Swedish food culture is hard to articulate – for it doesn’t follow an easily digestible narrative. At first glance it seems healthy and fishy, but the more you dig into it, the more intriguing it becomes. So far I’ve detected three strands that compete and overlap.
The first area is that of the Nordic Diet which I have written about a fair bit, which sees meat and heavy carbs replaced by root vegetables, fish and slow release grains. Whilst it might seem like all Swedes eat this way, that isn’t very close to the truth. The reality is a bit more stodgy.
The second is Sweden’s native food culture, which isn’t that far off the hearty fare we know and love in Britain. Rich stews, lashings of potatoes, creamy sauces and overcooked vegetables are part and parcel of the Swedish cuisine that is called Husmanskost, or in other words, rustic homecooking from yesteryear. Like in Britain, this traditional and heavy approach to cooking has taken a back seat as daughters failed to pick up skills they would have otherwise learnt at their mother’s apron strings. But it is now making a comeback with Leif Mannerström at the helm.
The third strand is the way that Sweden has imported and bastardised many dishes from elsewhere such as Kåldolmar, much in the same way that we have done so with Indian food in the UK and the Americans do with Mexican food. They also love to slap doner kebab on pizzas and cover them, cravenly in burger sauce. Interestignly, one of Sweden’s most popular dishes is Korv Stroganoff, which sees beef fillet replaced by sausage. I made the mistake of mocking someone’s sausage stroganoff at work, only to find out it’s a cultural classic – up there with pickled herring and meatballs. So I wondered, could I bastardise the bastard to create the most illegitimate lovechild Sweden has ever seen. What if I replaced the sausage, which replaced the beef, with fish?
And lo, Swedish Salmon Stroganoff was born. I switched the shallots for fennel; the mushroom soup for lobster bisque; the parsley for tarragon; and kept everything else the same.
6 salmon fillets with the skin on 500g of button mushrooms 500ml of shrimp stock (or if desperate a can of lobster bisque) 300g of crème fraiche Tarragon Parsley 3 fennel bulbs 1 can of mushroom soup Fennel seeds Olive oil Salt and pepper Lemon Serve with roast courgettes and rice
Slice the fennel up into slithers, season and sauté with the fennel seeds until soft. Then do the same with the mushrooms until cooked. Combine the two and then add the shrimp stock which you want to reduce by half. Once this has reduced, add the mushroom soup, tarragon, parsley and the crème fraiche.
Meanwhile, season the salmon fillets and sear the skin until crisp.
Then pour the fennel and mushroom sauce into a baking tray and position the salmon so that the skin sits clear of the liquid and bake in a medium-hot preheated oven for 10 minutes until the salmon is only just cooked.
Serve with rice, roast courgettes, a grating of lemon zest and a segment of lemon. Then garnish with parsley and tarragon and let everyone tuck in. It’s great with a glass of fresh white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc or a dry German Riesling.
Thank you to Christian for the atmospheric action shots from a recent dinner party where this dish made its debut. And thanks you to Sofia, Magnus, Nina, Anna and Leah for being such fantastic guinea pigs. But most importantly thanks for persuading me not to call this dish “Laxanoff”!
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: