Over the recent years, new Scandinavian cooking has become extremely popular all over the world. Our Nordic landscape is characterised by cloudy mountains, open spaces, deep forests with fresh and cooling air and clean water. Lamb, elk, deer, wild berries, fruit and mushrooms, as well as fish of many kinds, are key ingredients in our Nordic Kitchen.
Simplicity is one of the main characteristics of new Scandinavian cooking. Nordic cooking is based on fewer ingredients and on more high-quality ingredients cultivated in the cold and dry Nordic climate, which significantly influences the flavour of the ingredients.
The short summers with the beautiful midnight sun, and hence the short growing season, results in a brief explosion of fresh and tasty ingredients such as wild berries, delicious fruit and beautiful mushrooms. The long and cosy winters in our special part of the world has made us become experts at preserving food in order to store the summer ingredients.
Personally I love the Nordic Kitchen. – The rich flavours, the freshness, and the simplicity of our dishes, made from the best organic ingredients. Nordic dishes are generally not too complicated and most people love them because the individual flavours and ingredients can be recognised and enjoyed for what they are.
I have tried to do a brief rough guide to some of our typical regional ingredients with a little introduction to their health benefits. More ingredients can surely be added to the list, but at least this is a personal starting point for those who would like to know just a bit more about our new Scandinavian cooking and our ingredients. Maybe after reading this article you feel like trying some of my healthy dinner recipes – Most of which are healthy vegetarian recipes or low carb recipes. Have a look here, to get some inspiration…
New Scandinavian Cooking and
16 Great Ingredients
There are over 7500 different varieties of apples. History traces apples in the Nordic countries as far back as the 17th century. The amazing thing is, no matter what variety of apple you choose from the 7500 types available, and no matter where you live; eating an apple will provide a nutritious snack and numerous benefits your body. It is slow to digest and is shock full of nutrition. The apple can be regarded as one of the miracle foods of today; delightful to eat, wonderful to cook with, and a valued addition to any dish.
Ramson is better known as wild garlic. Garlic in general has been known to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. It has also been known to ward off colds, if eaten regularly. This particular garlic can be harvested from March and provides a wonderful flavouring agent to soups and stews. The leaves can be cooked similar to spinach and are best gently steamed. The flowers are a delightful addition to salads.
Vegetarian medallions with black beans and ramson
Icelandic Skyr (a yoghurtlike cultured milk product)
Until recently Skyr was only available in Europe. The US now sells it at wholefood markets but the one you want is Icelandic Skyr. This velvety textured yogurt is very much like Greek yogurt in that it is made with 3 times the amount of milk of traditional yogurt. The big difference from Greek yogurt is, it is entirely made with non-fat milk and is 100% fat free, whereas Greek yogurt is not. Icelandic Skyr is also known for being high in calcium and vitamins, and last but not least it has a high protein level.
Lamb refers to the meat of a sheep younger than one year old, which is why it is very tender. If you’ve never tried it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its incredibly mild and delicate flavour. Mint is famous for accompanying lamb as the two go hand in hand. In Iceland sheep farming maintains its method established by centuries of tradition and is as old as the settlement of Iceland itself. The use of hormones is prohibited and antibiotics are strictly regulated. The lambs are fed completely organic off the highlands of Iceland and the clear mountain water, which set them apart from other countries and gives them their unique flavour.
Truffles from Gotland in Sweden
Better known as black truffles, this mystifying ingredient holds back it’s better side until it’s aroma can be transformed in a dish. Truffles are from the mushroom family, and like all mushrooms provide exceptional health benefits to vegetarians as they are very high in protein; 20-30% with every serving. Truffles are considered a beneficial food, and are great for anyone with a heart condition as they are low in fat and 100% cholesterol free.
Whole rye or rye flour is extremely high in fiber and nutrients compared to wheat flour due to the difficulty in separating the germ from the bran. Recent studies done in the USA, state that bread made from wheat triggers a greater insulin response than rye bread does. This is because the more complex rye grain is slower to absorb by the body and slower to raise blood sugar levels. The rich and hearty taste of rye flour can make your recipe healthy and nutritious. Among other countries today, Denmark is a major grower of the global supply of rye.
Cloudberries are THE Norwegian berry and considered a national treasure. Scarce and not easy to propagate, they are not commercially grown. Cloudberries are very similar to raspberries but bigger in size with a sweet/ tart apple flavour. Rich in Vitamin C, they are a natural choice for recipes requiring berries, and have considerable benefits especially for healthy gums and sound teeth.
Next to Strawberries, blueberries rank second in popularity of berries worldwide. There are cultivated and wild blueberries to be found, the latter being more tart in flavour. Being very low in calories and plentiful of nutrition it is suggested you have a bowl of raw blueberries once a day. Blueberries have been enjoyed by Native Americans for hundreds of years. In the Nordic countries you find them in the forests, and I have so many great child memories from picking blueberries.
Blueberry mousse with chia seeds, banana and avocado
Buckhorn Berries or Sea Buckhorn has been a source of food and medicine for centuries in China and Russia. The berries are quite tart, sort of like sour orange with a hint of mango. Some people also compare them to pineapple. This small berry offers an impressive combination of nutrients, vitamins and superior health benefits. Believe it or not, it is actually very easy to find buckthorn berries here in Copenhagen. In the summer, I often hop on my bike and visit parks around the city and collect buckthorn berries. As do many other Danes, so it has actually become a trend. The sea buckthorn berry is a powerful source of Omegas 3, 6, and 9. It’s considered a real super fruit.
Penny Bun Mushrooms
Penny Bun Mushrooms are considered to be one of the best eating mushrooms around. They have a deep and earthy essence between mild meatiness and an aromatic musty nut. Part of the mushroom family it is also one of the most under rated health food sources out there. Historically mushrooms were one of the first herbal medicines used in the Oriental world for thousands of years to inhibit many illnesses. There are 272 species of mushrooms having many medical benefits. The best way to use Penny Bun Mushrooms, is to simply fry them in butter on the pan for a few minutes, then adding some cream and finishing off with fresh herbs, and eating it with slices of toasted rye bread.
Erica Heather is honey created from the Erica species of the heath and heather family, the nectar source of what is known as ‘true’ Heather Honey. There are over 650 Erica species widespread to Europe, the Mediterranean and S. Africa. As a result, it is often one of the many types of nectar found in floral honeys. As a sample, White Erica honey has a dark colour with shades of orange with a sweet caramel aroma. Honey made from white heather produces a taste that is sweet and slightly bitter. I typically eat the honey on my skyr in the morning.
Elderflower can be found as the flower of a tree. We have used the extract of the flower to make medicine. In cooking, elderflower is used as a favouring agent. It is a delicate scent, very sweet with a tad touch of spice. In Denmark, many households make lemonade from the elderflowers found in their gardens. Elderflower syrup is also commonly used in drinks.
The Mirabelle Plum has a dark yellow colour with flecks. It is small, oval in shape. Although when ripe they have a smooth firm sweetness, they are also enjoyed before they are ripe when they are tart. The ripe fruit is used in pies and jams and plum brandy is created from their juice. These plums are grown commercially and are available worldwide. Low in calories and saturated fat, plums help the body metabolize foods quickly.
Herring has a delicate flavour and is a light, soft fish. Herring also comes filled with minerals important for skeletal health and health blood cells. Herring is often served pickled and is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. Why Herring? Aren’t all fish created equal? Well possibly, but what puts Herring, Sardines and Salmon among the popular fish are that they are good for you due to their high amount of omega 3 which benefits your body by lowering triglyceride levels and blood pressure.
There are many types of trout, but the most of us recognize arctic char and rainbow trout. It has a mild sweet flavour that doesn’t require a long cook time. One 3-ounce filet of trout has a whopping 19 grams of protein. Rainbow trout are among the most popular of fish as they have no scales and very compact bone skeletons. Easy to clean and ready to eat in minutes.
Crayfish are often described as tiny lobsters but taste sweeter. There is a healthy supply of vitamin D among other vitamins for your healthy recipes but they are also very low in carbohydrates so an ideal food. Like other edible crustaceans, only a small portion of the body of a crayfish is eaten. In Sweden, they have crayfish parties (kräftskiva) during the summer where friends and family get to together to eat crayfish and to have a drink or two.
My Danish is very limited however I can just about read recipes so am delighted to find you have done the work for me and written in English. Thank you . Maybe I should rewatch Borgan many more times.
Julie Karla says
Hi Maria, You’re welcome! Yes, Borgen is the best show!
Can you tell me about soaking whole grains and if you soak whole grains?
Julie Karla says
Hi Tracy, I don’t soak any of my whole grains. Depending on the grains, I just boil them until tender.