My Danish has not come along a great deal in the three weeks I've been here. My one complete phrase which translates to "Do you speak English?" consistently elicits blank stares and when I revert to actual English to say it, I am met with relief, a smile and "of course". But - what I have picked up here and there have been words I see again and again - økologisk for example, which means organic. And, lately, jordbær - strawberries - because they're everywhere: red, fat, and juicy. This is not a Danish recipe, but something I'd been meaning to try out since reading this fantastic article in The New York Times about regional pie variations in the United States. I could have made a grunt, or a crisp or a crumble, but it was the sonker from North Carolina that called me.
It's my general belief that strawberries should really not be messed with at all. They're best eaten fresh, at room temperature, but when it's really, really cold outside - still! turns out Danish spring is icier than Sydney winter - you want something a little warm in your belly. So, the sonker. Apart from its charmingly strange name, it had the advantage of being made with items I already had in my kitchen, and needed to use up: milk, butter, flour, sugar. Despite the simplicity of the ingredient list, it turns out it's not as straight forward as just combining them into a batter to pour over the fruit. There's a definite technique to the sonker. And multiple saucepans and bowls. But the end result is well worth it - tender, jammy fruit tucked beneath a lightly golden, pancake-style crust. Another word I've learnt during my stay is hygge, which roughly translates to cosiness, the cornerstone of the Danish way of life. It can be seen here everywhere and in everything - in candles on tables set for dinner (or even breakfast!), pots of bulbs and herbs in the windows of apartments, impromptu gatherings anywhere outside when the sun is shining no matter how freezing the actual temperature, children clustered together in custom-built boxes on the front of bicycles pedalled by a parent... This dessert, while nowhere near Nordic, encapsulates that philosophy beautifully. Homey and warm, simple and sweet: wholly hygge.
Adapted from a recipe in The New York Times by Wilma Fleming of Barney's Cafe, Mount Airy, North Carolina
Of course I had this with skyr, but Greek yoghurt, cream or ice-cream would be an equally delicious accompaniment.
8 tablespoons butter
4 heaping cups hulled strawberries (halved if large)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Put 5 tablespoons butter in a 9-by-12-inch baking pan, and place in oven; remove when melted.
In a large saucepan, combine fruit, vanilla, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon butter and 1 cup water. Place over low heat and simmer until fruit is slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Drain fruit, reserving liquid and fruit separately; there should be about 1 cup liquid.
In a small saucepan, combine remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Place over medium heat and stir until butter melts and mixture is well blended and thickened, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the liquid from the fruit, and whisk until smooth. Add another 1/2 cup liquid and whisk again. Add mixture to fruit, combining well.
In a medium bowl, combine milk, remaining 1 cup flour, the salt and remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Whisk to consistency of pancake batter.
Pour fruit mixture into the pan with the melted butter. Carefully pour batter over fruit, taking care to spread it so it touches the edge of the pan. There will be some bare spots. Bake until crust is golden, about 35 minutes.