Model, presenter, reality TV star and businesswoman Caroline Fleming talks to Absolutely about Cook Yourself Happy: The Danish Way
Interview with Caroline Fleming: Sabrina Nunez
Elements of a Scandi lifestyle have trickled into our homeware and fashion, so food is naturally the next step. Caroline Fleming’s career has transcended various different platforms but has maintained her love of family and cooking at its core.
In her latest cookbook, Caroline Fleming introduces readers to the foods of her Danish upbringing. Read on to see what went into this project.
Caroline Fleming On Food and the Ethos Behind Her New Book
Has being on television and having a large social media following impacted this book or affected the type of food you make?
When I started working on television approximately 11 years ago, first of all participating in a documentary about my family and our history which led to The Baroness Moves In, a format I presented for three seasons in Denmark, I cooked with very humble budgets as this was what was available in each episode and so my first book was about cooking a delicious healthy meal to feed 6-8 people for £5-10 for the meal. My second book was about how much time you have to cook, which was written during the time I presented America’s Next Top Model, in Denmark and my third book was the best from my kitchen – these books were great for the Danish market at that time.
My new book, Cook Yourself Happy: The Danish Way, absolutely reflects a wider audience in a far more saturated cookbook market, and together with my literary agent, we concluded that there was space for a book about traditional Danish food and my personal take on these classic recipes, evolved both by my passion for good health and flavours from travels that suited each dish. I am so grateful to my followers, especially because I feel they are truly invested in me. Along the way, they have asked for me to share, and this book is the sharing of my homeland cooking.
How did you decide to focus on Danish cooking over British cooking for this book?
I am a Dane/Swede and have grown up with the Scandinavian cuisine being the most consumed food at home. I think that the British cuisine is wonderful, however, I don’t cook too much really authentic British cuisine at home, except the dishes which flow over into all worldly cuisines like roast chicken with roast potatoes. We may have varying side dishes but I guess cuisines are in fact ingredients, interpreted in different ways. The Danish kitchen is deeply ingrained in my heart and my bones…it seemed the most natural choice.
What are the main differences between food that is traditionally Danish and food that is traditionally British?
In my humble opinion, I think we consume more fish in Scandinavia compared to Britain, probably because we are made up of island surrounded by the sea. Saying that, we are known to be big producers of pork and dairy also. Typically our breakfasts would consist of bread butter and cheese compared to the British fully fried breakfast. Our lunch has traditionally been varied open Danish sandwiches to the British triangular sandwiches. Evening meals would traditionally be boiled potatoes with some kind of meat and brown sauce or fish variation with rémoulade, where the British was classically wonderful fish pie or shepherds pie or steak and kidney pie.
I do believe however as time has evolved, especially during the last decade, that each country is now far more health conscious and their foods match their beliefs… My new book has a very healthy fundamental mentality, I am a great believer in not depriving yourself, “You can have your cake and eat it.”
I believe in balance, I believe in moderation, I believe you are what you eat and you are what you think, without preaching because I am just another humble human being, so lucky to have this body experience on this extraordinary planet. I believe in living responsibly in all aspects of life, and I count my blessings every day, so lucky to be a mother of three healthy children, so fortunate that my work is my passion, and to have good health, which I wish on everyone and a lot of love.
Are there any recipes in the book that combine both Danish and British foods?
All my recipes were tested in my home in England with ingredients bought from local grocers – we live in one great big world and I think many of our dishes have flowed over. “Fiskefrikadeller med rémoulade” is similar to traditional fishcakes with tartare sauce, I think an English loved dish, like my “Poussin casserole” – these are made in most countries with varying tastes depending on ingredients.
You have a lot of business ventures on your plate. How do you balance them all?
Ever since I wrote my first Danish cookbook and presented various Danish TV shows, I found a longing to work in the country where I reside, so I don’t have to leave my children. When I filmed Denmark’s Next Top Model I would take 30 planes in 15 days. When the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland lurked over us, I would film in Denmark from 7am to 7pm and get into a car, be driven to London during the night, so I could arrive in London just before 7am so I could have breakfast with my children, take them to nursery/school, collect them again, spend the afternoon with them, have dinner with them, bathe them and put them to bed and get into a car again and be drive back to Denmark during the night so I film again the next morning at 8am. This went on for a little while, and it happened again the following year.
I am so grateful that it is possible to work and get back to my children so I don’t spend more than 24 hours away from them if I can avoid it, which of course is not always possible. I have been so lucky to build a wonderful TV and lifestyle brand in Denmark over the last decade, which I’m proud makes me financially independent, but with much responsibility and hopefully a long and healthy life. I need to grow my business so it can support my children and myself, and other family responsibilities, not just year for year, but hopefully to secure this generation.
It is scary to be a single mother with enormous financial responsibilities and this has definitely inspired my wish to work beyond Denmark, so I can help to save my family’s castle. It will take lots of time and hard work, and I am so lucky to have the time and energy and to deeply love my Work. How lucky am I really? Without my faithful viewers and followers I wouldn’t be able to do what I love.
Caroline Fleming On Health & Fitness
How do your recipes factor into maintaining a good complexion and fitness level?
Firstly and most importantly for me is staying well hydrated throughout the day – I take small sips of water throughout the day, amounting to at least two litres per day. I eat on average about seven avocados per week, consume probably 500-800ml of high quality olive oils and coconut oils, I eat lots of almonds and walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and Lin seeds, plenty of greens, raw vegetables and wild fish in proportion to my size and red meat maybe once or twice a month depending on my cravings.
I clean my face with warm water morning and evening and try and incorporate a yoga practice at least once a week. I use quite a lot of pink Himalayan salt to ensure that my body is as alkaline as possible and I supplement my diet with vitamin D in the winter months and I adore sun chlorelle daily.
As someone who values fitness and food, how do you maintain a balance between the two?
I am NOT a fitness expert at all. I love yoga and practice when time allows. I work hard, I only sit still when I write ‘Caroline Fleming recipes’ or sit in design meetings for my stockings and homeware, kitchen and home collections or when enjoying my meals. I am extremely lucky to be blessed with a metabolism like a Formula One car. I know I don’t look like I eat like the two grown men that I do.
I love food so much, I love everything about food, from sourcing and buying my ingredients, to preparing the feasts, to day dreaming of new combinations of ingredients, to experiencing different foods in different countries, to decoding something I have tasted that I must make at home. I would say at least 6-8 hours of each and every day of my life revolves around food – looking at it, eating it, talking about it, dreaming about it. You can call me a FOODIE with capital Letters. I feel in complete balance and harmony physically, spiritually and emotionally – I make this a daily work in progress.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to cook for children or a family of picky eaters?
My humble advice is keep it simple. A picky eater may love bananas but not avocados, so mush a banana and add a little mashed avocado, then freeze into a popsicle. They may like chips, so make them with sweet potato in their skin with a delicious salsa or guacamole to dip. Use gluten-free oats and top with cinnamon and raw honey. Grill organic chicken breast and drizzle fresh lemon, olive oil and pink salt, shape into a teddy bear or use a long wooden kebab stick with some grilled veggies.
Trying alternatives until you find some they like. Bake using almonds and coconut whizzed into a flour and sweeten with maple syrup. Try a few recipes in my book, but let them choose according to a picture they like the look of. Ask them to help make the meal of their choice so it’s their doing and thus their reward. Compliment their ability and the time they invested which gives such happiness and pleasure to you all. Make all meals a win for them that they chose and they succeeded. Make it fun, always make it fun.
If you can find a dozen ingredients that a picky eater likes, experiment with these and then slowly start adding ingredients they might like the look of when you take them shopping. If they don’t like any fruit or vegetables, help them to fall in love with the grocery store and tell them the wonders of what these ingredients do to their health. Ask them if they want to be healthy and live well so they can take responsibility at an age-appropriate time and help them make food and cooking a pleasure.
Caroline Fleming On Travel
As someone who is well-travelled, what foods do you find generally please people?
I think the Italian cuisine has been a winner especially for children. The comfort found in various pizza and pasta dishes is wonderful. Try something new on the side however, when you go. Dare to experiment. As the world gets smaller and more people are able to travel, so is their opportunity to try new and different cuisines. The Thai kitchen is one of my all-time favourites, and I think when people go there, they also fall in love with these flavours. It depends where your passion lies. If you care for food, flavours and travel, the world is your oyster. We count our blessings. So fortunate we are to live at this time when, if we work hard, we can go almost anywhere our heart’s desire.
Denmark is consistently one of the happiest countries in the world, how does food play into this? What can we learn from the Danish people to become happier?
Food plays a major part in this fact of Denmark being consistently one of the happiest countries in the world. I believe this is due to the fact that we spend so much time with the people we love and most often around meal times. A working grown up often finishes work earlier in Denmark than in most other countries, in the same way that school days finish no later than 2pm for most.
Spending time with your family at home is a daily experience, and meals are always taken together as a family. It’s a massive part of our mentality, assembling one’s family and friends, mostly outside in the summer months and around the table with candles lit and flowers in vases in the colder months. This is what HYGGE is all about: good food, good times, good values, family and friends – that’s happiness.