I have been far away from home and residing in lovely Sweden – Malmö, to be exact – for two months now. I do believe that if you love to cook, there’s a good chance you love to travel also. Tasting new flavour combinations, encountering the wonders and mysteries of new supermarkets, and discovering a culture through its food, are all part of the travel experience for me. It may be premature of me to say, and I do consider myself a little bit of a cuisine hussy, but I think I may have discovered my new favourite country for food.
Sweden has far exceeded my expectations in terms of its food, not to mention how much I love the Swedish attitude to equality and organisation. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere where I see just as many men in cafés with their babies (often with fellow men with their babies), as I do women with babies, indulging in morning or afternoon fika (the Swedish term for coffee, cake and conversation … brilliant!). The Swedes take a number and then queue for just about everything … the deli, the post office, the electronics shop, the pharmacy. Malmö has delighted and surprised me. It’s considered a ‘green’ city, with possibly more bicycles than vehicles and words like ‘Ekologisk’ and ‘Fair trade’ proudly stamped on most products. Swedish life doesn’t come cheaply, but as I’ve discovered after spending many hours (and I mean hours) in supermarkets, people here will happily spend more money on eco-friendly and home-grown products.
For all their organic, healthy eating though, they will also happily put together a mixed bag of godis, lollies, or candy, for my North American readers. The selection of godis is simply amazing! Mr R. and I have a tried a different selection on many a Saturday, which is considered to be godis day in Sweden. We had one bad week of plain weird godis (I’m assuming all of the least-popular ones, which Mr R., in his quest to try everything, happened to select all at once), but other than that, I am a fan. I have also been surprised by the bread and sweets. I am not a carb person, nor am I a sweet tooth, but this country has almost won me over to the dark side. When entering a supermarket, I am almost always hit by the smell of cinnamon and warm, freshly-baked bread. It’s completely intoxicating. But before I go on about all of Sweden’s foods and try to cover too much ground, I’ll stick to the reason why I love this country’s food the most … seafood! It’s everywhere! Crayfish, prawns, salmon (smoked, cured, fresh, canned, potted, you name it!), caviar, herring, mackerel, caviar paste, and the list goes on. I’ll hopefully be bringing you a few posts on my favourite Swedish dishes and experiments while I’m here, but in the meantime I’ll start with something simple; something you may be able to get at your local IKEA, but something I reckon you can easily do at home, and better!
You can find delicious smörgås (open sandwiches) in just about any café here. They usually consist of a thickly-cut slab of pumpernickel or sour-dough bread that has a hint of sweetness or ginger (still trying to put my finger on it!), topped with roast beef, creamy egg, mustard and salad, or smoked ham and camembert, or my favourite: shrimps, avocado, egg and salad. It looks très fancy, but I promise, it’s incredibly easy.
4 slices of your favourite bread
1 cup cooked shrimp
1 avocado, sliced into large chunks
half a cucumber, sliced
handful of rocket or other mixed salad
2 eggs, boiled
3 tablespoons whole-egg mayonnaise or crème fraîche
2 tablespoons thousand-island dressing
squeeze lemon juice and half a lemon, for serving
2 tablespoons fresh dill
ground black pepper
Arrange the bread on two plates or a large board, and top with the creamy base. This can be made in a variety of ways, two of them being: crème fraîche, dill, capers and lemon, or the way I made it for this version, with thousand-island dressing, mayonnaise, dill and lemon.
Spread this generously over the bread, then artfully arrange (by that I mean don’t throw it onto the bread so it looks like a smörgås explosion!) the salad, cucumber, avocado and shrimp on top. Slice each boiled egg into quarters and place on each plate, along with a wedge of lemon. Sprinkle with a little dill and cracked pepper, and there you have it, a wonderfully Swedish seafood sandwich!