Category: Snack

Strawberries and Danish Summer Cream

   59 Comments

Danish Summer Cream

To say that Danish people have a strong food culture would be selling it short. Very short. After living in Denmark for nearly six years now, I have had the privilege of witnessing and taking part in many of their passionate and long-established table traditions, celebrating the seasons through what they eat and vice versa. They are proud, and borderline obsessive about certain aspects of their food, and it is this fervour, this dedication, even if it is often for pork products, that I so strongly resonate with and connect to.

When I first met my husband, it drove me kinda nuts how stubborn he was with his traditional Danish meals: “no, this has to go with that. And you need to eat this on top of this in this special way, then cut it like this and put it on this special plate”. Open-faced sandwiches are actually served on their own teeny wooden boards, and have very specific and time-tested combinations of foods that are not to be contested or fooled around with. No. But many meals are like this. The first day of advent, you eat yellow split pea soup. At Easter you have lamb. And as the weather warms up (if it ever does) you have koldskål. Say what? Directly translated, “cold bowl”.

Koldskål, is a beguiling combination of creamy buttermilk, egg yolk, lemon, vanilla and sugar. I know it may sound a little strange, but trust me, it’s heaven. It is often served with Danish strawberries (which, sorry Ontario, are the best strawberries in the world) and always with kammerjunkere: very crispy little biscuits flavoured with cardamom and lemon. Think of them as Danish biscotti. And they only go with koldskål. That’s a rule.

Danish Summer Cream

I tried the real koldskål last summer when I was pregnant and feeling very strong urges to eat dairy products. I have to say, as much as I wanted to be against it, the stuff was insanely delicious. Addictive even. And the mere act of slicing up a bowl of freshly-picked berries, then pouring silky white cream across their blood-red facets struck a deep, primordial pleasure chord. In that moment, a voice called out from inside me and cooed in all of its ancient wisdom, that this was going to taste really, really good.

Needless to say, it did and I was hooked. What is not to love about ripe fruit, tangy, cold creaminess and crunchy crumbled cookies? Right. Moving on. Since that fateful day, I’ve discovered that koldskål is very easy to make and can be tweaked a little to be much healthier than the traditional version (which is why I am calling it something totally different). My twist uses sheep yogurt instead of buttermilk, leaves out the eggs and sweetens with maple syrup. The biscuits are gluten-free and vegan and sweetened with coconut sugar. All things considered, this would make a rather respectable breakfast, albeit with a rather hefty dose of strawberries, as I tend to make it.

Danish Summer Cream

Now, if I am all for tradition, why I am messing with a perfect thing? Switching out the buttermilk for goat or sheep yogurt? Well, you know my M.O. is to make things both tasty and healthy. In this case, it’s a small change in flavour for a big change in nutrition.

For one, goat and sheep milk are easier to digest than cow milk due to the fact that the protein molecules found goat and sheep milk are smaller and in fact more similar to the protein found in human milk. In addition, the fat molecules in goat and sheep milk have thinner, more fragile membranes – half the size of those in cow milk. This leads to an average curd tension that is literally 1⁄2 that of cow milk (36 grams for goat milk and 70 grams for cow milk). Curds from milk form in the digestive tract or during cheese or yogurt making (anywhere that the milk is subjected to acid). Having less curd tension means that the milk is less “tough”, and easier to digest. Dr. Bernard Jensen (my personal hero) showed that goat milk will digest in a baby’s stomach in 20 minutes, whereas pasteurized cow milk takes 8 hours. The difference is in the structure of the milk.

Goat and sheep milk boast twice the healthful medium chain fatty acids than that of cow milk, such as capric and caprylic acids. These fatty acids are highly antimicrobial. Capric and caprylic acids are used today in dietary supplements to inhibit the growth of Candida albicans and other yeast species. They also boost the immune system and enhance energy. 

Danish Summer Cream

To serve koldskål in our house, we slice up a large amount of berries and divide them among the bowls. Then each person pours their own cream (obviously, because this is the most fun part) and crumbles the biscuits over top, or leaves them whole according to their liking. The cream must be very cold. The strawberries must be very ripe – none of those ones picked before they are ready and that are still white in the center – no! The red juice must run into the cream as you eat it, swirling about and staining the whole concoction a delicate, blushing pink by the end. Guh. I also like to sprinkle fresh elderflower over the top for fun, since I love eating flowers too. This is totally unnecessary, and completely divine.

Danish Summer Cream

 

If I have learned anything during my time here in Denmark, it’s that traditions exist for a reason. That certain foods taste best with other certain foods and that is just the way it is, no reason trying to fight it. In this case, strawberries and cream and cookies are best enjoyed together, and I am certainly willing to uphold this tradition for the good of us all.

Show me your Strawberries and Dansih Summer Cream on Instagram: #danishsummercream

Danish Summer Cream

Raw Bounty Bars

   71 Comments

bountybars5

Oh how times change.
If you were to hand me a Bounty Bar 20 years ago, I would have looked at you like you had gone coconuts (ahem, sorry). I thought Bounty Bars were totally sick-a-tating because coconut was a vegetable in my mind, and therefore decidedly not edible even when smothered in chocolate.

I don’t know when I came to my senses, discovered that coconut was in fact a not vegetable, and also totally delicious. These days, I’ll go so far to say that I don’t know what my life would be like without dear coconut around, as I likely employ one or more of its products on a daily basis. You can imagine then, that being in Bali was quite a gas for me, as it’s dripping with coconuts, quite literally. I loved being able to get fresh coconut water every morning; mammoth orbs heavy with well over a liter of liquid gold, for under a dollar. Freshly shredded coconut at the market, coconut palm sugar by the bagful, young coconut flesh blended in smoothies… it was the business!

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Big Tree Farms -  a place where they make incredible coconut  products among other things, such as raw cacao and sea salt. As I’ve been using their delicious coconut palm sugar for a while now, it was pretty amazing to see where the magic happens and meet the sweet people behind the sweetness. I was also introduced to a new product: coconut nectar! A gorgeous, full-flavoured syrup that looks a lot like honey, but with a citric, smoky flavour that surprised and delighted me.

bountybars4

Coconut Nectar of the Gods
Coconut nectar, and the coconut palm sugar that is made from it, have been produced and enjoyed for over 6,000 years. In fact, the first documented sweeteners ever used are that from coconut palms (Coco Nucifera).

Coconut nectar is made by harvesting the sap from the coconut palm blossom, which is collected twice daily by the farmers at Big Tree. They climb up each trunk in the morning, remove the vessel full of sap, slice the very tip off of each flower bundle and place an empty vessel underneath it to collect sap until the evening when they will repeat the process. The sap is then boiled down to remove all the water it naturally contains, leaving a thick, caramel-like syrup, which can then be cooled and bottled.  To make coconut sugar, that same syrup is cooled and then rubbed, creating granules of the delectable coconut sugar that I love so much. You can watch a very cool video about the whole tree to table process, here.

Coconut nectar is high in minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It is happily low glycemic, ranking 35 on the GI scale, compared to agave at 42, honey at 55, cane sugar at 68. This is due to coconut sugar’s composition of long-chain saccharides, which are absorbed by the body at a slower rate than something like refined white sugar. Coconut sugar also contains amino acids, which are thought to slow down the rate at which the sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, acting as a “buffer” of sorts. You can read more about Big Tree Farms Coconut Nectar and Palm Sugar nutrition here.

bountrybars

After visiting Big Tree, I was feeling creative and hungry for chocolate. I decided to get my Willy Wonka on and recreate a favourite treat to pay homage to my coconut adventures, and also because, let’s face it, Bounty Bars are delicious. This is my (nearly) raw version of the classic candy, a very easy and scrumptious translation using simple ingredients. They are totally rich and coconut-y, just like the “real” thing, but way better because they taste real – not like science. The chocolate is smooth, rich and decadent, and the filling is extra coconut-y due to the virgin coconut oil I use. If you have a good-quality virgin coconut oil, I suggest employing it here, as you want to emphasize the coconut flavour. This is one of the few times I use virgin coconut oil, as I usually don’t want everything tasting of the tropics, but in this case I definitely do. If you don’t have any, regular coconut oil is fine.

And if you don’t have any coconut nectar not to worry – substitute it with honey or maple syrup and the results should be almost the same. These should be stored in the freezer, especially in the height of summer when the chocolate can melt in the heat. Plus, biting into one of these is quite refreshing when the 4 o’clock summer sun hits and you need something sweet to rouse you from your nap.

These are also really fun to make – who doesn’t love a good candy project? Get your kids involved, get your friends into it, and create some candy bars that you actually won’t want to share with anyone who has helped you. You’ve been warned.

bountybars3

Show me your bars on Instagram: #rawbountybars 

Bali Bliss Papaya Salad

   24 Comments

papayasalad

Bali is bliss. It’s not hard to believe we’ve already been here for a couple weeks, as I’ve clearly sunken into a new, slower rhythm and just allowing the days to unfold at their languid pace. I haven’t been this relaxed in…well, I can’t even remember when to be honest. It feels amazing to not have a schedule to follow, to not have any major deadlines looming, no calls to answer. I’ve had to travel halfway across planet earth to find this solace, but I also don’t mind being surrounded by tropical jungle, dazzling green rice fields, rivers, and volcanoes, and sparkling starry skies.

Bali has a kind of beauty to it, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It is rich, mesmeric, mysterious. Everywhere you go, you are greeted with wafts of burning incense, floral offerings, and the sounds of flowing water. Spirituality and everyday life are intertwined, and god seems to be truly in the details.

papayasalad4

The food? As wonderful as it is to eat at restaurants (don’t do much of that in Copenhagen), I’ve actually been cooking a lot. Surprise! We’ve rented a house with a rather makeshift, but functioning kitchen, and the one-burner hot plate and I have become well acquainted during my experiments with all of the local produce. My family and I head out around 7am to the morning market, and for pennies fill our bags with all sorts of unusual fruits and veggies, then head home to play with it all.

The other groovy thing about where we are staying is the front yard full of fruit trees and coconut palms. There are papaya growing – no, bulging – off of their trunks. Fruit larger then my six-month-old baby (and he’s a big boy). The housekeeper picked one for me upon my request and it sat ripening on my counter for a couple days until I knew it was time. Total. Bliss-fest. You couldn’t take me to the fanciest restaurant and see me more excited than eating that silly, homegrown papaya. Truly.

papayasalad5

As much as papaya is perfect all on its own, the flavours around me beg to be enjoyed. This was a simple breakfast I tossed together with fresh ingredients I had just picked up at the market: kaffir lime, ginger, and freshly grated coconut (wow, nothing like it!). It is all together sweet, citric, spicy and rich – a delicious combination for starting your day on the right foot, or maybe an afternoon pick-me-up.

Papaya Paradise Party
Papaya are buttery, rich, satisfying, and a delicious taste of the tropics, but are available in most grocery stores throughout the year.

Papayas contain a cornucopia of nutrients, its most unique being papain. Papain is a digestive enzyme that helps digest proteins, similar to the bromelain found in pineapple. If you take digestive supplements, yours will likely contain papain.

Papaya is rich in antioxdants, such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavanoids, folic and pantothenic acid, as well as the minerals copper, potassium and magnesium. These nutrients all add up to major cardiovascular protection, due to their ability to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Papaya’s vitamins, minerals and antioxidants also provide immune support, promote digestive health, and protect against macular degeneration and rheumatoid arthritis.

Much like bananas, papaya contains a substance called chitinase, which is associated with the latex-fruit allergy syndrome. If you have a latex allergy, you should avoid eating papaya (and banana too).

papayasalad3

If you cannot find kaffir limes, regular lime would be fine of course. Kaffir limes tend to be smaller, so if you are using regular lime, just one would likely be enough for the recipe below. And if you can’t get yourself to a Balinese market and have someone grind your coconut for you this morning, no worries, just use shredded desiccated coconut in its place. You can even lightly toast it if your heart desires.

The recipe for this salad is rather loose. I’ve added some rough measurements, but the dressing here depends greatly on the size of your papaya, so just use the ingredients below as a guideline and make the dish to suit your taste. If you like a more citric flavour, go heavy on the limejuice; if you like it spicy, add more ginger, etc. I also drizzled in some local virgin coconut oil, which had the most incredible coconut taste, but this is entirely up to you. Keep in mind that the fat in the coconut and coconut oil will only help in absorbing the carotenes in the papaya.
 papayasalad2

This salad is just a little warm-up here – I thought a slow work up to the more complicated and technique-intensive dishes I plan on making would be best. For now, it’s time to just relax and enjoy the simple and blissful flavours of Bali, unwind, breathe. Find a corner of your home to curl up with this dish, light a stick of incense and drift away on a papaya cloud…I’ll meet you in paradise.