Scandinavian mealtime is built around family, creating an atmosphere of comfort, warmth and relaxation. This is essentially the concept behind hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), a term for a feeling of coziness, contentment and conviviality. Although hygge originated in Denmark, it’s become part of the culture in much of Scandinavia. From Iceland to Sweden to Denmark, people take great pride in highlighting the fresh flavor of seasonal produce, fish and meat. This approach to cooking is what I fell in love with when I first visited Norway in 2016, traveling throughout most of the country. I returned in 2018 to study Scandinavian cuisine at Maaemo in Oslo, Norway’s only three-star Michelin restaurant.
As a private chef living in Springfield, Missouri, it’s become my passion to incorporate Scandinavian cooking and flavors into every meal I serve. At first it seemed impossible, as so many of the products are very difficult to find locally.
Yet in time I realized that Scandinavian cooking isn’t just about specific ingredients; it’s about using what’s fresh and in season, regardless of the time zone or geography. It’s about showcasing the simple things in life and bringing comfort and contentment to the dinner table. I may not be able to get cloudberries sourced from above the Arctic Circle daily, or decide on a whim to catch fresh langoustines (lobster) from the coasts of Tromsø, Norway, but I can use similar cooking techniques and the same approach to cooking as the Scandinavians do.
Here, I’m sharing five recipes inspired by signature comfort foods from each country in Scandinavia, and made using ingredients that are easily accessible to home cooks in the Midwest. I hope these recipes transport you into a warm and happy Scandinavian home, as they do for me, bringing the joy and comfort of hygge to your own cozy abode this winter, along with the friendly smiles and laughter of good company. After all, that's what hygge is about.
I recommend using a European butter, such as Danish Lurpak, which is richer in flavor and minimally processed, in these recipes.