Located far up in northern Europe, Sweden sees dark, long winters. But come summer, Swedish food comes into its own with catch from the Baltic sea, lingonberries, cloudberries, fresh vegetables from the forest and cultured dairy products. The meats include beef and wild game.
Whitefish Roe, Creme Fraishe and Onions on a rye bread. Pics/Bipin Kokate
We had heard a lot about Swedish food, so an invitation to try delicacies at the residence of Consul General of Sweden, Fredrika Ornbrant, was too good to resist.
Thanks to climate change and healthier preferences, Swedish food, which used to involve slow-cooking techniques and generous use of butter, has undergone a major change. “In the last 10 years, people have turned to local produce and don’t believe in importing as many tropical fruits and vegetables as before,” Ornbrant explained as she plated up the first tasting of the day — Whitefish Roe, Creme Fraishe and Onions on a rye bread. In between stories of developing the knack for cooking at the age of nine and inheriting a French cookbook from her grandfather, she informed us how the Swedish earlier relied on their surrounding gastronomic influences such as France andhave now arrived at their own style of cooking.
“Swedish food is about creating simple dishes based on people’s need to eat; using the bounty fresh foods in summer, and following the culture of food storage during cold, harsh winters,” she said.
I took a bite of the dark brown rye bread, which is also prepared keeping a long shelf-life in mind. The fresh crème mingled with the strong-flavoured bread was broken by the sweetness of onions and the light saltiness of the white roe. It was delicious. Vegetarians can devour this with green olives to duplicate the saltiness.
Next, I tried the traditional Raraka, made of grated strands of potatoes, fried to form a crunchy mesh. This, Ornbrant served with Ligonberries and bacon. The first taste of many foods remains etched in our memories. The crimson berries are sweet and juicy, and have an even greater impact on the palate when it meets the saltiness of the potatoes. Comfort food has a new recipe!
Finally, Ornbrant served cloudberry jam with Vasterbotten cheese, which is hard and has a pungent aftertaste. The cloudberries, which grow in clusters, are amber coloured, and have a sweet lingering taste. Ornbrant, who has been living in India for the past year and a half adds, “The Swedish believe, you eat well, you live well.” True that.