Jonas and I recently came home from a lovely Christmas and New Years in Sweden.
It was my first winter Christmas, and luckily it was very, very white! In fact it snowed beautiful, large flat snowflakes for days. Combined with bright blue skies and no wind at all, the -15’C (5'F) didn’t seem that cold at all.
We spent Christmas in Lindvallen (Sälen) at the ski fields with Jonas’ mother and stepdad, older brother (+ his wife and two sons), his older sister (+ her fiancée and daughter) and his younger sister (+ her boyfriend). We stayed in three lovely little stugar (cabins) that even had two bastur (saunas). It couldn’t have been more lovely and picturesque.
But the fun didn’t stop in Sälen, because after we relocated to Stockholm, we stayed with Jonas’s father, stepmother and little brother and sister and spent New Years Eve setting off fireworks on the frozen edges of Lake Mälaren. We went for long walks on the thick ice and it was my first time walking on a frozen lake, feeling it shift and groan and shudder (scary).
In fact, this was the first time I had properly been in snow.
As a two year old my grandparents took me to the Snowy Mountains but I sat on the car bonnet and watched everyone else playing in the man-made ice. Then, when I was 10, on the way home from a school excursion our bus past a snowy field and they let us out to play for an hour. Then finally, when I was a 19yr old nanny, I watched my charges go up and down an artificial-snow slope in northern Italy. I stood on earth, they skied on snow.
That was the extent of my exposure to snow.
So this holiday was amazing. I was in snow, touching snow, being snowed on. I even got waist-deep in the stuff. There was so much of it, most of it lovely and powdery.
But I know you just want to know what I ate, so here’s the foodporn (and some travel porn too).
These are the cabins we stayed in.
How can you go to Sweden without eating a plate of Swedish meatballs? This was really husmansmat (traditional food): a generous portion of beef meatballs with rich gravy and served with preserved lingonberries (like cranberry sauce), pressgurka (slices of fresh cucumber dressed in a light vinegar) and boiled mandelpotatis (or almond potatoes, a speciality of northern Sweden). We ate this particularly fine dish of food in Saluhall.
Many visitors to Sweden are too narrow-minded to eat sill (pickled herring), and they’re really missing out. Most sill dishes have a sweetness from the dressing (senap – mustard; inglad – onion or matjes – spices) and a soft saltiness from the fish. I just adore pickled herring with boiled potatoes. It’s hard to beat.
Skis lined up at Lindvallen's popular slope, Gustavbacken.
Jonas’ sister, Helena, made this cake of almond paste and dark chocolate. It was simply delicious.
The smoked reindeer meat was very strong and I’m not sure I liked it. I think I prefer fresh reindeer or dried reindeer jerky over this type of smoked meat.
This is Jonas's little sister Maria, walking across a frozen Lake Mälaren.
Roast moose is just great. It has a strong gamey flavour like venison, but it’s really moreish and juicy if cooked right. A new favourite meat!
Everyone should know this tasty, famous delicacy: gravlax. Lax means salmon and gravad means buried. The dish is made from curing raw salmon in covering of salt, sugar and dill.
An afternoon stroll across fields outside Stockholm.
This game sausage is great. It’s strong-flavoured, soft-textured and has a fatty mouth-feel that you know is bad for you, but you just don’t care.
Glögg (mulled wine) is an extremely important part of a Swedish Christmas. It’s always served warm with almonds and raisins added, and pepparkakor (ginger biscuits) on the side. We drank our glögg at 3pm while watching Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul, and ate cookies, fudge, chocolates and julskum too.
Snow falling on New Year's day.
Lingonberries are popular at winter time, and a nice hot bowl of porridge sweetened with preserved lingon is wonderful.
Ostkaka is a type of Swedish cheesecake, flavoured with bitter almonds and, in this case, served with cloudberry jam and whipped cream.
The rustic charm of Dalarna's unique fences.
Jonas’ dad and stepmother made a great mushroom dish by taking dried chantrelle mushrooms and frying them in butter. The mushrooms soak up some of the butter and soften a little, but they retain the concentrated intensity from the drying process.
This shot was a delicious discovery, introduced by my two sisters in law, Helena and Tove. They said Hot Shots were very popular drinks at ski resorts in the 1990s and, after tasting them, I can understand why. Yellow galliano, hot coffee and thick cream are layered in a glass and I admit it was very difficult for me to get the whole thing down in one go. But it tasted delicious!