‘You just need some nice people… and maybe some snacks’ — meet the woman behind Skandikitchen
If you’ve been hibernating under your duvet and haven’t yet noticed, we’ve been talking a lot about hygge this month (the Danish art of cosiness and wellbeing). And what better way to get cosy than with a cuppa and a cake? We took a moment to chat to Brontë Aurell, co-owner of Scandikitchen and author several books on all things fika and hygge. So sit down, get cosy and meet Brontë, and her new book ‘Scandikitchen: Fika and Hygge‘.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m Brontë Aurell, Danish but UK-based for 24 years, married to a wonderful Swede. I’m passionate about all things Scandinavian, especially food. I’m the author of two cookbooks and another book coming next year about Scandinavian culture. I’m also the co-owner of Scandikitchen: the cafe in London and the online shop that ships Scandinavian food products to the whole of the UK. Most importantly, I’m the mother of two little girls who love baking and cooking as much as I do. I’m based in Queen’s Park in a small apartment with a very cosy kitchen, where the evening sun always shines in on my face as I sit down with a cup of Yorkshire Tea and relax for the day. My kitchen smells of cinnamon and my home is full of hygge and love. It’s a good life.
What did you enjoy most about creating the book?
Other than it is a collection of 75 cakes and treats? What’s not to enjoy about creating cake recipes that you get to test over and over again? I loved it. I’m still trying to fit into my jeans. I call them post-book-jeans. 75 cakes and treats need a lot of testing; and that, we did. It was a wonderful winter of contentment. Maybe I should do a detox book… I take testing eating seriously.
What can we expect from the new book?
Honest Scandinavian cakes and treats. It is for the hygge season, the cosy time of autumn, Christmas and winter time. The days that have far too little daylight, but maximises family time and hibernation of the good kind. There are comforting bakes, scrumptious cinnamon buns and things to bake for home bakers of all abilities.
What ingredients or cooking methods do you think are unique to Scandinavia?
We do use a lot of rye, traditionally, which other countries do not. I know it is all the rage now, but that is our heritage, our tradition; it is what grows on our fields. We also favour strong spices, perhaps more than you’d expect from northern countries. Cinnamon, strong freshly ground coriander and a lot of vanilla are used commonly. I also love using saffron in sweet bakes.
Can you describe your ideal Fika?
Meeting up with a good friend for a chit-chat and a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun. That’s my ideal. To take time out in the day to just connect with someone, a short or a long break, and then go back to work.
What does Hygge mean to you?
It’s hard not to get a little annoyed with this odd British commercialisation of our wonderful concept of hygge. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need candles, blankets, woollen socks or fancy furniture to feel ‘hyggelig’. You just need some nice people, no phones, a table, some playing cards, cups of tea and maybe some snacks. The rest will happen.
Scandinavians don’t need to teach the British how to do it; you are already doing it. It’s just that now there is a word for that lovely feeling of appreciating the mood you are in, the nice company and the feeling of contentment. You’re really good at it already.
At home, we have AftenHygge: evening hygge. Because my partner sometimes works late and misses dinner time, the kids and I will wait until near their bedtime, when all four of us will just sit around the kitchen table, have a cup of tea or hot milk and maybe a little evening treat. We put a candle on, we chat about the day and then we close down, emotionally, just by making sure we spend that time together. And we’re ready for a new day. It’s lovely. I swear on those days, the kids sleep better; there is something psychologically wonderful about making sure everybody gets to talk about their day and be heard and feel close with their family members.
What do you miss most about Nordic culture?
Winter. I miss snow. I miss the cold. I miss the sound of freshly fallen new snow, crunching under my big boots as I walk. I miss hearing the difference between yesterday’s snow and today’s snow as I walk. I miss the slowness of winter, the hibernation. London doesn’t hibernate the same way. I also miss good insulation in houses, but I guess that’s not a cultural thing! We Scandies don’t like being cold, although we do love the cold, we usually dress for it too. We’re never cold in the snow. We are at one with it, in a funny way; we have to live with cold and dark so much of the year that we grow up making it a part of us, not a hindrance to do stuff.
How do you embrace winter?
By slowing down. Okay, we can’t, because it’s the busiest time at the cafe, but at home we try to. It’s the time when we go out less, bake more, cook more together and make plans for the lighter days.
What are your favourite things about the cooler months?
I know it sounds odd, but I do love the darkness. I love light in dark days – I love Christmas lights, I love candles, I love the atmosphere you can create with light, on those days.
Where do you like to go during winter (restaurants etc.)?
To be honest, we tend to hibernate a bit. When we go out, we go with the kids and we will go to lovely places such as The Parlour in Kensal Rise – it’s very cosy in there and they have a good kids menu. We love little hidden gems, like Ida’s in Queen’s Park, too. Small, family run, no fuss but high on comfort factor. I’m not a chain-person, I like family run, honest, independent places.
Who are your top 3 favourite Instagrammers?
- Symmetry Breakfast: (they also have a book out. Check it out.)
- Marta_Karcz_: a girl I met in the cafe, actually a few years ago. She is based in Poland but also travels in Scandinavia. A food stylist in-the-making, she is a great cook and I always feel inspired by her photos. They are honest and not as styled as other accounts. I know she is not a huge account, but it’s the one I check for inspiration, so I wanted to include her.
- DetoxHealthBeauty: such a beautiful Instagram run by the awesome Scottish health goddess Sheena Skinner. There you’ll find great detox and health tips from someone who really understands food and health.
What do you Khoollect?
I try not to collect stuff because we live in a small apartment, but I seem to, inadvertently, collect nice mugs I find at flea markets in Scandinavia and the UK. I pretend to my partner that it’s for my prop-cupboard (so I can take nice Instagram pictures), but to tell you the truth, I just like them. Currently, my favourite one is a Prince Charles and Diana original real China teacup from their wedding in 1981. I drink my morning tea out of it every day and look at their painted faces. Priceless.