Tasting hygge, one recipe at a time

Cookbook showcases the essence of this attractive Scandinavian way of life

Daytona Strong
Taste of Norway Editor

Tasting Hygge

Leela Cyd, an accomplished food photographer, has created a collection of mouthwatering recipes and stunning images for Tasting Hygge. These—reprinted with permission from publisher Countryman Press—are just a taste of what readers will find in the book.

In recent years, it’s been interesting to watch an explosion of books about hygge on the market. From cookbooks to lifestyle books, there’s no shortage of guides to incorporating this Scandinavian ideal into one’s life. One of those is Tasting Hygge: Joyful Recipes for Cozy Days and Nights (Countryman Press, November 2017) by Leela Cyd.

Cyd—a photographer and author whose other books include Food with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings and Styling for Instagram: What to Style and How to Style It—has put together a collection of 50 recipes that are designed to inspire people to embrace a bit of hygge in their own lives.

Hygge is often oversimplified to mean cozy, but the definition extends beyond that to a way of life. It involves a cozy, warm lifestyle and also includes an emphasis on wellbeing. Much of hygge involves connection with other people, and to linger at the table and savor a meal in the company of friends or family—perhaps with some candles or flowers and music—along with pleasant conversation is an example of what it can look like.

In Tasting Hygge, readers get a look at how food can help add a bit of hygge into their lives. The recipes, while for the most part not Scandinavian, are appetizing and range from refreshing foods to eat in spring and summer to cozy meals that would warm anyone up in fall and winter.

Cyd has organized her book in a unique way with categories based on sensory experiences rather than courses. Readers will find recipes organized in sections titled Warm, Spiced, Smooth, Calm, and Bright, plus a chapter called “Hygge to Go.”

Some of the savory recipe highlights include kale gratin with hazelnuts, pea dumplings with mint sour cream, and braised lentils with apricots and olives on yogurt toast. On the sweet side, there are little brioche buns with chocolate streusel topping, gingerbread waffles with pears, and poached pears in red wine with yogurt, rose, and crushed walnuts.

Classic Scandinavian recipes, while limited, include a Swedish tea ring with berries and crushed cardamom, and Swedish Semlor with almonds and cream.

Cyd is a celebrated photographer, and the images in the book convey a warm, cozy environment and are filled with inspiration for how readers can add a touch of hygge into their own homes, whether it’s a casual treat of milk and cookies or a summery feast for a group of friends.

For anyone looking to add a dose of hyg­ge to their homes, Tasting Hygge is sure to offer plenty of ideas and inspiration.

Enriched Polenta 
Porridge w/Raspberries & Crème Fraîche

There is immense pleasure in simplicity. The stirring of a pot is a daily activity for me. It’s a moment to just feel a grain porridge transform from liquid to viscous. In this recipe, the wooden spoon feels good in hand and becomes heavier by the minute as the bubbling corn grits expand and practically exhale with creaminess.

This recipe is enriched with an egg (the protein keeps me going longer) and whole milk (although any nut or coconut milk works well too) for an extra bit of heft and a mellow, creamy taste. This custard-like polenta is a luxurious golden base for any fruit lingering in the fridge and is always improved with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Tasting Hygge

Photo: Leela Cyd
Floral idea: It’s both economical and beautiful to purchase one bouquet of a single type of flower, trim the stems short, and place each bloom into its own little jar or small vase. This way you can create a low, dramatic arrangement, which is easier to chat with your guests over than a tall vase. Here I used a variety of anthuriums I picked up on sale at the farmers’ market. Other great options are garden roses, mums, billy buttons, or ranunculus.
(Caption text from Tasting Hygge)

3 cups whole milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 heaping tbsp. honey
½ tsp. fine sea salt
1 cup polenta corn grits
2 cups raspberries, plus a few extra for garnish
pinch fine sea salt
1 vanilla bean
½ tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsps. packed light brown sugar
heaping 1⁄3 cup crème fraîche
1⁄3 cup roughly crushed raw, unsalted pistachios

Whisk the milk, egg, vanilla extract, honey, and salt together in a medium pot. Turn the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, whisking frequently to avoid egg coagulation. When small bubbles appear on the surface, add the polenta. Cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Allow the covered pot to stand on the stove for 4 minutes.

In a medium pot on medium heat, cook the raspberries, pinch salt, scraped out contents of 1 vanilla bean, exterior of vanilla bean, lemon zest, and brown sugar for 4–5 minutes, until fruit exudes juices and smells jammy. Break down half of the berries with the back of a wooden spoon while cooking.

If polenta has set too much, add a generous splash of hot water to the mixture and stir it in before serving. Ladle one heaping cup of polenta into each bowl and top with a few spoonfuls of the raspberry mixture, a large tablespoon of crème fraîche, and a generous pinch of crushed pistachios. Finish with a few fresh raspberries on top.

Serves 4.

Spicy Smashed Potato Bar

Smashed potatoes are the best of both potato worlds: tender and fluffy on the inside, crispy and golden on the outside. Flaky bits of crunchy roasted skin lead to a luscious, smooth interior. Topped with delectable condiments from a DIY bar, they make the perfect winter comfort meal. They’re good any time of the day and are just as nice with a glass of crisp white wine as an aperitivo as they are with black coffee at brunch. I love doctoring up the perfect potato bite with all my favorite toppings.

Tasting Hygge

Photo: Leela Cyd

1 tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tbsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 lb. fingerling or new red potatoes
¼ cup olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp. fine sea salt

sour cream
relishes (recipes in book)
quick pickles (recipe in book)
finely chopped red onions
cherry tomatoes, halved
finely chopped fresh herbs

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mortar and pestle, roughly pound coriander, caraway, and cayenne together until a rough sand texture is achieved. Bring a 4.5-quart pot of salted water to boil. Place potatoes in the pot and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Drain.

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Pour the potatoes onto the prepped baking sheet and lightly smash one side with a fork. In the same bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, garlic, spice mixture, and salt until combined. Spoon a little of this spiced oil mixture onto each potato.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve with assorted toppings immediately.

Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Thyme Switchel

It takes a little magical thinking, so have faith that a splash of vinegar, herbs, syrup, and ginger can come together to be a positively potent and refreshing beverage. Typically switchels use molasses or honey to counter all the sour, but I prefer maple syrup. Splurge for the good stuff in this easy recipe, as its flavor is the backbone of this tasty beverage. This switchel is so comfortingly hygge and perfect for adding to bubbly water or even to a splash of whiskey during cocktail hour. You’ll enjoy a simple moment of pleasure when you remember that you have an already-made tincture hanging in the fridge.

Tasting Hygge

Photo: Leela Cyd

1 sprig fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 cup fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled & roughly chopped, plus a few extra for garnish
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbsps. maple syrup
1-in. fresh ginger, peeled & grated
pinch fine sea salt

Separate the leaves of the thyme from the sprig; discard sprig and place leaves in a pint jar. Add strawberries, vinegar, syrup, ginger, and salt. Muddle ingredients lightly with the back of a wooden spoon. Cover jar with lid and allow to sit in fridge for at least 15 minutes or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, pour switchel concentrate over a fine sieve. Discard the macerated fruit. Decant into four pretty glasses full of ice, top with still or bubbly water, and garnish with an extra sprig of thyme and a few sliced strawberries.

Serves 4.

Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway Editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo), Twitter (@daytonastrong), Pinterest (@daytonastrong), and Instagram (@daytonastrong).

This article originally appeared in the July 27, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Daytona Strong

Daytona Strong was formerly the editor of the Taste of Norway for The Norwegian American. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/DaytonaStrongAuthor), Twitter (@daytonastrong), Pinterest (@daytonastrong), and Instagram (@daytonastrong).