A guide to creating your own smorgasbord of Nordic flavours to enjoy in the lingering Scandinavian sunshine.
On my recent visit to Copenhagen I was enchanted by the lingering afternoon sunshine and exquisitely manicured gardens. I was inspired to pull together a picnic of local treats to fully appreciate the Danish springtime.
I cycled around my neighbourhood collecting delicacies sourced from the supermarket, bakery and a few special pieces from the trendy food market called Torvehallerne. Whether you’re in Denmark or any Nordic country, you should be able to source these local titbits or substitute them with something very similar.
- Fish is a huge part of Scandinavian culture, and Denmark is no exception as it conveniently sits between the Baltic and the North Sea. With this in mind, a picnic with a variety of fish is optimal. I chose a delicately cured salmon known as gravlax, smoked trout and purchased some freshly made fish cakes still warm from the market. Pickled herring is also worth a try.
- Slices of typical Nordic cheese have a mild flavour so are likely to please everyone, good picks are a Jarlsberg or Havarti. If you like a rich cheese there is always the soft and strong Danish Blue.
- What is a picnic without bread? A firm favourite is the unique tasting rye bread. This just happens to compliment fish and cheese impeccably. I selected a few rolls for variety; the dark rye was savoury and flavourful and the carrot and pumpernickel bread was particularly moreish. Rye crisp-breads are also popular and could work as an excellent alternative.
- Rodbetsallad is a beetroot salad that is a wonderful additional to this buffet, and it’s just such a vibrant colour. There is a vast selection of creamy pre-packaged salads in the supermarket; you may also be tempted by the potato and dill salads or ones made with pickled egg.
- Berries are gorgeous in the Scandinavian summers. Plump strawberries and bright, red raspberries are sold everywhere and are featured in many pastries or desserts. You simply cannot have a picnic without them.
- Swinging by your local bakery to pick up freshly baked cinnamon rolls is a must. They vary slightly throughout the Nordic region, but are typically cardamon flavoured bun with a cinnamon and sugar swirl filling. I tried my first cinnamon bun a few years ago in Helsinki where they are called Korvapuusti and recently discovered that the Danish variety are just as good!
- Jordbaer kage is a delicious Danish tart with a shortcrust pastry base and layered with marzipan, dark chocolate, sweet pastry cream and strawberries.
- Fragrant elderflower syrup is a popular base for fizzy drinks. If you’re in a boozy mood, you may want to substitute these for Swedish cider which can come in splendid flavours like blueberry or cloudberry. (On a side note, isn’t cloudberry the most delightful word!)
Once laden with gourmet treats, the next step is to find a gorgeous location. In Copenhagen the Botanical Gardens or Rosenborg Castle Garden are picture perfect inner-city spots. Stylish, young Danes meet here in the afternoons to enjoy a few drinks. Remember that it stays light until late so afternoons last for what feels like a blissful eternity.
If you’re only in Denmark for a short on time or you’re on a tight budget, then keep it simple. Sit by the lake with an authentic Danish treat known as koldskal and kammerjunker. Ask any Dane about it, and this traditional snack will put a smile on their faces as they exclaim “It tastes like a Danish summer!”. All you need is disposable bowls and spoons, a carton of buttermilk koldskal (a thin yoghurt-y liquid that taste like vanilla), fresh berries and a packet of small, crumbly biscuits called kammerjunker.