As a child I was always a huge fan of a Smörgåsbord. Being half Swedish I have always enjoyed being a little bit Scandinavian blonde hair, blue eyes, exotic foreign language and an unusual and diverse cuisine to explore. As much as I am influenced by where I live now in France, I still celebrate my Nordic roots and some of the tastiest and most unusual food I have ever eaten has come from there. I still have family living in Stockholm and although I dont make it over there as much as I should, there are a few ingredients and dishes that have the power to transport me back to my Grandmothers kitchen in seconds.
For those of you who dont know, a Smörgåsbord is a bit like a buffet. In translation it means a Sandwich Table, in essence; it is a buffet of delicious dishes that you help yourself to until you are full. It usually comprises of an array of cold meats, pates, pickled fish, Gravadlax, cheeses and breads and a selection of hot dishes; sausages, meatballs, cabbage rolls and potatoes to name but a few.
My favourite Swedish dish of all time is nearly always included in a traditional smörgåsbord and is also my ultimate comfort food. The recipe has been passed down to me from my Mother and her Mother before her, as I am sure is the way in most Swedish homes today. The dish is called Janssons Frestelse and it is a potato dish, cooked in cream and layered with onions and .anchovies!! The sublime decadence of the cream with the meltingly soft onions and potatoes combines with the subtle saltiness of the anchovies to produce something that must be tried and then eaten again and again and again. I defy you to resist this dish. For me, it sits head and shoulders above a dauphinoise and yet it is still undiscovered and therefore guaranteed to surprise and enchant all those you cook it for. Serve generously with steak or pork or even Elk if you have it!
Having cooked a Frestelse this week, I think my Swedish taste buds were awoken and I found myself drawn to other traditionally Scandinavian ingredients. As the weather here remained a steady 35 degrees at the weekend, I found myself wanting to eat cold foods rather than comfort foods, salads rather than bakes. So I made a kind of cold tart bursting with smoked salmon and strewn with fresh dill, two ingredients that hark back to the Vikings Gravadlax. The red onions sweated in a pan, then allowed to cool made a wonderfully contrasting base to the silky soft salmon and velvety crème fraîche. Easy to prepare, this delightfully fresh tasting tart made a striking summer dish that I am sure my Mormor (Grandmother) would have enjoyed.