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ESKIL ERLANDSSON

Sweden boasts better food than Italy: report

Sweden is a better place to eat that Italy, but has yet to become Europe's culinary capital, a title that goes to a country that might surprise you, according to a new Oxfam report on good eating.

Sweden boasts better food than Italy: report

Every year, hordes of Swedes flock to Italy, Spain, and Greece in search not only of sunlight, but also a chance to indulge in fresh pasta, savoury tapas, or tasty feta cheese.

But hungry Swedes may be better off staying home and stuffing themselves with meatballs and herring, a new Oxfam global food index published on Wednesday reveals.

Sweden was placed fourth among 125 countries, sharing the spot with Denmark, Austria, and Belgium, and ahead of Italy, Spain, and Greece.

I'm thrilled,"  Madeleine van der Veer, spokeswoman for Rural Affairs Minister Eskil Erlandsson, told The Local. "I've always known that Swedish food is good enough to make Sweden Europe's premier country when it comes to food."

SEE ALSO: Ten Swedish foods to remember

The ranking, which compares countries based on food quality, availability, and price, found the Netherlands to be the "best place to eat".

European countries dominated the top of the rankings but Australia made it into the top ten, to tie with Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Luxembourg at number eight. The United Kingdom was tied at 13th, with the United States landing in 21st place.

For the last five years, Sweden has been engaged in a proactive campaign to raise the country's profile as a culinary nation.

The campaign was launched back in 2008 with Erlandsson boasting that the 'Matlandet Sverige' campaign was "going to put Sweden on the world map as a country of good food".

Since the launch of the campaign, the number of food-related companies in Sweden has risen by ten percent, according to figures from the ministry.

In addition, Sweden's food exports are up 23 percent since 2008, bucking a general trend of slumping exports in the wake of the financial crisis.

Van der Veer sees the growth in Sweden's food industry and the Oxfam ranking as evidence that the world is starting to notice Swedish food.

"I'm convinced that the Matlandet campaign has helped draw attention to Swedish food," she said. "Today, 'foodies' choose to travel to Sweden to try fermented herring (surströmming), reindeer, and new restaurants both in the cities and in rural areas."

IN PICTURES: Top ten googled foods in Sweden

While the initiative may have failed to deliver when it comes helping spur jobs and economic growth in rural areas, the government's efforts have raised the profile of Swedish cuisine abroad, with a wave of Swedish-themed eateries popping up in New York and London in recent years.

"It's exciting to see how we've succeeded in exporting the 'fika', cinnamon buns, crisp bread, and meatballs," said van der Veer. 

Oxfam compiled the report to draw attention to inequality in access to healthy and affordable food around the world.

“Poverty and inequality are the real drivers of hunger. Hunger happens where governance is poor, distribution weak, when markets fail,” Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said in a statement. “Having sufficient healthy and affordable food is not something that much of the world enjoys.”

As well as affordability and health, the index weighed up the percentage of malnourished children, the diversity of food as well as food-related health problems like diabetes and obesity.

The rankings were based on figures from the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Foundation, the International Labour Organization and other international organizations. 

DON'T MISS: Ten soul-satisfying Swedish comfort foods

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FOOD & DRINK

Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Do you know your biskvi from your bakelse? Your chokladboll from your kanelbulle? Here's a guide guaranteed to get your mouth watering.

Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Kanelbulle

The most famous of all Swedish cakes outside Sweden, the classic kanelbulle (cinnamon bun) is the symbol of Sweden abroad, no doubt helped by the fact that Swedish furniture giants IKEA stock frozen buns in their food stores for customers to bake off at home.

Forget American tear-apart cinnamon rolls baked in a pan and slathered with cream cheese frosting: a classic Swedish cinnamon bun is baked individually using a yeasted dough spread with cinnamon sugar and butter. The dough is then rolled up, sliced into strips which are then stretched out and knotted into buns, baked, glazed with sugar syrup and sprinkled with pearl sugar.

Home-made varieties skip the stretching and knotting step, rolling the cinnamon-sprinkled dough into a spiral instead which, although less traditional, tastes just as good.

Kanelbullar in Sweden often include a small amount of Sweden’s favourite spice: cardamom. If you’re a fan of cardamom, try ordering the kanelbulle‘s even more Swedish cousin, the kardemummabulle or cardamom bun, which skips the cinnamon entirely and goes all-out on cardamom instead.

Sweden celebrates cinnamon bun day (kanelbullens dag) on October 4th.

Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/imagebank.sweden.se

Chokladboll

A great option if you want a smaller cake for your fika, the chokladboll or ‘chocolate ball’ is a perfect accompaniment to coffee – some recipes even call for mixing cold coffee into the batter.

They aren’t baked and are relatively easy to make, meaning they are a popular choice for parents (or grandparents) wanting to involve children in the cake-making process.

Chokladbollar are a simple mix of sugar, oats, melted butter and cocoa powder, with the optional addition of vanilla or coffee, or occasionally rum extract. They are rolled into balls which are then rolled in desiccated coconut (or occasionally pearl sugar), and placed in the fridge to become more solid.

Some bakeries or cafés also offer dadelbollar or rawbollar/råbollar (date or raw balls), a vegan alternative made from dried dates and nuts blended together with cocoa powder.

Chocolate ball day (chokladbollens dag) falls on May 11th.

Photo: Magnus Carlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Prinsesstårta

The lime-green prinsesstårta or ‘princess cake’ may look like a modern invention with it’s brightly-coloured marzipan covering, but it has been around since the beginning of the 1900s, and is named after three Swedish princesses, Margareta, Märta and Astrid, who were supposedly especially fond of the cake.

The cake consists of a sponge bottom spread with jam, crème pâtissière and a dome of whipped cream, covered in green marzipan and some sort of decoration, often a marzipan rose.

Prinsesstårtor can also be served in individual portions, small slices of a log which are then referred to as a prinsessbakelse.

Although the cakes are popular all year round, in the Swedish region of Småland, prinsesstårta is eaten on the first Thursday in March, due to this being the unofficial national day of the Småland region (as the phrase första torsdagen i mars is pronounced fössta tossdan i mass in the Småland dialect).

Since 2004, the Association of Swedish Bakers and Confectioners has designated the last week of September as prinsesstårtans vecka (Princess cake day).

Photo: Sinikka Halme, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.

Budapestbakelse

Belonging to the more traditional cakes, a Budapestbakelse or “Budapest slice” is a type of rulltårta or “roll cake” similar to a Swiss roll, consisting of a light and crispy cake made from whipped egg whites, sugar and hazelnut, filled with whipped cream and fruit, often chopped conserved peaches, nectarines or mandarines, and rolled into a log.

The log is then sliced into individual portions and drizzled with chocolate, then often topped with whipped cream and a slice of fruit. 

Despite its name, the Budapest slice has nothing to do with the city of Budapest – it was supposedly invented by baker Ingvar Strid in 1926 and received the name due to Strid’s love for the Hungarian capital.

Of course, the Budapestbakelse also has its own day – May 1st.

Kanelbullar (left), chokladbollar (centre) and biskvier (right). Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se

Biskvi

Another smaller cake, a biskvi (pronounced like the French biscuit), consists of an almond biscuit base, covered in buttercream (usually chocolate flavoured), and dark chocolate.

Different variants of biskvier exist, such as a Sarah Bernhardt, named after the French actress of the same name, which has chocolate truffle instead of buttercream.

You might also spot biskvier with white chocolate, often with a hallon (raspberry) or citron (lemon) filling, or even saffransbiskvier around Christmastime.

Chokladbiskviens dag is celebrated on November 11th.

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