While still based in tradition, Danish cuisine has embraced new flavours, foreign ingredients and a lighter touch, says Trine Hahnemann

We Danes have stopped thinking about the dinner as revolving around meat and potatoes. More things are eaten raw than my grandmother would have imagined.

While my cooking is quite different from my grandmothers it is still deeply rooted in tradition, but I use stronger flavours, more spices, more fresh herbs, different techniques. I grew up with cauliflower boiled to demise or in a gratin with white sauce. Now I serve it in endless ways: raw, fried in butter, as a pure with chilli.

Inspiration from around the world has entered modern Danish cooking, and texture and combinings have shifted. It is lighter, a bit more complex in flavours, but without giving in on seasonality and still recognising the benefits of maintaining things simple.

Spelt tart with spinach, Jerusalem artichokes and feta

This tart is ideal for everyday cooking and not that hard to induce. Its also perfect for guests, as it can be made the day before, then heated up to serve. Serves 4-6.

For the pastry:
plain flour 100 g, plus extra for dusting
wholegrain spelt flour 100 g
ocean salt 1 tsp
butter, chopped 75 g
skyr( quark) or fromage frais 75 g

For the fill:
Jerusalem artichokes 200 g
olive oil 2 tbsp
garlic cloves, chopped 2
spinach 500 g
eggs, beaten 5
full-fat crme frache 100 ml
feta cheese 200 g, crumbled
freshly grated nutmeg 1 tsp
ocean salt 1 tsp
freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp

Begin with the pastry. Mix both flours with the salt in a large bowl, then rub in the butter with your fingertips. Mix in the skyr( quark) or fromage frais. Knead the dough gently with your hands simply until the ingredients are combined.( Alternatively, pulse all the ingredients together in a food processor, adding a little water if the dough does not come together .)

Roll the dough out on a floured surface and butter a tart tin or dish, about 28 cm in diameter. Use the pastry to line the tart tin, then refrigerate for one hour. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ gas mark 4. Line the pastry case with cooking parchment and pour in baking beans or uncooked rice. Bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and parchment and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the fill. Peel the artichokes and cut them into 1.5 cm chunks. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the artichokes and saut for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic and let it cook for about five minutes; take off the heat. If utilizing fresh spinach, rinse in cold water, then place in a separate saucepan over a medium hot and allow it to wilt. When it is just wilted, drainage really well in a sieve.

Put the beat eggs, crme frache, feta, nutmeg and salt and pepper into a large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoonful. Fold in the drained spinach and Jerusalem artichokes. Pour the mixture into the pastry instance, return it to the oven and cook for 3035 minutes, or until the fill has set but retains a slight wobble. Serve right away with a nice salad.

Cauliflower, prawns and dill

Cauliflower,
Raw bargain: cauliflower, prawns and dill. Photo: Columbus Leth

When I was growing up we ate cauliflower raw with a dip. It has inspired this great-tasting salad. Serves 4-6

small cauliflower 1
radishes 10
cooked peeled prawns 200 g

For the dressing:
chopped dill 6 tbsp
chopped chives 6 tbsp
Greek yogurt 150 ml
grated unwaxed lemon zest 1 tbsp
lemon juice 1-2 tbsp
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Cut the cauliflower into thin slice, rinse well in cold water then drain in a colander. Slice the radishes. Mix all the dressing ingredients together, with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the cauliflower slicings, radishes and prawns together in a big mixing bowl, then mix in the dres. Season to taste with salt and pepper and perhaps a little more lemon juice for acidity. Leave for 10 minutes then season again and serve.

Warm butternut squash with almonds and herbs

Orange
Watercress topped: warm butternut squash with almonds and herbs. Photo: Columbus Leth

I had a dish similar to this one in Seoul, Korea, and this is my Scandi autumn version for the time of year when pumpkins start to be harvested. Serves 4.

butternut squash, unpeeled 1
extra-virgin olive oil 2 tbsp
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
watercress, to decorate

For the herb topping:
spring onions 2
green chilli, chopped 1
chopped parsley 3 tbsp
chopped mint 3 tbsp
garlic clove 1, grated
lemon juice 1-2 tbsp
butter 2 tbsp
almonds 100 g, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C/ gas mark 4. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthways, scrape out all the seeds, then cut each squash half into slice from the shorter side. Place on a baking sheet lined with cooking parchment, toss with the olive oil and some salt and pepper and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, attain the herb topping. Thinly slice the spring onions. Mix the chilli, chopped herbs, garlic and lemon juice together and set aside. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the almonds and spring onions and cook until browned. Take off the heat and keep warm.

Transfer the cooked butternut squash slicings to a serving dish, stir the herb mixture into the brown buttered almonds and spring onions, then spoon on top of the butternut squash. Finish by decorating with watercress.

Winter apple layer cake

Nuts
Apple support: winter apple layer cake. Photograph: Columbus Leth

This a classic Danish recipe. The cream is partly inspired by my favourite Danish writer, Karen Blixen. Serves 8.

For the apple sauce:
Bramley apples 600 g
caster sugar 40 g
lemon juice 1 tsp

For the layers:
soft butter 175 g
caster sugar 175 g
egg 1
plain flour 175 g
ground cinnamon 3 tsp
ground cardamom 2 tsp

For the cream:
hazelnuts 100 g
double cream 400 ml
single cream 100 ml
icing sugar 2 tsp

Peel and dice the apples and put them into a pan with the sugar and lemon juice. Let them simmer for 15 -2 0 minutes until you have a smooth sauce. Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 200 C/ gas mark 6. Draw a 20 cm circle use a pencil on 7 sheets of baking parchment. Turn these over and arrange on as many cooking sheets as necessary to fit( you may have to cook these in batches ).

Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then beat in the egg. Mix the flour and spices together and fold into the creamed mixture. Utilizing a spatula, spread the concoction as evenly as is practicable inside each visible circle on the pieces of baking parchment.

Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes or until the edges start to take on some colour. Set aside to cool on the sheets of parchment on a wire rack. While the layers are cooling, roast the hazelnuts. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven, then wrap them in a clean tea towel and give them a good rub, so the skins come off. Roughly chop them. Whip both creams with the icing sugar and stir in two-thirds of the hazelnuts.

Assemble the cake immediately prior to serving. Place a crisp layer on a serve plate and add some apple sauce, then add another crisp layer, then some cream. Repeat this layer pattern twice, then add the last crisp layer and some apple sauce on top. Sprinkle the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top and serve right away.

Scandinavian Comfort Food: Embracing the Art of Hygge by Trine Hahnemann is published by Quadrille at 25. To order a transcript for 20.50, go to bookshop.theguardian.com

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