Finnish Food!

Tinned moose
Tinned moose meat – in the Finnish Church shop

It’s no news to foodies in the UK that Scandinavian food is seeing a huge rise in popularity. I’ve written a fair amount on Swedish food but I decided it was time to branch out.

Finnish food. I knew nothing about it other than it’s supposed to be similar to Swedish food. And so my quest began to find Finnish food in London.

After a cursory Internet search, I realised that this would be tricky. Finland only has a population of 5.4 million and there are only ~30,000 in the UK. Although most of them are in London, that still doesn’t leave that many Finns in the capital. As for Scandinavian food being trendy, Finnish food seems to be a little forgotten about.

There are three places that I could find: Scandinavian Kitchen, which offers a mix of many Scandinavian food, the Finnish Church and the Nordic Bakery, which has predominantly Finnish-style sandwiches and cakes.

Having previously paid a visit to the Scandinavian Kitchen in search of Swedish semlor, I decided to head to the Finnish church in Rotherhithe, which has a cafeteria.

My friend and I entered a canteen-style room where Finnish families were queuing up and helping themselves to potato-and-salmon stew and the traditional crispbreads with cheese. We joined the queue. And then we realised no-one was paying.

I went to the lady in reception and asked.

“Oh! No, that is the food for the families who attended the services. They pre-ordered it. But if you wait, maybe there’ll be some left…”

I immediately declined this overly kind offer. We were not here to steal food off Finnish Christians. That’s when she pointed to some pastries on the table the other side of the room. Help yourself, she said. You can pay later.

A type of pulla topped with nib sugar
A type of pulla topped with nib sugar

First up, I sampled a type of pulla  – a traditional cardamom bun. It was lightly flavoured with some kind of mildly sour butter or cheese on top, sweetened by sugar. It was quite an intriguing contrast and I could imagine happily snacking on these.

Karelian pie
Karelian pie

Next, we tried a karelian pie. This is a rye crust with a savoury rice filling. I wasn’t quite sure what I made of it – it was quite one-dimensional in flavour and my friend and I thought it would be improved by the addition of some jam.

But then I sampled the Nordic Bakery karelian pie (£1.70) and I think it might be my new favourite snack.

Karelian pie with egg butter
Karelian pie with egg butter

This pie came topped with an egg butter and was lot more flavoursome. The firmness of the crust contrasted with the softness of the filling, and the whole pie was a delightful mix of textures. They also do a potato version, which I’ll be heading back to try!

Cinnamon bun
Cinnamon bun

After polishing off the karelian pie, I got my hands on a Finnish cinnamon bun. The bread was almost crispy and quite chewy – the whole bun was very dense – but the cinnamon made every mouthful moreish.

Keeping it simple
Keeping it simple

Finally, I tucked into another type of pulla – cardamom bread and sugar.

Nordic Bakery also has some flatbread open sandwiches but I didn’t try them because they looked a little pricey for their size and content.

I’d love to try some Finnish food that isn’t just bread and pastries, so if anyone has any recommendations, please email me or leave a comment below.

Finnish Church cafeteria

Where: 33 Albion Street, UK-London SE16 7HZ
When: Weekdays 14-21, Saturdays 10-21 and Sundays 10-20.

Nordic Bakery

14a Golden Square
Soho, London W1F 9JG
Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm
Sat 9am – 7pm
Sun & Bank Holidays 10am – 8pm

37b New Cavendish Street
Marylebone, London W1G 8JR
Mon – Fri 7.30am – 6pm
Sat, Sun & Bank Holidays 9am – 6pm
48 Dorset Street
London W1U 7NE
Mon – Fri 8am – 6pm
Sat, Sun & Bank Holidays 9am – 6pm

One semla, two semlor… Swedish buns for Fat Tuesday!

Semlor looking pretty in Totally Swedish
Semlor looking pretty in Totally Swedish

As well as battling in a pancake-eating challenge, I’ve had another mission this week: seek out some semlor.

A semla is not the South of England Men’s Lacrosse Association, as a cursory Google search might suggest. It is a cardamom-spiced bun with the top sliced off, filled with almond paste (similar to marzipan) and whipped cream, with the top of the bun placed back on top. They’re traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday in Swedish. They’re found across Scandinavia, but as I first sampled them in Sweden, I always think of Sweden. I think they might be most popular in Sweden too (any Scandinavians want to offer your opinions on this?).

Given that I wasn’t going to be in Sweden this Fat Tuesday, I decided to seek out what was on offer in London. This quest wasn’t without some hiccups. I tried the Nordic Bakery, which I found to be gloomy and depressing, perhaps in a bid to reflect Scandinavian winters. I was greeted by an equally gloomy lady, who said that there were no semlor in the Nordic Bakery this year. So much for Nordic. I also took a trip to a pop-up bakery in Fortnum and Mason but missed the semlor by a day (look out for a fab feature tomorrow though).

Several trips and much essay-procrastination later, I had three candidates and three semlor. The competition was on.

  1.  Scandinavian Kitchen
    61 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7PP 

    Scandinavian Kitchen
    Scandinavian Kitchen

    Inside SK Inside SK Inside SK

    This is a fun, cosy place café with plenty of Scandinavian supplies lurking in the back. I was extremely happy to find a Moomin guiding customers to Odin’s Throne (AKA the toilet).


    Moomin Moomin Moomin! :-D
    Moomin Moomin Moomin! 😀

    The café serves lots of open sandwiches on crispbreads, which look a little fiddly and small, but their cakes are eye-grabbing – apple and cinnamon cake, chocolate brownie cake… mmm….

    I forced myself not to get distracted and to stick to the task in hand. My friend and I ordered a semla each (£2.95).

    SK semla

    Sadly, we were distinctly underwhelmed. The semla tasted of nothing. We could not detect any almond flavour at all. The dough was chewy and stodgy, and the cardamom did nothing to enhance it. I tried my hardest not to think about the other cakes. I began humming the Abba tunes that were playing in the background.

    Very disappointing, but the café has a chilled atmosphere and the other cakes definitely look like they’re worth trying, so I may return.


  2. Bageriet, supplying Totally Swedish 
    En route home...
    En route home…

    Next candidate was Daniel Karlsson of Bageriet (‘The Bakery’ in Swedish). He came to London 6 years ago and has been baking tasty things for a lot longer than that. For Fat Tuesday, he had baked loads of buns and was stacking them high in Totally Swedish, a store that, unsurprisingly, sells lots of Swedish produce.

    I got a box of two for £7 and hastily carried them to a friend’s in order to share them.

    A little bit squashed...
    A little bit squashed…

    Mine got a little squashed in the voyage but it still tasted great. The almond paste had a much stronger flavour than Scandinavian Kitchen’s, and it complimented the dough, which had a firmer texture. Very pleasing. I almost regretted sharing.

    Bageriet will be opening a shop in Covent Garden next month so look out for it. I will definitely make a visit.

  3. Fika
    161a Brick Lane, E1 6SB

    Being trendy on Brick Lane
    Being trendy on Brick Lane

    Situated on Brick Lane, Fika is trendy by virtue of its location. Inside it is dimly lit and contains a few fake grass-covered seats. We visited at 1.30pm on a Friday and found no-one at the counter or serving. Eventually, a guy emerged and told us to wait because there were lots of customers and there was only him in the kitchen. We were distinctly unimpressed at the set-up, but took a seat. At £3.50 for a hot chocolate, we weren’t going to be ordering drinks whilst we were waiting.

    Eventually, my semla arrived. It was neat and beautiful. But it was TINY. And it had just cost me £3.50. I approached it with scepticism.

    The tiny, work-of-art...
    The tiny, work-of-art…

    The bun had the most bread-like texture of the three, which I really liked. The cardamom was present but not overpowering. The almond paste had a full, rich flavour, although there needed to be more of it as it was slightly smothered by the cream. However, overall, Fika’s tiny semla snuck into first place in terms of flavour. If they weren’t an outrageous £3.50 each, I’d be stocking my room with them.

Swedish Food 2: Stew, Pancakes…and Prawn Cheese?

Behold the cinnamon-y goodness!
Behold the cinnamon-y goodness!

Move over, cinnamon buns. I was never that into you anyway. It’s all about these amazing cinnamon lattices, which are gooey and oh-so-good.

This cinnamon lattice had the privilege of being my fika snack of choice. Fika is a Swedish word for “coffee break” or “tea time” and it’s a great excuse to tuck into pastries and cakes. I’m hoping to feature some chocolate cream macaroons and semla, but I’m only in Stockholm for one day and there’s only so many sweet things that I can eat!


At this time of year, Sweden is freezing and so hearty stews are naturally on the menu. I got to eat kalops, which is a simple but delicious beef stew, flavoured with bay leaves and allspice. Apologies for the appalling picture, but I greedily wolfed my plate down before I photographed it so I had to make do with the pot!

Saffron pancake with dewberry jam and whipped cream
Saffron pancake with dewberry jam and whipped cream

The Swedes have expensive taste: they love saffron. A really interesting dessert is a saffron pancake, made with flour, rice porridge and almonds, and served with dewberry jam and whipped cream. It’s filling without being too heavy, and the jam is a wonderful accompaniment and not too sweet.

And now to another Swedish curiosity….What are these rows and rows of mysterious tubes?


The Swedes love caviar, which they put into tubes and squeeze on bread and eat with boiled eggs. But these tubes are not fish eggs. No. These are all kinds of flavoured cream cheese. I’m automatically suspicious of any cheese product that doesn’t need to be kept refrigerated. Yet these become even more alarming when you look closely at some of the flavours. Prawn cream cheese paste, anyone?

Prawn cream cheese paste

Coming soon on the blog:

Restaurants and cafés in Stockholm
Swedish fast food
A special post on language (tenuously linked to food of course!)
And even more Swedish sweet and yummy things.

In the mean time, check out fellow blogger Heather’s recipe for Swedish buns, which she made for St Lucia’s Day (a BIG thing in Sweden). These are often made with saffron, but she uses cardamom, which sounds really interesting!

A Slice of Swedish Food

Cinnamon buns and other pastries...
Pistachio buns, cinnamon buns and other pastries…

Just a sneaky peak at some of the food I’ve been tucking into in Sweden this week! (And a little bit of Swedish culture too!)

Swedish Christmas ham
Swedish Christmas ham

First up, Julskinka – or known in English as Christmas ham. This is a cured ham, cooked in the oven, then removed and coated in a glaze of mustard, egg and breadcrumbs – and mustard seeds and cloves for the more adventurous – then returned to the oven to set the glaze.

Liss Ellas Christmas mustard
Liss Ellas Christmas mustard

The Christmas ham might then be eaten with a Christmas mustard. Believe it or not, this unassuming pot of Liss Ellas Christmas mustard is one of the most delicious mustards I have had the fortune to sample. It’s a honey-mustard but gets the balance between spiciness and sweetness absolutely spot on. Apparently their mustards are champions at the Worldwide Mustard Competition and I don’t doubt it. Unfortunately, I think their mustards are only available in Sweden and Norway but it’s worth checking out their website.

Christmas bread
Christmas bread

Christmas bread. This is a mildly sweet bread with raisins, flavoured with wort and spiced with cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. It’s light and tasty, although it disappoints in that it makes me crave a good English teacake, yet it is definitely not an English teacake.

Just tasty apple juice :)
Just tasty apple juice 🙂

This is just a really tasty apple juice from the Swedish version of Co-op. Very appley, full flavour and sweet. As good apple juice is hard to beat at a breakfast drink, I decided this had to feature. A little gnome is added to the picture for effect.

Pisctachio buns and cinnamon buns

Kanelbulle, or cinnamon buns, are one of the classic foodstuffs of Sweden for those who have managed to get explore beyond the meatballs. These can be a little dry so prefer ones that are glazed or with icing, but this is not very Swedish. Still, who can turn down cinnamon? I think I’m obsessed with it and so are the Swedes. October 4 is “kanelbullens dag” (Cinnamon  bun day). I also sampled pistachio buns, which are very popular in Sweden.

Wooden butter knife
Wooden butter knife

Yes, butter knives are wooden in Sweden. These are made from the wood of juniper trees due to its durability and pleasant fragrance.

The Swedes have a lot of forest – 67% of the land area is forested –  so it’s understandable that lots of things are made out of wood. Like most of their houses. Also, if you ever visit the Dalarna region, you’ll notice a curious amount of wooden horses. These are known in English as Dalecarlian started as toys woodsmen crafter for their children, but later became implicated in trade, before cementing as a symbol of the region, and later for Sweden as a whole.

Wooden horses Wooden horses

Dalarna is very traditional region, and even young people will put on traditional costume for special occasions, such as midsummer, weddings and baptisms. Culture is popularised through arts and crafts. Visitors might spot small models of mörksugga (which translates as “dark sow”) – a version of a Swedish folklore character.

Mörksugga - dark sow
Mörksugga – dark sow

Not so traditional but extremely bizarre, I stumbles upon a “Sex education machine” in the Dalarna museum in Falun. It’s the one in the background displaying a beautiful euphemism – a bee is pollinating the flower. I’m not sure what the one with the toilet seat and chomping teeth is about.

Chomping toilet and a sex education machine
Chomping toilet and a sex education machine

Elk Sausage Rolls and an Awful Lot of Cider

I'm a pro in the snow...
I’m a pro in the snow…

I’m in Sweden! Yes, that’s right – I’m going to be welcoming the new year whilst wearing several layers, peering at knee-deep snow and trying not to end up face-first in it!

Whilst I have lots of great Swedish food to bring you, I thought I’d finally blog about the amazing Swedish winter forest on Brick Lane, back in early November.

Winter forest 2

Swedish cider, Rekorderlig, teamed up with fantastic Scandinavian food company Norse by Norsewest, to transform the Truman Brewery into a winter forest. It was surreal to sit among trees, with forest foliage underfoot, illuminated by low-lights from the ceiling.

Winter forest 4

Winter forest

The bar


It was worth just turning up because the £5 entry included FOUR cider tasters  and Arctic cheese croquettes topped with cloudberry chutney. My favourite cider had to be the wintery apple, cinnamon and vanilla, which was delicious and had a winning flavour combination.

£5 entry - 4 cider tasters and fried cheese!
£5 entry – 4 cider tasters and fried cheese!

Not content with my cider and cheese, I sampled three Swedish dishes:


1) Pan-fried breaded Baltic herring served on Swedish knäckebröd (crisp bread) with fresh pickled cucumber and mustard crème fraîche

I must confess that I am not a big fan of fish, but this was really tasty. The fishy flavour was toned down by the batter and expertly complimented by the sourness of the pickles and creamy mustard crème fraîche.

Elk sausage roll

2) Elk sausage rolls wrapped in light puff pastry

This was my first time for trying elk. As it turns out, it’s quite a dense, gamey meat but this was offset nicely by the sweetness of the onions and juniper berries.


3) Traditional  Swedish meatballs with pressed potatoes and lingonberry jam

How could I not try these? After all, they’re all the Swedes eat, right?!

The meatballs were tasty, although a little dry, but the sauce left me licking the plate. So good.

The only minor problem with the event was the fact I obviously can’t handle alcohol.   I don’t normally drink as I really don’t like the taste, but if the cider was included in the entry, I was going to drink what I’d paid for! So four tasting ciders and a tad more on top was enough to make the world seem hysterically funny. I walked home with my friend, crying with laughter. The pavement is wow! The car…look, it’s in a car park! Haha! My friend, however, had failed to eat dinner and had drunk extra cider. So whilst I laughed myself out, he paced around the block to sober up.

For your information, Norse by Norsewest is part of the Disappearing Dining Club. On every third Saturday of the month, diners can feast on Scandinavian food. For more information, click here. It’s definitely on my “to-eat” list when my budget permits 😉

Also interesting, none of my friends here in Sweden seems to have heard of Rekordelig cider, but they seem very taken with the name, which is an old-fashioned word which roughly translates as trustworthy and reliable.