11 November 2007

Party Preparations 4

The Friday was the last day for preparations and was entirely dedicated to the pièce de résistance, a Swedish smörgåstårta or sandwich cake. This is the standard Swedish party food and is very good when a large number of people are invited. It's fairly easy to make and looks very impressive. Everyone has their own recipe, the following one is one that my Mum has developed over the years and I don't think I've changed it that much. Also it represents what I most like about my Mum's recipes - you can stop at some point and it's ready, or you can continue to add things to it to turn it into a different dish. In fact it epitomises this concept.

I made two - one larger one for the meat eaters and one smaller one for the vegetarians. I also ended up with some of the creamy stuff to spare, it would have been enough for two large cakes.


Creamy stuff

500 g canned sliced carrots
500 g canned garden peas
1.5 l strained Greek yoghurt
1 l crème fraîche
0.5 l extra thick double cream
400 g mayonnaise
salt and finely ground pepper
50 g fresh chives or finely chopped leek
25 g fresh dill

Cake base

4 x 800 g sliced white bread loaves

Decoration (suggestions)

smoked salmon
ready to eat king prawns
thinly sliced salami
thinly sliced ham
lettuce leaves
thinly sliced cheese
Swedish meatballs
hard boiled eggs
peppers of various bright colours
fresh dill

  1. Open the carrots and peas and leave to drain well.
  2. Whip the cream, ignoring that it says it's not for whipping on the packet, it works just fine, but be careful not to over-do it, very easily done.
  3. Combine the yogurt, crème fraîche, the whipped cream and the mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Set aside one third of this mixture and put in the fridge.
  5. Cut the chives and dill with scissors into the creamy mixture.
  6. Chop the carrots to pieces of approximately the same size as the peas.
  7. Add carrots and peas into the creamy mixture and stir in well and leave for an hour to allow the flavours to blend.
  8. In the mean time, if you don't have a cake board, cover a large chopping board with aluminium foil and sello tape it on the back. Make sure to have the matt side up.
  9. Now, take two slices of bread at a time and with a sharp knife, cut off the crusts, as close as possible.
  10. Lay out one layer of bread on the cake board, so there are about 3 cm on either side to spare. The slices should be close together, any gaps should be filled with suitably cut pieces of bread.
  11. Take some of the carrot and pea cream and spread on top as evenly as possible, making sure to cover up to the edges.
  12. Lay a second layer of bread on top, making sure that the edges do not coincide with the ones of the bottom row or the cake may split.

  13. Cover with another layer of the carrot and pea cream. Repeat with another layer of bread and cream and finish with a fourth layer of bread.
  14. Now take out the smooth cream from the fridge and cover the top layer of bread fairly generously and also cover the sides, to hide the layers of bread. Make sure to have a little left over from the smooth cream. Wipe off any spillage along the edges, this is where the matt side of the aluminium foil is handy, as it won't be as obvious as if wiping the shiny side.

  15. At this point it should be put in the fridge for a few hours, preferably over night.
  16. The next day, take out the cake and inspect it, to make sure that parts of the cream haven't been absorbed to the extent that the bread is visible. If this is the case, use the left over to touch it up. Also this is the state it should be transported in, if necessary, again the extra smooth cream can be used for repairs at the destination.
  17. Decorate as close to the beginning of the party as possible, particularly if there is no fridge to store the cake in. And here it's entirely your imagination that sets the limits. Here is what I did yesterday afternoon for the party, but every time it's different.

You may possibly recognise the creamy stuff from before, it's pretty much the recipe for white sauce, but with some yoghurt added as well, to make it a bit lighter. In fact, all of the ingredients can be "light" or "diet" varieties, apart from the yoghurt, which must be full fat and strained, or it'll be too runny and the bread will go soggy.

As for the peas and carrots, in Sweden you can get them ready mixed in cans, with the carrots suitably diced, but I couldn't find any, so had do get them separate. Again, draining is vital. But you can use other things instead, like canned diced mushrooms or diced cooked ham. In addition to adding interest in flavour and texture, they serve the purpose of preventing the cake sinking in at places, should the bread soak up the cream at different rates.

Also what struck me the other night is that if you add mushrooms and ham and boiled potatoes (all diced) to the creamy mixture, you'll pretty much end up with a Russian salad, as it is done in Bulgaria.

I was lucky in that the cakes hadn't sunk in anywhere and didn't need much repairing after the transport, so the leftover smooth cream went in a bowl to be used as a dip.

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