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'Smørrebrød'... the holy grail of Danish cuisine

Photograph: Rochelle Coote

Smørrebrød, or Danish open sandwiches, literally meaning butter and bread, is a time-old tradition that apparently dates to the late Middle Ages. Nordic winters were harsh, and food needed to be preserved during these months. As a result, fish was often smoked or pickled and served on dark rye bread. In the 1900's it became popular amongst the working class and many smørrebrød cafes opened in Copenhagen.

Usually served with cold cuts or smoked herring, the secret lies in balancing salt, sweet and sour. Presentation is important too, so garnish as much or as little as you like. However, don't be intimidated - even the most amateur cook can rustle up a smørrebrød or two. Most ingredients can be bought ready, and you can even include vegetarian and vegan options if you prefer.

So next time you have visitors from abroad, why not impress them with your smørrebrød skills and serve them your version of a Danish open sandwich.

Here are four of my favourites:

Blue cheese and avocado (Vegetarian)


avocado (sliced into wedges)

Danish blue cheese

semi sun-dried Tomatoes (easily found at your local supermarket deli)

bakery dark rye bread


First layer: Avocado.

Second layer: Danish Blue Cheese.

Third layer: Top with semi sun-dried tomatoes to balance the richness of the cheese and avocado.

Roast Beef and Remoulade


remoulade (you can easily buy this at the supermarket in a tube or fresh from the deli)

roast beef

pickles (drueagurker)

horseradish (peberrod)


bakery dark rye bread

fresh lettuce (Romain lettuce works well here)


First layer: Spread on some remoulade.

Second layer: Top with fresh crispy salad such as Romaine.

Third layer: Two slices of roast beef.

Fourth layer: Pickles.

Fifth layer: Sprinkle with some horseradish.

Sixth layer: Finally, top with some capers to add some acidity.

Tip: If possible, buy fresh dark rye bread from your local bakery. Also, look at your local supermarket deli for luxury items like semi sun-dried tomatoes, piccalilli (pickled vegetables) and homemade remoulade. Trust me on this - it takes your smørrebrød to another level.

Leverpostej (Danish liver paté) and bacon


Danish liver paté (leverpostej)

strips of bacon (one for every smørrebrød)


pickled beetroot

Rocket salad leaves

bakery dark rye bread


First layer: Warm your leverpostej in the container in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for approximately 20 minutes. Just remove the outer sleeve - usually, the 'leverpostej' is in an oven proof container. Once heated, smear on top of your bread.

Second layer: As your pâté is heating, start with your mushrooms. Slice and fry in a little bit of butter until nicely browned. Top your pâté with the mushrooms.

Third layer: Place your slices of bacon under the grill until crispy. Now place a slice of bacon on top of the mushrooms.

Fourth layer: Slice your pickled beetroot into small squares and garnish the bread. The tart taste balances the rich pâté and bacon.

Fifth layer: Finally garnish with some fresh Rocket leaves to add a peppery taste.

Hummus and Egg (Vegetarian)


beetroot hummus

boiled egg


bakery dark rye bread


First layer: Spread your slice of bread with the hummus.

Second layer: Slice your boiled egg and place it on top of the hummus.

Third layer: Slice your cucumber in rings and cut each ring in the middle to be able to turn and place on top of the egg and serve as decoration.

Serving tip: Serve each smørrebrød on little individual plates to make it easy for anyone to grab a slice. Oh, and don't forget to set some cutlery on the table. You'll be part Danish after this.
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