Cookbook review: The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann
While there are no specifically Icelandic recipes in this book, there are enough dishes in it that have passed into traditional Icelandic cookery (taken from Danish and Norwegian cookbooks of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries) to include it here.
Author Trina Hahnemann has, in co-operation with photographer Lars Ranek, produced a gorgeous tribute to Scandinavian cookery. The book is divided into chapters by month, and each month includes recipes made from local ingredients that are fresh at the given time of year. The recipes, when they aren't pan-Scandinavian, are mostly Danish and Swedish, with some Norwegian ones. My native Iceland isn‘t included, as while the culinary tradition is firmly Scandinavian, the country isn‘t actually a geographical part of Scandinavia. I did find several recipes that are very familiar to me, like fish cakes, gravlax, pickled cucumbers, marinated herring and Christmas pudding, to name a few.
The recipes are a mixture of familiar traditional recipes, variations on the traditional (like fish cakes in curry sauce), and new recipes using traditional Scandinavian ingredients. There are photographs of almost every dish, interspersed with photos of the raw ingredients and cityscapes, landscapes and people, all of them in glorious colour. The abundance of photographs means that this is not just a recipe collection, but actually a gorgeous coffee-table book as well. The recipes are, for the most part, easy to make, and most of the ingredients easy to find, although substitutions may sometimes have to be made, e.g. if one can‘t get hold of moose, reindeer or flounder.
At the back of the book there is a handy glossary of ingredients and a list of websites that will provide those interested with more information about Scandinavia and its foods. The author is a well-known chef and food writer and already has several cookbooks under her belt, published in her native Denmark.
While I have not yet tested any of the actual recipes given in the book, I have cooked a number of the dishes (from other cookbooks) and tasted several more. There is a good variety of recipes, for appetisers, main courses, soups, desserts, drinks and baked goods, and as I have already mentioned, many of them are ideally suited to the season the chapters cover.
All in all, I think this is a gorgeous cookbook that will give non-Scandinavians a good overview of Scandinavian food and cookery, and the photographs will certainly arouse an interest in visiting the region.
Finally, here is a recipe from the book that I plan to try soon:
Grilled leg of lamb with garlic and tarragon (serves 8)
1 boned leg of lamb
Salt and pepper
10 tarragon sprigs
6 cloves garlic
Heat the grill to medium.
Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste over the leg of lamb, the cover with the tarragon and garlic. Fold up the meat and tie it up with kitchen string to help it keep its shape.
Lay the meat on the grill and close the grill. Cook for about 2 hours, or until an instant read meat thermometer reads 160 to 175°F (70 to 80°C). Take care that the underside of the lamb does not burn.
When the meat is done, let it rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with potato salad and green cabbage salad with dill and peas (both are included in the book).