Oysters with a chilli and dill sauce

Ostron med chili- och dill sås

Oyster with chilli and dill sauce

Although chilli is not something we normally associate with Swedish food it is quickly gaining popularity in Sweden. Indeed, the Danish cookery writer Trina Hahnemann, said in a recent lecture that in 20 or 50 years time chillies will be considered to be an established part of Nordic cooking, just as potatoes are today, although they too were originally considered to be exotic.

The story of Swedes and potatoes always makes me smile. They arrived in Sweden in the 1600s but it was about a hundred years before they really caught on. Even then it was not as a food source, but because it was discovered that they could be distilled to make aquavit, thereby saving invaluable grain for food. The discovery was made in 1748 by the Duchess Eva de la Gardie, who became so famous that she became the first woman elected to the Swedish Academy of Science.

Dill, some Absolut vodka and the chilli, the new veg on block, go together to make a lovely sauce that brings out the flavour of some freshly shucked oysters. Incidentally, Swedes say that the best oysters in the world come from Grebbestad on the Bohuslän coast in west Sweden. It is only a small town with about 1,400 inhabitants, although this goes up about ten fold in the summer. Grebbestad is also famous for being the place where most of Sweden’s lobsters, known as black gold, are landed. A kind of special place: well worth a visit if you love shellfish!

Wherever you get your oysters from, buy the best quality you can afford. (And don’t forget to say Skål to Duchess Eva.) Chris Brookes


Recipe summary for oyster with chilli and dill sauce


3 tbsp   Absolut vodka, or any other vodka, preferably Swedish!
3 tbsp   water
110 g (½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1   lime, juice only
2   small red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 dozen   oysters (allow 6 per person)
2 tbsp   fresh dill, finely chopped


1. Bring the vodka, water and sugar to the boil, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.

2. Add the juice of one lime and the diced chilli. Allow to cool and flavours to infuse.

3. Shuck (open) the oysters and lay them out on beds of crushed ice.

4. Add the dill to the sauce and stir thoroughly.

5. Add a teaspoon of the sauce to each oyster. Serve the rest in little side dishes as shown because you will want more sauce!


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