Saturday, 12 December 2009

Scandi Christmas stall at Covent Garden: Part II

Niamh aka Eat Like A Girl and I larking around at Covent Garden on Thursday - photo courtesy of Lucy Pope

Re-arranging cinnamon buns with Lucy Pope - photo courtesy of A Forkful of Spaghetti

The Scandi Christmas baking courtesy of A Forkful of Spaghetti

So market day at Covent Garden came and went, and what fun it was. The gods provided with sunshine and a balmy 10 degrees celsius throughout the afternoon, and I was lucky to share a stall with the lovely Niamh - also known affectionately as the "pork mistress" for her mighty pork sandwiches with lashings of the BEST crunchy crackling in all of WC1! Niamh's a dab hand at this market melarkee as she's been manning a stall twice a week since the summer and her pork sandwiches fast became a staple lunchtime treat for those who work nearby Covent Garden this autumn and I can see why - having sampled her fare I'm now a pork sandwich addict

We had lots of visitors throughout the day, both punters looking around the market on a Thursday afternoon and friends and food bloggers who came down to support us by saying hello, and of course to sample the food! Niamh very kindly proffered a glass of prosecco mid-afternoon and we chatted throughout the afternoon, marvelling at the friendly visitors and the occasional cheeky passesrby - you see the extremes of human nature at a market Niamh said and I completely agree, fascinating stuff to an anthropologist. Believe it or not, someone asked Niamh if she did 2 for 1 on her sandwiches, and when I put out samples of cakes mid-afternoon two modellesque girls came round not once or twice but five times to nibble on samples. The cheek! Having two crazy aunts in Norway who used to model let me repeat my maxim in life here:

"Never trust a model as beauty corrupts the brain"

Anyway, it was a brilliant day and I wish I could do it again next week as Niamh was such fun to pal around with. From Tuesday though I'm off to Lanzarote for yuletide holiday frolics with my Ma and Pa so any reprises down at Covent Garden will have to wait til 2010

Below are recipes from the most popular cakes and biscuits of the day, if you have any specific queries about them drop me an email or leave a comment

Happy holidays to you all :-)

Let's start with the three chocolatey cakes:

tropisk aroma or spiced chocolate marble cake with nutmeg and cinnamon. The nutmeg dominates and with a coffee-chocolate icing I this is a firm family favourite which keeps up to a week and can be frozen if need be for future cake scoffing



250g refined spelt flour
250g golden caster sugar
150g butter, softened
2 medium eggs
120 ml whole milk with 2 tbsp plain yoghurt
2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp strong coffee or espresso
pinch salt

Filling and icing:

200g icing sugar
200g butter, softened
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp coffee powder (depends how much coffee you like)
pinch salt


Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly oil 23cm round cake tin and fit the bottom with baking parchment

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar til pale and fluffy (circa 5-8 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time along with a spoonful of flour to stop the mixture splitting, whisking after each egg to incorporate it into the mixture. Add the spices, remainder of flour and alternate this with the milk and coffee to create a thick cake batter

Take 1/3 of the cake mixture and place in a smaller bowl, add the cocoa powder and stir through until the mixture looks even

Place half the plain mixture at the bottom of the cake tin, then layer the chocolate mixture on top. Cover with the remaining half of plain mixture and using a fork, swirl through the two mixtures to create a marbled effect. Bake on the middle shelf for 35-40 minutes. The cake is done when a skewer is inserted and no wet mixture remains on the skewer

While the cake cools on a wire rack, make the filling: cream the butter whilst adding the icing sugar, coffee and cocoa powders, and vanilla extract, taste as you go along as icing is subjective - some like it very buttery, others intensely sweet. I like a balance of butter, sugar and chocolate/coffee myself

When the cake is completely cool, spread the icing all over. Sprinkle extra cocoa powder on top if you like a cocoa hit or simply leave it plain. Savour with a cup of tea or coffee

Cardamom-Chocolate Cake

There was a run on this cake, definitely a hit with both punters on the day and food bloggers who came down to visit Niamh and I. Cardamom and chocolate is a match made in heaven - grind the cardamom pods yourself if you have the time and inclination, I like to coarsely grind them so you get a few small seeds of cardamom rather than fine powder. The occasional cardamom crunch when eating this cake is an unexpected treat I find. This recipe is an adaptation of Nigella's dense chocolate loaf in 'How to be a domestic goddess' but I've substituted plain flour for spelt and reduced the sugar and syrup quantities and upped the chocolate


250g softened butter
350g dark muscovado sugar (light will do fine)
250g refined spelt flour
150g dark chocolate, melted
2 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
2 medium eggs
200ml boiling water
1 shot espresso or strong coffee
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1-2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 190 C. Lightly oil a 23 x 13 x 7 cm loaf tin

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time along with a spoonful of flour to stop the mixture splitting. Add the melted chocolate and incorporate fully before adding coffee, cocoa powder, flour, the boiling water, cardamom, bicarb and salt. It should be a thick liquid batter

Pour this into the prepared loaf tin and bake on the middle oven shelf at 190 C for the first 1/2 hour, then reduce the oven temp to 170 C and bake the cake for a further 15 minutes. The cake will rise, but once you remove it from the oven it will shrink slightly and look like it collapses. This is normal.

Cool on a wire rack. Needless to say this is great on its own but also good with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side. As Nigella says, this is like gingerbread in that it improves as it ages so worth making up in double batches if you can

Gingerbread with lemon icing

another Nigella classic. What can I say, the woman can bake

It's worth making this in double batches, it's VERY popular!


300g spelt flour
150g butter
125g dark muscovado sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
1 tsp cinnamon (and I add 1/2 tsp clove, 1/2 nutmeg)
250ml milk
2 eggs
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda mixed with 2 tbsp warm water
1/2 tsp salt


200g icing sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2-3 tbsp lemon juice


Preheat oven to 170 C. Lightly oil a 30 x 20 x 5 cm rectangular cake tin

In a large saucepan melt the butter, sugar, syrup, treacle, spices, ginger. Add the milk, eggs, bicarb off the heat.

Add the liquid to the flour in a large bowl and beat well until the mixture looks even.

Pour into cake tin and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour

As the cake is cooling, make the icing:

sift icing sugar in a bowl, whisking in the lemon juice and zest. The icing should be thick not runny so don't add too much liquid...

spread over cooled gingerbread with a palette knife and leave to set before cutting slices. Keeps for a good couple of weeks if you can resist eating it in one go

Kokosmakroner or coconut macaroons

these mallowy macaroons are dead-easy to make and the coconut acts as a humectant so they stay soft for ages. Dip in melted dark chocolate for that 'bounty' effect or eat plain as they're moreish on their own


4 egg whites
180g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
250g shredded coconut


Meringue the egg whites and sugar til stiff peak, then fold in the coconut. Bake at 170 degrees celsius for 10-15 minutes and allow to dry on a wire rack before eating

Almond Raisin Cake with Manzanilla Sherry

Manzanilla may seem an odd choice for cake as it's bone dry, but I love that ozone savouryness to Manzanilla and had half a bottle languishing in the fridge so I thought I'd bake a sherry-fied cake with it. Thanks to A Forkful of Spaghetti for tweeting me a recipe! This is my version:


200g raisins
200g manzanilla sherry
150ml plain yoghurt
150ml melted butter
150g light muscovado sugar
3 medium eggs
150g spelt flour
100g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt


preheat oven to 180 C. Lightly oil a 20cm round cake tin. Whisk the eggs and sugar til pale and fluffy. Add the melted butter, the yoghurt, flour, almonds, salt and raising agents to the mixture and combine til evenly incorporated. Fold in the raisins, adding some of the sherry too if you fancy :-)

Spoon the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake on the middle oven shelf for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Drizzle with icing sugar, or skewer the cake a few times and use up the remaining sherry liquid to pickle the cake...

Needless to say, great with a glass of sherry

lefse or potato pancake - cheat's version available at Scandinavian Kitchen

This is usually served with a cup of coffee in Norway and a childhood favourite of mine. I love lefse, which is a soft potato-wheat pancake filled with cinnamon buttercream and folded like a book.

For 10 lefse you'll need 5 sheets of the pre-fab stuff you get at the Scandinavian Kitchen plus:

150g butter
100g creme fraiche
150g icing sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Cream the butter til pale then add the creme fraiche, whisking til its incorporated and add cinnamon, sugar, salt. Taste to see if it's right for you - remember the potato-wheat lefse is quite bland. Place a dollop of mixture on a sheet of lefse, spread evenly and then fold in the sides. Keep in an airtight container


aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Wowser, Sig - very kind of you to share all those fantastic recipes. I'll definitely be making the chocolate and cardamom cake, as well as the gingerbread - they were the real winners for me!

(quick question, though - how much do you call a 'shot' of espresso/v strong coffee? A couple of tablespoons?)

Kavey said...

Oooh wonderful! THANKS Sig!

goodshoeday said...

Next year I'm hoping for a Scandinavian savoury theme on the stall ;0

Food Urchin said...

Big thumbs up for your chocolate and caramon cake Sig! Oh and your gingercake, did I walk away with the Nigella one or your traditional one? Confused. Anyway you wasted your breath saying they would keep till the next day. Both were scoffed in an instant when I got back to the office.

Signe said...

@aforkfulofspaghetti thanks :) am happy to share the recipes, that's what the joy of cooking is all about! Let me know how you get on - oh, and coffeewise, I used cheat's coffee powder (classy I know) but for an extra hit of flavour use a small shot of espresso

@Kavey no problem - hope you use some of the recipes! sorry you couldn't make it down, we'll have to do a baking potlach in the new year ;-)

@goodshoeday learn to embrace the sweet things in life

(kidding - of course I'll do savoury stuff next time)

@Food Urchin so lovely to see you on Thursday, thanks for coming down - Niamh and I both appreciated all the visitors :)

Not sure but I seem to recall you took the gingerbread - could be wrong, the day was a bit of a blur...

H. Abrantes said...

Olá tudo bem? Eu tenho interesse em colocar um banner no seu blog.
Na verdade seria uma troca você colocaria um abnner no meu blog e vice versa entre em contato comigo:

theundergroundrestaurant said...

I'm glad it did well for you...congratulations..

LexEat! said...

All your baked creations looked gorgeous! And the stall so Christmasy!

Raluca said...

Looved all the goodies Sig! Thanks for saving me some. Can't wait to try the coconut macaroons on my own.

Unknown said...

My best friend kevin sat next to your "other food hero" Jason Alexander in Biz class from Sidney to HK last week... he said he was funny the whole time cracking jokes with the air hostesses etc. Kev asked him about several Seinfeld-isms. After ever decreasing enthused reactions, Kev asked him if that ever gets old... Jason said yeah a bit... haha... so that's only 2 degrees of separation for you. Knew you'd be thrilled. ;-)

Greedy Diva said...

Was just talking about making gingerbread yesterday (must be feeling festive) - will definitely try your recipe. Gorgeous photos of you and Niamh - looks like you had such a fun day!

S said...

i have visited your blog many times before and i do know your love for cardamom- love that you have posted a recipe for it.even though i grind my spices at home- i quite like the cardamom powder you find in pakistani stores in the UK- obviously it has to be used very soon. what a beautiful day you have described, when i am in london for a longer period (sadly, i was only there for 4 days this time round) i would love to visit the stall, and meet up with fellow foodies, wishing you the best for the new year, signe. i loved the photos of you and niamh. pretty girls :) best wishes, shayma

Unknown said...


So glad to have found you! I'm wondering if I send you my family's Tropisk Aroma recipe in Norwegian if you could help me with the proportions in American baking? Do you know how I could get my hands on Scandinavian measuring spoons? I'd love to share my finds with you as I delve into my Norwegian heritage through food...

-ex pastry chef in San Diego, CA, US

Signe said...

@theundergroundrestaurant thanks! was a fun day :)

@LexEat was a brilliant day Lex, can't wait to do it again. Thanks for your comment!

@Raluca gosh that seems like such a long time ago, handing over the cakes on a foggy December's morning, so pleased you liked everything :)

@GreedyDiva the day went so quickly, and we had loads of visitors - hope the gingerbread went well?

@Shayma my fellow cardamom aficionado! Yes, I do the same, haven't touched pre-ground cardamom in years as it tends to be quite weak and I like my cardamom to pack a punch. Next time you're in London we must meet up ;)

@Freyja absolutely! I'd be more than happy to help convert your Norwegian recipes to suit American measurements. Drop me an email: signejohansenATgmailDOTcom and we'll discuss it further, looking forward to hearing from you!