Tuesday 3 August 2010

The Scandinavian Cookbook

Scandinavian food has been a particular favourite of mine since I was a little girl, thanks to having the good fortune of having Swedish and Danish neighbours (despite growing up in a little corner of Surrey).

I distinctly remember my first open sandwich and wondering why there was no roof on it- it was a revelation- as a child I couldn't understand why no one British hadn't noticed that less bread meant more room for filling! (now I also see it is a healthier option but you don't care about all that when you're five do you?).

I also remember the creamy Danish blue cheese, the cinnamon buns and the tale of the grown up dinner party where our Danish neighbour cooked the best sea bass the adults of our road ever tasted by steaming it in a dish washer (inside a covered pan you understand).

So I was delighted to be given the chance to review The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann- who is a sort of Scandinavian cross between Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith with a bit of Hugh Fearnly Whittingshall thrown in (for her love of seasonal produce and unusual ingredients only!).

The book is beautifully presented- the recipes are arranged seasonally and accompanied by wonderful photographs of spring, summer, autumn and winter in the different Scandinavian countries as well as of the glorious food- so you see the food in context but are also enjoying some stunning photography in it's own right that will have you looking for flights straight away- this is more than merely a recipe book- it's a window into Scandinavian life through food.

I look at cookery books in book shops a great deal. I find it completely relaxing to sit down in a corner of a shop and really look at new titles to see how well they explain recipes and I must say time and time again I put books back that don't have pictures of the dishes they are telling you how to make. I know pictures add a great deal of expense to a book but I really value being able to see what my end result should be. The photographs of the food here are plentiful and mouth watering.

The recipes on offer vary in terms of formality and the time and skill required to make them. So there are recipes for simple, easy to make but important, staple dishes like Smorrebrod and Langoustines with mayonnaise but also more complex and unusual dishes like veal with rhubarb. I'm particularly keen to make my own elderflower cordial and the artichoke soup.

I find it fascinating and I think I have said it here before that the Nordic countries are so close to us relatively but we tend not to immediately look to them for- inspiration I suppose. Certainly food wise we look to Paris, Milan or Barcelona for new recipes far more than Stockholm or Copenhagen. These countries have so much to offer and not least in their food. The food is at once really quite similar to our own but different enough to seem exotic and it's certainly very hip. It is also often extremely healthy and there is a dedication to seasonal eating that seems real rather than our British flirting with it but ultimately still buying strawberries from three time zones away in the middle of winter.

I understand Trina will also be opening a pop- up restaurant in Londonfor ten days in November and December. If the recipes from those months in the book are anything to go by it will be a real treat. The pop- ups menu is describes as a modern version of the smörgåsbord. It will include open sandwiches with home-baked rye bread and various toppings, and some Danish cheeses. Then there will be an afternoon tea with traditional glühwein and Swedish cinnammon rolls. And for dinner there will be a four-course menu with soup and fish, plus a main course and a pudding. I will post more information about the restaurant nearer the time- I will certainly be going and hope to maybe see some of you there too.

The Scandinavian Cookbook is available in paperback from pre- order here and is released on the 1st of October. The hard back is available here.


Marie said...

It sounds like a great book and one for someone who hasn't really done much Scandinavian cooking beforehand. Something to add to my wish list!

Suzanne said...

Thanks for reviewing this, Rose! I'm going to check it out. Having been in Sweden this summer, I agree with you: the food is really delicious and so healthy. I enjoyed eating a lot of fresh fish, but even the sandwiches were inspired, my favorite being an open-face one that had a creamy spread made with beets and topped with little Swedish meatballs and thinly sliced onions. The purple-red color of the beet spread would have put off many Americans, as we have a history of eating rather bland-looking sandwiches, but it was, of course, superbly yummy.

ScentScelf said...

One of my strongest impressions re: Scandinavian cuisine is breakfast...namely, the breakfast smorgasbord. With all that yogurt and cheese and preserves and crispbreads and so much stuff.

And yes, so healthy!

Did I tell you my story about saying yes to the lunch special? Mousse? Only it was...moose? ;)

A "pop up restaurant"? I had to look this up. And I learned...it is like our "supper clubs." New style supper clubs, that is, not the old ones that had stand alone buildings dedicated to themselves, rather than a roving something that you had to be in the know to get to. If you do go to Trina's, I hope you share the experience.

Who knows...maybe Norway will donate some whale ingredient...you've been down THAT path before... ;)

Rose said...

Hi Marie- yes, a lot of it is putting ingredients together we don't, rhubarb and veal for example!

Hi Suzanne- isn't Sweden a great place for a holiday? so fresh and healthy, even in the cities. That meatball dish sounds great, I do agree, the colour in the food is part of what makes it so enticing.

Hi Scaentscelf- oh dear Moose! well I hope it was nice! Yes pop ups are big here, they keep things fresh I suppose and also a chef like Trina can cook for people in different countries. I go to quite a lot and they're such fun- the only thing is they get very over booked!

Laura said...

You had me at Danish blue cheese.

Yes to the book and to the pop up! The photos look gorgeous (which is something I really need in a cook book). Never cooked Scandinavian before, would love to try.

Holly Springett said...

Lovely book review, and the pop up restaurant sounds like it will be amazing!

lady jane grey said...

Careful, careful with your first sentence: the Scandinavians don't consider Finland as Scandinavia (it's only DK, SE and NO).
But the book looks really interesting.

Rose said...

Hi BPT- you should definitely try Scandinavian food- it's delicious and would look great in photos!

Hi Holly- I agree I can't wait for the pop up

Hi Lady Jane Grey- I've changed it for you; my Finnish neighbour was married to a Swede so perhaps that's why everyone used to get lumped together. I didn't wish to offend. It was she who first introduced us to cloudberry jam and liquer so I think of her as being very sweet!

Metropolitan Mum said...

I only have one thing to add: skol! :)

lady jane grey said...

Dear Rose,
during my younger years I had a Norwegian boyfriend and was living in his homecountry for some 1,5 years. I loved Norway (and still do), but to be honest it's not the food I keep remembering. On the other hand : I've never had better fish, than back then in Bergen. I hope my French husband won't read this comment of mine....

Elizabeth said...

I remember when 'Scandinavian' food was introduced to England in the 1960's.
Such excitement going to the buffet at Dickins and Jones.
This sounds a terrific book.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site arosebeyondthethames.blogspot.com
Is this possible?

Rose said...

Anonymous- I don't know if you are real! if you want to get in touch my email is arosebeyondthethames@hotmail.co.uk Thanks