Photo by UKTV

If you’re looking for a warm and hearty winter’s meal, Ärtsoppa, in the words of famous chef from Skåne, Tareq Taylor, is “easy to make, cheap, healthy and tasty!”  

A traditional Swedish dish, this rustic split pea and ham soup can be found cooking in households across Skåne in winter, and is considered a tasty, simple and hearty meal – perfect for crisp, cold nights! Pea soup on Thursdays is a tradition dating back to the 1200s. In the Catholic Middle Ages Friday was fast day and Thursday the last day of the work week. This was celebrated with a festive and filling meal, namely peas and pork.

Skåne born and bred chef, Tareq Taylor, shares his perfect recipe for how to make your own Ärtsoppa:

Ingredients:

250g dried yellow peas

1 1/2 l water

1 medium yellow onion

1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme

Salt

400g salted ham or shoulder

Method:

Soak peas overnight. Rinse them and put them in a saucepan that holds about 3 litres.

Add the water and cook for 30 - 40 minutes, until you see that the shells release.

Stir the soup with a balloon whisk. Discard the shells which get stuck in the whisk. Keep stirring until all the shells are gone.

Add the finely chopped onion and thyme. Add salt to taste.

If you want a vegetarian soup it is ready now. Otherwise, I add salted shoulder which I let cook for about one hour until tender and then slice up. I use broth to dilute the pea soup. (The vegetable soup may if necessary be diluted with water.)

Smaklig måltid! (Enjoy!)

For more information on the wonderful Swedish food in Skåne, go to visitskane.com/en 

Visit Tareq Taylor’s Slottsträdgårdens Café in Malmö - slottstradgarden.se/

Stefan Isaksson/imagebank.sweden.se

If you’re looking to celebrate New Year in style this year, head to the trendy city of Gothenburg where the party options are limitless.

The Hotel Post has some great NYE packages which include dinner in one of the hotel’s restaurants and entrance to its nightclub, 10% discount on spa treatments and late check out on New Year’s Day.

Photo: www.goteborg.com/DickGillberg

Spend the day shopping for a gorgeous new outfit before relaxing with some pampering treatments in the spa. In the evening you can have dinner in one of the hotel’s three restaurants - either the Queen’s Gate, Norda Bar & Grill or SpoT - depending on which package you pre book.

With the Queen’s Gate three-course package, revellers will enjoy dinner with wine, accompanied by atmospheric piano music, before donning their dancing shoes. At 11pm, the Queen’s Gate transforms into Gothenburg’s biggest New Year’s Eve club and the legendary Claes Af Geijerstam (Clabbe) will be in the DJ booth spinning the decks until 3am. This package costs from £155 and includes double room, dinner with drinks and nightclub entrance.

Helena Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se

To upgrade your dining experience, why not try the Norda Bar & Grill package which includes a five-course American and Nordic inspired menu including drinks and nightclub entrance, starting from £200 per person? Or, for the ultimate indulgence on New Year’s Eve try the SpoT package, which includes a figure-busting, ten-course Swedish and Japanese inspired menu, drinks and nightclub entrance from just £250.

To book visit http://www.clarionpost.se/nyarsafton-goteborg

For something slightly more sedate, head to Götaplatsen – the public square in Gothenburg – for a celebration hosted by Swedish comedian and magician Stefan Odelberg. Guests will see the year’s highlights projected around the square and it will also be the last chance to see Gothenburg’s ‘Magical Winter Dreams’ lights and video show, which is projected onto the Art Museum’s wall.

Showings will be at various times between 6 – 9pm, with the very last one at 11.30pm to ring in 2014.

Isabel Clift is editor at Hostelworld and HostelBookers. She owns two Sarah Lund jumpers, and is never more at home than when peeling prawns for a giant open sandwich

“Why have food theatre when the ingredients and dishes speak for themselves?” chef Gizzi Erskine says about Swedish food, and she has a fair point.

Plating Up the Delicious Food.

Gizzi lead the #TrySwedish cooking event I joined at Aveqia Kitchen Studios in London last week, where I discovered I agreed with her on more than just her choice of up ‘do (she rocks an excellent beehive). While Swedish food is simple to make, quality ingredients mean flavours are fresh and dishes look as pretty as a fjord in midsommar.

The ‘Compass meal’ of three courses prepared by our class on the night made full use of local produce from Sweden’s west coast, Jämtland Härjedalen and Skåne, focussing on one region per course.

First up and representing Gothenburg and West Sweden was a tartar of langoustine and oysters with mussels and apple. This coastline’s exceptionally cold waters produce fat, fleshy langoustines of a size I’d never seen – and oh, the taste of the finished tartar: so fresh, with the langoustines’ softness perfectly balanced against the meaty shellfish and zing of apple. Lysekil-based seafood experts Orust Shellfish provided ingredients, while we washed it all down with strong bitter Gustavs Finger from Gothenburg microbrewery Dugges.

The Tartar Representing Gothenburg and West Sweden.

Showing off northern region Jämtland Härjedalen’s gastronomic delights, a main course of Arctic fish char (smoked by the class in ten minutes flat) was poured over with delectable browned butter and set against grass-green pea puree. A warm and crunchy grilled salad accompanied, sprinkled with whorls of Maximus cheese from the dairy farm at mountain village Klövsjö. My big discovery of this course was Swedish ‘Champagne’; though don’t let that description fool you. SAV Birch Sap Sparkling wine tastes woody, smoky and bittersweet – more complex and interesting than the French equivalent. It’s – you guessed it – made from fermented birch sap, drawn from trees around Storsjön Lake in Jämtland, and the original recipe is 18th century (this is a modern version).

The Fish Char Representing Jämtland Härjedalen.

Three blue cheeses from southernmost county Skåne rounded off our meal, sourced from artisan dairies Soldattorpet and Vilhelmsdals. We glugged them down with another drinks surprise, Hällåkra vineyard’s own deep and darkly fruity port wine.

The Cheeses.

Dishes were taster-sized but super filling, and I bowled into the appropriately sub-Arctic-feeling night as happy as a Swedish clam. Not before one last drink, though – a shot of Brännland Iscider, a crisp, chilled cider made with apples from Skåne and Norrland, which was so good in the end I had two (maybe this accounted for the happiness).

The Ice Cider.

Cheers to trying Swedish.

Göran Assner/imagebank.sweden.se

With Christmas fast approaching, thoughts turn to presents and the dilemmas of what to buy friends and loved ones. Head to Gothenburg, the Christmas city for some unique and unusual gifts which will be sure to make an impression this year. 

Design lovers will enjoy the new London-inspired Christmas Design Market housed in the Pustervik arena. It’s the ideal place for those looking for one-off gifts including clothes, art, crafts and designs from Gothenburg’s hottest designers.

Joachim Brink/imagebank.sweden.se

To impress art aficionados visit the Röda Sten Art Centre close to the harbour entrance. It’s an imposing former boiler house and brings ‘industrial chic’ to Christmas shopping. All of the items available to buy have been created by local designers, artists and art students – the perfect opportunity to find something really unique and one off. There’s even a workshop where you can create your own Christmas decorations.

No Christmas trip to Gothenburg would be complete without a visit to Liseberg – the biggest Christmas Market in the whole of Scandinavia. You will be amazed by the 700 Christmas trees and five million fairy lights! This is the ultimate Swedish Christmas shopping experience, with over 70 stalls to choose from you are guaranteed to find something for even the trickiest of people. Just don’t forget to try some traditional marzipan pigs and glögg (Swedish mulled wine)!

God Jul!

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Photo via Swedish Lapland by Jack Affleck

On 28 December 2013, an incredible new experience will open in Luleå during the winter months.

On the edge of Luleå’s city parkland, overlooking the frozen harbour, an igloo-style music concert hall will soon open to visitors.  Made entirely of ice, the concert hall will seat 160 people, and will feature highly specialised musical ICEstruments, made, as you might suspect, of ice. Concerts will be held three nights per week, as well as on special request.

For more information, visit http://www.icemusic.se/in-english/.     

Sunvil has a three night break in Luleå, which includes return flights, accommodation at the Hotel Elite Stadshotellet with breakfast, an ice breaking tour, and snowmobile pack ice tour and a ticket to the ice concert from £1,052 per person. Book at www.sunvil.co.uk.

Full list of our recommended specialist tour operators to Luleå in Swedish Lapland

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Photo by Miriam Preis/imagebank.sweden.se

Bored of the same old socks for Christmas? Want something more stylish – and sustainable – than last season’s slanket?

Then plan your winter shopping break to Malmö, a city which specialises in ethical and fairtrade shops, which sell unique, beautifully designed Christmas gift ideas with a conscience.

Here are some of our favourite places to go green shopping in Malmö:

Drottningtorget is an ideal first stop for the eco-friendly shopper. The pretty square is in easy walking distance of Malmö Central Station, to the north of the city by the lovely harbour, and is home to a number of excellent ecological shops, including Morot & Annat, a small organic food shop selling juicy seasonal fruits, quinoa, sugar-free peanut butter, as well as handwoven baskets made by a cooperative of women in Sri Lanka, cool kitchen accessories and books.

Close by is Babuschka Sustainable Design, where eclectic design meets fair trade standards.

In the city centre, we love funky Uma Bazaar, where hipsters can recycle their jeans and get a discount off their next pair, and which supports producers in developing countries.

Perfect for design lovers and worth a splurge is nearby Norrgavel, a shop which sells Scandinavian designed furniture made from only natural local materials. Watch out for beautiful and unique pieces, including elegant wooden stools and chic picture frames.

Just across the road is the classic IM Fair Trade, a charity shop which aid projects around the world, by selling fair trade clothing, bags, jewellery and home furnishings. Head here for quirky Christmas decorations, brightly coloured scarves and gifts for children.

Find out more about great shopping in Malmö.

 

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The Treehotel is a world renowned dream property, featured on countless Pinterest boards, bucket lists and in glossy travel magazines, and it’s obvious that its creators, Kent and Britta Jonsson Lindvall, are not new to the hotel business.  This wonderfully hospitable couple have been running a well-loved guesthouse and gourmet restaurant, Britta’s Pensionat, together for many years. 

An hour outside of Luleå, located in a pristine forest in the charming village of Harrads,  this nearly 100-year-old property was lovingly refurbished by Britta and Kent in the 90’s. They kept the original character and charm of the original building and converted it into a cosy guesthouse and restaurant. Their vision was to create a guesthouse where visitors were treated like they were family members - Kent and Britta are welcoming hosts, who obviously love what they do.

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From the white, turn-of-the-century clothes hanging on the clothesline, to the antiques in the rustic dining room, the atmosphere is wonderful. Britta’s is a time capsule, preserving the charm and grace of a simpler era, where people relaxed and enjoyed eachother’s company and food was seasonal and authentic.

Britta cooks delicious traditional Swedish Lapland food using local ingredients.  Bear steaks, local salmon, roe deer and moose, served with Northern Sweden’s famous almond potatoes and fresh lingonberries, are just some of the many locally sourced specialities that can be found at Britta’s. Whether staying at the guesthouse, the Treehotel or in the area, a meal at Britta’s is an unforgettable culinary experience.

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Surrounding the guesthouse is a beautiful forest, perfect for snowshoeing, skiing or snowmobiling.  Far from the light pollution of the city, this is an ideal spot to view the Aurora Borealis.  With many cloudless evenings during the long nights, the conditions are perfect in Swedish Lapland for chasing these mysterious Northern Lights.

How Britta and Kent came up with the idea to open the Treehotel is a story in itself.  After many years of running Britta’s, the first treehouse happened rather serendipitously. 

A friend of the couple decided to make a documentary film about the building of a treehouse. Fascinated by the possibilities, Kent asked their filmmaker friend if they could use the treehouse as an additional hotel room.  Although this could only be used in the summer, and despite the long walk from the guesthouse to the treehouse, they quickly saw the magic of this concept and discovered that people loved sleeping up in the trees.

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Photo by Lola Akinmade Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se

The treehouse was a childhood dream come true for people, and Kent and Britta relished giving guests this liberating, fantasy experience.  Their vision became far greater than the simple treehouse built in the woods for the film. 

In 2008, Kent took a group out on an adventure fishing trip to Russia, which included three architects from Stockholm. He realised this was the opportunity he was waiting for and, once in Russia, while sitting around the campfire, he shared their idea for making treehouses as hotel rooms. It was not long before his dream was a reality and the Treehotel was built in the forest directly behind Britta’s Pensionat.

While Kent will smile and explain that he cannot say which is his favourite treehouse, just as he cannot say which of his three daughters is his favourite, he is justifiably proud of the most recent addition:  the Dragonfly. 

Designed by renowned Finnish architect firm, Rintala Eggertsson Architects, the Dragonfly is the largest of all of the rooms at the Treehotel. With two separate bedrooms and numerous windows and cosy corners from which to gaze out at the snowy forest or the Northern Lights, this is the perfect accommodation for a family or two couples. The large table and chairs are perfect for playing board games or enjoying a glass of wine. Best of all, a delicious meal at Britta’s is just an easy five-minute trek from the Treehotel in the forest. Just like going back to your mum’s house and enjoying a home-cooked meal after playing in a treehouse all day, this is the childhood fantasy that we all dream of.   

By Georgia Makitalo

Find out more and book your trip to the Treehotel with Simply Sweden

Full list of our recommended specialist tour operators


Top photos by Graeme Richardson. Bottom photo  by Lola Akinmade Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se

Photo by Miriam Preis/imagebank.sweden.se

“One of the best trips I have ever been on”, was just one of the comments we received from the group of British travel writers, who visited Sweden earlier this month. They were travelling on a press trip through Skåne in the south of the country, known as the ‘breadbasket of Sweden’, led by wonderful local celebrity chef, Tareq Taylor and couldn’t have enjoyed themselves more.

So what made this trip so special, and how can you recreate your own mini Skåne foodie adventure?

1. Stay in a castle

Of course, any trip which involves a stay in a castle must have its advantages, and Skåne is also known as castle county! The writers stayed at the 18th century Kronovall Wine Castle, which has grand, Gothic style living quarters, and herds of deer which roam the grounds, and the fairytale Häckeberga Castle, whose gleaming white facade and pretty pastel turrets greet guests as they cross the lake. Even if you can’t spend the night, each of these castles has wonderful restaurants, which prepare local specialities with a modern twist, including wild boar and fallow deer with pureed parsnip, delicate white fish and delicious soups.

2.  Try out a floating sauna

Going to the sauna is a way of life in Sweden, and what could be more fun than relaxing in one on a lake? You can find these special ‘sauna boats’ along the coast and by some lakes in Skåne. For the ultimate refreshing experience, the writers were challenged to have a sauna the Swedish way – with icy ‘God’ beers followed by a revitalising dip in the lake! 

3. Eat with Tareq

Sadly, not everyone can travel with an expert chef. But fans of Tareq Taylor can try out some of the dishes he cooks on his UKTV Good Food programme ‘Tareq Taylor’s Nordic Cookery’ by visiting Slottsträdgårdens Café, his pretty eatery in Malmö. It’s also easy to follow the chef’s ethos on cooking with local, seasonal produce. Travellers can join Tareq’s friend, expert forager, Roland Rittman, and join him on the hunt for mushrooms and herbs and edible flowers. You can also stop by one of the many cider makers in Skåne. Sövde Musteri had a small boutique distillery where passers-by can also buy lovely gifts, from apple glögg and cider to local honey and cloudberry jam. 

 Tareq Taylor’s Good Food Channel series ‘Tareq Taylor’s Nordic Cookery’ is the UK’s first ever Scandinavian cooking show. His new series starts at 7.30am on Thursday 7 November on Good Food Channel. Visit uktv.co.uk/ for more information. 

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Nicho Södling/imagebank.sweden.se

Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg, is known for leading the way with its contemporary art and design. With a design school, and no shortage of home grown talent, there’s never been a better time to book a design-led break to Gothenburg.

Here’s our tips on the best places to see and be seen:

Art Lovers:

Art lovers should head straight to the Gothenburg Museum of Art to experience one of the leading collections of Nordic art spanning from the 15th century up to modern day. Masterpieces by Carl Larsson, Albert Edelfelt and Ernst Josephson stand out alongside well known pieces by Picasso, Rembrandt and Monet.

Entrance to the museum is free with the Gothenburg Card.

For arty types with more modern tastes, a visit to Göteborgs Konsthall – a centre of contemporary art – is a must. Focusing on visual culture, the programme of exhibitions and talks is often playful, and invites visitors to get involved in everything from costume making to illustration.

Better still, entrance to most workshops and exhibits is free.

Design Fanatics

Looking for a hero piece of furniture for your new flat? Design fans will love hitting the trendy interior design shops in Gothenburg, where it’s possible to hunt out everything from unique modern statement pieces to high quality vintage.

A local favourite is Designtorget, which showcases work by well known and unknown designers alike. The stock changes weekly from funky glasses to exciting art, so it’s almost guaranteed that there will certainly something to impress your friends.

For beautiful design with an environmental conscience head to beautiful furniture store Norrgavel. Designed by Nirvan Richter, each piece is lovingly made with a strong attention to detail using natural materials. You can even create your own furniture by choosing the materials just to make it extra special.

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Imagine leaving the bright lights of the city and being transported by snowmobile and sled through the sparkling snow and across the frozen Bay of Bothnia to an island where Lotta Sundling and Bror-Einar Johansson welcome you into their beautiful and warm home.  A traditional red and white Swedish farm house.

When Lotta Sundling first told her then fiancé, Bror-Einar Johansson, of her dream of creating a special hotel at the manor home of Jopikgården, on Hinders Island, he told her this would never work. Over 15 years later, Lotta fortunately proved him wrong. Since then, Jopikgården has become the ideal destination for those seeking an authentic Swedish Lapland experience.  From the delicious gourmet cuisine, viewing the Northern Lights and the personalized service, this is a dream winter destination for those who seek something special in Swedish Lapland.

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Jopikgården is far from the crowded city life.  Situated on the island of Hindersön, it is one of the over 1300 islands that are part of the unique Luleå archipelago, the only archipelago in the world surrounded by brackish water.  Thus, in the winter, when the thermometer goes below zero, the ice forms on the frozen sea and connect the islands to the mainland of Swedish Lapland and small city of Luleå. 

Steeped in history, legend has it that a Finnish Sami family named Joper first settled the island in the 16th century.  Soon, fishermen and farmers inhabited the densely forested island.  In 1890, Lars and Hilda Åström moved to the current Jopikgården manor home where they, and their ten children, flourished for years.  

Lotta grew up on the stories of Jopikgården. Lotta’s father, who like his father before him, had been born on Hindersön and had a cottage there, and she cherished this island paradise.  For years, Lotta imagined turning Jopikgården into a tranquil hotel, reminiscent of a bygone era.  She knew that harried visitors would find tranquility and peace in this stately home, on this lush island.   She wanted guests to feel like they were at home, visiting family.

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From the beginning, this husband and wife team has complimented each other.  Lotta makes sure guests enjoy a warm welcome, with fabulous food and cozy and clean accommodations. The antiques in the home are lovely cared for and look as if they are brand new.  Lotta is a gourmet cook, making each Swedish Lapland delicacy from scratch.  In addition, all of the food is fresh and local.  Ingredients such as the honey from the Hindersön beekeeper, to the berries, wild mushrooms, fresh fish, caviar (the unique Kalix Löjrom) and wild game, these ingredients are all local, from the island.  Her personal touch is everywhere.  You can smell the freshly baked cinnamon rolls, or watch her cure salmon (gravlax), as she tells tales of dances around the old phonograph player. Guests can also enjoy the relaxing sauna or soak in the wood-fired hot tub.

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At bedtime, you just walk up the stairs to your comfortable, en suite bedroom where the traditional Swedish décor and the crisp linens welcome you to a restful night of sleep.  In the morning, Lotta has prepared a traditional Swedish frukost.  Breakfast is a hearty meal, with breads, meats and cheeses along with strong Swedish coffee.

Bror-Einer is a fabulous host, as well as taking charge of much of the logistics, including welcoming and transporting guests to Jopikgården. In addition, he helps arrange activities such as snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and chasing the Northern Lights.   Swedish Lapland is blessed with many cloudless evenings and is ideal for viewing the mysterious Aurora Borealis. Whatever their need, each guest is treated warmly, like a special family member.

No, this is not a frosty fairytale.  This is the magic of Jopikgården.  This is the authentic sort of place that travelers seek.  Together, this husband and wife team makes you feel like you are their valued special guests and you have experienced a memorable Swedish Lapland adventure at Jopikgården. 

Find out more and book your trip to Jopikgården with Black Tomato

Full list of our recommended specialist tour operators


Text by Georgia Makitalo

A few years ago, Georgia Makitalo discovered Luleå while chasing the Northern Lights and has never left.

Photos by Graeme Richardson