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 ;-)

This entry was posted in biscuits, butter, cake, Chocolate, Christmas, coconut, Covent Garden, gingerbread, marmite, spices, whisky. Bookmark the permalink.

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