Scandinavian-Inspired Light Bites

rye crepes
Photo: Simon Bajada
Add a little Nordic flair to your breakfast or mid-morning meal.

It's time to try out some lighter, healthier eating - Scandinavian style. In his new cookbook, Stockholm-based chef and photographer Simon Bajada lays out his own style of eating that shares a name with the book's title, Nordic Light. He shares gorgeous and clean recipes that draw from elements of new Nordic cuisine, classic Scandinavian, raw food and vegetable-focused eating to create a more balanced diet that remains healthy and interesting. So try brightening up your mornings with some Nordic light, namely some energizing and intriguing bites full of ingredients you can feel really good about.

Cardamom Rye Crêpes, Banana + Salted Caramel

Caramel and banana is such an awesome pairing. This batter also goes great with savory pairings, like smoked salmon. Either way, fluffy crêpes make a super light and scrumptious start to the day.

rye crepes

What You'll Need

Serves 4

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup dried banana chips
  • 1/2-1 oz unsalted butter
  • 4 bananas, peeled and halved lengthways

Salted Caramel

  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup honey, plus extra to serve
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 1/2 oz almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes


Directions

Step 1: Add the eggs to a bowl together with 2 cups of water and whisk together. Continuing to stir, gradually sift over the flours and salt and mix together to form a smooth batter. Cover with plastic wrap, transfer to the refrigerator and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Step 2: While the batter is resting, put the banana chips in a food processor and blitz for 10-20 seconds to a crumb-like texture. Set aside.

Step 3: For the salted caramel, place all the ingredients, except the salt, in the food processor and blend together to form a smooth, lump-free sauce. Pour into a bowl and stir through the salt flakes.

Step 4: To cook the crêpes, heat just enough butter to coat the base of a small frying pan or crêpe pan over a medium-high heat until the butter has melted and is bubbling. Pour in enough batter to create a thin coating on the base of the pan. Lift, tilt and rotate the pan so the batter forms an even, thin layer over the entire base. Cook for about a minute on each side, until bubbles start to appear on the surface and the edges are solid and easy to lift up with a spatula. Stack the cooked crêpes on a plate and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm while you cook the rest, adding a little butter to the pan as needed in between crêpes.

Step 5: To serve, divide the crêpes between plates and top with the banana halves. Spoon over the salted caramel and a little extra honey and scatter over the dried banana crumbs to finish.

Smoky Quinoa + Cacao Bars

Smoke seems to find its way into many Nordic foods. These bars are no exception, and also boast an intriguing sweet and savory combination.

cacao bars

What You'll Need

Makes about 16 bars

  • 1 cup pitted soft prunes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 5 1/2 oz almond, hazelnut or peanut butter
  • 2 fl oz rapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), lightly toasted
  • 3/4 oz cacao nibs
  • 1 cup puffed quinoa
  • 1/2 cup toasted brazil nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 1/2 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into rough pieces
  • 1 tablespoon smoked salt flakes


Directions

Step 1: Put the prunes in a bowl and mash well with a fork, then add them together with the coconut oil to a large saucepan over a low-medium heat. Stir in the nut butter, oil, honey and cayenne pepper, mashing the prunes further with the back of a wooden spoon to bring everything together. Cook over a low heat, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is soft and gooey, then remove from the heat, stir in the pepitas, cacao nibs, puffed quinoa and chopped brazil nuts and set aside.

Step 2: Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set it over a saucepan of simmering water and stir gently until the chocolate has melted.

Step 3: Line a 12 x 4 1/2 inch loaf tin with baking paper. Transfer the mixture to the tin and drizzle over the melted dark chocolate. Sprinkle over the smoked salt, transfer to the refrigerator and leave to chill for at least 1 hour, or until set.

Step 4: Once set, remove the log from the tin, transfer to a chopping board and cut into bars. They will keep for up to 1 week in a suitable airtight container.

Homemade "Nutella", Sourdough + Figs

Because we all know Nutella is deliciously naughty, this homemade version is a little better for you than the processed kind. Make it at home and spread it on whatever you like!

nutella

What You'll Need

Makes 1 large jar

  • 6 oz hazelnut butter
  • 3 fl oz coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • 4 tablespoons runny honey

To serve

  • Sourdough toast
  • Figs
  • Chia or hemp seeds
  • Mint or lemon balm leaves


Directions

Step 1: Put the hazelnut butter in a food processor and blend for 1 minute to incorporate the oil. Add the remaining ingredients and blend for another 1 minute until smooth.

Step 2: Transfer the "nutella" to a jar and store in the refrigerator until needed, bringing it to room temperature 5-10 minutes before using. When ready to serve, spread the "nutella" over a slice of toasted sourdough, top with slices of fresh fig and sprinkle over some chia or hemp seeds and herbs.

Nut Bombs

These are the perfect on the go snack. They keep for up to five days in an airtight container and are a filling and portable bite.

nut bombs

What You'll Need

Makes about 10 bombs

  • 3 large eggwhites
  • 10 1/2 oz raw unsalted mixed nuts (the recipe recommends peanuts, cashew nuts, brazil nuts, almonds and hazelnuts)
  • 10 1/2 oz dried mixed fruits (the recipe recommends prunes, apple, figs, raisins, sultanas and cranberries), chopped
  • 4 teaspoons hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom


Directions

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Step 2: Lightly whisk the eggwhites together in a large bowl with a hand whisk until frothy, then fold through the nuts, fruits, hemp seeds and ground cinnamon or cardamom. The eggwhite will help to hold the nut mixture together when cooking, so make sure it's evenly distributed.

Step 3: Carefully transfer mounded spoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared baking trays, then bake for 10 minutes, or until golden amber in color. Leave to cool, then pack away in paper bags ready for snacking on later.

Iceberg Smørrebrød with Gravlax, Herb Salad + Ymerdrys

This is a twist on a typical Nordic open-faced sandwich, or smørrebrød, with rye on salmon and lettuce rather than the carb-heavy other way around.

smorrebrod

What You'll Need

Serves 4

  • 1 handful each of dill, chervil and parsley, roughly chopped or torn
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 firm, compact iceberg lettuce, trimmed and outer leaves removed
  • 7 oz thinly sliced gravlax or smoked salmon
  • Pea tendrils to serve

Ymerdrys

  • 7 oz authentic waxy Danish rye bread, broken into large chunks
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Mustard Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon mild American-style mustard
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey (only if you are using smoked salmon, gravlax is sweet enough)


Directions

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Step 2: To make the ymerdrys, pulse the bread in a food processor, gradually adding the sugar, until the consistency resembles loose soil.

Step 3: Spread the mixture out over the prepared baking tray and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until it takes on a rich brown color. Watch closely in the last 5 minutes to make sure it doesn't burn. Remove from the oven and allow to cool no the tray.

Step 4: For the dressing, mix the mustard, yogurt and honey, if using, together in a bowl.

Step 5: In a separate bowl, mix together the herbs, chopped chives and lime juice.

Step 6: Place the lettuce upright on a chopping board and cut vertically into 1 inch rounds. Setting aside the outer pieces, transfer four of the central lettuce rounds to a serving plate.

Step 7: To build your "smørrebrød", spread the dressing over the lettuce rounds, top with the gravlax or smoked salmon and spoon over the lime juice and herb mixture. Sprinkle over the ymerdrys and pea tendrils to serve.

Beetroot Crispbread + Seaweed Butter

Beetroot crispbread is totally easy to make, and has an interesting sweetness to it. The seaweed butter pairs so well and is ideal for lovers of umami.

beetroot crispbread

What You'll Need

Serves 8

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 fresh beetroot (beets), peeled and finely grated
  • 1 1/4 cups rye flour
  • 2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 4 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt flakes

Seaweed Butter

  • 4 nori seaweed sheets
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
  • 9 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon


Directions

Step 1: For the seaweed butter, toast the seaweed sheets over a naked flame for 20 seconds on each side. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 425°F, spread the seaweed sheets over wire racks and bake for 10 minutes, until crispy and beginning to color. Leave the sheets to cool and crisp up before crumbling them into a bowl. Add the salt, butter and lemon juice and mix together, then transfer to the fridge to set.

Step 2: To make the crispbread, add the yeast, fennel seeds and milk to a large bowl and mix together. Stir in the grated beetroot, then gradually sift over the flours, stirring everything together to form a firm, slightly sticky dough (you may need to add a little extra flour depending on the moisture content of the beetroot). Add a pinch of salt and mix together, then use your hands to shape the dough into a ball. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Step 4: Once the dough has rested, divide it into two even-sized pieces. Roll one of the pieces out on a clean, floured work surface into a 18 inch x 14 inch rectangle, then cut it in half. Lay one of the halves between sheets of baking paper and roll it out to the same size. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.

Step 5: Prick the dough sheets with a fork and sprinkle over the sesame seeds and sea salt flakes. Slide the rolled-out dough sheets onto baking trays and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the edges curl up and the middle of the crispbread sheets rise off the tray - there is a small window between them being dry and cooked and turning brown, so keep an eye on them.

Step 6: Turn off the oven and leave the crispbreads inside with the door slightly ajar for at least 2 hours. To serve, break the crispbreads into shards and spread with the butter. The crispbreads will keep wrapped in baking paper in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.


To buy this cookbook, click here.

nordic light cover

Recipes and images excerpted from Nordic Light: Lighter, Everyday Eating from a Scandinavian Kitchen by Simon Bajada, (Hardie Grant Publishing, 2016).