This weekend, the Scandinavia Show takes place at Earl’s Court. I have actually never been, and won’t go this year either, but I am Swedish so I know pretty much about Scandinavia anyway. To me the show seem to be more aimed at people wanting to know more about the Scandinavian countries, who want to go there on holiday and find out more, or just love all the great books and television series streaming out of the region right now.
The food section will be represented by among others Scandinavian Kitchen and Madsen restaurant. Find out more about the Scandinavia Show here.
If you are interested in Britain’s love affair with Scandinavia, this article from the Telegraph is a good read.
But it is a reverse love affair as well, and a longer one at that. This weekend I once again have Swedish friends visiting their favourite city; London. And me.
Luckily they have been here before, so we don’t have to do the tourist attractions, instead we will explore different areas, eat good food and enjoy the fact that alcohol is cheaper here than in Sweden. And catch up of course!
Spring (and summer) my favourite part of the year, because of the weather of course. I grew up in the south of Sweden where we sometimes had snow during winter, but mostly it was just windy and freezing cold (because of the wind and the flat landscape). So you can see why we (I) looked forward to spring.
Apart from the nice weather spring comes with lots of new produce. Of course you can get similar things here but I’d thought to tell you about what we look forward to in Sweden anyway, this time of year.
Of course asparagus, both the white and green. You can use asparagus in so many different ways and you can find how here.
Broad beans are another favourite of mine that I mostly use in salads. You find recipes here and here.
As mentioned ealier this week, wild garlic is spring for me and I have a total crush on these garlicky leaves. You can use it in anything, just remember that you need quite a few leaves as a leaf on its own is very subtle in flavour.
Also radishes and cress are spring favourites too and I eat them in the simplest way possible. Butter a nice slice of sourdoug, top with a good hard cheese, add some cress and serve radishes with salt on the side. Lovely!
Spring is definitely the time of year when I’m craving salads the most. Summer works too, but by then I usually crave BBQs instead… Scandis like prawns in their salads (and sandwiches, jacket potatoes – anything…) and the type of prawn we go for is the one we can catch in our own waters, the smaller softer ones, that are usually labelled cold water prawns, Icelandic/Greenlandic or Maine prawns. Those paired with boiled eggs, lettuce and a dilly mayo is spring for me. Garlic bread optional.
Almost as much I as I love to cook and bake, and more importantly eat, I enjoy reading crime novels. Anything from Raymond Chandler to Jo Nesbo and anything in between.
Scandinavian crime has become its own (sub?) genre, especially after the success with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo triology. I have read several Scandinavian crime authors back in Sweden and I have noticed that quite a few of those authors have been translated into English.
My favourite Swedish crime novelist is without a doubt Håkan Nesser, who actually lives here in London. I so wish I would bump into him one day, but that hasn’t happened yet. He has written many books, and not just crime novels. His most famous book series is about inspector van Veeteren and I highly recommend all the books, just read them in the right order.
After he finished that series he wrote three books about a more humourous policeman named Barbarotti and since then he has written novels set in both New York and London.
The reason why I love his books is in the way he writes as much as the story he is telling.
It is for that same reason that I really enjoy Jo Nesbø, who’s main character is the drunkard Harry Hole and who’s books are set in Oslo. His crime stories are really gruesome and you can’t put the book down until you have finished it.
Other good crime novelist I recommend are Camilla Läckberg, Karin Fossum, Mari Jungstedt and Åsa Larsson.
Sweden’s answer to Nigella is definitelty Leila Lindholm. She is equally good at whipping up girly cakes as to cook for a dinner party. She’s a famous face in Sweden after her TV shows, and her cookbooks have been translated into English.
The newest addition to her empire is her online shop Leila’s General Store. It has some vintage kitchen items and lots of nice baking accessories and other nice things for the kitchen. Some of the items are quite pricey, but I would still buy from there.
Sweden has been a Christian country since the Viking Age (that is how the religion travelled so far north) and a protestant country since the reformation in the 1500s. But many people are atheists as well.
Most holidays in Sweden are Christian but based on old Pagan traditions, although we still celebrate some pagan traditions as well as the Christian. A weird mix perhaps, but once you’re used to it you don’t really think about it.
Easter is definitely one of those mixed traditions. The last week of lent (Holy week) (although people don’t really give anything up for lent in Sweden) all the days have different names:
Palmsöndag (Palm Sunday), blåmåndag (Holy Monday), vittisdag (Holy Tuesday), skymmelonsdag (although my grandmother used to call is askonsdagen, Ash wednesday) (Holy Wednesday), skärtorsdag (Maundy Thursday) and långfredag (Good Friday). This week is to celebrate the pain of Jesus on the cross.
But on the Thursday we also celebrate a pagan tradition of little girls (and boys) dressing up like witches (påskkärring) in rags with head scaves, long skirts and painted freckles on their cheeks. They also have a broom stick (of course), a kettle and a black cat. Then the witches take a basket of Easter candy and walk around the houses and trade sweets for more sweets. Our way of trick or treat, I guess. The reason for dressing up like witches is that this is the day when they according to tradition all gather at Blåkulla to celebrate with the devil himself.
Odd, when you think about it that these two contradicting traditions are celebrated at the same time by the same people. But pagan traditions are really rooted and we hang on to them, just like midsummer.
I have no faith really (only on paper) but I do like traditions and what they represent.
Glad påsk! (Happy Easter!)
Easter eggs as you know them in the UK, a chocolate egg with not much inside is quite nice, but very different from what I am used to from home.
In Sweden we give (and receive) cardboard Easter eggs with beautiful prints, filled with lots of mixed sweets including chewy dragé eggs that to me is a must!
When I was little my mother even painted Easter Eggs for the whole family and we use them every year. I have one really big pink one with my name on it, and another purple one that my granny made. Dad still wants his sweets in his childhood egg which is so huge it would take about 5 kg of sweets to fill it up, so normally we put some tissue paper in the bottom and fill up the rest so he doesn’t get more sweets than us.
On Saturday my friend Gaby mentioned (while looking at English Easter eggs) that her Swedish au pair used to give the children the paper version with all the sweets inside and I realised it is quite different to the British tradition.
I think this is partly because chocolate is so popular here. I mean, at home people eat a lot of chocolate too, and I prefer Marabou to Cadbury’s, but here people eat even more. But then again, we eat huge quantities of pick ‘n mix in Sweden and you don’t here, and that is probably because Sweden is better at producing nice chewy sweets. We even have different Haribo sweets in Sweden (although the brand is Danish) because what is on sale here just wouldn’t sell well in Sweden. Funny that.
I don’t actually know where/if you can buy the cardboard eggs here, but if you see them you should try our tradition too. One can’t have too many sweets, right?!
Did you ever read about Moomin by Finnish Tove Jansson when you were little? I certainly did and I still find the Moomin family very cute. We watched the cartoon on telly as kids as well, and I think the characters are just adorable. Especilly Little My who is angry all the time.
A little while ago a new shop opened in the Covent Garden Market, full of adorable Moomin merchandise. I can’t wait to check it out. For more info, see what Time Out has to say.
Another month to go and then it is Easter. Apart from a lamb roast I don’t think England and Sweden have much in common when it comes to food for Easter.
Just like every other holiday we eat herring. Usually with boiled, oftened coloured eggs, dark rye bread, strong hard cheeses and some smoked or cured salmon. I usually make a matjes cheesecake, and Janssons temptation (potato and anchovies bake) is common too. This food is usually consumed on Easter Eve, the Saturday, and the roast lamb is more common on Easter Day (the SUnday).
A very popular Easter cake is the Oscar II cake, named after a Swedish king. The reason it is so popular during Easter is probably because of its yellow colour and nothing else.
Note: The image is from here.
If you want to experience Scandinavian themed drinks and some Nordic kitsch, I have just the place for you – Nordic Bar.
My friend Nick introduced me to this place when I was new in town, and it is a quite fun place with lots of kitschy decorations and a stuffed reindeer on the wall. The bar feels a little bit shabby, but the Scandinavian themed cocktails make up for it. They have lots of flavoured vodkas and even snaps in stock, and you can even have a mini smorgasbord here.
Image courtesy of http://www.nordicbar.com/