How to have a Scandinavian-style Christmas

a girl riding a reindeer through a winter forest
a girl riding a reindeer through a winter forest

Long dark nights in northern Europe have inspired food and drink designed to warm, comfort and nourish, as well as lifting the spirits. If twinkling lights, mulled wine (known as glögg in Sweden), roast goose and gingerbread are already Christmas essentials in your home at Yuletide, then you're halfway to Scandinavia already.

The cinnamon rolls above are a Swedish classic but similar ones are popular in Norway and Finland too. The delicious scent they bring to your house while baking will add to the festive atmosphere. They freeze really well so you can make a big batch and have some in the freezer for Christmas morning if you like. They go really well with coffee so they're a good stand-by if unexpected guests turn up. Just warm them gently in a low oven for 5-10 minutes. Incidentally, the warmth and cosiness of a kitchen full of baking smells is a central element of the Danish concept of hygge.

The ingredients are:
Dough: 425g plain flour, 25g fresh yeast (OR 14g dried yeast), pinch of salt, 1 egg, 75g butter, 225ml milk, 45g caster sugar, half a teaspoon of cardamom.
Filling: 100g butter, 2-3tbsp caster sugar, 1tbsp cinnamon

Many Scandinavian households will leave out a bowl of porridge for the Christmas elves, but on the table it's likely to include cinnamon sugar, melted butter, raisins or cherry or blueberry compote. Alternatively, why not try these traditional Swedish pancakes with jam and cream?

Gifts, decorations and snacks to make and bake
Ginger biscuits to hang on the tree
Chocolate 'bark' to give as a gift
Jerusalem artichoke crisps with salt and sage

Light meals and suppers
Open sandwiches and tasty things on toast are a simple way of adding a Scandinavian touch to a gathering with family and friends. Smoking salmon at home might be a step too far but if you can find some really good quality fresh salmon, why not try making your own gravlax? It's simple to prepare because it's basically similar to marinating the fish for a few hours.
Gravlax (cured salmon with dill - lovely on rye bread)
Traditional pickled herrings
Cured salmon and cucumber spoons

Rye bread and cinnamon rolls along with cakes and biscuits flavoured with ginger, cardamom and sometimes caraway are the mainstays of baking in the north, although marzipan and doughnuts are also popular.
Cinnamon buns (perfect with coffee) - or see video recipe above
Fast-baked rye and caraway bread
Scandinavian soda bread (great with blue cheese)
Apricot and marzipan pastries
Gingerbread cottage
Caramel pear and marzipan tart
Pistachio and chocolate Danish parties

Christmas lunch or dinner
The main meal at Christmas is eaten on Christmas Eve in most parts of Scandinavia, but you can bring a Nordic flavour to your Christmas meal at any time. Instead of turkey, many families have goose, duck or venison (perhaps reindeer or elk) as the centrepiece of the meal.
Roast duckling with clementines
Roast goose with spiced apples
Pepper-crusted loin of venison
Braised red cabbage
Caramel roasted vegetables
Venison and pork meatballs
Ham with mustard crust

More festive food ideas:
Christmas menus: Festive food for everyone
How to decode a whisky label
Festive cocktails, hot drinks and party food
Take the stress out of Christmas
Christmas baking and dessert recipes

a girl riding a reindeer through a winter forest
a girl riding a reindeer through a winter forest