Archive for December, 2007

Merry Christmas – and something crispy

December 23, 2007

So it’s almost there! And this will be the last post before Christmas and probably for a while since the calender is full of days with the family. But before I take my leave, I’ll share this great and simple recipe for sour dough waffles. It’s easy, yes, but it takes a little planning as you have to start one day early and have a wheat sour dough starter at hand. (For those of you Danish readers, a wheat starter is available at Emmerys). We had them for brunch today – just to get going before the big day of preparations. After that start I was ready for baking, braising and diaper change!

I love baking and do pretty much all our wheat bread baking. So of course I bought Nancy Silverston’s book Breads from La Brea Bakery – if there ever was a classic on artisan bread baking this is a safe bet. It’s a good book but honestly, I just don’t have the patience for her very complicated recipes. But this one is great! It’s easy-peasy and turns out crisp waffles like I’ve never seen before. The result isn’t too sweet, actually the recipe is a little too sour for my taste – it could be that my starter is more sour than hers? So I add a little extra sugar. Eat the waffles with maple syrup and your Christmas stress-o-meter is sure to drop a notch!

Sour dough waffles (6-7 waffles)
adapted from Nancy Silverton Breads from La Brea Bakery

Day 1

30g butter
125ml whole fat milk
125ml wheat starter
1 tbsp moscovado sugar
75ml flour

Melt the butter and milk. When cool add the rest and whisk together. Cover and leave at room temperature over night.

Day 2

1 large egg
1/8 tsp baking soda

Add the ingredients to the batter and bake straight away at a heated waffle iron. Grease the iron the first time, after that you shouldn’t need to. Much away – and Merry Christmas!

Global politics in a cookie jar

December 21, 2007

No, this isn’t a political post. Relax, nothing could be further from my mind these days busy with Holiday preparations than global politics. And it isn’t one of these health conscious food politically correct ones either. That would also seriously interfere with, well, pretty much everything food related these days where butter, sugar and cream are my closest friends.


Instead, what this really is about, is cosmopolitan cookies. There is a Danish traditional Christmas cookie, a sweet little thing, called a Jewish cake. Unfortunately, I’m not well versed enough in Danish food lore to tell you, where it got its name from. What I can tell you is, that the – at least on my blog – ever present Camilla Plum has come up with a recipe for Palestinian cookies. And for my cosmopolitan self, I think that is a great idea. Just like its counterpart, the Palestinian cookie doesn’t really have anything to do with Palestine but if you (at least the Danish ones of you all) want a little balance in your cookie jar, do try these little mouth cleansers of a cookie. They have a rather non traditional mix of spices but here in Danmark where everything these days are drenched in cinnamon and allspice, I have no reservations. The recipe calls for carraway, and they are important. You want to omit them, I know, so did I. But don’t! They make all the difference and take on a whole different character when used with things sweet.

Palestinian cookies (70-80)
From Camilla Plum’s Jul

140 cane sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
225g butter
200g all-purpose flour
100g whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
6-7 tbsp water

Spice mix:
2 tbsp aniseed
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp carraway seeds
1 tbsp cardamom seeds (i.e. the seeds taken out of the pods)
100g canesugar

Mix sugar, lemon zest, water and butter in a Kitchen Aid until white and the sugar is dissolved. This will take a while! Combine the two different types of flour, salt and baking powder and sift it over the butter/sugar mix. Keep mixing and you’ll get a fluffy mixture. Put it in a plastic bag and cut a tiny bit of one corner and start making your cookies. They should be around 5 cm in diameter.

For the spice mix, combine everything a give a quick bash either in a mortar or spice grinder. Not too much, the mix should have texture. Drizzle over each un-baked cookie and bake for 6-7 minutes until golden at 180C in a preheated oven.

If you don’t have a mixer, combine all the ingredients to a ball with your hands on the table. Form a long cylinder and cook it in the fridge. When cold and hard slice it into 2mm thick slices and bake.

Vanilla rings – vanillekranse

December 19, 2007

I’ve almost completed the Christmas baking and munch making. Yesterday I got the last batch of cookies done and I had saved the best for last. Vanillekranse are my favorite cookies. Crisp and light – and heavily scented with vanilla. This is the time to bring the big bucks to the store and stock up on those plumb and thick Tahiti vanilla pods.

It seems that every family has their own version of these Danish classics. Of course I think these ones are just right. They are somewhat different than the standard vanillekrans as they call for a lot of almonds compared to flour and you actually use the whole vanilla pod, not just the seeds. The result is extremely crispy but the price is that they don’t hold their shape quite as well. (Check out Zarah’s version over at Food and Thought.)

Vanillekranse on the left

Please note that you need to start one day in advance as the dough needs to rest overnight.

from Camilla Plum Jul, yield 30 or so

125g blanched almonds
half a vanilla pod (or more… I used half a Tahiti and a couple from the vanilla sugar jar)
125g flour
a quarter tsp ammonium carbonate
125g sugar, preferably home made vanilla sugar
60g butter
1 egg



Grind the almonds very finely  with the vanillapod(s) in a food processor (the pod needs to be very finely chopped so you might have to help out on the cutting board). Put all the ingredients in a bowl and combine into a firm ball, if you wish you can use a Kitchen Aid attached with the paddle. Let the whole thing rest in the fridge over night. Now comes the fun part! Either you attach a star shaped ring to your Kitchen Aid meat grinder (yes, I said meat grinder) or you have a bollesprøjte as you see in the picture above. If you do, just do as on the picture. With a meat grinder you add the dough in batches – and you should call out for a helping hand at this stage – and while one is putting the dough through the grinder the other is shaping the rings. Once you have a full plate bake for around 7 minutes at 180C. The vanillekranse will stay crisp in an air tight container for a couple of weeks but they probably won’t last that long, so don’t worry too much about it!



Medjool dates

December 15, 2007

A couple of weeks ago I stumpled on some rather scrumptious looking organic Israeli dates at my local super market. They looked like something I absolutely had to buy. So I did, initiating my little date enlightenment project. My relationship with dried fruits are fairly new so the discovery that there exist different varieties of dates sort of took me by surprise. I did a little research and discovered that actually, there’s a whole lot of different dates around.


I soon realized that what I was after was the medjool date. Also known as King Salomon these babies are the king of dates. Just the name pretty much did it for me invoking all the smells and sights of the Middle Eastern cuisine. Of course I found them at my favorite green grocer, just known around town as The king. This guy was voted the best green grocer in the country last year and how can anyone compete with going to Rungis, the Paris food mecca, every week for fresh deliveries of French garlic (he stocks three different kinds!), extravagant Spanish navel oranges etc., and at the same time carrying phenomenal regional produce, among other things my favorite apple quinces. Of course The king carries medjool dates, so I walked away happily awaiting if they would live up to my expectations.

Oh, did they ever! The Israeli ones (I don’t know the varietal name) were great, no doubt about that, but the Medjools were even better. Not overpoweringly sweet, more along the lines of moscovado sugar with its hints of caramel and spices, butterlike in consistency and big enough to constitute a substantial snack. I was hooked and might just have to stock up on these for the Holidays.

Crispy “burned” almonds

December 13, 2007

To keep within the crunchy side of life, not at least of Christmas, why not make your own burned almonds. Walking through town these days with all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, there’s nothing more appealing than the stands selling burned almonds, these reddish-brown small wonders covered either in crispy croquantish caramel or the “drier” version where the sugar hasn’t caramelized.

Following my post on the crunchy side of Christmas, you might thing I would cheer for the croquant types. Well, I wouldn’t. I prefer the other kind that are a little gentler on your teeth. Making the almonds are pretty straight forward, so if you on the way home accidentally ate all almonds (you didnt’t, did ya? you rascal, you!), here’s how you make some more.

Combine equal amounts of water, water (non-blanched), sugar and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan. Put it on high heat and stir once in a while until it starts to thicken. From now on, you have to stir all the time. Otherwise it will burn. If you’re like me and like the not overly crunchy type (did i say that?) you stop cooking when the sugar goes reddish brown and lava-like and starts sticking to the almonds. Transfer the whole thing to a heat proof dish and cool a little before you separate the almonds with a fork.

For variation add a little spice, cinnamon and cardamom both work well. If you end up cooking the almonds too long and it turn in to brittle – well, it could be worse, ’cause you’ve got, you guessed it, brittle. And who don’t like brittle? Chop it up and drizzle over your favorite vanilla ice cream. Voilá!

The almonds will keep in an air tight container but I doubt that’ll be necessary. Munch away, ya’ll.

Chrunchy Christmas

December 11, 2007

How is it again? “Have your self a very chrunchy Christmas”… No? Not for me, anyways. Sometimes I get the feeling that someone took the crunch out of Christmas resulting in massive eating extravaganzas leaving my crunch-a-holic self totally unsatisfied and puzzled – is it just me? Surely, it can’t be. Yes, the Danish holiday fare have its crunch, but for me crispy onion rings on top of the pickled herrings or the crunchy cracklings of pork roast just doesn’t quite do it. What about all the cookies and candies, surely they are crunchy? Yes, now you’re on to something but why is it, that all the main courses are so lacking in the crunch department?

Well, enough wining already. Realizing this post is way overdue, who really need Christmas recipes this time a year when all the holiday get-togethers are already well planed or done with, if nothing else this can act as a mental post-it to myself. ‘Cause next year I’m sure to have forgotten what we did this year, and that would be a darn shame, if I’m to judge.

We had pretty much all the relatives from Line’s side of the family for lunch a couple of weekends back. We really couldn’t have squeezed another chair in our rather small living room but hey, it all worked out. There was only one rule in our planning, the cooking part had to be fun so that what was supposed to be a nice day with the family wouldn’t get spoiled by a couple of stressed out hosts hovering over the stoves and grumping out orders to the guests. That turned out to be a good rule of thumb, and when the day arrived we we’re pretty much in control, had done our preparations and only needed to do the finishing touches.

Crunch was a big part of the menu that was lingering somewhere between traditional and innovative. Not foam or things exploding in your mouth-innovative, just twisting old classics a bit. We started out with two dishes from Claus Meyer‘s great book on entertaining guests, Mad til mange (Feeding the crowds), gravad salmon and soused herring. Both dishes proved to be a Meyer take on old Christmas classics, the salmon was marinated in snaps, warm spices and saffron served with toasted rye bread and pickled celery. The salmon takes on a great reddish hue from the saffron that also helps camouflaging the strong snaps flavor. The soused herring was pretty standard fair, except for the pickling liquid that in stead of plain vinegar was a mix of apple cider vinegar, sugar and warm spices. A real treat, the apple aromas doing a world of good to the herrings! Served on rye bread with a relish of grated apples, beets and horse raddish it was an instant classic.

N ow, at a usual crunchless Christmas lunch you would serve the roast. In stead we served a salad. It was the star of the day and it’s not the last time we’ll throw in a salad to cleanse those fat-induced palates with a little zing and zang. The recipe is from Camilla Plum’s new book on Christmas (such a shame for you non-Danish readers but she hasn’t been translated). The idea is slicing up 3 large apples a small stalk celery and a fennel bulb. Mix with 100 g of dried cranberries and a dressing made of olive oil, crushed garlic, apple vinegar, walnut oil and salt. Mix it all when ready to serve and drizzle with pomegranate seeds. It’s highly recommended, some might even say addictive.

Then on to the roast, we chose a pork loin braised in beer and apple juice along with peers and celery (also from the Meyer book). At the end of cooking, reduce the braising juices until you get a thick, dark sauce. Squeeze the pears through a sieve and slice up a couple of fresh ones adding to the vegetables cooked with the roast. Drizzle with toasted cubes of rye bread over the vegetables for that extra crunch – you didn’t think I had forgotten, did ya?

After that ordeal, sometimes eating can be challenging, it was on to the sweets: chocolate covered pickled ginger and orangettes, homemade English style fudge with rum and nuts and the like. Not to brag or anyting (well, maybe just a little) but we were thorougly pleased with the menu – the guest were nice too, mind you – and opting for a snack kind of desert was a great idea. In stead of pudding, people munched on the different snacks and sipping a little coffee in between. And I for one had had my chrunchy Christmas hopes fulfilled.

Menu for Hope IV

December 11, 2007

mfhlogosmall_21.jpgMy Google Reader are going crazy these days with one post after the other about the great food blogger event, Menu for Hope. I’ve just read up on the whole thing over at pim’s whose in charge of organizing. Last year readers of food blogs around the world gathered up more than $60.000. This year the benefitters from hopefully an even bigger amount is a breakfast and lunch program in Lesotho. For $10 you buy a raffle and the chance of winning some pretty great things. David has thrown in a Kitchen Aid and among the more extravagant prizes are a guided tour of the El Bulli testing fascilities accompanied by Ferran himself. Check out all the details at Chez Pim.


Ahh… apples

December 7, 2007

I’m a very indoorsy kind-a-guy but if there is one that could persuade me getting a house in the country side, it’s the prospect of growing my own apples. And pears… and, heck, quinces too. Denmark is blessed with a climate pretty much perfect for growing apples. The long mild, some say cold, windy and God awful, summer gives all the aromas and tastes time to develop from lovely suave colored blossoms in the spring into scrumptious green or red containers of flavor and joy during the fall. Unfortunately this is not something very many appreciate, so buying locally grown apples can be tricky. Sometimes down right impossible as supermarkets rarely carry Danish apples on a regular basis leaving you with a choice of green Grannies polished to match a shoe shiners add or red non-descript varieties.

Despite many supermarkets disdain for locally grown produce, the high end chefs have discovered the wonders of apples. With the whole Nordic food revolution these years, especially championed by Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer at noma, you see apples going into all sorts of dishes, not just the sweet. We like to use them in salats, one of the current regulars is very thinly sliced brussel sprouts and apples (Belle de Boskoop or Cox Orange) dressed with olive and walnut oil, salt, apple vinegar and little sugar for balance. Claus Meyer has also developed a selection of excellent fruit vinegars, e.g. three apple types: an apple cider, a balsamic and an ordinary apple vinegar. They are all great and a part of our pantries.

All this being said, it’s still difficult finding good apples outside specialty stores and farmer markets. Enter friends and family! Last night we had a small family get-together meeting up early, just having a salad, bread and cheese. Berit, my sister-in-law, brought along a batch of her father’s homemade apple juice. As it is probably clear by now, not only am I a indoorsy kind-a-guy but an apple kind-a-guy too, so what better gift to bring along.

The juice was made a month or so ago from extracting the juice of a whole bunch of apples and then frozen. No heat extracting mechanisms or pasteurizing or worse here. Just the nectar. We thawed it over night, and ahh… this morning I had a glass. It was thick and velvety leaving a slight residue reminding me of the fact that this is the real non-filtered thing. The taste was all Danish fall apples, sweet and slightly tangy – just right in my opinion. And just the thing to get myself convinced that an apple orchard probably isn’t such a bad idea after all. Even for an indoorsy kind-a-guy.

Jaw of pork tagine style

December 5, 2007

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you planned. But – then again – that isn’t always a bad thing. Yesterday I wanted to make a tagine. One of those fragrance filled Morrocan stews made from simmering chicken, veal or lamb for hours on end filling the house with warm flavors. Well, I sort of made it… The result was great, but a tagine? Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly hallal.

I flipped through Claudia Roden’s great book om Middle Eastern food Arabesque and found the tagine I wanted to make: Tagine of lamb with caramelized babyonions and quinces. Equipped with my shopping list I went to town but, alas, no luck finding the piece of lamb I wanted. It seemed that the meat section of my supermarked mad been attacked by Father Christmas and the ever present, especially around this time of year,  cuts of pig. Luckily, it wasn’t just any old pig that had delivered the cuts but one from Grambogård, a small farm that makes excellent dairy and meat products.

As no lamb was in sight, I thought why not, let’s go global and make a tagine inspired stew with jaws of pork! Jaws is one of the most overlooked cuts. When cooked properly, the meat becomes extremely tender, you could literally chew it your eyebrows, as the Morrocans say. So there you go – maybe not a traditional tagine, but definitely one to try. As for the quince idea, I must admit I forgot all about preparing them in the excitement, so I opted for a quicker solution and used pears in stead.

Here’s the general idea: Brown the jaws in olive oil (two per person), add chopped onions a couple of crushed garlic cloves and spices (I used a mix of coriander and fennel seeds, a stick of cinnamon and a pinch of safron). Sautee for a couple of minutes before adding water or stock. The jaws should be covered. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. Bring to the boil and skim off any foam that forms. Leave to simmer with the lid on at low heat for an hour and a half.

Meanwhile caramelize the onions (I used shallots) by soaking them in boiling water before peeling. Then sautee in oil until browned. Add the onions to the stew and continue cooking for half and hour. Remove the onions and meat and reduce the sauce. If necessary add sugar, salt and lemon juice to taste. While the sauce is reducing, slice up a pear or two and brown in butter until the cutting side is browned. I used Doyenne – that worked well. When the sauce is reduced add meat, onions and pears and serve along with couscous and perhaps a salad.




December 4, 2007

I stumbled across a small basket of Danish apple quinces sitting on the top row of my green grocers outdoor rack. They were sitting on top of all kind of regional-grown apples – Lobo, Cox, Belle de Boskoop – and just waiting to be brought home to my kitchen. Quinces are great. Period. They go in stews, spice up apple dishes and not least great for sweets.

I haven’t seen Danish quinces in the stores before. You can get imported ones from countries around the Med pretty much all year long, but Danish ones are rare. I grabbed a few and already knew what to make – membrillo. We’ve made for Christmas the last couple of years from bush quinces from my parents house. Botanically it’s a whole different ball game, or so I’m told anyway, but the results have been good, though. This year however, it was to be the real deal, regional apple quinces, how much better does it get? Not a whole lot, actually. I was pleased I must admit! The paste thickened easier than before, maybe because of a higher pectin content, and the taste was great. Sweet with deep apple aromatics.

It takes a little while making the membrillo – and constant attention! This is one of those instances where you need a distraction free environment. I swear, the bobbling lava that eventually becomes a paste can smell if you answer the phone. It will burn, trust me. Once you set up your distraction free environment, wash the quinces, quarter and pit. Boil them in water until the are soft (up to thus point it is okay answering emergency phone calls etc.) Discard the water, press the soft quinces through a sieve discarding the peels. In a saucepan combine the puree with equal amounts of sugar and a little lemon peel and stir on very low heat until a thick amber paste is formed. It will take a while. Once you’re satisfied, transfer to a lined dish and put in a preheated oven at 50C until the top is no longer sticky to the touch. Let it cool, cube and roll in sugar. Serve along any old Christmas munching – English fudge, orangettes etc.