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Article: Fika break with Trine Hahnemann


Fika break with Trine Hahnemann

As one of our favourite Scandinavian chefs and food writers, Trine Hahnemann’s book, Scandinavian Green (Quadrille, £26), is a very personal collection of vegetarian dishes and delights, inspired by her late father.

“My father had great faith in me and never doubted I could fight my own battles and create the life I wanted. My life became about understanding the world through food,” she shares.

How did your father influence your love of cooking?

“My father was a great home cook; me and my siblings grew up with good food,” says Trine. “He did not teach me many things directly, rather he taught me by example. When I say that, I mean he never sat me down and explained the world to me. There was, though, one lesson that he gave me: ‘It is all the things you choose and don’t choose that will define you.’ He meant that there is so much in the world, so you have to navigate it by deselecting the inessentials and focus on what remains.

“When I was growing up, we did not eat traditional Danish food all the time, as my friends mostly did. We ate ratatouille, hummus, chicken with yellow and red peppers in white wine, roast lamb with lots of garlic, a minced meat dish called skramsgaderet with curry powder, leeks and carrots, that you eat with yogurt and mango chutney (that recipe is in my book Scandinavian Comfort Food). And my father made the best spaghetti Bolognese I have ever tasted.

“I was taught the joy of cooking because we always ate home-made food” — Trine Hahnemann

“Later in his life, my father refined his cooking: he turned out great risotto, vegetable pastas and salads, and he made a masterly crème brûlée. He also enjoyed numerous dinners in my kitchen. He would call me in the afternoon and say: ’It is Peter. Are you home tonight? I’m coming for dinner.’ He really liked it when I cooked fish, a reference to his endless love of the sea. Sometimes he would get a certain look and nod his silent approval, so I would know he was really enjoying what he was eating.

“I also loved to serve a great wine to him and register that same subdued joy. During the last couple of years of his life, he visited me at my café in the Østerbro district of Copenhagen, where he was served two pieces of smørrebrød, one always with boiled potatoes and fried onions. Without saying it in so many words, I knew he really liked the new place I had created. He always said: ‘Tak for mad’ (‘Thanks for the food’) – to me and my staff.”

“When we went sailing, we would cook fish and summer vegetables; my father had a great recipe for garfish, potatoes, peas, asparagus and dill. For lunch we always ate rye bread sandwiches with salami and cheese. He would be sitting on the deck steering the boat; I would be standing in the cabin, looking out at the sea while making the sandwiches. I handed them to him, one at a time, with a cup of black coffee with sugar.”

What excites you about food today?

‘Vegetables,” laughs Trine. “I feel a sense of profound happiness when I walk through fields full of vegetables, check on greens bubbling on the stove or receive a box of freshly harvested vegetables in my kitchen. My enthusiasm takes on new forms every year, and, for me, cooking has never been more exhilarating. I honestly think you can make the best-tasting meals from vegetables and I have always felt that the true challenge of cooking is the transformation of vegetables into great dishes.

“Eagerly waiting for a new vegetable or fruit to come into season is envigorating and encapsulates the joy and variety of cooking, even when you are just finding lots of different ways to cook asparagus over and again. A plant-based diet is the future, and so much delicious food is ahead of us. Why should it be so difficult to cut back significantly on eating meat and dairy, especially in the western world? Now is the time to do it more than ever.”

What does spring mean to you?

“Spring is the sparkling season that most people long for after the melancholy winter, the season that kindly returns longer and brighter days,” enthuses Trine. “The sun emerges after months of being trapped under a thick carpet of grey cloud. Every day more people break out from their houses, glad to leave the indoor comforts of the cold weather months behind for a while. They stay outside even though it is still chilly, even swim in the sea, trying to convince themselves that 4°C (39°F) is ‘not that cold’. All of a sudden, everyone seems to be seizing the day.

“I love winter and never long for it to end. However, when I wake up at dawn with the spring light and hear blackbirds singing, I am always surprised how much it pleases me to welcome another spring and another cycle of the year’s changing seasons.”


Crunchy raw vegetable tart

“You may be surprised to hear that, in the 1960s, celery was a very fancy pre-dinner crudité. It was always seen in Danish movies of the time, usually served with Dubonnet,” shares Trine. “These days, I like to eat celery sticks raw, to appreciate the sharp taste mixed with the sweet green juice. It is also perfect with blue cheese.”

Serves 4


• 1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry • 1 egg, lightly beaten • 10 asparagus spears, trimmed of woody stalks • 10 radishes • 2 celery sticks, with leaves


• 3 tbsps lime juice • 2 tsps honey • 2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil • 4 tbsps chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

2 For the tart: Roll out the puff pastry a little until it is big enough to cut into 2 rectangles, each 30cm x 15cm. With a small, sharp knife, score a frame all the way around each, 2cm from the edge. Brush the frames with egg all over and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.

3 Meanwhile, cut the asparagus into ½ cm slices at an angle. Cut the radishes into thin slices lengthways, using a mandolin if you have one. Slice the celery finely. Mix all the vegetables in a bowl.

4 For the vinaigrette: Whisk the lime juice and honey in a bowl, then gradually whisk in the olive oil. Fold the dressing into the vegetables with the parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

5 When the puff pastry is done, place the pieces on a big wooden board, divide the vegetables on top inside the scored frames and serve right away.

Taken from Scandinavian Green by Trine Hahnemann, with photography Columbus Leth (Quadrille, £26).