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Monday 24 December 2012

London Supper Club Review - Scandi Supper Club with Signe Johansen

Words by Karen Yates

As everyone knows, all things Scandinavian are super cool right now, a fact (yes, fact) enhanced by the evening’s venue, the Scandinavian furniture showroom Republic of Fritz Hansen in Margaret Street, W1. Just as well there were plenty of beautiful things to look at because what must have seemed a great idea at a PR planning meeting – hosting a photo shoot and supperclub one after the other – meant that the second ran well over an hour late. Hairy trolls with long pointy hats and cruet sets that reminded me of my childhood (I’ve Swedish and Norwegian family) to the rescue, along with glasses of gløgg (mulled wine) to warm the cockles and thaw the heart. 

Signe kept her Scandi cool and offered round her superb canapés: cured salmon on just-baked rye pannekaker (little pancakes) with sour cream and pickled fennel (recipe below), plus sweet Norwegian prawns with wild dill pollen mayonnaise, lumpfish roe and pickled cucumber on sourdough crispbread. As Signe said, in Norway they eat prawns like sweets and these were certainly moreish.

Photo: Tara Fisher

Photo: Tara Fisher
Eventually, we all squeezed around an achingly trendy, retro-style table and the feast began. First Signe, who had specially created the menu using seafood from Norway, explained that this festive food is lettvint (easy), so we should just tuck in an enjoy. Which we did, with seriously good oven-baked organic sourdough bread courtesy of Bridget Hugo from Bread Bread in Brixton, who was named New Best Alchemist of the Oven at this year’s Young British Foodie Awards. 

First up were piping-hot, super-fresh battered cod cheeks with dill, anchovy and pickled cucumber salsa. These melt-in-the-mouth beauties vanished as soon as they appeared.

Photo: Tara Fisher

Next was halibut lightly cured with lemon and elderflower for a slightly sweet flavour, served with thinly sliced pickled cucumber.

Photo: Tara Fisher

The main course was succulent roast haddock with a bacon and rye crisp topping served with salt-baked celeriac plus a spelt and kale salad with pomegranate seeds. All healthy and delicious.

Photo: Tara Fisher
We finished with glasses of Linie aquavit, Signe’s pepperkaker (traditional ginger biscuits) and ekte geitost (sweet, salty, brown goat’s cheese; an acquired taste I happen to love).

Photo: Tara Fisher

Ah, fresh fish followed by pepperkaker and brunost, the taste of a Scandinavian Christmas. All good things come to those who wait… 

Here is a recipe from the evening, specially created by Signe Johansen for the Norwegian Seafood Council. First cure the salmon, then use it to make these fabulous canapés:

Cured Norwegian salmon with a shot of Linie aquavit, rye and sour cream pannekaker and pickled fennel

‘There are endless ways to cure Norwegian salmon. Gravlaks is a classic way to do so across Scandinavia, and I love a little whisky in the cure for a seasonal twist. Norwegian Linie Aquavit can be found at Amathus Drinks. The key to this dish is a very fresh fillet of Norwegian salmon. If in doubt, freeze the fish for 24 hours to kill any bacteria, then defrost. This recipe makes enough for 12 starters or 6-8 larger portions. You can double this for festive occasions – two Norwegian salmon fillets will feed 20-24 people and make a great party standby’


1.5 kg Norwegian salmon fillet, de-boned and de-scaled, cut in half
2 tbsp pink peppercorns
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tsp allspice berries
100g granulated sugar
75g sea salt
2 shots whisky


Dry the salmon, check for pinbones and then put both fillet pieces side by side, skin down. Crush the pink pepper, coriander, juniper and allspice berries with a pestle and mortar, then mix in a small bowl with the sugar, salt and whisky. Spread the spiced sugar and salt in a layer on top of a fillet. Sandwich both fillet halves together. Wrap very tightly in two layers of clingfilm and put in a small roasting tin to catch the brine that escapes from the fish as it cures. Refrigerate for a minimum of 48 hours and up to 5 days if you want a stronger cure.
When the salmon has had time to cure, simply take it out of the fridge, remove the clingfilm, wipe the fillet halves clean of the spiced salt with a paper towel, pat dry and put on a board, skin down. Slice on the diagonal from the tail towards the middle of the fillet and serve.

Rye and sour cream pannekaker

The wild fennel pollen, used as a garnish is available at Global Harvest (globalharvestlimited.co.uk)
Makes 30 small pancakes


150g rye flour
100g wholemeal spelt flour
5g fresh yeast or ½ tsp dried yeast
300ml sour cream
50-100ml whole milk
2 medium eggs, beaten
50g butter, melted
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt

To finish:
75g fructose (fruit sugar) or 100g caster sugar 
150ml white wine vinegar
fennel bulb, thinly sliced or use a mandolin
wild fennel pollen, to garnish 
extra sour cream or crème fraiche, to garnish


First make the little rye pancakes: in a medium-size bowl mix the flours with the yeast, sour cream and 50ml milk (you may need more milk later as the rye and spelt flours will thicken the mixture over time). Cover and set aside for 1 hour or until the mixture starts to bubble and has doubled in size.  Meanwhile, put the sugar and the vinegar in a small saucepan along with 75ml water and bring to a simmer, allowing the sugar to dissolve. Remove from the heat, cool, add the thinly sliced fennel to this mixture and cover. Set aside to pickle while you finish the pancakes.

Add the beaten eggs, melted butter, baking powder and sea salt to the bowl with the flours, yeast and sour cream, then stir thoroughly. Prepare a skillet with a little oil over a medium heat. Start frying small pancakes for a minute or so before flipping each one over. They should look dry around the edges and bubble slightly in the skillet. If in doubt, test the batter with one small pancake – if the pancake is too liquid you can always add a little more spelt flour; if it’s too dense, simply dilute with a little water or milk.

Once you’ve fried all the pancakes, set them to one side and allow to cool completely before assembling the salmon slices on each piece, followed by a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche, a curl of pickled fennel and a sprinkle of wild fennel pollen. Eat immediately with a shot of Linie aquavit to wash it all down.

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