If you’re a regular on this blog, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with Trine Hahnemann, the author of Scandinavian Christmas, which is the book that first introduced me to the concept of hygge (I talk about it a bit more in this post). But inexplicably, I’ve seen hardly anyone talking about Scandinavian Comfort Food. Is it because the H-word is relegated to the subtitle (‘Embracing the art of hygge’) and nobody realised it was bang on trend? Who knows. But I’ve had my copy since the end of last year (when Britain reached peak hygge), so I think it’s high time I shared my thoughts!
Much like Nigella, Trine gives a lot of context and anecdotes to punctuate her recipes, and I love that. As you may know, I really enjoy reading recipe books as a form of escapism in bed before I go to sleep, so reading the preamble between recipes is often enough to get me feeling cosy. I love these insights into the writer’s lives and relationships with food, which is why diving straight into the chapter entitled ‘What I eat during the day’ was always going to be inevitable for me. I really like the little explanations before each recipe, which help to set the scene and get me in the mood for hygge… and as always, this book is a great reminder that Nordic food is unpretentious, unfussy and easy to make. The recipes that particularly caught my eye in this section are for the adorably named ‘snitter’ (essentially leftovers on rye bread as far as I can tell) and the grilled cheese beach sandwich, which I can imagine is just as welcome on a serene Danish beach as on a blustery British seafront!
There are four sections focused on different times of year – one for Easter hygge (I’m a few weeks too late for this to be relevant for this year, classic KT), one for long summer nights and two for Christmas, one for lunch and one for dinner, with the two chapters inexplicably separated by another chapter on bread. I probably would’ve kept the two Christmas chapters together and moved the bread up to sit with the chapters on soups and salads, but that’s just a matter of personal preference – the content itself is great.
Probably the most useful section comes in the form of ‘Our family meals’. The pan-fried herrings with new potatoes and parsley sauce looks ridiculously quick and easy (a must for family cooking in my opinion), and the summer frikadeller (see, hygge isn’t just for winter!) would absolutely be a smash hit with kids and frazzled parents alike. You’ll see a lot of the Scandi classics here – the cured fish, the lamb, the potatoes – but also some recipes which are entirely new to me at least, like the white osso buco with elderflower and tarragon. I’d always thought of elderflower as more of an English flavour, but I’m reliably informed by page 70 that they get plenty over in Denmark too.
Vegetarians, be warned – the majority of this book is pretty focused on meat, but there is a chapter called ‘My love of vegetables’ which features lots of hearty mains, not just sides unlike many recipe books with a token veg section. The creamy barley with courgette and mushroom is described as more of a savoury porridge than a risotto, and it looks DIVINE. The pickle, soup and salad chapters will also give veggies some nice options, and of course there’s an entire section dedicated to sweet treats, so don’t despair if you’re not a meat eater.
And seeing as it’s only May, please don’t hate me for this, but I do want to take a second to talk about the two Christmas chapters (an absolute must for any hygge recipe book). The ‘Friends over for Christmas lunch’ chapter could really be used to inspire any informal get together throughout the year – I wouldn’t say the recipes scream Christmas unless these are part of your own Nordic traditions (we’re talking kale and pancetta tart, celeriac fritters and a Jerusalem artichoke, apple and tarragon salad). Yes, there’s a yule log recipe, but I personally prefer the look of Nigella’s (in Nigella Christmas) – it looks a touch simpler and a little more aesthetically pleasing – to me, at least.
But the real star of the show is the ‘Christmas dinner at my house’ chapter. It’s everything I love about the rest of the book – the anecdotes, the perfectly hyggeligt photos and a quick explanation of Trine’s family traditions (she describes her 6pm champagne followed by 7pm Christmas dinner on 24th December as ‘true hygge’ – I’m sold!). Nordic food runs the full gamut from ultra healthy to ultra indulgent, and this is definitely a chapter which invites you to loosen your belt a notch or two. This is a short but sweet chapter, which I should imagine comprises the entirety of Trine’s Christmas dinner with no unnecessary extras, and I LOVE that – and the gorgeously inviting, glowy photography just makes me want to slip into the pages of the book and have whatever they’re having.
Overall, I’d say this book is a worthy edition to any Nordic food enthusiast’s collection. If you have other Scandi recipe books, you’ll probably recognise around 70% of the recipes in here, but it’s in the other 30% that you find some food which is quite surprising. And if it’s this 30% that captures your imagination, might I also recommend Solla Eiríksdottír’s Raw? Both books contain recipes which aren’t your traditional herring, beetroot, dill and rye bread, but Raw takes it even further with some truly experimental foodie fare.
Have you read any of Trine Hahnemann’s books, or have you come across any other Scandi recipe books I need to add to my ever-growing collection? As always, I want to hear all about them!