Love Scandi crime drama? Then give Nordic noir nosh a go...

Signe Johansen
by Signe Johansen   |  11 May 2012  |   5 comments

We can't get enough of BBC Four's The Bridge. Here's how to feast like a real Scandinavian.

Love Scandi crime drama? Then give Nordic noir nosh a go...

Woollen jumpers v leather trousers

sagaOur current appetite for Nordic Noir is proving insatiable, with ratings for The Killing outdoing cult U.S. drama Mad Men and Norwegian film Headhunters hailed as the best thriller this year.

Last season it was all about Sarah Lund’s jumper; but now our latest Scandi crime fix, The Bridge, sees ace cop Saga Noren (an archetypal cool, Swedish blonde with undiagnosed Asperger syndrome) showing the boys how Scandi chicks roll. And all in slinky leather trousers, no less.

Brits going mad for Scandinavian television? This is baffling to a girl who grew up in Norway and never thought anyone outside Scandinavia would be interested in watching Scandi cop shows, let alone lust after our – admittedly fabulous - woollen jumpers. Scandi food seems to have caught the eye of gastronomes beyond the region (I blame that Rene Redzepi fellow), and so there’s no better time for a Scandilicious dinner party fit for the finest detective, criminal psychologist or Noir nerd.

Hallmarks of Scandi food

troutThe Bridge is all about catching a killer, but it’s also great on the quirks and cultural (not to mention linguistic) tensions between Swedes and Danes. Our cultural idiosyncrasies spill over into our food culture, but are there really any profound differences between the individual countries’ cuisines?

I’m often asked what the hallmarks of Scandi food are. We Scandis bicker over minor details: which country makes the best bread; who has the best beer (until recently, the Danes); and every Swede, Dane and Norwegian will loudly and proudly proclaim – usually accompanied by a song – who makes the most delicious aquavit. But in essence we share the same culinary tropes across the region.

berriesWe all love great seafood, and restaurants such as Faviken have made game popular with food lovers again. Foraging was something we children did near my grandparents’ farm on the west coast of Norway, and it’s now achingly hip thanks to Noma’s back-to-basics philosophy of sourcing hyper-local ingredients within Scandinavia. Midsummer sees an abundance of berries and solstice festivals throughout the region. Seasonal fruit and vegetables are plentiful during the summer months, when extended daylight boosts the intensity of flavour in locally grown produce; something that surprises Brits who think Scandinavia is dark and gloomy all year. We like picking berries and making jam – not that different from the UK, really.

Robust flavours

gratinOur love of mouth-puckering pickles along with smoked, cured and highly seasoned food suggests that Scandis love robust flavours more than anything. You’ll find variations of gravlaks and other cured fish across all Scandinavian countries, and every Scandi has their favourite meatball recipe. Mine marries nutmeg, allspice and ginger with lamb and veal mince, whereas in Denmark you might find pork frikadeller, accented with a whole different range of spices and seasoning.

We have some of the best baking traditions in the world, Danish pastries being the most famous example. Although frankly, I reckon the cinnamon bun is cream of the crop. Above all, we don’t like a lot of fuss in our cooking, so ingredients are often left unembellished and allowed to stand alone. Stark, powerful and often intense, our food is inspired by Scandinavian nature and a strong Lutheran tradition.

So if you’re looking to tap into that cool Scandi vibe whilst watching The Bridge, then here’s a taste of a true smorgasbord. Feast like a Scandi, but leave the leather trousers for another occasion, please. Tak!

Try Signe's Scandi recipes 

Norwegian meatballs and gravy 

Hot smoked trout salad

Swedish anchovy and potato gratin

Iced Nordic berries with white chocolate and cardamom sauce

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