An Interview with Author of ‘The Scandi Kitchen’, Brontë Aurell

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In 2007, Danish born Brontë Aurell set up the acclaimed ScandiKitchen Café located in Central London’s area of Fitzrovia with her partner, Jonas. Missing her love of Danish and Nordic food, Aurell longed to create a place where her fellow Scandinavians, and fans of the cuisine, could come and enjoy the delicacy: be it in the café itself or in the comfort of their own home. With products like Per i Viken Farmors Köttbullar, Rödbetssallad and Oskars Surstromming available, ScandiKitchen is the place to be for all Nordic nutrition lovers.

Aurell has been featured on BBC Radio, Channel 4 and Danish TV and her recipes have been published in notable magazines and newspapers including The Guardian, The Times and Olive Magazine. And, as well as being a cook, entrepreneur and running her own café, Aurell is now the author of her own cookbook, The Scandi Kitchen – Simple, Delicious Dishes For Any Occasion. This brand new cookbook allows home cooks to explore Scandinavian cuisine in their own kitchen with classic and brand new Nordic recipes. With an array of stunning images, exclusive tips and methods to be studied, The Scandi Kitchen is a must-have for any food fan and is available to buy from Thursday 10th September 2015. 

We spoke with Aurell about her Danish pallet, Scandinavian must-haves and how to be the perfect Nordic home cook.

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What was your main motivation behind creating your cook book, The Scandi Kitchen?

We opened our café eight years ago and we were always about Good Food With Love From Scandinavia. During the years, we’ve been in the shop, helping out with recipes: scribbling down notes on pieces of napkins and emailing customers with tips. We realised that we get asked so often about recipes and real Scandianvian food that we decided it was time to write things down properly!

Was your main aim always for your recipes to be accessible to home cooks?

Absolutely. There are plenty of books with fancy recipes – and we are neither fancy, nor complicated – it is not what we do at all. At home, the books I go back to again and again are the ones that have the food I cook every day. My mum’s old cookbooks and the old school Scandi cookbooks I grew up with. There is some great new style Scandi cookbooks on the market in the UK, but we wanted to make something that had all the basics in there: the way we actually cook at home. For example, there is not a recipe in the book for pickling your own herring. Why? Because to be honest, how many times have you pickled herring from scratch if you just wanted to make a quick Smorgasbord? I think I did it twice! Most of the time, I use a great brand of ready pickled herring and then I spend the effort making a lovely dressing to go with it. I included recipes such as Beetroot Salad, Jansson’s Temptatin, simple but delicious open sandwiches and a bunch of lovely cakes that we make at the café, too.

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When did you first develop a love for food?

I’ve loved food for as long as I can remember. I grew up in the kitchen with my mum, my grandmother: my entire childhood is full of memories of warm kitchens, pots boiling and baking cakes.

Where are places that you like to eat in London?

For a weekend treat with a good friend, I’d eat in the Tapa Room at Providores W1. For a sneaky treat with my kids, we head to their favourite burger bar, Tommi’s Icelandic Burger Bar in Marylebone. But if I could choose anywhere to eat and money was no object, I’d always choose The Ledbury in Notting Hill – it’s my all time favourite restaurant.

Do you like to experiment with new flavours or are you a fan of classic recipes?

I think I’m probably a bit of a traditionalist, if I’m honest. At home, I experiment, but it’s never ‘out there’ or crazy. I’m happy to leave that to experts. I’m in the business of providing a remedy for homesickness, so I tend to always follow traditions somewhat.

Do you like to blend Scandinavian with British recipes?

All the time, yes. The other day at home I made a Victoria Sponge Cake, but I used lingonberry jam, too. I added some extra spices as well. It ended up being a bit more Prinsesse Victoria of Sweden Sponge – I love mixing British and Scandinavian recipes.

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Do you have a favourite recipe from the book?

I still bake cinnamon buns once a week at home, it’s the recipe from the book. I make one batch a week, usually on a Sunday. I freeze them and they are used as treats, packed lunch fillers or for Fika when friends come over.

What is your favourite Scandinavian meal to cook for your friends and family?

Easy: a full on Smörgåsbord. We make one every Friday at home. I know it is traditionally more of a weekend daytime thing, but my mum started this tradition decades ago about Friday nights fridge-clearing Smorgasbord – and we carried the tradition to our house, too. Lots of small dishes of whatever we have in the fridge, coupled with the essentials (a bit of herring, rye bread, pate, some fish) – and we get the whole family together.  We sit and enjoy the food, chat about the week that went and the week that is coming. We enjoy each other’s company: we always end up sitting there for hours; it’s my perfect family time. Sometimes, friends join us, sometimes; it’s just the four of us at home.

What are your favourite memories of food growing up in Denmark?

I have so many, it is hard to pick just a few. One of my favourite memories is making cheese with my grandfather. He was a famous cheese maker. I loved being in the diary farm with him; helping him smoked the young ‘rygeost’ cheese over nettle and hay. Another memory is cycling to the harbour with my grandmother to buy freshly smoked mackerel from Reersø harbour, a teeny place near our house. I still do this every time I’m home and I always think of her and the lovely times we had going there. 

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What are some ‘must-have’ ingredients/equipment for aspiring Scandi home cooks?

Most Scandinavian food is very simple and doesn’t require anything fancy. However, we do use some different spices in our every day food. So, I’d definitely get hold of a large pack of good cinnamon, some cardamom seeds, vanilla sugar: all of those for basic Scandi cakes.  For savoury dishes, add some ground All Spice to your spice rack as well – essential when making real Swedish meatballs. 

Have you included some recipes from your café Scandinavian Kitchen into the book?

Most of the recipes in the book are from the café, actually.

Can you tell us a bit about ‘husmanskost’?

Husmanskost means the food of the workingman. It’s simple, hearty and made with the produce from around where you live. We Scandinavians are hard working folk and our food culture reflects this. In real Scandinavian food, you will find a wealth of hearty recipes: we are simple people and our food culture reflects that.

What is the best advice to give to aspiring Scandi cooks?

I often get asked what the secret is to really good cinnamon buns. My answer is always the same: when you knead the dough, do so with lots of love. I’m convinced that you can feel the love put into a cinnamon bun. That is why the ones your mamma makes are always the very best ones.

 

The Scandi Kitchen – Simple, Delicious Dishes For Any Occasion is available to buy online and in bookstores nationwide from Thursday 10th September – buy your copy here. 

Scandinavian Kitchen is located in Central London’s area of Fitzrovia, located at 61 Great Titchfield Street near Oxford Circus Underground Station and is open Monday-Friday 8am-7pm, Saturday from 10am-6pm and Sunday 10am-4pm – Explore the menu at ScandiKitchen Café here.