Rachel Khoo: The Nordic Flavour

Rachel Khoo shares the flavours of Sweden’s cuisine with these simple, modern Nordic recipes

My love affair with Sweden was sparked, quite literally, by love.

With Paris, it was love at first bite. But it was when I met my future husband 7 years ago that I began to discover what would soon become my new adopted home country.

I will be the first to admit that I’m no expert in Swedish cooking. However, over the past 7 years I have experienced a wide range of Swedish food, from Michelin-starred restaurants to humble home cooking.

Back in the summer of 2012, after my whole life was turned upside down with the success of The Little Paris Kitchen, I decided that I needed to get back in the kitchen. But it was not any old kitchen I decided to get back to.

Through a few connections I got in touch with Magnus Nilsson, chef of Fäviken (one of the most renowned restaurants in the world, located in the Swedish wilderness) to ask whether it would be possible to do an unpaid stage at his restaurant.

So that summer I embarked on a culinary expedition. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous (not even when doing live TV on the BBC to millions of viewers did I have the same amount of butterflies). Despite it only being for two weeks, it was an intense affair.

I thought I would end up washing dishes for the majority of the time (which I did do occasionally, as well as scrubbing the loos), but no, I was sent to fish for local brown trout, to pick meadowsweet and to gather twigs, leaves and herbs.

Not only was this experience formative for me in terms of discovering what was happening in the Nordic restaurant scene, but it also planted a seed of thought on how to cook creatively with limited produce. It takes some confidence to be able to cook with few ingredients.

Swedish cooking tends to use several core key ingredients rather like the major keys on the piano. These keys can be used in numerous different ways to create a harmonious melody; the chords may be familiar, but the melody is different each time.

In essence, Swedish food is about cooking with a limited range of ingredients, but using those to find a balanced and simple approach to cooking all year around. Despite a lot of these recipes having a 100-year history, this seems like a very modern way to cook.

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