Slipping into Scandinavia

Cooking is my jam. Something about the creativity of it, the inherent usefulness and practicality, combined with the sensual element – using taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing to conjure up a dish – it just makes me feel alive.

I’m at my best when discovering new recipes, darting back and forth between the screen and the chopping board, double checking quantities and ingredient lists, wondering all the while what new flavour combinations will be unearthed as the finale.

This past fortnight we have ‘travelled’ to Denmark and Sweden. We have discovered a whole new flavour palate – from fermented vegetables (carrot and beetroot), to the seductive taste of dill, rich buttery gravies and sumptuous desserts. I have decided that Danish cuisine is almost a mix of French and Polish flavours – the heavy emphasis on butter and pastries with the unmistakably sour/salty tastes from across the bay. We overloaded on flaky apricot and chocolate danishes, made our way through mounds of potatoes and the kids even scoffed down bowlfuls of a beef and pickled beetroot curry. The dill sauce recipe absolutely blew my mind and I quickly declared it to be my favourite gravy ever (it is like a mix between pickles and gravy in the best possible way).

Swedish cuisine (or at least the recipes we tried) was similarly hearty, though fresh elements swept through as well. On the last night, I concocted a Swedish lasagna, to use up the rest of the ingredients and it was surprisingly good (who would have thought a sauce of Swedish meatballs, finely chopped mushrooms, spinach and pickled beetroot would ever come together!). There were the open sandwiches that were delicious, the decadent layer cakes and the crunchy oatmeal biscuits with their sweet chocolate layer.

I never realised what a big part baking played in the Scandinavian way of life, from the midsummer cake parties, to the crunchy loaves of freshly baked bread. Trine Hahneman swept me away with her incredible recipes and my lists grew longer as I was unable to stop jotting down new ideas of what to try.

The Around the World Stories series on Denmark got us all contemplating why Denmark consistently places at or near the top of the World Happiness List, and wondering if we could bring a taste of their appreciation for the everyday moments and the concept of ‘hygge’ into our lives here. We also learned a lot about the origins of Lego, which I had never realised came from Denmark. We were all awed with the Swedish tale of the Icehotel which is built from scratch every year, allowing a perfect vantage point to experience the northern lights phenomena.

If dinner time is becoming a chore and you are feeling a little hemmed in by those four walls, maybe a ‘trip’ is in order? I’ve included a list of recipes below to give you a head start.

Danish Recipes

Fermented carrot
Easter chicken stew
Danish beef stew with dumplings
Veal breast with dill sauce (I used chicken instead)
Childhood curry

Swedish Recipes

Swedish beef burgers
Fat almond pancake (I made a spinach and cheese version)
IKEA meatballs
Pickled beetroot

Scandinavian Baking

Walnut and coffee macaroon layer cake
Autumn apple and hazlenut layer cake
Danish pastry
Swedish oatmeal crisp cookies

Next we travel to Portugal… I can’t wait to see what new concepts and flavours we discover.

Do you have any favourite Scandinavian recipes to share? I would love to hear about them! What creative outlets do you have to stay sane with the constant demands of motherhood? 

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