A Spring Scandinavian Supper for 8
Now that we're firmly into spring here's a menu to celebrate from Danish cookery writer Trine Hahnemann introduced by her Scandi compatriot food writer and blogger Signe Johansen
Signe wrote: Scandinavian food has suddenly become fashionable - and not before time. Indeed there's been a flurry of press coverage recently in the UK reporting the findings of Danish researchers that the much-vaunted 'new Nordic diet' may be healthier and more sustainable than the long-celebrated Mediterranean diet.
You can bet your bottom dollar (or indeed krone) we'll be hearing a lot more about the virtues of Scandinavian cuisine if Danish Chef Trina Hahnemann, author of 'The Scandinavian Cookbook', has anything to do with it.
An avid proponent of seasonal Scandinavian ingredients such as antioxidant-rich berries, wholegrains, wild game and oily fish, Trina sees no reason why we shouldn't adopt the basic precepts of Scandinavian cooking over here. Substituting fish for meat and having a couple of days of meat- or fish-free fare is typical of the Scandinavian diet, something we will all have to get used to in the future.
So if you're curious about the new craze for Scandinavian cuisine, here's an authentic menu created by Trina for a springtime supper that recently took place in London's La Fromagerie.
Although it looks copious, you won't feel stuffed to the gills afterwards, or exhausted from preparing the dishes. In fact you'll likely be surprised how easy it is to entertain hordes of hungry dinner guests with Scandinavian dishes, most of which can be prepared well in advance.
Trina demonstrated how quick and easy it is to cure salmon in the gravadlax fashion. Once the salmon is cured, you then divide the side into as many portions as you need and freeze what you don't use for up to two months - an ideal standby for an impromptu dinner party.
A Scandinavian's cook's repertoire relies on using fresh seasonal ingredients as much as possible and serving proper bread be it the Swedish crisp-style bread that we had at Trina's supper, made by the brilliant Swedish Bakery Peter's Yard, or a wholemeal, grainy loaf so beloved of Scandinavians which leaves you sated but not bloated.
Baking is an important tradition across Scandinavia and anyone who visits Norway, Sweden or Denmark can attest to the wide variety of pastries, cakes, breads and biscuits available throughout the peninsula.
The other trick Scandinavians deploy to great effect is combining sweet and sour ingredients to balance other strong flavours, not unlike Thai food. Trina's classic Scandinavian sweet and sour cucumber salad is quite possibly the simplest, least fussy dish in the world and utterly addictive - a brilliant dish to serve with fish such as hot smoked trout or baked or barbecued salmon or with lamb as suggested below.
Winewise the menu is fairly straightforward, though watch out for the sweetness of the mustard sauce with the gravadlax. I've suggested a variety of wine, beer and schnapps options.
And finally, it wouldn't be a true Scandinavian meal without copious toasts throughout the meal, so make sure your guests' glasses are always topped up. Skal!
Gravadlax & sweet mustard sauce on rye crispbread
Potato Cake with Salmon Roe and Roast Beetroot
Roast rack of lamb stuffed with mint, apricot and celery served with spinach, minted roast potatoes and sweet and sour cucumber salad
Gravadlax & sweet mustard sauce on rye crispbread
The quintessential Scandi starter or amuse for pre-dinner drinks. This is a fabulous crowd-pleaser, but make sure you source your salmon from a reputable fishmonger as it needs to be as fresh as possible. Ask the fishmonger to remove all the scales (insist on this!) as de-scaling is a messy business and you don't want to have to do it at home. Makes enough for 8-10 starters or small nibbles for 20-25 guests
(Note the image above ©Christin Klose at shutterstock.com is a generic image not a photo of the recipe as described below)
1 salmon fillet, about 2.5kg, taken from the middle of the fish
2 tbsp whole peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds
120g coarse sea salt (Trina suggested Maldon, but any sea salt will do so long as it's not table salt)
170g caster sugar
200g dill, very finely chopped
extra dill sprigs
Sweet mustard sauce:
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100g dill, chopped
Start by freezing the salmon for 24 hours to destroy any harmful bacteria. Then defrost it.Remove pinbones from the salmon and trim the edges of the fillet. Place the fillet skin-side down on a sheet of cling film. In a pestle and mortar, crush the peppercorns and coriander seeds and mix with the salt and sugar. Spread the finely-chopped dill evenly over the salmon, then cover with the spiced sugar mixture. Cut the salmon into two equal portions. Lay three of the dill sprigs over one piece then cover with the other piece of fish, laying it flesh-side down. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 2 days.
To make the sauce, place the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Finally, when you're ready to serve the gravadlax, unwrap the fish and wipe off all the salt and sugar mixture with a paper towel (much of the salt and sugar will have absorbed into the fish during the curing process, this is just to tidy the fish!).
With a salmon slicer or long sharp knife, cut from one end of the salmon on a slant towards the centre so you get thin slices of gravadlax. Serve with crisp rye bread, rye toast or wholemeal or soda bread. (Blinis also work, but aren't terribly Scandinavian) Be sparing with the sauce as it's quite potent. You can also add a small dollop of sour cream and a sprig of dill for garnish.
Drinks suggestions:Aquavit,Prosecco, off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer or, as Trina suggests (and I agree), an ice cold beer!
Potato Cake with Salmon Roe and Roast Beetroot
Not far from potato rosti, but less oily, potato cakes are a superb foil for salmon roe. The original recipe calls for lumpfish roe, but if you can't source it go for salmon.
A bunch of fresh beets (about 500g)
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
600g potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
4 spring onions, finely chopped
4 medium eggs
4 tbsp oatmeal
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp thyme leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped chives
150ml half-fat creme fraiche or sour cream
400g salmon roe
Preheat the oven to 180C (Gas 4). Put the beetroot on a baking tray and cook them in the oven for 30 minutes. Take them out and let them cool slightly before peeling them. Cut the beetroot into very small cubes and toss them in the lime juice and seasonings.
Make the potato cakes: in a mixing bowl, combine the grated potatoes, spring onions, eggs, oatmeal, sesame seeds, nutmeg, thyme leaves and some salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Use a small spoon to form small cakes and place them in the oil, pressing down lightly so they are flat. Fry on each side for 5 minutes or until crisp.
Meanwhile, stir the chopped chives into the creme fraiche.Put the potato cakes on a serving dish. Top each with 1 tablespoon of the lumpfish roe, 1/2 tablespoon of the beetroot salad and some of the chive cream. Lastly grind some pepper over the top and serve straight away.
Drinks suggestion: Traditionally Scandinavians would drink aquavit and beer with this starter but you could serve a dry, crisp ros
Roast leg of lamb stuffed with mint, apricot and celery served with spinach and minted roast potatoes
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
75g organic dried apricots, coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
30 mint leaves
2 kg leg of lamb, boned
Salt and pepper
3 kg spinach leaves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 kg new potatoes, halved
3 mint sprigs
4 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 200C (Gas 6). Mix the celery, apricots and garlic with the mint leaves*.Lay the lamb out on a chopping board. Rub the top with salt and pepper, and spread the mint-apricot mixture over the surface. Roll it to encase the stuffing.Take some kitchen string and tie it around the lamb at even intervals to make a roasting joint. Place the lamb in a roasting tin and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour 20 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the spinach - remove any tough stems and rinse the spinach several times under cold water. Drain and set aside in a colander.
Parboil the new potatoes with one of the mint sprigs in a large saucepan of salted water until the potatoes are tender. Drain well.Pick the leaves from the remaining mint sprigs. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan and fry the cooked potatoes with the mint leaves. Season with salt and pepper.
To cook the spinach, simply melt the butter in a large saute pan. Add the spinach, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until the spinach wilts. Take it off the heat immediately, being careful not to over-cook.
Finally, carve the roast lamb into slices and serve immediately with the spinach, new potatoes and sweet and sour cucumber salad below
* you could also add some spices such as cinnamon, coriander or fennel seeds to the stuffing ingredients
Drink suggestions:Almost any medium to full bodied red would work with this but I'd favour a red Bordeaux or Meritage blend
Sweet and sour cucumber salad
300ml white vinegar
75g caster sugar
1 cucumber, cut into paper-thin slices
Lemon juice and/or zest (optional)
Combine the sugar and vinegar in a saucepan and heat gently stirring the mixture to make sure all the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 5 minutes,. Set aside to cool, add the cucumber then leave for another 30 minutes
A zesty, tangy dessert, perfect as a palate-cleanser after the roast lamb.
4 gelatine leaves
3 eggs, separated
75g caster sugar
100ml double cream
juice of 3 lemons
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest (preferably from an unwaxed lemon)
Cream to serve
Immerse the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for about.5 minutes. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and fluffy. In another large mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until the foam forms stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, whip the double cream until it forms soft peaks.Lift the gelatine out of the water and melt it in a small saucepan over a very gentle heat. Turn off the heat, pour in the lemon juice and add the zest. Slowly pour the gelatine mixture into the egg yolk mixture, stirring all the time. Set aside in a cool place until the mousse is starting to set.Fold in the egg whites and the whipped cream. Pour into one large serving dish or several small dishes and chill for a couple of hours in the refrigerator. Serve with a dollop of cream or even better - creme fraiche or sour cream - and a sprig of mint or some candied lemon zest and accompany with small crisp biscuits like langues de chat.
Drink suggestion: a chilled shot of apple schnapps
Recipes come from The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trine Hahnemann. For more Scandinavian recipes visit Trina's website and Signe's blog Scandilicious.
La Fromagerie is at 2-6 Moxon StreetLondon W1W 4EW.
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