Look out, hygge, lagom is on the way

Cookbook shows how delicious the Swedish idea of balance and moderation can be

Steffi Knowles-Dellner - Buckwheat Porridge

Photo courtesy of Quadrille
Excerpted from Lagom: The Swedish Art of Eating Harmoniously by Steffi Knowles-Dellner:
“Porridge’s [oatmeal’s] quick (even microwaveable) preparation and long list of nutritional credentials has made it a breakfast favorite the world over. In Sweden, it is often a winter weekday staple, but there is nothing to stop you from having pimped-up porridge at the weekend or taking a bit more time and care with it during the week.”

Daytona Strong
Taste of Norway Editor

Lagom: The Swedish Art of Eating Harmoniously by Steffi Knowles-Dellner:

Photo courtesy of Quadrille
Cover shot of Lagom: The Swedish Art of Eating Harmoniously by Steffi Knowles-Dellner:

There’s been plenty of talk of hygge in recent years. But almost as soon as that Scandinavian concept of a cozy, warm lifestyle became established as a trend in the U.S., it began sharing its place in the spotlight with lagom. Now a quick search of the word on Amazon reveals a bunch of books on that topic, published just in the last year or so. One of the latest is Lagom: The Swedish art of eating harmoniously by Steffi Knowles-Dellner (Quadrille Publishing, February 2018).

The book defines lagom as “A Swedish word meaning ‘just the right amount; enough, sufficient, adequate, just right.’ Lagom is also widely translated as ‘in moderation’ and ‘in balance.’” Knowles-Dellner, a Swedish food stylist and writer, applies the concept to food, an approach that welcomes both hearty comfort food and butter-laden sweets and lighter fare packed with flavorful ingredients.

The breakfast recipes are enticing enough to make one want to wake a little earlier. There are buckwheat, chive, and lemon pancakes, wholemeal scone-muffins, and a quartet of porridges, including the one reprinted here. Lunches and light bites are equally inviting, with a creamy cucumber gazpacho, iceberg wedge salad, and a lemon and rye-crumbled herring. Main meals range from a creamy pearl barley risotto with smoked garlic, asparagus, and cured salmon to slow-braised pork cheeks with pear, sage, and candied walnuts. As for sweets, you’ll find cardamom rice pudding, lingonberry and orange cheesecake, rhubarb meringue tart, and a selection of cookies.

Lagom: The Swedish art of eating harmoniously taps into the traditional Scandinavian foods that many will recognize, along with modern recipes and entirely original creations incorporating Scandinavian flavors and ingredients. The gorgeous photography by Yuki Sugiura is sure to whet appetites.

For those who have adopted hygge into their lives, Lagom: The Swedish art of eating harmoniously will be welcome further study into a Scandinavian lifestyle of balance and moderation, affording plenty of enjoyment and savoring.

Buckwheat & Almond Porridge with Roasted Plum & Vanilla compote
This is a delicious, gluten-free porridge which I personally prefer warm. However, should you feel more adventurous, you can buy buckwheat groats and soak them overnight before blitzing with a little almond milk and some of the plum compote for a bircher-style version. The plum compote makes more than enough and should last for several days in the fridge and is perfect as a topper for Greek yogurt (or ice cream).

Porridge ingredients:
generous ½ cup buckwheat flakes
2⁄3 cup milk or almond milk, plus extra to serve
1 banana, mashed well
2 tbsps. almonds, roughly chopped
¼ tsp. almond extract (optional)
maple syrup, honey, or sugar, to taste (optional)
Compote ingredients:
6 ripe plums
2 vanilla pods [beans], split lengthways
2 tbsps. maple syrup
1 tbsp. coconut oil or mild-flavored oil

Instructions:
Start with the compote. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and halve the plums, removing their stones. Use a small knife or a pair of kitchen scissors to cut them free if they are particularly stubborn. Place the plum halves on a roasting tray with the split vanilla pods, scraping out some of the seeds. Toss with the maple syrup and oil to coat completely then bake for 30 to 35 minutes until collapsing and beginning to caramelize. Scrape into a bowl and stir briefly until jammy.

Place all the ingredients for the porridge, except 1 tablespoon of the almonds, in a small pan along with 2/3 cup water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle simmer, then lower the heat and cook until thick, about 5 to 10 minutes, or until the flakes are cooked through and the porridge has reached the consistency you prefer.

To serve, divide the porridge between 2 bowls, pour over a little more milk, and sweeten, if desired. Top with a few spoonfuls of compote and the reserved chopped almonds.

Mormor’s Curried Fish Soup with Curry Oil
As part of a wedding present, we were given something called “Viking Salt” by our friends, Hattie and Oli. It’s basically a salt flavored with a mild curry and I put it on everything. It may seem a peculiar spice for the Scandinavians to lay claim to, but we have flirted with unusual flavors for hundreds of years, sourced on those far-flung Viking plunders and raids. We use them gently, as a way to lightly season and add subtle layers of depth. This chunky soup is a perfect example. My mormor (maternal granny) has been making it for as long as I can remember. She only uses curry powder in the soup itself, but I also like to make a fragrant oil, swirled through at the end. For a lighter soup, use milk instead of cream and add a dollop of crème fraîche.

Steffi Knowles-Dellner - Mormor's Fish Stew

Photo courtesy of Quadrille
Curry may seem like a strange ingredient for a Scandinavian soup, but foreign spices have been part of the Nordic flavor palate since Viking raiders or traders introduced them.

Ingredients:
1 tsp. butter
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 leek, sliced
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 tsps. medium curry powder
4 ½ cups fish or vegetable stock
10 ½ oz. thick cod fillets, cut into chunks
10 ½ oz. salmon, cut into pieces
5 ¼ oz. cooked frozen Atlantic shrimp, defrosted
1 cup light cream
2 tbsps. cold-pressed rapeseed oil or olive oil
1 small bunch of dill, chopped
1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
chunky bread, to serve

Instructions:
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onions and sauté over a low heat for 5 minutes, without coloring. Add the leek and cook for another few minutes until softened, then add the garlic. Stir through 1 teaspoon of the curry powder and fry for another minute or so, until fragrant.

Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat—it should be just quivering. Add the white fish and salmon and poach for 5 to 8 minutes, then tip in the prawns and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the remaining curry powder. Fry for 1 minute or so until smoky and aromatic, then remove from the heat and tip into a bowl to cool slightly.

Divide the soup among 4 bowls, drizzle over a little curry oil, and sprinkle with the herbs before serving with chunky bread. Serves 4.

Cod Pâté with Chives
As much as I love salt cod, I don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to soak the dehydrated fillets before making into a brandade-style spread. This recipe skirts around the issue, with a slightly different texture and milder flavor but still creamy and fishy enough to satisfy this very particular craving. Serve as a starter or for a light lunch.

Steffi Knowles-Dellner - Cod pâté

Photo courtesy of Quadrille
Cod pâté can be eaten as an appetizer or a meal in itself.

Ingredients:
7 oz. cod fillets
½ lemon, zest & juice
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp. cold-pressed rapeseed oil or olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
3 tbsps. light cream
1 small bunch of chives, roughly chopped
rye or pumpernickel bread, toasted, to serve

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place the cod on a sheet of foil, squeeze over a little lemon juice, and season. Fold up to create a tightly sealed parcel. Place on a baking sheet with the garlic cloves next to the parcel, drizzling these with the tiniest amount of oil, and bake for 20 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the garlic is soft.

Carefully remove the cod from the parcel and flake into a blender, taking care to discard any bones. Add the garlic by squeezing it out of its papery skin, along with any juices from the parcels to the blender. Add the cream, 1 tablespoon oil, and half the chives. Blitz to a chunky consistency and stir though the remaining chives and the lemon zest. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Serve sprinkled with more chives and a drizzle of oil, accompanied by toasted rye bread. Serves 4 as a starter or 2 for lunch.

Recipes are excerpted with permission from Lagom: The Swedish Art of Eating Harmoniously by Steffi Knowles-Dellner, published by Quadrille, February 2018, RRP $29.99 hardcover. =

Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway Editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo), Twitter (@daytonastrong), Pinterest (@daytonastrong), and Instagram (@daytonastrong).

This article originally appeared in the March 9, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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