Scandinavians are great meat eaters. The surviving recipes from the past were mostly recorded in wealthier households, as they ate much more meat that the poorer majority who survived on a diet of porridge, and later bread and potatoes, with the occasional piece of meat.
In the 1960s, Scandinavians generally became wealthier very fast, and meat consumption rocketed, especially chicken and beef. Cheap meat like offal was rarely eaten, and the general idea about meat as food changed. Most still regard vegetables as an accompaniment to meat, and not the other way round.
So the heritage of Scandinavians is made up from different periods: very old ways of roasting big cuts of meat and game, and festive pork and mutton recipes. More recently there have been seen bourgeois stews and more intricate dishes inspired by France and England, and relatively new dishes from minced meat.
Before the meat grinder was invented in the mid-19th century, minced meat was a rare and expensive treat, and sausages were a delicacy. The home meat-grinder immediately became immensely popular, because it meant that large parts of the animal could be used for immediate consumption, and a whole new array of Scandinavian dishes became everyday food of the majority of the population.
Another part of the Scandinavian legacy are the salted, boiled meats which have a much older ancestry, as salting, drying and smoking were the only way to preserve meat 150 years ago.
Chicken soup with dumplings
A huge pot of steaming chicken soup is food for friends and family for several days, and the essence of home cooking. It is always made with a piece of beef, preferably a fatty cut, which will cook to melting tenderness in a couple of hours.
The soup may take some time to prepare, but you can serve it for several days in a row, the chicken first, with sauce and steamed cabbage, and the beef the day after with leeks. The soup can be served plain, or with dumplings and small dice of parsley root and sliced leeks. (The dumplings can be made several days in advance and stored in a closed container in the fridge.)
Scandinavian Poultry, Meat, Game & Offal, written by Tor Kjolberg
For the soup
1 large chicken (approx.. 3 kg) or 2 smaller chickens
2kg beef neck, on the bone
3 onions, quartered
1 parsley root or parsnip
½ celeriac or ½ head of celery
8 small leeks
1 small bunch if fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves
1 bunch of parsley
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
For the sauce
600 ml stock
2 tablespoons white wine or cider vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons corn-flour
200ml whipping cream
6 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
For the dumplings
125g salted butter
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
250ml water or stock
Put the chicken and beef in a pan that’s capacious enough to hold everything comfortably. Cover with cold water and bring slowly to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Remove any scum frequently.
Meanwhile rinse all the vegetables and cut into chunks; the green parts of the leeks go into the pan at this stage, but reserve the white parts for later. When there’s no scum on the surface of the soup, throw in the vegetables, herbs and spices, including the parsley, stalks and all (reserve a little parsley to chop as a garnish). Remove any scum again and, when it is gone, season with the salt.
When the thighs can be easily loosened from the carcass, the chicken’s done. Lift it from the pot with two slotted spoons and leave until the bird is cool enough to handle. Remove the skin and cut the breast meat from the carcass, then remove the thighs and cut them in two; remove the two nuggets of meat from the back, and the upper part of the wings. Dave all this meat, and return the carcass and skin to the pot.
Test the beef and remove from the pan when really tender; Taste the soup. It may need reducing, and it may need salt; you’re after an intensely flavored soup, but be careful not to oversalt it if the stock still needs reducing. When you’re happy, put the soup through a sieve. Cool a little and remove the fat from the surface with a spoon. Reserve 600ml for the sauce, and put the rest in the fridge unless you are going to eat it the same day.
For the sauce, put the stock, vinegar and sugar in a pan and reduce to half. Blend the cornflour and cream. Whisk this into the sauce and let it boil for 5 minutes until the floury taste has gone, then remove from the heat. Add the horseradish and currants, and adjust the salt. Add more horseradish if you wish; the sauce must be hot, slightly sweet and a little sour.
To make the dumplings, mix the butter flour, salt and water (or stock) in a pan, and stir continuously until the batter is glossy, and comes away from the sides of the pan. Cool a little. Ehen it is lukewarm, beat in the eggs one at a time, and stop when the batter is thick (you may not need the fifth egg). Bring a pan of water to the boil, then drop marble-sized blobs of batter into the simmering water – you can use a plastic bag, with a corner cut off, or a proper piping bag to do this. When the dumplings rise to the top they are done.
Serve the soup first, with the dumplings and the white parts of the leeks. Heat the meat gently in a little of the soup (this can be done in a slow oven), dust the meat with parsley and serve with an assortment of steamed vegetables, potatoes, and the delicious sauce.