While she was pregnant with her first daughter, Nadine Levy Redzepi started thinking about the kind of mom she wanted to be—and naturally remembered her childhood, being surrounded by food and family. “I’ve always had this love for cooking,” she says. “And I was thinking, I wish I had a book with my grandmother’s recipes.”
Nadine’s longing for a tome filled with family recipes led her to write her new cookbook, Downtime: Deliciousness At Home (Pam Krauss Books/Avery)—which hits bookstores today.
Although Redzepi is immersed in Scandinavia’s new Nordic food scene (her husband is René Redzepi of world-renowned restaurant Noma in Copenhagen), her cookbook embraces rustic home cooking, with a distinct array of recipes that she regularly cooks for friends and family.
Some of the dishes Nadine has been eating and cooking since she was a child include Portuguese pork chops, roast chicken, and chicken liver sauce. The recipes also pull inspiration from René, as well as her travels to Japan and Mexico for Noma’s international pop-ups—think Yucatán stew with roasted chile salsa and Japanese omelet with fried sticky rice. In the cookbook, you’ll find simply delicious comfort food—easy-to-follow recipes accompanied by beautifully photographed dishes that will make your mouth water.
We checked in with Nadine while she was visiting New York City to hear all about the new book and cooking for the people she loves. We sure are happy she invited us all to her family’s table.
In your book, you mention cooking and shopping for food as a daily ritual. Why is it such an important part of your day?
Dinner is a big thing for us, where we sit down and have a proper meal—whether René is there or not. And when he is there, it is even more important. It is our time when we sit down, and there is no stress. The girls can tell me about their day. [The Redzepis have three daughters.]
It’s my favorite time of the day. And I get to have this time by going shopping, getting my head out of work, thinking about what the girls are going to tell me, and what we are going to eat tonight. Me going shopping means that I can go home and cook and fill the house with this comforting smell, and us sitting down at the table enjoying ourselves. It’s our downtime.
It almost sounds as if your kitchen is your family room, with your children gathered around. Do you and your family spend most of your time in this room together?
We do, actually. The kitchen is in the center of the house—one big open room connected to the living room and dining room. There is a big kitchen island where we do the chopping, and the girls sit on stools.
What is your entertaining style, and how do you make the people you are feeding feel welcome in your home?
With my kids and family—and myself in general—I like to cook to make myself and the kids happy. If we have guests over, that doesn’t really change: Then, we just cook more.
There is a very nice line in the book that says, “Cook for family as you would for company, and treat your company as family.” People don’t come to my house expecting to come to a restaurant. It’s just nice, warm home cooking.
What was the inspiration behind the cookbook?
I was pregnant with our first daughter, who is 9 now, and as you do when you get pregnant or think about starting a family, you think about what kind of parent you’re going to be. I was thinking about all these things, and was like, “I’m going to start this family cookbook.” I started writing down our favorite family recipes for our daughter—and that turned into daughters.
René always joked in the beginning that maybe one day, it would be a real book, but then he would say it more and more seriously…. like, “You should do a book one day.” When I was on maternity leave with our 3-year-old, I started an Instagram account, and started posting pictures of our dinners (and sometimes, breakfast). After six months, a small Danish publisher contacted me and asked me if I wanted to make a cookbook. I didn’t make the book with him, but I took it as a sign that maybe I should do this.
Some of these dishes, you’ve been eating since you were a child. Which ones are they?
There’s the Portuguese pork chops and the roast chicken, and then the chicken liver sauce. That’s one of my absolute favorite dishes. Those are the three that I really grew up with. And then my godfather’s fried chicken. He is American—from Poughkeepsie—and that was his grandmother’s recipe, and her way of doing it.
There are a wide variety of flavors and cultural influences in the book—Yucatán, Japanese, Nordic, and Portuguese.
René and I love traveling. Everything we do revolves around food. So, when we’re going somewhere, we’re always thinking about what kind of food they have there. And every time I eat, I am thinking about the flavor, how I can make it at home, how would I like it better. It’s a game I’ve always played with myself—and also seeing if I can taste the ingredients in things, too.
When we travel somewhere, I bring lots of things back home with me. With Noma doing pop-ups, spending so much time in Japan and Mexico, and going to India, there is inspiration everywhere. And one of the things that is so nice about home cooking is there are no restrictions: You can do whatever you want.
This cookbook is about feeding the people you love, so who do you have over for dinner—friends, family, other chefs?
We have a lot of good friends in the food industry who come to Copenhagen to visit. We are always having people over for dinner. We have this thing at home where there is always space for one more. We have a very open house, and I’ve always wanted that—lots of people, open and warm, and all kinds of things happening.
I’m sure it’s intimidating to cook for professional chefs and people in the restaurant industry, but at the same time, you can probably put them to work to help out with food prep.
They are very handy! Oh, can you chop this onion, and do this and this. [Laughs] I was very nervous the first time I cooked for René. In general, all these chefs work so hard and spend so much time cooking for other people, they really enjoy it when someone else cooks for them. They aren’t there to critique you or tell you that you overcooked this. They are very appreciative that someone has taken the time and effort to cook for them, for a change.
What are some home-cooking pro tips or advice you have learned from creating this book?
1. Don’t be afraid of fat. Butter is good.
2. Cooking isn’t that complicated. Buy the best ingredients you can, and then you have to work less at making it taste good.
3. You can cook better if you start thinking about food in different ways. Rather than spending $50 for steak at a restaurant, you can go to the butcher and pay for a good piece of meat to cook at home.