Mealtime has always been an occasion for the Bille Brahes. When they were growing up in the family home in Hellerup, north of Copenhagen, the dinner table was a place to catch up. “Ever since I was a little girl, it was really important that every evening was special,” says the fine jeweller Sophie Bille Brahe. “No matter how crazy-wild a day you have had, you enjoy this very short time where you are together. For me, it’s also somehow relaxing; it’s a way where you come down from your day.”
Sophie and her brother, Frederik Bille Brahe – the chef behind Copenhagen’s Café Atelier September and Apollo Bar & Kantine – meet for a meal with their families every Sunday, where they take turns cooking with their children. “There’s the older generation – my mother is there – so there’s this caring aspect and connectedness,” says Frederik, who has two children with model and fashion designer Caroline Bille Brahe. “Food is just a good assembly point for bringing everyone to the table to sit and talk.”
With more celebratory occasions, the cooking tends to fall to Frederik, who uses seasonal, locally sourced produce where possible. “When it comes to hosting, I try just to be generous. I make sure I get wonderful products and have some nice snacks ready, and good wine. Cooking with friends is always nicer when it happens naturally.” For a starter, he will often prepare artichokes, such as carciofi alla romana, cooked in white wine with mint, parsley and garlic, or carciofi alla giudia, with the artichokes peeled and deep-fried so they open like a flower.
Another popular dish is pumpkin soup cooked with shallots and white wine, served in a hollowed-out pumpkin with a dollop of truffle whipped cream. “It’s fun and it looks so nice on the table,” adds Frederik. “The idea is for it to taste super-pumpkin-y – sometimes if you have the singular essence of something extremely clear, then you actually enjoy it more.”
For the main event, Frederik will often prepare a dish centred on mushrooms, such as porcini tarte tatin with caramelised shallots, served with cavolo nero that has been lightly stewed with chilli and garlic. “Everything is quite simple,” he explains. “Our goal is to make something that feels like it could be a normal dinner at home, but that is still interesting – a true experience.”
Adds Sophie: “The worst thing is when you come to a dinner where it’s too tight – you know they’re playing a playlist that they only made for when they have people over, not of the music they love. You can have beautiful surroundings, but still feel really uncomfortable,” she says. Sophie notes the Danish author Karen Blixen, of Out of Africa fame, would always make flowers for the table that would somehow help the conversation. “So, for instance, she would put cabbage in her flower bouquets,” says Sophie. “Most of all, it’s important to make a space that has room for conversation for old, for young. At least, that’s what I like to do.”
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