I’m sure many people think of Sweden and think of blond hair, flat pack furniture and meatballs. I think of AGA. Invented in Sweden in 1922 by Dr Gustaf Dalén to be a physics solution to provide all of the correct heat required for every function of cooking. I know the AGA cooks everything beautifully required for British food, so just to check the inventor got it correct for his own cuisine, I’m going to challenge Dalén’s work on Swedish food.
Brick Lane in east London is a melting pot of culture; a stone throw from the City and famous for its myriad of curry houses. At nighttime it’s a swarm of activity and cultural diversity with street signs in English and Bengali. Reading up on Brick Lane in Wikipedia gives a wealth of culture and change to this street that was first an area for brick and tile manufacture. At the top end, next to Bethnal Green road is a Swedish restaurant called Fika, fika meaning to have a break from the hectic norm and relax in a friendly environment. Judging by the noise of the market outside and the throng of nationalities each with their own sights, colours and sounds a fika sounds good to me. Swedish people make good coffee. I like this cultural idea.
Decked out in true Scandinavian style, you know that unique style that Ikea gave British homes? Ones of straight lines and block colours – well that’s Fika, a solid concrete floor, sharp edges and cozy kitsch all at the same time. I need to get past the idea of Swedish food being all herrings and gravlax, possibly with a bit of smoked Rudolph the red nosed reindeer too. What is it that makes Swedish food unique?
Sadaf the owner of Fika makes a coffee and starts to explain about how this concept of ‘a fika’ is about time out, we chat and she explains that Swedish food is mainly smoked or pickled, all due to the cold climate of the country. Flavours are very fresh and present in food, and apart from the fish and reindeer some meat dishes contain herbs like dill. Dill with fish yes, but in cooked meat dishes? We chat about AGA and what we are going to cook. An AGA is the heart of the home, the warmth-exuded means the kitchen is the heart of the home, did Dalén consider his invention to be a ‘fika facilator’? It’s cold outside and I suggest that to help me enjoy my ‘fika’ I need chocolate. “Kladdkaka” says Sadaf. Having a Northern Irish Accent I’m not very good at languages for it took about 7 attempts for me to be able to pronounce this when all I want to do is eat it. A gooey chocolate cake that is as firm as an American brownie due to its sugar content on the outside, but runny and liquid in the middle. Sadaf tells me that its one of the first items a child in Sweden will ever cook.
Into the kitchen, all of the ingredients weighed out and we are ready to cook, Sadaf is so friendly and is brilliant on camera, we were able to film in one take – that’s generally unheard of. I watch the mixture being made and into the oven. Sadaf explains a Kladdkaka is normally made as one thin 8” (23cm for the metric among us) cake, however we make them in silicone muffin molds, individual Kladdkaka for our fika. The oven goes ping and I’m shown how to test them, a little tap to the top and it should spring back. Well, my tap was more of a whack and my fingers ended up in the gooey hot middle. It did burn, but I was able to eat the chocolate mixture. I’m having a good fika.
It’s time for that part of the show that I call the ‘reveal’, you know the one where you try what you have made and extol the flavors on your face to camera. I must admit that to stop my face squiggling up like a cow (just incase the wind was to change direction) I practice the ‘reveal’ in the mirror. Tragic, I know. I’m ready, I know how to pout my lips and seductively move the eyebrow for this shot, I take a spoon and cut into the Kladdkaka, it’s crispy on the outside and the middle flows out like a river, into my mouth. My face now resembles said cow. I’ve just burnt the inside of my mouth. Ouch.
Back to Divertimenti, this time to the Marylebone High Street store and we make our Kladdkaka in the AGA. Perfect. The Baking Oven of the AGA is set at the perfect temperature for Kladdkaka. When one tests ovens using British Standards batches of cupcakes are made to a very precise recipe and cooked to show colouring (even heat distribution) in the oven. I’m wondering if Dalén and his crew had a Kladdkaka fika in their oven testing. Dr Dalén, I’m sorry I doubted you.
Dalén created this beautiful cooker, sadly though, he never saw his work as he was blinded in an industrial accident. However with the results I have seen with the Swedish Kladdkaka I’m sure if he had tried it he would have known that the Aktiebolaget Gas Accumulator (AGA) was correctly made, never mind the latest model the AGA iTotal Control be controlled by SMS or smartphone.
Next stop on my World in One City is Ghana. I’m looking forward to dipping into Africa, the culture, cooking methods and different foods. Right, better jump back onto the Tube, need to go to north London.
Address: 161a Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB
Makes 6 individual Kladdkaka
110g plain flour
270g granulated sugar
4 heaped tbsp coco powder
100g salted butter, melted
- Place the flour, sugar and coco into a bowl and mix to combine until an even colour with a balloon whisk.
- Add the eggs and mix to combine, then add the melted butter and mix until a thick chocolate mixture is achieved.
- Spoon into individual silicone molds and place onto a baking tray and cook for 10-12 minutes until they gently spring back when lightly tapped on top. 2 Oven AGA – cook on a grid shelf on the 4th set of runners in the Roasting Oven with the Cold Plain Shelf on top. 3, 4 and 5 Oven AGA, cook on a grid shelf on the 4th set of runners in the Baking Oven.
- Allow to cool and turn out onto a serving plate, serve with some pouring cream.
Chilli Chocolate – add 2 tsp fresh red chillis finely chopped to the mixture.
Gorgonzola – add 30g Gorgonzola, crumbled to the mixture.
Cinnamon – add 1 tsp ground cinnamon to the mixture.
Cardamon – add 1 tsp ground cardamon to the mixture
Orange – add 1 tbsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier and the freshly grated zest of one orange to the mixture
Coconut – add 50g desiccated coconut to the mixture