10 best Scandinavian cookbooks
Cook, bake and eat like the Scandis with the help inspiration-packed guide
From their sleek furniture design to their noir crime dramas, we Brits have lapped up Scandinavian culture for years now.
But it's not just style that makes modern Nordic cooking appealing: its focus on wholesome, traditional flavours and all-natural, all-local ingredients is right on the zeitgeist – and that's not to mention "fika", the Swedish word for a coffee break enjoyed with something to eat. Expect plenty of classic Scandi dishes and ingredients from these books – herring and other seafood, plus meatballs, stews, pickled, fermented veg, rye and hearty spiced bakes.
We've been cooking our way through cinnamon buns and lingonberries to pick our favourite Scandi cookbooks, which are all beautifully photographed and designed – of course.
1. The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson: £29.95, Phaidon
This, from the father of modern Nordic cooking, Magnus Nilsson, is considered something of a bible. Nilsson is Swedish but his 700 recipes range from Finland to the Faroe Islands, arranged into chapters by ingredient, such as beef and veal, game, saltwater fish, freshwater fish, grains, and even blood and offal – perhaps not one for the vegetarians. There are also good introductions to traditional elements of Scandi cuisine, such as smoking and preserving techniques, and Midsummer feasts.
2. Nordic Light by Simon Bajada: £20, Hardie Grant
Simon Bajada is a slightly curveball addition here because he's actually an Australian living in Sweden, but his book is a standout and brings a creative, slightly removed perspective. Being a photographer as well as a cook, each recipe is accompanied by a gorgeous image: we challenge you to find a more beautiful pudding than the nutmeg cream pots with rhubarb and puffed spelt. Our favourite recipes have the Scandi feel without sticking to the classics: kale and buckwheat waffles with eggs, and pear, sage and hazelnut bread.
3. Fire + Ice by Darra Goldstein: £27.50, Random House
Coming from the renowned food writer Darra Goldstein, Fire + Ice is a beautifully written ode to Scandinavia with plenty of mood pictures of jetties that will have you wanting to move there within the first 10 pages; each Nordic country has its own mini essay about its food and regions. As well as the glorious prose, there are classics such as saffron buns and Finnish Karelian stew, and our favourite, baked pike with mushrooms and spinach.
4. Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hahnemann: £25, Quadrille
We've all heard about the ubiquitous "hygge" by now, and for her latest book Trine Hahnemann has attempted to distil the sentiment into food, hence: Comfort Food. The cauliflower soup and spinach, artichoke and feta tart are excellent and not too alien to the British palette, but there are Scandi classics such as “labskovs” (mashed potato mixed with stewing meat) too. Our only quibble? We wouldn't count the salads chapter as comfort food...
5. Food From the Fire by Niklas Ekstedt: £25, Pavilion
This, from Swedish chef Niklas Ekstedt, focuses on a particular cooking method: cooking over flame. Its intro covers the practical elements for great results: wood, fire, iron, smoke and fat, before a chapter on basic ingredients, including making your own butter, rye bread and pickling liquid. There's plenty of herring and roe in the "small dishes" chapter (try the juniper-smoked turbot, roasted onion and brown butter mayonnaise), while venison meatballs with red cabbage salad and blackened apple is a standout elsewhere.
6. Lagom by Steffi Knowles-Dellner: £20, Quadrille
"Lagom" – you can count in alongside those other trendy Scandi words, hygge and fika – is a Swedish term, loosely translated as “just the right amount”. Accordingly, this book, written by a Swedish food blogger, is about eating well and in balance: everything in moderation. The sweet potato and leek gratin and crispy sliced and stacked potatoes (a simple version of hasselback) are our favourites, but the meatier offering (tenderloin, pork cheeks, schnitzel) is more traditional. For a twist on the usual meatballs, try fiskbullar (fish balls). Published 19 October.
7. Smorgasbord by Johanna Kindvall: £14.99, Random House
"Smorgasbord" is perhaps one of the most-used Swedish words in English (along with dynamite) and, in practice, it is a buffet of small dishes, usually eaten in a certain order: herrings, potato and cheese; pate, crayfish and gravlax; charcuterie and pickles; meatballs and gratins, topped off with sweet. Recipes – illustrated by Kindvall but with no photographs – are arranged in “everyday”, “outdoor seasonal” and “celebration” smorgasbord menus, plus condiments and sides, all with their Swedish titles.
8. Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen: £18.65, Hodder & Stoughton
Our go-to kanelbullar – cinnamon bun – recipe comes from this book, and that alone makes it worth it. But if you need further persuasion, the sweet, doughy, festive almond kringle wreath and flappenjacken (salted caramel granola biscuits) should suffice. Those who like a photograph to cook to, be warned: not every recipe has one.
9. Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahnemann: £25, Quadrille
The second book by Hahnemann on this list, Scandinavian Baking is divided into two clear sections – cakes and pastries, and breads and savouries – plus two menus for celebrations, Midsummer and Christmas. The Finnish runeberg cakes (fluted and topped with fresh jam) are a must, as are the marzipan-filled buttermilk buns.
10. Cook Yourself Happy: The Danish Way by Caroline Fleming: £25, Jacqui Small
It's quite a promise from a title, but the Jerusalem artichoke and truffle soup, slow-cooked pulled pork with coleslaw and cornichons, hearty bean and potato casserole, and beautifully pink rhubarb soup certainly brought a smile to our faces. The dishes are all titled in Danish, a nice touch, and translated underneath, and there's a photo for every recipe.
The Verdict: Scandinavian cookbooks
For its sheer scope, The Nordic Cookbook has to be the "if you buy one" choice, while we had a hard time choosing which recipes to test from the drool-worthy Cook Yourself Happy. And the sweet-toothed will certainly be satiated by Scandinavian Baking.
All prices listed are RRP
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