Author Archives: Bronte Aurell

How to make the best ever real Scandi Cinnamon buns

July 19, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

How to make the best ever real Scandi Cinnamon buns

We call them Kanelbullar, or just bullar (buns). In Danish, Kanelsnurrer – twists – or snegle, snails. We eat these with our coffee, late mornings or afternoons. It’s the treat you see in all Scandi coffee shops. It’s our favourite thing, ever.

So, here are some facts:

  • Real cinnamon buns, the ones Mamma makes at home, are made using a yeast dough, not a laminated dough.
  • Real buns are strong, full of cardamom and cinnamon.
  • Real buns don’t have icing on them.

There are as many different buns in the world as there are people who make them. This is because the essential ingredient in cinnamon buns is love. Yes, love. Everybody bakes differently, and adds some of themselves in the kneading, so the result is… Buns that taste the way they were made. Why do you think Mamma’s buns are always best?

I’ve been making buns since I could find my way around the kitchen. The recipe has evolved and grown, but always I go back to the same things: Good cardamom, lots of spice, lots of love and never skimp on the butter.

This recipe makes a big batch of buns. You can half it, but if you have a freezer, I say don’t bother: Make a full batch, freeze some and pop them in the lunch box or simply just take one out and wait 20 mins and you have a lovely bun with your afternoon coffee. Alternatively, give some warm buns to your neighbours. Trust me, as long as you put a bit of love into it, they’ll love you forever. Kanelbullar really are a magic currency all of their own.

Bronte’s Cinnamon Bun Recipe
Makes 36 buns.

50g fresh (compressed) yeast (or 26g active dried yeast granules).
500ml whole milk, heated to 36–37°C (97–99°F) – no more or the yeast will die
150g butter, melted and cooled slightly
80g caster/granulated sugar
900g-1kg white strong bread flour
3 good teaspoons ground cardamom (I like it strong – and use freshly ground)
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten

Filling:

200g butter, soft
1 teaspoon plain flour
2-3 tablespoons ground cinnamon (25g)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar or extract
100g caster sugar
100g soft brown light sugar
1 Egg, for brushing.
Pearl sugar to decorate.

Golden Syrup and Date syrup, equal measures (100ml of each)

Method: Cream all the ingredients for filling together until smooth and set aside.

Here’s how to do it:

If using fresh yeast, add the luke warm milk to your mixing bowl in a stand mixer and add the yeast; stir until dissolved.

(If using active dry yeast (granules), pour the warm milk into a bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and whisk together. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes to become bubbly. Pour into the bowl of a food mixer fitted with a dough hook).

Start the machine and add the cooled, melted butter. Allow to combine with the yeast for 1 minute or so, then add the sugar and mix for a minute.

In a separate bowl, weigh out 800g of flour, add the cardamom and salt and mix together. Start adding the flour and spices into the milk mixture, bit by bit. Add the beaten egg. Keep kneading for 5 minutes.

You may need to add more flour – you want the mixture to end up a bit sticky, but not so much that it sticks to your finger if you poke it. It is better not to add too much flour as this will result in dry buns – and you can always add more later. The mixture has enough flour when it starts to let go of the sides of the bowl.

Once mixed, leave the dough in a bowl and cover with a clingfilm. Allow to rise for around 30 minutes – or until it has doubled in size (this time can vary depending on the temperature in your kitchen).

Dust a table top with flour and turn out the dough. Using your hands, knead the dough and work in more flour if needed. Cut the dough into two equal pieces and using a rolling pin, roll out one lump of dough to a 40 x 50 cm/16 x 20 in. rectangle.

Using a spatula, spread the filling across the dough in an event, thin layer.

To make traditional swirls, simply roll the dough lengthways into a long roll and cut into 15-16 pieces, place on a lined baking tray, and leave – covered – to rise for another 20 minutes. Repeat with the remaining lump of dough.

Want to make cinnamon bun twist, like in the photo? Follow this simply video to make your cinnamon bun twists – the twists are shown at around 4 minutes in – but if you want to see the full video (half recipe), just click here:


Roll out the dough, and fold it once you have spread the filling on it. Make sure it is even and flat – then using a pizza cutter, cut out even sized strips. Hold one end of the dough while you twist the dough back on itself and allow it to roll into a twist. Always make sure the ends are tucked underneath or they will unravel during baking. Leave to rise for a further 20 mins before brushing with egg.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius (fan). Brush the buns lightly with beaten egg, then bake for 7-9 minutes or until golden and done. Watch it, they can burn easily and different ovens vary in temperature: My oven bakes these on 180C fan in 8 minutes.

While they are baking, heat the golden syrup and date syrup in a pan until warm and liquid. If you cant get hold of date syrup, just use golden –but Date syrup does add a lovely flavour to the buns.

When the buns come out of the oven, immediately brush lightly with the syrup, then add pearl sugar (nibbed sugar) on top of the buns and cover with a quite damp tea towel. The tea towel stops the buns from going dry and forming a crust – leave it on there for at least five minutes.

If you cannot get hold of nib sugar (pearl sugar), you can use chopped hazelnuts etc instead as an alternative.

The buns last only for 24-36 hours – as with all fresh bread – so freeze as soon as they have cooled down if you cant eat 36 buns in one go.

Note for cardamom and cinnamon: buy the seeds (already de-podded) online and grind as you need, using a spice grinder (you can do it by hand, but its hard work). Or buy pre-ground, but it loses potency quickly. For cinnamon, never skimp on the quality – buy good ground cinnamon – the cheap stuff is not great and you need lots more to get a good flavour.

The Crayfish Season

July 15, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

Crayfish Season

Picture this: a little, red wooden house set by a calm, blue lake that sparkles silver from the rays of the summer sun. Rolling green hills and never ending meadows full of wild flowers and berries, surrounding everything and everyone on pure postcard bliss.  Welcome to the picture perfect Swedish late summer evening and welcome to the Crayfish Season: it’s time for Kräftskiva (or, if you’d rather: a somewhat messy event involving lots of crustaceans and hard liquor).

Every year in August, Finnish and Swedish people all over the world get excited by the start of the crayfish season. The timing of the season is founded in local law which dictates that Scandinavian freshwater crayfish must only be fished in late summer and early autumn. Although in this time of easy imports where crayfish is available all year round, tradition still holds strong and the season is very much part of the Swedish and Finnish calendar of events, thirdly only to Midsummer and Eurovision.

Crayfish was first mentioned by Aristotle back in the really old days but as a delicacy its big break came in the 1800’s when Monsieur Napoleon developed a thing for the ‘écrevisses’ and got the whole of France hooked as a result. Initially crayfish were plentiful in rivers and lakes all across central and northern Europe, but as this gastronomic trend spread across the continent, the crayfish stock was in steep decline. A lethal pest almost wiped out the entire stock in the early 1900’s and local laws were quickly introduced to limit the availability of the delicacy thus saving it from extinction.

Today most crayfish in the world is farmed, although the ultimate delicacy for a crayfish party is still locally sourced Swedish or Finnish beauties. These are seriously pricey, though, so most people settle for the almost-just-as-good imported, cooked and quickly frozen type, usually imported from China, Turkey or other fancy far-away places. Alternatively, if you happen to have your own Swedish lake handy, you can opt for some night time fishing with wire traps – these buggers are nocturnal and will do much to avoid your dinner plate.

The difference between crayfish you buy at your local fishmonger outside Sweden is that the Scandinavian kind is cooked in a brine sauce of dill, then some dill and a bit more dill thrown in for good measure. Crayfish is, like lobster, cooked alive (sorry if you are vegetarian and reading this) which is why most people who do not have access to live crustaceans tend to buy the frozen kind – these have been cooked to the Scandinavian recipe already and all you need to do is remove from freezer and wait a while.

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So, how do you go about celebrating the humble crayfish, Scandinavian style? A traditional Kräftskiva, or Rapujuhlat as it is called in Finland, typically starts late afternoon or early evening. A long table, which is usually outside in the garden or park, is decorated with colourful tablecloths; there are silly special crayfish party hats and bibs available for all guests to wear (surprisingly, with pictures of crayfish on them), lanterns depicting the Man in the Moon as well as festive crayfish cut-out garlands.

The crayfish is served cold in a big bowl on the table, lovingly decorated with some more dill. Eating crayfish is a long process: a crayfish party can last well into the night, so mountains of toasted, white bread is also served to ensure the aquavit is soaked up along the way. It’s always preferable that the guests don’t end up too wobbly too quick and get ideas about skinny dipping and sing-songs before time.

Blocks of the infamous Västerbotten cheese (a 12 months aged Swedish cheese from the Västerbotten area, not unlike parmesan in consistency but without the smell of feet) is also served. Along with this is an abundance of cold beers and, of course, no Scandinavian party is complete without the presence of the old Aquavit – a grain based, flavoured strong liquor that is served ice cold.  Some people practice “one shot for every claw” but as you’ll eat your way through a good dozen crayfish during the course of an evening, pacing yourself below this is recommended – at least until someone starts singing.  Singing is a good sign that you may as well just give in and join the fun – and there’s no drinking without any singing, according to Swedish law (nor is there any singing without drinking, or any time for silence, according to most local Crayfishionados).  A few of those aquavit and you’ll automatically be able to sing all the songs in fluent Swedish.

Crayfish is eaten with the hands and it is a lovely, messy affair.  If you are invited to one of these special parties during the season, do remember that it is absolutely a requirement to slurp noisily as you suck up the dill juices from the claws and belly of the “kräft” as well – a sign that you are truly initiated into this wonderful tradition.  Before you know it, all the people around the table will be your best friends, you’ll be planning next year’s holidays with Björn and Agneta in Uppsala and maybe even having a cheeky footsie session with Lars under the table.  Suddenly, after you’ve thrown in a swarm of evil mosquitoes, that little red house by the lake doesn’t feel that far away after all.

    Hedlund Kraftgirland – Crayfish Garland 4m
    £3.49
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    Hedlund Kräftservietter – Crayfish Party Napkins (20 pack)
    £2.99
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Happy Birthday to us: We’re 11 years old

July 8, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

Happy Birthday to us: We’re 11 years old

Back in July 2007 when we were busy painting the walls of what was to become our little ScandiKitchen café, we didn’t realise just what a journey we were about to go on. London didn’t have a Scandinavian food scene, there was no Nordic food buzz. We’d never run a café before.  We were about to step into a lot of unknowns.

Firstly, we didn’t quite expect to become parents for the first time in the same 24 hours we opened our ScandiKitchen cafe & deli. Of course, it wasn’t a complete surprise, but still, who has a baby on the actual due date, that is also their own birthday AND the opening of their first café? We do, apparently (Astrid will also be 11 this week, the same time as the café – and her mother will age another year, too). Since 2007, we get to celebrate three birthdays the same day every year.

Let’s step back a little bit. We, Bronte and Jonas, decided to set up ScandiKitchen because we missed food from home. Being Danish and Swedish, we decided to make it Scandinavian and include Norway too – and eventually Finland as well. We poured in every penny we had (not a lot, actually) – and borrowed a bit too (thanks, Mamma) – and managed to open up on an absolutely shoe string. It took us a good year to make it happen – and a lot of good will from people around us, amazing friends and a Russian builder who called himself George.

Did you know that 2/3 of all new food businesses close inside the first two years? Of those that stay open, 2/3 of these die inside another year. The stats were not in our favour. We were terrified. We had no safety net. After we’d been open for 1 ½ months, the 2007 recession hit us with such devastating force we thought we’d surely had it. We’re not going to lie: It was a pretty tough few years. There were tears and a lot of sleepless nights, and that was not just because of the baby!

Still, here we are, 11 years old, and we’re still full of energy. Still 100% independently owned and still trying to get to our big vision of making sure Scandinavian food finds a permanent place on the British dinner table. Through sheer determination and stubbornness, we’re alive and still doing it. And just look how far we’ve come in our quest: The Scandi food wave happened, people opened their minds to pickled herring and salty liquorice – and now, well, we’re under way to complete our quest. Throughout it all, the idea really was about bringing Scandinavian food to the UK – and making sure we had a nice time in the process.

Jonas with 16-hour old Astrid on 11th July 2007. We still managed to open on day 2! (don’t try this at home, kids!).

This is what we look like in 2018:

Café & Deli in Central London – our deli serves open sandwiches and lunches 7 days a week and we stock 600 food products in our shop area
Online web-shop with 1200 Scandinavian food products, shipping to all of the UK and also most parts of the rest of the EU
Own label products – from beetroot salads and sauces, with more set to come in 2018
Specialist Importers of Nordic foods and suppliers to shops, restaurants and companies across the UK
– Supplier to UK supermarket chain from our certified huge 120+ pallet warehouse in Park Royal, West London.
Agents for many Scandinavian brands wishing to launch in the UK with a specialist dedicated sales force
– Authors of six books about Scandinavia

– Proud to have 25 amazing people on our team

And some other stuff, too… Phew. We have been quite busy, but we have loved it all – mostly because we have been so very fortunate to work with THE most amazing bunch of people over the years. People from all over: from Scandinavia, the UK, Poland, Hungary and further afield. Without our people, none of this would be possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll say it again because we can’t quite believe it ourselves: This week, we’re 11 years old. Thank you everyone who has supported us over time – and thank you to our wonderful, amazing team at the café, office and warehouse.

We will be doing lots of give-aways this week to celebrate – follow us on Instagram to be in with a chance to get 11 x of your favourite products!

Bye for now

Bronte & Jonas x

Cafe in 2007 and Cafe in 2018:

 

Meet up: London Pride 2018

July 6, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

Meet up: London Pride 2018

The first official Gay Pride rally in London was held on 1st July 1972, almost exactly three years after the revolutionary Stonewall riots in New York. Over the course of the following 46 years (and many highs and lows), Pride as we know it now is a celebration of LGBTQI+ lives, while still a vital demonstration of the need for inclusion, acceptance and equality. This weekend, we’ll come together once again for Pride in London on Saturday 7th, and UK Black Pride in Vauxhall on Sunday 8th. We’ll also be joining people around the world celebrating and demonstrating this summer – including this year’s EuroPride in Stockholm and Gothenburg, starting later this month.

ScandiKitchen, our little café, is located quite close to the start of the Pride in London parade on Saturday. Whether you’re in full rainbow gear, something more minimal (ahem), or wearing your Sweden football top (or, for that matter, England!), our doors are always open to everyone. We can also guarantee that we’ll be playing ABBA, schlager and Eurovision. So no different from usual, then.

Over the past few years, we’ve become an little unofficial meeting place and pit stop for folk to get together in a calm space before the parade gets underway, and we also have two bathrooms for getting changed if needed (they’re small, but handy) – and we have a small downstairs table area for getting ready that you can use, too. So if you fancy a coffee and bun to fuel up, feel free to drop by – we’re on Great Titchfield Street just five minutes away from both Oxford Circus and Great Portland Street station.

From Oxford Circus, simply head North on Gt Portland Street – Great Titchfield Street is the street parallel to that.

Have a fantastic march.

Love to all, The Kitchen People x

How to hotdog the Scandi way

July 1, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

How to hotdog the Scandinavian way

Look, we have told the world that we’re all about nature. That we forage for weird plants, eat sour milk and lead wholesome, healthy lagom lives. This is, of course, sort of true.

There is another little thing that we Scandinavians ‘do’, though. A lot. We hotdog. Okay, it’s not a verb, but it should be – and we want to hotdog with you, too.

What’s so good about a Scandi Hotdog?

The Sausage

Obviously, the most important part. There are many varieties, but the best ones are rather high meat content (go figure) – brands such as small food producer Per I Viken do the best ones on the market. The style of sausage in Scandinavian is always a wiener type sausage.

In Denmark, they like RED coloured sausages. Why? It started as a bit of a ploy. In the olden days, the hotdog vendors were allowed to sell yesterday’s sausages for pittance to the kids – BUT they had to add red colouring to the water so people know they were getting day-old sausages. Nowadays, this type is the most famous of them all – and no, they are no longer old, but are just made like this for nostalgia reasons.

These are most popular with the Danes… The red thing, it’s a Danish thing.

The Bread

It’s a funny one, but we don’t like long buns. Our buns are short and way too small for the sausage. Yeah, we know – but that’s how we like them. We don’t do long buns. We do good, shorter buns – less bread.

Toppings

We take our topping serious. Go to the bottom of this post for the country specific ‘ways’ – but here is a low-down:

Ketchup

It’s never Heinz. It’s usually a more spiced variety that is made for our hotdogs. Try Idun for a Norway style – or Bähncke for a superb Danish ketchup.

Mustard

Again, Bähncke is a good one – or Idun from Norway, especially for hotdogs. We also have Swedish Slotts mustard, but it is quite strong, so only for the initiated.

Remoulade

Absolutely essential, if you are a Dane. It’s very nice, too. (also goes with chips, fish, beef and anything else, really)

Crispy onions

Delicious on burgers, hotdogs, sandwiches.

Raw onions

The Danes favour this: We like raw.

Pickles

Several options here. Boston Pickles is chopped pickles from Sweden, with a bit of seasoning. Or go for the ever popular Smörgåsgurka from Sweden – a crunchy pickle, quite sweet. Lastly, the Danish Agurkesalat – thinly sliced pickles – perfect on top of those red sausages.

Gurkmajonäs

Chopped pickles (usually smörgåsgurka) mixed with mayonnaise – favoured by Swedes.

The HotDogs

Denmark

A bun, a red sausage, ketchup, mustard, remoulade, raw OR crispy onions. Or both. Pickled Agurkesalat.

Norway

A potato pancake called a lompe, brown pølse sausage, ketchup, mustard.

Sweden

A bun, a brown wienerkorv, ketchup, mustard, Bostongurka or Gurkmajonäs.

Sweden 2: The above, but with a dollop of mashed potato on top. Known as Halv Special (A Half Special). Add another Sausage as it is Hel Special (Full Special)

Sweden 3: Bun, sausage, prawn mayonnaise. Well, yes, it’s a thing. Some add ketchup, too. And yes, some add mash as well. It’s a Swedish thing, we’ve given up questioning this.

How to make a Swedish Sandwich Cake (Smörgåstårta)

June 28, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

How to make a Swedish Sandwich Cake (Smörgåstårta)

It’s often described as Sweden’s guilty secret: in all the Nordic Diet, healthy eating and green good-for-you flurry, we also have The Sandwich Cake.

We’re unsure of the exact origins, but suspect it may have come over from the States in the early sixties when housewives made similar ‘cakes’ for their cocktail parties. Someone must have brought it back to Scandinavia, and voila, it took hold and never went away. In all our obsession with rye bread and crisp bread, using soft white sandwich bread was – and is – seen as a huge treat. So, the Smörgåstårta became synonymous with birthdays and big celebrations and times to indulge.

If you google Smörgåstårta, you will see a variation of monstrosities – 80’s creations that would make any Sundsval housewife from 1984 weep with pride. Still today, this is what they look like – some with seafood, some with ham, cheese, pate, tuna and anything else you can think of. Smothered in mayonnaise and then decorated with twirly bits of cucumber and the odd radish rose.

Our Roxanne, who looks after our Logistics, used to make these for a living when she was a student back in Sweden. She tells us tales of a particular kind from her home town of Trelleborg – that has egg mayo, prawns, ham – covered in mayo and topped with roast beef. In one cake.

See, we told you: It’s quite something.

Here’s a selection of creations we found on the internet of different kinds….

 

Ica

Pinterest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In recent years, many have tried to make the Sandwich Cake look a bit more current – including yours truly – but it is hard: You don’t want to play too much with tradition, but also, you don’t want to start bringing back hair scrunchies, Miami Vice and Melanie Griffith. It’s a fine balance.

Since I showed off one of our sandwich Cakes on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch the other day, we have had a lost of request for the recipe. So, here goes: There is no recipe. You make it up as you go along. But, to please you all, here is the recipe for the one we showed on the TV show. Just remember: You can make it any way you like – any shape, any size – just adapt the recipe to fit your party.

A few things to note and adhere to:

– White bread works well. You can also use wholemeal, but hey, why go wholemeal with a mayo cake? Rye bread does not work well.
– Butter the bread still, it will create a barrier and avoid it all going too soggy
– make the base the day before, then decorate on the day.
– Keep the layers tasty – although some people put both ham and prawns in one, it doesn’t taste nice. Keep it classic – I love seafood salad with salmon, for example, and egg.
– Make it on the tray you plan to serve it on – don’t try to move it once done.
– Plan to serve other things along side it – or else it gets too heavy. It’s a nice addition to a buffet with some salads and other bits.

This Smörgåstårta serves approx. 12 people with one nice bite per person.

Ingredients

12 slices of thick sliced white bread, buttered and crust cut off.

Egg mayo made from mixing:
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
½ tsp Dijon mustard
salt, pepper
Chopped chives OR cress (as you prefer)
Mayonnaise – to taste. I like it not too gloopy as I feel there is enough mayo in this as it is.

Skagenröra basic mixture
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh dill, chopped
1 small bunch of chives, chopped
A bit of grated lemon zest
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
50g Mayonnaise
50g Crème fraiche
A bit of freshly grated horseradish or a small bit (1/4 tsp) horseradish sauce
Salt, pepper

A mixture of prawns and crayfish tails OR just prawns – to taste (approx. 200g-250g in total). Again, you want to have a good amount in there, but ensure the mixture is not too gloopy. If you feel you need to bulk it out, you can add a few finely chopped seafood sticks in the mixture, too.

Mix and its ready to use.

Topping:
1-2 cucumbers
Smoked Salmon approx. 150-200g
Pea shoots, micro herbs, radish thinly sliced, prawns in shell or whichever toppings you feel will work well with your cake. On the one in the photo, I used pea shoots, baby watercress, radish, asparagus, dill, prawns and candy beet.

Plus, a lot of good, thick mayonnaise.

How to

On your serving tray, place 3 slices of bread in one length. Top with egg mixture (1/2 of it), then add another layer of bread. Now add your prawn mixture (you may have some left over). Add more bread, then the rest of the egg and the top with the last 3 slices of bread.

This stage can be prepared the day before – keep in fridge to set.

Using a serrated knife, trim the edges so it is a uniform sized cake. Using a spatula, smear Mayonnaise all over the sides and top – as thick as you prefer it to be.

Measure the height of the ‘cake’, then using a mandolin slicer or very sharp knife (or even a cheese planer), slice pieces of cucumber to fit all the way around. The mayonnaise will act as a sort of glue.

Once all sides are decorated with cucumber, add the salmon on top evenly, then add your other toppings. You can choose to do it in best 80’s food fashion – or try to be a bit more contemporary (although, as I did, you will likely fail, but it will taste nice!).

Only your imagination sets the limits for a good old Smörgåstårta

By Bronte Aurell, author of about 6 books on Scandinavian food.

Buy one Hotdog, get one FREE this week

June 26, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

Buy One Hotdog Get One Hotdog Free this week

Scandinavians do really nice hotdogs. Like, really nice. With lots of amazing toppings.

This week, to celebrate summer, sunshine and football, we’re doing 2-for-1 on our hotdogs – all day long, so pop by and stuff your face (or share) before and after the games. Hotdog price is £3 for one – and this week, it is £3 for 2… We also serve cold beer and we have air con.

Offer valid until and including Sunday 1st July 2018.

Cafe offer only – pop by our cafe in London (61 Great Titchfield St, London W1W 7PP – 6 min walk from either Oxford Circus or Gt Portland St stations).

Things Scandinavians obsess about

June 20, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

Things Scandinavians obsess about

We have our little ways and our ways are not to be changed. Sometimes, we may even get a bit obsessive.

Having set days for things
– Taco Friday – it’s a thing
– Cosy Crisp Friday evening – it’s a thing
– Saturday sweets – it’s a thing.

If it can be assigned a day, it can work in Scandinavia. You are no longer allowed to do that thing on other days, because, well, rules.

Obsession rating: 7/10

Coffee

It keeps us awake for six months of the year – and it makes us happy the other six. We drink more of it than anyone else in the whole world. We’re wired at all times.

In recent years, we’ve started to drink fancy coffee too – and not just at home. A latte in Denmark is pronounced ‘Laddie’ and costs the same as a small boat. In Sweden, it’s known as a Latt-tè and always said with a grimace, caffeinated smile.

Obsession rating 10/10

How the cheese is sliced

Use a slicer like a proper Scandinavian. Steel planer for hard cheese, plastic for softer cheese – and a string slicer for softer, Danish style cheeses. Under no circumstances may you 1) cut the nose off the cheese 2) make a hill or ski slope 3) Grate from an odd angle.

Obsession rating: 8/10

Getting fresh air

“No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” – for this reason, you must be one with nature at least once a day. Frisk Luft means fresh air. Rain, shine, snow, hurricane…

If you are Norwegian, you add a ‘tur’ – a long walk – usually on Sundays. With no destination or purpose other than the walk itself (bring a thermo flask of strong coffee and wear an all-weather coat).

Obsession rating: 7/10 (Norway 10/10)

Shoes

Do not wear shoes indoors. No. Do not.

Obsession rating 8/10

Butter knives

Thou shalt never use your own knife in the butter. Thou shalt use the butter knife, usually carved out of wood.

Obsession rating 9/10 (you’ll get the disapproval eye if you don’t)

“Tak for sidst”

We may not have an actual word for please, but being polite is essential. Seeing someone after you went for dinner at their house last week? You say ‘Tak for sidst/senast’ (Thanks for last time). Bumping into Kalle and Frida 3 months after spending New Years with them? Tak for sidst. There is no expiration date of saying ‘thanks for last time’, except you only say it once (best keep scores).

Obsession rating 8/10 (for the older generation).

Flags

If you can add a flag, add a flag. Have a flag pole in your garden. Put cocktail flags on your food. Flags are essential.

Obsession rating: 5/10 (rising to 10/10 on any national days or event)

Never being cold

Even if it is -20c outside, thou shalt never be cold. So, keep the indoor temperature at a steady 24c at all times and walk around in your long johns. See also: Under floor heating obsessions and winter clothes that is essentially like covering your body in 15 tog duvets.

Obsession rating: 8/10

Time keeping

Why agree a time if you’re not going to stick to it? Scandinavians are always on time.

Dinner at 7 pm means turn up at 7 pm, be seated by 7:05pm. Turn up late, you miss out on the starter.

Obsession rating: 9/10

Thou shalt eat meatballs once a week.

Obsession rating 2/10 (when in Scandinavia)
Obsession rating 8/10 (When living outside Scandinavia – on Saturdays, stray Swedes can be found in ikea’s the world over, crying with joy)

Queues

If one person must suffer, we will all suffer. Therefore, queues must be ordered. Grab a ticket on your way in to the bakery/car hire place/pharmacy/hardware store and eventually, your number will be called. Fair is fair. No ticket, no service.

This is especially applicable in Sweden, where fairness and lagom rules all.

(Also, never talk to anyone in a queue, ever).

Obsession rating: 6/10

Crisp-dipping

Take some magic powder (made by elves; it’s called dip-mix). Mix with sour cream or similar. Leave it to develop the flavours for 20 minutes in the fridge. Empty your massive 200g crisp bag into a bowl on the table and proceed to dip each individual crisp in the dip before eating it.

Best flavours: Anything that adds extra dill flavour or has exotic sounding names such as ‘holiday flavour’ (no, it does not taste like your holiday to Malaga)

Obsession rating 7/10

Salty liquorice

The salty black stuff. You might not like it, but it’s elixir of life to us. Once we realise we can’t get it (i.e. when we are outside Scandinavia), it becomes a food group all on its own and we must have some on our person at all times.

Obsession rating: 7/10

Hygge

At any given opportunity, Scandinavians will mention the hygge/koseligt/mysigt. Because when you mention that we’re going to have a hyggelig time, you increase the chances of it happening.

Pick up your ipad/phone during the event and you’re out.

Obsession rating 9/10

Candles

Think about it: Ikea has an entire hall dedicated to candles and candle paraphernalia.

It’s dark for six months, we need to try and increase the hygge feelings while we hibernate in our wooden huts. A space is not a hyggeligt home unless it is lit by a million candles. Real candles only: they are not scented (and only buy candles that contain stearin or you can’t be a real Scandi)

Obsession rating: 10/10

Singing little songs

Every time we drink aquavit, songs must be sung. And in Denmark, every time someone has a big birthday or wedding or anniversary (aquavit or not), random Danish home penned lyrics will be put over the tunes of ‘My Bonnie is over the ocean’ and sung by all people present in the room.

Obsession rating: 5/10

The weather

Think the British are obsessed about the weather? Most Scandinavians have a thermometer in each room – measuring both inside and out. Also, most Scandi people know the only weather app that matters is YR.NO.

Obsession rating: 6/10

Fairness

Everyone is equal. We pay into the system so we can all aim to get the same out of the system. You have more, you pay more. You have less, you get more. Men and women getting shared parental leave. Everyone driving the same cars. Fair is fair and equal is equal. For the greater good of the whole group. Lagom and amen.

Obsession rating: 8/10

Midsummer in Scandinavia

June 19, 2018 | Leave a comment

 

Midsummer in Scandinavia

Midsummer, to Swedes especially, is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. In Sweden, the date moves each year, as it is an official holiday – and it is always celebrated on a Friday. With the official midsummer day of the year being 23 June, it is always moved to the closest Friday (for 2018, this is 22 June and 21 June for 2019). In Denmark and Norway, the date doesn’t move – it is always celebrated on the evening of 23 June.

In Sweden, Midsommar is simply known as that, whereas in Denmark and Norway
the name has changed to St Hans Aften (‘St John’s Eve’). That’s the official name, although it’s also known as Midsommer.

As the longest day of the year, midsummer was a very important day in the pagan
calendar. The Vikings used this night to visit healing water wells and had huge bonfires to ward off evil spirits. These celebrations go back to Freyia and Freyr, the Norse gods of fertility. The Vikings worshipped fertility on this day – and hoped for a rich harvest.

Today, you see the remains of these old traditions both in Sweden and Denmark.
Sweden’s midsummer symbol is now a midsummer pole, Midsommarstång, decorated with flowers. (It was originally a Maypole, likely brought over from Germany, but there weren’t enough flowers to decorate it in May so it is now used in June instead.) In Denmark and Norway (and parts of Finland), the bonfires won out and are still the main symbol of midsummer.

In Sweden, schools and offices close and it is the time for friends and families to get together. People wear flower garlands in their hair; some wear traditional dresses or just long, light-coloured dresses. Younger men wear traditional accepted Stockholm clothing for Swedish dudes: light-coloured, tight trousers, pointy shoes, fashionable sunglasses and slicked-back hair. Maybe a crown of flowers.

The flower garlands are a major part of the outfit. Most people make their own while
sitting in a field, waiting to celebrate and for someone to crack open the aquavit. People gather wild flowers and the garlands are made for grown-ups as well as children. This adds to the picture-perfect setting – everything becomes wonderfully colourful and happy, as people sit in nature and enjoy the lightest day of the year.

Thus properly attired, they gather to raise the midsummer pole, which is decorated with more flowers and leaves and can be anything from small poles in private
gardens to massive poles in the town centers.

Where food is concerned, everybody brings a picnic or has a midsummer lunch together. Lunch always consists of pickled herring, new potatoes with dill, meatballs, cheese… Not dissimilar to food at other Swedish celebrations, but with a lot more strawberries, as these are usually just in season when midsummer comes around. This is also a big day for smörgåstårta – a popular dish for high seasons. Essentially, this is a massive sandwich made with white bread, covered in a litre of mayonnaise and decorated in the best 1980’s style. Then eaten like a cake, by the slice. With this, people enjoy aquavit, in shots (nubbe). Roughly one shot to every two beers and Bjørn will be playing footsie with Gunhilde before you know it.

Drinking songs, such as ‘Helan går’, are sung, shots are enjoyed and after a few of those, almost everybody will feel ready to dance. Don’t worry if you can’t sing songs in Swedish, after two or three nubbar, people automatically develop a peculiar singsong fluency in Swedish. The party then gathers around the midsummer pole to hold hands and starts to run around in circles, pretending to be little frogs with no ears and tail. This is the traditional Swedish song – sung at every party – called ‘Små grodarna’ (the ‘Little Frogs’). If you are ever invited to join in, you must oblige. It would be rude not to and nobody feels embarrassed about this dance. Once it’s over, you’ll be allowed to get back to more food and aquavit.

The afternoon is usually spent playing games, such as Kubb (Viking chess) and an odd version of rounders called Bränball. When people have finished eating and playing, the dancing continues – as does the drinking. The party will go on until last man standing, with darkness never setting on this lightest day of the year.

On this night, it is also tradition to pick seven different kinds of wild flowers. Put them under your pillow before going to bed and you will dream of the person you will marry. This makes Tinder-swiping a whole lot easier as you will now know what he or she looks like.

In Denmark and Norway, people are a little more controlled in their midsummer celebrations. It is not a public holiday and, while it is still a big celebration, it is by no means as big as in Sweden. The celebrations centre around big bonfires, usually by the shore or in town centres. Bonfires, originally intended to ward off evil spirits, have become slightly warped in Denmark over the years. Nowadays, they signify the burning of witches. Each bonfire has a witch made out of straw, dressed in old ladies’ clothing and stuffed with whistle crackers. The fire is lit and everybody waits for the witch to catch fire, the whistles signifying her screams. Legend has it that, by doing this, you send the witch off to the Brocken mountain in Germany to dance with the Devil.

As they watch the witch burn, people sing songs about how much they love Denmark. There is usually a guy with a guitar and no socks. He plays songs slowly, with his eyes closed. There may or may not be skinny dipping. At midsummer in Denmark, kids will usually be making snobrød (‘twist bread’) – its bread dough wrapped around .a twig and baked on the fire. Except it never bakes, so you everyone ends up with a stomach ache from eating raw dough covered in jam. The fire ends and people go home. Unlike Sweden, this isn’t a massive party, but a much calmer affair (save the burning of witches, of course; some may find this rather sinister).

From the dancing and the ancient traditions to the seasonal food and togetherness, Midsummer in Scandinavia is an enchanted time and writing about it doesn’t do it full justice. The light is entirely spellbinding – and it’s something to be experienced. The day after Midsummer in Sweden, in particular, is a whole different ball game – and it’s yours alone to deal with. The ‘where are my shoes?’ questions will inevitably start to be pondered on. Who are you? Who am I?

For anyone who has partaken of a traditional Swedish Midsummer, the day after is likely to be long – and very slow. But you’ll always have the memories.

Or not.

ScandiKitchen is celebrating Midsummer – we even have a Midsummer pole and every year, we have to stop drunken Swedes from trying to walk off with it. All part of the fun. Stock up on your Midsummer foods in our London grocery store open every week day until 19:00 and Saturday until 18:00. Online here www.scandikitchen.co.uk

Extract MIDSUMMER taken from our Bronte’s best selling book Nørth: how to live Scandinavian, published by Aurum, with stunning photography by Anna Jacobsen. Get your copy on Amazon – it has everything you need to know to live a Scandi life, from Hygge to Lagom to how to wear a Norwegian jumper.

Available in Italian here
Available in German here
Available in French here

In America? Get it here.

In Canada? Get it here?

Get it signed here (or pop by the cafe in London, Bronte will be super happy to sign it for you and have a chit chat if she is around. She is not at all scary)

Seven things about Nordic Midsummer

June 1, 2018 | 1 Comment

 

Seven things about Nordic Midsummer

The longest day of the year is very important to us Northern people. We have light! And not only that, we have so much of it we hardly see dark and we get to make up for all of those months of candle lit cosiness and snow.

We all celebrate the day slightly differently, so here are a few facts to get you started in the preparations.

Sweden treats Midsummer like it’s national day. Actually, Sweden’s national day is a few weeks earlier, but everybody celebrates Midsummer instead. It’s always celebrated on the closest Friday (this year, 22nd June) and it’s a public holiday.

In London, it’s celebrated on the Saturday because we need to not be at work when we do it – this year the 23rd of June.

In Denmark and Norway the evening is celebrated on the actual day (23rd June, no matter if it’s a Friday or not) and there, it’s called St John’s Eve as well as Midsommer Aften – Sankthans or Sankthansaften. In Finland it is commonly known as Juhannus or also Midsommar.

Sweden and Finland celebrate with Midsummer poles. These are a bit like May Poles, except it’s not May and ours have a lot of fertility symbols associated with them. The Midsummer poles are covered in flowers and greenery. Everybody wears flower garlands in their hair and very summery clothes. Some Swedish people try the yellow/blue flag combo for clothes, but it is rarely a good look. You’ll also see little flags on the table – adding to the festive feeling.

Danes burn witches on Midsummer eve. Much like the British burn Guy Fawkes, the Danes like to burn witches on this evening and send them off to Blue Mountain in Germany to dance with the devil. All while the (usually stuffed hay effigy) witches are burning on the bonfire, Danes sing songs about how much they love Denmark (usually a lone guy on a guitar will lead the singing – he always sings with his eyes closed and is very serious).

It’s still all about food. For the Swedes, it is all about the day long picnic and being outside. Meatballs are featured and it is high season for Sandwich cakes, too. The Danes tend to celebrate in the evening with dinner at home, but spend the evening trying to bake stick bread on the embers of the bon fire (it never works), and in Norway people will either have a picnic on the fjord (in a boat or on the beach) or have hot dogs around the bonfire. (For a classic midsummer picnic, you can check out our midsummer selection here.) In Finland Midsummer often marks the beginning of the summer holidays – so many Finns celebrate in their summer house by a lake, perhaps sipping a few Lonkero whilst soaking up the midnight sun.. aaand relax.

What about the little frogs? The Swedes, at every given opportunity but none more so than Midsummer, will sing songs about little frogs with no ears and no tails, whilst jumping around the Midsummer pole. Old, young, everyone. It’s a thing and it looks odd – but it is super fun. Do join in.

Swedes and Norwegians pick seven wild flowers on Midsummer eve and put them under their pillow. They will dream of the person they will marry. Some don’t even wait that long, as the birth rate spikes in Sweden every year exactly nine months after Midsummer.

There are Midsummer events held all over the UK – both Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian. Local churches are a good place to start for information on where to go.

There is no big official London picnic (there never is – it’s all a bit spontaneous) but people tend to gather in patches in the different parks and just bring a picnic. Ask local Scandies for details or just wander around and look for the people with flowers in their hair. You’ll find them.

If you fancy a picnic in the park we offer a ready made midsummer picnic box here – and if you’re hosting at home you can find everything you need here.

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