Nadine Levy-Redzepi’s debut cookbook, Downtime, is a truly beautiful collection of the comforting and enticing recipes that form the backbone of family life in the Redzepi household, is out now. Nadine’s background as one of the key members of the team at Noma, the internationally acclaimed, two Michelin-starred restaurant in Copenhagen opened by her husband, René Redzepi, is evident throughout Downtime, though not in the way you might expect. Far from unachievable or overly-complex, this is a collection of unintimidating recipes for cooking great family food at home, but with tips, tricks and magic touches inspired by Noma and Nadine’s travels that make each dish even more delicious. These are recipes that will soon become regulars on your kitchen table, whether you’re cooking for close family or looking to impress dinner party guests.
To find out a little more about Downtime, we caught up with Nadine to talk comfort food, getting the kids to be more adventurous eaters and finding time to cook every day.
We’re so excited about the release of your new cookbook, Downtime. Can you tell us a bit more about the book?
It’s about home cooking but there’s not really a style or any restrictions on the book, it’s a collection of recipes that I cook at home often and it takes inspiration from many different places – my early years in Portugal, my summers in France, the NOMA pop-ups and various visits to restaurants all over the world. I feel like every time I go on a trip there is something that I can bring home and use in my every day cooking. That’s what’s so nice about home cooking, there are no restrictions and Downtime is a celebration of that.
If you had to choose one recipe to show off what the book is about, what would it be and why?
That’s very tough, it’s almost like being asked to pick your favourite child! My immediate thought is the roast chicken because the smell and taste and feeling that fills the house when you are roasting a chicken is very warm and homey and comforting even, and it also doesn’t demand that much of you – you just put it in the oven and it takes care of itself.
Downtime is all about finding time each day to eat as a family, what are your tips for making space for this daily ritual?
I think it’s about turning it into a priority and one of your favourite parts of the day rather than a chore. You can always find time to have coffee or go to the gym and work out, so I think it is possible to find time to cook as a family, and for me it’s like a sacred thing. I also think finding time to cook is good for you in the same way that they say gardening for example is good for you. But especially when you have a family, it makes sense to me that this is a part of the day that becomes very important family time. For me, the whole ritual of family eating starts when I go grocery shopping: I get a cup of coffee, I get out of work and into family mode and start thinking about what the kids are going to want to eat and the conversations we’re going to have about their day. I also try to find a place that’s nice to go shopping and avoid, wherever possible, the supermarket where everyone is super stressed out and it’s a horrible experience.
How has your experience of working at Noma influenced the recipes in Downtime?
There are definitely influences from Noma and probably even more than I’m conscious of. I think it’s just little things that make all the difference, like making sure that the temperature of the frying pan is hot enough so that you cook things properly, preparing things the right way, getting the right produce – the better the produce, the less you have to do to the food to make it taste really good. Also, not being afraid of lots of butter- that’s definitely something I have picked up from Noma. But it doesn’t have to be complicated – butter basting things or adding butter to the water when you cook vegetables for example just gives the food this very rich, very satisfying flavour. And it’s not complicated, it’s easy.
Who would be your dream dinner party guest and what would you cook for him/her?
Michael Jackson. I would totally make him fried chicken and for dessert it would probably depend on the time of year, but if he liked chocolate, I would make him the brownies.
What’s your ultimate comfort food?
I think that would depend on the time of year and how I am feeling, but it would probably be the fried chicken or the pasta dish with the chicken livers from when I was little. Pasta in itself is just very comforting.
Which cookbooks are on your shelf?
I like flipping through cookbooks for inspiration but I particularly love cooking shows. If I turn on the TV and see Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson I always watch the show and I always take something away from it.
What do you eat when you really don’t have energy to cook?
In Downtime there are a lot of recipes for fried dishes because everything you cook in a frying pan is quick. Fish is always super quick too and then there are the simmer dishes in the book and when I make those I always make extra so that you can freeze them and just heat them up when you need to.
Do your children enjoy all kinds of foods or do you struggle to get them to try new flavours?
My children like meat and fish and they love grains (two of them are obsessed with lentils), but sometimes they can be picky. I was never picky as a child at all so I have a hard time understanding when my own kids don’t like something without having tried it first. But, our kids like to be in the kitchen when we’re cooking, and they’re always welcome, and I have found that they are definitely more open to trying things when they’ve seen the process of making it from start to finish.