Crisp Bread for Crisp Days

I was back in Stockholm over Easter for a friend’s 30th and to catch up with relatives.  I left behind a London that had just started to wake up to Spring to land in the middle of an icy Scandinavian winter, where the mercury barely teetered over zero most days.  Having said that, the sun stayed out and I didn’t see a cloud the whole time I was there.  The snow gradually started to melt, freezing overnight to create sheets of lethal, slippery glass over the pavement and roads.

You know it’s cold when water freezes straight out of the drainpipes

The Swedes do Easter with a bit more pizzaz than their southernly neighbours.  They love an excuse to get crafty and break out a bit of colour in order to liven up the last days of winter.  Feathers, dyed lurid tones of yellow, pink and blue, are the decor of choice, but many paint eggs and hang up wreaths too.  There’s usually a family get-together for a big Easter meal, but we eschew lamb in favour of a smörgåsbord of traditional feast food- pickled herring, salmon, eggs, meatballs, potatoes, Janssons temptation.  Rich, indulgent dishes, originally created to fuel the manual labour that farming the land required.  Not quite as necessary these days, of course, but still absolutely delicious.

Although we, too, like to give Easter eggs (generally decorated cardboard ones brimming with sweets), I’m always more interested in the baked goods category when it comes to festive eating.  Whether it be the spiced breads and biscuits at Christmas, the berry-filled tarts at midsummer or the cream filled cardamom buns available during Lent.  Snappy crisp breads, although enjoyed all year round, particularly come into their own with the rich foods served during the holidays.  Over Easter, my godmother, Margareta, very kindly shared her technique for making home made rye crisp breads.  Over an afternoon, we rolled, poked holes and scattered various toppings over the dense dough that gets slowly dried out in the oven.  It is quite a physical, painstaking job, but absolutely worth it.  Not least because the results could probably survive a nuclear holocaust.  Make a big batch, wrap it up in an airtight container and you’ll have delicious bread or canapé bases on tap.

Melting ice on lake Mälaren

Easter decorations for sale on Mariatorget

Rye Crisp Breads
(a big batch, recipe can be halved)
You will need:
25g fresh yeast
600ml water (blood temperature)
1 tbsp honey
3 tsp salt
500g rye flour
300g spelt flour
100g sunflower seeds
50g linseeds
100g sesame seeds
1.  Crumble the yeast into a large bowl and add the water, which should simply ‘feel wet’ (i.e. not hot, not cold, just the same temperature as your finger when you test it).  Stir to dissolve.  In a separate bowl, mix together the seeds.  
2.  Add the rye flour and 200g of the spelt flour to the liquid and yeast mixture, reserving the rest for later.  Add half of the seeds, mix well and knead together for a few minutes to form a sticky dough.  
3.  Leave to rise in a warmish place for at least an hour.  
4.  Preheat the oven to 210 C.   Divide the dough into 15 bits and roll into balls.  Dust your work surface with some of the reserved spelt flour and roll out each ball into rounds about 1/2cm thick.  It will be quite sticky, so do keep dusting more reserved flour.  Make a hole in the center of each round (using a small glass or jar) for traditional crisp breads or, alternatively, roll and cut out long rectangular shapes.  
5.  Place onto a lined baking sheet.  Poke each bread with a fork to dimple.  Sprinkle with the remaining seeds.  
6.  Bake in batches for 10-12 minutes.  Once each batch is done, turn off the oven and place all the breads onto a couple of baking sheets.  Put these into the oven and leave to dry out completely for a few hours.  

Stockholm’s Café Culture: Greatest Hits

I’m back from a still very wintery Sweden to find London in full Spring.   It’s a relief to finally be able to put away my mittens, but the weather didn’t dampen Stockholm’s beauty or distract from the wide range of things to see and do. 

I often get asked by globe-trotting friends for tips on where to eat in Stockholm.  Now, I am by no means an expert not least because it seems that every time I go back the city has changed, with an array of new restaurants and cafés to kept me on my toes.   But here’s a list of a few of my all time favourites for a bite, a drink or a ‘fika’ (a glorious word describing the act of sitting down, having a cup of coffee and something sweet).  

Stockholm glimpsed from Djurgården

Rosendals Trädgård,  Djurgården

If you fancy a walk and some fresh air, the obvious choice is to head out to Djurgården.   Although this part of town houses many of the city’s museums, galleries and an amusement park, venture a bit further off the beaten track and you’ll have a haven of peace and quiet right in the middle of the city.

The best place to go for a coffee, a slice of cake or some lunch is by far Rosendals Trädgård. This cluster of buildings right by Rosendals Slott (a palace in minuscule) is actually a garden centre, shop, bakery and café.  They serve hearty lunches and a collection of gorgeous cakes.  They also published a wonderful cookbook in the 90’s which, remarkably, hasn’t dated a bit and remains one of the greats in Swedish cookbook publishing (and the Swedes buy more cookbooks than any other nation, so that’s quite something). 

Rosendals Trädgårdscafé
Rosendals Terrassen 12
115 21 Stockholm

Easter decor at Rosendals

Catching some winter sun
Hallon grottor (Raspberry jam biscuits)


The café at Rosendals

Gorgeous glass objects for sale in the shop- and a sign reminding you to clear away your dishes

Icicles on the walk back into town


This brand new fast-food restaurant opened in the new swish MOOD galleria last month.  Although Vigårda has the distinct whiff of a would-be franchise, I was nonetheless impressed by the concept.  You can only choose between slow-cooked pork, beef, chicken or cheese and veg, a selection of sides and dressings (curry and apple, mustard and ginger or lingonberry and black pepper to name a few).  Bread and crunchy salad are included, the service is quick but friendly, the restaurant design is gorgeous and the food is really rather tasty- if a bit messily presented. 

Vigårda Barbeque
Norrlandsgatan 13
111 43 Stockholm

Café String in SoFo

The rather ridiculously named SoFo (South of Folkungagatan) in Södermalm (or simply ‘Söder’- ‘South’ to the locals) is apparently home to enough second hand clothing shops and hipster cafés to merit a New York-style moniker.  In reality, you will need a map of the area and to do some preliminary research to find any signs of contemporary subculture, especially because all the streets look pretty much the same.

Café String is a bit of a hub in SoFo and although the coffee may not the best in the area, it is a great place to people watch.  So sit back with your Macbook or latest issue of Monocle and take in the passing world.  I recommend any of their fruit pies, served with lashings of vaniljsås- a kind of lighter take on custard.   I had a friend who lived around the corner for a while and so have many happy memories of wasted afternoons here. 

Café String
Nytorgsgatan 38
116 40 Stockholm

Blueberry pie drowning in custard and a latte.

Macbooks and geeky glasses at the ready

Café Saturnus

This café is slightly tucked away on a side street as you head out of the Östermalm’s main drag along Birger jarlsgatan.  Saturnus is a bit of an institution, serving as it does the largest cinnamon buns in town.  One will be more than enough for two of you at this Swedish take on a French brasserie.  Go when you are really hungry.  It also does an unmissable weekend brunch. 

Café Saturnus 
Eriksbergsgatan 6  
114 30 Stockholm

 Café Rival

Café Rival is a lively spot for a fika.  Part of the Rival complex which comprises a hotel, theatre, bar, restaurant and bakery, it is owned by none other than Benny Andersson himself.  Located on Mariatorget (Maria Square) in Söder, it is a perfect pit stop between perusing the little boutiques (don’t miss the Stockholm Tea Centre- pick up a bag of their Earl Grey Special, in fact, that may well be the best tip in this post) lined along ‘pucken’ (bump) on Hornsgatan before heading on to the buzzing Götagatan for a fashion fix.  Go for a coffee, treat or light lunch. 

Café Rival
Mariatorget 3
118 91 Stockholm

The walls are lined with photos of famous ‘Söder’ residents

Östermals Hallen- a foodie’s paradise 
A must-visit for anyone with even a remote interest in food,  Östermalmshallen (Östermalm’s food hall, basically a large covered market) is a veritable culinary mecca.  It has been stocking Stockholm’s fridges and pantries with delicacies since 1888.  You can find the very finest in meat, fish, seafood, fruit, veg, bread and cakes with prices to match (you’re in the posh bit of town now).  
An insider’s tip is to go to one of the several cafés or restaurants tucked into the market’s corners for a weekday lunch.  The specials usually hover somewhere around a tenner and include bread and butter, salad and a drink.  I love the classic Swedish ‘husmanskost’ dishes at Tysta Marie (‘Quiet Marie,’  although there’s nothing quiet about it so get there early).  

Östermalms Saluhall
114 39 Stockholm
Roberts Coffee next to the main entrance does a mean cardamon bun

Fresh fruit and veg

Fresh fish and seafood at Lisa Elmqvist, which also has a restaurant in the market
Lunch special at Tysta Marie: fried herring, mash and lingonberries. 
Morfar Ginko/Pappa Ray Rays
Finally, a place to go for a drink.  Morfar Ginko (Grandpa Ginko) is, if I’ve understood it correctly, the bar whereas Pappa Ray Rays is the restaurant.  Anyway, it makes no difference as you can order a burger or some moules marinieres from the bar or enjoy a couple of cocktails at the restaurant.  The bar has live music, djs (a rather good and unobtrusive one was on the decks the night we went), a quiz and even ping pong tournaments.  In the summer, try to grab one of the tables that line the pavement.  Not far from Mariatorget, the bar at Hotel Rival makes a great precursor to an evening spent here. 
Morfar Ginko
Swedenborgsgatan 13
118 48 Stockholm

Other places worth a mention: 

Riddarbageriet, Mossebake theatre and bar (wonderful in the summer), Trädgården, Debaser for drinks and gigs, Cajsa Varg, Ejes Choklad, Granit and PUB for cooking and dining ware, the cafés at Fotografiska and Moderna Museet, Restaurang Grill, Smak på Restaurangen… and many, many more!

A Swedish Christmas

So the lack of blogging activity (bloggivity) in recent weeks is, of course, due to the holidays and travelling and then getting stuck back into work but basically wanting to do nothing but hide under my duvet in my freezing cold house.

As mentioned previously, I spent the festive period in Stockholm, which looked more like the deepest, darkest Russia what with the short days and meters of snow.

Bromma, Stockholm

Old Town, Stockholm

Slussen, Stockholm
Where all the trains still run on time despite the snow… take that, London!