For my first ever G&P guest recipe post I asked Petra Lovelock of Nordic Kitchen to tell me a bit about her way of cooking and to share a dish that represents that. After weighing up her many options, Petra came back to me with this ‘sweet, crunchy and satisfying’ Tosca almond cake served with apple and cardamom compote which is just perfect with a hot cup of tea on a cold day like today.
Petra, who grew up in Helsinki, now lives in Lewes where she hosts cookery classes and supper clubs celebrating Scandinavian cuisine. As she says, it is ‘the food that I know and have expertise in’, and armed with some excellent books, such as her 1920’s Finnish cookbook that has ‘everything in it,’ Petra is passionate about sharing the secrets of traditional Nordic food culture. It’s not just about her roots, however, Petra is also attracted to the way that ‘Nordic food has always been about using what you have.
‘It’s not unusual to go foraging there, for mushrooms and berries…’ she says, ‘I miss the plentiful chanterelles, ceps, lingonberries and cloudberries,’ but Petra is quick to underline that Nordic cooking doesn’t rely on hard-to-get ingredients.
‘The winters are harsh, so Scandinavian cooks learn to make lovely food from simple ingredients like root vegetables,’ she says. ‘You can buy most of the ingredients here, a few specialist things I buy at home or from Scandi Kitchen, but I was really pleased to find that my local Waitrose sells the best Swedish Vasterbotten cheese.’
‘Wonderful skills such as curing and pickling used to be necessities, but now they are used as a means to lend lovely traditional flavours…’ says Petra. ‘I used to stay away from preserving because I thought you needed special equipment, that it was complex and time-consuming. Now I know that you don’t, and it’s not, so I do it all the time. I’ve never heard of anyone pickling their own herring back home though, but perhaps that shows me off as a city girl!’
While Petra clearly lends a lot of time and love to her food, she remains a ‘fan of efficiency’. ‘I like cooking things that are quick to establish,’ she says, ‘like no-fuss bread. I have done a lot of research into baking delicious breads without the man hours.’ The main direction to Petra’s food is that it should be easy to cook at home and pleasurable to share with family.
‘I like the way that eating with the family is absolutely part of everyday culture in Scandinavia, like it was in Britain maybe 30 years ago. The home is central; people are very houseproud and it is traditional to invite others into your home and put on a nice display. It is even considered slightly shameful if you don’t make all the bits for your child’s party. To be buying these things is considered posh, as if you are not prepared to get your hands dirty!’
And so, with this in mind, I think I had better preheat my oven and get down to making this delicious Tosca cake, before the doorbell rings…
Petra’s Tosca Almond Cake
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar
For the topping
200g ground almonds, crunched
1 tbsp flour
4 tbsp cream
23cm round cake tin or equivalent
Pre-heat oven to 175c
Mix the eggs with the sugar and whisk until pale and fluffy.
Mix the dry ingredients together and add a bit to the egg and sugar mixture. Then add a bit of milk and mix again, keep alternating until all is combined.
Butter your cake tin and pour in the batter. Place in a preheated oven (175c) and bake for 20 min after which time the cake will be half-cooked. While the cake is in the oven, melt all the topping ingredients together in a saucepan.
Pour the topping over the half-baked cake, increase the oven temperature to 220c and bake for another 10-15 min, until the topping is slightly golden all over.
Allow the cake to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.
Apple & Cardamom Compote
250g cooking apples, peeled and cubed
1 tsp lemon juice
Pinch of cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
1 x 300ml jar
Peel, core and chop the apples.
Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and boil for 10-15 mins.
Remove the cinnamon stick and pour the compote into a hot sterilised jar.
Petra’s Top Tips:
Keep chopped apple in some lemon water to prevent it from discolouring.
If you use Bramley apples which tend to go to mush, chop some fresh apple and add just before the jam is ready for a lovely change in texture.
Leftover compote works brilliantly with yoghurt or porridge for breakfast or with ice cream for dessert.
Petra runs regular classes at Lewes Community Kitchen covering all aspects of Nordic cuisine, from pickling and preserving to wholesome family staples and Scandinavian tapas. Her next supper club will be held on Saturday 23rd November and there are still a few spaces left so do book now! For more details visit the Nordic Kitchen website.
Photos by Simon Crummay
Disclosure: I received no financial compensation or freebies for writing or publishing this post.
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