For a lot of us, Christmas time isn’t just shopping and stress, it’s also the perfect time to spend time with our families, relax, and, of course, bake and cook all the delicious treats you wouldn’t even dream of for the rest of the year. And what’s extra exciting, hopefully for all the right reasons, is to treat your loved ones – or yourself – to something new and a little special. So why not take your cues from traditional Swedish Christmas favorites and bring a little taste of Scandinavia to your dinner?
Pickled herring in all forms and varieties – a literal smorgasbord, if you will – is a given for all Swedish festivities all year round, especially on Easter, Midsummer, and Christmas. So, now is the perfect time to try your own hand at this beloved delicacy! Pickled herring, especially in combination with a “nubbe” – a shot of a strong alcoholic beverage, often also flavored – has been a part of Swedish Christmas dinners for more than a century now. However, vegetarian options, of course also with a nubbe, are catching up in popularity, so you’ll find both here.
To help you get started, the Swedish chef KC Wallberg shares his classic recipe for pickled herring as well as a delicious vegetarian option for your buffet table. KC is in charge of several onboard restaurants on Stromma’s dining and archipelago cruises, so if there’s anyone who can speak with authority about Christmas food, it’s him.
One ingredient is of utmost importance when pickling your herring (a dicey way of phrasing it): time. To get the best results, we recommend letting the herring sit in a basis before flavoring it in the next step. But should you be in pickle – pun very much intended - and strapped for time, flavoring it directly and skipping this step works just as well.
12 dl water
4 dl vinegar essence (12%)
8 dl sugar
8 bay leaves
20 kernels Allspice
2 Cippolini onions
1-1,2 kg dried herring
Combine the water, vinegar essence, and sugar and boil it for 5 minutes. Peel the onions and carrots and slice them up into thin strips, then boil the onions in water for about 2 minutes. Afterwards, put the onions and carrots into the water, vinegar essence, and sugar mixture and boil it together for an additional 2 minutes. Meanwhile, roast the spices in a dry pan in a glass jar with a screw top. Let the liquid cool off, transfer to the jar with the spices, and refrigerate it.
Carefully clean your herring I cold water and cut it in 1 cm-wide strips. Strain the refrigerated liquid, pour it into a pan, and let your herring strips marinate in there for about a day while keeping the pan in the fridge. After letting them marinate, take out the herring that’s now ready to be flavored. But make sure to save the liquid!
2,5 dl basis liquid
1 shot of flambéed Bourbon
6 kernels Allspice
30 g thinly sliced onions
20 g finely diced carrots
8 kernels black pepper
2 tbs. lingonberry jam
½ single clove garlic (other garlic works as well)
3 whole star anis
About 500 – 600 g of the prepared herring
Combine everything in a glass jar, screw the lid on, and let marinate in the fridge for about three days to make sure that the herring soaks up all the flavors. And don’t worry: pickling herring is not only delicious, it’s also a way of preserving it.
Celery root baked whole with browned saffron butter and deep-fried kale chips is a real green crowd pleaser and ranks among the great favorites on KC’s Christmas buffet cruises in the Stockholm archipelago aboard the M/S Prins Carl Philip.
1 large unpeeled celery root
Clean the celery root while warming up the oven to 190˚ Celsius. Bake for circa two hours. The celery root is done when it’s soft all the way through.
100 g eco butter
1 tbs. sunflower seeds
1/3 package saffron
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Put it medium heat and keep a close eye on it – you don’t want the butter to burn! Shortly after melting, the butter will bubble happily along with white bubbles until a layer of white foam covers the surface. When the white foam turns to amber, take the pan off the heat, and let it sit for an additional five minutes. Stir and you’re all done!
Clean and dry the kale, then cut or tear it up into small strips. Fill a saucepan with sunflower oil and heat it up to about 175˚ Celsius. To test if the oil is hot enough, toss a small piece of kale in – it should throw bubbles instead of just sputtering a little. When the heat is right, put the kale in and deep-fry it. And make sure to protect yourself against hot oil sputtering out! When the kale is no longer bubbling, after about a minute, use a ladle to get it out and place it in one layer on some paper kitchen towels to soak up the oil and prevent it from getting soggy.
Cut off the top of the celery root, then take a small spoon to mash up the inner part of the root. Salt lightly and pour in some of the butter. Top off generously with the fried kale and add some more butter. Voila!
If you want to try these and more delicious creations – or you’re just not in the mood to cook yourself – treat yourself to a dinner cruise on the M/S Prins Carl Philip where KC has composed a delicious, traditional Swedish Christmas buffet with several vegetarian options that you can enjoy with a one-of-a-kind view of Stockholm’s archipelago. Of course, all of Stromma’s Christmas buffets have been awarded the KRAV eco label. Welcome onboard and good luck with testing our recipes!