When we visit my mother-in-law in Denmark, she generously asks what each of us might like to eat for dinner on various evenings. She usually asks my husband first, which suits me fine as I usually need an extra minute or two to think. Then it’s my turn. I delight in the thought of eating two of my favourite meals, both of which she prepares and presents to perfection. My first choice is Medister Polse, a Danish sausage with a hint of nutmeg, parsley, dill and white pepper. My second choice is Carbonader, which bears no similarity whatsoever to the dish of the same name from Belgium or Luxembourg. Danish Carbonader is so easy to make that you can do it blindfolded. Be prepared for porky hands, which is why I suggested blindfolding rather than one hand tied behind your back. All you need is minced pork, dried breadcrumbs (make them yourself from your leftover, stale bread – I never throw away stale bread!), a knob of butter (optional) and a drizzle of oil for frying, and salt to mix with the breadcrumbs.
Now some people use the French Double-Dip method for coating the patty: coat in flour, shake off excess, dip in beaten egg, dribble off excess, press into a bowl of dried breadcrumbs, and then set aside to rest before frying (to rest the patty, not your good self). My mother-in-law doesn’t do that. No flour, no egg. Sacrebleu, she’d say if she spoke French. She fills a small, shallow bowl with dried breadcrumbs, seasoned with fine ground salt, and then presses each patty into the crumbs making sure that every millimetre is covered. Then she pops it directly into a medium-hot pan with melted margarine that shimmers from the heat. And then she opens the kitchen window so the smoke can filter outside.
I use her same breadcrumb method; no egg, no flour. I don’t use butter and oil. I use equal amounts of peanut and vegetable oil – peanut oil has a very high smoke threshold so my kitchen isn’t cloaked in a blue-black cloud that searches out the nearest open window. Besides, my kitchen window is painted shut. One day, possibly when my kitchen is on fire, I’ll force it open by use of my foot and a firm kick. Until then, I won’t use butter for frying.
One final note: Turn the heat down to medium-low so that the crumbs don’t brown before the pork is cooked through. For that reason, I don’t form the patties too thick. Keep an eye on the golden colour developing as it cooks; it browns quickly if the heat is too high.
Hmmm. One more final note: A lovely, silky brown gravy is a must with Carbonader. Most Danes prefer melted butter drizzled over it. I prefer a rich, flavoursome gravy, thank you very much. Makes lots, just in case I show up for dinner.
Oh, drat. One more final note: To keep the minced pork from sticking to your hands like glue while you shape the patties, just stick your hands under the cold tap and wet them thoroughly. The pork won’t stick to your wet hands; no more porky fingers!
500g minced pork (reduced fat version is okay)
1 cup dried breadcrumbs (not coarse crumbs – they must be fine)
1 tsp. fine salt (table salt)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (adding more if required)
Mix the salt and breadcrumbs together thoroughly in a shallow bowl, and then set aside.
Divide the minced pork into 4 equal portions, roll between the palms of your hands into a ball, and press out flat on a cutting board. Using a table knife, shape and lightly score the surface and edges, rotating patty as you go, so that the patty holds together whilst frying. To be honest, this scoring palaver really isn’t necessary, but my mother-in-law does it, it looks pretty, and I find it very mentally relaxing.
Now stand next to your frying pan that’s warming up on medium heat, have the bowl of breadcrumbs next to the cooker, and set the beautifully shaped patties in front of you. Gently pick up the patty with your hand and set it into the bowl of breadcrumbs. Rotate the patty and flick the crumbs up along the edges. Now press down gently. Flip it over, and do the same again. If required, press some of the breadcrumbs directly on the patty where they haven’t stuck. Now place the breaded patty into the shimmering hot oil in the frying pan. Quick-quick-quick, now do the same thing three more times with the remaining patties. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
After 2 minutes, take a quick look under each patty to ensure that they’re not browning too quickly. Turn when the colour is richly golden brown, which is roughly 3-4 minutes. When the other side is equally gorgeous and browned, turn over again to cook for 1 more minute. Repeat on the other side for another minute. I often stick the frying pan, which has a heat-proof handle, in a low oven to keep warm until the brown gravy is done, the potatoes and veg are tumbled into serving bowls, and I shout "Værsgo!"