Thursday, 27 February 2014

Fastelavn is coming! Branch out!

On Monday 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.  And, hey, it's kind of fun to make your own, ik' sandt? :)



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.


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! ;)


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.


Værsgo'!  All ready to display.  Or to thrash surprise a small child with on Sunday.


Happy Fastelavn!

Diane :)

Monday, 24 February 2014

Fastelavn is coming! Eat buns!

Fastelavn is coming, fastelavn is coming!  Yep - thanks.  We know it's fastelavn on Sunday.  Because the first fastelavnsboller made their appearance in the bakers about a month ago! ;)


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.  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 (this year 2 March 2014).

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).


The kids make (or buy or receive) a fastelavnsris [don't know what that is? Hey, you're in luck! I'll be showing you how to make one of those later this week!]

You eat special fastelavnsboller!   Lots of them!

There are tons of parties where the kids get a chance to slå katten 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.

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! Want to have a go?





Fastelavns boller - carnival buns!


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…





DS14 rolling out the dough


Take a spoon of the filling and plop it into the middle of each square.  Fold the edges of the square together, press them together gently (so the filling doesn’t squish out) and carefully turn them over, so you have a neat little bun.  Leave the buns to rise on a baking sheet for another 45 mins.  (Or – if you want to bake them the next day – put them in a cool place or fridge overnight.)

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 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…


My fave combo...choc and cream!




Velbekomme!

Check back here later this week when I'll be showing you how to make another Danish Carnival essential – the Fastelavnsris!

Diane :)

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Fischer, Kasparov, Carlsen. And Larsen!

My DDH (dear Danish husband) is an avid reader and book collector.  Though - glory, glory, hallelujah - since the advent of the Kindle, the avalanche of books coming into the house is finally beginning to let up!  But at bedtime his favourite reading matter is...chess books.  Not books about chess.  Books detailing chess games:


1. e4 c6 2. Sf3 d5 3. Sc3 Lg4 4. h3 Lxf3 5. Dxf3 Sf6 6. d3 e6 7. a3 Lc5 8. Le2 0-0 9. 0-0 Sbd7 10. Dg3 Ld4 11. Lh6 S38 etc, etc, etc...


Yep.  Weird.


Now, I know nothing about chess apart from the 'big names': Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, Magnus Carlsen.  Magnus, 23 years old and current World Champion.  The little Norwegian boy who became a Grandmaster at 13 and models clothes for G Star.  Yep, a real chess Boy Wonder.  But I always try and buy a good chess book for DDH's birthday and this year the hunt was easy peasy.  You see, the biography of Bent Larsen just came out...


Who he?  Denmark's very own Chess Wonder!  Scandinavia's most famous chess player (until Little Magnus came along).  Bent Larsen was the first Westerner to take on the heavyweights from the Soviet Union.  A man whose private life seems to be just as interesting as the impulsive chess he played.  "The best chess player, never to become World Champion."  Bent Larsen was also a great teacher and author (and translated chess books from Russian).  His own "Find the Plan" was the first chess book Little Magnus Carlsen ever read...  A co-incidence?  I think not! :)



"Larsen" is a mix of chess games, anecdotes, press cuttings and family photos.  The whole caboodle.  At 110 pages and 1.5 kilos, it's a bit of a heavyweight itself... 


And guess what?  This is only Bind I (Volume One)!  Volumes Two and Three are still in progress.  (Hooray - that's hubby's birthday presents sorted for 2015 and 2017!)



The book is only available in Danish.  But, hey, even if you don't speak Danish, you chess nerds will - selvfølgelig - still be able to enjoy the detailed chess games.


+ + !


Diane :)


 


 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Week Seven? Ski or sun?

No, I haven't disappeared from the face of the blog planet.  Last week was - selvfølgelig -Week Seven!


Week Six is Week Sex.  And Week Seven is the school's winter holiday week.  (In Jutland, sometimes Eight.)  And, for families who can afford a holiday, there are but two choices: ski or sun!

Ski?  Now, if you've ever visited Denmark, you'll know that we don't do mountains.  Just the occasional hill.  Most Danes head for the slopes in Norway, Sweden or Austria.

Sun?  The traditional choice is the Canary Islands or Madeira.  Though more exotic places like Dubai and Mexico are getting popular.  Why?  Well, in January we had a measly 17 hours of sunshine - the average being around 40.  Can you imagine how that feels?  Not to see the sun for days on end?  We.  Need.  Sunshine!  So we're just back from a trip to Florida...  And yep, they don't call it the Sunshine State for nothing ;)


But the best (only?) thing about returning to Copenhagen was to see that - hooray, hooray - the snow has gone!  And [crosses fingers and touches wood] doesn't look like it's coming back.  Spring is pushing through in my garden!  The snowdrops I know and love from back home in Scotland...


And the first small, yellow, Danish heralds of spring erantis (winter aconite)...


And, hey, the sun is out bright and early this Monday morning at 8.15am!



Have a marvelous Monday!

Diane :)