Monday, 23 November 2009

The main reason for going to Copenhagen...Noma

We started with a flurry of little treats.

A few biscuits topped with lardo and dried, tart blackcurrant powder.

A sandwich of thin toasted rye bread and crisp chicken skin with a smoked cheese and broad bean filling.

A pot filled with 'soil' (crumbled malt flour and beer toasted hazelnuts) and planted with baby radishes and turnips

And finally wavy slices of toast feathered with tiny herbs and flowers and dusted with dried apple cider vinegar powder.

That was just the beginning.

The 12 course dinner that followed was a spectacular celebration of pristine ingredients and unique preparations.

The most memorable dishes included -

Lobes of sweet, rich sea urchin harvested from icy Norwegian waters, scattered with frozen powdered dill and cream and spotted with balls of cucumber coated in cucumber ash.

Beef tartare, scraped from the fillet with a sharp knife, studded with grated horseradish and rye bread crumbs, topped with sharp wood sorrel leaves, to be picked up with fingers and dragged across powdered juniper berries and a tarragon herb cream.

And caramlised batons of salsify, cloaked in milk skin, nestled in inky black truffle sauce and topped with shaved truffles from Gotland.

Along with Arzak and El Bulli, definitely one of the best dinners we have been lucky enough to have so far.

Strandgade 93
1401 Copenhagen K
Tel: +45 3296 3297
e-mail: noma@noma.dk

Sunday, 22 November 2009

One reason why I love Copenhagen

Where else in the world can you land and before you even set foot on local soil...

Order a hot dog, with all the trimmings. And a beer.

Welcome to Steff's Place, in Copenhagen airport's baggage reclaim hall.
These hot dogs were awesome after a tedious, delayed flight. The frankfurters are grilled until the skins blister and char a bit. Then the sausages are stuffed into buns that taste of nothing, so as not to interfere with the lashings of mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut and crunchy fried onion bits. We washed them down with a pint of pilsner, whilst idly keeping an eye on the carousel.

My mum loves hot dogs. A gaggle of well groomed Danish ladies tucking in next to us looked like they love hot dogs. The kids and their dads in the queue behind us looked like they loved their hot dogs too.

Every airport baggage reclaim should have a hot dog stand!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Squished squash soup

The wonderful thing about squash is each type tastes noticeably different, from the creamy mild butternut to the denser, nuttier red onion and the rich, sweet kabocha. Its worth making a soup out of every variety you can get your hands on at least once, so it's a while before this recipe will start to get boring.

Serves 3-4

roughly 800g cubed and peeled squash: butternut, kabocha, red onion or any others
a medium to small onion, chopped
olive oil
ground cinnamon
salt and pepper

Split your squash in half and scoop out all the seeds. Chop the rest into chunks, slicing off the skin as you go along, until you end up with pieces that are roughly similar and bite sized.

Place the onion and a pinch of salt into a puddle of olive oil in a saucepan, cover and set over a low heat. Let the onion sweat gently until it turns soft and translucent and then starts to colour and caramelise, this should take up to ten minutes or so.

Turn the heat up to high, add the squash, some salt and pepper and give it all a good stir. Pour over enough water to just cover the squash, cover the pan and bring to the boil. Let the squash bubble away for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how much you have. You'll know its done when your cubes have melted into soft pulp.

Turn off the heat and blend everything into a soft, velvety consistency. Adjust the seasoning by adding little sprinkles of cinnamon and grated nutmeg to the hot soup, blending and tasting after each addition. Every squash is different and I find the amount of sweet cinnamon or fragrant nutmeg that I want varies each time so I prefer to add it at the end. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and more salt if needed.

I love eating this soup on its own in big steaming spoonfuls, then reheated in the following days and garnished with a dollop of crème fraîche, a scattering of paprika or cayenne powder and a squeeze of fresh lime.

Sardinian style cuttlefish stew

This recipe was inspired by a beautiful baby octopus stew at Olivomare, one of my favourite restaurants. They specialise in Sardinian seafood - big bold flavours and perfectly cooked fish. Every time I visit I leave feeling euphoric.

Cuttlefish are one of seafood's unrecognised gems. They may look icky and covered in black ink at the fishmonger's, but you can get them cleaned - make sure to keep the tentacles! Gently simmered for an hour, cuttlefish is more tender than octopus, and tastier than squid.

This is one of those dishes that makes you sit back afterwards and just smile.

You can make shellfish stock easily from any shells - I used the leftover crayfish shells from our feast but prawns, crab, lobster if you've been lucky, or anything else will do fine. Just brown them in a saucepan with a large knob of butter until they smell delicious, pour over enough water to cover the shells and bring to the boil. I like to let the shells cool in the stock, then break them up with a wooden spoon and strain the whole lot through a colander and then a very fine metal sieve. Your stock will be a rich ochre colour and smell musky, like a concentrated shellfish bisque without any cream added.

Serves two for supper

a small onion, finely chopped
a cuttlefish, cleaned by your friendly fishmonger, cut into large bite sized shapes
half a glass of white wine
about 500ml shellfish stock
a chilli, split in half
three tomatoes
a tablespoon of tomato purée
olive oil
lemon juice
flat-leafed parsley, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

First skin the tomatoes. Cut a cross in the base of each tomato. Keep the cuts as shallow as possible - you want to slice the skin but not the flesh. Bring a saucepan of water to boil, add the tomatoes and turn the heat down to very low. In about 30 seconds or a minute you'll see the skins start to peel away. Remove the tomatoes and put them into a bowl of cold water. You should be able to peel off their skins easily. Chop them coarsely and set aside.

Put the onion in a puddle of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot, cover and allow to soften gently over a low heat for five to ten minutes. Once the onions are translucent and soft, turn up the heat and add the cuttlefish along with some salt and pepper.

You want to sear the cuttlefish until it starts to smell fragrant and delicious, about five minutes or so. Then add the white wine, scrap the sediment from the bottom of the pan, and add the stock, tomatoes, chilli and tomato paste. Bring everything to the boil and simmer gently for an hour without a lid, allowing the sauce to reduce.

Finish the stew with a little lemon juice, just enough to make the cuttlefish sauce sparkle, and a scattering of chopped parsley.

Eat in big steaming bowls, with warm chewy crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Crayfish feast

Ro and I spotted some live crayfish for sale at our local farmers market this weekend.

So we put them in a big pot with a bottle of pale ale and set the heat to 'high'.

When their shells turned red they were done. We tipped them into a big bowl, cracked their shells and ate them with salt and lemon.

Crayfish are sweet, tender and completely delicious.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Fruity fiery chilli sauce

I am completely addicted to chilli sauce. Recently I made about a litre of the stuff and since then its featured in pretty much every dinner in some form. It's a brilliant marinade for spicy hot chicken wings, a dip for pizza crusts, a quick sauce for noodles, hell, I even had it on vanilla ice cream and it was awesome.

Making chilli sauce is simple enough, but the fun part is making it exactly how you like it. Whether it's fiery hot or mild, syrupy sweet or sour, a freshly made chilli sauce tastes bright and fruity, a world away from store bought jars. I'd recommend wearing rubber gloves when removing the seeds - not only do chillies stain your hands, but the compound that produces heat, capsaicin, lingers on your fingertips even after lots of hand washing. I found out the wrong way when I rubbed my eyes after making my first attempt at this recipe...

500g fresh red chillies
a clove of garlic, crushed
an equal amount of ginger, peeled and grated
25ml of rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
juice of 1 and a half lemons
1 tablespoon of sea salt
a few very hot chillies, like scotch bonnets (optional)

You'll need a food processor for this. You could maybe try using a stick blender - if you do let me know how it goes!

Slice the stems off the chillies, then split each one in half lengthways and remove all the seeds and white pith. Chop the chillies roughly and put them in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients, except for the very hot chillies if you are using them. Whizz everything into a pulp, then have a tiny taste. If the sauce is too mild for your liking start adding the scotch bonnets one by one. Mix thoroughly each time before tasting again, until you're happy with the result. Your chilli sauce should keep for a long time in the fridge.