Category Archives: Scandinavian


Gravlax is salmon that is not cooked, but cured in salt, sugar and dill. This is a popular method of salmon preparation in all the countries of Scandinavia. Originally, the preparation of gravlax involved burying the fish for a short fermentation period, but thankfully that is no longer part of the process!

I was able to taste gravlax at the Scandinavian festival earlier this month, and wanted to try my hand at making it before the month was out.  So immediately upon arriving back from my Christmas vacation, I started curing a small salmon fillet.  Normally, this process would not be undertaken for such a small amount of fish – but there’s only so much I can eat, and the month is almost over! It became obvious during the slicing of the fish that a thicker fillet and a sharper knife would have worked better. The cured fish had become almost mushy and didn’t want to slice very well, but tasted delicious on my homemade pumpernickel bread, with fresh lemon and mustard sauce.

4 oz. salmon fillet with skin on – frozen
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. coarse ground sea salt
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

Combine the sugar, salt and peppercorns. Lay the frozen fillet on a piece of aluminum foil and sprinkle with the fresh dill.  Then spread the dry sugar mixture all over the top.  Wrap tightly with foil and place the packet in a glass dish in the fridge, topped with a weight.  Press the fish in this way for 48 hours, turning occasionally.  If preparing a larger volume of fish, you can sandwich the seasonings between two fillets with the skin to the outside.

Scrape off the seasonings and slice thinly on an angle. Serve on a piece of rye bread or flat cracker bread, with garnish of lemon slices and mustard-dill sauce.

Mustard-Dill Sauce
Mix equal amounts of Dijon mustard and brown sugar until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and fresh dill.


Fisherman’s Potato Salad & Orange Cake

Here are a couple of favorite dishes that I wanted to share from a Norwegian cookbook that I received through interlibrary loan late in the month.  First, Fisherman’s Potato Salad is one of many dishes that combine potatoes and apples. I really love the Scandinavian’s savory use of apples in potato salads and other dishes. The original recipe called for sardines, but I substituted canned tuna since that’s what I had in my pantry.  I had a mini can of tuna and it made just enough for 2 people as a side dish, so doubling should use a regular-sized can of tuna and make enough for 4.

Fisherman’s Potato Salad
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. fresh dill
½ tsp. lemon zest
1 green onions, sliced
1 large potato, peeled, diced, and cooked
1 apple, peeled and diced
3 oz. tuna, drained

Whisk together oil, lemon juice, mustard, mustard seeds, dill, lemon zest, onion and pepper to taste. Pour over chopped potato, apple, and tuna, and toss it all together to coat. Chill until serving.

Another dish that I wanted to share is an Orange Loaf Cake. The recipe called for raisins, which I actually think make the cake almost too sweet (plus they sunk to the bottom during baking). I think I’ll try adding chopped nuts instead of raisins next time.  The orange marmalade is an unique and easy way to add orange flavoring to the cake without having to zest and juice your own oranges. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it is baked in a loaf pan, this is definitely  more of a cake than a quickbread.

Orange Loaf Cake (Appelsinformkake)
2/3 c. sugar
½ c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 c. orange marmalade
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ c. milk
¾ c. golden raisins or nuts (optional)

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and marmalade and mix well.  Sift flour and baking powder. Add half the dry ingredients, then add milk. Scrape down sides of bowl and add remaining dry ingredients. Mix in raisins or nuts by hand. Grease a large loaf pan and pour batter into the pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Both of these recipes were adapted from Authentic Norwegian Cooking, by Astrid Karlsen Scott.

Open-faced Sandwiches, Smørrebrød

The Danish have a traditional dish called Smørrebrød, or “buttered bread”, an open-faced sandwich style that evolved many years before the Earl of Sandwich’s 2-slice creation. These sandwiches are often made with a dark rye or other brown bread, though white bread may be preferred as a base for milder-flavored toppings like chicken, shrimp and cheese.  The Smørrebrød concept originated from a time when a large piece of bread was used as a plate for meals and then discarded. The juices from the toppings would soak into the bread, until the bread itself eventually became a desired part of the meal.

A wide variety of toppings are used, both hot and cold. These are three sandwiches that were available at the Scandinavian Christmas Festival earlier this month – herring with a dill sauce, pork, and Jarlsberg cheese.;

I tried my hand at a few open-faced sandwiches throughout the month. Here are some of my creations using mostly Scandinavian ingredients. Sources say that ‘anything goes’, with the general rules that:

  1. The bread must be completely covered,
  2. The bread slices should be thin and sturdy, and
  3. The combination of ingredients must be appealing to both the eye and the tastebuds, with appropriate garnishes to that effect.

Roast Beef, and Italian Salad Smørrebrød

These two attempts were based on recipes I found in the cookbooks, but with my own tweaks based on personal taste and what was available in my pantry. The one on the right is roast beef and Havarti cheese, topped with a vinegar cucumber salad, horseradish sauce and fresh dill garnish. I used Shank’s Bakery rosemary sourdough bread for this one.

The smørrebrød on the left is my twist on an “Italian salad” mentioned in one of the Danish cookbooks. It has grated cabbage, carrots and apples, with green pepper slivers, finely chopped dill pickle, ham pieces, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.  Served on Shank’s Bakery garden harvest sourdough and garnished with parsley and tomato.

Ginger Sausage Smørrebrød

Ginger sausage is a recipe I found in a Danish cookbook, I used the sausage patties to make a sandwich with my mom’s Hearty Sourdough bread (available from Shank’s Bakery), muenster cheese, mayonnaise and lettuce.

Ginger Sausages
2 eggs, separated
1 lb. bulk ground sausage
½ c. chopped dill pickles
1 tsp. ground ginger

Beat the egg yolks and mix with sausage, pickles and ginger.  Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into sausage mixture.  Shape into small patties and fry until browned.

Fried Apple & Bacon Smørrebrød
4 slices bacon, fried until crispy
1/2 Granny Smith apple, sliced
1/2 Golden Delicious apple, sliced
1/2 c. thinly sliced yellow onion

In a little of the bacon grease, fry the onion until translucent. Then add the apple slices and saute until tender, but not mushy. Add back the crumbled bacon. Spread a light layer of mayonnaise and/or mustard on the bread and top with fried apples and bacon mixture.  I used a light pumpernickel bread for this one, which I made with rye flour, caraway and molasses.


One of the breakfast meals mentioned in Scandinavian cookbooks is a rye or oat porridge. I didn’t have any rye berries in the house, so decided to try the version with old-fashioned oats.  I enjoy cooked oatmeal on a winter’s morning with some raisins and brown sugar, and I assumed that porridge would be a similar dish. Unfortunately, I must admit I didn’t enjoy this porridge nearly as much! It’s an easy recipe:

1 cup oatmeal
3 c. water
pinch of salt

Mix these three ingredients in a casserole dish and cover tightly. Place in a larger dish with water in it, making a water bath for slower cooking. Bake overnight (~8 hours) at 250 degrees.

I could immediately see why this would be a popular dish during times when food is scarce. One cup of dried oatmeal stretched into 3 or more cups of finished porridge. But the result is very different from a more quickly-cooked oatmeal. The tougher fibers dissolved into something softer and gelatinous, much like the texture of a custard.

The recipe suggested topping the porridge with lingonberry jam and butter, or cinnamon and sugar, plus a little bit of milk or cream. I added ALL of the above (substituting a mixed berry jam) and it was still barely edible. The porridge had hardly any flavor of its own and tasted watered down from a typical hot oatmeal dish – not surprising considering it absorbed three times it’s volume in water during the night’s cooking.  Also, the texture was just too gummy to be very enjoyable. I’m sure there are many other recipes for “porridge”, and perhaps using a more whole grain like rye berries, or mixing in sugar or other flavorings during the cooking process would result in a tastier product.

To give this oat porridge one more chance, I followed another suggestion and pressed the leftovers into a loaf pan to chill.  The next morning I sliced the porridge and fried it in butter, topping it with maple syrup and pear jam. This was slightly more enjoyable and it was a filling breakfast, but I have to say that I doubt I’ll be trying this porridge recipe again.

Cabbage rolls and almond cake

I’ve been wanting to make this almond cake for a while, it’s another delicious recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, called Norwegian Prince’s Cake, or Fyrstekake.  A butter pastry is pressed into the bottom of a cake pan. Almond paste is layered on top and covered with a lattice of the remaining pastry.  From the description, I was expecting more of a tart, but because the crust had baking powder, it rose a little bit and ended up a little more like a layer of pound cake with an almost equal layer of almond paste on top. I cut the cake into bars for a party, though it could also be cut into wedges for a fancier meal, perhaps served with a drizzle of ganache or raspberry coulis – yum!

Over the weekend I also made Cabbage Rolls, adapting a Finnish recipe from The Best of Scan Fest, which is a paperback collection of Scandinavian sayings and recipes.  I used some chinese cabbage that my dad sent home with me from his fall garden at Thanksgiving.  I’ve had other cabbage rolls of Russian and German origin, but I especially liked the sweetness from sprinkling a little brown sugar on the tops of these Kaalikaaryleet.

Cabbage rolls (Kaalikaaryleet)
about 8-10 large cabbage leaves
1/2 c. white or brown rice
1/2 lb. ground pork (or beef)
2 Tbsp. bread crumbs
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. cream
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt

Boil the cabbage leaves in salted water just until pliable, don’t overcook or they will tear apart too easily when folding later. Drain and set aside to cool.

Cook the rice in 1 c. salted water for about 15 minutes. Cool rice. Mix together uncooked pork, bread crumbs, water and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Add cooled rice and mix well. Use this pork and rice mixture to stuff the cabbage leaves, rolling them up and placing the bundles seam-side down in a greased 8-inch square casserole pan (double the recipe for a 9×13 pan).

Sprinkle the cabbage rolls with brown sugar and salt.  Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for about 1 hour. If needed, add a bit of water to keep from sticking. Serve with a white sauce or tomato sauce, in this case I used a thickened chicken broth with a little cream.

“Summer” soup – Kesakeitto

This Finnish soup is called “summer soup”, but it involves what we would mostly think of as winter/spring vegetables here in the southern U.S.  The growing season is much shorter that far north!  Kesakeitto calls for a mixture of vegetables – I used carrots, celery, parsnips, potato, peas, cauliflower and leeks. The soup is thickened up with a little flour and made creamy with milk – like a vegetable chowder.

I was in the middle of poaching a salmon fillet simultaneously with the soup preparation when I realized that I could add salmon into the chowder to make it a more hearty main dish soup.  Since salmon is very common in that part of the world, I hope this revision isn’t too ‘non-traditional’ – and it was definitely a tasty addition. The soup is finished off with fresh dill and parsley.  I thoroughly enjoyed this soup for dinner last night with a couple of slices of my mom’s Garden Harvest sourdough bread (available from Shank’s Bakery in Harrisonburg, VA) :)

Finnish ‘Summer’ Soup
1 c. diced carrots
1 stalk celery, diced
1 c. diced parsnip (about 1)
1 potato, diced
1 c. cauliflower, chopped small
1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 c. frozen green peas
2 Tbsp. flour
2 c. milk
1/2 lb. salmon, cooked and flaked
1/2 c. parsley and/or dill, chopped

Heat a couple of tablespoons canola oil in a large soup pot. Saute the first 6 vegetables for about 3 minutes until leeks are wilted, add a couple pinches of salt. Add water to just cover the veggies and cook for 10 minutes, until all are cooked through and tender. Add frozen peas.

Mix flour with some cold milk, and then add to the soup – this will thicken it up a bit. Add the rest of the 2 c. milk. Bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, add the salmon and herbs and stir to mix.

King Haakon’s Cake

This cake recipe caught my attention as I was reading through my cookbooks. It seems that about half of the dessert recipes in Scandinavia involve almonds or almond paste in some way. I love almonds, so I’m certainly not complaining! King Haakon’s Cake (Konge Haakon’s Kake) is a Norwegian recipe named after one (or all) of a long line of kings who went by that name. It is a dense yellow cake (actually I’m not sure it’s SUPPOSED to be dense, but it did turn out that way), cut into three layers.  The first two layers are topped with chocolate filling, and the third is topped with a circle of almond paste that is rolled into a circle to match the cake.  Whipped cream is then spread on the sides of the cake. The flavor surprisingly reminded me of a Boston Creme pie, even though the filling and frosting are reversed.

I took this cake to a holiday party of the International Festival committee & board members, which was a lot of fun! About 20 people gathered to share an international potluck meal and celebrate the success of this year’s International Festival of Raleigh. I think I’m going to enjoy being a part of this group, as our cooking demonstration committee has agreed to stay on for the 2011 festival!

King Haakon’s Cake
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup sugar
6 eggs, separated
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. milk

For the cake, spray a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray and dust with flour. Cream together the butter and sugar for about 4 minutes until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well. Sift together the flour and baking powder and add alternately with the milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary and ending with flour. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff. Gently fold half the whites into the batter, then finish with the rest. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool. In my case, the cake rose very well, and then deflated while cooling, so don’t be alarmed if this happened. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to do that or not, but the end product tasted ok! :)

Chocolate filling:
1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 tsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 egg yolks

Mix together the cream, cornstarch and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat to almost boiling and then remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Wait for a few minutes and then whisk until smooth and chocolate is fully melted. Beat the egg yolks in a bowl and gradually add part of the chocolate mixture, while continuing to whisk. Then add the egg mixture back to the rest of the melted chocolate and stir well. Cook and stir over low heat for about 1 minute until it thickens up. Remove from the heat, cover with saran wrap and chill. You may need to warm it up a bit before spreading when you assemble the cake.

Almond paste:
1 c. sliced almonds
2/3 c. powdered sugar
1 egg white

Put the almonds in a food processor and grind them finely. Add powdered sugar to mix well, then add the egg white. It will be very sticky. Spread out the almond paste between two layers of saran wrap to be about 10 inches in diameter (matching the top of the cake). Lay flat on a plate in the refrigerator to chill.

Whipped cream:
1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Whip cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.

Cut the cooled cake into three equal layers. On the first two layers, divide the chocolate filling and spread evenly. Stack those layers. Add the third layer and top it with the circle of almond paste. Spread whipped cream on the sides of the cake. Keep refrigerated until about 20-30 minutes before you’re ready to serve the cake.

Adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book