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A Slice Of Scandinavia With Brontë Aurell

Toast.life explores the joys of hygge, fika and more with author, food writer, ScandiKitchen founder Brontë Aurell

We explore the joys of hygge, fika and more with multiple-book author, food writer, ScandiKitchen founder and all round Scandi expert Brontë Aurell, and hear how she has created an authentic slice of Scandinavia in the UK.



Brontë Aurell is a wealth of Scandinavian knowledge. Not only is she is the co-founder of ScandiKitchen; a café, grocery shop, online store and wholesale business based in London, but she has she written an impressive 6 books on the subject, including Nørth: How To Live Scandinavian, The Scandi Kitchen: Simple, delicious dishes for any occasion and the hugely successful Hygge & Fika. Originally from Denmark, but a Londoner for decades, Brontë runs ScandiKitchen with her Swedish partner, Jonas - they import food from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland and have a café-deli in London, too. And ‘on the side’ – as she describes it - Brontë writes her books, usually from the kitchen table in the West London flat that she shares with Jonas.

Bronte Aurell (1)

“I left Denmark at 16, with itchy feet and a bag full of dreams!” Brontë smiles. “I’ve lived all over Europe but settled in London as I felt at home here. Being a bit Euro-trash, London fitted - people here are from everywhere. I love that about London – it’s a huge melting pot of people of all shapes, sizes, abilities and backgrounds.”

After university, Brontë worked in finance for several years and before joining smoothie and juice kings Innocent, where she learnt the tricks of the trade and discovered a strong desire to work with food.  

“I joined them when they were still small and learnt about running a business. It was an amazing time and I knew then I wanted to work with food – and I knew I wanted to only ever do things I cared about. If you enjoy what you do, you never have to go to work. And I haven’t been going to what feels like ‘work’ for the past 16 years.”

After quickly realising that they couldn’t find the flavours of home in the UK, Brontë and Jonas launched ScandiKitchen 10th July 2007 – and Brontë also happened to give birth to their first child a mere a few hours later, ‘just for an additional challenge’, Brontë explains.

“We wanted to do something we were both passionate about – Scandinavian food – and we wanted to make a place that was above all welcoming to everybody, whether you were from Stockholm looking for Kalles Kaviar or from Fulham, looking to try some exciting Norwegian cheese!” she explains. 

“Jonas and I wanted to have a family but we both enjoyed careers, so we - perhaps slightly naively at the time - felt we could open our own business and then share the childcare so we could both work and be parents. And to be fair, it has worked – we feel we have managed to be parents together, which has been nice. It’s the Scandinavian way!”

Scandi Kitchen

The ScandiKitchen, comprises a café and grocery shop on London’s Great Titchfield Street, an online store and wholesale business, is now a one-stop-shop for all things Scandinavian, and has been supplying homesick Scandis for over 11 years, but of course Brits have also quickly caught on to the perks of a Scandinavian store cupboard….

“There was a trend that started in around 2009 – it was all about the Nordic diet, health and riding the Noma/Faviken wave. This worked well for us in terms of getting noticed and getting people to try reindeer or liquorice or our chocolate, etc” Brontë explains.

“Now that wave has sort of passed, it’s much more lifestyle led which means we can now reach a broader audience without having to defend eating liquorice first!”

When it comes to what’s most popular in terms of product, the answer is far from straight forward; the Norwegians miss brown cheese, the Swedes miss Kalles Kaviar and the Danes miss a particular remoulade dressing, apparently.

“Overall though, I’d say our biggest seller is cripsbread. This is a product that appeals to all of us Scandies but also the UK customers. It’s different to the crispbread available here – where we come from, crispbread is much more of a bread rather than a cracker” explains Brontë.

“We have crispbread on the table every morning and lunch – and every snack time, too. It’s so versatile. We’re teaching the UK people about these wonders of really good crispbread! Also, there’s the added benefit that it doesn’t really go off, so you can stock up, and with 48% of all bread produced in the UK being wasted, it’s quite a nifty way to combat food waste, too.”

Who knew? Over in the stylish ScandiKitchen café, delicacies such as freshly made open sandwiches (with over 10 varieties to choose from) and traditional meatballs and mash await, as well as plenty of tempting cake and aromatic coffee. It’s cosy, homely and the perfect place for a spot of fika.  

“Fika is a Swedish word that means ‘to meet up for a cup of coffee and a bit of something to eat’, usually sweet stuff” explains Brontë.

“We do it usually twice a day and it is super important. You can’t do it alone, you always do it with people. It forces you to take time out from what you are doing, usually work, to go and connect with people around you for 5-10 minutes. It is all about togetherness.” 

Image Ryland Peters Small

Another Scandinavian concept that we are now all very familiar with is of course the elusive and much sought after hygge; Brontë is a self-proclaimed ‘hygge activist’ and, along with fika, wrote a book on these two deeply Scandinavian subjects. Brontë has in fact written 6 Scandi-related books, including Hygge & Fika, Summer: Simply delicious food for lighter, warmer days, Nørth: How To Live Scandinavian, and her upcoming release ScandiKitchen Christmas.

Bronte Aurell Book Collection

Fika Hygge Bronte Aurell And The Scandi Kitchen

“I am a writer, so I have always written – and I was spending so much time writing down recipes in the café on the back of napkins. I put together a plan and went to speak to Ryland Peters & Small – and it just went from there. I don’t think anyone expected the books to sell as well as they have done – and now, six books later, I am a very lucky girl combining writing with my day job” Brontë says.

“With the new Christmas one I think I have covered Scandinavian home cooking in most corners now! I also wrote a small hygge pocket book – mainly because so many of the books that were coming out had hygge all wrong, so I wanted to set the record straight! I’ve also written a book called Nørth, which is all about Scandinavian culture – who we are and how we live – and what makes us different.”

This is an intriguing point – what makes us different. One of the many reasons us Brits seem to be so captivated by concepts such as fika and hygge is that they are so very alien to us – we can’t even pronounce them most of the time. From ‘Nordic noir’ to ‘Scandi chic’ – there is something incredibly intriguing and undoubtedly appealing about the Scandinavian way of life.

“We are quite humble folk and, in general, we are much more about looking after the bigger group and our society. You see this in our politics a lot. The one thing all the political parties agree on is that the pot of money in the middle, the social contributions, are high so that every person can have their needs met” explains Brontë.

“In the current UK political climate, I miss that attitude. I don’t mind paying high taxes if I know my kids will be able to study for free. I don’t mind paying if I know my parents are looked after in old age. I like that we have less of a class system. You see very few flashy cars and you also see very few people living on the streets. We have a big wide middle.” 

And with that in mind I wonder – does Brontë ever get homesick?

“My home is here, with my kids and Jonas. So, homesick, no, because I’m already home,” she says.  “Sometimes I long for the rest of my family and being able to pop over and see them all the time, but homesick, no. I guess being surrounded by Scandinavia all day at the café helps!”

There is no stopping Brontë, quite literally. She can often be found appearing on TV and radio as a cook, guest chef and talking about life as an entrepreneur, as well as helping with brand and recipe development for various companies. In 2014 she created the #proudimmigrant movement as a response to her own experiences as someone from overseas living and working in the UK, and having just released a new book, she is already on to the next, but this time it’s a novel. Brontë and Jonas are also in the process of launching their own brand range of foods at ScandiKitchen, so that will undoubtedly keep them busy too, and with Christmas just around the corner, Brontë will be busy in the café, talking to people and making sure everybody gets everything they need for a truly Scandinavian Christmas.

“It’s fun to be so busy, but always important not to take on too much” Brontë explains. “Because then you end up missing the little things, and life is what happens in the little things - those are the real golden nuggets.”


Take a leaf out of Brontë’s book with Toast.Life’s Inspire Me with the lady herself, on 'How To Entertain Scandi-style This Winter', along with an exclusive recipe from her new book. 

You can also take a look at the ScandiKitchen in our Little Black Book

 

Posted in Spotlight

by Sophie Farrah
on on 29 October 2018

  hygge, scandinavian lifestyle, scandinavian living

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