Danish cuisine is based on the ingredients that could have been found in a pre-industrial farmer’s kitchen, which are readily available in this part of the globe: root vegetables like potatoes and carrots, breads made with grains that grow locally, and meats like beef and pork. However, it’s currently evolving into something more vibrant, championed by chefs who are highlighting the uniqueness of that which flourishes in this particular climate, and who forage and prepare what they find in new ways. In our house, we have our Danish staples, and we also play around with them.
Rye bread forms the basis of the Danish diet. It’s the crucial component of smørrebrød, the open-faced sandwich nearly all Danes eat for lunch; slices of the fiber- and protein-rich bread are typically topped with pickled herring and capers, leverpostaj (liver pâté), or even just cucumber. For breakfast, it might be eaten with a boiled egg or lathered in honey—a thick, spreadable one, which is like an American whipped version.
In our house, the bread is homemade, baked each week with a sour dough that’s been in the family for over three decades. The ingredients? Salt, water, organic rye flour and whole rye berries that we get locally in 10 kg paper bags. We blend the ingredients together, let the sticky mass sit for half a day, then bake it at a low temperature for a couple hours. I can smell it from the top of the stairs when it’s ready, and it’s hard to cut then without having it collapse a little, but we slice it anyway. It lies out on the counter for the rest of the week, just as a mixer or a coffeemaker might, its dwindling size marking the passing of each meal, each day….
For breakfast, I often have a bowl of oatmeal with berries, made Danish with a sprinkling of dried and ground rose hips. That powder is common here; its source is a bush that covers the countryside, and whose bulbous, orange fruits are high in vitamin C.
A weed called skvalderkål grows rampant here in the spring. It’s packed with nutrients, and happens to be fantastic as the base of a pesto. We pick the green leafy stuff in our garden, blend it with olive oil, lemon, parmesan, salt, and almonds, and spoon it over boiled potatoes.
And on those rare occasions when we visit forests outside the city, we gather the new, tender tips of pine trees and use them later in risottos and buttermilk omelets.
That’s eating locally at its finest!