The Ever Present Herring
It would be difficult not to mention pickled herring at this juncture as it does like to make an appearance at these Smorgasbord type of events!
Quite often, you will see bowls of pickled herring accompanied by beetroot and apple salad, pâtés, meatballs and smoked and cured salmon. Sounds great, doesn't it?
On the subject of fish, it is imperative to talk more of the Herring. It is the most popular fish in Scandinavia and is smoked, pickled and fried. It is a wonderfully rich-tasting fish that has been a vital part of this northern traditional diet. The wonderfully named 'Gravadlax' or dill-cured salmon is also a big hit in Scandinavian homes. You may also find smoked mackerel and less known fish, the 'Arctic charr'!
One or two traditions divide the room between love and hate, fear and loathing! 'Surstromming' is one of those as it is a very pungent fermented herring, which is popular in the North of Sweden. This admittedly smells pretty rank but tastes great!
If you happen to be partying in Sweden in august, then it's likely to involve large quantities of crayfish at outdoor parties. This will no doubt be washed down with a full glass or two of 'Aquavit', the most common spirit of the region. Skal or cheers!
Bread and Meat Get a Look In
As for bread to accompany all this rich food, there is plenty of 'brod' to choose from in Scandinavian countries. It is more typical to have dark rye breads that can come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. There are some fantastic sweet breads like 'Limpa', 'Vortbrod' and 'Franskbrod'. If traditional rich rye breads are not for you then it is a must to try real Scandinavian crispbreads that are a healthy alternative and vastly different in quality to those we get exported and sold in the supermarkets.
Meats, especially pork, are an integral part of the Southern Scandinavian diet. The traditional roast pork dish in Denmark is 'Flaekesteg' and is as Danish as Roast Beef is British. It tends to be served with a nice rich gravy and comforting caramelised potatoes. This dish also happens to be Christmas lunch too!
When venturing further north, we get to eat the likes of reindeer, elk, and it is even possible to find bear sausages in the more remote parts of the map. Smoked lamb and dried lamb is another quite unusual meat and is to be found in Northern Norway.
If we are talking about Swedish foods, meatballs must be mentioned. The Swedish meatball recipe is usually a mix of pork and beef, but for the Danes, it is a mix of veal and pork that makes the perfect meatball. The meatballs are typically served with a generous helping of lingonberry jam, and any leftovers are usually put into a sandwich the next day!
Sweet Desserts to Round Things Off
As for desserts, cinnamon and cardamon play a leading role in all sorts of scrumptious cakes and buns. Besides a nice hot mug of coffee, the Danes insist on 'Kanelbullar', a cinnamon bun eaten throughout the day. Danish pastries are from Denmark, and the greatest thing to try is a freshly baked 'Smorsnegl' on a Sunday morning. The taste is divine! One final suggestion is to order a slice of 'Kladdkaka', a sticky chocolate cake that is hard to refuse. Skal!