I’m utterly fascinated by Scandinavian cookbooks. When I hear people say that “in Scandinavia you will find only herring and potatoes”, I laugh. You can eat well anywhere, if you know where to go and what to look for. Food is culture; what locals eat can teach us a lot about their country. If a product is very popular, or an ingredient is often used, you can be sure there’s a story behind it. Of course you’ll find herring, salmon and halibut in the Scandinavian countries: these are the main fishery products of the North Sea. The salmon and potato soup I had in Finland, the herring plate I ordered in Copenhagen, and the halibut I ate in Stockholm are among the best dishes of my travels.
The success of the New Nordic Cuisine
Scandinavian cuisine wasn’t the healthiest in the word, this much is true, but things have changed now. The harsh climate, the scarce availability of fruit and vegetables, the habit of using butter and cream made it difficult to make healthy and balanced dishes. But then came the Karelian experiment, which represented a twist in the Scandinavian way of eating and cooking. Nutritionist stressed the benefits of herring, salmon, berries, oats and rye, and suggested to use less butter and more olive oil, less cream and more yogurt. People followed the advice and changed their habits, improving their health. And now we all look at Nordic cuisine in awe. In 2004, twelve Nordic chefs created the New Nordic Food manifesto to promote food culture. Pure, simple and safe food, which also means local products and traditional cooking methods, are the pillars of the programme.
The Scandinavian Cookbook
One of the first books I fixed my eyes on is The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann. Leafing through it, I found mouthwatering recipes, from salmon burger to potato cake, from porridge to Danish butter cookies. Following the seasons, the book brings the essence of Scandinavia to our table. It also includes wonderful photos of landscapes, tools and domestic scenes. The recipes are simple, with a particular attention to healthy ingredients. There’s also a special focus on family lunches, in line with hygge philosophy.
NORTH WILD KITCHEN
Among the Scandinavian cookbooks, North Wild Kitchen can be described as a journey through Norwegian cuisine. It’s a collection of traditional Scandinavian recipes, which have been handed down for generations. The author, Nevada Berg, born in the United States but married to a Norwegian, has traveled a long way before moving with her family to an authentic farm located in the heart of Norway. Inspired by simple foods, the scent of cardamom and local ingredients, Nevada has brought together ancient and modern recipes, showing how today’s Norwegians like to eat. If you want to take a peek at some recipes, such as Glitrekringle (divine) or fish balls, you can visit her site, “North Wild Kitchen”.
THE NEW NORDIC by simon bajada
In one of the most popular Scandinavian cookbooks, The New Nordic, The Swedish photographer Simon Bajada takes us to the lunar landscape of Iceland, to the forests of Sweden and the North Sea, to teach us how we can give a Nordic touch to our recipes. The pictures in the book are irresistible. Carrying the book in my bag, I went to the farmer’s market and bought blueberries, dill, smoked salmon and rye flour to make smørrebrød, the Danish open sandwiches. Nothing new, you might say. Indeed. But this is the Nordic way of eating the same old sandwich.
I would really like to try making kanelbullar, the Swedish cinnamon and butter buns. In Sweden and Finland, where there’s a very similar sweet called pulla, I have discovered that kanelbullar is a nutritious breakfast and a yummy snack. In all their simplicity, these buns reflect the character and habits of the Scandinavian countries. Curiously, in Sweden there’s even a day dedicated to the national pastry: October 4 is the Kanelbullar Day, and I can almost smell the scent of cinnamon and butter coming from the bakeries in Stockholm. How lovely is a nation that dedicates a feast to its most popular pastry?