According to chef Magnus Nilsson, his new book, The Nordic Cookbook, has nothing to do with ego: “This book is not about me and my work as a chef; I merely documented what was there already, what was created by others.” The 32-year-old wunderkind is modest, but with tomorrow’s release of his epic book of more than 700 recipes published by Phaidon and a restaurant, Fäviken, with a Michelin star, he has a lot to brag about. His mission, however, is not to share the dishes that he’s become famous for, but rather to open the world’s eyes to the vast landscapes and deep historical roots of cuisine across all of the Nordic nations. As he writes in the forward, “My vision was that it was going to contain some historical references and iconic recipes, but more importantly would show and explain what people eat today and why.”
Growing up, Nilsson used to forage in the wilderness that surrounded his grandparents’ home in Sweden and has always had a desire to hunt, fish, and dig for the history behind every flavor and every ingredient in the food that he learned to cook as a child. He attended culinary high school, and at just 19 years old started his career at L’Astrance, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris. In 2008 he opened Fäviken on a remote 20,000-acre hunting estate in Jämtland County, Sweden. He cooks for only 12 diners per night and, true to his roots, all of the dishes are hunted, foraged, and fished from the surrounding land.
The plates that Nilsson executes at his own restaurant are perhaps a bit more elevated than the ones he has chosen for The Nordic Cookbook. For example, you won’t find a recipe for trout’s roe in a shell of dried pig’s blood (one of the Fäviken menu items), but you will find recipes for more traditional food from the surrounding regions, like Norwegian potato porridge, different variations of split pea soup from Denmark and Iceland, Finnish salmon pie, and hot-smoked sausage of beef and pork with cognac. Some of these dishes will be explored through a special Phaidon and Dinner Lab series from November 14-20—a book tour with Nilsson hosting speaking engagements and various U.S.-based Nordic chefs preparing five-course dinners.
All of the recipes in the book were gathered and researched by Nilsson over the course of several years through extensive travel, interviews, recipe testing, and even an online poll in which he and his team asked people of Nordic descent to submit dishes they wanted to share and talk about. Nilsson’s goal was to learn the different food people cooked and why they cooked their food in certain ways. “Food is an undeniable and unavoidable marker of culture and society,” Nilsson writes. “People have to eat, and therefore they also have to relate to food as a subject, regardless of whether they want to or not.”
From his exhaustive research, Nilsson amassed 11,000 articles and 8,000 photographs, whittled them down to more than 700 recipes for the cookbook, and has selected two special dishes exclusively for Vogue.com:
Finnish Salted Mushroom Salad
From: Sienisalaatti (Finland), Risksallad (Sweden)
Some recipes contain dill; others don’t.
Preparation and cooking time: 10 minutes
7 oz. salted mushrooms
2 cold boiled potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 apple, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 egg, hard-boiled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 brined cucumber, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 1/2 fl. oz. (1/3 cup plus 1 T) thick, full-fat sour cream
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Chopped dill, to taste (optional)
1. The evening before you are going to use the mushrooms, take a quantity of them and place in a bowl. Rinse away any visible salt and pour away any water. Add new water to the bowl—the amount should be about 10 times the volume of that of the mushrooms. Leave the mushrooms in the water overnight in a cool place. Strain them and taste to make sure they are no longer too salty, then squeeze them very dry to remove any excess water.
2. Place the mushrooms in a large bowl with all the other ingredients. Mix everything together well, then adjust the seasoning, and add the dill, if using.
Tore Wretman’s Meatballs
From: Tore Wretman’s köttbullar (Sweden)
The recipe for these mild and delicate meatballs comes from the grandfather of Swedish traditional cooking, Tore Wretman. I usually prepare them when I want meatballs to be part of the menu of a bigger meal, like Swedish Christmas dinner, rather than serving them as a dish on their own.
Preparation and cooking time: 45 minutes
butter, for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
1 oz. (3/4 cup plus 2 T) fresh white breadcrumbs
7 fl. oz. (3/4 cup plus 1 T) cream
7 oz. minced (ground) beef
3 1/2 oz. minced (ground) veal
3 1/2 oz. minced (ground) pork
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1. Melt a knob of butter in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and fry until soft and golden. Tip them out of the pan and leave them to cool down.
2. Combine the breadcrumbs with the cream in a large mixing bowl and leave for a little while to swell. Add the cool onion and the egg, and mix everything together well.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the beef, veal, and pork so they are thoroughly combined. Add them to the bread and cream, season well, then mix everything together.
4. Shape the mixture into balls the size of a small walnut.
5. Melt a knob of butter in a large frying pan or skillet over a medium heat. Fry the meatballs until brown all over.
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