The world of Scandinavian food is on the rise. The delectable combination of fresh seafood, delicious berries and whole-grains is enough to tempt healthy foodies across the globe. Hip and Healthy talks to the woman making culinary waves in this area, Signe Johansen, and finds out just what it is that makes Scandinavian food so healthy as well as what goes on in the day of the life of the chef, expert blogger and author of Scandilicious (are there no ends to her talents!)
Why did you start your blog?
Fiona Beckett, a colleague and friend of mine, suggested I give it a go. She’s one of those rare food writers who has a successful career in print, publishing books and managing to write several blogs and websites. No one else seemed to be blogging about Scandinavian food so I started out with Scandi baking and then broadened the remit to baking and cooking.
What were you doing before you started blogging?
I did a diploma at Leiths School of Food & Wine, then I did various work placements at food businesses and restaurants, such as at the Fat Duck where I spent three months monkeying around in Heston’s experimental kitchen.
What motivated you to write your cook book?
A mixture of narcissism and frustration that there were only a handful of – admittedly excellent – cookbooks on Scandinavian cooking. If you browse the food and cookery section of your local Waterstone’s there are hundreds of books on French or Italian cooking but less than a dozen on Scandi food. That just seemed wrong. I wanted to share the food heritage I grew up with in Norway and show how delicious and straightforward good Scandi food really is.
What is it about Scandinavian food that makes it healthy?
The best of Scandinavian cookery offers a balanced diet of fresh and cured seafood, a variety of delicious dairy products, vegetables, pickles, berries in the summer and great game plus a fantastic array of fresh breads made with different flours such as wheat, oat, spelt, rye, whole-grains, seeds, nuts. We also love the outdoors and I think being active and doing lots of sport, be it skiing, cycling, hiking, kayaking, swimming or whatever outdoor activity you find Scandis doing on a regular basis, allows us to eat a little of what we fancy when we want it.
Do you have a favourite dish from your cook book and if so what is it?
Home-cured gravadlax (or gravlaks as we say in Norwegian) – it’s so simple to make and every time I feature it at a cookery demo, class or just as part of a smorgasbord for friends it never fails to wow those who try it. You can’t recreate that taste with supermarket gravadlax.
What do you eat for breakfast?
It varies with the seasons, in winter I eat porridge cooked with whole milk and topped with either fresh fruit such as blood oranges, or bananas, or if I’m feeling indulgent with sticky raspberry or black cherry jam. The American in me (my mother grew up in New England and is half-English, half- American) loves porridge with maple syrup and cinnamon but good maple syrup is hard to find in the UK unfortunately. In spring and summer I like bircher muesli with nuts and apple, and throughout the year I’ll dabble with fruit smoothies, soft-boiled eggs and home-baked spelt bread topped with butter and pink grapefruit marmalade. I wake up in the morning looking forward to breakfast, that’s how much I enjoy eating it.
Talk us through a day in your life?
Working on cookery books it’s often feast or famine – some months are frantic and others are quieter so a typical day doesn’t really exist when you’re freelance! At the moment I’m preparing a series of Scandi brunch and supper clubs which showcase the best of Scandinavian cooking. I also try and make time to do an hour’s yoga on a daily basis.
What’s your top tip for other bloggers?
Read other blogs and identify what you like about them, engage with them if you enjoy reading a particular blog post or find a topic of interest. There’s some brilliant blogs out there that can amuse, inspire and educate, depending on your taste.
Name three things you cannot live without?
Good sea salt, lemons and chocolate. Don’t ask me why but these are ingredients that just make me happy.
Who would be your ideal dinner date and why?
I like funny people who are not afraid of eating good food so if I had a choice I’d love to have dinner (not a date) with someone like comedian, Tina Fey. Hopefully she’s a woman who likes carbs.
What is your favourite food memory?
As a child I loved picking berries on my grandparents’ farm in the summer, and wild strawberries were always a favourite as they were hard to find and so delicate you had to eat them almost immediately.