International Cooking: Food from Denmark

Denmark is located in the south of Scandinavia, north of Germany. I was pretty excited to finally get to one of the Scandinavian countries as it’s a region I’ve always wanted to visit. First it was because many of my favorite bands come from the area, but then I noticed how beautiful these countries look. The food sounds great too!

There is evidence that Denmark has been inhabited since about 12,500 BC, and Roman coins have been found in the area, suggesting that the inhabitants once traded with the Romans.

From about the 8th to 10th century, Denmark and the surrounding areas were the source of Vikings, who had strong seafaring skills. They traveled all over Europe, colonizing, raiding, and trading, even going as far as Baghdad in Iraq. However, they were most active in the British Isles and Western Europe. The overall history is quite interesting, but I don’t think I can do it justice here.

Today, the Kingdom of Denmark includes 1,419 islands above 100 square metres, including the Faroe Islands and Greenland. It’s a country with a high standard of living, performing near the top in areas such as education, healthcare, civil liberties, democratic governance, and LGBT equality.

What Do People Eat in Denmark?

Since before the Industrial Revolution, foods such as bread, fish, pork, and later potatoes were eaten everywhere in Denmark. And today, that still holds true, though there is also a wider variety of foods available, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables.

Meat is probably the most common component of any hot meal, especially pork, though veal and beef can also be found. A variety of fish is popular too. Meat was often preserved in the form of sausage, and fish pickled or smoked, and these preparations are still common.

Rye bread is served with many meals, either on the side or as the base for a smørrebrød, the popular open-faced sandwich. You can also find white bread or rolls. The other popular carb served with meals is potato, which is most often mashed or simply boiled. There is one potato dish that I didn’t manage to fit in this week but would have liked to, consisting of caramelized potatoes. This is usually served with roast duck at Christmas.

Traditionally, Danish food doesn’t usually include many spices, aside from curry powder, which is fairly common. However, the use and variety of spices has increased in modern times. Sauces and condiments are important, such as white sauce with parsley, ketchup, mustard, remoulade, and mayonnaise, to name a few. Some common herbs are dill, parsley, and chives.

And of course, Danish pastries are pretty well known. They come in a wide variety of shapes and flavors, though most of these are based on the same puff pastry dough.

What I Made

Æggekage (Omelette with Tomato, Bacon, and Chives)

Æggekage (Omelette with Tomato, Bacon, and Chives)

This is a Danish omelette variation, which can have many types of toppings though bacon and tomato seem to be most common. Generally, when I see an omelette the other ingredients are either folded inside, or the egg mixture has been poured over them so that they are all incorporated into the omelette. Here, the egg is mixed with chives, salt, pepper, and a splash of milk, with other ingredients added on top once the egg has set. I didn’t use a recipe for this, but just kind of made it up after looking at many online. This was a great, easy breakfast, though I think I would add some cheese if I made it again!

Rugbrød (Rye Bread)

Rugbrød (Rye Bread)

This is traditional Danish rye bread, which is very common in Denmark, particularly for making smørrebrød (next). It’s made using a sourdough starter, with both rye and wheat flour. It’s also packed with cracked rye berries, bulgur (cracked wheat), flaxseeds, and sunflower seeds. I did omit the sunflower seeds in mine though and just used a bit extra of the previous three ingredients, as I couldn’t find unsalted sunflower seeds. This makes for a pretty dense bread, though I think that’s intended. It’s pretty good for you too! I liked this; it’s not the kind of bread I would eat with just butter and jam or honey, but it’s great for the smørrebrød and I also enjoyed it with scrambled eggs on top (which I guess is a kind of smørrebrød too!)

I got this recipe from Nordic Food Living. Don’t be put off by the odd measurements; I would agree that it’s strange to measure dry ingredients using decilitres (one dl is 100ml) but it did work out. I just used my liquid measuring cups. I used my regular sourdough starter, which I fed with a mix of rye and all-purpose flour then let sit until bubbly before using. I also halved the recipe so that I only had one loaf, and used a 9×13 inch loaf tin. It didn’t rise quite as much as I wanted so I sliced it ‘creatively’ in order to get more square-shaped pieces.

Smørrebrød (Open-Faced Sandwiches)

Open-faced sandwiches are very popular in Denmark and can be topped with just about anything. They are usually eaten with a knife and fork. Although I saw rugbrød most often used as the base, there are some smørrebrød variations that are usually made on white bread.

I made many smørrebrød variations during the week, but these are the three that are most Danish.

Herring Smørrebrød (Open-Faced Sandwich)

Pickled herring is a popular smørrebrød topping, often with just butter and red onion. I also added some lettuce, lightly pickled cucumbers, and dill. This was my first time trying pickled herring—or herring at all. I thought it was pretty good! What you see here is the only kind that existed in my grocery store. In Denmark, it looks like you usually get nice-looking fillets rather than chunks.

Shrimp and Egg Smørrebrød (Open-Faced Sandwich)

Another popular topping is shrimp and boiled egg. The other toppings can vary, and I chose lettuce, dill, and a delicious Danish remoulade that I made using a recipe from Nordic Food Living. In Denmark, this sauce is common with certain smørrebrød toppings, particularly roast beef, and it is also served with fries and pan-fried fish.

Frikadeller Smørrebrød (Open-Faced Sandwich)

Since I was already making frikadeller (Danish meatballs) this week, I decided I should put them on a smørrebrød the next day. They are a common smørrebrød topping and can be served with remoulade, so that’s what I did. There’s also a bit of lettuce, and that’s it!

These were all delicious, and I enjoyed playing with other topping combinations throughout the week. I think just about anything can work.

Brændende Kærlighed (Mashed Potato with Bacon and Onion)

Brændende Kærlighed (Mashed Potato with Bacon and Onion)

The main reason I wanted to make this dish was so that I could tell you what it translates to: ‘Burning Love’. It is apparently quite popular, even though it’s just mashed potato with crispy bacon and fried onion. It can be garnished with parsley and dill and served with pickled beetroot, so I added all three. This was really good! The recipe I used is from Nordic Food Living.

I pickled the beetroot myself since my supermarket doesn’t sell pickled beetroot. I roasted the beets, removed the skin, and sliced them, then let them sit in white vinegar with some salt and sugar for a few days. That’s it! They tasted almost exactly like the pickled beetroot I used to eat in Australia (where it is available at grocery stores).

Stegt Flæsk Med Persillesovs (Crispy Pork Belly with Parsley Sauce)

Stegt Flæsk Med Persillesovs (Crispy Pork Belly with Parsley Sauce)

This is Denmark’s national dish, and it’s really quite simple. It consists of crispy pork belly, boiled potatoes, and a thick, creamy parsley sauce. It’s probably one of the easiest national dishes I have made, but it was really good. I was told on Reddit to ensure the sauce was very thick and had lots of parsley, and I did my best. The pork belly was roasted in the oven on a rack over a baking sheet until it got crispy. I’d never cooked pork belly exactly like this before, and I was a little apprehensive. But it came out really well, with the fat rendered perfectly and the skin shatteringly crisp. I’d definitely make this again!

The recipe I used is from Scandification.

Biksemad (Potato Hash)

Biksemad (Potato Hash)

This is a breakfast hash which usually makes use of any leftover meat you have lying around. I intentionally cooked extra pork belly when I made the previous dish in order to have some to use for this. I didn’t use a recipe, but I precooked some potatoes, then diced them and cooked them with onion in some oil and butter. I added the diced pork so that it got warmed up and seasoned with salt and pepper, and that was it. I served this with fried eggs, pickled beetroot, and some parsley and dill sprinkled on top.

Frikadeller (Meatballs)

Frikadeller (Meatballs)

These meatballs are typically made with either just pork, or a mixture of pork and veal. Danish Reddit users said these were better using a mixture, so that is what I did. They also contain onion, egg, salt, breadcrumbs, oats, and a little milk and pepper. Frikadeller are usually pan-fried in a lot of butter or oil, but I’ve seen some recipes say you can bake them for a healthier alternative. They can be served in all kinds of ways: with a white sauce, with gravy, or on smørrebrød. Unlike regular meatballs, they aren’t supposed to be perfectly round, and instead are formed into a slightly flattened oval shape.

I loved these! I made a pan gravy to accompany them, starting with what was left in the pan after cooking the meatballs. I added some flour, then added water and a dash of cream, and cooked until it had thickened. I served them with some boiled potatoes (the gravy went on those too so they didn’t need any other seasoning!)

To make these, I used a recipe from Nordic Food Living. I used half pork and half veal, and grated the onion rather than chopping, as I’d seen in some other frikadeller recipes.

Makroner (Danish Macaroons)

Makroner (Danish Macaroons)

I hadn’t originally intended to make these, but they were a component of the next recipe. Although I could have omitted them, they were easy enough that I just decided to go ahead and make them. These Danish macaroons contain only almond meal, confectioner’s sugar, baking soda, egg whites, and salt. You whip the egg whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks, then fold in the other ingredients. Then you dollop the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake until done. They are sweet, but otherwise quite plain on their own. Good with coffee, or in the dish I made them for!

The recipe I used is from SBS. I omitted the flaked almonds, which are not traditional anyway, but I would probably include them if I were making these to serve on their own.

Æblekage (Apple Cake)

Æblekage (Apple Cake)

This is a traditional Danish dessert which is still quite popular today. Although it’s called ‘apple cake’, it’s not really a cake at all. It’s made by layering stewed apples, whipped cream, and an oat or breadcrumb crumble, which can also be combined with crushed Danish macaroons.

For the apple mixture, I used Granny Smith apples and cooked them with some water, sugar, and vanilla until they had broken down. I kept the mixture slightly chunky but you could also make it completely smooth if you prefer. I used oats for the crumble, which get cooked in butter with some sugar until they turn golden. The cream is whipped (without any additions), and then you’re ready to assemble.

First, there’s a layer of apple, followed by the oat crumble and some crushed macaroons. Then add whipped cream, then repeat and top with some more crumble and macaroons. Some recipes, including the one I followed, only put whipped cream on top, instead of layering with the other ingredients, but I decided to add a whipped cream layer.

This was really, really good. And so easy to make! You can prepare everything in advance and then just layer when you want to serve. I saw some recipes suggesting that you can layer everything in advance, but if you want the crumble to still be crispy you can’t let it sit for too long.

The recipe I used is from Danish Food Lovers.

Frøsnapper (Poppy and Sesame Seed Pastry Twists)

Frøsnapper (Poppy and Sesame Seed Pastry Twists)

I knew that at some point during this challenge, I would probably encounter a pastry dish I just had to make. And it wouldn’t feel right to just buy some puff pastry and shape it, because as far as I’m concerned the pastry is the bulk of the recipe. So this week, I made puff pastry from scratch for the first time in order to make these frøsnapper pastries.

I’d seen puff pastry made many times on the Great British Bake Off (or Baking Show, depending where you live), so I already had a general idea of how it was made. I made the dough the night before, then the next day I rolled my butter into a block. This got wrapped in the dough, and then I rolled it into a rectangle and did my first letter fold. I refrigerated for a short time, then took it out, let it rest, and rolled and folded again. After repeating the process once more, the dough was ready to be shaped.

I rolled the dough into a rectangle, and spread a mixture of butter, sugar, and vanilla over half of it. I folded the dough over this mixture, and scored into 12 pieces. I sprinkled poppy seeds and sesame seeds over everything and cut out my pastries. Each got twisted into shape and placed on my baking sheet to rise.

Once they were ready, I baked my pastries. This is where they all lost their shape! The picture shows my very best pastry, with the second-best underneath. However, I think my puff pastry was a success! Some butter leaked out, but I realized it was sweet butter so I think it’s from the filling and not from the pastry. The pastries had the perfect ‘pastry texture’ and were really delicious. I just have to work on my shaping!

To make these, I used both the Danish pastry recipe and frøsnapper recipe from Skandibaking. I would highly recommend these; the instructions were very clear which was great for someone who doesn’t have much pastry experience.

Fried Fish with Potatoes

Fried Fish with Potatoes

I didn’t use the Danish name for this recipe, because the most commonly used fish for this dish in Denmark is plaice, and I used flounder. And I’m pretty sure part of the Danish name is the word for ‘plaice’, so I just went with English.

This is just a piece of fish, coated in rye flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, and pan-fried. It’s usually served with potatoes, often with parsley sauce. Other common accompaniments are remoulade and lemon. I added the lemon, but my remoulade was all gone by this point so I used some tartar sauce (not pictured).

I wasn’t sure how different this may be using rye flour instead of regular all-purpose flour for the breading. I’m not sure I tasted it. However, the dish was really good. I knew it would be though; it’s hard to go wrong with something like this!

This is simple enough that it doesn’t really need a recipe, but I was using one from Madens Verden as a guide. The site is in Danish, but Google translate works well.

Final Thoughts

Everything this week was really good! It was a little exhausting because I did so much, but I think it was worth it. It was hard to choose a favorite, but I really liked the frikadeller and all the smørrebrød variations I made. The æblekage and frøsnapper were also excellent. I’d make just about everything again!

Next week, I will be cooking food from Djibouti.

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