New in Denmark

Fastelavn is coming…time to branch out?

On Tuesday I told you about Fastelavn (Danish Carnival), Fastelavnsboller (Danish Carnival buns) and how to bake your own. Today we have another carnival essential…the Fastelavnsris! (The history behind it is here.) Now you can – selvfølgelig – buy these readymade in Danish sweet shops and supermarkets. But they’re generally overpriced for what you actually get…

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Because when you take it out of the plastic packaging, um, it’s pretty disappointing – a few branches and a few sweets. So why not make your own?

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First you’ll need some bare branches. You can actually buy them at supermarkets…but at kr.20 a pop, that’s another expense too far [said the canny Scot]. So make do with some from your garden. Or beg, steal, borrow them from a neighbour… Secure the branches at the bottom with tape, an elastic (hair)band, wire or ribbon.

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Tie on lots (and lots and lots) of little packets of slik (sweets). The more the merrier! On a side note: If you have nursery kids, they’ll often receive a Fastelavnsris as a gift. Hats off to the ‘my-word-you-need-the-patience-of-a-saint-to-make-these-for-50-children’ nursery staff at this time of year! ;-)

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Cut out a few shapes from coloured card and stick on. Traditional shapes are cats (remember those live cats that used to be put inside the barrels…), barrels and masks. Go mad with glue sticks and sequins… The branches should be looking quite colourful now. Add a few coloured feathers if you have them. And streamers. Whatever you have on hand and takes your fancy.

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Værsgo‘! All ready to display. (You can stick it in a vase or hang it upside down.) Or go ahead and thrash surprise a small child with it this Sunday…

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Happy Fastelavn!

Diane :-)

Fastelavn (Danish Carnival) is fast approaching!

If you’ve walked past the window of a Danish baker’s shop recently, then you’ll already know that Fastelavn is fast approaching…

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Because the first fastelavnsboller made their appearance just as soon as Christmas was over and the New Year got underway! ;)  This year it will be celebrated on Sunday (7 February 2016).

So what’s fastelavn?  Danish carnival.  Nothing to do with the one in Rio.  I mean, honestly, would you want to dance around the cobbled streets, half-naked, peely-wally white, often in sub-zero temperatures? I think not. (Said the winter bather…)  If you want the whole historical background of the Danish festival, I suggest you go google or take a peek at Wikipedia.

Here’s what I think you need to know:

It’s celebrated seven weeks before Easter Sunday (anytime from the beginning of February til late March). For small kids, it’s the highlight of the year (aside from Christmas) – it’s basically the Danish equivalent of Halloween. Kids wear fancy dress (which, for the under 6s, is invariably a superhero or something pink and princessy).

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The kids make (or buy or receive) a fastelavnsris. Don’t despair if you don’t know what that is because I’ll be showing you how to make one of those in my next post!

You eat special fastelavnsboller! Lots of them!

There are tons of parties where the kids get a chance to slåkatten af tønden (literally ‘hit the cat out of the barrel’). Schools and kindergartens devote a whole day to the celebrations. And if your child goes to scouts or football practice, there will also be a party organised there. Not to mention events organised by public libraries, museums, local businesses and supermarkets… A tønde (large barrel, similar to a piñata) is filled with sweets and fruit. Much more politically correct than filling it with live cats, as they used to do up until the early 1800s! The barrel is then strung up and the kids take it in turns to whack it with a bat.

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The boy or girl who knocks out the bottom of the barrel is crowned as Kattedronningen (the Queen of the Cats). The person who smashes the very last piece of the barrel is crowned Kattekongen (the King of the Cats). A huge honour. You get to wear a little golden crown for your efforts. And be the envy of your friends for years afterwards.

But I digress!  Let’s get back to those buns!  We made our own fastelavnsboller last year. Check out these homemade beauties! Ready to have a go?


We based ours on Arla’s recipe. You’ll need:

  • a 50g sachet of dry yeast
  • 100mls or 1 decilitre milk
  • 125g butter or Kærgården
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • about 375g of plain flour (hvedemel) – about 625mls or 6¼ deciltres.

 

Mix everything together in a large bowl.  It’s easiest to use a mixer (dough hook) but you can do it by hand if you want the upper arm exercise.  When it all comes together, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for about 45 mins.

Meanwhile prepare the filling:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 200mls or 2 decilitres milk
  • 1½ tablespoons of flour
  • a tablespoon of vanilla sugar

 

Put everything into a little saucepan and whisk over a high heat until the mixture comes to the boil.  Turn down the heat, keep whisking for about 5 minutes then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

When you’re bun dough is ready, roll it out on to a floured worktop and try and get it into a large rectangle.  You are aiming to cut out around 12 squares, but don’t get too perfectionist…

Bake in a preheated oven at 225c (450f) for about 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on them, you don’t want them to get too dark.  Remove from the oven and cool before topping them with some icing or a dusting of icing sugar. Though if you want to top them with a piece of pålægschokolade (piece of thin breakfast chocolate), do it while they’re still hot!

When you’re ready to eat the fastelavnsboller, cut them horizontally and put in a (very l-a-r-g-e) dollop of whipped cream…

 

Velbekomme!

And remember to check back here later this week when I’ll be showing you how to make the other Danish Carnival essential – the Fastelavnsris!

Diane :-)

Here comes 2016 – jump!

We’re now recovered from the 24 Days of Danish Christmas (if you missed that, you can start here with 1 December) and yesterday afternoon I looked out my DDH’s (Dear Danish Husband’s) black tie outfit.  And safety glasses.  And he came home from shopping with several bags of explosives…  Is my DDH the Danish equivalent of James Bond? 8-)  Nope, it’s because tonight we will be celebrating Nytår (New Year).  Which, in Denmark, is serious business.  While Christmas is spent with family, New Year’s Eve is normally spent with friends. Though there are organised parties in bars and clubs, most Danes celebrate at someone’s house.

Let’s start with the basics.  The celebrations start at 6 o’clock.  Sharp.  So make absolutely sure you are at the party venue about 15 minutes before, so you have time to change out of your ‘outside’ shoes, take off your coat, scarf and gloves, and put down your (humungous) bag of fireworks (not forgetting the all-important safety glasses for every member of your party). And what’s so important about 6 o’clock?  Well, that’s when the Danish Queen “Daisy”‘ makes her speech, live, on the telly. Two minutes to six – eeeeeek – everyone stand to atten-SHUN! :D

It’s tradition to watch and listen. Whilst standing up (only the elderly and small tots are exempt) and enjoying a cocktail or glass of bubbly. Now, when you get tired of standing up in your party heels, and start to wonder “when will this ever end?”, just listen out for a mention of those at sea.  Or the Danish armed forces. Or Greenland. You are in the final straight! ;-)

The Queen always finishes with “Gud bevare Danmark!” God Bless Denmark! At which point, the kids and big kids (= dads) are officially allowed to go outside and launch a few fireworks. (But remember to keep those big guns for 12 o’clock!)

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And it’s also the cue for the others (um, that would be the women?!) to go into the kitchen, finish prepping the yummy food, and get the starter on the table. Then the menfolk/kids come back in, everyone eats, the menfolk/kids go out and launch a few more fireworks, the women clear up and prepare the next course and repeat, repeat, REPEAT!!!

Just make sure that – with all the crazy comings and goings, food and wine aplenty – that you don’t lose track of time.

When it’s getting near to 12 o’clock, you need to grab your glass…

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… you need to stop and find a seat. Or a ladder. Or a sofa. Something that is fairly high up off the ground to stand on…

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Switch on the telly or radio and turn it up LOUD. Because the first chimes of the clock from Copenhagen’s rådhus (townhall) are your cue to literally ‘jump’ into the New Year. As you will probably take off your shoes, make sure that tonight you aren’t wearing your holy socks or your stockings! :)

So we jump down, hug and kiss everyone in the room and open (yet more) champagne. And sing along with the choir on the telly…

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…to the traditional songs… Vær Velkommen Herrens År, Det er et Yndigt Land and Kong Kristian stod ved højen Mast  Not a dry eye in the house!

And then it’s time for everyone to muffle up, pile outside (safety glasses on, champagne in hand) for the Grand Finale of fireworks. Even if you do end up looking like Bono!

Remember, safety first! In one of my favourite satire shows Tjek på traditionerne, they have a fun saying of “after lighting fireworks, take one step back for every bottle of wine you have ingested”! Ha! ;-)

Where we live, the fireworks usually last for over 30 minutes. But you’ll hear fireworks going off the whole night, into the wee small hours of the morning… And again the next day!

Here’s a snippet from just ‘one’ of our fireworks! You can imagine what it’s like with them going off left, right and centre for an hour or two…

But back to our party!  After the fireworks, you can come back in and warm up with hot coffee and kransekagetop (yummy marcipan cake, baked in rings, layered up and decorated with sparklers, feathers and streamers) before finishing off the champers. Last year, I’ve attempted to bake and build my own kransekagetop…

And – while I’m not quite ready for the Great British Bakeoff or its Danish equivalent Den store Bagedyst – and it was all pretty hairy sticking the dang thing together…

…I was pretty pleased with the end result! (There were Italian visitors present last year, hence the extra flags…)

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But what about the Day After – when we all wake up late on the first of January? Well, that means a day of watching German ski jump on the tv, eating lots of junk food and [sigh] clearing up the aftermath of fireworks from the road and garden… Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full!

All that’s left for me to do, dear readers, is thank you for bearing with me. Godt Nytår!  Happy New Year!

See you on the other side. Here’s to 2016! Jump!

Diane :-)

Who you’ll meet at the ‘Julefrokost’?!

It’s been a while since I posted. More than a year actually. With all the work and school and everything I didn’t really had the spare time to post every once in a while. But I finally had some time off, so we shall begin.

Around the Christmas holidays the danish folks hold these gatherings called Christmas lunches. And I’m guessing every one of you had already participated in at least 1-2 of those. And everyone had tried the traditional ‘Ris Alamande’ and had the joy of experiencing the snaps-hangover. But I’m not going to talk about the food or the drinks that you’ll try out at the Christmas lunch. No no. I believe it’s been a lot written on the topic. What I want to share is the types of people you’ll meet at those gatherings. Because for the past 2 years I’ve been through enough of them so I’ll try to prepare you for all the folks you’ll meet there.

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d61f8aa5f4c5b5e17831946b4c2c8bb01.The sober one: A rare kind at a Christmas lunch, but it still exists. It’s the person that is sipping orange juice, children’s champagne or just water all night. Also known as the designated driver for the night. What we’ll do without this one, ha?

2.The social media addict: All the pictures and videos of you being drunk-twerking, dancing or just acting on your drunkness are going to be on every social media the very next day thanks to this one. Snapchatting all night, and tagging you in every photo taken that night. And don’t get me wrong- it’s nice to have a picture of you before or during the dinner part. But as soon as the snaps kicks in all phones, cameras and etc. should be turned off.

3.The couple: These two are the people that are together through the whole evening.They are not necessarily an actual couple, they can be friends or something. However, drunk or sober, they are together in this and they don’t intend of interacting with people on their own.

4.The drunks: A big crowd, or a small group of people, that joined simply to get drunk. And honestly I admire them. How much dedication to their mission they have and how brave they have to be to survive the next morning’s hangover. Also probably the ones having the most fun!

5.The new formed couple: Imagine this. Two people, that never really talked to each other before. But on that one night they kind a clicked and they spend all the time with each other. Again, it can be a beginning of a great friendship or an actual relationship. Or maybe a fun one-night kind a thingy. Who knows. From now on they won’t be seen separated. Until the morning ofcourse :D

6.The smokers: I can admit that that’s my crowd. Peeps who are out for a smoke almost all the time. You’ll probably see them in the very beginning and in the very end or when they are about to leave.

7.The womanizer/manizer: The guy/girl that is there hunting. Literally. They are not there to party they are there to get some. They are ready for this. Drinkin just the exact amount of alcohol so they don’t get sloppy or anything. And with so many drunk people around them, the success is almost guaranteed.

8. The sloppy drunk: The person that had one too may shots of snaps. Or a beer over their limit. Usually the one that ends up going home earlier, just because of his/her drunkness.

christmas-food9. The hungry bunch: People that are at the Christmas party mostly because of the food. In other words-my kind of people. They are here, they are hungry and they are the first ones to notice if the food is served later than it should. They will start partying at some point, just not before the feast.

10. The older one/ones: It can be your boss, or your older collegue. You’ll expect them to behave around alcohol, but they most probably won’t. Once the booze is served, they will act on their thirstiness. So the ones that you’ll think are the most responsible person in the office or in the crowd that’s holding the Christmas lunch, are going to surprise you a lot during the night. One of the the funniest crowds to be around through the evening.

+Bonus 11. The confused foreigner: A person that can belong to any of the groups above. And some time ago I was actually that one. Will ask tons of questions and will get a little inapropriate at some point during the lunch/dinner. The foreigner is going to be surprised of the amounts of snaps that the rest are capable of drinking and will be amused by every single traditional dish. Or traditional game (Like pakkelåg). But by the end of the night would get more and more comfortable and chatty.

So that’s from me for now , guys and girls.

If you find yourself belonging in any of the groups above don’t hesitate and share in the comments. :)

 

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24 December 2015

Welcome, once again, to my Danish Christmas Advent Calendar! Every day I’ve been giving you a little peak into how our family celebrates Christmas here in Copenhagen. Do the Danes love Christmas? Um, yes – they even use the word Christmas as a verb… Vi juler! (We are ‘christmasing’!)

And guess what…the Big Day is finally here! :-)

24 December 2015

So what do the Danes typically do today? Like every other day in December, it will be a day of eating and drinking and generally being merry. Many Danes will attend a church service – there are services in the morning or afternoon (no services in the evening because that would clash with dinner) and again on the morning of 25 December. Last year we attempted to go to church but, alas, got there too late. The car park and side streets were full (a sure giveaway) and (if you forgive the Christmas pun) there was literally no room left at the inn! ;-)  Every year the church brings in extra seats for services on 24 December but, alas, it was standing room only…  Which wasn’t really an option for my DSM80 (Dear Scottish Mum, aged 80).  Yep, that old chestnut about those crazy Danes never going to church except for the 24 December is truly alive and well! :)  So instead we came home and watched a church service on the telly. Which was just as hyggelig!

There is no set time for Danish Christmas dinner. Light falls at around 3.30/4pm and the streets are very quiet until around 5.30/6pm when they are suddenly busy with people walking and driving to visit their families. And what’s for dinner? Goose, duck and/or roast pork. Our family always eats duck. Along with prunes and apple, warm pickled red cabbage, caramelised potatoes (cooked in a hot syrup of butter and sugar) and boiled potatoes, gravy and hot salted crisps.

You already know what dessert is…ris à l’amande (my post from 22 December)!

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But who will find the whole almond and win this year’s mandelgave (marcipan pig)?

After dinner everyone dances round the Christmas tree. Very carefully – watch where you put your feet! Lots of pressies under there, you see!

Then you start picking out gifts to open, one by one…

Which generally takes us – with short breaks for drinks and konfekt (homemade sweets) – about 2 hours! Last year we woke up to a beautiful white blanket of snow on the morning of 25 December! No sign of snow this year. The temperature has been incredibly mild. Climate change, anyone?

I do hope you’ve enjoyed reading along. Merry Christmas! See you on the other side. Or on the bathing jetty!

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Diane :)