3. Because this marzipan contains egg white, use within a day.

Recommended Products

    Dr Oetker Kagecreme Vanilje – Instant Vanilla Creme 3x85g
    £3.09
    Odense Marsipanlock – Marzipan Cake Cover 200g
    £5.59
    Karen Volf Lagkagebunde – Cake Sponges 3-pack
    £2.99

The Only Aquavit Song You Need

June 21, 2018 | Leave a comment

Lyrics – ‘Helan Går’ Aquavit Song

Because when Swedes party, they party with drinking songs. Aquavit songs, specifically. This is a popular one – we have included the original lyrics as well as the phonetic English ones (ie. how it sounds).

Helan går

Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lej
Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lej
Och den som inte helan tar*
Han heller inte halvan får
Helan går
(Drink)
Sjung hopp faderallan lej

Phonetic version – sing as you read it:

Hell and gore, Chung hop father Allan ley
Hell and gore, Chung hop father Allan ley
Oh handsome in the hell and tar
and hell are in the half and four
Hell and gore, Chung hop father Allan ley


Skål!

Things Scandinavians obsess about

June 20, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

Things Scandinavians obsess about

We have our little ways and our ways are not to be changed. Sometimes, we may even get a bit obsessive.

Having set days for things
– Taco Friday – it’s a thing
– Cosy Crisp Friday evening – it’s a thing
– Saturday sweets – it’s a thing.

If it can be assigned a day, it can work in Scandinavia. You are no longer allowed to do that thing on other days, because, well, rules.

Obsession rating: 7/10

Coffee

It keeps us awake for six months of the year – and it makes us happy the other six. We drink more of it than anyone else in the whole world. We’re wired at all times.

In recent years, we’ve started to drink fancy coffee too – and not just at home. A latte in Denmark is pronounced ‘Laddie’ and costs the same as a small boat. In Sweden, it’s known as a Latt-tè and always said with a grimace, caffeinated smile.

Obsession rating 10/10

How the cheese is sliced

Use a slicer like a proper Scandinavian. Steel planer for hard cheese, plastic for softer cheese – and a string slicer for softer, Danish style cheeses. Under no circumstances may you 1) cut the nose off the cheese 2) make a hill or ski slope 3) Grate from an odd angle.

Obsession rating: 8/10

Getting fresh air

“No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” – for this reason, you must be one with nature at least once a day. Frisk Luft means fresh air. Rain, shine, snow, hurricane…

If you are Norwegian, you add a ‘tur’ – a long walk – usually on Sundays. With no destination or purpose other than the walk itself (bring a thermo flask of strong coffee and wear an all-weather coat).

Obsession rating: 7/10 (Norway 10/10)

Shoes

Do not wear shoes indoors. No. Do not.

Obsession rating 8/10

Butter knives

Thou shalt never use your own knife in the butter. Thou shalt use the butter knife, usually carved out of wood.

Obsession rating 9/10 (you’ll get the disapproval eye if you don’t)

“Tak for sidst”

We may not have an actual word for please, but being polite is essential. Seeing someone after you went for dinner at their house last week? You say ‘Tak for sidst/senast’ (Thanks for last time). Bumping into Kalle and Frida 3 months after spending New Years with them? Tak for sidst. There is no expiration date of saying ‘thanks for last time’, except you only say it once (best keep scores).

Obsession rating 8/10 (for the older generation).

Flags

If you can add a flag, add a flag. Have a flag pole in your garden. Put cocktail flags on your food. Flags are essential.

Obsession rating: 5/10 (rising to 10/10 on any national days or event)

Never being cold

Even if it is -20c outside, thou shalt never be cold. So, keep the indoor temperature at a steady 24c at all times and walk around in your long johns. See also: Under floor heating obsessions and winter clothes that is essentially like covering your body in 15 tog duvets.

Obsession rating: 8/10

Time keeping

Why agree a time if you’re not going to stick to it? Scandinavians are always on time.

Dinner at 7 pm means turn up at 7 pm, be seated by 7:05pm. Turn up late, you miss out on the starter.

Obsession rating: 9/10

Thou shalt eat meatballs once a week.

Obsession rating 2/10 (when in Scandinavia)
Obsession rating 8/10 (When living outside Scandinavia – on Saturdays, stray Swedes can be found in ikea’s the world over, crying with joy)

Queues

If one person must suffer, we will all suffer. Therefore, queues must be ordered. Grab a ticket on your way in to the bakery/car hire place/pharmacy/hardware store and eventually, your number will be called. Fair is fair. No ticket, no service.

This is especially applicable in Sweden, where fairness and lagom rules all.

(Also, never talk to anyone in a queue, ever).

Obsession rating: 6/10

Crisp-dipping

Take some magic powder (made by elves; it’s called dip-mix). Mix with sour cream or similar. Leave it to develop the flavours for 20 minutes in the fridge. Empty your massive 200g crisp bag into a bowl on the table and proceed to dip each individual crisp in the dip before eating it.

Best flavours: Anything that adds extra dill flavour or has exotic sounding names such as ‘holiday flavour’ (no, it does not taste like your holiday to Malaga)

Obsession rating 7/10

Salty liquorice

The salty black stuff. You might not like it, but it’s elixir of life to us. Once we realise we can’t get it (i.e. when we are outside Scandinavia), it becomes a food group all on its own and we must have some on our person at all times.

Obsession rating: 7/10

Hygge

At any given opportunity, Scandinavians will mention the hygge/koseligt/mysigt. Because when you mention that we’re going to have a hyggelig time, you increase the chances of it happening.

Pick up your ipad/phone during the event and you’re out.

Obsession rating 9/10

Candles

Think about it: Ikea has an entire hall dedicated to candles and candle paraphernalia.

It’s dark for six months, we need to try and increase the hygge feelings while we hibernate in our wooden huts. A space is not a hyggeligt home unless it is lit by a million candles. Real candles only: they are not scented (and only buy candles that contain stearin or you can’t be a real Scandi)

Obsession rating: 10/10

Singing little songs

Every time we drink aquavit, songs must be sung. And in Denmark, every time someone has a big birthday or wedding or anniversary (aquavit or not), random Danish home penned lyrics will be put over the tunes of ‘My Bonnie is over the ocean’ and sung by all people present in the room.

Obsession rating: 5/10

The weather

Think the British are obsessed about the weather? Most Scandinavians have a thermometer in each room – measuring both inside and out. Also, most Scandi people know the only weather app that matters is YR.NO.

Obsession rating: 6/10

Fairness

Everyone is equal. We pay into the system so we can all aim to get the same out of the system. You have more, you pay more. You have less, you get more. Men and women getting shared parental leave. Everyone driving the same cars. Fair is fair and equal is equal. For the greater good of the whole group. Lagom and amen.

Obsession rating: 8/10

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)

‘Små Grodorna’ song – Midsummer

June 18, 2018 | Leave a comment

picture credit: talldungen.se

 


 

Dance like a frog and celebrate Swedish midsummer

No, we don’t know why either – but dancing around the beautiful midsummer pole like little frogs is a thing. There is no escaping it, when you celebrate Swedish midsummer, you dance around pretending to be a frog. So there. You might as well embrace it and learn the lyrics! First, the Swedish – second a commonly used (well…commonly is relative) English version.

 

Swedish:

Små grodorna, små grodorna är lustiga att se.
Små grodorna, små grodorna är lustiga att se.
Ej öron, ej öron, ej svansar hava de.
Ej öron, ej öron, ej svansar hava de.
Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,
kou ack ack ack ack kaa.
Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,
kou ack ack ack ack kaa.

 


 

English:

The little frogs, the little frogs are funny to observe.
The little frogs, the little frogs are funny to observe.
No ears, no ears, no tails do they possess.
No ears, no ears, no tails do they possess.
Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,
kou ack ack ack ack kaa.
Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,
kou ack ack ack ack kaa.

 

Happy Midsummer!

Celebrating? Check out our ready to go Picnic box to bring to the park – or our huge selection of Swedish midsummer foods from herring and aquavit to meatballs and cinnamon buns.

Lyrics found all over the internet – we are merely repeating them from wikipedia which has lots of translations should you want them.

How to do a Scandi Midsummer at Home

June 12, 2018 | Leave a comment

How to do a Scandi Midsummer at Home

Midsummer is one of the most important days in the Nordic calendar – especially for the Swedes where it is a huge holiday (and hangover).

Here’s a guide on how to make your own Swedish Midsummer Buffet and celebrations at home.

When to celebrate

Swedes always move Midsummer to the nearest Friday for Summer Solistice. This year that means Friday 22nd June. This day is a holiday in Sweden and everybody will be out all day celebrating in the sunshine (read: rain). When celebrating abroad, most move it to the Saturday (23rd June in 2018) so we can benefit from a full day of sitting outside, hoping it will not rain.

How to set the scene

Flowers and green stuff. Everywhere. Outside is preferable – in a park, in your garden, by a lake or even on your balcony if you have no outside space. Midsummer is all about the outdoors.

What to wear

Something light in colour, flowers in your hair. Real flower garlands are a must for all! Be at one with nature (avoid walking around naked – that’s too much. Especially before the first bottle of aquavit has been opened).

What to eat

Make a Smörgåsbord buffet or a picnic (Smörgåsbord just means ‘laid out table – a buffet). Both will contain the same sort of foods. We have added ** for things that are essential – the other stuff are fillers: add as many as you fancy or have time to do.

• Pickled herring** (Mustard herring and Matjes Herring are two solid choices). Recipe for Mustard herring is here or get it ready to serve here. Arrange in bowls, decorate with onions rings on top and dill sprigs.

• Gubbröra – boiled egg with pickled sprats. Eat with crispbread. Find the recipe in our first cookbook.

• Gravad Lax cured salmon and Dill & Mustard Sauce ** (goes well with rye bread)

Västerbotten Quiche – a beautiful Swedish cheese pie, perfect eaten cold. Top with caviar sauce (red lumpfish roe mixed with a few large spoonsfuls of crème fraiche or sour cream). If you can’t be bothered to make the quiche, just serve the cheese on its own with a dollop of cloudberry jam. Or, like us – do both! Cheese pie with a side of cheese.

• New potatoes ** – Cook and cool down, dress with melted butter and fresh dill. When you serve them, you do so with a bowl of what Swedes call Gräddfill on the side – it’s similar to crème fraiche – but lighter. You can get the exact same thing by mixing half natural yoghurt and half crème fraiche (or simply buy your gräddfill from us here). Add lots of chopped chives with the gräddfill, too – essential. A great match for Matjes herring. Here is a recipe for a simple potato and dill salad.

• Swedish Meatballs**. Well, you didn’t think you could avoid meatballs, did you? You can find a recipe on how to make your own here. We stock some really delicious ones, too – very meaty and with just the right spice from a slow food producer called Per I Viken (budget 2-3 meatballs per person of these – they are quite filling). If you use the smaller supermarket variety, budget about 120g per person.

• Beetroot Salad** It wouldn’t be Midsummer without a good beetroot salad. You can find a recipe here – or get your hands on our own version here. If you pop by the café, we’ll usually be able to sell some of our homemade salad to you by the kilo, also, if you ask nicely.

• Extra salads – if you fancy making a more elaborate spread, try the Courgette & Västerbotten salad here or the Curried cauliflower with rye grain for something different? Or even a nice fresh kale salad with apple here – or how about a lovely slaw?

• This Beetroot Tart is a fab veggie option that both tastes and looks stunning.

• Bread **. Make a bread basket of lovely crispbread, rye bread and crusty bread so there is something for everyone.

• Cheeses – if you want to add a cheese selection, we recommend Västerbotten (truly a phenomenal cheese, especially with Cloudberry jam on top), and then an Åseda – a mild, super creamy cheese that everyone loves. You can also perhaps add a bit of Danish cheese – the Riberhus with caraway is lovely and has a good bite to it. Don’t forget you need cheese slicers.

• Dessert has to incorporate strawberries** – that’s the law. The more strawberries the better. In Sweden, most people will make a strawberry layer cake – 3 sponge or genoise sponge layers, with half pastry cream half whipped cream in the middle. Add chopped strawberries in side in the layers, and cover the whole thing in more strawberries. An easier option of Strawberries and cream also works! Here’s the cheat’s version for the cake and the full recipe.

What to drink

Aquavit** is needed for your cheering and singing – for Midsummer, the delicious light Elderflower aquavit is great (Hallands Fläder) or try the most traditional OP Andersson. Serve slightly chilled in shot glasses. Be warned, it gets you drunk from the waist down.

Here’s a link to the songs you need to know for the aquavit cheering:

Aquavit Songs (Snapsvisor) for Midsummer

Also, serve nice beers (God Lager, Tuborg, Lapin Kulta etc) – and wine, if preferred, but this is less traditional (and doesn’t work so well with aquavit, so do be careful of who you’re playing footsie with under the table).

A nice non-alcoholic drink is Elderflower or Lingonberry Cordial – great both with still and sparkling water.

How to arrange the table and buffet if you’re having the party at home and not in a park:

If arranging on a separate Smörgåsbord buffet table (recommended for 10 people or more), always arrange the fish at one end, starting with the herring, followed by any other fish dishes. Follow it with cold meats, then warm meats, side dishes and finally bread and butter. Cheese can be placed by the bread section or served separately at the end as a cheese board. Dessert is not usually brought out until the main smörgåsbord has been eaten.

Always start with herring and a shot of aquavit (butter some rye bread or crisp bread, add a few slices of herring on top, eat with a knife and fork, drink a shot of aquavit, and everybody cheers together). After a few sing songs, tuck into the rest of the meal.

Glad Midsommar!

PS if you’re still in doubt on what to do, here’s a Midsummer for Dummies guide:

Easy Västerbotten Cheese Quiche

June 7, 2018 | Leave a comment

Easy Västerbotten Cheese Quiche

A great side dish for a crayfish party – this traditional cheese tart is really lovely served with caviar dressing.

For the pastry:
125g cold butter
200g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg (plus water, if needed – add a few drops if dough is not coming together)

For the filling:
250g Västerbotten cheese, grated
3 eggs
100ml whole milk
250ml double cream
½ tsp paprika, salt and pepper

You’ll need a tart tin (25-28cm diameter) with a loose base.

Method:

  1. Blitz your pastry ingredients in a food processor (egg and water at the end only) to form a dough, then leave to chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
  2. Heat the oven to 180°C.
  3. Roll out the chilled dough and line the pastry tin. Prick the base with a fork and blind bake using baking beans for 10-12 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further 5-6 minutes.
  4. For the filling, mix together everything except the Västerbotten cheese.
  5. Scatter the cheese on the base of the pastry, evenly all over – then pour over the egg mixture.
  6. Return it to the oven for about 15-20 minutes. It’ll puff up quite a bit towards the end, but will turn golden on top. It’s done when it is ‘set’ so do keep an eye on it.

Leave it to cool before slicing. Serve cold or lukewarm.

Västerbottenpaj goes well with romsås, a caviar sauce. Alternatively, if you can get real bleak roe (Löjrom), serve the tart with a spoonful of this, some crème fraîche and finely chopped red onion.

Romsås Caivar Sauce:

In a bowl, mix together 3 large tbsp. crème fraiche and one jar of red lumpfish roe (80g). Leave to set in the fridge, then stir again just before serving.

    Norrmejerier Vasterbottensost – Gourmet Piece 165g
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    Norrmejerier Västerbottensost – Mature Cheese 33% 450g
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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.

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