Demolishing Swedish treats

Many Swedes love to ‘fika’ – the tradition of drinking coffee and eating a cake. So much so that somebody decided to create the graphic above about popular Swedish treats. While the drawing is nice, the picture rather shows the meagreness of a Swede’s cake options. What then are some of the terrible choices depicted?

In a previous blog I’ve talked about the creamy bun known as semla, which I happen to think is delicious. In my opinion the semla is the best of them all. It is the king of Swedish treats reigning large over the other, to be honest, rather underwhelming alternatives.

The apple and cinnamon scone – as a British person I would not call this a scone. I don’t know what it is. Some kind of triangular bit of plaster. So, no further comment.

Probably the most popular dry-as-a-bone pastry associated with Sweden is the ‘kanelbulle’ or the cinnamon bun. Sold predictably in every bakery and cafe in Sweden and in their millions at Ikea, the cinnamon bun is only redeemed when drenched in melted, oozing butter.

Then there’s the ‘lussekatt’ – a disgusting saffron bun baked and sold in December. If you like bland, yellow bakes that give you indigestion for hours then this is the one for you.

The ‘dammsugare’ – or vacuum cleaner – is a marzipan roll dipped in chocolate. They can contain a bit of Swedish liqueur ‘punsch’ to take the edge off their otherwise plasticky taste. Altogether pointless and unsatisfying.

‘Chokladboll’ or chocolate ball is a linguistically dubious treat. Traditionally given a racist title, they are basically cocoa balls rolled in coconut. An unpleasant eating experience, these balls tend to ‘grow in your mouth’ as they say in Swedish….

‘Hallongrotta’, literally means raspberry cave. These are vanilla biscuits filled with raspberry jam that melt in the mouth. Unless they’re rock hard. They are a traditional biscuit which seem to evoke memories of grandmas and hot kitchens for many Swedes.

‘Pepparkakor’ are crisp gingerbread biscuits eaten around Christmas time. A ubiquitous classic eaten with Swedish mulled wine – ‘glögg’. They are a must during the festive season in homes, offices and often served covered in bacteria in shops. They come in many sizes and shapes, such as love-hearts, stars, people and goats. Yes, you read that correctly – goats.

So none of the above have a patch on the creamy, gooey, airy, almondy delight that is the semla. I know what I’m ordering with my coffee!

Any other Swedish treats that you think rival the almighty semla?

It’s Fatty Tuesday – Swedish style!

Today it’s ‘Fat Tuesday’ in Sweden, known as Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras around the world. While in the UK we eat pancakes and in Latin America they scoff down fried bread, Swedes celebrate by eating the traditional cream Lent bun – the ‘semla’. I’m also clearly going to indulge. In fact, my mouth is watering just writing this blog.

The semla is a creamy bun filled with delicious almond paste. They were eaten traditionally in Sweden to commemorate the start of Lent and the great Fast. In the south of Sweden, they still refer to them as ‘fastlagsbullar’ – Shrovetide buns. Nowadays however, semlas are usually sold anytime between Christmas and Easter.

I just love them. I could eat a barrel load. But I’d end up looking like a barrel if I did. I love the taste of them, and the feeling of luxurious indulgence. I also love the knowledge that as you take a bite into a creamy semla, you are biting into over 500 years’ history of Scandinavian baking.

The word ‘semla’ comes from the Latin ‘simila’ which means fine flour and originally referred just to the bun without any filling. As long ago as the 1500’s, bakers started to hollow out the middle of the bun and fill it with cream and butter. As ingredients became more available, bakers started adding almond and cardemon and the type of semla that we know today developed towards the end of the 1800’s. After rationing of sugar and dairy products ceased at the end of WW2, the semla took off and became very popular.

Nowadays the semla trend has reached new heights. Every year bakers around the country try to launch new types of semla, with their own spin on it -for example, the semla wrap, the semla burger, the semla layer cake, the semla cocktail, the chocolate semla, the vanilla semla, the lactose-free, gluten-free vegan semla.

All delicious I’m sure, but I’m a traditionalist in this matter. Give me a round fluffy cardemon-scented wheat bun brimming over with whipped cream and almond paste.

And give it to me NOOOOWWW!!!

Swedish pizza – with cabbage! 


If you want a cultural food experience in Sweden – order a pizza. When you do, you will also experience a very strange bedfellow. In Sweden, pizza is served with complimentary salad, in both restaurants and take aways. This salad is called creatively –  ‘pizza salad’ and is made of cabbage. It is a kind of coleslaw with white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and oil. It’s fresh, crispy and a bit weird. 

This odd combination is as far as I know only offered in the Nordic countries and its origin is a bit unclear. One theory is that when the first pizzerias opened in Sweden, the traditional tomato salad wasn’t an option due to the climate in the winter. So, subsequently they decided to use a more available, local vegetable – the cabbage – inspired by the Croatian salad ‘kupus salata’. 

Whatever it’s origin, the pizza salad is so ingrained in the Swedish mentality, it’s become a cultural ‘classic’.  In fact, it’s hard to imagine a pizza without cabbage salad in Sweden. 

10 musts in Summer Stockholm 

Thinking of visiting Stockholm this summer? For me, Stockholm in the summer is very much about relaxing, sunbathing, swimming and enjoying good food and drinks. As a resident of over 20 years, here are my top ten musts. Enjoy!

1) The Southside of Söder. Take the underground to Skanstull and walk down to the water’s edge. Walk along the lakeside all the way to Hornstull. This is a favourite walk for Stockholmers, which takes you past boatyards, cosy cafes, cute allotments, beaches, bathing jetties and apartments.

2) Golfbaren. Take the underground to Kristineberg and go to the mini golf course called Golfbaren. Practice your putting while drinking wine.

3) Djurgården. Stockholm’s museum island is well worth a visit. Full of parks, interesting museums, restaurants, beaches, a zoo, grand houses, a fairground, amongst other things. Lovely to visit specific places or just go for a walk. One tip is to head left after crossing the bridge and go to Rosenlunds nurseries and garden cafe.

4) Mälarpaviljongen. On the water’s edge on the island of Kungsholmen, this is a floating bar lounge. It’s a Stockholm favourite with nice food, relaxing surroundings and cool house music. The pretty walk from Rålhomshovs park to the city hall goes past this venue. Reach by taking the underground to Rådhuset or Fridhemsplan.

5) Långholmen prison island. Once housing a prison, this island is now a perfect place for a stroll and a bite to eat. It is also a great place for bathing from one of its many beaches and water access points. Also a walk from here over the large bridge, Västerbron, gives commanding views of the city. Reach Långholmen by taking the underground to Hornstull.

6) Stockholm Archipelago. Take a boat ride out to the archipelago. Amongst the thousands of islands, there are opportunities to disembark and eat, drink, sunbathe, swim and relax. If you don’t want to get off the boat, book a table at the boat’s restaurant and enjoy a great meal as the islands slip gracefully past.

7) Champagne terrace. Take the underground to Slussen and walk up to Söder Theater. At the top of the theatre there is a champagne bar with an amazing terrace and a spectacular view over the whole of Stockholm. Stand here on a warm summer’s evening drinking in the sights.

8) Skeppsholmen. In the middle of Stockholm harbour lies the island of Skeppsholmen. Perfect for a walk by the water’s edge or bathing and eating. The island also houses various museums, including the Modern Museum. The terrace of Skeppsholmens hotel is very relaxing for a glass of rose wine.

9) Fjäderholmarna. Take a 20 minute boat ride from Slussen to the islands of Fjäderholmarna. Swim, sunbathe and enjoy something to eat and drink. A ‘day trip’ that doesn’t feel like it’s miles away.

10) Gamla Stan. If staying urban is your thing, then head for the Old Town. Full of shops, eateries, historic buildings, narrow alleyways, this part of town still has its fair share of sun traps and access to water. Restaurants on the harbour side have lovely views over the water and the city’s boat life.

10 musts in Summer Stockholm 

Thinking of visiting Stockholm this summer? For me, Stockholm in the summer is very much about relaxing, sunbathing, swimming and enjoying good food and drinks. As a resident of over 20 years, here are my top ten musts. Enjoy!

1) The Southside of Söder. Take the underground to Skanstull and walk down to the water’s edge. Walk along the lakeside all the way to Hornstull. This is a favourite walk for Stockholmers, which takes you past boatyards, cosy cafes, cute allotments, beaches, bathing jetties and apartments.

2) Golfbaren. Take the underground to Kristineberg and go to the mini golf course called Golfbaren. Practice your putting while drinking wine.

3) Djurgården. Stockholm’s museum island is well worth a visit. Full of parks, interesting museums, restaurants, beaches, a zoo, grand houses, a fairground, amongst other things. Lovely to visit specific places or just go for a walk. One tip is to head left after crossing the bridge and go to Rosenlunds nurseries and garden cafe.

4) Mälarpaviljongen. On the water’s edge on the island of Kungsholmen, this is a floating bar lounge. It’s a Stockholm favourite with nice food, relaxing surroundings and cool house music. The pretty walk from Rålhomshovs park to the city hall goes past this venue. Reach by taking the underground to Rådhuset or Fridhemsplan.

5) Långholmen prison island. Once housing a prison, this island is now a perfect place for a stroll and a bite to eat. It is also a great place for bathing from one of its many beaches and water access points. Also a walk from here over the large bridge, Västerbron, gives commanding views of the city. Reach Långholmen by taking the underground to Hornstull.

6) Stockholm Archipelago. Take a boat ride out to the archipelago. Amongst the thousands of islands, there are opportunities to disembark and eat, drink, sunbathe, swim and relax. If you don’t want to get off the boat, book a table at the boat’s restaurant and enjoy a great meal as the islands slip gracefully past.

7) Champagne terrace. Take the underground to Slussen and walk up to Söder Theater. At the top of the theatre there is a champagne bar with an amazing terrace and a spectacular view over the whole of Stockholm. Stand here on a warm summer’s evening drinking in the sights.

8) Skeppsholmen. In the middle of Stockholm harbour lies the island of Skeppsholmen. Perfect for a walk by the water’s edge or bathing and eating. The island also houses various museums, including the Modern Museum. The terrace of Skeppsholmens hotel is very relaxing for a glass of rose wine.

9) Fjäderholmarna. Take a 20 minute boat ride from Slussen to the islands of Fjäderholmarna. Swim, sunbathe and enjoy something to eat and drink. A ‘day trip’ that doesn’t feel like it’s miles away.

10) Gamla Stan. If staying urban is your thing, then head for the Old Town. Full of shops, eateries, historic buildings, narrow alleyways, this part of town still has its fair share of sun traps and access to water. Restaurants on the harbour side have lovely views over the water and the city’s boat life.

What is Sweden’s National Dish?

swedishchef

If you’ve ever wondered what Sweden’s National Dish is, now is the time to take part in a competition hosted by radio station P3. So far, the folowwing have been eliminated: falafel, swede, ‘plankstek’ (literally steak on a plank) and ‘palt’ (dumplings).

What is left to vote for are the following:

  • ‘Smörgåstårta’ (sandwich cake) versus ‘Sill och potatis’ (pickled herring and boiled potatoes)
  • ‘Köttbullar’ (meatballs) versus ‘Blodpudding’ (black pudding)
  • ‘Tacos’ versus ‘Falukorv med makaroner´ (sausage with macaroni)
  • ‘Kebabpizza’ versus ‘varmkorv’ (hot dog)

If you’d like to vote, here’s the link: VoteforSwedenNationalDish

So, what do you think? What is Sweden’s National Dish?

Don’t choke on the almond

And so it is Christmas. Like many places around the world, Sweden celebrates on Christmas Eve. Festivities throughout the day include eating the Christmas ham, receiving a visit from Santa, opening presents, drinking, playing board games and eating more. 

But the day usually kicks off with a steaming bowl of rice porridge. This delightful dish is made of rice, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Deep inside the porridge, there is often an almond. Presuming you don’t choke on it, if you find the almond it means you will be married during the following year. In the south of Sweden, and in Denmark, Norway and Iceland, the person finding the almond receives a gift. During the 1920’s it became trendy in Sweden to replace the almond with a ‘porridge doll’ made of porcelain and hide that in the porridge instead. 

Really superstitious people will even leave a bowl of porridge outside tonight to appease the house gnome who, according to legend, can make your cows dry up if he’s pissed off. 

But hopefully nobody should be pissed off on a day like today. And with family and friends gathered around a twinkling Christmas tree, a bowl of steaming hot rice porridge is a great way to kick off a lovely day.