Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Sugar & Spice - A Scandi Christmas Stall in Covent Garden 10.12.09

Traditional Christmas biscuits from Baker Brun - bakery in Bergen where Papa Scandilicious grew up

In recent years three of my flatmates have each declared Christmas to be their favourite season for food. And I can see why - all the roast meat, the sprouts (yes I love sprouts), the mince pies, the brandy butter, mulled wine - or in my case as I'm Germanic at heart - glühwein...

In Norway we always had smoked lamb ribs which were steamed over birchwood and water for a day, served with creamy and buttery mashed swede (not a pun I promise), steamed potatoes and carrots. It was simple country fare and utterly repellant to anyone who hadn't grown up in Norway. My English grandmother tried it once and came away convinved my Mother had married a barbarian. Well, the volume of aquavit consumed during a Norwegian Christmas meal certainly lends credence to her conviction but I love juleribbe and frankly think the simplicity of it is more in keeping with what Christmas is all about. Forget 14 types of vegetables to go with a roast bird, this meal is as low-maintenance as cooking gets. My Mother loved it as she didn't have to slave over a stove for an entire day and I like the fact that juleribbe harks back to Viking days when smoked meat was a vital foodstuff for survival

Anyway as a child my parents always dispatched me to Bergen for the requisite pre-Christmas family gathering before we'd escape the mad Johansen family to our house in Lanzarote. At the time I thought this was normal, and in fact it is normal for families to gather before Christmas and then to run away, no? My Norwegian family aren't entirely normal, they argue constantly and a lot of hysterical shouting goes on for no particular reason. It's hilarious for an outsider to witness but a little terrifying for a 6-year old and my Mother made a pact with my Father when we moved to Norway that we escape to the sun as we all needed the Vitamin D. Or so she says. At any rate, instead of listening to the aunts' madness I would hide away in the kitchen with my Norwegian grandmother and help her bake

I'd marvel at the huge quantities of biscuits, breads and cakes she baked at the start of advent. Much like here in the UK, the run-up to Christmas in Scandinavia is a sociable time, everyone gathers, eats and gets pickled from too much aquavit or mulled wine and that's really what the festive season is all about. My grandmother only stopped baking the "syv slag" or seven varieties of traditional Christmas biscuits you see above when she reached her 80's

So tomorrow I'll be down at Covent Garden piazza manning a stall that will feature some of the yuletide favourites I grew up with. A few recipes are from my grandmother, others are favourites I've discovered since moving to the UK and having an experimental streak I've baked a couple of new things like the chocolate cardamom cake because I love cardamom. If you're in the area feel free to come by and say hello between 12 and 7pm, and while you're at it you can try author Daniel Young's potato latkes and Niamh Shields aka Eat Like a Girl's roast pork sandwiches too!

Available tomorrow at the Scandi Christmas stall:

* Tropisk aroma or spiced chocolate marble cake replete with nutmeg, cinnamon and a hint of coffee

* Cinnamon buns which may or may not be glazed with marmite salted butter caramel (am looking at you @aforkful and @youngandfoodish )

* Peppernøtter or spice nuts (strictly speaking pepper but there's clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger aplenty in these biscuits)

* Serinakaker or butter biscuits with toasted almonds

* Kokosmakroner or coconut macaroons (gluten-free)

* Nigella's gingerbread - not Scandinavian but so good it merits inclusion

* Cardamom chocolate cake

* Almond Raisin cake with Sherry - recipe courtesy of A forkful of spaghetti :-)

* Whisky cake (gluten free)

* Marmite salted butter caramel - not Scandi but a personal favourite of mine

If you can't make it tomorrow but fancy trying something from this list drop me an email or tweet me @scandilicious and I'll see what I can do to help ;-)


Anonymous said...

I'm about to take a day off to come enjoy your delicious Christmas cookies and cake! Good luck for tomorrow and let me know if you manage to save some!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

What an amazing list of sweet temptations! I will be there WITHOUT FAIL! Good luck with it all, and remember the thermal catsuit... ;)

Jonny said...

I am intrigued by the Marmite salted butter caramel. On the one hand I can imagine it is fantastic....but then I think marmite, salt & caramel...hmmm!

Niamh said...

Lovely menu! Looking forward to seeing you at the market tomorrow and cheers for the link :)

Raluca said...

WOOOW this sounds sooo good. I'm gutted I can't be there..
Will send you an e-mail though :).

goodshoeday said...

where are the lamb ribs over birchwood -its those I really want to try none of this sugary stuff ;0
I might be tempted but the spiced nuts tho....

meemalee said...

I want the lamb ribs too!

Hate to break it to you, goodshoeday, but I think "spiced nuts" is the literal translation of pfeffernusse/

Save me some, will come down after work, Sig, hope you won't have turned into an icicle!

scandilicious said...

@mathildecuisine thanks for good luck wishes! hope to see you tomorrow :)

@aforkfulofspaghetti the thermal catsuit (ahem!) may have to stay home tomorrow, don't want to scare the punters coming down to Covent Garden for wholesome Christmas fare

@Jonny I completely understand - marmite isn't to everyone's taste, but it imparts this Dime caramel flavour - really unexpected and trust me only 1/2 a teaspoon goes into the caramel!

@eatlikeagirl likewise looking forward to being at the market tomorrow with you!

@Raluca received your email and have duly noted what you'd like :-)

@goodshoeday yes @meemalee is right, they are more like pfeffernusse! we should have a smoked lamb rib dinner sometime - it's delicious and I'm glad you two are open to the idea of enjoying Viking fare...

Many thanks for all your comments! Off to bake some more....

theundergroundrestaurant said...

yummy! Hope I can make it down but schedule a bit tight today

viking005 said...

I for one can certainly attest to your Norwegian grandmother's wonderful cooking and hospitality! I enjoyed Jule Aften(Christmas Eve) with the Johansen's in Bergen in 1966. What a wonderful family and yes, the smoked mutton ribs steamed over birch wood and served with potatoes and other vegetables which Oddny served is my favorite Christmas meal to remember. Larry Larsen (California, USA)