I haven’t been to Copenhagen since I was quite young and my memories of the city are a bit hazy. I think at the time I was most excited about seeing the mermaid statue- Disney to blame there, I’m afraid. But it is fair to say that it was a much busier, livelier city than I remembered or expected. Perhaps because I’m used to the relative peace and quiet of Stockholm, despite being a bigger city- at least in terms of population (or so Google tells me). It seems like (and the Stockholmer in me can’t quite believe I’m saying this) somewhere with a bit more going on.
While this buzz felt really exciting, I left feeling that it’s a city that has gained an international reputation (not least when it comes to food) perhaps before it was quite ready for it. For example, there is so much to do and see, but everything shuts so early. We found the service in general, with only a handful of exceptions, rather brusque and bordering on rude. But more than that, it seems to be a city very much in flux as the many building projects and developments hinted at- roads, offices, flats and bridges, growth spurts everywhere like teens in the summer holidays. I’d love to go back in a few years and see what kind of a city it becomes.
The food though, oh the food. There is no shortage of exceptional places to eat and drink. And yes, we did manage to get a booking at Noma for lunch as a once-in-a-lifetime, just-married treat. And yes, it was incredible (with wonderful service, incidentally). And yes, I took some snaps. And no, I won’t be blogging about it. Partly because it has been done, partly because I covered it at the time on Instagram, but also because no photos or description I could provide would do it justice. It was entirely out of this world, mind-boggling and unlike anything else I’ve eaten and experienced.
Other foodie highlights include Granola on the lovely Værnedamsvej in Frederiksberg. Nestled between little design shops, florists and bars, Granola seemed the perfect place to watch Cophenhagen style hunters go oby over, well, granola. They also do fluffy pancakes, traditional hearty porridge (served with cranberries, cinnamon and butter) and eggs any way you’d like.
We were entirely spoilt for choice for where to go out on Copenhagen’s light summer evenings. The one thing I would say is that it is a shame everywhere closes so early, particularly when the days are so long. The streets were absolutely deserted by 11pm and forget about getting any food whatsoever post about 9pm, which didn’t suit our lazy honeymoon mindset at all. We were caught out quite a few times, settling into a funky bar, ordering drinks and before we knew it (but just as our appetites started to wake up), they had stopped doing food. Get with it Copenhagen!
Some fave areas included Nørrebro, where we found the Laundromat Café on Elmegade (yes, an actual laundromat as well as a café and bar, although no machines whirling when we were there). The meatpacking district of Kødbyen (literally ‘Meat village’) would definitely be top of my list were I to return to Copenhagen anytime soon- most of the old slaughterhouses have been turned into restaurants, bars, cafés, delis and art galleries and the whole area makes for a lively place to spend an evening, wandering between place to place. Some of the area’s original history still endures, turn a corner and you may well come face to face with a butcher’s shop window.
Other highlights include Dyrehaven bar for its selection of beer and nibbles and the wonderful Torvehallerne market which overflowed with pristine fruit and veg, incredible fish and seafood and the most beautiful, almost architectural open sandwiches (which inspired my recipe, see below). The cafés there will also do you a damn fine breakfast.
I should probably but in a disclaimer at this point to note that you shouldn’t just go to Denmark or Copenhagen for the food. It is a gorgeous city to walk or cycle around and of course you can’t move for design- the Designmuseum and Statens Museum for Kunst as well as the quieter Danish Architecture Centre. But you can also see plenty of contemporary design for free at Hay House, George Jensen, Illums Bolighus and the Royal Copenhagen Flagship store to name but a few. Not to mention a few recognisable landmarks that are worth seeing in person- we were delighted to be staying to close to the actual Borgen.
One of the inescapable staples of Danish food culture is the dark, treacle-y seed filled roggebrød. Dense rye bread, filled with hearty goodness and available at practically every meal time.
For me, this was what I was most keen to perfect from our trip so that I could enjoy it back at home in London. I thought it was important to develop a simpler recipe that didn’t use traditional sourdough, as it would be easier to throw to together, although, I accept, finding rye seeds and flakes isn’t exactly something that you can do at your local Tesco Metro- I would go online for this and stock up. I promise it’s worth it. I’ve used treacle too, for depth of flavour. The photographs are, once again, by the fantastic Faith Mason.
Danish Rye Bread
Makes 1 loaf
You will need:
120g rye flakes
50g rye seeds/grain
80g sunflower seeds
12g sea salt
30g fresh yeast
250g rye flour, plus a little extra
100g strong bread flour
1. The night before you wish to make the loaf, soak the rye flakes, grain and all of the seeds in 200ml of water and leave overnight.
2. The next day, mix the treacle and 100ml water (at blood temperature) together in a small bowl. Crumble in the yeast and stir to combine. Place the flours in a large bowl along with 12g of salt. Add the yeasty mixture along with the seeds and grains. Mix until you have a very sticky dough. Turn this out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes. It will be a very tricky dough to work with- sticky and dense, but that’s to be expected. Hang in there.
3. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warmish place (an airing cupboard is perfect) for at least one hour, until the dough has visibly risen. Tip out of the bowl and knead briefly, only for a few seconds, before shaping. I baked my loaf in a lightly greased 900g/2lb loaf tin. Leave, covered in a clean tea towel, for a further 45 minutes, until the dough has risen to fill out the tin.
4. Preheat the oven to 230 C. Sprinkle the bread with a little extra rye flour then place the tin in the middle of the oven. Immediately turn the heat down to 180C. You can also put a baking tray with hot water in the bottom of the oven, to create steam. Bake for 40 minutes, until the loaf is dark and sounds hollow when tapped on its base. Turn out of its tin and leave to cool completely before slicing.
Alright, so the title of this post is a little misleading. I’m not entirely sure it would be possible to make healthy hot cross buns, as there is no way of getting around it- they are a treat. But you can make them a bit healthIER. I’ve tried to lighten them up a little with the addition of spelt flour, oats, agave and grated apple for sweetness and oil instead of butter for richness. There’s still plenty of spice there and if you pop them in the toaster, you’ve got a perfect Easter breakfast. This was originally a recipe I created for Women’s Health Magazine. You can see it and other healthy treats here. Make a large batch then freeze the rest for later.
Lighter Hot Cross Buns
Makes 16 buns
You will need:
500ml skimmed milk or dairy-free alternative
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 2 oranges
300g spelt flour
300g strong white bread flour, plus about 100g extra for kneading and the crosses
1 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fast action yeast
50ml sunflower oil
3 tbsp agave nectar
1 large egg, beaten
1 apple, coarsely grated
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp apricot or fig jam, ideally a no added sugar brand
1. Bring the milk to boil with the cardamom pods, cloves, lemon zest and zest of 1 orange. Set to one side and allow to cool to blood temperature. Meanwhile, sift the flours and salt into a large mixing bowl. Tip in the oats, yeast, oil, agave and beaten egg. Once the milk has cooled, remove the cloves and cardamom and pour into the bowl.
2. Mix together until the ingredients are well incorporated. Then tip the dough onto a generously floured work surface and knead for a good 10 minutes, either by hand or using the dough attachment of a table top mixer. It will seem like a very wet dough, but keep working it, slapping it onto the work surface to develop the gluten. It will eventually come together to form a sticky, but elastic dough. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove in warmish place for about 1 hour, until risen.
3. Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface and flatten slightly. Mix together the apple, cinnamon, currants and remaining orange zest and sprinkle over the dough. Knead briefly to distribute all the ingredients. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces and roll into smooth balls. Arrange the buns on 2 lightly oiled baking sheets in rows of 4, about 1 cm apart. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for a further hour.
4. Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200/gas mark 7. In a small bowl mix together 30g of flour with 2 ½- 3 tbsp water, adding the water gradually until you have a thick paste. Scrape into a small sandwich bag. Once the buns have risen and puffed up, cut off the tip of one corner of the sandwich bag and use to pipe crosses over the buns. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, swapping shelves halfway through. Meanwhile, heat the jam with 2 tbsp of water in a small pan until the jam has melted and is syrupy. Sieve into a small bowl and use to brush over the buns as soon as they come out of the oven. Transfer the buns to a wire rack and allow to cool before tucking in.
The last few days have been gloriously sunny and bright- a real shock to the system after the wet, dank weather we’ve had since the start of the year. The only thing that really keeps me going towards from February to March is the promise of lighter days, warmer weather and finally being able to hang up my winter coat. It looks like I’ll be doing that a couple of weeks earlier this year- this weekend we even sat outside at the pub, squinting into the sun.
There is one bright and brilliant addition to the last push of winter that I always look forward to, though: blood oranges. It seems strange that this vibrant citrus fruit is in season during the winter, though I’m not complaining, as they always seem to arrive just when I need an injection of freshness and long for lighter foods. This year, I was lucky enough to find bergamots for sale alongside blood oranges at the brilliant Deli Downstairs, my local treasure trove. So I had a bit of a mad few weeks where every meal was finished with a juicy, plump Sicilian blood orange, bright juices streaming down my hands and feat like some sort of gory feast. But I also experimented with them in salads, puddings and bakes. The results are in.
Blood Orange Curd
Adapted from Steve Parle’s recipe, found here.
(makes 1 large jar)
You will need:
400ml blood orange juice (from about 8 blood oranges)
zest of 3 blood oranges
150g caster sugar
10 eggs (5 whole and 5 yolks)
200g butter, cubed
1. Sit a medium sized bowl over a pan of just simmering water. Add the blood orange juice, zest sugar and whole eggs along with 5 yolks. Allow to thicken for about 15 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the butter, one cube at a time, waiting until each has melted before adding the next one. Tip into a large sterilised jar, allow to cool completely then refrigerate. Use within two weeks.
Blood Orange and Mascarpone Victoria Sponge
You will need:
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour, sifted
1 blood orange, zest and juice
blood orange curd
1 tub mascarpone
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease 2 x 23cm springform cake tins, lining each with a circle of greaseproof paper and greasing again. Cream the butter and sugar together with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, continuing to beat between each addition. Fold in the flour and orange zest, adding 1-2 tbsp of juice to lighten the mixture slightly.
2. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25 minutes or until the cakes are risen, golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Leave the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes, before removing from their tins and cooling completely on a wire rack. Generously spread one cake with the mascarpone and curd before sandwiching with the second cake.
Pan Fried Mackerel with Blood Orange and Fennel Salad
(Serves 2 as a light lunch or starter)
You will need:
220g pack of green beans, topped and tailed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of sugar1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly and any fronds reserved
2 blood oranges, peeled with any pith removed, sliced into rounds
large handful black olives, I used Kalamata
2 mackerel fillets, pin-boned (get the fish monger to do this for you)
small knob of butter
25g toasted flaked almonds
1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the beans and cook until just tender. Drain and place in a large bowl of ice cold water to cool and crisp up. Whisk together 2 tbsp of olive oil with the balsamic vinegar, sugar and some seasoning. Place the fennel, blood orange slices, drained green beans and olives in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss together then divide between two plates.
2. Add the remaining oil to a large, cold pan. Sit the mackerel, skin-side down, in the pan and turn the heat on to medium. Frying your fish this way means the fillets don’t curl up and ensures perfectly crispy skin. Keep frying, basting with the oil and adding a little knob of butter if necessary. Once the flesh of the fish has gone from translucent to opaque, it has cooked through. Flip over briefly and fry for a further 30 seconds. Top the salads with the fish fillets and sprinkle with flaked almonds and any reserved fennel fronds.
Bergamot and Blood Orange Pavlovas
You will need:
5 egg whites (from the curd, see recipe above)
2 bergamots, juice and zest
275g caster sugar plus a little extra
300ml double cream
1 blood orange, segmented
blood orange curd
handful pistachios, roughly chopped
1. To make the meringues, preheat the oven to 120C. Place the egg whites in a large, preferably metal or glass, bowl with a squeeze of bergamot juice. Whisk to stiff peaks. Mix the sugar with the zest of 1 bergamot then add in heaped tablespoonfuls to the whites, whisking between each addition. Line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper, then drop on 6 even dollops of the meringue mixture, leaving as much space between each as your baking sheet will allow. Use a spoon to swirl each meringue nicely before placing the lower part of the oven for 1 hr 45 min- 2 hrs, until the meringues are crisp and dry and will easily lift off the baking sheet. Allow to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the double cream until stiff peaks form. Add the zest of the remaining bergamot and a squeeze of the juice. Sweeten to taste with a little caster sugar, but keep in mind that the meringues are very sweet. Once ready to serve, place each meringue on a serving place the pile high with the cream, segmented blood orange slices (in the photos for these posts I used bergamot segments, but feel these were too sour), a dollop of blood orange curd and a sprinkle of the pistachios. Serve immediately.
Blood Orange Jelly with Custard
(makes 5-6 individual or 1 large jelly)
You will need:
For the jelly:
3 leaves of gelatine
300ml fresh blood orange juice (about 8 blood oranges)
For the custard:
290ml double cream
zest 1 blood orange
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp caster sugar
1. Begin by making the jelly. Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water so they are completely submerged. Leave for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, gently heat the blood orange juice and sugar until just dissolved. Do not boil. Set the sweetened juice to one side, then squeeze out any excess liquid from the now softened gelatine leaves and add to the pan. Stir for a few minutes, until all the gelatine has melted. Pour into a medium sized bowl or, for individual servings, ramekins and wine glasses work well. Allow to cool before chilling until completely set- at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
2. Make the custard. Place the cream and orange zest into a pan and bring slowly to the boil. Set aside to cool briefly. Beat the yolks and sugar in a medium-sized bowl briefly until combined and creamy. Pour over the cooled cream and then clean out your pan. Return the mixture to the pan and stir over a low heat, until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. This should take about 10 minutes- do not simmer or boil at any point. Strain if necessary and use to top the set jellies. Return to the fridge for a further hour before serving.
I’ve become a bit of a dab hand when it comes to cheesy Valentine’s bakes. I recently made this loaf cake for work but couldn’t stop there so kept going with this Pistachio, Pomegranate and Clementine cheesecake. The swirly heart pattern is achieved by dotting blobs of pomegranate coulis on top of the cake, then pulling a cocktail stick through them. It’s a lot easier than it looks, but you will need a pipette or a syringe to get really exact dots. You can, of course, omit the hearts and simply serve the coulis on the side- also delicious. These gorgeous shots are courtesy of Faith Mason – photographer extraordinaire.
Pistachio, Pomegranate and Clementine Cheesecake
You will need:
200g digestive biscuits, blitzed to a fine crumb
100g unsalted butter, melted
75g shelled pistachios, finely chopped
2 pomegranates, juice only (try my stain-free method in step 2)
2 tsp cornflour dissolved in 4 tsp water
100g icing sugar, plus extra to taste
4 gelatin leaves
300ml double cream
300g cream cheese, room temperature
zest and juice of 2 clementines
20cm loose bottomed cake tin
One plastic pipette
1. Mix the biscuits, butter and pistachios until well combined. Pack firmly into a loose-bottomed cake tin, spreading out with the back of a spoon so that it is evenly distributed and coming slightly up the sides of the tin. Chill until needed.
2. To extract the juice from the pomegranates, split one open then place in a large bowl of water. Working under the water, separate the seeds from the hard skin. Any bits of white pith should float to the top, making them easy for you to discard. Drain the seeds and sort through to remove any extra bits of pith. Repeat with the second pomegranate then place the seeds in the bowl of a mixer and blitz briefly. Strain the juice into a saucepan. Add the cornflour in water and sift in a few tbsp of icing sugar, to taste. Gently heat until you have a thick, but still drizzle-able coulis. Allow to cool completely.
3. Meanwhile, soak the gelatin leaves in a small bowl of water for 5 min. Pour the cream into a pan and bring to a simmer then remove from the heat. Squeeze any excess water out of the gelatin leaves and add to the warm cream, stirring until dissolved. Allow to cool slightly. Beat 100g of icing sugar into the cream cheese along with the clementine zest and juice. Add the gelatin cream along with 3tbsp of the pomegranate coulis and beat until smooth.
4. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the biscuit base. You are now ready to decorate- hope you have a steady hand! Starting in the very centre of the cake, use the pipette to dot tiny circles in a spiral motion all the way around the cake. I let my dots get bigger as I worked my way around. Finally, starting in the middle again, use a toothpick to pull through the dots in continuous line- try not to lift your hand up if you can help it! You should end up with a spiral of little hearts.
5. Cover the tin with cling (be careful not to touch the top of the cake!) and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, until set.