I've long had a passion for everything Scandinavian: from Hans. J. Wegner's CH24 Wishbone Chair and double-bills of Borgen on a Saturday night to Bjorn Wiinblad ceramics and Scandinavian cooking.
When it comes to Scandinavian cooking, I have one well-thumbed recipe book that I turn to every time: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking ... Scandilicious by Signe Johansen. It is a fresh and inspiring introduction to Scandinavian cooking that has got me hooked. Signe Johansen is the perfect guide, sharing her passion for Scandinavian traditions along with a cornucopia of mouth-watering recipes for healthy breakfasts, lazy brunches, light lunches and delectable dinners - from the traditional (smoked trout salad and home-made gravlaks) to the unexpected (roasted all-spice chicken and macaroni cheese with a Scandilicious twist). And there are some serious treats in store for us baking enthusiasts ... cinnamon chestnut bread, Jarlsberg and fennel muffins, plus a whole chapter on the queen of comfort food - cake!
One of my most popular recipes to cook from the book is this Beetroot & Ginger Soup. It's manages to be virtuous and healthy, while tasting and looking fantastic. It's the perfect antidote for all the mince pie eating this month.
Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking ... Scandilicious by Signe Johansen is published by Saltyard Books.
Beetroot & Ginger Soup
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
2 tbsp oil
2 star anise
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground juniper berries
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ ground ginger
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
450g cooked beetroot (not pickled), roughly chopped
800ml hot vegetable stock
1 - 2 tbsp lemon, basil, bay and juniper vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1 - 2 tbsp aquavit (or gin or vodka)
pinch of A Vogel's Herbamare salt
pinch of pepper
4 tbsp sour cream (or creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt) (optional)
chives, chopped (optional)
Start by sweating the onion, carrot and celery in the oil in a large saucepan over a low heat until soft. Stir in the dried spices and half the fresh ginger and continue to stir while cooking for a minute or so. Add the beetroot, stock, vinegar, aquavit, salt and pepper, bring to a simmer and cook over a low-medium heat for 15 - 20 mins.
Blitz the soup with a handheld blender or in a heatproof glass blender until smooth. If you're using an upright liquidiser, do make sure the lid is securely on - keep a tea towel pressed firmly on top just to make sure that the soup doesn't erupt and force the lid off when you start blending. Return the soup to the pan and check the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and fresh ginger to taste.
Heat through and serve in bowls, either just as it is or topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped chives.
Photography: Buttercup Days