The Darina Allen Column

I was over in Denmark recently to attend the MAD Food Symposium and The World Food Summit. While both were inspirational (and I don’t use that word lightly), they couldn’t have been more different: MAD (meaning food in Danish) was held in a red circus tent right in the centre of Copenhagen, on the edge of the water overlooking the Incinerator designed by eminent Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, while 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 in relation to food, food waste, gender imbalance in restaurant kitchens and the change in kitchen culture in the wake of #metoo issues. Chefs with strong voices for change were to the fore in both forums rubbing shoulder with ministers, ambassadors, policy makers, scientist and technologists…

But a girl has to eat… I was hugely fortunate to get a table in René Redzepi’s ‘new’ Noma, rated the best restaurant in the world for many years in a row. 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 – I’m not a huge fan of the tortured ‘cheffy’ foods that many restaurant critics rave about nowadays but here we are truly in the hands of a master. 22 courses of exquisite food – clever, memorable, in fact, unforgettable flavours. For many getting a table at Noma is the equivalent of winning the Lotto and in my opinion René Redzepi and his team deserve every single one of the plaudits heaped upon them.

This one restaurant started a revolution and shifted the centre of the gastronomic world from France and Spain to Copenhagen. The knock-on effect not only raised the standard in that city but changed the image of the whole Nordic region. Now there are so many delicious food options in Copenhagen. If Michelin is what you are after there’s Geranium with 3 stars, AOC and Kadeau with 2 stars and 108, Kong Hans Kælder, Marchal, Clou, Studio, Relæ, Den Røde Cottage, Kokkeriet, Era Ora, Formel B, Kiin Kiin, Søllerød Kro with 1 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, here Beau Clugston has chosen to concentrate on spanking fresh seafood, simply cooked and I mean simple. I enjoyed a beautiful sea-urchin from the Faroe Islands served au nature and a huge mahogany clam of about 4 inches across, thinly sliced and served in its own brine. For main course a lemon sole cooked on the bone – what could be more delicious. Oh, and I almost forgot the creamy potatoes topped with shavings of bottarga. It’s a courageous move and I so hope it works brilliantly for this passionate young chef.

Sanchez is another new addition to the Copenhagen food scene, Rosio Sánchez has a taco stand in Torvehallerne in the Meat Packing District that I beat a path to every time I come to Copenhagen, but in 2016 she opened Hija de Sanchez, offering lots of small bites, and it’s been packed ever since.
They welcome walk-ins - I sat at the counter with a good view of the kitchen and tucked into oysters with habanero and sea buckthorn (the latter is everywhere at the moment), plus several tacos and tostadas. Then there’s a paleta (ice on a stick) of the day or a Churros sandwich…. Oh my goodness, you can’t imagine how delicious the combination of hot crispy churros with frozen parfait and bitter cream is - worth the trip to Copenhagen.

Atelier September is another of my favourite haunts, 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. Great coffee too and always freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, great vibe and everything is made to order.

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 (see below) 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 – more super coffee and little plates. Don’t miss their crispy Kouign-amann Try to catch their chicken croissant sandwich if you can and then a little further along the street to the newly opened Pompette, one of the many fantastic wine bars in Copenhagen serving an irresistible selection of natural wines.

Then there are the bakeries…fantastic sourdough breads and pastries…. After much research, I reckon the best croissants and pain 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 colourful shop, 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 is one of the most inspiring. It’s in a huge sports centre in the centre of Copenhagen where refugee women and immigrants cook the most delicious food.

Haven’t even mentioned the museums and art galleries, but this is a food column so here are some favourite good things that I enjoyed in Denmark.

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.

To toast the hazelnuts: Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6.
Toast the hazelnuts on a baking tray in a preheated at 180°C/350°F/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, other 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.

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

300g white flour – sieved
100g icing sugar – sieved
200g butter - grated
2 egg yolks

Rice flour
4 tablespoons homemade raspberry jam
Icing sugar for dusting

Put the sieved flour and icing sugar into a bowl, 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.

Preheat 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.

A trip to the US which could just be life changing….

The Weston A. Price Foundation, co-founded in 1999 by Sally Fallon and nutritionist Mary G. Enig, is a non-profit organisation dedicated to "restoring nutrient-dense foods to the diet through education, research and activism." Wise Traditions Conference 16th to 19th November 2018 in Hilton Hotel, Baltimore in the US. The theme for the conference is Nurturing Therapies for Chronic Disease and Transforming Our Health. For more information,


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