The Nordic Cookbook’s Finnish Spinach Pancakes (Pinaattiohukaiset)

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I’ve been sitting with the book for quite some time now. Perhaps you’ve seen it around, maybe even have a copy of your own. The Nordic Cookbook, by Magnus Nilsson, came out last fall, and ever since it’s become my primary resource in my Scandinavian and Nordic cookbook library. I had a chance to meet Magnus Nilsson—two star chef of Sweden’s celebrated restaurant Fäviken—at the Nordic Culinary Conference in Seattle this past spring. There, I found out just why this five-pound, 768-page hardcover is such a gem.

Personally, I have appreciated the context in which Nilsson puts many of the recipes, with headnotes that are meatier and more relevant than ones in many other cookbooks. But the extent of research that went into the book is what lends it something of incredible significance. Nilsson spent several years traveling throughout the Nordic countries, documenting stories, and collecting recipes. While he initially turned down the book when the publisher proposed it, wanting rather to write a Swedish cookbook, he realized eventually that there was a need: Most people don’t really know much about Nordic food culture, let alone what defines the Nordic region or the differences between “Nordic” and “Scandinavian.”

While there’s a lot of talk about Nordic food, it’s not really a homogenous region or one with dishes that exist throughout,Nilsson shared in a lecture that weekend in May. Rather, it’s a vast area, and what people eat in one part of the region differs from what people eat in the another. He didn’t want the book to be an idealized version of Nordic food, with Dala horses and gingerbread cookies, he said. Instead he wanted to reflect what people really eat—both today and traditionally.

Nestled among the approximately 700 recipes from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland are stunning photos of the region’s landscape, producers, and citizens—photos that Nilsson, who’s enjoyed photography since he was a child—took during his travels. This is one of those books that reflects history, culture, and a sense of place. As a food writer, for me The Nordic Cookbook is one of a handful that I reach for time and time again. For the recipes, of course, but also for the history and context Nilsson provides.

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Nilsson is open about the fact that it would have been impossible to put the book’s 700 or so recipes through extensive testing. So while I keep The Nordic Cookbook within easy reach, I use it mostly as a guide in the kitchen, adding my own touches as I go or merely using it as a starting place. The Swedish tiger cake, for example, was good but not spectacular–the next time I made one, I created my own recipe and bumped up the chocolate flavor considerably. That said, the recipes are traditional and are largely collected from people throughout the Nordic countries who shared them with him. I’d like to think that if I were sending a recipe to a world-class chef, it would one I’d be proud of. The Finnish spinach pancakes I’m sharing with you today are an example of that. While I altered the instructions to make them more clear, the recipe itself was sound and lent itself a sweet and savory treat. While Nilsson suggests serving these with sugared lingonberries, if you don’t have access to fresh or frozen berries, lingonberry preserves will work as well.

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Finnish Spinach Pancakes with Lingonberries (Pinaattiohukaiset)
Adapted from The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson

5 ½ ounces spinach
2 eggs
15 fluid ounces whole milk
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
Salt
White pepper
Freshly-grated nutmeg
Butter, for frying
Lingonberry preserves or sugared lingonberries, for serving

Chop the spinach as finely as you can, set aside.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the spinach, milk, flour, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg and stir to combine.

In a small cast-iron, melt a pat of butter over medium heat. Ladle in the batter to create thin pancakes roughly 4 inches in diameter, and fry until the underside has turned a light brown. Flip and finish cooking on the other side, then transfer to a plate to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve with lingonberry preserves or sugared lingonberries.

Serves 4

Finnish Aunt Hanna’s Cookies

Finnish Aunt Hanna's Cookies

As I was reviewing my posts from the month of February the other day, I noticed an interesting–and unexpected–pattern: All the recipes were for savory dishes. As someone whose lifelong culinary proclivities have bent slightly more on the side of baking than cooking, seeing such an across-the-board trend came as a surprise. I’m seeking to change that today with a recipe I briefly mentioned back in January: Finnish Aunt Hanna’s Cookies. These cookies come together easily and would be perfect with an afternoon cup of tea. Enjoy, and I’ll be back with more savory and sweet recipes soon!

Finnish Buttery “Aunt Hanna’s” Cookies (Hannatädinkakut)
Adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whipping cream
Sliced almonds or almond halves, for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare your baking sheets by covering them with parchment paper. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until combined. In a separate bowl, stir together flour and baking powder, and gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Add the cream and keep mixing until the dough comes together and stiffens. At this point, you can proceed if the dough is workable, otherwise chill for a little while.

To form the cookies, roll a teaspoon of dough into small bowls and place on the baking sheets, spacing them about an inch and a half apart. Gently press a few almond slices or a halved almond onto the top of each cookie, and bake until the cookies have set and barely started to turn golden. Allow to cool; the original recipe calls for cooling on the baking pan, but I removed mine to a wire baking rack immediately to keep the bottoms from browning too much.

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