Wild Cooking at Restaurangakademien

with Inga kommentarer

Just have to share this – I was invited to do a workshop with foraging and cooking at Restaurang Akademien (Restaurant academy), something I was very humbled by, since this is a place that represents culinary knowledge and competence for professionals and lay people and play a big part in developing Swedish gastronomy on a daily basis. And the workshop was for people in the industry only so which made my ambitions fly sky high. But a little pressure can be very conducive to creativity and I decided to just…let it flow!

We met up at 9 am and lucked out with the weather which was sunny and warm, perfect for a foraging hike in the park. The group of 20 enthusiastic ”food nerds” traipsed after me into to forest. It was fun to watch their suprised faces when finding so much food where all they saw was lush greenery. Foraging isn’t just about picking plants for food, it’s also about becoming more familiar with and aware of what nature gives us, learning to differentiate plants and see how they interact. To gain an insight in our very intimate relationship with nature and how our survival is depending on it, and hopefully awaken a desire to treat it with respect and love, just the way we treat ourselves and all other living species we share this planet with.

Result of our foraging, 18 lovely local, abundant plants.
Result of our foraging, 18 lovely local, abundant plants.

 

Amongst the greens we found were Yarrow, Nettles, Garlic mustard (Löktrav), Wood sorrel (Harsyra) Elm fruit (Almfrukt), Sweet Woodruff (Myskmadra), Sweet Cicely (Spansk körvel), Dandelion flowers, Spruce buds, Birch leaves, Meadow sweet (Älgört), and Fireweed shoots (Rallarros). I could see the minds working on this creative group, discussing the flavors and how they would best come to use,

We also discussed the importance of what I call ”ethical foraging” – now that it has become very popular to go out and eat wild plants i see a lack of knowledge – knowledge as to how we fit into the ecological system and what plants are OK to pick:

– it is not OK to pick the whole patch of anything. It looks so inviting and abundant and greed settles in and we’re tempted to take it all but that is a NO NO NO! Only take maximum 20% of what is there.

– If it is an unusual plant, leave it where it is. Our survival is not dependent on this one plant bit the plant itself is – it needs to be left alone so it can reproduce. Also it needs to be there for those insects whose lives DO depend on it.

– Do not dig up roots or break branches without landowners permission.

– Forage gracefully: leave no traces behind – the patch where you picked should look the same as when you arrived.

– Say Thank You. Nature hears and appreciates that.

Nettle chips
Nettle chips

Happy with our harvest we returned to the Restaurant Academy where I let the group create the menu as well as recipes. In my headI had planned for them to cook a 3- course meal and there was fish, pizza dough, vegetables and rhubarb to add to the wild greens. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the level of ambition and creativity this group contained – they cooked up a storm! And we ended up eating a 7-course lunch! With pizza as an appetizer. And everything was so GOOD, I wish I could share the flavors with you but here are some pix to enjoy: We started off with Pizza as an appetizer. Not one but no less than FIVE pizzas. Yes, we finished them all.

Various wild goodies
Various wild goodies

Followed by Tempura fried Greens with Meadowsweet Mayo.

empura fried Greens with Meadow Sweet Mayo
Tempura fried Greens with Meadow Sweet Mayo

Then a slightly lighter snack.

Wild pesto served in Endive with Dandelion flower and Woodsorrel
Wild pesto served in Endive with Dandelion flower and Woodsorrel

Then: the Main course.

Perch, Sweetpotato purée, Sweet Cisely, Asparagus and Deep fried Nettle
Perch, Sweetpotato purée, Sweet Cisely, Asparagus and Deep fried Nettle

To fill out the last space:

Puréed potatoes with Yarrow (I think it was), Elmfruit and Woodsorrel
Puréed potatoes with Yarrow (I think it was), Elmfruit and Woodsorrel, Roe and chips from Jerusalem Artichoke.

To my great surprise, we had room for the desserts (yes, plural…):

Honey candied Hazelnuts with Sweet Woodruff flavored Rhubarb, Elmfruit, and whipped cream. Think it miahgt have been a Woodsorrel granité in there too
Honey candied Hazelnuts with Sweet Woodruff flavored Rhubarb, Elmfruit, and whipped cream. Think it might have been a Woodsorrel granité in there too

Dessert no 2 was a Sweet pizza with Rhubarb, Wood sorrel, Nettle, Spruce buds served with home made ice cream made from Fresh cheese.

That’s it!

Forage with grace, connect daily with nature and enjoy what it gives you – use it wisely.

Lisen

Proud to be wearing this apron!
Proud to be wearing this apron!

Sapmi meets Stockholm

with Inga kommentarer

So finally it we made it! Sami chef Kristoffer Åström, a.k.a Kebbe came to Stockholm with a suitcase full of the seasons best ingredients from Lappland. Good stuff like reindeer blood pudding, various reindeer cuts, char (röding), grayling (harr – en laxfisk) roe, cloudberries and coffee cheese. Here in Stockholm the world is green but up in the North the snow still has a hold on the ground so so meats were the obvious choice of ”seasons best”. To make up for that I had foraged the best of the wild greens the season has to offer in the Stockholm area and we had 10 very excited guests booked for the evening that was to take place at restaurant Matias Dahlgren. We were in for one eclectic dinner!

Foto Bianca Brandon-Cox
Foto Bianca Brandon-Cox

The background is this: two years ago I was in Lappland for the first time. That same summer I had spent 3 weeks in Mexico, also a first for me and I loved it but to my surprise, Lapplands landscape, the food and the sami culture seemed even more exotic to me. Nature up there blew me away – the air so clean and crisp you want to bottle it and take it back to the city. The mountain water is clear and delicious and you can drink it straight from the source. The landscapes spreads out in eternity and the mountains (then green, it was summer) surround you like a protective bosom. A landscape that makes you feel very small and insignificant, in the best way.

Menu Sapmi style by Kristoffer Åström
Menu Sapmi style by Kristoffer Åström

Life up there is different from busy Stockholm where it can take weeks just to arrange to meet for a coffee with a friend because everybody is too busy being busy. In Lappland I found myself being invited to peoples’ kitchen tables to sit down, share a coffee and a good talk, just sharing, enjoying meeting and being together. I was also taken by how relating to nature in a respectful manner is a natural thing. In the Same culture nature is considered our pantry, our pharmacy, our mother and a living breathing entity. If we don’t cooperate with it and chose to expoit it, not only do we harm it and all other living beings, we also will hurt ourselves.

Historically food and life in Lappland is based on Reindeer, it’s a part of the culture and a lifestyle. With summers being very short it’s natural to have a meat based diet, with less greens than we are used to further south. The greens came from the wild and were dried or fermented to last all winter. The cuisine more based on convenience, necessity and survival, mostly boiled, dried or fried. Flavor not a priority. Kristoffer has made it a life mission to bring this exotic, natural kitchen up to date and shares it passionately with the world. When he is not cooking he makes knives – and they are beautiful, you can see some of them in the photos below.

Back in the city I suggested to chef Oskar Petterson at Mathias Dahlgren if we couldn’t have a Sapmi theme at Matbordet (a concept within the restaurant where you get to meet the chef and watch / eat while he / she is cooking). Oskar jumped at the idea, being an avid nature freak who prefers to forage, hunt and hang out in the wild rather than being indoors.

So, I called Kebbe and asked him to come to Stockholm to give us city-people a taste of nature. I had gotten his number from a friend, we had never met. Luckily he didn’t hesitate for a second before he said yes! I LOVE it when people just say YES!

Happy chef. Photo Christina Cheng
Happy chef. Photo Christina Cheng

An exclusive group of 10 people came and and enjoyed this journey of flavor. I had foraged Goutweed (Kirskål), Spruce buds (granskott), Violets (skogsviol), Sorrel (Ängsyra), Elm fruit (almfrukt) and … can’t even remember everything! Some herbs were new to Kebbe but being the pro that he is he embraced these new flavors with an open mind. They turned out to be a perfect match to the northern fish and meats.

Ok, enough of my talk, here is what he cooked up:

Reindeer blood pudding with treacle butter – and I must say blood pudding never tasted so GOOD – a completely different story from the vacuum packed, mass produced pork blood pudding you buy in the store that is filled with sugar and more wheat flour than blood. Served with treakle butter.

Blood pudding
Blood pudding

Second we got suovas (salted and smoked rein deer) served on hung yoghurt, Red Deadnettle (Rödplister).

Next to it you see a slice of cold smoked reindeer heart with dried apples in brandy and butter. And violets.

IMG_5055
Suovas rose with rein deer heart. Photo Christina Cheng

Then:

Reindeer kalf liver fried in butter with fir buds (granskott) and creamed white cabbage. Being an avid vegetable eater my inner omnivore was completely satisfied and took these beautiful meats to heart.

Liver, cabbage, fir. Phot Christina Cheng
Liver, cabbage, fir. Phot Christina Cheng

And oh my gosh the flatbread…just off the stove served with butter. To do for. Here’s how much was left…

Flatbread leftovers Photo: Christina Cheng
Flatbread leftovers Photo: Christina Cheng

And the menu went on…

Poached Whitefish (sik) with Birch, Sweet Cicely (Spansk Körvel), Goutweed (Kirskål) with harr roe (Harr rom) and a poached egg. The birch sauce is made from fresh birch leaves, milk, lemon and salt. So simple and so exquisite.

Birch, Sweet Cicely, Egg, Whitefish Photo Christina Cheng
Birch, Sweet Cicely, Egg, Whitefish Photo Christina Cheng

and on…

 

Gravad char (röding) with Wood sorrel, Bird cherry flower (häggblomma), Linden leaf, onion and Sorrel dressing.

IMG_5049
Char, Wood sorrel, Bird cherry flower), Linden leaf, onion and Sorrel dressing. Photo Christina Cheng

By now we were pretty full but you know how it is – there is always a little corner left for dessert: Cloudberries served in the most simple and natural way: with creamy milk and sugar.

Cloudberries, milk, cream, sugar. Nothing beats simplicity. Photo: Christina Cheng
Cloudberries, milk, cream, sugar. Nothing beats simplicity. Photo: Christina Cheng

After all this – time for coffee with snack: coffee cheese – a cheese made from cow or goats milk made with rennet (löpe) that is heated, then left to solidify and then baked in the oven. This way it can be preserved for a long time, very practical when winters are long and you spend months on the mountain with the reindeer. Traditionally it is eaten by first putting it in coffee to soften. This is what we did. It’s also lovely to enjoy warm served with cloudberry jam. Coffee cheese wasn’t the only snack served – we were also challenged to adapt another Sapmi tradition – thin slices of dried raindeer meat (delicious on its own) also soaked in coffee! And guess what…it was surprisingly good! And this is why we go out to dinners like this, right? To challenge our habits, our tastebuds and ideas of what is ”right”?!

Coffe cheese (Kaffe ost) from goats milk and dried reindeer meat.
Coffee cheese (Kaffe ost) from goats milk and dried reindeer meat.

Next time we hope to create an event in Lappland where we forage in the mountains and cook over fires outdoors. I really cannot wait! I’ll keep you posted on how this idea develops in which case I urge you to come, no matter where in the world you live! We’ll help you organize accomodation and other details. Stay tuned.

The lesson we learned from this evening was: keep it simple, keep it natural, eat local, be open to new flavors and any time you get a chance, surround yourself with friends around the dinner table.

Eat well!

 

Lisen

IMG_63491
Me in action. Photo Bianca Brandon – Cox

 

Oskar Petterson, chef at Mathias Dahlgren, and Kristoffer Åström prepping what was to become a memorable meal.
Oskar Petterson, chef at Mathias Dahlgren, and Kristoffer Åström prepping what was to become a memorable meal.
Feeling very professional
Feeling very professional