Simon Bajada
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Hardie Grant Books
Simon Bajada

A few Nordic products may not be readily available worldwide. The best places to track them down are at specialist food stores or online – or at the Ikea food market! And seek out any local community events in your neighbourhood. Failing that, here is a guide to suitable substitutes.

Likewise, while the range of nutritional and health foods on offer in supermarkets is growing, you may still need to visit health stores or ethnic grocers for some ingredients in Nordic Light.


A whole grain incredibly full of nutritional benefits, barley also happens to be one of the first cultivated grains. To match the texture and flavour of pearl barley, use farro, millet, spelt or wheat berries – different cooking instructions are likely for each of these suggestions, so do check the packaging.

Birch syrup

Birch syrup has a much more distinctive savoury taste than maple, yet around the same sugar content. Depending on the tree it has been extracted from the flavour can be similar to wildflower honey or mineral-like in nature. Feel free to replace it with maple syrup.

Chanterelle mushrooms

These beautiful mushrooms are fairly common in Northern Europe, North America and Asia. Some chefs profess that their flavour is best appreciated in their soaked, dried form, so if you can get hold of some that have been dried, do. In Australia, the closest in flavour is the pine mushroom, which grows in the wild and can be bought at autumn food markets.

Crown dill

Crown dill is the herb that has been harvested after the dill plant has blossomed in the autumn months. It has a more intense aniseed flavour than the dill herb, which can best be replicated by using regular dill and a very light dusting of liquorice powder.

Dried white mulberries

These dry, sweet berries lack the tartness found in other berries, instead possessing a pleasant, perfumed flavour. The best substitute would be golden raisins.

Hemp seeds

These seeds are very nutritious, full of protein and have no known issues for those with food intolerances. There are many uses for them: raw, they can be sprinkled on things, ground up similarly to almond meal or even made into a milk as you would almond milk; cooked, they can substitute for breadcrumbs to be used as crust or toasted and sprinkled over salads and soups. If you don't have any the best substitutes are pine nuts or sunflower kernels.


Kipper and bockling are other names for herring, so look out for these. Small mackerel fillets, or sardines make good substitutes; both are a little saltier but will do the trick. Tommy Ruff, which is often called herring in Australia, is not related to the herring from Nordic waters.


Dried juniper berries are found in stores that have an extensive range of spices. They go very well in the cooking of game, meat and stews. Their flavour is intense. If you haven’t any, depending on the application you could use a splash of gin, or some all-spice berries or pink peppercorns instead – though the latter two only somewhat resemble the juniper berry’s flavour.


Kombucha is a slightly sour, lightly effervescent fermented drink that is derived from black or green tea. A good substitute would be diluting an iced tea with soda water, though it won’t replicate kombucha’s fermented flavour.

Liquorice powder

This powder ground from the liquorice root, which is not to be confused with ground anise, can be found in speciality food stores. It can be used to add flavour when cooking sweet and savoury dishes. The flavour is stronger than that of fennel or anise seeds.


Lingonberry is rampant across Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian forest floors. A small shrub that’s low to the ground, it yields tart berries through the summer. The tartness of these berries is best balanced by sugar, usually in the form of a jam or as a syrup/cordial. Lingonberry jam accompanies many classic Nordic dishes – the best substitute for it is cranberry. Lingonberry syrup is sweeter than it is tart so any berry cordial will replace its flavour – try cloudberry, blueberry, boysenberry or blackberry instead.

Malt powder

Malt powder is made from sprouted burnt barley. It has a unique flavour that is important when baking an authentic Danish rye bread. Don’t confuse it with malted milk powder. You can use malted milk powder as a substitute but its flavour is much milder, and bear in mind that the milk powder could affect the end result. Beer-making supply stores, bakery supply stores and health food stores are where you are most likely to find authentic malt.


This gluten-free grain is found in pearl form – its best substitute for making the porridge in this book is quinoa flakes.

Nutritional yeast flakes

These yeast flakes give vegan preparations a more dairy, cheeselike flavour. Unfortunately there is no real substitute so I recommend you visit a well-stocked health food store to find them if using for the recipes in this book.


Dried bee pollen has many health benefits and can therefore be found in many health food stores. In the kitchen it makes a great sweet, floral textural addition to dishes.

Rapeseed oil

Rapeseed oil is also known as canola oil. Warm-pressed canola oil is easily found in grocers but cold-pressed may be a little harder to find – try good-quality delicatessens or oil specialist stores. Cold-pressed rapeseed oil is to Scandinavians what extra-virgin olive oil is to Italians, though rather than rich and fruity its flavour is intensely floral and nutty. To replicate the flavour you could try using a regular rapeseed oil and adding a touch of macadamia or almond oil.


If you’re unable to pick them straight from the bush, dried rosehips can be found in tea bags. Good quality delicatessens also sell rosehip jam or syrup. The next best alternative would be to use quince, which I find shares a similar flavour.


Rye comes in many different forms in Nordic countries but it is most commonly found elsewhere as rye flour. Cracked rye can be substituted with whole rye grains broken in a blender with any resulting flour sifted out. In place of rye breadcrumbs, a dry biscuit (such as Ryvita) can be crushed into crumbs. Rye meal is produced when the whole grain is ground. Light rye flour refers to where the germ and the bran have been removed from the kernel before being ground. A true light rye shouldn’t be combined with wheat flour. Flaked rye is made from rye groats which are steamed and rolled into flakes. They are dark in colour and have a deeper flavour to that of wheat and oats, and can be added to cakes and breads and used in porridges.


Spelt grains and flours are now very common, but if you need an alternative then use wheat berries in place of spelt grains, or wholemeal flour in place of spelt flour. For the latter, be aware that spelt flour needs less water when being worked up into a dough.

Stinging nettle powder

This powder can be found in health stores. Wheatgrass powder, baobab powder or spirulina are good substitutes.


This hard cow’s milk cheese is prepared similarly to cheddar and is from the Västerbotten region of Sweden. It has some slightly more bitter notes than parmesan but the flavour profile is similar, making parmesan the perfect substitute.

Wood sorrel

This acidic herb leaf can be found in Asian grocers. The best alternative would be to use lemon balm with a few drops of vinegar or another leaf, such as rocket or spinach, dressed with lemon juice.

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