There’s something to be said about taking the time to pause and enjoy life. I’m not talking about posting an Instagram quote with inspiring hashtags, but actually being intentional about your thoughts and actions. In her new book, Lagom, Swedish food stylist and cookery writer, Steffi Knowles-Dellner, explores the eponymous Scandinavian word (“lagom”), which roughly translates to a manifestation of equilibrium.
Lagom is literally a way of life in Scandinavia. It applies to nearly everything – “work and play, light and dark, hot and cold, wealth and poverty, tradition and modernity.” While it’s used to describe a variety of dualities, lagom also relates really well to Scandinavian cooking because so many of the dishes marry tradition and seasonal offerings with health and flavor.
For Swedes, food is so much more than sustenance; it’s an opportunity to celebrate all kinds of occasions in life. It’s more than choosing between an unhealthy donut and a super healthy kale salad; it’s all about creating a seamless relationship between “harmony and enjoyment.”
Unlike other types of cuisine, Scandinavian food focuses less on ostentatious presentation and more on the ingredients (and thought) that go into the dish. That’s not to say there aren’t #instagram-worthy recipes in this book, but it definitely departs from other cookbooks I’ve reviewed, in a good way.
The book itself is organized pretty straightforward:
-Lättare Rätter (lunch, sides, light bites)
-Huvudräatter (main meals)
-Smått Och Gott (bits and bobs – think popcorn, herring, and other extra add-on recipes)
One of my favorite things about this cookbook is the simplicity of the recipes. Of all the recipes I taste-tested for this review, all (like ALL) of them were packed with flavor but not that complicated to make (and I’d be honest if they were…remember that one time I made bread for scratch?). Most of these recipes are totally do-able if you have an hour or less in the kitchen, and there are several that can even be prepped ahead of time if that’s an issue.
CRISPY SLICED & STACKED LEMON-ROASTED POTATOES (lunch, p. 50): Calling all meat and potato lovers, this is the dish for you! It’s super easy (like small potatoes, easy <- please note the food pun). There are less than ten ingredients (and most are garnishes/spices), and it only takes about fifteen minutes to prep and an hour or so of cooking. I should note there isn’t actually meat in this recipe (it’s totally vegan/ vegetarian- friendly), but it’d be great for a potluck or family gathering.
CREAMY PEARL BARLEY RISOTTO (main meals, p. 80): I’d say I’ve never met a risotto I didn’t like, but that’s not true. It’s somewhat easy to mess up, but I don’t think I’d be far off in saying this recipe is nearly fool-proof (and this is coming from the queen of recipe-re-do’s). This was my favorite recipe of all the ones I tried, and for good reason. The dish is like a creamy rice with bits of asparagus and smoked salmon (if you don’t have time to cure your own, you can easily just pick one already done at the store). It’s hearty without being heavy and I’ll definitely be making it again soon!
SPELT PIZZA (main meals, p. 108): This is a really cool riff on “pizza.” Instead of traditional dough, you use spelt flour, which when you cook it, comes out much crispier than other doughs. Another cool element of this recipe is that it’s not smothered in sauce and cheese – it’s got potatoes, mushrooms, and sprigs of arugula and rosemary. Again, super light, but extremely delicious. I could easily see this recipe working with other types of crust, like cauliflower or gluten-free if you’ve got intolerances/allergies/other food preferences. The olives weren’t in the recipe, but they added a little texture to mix in with the potatoes and mushrooms (you could totally add protein or other veggies to this as well)!
BLUEBERRY HAND PIES (baking, p. 136): Ooey, gooey, delicious. I wanted to try a dish that wasn’t a traditional cake or pastry, and these definitely hit the spot. They’re coated in demerara sugar and lemon balm, stuffed with fresh blueberries. When you cook them, they’ll likely ooze out all over the tray, but I didn’t have any complaints. If you’re making these for a party (as in, not in your kitchen), I’d recommend prepping them ahead of time and popping them into the oven when you get to your location, as they’re a bit of a (delicious) mess and get pretty fragile once the blueberries come out of the oven.
LOTTA’S CARAMEL COOKIES (baking, 150): Last but certainly not least, I tried some cookies, which were super easy. Again, less than ten ingredients and best served right out of the oven. You can use either golden or maple syrup, which when coupled with a generous serving of butter and sugar, makes for an excellent cookie to serve by itself or with tea/coffee/other desserts.
All in all I’d say this book is a really great read with lots of variety in terms of ingredients and flavor. If you’re looking for something a little different, I’d recommend this for both beginner and advanced cooks. While the recipes might be simple in terms of ingredient count, they’re quite full of creativity and opportunities to create lagom in your own life.
I received this book complimentary on behalf of the publisher, but all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. All photography featured in this post is my own unless noted otherwise; please seek permission before copying or reproducing the images.
Purchase this title — Lagom: The Swedish Art of Eating Harmoniously
Score Card: Cover Art 4/5 | Content 5/5 | Ease of Read 5/5
Book Stats: Lagom: The Swedish Art of Eating Harmoniously by Steffi Knowles-Dellner
Page Count- 191
Binding- Hardcover with black and white/some color photography