Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Scandinavian Cookbook

Food should not only feed the body, but also the soul. A little more time spent in the kitchen using fresh and seasonal ingredients to make a meal to be enjoyed together is Trina Hahnemann’s dream. In her book The Scandinavian Cookbook she takes us month by month through 100 traditional Nordic recipes which perfectly capture the essence of Scandinavian cuisine and culture.
Trina, a leading Danish TV chef and food writer give us recipes which are a light modern version of Scandinavian home cooking, presented in a way that is simple and healthy.

As soon as I received the book I couldn’t wait to flick through its pages. I’m passionate about all things Scandinavian, a seed that was planted within me ever since visiting Iceland and Sweden has found me exploring and researching everything from food to design.

I would love to see more dishes from northern latitudes being served in Britain and there really is no reason why Scandinavian food shouldn’t become more popular.
Most people tend to think of Nordic ingredients consisting of mostly fish or dare I say it, slightly dodgy meatballs in IKEA. Make them yourself, they’re so much better as page 84 demonstrates and if you’re in the mood for something more spicy try the meatballs in curry sauce on page 194 – yes, the Scandinavians are partial to curry too.
There really is so much more to their cuisine, seafood in all its variants, fresh from the garden salads, hearty roasts and irresistible baking.

After spending a good hour salivating over the pages and marking potential recipes with post-it notes, I selected four to try.
The choice was difficult as I wanted to make everything, but with the help of Lars Ranek’s gorgeous photography I decided on the ones where the pictures made my mouth water the most.
It was easy to get carried away by the images of sparkling frost covered trees, the golden light of a low sun illuminating the cobbled maritime streets of Copenhagen or hazy meadows and quaint summerhouses, that I had to prise myself out of the sofa, away from moments of nostalgia and get myself into the kitchen.

Here follows those chosen dishes complete with photos of my own attempts.

Cauliflower Soup with Grilled Scallops
I don’t often make soups, but I was drawn to the Cauliflower Soup with Grilled Scallops (p.184), I think the idea of scallops made it sound rather special and I fancied a treat. The soup itself was easy to make and had a glorious velvety texture. The hint of curry flavour lifted it from potential blandness and surprisingly, although the cauliflower was typically smelly on cooking, the soup didn’t have the characteristic strong cauliflower flavour. The scallops were simply griddled and then dressed in fresh lemon juice which perfectly complimented the creaminess of the soup.

Biff Lindström
Biff Lindström (p.54) is a clever adaptation of steak tartare, all the ingredients are there, but it is cooked, so if you’re not a fan of eating raw meat, then this is the recipe for you.
Minced beef is combined with onions, capers, pickled beetroot, chives, Worcestershire sauce and eggs yolks, formed into burger shapes and fried. I even made the pickled beetroot myself (p.48), I loved the use of star anise that gave a light aniseed flavour.
The Biff Lindström is served on crispy sautéed potatoes with Balsamico beans on the side. My french beans didn’t look quite like the book’s photo as the balsamic vinegar had made them a touch brown, but they did taste very good.
The beef was moist and well flavoured and who could resist fried potatoes especially as they were cooked in some butter.

Potato Cakes
Sometimes I will take an element of a recipe and adapt it to what I have in the fridge and pantry. This time I made just the potato cakes from the recipe for Potato Cakes with Lumpfish Roe and Beetroot Salad (p.30). Instead of topping with lumpfish roe, I chose to use some flaked smoked mackerel with the homemade pickled beetroot and a dollop of horseradish cream on top.
I’ve never made potato cakes before, and I was initially concerned that they might fall apart or not properly cook through. The cakes are bound together with egg so held together effortlessly and as the potato was grated it cooked perfectly. Extra flavour additions were spring onions, sesame seeds, nutmeg and thyme which gave the potato cakes a good savoury taste. I think mine turned out well and they were enjoyably crisp.

Cardamom Buns
There’s nothing more tempting than some Scandinavian baking. Fresh breads and pastries, still warm from the oven fills the house with such an inviting aroma. I can imagine snuggling up by a real fire on a long Norwegian winter night with the smell of spices and comforting yeasty aromas wafting from the kitchen.
I love making bread by hand so I thought I’d make the Cardamom Buns (p.38). Cardamom is a much used spice in Scandinavia and I think it lends a pleasant perfume to sweet breads.
Making the buns was a long process, as bread making should be, but it was well worth the effort. My buns rose really well, so much so that they touched each other on the baking tray. When I removed them from the oven, all satisfyingly shiny from the egg glaze, it was a joy to separate them, the gentle ripping sound of well made bread with a wisp of escaping steam delivering the spicy aroma into my nostrils.

I was pleased with the overall ease that the recipes could be made – they are breeze to follow and many use readily available ingredients.
Some of the recipes are starkly simplistic, for example, strawberries and cream (p.104), but if one considers it to be a source of inspiration and an insight into Scandinavian cuisine, then it has its place.

The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann is published by Quadrille.
Paperback RRP £14.99
Order yours now

Food photos: ©childsdesign 2010
Book kindly supplied by Quadrille Publishing


Pille said...

It's a wonderfully beautiful book, isn't it :)

Cheeky Spouse said...

Pille, yes it is very beautiful.
I've still to cook more recipes from it too.

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