Good Food Blog
The great DanesPosted at 12:02PM, 26 March 2008 by Jenni Muir - Food writer
For several months I've been working with Danish food writer and caterer Trine Hahnemann, who runs the café in Copenhagen's house of parliament, and produces recipes for one of the country's leading women's magazines. She's been travelling with a photographer to various parts of Scandinavia to record the region's dishes - from a modern rather than traditional perspective - while I stay in sunny (cough, splutter) London smoothing the translation and making the words fit the Danish art director's ruthlessly cool page design.
Not that I envy them their three days in northern Norway's arctic conditions - but it was the fresh take on cold-climate cooking that attracted me to this project. Let's face it - Scandinavia is not far away. Flying to MalmÃÂ¶ from the UK takes less than an hour. And there's a lot we could learn from the cooks of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. As Trine has been showing me, they use many of the same ingredients as British cooks, they just put them together with a different - often healthy - twist.
Reindeer, moose and cloudberries are the Scandinavian kitchen's red herrings: think instead of poached chicken with horseradish and chervil sauce; pork cooked in brown ale, thyme and coriander seeds; a stew of chuck steak, potatoes, bay leaves and pepper; and apple trifle with caramelized bread croutons. Yum! Who doesn't love the meatballs, either?
Scandinavians have many useful ways with root vegetables, too, and embrace a wider range than you'll find in the average UK greengrocer, such as Hamburg parsley, or parsley root, which looks a bit like a hairy mooli radish. And they use caraway, juniper and mustard as casually as we'd use parsley or cinnamon.
Two of London's coolest cafes at the moment are Scandinavian Kitchen and Nordic Bakery, both in the media enclaves of the West End. The rush for tables at lunchtimes is a testament to the rapidly growing popularity of rye bread and oily fish, but I suspect it is also something to do with the way the friendly staff make customers feel good about wintry weather. As cooks we're meant to celebrate the seasons, but how many of us really think 'Wha-hay! Cabbage and turnips, past mid-January? Adopting a few Scandinavian dishes could be the clever way to enjoy winter's last blast.