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. 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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
And oh my gosh the flatbread…just off the stove served with butter. To do for. Here’s how much was left…
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.
Gravad char (röding) with Wood sorrel, Bird cherry flower (häggblomma), Linden leaf, onion and Sorrel dressing.
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.
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”?!
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.