We have a thus-far-unfulfilled dream to dine at Noma. This restaurant in Copenhagen was ranked as the Best Restaurant in the World for three years running and has two Michelin stars: the perfect destination for food lovers like ourselves. We did have a moment of lunacy a couple of years ago when we considered the idea of flitting off to Copenhagen for the weekend for our anniversary and treating ourselves to a meal at Noma while we were there… but then we came back down to earth and I think we instead spent the day wandering around South London and then cooking a tapas feast in the evening: also appropriate, but slightly less glamorous.
As it happens, seats at Noma are even more sought after than we realised, so it’s probably a good thing we hadn’t set our hopes on that plan. As two people with full-time jobs, sitting around for countless hours hitting refresh on multiple browsers whilst simultaneously trying to phone the restaurant seems an unrealistic goal. Regardless, this is undoubtedly sufficient proof that Noma is at the head of the culinary table.
With that in mind, we were a little surprised to find ourselves stumped by our research into traditional Danish cuisine. The obvious ‘traditional’ food would be a Danish pastry, but we have enough cake in the house at the moment and didn’t really need any more at this stage. This was a sad thing because it also ruled out apple cake. A dark rye bread sounded like a good plan until we found out that the starter takes about a week to develop. There is another bread, gulerodsbrud (literally carrot bread), but the recipe for that was a bit confusing. No matter how hard we tried, we kept landing back at square one.
Eventually, we ended up working backwards by starting with ingredients we already had. Ash found some salmon fillets in the freezer, so Miranda Googled ‘Danish salmon recipe’ and found one on Danishnet.com: salmon with warm salad, boiled potatoes and lemon butter. This may not be the most traditional food to come out of Denmark, especially as Danish food is purportedly rich and heavy (and heavy with pork), but it suited us and also suited the hint of Spring that is still being suggested as we look out the window. We did have to adapt the recipe slightly due to available ingredients and cooking techniques, but hopefully we’ve still brought a taste of Denmark to our table.
Salmon fillets with warm salad, boiled potatoes and lemon butter
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 lemon juice
1/4 clove garlic, crushed
1 courgette, sliced, then quarter the slices
1 tbsp olive oil
25g skinned, split almonds
1 fennel bulb, cut into thin strips
Salt and pepper
60g fresh spinach leaves, coarsely shredded
2 salmon fillets, skin on
1/2 tsp lemon zest
Salt and pepper
1. For the lemon butter, mix the butter with the other ingredients. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
2. For the salad, heat the oil in a frying pan over a moderate heat and fry the almonds for about 2 minutes.
3. Turn up to high heat and add courgette and fennel. Fry for about 5 minutes and season.
4. Leave to cool a little, then arrange spinach leaves on a serving dish and top with warm vegetables and lemon wedges.
5. Heat a little olive oil in a pan. Sprinkle the salmon with lemon zest, salt and pepper and put in the pan, skin side down, for a few minutes until the skin is crispy. Take it out of the pan, wrap it in foil and bake in the oven for about 12 minutes at 180C (you may need to vary the time depending on the size of your salmon fillet). Or, if you have an oven-friendly frying pan, just do what we did and cover the pan with foil.
6. Serve with boiled potatoes and the lemon butter.
And the verdict: A potential dish at Noma? Probably not. The best example of ‘traditional’ Danish food? Probably not. But we were surprised at how much we really enjoyed this. Neither of us has ever cooked with fennel before, and actually had to check with our friend Google how to prepare it, but the salad was superb and we’ll definitely make it again. The salmon was flavoursome. And even Miranda, who isn’t that fussed on potatoes and doesn’t like butter, enjoyed the lemon butter/boiled potato combo. So thank you, Denmark: we thoroughly enjoyed your cuisine!
We’ll be leaving Scandinavia next and heading to the somewhat more familiar territory of the Netherlands. It’s a little bit sad that we’ve left out Finland (especially with its ‘meat donut’ speciality, thinks Ash) but unfortunately it didn’t fit into our Blockbuster board route. So, Holland, here we come!