A review of The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson

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Celebrity chef Magnus Nilsson, from one of the world best restaurants Fåviken in Sweden, has released his second publication, ‘The Nordic Cookbook’. The book promises to “unravel the mystery of Nordic ingredients and introduce us to the region’s culinary history and cooking techniques”. We decided to take a closer look…

The Nordic Cookbook is as much a cultural project as it is a cookbook. Magnus Nilsson decided to travel the Nordic region to collect local recipes and photographing the landscape and people to get a better understanding of the food and its origin.

The end result of the project is a definitive guide to Nordic home cooking, presented in a beautiful book, featuring 700 simple and authentic recipes from Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The book also explains Nordic ingredients, cooking techniques and culinary history, enabling anyone to cook their favourite Nordic dishes in the authentic way.

We are Norwegians and we love to cook. Not professionally trained as such but we would definitely place ourselves in the foodie category. We also tend to cook a lot of Nordic food and are also very interested in locally sourced ingredients as well as seasonal food and preservation.

It was therefor with great interest we received this substantial collection of recipes. I say substantial as not only does the book contain an impressive amount of recipes but it really is, size wise, a massive book. It is beautifully illustrated throughout with some stunning nature imagery as well as photographs of people and traditional cooking methods.

What makes the Nordics so exciting as a food region is the raw climate and harsh landscape, the short and intense summers and the long winters. Access to fresh ingredients are limited and we rely on preservation to enjoy a variety of foods throughout the winter months.

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And with such a large region, with every family having their unique recipes and methods, would it be possible to capture all of this, in one book?

Not many pages into this book and I felt like I was getting access to someone’s grandmothers secret recipes. The simplicity of the ingredients, the straight forward cooking methods and helpful small advices along the way, makes this a very personal cookbook.

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We started looking for our favourite Nordic dishes and found more or less all of them, prepared as they should, or made even more simple. It really is a collection of basic recipes, that you easily can adapt, when mastering well, and add your personal touch to.

It will take a long time to cook our way through this book. But so far, one of the dishes we went for was the poached halibut, served with Norwegian butter and parsley sauce, ‘Sandefjord Smør’.

Poached white fish would be served at least once a week when we were children. The accompanying sauce, Sandefjord Smør, is part of my mother-in-law’s signature dish (only she prefer to serve salmon). So in other words, our choice of recipes lay close to heart. But still something we wouldn’t cook regularly for our children. And it was surprisingly simple, a beautifully cooked Sunday dinner (I say Sunday dinner as halibut is a quite an expensive fish in the UK), was all prepared and cooked within half an hour.

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The thing about The Nordic Cookbook isn’t only that it introduces you to Nordic food and recipes. As Magnus Nilsson has made the effort to source many of the original recipes to be found in the region, this book also reintroduces Scandinavians to their own food traditions. In the past recipes would be passed down through generations, from one generation to the next. With less time in the kitchen and with our hectic lifestyles, this is no longer always the case.

My husband made a comment that sums this book up; “We can’t only have one example of The Nordic Cookbook. We need another, so we can hand it down to both our daughters.”

The Nordic Cookbook was published by Phaidon this October, and is available with a introductory offer for only £19.47. (Normal retail price is £29.95) Visit phaidon.com now as offer ends 30th November.

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