Whether people are trying to make choices based on the environmental impact of their cooking or their changing dietary needs, choosing to eat more plants is more common now than it was when I was a kid. While environmental concerns and healthy living are both reasons to choose plant-based eating, what I focus on is the amount of joy eating vegetables and plants brings to my table.
2020 has been the year for my family and I to enjoy all the wonderful produce from our local farmer’s market. The lockdown earlier this year caused a change in my grocery shopping habits — I started ordering fruits, vegetables, and other local products from a spectacular online ordering service (Wolfville Farmer’s Market to Go) that brought beautiful Annapolis Valley produce (almost) to my front door! Ordering from the Wolfville Farmer’s Market has reminded me of the joy of eating fresh produce. And in this enjoyment, I’ve been looking for cookbooks that follow this type of seasonal eating.
Trine Hahnemann‘s Scandinavian Green is an excellent source for vegetarian recipes and inspiration that focuses on eating with the seasons. The purpose of Scandinavian Green is to offer vegetarian recipes that are mindful of consumption/sustainability as well as climate change, but I think the heart of Hahnemann’s book is her family and how she was raised. In the Forward to the book, Hahnemann quotes an important lesson taught to her by her father: “It is the things you choose and don’t choose that will define you.” She goes on to explain: “He meant that there is so much in the world, so you have to navigated it by deselecting the inessentials and focus on what remains. You could say that this goes for cooking as well. Choosing ingredients, spices and herbs is also about not selecting things, striving for the perfect balance.”(6)
While Hahnemann is Danish, her recipes reflect how she ate when she was growing up — traditional Danish cuisine with influences from around the world. As she says, “Food is about heritage and tradition; your cooking can evolve from there.”(9) Reading through the recipe notes, I get a sense of how Hahnemann’s cooking has evolved. How the ingredients available to her are used to make delicious meals and bring her joy. Recipes are organized by season rather than by meal type, so within each chapter there are a variety of recipes for smaller meals, mains, and even desserts. For those wondering about ingredients, no meat, poultry, fish, or tofu is used. Dairy and eggs are used but, in many cases, could, most likely, be substituted if you’re cooking vegan.
Hahnemann is a natural storyteller and I love reading through the introduction to each season. She writes with a certain reverence for the changing seasons and, I found that after reading even my least favourite seasons were offered in a new light. I also appreciated the photography throughout the book — minimally styled (yet warm and inviting), shot in natural lighting — which echoed the author’s recipes and sentiments towards the natural world.
Cooking through the book I noticed a few idiosyncrasies with the recipes (I’m guessing it’s the difference between North American and European kitchens) — when I was baking the Cinnamon Swirl Bread, the baking pan called for was described by the volume it would hold (2-litre/2-quart) rather than its dimensions. So, I found myself trying to Google out that answer (a 2qt loaf pan = 12.2″ x 5.2″ x 3.6″). The resulting loaf, which I made as an after school treat for my daughter, was, in her words: “the best cinnamon bread ever!” I also wanted to try making the Flatbreads with Olive Oil but the instructions only offered the barbecue as the cooking method — this is where I remind myself that recipes can be specific at times and do not have to be all things to all cooks.
I find so much joy cooking and baking from this book. Everything I made was delicious and satisfied my vegetarian family. Sometimes kale’s rough and tough texture can be a bit unpalatable for my daughter, so I often look for recipes where the kale is cooked until tender which makes it easier to chew. A great recipe for this from Scandinavian Green are the Quesadillas w/ Cheddar and Kale. Filled with a mixture of shredded cheese and cooked onion and kale, the quesadillas are cooked in a skillet until golden. I served ours with another recipe from the book — Preserved Lemon Dip. I found that these recipes paired nicely together.
On one particularly dreary afternoon last week, I made a big pot of her Nordic Autumn Soup — filled with root vegetables, onions, leeks, garlic, herbs and spices, along with heavy cream and nutmeg to finish it off. I also added chickpeas to the soup after it finished cooking. A perfectly warming meal on a damp, cool evening! The next day I took her advice from the recipe notes and blended the leftover soup — creamy and equally as delicious as it was on the previous evening.
Growing up in Alberta in a family that farmed, I learned much about eating seasonally and I’ve been reminded of this as I’ve been placing orders with my local farmer’s market this year. Making the most of each season sometimes means I’ll buy a little extra to enjoy later. At the end of the summer I remembered to buy some freshly picked, then quickly frozen fruit to enjoy as the months grew cooler. I’m so glad that I saved that 1/2 lb of frozen gooseberries for a special recipe because as soon as I saw the recipe for Gooseberry Cake, I immediately wanted to bake it! The recipe consists of two parts: making a quick gooseberry jam using gooseberries and sugar and the mixing the cake batter. This is no ordinary cake — with a generous amount of desiccated coconut in the batter, the cake has a macaroon-like quality. Such a pleasing and irresistible texture: moist and chewy on the inside, slightly crunchy on the outside and absolutely bursting with coconut. When paired with the gooseberry jam that is swirled throughout the batter, I think that this cake nears perfection.
Scandinavian Green offers so many delicious recipes that focus on, as Trine Hahnemann suggests, eating greener. These seemingly small changes at mealtime are ones that Hahnemann feels will have a larger impact on climate change (especially if these dietary changes are more widely adopted). In tandem to her environmental concerns, Hahnemann presents her vegetarian version of Scandinavian cooking which has evolved from childhood experiences. Her recipes offer joy and encouragement to home cooks looking to include more plants in their diets; and I welcomed the recipes to give me something delicious to cook for my vegetarian family.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Quadrille Publishing and Raincoast Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. This post contains no affiliated links — links provided are for informational purposes.