Whilst we love taking our time baking and being in the kitchen, we don't always have the time to do everything from scratch - and that is just fine. To make your own rye bread you can take a few shortcuts - our favourite one is using a ready bread mix. Just add water and yeast, leave to rise then bake. Very easy - very yummy.
20gfresh yeastor equivalent of dry yeast usually one sachet 7g - but follow manufacturers guidance.
850-900mllukewarm water36-41 degrees Celsius
1bread tinapprox 2 1/2 litres big
In a big baking bowl, dissolve yeast into lukewarm water (if using dry yeast, skip this and follow manufacturers guidance). Add the bread mixture. In a mixer, or by hand, knead together well on medium speed for about 10 minutes. By hand - the longer you knead the better the texture, 15 minutes is a good starting point.
Line or grease your bread tin very well - flour the inside and take extra care in corners to ensure the bread does not stick. Place the dough in your tin. Flatten the top gently using your fingers or a spatula. Leave to rise under a cloth for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours until you can see it has risen well (it should be approximately doubled in size).
Heat your oven to 220 degrees celsius (fan: 200 degrees).
Use a fork to make indents across the top of thebread. Place in the bottom of oven and immediately reduce heat to 185 degrees. Bake for approx 65 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when you give it a gentle knock/tap.
TIP - place a bowl (make sure it is oven proof) of 100 ml water in the oven alongside the bread - it helps keeping everything moist. IMPORTANT: As soon as you remove bread from oven, take out of the tin and leave to cool. Wrap in cling film to keep fresh and soft for slicing. Best sliced after complete cooling, ideally overnight.
Now that you have your bread – why not top it like the Scandis do and enjoy as an open sarnie?
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.
Crispbread Pizza 'Tricolore' With Mediterranean Flavours
The Mediterraneans know a thing or two about flavour combinations for warmer weather. Here is one of our favourites - in a Swedish crispbread pizza format. So good - the salty, savoury edge of the topping is brilliant with the mild rye flavour in the base.
We are big fans of using crispbread as a quick and easy pizza base. By using a round of Leksands as your base you can have pizza in 12 minutes - the mild rye flavour complements these toppings really well.
Our Bronte has been busy these past four years, writing a lot of books about Scandinavian culture and food.
This autumn, her seventh book has been published. It is a sort of new – and sort of not! Bronte decided to collate all her favourite baking recipes from her four cookbooks into one handy baking book – adding loads of new recipes too at the same time.
The result is called Bronte at Home – and that is exactly what it is: Scandi home baking. Ranging from how to make rye bread to how to make the best cinnamon buns, you’ll find great bakes to fit any occasion – over 70 delicious recipes.
Examples of what you will find in Bronte At home: Baking from ScandiKitchen:
Cinnamon buns, custard buns, Napoleon cakes, Danish marzipan cake, Princess cake, rye bread, stone age bread, saffron swiss roll, Danish breakfast buns, waffles, Lena’s apple pie, bilberry pie with cardamom, Vegan chocolate cake, rhubard & custard cake, banana bread, bundt cakes, muffins, honey cake, dream cake, Love cake …. and much, much more.
How to be Danish, lesson no. 237: Pålægschokolade (sandwich chocolate thins).
How to be Danish, lesson no. 237: Pålægschokolade (sandwich chocolate thins).
Monday-Friday: on dark rye bread.
Weekend: Yipeee, white bread.
If you’ve ever been to Denmark you may have wondered about the lack of chocolate spread. We don’t really do that. Instead, Danes butter their bread and add little super thin slices of chocolate on top.
We call it Pålægschokolade – or sandwich chocolate.
You can get it in dark and milk chocolate varieties.
Most Danes were sent to school with a slices of rye bread with toppings – and the sweet treat was always rye bread with a slice of Pålægschokolade.
It’s often described as Sweden’s guilty secret: in all the Nordic Diet, healthy eating and green good-for-you flurry, we also have The Sandwich Cake.
We’re unsure of the exact origins, but suspect it may have come over from the States in the early sixties when housewives made similar ‘cakes’ for their cocktail parties. Someone must have brought it back to Scandinavia, and voila, it took hold and never went away. In all our obsession with rye bread and crisp bread, using soft white sandwich bread was – and is – seen as a huge treat. So, the Smörgåstårta became synonymous with birthdays and big celebrations and times to indulge.
If you google Smörgåstårta, you will see a variation of monstrosities. Eighties creations that would make any Sundsval housewife from 1984 weep with pride. Still today, this is what they look like – some with seafood, some with ham, cheese, pate, tuna and anything else you can think of. Smothered in mayonnaise and then decorated with twirly bits of cucumber and the odd radish rose.
In recent years, many have tried to make the Sandwich Cake look a bit more current – but it is hard: You don’t want to play too much with tradition, but also, you don’t want to start bringing back hair scrunchies, Miami Vice and Melanie Griffith. It’s a fine balance.
Since our Bronte showed off one of our sandwich Cakes on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch last year, we had a lots of request for the recipe. So, here goes: There is no recipe. You make it up as you go along. But, to please you all, here is the recipe for the one we showed on the TV show. Just remember: You can make it any way you like – any shape, any size – just adapt the recipe to fit your party.
A few things to note and adhere to:
– White bread works well. You can also use wholemeal, but hey, why go wholemeal with a mayo cake? Rye bread does not work well.
– Butter the bread still, it will create a barrier and avoid it all going too soggy
– make the base the day before, then decorate on the day.
– Keep the layers tasty – although some people put both ham and prawns in one, it doesn’t taste nice. Keep it classic – we love seafood salad with salmon, for example, and egg.
– Make it on the tray you plan to serve it on – don’t try to move it once done.
– Plan to serve other things along side it – or else it gets too heavy. It’s a nice addition to a buffet with some salads and other bits.
Butter the bread on one side. Please two sides side by side and top with as much Skagenröra mixture as you feel is needed (you may not need it all). Add two slices of bread on top.
Mash the eggs and mix with a little bit of mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper. Add to the top of the bread. Add the last two slices of bread.
Using a pallet knife, add a thin layer of mayonnaise all around the sandwich cake. This will help the other toppings stick.
We like using nice slices of salmon on the top of the sandwich cake. Try to arrange in a nice pattern and let it overhang slightly on the sides to avoid blunt corners.
Using a cheese slicer or mandolin, cut long pieces of cucumber and use to decorate the sides. If you need a bit more mayonnaise to make it stick, well, so be it.
Once the sides are looking neat, you can decorate the top. This is the bit where you’re likely to overdo it. We tend to simply add some Skagenrora on top and then add loads of prawns and simply decorate with sprigs of dill.
There is literally nothing more Scandinavian than a good old Smörgåsbord. Except, Smörgåsbord is a Swedish word and in Norway and Denmark, it’s called something else (Koldt Bord (cold table), and similar). But really, it’s all about food and our way of grazing through a nice, big wonderful lunch.
No matter which of the Scandinavian countries you are in, follow this guide and you won’t go far wrong, bar a few regional variations. As long as there is enough aquavit, people will be happy.
The word smörgåsbord comes from the Swedish word smörgås, meaning ‘open sandwich’ or ‘buttered bread’, and bord, meaning ‘table’. If you translate it very literally, it could also mean Butter-Goose-Table, but that would be wrong, although quite funny.
A smorgasbord is basically means a buffet made up of many smaller dishes: ‘a laid-out table’. The traditional smörgåsbord is slightly different, depending on the country you are in. Just follow the guidelines of what to eat and in what order and you’ll be all right, no matter where you are. It’s our tapas, our buffet, our small-plate-phenomena.
The term smorgasbord first cropped up outside Scandinavia during the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, when a Swedish restaurant served a smörgåsbord as we know it today. This, however, was not the first occasion of a smörgåsbord, as this was more of an accidental invention. Many centuries earlier, people in well to-do homes had what was known as an “Aquavit Table”. They would return back from whatever they had been doing (hunting moose or looking after their estates etc) and enjoy a few snacks. A few hours prior to dinner, shots of aquavit were served, likely as an afternoon pick-me-up. These were accompanied by a selection of cheeses, pickles and meats laid out on a side-table to snack on before the main meal. Over the years, the choice of dishes expanded and, one day, the Aquavit Table because the main event instead of the actual lunch or dinner. Clever marketing people at the World Fair coined a new word that since then has been adopted into a word that works in many languages.
The essence of a real smörgåsbord (or cold table) is all about taking your time to eat and talk to your guests as you do it – and share food, conversation and time. There is lots of food, granted, but we spend many hours eating it. No smörgåsbord ever took an hour – and there is no time limit on how long we might sit there – the Danish Christmas Table, for example, can easily take an entire afternoon and end with an early dinner and most certainly result in quite a hangover, too. This is why these are usually done during high seasons such as Christmas, Easter and Midsummer when people plan big get together and have time to relax and enjoy both food and company to the max.
Traditionally, a smörgåsbord is served in ‘rounds’ – on a Swedish one, usually everything is set out at the start of the meal in buffet style, whereas in Denmark, each round is brought to the table one after the other in strict order and shared round.
It’s tricky to know how to maneuver a smörgåsbord if you are a rookie, especially if you are in Denmark and nobody has told you that there are seven more rounds of food to follow the one you are eating. What foods go together? Can you put remoulade on liver pate (answer: No) and do you ever put herring with prawns (answer: NEVER). How much aquavit are you allowed to drink? (Answer: As much as you can, but not so much so that you appear drunk until everyone else is).
Rookies will fill a plate like they are at an all-you-can-eat buffet. They will also hit the aquavit hard – and you just know that no rookie will last till the end. Many a newbies have fallen off the Smörgåsbord wagon at round 2 and missed the party.
The biggest smörgåsbord of the year is at Christmas. This is the julbord (literally meaning ‘Christmas table’) and is also the one that takes the longest to complete. There are many dishes and rounds – and there will absolutely be beer and aquavit, too. And singing. Lots of singing.
During December, people across Scandinavia will attend many different julbords. There is the work julbord, the friends’ julbord, the julbord for the golf club, the book club … The most intimate one is always on Christmas Eve with the family (less drinking at that one). Then there is the smörgåsbord at Easter, Midsummer and birthdays.
The dishes on a Scandinavian smörgåsbord vary seasonally and regionally, but the main dishes are the same – and these are also what connects us Scandis together, despite living in a place 3 ½ time the size of Britain and with quite a varied food culture. This is where you will always find herring and meatballs!
Photo: ScandiKitchen Summer Cookbook – by Bronte Aurell, photo by Pete Cassidy – click on photo for link to buy a signed copy.
The order and how-to of a good Smörgåsbord
Always eat everything with a knife and fork – NEVER with your hands.
Always start with the herring. It needs its own plate, because it’s a strong fish and you don’t want it to flavor all the other foods. We eat the herring first – and it needs a glass or two of Aquavit to go with it – it pairs well in flavor. Yes, you have to drink the whole shot and smile through gritted teeth. From this follows other fish, sliced meats, warm meats, salads and other warm dishes, then cheese and then – finally – dessert. And coffee.
Everything is served buffet style or passed around the table in small servings. You will never find pre-made open sandwiches on a smörgåsbord – you are supposed to make your own as you go along – and you will also rarely find many ‘fillers’, such as warm potatoes or gravy (it is not a dinner, it is a cold table with a few contradictory warm dishes included).
A good old smörgåsbord may sound a little complicated at first, but it is a very enjoyable way to spend 4-6 hours with some really nice people you get along with. While Scandinavians will never, ever talk to you at the bus stop or in the supermarket, once you have shared a few merry tunes around the smorgasbord and a few shots of aquavit, you’ll be making new friends in no time, perhaps even find yourself fluent in a Scandinavian language by song number three.
The basic order of the smorgasbord – a guide
Pickled herring (a few different kinds, served in bowls) and shots of cold aquavit. Singing at this point is optional. Beer is the traditional drink served with smorgasbord. You can drink wine, but if you mix that with wine, it just gets you even more drunk.
Suggestion: A good plain onion herring and then Mustard herring for Swedish, Curried herring for Danish, spiced herring or tomato herring for Norway.
Fish and seafood dishes. Smoked or cured salmon (with dill & Mustard sauce). Serve bowls of good quality prawns, smoked mackerel (either fresh or literally from a tin), skagenröra, halves of hardboiled eggs or any fish other than herring – even small, warm fried plaice fillets (quite a Danish thing – goes well with remoulade dressing). Lumpfish roe and creamed cod roe on the side.
Cold meats and pâté. Smoked ham, salami, liver pâté (a firm favourite amongst all three countries), cold roast beef, rolled rullepolse sausage – any deli meats are served in this round, along with pickles and/or toppings.
Warm meats. Meatballs (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian), roast pork (Christmas only for the Danes), mini sausages – anything warm is served for this course. If you want to serve Janssons frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation – a traditional Swedish gratin-style casserole made with potatoes, onions, cream and sweet pickled sprats) for the smörgåsbord, this is the course to do it. It’s mainly served at Christmas, but can also be served at Easter with some lamb (The sprats go well with lamb). In the summer seasons, serve a light quiche instead of heavier meats – Vasterbotten cheese quiche, mushroom pie or similar. But always meatballs.
Any warm sides, such as red cabbage, can be served here – but again, warm cabbage is usually more of a winter thing. Opts for a coleslaw style in the summer.
Cheese selection. Optional decorative grapes that nobody will eat and maybe a slice of green pepper that you can put in the bin after. 2-3 cheeses is enough. Go for a good blue cheese such as Kornblost or Danish blue, a solid harder cheese – Vasterbotten is always a hit here. And a milder one such as Creamy Havarti (Åseda). For the love of Thor and Freya, get yourself a good few cheese slicers.
Dessert and coffee. Any soft cake, such as a strawberry Midsummer cake or a berry cake, works here and a nice selection of little fika treats goes well too – there won’t be many hungry people at the end of a smorgasbord, so limited selection is fine. At Christmas, you might have your creamed rice pudding, in the summer a more fruity option. Or simply little marzipan/chocolate treats with the coffee. By this time, there will be no more singing, just attempt to manoeuvre a fork.
Stuff to always serve alongside a smörgåsbord:
Rye bread, crusty bread and crispbreads, bowls of salads (beetroot salad, mainly), pickles, condiments, sauces such as dill and mustard sauce, Mayo, Danish remoulade – and more.
Traditional drinks for smörgåsbord: Beer and aquavit.
Bugger off – food
In Denmark, the last dish serves is called Skrub-Af Mad, this means “Bugger off, food” – it is served right at the end a few hours after the last bit of the smorgasbord – it is a signal for people to leave. This might be a light soup, a hotdog or similar.
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Feel free to comment below of any extras we have forgotten….
That’s life when the skirt is striped (Sånt är livet när kjolen är randig). (Swedish) Meaning: Such is life.
If a Swede says “something landed between two chairs” he means that something has been forgotten and nobody is taking responsibility for it.
The Finns don’t “get diarrhoea”… they “have poop flying out of their bums like flocks of sparrows” (paska lentää kuin varpusparvi).
If a Dane says “Taking the bus is the sausage of dearth” (“Det er dødens pølse at tage bussen”) he simply means it’s boring or annoying. “Sausage of death” is everything trivial.
If there’s room in heart there’s room for the arse (Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum) (Swedish saying) Meaning: Everybody can fit in here).
If someone is caught with your beard in the mailbox (Skägget i brevlådan) (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish) Meaning: “To be caught with your pants down.”
If someone ‘slides in on a prawn sandwich’ in Sweden (“Glida in på en räkmacka”) it means someone who didn’t have to work to get where they are in life.
In Finland, if someone is “like a bear shot in the ass” (kuin perseeseen ammuttu karhu), it means they are cranky.
In Iceland, they don’t say “I’ll get my revenge”, instead they’ll say ‘I’ll find you at the beach’ (Ég mun finna þig í fjöru).
Made a fool of yourself? In Norway, you say that you “shat on your leg” (Nå har du bæsjet på leggen).
I suspect there are owls in the bog (Jeg aner ugler I mosen) (a versatile saying used in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian). Meaning: Something fishy is going on.
In Denmark, if something is really expensive, you can say ‘it costs the white bits out of the eyes’ (det koster det hvide ud af øjnene).
If a Dane tells you he is ‘angry in the garbage’ (gal i skralden) he means to tell you he is furious.
If a Swede tells you to go to the forest, he is telling you to get lost (Dra åt skogen).
If a Dane makes a mental note of something, he ‘writes it behind the ear’ (at skrive noget bag øret).
If you’re sitting in meeting with some Danes and one of them says that everything has gone to goat (gå I ged), they are merely trying to explain that it fell through (or failed), as in “that project went to goat”.
If a Swede says he is going to ‘throw a goat’s eye at it’, it means he’ll have a quick glance at something (att kasta ett getöga).
Some people in Norway mighty say you have ‘pooped in the drawer’ if you have been caught out in a difficult situation (Å bæsje i skuffen).
In Sweden, if a person looks like he’s sold all the butter and lost all the money (Ha sålt smöret och tappat pengarna), it means he looks both sad and guilty at the same time.
If a Finn tells you that you are “shooting flies with a cannon” he simply means to tell you that you are overcomplicating things, putting a lot of effort into achieving something impossible (ampua tykillä kärpäsiä).
If an Icelandic accuses you of Jumping onto your own nose (Að stökkva upp á nef sér), they mean to tell you that you get angry and worked up too quickly.
If a Finn tells you ‘Let me show you where the chicken pees from’ (Näytän sulle, mistä kana pissii) he simply means “Let me show you how it’s done”.
A Danes might say he feels like an egg yolk (‘Jeg har det som blommen i et æg‘) which and he means that he feels comfort and fulfilment.
In Finland, instead of saying “And that’s that”, you say “And because… onion” (Ja sillä sipuli).
Swedish saying: “What is hidden in snow, is revealed at thaw” (Det som göms i snö, kommer fram vid tö). Meaning, things will be revealed, secrets will out.
A Dane might say “one more time for prince Knud” (en gang til for prins Knud) – this refers to the former king’s (Frederik IX) brother, who was known to need an explanation more than once.
If a Dane says he has his ass in the surface of the water (Røven i vandskorpen), it means things are not going that well.
The Finns don’t say something “fits well”… they say it “fits like a fist in the eye” (sopii kuin nyrkki silmään).
If a Dane tells you that you are ‘pouring water out of your ears’ (at hælde vand ud af ørerne), he means to tell you that you’re talking rubbish, of stuff of no importance, or just moaning a lot.
In Iceland, if someone tells you they are off to play chess with the pope (Að tefla við páfann) they are telling your they need to go for a number 2.
The Finns don’t say something “disappeared without trace”… they say it “vanished like a fart in Sahara” (kadota kuin pieru Saharaan).
If you see an Icelandic baby that is super cute and adorable, you can try telling the mother that you think her off spring is “just such a butthole” (rassgat). In Icelandic, this means you are praising the baby’s adorableness.
If a Dane tells you that you’re laughing like a torn pair of clogs, he means you are laughing out loud (grine som en flækket træsko).
In Finland if someone says: “The forest answers in the same way one shouts at it” (Niin metsä vastaa kuin sinne huudetaan), he means ‘what goes around, comes around’. The proverb refers to the echo from the treeline.
A Swede is not “dressed to the nines”… he is “dressed up to his teeth.” (Klädd up till tänderna).
In Finland, if someone isn’t quite that clever, a Finn might say “He doesn’t have all Moomin trolls in the valley” (Hänellä ei ole kaikki muumit laaksossa). Okay, its trolls, but Moomins sounds better.
If a Dane tells you he doesn’t have a red prawn (ikke en rød reje) it means he is skint.
“To step in the spinach” (At træde i spinaten) (Danish, Norwegian (although in Norway it’s salad instead of spinach!) Meaning: To make a mistake.
If a Swede thinks you are stupid he might say you “don’t have all the hens at home.” (Att ha alla hönsen hemma).
It’s blowing half a pelican (Det blæser en halv pelican) (Danish) Meaning: It’s really windy.
To be born behind a brown cheese (Født bak en brunost) (Norwegian) – Meaning: the person is a bit slow.
In Denmark, when someone hurries up, he ‘takes his legs on the back of his neck’ (Han tager benene på nakken’.
If a Dane is ‘pulling cod fish to the shore’ (at trække torsk I land) it means he is snoring VERY loudly.
In Swedish, you don’t say ‘Speak of the devil’, instead you say “Speak of the troll and he appears on the porch” (När man talar om trollen så står de i farstun).
If a Swede says “Now shame walks on dry land” (Nu går skam på torra land’ ) it means immorality has taken over and you cant do anything to stop it.
If a Dane tells you that you are earthing-up potatoes (hyppe kartofter), it means you are pushing your own agenda too much.
In Iceland, they don’t say “I’ll get my revenge”, instead they’ll say ‘I’ll find you at the beach’ (Ég mun finna þig í fjöru)
Pretend that it’s raining (‘Låtsas som att det regnar’) (Swedish) – Meaning: To act normally, so as not to attract any attention.
Let me show you where a chicken pees from (Näytän sulle, mistä kana pissii) (Finnish) Meaning: ‘Let me show you how it’s done’.
In Scandinavia, we don’t have a bone to pick with people – instead, we have a hen to pluck with you (Jeg har en høne å plukke med deg / I have a hen to pluck with you).
If a Dane is ‘standing like herring in a barrel’, it means he’s feeling a bit squashed (Stå som sild i en tønde).
In Norway and Denmark, if you make cabbage of something (å gjøre kål på), it means you are ending something, even maybe destroying it. For example: “We made cabbage of all those leftovers in the fridge” or even “She made cabbage out of him.
I’m cold in the ass (Jeg er kold i røven) (Danish) – Meaning: I don’t care.
Go where the pepper grows (Dra dit pepparn gror) (Swedish) Meaning: Go to hell.
In Finland, you don’t dip your toe to test the water. Instead, you test the ice with a stick (kokeilla kepillä jäätä).
If a Norwegian ‘has blood on his teeth’ (Å få blod på tannen) it means he’s inspired to do something.
Even small saucepans have ears (Även små grytor har öron) (Swedish, Danish) Meaning: the kids might hear.
There is a dog buried here (Det ligger en hund begraven här)(Swedish, Danish, Norwegian) Meaning: there’s something fishy going on.
If a Finnish person tell you it’s “like the snow of last winter”, he means it’s “like water under the bridge” (Menneen talven lumia).
A Swede doesn’t “beat around the bush”… he “walks like the cat around hot porridge.” (Gå som katten kring het gröt).
Hello jump in the blueberry forest! (Hej hopp i blåbärsskogen!) (Swedish) Meaning: A cheerful expression to be used when you are a bit surprised.
In Norway, if you float using your own body fat (flyte på flesket), it means you rely on own experience or resources. As in “You can float on your own body fat now, you really know this project”.
If a Dane is laying his head in water (at lægge hovedet i blød) it means he’ll think something over really hard.
If someone is arrogant and full of oneself, in Norwegian you can say “he’s high on the pear” (‘Høy på pæren’) – as in ‘Stop being so high on the pear, now..’
Your own cow is in the ditch ( Oma lehmä ojassa) (Finnish). – Meaning: Someone has an ulterior selfish motive behind an action.
A Danes doesn’t kill two birds with one stone; instead he ‘kills two flies with one swat’.
In Sweden, there is a classic idiom: “Everyone knows the monkey, but the monkey knows no-one.” (alla känner apan, apan känner ingen). It sort of means don’t think you’re popular just because you’re known to others. That everybody notices the one who sticks out, but he knows nobody.
To put onion on the salmon (Att lägga lök på laxen) (Swedish)- Meaning: To make things even worse…
To poop on your calf (Bæsje på leggen) (Norwegian) – Meaning: Make a mistake.
In Iceland, instead of saying ‘Let’s go’ or ‘Carry on’, people will say “On with the butter!” (Áfram með smjörið).
If something in Danish goes completely wrong, Danes will say ‘it has gone completely to fish” (gå helt i fisk).
Now you have shat in the blue cupboard! (Nu har du skitit i det blå skåpet) (Swedish) – Meaning: When you really have made a fool out of yourself.
Not for all the butter in Småland (Inte för allt smör i hela Småland) (Sweden) -Meaning: Equivalent to the English expression: “Not for all the tea in China”.
To swallow some camels (Å svelge noen kameler) (Norwegian) – Meaning: to give in.
Almost and close to doesn’t knock a man off his horse (Ligeved og næsten slår ingen mand af hæsten)(Danish) – Equivalent to the English saying: “Close, but no cigar”.
To be in the middle of the butter eye [melting in the porridge] (Å være midt i smørøyet) (Norwegian, Danish) Meaning: to be in a very favourable place or situation.
To pace around hot porridge like a cat (kiertää kuin kissa kuumaa puuroa) (Finnish) – Meaning: To beat about the bush.
To be under the ice (Under isen) (Swedish) – Meaning: feeling a bit depressed.
To jump on the gluestick (at hoppe på limpinden (Danish) – Meaning: To take the bait.
No danger on the roof (Ingen fara på taket) (Swedish) Meaning: No worries.
He took his legs on the back of his neck (Han tog benene på nakken) (Danish) – Meaning: He hurried up.
There are no cows on the ice (Der er ingen ko på isen) (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian) – Meaning: Nothing to worry about. The full saying is “No cow on the ice when the back half is on the ground”.
In Norway, if someone ‘smiles in the beard’ it means they are chuckling quietly about past events (Å smile i skjegget).
If a Scandinavian tells you that someone has ‘a good nasal bone’, they are merely trying to say that the person is strong and determined (at have ben i næsen).
If an Icelandic tells you that it “isn’t enough to fill a Cat’s nostril”, it means it is very small. (Ekki upp í nös á ketti).
If a Norwegian tells you that he is speaking directly from the liver, he simply means to tell you he’s telling the truth. As in “I’m telling you, straight from the liver, I love you!” (Å snake rett fra leveren).
In Danish, if you ‘pass the monkey on’ (at sende aben videre) it means you’re passing on a problem to someone else.
If an Icelandic or Danish person tells you ‘that something is the raisin at the end of the sausage (Það er rúsínan í pylsuendanum/rosinen i pølsenden), it means there is an unexpected good surprise at the end of something.
If a Swede says ‘Pretend it’s raining’ he simply means act normally, so as not to attract any attention (Låtsas som att det regnar).
In Sweden, if someone tells you that “Now the boiled pork is fried” (Nu är det kokta fläsket stekt), what they are really saying is ‘now things are really, really bad’.
If an Icelandic person tells you that peeing in your shoes will only keep you warm for a short while, he simply means to tell you short term solutions don’t often work (Það er skammgóður vermir að pissa í skó sinn). Idioms rock, don’t you think?
A Swede doesn’t seek revenge – instead, he “gives back for old cheese.” (Ge tillbaka för gammal ost).
A Norwegian won’t say ‘upping the game’ instead he’ll say ‘the buns have changed’ (Nå blir det andre boller).
In Iceland, they don’t say they will sleep on it or think it over, instead they say they’ll put their head to soak in water (Að leggja höfuðið í bleyti).
In Finland, you don’t have a finger in every pie – instead, you have a ‘spoon in every bowl of soup’ (Lusikka joka sopassa).
You’re completely out cycling (Du er helt ude og cycle) (Danish) – Meaning: You’re completely wrong.
Go where the pepper grows (Dra dit pepparn gror) (Swedish) – Meaning: Go to hell!
If a Scandinavian says you need to “have ice in your stomach” (is i magen), it simply means you need to play it cool, be in control.
If a Dane or Norwegian tells you that ‘the toilet’s on fire’ it means the shits about to hit the fan big time (Lokummet brænder).
You’ve really shot the parrot (Du har virkeligt skudt papegøjen) (Danish) – Meaning: You’ve been lucky.
He’s got rotating farts in his cap (Han har roterende fis i kasketten) (Danish) – Meaning: He’s not quite all there.
A Swede doesn’t tell someone to “take a hike”… he tells someone to “throw themselves in the wall.” (Släng dig i väggen).
If a Dane says he isn’t quite orange free (Ikke helt appelsinfri), he means to tell you that he is not completely sober.
Is it the horse’s birthday? Er det hestens fødselsdag? (Danish) Meaning: the rye bread is too thick for my open sandwich.
To be up on the liquorices (at være oppe på lakridserne) (Danish) – Meaning: to be very attentive or busy.
If a Dane says you can both ‘blow and have flour in your mouth’, he means to say you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. (Man kan ikke både blæse og have mel i munden).
Nothing to hang on the Christmas tree (Ingenting att hänga i julgranen) (Swedish) Meaning: not special enough.
People talk a lot about the word ‘Lagom’ – but what does it actually mean?
Lagom is the most important Swedish word you will ever learn. Used every day, multiple times, by Swedes the world over, it goes deep into the soul of every Swede. It’s part of being quintessentially Swedish.
The word lagom is said to derive from the folk etymology in a phrase used in Viking times: “laget om” – meaning ‘around to the group – allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group. This etymology is commonly accepted to be right, although some parallels are made with the Law of Jante and the common set of rules about how much one should have of something – again, things go back to the greater good for the whole group. You would take a lagom sip of the bowl, thus allowing everyone to have a ‘sufficient amount for them’ – and everyone to be satisfied. Fairness and balance.
The word itself means ‘just right’. It also means ‘just enough’, ‘sufficient’, ‘the correct amount’ (In Finnish, the word is sopiva; in Norwegian and Danish, the word tilpasselig is the most fitting, although is not used it in exactly the same way or as often – but the meaning of lagom is still engrained in every person across the Nordics). It means ‘not too much, not too little’ and also means ‘fair share’. This single little word, Lagom, denotes all of those meanings, simply depending on the context in which you use it.
There is an old saying in Sweden: lagom är bäst (‘lagom is best’), which really sums up how Swedes think and act in everyday life:
– How big a slice of cake would you like? Lagom.
– How are you? Lagom.
– The weather is lagom.
– You drink a lagom amount of wine.
– The dress is lagom.
– You have one cinnamon bun, not two. Lagom.
Lagom is positive as well as sometimes negative, it’s also the middle of the road and the average of everything. It is as it should be. It does the job, but it’s not too much, not too little.
To understand lagom, you first need to first understand the Scandinavians – in particular, Swedish cultural psyche, which is one of consensus and equality for all. Swedes don’t overdo anything, there are no over-the-top buildings, no flashy show-offs. Everything is middle of the road, fair and just the right amount. It works, just right.
People often wonder why, with the amount of cake we eat in Scandinavia and the number of sweets consumed, are we not all as big as houses. It’s because, well, lagom. Most Scandinavians won’t have two buns with their fika break, only one. One of those big bags of to-share crisps may be opened alone, but you won’t eat it all in one sitting. There will be mayonnaise on the open sandwiches, but it’s on one slice of rye bread, making it all very lagom and balanced. ‘Super-size’ in fast-food restaurants isn’t really that popular – it just isn’t lagom. We eat sweets on Saturdays – when we pig out completely. But we don’t eat them Sun-Thu, because, well, lagom.
It’s impossible to define the word lagom as a specific amount because it varies so much between people. How much cake is it appropriate to eat? How hot is lagom when it comes to your coffee? It’s a feeling, it’s something engrained in the culture and psyche of the people that is almost impossible to learn. But the amazing thing is: if a Swede asks you how much milk you want in your coffee – and you say “lagom”, they will know exactly what you mean.
How do you define Lagom in your every day? Does balance matter that much?
This post is a part extract, part re-write from Bronte Aurell’s book North, published by Aurum Books, available in all good bookshops. Photograph “lagom’ by Anna Jacobsen (North, Aurum) 2017.