Sweden


On our final day in Skane, we left Malmo and took a train to the town of Ystad, famous for being home to the fictional detective Kurt Wallander. You’ll all be glad to hear that Ystad looks like quite a pretty peaceful town whose police-people are more likely to be posing with tourists than dealing with terrible murders!

At Ystad station, we met Karin again and she drove us out to Österlenkryddor, a herb farm about a 10 minute drive outside Ystad. It’s a family business run by Eva and Olle Olsson and they run the largest herb farm in Sweden.

Pharmaceutical Garden

Eva had set out fika for us that morning, with each homemade component featuring their herbs. The rye crispbreads had been baked with stinging nettle. Soft cheese had been mixed with lovage, a savoury herb high in glutamates (Eva suggested boiling potatoes with lovage). Their delicious smoked sausage had a mixture of rosemary and savory in its filling.

Crispbreads, Sausage and Soft Cheese

It wasn’t all savoury though – Eva had baked oat biscuits with sage and chocolate biscuits with mint too. And with it all was a fantastic infusion of lemon balm, mint and sage – I made sure to buy a bag of this from their shop before I left and am enjoying it now as I type this post!

Biscuits with Herbs

Lots of herbs you know and probably some you don’t are grown here. Eva told us of their trouble growing rosemary (usually a perennial here but it’s had to be an annual there in Sweden) and their recent midnight harvest party for wordwood.

Eva

While we didn’t have time to tour their herb fields, we could get a glimpse of them from their herb garden (first photo), where we got a short explanation of some of their more exciting herbs (yes, they had a poisonous plants section…).

Herb Fields

Their shop sells all their dried herbs, herb mixtures and herb products and on weekends, you can fika here at their cafe too. It’s a very calming and relaxing place and their products are delicious. Tours of their herb fields can also be arranged and do take a look at their website for this and other events. Apart from their shop and online, you can also find their goods at the Malmo farmers market.

Our lunch destination that day was Olof Viktors and I was very much looking forward to this visit as every Swedish person to whom I had mentioned the name became very excited themselves. It was a short drive from Österlenkryddor and when we arrived, we were led to a table set for us. See that table in the back of the room? With the sofa? We sat there and we learned, thrilled, that the sofa we sat on had featured in one of the Wallander series in a scene with a grisly murder.

In Olof Viktors

They had arranged for all of us to try their most famous sandwich – an open faced crayfish sandwich. This was piled very high on a very non-Swedish bread, focaccia! It was delicious and very generously portioned!

Crayfish Sandwich

Dessert was a selection of their famous ice creams. Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and yoghurt, mango and yoghurt, passionfruit sorbet and raspberry sorbet were scooped for us. They were all truly excellent but special mention must go to the ice creams made with yoghurt – it gave a bit of tang to the mango which helped prevent it from being too sweet.

Ice Creams

We had a short tour of the bakery itself…

With the Oven

…and the rest of the cafe (there were more buildings than I expected!) too. The cafe really was as beautiful as everyone had told me it would be! Mårten Göthberg the managing director then kindly sent us off with some of their famous knäckebröd.

In Olof Viktors

We ended with a whistle-stop car tour of Ystad (I’d love to spend more time there in the future) and then a drive back to Malmo Airport to catch our flights back to London. Thank you so much to everyone we met on this trip and thank you very much to Malmö Turism, Skåne Tourism and Visit Sweden for a lovely food-packed weekend in Skane.

As always, all my photos from this trip are in a Flickr photoset.

In an attempt to work off all of the food I’d consumed earlier that day, I hit the streets of Malmo hard, walking swiftly for two hours and seeing most of the old town and castle. There was a three course lunch and all that food from Helsingborg to burn off.

Malmo City Hall

Canal

Malmo Castle

You see, I was trying to make space in stomach for dinner that evening at one of Malmo’s hottest restaurants, Bastard. Yes, the restaurant is called Bastard and yes, it means the same thing in Swedish as in English and no, I’m not going to bother contemplating why you’d want to name a restaurant that. Anna was dining with us and we walked over to the restaurant together; she had booked a table for our party and I’d highly recommend doing the same should you visit.

Bastard

I had read previously that the restaurant specialised in nose-to-tail eating but there was nothing on the menu to indicate that. However, I suspect this may have been in the past as at present, their website says that they specialise in Modern European Homestyle Cooking.

A Bastardplanka, their speciality, had to be ordered. It was a very generously loaded plank of delicious charcuterie – chorizo, salami, jamon, rillettes, headcheese – served with plenty of cornichons.

Bastardplanka

But what was running through my mind as I ate it all (it was delicious by the way) was why not feature Swedish or Swedish-style charcuterie? I know there’s definitely some good stuff about as we tasted some amazing hard smoked sausage the next day (that’s the next blog post!).

Denise’s Confit Chicken Wings with Shrimps, Mushrooms and Potato Puree was fantastic – tender chicken wings and creamy puree. What a great combination of ingredients.

Confit Chicken Wings with Shrimps, Mushrooms and Potato Puree

Anna’s Chicken Liver Parfait with Capers and Anchovies was, to my surprise, already spread onto toast. It was very good though with the creamy richness of the parfait and the salty tang of the toppings on the perfectly crisp toast.

Chicken Liver Parfait with Capers and Anchovies

Anna and I split two main courses between us (out of a list of only three options on the menu). Cod with a Fricasee of Chanterelles and Parsnips and Dill was excellent. I loved the use of parsnips here; they added an unexpected sweetness to the dish.

Cod with a Fricasee of Chanterellese and Parsnips and Dill

The Pulled Pork with Cabbage and Apple Slaw, Mustard and Potato Bread was the epitome of comfort food. I used the bread to create an impromptu pulled pork sandwich and when that was finished, I just shoveled it all into my mouth. Fantastic.

Pulled Pork with Cabbage and Apple Slaw, Mustard and Potato Bread

There’s always space for dessert, right? Denise chose the Meringue with Blueberries, Lemon Curd and Cream for dessert and while I love this combination of flavours, I found the meringue a bit too crisp without any of that lovely marshmallowy gooeyness in a well cooked meringue. Can’t fault those blueberries though.

Meringue with Blueberries, Lemon Curd and Cream

The rest of us opted to sample all their ice cream flavours for that day. A Lemon and Elderflower Sorbet was bright and zesty, Turron Ice Cream creamy and nutty and Dulce de Leche Stracciatella sweet and unctuous. The weakest was their Banana and Burnt Butter Ice Cream which tasted mainly of banana bread and nothing of burnt butter.

Lemon and Elderflower Sorbet and Turron Ice Cream

Dulce de Leche Stracciatella and Banana and Burnt Butter Ice Cream

On our way out, I noticed a DJ sitting in a corner. I really don’t know what to say about that; I suspect I must have looked a bit gobsmacked.

DJ in the Corner

The cooking is all very accomplished at Bastard and I do like how they’ve clearly used seasonal (and local according to our waiter) ingredients on their menu each day. I just feel like some dishes could be a bit more different (like that delicious chicken wing starter)…just a bit. But still, it’s a great place to dine in Malmo.

Bastard

Jeanne has also written her post on the same meal. Thank you very much to Malmö Turism for the great dinner!

Bastard
Mäster Johansgatan 11
Malmö, Sweden

My next food adventure was totally different from what both Jeanne and Denise experienced – Visit Sweden arranged for three separate afternoon activities, one for each of us. I’ll leave it to them to let you know where they went but I was headed for Helsingborg, one of the oldest cities in Sweden and the closest point in Sweden to Denmark (across the Öresund Sound from the city is the Danish city of Helsingør). Karin Erlandsson of Skane Tourism very kindly drove me up to the city, about an hour’s drive away, but if you’re not driving, the train connections are also very good.

We met with Jenny and Malin (they’re sisters!) of Food by the Way, a company running food walks throughout the city of Helsingborg, and I would be spending my afternoon with them. Each tour lasts about 2.5 to 3 hours and takes in a few food stops in the city and it was clear as the day went on that they both knew everyone in the food business in Helsingborg, having experience in the restaurant industry themselves.

Food by the Way

In addition to the food stops, they tell you a lot of the history of the city as you go along, making it a good option to keep in mind should you only have a few hours in Helsingborg.

Kärnan

While we were chatting, and of course walking, it transpired that they’d gone through my blog, trying to tailor the tour to my interests (it would be the same if you booked them for a private tour); rather than just trying the more traditional cheese and chocolate shops, we were going to try some of the more unique eateries in Helsingborg. Our first stop was a good example – Brooklyn, an American restaurant in the centre of the old town that the owner Richard had based upon Peter Luger. Richard had lived in the States for a number of years, evident in his big, open and friendly manner. The restaurant was, in a way, like him – warm and open and friendly – and it was buzzing. A table had been reserved for us.

Brooklyn

Richard

When we sat down, glasses of Brooklyn brown ale were first brought to us by Richard followed very closely by serious-sized sample portions of pork ribs and cowboy beans. There was obvious pride in his restaurant and the dishes and pride he should have for they were delicious. Looking around at the other tables, it was obvious that portion sizes are American-sized too – we watched as a family struggled to finish two gigantic slices of chocolate fudge cake.

Brown Ale

Pork Ribs and Cowboy Beans

We couldn’t linger as we still had a few more stops that afternoon. Next was Ebbas Fik (Ebba’s Diner), a 50s diner serving both Swedish and American treats, run by both Ebba and her husband Henrik. Every little detail in the cafe/restaurant was authentically from the era and the place was totally packed that Saturday afternoon.

Ebbas Fik

Slices and Cookies

Three huge cases of cakes and sweets were on display and I was mesmorised by it all. It’s not just sweets for fika though – there’s also a wide variety of sandwiches and hamburgers available.

Ebba

Ebba told us to choose our cakes and after noting my preferences, I left it to Jenny and Malin for the rest. They came back with a lot! Of particular note was the fantastic blueberry crumble with cream and the vacuum cleaner (dammsugare, and so called because you use leftover cake and cookie crumbs to make it). Ebba came to join us as well with snacks of brown bread topped with herring or salmon. The salmon was utterly delicious with its cream cheese base with horseradish.

Dröm (Dream) Cookie Blåbärspaj (Blueberry Crumble)

Electrolux Dammsugare (Vacuum Cleaner) Rallykaka (Rally Cake)

Hallontårta (Raspberry Cake) Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Canapes

I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll never leave Ebbas Fik hungry – Ebba doesn’t believe in small portions at high prices! Ebba is fantastic herself – a very go-getting woman who’s also doing good in her community; apart from serving the usual customers, she’s preparing lunches for students from a number of local schools (I’ve been reading the menus on her site each day and they make my mouth water). Her diner is a fantastic place for a meal or for fika. Needless to say, we couldn’t finish everything on the table and Ebba very kindly packed up the leftovers for me to take back.

Our third stop, Pitcher’s, was only a stone’s throw from Ebbas Fik and to my surprise, was a British pub in the middle of Helsingborg!

Pitchers

Here we were to sample beers from Helsingborgs Bryggeri (Helsingborg’s Brewery). As we all were not big beer drinkers though, we decided to only taste two of the more uncommon offerings from the brewery – lakrits (Swedish liquorice) beer and chilli pepper beer. While the former seemed promising as it was made in collaboration with Lakritsfabriken, unfortunately, it did not taste of any liquorice; the chilli pepper beer, on the other hand, had a great kick to it. It’s probably better drunk on its own than with any food.

Beers from Helsingborg Brewery

It shouldn’t have surprised us but, of course, it wasn’t just about the beer! We were brought a selection of bar snacks and a variety of their homemade sauces: cheddar, cream cheese, bbq and aioli (and truly, we were not expecting this!).

Fried Potatoes Fried Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers

Onion Rings Wings

Dips

It’s a lovely place to spend the afternoon but again, we had to get going. Anyway, we were surrounded by very upset men, all fans of a local football team, watching their team lose on the televisions…

Inside Pitchers

On our way to our final destination, we stopped by Fahlmans Konditori so they could show me its beautiful space. I adore cafes and this would certainly be my first destination should I return to Helsingborg.

Sweets

It was very kind of them to give me a one minute tour of the bakery/kitchen. Now I have no idea how the food is but I reckon it has to be good for them to be open since 1914.

In the Kitchen

And finally, we rolled onwards to our final destination: Helsingborgs Glassfabrik, a local ice cream company with a stand by the docks. As it was late in August and the days were getting cooler, they didn’t have as many flavours as usual – in fact, they were about to close for the summer.

Helsingborgs Glassfabrik

I sampled two flavours – sea buckthorn ice cream (the orange one) and a lime sorbet. While the latter was just too lip-puckeringly sour, the sea buckthorn was a lovely combination of sweet and tart, perfect for perhaps hotter summers!

Ice Cream

And that was where my tour of Helsingborg’s food scene ended. Thank you so much, Jenny and Malin, for the great afternoon! It was great to see this range of traditional and international places in Helsingborg. Do check our their website for their schedule of tours (all priced at 295 SEK per person or about £28) or to arrange for a private tour.

Jenny and Malin

As I mentioned previously, train connections are very good. One option that I’d like to try in the future is the Around the Sound ticket, giving you one round roughly from Malmo to Helsingborg to Helsingor (on the ferry) to Copenhagen and then back to Malmo. It’s possible to stop off anywhere along the route (taken in either direction) with the ticket that’s valid for 48 hours. The ferry between Helsingborg and Helsingor (which is also home to Kronborg Castle aka the Hamlet castle) is also of interest – a popular activity is to sit on that ferry and have dinner on it as it goes back and forth between the cities!

It was with difficulty that I woke up the next morning to first partake of the hotel breakfast and then walk with Jeanne to see Malmo’s farmers market. If you do like markets, this small farmers market is worth the trek (but do check that website for dates).

Breads Raspberry Tarts

Sea Buckthorn Sillapågen

Everything of the season is sold there as well as some very interesting and unique products – I marvelled at squash pickles and raspberry ketchup. I couldn’t resist picking up a jar of elderflower jelly which we’re very much enjoying on crackers at home. I would have loved to buy some of the raw ingredients to cook at home but after this brief introduction to Swedish seasonal produce, we would have the next best thing and learn how to cook with some of them. We met up again with Denise and Jeanne’s husband Nick and walked through Slottsparken to Peter Skogström‘s Mat & Vin Slottsparken (formerly Mat & Vin på Stolpaberga), located right in the centre of the park. You might remember that Peter was the chef who came to visit London for the Swedish Blind Date and I’d had the chance to sample his food. I was pretty excited about this opportunity to learn from him and also happy to see Peter again.

Stolpaberga

Nothing could prepare us for how beautiful the inside of this initially unremarkable building was.

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Ikea could learn a few things from this place! Look at those gorgeous tiles in the kitchen! The place is used for cooking classes, catering and private events but it is open to the public about once a month with themed dinners.

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And it was in this beautiful kitchen that we were to have a cooking class and we would be cooking our three course lunch.

Peter in his Kitchen

All the ingredients with which we’d be cooking were laid out on the counter and they were like a show and tell of what was best of the season in Sweden. Lingonberries. Chanterelles. Venison…from deer that Peter had hunted himself! It promised to be a great class.

Ingredients

Peter handed out recipe sheets and then divided us up into teams before letting us loose in his gorgeous kitchen. Jeanne and her husband Nick would be making the starter of trout and the vanilla ice cream for dessert. While I didn’t see much of how they prepared certain parts of the dishes (we were preoccupied with cooking our own parts!), we watched with great interest as the trout was smoked.

Smoking Trout

Denise and I were going to make the venison main course and the souffles. There was a lot of preparation for the beets and searing of the venison and then, of course, the souffles. Denise set to caramelising the sugar and the lingonberries while I got the egg whites beating and prepared the ramekins. After combining the two parts, we piped the mixture into the buttered and sugared ramekins and tidied up the rims, a little tip from Peter to makes sure nothing would get in the way of our souffles rising. I enjoyed the way Peter taught the class – he had judged that we were somewhat capable in the kitchen and so let us get on with it but give us valuable tips here and there as he watched and helped us work. If there was something we didn’t know how to do, he would demonstrate it and then toss us into the deep end to try!

Preparing Souffles

When every component had been prepared, it was set aside for plating – it was great seeing the results of our efforts collect on the counter.

Ready for Plating

We also received a quick masterclass on plating, with Peter first showing us how he arranged the starter. A slick of puree, toppings that reflected the ingredients in the puree, and finally the fish.

Plating

And here was our starter – the Warm salad of Swedish trout, cauliflower, almond and dill. Oh, the trout was beautiful – just barely cooked through and still slightly translucent in the middle and yet flaking ever so gently. The cauliflower puree was extremely moreish and the nuts and dill were fabulous with it and the fish.

Warm Salad of Swedish Trout, Almond and Dill

We then had a chance to plate up our own main courses. Here’s my go at my Spicy venison steak served with beetroots and chanterelles. The venison just melted in the mouth and was possibly the best venison I’ve ever had. And its slight gaminess went well with the mushrooms and sweet beetroot (surprise, surprise, it wasn’t too bad for this usual detester of beetroot!). Well, of course I’d say it was good as I helped to prepare it!

Spicy Venison Steak served with Beetroots and Chanterelles

After our main courses, Peter slipped our souffles in the oven and we watched, with great relief, while they rose majestically. Our souffles were quickly plated alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream and there we had our dessert, Souffle of caramelised lingonberries with vanilla ice cream for dessert. It was excellent  - enough said.

Souffle of Caramelised Lingonberries and Vanilla Ice Cream

While he didn’t join us for lunch (he was also preparing other food for a wedding to be held there that night), Peter did join us for coffee and answered all our questions. Of particular interest to me was what other fruit could be used for those gorgeous souffles – Peter suggested raspberries, blueberries, apples, cloudberries. It sounds like almost anything can be used as it would all be first cooked down with the sugar. And maybe the best piece of information we learned that afternoon – those adorable glass ramekins we used? Ikea tealight holders priced at 4 for £1.

Peter Skogström

It was a wonderful experience and I did learn quite a bit, from souffle tips to onion slicing for particular applications. And smoking fish! I need to find a proper covered pan to try that at home (risking filling my kitchen and living room with smoke). Thank you so much, Peter, for the fantastic class and lunch. Alas, though I wished to stay and learn more, I could not as I was being picked up for my next food experience…

You can join a cooking course with Peter too as well as book a seat at their organised dinners – all the events are on the Mat & Vin website (in Swedish but the Google translation is very good). More accessible is Peter’s restaurant Restaurang P2 in Dockplatsen 26 in Malmo.

A couple weekends ago, I joined Jeanne of Cook Sister and Denise of The Wine Sleuth on another trip to Sweden, this time to the southernmost region of Skåne (or Scania). Remember the Swedish Blind Date in which I took part? Skåne Tourism and Visit Sweden very kindly invited me to visit this region.

It was with great excitement when I received the news that in addition to seeing what Skane has to offer, we’d be going to a traditional kräftskiva, a Swedish crayfish party. These are traditionally held in August, when in the past it was the only time it was legal to harvest the grubs, and we were going to one taking place the evening we landed in Malmo. First, though, we checked into our hotel in the centre of Malmo and then immediately hit great temptation on our doorstep. It was the last day of the Malmöfestivalen, a week-long music and food festival all throughout central Malmo, and Gustav Adolfs torg, the main square outside our hotel, was filled with international food stands.

At the Malmöfestivalen

Hunger pangs did hit prior to our departure from Malmö so we shared a lángos, quite a popular festival food judging from the number of people partaking in this treat. Here this Hungarian lángos, a fried soft puffy flatbread, was topped with very Swedish ingredients – sour cream, shrimps, chopped onions, and caviar.

Langos with Sour Cream, Onion, Shrimps and Caviar

This did lead to a minor fear that I’d ruined my dinner but luckily, it wasn’t too bad when split three ways! We’d be laughed at about this later on as we’d done quite well to choose the most typical Malmo festival food! An hour later we were on our way out of Malmo in a taxi and about half an hour later, we arrived at the beautiful home of Anna of Malmö Turism (she hosted us on the Blind Date and it was great to see her again!) and her husband Torbjörn in Södervidinge. They were also joined by Sara from Skåne Tourism and her husband Patrick.

Their two gorgeous and ridiculously happy and friendly dogs also welcomed us and kept us company the whole time. Oh my goodness, I loved them and wanted to take them home with me.

Cuddle Me Feed Me

Anna had made sure we got the real Swedish crayfish party experience – from the crayfish place settings and hats to the snaps and snapsvisor, songs sung when drinking snaps and these were mostly based around the crayfish. And what a spread too and almost all the products/produce was from Skane!

The Spread

Table Setting

A huge bowl of boiled crayfish with dill made up the centrepiece of the buffet and though it looked like we’d barely be able to finish it, Anna announced that this was only half of all the crayfish that had been prepared for her by chef Andreas Larsson – she had allocated a good kilo per person. There would be no shortage of crayfish.

Crayfish

Alongside were two beautiful cheese quiches, one plain and one chock full of chanterelles. There was also a big salad and three kinds of bread: my favourite knackebrod, brown bread and a big brown sourdough bread that was utterly gorgeous when toasted and spread liberally with butter.

Cheese Quiches

Salad

Knäckebröd Brown Sourdough Bread

There was a wonderful cheese board too with the varieties including Malmö aqvavit, Österlen ädel and Hyby port. It’s very Swedish to accompany your seafood with lots of cheese!

Cheese Board

The snaps to accompany the food were Skåne aqvavit, made in Skåne of course, and a blackcurrant one made by Torbjörn’s mother. The latter was like extremely alcoholic Ribena – it’s not for the kiddies!

Snaps

That below was my first of many plates. To eat the crayfish, rip its head off its body and then suck the insides of the head. If you have patience, crack into the big claws where there’s a small nugget of meat. If not, go straight for the tail, peel off the shell and pop that juicy morsel. Repeat until you’re stuffed. We found out the next day that there was proof that the crayfish we ate were from Sweden (ours were from Skane) – the yellow dot at the joint in the claw is that proof!

My First Plate

Oh, but don’t forget those gorgeous quiches – Anna’s cheese and chanterelle quiche was mainly chanterelles bound together with the minimum of cheesy eggy mixture and was utterly stunning. Her regular cheese quiche was equally fantastic; she had used Västerbottenost cheese for both of them.

Bites of salad are necessary for freshness and it’s impossible to resist the fantastic breads. It wasn’t just all about the eating – we broke often to sing one of the snapsvisor and then drink snaps. And the whole while, the two little darling dogs were running around underneath our feet, hoping for a scrap to fall.

When we just couldn’t eat any more crayfish, Anna brought out dessert. Berries were all in season in Sweden, as evinced by market stalls selling punnets and punnets of them, and we had them here with blueberry ice cream from Ottos glassfabrik and whipped cream.

Dessert

To end the meal, Anna passed around coffee and chocolates from Malmo Chokladfabrik, with very original Swedish-inspired flavours. Ah, shame we couldn’t do those chocolates justice – we could barely fit a bonbon in, we were all so full.

Chocolates from Malmo Chokladfabrik

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It was such a fun night with much hilarity at my confusion of when to drink during the songs! We learned later that most Swedes now have their kräftskiva at restaurants instead of at home, making this quite a special treat. Thank you so much, Anna and Torbjörn for welcoming us into your home and putting on an amazing party and Sara and Patrick too for making us feel so welcome! And thank you very much for having us!

It’s possible for anyone to join a family in Malmö for a meal. A Slice of Swedish Hospitality is an initiative for visitors to the region to join a local host/family for a meal. I can’t promise a crayfish party but it’s likely to be fun and an eye opener to Swedish food and culture.

I didn’t know much about the Swedish smörgåsbord tradition and even less about the Christmas variant, the julbord. What I’ve been told is this – everyone in Sweden sits down to at least one julbord every year, once with family on Christmas Eve and possibly another with work. It’s quite the institution and one that I hoped to experience while I was in Gothenburg.

As if they were reading my mind, the Gothenburg Tourist Board very kindly arranged a julbord dinner for both me and Jeanne on our second night but the restaurant they’d booked wasn’t actually in Gothenburg but on an island in the Gothenburg archipelago – on Styrsö. It sounded like a bit of an adventure involving a tram ride from the centre of Gothenburg to the end of the line and then a ferry (all transport covered by the Gothenburg Card). It did turn out to be a bit nerve racking to get there with everything being quite dark and the ferry running late but the restaurant at the Pensionat Styrsö Skäret was lit up like a Christmas tree, making it easy to find on the island.

We received a warm welcome inside and after being shown to our seat, we were offered hot glögg (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions were available) and pepparkakor. Raisins and slivered almonds had already been set out on the table to place in your hot glögg – the plumped up raisins and crunchy almonds making the drink, well, more than a drink. That warmed us up nicely and got us ready for the eating.

Glogg and Pepparkakor

To drink with our julbord meal, we were offered Christmas beverages – Julmust is a Christmas beverage like a spiced Coke while the Christmas beer was a dark ale and both are only available at this time of the year. I knew Sweden took Christmas seriously!

Julmust Christmas Beer

There is an order in which a julbord (or smörgåsbord in general) is tackled and it’s probably best to follow the rules (I also noticed that the julbord was cleared in this order too…so don’t follow the order and you risk missing out on a whole course!). The restaurant was packed that night but seatings had been staggered, making trips to the julbord not overly crowded.

The first round should be the herring and gravadlax and other cold seafood. I’ve got a book on Scandinavian cuisine dating back to the 1960s that states that herring should be a course by itself, followed by the rest of the fish and seafood. I don’t know what approach is more common today but there’s nothing stopping you from just eating lots of herring.

Of the herring, my favourites were in a creamy white and dill sauce, one with lingonberries and another in mustard. Some preparations were a bit too salty but most were excellent. I can never turn down gravadlax too but I passed on most of the fish mousses. This being the west coast, there was a good variety of shellfish on offer too (prawns, crabs, langoustines) and we were most taken with the smoked prawns. In addition to the fishes, there were eggs topped with caviar, baked herring, hard cheeses, boiled potatoes and breads and whipped salted butter.

Herrings

Seafood Eggs and Cheese and Bread

Gravadlax and Other Fishes Fish Things

My Seafood/Herring Plate

After you’ve had your fill of foods from the sea, move on to the cold meats. Salamis, sausages, pates, hams and other cured meats were all laid out invitingly. And as there should be on every julbord, there was julskinka, a Swedish Christmas ham, already sliced up. Pork, beef, lamb, duck – almost all the major meat groups were out in force on the table. In addition, there were lots of condiments – pickles, chutneys, a whole array of mustards and a mysterious mimosa salad, which I discovered later was mainly fruit in mayonnaise.

I loved the julskinka with its coating of mustard and breadcrumbs and also the sliced cooked pork belly. My favourite though was a smoked duck “ham” that had been cooked with cinnamon and cognac – gorgeous! And their red onion confit was wonderful.

Salamis and Pates Hams and Meats

Meats and Hams Cured Meats and Hams

My Meats Plate

The hot foods are the last savoury course. Swedish meatballs, pork ribs, prinskorv (little sausages like Vienna sausages), boiled sausage, creamed spinach, brown cabbage, green cabbage, lutfisk and poached fish with all the fixings (peas, bacon, melted butter, white sauce) and, of course, Janssons frestelse (Jansson’s temptation – a baked potato gratin with Swedish anchovies). My book from the 60s suggests that one should eat Jansson’s temptation with the first herring course but I pay attention to this combo on anyone’s plates that day.

Our lack of vegetables had us hitting the peas, spinach and cabbage pretty hard – the spinach and cabbage were sweetened. The Jansson’s temptation was delicious though salty and the lutfisk was jellylike and flavourless, necessitating the stuff on the side. Strangely, this was the least exciting course to me – I think the strengths of the julbord and smörgåsbord lie in the cold and room temperature courses or perhaps my thoughts were a bit skewed because I was already quite full by this point.

Hot Foods Jansson's Temptation

My Hot Foods Plate

Finally, the desserts and sweets. Swedish cakes and desserts aren’t particulary sweet and these were no exception. I skipped the ris à la Malta (a creamy rice pudding) and tried a dry cheese cake (it tasted like unsweetened pressed ricotta), an almond biscuit that I topped with cream and preserves and my favourite, a delightfully light and crisp fried biscuit topped with sugar. There were a few other biscuits and a selection of soft cheeses but those I skipped.

Desserts and More Cheese

My Dessert Plate

I was really saving myself for the sweets! There was a whole cupboard full of bowls of the most delectable looking titbits. There were homemade fruit jellies, chocolates, truffles, marshmallow santas (they appear to be very popular in Sweden at Christmas time), candied nuts, caramels and knäck (a Swedish Christmas toffee). The variety was enough to make anyone gasp in awe.

My Sweets Plate

We were utterly stuffed after making our julbord rounds (there were definitely some repeats) but saved room for some tea and coffee to aid digestion. More popular in the room was the drinks trolley that was making the rounds.

Drinks Trolley

Pensionat Styrsö Skäret

It was a fantastic experience. The staff did everything to make us feel welcome, explained to us how to approach the julbord… and my apologies for rushing them at the end! We were having such a fab time that we almost lost track of time and found that we only had 10 minutes to run to the dock in time for our ferry. We made it!

I would definitely highly recommend everyone going to Sweden to try a julbord (or at any other time of the year, a smörgåsbord) – it’s very obviously a big part of Swedish culture and it’s good fun! It’s not cheap (this one was 535 SEK, not including drinks – and we were invited) but I’d definitely save up to have one. but Reservations are essential at this time of the year – book in advance.

Pensionat Styrsö Skäret
Skäretvägen 53
430 84 Styrsö
Sweden

Thank you again to the West Sweden Tourist Board (Facebook page, Twitter, Blog) and Visit Sweden (Facebook, Twitter) and also to the Gothenburg Tourist Board for organising this wonderful Christmas trip for us. Our flights were provided by SAS and a return trip to Gothenburg from London Heathrow is £103 including all taxes and charges.

That brings my Christmas in Gothenburg series to an end – all my photos from Gothenburg can be found in this Flickr photoset. Now it’s time for Christmas in London. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas is taken very seriously in Sweden and luckily, Jeanne and I were able to experience it in Gothenburg when the weather cleared the next day. Absolutely everything was decked for the holidays, even our hotel (the Hotel Royal – highly recommended for their excellent breakfast, warm rooms and friendly staff) had numerous jultomten (Christmas tomten) scattered about and gingerbread scenes (including the front desk!) next to the breakfast buffet. Gingerbread features heavily everywhere and the most common Swedish form is pepparkakor, the thin ginger snaps you can get easily in Ikea. Every shop, hotel, market counter seems to have an open tin of them for their customers (um… I ate a lot of them). Every cafe and bakery seems to sell their own homemade pepparkakor and gingerbread.

At Stora Saluhallen, the city’s centrally located covered market hall, patisseries, bakers, butchers, fishmongers, and grocers were all arranged neatly in stalls while that day, farmers set up smaller stands outside. There were lots of Christmas goods inside and Christmas trees and plants available to buy from the stands outside.

Stora Saluhallen

We found very good chocolates at Flickorna Kanold, including special Christmas season flavours. I took a boxful of them back to Blai and we loved the saffron one and the cinnamon and orange one but haven’t yet tackled the cuteness that is the Jul Marsipan chocolate.

Jul Marsipan

Every sweet shop and patisserie was also selling marzipan pigs, which I think are associated with luck. These ones were my favourite as they looked somewhat insane.

Marzipan Pigs

We were actually in Gothenburg just before St Lucia’s feast day (13 Dec) and a saffron bun called a lussekatt is traditionally eaten on this day. These were gorgeous and tasted even better – it’s made with a rich brioche-like dough flavoured with lots of saffron.

Lussekatter

On St Lucia’s Day, one girl is chosen to be Lucia for the city of Gothenburg (and other cities in Sweden and even in homes and other smaller community events). In the spirit of all things modern, you could vote for the one you wanted – the photo below was taken the next day in Nordstan, a shopping mall in Gothenburg. The Lucias wear a candle wreath in her hair and from what I understand, there’s a procession involving other girls and boys and singing.

Göteborgs Lucia 2011

At the nearby Feskekôrka (fish church – nothing religious about it apart from the market’s resemblance to a church), we gawped at the marvellously fresh fish and seafood on offer and sampled all variety of pickled herring. I wonder if some of that seafood will show up on Christmas tables. It was here too we discovered the combination of pickled herring and gingerbread – it sounds a bit odd but they really are delicious together (I’ve been recreating it at home with soft gingerbread and mustard herrings I brought back from Sweden).

Feskekôrka

Inside

A stand had been set up in the middle of the hall with glögg and Christmas treats for shoppers and vendors alike.

Christmas Glogg and Treats

We strolled over to Haga, a particularly pretty district of Gothenburg and found a Christmas Market taking place on the main street (Haga Nygata). There were lots of craft stands and food vendors set out along the cobbled streets and it is certainly good for Christmas shopping. We were surprised to see that everything sold was beautiful and of good quality, not like the tat commonly found at Christmas markets in London (wooden ties, anyone?).

Pastries

There was quite a bit of music too that Saturday with carollers setting up along the street and a grand ol’ marching band complete with festive cheerleaders and flag girls continually marched and played up and down between the stands.

Cheerleaders

The biggest and possibly most famous of the Christmas Markets in Sweden can be found in Gothenburg and it’s at Liseberg, the big amusement park in the city. Using our Gothenburg City Cards (provided by the Gothenburg Tourist Board), we hopped on an old-fashioned wooden tram in the centre of town that took us directly to the park and then gained entry to Liseberg. This was exciting – both Jeanne and I are big fans of Christmas markets and here we were at Sweden’s largest. It was hard to get in the festive spirit with everyone else there equally excited.

Liseberg Entrance

Most of the rides were closed but a few were still open for those who enjoy being flung about in the cold.

The whole park looked wonderfully festive with its beautiful lights and Christmas goods on sale. While it took a lot of willpower to not buy a little candle powered angel chime, we happily handed over our money after sampling some gorgeous hot smoked salmon.

There were even reindeer and a whole section of the park dedicated to Lapp culture (they had the most delectable looking flatbreads and reindeer kebabs). They say that almost 5 million lights are strung up in Liseberg at Christmas time; I believe them. I’d recommend going when it’s dark as it’s difficult to see them during the day and also make sure you allocate at least a few hours to see everything!

Lights

I was particularly tickled by the numerous Wheels of Fortune in Liseberg. I’m not sure if giant bars of chocolate and humongous bags of crisps are normally the prizes at other times of the year but they were out in full force at Christmas and people were going crazy over them. You buy a number or range of numbers, wait for the wheel to spin and if your number comes up, you win a prize – I only saw regular sized bars of chocolate being handed out. I suspect that you must collect quite a few of these before you can trade them in for a giant bar. There were a surprising number of people with multiple giant bars – I don’t even want to think about how much they must have spent on the wheels. It became my mission to take photos of all the wheels we encountered and this is just a selection of them. And no, I didn’t have a go at them.

Daim Wheel of Fortune! Plopp Wheel of Fortune!

Toblerone Wheel of Fortune! Marabou Wheel of Fortune!

Estrella Wheel of Fortune! Kex Wheel of Fortune!

Sadly, we didn’t eat much while inside as we had a big dinner that night and we had to leave the park early when we were hailed on but the Swedish are tough! We passed lots of them watching a outdoor show on ice, paying no attention whatsoever to the rain and hail.

That night, we sat down to one of the most epic of Swedish Christmas feasts – a julbord. That’s in the next and last post on our trip to Gothenburg.

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