A dish that has been part of the Scandinavian Yule (Danish: Jul) celebration for more than a thousand years is porridge. In the beginning, the porridge was made from barley, a grain that was common throughout Scandinavia, and a grain that was relatively cheap and could fill the stomach up a little before the more expensive food were served.
In the early 18th century and with the European exploration of Asia, rice was exported to many parts of Europe, including Scandinavia. The long journey by ship made rice expensive, and it was considered an exotic ingredient.
Rice was something special, and it was the upper class that started experimenting with this ingredient and came up with the idea of making the rice porridge called risengrød, and hence a new Christmas porridge tradition was born.
Fun and games are of course a part of a jolly Christmas, so too making the experience of eating porridge before the ”good stuff” arrived, the host would put one ”marked” almond into the rice porridge, and whoever found it, would get a small gift. You were of course not allowed to stir the spoon around in it, before taking a spoonful of porridge on your plate.
Almonds were a bit easier to get, since they were brought to Scandinavia from the mediterranean sea, and it is possible that common people also used almond in their barley porridge at Christmas.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it began to be quite common to use rice in the Christmas porridge (Danish: Julegrøden), and this was possibly something that the upper class could not accept. So they came up with a new dish, that even had a french sounding name ”ris á l’amande” (Danish: Risalamande).
Something that you might not know, is that we have house spirits in Scandinavia, present-day we call them (Danish: Nisser), (Swedish: Tomtar). These beings could be good or bad, and since you wanted them to be good and please them, people would put a small bowl of porridge in the attic for them.
Risengrød is also the favorite dish of Santa Claus (Danish: Julemanden) something that has often been featured in Nordic television shows about Christmas which are called a Julekalender.
Today, risengrød is eaten throughout December as part of the Scandinavian Christmas tradition, and the children love it. However, some people love the dish so much, that they enjoy it all-year-round.
Risengrød at Christmas Eve is a tradition that is slowly dying in Scandinavia, and according to a poll from 2018, only 3% of the Danes eat Risengrød as a starter on the 24th of December. However, 97% of the Danes eat risalamande, but not as a starter, but as a dessert.
- 100 gram rice porridge
- 0,75 liter milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
How to make Risengrød
- Warm up the milk until it boils in a thick-bottomed pot, and then add the rice.
- Stir until the milk begins to boil again.
- Turn down the heat and let the rice boil for about 45 minutes under the lid. Remember to stir the risengrød occasionally so it does not burn.
- Season it with a little salt when it is done.
- Risengrød is served with cinnamon and sugar mixed together, and a bit of butter.