Weekend food with Darina Allen

I was in Copenhagen, the capital of the Nordic food scene, to attend the MAD Food Symposium and The World Food Summit. Both were inspirational.

Weekend food with Darina Allen

I was in Copenhagen, the capital of the Nordic food scene, to attend the MAD Food Symposium and The World Food Summit. Both were inspirational. But they couldn’t have been more different. MAD (‘food’ in Danish) was held in a red circus tent in the centre of Copenhagen, on the edge of the water, overlooking the incinerator designed by eminent Danish architect Bjarke Ingels.

The World Food summit was held in Christiansborg Palace, the Danish parliament building, and Borsen, the iconic quarters of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, originally the stock exchange.

Both addressed global food issues, climate change, food waste, gender imbalance in restaurant kitchens and the change in kitchen culture in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Chefs rubbed shoulders with ministers, ambassadors, policy makers, scientists and technologists.

But a girl has to eat. I got a table in René Redzepi’s ‘new’ Noma, often rated the best restaurant in the world. After several years’ break, when René, Peter, and their team created pop-up restaurants in Tribeca, New York; Tulum, Mexico; and Sydney, Australia, Noma is back in a new location in København K, and now cooking three in-season menus: vegetables, game, and seafood. The food is still superb. Twenty-two courses of exquisite food — clever, unforgettable flavours. For many, getting a table at Noma is the equivalent of winning the lottery and René Redzepi and his team deserve every plaudit. This one restaurant shifted the centre of the gastronomic world from France and Spain to Copenhagen. This not only raised the standard in that city, but changed the image of the whole Nordic region. Now, there are many delicious food options in Copenhagen. If Michelin is what you are after, there’s Geranium, with three stars; AOC and Kadeau, with two stars; and 108, Kong Hans Kælder, Marchal, Clou, Studio, Relæ, Den Røde Cottage, Kokkeriet, Era Ora, Formel B, Kiin Kiin, Søllerød Kro, with one star.

Many are opened by ex-Noma chefs, including the newest kid on the block, Iluka, owned by former head chef of Noma Beau Clugston. Can you imagine how difficult it is to grab headlines in a food town like Copenhagen? Clugston has concentrated on spanking fresh seafood, simply cooked. I enjoyed a beautiful sea-urchin from the Faroe Islands, served au nature, and a huge mahogany clam of about four inches across, thinly sliced and served in its own brine. For main course, a delicious lemon sole cooked on the bone. Oh, and I almost forgot the creamy potatoes, topped with shavings of bottarga. Clugston is courageous.

Sanchez is another new addition to the Copenhagen food scene. Rosio Sánchez has a taco stand in Torvehallerne, in the meat-packing district, where I go every time I come to Copenhagen, but in 2016 she opened Hija de Sanchez and it’s been packed ever since.

I sat at the counter with a good view of the kitchen and tucked into oysters with habanero and sea buckthorn, plus several tacos and tostadas. Then, there’s a paleta (ice on a stick) of the day or a Churros sandwich. The combination of hot, crispy churros and frozen parfait and bitter cream is worth the trip to Copenhagen.

At Atelier September, I simply have to have the avocado toast on rye, sprinkled with the tiny dice of chives and a few chilli flakes. Don’t miss the yoghurt granola with zucchini jam and matcha, either.

I loved Apollo Bar, too, beside the courtyard of the sister café of Kantine, in Nyhavn. Do try the beef tartare with mustard seeds and toasted hazelnuts, and the burrata with cucumber and preserved lemon, piled high with fresh basil and thyme leaves and fresh shoots.

Andersen & Maillard, on the corner of Nørrebrogade and Møllegradewas, was a new find — super coffee and little plates. Don’t miss their crispy Kouign-amann. Try to catch their chicken croissant sandwich. Then, go a little further along the street to the newly opened Pompette, one of the many fantastic wine bars in Copenhagen.

Then, there are the bakeries — fantastic sourdough breads and pastries. After much research, I reckon the best croissants and pan au chocolat are at Christian Puglisi’s Mirabelle Café. The sourdough bread is also served at Bæst, Manfreds and Relæ, all owned by Christian Puglisi, who is the brains behind the Farm of Ideas, out in Lejre. If you are over in Jægersborggade, call into Meyer’s Bakery, too, and don’t miss Camilla Plum’s Fuglebjerggaard. The shop is a wonderful hodgepodge of freshly harvested, organic fruit and vegetables from the farm, seeds, heirloom flour and many beautiful, random trinkets and irresistible housewares. There’s great fudge on that street, too, and many independent artisan shops, with one-off pieces of pottery and clothes. Many restaurants have social projects. Send More Spices, www.sendflerekrydderier.dk, is a huge sports centre, where refugee women and immigrants cook the most delicious food.

Beef Tartare with Mustard Seeds and Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 6

  • 500g (18oz) fillet of beef, well-trimmed.
  • 50g (2oz) yellow mustard seeds
  • 75ml (3fl oz), white wine vinegar — we use Forum Chardonnay vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • flaky sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • zest of 1 pink grapefruit
  • 50g (2oz) toasted hazelnuts, some halved, some quartered, some coarsely chopped.

To serve: 6 chilled plates

Soak the mustard seeds overnight in water and vinegar.

Next day, season with salt and honey. Taste.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Mark 6. Toast the hazelnuts on a baking tray, at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, for 15 minutes, shaking regularly, until golden and the skins loosen. Rub off the skins and replace in the oven for another 5-10 minutes, or until the hazelnuts are deeply toasted. Cool and chop coarsely. It’s nice when some are halved, others quartered, and the rest are coarsely chopped.

To serve: Put the meat through the large blade of the mincer.

Divide between the chilled plates. Sprinkle with mustard seeds and chopped hazelnuts, then grate some pink grapefruit zest over each portion, and serve.

Cauliflower Ceviche on Corn Tostado with Chilli Mayo and Avocado

A delicious vegetarian starter or small plate.

Serves 6-8


  • 100g (3½oz) cauliflower, cut into very small florets, fingernail size.
  • 100g (3½oz) cucumber unpeeled diced 1/2cm (¼in )
  • 100g (3½oz) tomato, peeled, seeded and diced, 1/2cm (¼in )
  • 5g (2oz) red onion diced
  • ½ teaspoon green chilli, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
  • flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 8 tablespoons of chipotle mayo (mayo with chiles en adobo)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 2 avocados, ripe, peeled and cut into chunky slices, cross wise

To serve: Fresh herb sprigs: coriander, sweet cicely, flat parsley

Cook the corn tortillas for a minute or two in hot oil until crisp.

Mix all the ingredients for the cauliflower ceviche in a bowl. Add the lime juice.

Add the chiles en adobo to the mayo, taste and add a squeeze of lime juice if necessary.

Peel and slice the avocado crosswise into chunky pieces.

To serve: Spread some chilli mayo on the tostado, put a couple of spoons of cauliflower ceviche on top.

Next some chunks of avocado and a generous sprinkling of fresh herb sprigs.

Danish Raspberry Shortbread

A much-loved classic Danish pastry, available in every bakery, but super simple to make at home. This is one of my favourites. Meyers Bakery also makes a delicious version.

Makes 12 8.5 x 8.5cm squares

  • 200g butter – sieved
  • 100g icing sugar – sieved
  • 300g white flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Rice flour
  • 4 tablespoons homemade raspberry jam
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Put the sieved flour and icing sugar into a bowl, and grate in the butter on a box grater. Rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in the egg yolks and bring together with your hands, but don’t knead.

Wrap, and chill for an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.

Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with rice flour. Divide the pastry in half. Roll out separately to make two squares, 25cm x 22.5cm x 3mm thick. Still attached to the paper, transfer to two baking sheets and cook for 10 minutes, until pale golden.

Spread raspberry jam evenly on one of the squares, while still warm. When the other square is cool, lay on top and peel off the paper. Press gently. This is a super-short, but really delicious pastry. However, it’s a nightmare to cut evenly. Do your best to cut it in squares or rectangles. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy as soon as possible. Best on the day it’s made, but I’ve certainly enjoyed it next day, also.

Sea Urchins au Natur

Sea urchins certainly can require an act of faith to tackle for the first time. Real connoisseurs eat them raw. Lightly cooked, the corals can be sieved and mixed with a little mayonnaise. We then dip little soldiers of toast into the delicate purée and eat the rest with a spoon from the shell, just like a prickly egg. Serves 6 as a starter.

    • 6 sea urchins
  • Scrape the prickles from the top of the shell. Lever out the plug with the end of a teaspoon or the point of kitchen scissors. Cut a larger hole. Present simply on a plate, provide a spoon and enjoy.

    Variation: Sea Urchin with Scrambled Egg

    If you happen to have a few spare sea urchins, make a little soft scrambled egg and lay some sea urchin coral and snipped flat parsley on top. Serve immediately. The sea urchin will warm gently as you make your way to the table. Eat with hot buttered toast.

    Hot tips

    Simply Delicious, The Classic Collection: Join me for afternoon tea in the Imperial Hotel in Cork on October 6 at 12.30pm to mark the launch of my book, Simply Delicious, The Classic Collection. Tickets are priced at €40. This includes a copy of my new book and afternoon tea for one. Book www.easons.com/eason-events

    The Weston A. Price Foundation, co-founded in 1999 by Sally Fallon and nutritionist Mary G Enig, is a non-profit organization dedicated to “restoring nutrient-dense foods to the diet through education, research and activism”. It hosts the Wise Traditions Conference, November 16 to 19, in the Hilton Hotel, Baltimore in the US. The theme for the conference is Nurturing Therapies for Chronic Disease and Transforming Our Health. See www.westonaprice.org/events for more information.

    A Taste of West Cork Food Festival 2018 – some events to keep an eye out for on Saturday, September 15:

    • Wild Weed Feed: Learn about the many edible varieties of seaweed found all around Roaringwater Bay, 12pm to 3.30pm. Ferry departs Cunnamore, booking essential 087-2856757 or sarah@heirislandretreat.ie
    • The Cooks Wood, Killeena House Estate: A light-hearted exploration of the history and uses of wood in the kitchen with artist Sonia Bidwell, 3pm to 5pm. Booking essential 087-7547665 or 028-21029.
    • Feast From The East, Buds, Ballydehob: A Korean and Vietnamese vegan tasting menu with Jena Malone, 7.30pm. Booking essential 028-25842.
    • Inspired by the Island, The Jolly Roger, Sherkin Island: West Cork Supper Club with Alicia Ní Ghráinne, 7pm. Booking essential 028-20662.

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