RECIPE: All you need this summer is this Swedish fish dish

Summer means light food and light food means fish. Luckily, food writer John Duxbury knows exactly what to do about that. Here is a great recipe for how to bake brill and since it's also asparagus season, this healthy vegetable would make a nice side dish.

RECIPE: All you need this summer is this Swedish fish dish
Baked brill with asparagus, potato, dill and lemon. Photo: Swedish Food

Swedes normally bake medium-sized fish, such as arctic char, and large flat fish, such as brill and turbot, very slowly. To quote from Vår Kok Bok, Sweden's top-selling cookery book, “The skin dries and protects the flesh, sealing in the flavour…”

Though brill availability is limited due to overfishing, it can easily be substituted by turbot for example. In fact, both are so closely related that they sometimes interbreed. Brill is slightly less meaty than turbot, though sweeter, and has a wonderful texture. 


Makes: 2-4 servings

Level: Very Easy

Preparation: 5 minutes

Cooking: 55 minutes/kg

TOTAL: 1-2 hours


– Allow about 350 g (12 oz), per person, so a small 700 g (1½ lb) fish will serve 2. A medium sized fish of about 1.5kg (3 lb), will serve 4.

– When choosing brill, look for bright eyes, but don’t worry about the colour of the skin as this depends on where they are caught, ranging from light brown on sandy sea floors to dark, rich chocolate-brown on muddy substrates.

– You can use hot horseradish sauce if you can't get fresh horseradish. (Fresh horseradish will keep for several weeks in a fridge if wrapped in clingfilm.)

– Serve the fish quite simply with boiled or steamed potatoes, melted or brown butter, freshly grated horseradish and a few steamed vegetables or a salad.


1 whole brill, cleaned

30g (2tbsp) butter per person

2 tbsp freshly grated horseradish per person

lemon wedges, optional

dill springs, optional


1. Preheat the oven to 100°C (210°F, gas ¼, fan 100°C).

2. Weigh the fish and calculate the cooking time based on 55 minutes/kg (25 minutes/lb), or a minimum of 50 minutes.

3. Rinse the fish and then dry with paper towels.

4. Place in the pan, dark side upwards, and roast for the calculated time. (Don’t add any liquid, butter or oil.)

5. While the fish is cooking, melt the butter slowly. Skim off all the froth from the surface. You will then see a clear yellow layer on top of a milky layer. Discard the milky residue and use the rest. Carefully pour into a hot sauce boat and keep warm until required. (If you prefer beurre noisette (brown butter), follow the recipe below.)

6. At the end of the calculated cooking time, check that the fish is cooked by pushing the tip of a round-ended knife through the thickest part of the flesh until it touches the backbone, then lever it gently to one side. If the fish is cooked it should come away from the backbone easily and the flesh should be white and opaque. (If you have a temperature probe, the temperature of the thickest part should be 55C-58C (131-136F).)

7. Serve the fish straight from the roasting pan by making a cut in the skin along the backbone, remove the skin and serve the fillets on to hot plates. Top the fillets with grated horseradish, pour over a little of the juices from the pan and some melted or brown butter and garnish as desired. Serve the remaining melted or brown butter in a sauce boat along with a dish of grated horseradish.

Beurre noisette

If you prefer to serve the fish with beurre noisette (brown butter) it is fairly easy to do if you follow the tips below. The idea is that the butter is heated a little past its melting point, which results in the milk solids in the butter browning and creating a wonderful nutty aroma.

1. Heat a thick bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add the butter cut into slices or cubes so that it heats evenly and all the butter melts at the same time.

2. Once the butter has melted whisk it frequently. It will produce quite a lot of white foam initially, but then the foam will begin to subside.

3. Continue whisking and heating the butter, but watching it carefully. Lightly browned specks will begin to form at the bottom of the pan and it will give off a gorgeous nutty aroma.

4. Once the butter is a rich golden colour and has a nice nutty aroma, remove the butter from the heat to stop it from cooking any more, and pour it carefully into a warmed sauce boat, discarding the residues.

Butter is easy to brown provided you watch it carefully and keep whisking it. If you neglect it and end up overcooking it, so that the butter becomes black, I am afraid you will have to discard it and start again!

This recipe is published courtesy of John Duxbury, founder and editor of Swedish Food.

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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.