Acclaimed author Signe Johansen is the coolest cook to bang the drum for Scandinavian cooking. And she has a strong allegiance to the North East, with her parents living here, and her boyfriend from the region. KATHARINE CAPOCCI went to meet her
SIGNE Johansen is centre stage and showing off Scandi fare with just the right dash of Nordic flair that has made her a hot new name in the culinary world.
Warming gløgg, flavoured with cinnamon and star anise, cured salmon gravadlax, and beloved cinnamon buns – just some of the treats coming the audience’s way at the Durham City Food Festival.
With her easy, engaging manner and dressed in her snappy red woolly jumper, which wouldn’t look out of place on Sarah Lund of TV’s The Killing, her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, Signe is the coolest new cook to emerge from Scandinavia.
And today the 32-year-old Norwegian is singing the praises of Latimer’s fishmongers from Whitburn, of which she’s a big fan.
In fact, the fish she’s using in her demo dishes has come from the critically acclaimed fishmongers, owned by twinkly-eyed Robert Latimer.
“They have some of the best fish outside of Scandinavia,” the food writer and author declares to a packed festival audience.
“The North East is a great part of the world. All that Viking heritage… I feel very at home here!” says Signe.
So she should too, as her parents live in East Herrington, Sunderland, where her dad owns a small plastics manufacturing company and her boyfriend, Tom Williams, a writer and literary agent, is from Rowlands Gill. He’s just written a biography on Raymond Chandler. Like Signe, who grew up in Norway, they both now live in London. Signe is in Bloomsbury while Tom lives in Kentish Town.
Signe is on a mission to spread the word on the delights of Scandi cooking.
And she’s doing a great job through her two big-selling cookbooks, Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking… Scandilicious, published last year, and her newest book, Scandilicious Baking, which came out in July. She is also a co-author of The Ultimate Student Cookbook, and her blog specialises in modern Scandinavian cooking and baking.
“I want to give you some flavours of what Scandinavian food is. Our food culture is much more than meatballs!”
And pickled herrings, I could add. Signe takes the audience on a fascinating culinary journey as she talks about their love of berries and juices, all things fish, crispbreads, open sandwiches, dill (‘the garlic of the North’) and cinnamon buns, of course. These a particular favourite.