Blondes, reindeer, Abba, saunas, pickles, herring, smörgåsbords. Like our red buses, bobbies and afternoon tea, Swedish clichés have truth but not on a daily basis, so how many can Mike tick off on a foodie trip to Skåne county?
“Skåne” (rhymes with corner) is 3% of Sweden's area with 13% of the population. From Copenhagen airport it’s half an hour by train across the Øresund bridge into Malmo then a pleasant five minute wander to our hotel. Unlike trekking into London from Heathrow.
Enjoy a good night’s sleep at Hotel Duxiana and you can buy your bed - because they make and sell them (and deliver if you’re worried about checking oversized luggage). The lobby’s awash with cool homewares. Scandi design - a cliché I missed, I write it on my list and immediately tick it off, like you do.
A Kooking Klass
Margareta Schildt-Landgren resembles a younger, more Swedish Mary Berry and like her, is a household name here with twenty cookbooks under her apron strings since training as a home economics teacher. She runs courses to inspire ordinary home cooks using seasonal local ingredients. Blonde = cliché = 1 tick.
As I chop Kale, she describes another project to educate refugee boys. “They have zero cooking experience because of their culture, so we begin at the basics, like how to boil an egg.” Sweden is Europe’s most welcoming country for refugees and Margareta is doing her bit.
Sliced apple is added to kale and a cream of whole grain mustard, Swedish smooth cottage cheese, and Attika Swedish pickling vinegar. Served with slices of smoked cockerel it is delicious. Pickling = cliché = 1 tick. Total so far = 3.
Michelin Star Sweden
Back to the cobbled centre of Malmo for a treat; dinner at Vollmers. Brothers Ebbe and Mats Vollmer started their 19th century townhouse restaurant six years ago and quietly collected two Michelin stars.
From the outset it’s theatre, beetroot snacks on individual wooden spoons are revealed, as aromatic wood smoke billows towards our nostrils when the glass cloche is lifted. Dishes are wistfully titled like ‘Childhood Memories - Cabbage, pig and sherry’ (more like Xmas memories for me). The menu records how far ingredients have travelled to the restaurant. ‘Bokskogen - Ceps leek and chervil’, only 1.8km, presumably by bicycle.
Beef, black radish and garlic is the delicious main event, paired with an especially good 2015 Poggio Argentiera Cabernet Franc and Syrah, Scansano. No kilometres given for the wine, just as well for this Southern Tuscany delight.
Three ‘100 year old’ glutinous bread lozenges come twined together like dynamite and are exactly that, but then ’Den Hvide Dame’ - The White Lady appears, their incredible creamy/buttery ice cream churned until almost frozen. It steals the show. I also like that it has to be eaten that night, so the chefs get to share any leftover after their shift.
Off to market
Next morning, food journalist Linda shows us around Malmö Saluhall indoor market. Siblings Martin and Nina Karyd bought this burnt out 1898 warehouse ruin and enlisted architect friend Gert Wingårdh to help them transform it into a fashionable mix of brick, timber and black steel, all crammed full of mouth-watering produce.
Linda says there are 174 nationalities and 400 restaurants for Malmo’s population of 300k. Malmo’s fine dining chefs now experiment with street food here in the market. Linda says it has changed for the better with immigration, describing the city as “Berlin10 years ago.”
We scoff dried smoked pork sausage with peppercorn which the butcher hunts and cures and Hyby Blå, a gentle tasting soft blue cheese, then finally it’s time for pickled herring; 1 part salt, 1 part vinegar and 3 parts sugar on rye with salt, pepper and dill. This classic Swedish national dish = 1 cliché = 1 tick.
Farm to fork
Ängavallen farm is surrounded by flattened countryside. This is the organic dream of Rolf-Axel, who sounds like he should star with Vin Deisel, but is a sprightly 73-year-old dressed in farmers’ checks. “Climate and soil are our possibilities and our limitations here.” Rolf says as he serves dinner himself in their small restaurant for the lucky guests who stay in their 19 rooms.
Almost everything served is produced here: fruits, berries and grains to feed their sheep, cattle and pigs. They bake bread, cure meat, make sausages and produce cheeses and milk. It’s also sold from their little farm shop, the first in Scandinavia, to people who come from miles around.
Rolf applies ethology (animal husbandry), to gauge their needs. He established Sweden’s first organic farm abattoir after being appalled at the state version, which made him vegetarian for over a year. They just leave the abattoir door open with a light on and pigs come in from curiosity. Livestock never see another dead animal or smell blood.
A ‘v’ shaped electrode is applied to the base of the skull and 1.25 amperes kills them instantaneously without awareness. They don't castrate either, so there is plenty of Swedish free love happening.
Waste not, want not
Hörte Brygga inhabits a small building on an inlet of Skane’s southern coast. Here owners Emma Andersson and Martin Sjöstrand, launched their unusual restaurant with a “zero vision” of food waste.
In summer hundreds dine on sharing food while enjoying the sea view, but in winter they change the name to Köksbordet (The kitchen table), serving a tasting menu to a maximum of just twelve diners who share one large table inside.
We enjoying salami from a cow the local farmer used to walk past everyday. “She was getting too old for milking so we took her and used her nose to tail”, says Martin. “We get produce then find recipes, not the other way around.” The wines are great too, particularly the smooth Syrah Mas Coutelou, On peut pas vraiment dire que 2015.
Porcini with celeriac and egg yolk is incredibly flavoursome and salted saithe (a type of Pollack) with sourcremé, cucumber and dillflower is particularly delicate. We chat with locals then two guys suddenly burst into a traditional folk song complete with harmonies - apparently normal behaviour in Sweden.
People donate vinyl for the restaurant’s old record player and Abba soon make a guest appearance - a tongue in cheek gesture for us brits, but we all enjoy a sing along. Abba = massive cliché = big tick.
Glamping in the forest
Our last port of call is Nyrups Naturhotell, a collection of yurts in the forest where we make fire with Camille our teacher (with matches, it’s not The Island with Bear Grylls) and cook with local ingredients.
Beetroots go into the fire to roast as we wrap Perch in thick layers of newspaper to bury in a ground oven. We fry Halloumi style Nablusi cheese and mash parsnips with cheese and of course the staple in every Swedish meal: Kale, this time with cream, garlic, shallots and parsley. Kale is going on the list. = 1Tick
Our feast is a great success topped off with white chocolate mousse, almond licorice brittle and lingonberries. Wait, they sell those in Ikea – one last cliché tick.
Back on the plane home and stinking of woodsmoke, I reflect that our experience has been a rich one with the focus on sustainable food and connecting people.
A total of six cliché ticks but I feel cheated: No reindeer smörgåsbord in a sauna.
Return flights from London Gatwick to Copenhagen start from £70 return with Norwegian www.norwegian.com. Malmö is a 35 minute train journey from Copenhagen airport across the Oresund Bridge.
Rooms at Hotel Duxiana Malmö start from £180 per night on a room only basis in a Grand Lit Double www.malmo.hotelduxiana.com
Rooms at Ängavallen start from £180 per night on a bed and breakfast basis, basis on two guests sharing www.angavallen.se/en/
For further information on Skåne, visit www.visitskane.com/en
For further information on Malmö, visit www.malmotown.com
For further information on Sweden, visit www.visitsweden.com