Celebrating St Lucia

13th December in Denmark (as well as other Scandinavian countries) is St Lucia Day. It was thought to be the shortest day of the year before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar and in schools there is a tradition on a St Lucia procession with girls dressed in white, carrying candles to bring light to the dark. The first girl traditionally wears a crown of four candles. It is not a big celebration outside of schools but in conversation with Danish friends who had been the St Lucia bride leading the procession when they were little – it is a very special and magical memory. santa lucia main  Recently I learnt a lot more about the story of St Lucia (or St Lucy) from my son. He is fascinated by the traditional stories he is told at school from the story of Diwali to this one (I really believe the teaching of different celebrations is really enriching his knowledge and understanding of different cultures). The story is St Lucy secretly brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome, who were forced underground into the catacombs. Lucy would wear a crown of candles so she could use both of her hands to carry items. This article tells a lot more about the Swedish tradition and how to celebrate.

A big part of a traditional celebration is food, of course and traditionally St Lucia breads are made. There are special shaped sweet breads flavoured with saffron. I made them a few years ago and I used the recipe in this book and will definitely try them again.

Homemade Gløgg extract

The whole stairway in our building had the warm scent of Gløgg this weekend as our neighbours got into the Christmas spirit. Gløgg is the Danish version of mulled wine but strangely the Danes I have given mulled wine to didn’t like it so there must be a difference. The concept of a spiced, fruity, warmed red wine is universal though.

Earlier in November I decided to try my hand at making my own Gløgg extract. You can buy this blackcurrent and Christmas spiced based extract in the supermarkets but it all starts to taste the same. So with my trusty copy of Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas to hand I bubbled up my own. How wonderful the house smelled!CIMG7319So to the blackcurrant juice I added cloves, cardamon (the staple of Danish Christmas food), cinnamon and lemon juice, bubbled away on the stove top for about an hour. It was then bottled and kept in a dark place to get even tastier. All I need now is the bottle of red wine and the little almond and raisin mix to add to it and another Danish Christmas tradition is made.

 

Anne’s Kitchen Giveaway – CLOSED

 

 

Here is the final giveaway this year and this is a fab one, open to any reader in Europe (sorry postage is a bit much for the rest of the world!) I have mentioned my blogging friend and award winning cook book author, Anne Faber, before and I was excited to receive her new cookbook, Anne’s Kitchen – Barcelona, Istanbul, Berlin, last month. She has been kind enough to give me an additional copy to giveaway to one lucky reader.

Anne has spent this year travelling to Barcelona, Istanbul and my old home town of Berlin, tasting the local cuisine and developing a whole book of delicious recipes inspired by her travels.CIMG7861

The photography is amazing and the recipes equally so. I can’t wait to dive in and get cooking. My current favourites are Pea and Mint Salsa Salad, Savoury Baklava and Curry Wurst. I was looking through my copy again this weekend and there are a lot (and I mean a lot) of pages marked, ready for a new year cooking extravaganza. The book really gives a taste of three very different cities and their food culture. This would make a fabulous gift or simply an addition to your cookbook library.CIMG7866 CIMG7867 CIMG7869How to enter: Leave me a comment here telling me which city you would most like to visit to enjoy the local food – Istanbul, Barcelona or Berlin. Competition closes at midnight European time (GMT +1) on Tuesday 9 December and I will announce the winner on Wednesday.

If you would like to buy the book you can do so here.

 

Orange spelt cake and Scandinavian Baking

A few weeks ago I went to a book signing and talk by Trine Hahnemann at Books & Company in Hellerup. It was her one and only book signing in Denmark despite having had a wider international book tour since the launch of the book. I am a big fan of Trine and before this evening our only contact had been via email. I loved listening to her speak.She gave a wonderful introduction to the history of baking in Denmark (which you can read about in her book). I loved to hear about her inspirational grandmother and her growing up years on a commune and how these things had impacted on her love of baking and its importance in everyday life. She also spoke a little about her experience on the Great British Bake Off this summer, how much fun Sue Perkins is but the thing that struck me was how humble she was about her appearance and how amazed that her Twitter account went crazy after it was aired. More people watched her in that episode that actually live in Denmark! As she joked, if only 10% of those viewers buy her book she will be a happy lady!cake collageBut what about the book? Firstly it is in English (and currently there is no Danish version) so very accessible. The photography is very Danish and evokes a real feeling of hygge. You feel warm and cosy just reading the recipes and looking at the pictures. All the recipes appear to be fairly straighforward, don’t be put off by the use of yeast in a lot of the recipes and also more unusual flours. I chose to make the Orange spelt cake. There seemed to be a lot  of stages to the recipe, which, before I advanced my baking skills a little, might have put me off unnecessarily. I did get all my ingredients weighed out etc to be more organised but the cake took around 25 minutes to put together from start to putting in the oven, which I don’t think is too bad for an impressive cake like this.CIMG7781

With the orange syrup poured over the hot cake and quickly absorbed, this cake was deliciously gooey and had a lovely orange flavour without being overpowering.

I am looking forward to baking it again and delving back into the book for more cosy cakes to help the winter seem less gloomy. If you would like to get hold of a copy you can visit Amazon*.cake and citrus*I am part of the Amazon Associate scheme.

 

Cookies, new website and swollen knee

These three things just about sum up yesterday. On Tuesday I took a quick trip to Ikea to get some things for our kitchen and ended up having a literal trip as I took quite a tumble in the car park, ripping my trousers and bashing my knee up. It then swelled up into a painful ball and I have been limping around since. It somewhat put paid to some plans for photos to accompany some forthcoming posts but I am sure I shall be back up and clicking soon.

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As I was housebound I decided to bake these fabulous chocolate and nougat cookies from Lykken er chocolade. They were super quick and easy to make and taste yummy.

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I also put the finishing touches to my new communications business website so do check it out and share with friends. I have been doing this kind of work for a while but thought it was time to get something real out there. This is the first of two business ideas I have, more on the second one soon…

Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann

I have been working on a few Christmas baking posts for next week and I thought I would recommend the book I am using for the recipes. I interviewed Trine Hahnemann earlier this year where she talked a bit about her Christmas traditions (you can read the interview here) and I love her Scandinavian Christmas cookbook. The photos are great and the recipes are excellent, all have turned out perfectly so far.scandi ChristmasEven if you don’t fancy trying them out, it is a lovely introduction to Danish Christmas food and traditions.

Black Forest Gateau

Just a quick pop in today to recommend a brilliant recipe. It was my husband’s birthday this week and I decided to attempt baking his favourite cake, a Black Forest Gateau. I recalled seeing the Hairy Bikers bake one on their fantastic baking cooking show a few years back so decided to try their recipe. As it was child friendly I missed out the alcohol but was super delicious, easy to bake and well worth a try!

black forest gateau

 

Retro Food

I always enjoy learning more about Danish food and I was delighted to see this free little cookbook in the meat section of my local Føtex. I must admit I was also drawn by the title, Retro Mad (Retro Food) hoping to find the Danish equivalent of prawn cocktail.
The book takes all the traditional Danish food like flæskesteg (roast pork) and frikadeller (meat balls) and shows the traditional ways of cooking them and then a contrasting modern take on this. I found it really interesting and there were a few recipes both retro and modern we may well try.
Look out next time you are in Føtex for this little gem!

The Nordic Diet by Trine Hahnemann

I hope you enjoyed my interview with Trine Hahnemann before Easter. In that interview I promised to review one of her books and I am delighted to have been sent a review copy of her new book translated into English, The Nordic Diet.

I really enjoy The Scandinavian Cookbook, both for its photography and recipes and, at first glance The Nordic Diet is equally pleasing. But the ethos behind the book is what grabbed me. Trine argues that the Nordic Diet shares the same lauded values as the Mediterranean diet, with its concentration on seasonal and local produce packed with vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, it is just the types of produce are suited to a different climate.

The introduction covers the fundamentals of a typical healthy Nordic diet  and also how to live a healthier lifestyle (and by default lose weight, which is something that will appeal to many). The ingredients of the Nordic diet are explained and throughout the book there are entries about the key ingredients, many of which may be slightly lesser known or less consumed outside Scandinavia.

But this aside, even if you treat this as simply a cookbook it doesn’t disappoint, I didn’t see any recipe that was overly complicated and they all look delicious and attractive. I have bookmarked a far few to try when of course the seasons allow – as is the Nordic Diet way. If you want to embrace the Scandinavian way of eating, this book is the best place to start.

The Danish love affair with liquorice

I thought I liked liquorice as much as the next person until I came here and the next person was a Dane. The Danes seem love the stuff to an insane degree and not just as sweets although that goes without saying. You just have to look at the sweet counter in the supermarket to see the vast selection that is available. And its not only sweet stuff, there is the Finish style salt liquorice. I can’t put this flavour into words – you just have to try it.
There are biscuits flavoured with it and even ice cream. I can still remember the time when an American guest of ours chose ice cream in one of the many delicious ice cream scoop shops across the city. She looked at one and thought it was Oreo cookie flavour – oh how wrong she was. Yep, you guessed it – liquorice! I did feel sorry for her, but her face was a picture with that first lick!
But a visit to Magasin this week yielded a new slant to the whole liquorice and the Danes relationship. Lakrids, the licorice specialist, had a selection of beautiful free recipe cards. My son asked to have some to take home. I absentmindedly took a few for him and later looked that them in detail. Lakrids sell a selection of liquorice powders and the three recipes were liquorice porridge, a salad with liquorice dressing and a liquorice cocktail. If this sounds good to you, they have even more recipes on their website. All joking aside this website is great especially the history of liquorice section.  There may is something in this liquorice and cooking idea – maybe I will try some of the more tame recipes and become a true convert.