Chef Christoffer Hruskova, of the now defunct Michelin-starred North Road restaurant in London, is famed for his use of foraged ingredients in experimental dishes that recall his native Denmark.
In a recent residency at Clapton restaurant and wine bar, Verden, Hruskova offered a menu of rye bread porridge, beetroot sorbet, veal sweetbreads with nettle puree, and celeriac tacos. But it was his take on aebleskiver, spherical Danish pancakes—here filled with smoked fish and dusted with salt and vinegar powder—that created the most intrigue.
I have always associated aebleskiver with Christmas, as that's when you normally have them in Denmark. The name means "a slice of apple," and a long time ago they would have that through the middle. The traditional way to serve them is sweet and dipped in sugar and jam. You'd always get four or five on a little plate at Christmas fairs. So simple, but so lovely.
I don't think my parents ever made them, but my grandmother did. She took care of me when I was little as my parents worked so much. She was an amazing cook who made everything from scratch. Not that I took a lot of interest in the cooking at the time, but I loved eating her wonderful food. One of my favourite things was her pancakes, made from the same sort of batter as aebleskiver. She had the special pan to make them too and cooked them for me many times. That's my first memory of their flavour.
My cast iron, aebleskiver pan was given to me by a friend's great grandmother. It has the seven, half-moon rounds that you coat with a little butter and oil, before filling them with batter, and then rolling it around while cooking. To make the traditional, sweet version, you use eggs, milk, flour, and sugar.
A few years ago in Denmark, it became trendy in the restaurant world to make savoury aebleskiver. I first served them like this at North Road and they went down really well. They're a nice, warm, little thing to start the evening with. We tried lots of different fillings there: braised hare, rabbit, pork, braised vegetables, meringue—all kinds of funny things to make them more interesting.
The smoked fish aebleskiver topped with salt and vinegar that I have on the menu are similar in flavour to fish and chips although they can also taste slightly sweet as well, being so rich from the cream and egg yolk. We use flour, melted butter, a bit of thyme, and a little salt in the batter too.
We split the eggs first, mixing butter and cream into the yolks, and then whipping the whites. You really want to make round balls, and so you need to cook them slowly. We use a little stick to stir ours. Previous generations—including my grandmother's—used knitting needles for this.
We split the eggs first, mixing butter and cream into the yolks, and then whipping the whites before folding them in. We fill the pan's half rounds really well as you're going to turn them. You really want to make round balls, and so you need to cook them slowly. We use a little stick to stir ours. Previous generations—including my grandmother's—used knitting needles for this. It's a fairly simple process for me but for some chefs who have never seen it, it can take some practice. It's not rocket science, though.
When we started North Road, people were sceptical, like, What is this? It's weird. Because of the way I cook, sometimes I challenge people. British food culture can be focused on comfort food and I don't think my food is comfortable. But I have to stick to what excites me otherwise it's hard to go to work.
My next project is setting up a Danish bakery in London, called Bread Station. Danes grow up on rye bread. We love it. Our recipe is 100 percent rye flour, which is rare, especially as it's still super light. It will stay fresh for about four days. The sourdough is the same: just water, flour, and salt. Then we cold-ferment it, which is a lot more consistent.
The bakery will also serve classic Danish pastries—proper ones, with proper butter. But not aebleskiver, it's too difficult as you need to cook them to order, otherwise they're so light that they're going to collapse and dry out.
Thank goodness there are ever more people in Britain who find this sort of food thrilling too. I still enjoy using good, local British produce, what you can get here is similar to Scandinavia, however we might go a little further next time. There's a Scottish guy in Norway who has amazing sea urchins…
As told to Suze Olbrich.