Denmark longs for Real Food

This week I was in the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen speaking to a group called the Belly Rebellion about how to set up a Farmer’s Market. In Denmark people spend less than 8% of their income in real terms on food – the lowest in Europe. 

Food retail is controlled by two supermarket chains and most of the local shops are also controlled by the multiples so it is virtually impossible for most people to source fresh local food. 

Two years ago the movement called The Belly Rebellion was launched by a group of concerned women. Farmers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, politicians, chefs, dinner ladies, mothers……explored how they could set up a localized food system and an educational programme on the connection between wholesome nutritious food and good health. 

There is a deep craving among a growing number of people for real food and a frustration about how difficult it is to source it. There are now a variety of initiatives around the country. The growth of the movement is steady but for many including founder members Camilla Plum and Katrine Klinken, not quite fast enough so they organised a day long conference on Farmer’s Markets at which my daughter Lydia Hugh-Jones and I were speakers. We told them about the Irish Farmers Market movement and in particular about the Midleton and Mahon Point Farmers Markets that we have personally been involved in. The Danes are deeply envious of Ireland which now has over 300 Farmers Markets. Other speakers included -

Camilla Hersom – chairman of the Danish Consumer Cooperation who spoke about how to minimize the rules and regulations and minimize the hassle.

Fie Hnasen Hoeck, former director of a supermarket chain in Denmark spoke about the role of the supermarkets and stressed that they are not suited to selling small speciality type products

Mikhail Hansen, a chef, and chairman of an organization of producers/consumers on the Danish island of FYN spoke about the market and festival he arranges every year on the Island. His challenge is to cope with the huge numbers who turn up.

John Higson, a Swedish Irish man who founded the first new food market in Sweden, also spoke at the Conference. His market was called The Street and created a prototype for others to follow. John, whose background is in marketing, was originally inspired by a visit to Bath Farmers Market in the UK. He visited many others and eventually honed his ideas.

His next project was to buy a space in an unfashionable area close to the river in Stockholm bordering the park. He and his team linked up with local producers and set up a mobile restaurant to serve local food. Then he held a week-end market in conjunction with lots of other events. There was a stage for performances. It soon became the hippest coolest place to go at the weekends. Between 10 – 40,000 people turn up to get a bit of action – all eat and buy local food. Great bands and street performers perform for free for the exposure and this attracts more people. Every weekend there’s a different event – one weekend everyone was invited to empty out their attics and sell all their junk – it was a huge success. John is up for anything that will attract people to the STREET. The underlying object of the exercise is to sell local food. The whole idea has been such a success that now large companies such as Nokia are hiring out the space to launch new products. John’s latest scheme is a web site called  designed to link restaurant chefs and shop owners directly with the producers. He has established a distribution network around the country and a fleet of refrigerated vans to deliver directly to the local restaurants thus solving the twin problems of distribution and delivery. Chefs get weekly updates of what’s in season. Both chefs and producers get feed back from regular questionnaires about customer requests, crop capacity, emerging trends……..A very interesting concept that could be repeated in many other countries. John is happy to shape his ideas with anyone interested in promoting locally produced food. 

Karin Hvidtfelt is a market organizer in Denmark, she spoke about the practicalities of organizing and running markets in Copenhagen.

There was a general consensus that Denmark is ready and eager to have a Farmers Market movement. Much to the delight of the organisers, it looks like its already underway, five or six people decided to start a market in their local towns after last Saturday’s event. 

Here are some of Camilla Plum’s recipes


Serves 6
1.3 kg (3lb)frozen leg of lamb
3 handfuls of herbs to bake with the lamb; fresh bat leaves, rosemary, sage, fresh basil, lovage

1.2 L (2 pints) water
1 dl (3½ oz/100g) coarse salt
1 tbsp. whole peppercorns
1 whole, peeled garlic bulb, cut in thin slivers
A big handful of lovage leaves
A big sprig fresh oregano

Preheat the oven, to 75 degrees celsius. Wrap the frozen meat in tin foil, with the herbs. Wrap twice, so no juice can leak out. Put the package into a roasting tin and put it in the oven, on the middle shelf for 12 hours. While the meat is slowly cooking, boil the brine, leave the herbs in, and cool it, until needed. When the meat is cooked, heat the brine, unwrap the meat and place it in the brine.

The brine should cover the meat, so put it in a snug container, made of plastic, stoneware or stainless steel, just large enough to fit. If you do not have a suitable container, you can put the whole thing in a plastic bag, and close it tightly. Let the meat and brine cool, but do not put it in the fridge.

After 3-5 hours you can lift the meat from the brine. Slice it thinly, and eat it lukewarm or cooled, but its most delicious when it has not been in the fridge at all. You could of course heat it gently wrapped in foil, but it is not supposed to be eaten hot.

Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for 4 days. They are delicious in sandwiches.

Serve with Dill cream, new potatoes, and a crisp green, herby salad.

Dill Cream

1, 5 dl.(4¾ oz/140g) fresh goats cheese
1,5 dl (5 fl.oz/150ml) single cream
big bunch fresh dill, chopped, with the stalks (save some for the top)
small bunch chopped tarragon leaves, no stalks
1 tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp, coarsely ground, black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp. salted capers

Mix all ingredients, except the capers, to a smooth cream. Let it sit in a bowl on the kitchen table for half an hour, Adjust seasoning. The capers and dill can be sprinkled on top of the cream, or on the meat, as desired.

This is also very good in a potato salad, with smoked mackerel, and fried fish. 

Horseradish Cream for smoked salmon

Serves 5-6
2.5 dl (8oz/225g) creme fraiche
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 dl (3½oz/100g) freshly and finely grated horseradish root

Mix and adjust seasoning after 1 hour. Eat with toasted rye bread, smoked, thinly sliced salmon, and a green salad.

Ballymaloe Potato and Spring Onion Salad
Serves 4-6

2 lbs (900g) freshly cooked potatoes - diced, allow about 2½ lbs (1.1kg) raw potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion
4 fl ozs (120ml) French dressing
4 fl oz (120 ml) Mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Keeps well for about 2 days.

Note: This potato salad is also delicious without Mayonnaise. Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, eg. add cubes of garlic salami, cooked Kabanossi sausages or cooked mussels.

Hot Potato Salad

Serve with sausages, boiled bacon, hot terrine, hot spiced beef or pate. Can be accompanied by red cabbage.
Serves 4-6

Ingredients as for potato salad above plus the following:
2 hard boiled eggs
2 tablespoons chopped gherkins

Make as above, but omit the mayonnaise. Add the eggs cut in 3 inch (5mm) dice, gherkins and capers if used.

Piped Potato Salad

1 generous litre freshly mashed potato
Add French dressing, finely chopped parsley, chives and mayonnaise to the stiff potato to taste. Pipe onto individual leaves of lettuce or use to garnish starter salad or hors d'oevures.

Potato and Thyme Leaf Salad
Serves 6 approx.

Scant quart cooked potatoes peeled and cut into 5mm (1/2 inch) dice
125ml (4fl ozs) fruity extra virgin olive oil
2-4 tablespoons thyme leaves and thyme flowers if available
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Coat potatoes in a good extra virgin oil while still warm. Season to taste. Sprinkle liberally with fresh thyme leaves. Garnish with lots of purple and mauve thyme flowers.

Coooks Book

Allegra McEvedy’s Colour Cookbook – published by Kyle Cathie

Allegra McEvedy believes that ‘Each season has a palette of colours associated with it, and if you eat by colour, by season you will naturally be giving your body what it needs at that time of year. 

The book contains a chapter for each season , with its own palette of colours, and recipes that use ingredients that are at the top of their game. At the beginning of each chapter there’s a run down on what it is exactly that each season’s produce can do for you, and why adding it to your diet will make you, and those you cook for, feel bouncier and bonnier than ever before.

Buy this Book from
Prune Date and Honey Powerbars 
Like a modern flapjack, but crumblier.
You can swap the suggested ingredients for whatever you have in the cupboard – apricots or figs instead of dates and prunes, walnuts for almonds, and use whatever seeds you have knocking about. The key to the flavour is the ratio oats:butter:honey.

Makes about 14 depending on the size you cut them.

160g butter
6 tablespoons clear honey
300g oats
80g flaked almonds
70g sultanas
70g dried apricots, chopped
80g dried prunes, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 tablespoon linseeds

Preheat the oven to 160C/320F/gas 3

Melt the butter with the honey.

Toss all the dry ingredients together in a big bowl, then pour in the melted butter and honey. Line a 20cm x 30cm tin with buttered greaseproof paper and pack the mixture into it, pressing it down with the back of a spoon.

Cook for 45 minutes or until slightly brown. Take out of the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes before cutting into oblongs. Cool to room temperature before taking out of the tin.

*NB The Powerbars may be sometimes be a bit crumbly because of the varying absorbency of the dry ingredients. Allegra doesn’t mind this, but if you do you could make a note to add a bit more butter next time you are making them.

They will keep for 5 days in an airtight container.

Foolproof Food

Wild Garlic Soup

Wild garlic is plentiful in the countryside just now, take the opportunity to make this delicious Spring soup.
Both the bulbs and leaves of wild garlic are used in this soup and the pretty flowers are divine sprinkled over the top of each soup bowl. 

55g (2ozs) butter
140g (5ozs) diced onions
280g (10ozs) peeled diced potatoes
2 cups of wild garlic chopped, use both bulb and leaf 
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1.2L (2 pints) home made chicken stock
125ml (4 fl ozs) cream or creamy milk 
Garnish: Wild garlic flowers

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes, onion, and wild garlic and toss in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little cream or creamy milk to taste. Serve, sprinkled with a few wild garlic flowers.

Hot Tips

‘007 Licenced to Bake’
The Guild of Foodwriters in UK are welcome entries from Ireland to this year’s GFW Children’s Cookery Competition – Cook It! The theme of this year’s competition is ‘007 - Licenced to Bake’ and one of the dishes must be baked to encourage the traditional skills of pie, cake or biscuit making amongst children. Closing date is 12th April – 6 lucky finalists will cook off in the BBC Good Food magazine kitchens on Thursday 24th May. Fabulous first prize of a trip to Paris.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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