Stylish Weekends | November 13, 2015 | Food
How to do brunch like a Dane
Hygge (pronounced hooga) – the Danish expression which translates literally as cosiness or wellbeing – is more than just a word, it’s an attitude to life.
Sipping a mug of real hot chocolate by the fireside with a pageturner? That’s hygge.
A candlelit dinner with close friends: Also hygge.
Devouring cinnamon pastries while wrapped in blankets and watching back-to-back box sets. Yes, that’s hygge too.
Creating situations to warm the heart and soul – and which celebrate the art of relaxed intimacy – are the very essence of hygge. It’s easy to see why the concept is important to everyone, not just the Danes, but consider that the country spends around 17 hours a day in winter darkness and it really hits home. In fact, home is quite literally where the heart (and warmth and light) is.
The hygge phenomena isn’t remotely self-serving either; it drives good behaviour towards each other, which could explain why Denmark is considered the happiest country in the world. Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly, points out that much of the Danes’ happiness is down to simply becoming more trustful.
“You’ll feel better, save yourself unnecessary stress and trusting the people around you can make them behave better, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she explains.
With the thick of winter fast approaching, there couldn’t be a better time to embrace hygge. Although it isn’t always associated with food or drink, pared-back, relaxed dining is a natural bedfellow.
Here’s our guide on the best dishes to look out for:
The open sandwich – or smørrebrød
Of all bread – and it’s an important staple on any Copenhagen table – rugbrød is probably the most well-known. A long-fermented sourdough rye, it’s heavy, dark and tasty, and a great foundation for many flavours. If you’re recreating this at home, source the bread from any good Real Bread bakery – this definitely isn’t the time for white sliced.
Once toppings are added, your rugbrød comes alive to create smørrebrød. Essentially an open sandwich with hundreds of combinations, including pâté, salmon and roast pork, here are a few others to watch out for:
Fish: Marinerede sild – or pickled herrings – are the most traditional accompaniment in a smørrebrød. With a strong flavour and varying degrees of salt and sugar added to the pickling process, it can take a while to find those that suit your tastes. Once you get the right piquancy for your bread, it’s a match made in sourdough heaven. Add a couple rings of red onion and a sprinkling of chopped dill.
Meat: Roast or salt beef are both popular for good reason. Or, if you want to be very traditionally Danish, used good corned beef. Add dill pickles, horseradish and lettuce for a flavour kick.
Danish pastries are, of course, in a league of their own. Both kanelsnurrer (cinnamon twist buns) and kanelsnegl (cinnamon rolls) are a speciality not to be missed. Patisseries are everywhere you look, especially in Copenhagen, where brunch is a serious affair. You’ll never forget your first authentic Danish pastry.
Beer, shorts or a simple freshly-brewed coffee, the beauty of dining Danish is the versatility.
Beer: With a long tradition of brewing, Danish beer is justifiably admired. Most sales are for pale ale but the Danes are fast becoming known for a wider range of on-trend micro-breweries.
Akvavit: Hailed as the national drink, this Scandinavian liquor is distilled from potatoes or grain, with herbs such as anise, fennel, coriander added for a strong, warming flavour. But the taste is only half the story; the toast is important too. Eye contact and a lively Skål! will be expected. And don’t even think about stopping there. Apparently you’ll be needing one shot for each leg.
Gløgg: This onomatopoeic speciality is the Scandinavian equivalent of mulled wine. Lending itself perfectly to the concept of hygge, it takes many forms, both alcoholic and suitable for teetotallers and children. Usually a blend of warming herbs and fruit are added to the mix and it’s gently heated, so it’s especially welcome once the temperatures plummet.