Hygge with a haimishe twist

How Scan­di­na­vian Jews dine out on lo­cal tra­di­tions

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY CLAIRE CANTOR Find New Nordic Kosher Kitchen at: Kosh­erk­itchen.dk; newnordic­food.org

HYGGE MIGHT be the lat­est trend for us. But to the Jews who have lived in Scan­di­navia since the 16th and 17th cen­tury, it’s noth­ing new.

Pro­nounced hoo-ga, hygge de­scribes the Dan­ish life­style that in­volves in­dulging in all the good things (tasty com­fort food, scented can­dles and cosy blan­kets — you get the idea) that bring con­tent­ment to your life.

In Scan­di­navia, Jewish cui­sine has taken on plenty of lo­cal flavours that will cer­tainly bliss you out. Ex­plains Silja Vainer, a Dan­ish lec­turer in Jewish cook­ing and food cus­toms: “Nordic cook­ing is all about salt­ing, smok­ing and pick­ling. It was a way of pre­serv­ing foods for the winter. Salt­ing and pick­ling are very fa­mil­iar in Jewish cook­ing too. A typ­i­cal old Nordic dish is to salt cod, hang it to dry then leave in wa­ter for 10 hours, then boil and eat it with a strong mus­tard sauce.”

Vainer adds that be­cause it can be dif­fi­cult to find kosher meat in Den­mark, fish has be­come a huge part of the kosher kitchen. “We make lots of sal­ads and dishes with fish — white and sal­mon. We have adapted dishes that have mus­sels in them, and use pol­lock in­stead, or her­ring or carp.”

Eva Fried, au­thor of Scan­di­na­vian Food in the Jewish Kitchen, agrees, say­ing: “Fish ap­pears on the Shab­bat and fes­ti­val ta­ble. In salad starters we use her­rings, add an­chovies to an egg salad and we make a Rus­sian style sill­salad [fish salad] with her­rings, pota­toes, beet­root, ap­ples, onions and pick­led cu­cum­bers.”

In Swe­den, the haimishe menu is sim­i­lar. “Swe­den is big on two things that work well for Jews — her­ring and sal­mon,” says Stockholm-based kosher caterer, Fanny Gorosch. “The fish can be salted, fried, baked or smoked, pick­led or mar­i­nated. You can find over 30 dif­fer­ent flavoured her­rings — dill and onion, roe, crème fraiche, sweet mus­tard, clas­sic style with red onion, car­rots and bayleaf, and mat­je­sill [pick­led her­ring]. They have had their own type of chopped her­ring here for hun­dreds of years.”

That Jewish favourite, sal­mon, is also pop­u­lar in Swe­den and ap­pears in many forms. Says Gorosch, a Jewish fam­ily fridge will al­ways con­tain smoked lox and her­ring and it’s also a favourite at any sim­chah. “We serve sal­mon a mil­lion ways. I am amazed at how quickly the smoked sal­mon and cream cheese bulkies [chal­lah-like bread rolls] dis­ap­pear at a kid­dush. We of­ten serve a tra­di­tional smor­gas­bord as well.”

It’s not all fish. As with Jewish cui­sine around the world, ob­ser­vant eaters have in­te­grated lo­cal pro­duce and adapted lo­cal, tra­di­tional recipes. Fried ex­plains: “We eat latkes all year round, with lin­gonber­ries, and as Swedish meatballs are tra­di­tion­ally made with a sour cream sauce, we sub­sti­tute with a dairy free al­ter­na­tive.”

Ac­cord­ing to Vainer, Fri­day night chicken also has a Scandi slant: “On a Fri­day night we may have chicken with Nordic veg­eta­bles like car­rot, parsnip, cel­ery and turnip. We make a mari­nade from lo­cal buck­thorn berries and add wild ram­sons [sim­i­lar to chives] to our dishes. We also make Nordic-style chal­lah with whole­meal or spelt flour.”

Fes­ti­val foods have also been adapted. “At Chanukah we may serve a tra­di­tional Scan­di­na­vian winter dish — roast duck with an ap­ple and meat fill­ing — to­gether with a salad of cel­ery, ap­ples, wal­nuts and may­on­naise. In Jewish homes you will find the tra­di­tional Nordic gin­ger­bread bis­cuit in the shape of a dreidl.”

Den­mark is known for its cut­ting-edge chefs. Kosher food blogger Anne Weimar has looked to con­tem­po­rary Scan­di­na­vian cui­sine for in­spi­ra­tion, bor­row­ing from the trends for homegrown or for­est for­aged wild leaves and flow­ers, nuts, berries and mush­rooms in the recipes she shares in her blog New Nordic Kosher Kitchen.

“My in­spi­ra­tion for the blog are Dan­ish chefs [like Claus Meyer René Redzepi of Noma] who rev­o­lu­tionised our un­der­stand­ing of cook­ing. They have al­lowed me and other Scan­di­na­vian Jews to re­think and even rein­vent kosher cook­ing, by be­ing more open to the idea of in­te­grat­ing mod­ern tech­niques and us­ing lo­cally grown in­gre­di­ents.”

Even clas­sic Jewish dishes get a makeover. “In winter I would make a cholent us­ing lo­cal root veg­eta­bles — I add noo­dles in­stead of beans. I com­bine lo­cal smoked cheese with sal­mon and fennel, or serve poppy seed-crusted sal­mon. Be­ing kosher here is about be­ing cre­ative, a dia­logue with the cul­ture you are in.”


Kosher caterer Fanny Gorosch (left) says her­ring and sal­mon are big with Swedish Jews

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