food travel life

Menu for two days at a Danish Sommerhus and Aquafaba.

Menu for two days at a Danish Sommerhus and Aquafaba.

I have just had the most fabulous experience. I spent two days in the beautiful Danish countryside, cooking for a company offsite. In this post I am going to share the menu, including my goto summer barbecue recipes, tell you a little about Danish summerhouses and wow you with my latest culinary discovery, ‘aquafaba’.

Who am I

When I was trying to come up with the short version of ‘Who am I?’ for my website I wrote

‘I  am happiest when I am standing in my kitchen cooking, signing or dancing. Preferably all three!’

On this offsite, I was very happy!

The Gig

A few months ago, when I was down the rabbit hole that is social media, I was on a Facebook group called ‘Expats in Copenhagen’.  I saw an advert for two people to cook for a company offsite, and thought ‘I could do that’.  I applied, and got the job.  A young English girl also applied. Together, we came up with a menu, created a shopping list and fed forty young peeps over a two-day period at a location a few hours from Copenhagen. The experience was great fun and I gained a lovely new friend ( did I tell you she had interned at NOMA?).

I kept promising myself I would write-up the menu, however, some of the recipes came from my very talented mate, and the logistics fell into the ‘too hard’ category.

Through the first company, my friend and I were offered a second gig. Only twenty-five this time. When my partner in crime decided she could not take the time off work, I reckoned I could cook for that number myself.

Perfect Job?

I think I have made it quite clear in precious posts that I loved my life and my company, ‘Carolyn’s Absolutely Fabulous Events’ back  in Darien. Being in Copenhagen has been lovely, but challenging. I have tried to figure how to be productive, apart from the bridge lessons and tour guiding, cooking classes and occasional bits of baking. I think I may have the answer.

Cooking for a company offsite gives me a chance to do what I love. I can create menus, cook for large groups of people and be on vacation in gorgeous surroundings.

Beach near the sommerhus

Bit of a win-win situation. Mind you, this weekend will be a hard act to follow. The weather was spectacular.

Beach near the sommerhus

and from the very beginning, when we were welcomed with leis, Pina Coladas and music from Disney’s Jungle Book I was part of a very fun team. I cooked, sang and danced and even won a game of pool!

Danish Sommerhus

Large Danish Sommerhus
Large Danish Sommerhus

The Danes loves their summerhouses. The houses tend to be small, sleeping four to six and simple in style. Many are in special areas, zoned exclusively for holiday homes.

Danish Sommerhus
Danish Sommerhus

They are generally in rural, picturesque spots and near lakes or the coast. Mind you in Denmark, you are always near the coast. A nation of Islands, you are never more than thirty odd miles from the sea. In keeping with the Danish culture, they are also affordable and accessible to all.

The house we stayed in was one of the larger houses. It slept up to twenty-six and even had a pool, sauna and jacuzzi together with multiple party areas.

Outdoor grill and tables at our Sommerhus
Outdoor grill and tables at our Sommerhus

The Company Offsite

In Denmark, there is also a culture of companies going away together on overnight trips. During the day there are workshops and team building exercises, but in the evening it is generally social. Whilst there is an element of work attached to these stays, the main point of them is to encourage conversation outside of an office environment. Drinking and generally having a good time is pretty high on the agenda too!

The Team

As it was just me catering the offsite, everyone attending the offsite was assigned KP or kitchen duty. It was a fantastic way for me to get to know everyone.  I had lovely helpers making avocado toasts, cutting fruit and veg, barbecuing and generally clearing up. However, I have to make a special shoutout to the ‘Hummus Team’.

Hummus

After much discussion, we decided to go down the home-made hummus route on the offsite. Not something I had ever done.  I usually just buy those little packets of ready-made hummus. If I want  to be really ‘fancy’ I add extra lemon juice, drizzle a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top and add a sprig of parsley.

This time, I soaked the chickpeas overnight and boiled them for an hour, per the instructions on the packet.  I had read that the best hummus involved removing the skins so when a talkative ‘team four’ turned up I had the perfect job for them. It took the team a long time to skin all the chickpeas and they constantly questioned the need for such a mundane task. By the end, there were at least five people standing round a very small bowl.

Now confession time.  I kind of forgot about the chickpeas.  Just as we were about to serve dinner someone asked about hummus. By this time, I had realized I had stupidly thrown out the liquid they were boiled in, which you are supposed to reserve. We were also perilously low on olive oil. The resulting hummus was a little thick and sad to say a little lumpy, not the glorious smooth silky creation I had been aiming for.

We tarted it up for breakfast the next day after discovering a little more olive oil. We added more salt and lemon juice, but I should have whizzed it a bit more to take out the lumps.

Sorry guys, but a great team building exercise!

The Menu

Lentil and Caramelised Onion Salad
Lentil and Caramelised Onion Salad

This is the menu for the food we ate on the offsite.  I have given links to existing recipes  on my website. The recipes which are starred can be found at the bottom of this post. The new Vegan recipes will be written up and posted soon, I promise.

 

Dinner

Marinated Chicken* and Vegetable Kebabs V

Sausages

Hummus

Greek Salad *

Tzatziki*

Danish New Potato Salad *V

Puy Lentils with Caramelised Onions and Roasted Butternut Squash V

Raspberry Meringues with Caramel Sauce

Vegan Meringues with Vegan Caramel Sauce

Chocolate Caramel Squares

Breakfast

Porridge Bar

bananas, nuts, strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate seeds, coconut, Greek yogurt or skyr, maple syrup, cocoa powder, chocolate chunks, caramel sauce

Avocado Toasts

Eggs and Bacon

Fresh Fruit Salad

Scones

lemon curd/jam

Bolle with sliced cheese

Hummus

Muesli

 

Lunch

Quiche

Individual Vegan Quiche

Smoked Salmon and Herbed Cheese

Leek, mushroom and bacon

Tomato and Goat Cheese

Provençal Quiche

Crisp Green Salad, Grated Carrots, Marconi Almonds, Cranberries and Feta Cheese with Balsamic Dressing

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Quinoa Bites V

Dinner

Steaks

Crème Fraiche with Horseradish and Mustard

Roasted Potatoes V

Green Beans with Almonds V

Roasted Carrots with Thyme V

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks V

Mushrooms stuffed with Walnuts, Parsley, Panko and Lemon Zest V

Chocolate Mousse,

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble

Breakfast

Fresh Fruit and Skyr and Granola

Bircher Muesli V

Bolle and Cheese

Eggs

Hummus* V

(leftovers!)

Chicken Kebabs (serves four)

4 chicken breasts, cubed
red pepper, cored and cut into eight pieces
yellow pepper, cored and cut into eight pieces
Small tub of Greek yogurt or other plain yogurt
Juice of half a small lemon
2-3 TBS olive oil
1/2 tsp curry powder
a little fresh coriander (cilantro) or parley

Method

Mix yogurt, lemon and olive oil together and add curry powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add chicken breast and marinate for at least two hours. If using wooden skewers leave to soak in water for 15 minutes. Thread chicken pieces and red and yellow peppers onto skewers. Cook on barbecue until chicken is nicely charred and fully cooked. Serve with Greek Salad, Potato Salad, Couscous and Tzatziki

Tzatziki

My husband does not like cucumbers, and they are effectively banned in this house. But for some reason he likes Tzatziki, or Raita, its Indian first cousin. Go figure!

Greek Yogurt
Squeeze of Lemon Juice
Cucumbers, thinly sliced
Dill, chopped
Salt

Method

Mix ingredients and adjust to taste. The cucumbers will produce a lot of liquid so you can salt them and leave them to drain, prior to mixing them with the yogurt.

Greek Salad

The first time I had Greek salad was when I was inter railing with friends in my twenties. You know how some food just make a lasting impression. I can still see the bowl, with big red tomatoes and slivers of red onion, with salty feta cheese. This is a simple rustic dish, and with all simple dishes the ingredients have to be spectacular. Try and find some really good tomatoes and great Greek Feta.  I like the Trader Joes one they have in a plastic box with blue writing.  Of course, being back in Europe the Greek feta is excellent, although the Danes have a salad “Ost” which works well too.

Ingredients

Tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces or grape tomatoes, halved
Cucumber, halved, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch slices
Red Onion, halved and thinly sliced
Olives
Feta cheese

Red wine vinegar dressing

One part vinegar to three parts olive oil, salt and pepper and touch of mustard

Method

Place tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and feta cheese in a large bowl. Make salad dressing by combining olive, vinegar, salt, pepper and some mustard in a small bowl and whisking until emulsified. Toss salad with just enough of the dressing to cover the ingredients. Any extra dressing can be stored in the fridge.

Danish New Potato Salad

I think we all know about my potatoes obsession. Suffice to say, the Danes have really good new potatoes, something that is sadly missing for some reason in the States.  The closest I found were fingerlings, but they still didn’t have the fresh out of the earth taste.

Ingredients

New small Danish potatoes, scrubbed, but with skins left on
One part lemon juice
One part white wine vinegar
Six parts extra virgin olive oil
One part French mustard

To finish, chives snipped, salt and pepper

Method

Boil the new potatoes in salted water until just cooked, then drain. Make dressing by whisking remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Pour dressing over warm potatoes and mix together with the snipped chives. Salad may be served warm or at room temperature.

Hummus

Hummus is such a staple. Ultimate children’s food, great for dips and perfect for barbecues. I became completely obsessed with it after going for lunch to at MEDITERRANEO in Greenwich, Connecticut a few years ago with my lovely daughter. As we sat down, they brought us warm crusty bread and lemony hummus. So simple and so good, we never go anywhere else when we shop.

Ingredients

One large tin of chickpeas, drained and liquid reserved
2tsp white tahini
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper and minced garlic (optional)

Method

To make super smooth hummus you can skin the chickpeas. It is not however necessary. Put chickpeas, a little of the reserved liquid, tahini, a glug of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice in a blender and whiz until smooth. Add more liquid as necessary.  Adjust to taste, I like mine salty and lemony, but do not care for garlic.

Aquafaba and other Vegan Substitutes

Vegan Meringues
Vegan Meringues

I always love being challenged to cook for all dietary requirements. On this retreat there were five vegetarians and three vegans. Trying to come with up with some new recipes, I was talking to a friend about vegans and she told me all about aquefaba. It is the technical term for the liquid produced from cooking chickpeas, and it can be a substitute for egg whites in recipes like meringues. As meringues are one of my favourite things to make I knew I had to try aquafaba.

Bizarrely, just after talking to my friend, I walked into the apartment to find my adventurous husband making hummus. There was a bowl of aquafaba on my kitchen counter!

Following a bit more research, I also discovered there are all sorts of hacks for vegan cooking, dates and coconut oil feature a lot.  Since it is such a vast and interesting topic, I am going to dedicate a separate post to those recipes.

Lets finish as we started this weekend with the Jungle Book.

 

I still remember bringing in the new year at a jazz club in London back in the early nineties. We danced the Charleston to this song if I remember correctly!

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