Across Scandinavia the festive season is seen as an opportunity to catch up with friends, neighbours and family, and it is common to be invited to – and host – Christmas lunches (julefrokost) routinely throughout December. These lunches will usually consist of a smörgåsbord of bread and fish along with generous amounts of beers, spirits and wine followed by singing and toasts. The big Christmas dinner, meanwhile, is traditionally held on the 24th and involves a sumptuous feast of pork, red cabbage, potatoes and gravy. Duck and goose are increasingly popular too, often eaten as an alternative to the roast pork – or, for the serious festive feasters, as an accompaniment! In Denmark the Christmas meal is followed by a dish of rice pudding, whipped cream and chopped almonds (risalamande) for dessert, which is topped with cherry compote (kirsebærsauce) and served with a whole almond in one of the bowls; whoever finds the almond in their dish wins a small prize or gift. Similar desserts are eaten in Sweden and Norway, although they are often made without the chopped almonds.
Add some fun to your Christmas Eve dinner table with Sally Abé's Risalamande recipe, the perfect Christmas dessert to follow Graham Campbell's Confit pork belly with braised red cabbage or Andy Waters' Braised duck leg with caramelised apples. If you're still trying to decide between pork or duck, whipping up a batch of Josh Eggleton's Pickled red cabbage will ensure you have a suitably Scandinavian Christmas side dish at the ready when you do!
This collection of Scandinavian Christmas recipes also contains some fantastic inspiration for preparing your own festive smörgåsbord. Galton Blackiston's Salmon gravadlax recipe, served alongside a refreshing like sorbet, would make a beautiful starter dish, while Agnar Sverrisson's Gravlax with horseradish is a beautiful salmon recipe fit for serving up as a canape. Feeling a little more adventurous? Andy McLeish's Marinated herrings recipe, a classic preparation of one of Scandinavia's favourite fish, will show you what Britain is missing out on.
The festive season is a great time for cracking out sweet treats and bakes we wouldn't normally try (and guilt free, at that!). Try Sally Abé's Christmas cookie recipe for Vaniljekranse, a type of Danish butter biscuit, and the popular festive apple pancake Aebleskiver – perfect for washing down with a glass of mulled wine.