Classics

Classics

By
Simon Bajada
Contains
13 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742708799
Photographer
Simon Bajada

Let’s face it, Nordic countries don’t contribute a great deal to the list of the world’s most iconic dishes. You are not going to find meatballs with lingonberry jam on the menus of many local restaurants outside of the area. And perhaps this is one of the reasons for the recent surge forwards in new Nordic cuisine; a making up for lost time.

Like many others, classic Nordic gastronomy has a long tradition of looking outwards. There are, of course, some noticeable differences: white pepper is more commonly used than black, most likely due to ancient trading routes, and you will often find contrasts of sweet and sour flavours working their way into dishes through clever pairings of vinegars and sugars. But many of the classic home-cooked meals and workers’ lunches that are enjoyed every day draw heavy influence from iconic European styles. Meats and vegetables served in creamy, buttery sauces owe a lot to those classical French techniques.

Until relatively recently – really, since the birth of Noma – it is likely to have only been your auntie’s cousin’s friend or a trip to the large, ubiquitous Swedish furniture store that would have brought your attention to Nordic cuisine. Not really enough on which to judge such a diverse and rich food culture! New Nordic cuisine is all about exploring and developing new techniques for using traditional, local ingredients. It combines ancient with modern, to produce dishes that are exciting and unprecedented.

But, the truth is, those classic recipes have earned their reputation for being classics for very good reasons: they are simple, tasty and nourishing and, when made properly, should be rightfully celebrated.

The Open Sandwich

When most people picture a smörgåsbord they imagine a huge table piled high with an abundance of hot and cold delicacies. But, its direct translation is actually ‘sandwich table’: an offering of sandwiches. And in Nordic countries these are open sandwiches, smørrebrød, rather than fillings held between two slices of bread. It is a true testament to the sandwich table’s prominence in Nordic food culture that the word is known throughout the world.

In the morning, generally only butter is spread on slices of bread before being topped with your choice of ingredients, but as the day progresses a range of condiments come into play. Nordic folk do not limit themselves to toast and jam with their juice and coffee though. You’re more likely to find sliced deli meats, tinned fish, fish roe, even cheese in tubes! All sorts of crazy items. The best description I have come across of smørrebrød is ‘emptying the entire refrigerator on to the table for breakfast’.

Cheese and cucumber are obligatory, set alongside hams, salamis, liver pastes, sliced eggs, sliced tomato, capsicum and sprigs of fresh parsley and dill. Pickles are particularly popular in Denmark where the open sandwich culture is a way of life. The strict use of Danish rye bread for all smørrebrød, and the many smørrebrød-only eateries around the country has crowned Denmark the king of the open sandwich culture.

Although it is traditional to use rye bread for the base of these sandwiches, you could also use soft or crisp tunnbröd, sourdough, sunflower-seed breads and sweeter breads such as carrot and lingonberry.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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