Scandi tip #13: Iittala

Although I am true to my Swedish roots, when it comes to design and especially kitchen design, I look to Finland.

There is one company in particular – Iittala – that has so many pretty yet functional things for the kitchen, I don’t know where to start.

When I grew up, what constitutes Iittala now was three different companies; Arabia for china services, Iittala was glassware and Hackman pots, pans, knives etc. There are even more companies owned by the Iittala group but they have kept there own brandnames, where as Arabia, Iittala and Hackman all merged intoIittala.

The most famous design by Iittala are wavy bowls and vases designed by Alvar Aalto, one of the most famous Finnish (and Scandinavian) designers.

If you want to buy Iittala product there are a few good webistes, and also John Lewis and other department stores has some of the range.

Scandi tip #11: Marylebone

My friend Jenny, who has recently moved to West London, texted me a few days ago to ask if I knew there was a Nordic bakery near Marylebone. I must confess I haven’t been to the Nordic Bakery, I always tend to go to the Scandinavian Kitchen, but I can vouch for plenty of baked goods courtesy of the former, as my friend Anna shops there a lot.

Marylebone is the Swedish area in London, this is where you find the church and the pub. It is also home to the design shop Skandium, which I have mentioned before, and lots of other non-Scandinavian shops like the Conran shop and Divertimenti, as well as lots of nice restaurants, pubs and cafés.

Note: the picture is courtesy of this page.

Scandi tip #10: Semla

Picture from Wikipedia.

At this time of year, there is only one pastry on people’s minds in Sweden and Scandinavia, the semla.

It is a regular wheat bun (almost like a brioche), made from a similar recipe to cinnamon buns. You then cut off the lid and fill it with whipped cream and marzipan, put the lid back on and add copious amounts on icing sugar to the buns.

When I was a child I only made homemade ones, as the bought ones, even from a nice bakery, tend to have a very gooey marzipan and I like the sweet almondy set one.

Some people but the semla in a bowl of hot milk called hetvägg (hot wall) and eat the soggy thing with a spoon, but I find that all wrong to be honest.

Anyway, the story behind these semlor has to do with Lent, and these used to eaten on only one day; Shrove Tuesday, before Lent started. Now they are available from bakeries from the beginning of January until a week or so after Shrove Tuesday, which this year is on the 21st February.

If you want to try this delicacy, you are bound to find them at Nordic Bakery, Scandinavian Kitchen and maybe also at Fika, in London. Or why not make your own?


Scandi tip #9: Borgen

Picture from

I find it fascinating that the Brits are so fascinated with Scandinavian fiction at the moment. First it was Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, then Jo Nesbø’s books about Harry Hole, then the Danish television series The Killing and now another Danish series on telly; Borgen.

The series have already started on BBC4 but you can always catch up on the iPlayer.

This series is about the female prime minister of Denmark Brigitte Nyborg and her rise to the post and how the power changes her. The series is from 2010 and has already won two European awards and is critically acclaimed, just like the Killing.

Scandi tip #8: More Lucia

Remember I told you about St Lucia celebrations at the Scandinavian Kitchen? Well, it is next week it is happening, on Tuesday the 13th to be precise, that is the Lucia day.

Even if you can’t see a live Lucia you can still celebrate the day in proper Scandi style with glögg (Swedish mulled wine), ginger bread and saffron buns.

The picture is from this website.

Homemade glögg, 70 cl

Translated and adapted from this recipe.

1 bottle red wine

1 whole cinnamon stock

20 cloves

1 tsp ground ginger

4 cardamom kernels, crushed

300 ml caster sugar (start with 200 ml if you don’t want it too sweet)

1 tsp vanilla

some grated lemon zest

Pour the wine into a large sauce pan. Add the spices and leave it for at least an hour and a half. Before serving, add the sugar and vanilla and heat it up without boiling. Pour through a sieve to remove the spices. Serve in a small cup (espresso size) with almonds and raisins.

The King’s ginger thins, about 300

675 g plain flour

1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

250 g softened butter

150 ml whipping cream

250 g caster sugar

1/6 l golden syrup

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp ground ginger

1/4 tbsp ground cloves

1/2 egg

Mix the flour with bicarb and add the butter. Pinch the flour and butter into crumbs with your fingertips. Beat the cream until stiff and add sugar, syrup, the spices and the beaten half egg. Incorporate the flour mixture into the cream mixture until you have a smooth dough. Leave it covered in the fridge over night.

Knead the dough until glossy on a work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out thinly. Use cookie cutters to form cookies and place them on parchment paper on a baking tray. Bake in 180C until golden (about 6-7 minutes). Let them cool on the tray or another flat surface to keep their shape. Let them cool fully before you put them in tins.

Saffron buns, about 30-40

50 g fresh yeast or the equivalent of dried yeast

150 g butter

500 ml milk

100 ml caster sugar

1 egg

850 g plain flour

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 g saffron

Melt the butter and mix with the milk, warm it up until finger warm. Crumble the yeast in a mixing bowl and add some of the milk mixture. Let the yeast dissolve and add the rest. Add the cardamom and saffron (use a pestle and mortar to break it down with a tablespoon of sugar), sugar and egg. Mix it and start adding the flour bit by bit. Mix with the dough hooks on an electric whisk and add flour until the dough lets go of the side of the bowl. Sprinkle some flour on top of the dough, cover it up and let it rise for 30 minutes. Knead the dough and cut into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a roll and cut it in four, then cut each piece in half so you have 8 pieces of the same size. Shape each piece into a Lucia-shape (see the photos) and put raisins in them. Leave to rise on a baking tray. Beat an egg and glaze them before baking. Bake in 225C, high up in the oven until they are golden brown (about 10 minutes). If your oven bakes unevenly like mine, just turn the tray around after 5 minutes.

Use one (or two) of the large pieces of dough to make the vanilla buns. Roll it out thin (2-3 mm thick) with a rolling pin. Spread on softened butter and sprinkle plenty of vanilla sugar on top. Roll it up from the longer side and pinch the edge together with the bun so it doesn’t open lengthwise. Cut into 3 cm wide strips and place these with the cut down in a cake case. Glaze with beaten egg and sprinkle some sugar pearls (Swedish sugar) or caster sugar on top. Bake as above.

Scandi tip #7: Saffron

For us Swedes saffron is synonym with Christmas and advent. Probably because we use it in the saffron buns that are compulsory on the 13th December when we celebrate S:t Lucia.

At this time of year we put saffron into anything we can think of to get into the Christmas spirit; like this cake I made last year. This is a perfect advent treat served with whipped cream and raspberries.

And here are a few more saffron related recipes:

Scallops in saffron sauce

Steamed mussels with saffron

Scandi tip #6: ginger thins with stilton

It might seem a little bizarre to team Scandinavian ginger thins (best brand is displayed below: Anna’s pepparkakor, sold at IKEA among others) with Brittish stilton, but it is a match made in heaven. The sweet with the salty always works and it gives these crunchy little biscuits a whole new dimension. Try to stop eating them, I challenge you!

If you would like to make your own ginger thins I have a great recipe here. That is the one my family use every year and the biscuits are delicious.

Scandi tip #5: St Lucia celebrations

Over at the Scandinavian Kitchen on Great Titchfield Street are they doing lots of Christmas specials. Among other things are they hosting St Lucia celebrations from the 10th-13th December.

A Swedish jazz singer (and also friends with my best friend) will sing together with her friends. The shop will close during the half hour performances and turn off the lights for extra ambiance.

Read more about the history of our Scandinavian St Lucia celebrations and to buy tickets here.

As you can see above, the picture is borrowed from

Scandi tip #4: Swedish Christmas Market

Every year before Christmas the Swedish Church arrange a Christmas Market in the church in London. This church is more like a regular (but large) house and houses the actual market, hot dog stand and café.

I try to go every year as it puts me in the Christmas spirit. At the market you can find anything from tree decorations, to Swedish candles, to groceries. And yes, it is of course the latter I am most interested in.

The market starts on Thursday next week (see above) and the entry fee is £1 for all three days. The address is:

The Swedish Church in London
6 Harcourt Street
United Kingdom

Maybe I’ll see you there?

The picture above is from the Swedish Church in London’s website.