This feature is part of Weekend In, a series designed to help you recreate the flavours of your favourite short haul destinations at home this summer.
We've already travelled from our kitchens to Sicily, Corsica, Cyprus and Spain already this summer, and this weekend we're heading to the long, light-filled days of Swedish midsummer. Swedish cuisine has gained worldwide recognition in recent years with local restaurants totting up Michelin stars and consistently earning their place on 'worldwide best restaurant' lists. Perhaps most well-known is Magnus Nilsson's now-closed Fäviken. Set in the Swedish wilderness, Fäviken became one of the most remote destination restaurants in the world with some of its wealthiest customers arriving by helicopter.
Such restaurants have made Sweden now a sought-out food destination but, as everywhere, the local cuisine is really based on husmanskost, or 'houseman's food' – frugal, home-cooked everyday fare that originated in the countryside, drawing from fresh seasonal produce and home preserves as well as a wild bountry of berries, mushrooms and edible plants. As such, pickled cucucmbers and onions, various ferments, spicy pickled eldercapers and smoked meat and fish, elderberries, lingonberries and herbs like dill have formed the basis of Swedish cooking and informs the flavours that predominate in its dishes.
"In essense, Swedish food is about cooking with a limited range of ingredients, but using those to find a balanced and simple approach to cooking all year around", says Rachel Khoo in her cookbook The Little Swedish Kitchen. Rachel's book is a homage to the Swedish seasons, celebrating local ingredients, flavours and techniques to create her own twists and combinations that draw from traditional recipes. Rather than a definitive guide to Swedish food, these recipes are a colourful representation of Rachel's own experiences of her adopted country, combined with the knowledge and recipes of her Swedish friends and family. "My love affair with Sweden was sparked, quite literally, by love. In Paris, it was love at first bite. But it was when I met my future husband eight years ago that I began to discover what would soon become my new adopted home country". Explore Sweden with The Little Swedish Kitchen and bring it to life this three-course midsummer lunch.
"Gravlax dressing is as common as tomato ketchup in Sweden", says Rachel who assures us there isn't much to making it yourself. She combines quality mayonnaise with a typically Swedish sweet grainy mustard, dill and lemon juice to make a dressing, and teams it with hot smoked salmon, crunchy lettuce and radishes for a simple salad for sharing. You could also used smoked trout or leftover roast chicken here.
A universally comforting dish, this chicken cooked in broth makes the most of fresh summer greens and new potatoes. Rachel has made a Swedish riff on Argentinian chimichurri sauce with the peppery, fiery addition of horseradish. Serve this slightly spicy, herby green sauce alongside your chicken.
The wild flower crowns of Swedish midsummer are still today collected and woven in a tradition, says Rachel, "that stems from wanting to harness nature’s magic, in the hope that wearing a beautiful flower crown will bring good health for the rest of the year". Rachel's edible versions are made with meringue and adorned with a mix of berries, flowers and herbs. Try strawberries, blueberries or lingonberries, fresh mint, elderflowers, rose petals, pansies or any other edible flower available locally to you. A beautiful centrepiece to round off a meal.