I just love this time of year and it seems that our neighbourhood does too. The houses around us are completely adorned with Christmas lights (our back neighbours entire house and garden has turned into a flashing, luminous light land) and everywhere else you look or turn something festive seems to be brewing…
For weeks now I have been hearing all about and very much looking forward to our neighbourhood’s Yuletide tradition, Luminaria. This beautiful tradition takes place around the winter solstice, when the local folk of Riverside and Avondale place lanterns made of candles in paper bags all around the houses, parks, churches and shops. The candles are lit at sundown and the streets begin filling up with people enjoying the glowing neighborhood and seasonal cheer. Front doors and porches are open to passing partying people, cars and trucks are decorated with lights, churches are lit up with live nativity scenes and hot apple cider is passed around.
Seeing as I have a little bit of history and a lot of love for Sweden, Luminaria immediately reminded me of the Swedish tradition of St Lucia. So, I thought, why not make the most of our very first Luminaria experience and celebrate with a big Swedish Christmas feast! The plan was to prepare all of the food first so that we and our friends could walk around the neighbourhood and enjoy the lanterns, Christmas lights and the street parades. Then once we were tired, hungry and cold, we would come back to the house for our Swedish feast.
The morning of Luminaria I was in complete heaven preparing food, mulling the wine (glögg) and decorating the house in all sorts of Christmas trimmings – including my favourite part, decorating the table light in delicious flowers and shrubbery to create a floating wreath centerpiece. That evening, once our guests had arrived and the final food preparations were made, we lit our own lanterns for the garden and downed a cheeky mug of glögg. Then, we headed out to enjoy Luminaria.
Once we got back to the house, the fire was lit, our toes were warmed and the food was laid out on the table for our very own smorgasbord or ‘Julbord’. We feasted on a myriad of Swedish fare – Homemade Meatballs with lingonberry sauce, Jansson’s Temptation, beetroot salad, home cured gravad lax, red cabbage, boiled potatoes with dill, varieties of pickled herring (sill) and boiled eggs with herring and dill mayonnaise. And for dessert, ginger snaps (pepparkakor) and saffron buns (saffransbullar).
After dinner, I was in a complete and happy reflective coma. It was the most wonderful evening. I took in a deep breath of seasonal air and became very thankful. Not only was I full of food, but I also had a very full heart. I felt lucky to live in this vibrant, cultural neighbourhood that has become our home far away from home. I felt lucky to be able to enjoy it and the seasons festivities with our most beautiful and sincere group of American friends. Thank you for eating my food. Thank you for being so lovely. And happy Yuletide cheer to everyone, however you are celebrating and wherever you may be. xx
3 g (1/8 oz) saffron threads
50 g (2 oz) yeast
200 g (7 oz) sugar
300 ml (1½ cup) milk
150–200 g (5–7 oz) butter
1 tsp salt
750 g (26 oz) flour
100 g (3½ oz) raisins
2 tbs water
Grind the saffron along with a cube of sugar, using a mortar and pestle. (For those who think ahead: drip a little cognac on top, and let stand a few days.) Crumble the yeast in a bowl and stir in a few tablespoons of milk. Melt the butter and pour on the milk.
Add the rest of the ingredients, except the raisins, and knead the dough in a dough mixer for 10 minutes. Carefully mix in most of the raisins, cover the dough and let it rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Divide the dough into 25 pieces and roll the buns in an oblong shape, about 10 cm (4 in) long. Cover them and let rest for 10 minutes, then roll them twice as long and twist the ends of each bun in opposite directions to form a sort of figure 8. Put one raisin in the middle of each half figure 8.
Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise under a towel for about 90 minutes, or until the buns have doubled in size. Bake in the oven (220°C/425°F) for 5 minutes. Beat together the egg and water, brush the mixture on the buns. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.
750 g (26 oz) fresh salmon filet with skin on
85 g (3 ¼ oz) sugar
120 g (4 oz) salt
8 tbs chopped dill
1 tsp crushed white pepper
2 tbs mild Swedish mustard
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbs sugar
1½ tbs red wine vinegar
salt, white pepper
200 ml (1 cup) oil (not olive oil)
To minimise the risk connected with eating raw fish, you might want to freeze the salmon before preparing it. When defrosted, scale the salmon and remove the small bones, but leave the skin on. Make a few cuts in the skin so the marinade will penetrate from below. Mix salt, sugar and pepper and sprinkle it beneath and on top of the salmon filet along with plenty of dill. Place a weighted cutting board on top of the salmon filet and let it marinate at room temperature for 2–4 hours. Then refrigerate for 24−48 hours, turning the salmon filet a few times. Rinse the salmon in cold water. Cut into thin slices without getting too close to the skin, so the dark salmon is included.
To make the gravlax sauce mix the mustard, sugar and vinegar and season with salt and fresh-ground pepper. Stir vigorously, while pouring on the oil in a steady, thin stream. When the sauce has attained a mayonnaise-like consistency, stir in the chopped dill. Serve it along side the salmon.
Jansson’s temptation, or Janssons frestelse is a creamy potato and anchovy bake. I was given this recipe from my Swedish host mum, Ewa. I have left most of it exactly as she typed it – it was far too cute to alter…
Gratin preparation time approx 10-15 minutes.
In the owner time about 45-50 minutes.
Ingredients for 4 persons:
5-6 medium sized potatoes
2 yellow onions
7-10 whole anchovies (Clean and bone the anchovies if whole fish are used) * I use 15-20 pieces of anchovy filèer instead:
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (395 degrees F).
Peel the potatoes and shred it (fries) Scale (slice it in thin slices),
and fry the onion so it becomes soft in butter!
Unwind the shredded potatoes, onion rings and anchovies in the shape.
Top layer should be potatoes. Pour over anchovy water
Turn over the cream, sprinkle liberally with bread crumbs and then cut thin slices of the butter and sprinkle over bread crumbs if desired.