Signe Johansen’s blue eyes shone when she learned that Danish restaurant Noma had been crowned the world’s best place to eat – for the second year running.
Not only would the Copenhagen-based restaurant keep Scandinavian cooking in the spotlight, mused the food writer, but, more importantly, she’d just made a reservation.
‘I did it days before 100,000 people called and wanted a table. It was awesome. Chef Rene Redzepi is definitely an inspiration to me,’ she says.
Like the genius behind Noma, Johansen also wants to shift the gastronomic compass away from the Mediterranean.
The 30-year-old food anthropologist and trained cook, who grew up in Oslo, has just written her first English language cookbook, Scandilicious (Saltyard Books, £20).
‘We share a similar climate,’ she says.
‘The kinds of food available in Britain are available in Scandinavia.’
She adds: ‘It’s a great book for the home cook who doesn’t want to worry about technique and kitchen gadgets.’
From Finnish blueberry tart and Bergen fish chowder to Norwegian lemon, currant and almond cake, the recipes brim with fresh flavours.
Johansen says that Scandinavian cooking, especially Norwegian food, has so far made little impact.
But as a child she remembers foraging for wild blueberries and eating her grandmother’s sour cream and vanilla waffles – experiences that inspired her to investigate further.
She says: ‘At its worst, Scandinavian food can be plain cold meats, breads, pickled herring and meatballs. But at its best, think hot smoked trout and amazing summer salads.’
How to make a tasty Swedish-style vegetable soup
Mama Johansen’s vegetable soup
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
2tbsp vegetable oil
8 medium new potatoes, cooked and peeled
½ head raw broccoli, roughly chopped
4 raw asparagus spears, roughly chopped
300-400ml vegetable stock
Creme fraiche or sour cream (optional)
What to do:
1. Sweat the shallot and leek in the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat for 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the potatoes, broccoli, asparagus and vegetable stock, stir and bring to a gentle simmer for 8-10 minutes.
2. Whizz the soup up with a hand-held blender or in a heatproof glass blender (keeping a firm hand and a tea towel on the liquidiser lid to avoid any soup explosions during blending).
3. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground white pepper and return to the pan to reheat. Serve piping hot in large bowls just as it is, or with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream swirled in.