Monday, 12 March 2012

New Nordic cuisine

I know very little about Nordic cuisine beyond what I've read in the news and about Noma, Denmark's number one restaurant. So for me, it's been about edible soil, cured salmon, foraging for berries and roots and wild herbs. Recognising that this must be a rather skewed picture, I set off for New Nordic Cuisine For The Home Cook, a workshop run by the Culinary Anthropologist together with Mia Kristiansen of CPH Good Food in Copenhagen with an open mind, but not entirely sure what to expect.


The next four hours were utterly inspirational. Food that was at once familiar - the climate and growing conditions in Denmark aren't that different to those in the UK - but used or combined in completely different ways. This is food that tastes clean and healthy, with lots of emphasis in contrasts in texture, and the use of souring agents gives many dishes an extra zingy flavour.  


Mia explained first of all that Scandinavian food refers, or should refer, to food produced in Norway, Denmark and Sweden only, while Nordic cuisine can refer to countries such as Iceland, the Faeroe Islands and Finland as well. She also explained that the parameters of the new Nordic cuisine demand that ingredients should be sourced from the Nordic countries, so items that we might regard as essential, such as olive oil, or lemon, were totally off-limits. Butter or pumpkin oil are used a lot, as are vinegars. Apple vinegar, for example, featured a lot during our morning.


Here's what we made and ate for our lunch:

  • Crispbread with ramson pesto
  • Lightly cured and hot-smoked salmon
  • Malt pizza with home-cured bacon and herbs
  • Pork cheeks in wheat beer
  • Apple bread made with old wheat varieties
  • Cauliflower salad with hazelnuts, cress and cranberries
  • Spelt salad with horseradish, kale and apples
  • Danish apple trifle with skyr foam, oats and hazelnuts
(Note: Ramson is wild garlic; skyr foam is a frothy, whipped mix of cream and skyr, a Danish version of fromage frais or the middle Eastern labneh. This trifle was also lifted by the addition of a truly delicious  blackberry liqueur.)



Dough for the beetroot crispbread, studded with pumpkin seeds.  Made with spelt flour and rolled oats, the crunchy, wafer-thin home-made crispbreads were addictive - this beetroot version baked to a delicate rose colour in the oven.

This light sweet cure with fresh dill is similar to gravadlax. The ramson pesto packs a lovely earthy green punch, made with wild garlic leaves, hazelnuts, rapeseed oil and hard cheese (I think we used Cheddar on the day). 

Salmon fillets, hot-smoked the way we do it at the Secret Garden Club! These were wonderfully tender and silky in texture.

Malt pizzas with home-cured bacon and herbs. These were a revelation - nothing scary about the individual ingredients but combined in an unfamiliar way. The dough for the base has malt extract added to it - "Oh, I think it needs more malt," Mia would say every time she passed our station until she was finally happy with it. These baked beautifully crisp, and were topped with cheese (Cornish Yarg on the day), smoked pork belly, sliced potatoes, rosemary, herbs and a creamy dressing. The result was recognisably pizza, but a wonderful melee of soft, smoky, malty, green and crunchy. I'll be making this back at home. 

Kneading the pizza dough. This one definitely needs more malt.

Malt pizza toppings before baking.

Nordic mixed herbs: dill, celandine, woodruff, ground elder, lovage. Not your average bouquet garni ...

Pork belly piece, smoking in the double pan. A layer of smouldering wood chips sit in a foil pocket in the bottom pan under the steamer. 

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