Be­lieve it or not, the task of din­ner can ac­tu­ally be a joy, says Na­dine Levy Redzepi. A world away from her hus­band’s fa­mous restau­rant, her own cook­ing, col­lated in a new cook­book, is rein­vent­ing the ev­ery­day.

Dish - Everyday Dish - - Con­tents - Story — NIKKI BIR­RELL / Recipe — NA­DINE LEVY REDZEPI Pho­tog­ra­phy — DITTE IS­AGER

Her hus­band is a chef ex­traor­di­naire but Na­dine Levy Redzepi’s new cook­book cel­e­brates the ev­ery­day.

Na­dine Levy Redzepi’s cook­ing has been given some of the high­est praise pos­si­ble – chef René Redzepi says the five-course din­ner she once sur­prised him with was the “great­est meal I’ve ever eaten”. And this is from the in­no­va­tor who started Noma in Copenhagen, which held the ti­tle of best restau­rant in the world for four years.

René also hap­pens to be Na­dine’s hus­band and he writes about that mem­o­rable meal in the fore­word to his wife’s cook­book, Down­time – how the warmth and com­fort of her home cook­ing is “a kind of elec­tri­cal cur­rent that runs through the fam­ily and keeps it go­ing and to­gether”.

He, writes, too about how much chefs are lauded and given so much credit when th­ese days he’s more im­pressed by the care­givers who tire­lessly, “stroll up and down the su­per­mar­ket aisles sev­eral times a week, try­ing to come up with some­thing the chil­dren won’t re­ject af­ter they put it in their mouths”. And he cred­its Na­dine as the best he knows.

That’s what Down­time is about – mak­ing meal times magic again. And Na­dine goes about that in a very per­sonal way. She shares de­tails of her fas­ci­nat­ing up­bring­ing– food be­ing an ever-present thread – right through to her first time work­ing front of house at Noma, meet­ing René and start­ing a fam­ily. The recipes within have largely been col­lected from their life to­gether.

“When I was preg­nant with our first daugh­ter, Ar­wen, I was think­ing about my own child­hood, what type of mother I wanted to be,” says Na­dine. “I had al­ways loved the idea of a fam­ily cook­book be­ing passed down to the next gen­er­a­tion, so I started writ­ing down my favourite recipes in a note­book with the in­ten­tion of pass­ing it on to our chil­dren. René would say with a smile on his face ‘who knows maybe one day you’ll write a cook­book’.”

Of her rea­son­ing to in­clude some of the more per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, it was very im­por­tant to her the book not be viewed as just that of a “fa­mous chef’s wife – ‘ bet that’s a load of crap’”. Be­cause, she says, “if I am com­pletely hon­est, I would be the first per­son to roll my eyes and think ex­actly that. I was hes­i­tant to add some of the darker parts to the book, but I de­cided it was a part of my story and I wanted to tell it the way it hap­pened.”

Na­dine’s fas­ci­na­tion and love of cook­ing started a long time be­fore she ever met René – she was born in Por­tu­gal to mu­si­cian par­ents – her mother Dan­ish, fa­ther English – and says all her favourite mem­o­ries of her ear­li­est years there are con­nected to food. Af­ter mov­ing to Den­mark, with her newly sep­a­rated mother and her brother, she be­gan to ex­per­i­ment with cook­ing, some­times out of ne­ces­sity as her mother worked long hours. A stint of glan­du­lar fever at home meant a new ob­ses­sion with cook­ing shows – she still counts Ains­ley Harriott, of Ready, Steady, Cook, as a food hero. That show “made my jaw drop com­pletely – [it] for me was bril­liant in the way it showed you could cook three dishes in 20 min­utes”. The late An­to­nio Car­luc­cio was also a sig­nif­i­cant influence with his “very warm ap­proach to food”.

But hav­ing an “in­cred­i­bly bril­liant” chef as a hus­band inevitably has been what has also shaped Na­dine’s at­ti­tude to food. “René likes to look at hum­ble-look­ing pro­duce and force his mind to look at it in a dif­fer­ent way and pre­tend that a seem­ingly hum­ble head of cau­li­flower is as ‘pre­cious’ as the most ex­pen­sive meat. For me, this is very in­spir­ing and some­thing I use all the time when cook­ing. Lim­i­ta­tion some­how forces cre­ative ideas to flow.”

Na­dine’s own stance on mak­ing ev­ery­day cook­ing some­thing other than a chore is what is so in­spir­ing to us, as the reader – cre­at­ing the right at­mo­sphere, what the Danes call “hygge”, at meal times is key. Her older daugh­ters, Ar­wen and Genta, are of­ten in­volved in meal prep, while her mother changes the mu­sic con­tin­u­ously and her young daugh­ter, Ro, plays on the floor. All parts of th­ese daily rou­tines can be made en­joy­able with a new per­spec­tive, she as­serts.

“Peo­ple look at gro­cery shop­ping and cook­ing as a chore or some hor­ri­ble task they just need to get done. I think try­ing to look at it in a dif­fer­ent way can help a lot.

“I like to turn gro­cery shop­ping in to ‘me’ time. I make it some­thing nice – I get a cof­fee to go while I do [it], get my head out of work and get ready to pick up the kids and have fam­ily time. [It’s] shop­ping and cook­ing that lead to my favourite part of the day – when we sit down at the ta­ble and spend time to­gether while we eat,” she says.

Th­ese mes­sages and how to real­is­ti­cally im­ple­ment them per­me­ate Down­time. The ma­jor­ity of its recipes are “sim­ple, flavour­ful com­fort food”. Luck­ily for us, too, work­ing at Noma and be­ing mar­ried to one of its chefs means she’s been able to learn and hone tech­niques and adapt them to cook­ing at home. So not only is her cook­book filled with de­li­cious René Redzepi-ap­proved fare, it’s also sim­ple and prac­ti­cal and of it she is, rightly, “in­cred­i­bly proud”.

“[It’s] shop­ping and cook­ing that lead to my favourite part of the day – when we sit down at the ta­ble and spend time to­gether while we eat.”

Apri­cot Tart With Frangi­pane

Con­fes­sion: Eat­ing raw peaches and apri­cots has never been my thing. Some­how the furry skin just sets my teeth on edge. Cooked fruit, though, is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent mat­ter, and I think peaches, nec­tarines, plums and es­pe­cially apri­cots are amaz­ing in a nutty frangi­pane fill­ing. As it bakes, the frangi­pane puffs up around the sweet, tangy fruit, mak­ing a very el­e­gant-look­ing tart. Serve with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweet­ened whipped cream, if you want.

Tart dough

110 grams cold salted but­ter ⅛ tea­spoon fine sea salt 210 grams plain flour 3 ta­ble­spoons iced wa­ter, as needed

Frangi­pane fill­ing

110 grams raw al­monds 125 grams sugar 75ml cream 2 large egg yolks pinch fine sea salt 6–8 apri­cots

Lightly but­ter a 23cm tart tin with a re­mov­able bot­tom. Tart dough: Cut the but­ter into small cubes. Put the but­ter and salt in a medium bowl, add the flour and toss to coat the but­ter. Us­ing your fin­ger­tips, rub the but­ter into the flour – the mix­ture will look like coarse crumbs with some larger flakes. You can also pulse the flour and but­ter to­gether in a food pro­ces­sor un­til the mix­ture looks like coarse crumbs with pea-sized bits of but­ter, then trans­fer the mix­ture to a bowl. Stir­ring with a fork, sprin­kle in the wa­ter just un­til the mix­ture clumps to­gether and can be gath­ered into a ball. It should feel some­thing like mod­el­ling clay, but not wet. If it’s too dry, mix in more iced wa­ter by the half-tea­spoon.

Break up the dough into wal­nut-sized chunks, and with your fin­gers press it evenly on to the bot­tom and up the sides of the tin, be­ing sure it isn’t too thick where the bot­tom meets the sides. It should pro­trude about 3mm above the rim of the tin. Re­frig­er­ate while the oven pre­heats. Pre­heat the oven to 190°C. Pierce the dough all over with a fork. Place the tin on a bak­ing sheet. Line the bot­tom and sides of the dough with a large piece of bak­ing pa­per and fill it about half­way with dried beans to hold the pa­per in place. Weight­ing the crust will help keep the sides of your tart shell from slip­ping down as it bakes.

Bake un­til the vis­i­ble edges of the dough look drier and set, about 15 min­utes.

Re­move from the oven. Lift off the bak­ing pa­per with the beans and set them aside. Re­turn the bak­ing sheet and tin to the oven and bake un­til the crust is barely browned, 7–10 min­utes. Re­move from the oven. Frangi­pane fill­ing: Process the al­monds and sugar in a food pro­ces­sor un­til the mix­ture is finely ground. With the ma­chine run­ning, add the cream, egg yolks and salt and process un­til the frangi­pane is smooth.

Halve the apri­cots length­wise and re­move the stones. Spread the frangi­pane in the crust. Top with apri­cots, stoned sides down.

Bake un­til the fill­ing is lightly puffed and golden brown, 30 to 35 min­utes. Let cool com­pletely on a wire rack. Re­move the sides of the tin, cut into wedges, and serve. Serves 8

LEFT: Na­dine Levy Redzepi has three daugh­ters with René, all of whom par­tic­i­pate in some way with meal prep.

Ex­tracted from Down­time by Na­dine Levy Redzepi (Ebury Press, $60). Pho­tog­ra­phy by Ditte Is­ager.

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