“Why have food theatre when the ingredients and dishes speak for themselves?” chef Gizzi Erskine says about Swedish food, and she has a fair point.
Gizzi lead the #TrySwedish cooking event I joined at Aveqia Kitchen Studios in London last week, where I discovered I agreed with her on more than just her choice of up ‘do (she rocks an excellent beehive). While Swedish food is simple to make, quality ingredients mean flavours are fresh and dishes look as pretty as a fjord in midsommar.
The ‘Compass meal’ of three courses prepared by our class on the night made full use of local produce from Sweden’s west coast, Jämtland Härjedalen and Skåne, focussing on one region per course.
First up and representing Gothenburg and West Sweden was a tartar of langoustine and oysters with mussels and apple. This coastline’s exceptionally cold waters produce fat, fleshy langoustines of a size I’d never seen – and oh, the taste of the finished tartar: so fresh, with the langoustines’ softness perfectly balanced against the meaty shellfish and zing of apple. Lysekil-based seafood experts Orust Shellfish provided ingredients, while we washed it all down with strong bitter Gustavs Finger from Gothenburg microbrewery Dugges.
Showing off northern region Jämtland Härjedalen’s gastronomic delights, a main course of Arctic fish char (smoked by the class in ten minutes flat) was poured over with delectable browned butter and set against grass-green pea puree. A warm and crunchy grilled salad accompanied, sprinkled with whorls of Maximus cheese from the dairy farm at mountain village Klövsjö. My big discovery of this course was Swedish ‘Champagne’; though don’t let that description fool you. SAV Birch Sap Sparkling wine tastes woody, smoky and bittersweet – more complex and interesting than the French equivalent. It’s – you guessed it – made from fermented birch sap, drawn from trees around Storsjön Lake in Jämtland, and the original recipe is 18th century (this is a modern version).
Three blue cheeses from southernmost county Skåne rounded off our meal, sourced from artisan dairies Soldattorpet and Vilhelmsdals. We glugged them down with another drinks surprise, Hällåkra vineyard’s own deep and darkly fruity port wine.
Dishes were taster-sized but super filling, and I bowled into the appropriately sub-Arctic-feeling night as happy as a Swedish clam. Not before one last drink, though – a shot of Brännland Iscider, a crisp, chilled cider made with apples from Skåne and Norrland, which was so good in the end I had two (maybe this accounted for the happiness).
Cheers to trying Swedish.