Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Introduction to Swedish Food

I just realised that I may have been keeping you on tender hooks!  Months ago, we had a dinner party, where our lovely Swedish guests brought some Swedish food for us to try out.  I posted a tantalising photo of it all on facebook, promising to blog about each item and then promptly forgot about doing so.  Oops, sorry.

I haven't worked my way through each item yet.  Some I've tried and enjoyed so 
much have bought more of.  Others got a taste and now lurk in the fridge...barely touched.  So, what did we get?

Given that it was close to the festive period, we were given quite a few Christmassy items, including;

'Julmust' a spiced Cola type drink and a Swedish favourite.  I'm not a cola drinker, so I guessed I wouldn't really like it, but nor did anyone we tried to give it to and Mountain Man wasn't convinced either.  We won't be buying it again.

'Västerbottensost' a most delicious, 
crumbly, salty, cheddar like cheese.       
This is one of 64 products to receive the prestigious 'royal warrant' so it's obviously something special.  'Ost' means cheese and it is something that the Swedes have a bit of a love affair with, if the cheese section in supermarkets is anything to go by!  This is probably one of the more expensive cheeses in the chill cabinet, but oh my...I love it.  It now features regularly in my cheese box.

'Kalles Kaviar'.  What to say.  I don't like it.  Perhaps if I had been reared on fish roe I would appreciate eating it from a tube.  Somehow, it just makes me feel squeamish (and that's not easily done).  Apparently it is best enjoyed with hard boiled eggs, served on hard bread.  I haven't attempted that yet, but I did try a tiny bit with cheese and the fishiness was overpowering.  Kalles Kaviar has been around since 1850 and is well loved in Sweden.  This TV Ad says it all for me.

'Fäbodknäcke', which is a Swedish 'hard bread' and one of the many cracker type breads available here.  It is a rye cracker, but not like any I've had before.  The ingredients are very simple - rye flour, cornflour, water & salt.  It is really, really good.  Perfect with the aforementioned cheese, or just with some real butter and a bowl of soup.  

'Rårörda Lingon' or lingonberry jam which is a staple in Scandinavian cuisine.  Served with meat dishes or the classis Swedish meatballs, it is also sometimes served with sweet pancakes.   I haven't tasted this particular jar yet, I look forward to trying it out with something I've made myself.  If anyone has suggestions, send them on!

'Abba' Löksill & Senapsill - pickled herring, in onion (lök) and mustard (senaps).  Again, these jars remain unopened, as I must admit I was a little bit scared of them, but I think I'm ready to try them now...  At Mountain Man's Christmas party last month, I was lucky enough to sit beside one of his colleagues, who is really into food.  He suggested I try the pickled herring that night and I was astounded at how good it was - delicate texture, not at all slimy, brimming with flavour and absolutely delicious.  He also explained how to approach a Swedish buffet, so if any Swedes would like to invite me to a party I know the etiquette now!

'Gammeldags enrisrökt korv', an old fashioned juniper smoked Swedish sausage.  Swoon.  This stuff is delicious.  I ate it as a snack, in casseroles, in pasta sauces...really versatile stuff.  Sausage seems to be something that swedes are big fans of.  Like the now ubiquitous IKEA hotdog, but worlds apart in terms of flavour and quality.  This particular one does  have sugar and preservaties added, which I'm not wild about, but there is a 'Korvhus' (sausage house) around the corner from our apartment, so I will see if I can get something a bit purer there.  

'Lucia Choklad Starkvinsglögg' is last but certainly not least.  This is a fortified mulled wine with hints of chocolate, so definitely a seasonal treat for those days around Christmas when you don't need to drive anywhere!  Throughout December, I had glögg served to me with blanched almonds and dried fruit or sometimes just on it's own.  It is absolutely delicious and this one was that bit more potent as it was enriched with a spirit, brandy I think.  I drank it while decorating the Christmas tree and didn't make a note of it.  

So, 'go raibh mile maith agat' (that's thanks a million, as gaeilge) to Lars, Karin, Jonathan & Lena for a wonderful introduction to Swedish food & drink.  I am enjoying the adventure.   Can anyone make some suggestions for the lingonberry jam or pickled herring?  I'd love to hear what you think...

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