Lagom is the Swedish philosophy of living life in harmony - balancing happiness with moderation and respecting sustainability. This "not too much, not too little; just enough" way of life is at the core of Sweden's food culture and is celebrated in a beautiful new cookbook by Steffi Knowles-Dellner, a Swedish food stylist, cookbook author, and blogger at Always So Hungry. In Lagom: The Swedish Art of Eating Harmoniously, Knowles-Dellner offers simple and elegant meals that are in harmony with the seasons and good for the soul. She gives insight into ingredients, cultures, cooking styles and the way Swedes cook and eat every day in over 100 mouthwatering dishes for every season, occasion, time of day, and appetite.
Her recipes are uncomplicated, unfussy, and are created to bring people together. Chapters include Frucost (breakfast), Lättare Rätter (lunches, sides & light bites), Huvudrätter (main meals), Sött (desserts), Bakverk (baking), and Smått och gott (bits & bobs), the latter of which includes a handy section on Preserved Fish where you'll learn how to smoke, salt, pickle and cure like a native Swede. She also offers recipe ideas for cozy Fridays (called Fredagsmys), such as Salmon burgers with crunchy corn salsa, & lime & jalapeño mayo. Discover dishes like Pizzasallad, a crunchy cabbage slaw with a sharp vinegary dressing that Knowles-Dellner says is "totally addictive," and her perfect for weekend mornings Kanel & kardemummabullar (cinnamon and cardamon buns). Her gorgeous Creamy cucumber & dill gazpacho with pea salsa & sumac and her Swedish mint julep with acquavit are sure to become summer favorites.
Below are three recipes from Lagom which together make the perfect meal: a tender Milk-braised pork belly with peas, watercress, and samphire (also known as sea beans and are in season now through summer), her lemon-roasted Hasselback potatoes recipe, and for dessert Cardamom buttermilk panna cotta with dried fruit compote (which she refers to as a winter dessert, but I would eat it year-round it's so lovely!).
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Almond milk-braised pork belly with peas, watercress & samphire
"This may sound like an unusual combination, but braising in almond milk helps to keep the pork moist and tender. It also makes a delicious gravy once the dish is finished. Be sure to heat the almond milk before adding to the pork, as this helps to avoid splitting, and to brush off any excess salt before serving." ~ Steffi Knowles-Dellner
1.2kg [2 ¾ lb] rolled and tied pork belly, skin scored
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
750ml [3 cups] unsweetened almond milk
1 small bunch of sage
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
pinch of chilli [red pepper] flakes
150g [scant 1 cup] fresh or frozen peas
2 shallots, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
100g [3 ½ oz] samphire
1 small bag of watercress (about 100g/3 ½ oz)
Preheat the oven to 240ºC/475ºF. Rub the pork with the olive oil and place in a snug roasting tray. Sprinkle the skin with plenty of sea salt and roast for 25 minutes until the skin starts to blister.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180ºC/350ºF and continue to cook for 1 hour. Pour the almond milk into a saucepan with the sage, fennel seeds, bay leaves and chilli flakes and heat very gently. Once the pork has been cooking for its hour, spoon out any fat from the tray, then tip in the hot almond milk, pouring all around the meat but not on top of it. Return to the oven for a further hour – it’s ready when the meat pulls away easily.
Finally, raise the oven temperature to its highest setting and cook for about 10 minutes until the pork skin has crackled all over. Remove from the tray (reserving the almondy juices) and allow to rest on a carving board, covered with foil.
Cook the peas in a small pan of boiling water for a few minutes (longer if using fresh peas), then drain. In a large frying pan, heat a little oil and gently fry the shallots until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and samphire and sauté, stirring frequently, until the samphire is just tender, about 4–5 minutes. Add the peas and watercress and cook until the watercress has just wilted.
Strain the almond milk into a jug to remove the herbs and spices, then pour back into the tray. Set this over a low heat and simmer until saucy. The milk may split slightly, but don’t worry too much about this as it will still taste delicious.
Brush any excess salt off the pork and carve into thick slices.
Serve with the vegetables and almond milk gravy.
Crispy sliced & stacked lemon-roasted potatoes [My hasselback bake]
"Hasselback potatoes are a firm favourite of the Swedish culinary canon, particularly as part of a special meal – I particularly like them served with game. However, they are quite fiddly and time consuming so I find this recipe easier than faffing about with each individual potato. Not least as there is plenty of margin for error – any scrappy off-cuts can be tucked into the bake. You still get that crispy, crunchy texture in this version as well as a hit of freshness from the lemon. Serve as a side with a roast dinner or with a salad for a main meal." ~ Steffi Knowles-Dellner
1.3–1.5kg (3-3 ¼ lb) floury [mealy] potatoes, peeled
50ml (3 ½ Tbsp) olive oil
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 ½ lemons, zest and juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
2 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
Begin by thinly slicing the potatoes, about ¼ cm (1/8 in) thick. The easiest way to do this is to use a mandoline or the slicing attachment on a food processor. If you are doing it by hand, make sure you have the radio on and a comfortable seat as it will take a while. Place the slices in a large bowl of cold water as you go.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF. Drain the potatoes and pat very dry. Next, stack the potato slices lengthways and upright in a large ovenproof dish with high sides, about 35 x 20cm [14 x 10in], so the cut sides are facing you. Pack them tightly so that they support each other to form long rows.
Mix the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and zest with the dried thyme and oregano. Drizzle over the potatoes, then sprinkle with sea salt and the fresh thyme.
Bake for 1 hour–1 hour 10 minutes, until crispy and golden. Cover with foil if the potatoes start going too brown. Be sure to test that the potato slices are cooked through with a skewer before removing from the oven.
Cardamom buttermilk panna cotta with dried fruit compote
"This is a perfect winter pudding when there is a dearth of fresh fruit. The cardamom and tea lightly spice the dessert, cutting through the creaminess of the panna cotta." ~ Steffi Knowles-Dellner
oil, for greasing
200ml [scant 1 cup] double [heavy] cream
3 leaves gelatine (or 7g/ ¼ oz powdered gelatine)
250g [1 cup] Greek yogurt
25g [1 heaping Tbsp] caster [superfine] sugar
5 Tbsp honey
1 vanilla pod [bean], split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
6 cardamom pods, split open and seeds bashed
For the compote
150g [5 ¼ oz] mixed dried fruit, such as figs, prunes, apricots, sultanas, cherries, etc.
300ml [1 ¼ cups] Earl Grey tea
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 orange, zest and juice
To make the compote, place all the fruit in a bowl and cover with the tea. Allow to soak for 3 hours, or overnight.
Lightly grease 4 ramekins or dariole moulds with a little oil, then line with clingfilm as smoothly as possible. Heat the cream in a small saucepan, slowly bringing to a simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes, until soft and jelly-like, then squeeze out any excess water and add to the cream, stirring to dissolve.
Pour the cream mixture into a bowl along with the yogurt, sugar, honey, vanilla seeds and cardamom, and mix well to combine. Divide among the ramekins and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until set.
Transfer the soaked fruit and tea to a small saucepan, along with the remaining compote ingredients. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes, then strain, reserving the liquid. Discard the spices and reduce the liquid until syrupy before stirring back into the fruit.
Turn out the panna cottas onto plates, gently lifting off the clingfilm. Serve with the warm compote, drizzling with a little leftover syrup.
Recipes and excerpts printed with permission from Lagom: The Swedish Art of Eating Harmoniously by Steffi Knowles-Dellner, published by Quadrille February 2018.