An expert’s guide to the perfect bank holiday feast

Apr 27, 2022 by

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LondonSwedes in partnership with Nordic Spirit


Herring, potatoes, egg, onion and mustard on brown bread


Pontus Assarsson, a former chef at Nordic/Asian inspired restaurant Pantechnicon, shares his top tips for laying on the perfect spread for Bank Holiday – from trying out vegetarian meatballs to taking advantage of asparagus season and making sure you never, ever, forget the sill…


British hot cross buns and simnel cakes are all well and good, but they can’t compare to a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord – something that’s often hard to find in the UK if you don’t know where to look for the right ingredients. We asked Pontus Assarsson, chef at the Nordic/Asian inspired restaurant Pantechnicon, to tell us how to make the perfect spread (and how important it is to not forget the sill…). 


How important is food for any Swedish celebration?

The smörgåsbord is one of the most important parts of any Swedish feast. The key for me is always the sill (pickled herring), and that’s something all Swedish chefs take great pride in.


What are the other essentials? 

Meatballs! Of course, no Swedish feast is complete without meatballs and whoever you ask in Sweden their grandma’s recipe is always the best. But for me, it’s all about the sill. There are endless ways of preparing and seasoning this beautiful fish and don’t be surprised to see at least 7-8 different types on a standard smörgåsbord.


A traditional Swedish smorgasbord varies but almost always includes different types of salmon (smoked, cured) meatballs, sausage, egg halves topped with Swedish caviar and mayonnaise, sill, some sort of pie topped with a lot of cheese. We always combine the eating with a song celebrating the occasion or just an extremely random song filled with profanity ;).


Pontus in the kitchen at Pantechnicon


Can you give any tips on how to prepare sill the right way?

The most traditional way of serving it is salted and cured. After that you can use almost anything that you want to season it with – there are hundreds of different flavours. A lot of companies introduce their “sill of the year”, often either “clear” sill in its own pickling liquid with seasoning, or a “creamy” sill with a mayonnaise base. My personal favourite from last year was a “gin and tonic” flavoured sill with fresh juniper, dehydrated lingonberries and rosemary.


What are some non-traditional elements that people might want to include?

I would encourage people to try some vegetarian options since smörgåsbords tend to be quite heavy on the meat and fish. I would suggest switching to plant-based meatballs and sausages and maybe a slow-roasted and glazed celeriac instead of a roast. Asparagus is just coming into season now and served with a nice hollandaise I can’t think of many things that taste better after a long dark winter.


Swedish meatballs with beetroot sallad on the popular swedish bread “Rågkaka”


Where do Swedes in London go to get all the ingredients – is there anything you can’t easily get?

We’ve actually found all the Scandinavian hotspots for our native food and drink from the LondonSwedes community and there are quite a few Scandinavian shops around London. You just have to know where to look really. 


This year a lot of us still can’t get together with friends because of lockdown. Is it still worth laying on a big smörgåsbord?

I would definitely say so, but remember to keep it simple and just include your favourites! This would be a time when a lot of people would normally travel back home to see friends but I think a great meal can remind us all that we are moving towards brighter days. Hopefully, this time next year we can all have a great smörgåsbord and lockdown will be a distant memory.


Are there any rules that have to be followed when you’re building your smörgårsbord?

Did I mention the sill?!


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