Archive for November, 2013

Saffron Scones with Lime Cream

Saffron Scones with Lime Cream

Whoop, whoop…Swedish Linn of Cardamom Buns fame is back in the house!  This time she is here to share a fantastic contemporary treat inspired by a Swedish Christmas classic. This recipe comes from chef Cecilia Vikbladh from her book Cecilias Fikastunder, which roughly translates to ‘Cecilias Coffee Brakes’ but it actually means much more.

The partaking of ‘fika’ is an institution in Swedish social life and a core concept in their hospitality – which they take seriously and deliciously. ( I personally have a theory that the more extreme your climate the higher the priority hospitality plays in your culture – just saying.) It can be as simple as a coffee break at work, but it is more often a social gathering usually associated with some baked sweet treats.  It holds a similar place in Swedish society as a High Tea would in British, but is much more frequent in occurrence.   However, If you invite someone to your home for fika, be sure to serve a minimum of at least three different goodies so as not to offend your guest.  Linn puts even that to shame as she thinks a proper fika, particularly when hosted between Christmas and New Year, should have at least SEVEN different baked goods with flavours including saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, nuts and dried fruit.  As I said, serious and delicious business is this fika hospitality!


Unfortunately, the source of these wonderful treats is not available in English as far as I could find, so we will have to rely on Linn and the other Swedish speakers in my life to share these and other glories!

I first encountered these golden-hued delicacies at a friend of Linn’s named Jenny Foley, who is also from Sweden.  As there was lots of chat going on I wasn’t entirely paying attention to what I was eating.   As the first bite of saffron hit my palate, only to be chased with a tart ever-so-slightly sweet cream, my head began to spin.  In term of taste reference,  up to that moment my taste buds had always associated saffron with seafood!  As far as I knew saffron was the flavour of bouillabaisse, paella and spiced garlicky aioli to accompany shrimp.  But not to the Swedish, to them the taste of saffron transports them straight to Christmas time, especially in traditional St Lucia Buns that feature on the 13th of December.  So after a quick re-calibration of the idione-like medicinal undertones shifting from savoury to sweet, I was in heaven!

So why is saffron associated with Christmas time in Sweden?  Whilst saffron was available throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, it was so horrendously expensive (as it still is today), that it was only used sparingly at very special occasions such as Christmas.  St Lucia Day became popular in Sweden after the reformation as the rise of Protestantism moved what had been the Christmas or Yule celebrations to the 13th of December, which was believed to be the Winter Solstice in the old calendar.  The celebration focuses on St Lucy who is represented by a young girl bearing lights and sweets. While the holiday is nominally saint-based, it is believed to incorporate many elements of  pre-christian mid-winter and Yule celebrations.  The modern interpretation of St Lucia Day is over 200 years old and is held very dear to Swedes all over the world.  Christmas is also a very big deal once again so December is one yummy party in Sweden and throughout Scandinavia.  Whichever you are celebrating, get ready to break out the saffron.

The technique for making these scones is a bit different from the basic scone method in both British and American baking, so once again I went overboard in my pictures.  It is quite straight forward once the different steps are explained, but I don’t think it would be very intuitive, so here we go…

As seems the norm in Linn’s baking, start by pre-heating the oven to 220 c/ 430 F/ or in general a really hot oven.

1. saffron scone

In a mortar and pestle place 1 Tablespoon of sugar and add your saffron threads or powder.  Apparently most saffron in Scandinavia is sold as powder, so you really are just using the sugar to help break it down a bit more to help to infuse the whole scone.

saffron sugar copy

The image on the left is what you start out with and the image on the right is what you are aiming to achieve.  If you don’t have a mortar and pestle just put the sugar and saffron in a bowl and grind with a smaller bowl on top.

Saffron Milk

Next warm your 200 ml / 4/5 cup of milk gently until is it just warm to the touch.  Add your pulverized saffron sugar, mix and remove from the heat to cool completely.

5. Saffron Scones

In a large bowl mix your flour, salt and baking powder and stir or sift to combine.

Saffron Butter

Weight out and cube 75 g of super chilled butter and rub it into the dry mixture, leaving small little seed-sized  lumps.

Eggy Mix

Now, once your milk & saffron mix has cooled completely, crack a medium egg into the mix and whisk to combine.  Bring the mix over to your bowl of dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Dough The mix will turn this fantastic yellow ochre colour from the saffron and smell just heavenly.  It is really quite a wet mix, but turn it out onto a floured surface and just bring it together incorporating a little flour at a time until it just comes together as a workable dough.  Be gentle and work quickly as you don’t want to overwork the dough or melt those little bits of butter that it help it to rise in the oven.Shaping Scones

Add a bit more flour to your work surface and roll out the dough to about 3/4″ or 20 mm thickness.  Cut into whatever shape might sing to you and place on a baking sheet lined with oven proof paper.


Now you are in the home stretch, so simply brush your cut out scones with milk and top with a generous pile of sliced hazelnuts and demerara sugar for extra post-baking sparkle and crunch.  Place into the super hot oven (which was too messy to photograph) for approximately 12 minutes.

Sweet Lime

Those 12 minutes should provide ample time to whip up this lime cream which is positively sublime (get it ?!), that is sure to become a fast favourite for all sorts of culinary needs.  I am already eyeing it up for a smoked salmon bagel canape with my pickled fennel, mmmmmmm.  Anyway, simply place a small tub of softened cream cheese into a bowl, add the zest of 1 lime and 2 Tablespoons of icing/powdered sugar.  Add the juice of half a lime and stir to combine.  It should become a super thick cream and not be too runny, so only add the juice from the other half of if you think it can take it.

19. Saffron Scones

Serve the warm wonderful scones with the chilled lime cream – don’t forget the coffee like I did – and transport yourself to a cool, hip Swedish fika.  The flavour combination will seem unexpected and exotic at first, but will quickly unite into a new classic for sure.

A big thank you to Linn, Jenny and of course Cecelia Vikbladh, who may have single-handedly inspired me to start learning Swedish!



Saffron Scones with Lime Cream

Saffron Scones with Lime Cream


    For Scones:
  • Saffron - 1 teaspoon/ .5 gram
  • Sugar (Regular) - 1 Tablespoon/ 15 ml
  • Milk - 4/5 cup / 200 ml
  • Egg - 1 medium
  • Flour (Plain or All Purpose) - 2 cups/ 500 ml
  • Salt - 1/2 teaspoon/ 2 ml
  • Baking Powder - 2 teaspoons/ 10 ml
  • Butter - 75 grams/ 5 1/2 Tablespoons VERY COLD
  • Sliced Hazelnuts - for garnish
  • Demerara or Turbinado Sugar - for garnish
  • For Lime Cream:
  • 200 grams/ 1/4 lb or 1 small tub of soft cream cheese (Philadelphia).
  • Zest & juice of 1 small lime
  • Icing Sugar (Powdered Sugar) - 2 Tablespoons


    To Prepare the Scones
  1. Preheat an oven to 225 c/ 430 F/ Gas Mark 7/ Very Hot
  2. Place 1 TB of regular sugar and saffron into mortar & pestle (or small bowl), grind to combine.
  3. Warm the milk in a pan until just warm (about 70 C/ 158 F).
  4. Add saffron & sugar mix, stir and leave to cool.
  5. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder & salt.
  6. Cube up the cold butter and combine with dry ingredients .
  7. Add 1 egg into the cooled saffron & milk mixture. Whisk to combine
  8. Add the whisked milk mix into the dry mix, stir to combine. (Mix will be quite wet)
  9. Turn scone mixture onto a floured surface & knead gently until it comes together in a workable dough.
  10. Gently roll out to roughly 3/4"/ 20 mm/ 2 cm thickness and cut with cutter of your own choice.
  11. Place onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper/ wax paper/ baking parchment,
  12. Brush scones with milk and top with sliced hazelnuts and Demerara sugar.
  13. Place scones into the hot oven and bake for approximately 12 minutes.
  14. For the Lime Cream
  15. In a medium bowl add 1 small tub of soft cream cheese
  16. Add 2 Tablespoons of icing/powdered sugar.
  17. Add zest 1 lime and juice if 1/2 - 1 small lime.
  18. Stir to combine - mix should be consistency of very thick cream, not too runny.
  19. Enjoy!

The Burryman of South Queensferry!

The Burryman of South Queensferry!

This may have been the event that started me on this journey.  During our courtship my soon-to-be husband would send me wild, weird or groovy tidbits about the land which I would soon call home.  The Burryman of South Queensferry grabbed him in particular as it was under five miles from where he spent most of his life and he had never heard of it before, despite having been orchestrated for hundreds, if not potentially upwards of a thousand years!

Welcome to the beautiful town of South Queensferry just 8 miles from Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth.  It was awarded its name by Queen (later Saint) Margaret who first established a ferry for pilgrims visiting St. Andrew’s, and then officially by her son David I upon the Queens death in 1093.

The Burryman Parade is always celebrated on the 2nd Friday of August and is now a stand out part of the week-long “Ferry Fair” which has its origins in the 12th century.  This is the be-decked High Street of South Queensferry as a few of us stalwarts gathered to welcome the Burryman on his annual cross town escapade.


The tradition of the Burryman seems to have stumped academics looking for hard fast dates of inception.  There are references to the elevation of the town to royal burgh (hence a possible play on word of burgh-y man) from both King Malcolm of Canmore (1058-1093) and more recently during the reign of Charles the I (1625 – 1643).  However the guy is literally covered in the prickly burrs of the Burdock plant so that seems a bit of a stretch.

There are other suggestions of the Burryman playing a ‘scapegoat’ or ‘sacrificial victim’  role as his burrs gather all the bad luck of the town (it is considered very good luck to pinch a few of his burrs – I certainly grabbed some). Other suggestions that have to do with similar ceremonies that had existed in other fishing villages such as Fraserburgh or Buckie on the Moray coast that had to do with “raising the herring”.   There are some notable links with other ancient festivals in Europe and in England such as Jack in the Green , Castleton Garland Day, and the Whittlesey Straw Bear, but the Burryman of South Queensferry is the only festival of its kind left in Scotland.


Curiously, on the day itself, every person in town will tell you the same thing.  They claim that the ceremony dates back only a few hundred years when a fisherman washed up on shore after a wreck.  Dressed only in his under-crackers (a union suit for you Yanks) he sought to maintain his modesty by covering himself in the handy and abundant burrs before heading into town to ask for help.  Upon receiving said help, he bestowed good luck on all the towns people as thanks.  Now, I don’t know too many fisher folk that would a) be that fussed about their modesty after a wreck, or b) choose really spiky, itchy burrs to protect their hypothetical modest, but hey – that is the party line from the people who have spent their lives in the town.

A few fun facts, very recently a 10,000 year old settlement was found on the outskirts of town putting human habitation in the area right back to the end of the last ice-age, and the burrs grow locally near the grounds of Hopetoun House.  Just thought I would throw that into the mix as some elements that could indicate a very old local origin indeed.

So, on this glorious August morning we gathered outside the Stag’ Head Hotel to await the mythical Burryman.


And after being dressed in a comfy outfit of heavy woolens, a balaclava and a bowler hat, then plastered with sheets of burrs and finished off with local flowers, the Burryman of 2013 (Andrew Taylor) emerges from the pub with his close friends and attendants to begin the big day.  For many decades the Burryman outfit included a Rampant Lion Flag ( the Royal Standard of Scotland)  around his waist.  When I asked about its absence, the past & current Burryman stated that after looking at historical photographs where no flag was present, they were trying to keep things old skool.  Only men (or stout lads) born in the town can play this important role, and most that take up the post  maintain for several years.  This was Mr Taylor’s second year but his friend in the white t-shirt John Nicol had previously held the role for 15 years!


So at about 8:45 am the Burryman supported by his attendants (Andrew Findlater and Duncan Thompson) were warmly welcomed to applause and people jostling for the first few photographs of this year’s event.


A few tentative steps later and the Burryman, his attendants, some family, friends and a Crier shouting “Hip…Hip…Hoor-ray, it’s..the Burry..Man’s…Day” with associated bell ringing,  all head off to their first stop on their over 8 mile journey that will last the whole day.


The first stop is at the town Provost’s house for their first (of which will later be uncountable) drink of whisky.  Due to the prickly nature of the get up, the Burryman is provided a straw to help is this task.  Apparently, the group can’t eat or sit down all day and can only drink whisky, so…a good time is had by all.  PS the attendants drink at each stop as well so I don’t know how much help they are by the end of the day!


John Nicol (left), Burryman (1996-2011) & Andrew Taylor, Burryman (2012 – )

The procession continues around town all day and takes a wee breather at The Moorings pub at about 4:00 pm.  Silly me thought that this is where things ended, but oh was I wrong.  While at The Moorings I was able to get this picture of past and current Burrymen side-by-side.

After a brief rest from their tour round the houses, the group headed off back to the High Street.


Beginning with this lovely owner of the local ice cream shop, the Burryman continued his whisky sipping extravaganza through the gorgeous cobblestone waterfront of the town.


Stopping to bestow good luck and pausing for pictures with the first of several brides along  the way.


As the day wound down, the procession began to pick up some serious crowd action as we reached the far end of the town.


At the edge of the waterfront sits the historic and iconic Hawes Inn, which is said to have hosted one Robert Louis Stevenson whilst he was writing Kidnapped and subsequently features in the book.  As it was after 5.30 pm I thought surely this is where things would wrap up.  I know that I was beginning to wane and I hadn’t been the one walking a 10k with burrs in all my nooks and crannies.

14 - burryman

But after posing for pictures with a few terrified children, some very surprised tourists and scoffing his requisite whisky, the group turned around and headed back to the town again.   It was then I realised he had only partaken at all the pubs on one side of the High Street, and had to go back and do the same again all the way back on the other side!


Luckily, a piper was ready and waiting for him for this last leg of his journey, which certainly helped to raise the spirits of the crowd as well as the procession’s.

16 - burryman

And after 10 hours and nearly as many miles, countless drinks and a bevy of brides, the crew finally arrived back at their original destination of the Stag’s Head Hotel.

17 - burryman

Huge cheers arose from all for an impressive feat and an amazing day, which has been a part of this town for longer than anyone can confidently document.  At this point  more than a few folks emboldened by the crescendo (or maybe a bit of drink) came out of the crowd to grab wads of burrs off the guy’s suit as good luck keepsake until next year.  He was then helped back into the pub for a disrobing and I am sure a welcome sit down.

So,  just as it has for hundreds and perhaps as long as a thousand years or more, bad luck was gathered up and good luck bestowed on all who cheered on the Burryman of 2013.


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