65. Swedish Smörgås

One of our café recommendations in Stockholm was ‘Sturekatten’ which I’m fairly sure translates to the fat cat. Based on the Danish word for big/large (Store) and the cats all over the signage. This was yet another scavenger hunt of an adventure, as the café turned out to be quite the hidden gem, off in a side street with minimal signage. After google maps sent us in a totally unnecessary circle, we found the place. We only knew we were in the right spot as a result of our detailed instructions “You will feel like you are walking in to someone’s loungeroom.”

As we walked up an old wooden spiral staircase, the description was perfect. With doilies on tables, potted plants, delicate teacups and mismatched antique chairs, we knew we were in the right place. The waitstaff were all in the cutest Victorian style lace aprons, and there was a range of different rooms you could sit in, with majestic curtains and rustic window frames separating them.

The food at Sturekatten was amazing, and we felt it was the perfect time to try a truly Nordic lunch. While smörgås, or smørrebrød, as it is called in Danish, is very common in Denmark, it wasn’t until I was in Sweden that I thought it would be a good opportunity to give it a go. Smörgås is typically on a slice of rye bread (two slices is far too much to consume in one go) and piled with toppings. A very common version of this Nordic delight is a generous helping of mayonnaise, slices of egg and a ridiculous heap of shrimps. smörgås or smørrebrød is usually well decorated, commonly with cucumber slices and at this particular place also had caviar.

It was a delicious lunch, and the cabinet of food looked amazing – it was really hard to pick just one thing!

Another particularly swedish trend was on display here also. When you pay for a coffee at many cafes, you then help yourself to a coffee at a tea/coffee stand. A bit of an honesty system and refills are encouraged, but the sacrifice is a lack of espresso machine. No flat whites in this part of the world!

Fun fact: the term smorgasbord (buffet) comes from smörgås.

54. How To Make Rye Bread Delicious

Proper Danish rye bread – looks and tastes like a brick

In an effort to be more healthy I made the very incorrect assumption that because there is so much rye bread on offer in Scandinavia, with so many different varieties, that perhaps it was another type of food that gets absolutely butchered as it makes its way to the other side of the world. Everyone seems to be eating it, so they must make it better over here, right? Wrong. It tastes much the same as NZ rye bread – dry, dense and quite difficult to enjoy.

So I decided to work a little magic and make it more delicious by taking inspiration from the wonderful Nigella and covering the stuff with butter. Much better! Totally negated my attempt at making a healthy choice, but tasted damn good.

I also took inspiration from a trip to a cafe in Wellington, NZ by the name of Gotham, which makes an amazing american style grilled cheese. Or as I like to call it, a heart attack sandwich. I’m fairly sure they actually deep fry it, and probably have at least 250g of cheese in between those two giant slices of grease soaked bread. A ‘grilled cheese’ is also a good problem solver when you don’t have a toaster (they don’t seem to be a normal kitchen appliance here, or perhaps I haven’t been in enough Danish kitchens).

I felt it was important to pair a strong cheese with my interestingly flavoured rye and went with a blue cheese and mushroom grilled cheese. It was amazing! The heat softened the previously solid rye so it was a great deal more palatable, but don’t expect it to go crispy like normal/white bread (or Franskbrod, as in French Bread, as it is called here in Denmark). Some sauteed onions would probably be a nice touch too.

If you want to recreate it, I used the following method: slice mushrooms and sautee in butter, set aside. Spread each side of two slices of bread with butter and place in the frying pan. When the butter has all soaked in and it is at your desired level of golden brown toasted-ness, turn over and place slices of blue cheese on one piece of bread, then mushrooms. I also had a mushroom-cream-cheese dip concoction as a result of not understanding what the other dip flavours were at the supermarket (where’s reduced cream and onion soup when you need it) which went very well with my grilled cheese. Luckily not too much of a mushroom/dairy overload and it perfectly counteracted the (d)rye bread. I then put the lid on the sandwich and let the cheese melt. Delicious.

It was a wee while ago so I didn’t have a photo, but it looked something like the one above, found on google images and first seen here.

Also, I have since learned the trick to eating rye bread like a Dane. It is called smorrebrod and it consists of having your sandwich filling as a topping on just the one piece of dry, dense bread. It all makes sense to me now!

Danish Smorrebrod. Because eating two slices of the stuff is just too much!