Where we're going this evening - DENMARK
Back to Europe tonight - we're popping across the North Sea to Denmark.
With fewer than 6million citizens, Denmark has less than 10% of the population of the UK - tiny, huh?
But, like the UK, it is a constitutional monarchy - Queen Margrethe II & Prince Henrik head the royal family, and also - like the UK - Denmark is a member of the European Union, but has not adopted the Euro currency.
With it's only land border to the south with Germany, and occupying a strategic seaboard position adjoining both the North and the Baltic seas, Denmark has had it's share of squabbles with the other Scandinavian countries, Sweden & Norway.
Mind you, this is also Viking territory with all that lootin' and rapin' and pillagin' going on over half of northern Europe back when men were men and girls wore pointy helmets with horns on and -er - 'shaped' armour breast plates and sang in a pleasing mezzo-soprano, ushering fallen heroes into Valhalla.
It's all rather tamer stuff now, Denmark being one of the most generous donors of world aid per capita. The taxes are high, but the education, childcare and excellent healthcare are all free.
Famous Danish are actor Viggo Mortensen (be still, my beating heart), fairy tale supremo Hans Christian Andersen, and all-round good egg Sandi Toksvig; and I think that there is no visitor to the capital Copenhagen who has not taken a photo of the the Little Mermaid sculpture in the harbour.
As far as the food is concerned, Denmark is well known for its bacon - a huge export market there - open sandwiches (called something unpronounceable using made-up letters not found on a normal keyboard), meatballs, and of course, Danish pastries.
So come with me on the long haul ferry from Harwich across the North Sea and say 'hej!' to the Danes...
Tonight's menu has rather written itself. Apart from the unpronounceable open sandwiches for which the Danes are famous, Danish meatballs also look good - the only hitch here is that there would appear to be exactly the same number of Danish meatball recipes (all handed down from various ancestors) as there are Danes, so I've had to take a middle line.
And my mother has reminded me that being written out of the will is an option should Danish pastries not feature in the first available 'D' spot - so that's pretty much set in stone too.
Danish Meatballs with Creamy Dill Sauce - meatball recipe is from the food.com website, as is the dill sauce recipe
Mix minced veal (or beef mince) with half as much minced pork, egg, breadcrumbs, finely chopped onion salt and pepper in a large bowl with a dash of water. Knead for a few minutes then split into golf ball sized patties. Flatten & fry in butter over a low heat until cooked.
Make sauce by making a roux of butter & flour in a milk pan over a low heat, gradually blend in chicken stock, then sour cream & chopped dill. Season & pour over meatballs.
- a dilemma here - you can make Danish pastries either with dough (like Chelsea buns) or as I did - sort of yeast-based flaky pastry recipe.
Make a dough by mixing strong & plain flour, yeast & salt with egg & milk. Knead a little & leave to rise for an hour. Roll dough to a rectangle & dot butter over the middle third. Fold top & bottom, roll out. Cool for 20mins. Repeat 2 times.
Mix softened butter, caster sugar, mixed spice, cinnamon, raisins, in a bowl & spread over rolled out dough. Roll up & cut 9 slices. Put rounds on baking tray - flatten a little, bush with egg & bake. Glaze with icing sugar/lemon juice.
And what have we learnt?
- meatballs are an all-in-one easy-peasy standby recipe which can be adjusted to suit what's in the fridge
- Sauce with a cream ingredient is velvety smooth when you make it, solid and difficult to resurrect when doing 'leftovers'.
- 'until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough' is not a helpful instruction when you've not done this before - 'slightly' meaning what, exactly?
- being uncertain of the viability of yeast is a disadvantage when embarking on an unknown recipe - has the dough 'risen to twice it's size in an hour'? Or is is sitting like a toad in a hole?
- trying to roll out dough (which may or not be a bit stiff and/or not well risen (see above)) into a rectangle to incorporate a whacking amount of butter dotted onto, folded, and rolled out again is difficult - especially when the dough is a bit too solid and the butter maybe over soft. Tendency of folded dough to ooze butter when rolling not a good sign, I suspect
- Filling of soft butter, castor sugar, raisins. mixed spice, cinnamon is very good, but I could double the quantities for next time, I think.
And out of 10?
- for the meatballs - a solid 7/10 - nothing hugely special with these, but tasty and a good texture.
- for the creamy dill sauce - a velvety 8/10 - now this was good - making a white sauce with stock is always a good move, and adding in soured cram made it really smooth, the dill added something and made it all very nice indeed
- for the pastries - a tame 6/10 - nice try, but more practice needed here - I suspect that they are not difficult if you've go the knack of it. It's all down to experience I think - if I could get these to meet mum's approval it would be easy to knock these out time and again