I have been writing on this blog about some traditional December delicacies of the Swedish cuisine, but of course Sweden’s traditional Christmas foods don’t stop at gingerbread and saffron buns. There is much more to that and, surprisingly, neither of those two is the true Christmas dessert. Saffron buns are mostly an Advent food linked to St Lucy’s day (December 13th), while pepparkakor are served all over the holiday period, not being something eaten exclusively at the Christmas table. Speaking of “Christmas table”, that is the translation of julbord, one word that summarizes all there is to know about Swedish Christmas food. But let’s start from the beginning…
It has become a tradition for me to gather with my fellow bloggers from the University on a December afternoon at the Ikea restaurant to sample some foods from the Julbord. My “career” as a blogger actually began when I came to Sweden and started my studies at Dalarna University. I was one of the student bloggers of the academic year 2014-15, and my blog from that time can be reached here. Even after my journey as a student ended, I still remained in the university blogging environment and this academic year I started coordinating this year’s university bloggers, who collectively blog on one single space, Student Bloggers DU. Please pay it a visit and go read my fellow bloggers’ adventures!
As I was saying, sampling traditional Swedish Christmas food is a must for our international students, so it has become a tradition to meet up among uni bloggers to attend a julbord. A julbord is a buffet that offers traditional Christmas foods. Many restaurants offer this option during the Christmas period and the Ikea restaurant is no less in this, actually proving the most affordable and student-friendly. This is why our Christmas blogger dinner always takes place at Ikea.
Among the foods featured in the julbord there are cold and hot dishes. The cold selection features deviled eggs with shrimp salad, hot- and cold-smoked salmon, Baltic herring in various sauces, roastbeef, sausages and beet salad. Among the warm foods there is the Christmas ham (it can be also be found, sliced, cold), meatballs and small sausages, boiled and mashed potatoes and an interesting potato and anchovy bake called Janssons Frestelse (literally, Jansson’s temptation).
Since I knew most of the foods I only went with a selection of cold favourites and dessert, but my blogger friends who were tasting Swedish Christmas food for the first time sampled a little bit of everything, so I just took photos of all our plates.
And we finally get to talk about dessert. So what is the traditional Christmas dessert in Sweden? The answer is “Ris à la Malta”.Ris à la Malta is a sort of rice pudding and despite its name it has nothing to do with Malta, the country. The name actually is the corruption of the Danish name of the same dessert, risalamande. As the name clearly suggests to those who understand French, it is a rice pudding that features an almond… traditions vary on what happens to the lucky guest who finds the almond in their portion of rice pudding. Ris à la Malta is made with risgrynsgröt, a very simple rice porridge usually dusted with cinnamon that is the Swedish counterpart of the cookie and milk people leave out for Santa to take on Christmas night. Swedish families will leave a portion of rice porridge for the Christmas Elf, and leftovers of that porridge can be turned into ris à la Malta when adding whipped cream and berry jam. Voilà, Christmas dessert is served.