Is the prospect of a furniture shop in Ikea ever made that much more enticing by the prospect of tucking into a plate of those succulent Swedish meatballs? Well if your answer is a resounding ‘YES’ you may want to think about expanding your taste buds’ Nordic horizons to other possibilities offered by the expanse of Scandinavian cuisine.
Already enjoying acclaim in foodie circles from Copenhagen’s two-star Michelin restaurant Noma, named best restaurant in the world of 2011, the popularity of our Nordic neighbours’ culinary tendencies are quickly catching on here. The Scandinavian Kitchen in Marylebone already provides a little homey hub of Scandinavian delicacies for the reported 150 000 Scandinavians residing in London with a ready array of specialities. Tartine-style open top sandwiches piled with pickled beetroot, pates and cured meats, just to include a few, and home baked cakes, with daily-changing menu varied with the ‘World’s Best Norwegian Meringue Cake’;laddkaka – a sticky Swedish chocolate cake and the Swedish Princess cake – a layered sponge, cream and jam cake covered in marzipan, never fail to attract customers.
Aside from the hearty meatballs already famed by Ikea restaurants, Scandinavian cuisine offers a plenitude of choice for the health conscious eater with fresh flavours incorporated into dishes of produce consisting of ingredients just plucked from the ground or the sea. Fuss-free recipes make for a dish which allows the natural flavours of the ingredients shine through in fuss-free creations such as mackerel, pickled herring and rye bread- perhaps more familiar to most consumers. But what are the other specialities on offer? Recent years has seen Gravadlax soaring in popularity as word of mouth has spread about this alternative to Scottish smoked salmon with the Scandinavian classic instead typically cured with salt, sugar and dill. Berries also have a part to play in both savoury and sweet dishes with two in particular, the first being the Lingonberry, a bitter berry akin to cranberries which features heavily in jams and savoury sauces to accompany meat and then the Cloudberry, relative to the raspberry but golden in colour and enjoyed in jams, juices and the star of the famous Finnish cloudberry liquor.
True, the northern climes may not appeal to some as much as the cuisine of the area, but it is thanks to its wintry conditions, vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale provide an excellent source of vitamin K, vital for blood coagulation. Berries and brassica contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants too, believed to lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Frequently used rapeseed oil, also native to Britain and readily available from supermarket shelves contains more omega-3 fatty acids than olive oil, as well as providing a dose of vitamin E, essential for healthy skin. Game meat also enjoys popularity with dishes of venison, reindeer, grouse and elk often complimented by potatoes and a berry jelly of conserve such as Lingonberry jam. The health benefits of these sources of protein with lower saturated fat content than farmed meat shine through and added to this, the meat is a lot more flavoursome which further heightens the attraction of these typical Nordic alternative. And it has its fair share of flavoursome seasonings with refreshing and crisp chives, parsley, dill, fennel and juniper berries featuring among the popular choices of spices and herbs.
Not to be outdone on the desert front, the tradition of Danish pastries and desert soups lie with Scandinavians. Recommended by Danish restaurant KRO owner, Mark Ruby, is Rod Grod med Flode, a cold berry stew soup with a dash of cream and Othello cake, a creation filled with berries and custard finished with a chocolate and cream glaze. We have even the possibility of a rival to the humble British hot cross bun in the form of a new more seductive option in the form of cinnamon buns. Something of an obsession to the Scandinavians, each country has a unique version to themselves. So, will you be opting for the Scandinavian sweet whirl of choice come Good Friday?
Catch the Hairy Bikers sampling Norwegian specialities in their ‘Bakeation’ on BBC iPlayer:
This article featured in our first printed edition of The Sphinx. Unfortunately a type error meant that it was printed under the wrong authors name. This article was written by Jennifer Kee, a great and prominent writer for LS media. We can only apologise profusely for the regretable mishap.