Of Danish bacon and salmon. But not together, obviously.

Tomorrow night (Sunday), Denmark’s footballers have the unenviable task of defeating an exciting German team in order to be certain of progressing to the quarter-final stage.

Denmark's winger on a streaky run down the wing
Denmark's winger on a streaky run down the wing

The Danish eat the most pork per head in the world. Hence the deserved popularity of their excellent bacon. I was very tempted to go for bacon butties as the Denmark entry in the Euro 2012 food blog, but this would be lazy – also, I am cooking pork tomorrow.

I don’t just throw these blogs together you know.

Now, for lunch today I fancy some bacon, but I can’t be bothered to cook it. So I cunningly plant the idea of bacon in Sal’s head by telling her some seemingly innocent facts about Danish bacon, which are as follows:

The historical reason Denmark is so famous for its bacon lies with the expansion of the United States of America’s agriculture in the late nineteenth century. They had more land than they had people to work it, and therefore did not need to let fields lie fallow on a rotation basis.

This meant Europe was flooded with cheap American grain, and all the nations of the Old World had to adapt into other markets.

For the farmers of Denmark this meant bacon. They had already recognized a huge market in the industrial towns of Britain, and had managed to produce a pig that gave them a bacon of a consistent quality – just as the British liked it.

So the ultimate reason for the Danish bacon we know and love today is the British love of a bacon buttie!

And after that lot, there is only one thing we are going to have for lunch. And I play the “I’m cooking tea” card. So I get bacon (Danish), eggs and mushrooms for lunch and I don’t have to cook it.

Result!

Tonight I am cooking salmon, with a nod to Denmark’s seafaring past and delicious gravad laks. This is going to be fairly simple, a “traditional yet elegant grilled salmon recipe”. No Dane lives further than 30 miles from the sea, apparently. Apart from the ones who have emigrated, of course.

I’m going to do broccoli with it, since there were ructions from my audience at the lack of green vegetables last week. Broccoli and sweetcorn. And roasted butternut squash, mainly because we bought one a few weeks ago and it has just been sitting there looking at me with its strange comedy shape.

So here are the raw ingredients. To be honest, I think the rest of them are a bit intimidated by the butternut squash.

Butternut Squash. God
Butternut Squash. God

“Are you doing butternut squash?” calls Sal from the next room.
“Yes”, say I.
“Then make sure you use the big fuck-off knife”.
“Okay”.

I’ve made that mistake before. The butternut squash is a beast with a tough hide. Last time I ruined a bread-knife. Only THIS knife will do for cutting it…

The Big Fuck-Off Knife
The Big Fuck-Off Knife

17:50 – Cut the squash up. Narrowly miss adding Tony’s Fingers to the recipe thanks to the Big Fuck-Off Knife.

18:10 – Butternut squash roasting in the oven in extra virgin olive oil with a sprinkling of thyme. No salt, controversially, as I reckon it would upset what is essentially quite a sweet flavor.

18:35 The salmon is really simple, as ever, but its also easy to overcook or undercook, just because it takes so little time to cook. The trick is to grill it on a high heat, and not for very long. Oh, and do the skin up side first so you end up with a nice seared skinless side.

18:50 Now for the sauce. I’m going for a basic white wine sauce but I’m not 100% happy with this. For one thing, its almost identical to the sauce for tomorrow’s recipe. I suppose that means I have two goes at getting it right.

The sauce comprises diced shallots mixed with thyme sweated in melted butter.

(A word about herbs – you will notice that thyme pops up twice in this recipe. Now when I first discovered herbs, I stupidly figured, the more different kinds the better. I think this dates from student days where you can only really afford one little Schwartz pot of herbs, so you go for the “mixed herbs” obviously. Thus is the idea born that herbs are interchangeable, and the important thing is putting a few different ones in.

I wish I had worked out how wrong that is years ago – bleeding obvious really, but its hard to go against your deeply held beliefs)

Then add some white wine and reduce by 50%. Finally mix in some double cream and pepper and warm thoroughly. The recipe says to strain this into a jug. I say “and lose all that shalotty goodness? Hah!”

Add some broccoli and a tin of sweetcorn (to replace the fresh baby sweetcorn which unfortunately pulled a hamstring in the warmup) and there you go .

Salmon with white wine and shallot sauce. But no lemon.
Salmon with white wine and shallot sauce. But no lemon.

I’m a bit dubious about how this meal will taste, not least because I’ve managed to forget to buy any lemons, which in an ideal world would be in with the sauce and also squeezed onto the salmon.

But the extra sourness actually works quite well. Pleased with this. Next time – lemons!

Next – The Netherlands. A country not noted for its food, to be fair. We shall see …

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