Meatballs in celeriac sauce
Scandinavia has a long tradition for using minced meats. Each Scandinavian country has its own version of meatballs, and a long list of other minced meat dishes. The pan-fried meatballs are either served with lingon-sylt or preserved sweet-and-sour beetroot, and with rye bread or potatoes and sauce. It’s a dish that most families eat once a week at home. My favourite meatball recipe is in celeriac sauce, partly because I love celeriac, but also because the soft meatballs in the white sauce for me is just perfect winter comfort food.
Herrings have been part of Scandinavian food culture for a long time. They were for centuries the basic and most important part of our diet, eaten salted with porridge in mornings and later in the day with rye bread and beer. Today, we are famous for the different ways we eat herring cured, smoked, fried, or fermented. I love the marinated ones on rye bread, but also just freshly pan-fried and then placed in vinegar brine for a day. During the winter I still eat herring almost every day to get my D-vitamins and fatty oils, but really mostly because I like herrings. I would never be able to eat something just for the health benefits; it has to be delicious too!
Smørrebrød, variated throughout Scandinavia
There is no better lunch than smørrebrød, and it is quintessentially Danish. All over Copenhagen you will find restaurants serving smørrebrød, both traditional and modern. Smørrebrød can be either very simple or more elaborated. The simple one is just a piece of rye bread with topping; my favourite ones are with boiled potato or egg with tomatoes on top.
The more elaborated smørrebrød has a variety of flavours and textures. My grandparents invited family and friends over for smørrebrød, beer and snaps for Saturday lunch, then everybody was seated around the table making their own pieces of smørrebrød, and always starting with herrings.
Cured with dill, this is a classic served all over Scandinavia, and is world famous. But it may be made with many different flavours. In any case, it should be made from fresh and good quality salmon. It takes three days to cure, and nothing beats freshly cured salmon. The whole curing-of-fish tradition is from before the invention of the refrigerator and from when Scandinavians had to prepare a lot of food that could last to survive the winter. It is a tradition we have kept for hundreds of years. My favourite graved lax is my own signature recipe with orange and lemon zest.
Baked with marzipan, this is popular for New Year’s Eve, for weddings, or for other special occasions. On the day of the annual opening of the Danish parliament we always served kransekage and champagne for the queen and her family. It’s normally made either with hazelnut paste and chocolate, or with thin white icing. I started making it myself as a young girl because it was fun to make the big ones and make them fit and decorate the cakes. It is a favourite of mine - I love good marzipan.
The rye bread is crucial; rye is used in many different things. The Danish rye is the base of the smørrebrød, and the sour, earthy taste of rye is an important flavour in the Scandinavian palate. Often eaten for breakfast with soft boiled eggs for breakfast, toasted with avocado or with cheese. I also use it crumbled on yoghurt, in cakes, or on savoury dishes.