Take a journey through Nordic Europe’s cuisine, exploring four regional recipes that evoke spring, summer, autumn and winter
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS SIMON BAJADA
Cuisine popularity comes and goes, like trends in fashion, music and other art forms. However, with Noma and many other Nordic restaurants topping the world’s best restaurants lists, new Nordic cuisine is proving it’s no passing fad. The style is also an overdue appreciation of the histories and cultures of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland, and, in turn, is a revisiting of often ancient cooking techniques from across the region – usually with a modern twist. The harsh Nordic climate, with its restricted range of produce, has forced chefs to think imaginatively and develop new techniques for preparing ingredients. Rather than meat being the central ingredient around which all others revolve, it is the whole grains and cold-climate vegetables that are attracting the attention of chefs. This willingness to explore innovative ways of working is what I love most about the cuisine.
One particular phrase has stuck with me ever since a Nordic chef placed a dish in front of me and said: “Now, we are taking you to the forest floor.” And the dish did just that: the mushrooms and other wonderfully earthy ingredients took me straight there. New Nordic cuisine mirrors its landscape: raw, subtle, grounded, just like the vast treeless plains of Iceland or the rocky outcrops of the many archipelagos scattered around the coasts. The beauty of the region doesn’t tend to stop you in your tracks, but it will always make you look twice. It will creep up on you until you truly appreciate its harmony and subtle complexity, just like its cuisine.