Tuesday, May 29, 2007


The first locals. I ate them for dessert with the traditional cream and sugar after a dinner of new potatoes and asparagus. Soon there'll be roses and elderflowers blooming everywhere. Pre-summer...primordial force and soft, perishable beauty.

Pre-summer... another translation knot. One of the charms of the precious, short summer in my adopted country is it's dissection into phases - pre-summer, mid-summer, actually early summer, summer, late summer - the praises of which are sung in rich detail in classical Danish litterature, song and art.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Marinated baby artichokes

The other day, I got my hands on some tiny artichokes, the young ones that can be eaten whole. I don't have them often here and they're such a delicacy, so they usually 'just' end up as homemade marinated artichokes. This time, too.

Clean the artichokes, which means get rid of everything, you wouldn't want to get in your mouth. Snap the outer leaves off and cut the stem away if it's stringy. Cut off the tough ends of the rest of the leaves on an angle, so the outer leaves lose more than the inner ones. Halve the chokes.

Boil the halved artichokes for 8-10 minutes until they're partly tender in plenty of water with salt and some lemon juice - that keeps them from turning brown. Let the artichokes drip off in a colander. Let them simmer on the lowest possible heat in marinade until they're tender. This time the marinade was made of 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 small branches of fresh thyme, a halved clove of garlic, salt and freshly ground black pepper. They're good eaten right away and can also be kept for a couple of days.


Light tomato soup

I had some tomatoes left over from a job, that I wasn't going to use - tomatoes have no taste in May in Denmark. But I had trouble just throwing them away, so we made tomato soup.

My 3 1/2 year old assistant handled washing the tomatoes, I cut a cross in them, gave them a minute in boiling water and skinned them.

We cut the tomatoes - there were 11 - into large chunks and fried them in a pot in 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter for a couple of minutes. Then we added 1/2 sweet onion, 1 teaspoon of sugar, salt and some freshly ground pepper.
After 20 minutes, the onion was removed and the soup was blended and heated through with 3-4 tablespoons of heavy cream. This soup retains it's taste of fresh tomatoes, because it simmers just long enough to soften the tomatoes and because it's only ingredients are the tomatoes and a few taste enhancers.
It was a really nice bowl of soup, my negative view on tomatoes in May notwithstanding. My assistant, who is usually quite clear about not liking vegetables, devoured 2 bowls.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More beans with ham ends

Same recipe as last time, but this time I actually have a little bag of ham ends in the fridge. And yesterday I stumbled on the season's first favas, I think they're broad beans in English. The first row is sown in the garden, too, for this summer's beans with ham.

They were good. Felt privileged, and opened a bottle of Barolo, Cascina Cucco 'Vigna Cucco' 1997. From Carlo Merolli. Seductive, weekday Barolo at it's best...

Monday, May 7, 2007


It's a garfish, my horn fish from the last post... Belone belone. They migrate through Danish waters to spawn from the end of April until June. Locally they're caught in the Sound (between Denmark and Sweden), and a popular sport fishing spot for garfish is in front of Kronborg, 'Hamlet's castle' in Helsingør.

The bones of this long-nosed fish are bright turquoise green, which make them relatively easy to see and remove before eating. Not easy enough, though, to entirely dispense with my mom's fishbone catching rule nr. 1: chew the fish in the front of your mouth first.

The season's first... uhh... horn fish?

Finding the English word for hornfisk is only one of the challenges of this bilingual blogging. Writing about Swapan's curry was easy - we speak English together. It's something else rewriting my Danish post on horn fish and the glories of spring in English. I think I immerse myself in the world of the language that I'm speaking. Switching requires extracting myself from a whole context and stepping into another. That cross-over fascinates me, though, so I'm in for the investigation.

The fish? Cleaned and gutted, head and tail removed. Cut into four pieces, rolled in whole spelt flour and fried in some cold-pressed safflower oil for 3-4 minutes on each side. Eaten with steamed green beans and boiled tiny new potatoes - nice, firm, sweet ones from France, as the Danish news are still exorbitant. The rhubarb in the garden is still too small to pick, or I'd have had some, sweet-pickled, with the fish, too.

And spring? Hornfisk is a local harbinger of spring. And you can't get into or out of the house without going by the
big, blooming white lilac bush in the driveway - the smell of spring itself.


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Beans with ham ends

A favorite, veggies with a bit of depth, good for those evenings when the desire to eat something tasty is greater than the desire to cook it. Had a big bowl last night, a whole meal with half a creamy buffalo's milk mozzarella and my local baker's crusty bread.

In Spain, where I learned to eat them, they use the ends of cured ham, that you have laying around after eating the ham itself. Here in Copenhagen, I usually use bacon. Different taste, good, too...

100 g. of ham ends i small pieces and a shallot
in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pot. When the onion is translucent add

500 g. - about a pound - of beans
and stir until the beans have changed color to bright green and are coated with oil. Pour

1/2 glass of water
into the beans along with some salt and freshly ground peber. Cover and let the beans simmer very gently until they're soft. This is a dish, where I like the vegetables beyond the al dente stage.

The beans I used last night were done after 15 minutes of simmering. When I can find them, I use favas, the beans, they use in Spain for this dish - they're even better. Young ones will only need to simmer for 10 minutes. Older specimens may need a half hour. Good hot or at room temperature, and for the next couple of days, as well.


Rhubarb compote with strawberries

Rhubarb - an ode to spring, I use it a lot from May to July, when it's in season. It's still a little early for local, this compote is made with German barb. For years, I boiled my rhubarb compote, until I saw a recipe, where it was baked. The baked tastes better the boiled, and is easier. I haven't boiled it since.

The rhubarb, I could get my hands on, was greenish, not one of the more red sorts, that give a nicer pink color when prepared. The compote is for a trifle, so I added some strawberries for color. An ok use for imported Spanish and Italien strawberries - they don't taste anything like fresh, local berries, but the illusion is seductive!

500 g. - about 1 lbs. - of rhubarb, in 1 cm. pieces
180 g. sugar
1 vanilla bean
250 g. strawberries, halved or quartered, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 180
°C. Put the rhubarb in a cassrole in a layer about 2 cm. deep. Scrape the vanilla bean into the sugar and add the sugar to the rhubarb. Tuck the empty vanilla pod pieces under the rhubarb and cover the casserole with tin foil.

2. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft, but not yet mushy. Taste the compote as soon as it comes out of the oven. If it isn't sweet enough, add a little more sugar while it's still hot, so the sugar kan dissolve.

3. If you're using strawberries, add them, too, while the compote is still hot. They
lose their rawness, but keep their shape and color. Rhubarb - and other fruit - compote is typically eaten cold as dessert in Denmark, with milk or cream poured onto it.


Friday, May 4, 2007

Swapan's Friday's chicken curry

Swapan and his two colleagues live upstairs for 6 months while working on a software project for a big Danish financial company. On Fridays he makes a big pot of chicken curry, enough to eat then and a couple more times during the coming week. We've been talking about how he makes it, on Friday I was invited to dinner.

Swapan marinated
2 kg. - 4,5 lbs. - of boneless chicken
for about 15 minutes in

3-4 tbsp. chili powder
3-4 tbsp. ground turmeric
3 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tbsp. salt
2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil, mustard if possible.

While the chicken was marinating, he fried
2-3 large coarsely chopped onions and
1,5 tbsp. garlic paste
(1 green chopped chili goes in now if you like it hotter)

in a pot, that was big enough to fit the chicken. When the onions were golden, he fried
2 big potatoes, peeled and cut in big pieces
with the onions for a minute, then added the chicken and fried everything for a couple of minutes.
When the chicken started giving off liquid, he added
3 glasses of water
and finished the curry in the pressure cooker, they've brought with them from Bombay. That took 10 minutes, in a pressure-less pot, it will take about 20. We ate it with rice and mango chutney. Mmm...