Three recipes to make a Viking feast

Since a Danish restaurant won a coveted world food award, all sorts of Nordic cuisine has become extremely popular.

Wind-dried fish might not be every young girl's favourite treat, but, on my visits to Iceland as a child with my mother, who's Icelandic, I used to guzzle down the hardfiskur (harofiskur) like it was chocolate. I also adored the pickled herring, served on boiled potatoes with a sweet mustard dill mayonnaise.

Since then, I've always had an affection for Nordic and Scandinavian food, with its big, bold, rustic flavours, and endless enthusiasm for all manner of different cured fish. The recent rise in popularity of Scandinavian food has been fairly inescapable. Known as 'New Nordic', it has been strongly influenced by Noma, the restaurant in Copenhagen that won the World's Best Restaurant award from 2010 to 2012.

Noma uses seriously local ingredients, such as foraged moss and seaweed, to create a unique dining experience. There's also Faviken, in Sweden, and a whole host of other restaurants with a similar ethos. While I would really like to eat at any of those restaurants some day, I'm still more than happy eating 'old' Nordic – classic Scandinavian dishes that have stood the test of time, even if they don't include ingredients I've foraged from the local coastline!

The Nordic appreciation of cured oily fish is as impressive as it is varied. The wind-drying technique is used to cure haddock, cod and flounder. This hardfiskur is sometimes served with boiled potatoes and bechamel sauce; at other times, it is spread with butter or even eaten just by itself. Gravlax is another Nordic speciality. It is an ancient dish in which salmon was fermented by salting it and burying it in the sand. Gravlax literally means "buried salmon".

These days, gravlax is no longer fermented, but cured with a dry marinade of sugar, salt and dill. It makes for a delicious Scandinavian alternative to smoked salmon.

The flatbread recipe, opposite, is for tunnbrod "thin bread" – a Scandinavian bread that is flavoured with the aniseed taste of fennel seeds. It makes for a great base, to which you can add any ingredients you'd like. I've used gravlax with dill, capers and other flavourings. You could, of course, use smoked salmon if you can't get hold of gravlax.

The Swedish dish of Jansson's Temptation is such an excellent side dish that we've made it at Ballymaloe from time to time. Jansson, who was a 19th-Century opera singer, would use pickled sprats of herring (of course!) in his dish, but anchovies make a fine replacement. They are easier to get hold of and add a gorgeous richness to this dish. It goes very well with meat, particularly lamb.

Swedish bakeries are such fabulous places, full of lovely little treats and beautiful, hearty breads. A Swedish bakery is homely and inviting, rather than the sometimes intimidating fanciness of a French patisserie.

The Swedes have a real affection for cardamom, which is one of my favourite spices to add to desserts. I first tried these cardamom cookies, below right, in Sweden and became instantly addicted.

This dough is great to keep in the fridge in its log shape, to cut as you need cookies. It will keep in the fridge for two weeks or in the freezer for three months.

3 Recipes for you to try:

Photography by Tony Gavin

Shaneod Mar 21, 2014 News