Some months ago I read an article suggesting that the Mediterranean Diet was under threat from a new life changing, fat busting and general health winning regime: The Nordic Diet. Apparently we were all due to swap our spaghetti for herrings and give up all that riveria nonsense for some flatpack furniture and sensible snow shoes.
I don’t know about all that, but I’m always game for some new food and I generally love all things Scandinavian* so I decided to look into this a bit further. There are roughly a million books out there on the subject of how eating Nordic will make you a better human being, but I went with Trina Hahnemann’s book as it was A- pretty cheap compared to many others and B- included a blueberry bun recipe mentioned in the article that had bought me to this shopping spree in the first place. Nordic/Scandi eating patterns do not seem to be taking over the world just yet but I have to say, I love this book. From a technical point of view the Nordic Diet is rightly compared to the Mediterranean Diet as both forbid very little and focus on un-processed food, lean meat, oily fish and lots of fresh seasonal produce. It’s just that your seasonal produce in Denmark differs very greatly from that of Sicily.
Hahnermann starts off this book with a readable chunk of gumph about how the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Norway) approach their lives and their dinners in a way that leads to a generally happier and healthy life. What’s nice is that the intro is not done in a preachy way, nor does it claim to be a weight loss or wellness bible. What is even nicer is her philosophy on the importance of knowing what your food is, taking the time to pay some attention to your cooking and making a priority of meal times as feeding your relationships as well as your body. Eat at the table, people, preferably with some other people!
The book does give service to those who wish to slim down, however you are not going to find any earth shattering weight loss tips here. Exercise more. Eat less. Get your veg in and shun fast food.
It does, however, pack out some really interesting and tasty recipes which absolutely are not the norm in your average ‘Generic Healthy Diet’ book. There’s some seriously tasty stuff in here, folks! Colourful roasts, hearty breakfasts, endless unlikely salad options and a crap load of bread. Yes, a healthy eating book that wants you to have bread. Awesome.
One of the tips from the introduction that has really stuck with me is Hahnemann’s insistence that the majority of meals should contain some kind of fresh, raw greens. Once again, lettuce or kale are not a new idea to the wellness seeker but we overlook the value that salad greens actually add to our diet if we see them only as a convenient calorie hole. There are some really excellent salads in this book and knockout dressings too. The fennel and strawberry salad is particularly yummy as is her coleslaw and I now use the walnut oil based dressing from the brussels sprout and apple salad (amazing BTW) all the time. Being someone raised on fairly traditional Brit grub and accepted Med-style eats, so many of the recipes in here were things I would never really consider eating in the first place, but they are truly delicious. Rhubarb baked chicken sounds proper weird but turned out to be a wonderful use of my first garden crop this spring. You should try it.
Also, did I mention the carbohydrates? Good lords they are everywhere- rye pastry tarts, potatoes galore, bread, cakes and crumbles it is all there and it’s making me happy-sleepy just thinking about it. The apple and pear crumble on page 120 is genius. Choc full of nuts and oats with very little sugar and only 50g of butter you will not believe how tasty it is. And easy. I make this at least weekly in the colder months and it’s very good cold in a lunchbox if you need to take dessert to your desk. Wonderful.
I should also say that it isn’t quite a perfect book if you are a UK based chef without many spare hours to hunt down ingredients. It’s a Nordic eating book, rammed with traditional veg from countries with a different climate and culture to ours, despite only being a short flight away. Although dill, haddock, kale and berries are easy enough to come by in Sainsbury’s you might struggle with sourcing some of the other ingredients like goat’s yoghurt, funny flours and mallard. But don’t let that put you off, most of the recipes in here are achievable at home and will open your belly to many new taste sensations and masses of anti oxidant action, if that’s your thing. And did I mention all the bread???
*by ‘love all things Scandanavian’ I actually mean I really want Alexander Skarsgard to be my boyfriend*