SMØRREBRØD (means bread with butter really) was actually invented by working people who had to eat their lunch away from their home. They would use leftovers from last night’s dinner, and pile it on top of their rye bread so that they could keep the hunger at bay until dinnertime.
Pålæg (lay-on) is what you put on top. Smørrebrød is almost always made with sourdough rye bread – we love rye bread in Denmark – and meat, fish, cheese, or seafood as toppings.
For your day to day lunch, you can eat your smørrebrød with your fingers, but what the Danes are renowned for, is the opulent open sandwich topped with all sorts of culinary delights. The idea is to completely cover the bread with your toppings, and these are almost always eaten with a knife and fork.
So is Smørrebrød easy to make? Yes and no really. Some of the sandwiches are so easy, and you can make them with everything you have at home, whilst others are actually layered with so much amazing stuff that it would require a bit of effort to replicate them. One general rule is to add a generous layer of butter (not margarine) and then start adding on top.
When we celebrate Easter and Christmas we often have ‘luncheons’ where everyone brings homemade dishes, and we then pile meats, fish, and seafood on top of rye bread. There is also a sequence of how you eat Smørrebrød: You would always start with your cold fish dishes, moving on to your warm meat dishes, and finishing with fruit salad (mainly for kids) and a vast cheeseboard. This is not fast but slow food, and we often linger over lunch for a long long time.
I have eaten lots of Smørrebrød since I was a child, and these are some of my favourites:
FISKE-FILLET (fish fillet) Amazing moist fish fillet served on rye bread with a generous offering of remoulade, and a twig of dill – some also have shrimp on top.
KARRY SILD (curried herring) Curried marinated herring, served on rye with raw red onions, capers and sometimes a boiled egg.
REJEMAD (scrimps) Fresh prawns on white loaf, served with fresh mayonnaise, lemon, a sprig of dill, and possibly a tiny dollop of caviar.
FLÆSKESTEG (roast pork) Slices of roasted back of pork, with crispy crackling, served on rye bread with pickled red cabbage and gherkins.
ROASTBEEF Thinly sliced roast beef, on rye bread, topped with a generous serving of homemade remoulade, thin finely grated horseradish, and possible picked cucumber salad.
FRIKADELLE (pork meatballs) Sliced Frikadelle, served on rye bread, with pickled red cabbage, and a slice of orange on top.
HØNSESALAT (chicken salad) Chopped up chicken, with mustard mayo, apple, celery, roasted chicken skin and
LEVERPOSTEJ (liverpaté) Warm liverpaté on rye, served with pan-fried mushrooms, bacon, and pickled beetroot and cornichons.
So where can you get yours?!?!
There are many more ‘Smørrebrød’ to choose from, and I strongly recommend visiting one of our many Smørrebrøds Restaurants should you ever visit Copenhagen. Some of my favourites are: