With the Christmas countdown now well underway, and St Lucia being celebrated with songs and sweet treats across Scandinavia this weekend, I wanted to find out more about how I too could bring some much-needed Nordic flavours to our festivities this year. So, who better to chat with than Louise Hurst from Nordic Kitchen stories.
Having worked in the food industry as a caterer and private chef for many years, blogger, stylist and all-round Swedish food expert Louise, shares delicious Scandinavian inspired recipes from her family home in Buckinghamshire.
Here’s what she had to tell me:
Please can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your background? Has food always played a big part in your life?
Ever since I can remember food has given me great joy. From my Mother making a weekly visit to the local fish market, baking bread with my Swedish Grandmother, through to making jams with my three boys with fruit from our garden.
It was my Swedish Grandmother, or ‘Mormor’, who first taught me to bake, Swedes are big home bakers. She was amazing and I spent many an afternoon baking biscuits, cinnamon buns and bread with her.
Such was my love of cooking I then went on to study Hotel Management and Catering at college before going to Leiths School of Food and Wine. I worked in the industry for a few years before setting up my own catering company whilst bringing up my children.
How did the Nordic Kitchen Stories blog begin and what can readers expect?
With my children leaving home and wanting a new direction in food I came upon the idea of writing a blog. Nordic Kitchen stories is a collection of family recipes along with my own, made with a touch of love and a pinch of nostalgia.
I hope the blog inspires readers to try new flavour combinations and ingredients. I am happiest in my kitchen, baking, cooking and devising new recipes for my family, friends and followers to enjoy.
How do you bring a Nordic style Christmas to your own Buckinghamshire home?
I absolutely adore Christmas and the run up to it, from decorating my home to the aroma of Swedish patisserie baking in the oven.
Swedish saffron and almond buns are the taste of Christmas for me, but I also love making ‘Lussekatter’, a sweetened saffron bun shaped like a cat with 2 currants for eyes for Lucia, and ‘Pepparkakor’ or Ginger Snaps so moreish that you can never just stop at one!
What are your top tips for surviving Christmas in the kitchen?
Get organised. I always try to do as much preparation in the few days before Christmas as I can. This can be anything from par-boiling the potatoes and even blanching the vegetables the night before.
I usually write a detailed time plan for the big day itself, that way I can’t get distracted by all the excitement going on round me.
What’s your ultimate foodie Christmas gift?
Sharing my love of ‘Fika’ has become a bit of a tradition for me. Every year I bake seven different kinds of Swedish cookies and present them to close friends and family in recycled brown boxes decorated with fir cones and evergreens. They make the perfect gift.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most this festive season and what are your plans for the year ahead?
This year is like no other of course, and like everyone, I will be celebrating a pared down version of the big day. I’m just so grateful that I will now be able to have my immediate family with me, which is such a blessing.
For next year I’m currently putting together a collection of my favourite Nordic Kitchen stories recipes for either an e-book, or if I’m lucky, to publish. Which I am very excited about.
To help us all celebrate the festive season in Nordic style Louise has very kindly shared her ‘Pepparkakor’, or Swedish Gingersnap biscuit recipe with Nordic Notes readers:
Pepparkakor (Swedish Gingersnap Biscuits)
Rolling pin and cookie cutters
250g Butter, salted room temperature
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Ground Cloves
½ Tbsp Ground Ginger
½ Tbsp Freshly Ground Cardamom
180g Caster Sugar
40g Golden Syrup
500g Plain Flour
1 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda
- Blend the butter and all the spices in a large bowl.
- Heat the sugar, molasses, golden syrup and water until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes and pour over the butter mixture. Cool to room temperature.
- Blend the flour and bicarbonate and the stir into the butter and sugar mixture. The mixture is fairly loose but it’s now going to be refrigerated for roughly 8 hours, divide into 4 and wrap in clingfilm. This dough can be kept in the fridge for a week or frozen for up to 3 months.
- Oven 190°C fan. Take only a small amount of the dough from the fridge and lightly flour your surface and roll out the dough 2mm thick. Stamp out your shapes with your chosen cookie cutters. With the help of a thin bladed knife, transfer them carefully to lined baking trays. Bake once you’ve filled a tray. Bake the biscuits for 5-6 minutes. They should start to feel hard around the edges as they cool and eventually become really crisp – they need to have a nice ‘snap’. Store in an airtight container for several weeks.
If you would like to ice your biscuits, take 30g of royal icing and add a small water until you have smooth paste that you can pipe with.
Thank you so much to Louise for chatting with me, and for the fantastic recipe, I’m very much looking forward to baking Pepparkakor with my little boy this weekend.
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All photography courtesy of Louise Hurst.