The open ‘smörgås’, or sandwich, is integral to informal dining across Scandinavia. It’s thought that the idea originated in the Middle Ages when thick slices of bread were used as plates. Gradually, of course, the bread would soak up all the flavours of the toppings, so the bread had more than a merely functional role and good-quality bread became essential.
The Danes perfected the art of open sandwiches early on and, with a change in working patterns as Sweden’s industrialisation evolved in the nineteenth century, open sandwiches came into their own – cheap, portable and nourishing meals that could be taken into factories and eaten at any time of day.
A modern smörgås can range from humble ham and cheese to altogether more refined versions with seafood, pickles, soured cream and herbs. The emphasis should always be on flavour first, but a little effort in making them look pretty is certainly appreciated if you’re sharing a platter of them with guests. Let your imagination run wild, and use these recipes as a guide to steer you in the right direction.
Smoked salmon with pickled red onion, lemon and dill butter
If you find yourself with some smoked salmon, this colourful and elegant recipe adds extra flair to an ordinary open sandwich. It’s also easily adjusted to make bite-sized canapés using the smaller Peter’s Yard crispbreads to accompany drinks or serve as a snack before a larger meal.
- 2 unwaxed lemons, 1 zested and juiced, 1 halved pinch each of caster sugar and sea salt
- ½ red onion, finely sliced
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- small handful of dill, finely chopped
- 30g (1oz) butter, softened
- 100g (3½oz) smoked salmon
- 2 slices of rye bread or standard size Peter’s Yard Original sourdough crispbread
- micro herbs (such as dill, amaranth, rocket), to serve
Mix the lemon juice with a pinch of sugar and salt. Add the red onion slices and set aside for 30 minutes.
Dry toast the caraway seeds until fragrant – take care not to burn them. Allow to cool, then lightly bash using a pestle and mortar. Tip into a bowl along with the dill, lemon zest, a little juice from the halved lemon and the softened butter. Season with salt and white pepper and mix together.
Thinly slice the remaining half lemon. Spread the butter over the bread or crsipbreads and top with the smoked salmon, pickled red onion, lemon slices and some of the micro herbs.
Herring, potato, red onion and egg with a herby mayo
Be it cured, smoked or covered in a spicy sauce (see pickling recipes on page 69), the herring’s versatility has endeared it to many a Scandinavian cook and it deserves to be treated with the same reverence as a finer, more highly sought-after, fish. If you don’t fancy pickling your own, there are varieties available in most supermarkets.
- 4–5 new potatoes
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp chopped herbs (such as dill, parsley, chives)
- 2 slices of sourdough bread or 2 standard size Peter’s Yard Original sourdough crispbread
- ½ jar pickled herring, drained (approx. 120g/4oz)
- ½ red onion, very finely diced
- small handful of chives, roughly chopped, to garnish
Boil the potatoes until just tender, about 20 minutes. Leave until cool enough to handle, then slice thickly.
Boil the eggs for about 8 minutes, until relatively hard boiled. Leave to cool, then peel and slice.
Mix the mayonnaise with the mustard, chopped herbs and a little seasoning. Spread over the sourdough bread slices or crispbreads, then arrange a layer of potato over the top. Add the egg, herring and finely chopped onion and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh chives.
Fried breaded cod with capers, prawns and lettuce
This crispy, savoury and aromatic open sandwich takes the fish finger sandwich to another level, and is a brilliant way of using up an open pack of sourdough crispbread in the form of breadcrumbs. Cod is sustainably sourced in the seas surrounding Scandinavia, but if it’s not readily available where you are, try using other non-oily white fish instead, such as filleted hake, sole or pollock.
- 50g (1¾oz) Peter’s Yard Original sourdough crispbread
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tbsp plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 cod tail fillets, skinned and pin-boned
- olive or rapeseed oil, for frying
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 lemon, half zested and juiced, half quartered
- 1 tbsp capers, chopped
- 4 Little Gem lettuce leaves
- 2 slices of farmhouse bread
- small handful of cooked, peeled Atlantic prawns
- 1 dill frond, leaves picked and roughly chopped, to garnish
Blitz the crispbreads in a food processor to a very fine texture. Get out three bowls or deep plates. Place the crispbread breadcrumbs in one bowl, beaten egg in another and seasoned flour in the third. Halve the cod fillets then dip, one at a time, in the flour to completely coat, then into the egg, and finally into the breadcrumbs. Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the fish pieces until cooked through and golden and crunchy on the outside.
Mix the mayo with the lemon zest, a squeeze of juice and half the capers. Spread the bread with a little lemony mayo and top with a couple of lettuce leaves. Add the fish, prawns and remaining capers. Finally, scatter over a little chopped dill and serve with the lemon wedges while the fish is still warm.
Other open sandwich ideas
- Goat’s cheese, fresh herbs and shaved asparagus and cucumber.
- Rare roast beef with horseradish cream, quick-pickled onions and cornichons.
- Smoked mackerel, crème fraîche, pickled rhubarb and watercress.
- Boiled eggs with dill and chive herb mayo, anchovies, capers, red onion and cress.