This week’s blog is from MD, Wendy Bartlett’s trip to Sweden to sample the Crayfish.

A big foodie event in every Swedish home is the Crayfish Festival – Kräftskiva. Every year I am kindly invited to the home of ‘Mama Lena’ and Rolf to partake in this authentic event with a few other close friends, in fact it’s become a second home and their crayfish party is an annual ritual which I love to be part of.

The centrepiece of every crayfish feast is the ‘Crayfish Table’, which is decked out with crayfish paraphernalia: red crayfish candles, buckets with colourful crayfish pictures on for the empties, serviettes with the kräftmåne (a colourful crayfish moon) with a special red berry from the local trees filling the gaps. The room is also adorned with colourful decorations and massive paper kräftmåne – if you’ve been to Ikea recently, you’ll have seen these large paper moons for sale!

Hearty dishes are served before the crayfish frenzy – classic Swedish recipes like the delicious Västerbotten Paj (Cheese Pie) and Ägg och Rak Paj (Egg & Prawn Pie). Then comes the main course… large amounts of boiled marinated in a broth with salt, a little bit of sugar and a lots of dill. Part of the process is to suck the juice from all parts of the crayfish (this bit isn’t something I particularly take part in), but the tails and claws are delicious. It’s key to nosh some of the pies beforehand, because every time you eat a crayfish you have to sing a song and take another shot of schnapps to complete the ritual. As you swing between schnapps, songs and grappling with crayfish, it gets a little messy!

After a houseful of greedy guests, we left poor Rolf at home to recover and went off to see the delights of Stockholm, where Lena and Mama Lena showed us some of the treats to behold.

Grill Central: a fun and well-decorated restaurant run by the amazing Melker Andersson, who is a top Swedish chef and prolific restaurateur. He’s definitely worth checking out on this website…www.grill.se. The food was brilliant and the service was, well, it was very ‘Swedish’ as my Swedish friends say: polite but not warm. How different we all are around the world, if the USA is one end of scale, Sweden tips half way to other end.

Another traditional visit is to Östermalms Saluhall, (www.ostermalmshallen.se), and the very busy Lisa Elmkvist Café in the market – you may have seen it on one of Jamie Oliver’s shows. They do the best prawn salads and sandwiches so it’s worth a visit. Whilst Sweden is known for its expensive produce, it needs to be said that quality and seasonality is high on their agenda. In the market this week we saw massive stalls of freshly-picked chanterelle mushrooms and ligonberries, which were flying off the stalls.

To wrap the long weekend we went to Vinkällaren Grappe, (www.grappe.se) – another treat. What a great idea – start up a private wine-storage cellar to look after your stock and taste, sell and share your knowledge from there. We were treated to a lovely glass of champagne before going off to see another great friend and a caterer from the Uppsala region, Cajsa Johansson(www.cajsas-kok.se), where yet more champagne was consumed as we discussed everything about food and wine.

A truly delightful trip and one that I would highly recommend.

Wendy Bartlett
Managing Director

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My earliest food memories are of my mum’s baking; coconut pyramid cakes were my favourite.

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