However you may have more of a problem following Niklas Ekstedt’s lead as it requires an open fire, yes those men of the North are at it again with their manly, beardly, ways of cooking.
Ekstedt, a Swede, wanted to do something new in Nordic cuisine but Magnus Nilsson had rather cornered the’rotting meat eaten in a hut’ market and Noma had its lichen and ants, as well as accolade of Best Restaurant in the World. So what to do?
Build a fire, of course. He made a fire pit at home for his family to grill on, then one day tried putting pans in the fire and discovered his angle. Nordic food cooked in a Nordic way.
After some research he created a new restaurant around the concept and while some critics were, as he puts it, slow to’get it’ eventually it all worked out and the man from Michelin duly gave him a star.
So here’s the book and for anyone with a garden, a spade and presumably some understanding neighbours, here’s how you can recreate the fun and the flavours. First there are easy to follow instructions on how to build your own fire pit, then some thoughts on what wood to burn. Obviously you don’t use painted or stained wood, birch is best with juniper branches to put on top for smoky flavours.
The point Ekstedt is keen to make is that cooking with fire is not the same as cooking over fire. In the restaurant they have an open fire, a wood-fired stove, a smoker, a fire pit and a box that’s warmed with smoke from the open fire. He calls it analogue cooking.
Cast iron is key. No fancy non-stick pans, so if you threw away those cast-iron utensils that kept going rusty, more fool you. In fact, and whisper this quietly, if you use cast iron over a gas flame you will get results almost as good as with fire. What you won’t get is the smokey flavours.
First in the book there’s a section on Basics, all about salts, spices, pickles, dairy, and bread as these are all essentials in Scandinavian food. Then The Small Dish section with things like juniper-smoked salmon with sour cream (the latter made at home of course), hot dogs, grilled artichokes with juniper butter, seaweed-steamed scallops, and flamed oysters Ã¢â‚¬â€œ these use the Flambadou.
A Flambadou, or Flamboir a Lard, is a cone of metal that you first get red hot in the embers then load up with fat. It promptly bursts into flame and you drizzle the flaming fat over your cooking meat. It’s clearly as dangerous as it sounds and it’s why in the restaurant the team wear welder’s’ aprons. And of course because it makes them look extra cool.
Large Dishes are a bit trickier with beef Rydberg and venison meatballs, lamb and hasselback potatoes, and lamb with brussel sprouts. And there’s whole grilled turbot, which I personally know from having tried it cooked over oak charcoal at Elkano in Spain, is a fish which loves flame.
Desserts are not ignored, heavy filling things to help you survive brass monkey weather – doughnuts with ember-baked apples and maple syrup and finally a section with recipes for traditional biscuits to be eaten at that Swedish coffee break – fika.
There is no shortage of restaurants cooking with fire in London but none I think cooking like this. The book is a fascinating story of one man’s obsession and even if you don’t fancy building a fire-pit in your back garden, you’ll still be able to enjoy most of these recipes using traditional barbecues and your boring old oven.