Interesting things are happening in Magnus Nilsson’s kitchen 750 kilometres north of Stockholm. Roots from the garden are pickling in brine. Mosses and lichens are rinsing in the sink. Game meat is curing while entire beef carcasses are waiting to be butchered.
No, Nilsson is not a lone homesteader living off the grid near the Arctic Circle. Rather, he is head chef at Fäviken restaurant, the newest manifestation of a Nordic culinary movement that began with René Redzepi at Copenhagen’s much-lauded Noma and has much of the food world in its thrall.
It isn’t hard to be seduced by it. New Nordic cuisine pairs passion for local ingredients with respect for nature’s offerings – not just when the sun shines, but throughout the fall and winter, too. Staying seasonal in northern climates is a challenge to chefs such as Nilsson and Redzepi, which is why they are both reviving and reinventing traditional methods such as foraging, pickling, drying and curing. The resulting dishes are old and new, rustic and refined, with earthy textures and bright, bold flavours.
As Canadians, it’s easy for us to appreciate where the Norse are coming from, to let their 365-days-ayear commitment to terroir inspire a love of our own similar landscape. And though you might not decide to serve eggs on a bed of smoking hay (save that for the pros at Noma), you can still play Scandinavian chef cooking dishes such as clams with foamed cream, pickled beets and cured salmon (turn the page for these and other New Nordic recipes). And since Nordic repasts are often communal, invite some friends over, decorate the table with a few juniper boughs and maybe build a fire. As Nilsson says, it’s about more than just serving a meal: “We do not only [give] people pleasure in the moment,” he explains in his new book, Fäviken, “but also help them to rediscover their connection with nature … a connection which is becoming more and more distant for many of us.”