“Lagom doesn’t really have a direct translation in English, but it basically means not too much, not too little,” says Steffi Knowles-Dellner, a Swedish food stylist, writer and blogger, and author of Lagom: The Swedish Art of Eating Harmoniously. “You can be lagom warm or lagom tall. It has been called the goldilocks principal, but it’s actually so much more than just a quantifier. It goes deep into the heart of our national psyche.”
When it comes to food, lagom represents the never-too-extreme approach to dieting. The healthy mix of whole grains, fish, and vegetables the Nordic diet is known for is blended with a tradition of “fika,” a mid-day coffee and sweet break. While the rest of the world swings between cleanses and over-the-top food trends, Swedes keep it simple by sticking with lagom. “I think Swedes have achieved something in their eating habits which a lot of other nations struggle with: a balance or harmony,” says Knowles-Dellner.
Here, Knowles-Dellner shares one example of that balance: a recipe for her version of the crunchy slaw served alongside pizza. “If you ever find yourself in a pizzeria anywhere in Sweden, you will likely encounter this side dish of punchy cabbage slaw to go with your order, known as 'pizzasallad',” says Knowles-Dellner. “It is basically a simple slaw with a sharp vinegary dressing that’s totally addictive.”
Keep reading to get the pizzasallad recipe.
Crunchy cabbage slaw with seeds
1 pound white cabbage
1 red bell pepper packed in oil, sliced
1 small red onion, finely sliced
3 Tbsp cold-pressed grapeseed oil or olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp sunflower seeds
1. Begin by very finely shredding the cabbage, ideally using a slicing attachment in a food processor. Place the shredded cabbage in a large sieve and sprinkle over about two teaspoons sea salt. Leave for 20 to 30 minutes, then drain away any liquid and shake off any excess salt.
2. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and add the red pepper and onion. Whisk the oil and vinegar to ether with the oregano, chilli flakes and plenty of black pepper.
3. Pour the dressing over the salad and add the seeds, tossing to distribute. Serve as a slaw or with pizza.
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