Over the years I have noticed that the one thing that unites us Scandinavians abroad is our longing for the taste of home. A faint waft of cinnamon buns can turn the most gluten-averse Swede into a ravenous wheat freak. Or salivating upon seeing the perfect, powdery surface of a semla, the delicious cardamom bun we eat for lent, stuffed with whipped cream and marzipan, that in the olden days was served with the (odd) addition of warm milk.
Yes, I know, really. Sweet, calorific, gluten-filled and wrong on so many levels. Only we all have ONE per year as it is pre-programmed in our DNA to love it. End of story. Ask any Swede and they will tell you where to go for the best one. It is just so.
But apart from the odd nostalgic treat, there is really no reason not to indulge in the flavours of home, especially when it comes to the Nordic berries and my two favourite spices, cinnamon and cardamom, used prolifically in the Scandinavian kitchen. The benefits of cinnamon, according to my health bible Natural Wonderfoods, is plentiful. It is hailed as a digestive aid to remedy nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and to slow down cognitive decline in old age. Even 1/2 tsp per day can apparently benefit our health. It is also antifungal, anti-bacterial and has been found to inhibit organisms in our gut which can cause candida and thrush – even help with type 2 diabetes according to scientists.
Ground cardamom is an equal powerhouse when it comes to digestive benefits and can be used for gastrointestinal protection, to aid urinary tract infections and act as a libido enhancer. What’s not to love? Prolific in the Indian kitchen where they tend to use the actual pods, the Swedes instead use the ground variety.
And finally the berries, blueberries of course but in particular lingonberries – the nordic variety of the cranberry. Tart, anti-oxidant filled and a berry which tethers on the edge of being neither sweet nor savoury. As a child, no meatball dish was complete without the lingonberry sauce and for all of you who have eaten at IKEA around the world, you know what I’m talking about.
However, rather than using the lingonberry sauce which is laden with sugar, I would head straight to the source. A bag of frozen lingonberries (or blueberries for that matter) is a great way to always have anti-oxidant rich berries at your fingertips. Look online for organic varieties. And according to a recent study, when frozen, the berries actually increase in nutritional value. Grab a handful here and there in your porridge, granola or smoothie. Frozen lingonberries are not always easy to find in the UK but ScandiKitchen sells them online and in their shop in London. Very handy.
So – if you fancy giving your porridge a rest or simply to have some variety at breakfast time – here is a great and nutrient dense recipe that will disappear in days. It is nuts and seeds, fats and fruit – the beauty is you can use what you have at home and swap the nuts or seeds for varieties of your choice. Top with any fruit you have in your fruit bowl. Enjoy! x
Scandi Grain Free Granola
1/2 cup coconut flakes
2 cups almonds (best with the sliced variety unless you crush them yourself)
1 cup walnuts
1 cup pecan nuts
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp ground flax-seed
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
1/4 maple syrup (add more if you have a sweet tooth)
1/4 blueberries or lingonberries (or any other fruit of your choice)
1/4 cup sunflower seed
2 tbsp coconut sugar (or any sugar of your choice, muscovado or sucrin)
1 -2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
Pre-heat oven to about 165C and put your rack in the middle of the oven. Combine the coconut, nuts, chia seeds, ground flax-seed, spices, coconut sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. It will start to smell heavenly already courtesy of the cinnamon/cardamom combo.
Gently heat the coconut oil together with the maple syrup (very low heat, you don’t want any boiling, just enough for the coconut oil to melt). Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Get your lined baking pan and spread the mixture t0 an even layer and bake for about 20min. Take the tray out and add the dried lingonberries/blueberries and sunflower seeds – stir and mix it well. Turn up the heat to 170C and bake for another 10 min or until the mixture has got a lovely deep golden colour. Make sure you check as it can burn quite quickly if left too long.
When done, remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cooled you can store it in a pretty glass jar (very decorative is this granola) on your kitchen counter. Perfect for after school snacks or as breakfast staple with the milk of your choice.