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Swedish chef creates hybrid ‘nacho semla bun’

A Swedish pastry chef has combined two culinary traditions in his latest sweet creation: a bizarre-sounding, but apparently delicious, ‘nacho semla bun’.

Swedish chef creates hybrid 'nacho semla bun'
The hybrid treat. Photo: Wolfgang Kleinschmidt

The hybrid cake mixes the semla bun, a seasonal speciality packed with cream and almond paste, with nachos, a meal that might not be historically Swedish but has been adopted by the Scandinavian nation, where many families sit down for a dinner of tacos every Friday night. Award-winning chef Roy Fares cooked up the delicacy at his Stockholm patisserie Mr Cake, where customers can sample the nachosemla.

“In Sweden, some people are prepared to kill anyone who touches the semla,” Fares joked. But he says customers have been “pleasantly surprised” with his innovative version, and some have told him they even prefer it to the classic recipe.

“Some people don’t want to eat the whole big bun; they just want the paste inside,” he explained to The Local. “When I have a semla, I always take the top off, and dip it in the cream and almond paste, and it’s similar to how when you eat tacos, you dip the chips in guacamole. So I thought, why not combine two traditions in one: the semla and the taco, old and new?”


Pastry chef Roy Fares. Photo: Wolfgang Kleinschmidt

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Sticklers for tradition should be reassured that the baker used the same cream and dough in the new take on the semla. This means it has a similar taste to the original but is simply made in a different way, with triangular slices of dough to dip in the filling.

The semla bun is traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, offering sweet-toothed Swedes a final chance to indulge before Lent. It is also linked to the day because of a legend stating that in 1771, King Adolf Fredrik died on what in Sweden is called ‘Fat Tuesday’ after a heavy meal topped off with 14 servings of sticky semlor.

Despite this infamy, the cake is so beloved that it starts filling up bakery shelves from shortly after Christmas, which marks the start of ‘semla season’.

 

A post shared by Herr och fru Fika (@fikatipset) on Jan 6, 2018 at 9:12am PST

This Instagram user said the cake “exceeded expectations”.

Fares isn’t the first baker to create a sweet-savoury mash-up of Sweden’s favourite foods. In December, one fast food restaurant created a ‘Lucia kebab’, a hybrid meal of the saffron bun traditionally eaten on Lucia Day in mid-December and kebab meat. That meal was inspired by newsagent Pressbyrån’s Lucia hot dog, a sausage served in a saffron bun and topped optionally with ketchup and mustard.

And another take on the semla was launched last year, when a pastry chef combined the treat with the traditional marzipan prinsesstårta, creating a hybrid which provoked strong reactions from customers.
 

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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.

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