At our cafe, people used to ask for banana bread a lot. As it’s not a really traditional Scandinavian thing, we wanted to make it our own with a ‘Scandi’ twist. So, we created this version with added rye flour to make it more wholesome. We like to serve it with a delicious cinnamon butter that just melts on slices of this loaf when toasted.
Famous all over Scandinavia but especially in Denmark, open sandwiches has long been a staple of our diet and way of eating.
But what IS an open sandwich and why is it called an open sandwich when it isn’t actually a sandwich?
Let’s go back a bit…
A piece of bread was, way back in time, used as a plate. It was simple: Add the bread, then something on top and you had a meal. Usually stale bread was used – called Trenchers. Still today, bread with toppings are parts of many food cultures (Tartines in France, some of the pinxchos in Basque, and popular from Czech to the Baltics. In the UK, however, open sandwiches were never as popular, as softer white bread was used in favour of the darker, more wholesome breads – and, well, The Two sliced Sandwich gets its name from the 4th Earl of Sandwich whom, in the 18th Century, is reported to have ordered meat and bread in this way, as it allowed him to keep playing cards and eat his ‘sandwich’ at the same time without the use of a fork. In 2006, in the US, there was even a court case, concluding that ‘a sandwich has to be between two slices of bread’.
Well, why do we Scandinavians call them Open Sandwiches, then? Eh, we don’t. We call them Buttered Bread (Smørrebrød). You’re the ones who call them sandwiches. Anyway, we digress from the history lesson…
While open sandwiches are common place in Norway and Sweden, it is in Denmark where the whole thing really took off and became a showcase for the food culture. Nowadays, considered one of our national dishes.
During the 1800’s, suddenly, people started to decorate the slices of bread – rather than simple use them as a plate and quick fix bit of food. It became the fashion, even, and people would gather to eat grand creations in new Smørrebrød shops and cafes.
The Danish Smørrebrød falls into 3 categories:
1. Party Smørrebrød – elaborately decorated, lots of different toppings and spices and colours. This is the stuff you get in fancy Smørrebrød places, usually – or at parties. Usually, you eat just one or two, as they are quite large (and expensive – around £7-9 per piece is not unusual). Always eaten w knife and fork. There is a restaurant in Copenhagen famous for offering over 160 different options! 2. Homely Smørrebrød – served for Christmas, Easter and other high seasons. Still pretty, but you may get a few different kinds as they are smaller. Again, a knife and fork job. Never the hand. 3. Lunch Smørrebrød – quick slice of rye bread with pate and maybe some gherkins – or similar really simple toppings. These are eaten with the hand, can be put in a lunch box and made in a jiffy. These are known as Madder (‘foods’), Håndmadder (‘hand food’), Klapsammen madder (if they have bread on top).
At ScandiKitchen Café,we decided early on that we never wanted to be fancy – we simply wanted to make open sandwiches we wanted to eat. Not too fussy, but still pretty and full of flavour. So, ours are sort of a bit like the Homely Smørrebrød – and our selection is priced simply: Every one is £3, two for £5.50 and add a side salad to that and it’s £7. We do deals on more sandwiches, too, for the extra hungry. During weekdays we usually have around 12-13 different kinds, more on weekends when we make speciality traditional ones, too.
Rules? What rules?
Scandinavians love rules, so don’t be surprised: Smørrebrød has rules. Especially the Danish kind. Lots of ‘this goes, this does not’ so we thought we better tell you the basics:
1. Pickled herring is always first.
Herring is strong in flavour. It also easily soaks the bread in brine, which is not nice. Serve the herring on its own plate, as a starter to the rest of them. A shot of lovely Aquavit is usually enjoyed alongside it.
Some of the more popular choices are:
KarrySild – curried herring (its better than it sounds!) – on buttered dark rye bread with maybe half a boiled egg and some chives.
Marineret sild Onion herring – plain, just with dark rye bread and onion rings
Senapssill Mustard herring – a Swedish choice, usually served with crispbread in Sweden but Danes will always say that herring goes with dark rye bread.
We all agree it never, ever goes with white bread of any kind.
2. Other fish
After the herring, other fish follows. Prawn is an obvious choice. Its easy to make it look pretty, too!
If you serve it with boiled egg, in Denmark, it would go on rye bread. In Sweden, this is usually on white bread and is called Räkmacka (usually a big sandwich, a meal it itself – often eaten on the ferry on the way to Denmark, for some reason!).
A lovely way to make Prawn and Egg on Rye bread is a slice of dark rye bread, buttered – then top with 1 sliced egg, then a bit of mayonnaise and then as many prawns as you fancy. We serve this at the café, topped with lots of cress and lemon zest. It’s a best seller. Always use good prawns (we favour prawns in brine).
Smoked salmon – usually served on white bread. The same with gravad lax (cured salmon) – although the latter can also go on dark rye bread.
We like to add a bit of avocado now and then – and use different rye breads, such as the Finn Toast.
3. What about meats?
In Denmark, most places will display a rare roast beef piece of Smørrebrød – and truth be told, it doesn’t get much better than that! To make this, all you need is buttered dark rye bread, some lettuce and then arrange about 40g of thinly sliced rare roast beef on top. On this, add a good dollop of Remoulade – a famous Danish dressing, it works so well with beef. Top with pickles, tomato and grated horseradish and maybe some crispy onions. Simply stunning and amazing to eat.
Other toppings include:
Liverpate with pickles, mushrooms and bacon (dark rye)
Meatballs with red cabbage (dark rye)
Swedish Meatballs with Beetroot salad (crusty bread)
Ham & Asparagus Salad (dark rye)
Chicken & Bacon
And many more….
4. Open sandwiches are great for veggies, too. And Vegans.
Most rye bread tends to be dairy free, so it makes a great base for vegan open sandwiches too. Okay, not too many traditional vegan recipes, granted, but only your imagination stops you here.
Great veggie options:
Egg Salad –people often ask us what makes a great egg salad (Egg Mayo) – we say Good eggs, great mayonnaise, red onion, lots of chives and some mustard. Simply add to rye bread – yes, dark rye for egg.
Avocado and Tomato salsa – a simple Vegan option.
Sliced cheeses with jam or onion pickles
No-nos for Open Sandwiches / Smørrebrød:
• Do not eat with your hands. Unless your open sandwich is really simple, it is likely that you will be expected to eat it using cutlery and a plate. It is not an ‘on the go’ food.
• There are no Smørrebrød that have ketchup on them (that we know if)
• Don’t add a top piece of bread
• Don’t mix your proteins unless its traditional (no ham on the meatballs etc).
Good for you
Look. we do like to add mayo and other condiments on to the open sandwiches, but by and large, they are not that bad for you seeing as they are mostly made on dark rye bread.
On top of this, you are forced to take a break and sit down to eat and enjoy your open sandwiches – you will not be able to shove an open sandwich into your gob as you are waiting on the tube. Eating slowly and taking a break, well, it is good for you, too.
On top of that, open sandwiches and topless. They have everything on show – there is no hiding behind bad ingredients or any nasties: You can see what is on there. Pretty much a win-win-win in our opinions!
More open sandwich recipes to follow over the next few days.
Love, The Kitchen People x
Ps our lunch of open sandwiches is served 7 days a week from our London cafe. The nearest tube stop is Oxford Circus. We get really busy, but the best time to get there is noon – when you have the biggest selection. Just saying…
Aside from the lovely leg of lamb or delicious fish dish that mamma normally dishes up, your pick and mix filled Easter egg and the stale marzipan that invariably ends up on the table, there are some foods that we love eating and making at Easter – some you can enjoy as part of your Easter brunch, others that are perfect for a relaxed afternoon fika or to enjoy when hiking.
Waffles – Waffle day is a wonderful day to celebrate. Not an actual part of Easter – but the day being the 25th of March, it always close to Easter so we include them here. Have them the traditional way, with jam (and brown cheese if you like) or with whipped cream and berries – or try something a little more adventurous, egg & bacon waffle for brunch maybe? Here are some more waffle-varieties to try.
(The origins of the day are somewhat obscure – but several sources say it started in Sweden as ‘Vår frue-dagen’, meaning ‘our lady (mother Mary from the bible, that is). Somewhere along the line this was turned into ‘våffeldagen’ due to its linguistic similarities – and today the religious background is lost to most people. But there you go – waffle day started as a day to celebrate the conception of Jesus. Now you know.)
Buns. Frankly, every season is bun season in Scandinavia, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great. In Norway you will often find a type called ‘solskinnsboller’ – sunshine buns – this time of year, to mark the return of the sun. Sunshine buns are essentially cinnamon buns with an added vanilla custard cream centre (although the same name can be used for other buns too – it varies regionally). So. Good. Recipe here.
Jansson’s Temptation – the Swedish dish with the wonderful name. Swedes love naming dishes after people (Biff a la lindstrom, flying Jacob, Wallenbergare..). Jansson’s temptation is a potato gratin with added ‘Ansjovis’ – sprats cured in a spiced brine. Truly delicious and goes really well with lamb. It is also common in Finland, where they call it ‘Janssoninkiusaus’. Try our recipe here.
Meatballs. Our old friends. As Scandi as they come and with regional varieties, these seem to sneak their way onto every celebration worth it’s ink in your calendar – especially in Sweden. Meatballs are always, always popular – and can be eaten both hot and cold. You can make your own or get them ready made.
Photo credit: Peter Cassidy for Ryland Peters & Small
Herring is a must in Scandinavia – especially with the slightly older generation – and you can either make your own or just get your favourites from the shop. Serve with good rye bread and perhaps some aquavit. New to herring? This one with dill, this one with mustard sauce or this one with curry (yes curry!) is lovely.
Kvikk Lunsj and oranges or Solo. Yes, it is a bit of a stereotype – but that doesn’t make it any less true. Norwegians eat Kvikk Lunsj when they go skiing or hiking over Easter, that is just the way it is. Often an orange too, because, you know – balance.
Kexchoklad. Slightly less set in stone than the aformentioned Kvikk Lunsj, but all the same kex choklad is associated with being outside and being active – and Easter is the perfect time do just that. Get outside, move, then chill in the sun with your choccy bar.
Easter smorgåsbord. There is no escaping it, a classic smorgåsbord is the thing to do in Scandinavia. A big table loaded with pickled herring, salmon, eggs in various forms, hams or meat dishes, veggie side dishes and plenty of good rye bread or lighter bread. Be prepared to sit for hours. If you don’t fancy going full Scandi you could always try just adding elements or adopting the idea – sitting down with a table full of of foods (and some token Franken-chicks for decoration) and friends is what matters most.
In Sweden, the children dress up as little Easter Witches on Easter Sunday and go door to door, asking for sweets and treats.
Norwegians are obsessed with reading who-dunnit-crime novels at Easter – sales triple all over Norway in the run up to the holidays. Norwegians like to go to their hytter (cabins) for Easter – and there, they read crime novels when they are not skiing. So obsessed are they there are even little crime stories printed on milk cartons over Easter so they never have to stop reading. Solving crime over breakfast? So very Norwegian, it seems.
Scandinavian Easter Egg traditions are people buying an empty cardboard shell and filling it with their favourite sweets, rather than just a huge chocolate egg. We like a mix of everything – sweet, sour, salty, liquorice, chocolate, marshmallow, and perhaps and extra Kvikk Lunsj, Kexchoklad or marzipan eggs for good measure.
The Easter lunch is usually a huge Smorgasbord (with various regional variations and names). There will be pickled herring, every sandwich topping your mother and grandmother combined can think of, and lots of egg things. Maybe dyed, maybe scrambled, fried or boiled.
Picture: TT via dn.se
Easter in Scandinavia is called Påsk (Sweden), Påske (Denmark, Norway). An Easter egg is known as a Påskägg / påskeæg / påskeegg – and is gifted on Easter morning. We also like decorating with little chickens – usually slightly deformed with a leg out their head or an eye on their bum. They are, of course, called ‘påsk-kycklinger’ / ‘påskekyllinger’ – Easter chickens.
You’ll see many places with decorated twigs – feathers and other types of decorations, depending on area. This is a Påskris – Easter Twigs – to signify Christ’s suffering – originally used to lash out at people as a tease – and in some areas, get people out of bed on Good Friday morning. Nowadays, used mainly as decorations.
Easter is the absolute last time you will see Semlor anywhere in Sweden. Most of these lovely luscious Lent buns are already gone at this time of the year, but for those still clinging on, Easter marks the final hurrah, signalising the end of the season. No more semlor until next year.
Of all the things to come out of Norway (brown cheese, knitted jumpers, a dabbing prince), these 'Solskinnsboller' buns must be amongst the tastiest. Don't need another bun recipe? Listen. We think you do. These are named sunshine buns because they have the same effect - they make you happy. Buttery, soft cinnamon swirls with a gooey vanilla custard centre. Cinnamon buns = good. Custard = good. These buns? Criminal.
In a medium size saucepan, heat the milk until steaming (do not let it boil). Remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, corn flour, sugar and vanilla until a thick paste. Whilst whisking, pour a little of the hot milk into the egg/sugar mixture until combined. Continue adding the hot milk slowly until everything is combined. Return to the saucepan and let simmer over medium heat until thickened - whisk continuously to avoid lumps forming. Once thickened (you should be able to make soft blobs that don't disappear immediately - it will thicken more when it cools) pour into a bowl and place clingfilm directly onto the top of the custard. This avoids a skin forming. Leave to cool completely - the fridge quickens this step.
Assembling the buns:
Make you cinnamon buns as normal and leave under a tea towel for 25-30 mins to rise a bit more. Place your creme patisserie in a piping bag or plastic bag.
Now, you need to make an indent in each bun to fit the creme pat in - press down in the middle with your finger (or something measuring about 2cm diameter) until you have even indents in every bun. Pipe a small amount of custard into each hollow. Don't be tempted to use too much - it will just get messy (but still tasty). 1-2 tsp should be enough.
Bake at 220 degrees celsius for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Västerbottensost våflor med spenatSoon, it will be time for the annual Waffle Day (25th March) - this is one of the recipes we'll be serving in the cafe next week to celebrate.We make these waffles on cold days when the rain and sleet forces us to cosy up inside. This is the perfect low-effort snack – just throw everything together and cook in the waffle iron. Some of us love adding crispy pancetta/bacon pieces to this – but you can keep it veggie, too.
Ask any Norwegian and they will tell you that brown cheese – also known as Brunost or Geitost – is the most popular cheese in the whole of Norway.
Brown, you may ask, why is it brown? Well, it is brown because the milk has been allowed to boil, thus caramelizing the milk sugars and turning the cheese a darker, caramel colour. Yes, it is a goats cheese with caramel flavour. We know, it sounds strange, but truly, it’s pretty awesome (unless you are part of the anti-brown cheese people – it is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it).
We stock a few different kinds. The main one is called Gudbrandsdalen and is made with half goat’s milk and half cow’s milk. You can also get the blue one called Ekte Geitost (Real Goat’s Cheese) which is made with 100% goats milk and has a stronger taste.
Brunost brown cheese is eaten sliced on bread. Often, it is also served sliced on top of freshly baked waffles. Can also be added sliced to cardamom buns or lefse wraps.
We wanted to try and find other uses for it, so we have had a play around with it and we decided – after mucho testing – that Brunost Mac’n’Cheese is the bees knees and we’ll be making this from now on – find the recipe below.
You can also use left over bits of brown cheese in your gravy – just add a few lumps and leave to melt, it is super nice as it has a very umami flavour.
Brown cheese can also be cooked up with condensed milk to make a lovely umami dulce de leche that works very well with apple cakes and pies. Lastly, in Norway, cafes are now selling Brown Cheese Ice cream, too. Plenty of things to try out.
Melt the butter in a saucepan – and keep it going until it turns light brown, then add the flour and stir. Start adding the milk, bit by bit, whilst whisking. You may not need all the milk – you want a thick sauce, but not runny. Keep bringing to the boil to assess.
When the sauce is done, turn off the heat and stir in the cheddar and 30g of the brown cheese and combine until melted. Add the mustard, salt and pepper and taste – it will be quite sweet, so you need to add some vinegar, try 2 tbsp first and then if more is needed, add.
Add the pasta to the sauce and stir, then add to an oven proof bowl. Scatter the rest of the brown cheese on top and then add a thin layer of breadcrumb. Place in a hot oven for around 10-15 minutes until the top is crispy and bubbling and the brown cheese has melted.
Things that happen when you live with a Scandinavian
Maybe you’ve already moved in and you’re Googling “strange things that happen when you live with a Scandinavian” – don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place for answers. Or maybe you’re thinking “Should I start sharing my home with Agneta or Henrik?” Here, we give you a heads up what things might be like in your home, if you choose to go ahead. You’ve been warned.
They make you leave your shoes in the hallway.
Everything off in the hallway – and on with a nice pair of slippers. It’s a hygiene thing (although in Denmark you can sometimes get away with it). In Sweden, they’ll make you ask your guests to take their shoes off, too. This is how it will be from now on.
Announce when it is pee-pee time
“I think I’ll go for a pee now” will become a staple sentence. Eventually, you’ll start to adopt this habit too and find yourself doing it during a meeting at your fancy non-Scandinavian office.
The heating is maxed
Despite what people think, Scandinavians hate to be cold. Your house will now be a comfortable 23-24 degrees all year around. Any less and there will be complaints.
Also, you will air the room before bed. Yes, open bedroom windows, even at minus 20c.
Re-decorating & furniture
Living with a Scandi, decorating is easy: There is only one colour to choose from (white). This colour is also applied to skirting, radiators, ceilings and floorboards. Also you probably won’t need curtains any more (at least if you live with a Dane). If you don’t have a sofa table, one will appear within a week of the move because not having a sofa table in unheard of (where will we put our coffee?!)
Also, you no longer need carpets: Start your goodbyes now.
No more nick-nacks
One by one, those little cute things you own will be replaced by stylish candle holders and sleek things. No more souvenirs from Tenerife, no more ornate fireplace clocks. Eventually, you’ll find them all in a box in the attic. Good bye.
Is it a cult?
They burn day and evenings, sometimes entire packets of tealight in one room. Don’t fear, this is not a cult; it’s just cosy. Also, you may find that 4-5 small lamps are added to each room. Because, hygge.
Your double duvet is replaced by two single ones.
This is not a declaration that the love is dead, merely that nobody will steal your duvet again and you will keep your cold feet to yourself. And wait for an invite. THIS is true love.
Specialist equipment starts to appear in your kitchen:
Exhibit 1: OSTHYVEL
For slicing cheese. What is important to know is 1) You must NEVER make a ski slope and 2) you will never again be allowed to hack away at the cheddar with a blunt knife. Ever.
Exhibit 2: Filter Coffee Machine
Scandinavians drink more coffee than anyone else in the world. If you live with an ultra Scandi, you’ll have a MochaMaster (these brew the fastest). But any filter machine works. From now on, your coffee will be so strong you’ll be awake 19 hours a day. Coffee before bedtime (around 9 pm) becomes normal. Milk in coffee is for wimps.
Exhibit 3: Smörkniv
For butter. Never use your own, only use the designated knife for butter.
Look, it’s a body. It’s not anything Scandinavians think is sexual: It’s skin. We don’t care. There will be nakedness. If there is a sauna, there will be nakedness there, too. You may sit next to your new Father in Law, naked. On a small flannel. Get used to it and let it all hang out.
You will have sandwiches for breakfast. And probably sour milk. But definitely sandwiches – with cheese – and jam. Together. And coffee, a lot of coffee. There will be crispy bread – and it will re-appear at lunch. And for snacks. It never, ever ends.
Dinner is at 6
Dinner is at 6. Not 6:05, but 6 pm. Except, when you invite people over, the invite might be for 6, so therefore people must arrive at 6 pm. By 6:05 food is served. DO NOT BE LATE. for anything, ever again.
Before you eat, say ‘Velbekomme’. When you’ve finished your food, say ‘Takk for maten’ (thanks for dinner). Fail on this and you will sleep with the fishes. Also, shots of 40% alcohol with some meals will eventually become the normal (always look people in the eye when you say ‘skål’, or you’re just rude.)
Fridays will become cosy Fridays. You will start to share big bags of crisps (dip each chip in dip mix). There will be darkness, 117 candles and Nordic Noir. After a while, they will start to add the dreaded….
Because: Tacos are Scandinavian, everyone knows that. Tacos = burritos, nachos, quesadillas, enchilada, chimichanga… It’s all just Tacos. All of it. But only on Fridays.
Don’t be surprise if you after a while of living with a Scandinavian you start to consume around 550 grams of sweets every Saturday (the average). Only uncivilised people eat sweets the other six days).
Also, salty liquorice.
It’s normal. You WILL like it eventually, don’t fight it, we’re only doing it for your own good, you know… Go on, just try this little Jungle Scream, it’s not too bad…
Weekend: Hiking days
The weekends will become 48h opportunities to get outside. Seeing as there is ‘No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”, every weekend will be a selection of hikes, walks, runs, bikes etc. Outside, with your backpack and your “all weather jacket”. If your chosen Scandinavian is a Norwegian, he or she will make sure to pack an Orange and a bar of Kvikklunsj chocolate.
Any snow and you will hear the words: “Snow? Really? You think this is snow? When I lived in Denmark/Norway/Sweden/Finland…. “ etc.
Mid-May is Eurovision
You can try to fight it, but at some point, your Scandinavian will be found in front of the telly, Pina Colada in hand, with a score sheet and dismay when Sweden doesn’t give Denmark 12 points as planned.
Flags are now for every occasion, but only on occasions. Birthdays = flags. Flags in cakes. Flags on sandwiches. Picking up someone at the airport = flags. Eurovision = flags. Midsummer = flags. National day = flags.
Everything. Always: Rinse and recycle. You will start to make trips to the recycling stations together. Awww.
You may start to see strange things in tubes appear in the fridge. Or things that look like plasticine. You will start to add remoulade on every meal once the Danes are done with you.
What other things do you think might happen when you live with a Scandinavian? Add your comments below!
PSST: Want to surprise your sweetheart with the aforementioned salty liquorice or dreaded things in tubes (you may earn yourself an extra cosy Friday)?Pop by or visit ourwebshop if you can’t make it in.