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THE LOCAL LIST

CHRISTMAS

Five Swedish winter recipes to warm you up this Christmas

Hearty food is the best antidote to winter gloom, so we've compiled a selection of our favourite traditional Swedish recipes for the holiday season.

Five Swedish winter recipes to warm you up this Christmas
Make sure your Christmas smorgasbord includes these classics. Photo: Carolina Romare/imagebank.sweden.se

1. Gravad Lax

Raw fish might not seem Christmassy, but this salmon dish is a favourite in Sweden. The name literally means 'cured fish' and the recipe dates back from the Middle Ages, when fishermen buried their fish in order to preserve it. Gravad lax is probably Sweden's most famous culinary export, enjoyed all year round but especially during the Christmas season. The good news is it's simple to make at home.

Click here for the full recipe.


Another kind of gravad lax, with blackberries. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
 
2. Potato and fish gratin (Janssons frestelse)

Janssons frestelse translates to Jansson's Temptation, and though Swedes don't know for certain who exactly Jansson was, it's easy to see why he couldn't resist this hearty casserole. Made with potatoes, onions and cream, it has secured its place as a staple on most Swedes' julbord (Christmas buffet tables). Serve it piping hot, with bread, and you've got the ultimate Swedish comfort food.

Click here for the full recipe.


Jansson's Temptation. Photo: Malin Hoelstad/SvD/TT

3. Gingersnaps (pepparkakor)

A delicious accompaniment to glögg (see below), tea or coffee, the Swedish version of gingersnaps is thinner and crispier than variants in other countries, which helps it make a satisfying 'snap' sound when you break it apart. Our recipe will help you make around 150 of these sweet biscuits so you can give some as gifts to friends and family and still be left with a generous supply for yourself. You can cut them into festive shapes, decorate them with icing, or – if you can resist the temptation to eat them – hang them up as decorations.

Click here for the full recipe.


Gingerbread cookies. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB/Scanpix

4. Saffron buns (Lussekatter)

Also known as Lucia buns, these golden pastries are particularly celebrated on Saint Lucia Day (December 13th) but are also enjoyed throughout the festive season. Lucia comes from the word for 'light' and the Italian saint is seen as a symbol of hope in the dark winter. We think the same can be said for these buns. Made with saffron and raisins and usually rolled into a spiral 'S' shape, they make a delicious choice for a December 'fika' (coffee and cake break).

Click here for the full recipe.


Lussekatter. Photo: Anders Wiklund/Scanpix

5. Mulled wine (glögg)

After all that hearty food you'll need something to wash it down, and what better drink than Sweden's take on mulled wine? It's fun to say, it's fun to drink, and it's fun to make, so curl up with a mug of the spice-infused drink this holiday. Here's our favourite recipe to start you off, but once you've got the hang of it, the amounts and kinds of spices can be adjusted to suit your tastes.

Click here for the full recipe.

How to make Swedish mulled wine: glögg
Glögg. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Article first published in 2015.

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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