A Swedish blind date? This interesting and certainly different proposition dropped into my email inbox a few weeks ago and I was certainly alarmed by the title. No, not the usual romantic date but a night with a Swedish chef – no, that really doesn’t sound right – wait a minute… a night with dinner cooked by a Swedish chef. That’s right – a Swedish blind date with a Swedish chef!
The chef would be a previous winner of Årets Kock, a prestigious Swedish chef of the year competition, and when I accepted their kind offer, an invitation card in the post stated that the Swedish region inspiring our meal would be Skåne, the southernmost province in Sweden, home to lots of quality meats, cheese, grains and vegetables.
The original offer was to have the chef come to my flat but with my flat being absolutely tiny, hosting both a chef and a small group of friends seemed impossible. VisitSweden pulled through and organised for a flat to be borrowed for the night. I rounded up Blai and three more friends and we went off to visit this traditional Swedish flat (overlooking the Thames) one recent Thursday evening.
Our chef from Skåne turned out to be Peter J Skogström, winner of Årets Kock 2006. He has two restaurants in Malmo, Mat och vin i Slottsparken and Restaurang P2, and also runs three office lunch canteens that aren’t open to the public. He’s a busy man!
Joining him in the flat were Anna Wittgren, our hostess from Malmö Turism, …
… and Peter’s assistant for the night, Jessica Beaumont, who is completing her BSc in Culinary Arts Management at the University of West London.
We had no idea what to expect of our meal and when first led to the living room, we sat there shyly. Anna and Peter made us most welcome with drinks (including Malmö Akvavit, the bottle featured a drawing of the amazing Öresund Bridge) and a trio of canapes. Gravadlax was paired with fennel and pate with Skåne mustard, each on thin rye knäckebröd. My favourite was the pickled herring with potato and Prästost (Priest cheese) and I snaffled the last extra one. From then on, the conversation just flowed.
When we enquired about the drinks and where they came from, it was revealed that everything we would eat and drink that night had been brought over from Sweden by both Peter and Anna. We looked at the drinks and looked at the food and marvelled at how much had to be carried and how they did it. Peter very modestly stated that it was all possible as the airline allowed 45kg in luggage weight. In addition, he and the other chefs involved in the Swedish Blind Date had prepared as much of the food as possible that afternoon at the Swedish embassy.
We moved into the kitchen with its dining table for dinner proper. The table was beautifully set and we settled in, able to watch Peter work at the counter and chat with him too.
He set slow cooked eggs (cooked earlier that day – 63 degrees for 110 minutes!) into bowls with roe, rye bread crumbs and micro-greens and poured in a creamy nettle soup tableside; the young nettles used in the soup had been foraged only the day before. Oh, what marvellous eggs these were, all soft and set like custard and the nettle soup was supremely creamy and comforting.
The main course was being prepared as we slurped our soups. A big pot of veal and vegetables and dill seemingly appeared out of nowhere and a creamy dill sauce was also being prepared to be poured on top. Big portions were plated up and brought to us.
The Stew of Veal in Dill Sauce had meat tender enough to eat with a spoon. And wow, I always thought of dill as a herb that would work with just fish and, uh, crisps but it really did work with the veal. It was fantastic – the slow cooked veal, the vegetables still crunchy and the creamy dill sauce over everything…I had seconds! I was emailed the recipe for this veal stew after the dinner and I’ll have that up on another post soon. On the side were some fabulous boiled Skåne potatoes with onions and lemon zest and I used them to mop up the sauce though they were also perfectly fantastic by themselves.
Dessert was simply outstanding – Vanilla Apple Crumble. The traditional Swedish apple crumble is made with leftover brown rye bread crumbs and of whose recollection caused both Anna and Peter to wince – apparently the crumbs become horrendously dry. Our crumble featured the famous apples from Skåne (though Peter admitted to purchasing two Aroma apples from Marks and Spencers to use as garnish (and surprise, surprise, they’re a Swedish cultivar)! It was the only thing we ate that wasn’t brought over from Sweden) and was a layered dessert that Peter has pre-assembled at the embassy. He had only to scoop on quenelles of sorbet and garnish each bowl with the fresh apple and crumble.
From the bottom, there was apple compote with cinnamon, vanilla custard, apple jelly, almond biscuit crumble, apple sorbet, julienned apple with mint. At the table, he sprinkled on more of the biscuit crumble. Silence descended on the table after the initial clink of spoon to glass – it was that good.
With dessert, we were served an Äppel Dramm, a Swedish spirit distilled from apples – apples all around. It was just a bit too strong for me!
After dessert, we retired to the living room, where candles were lit, to glasses of Spirit of Hven whisky, distilled in Skåne, and plenty of conversation. Trends in Swedish food, the day in the life of a Swedish chef, day jobs and hobbies, pizza and kebabs in Malmö… we touched on just about everything.
It truly was a fantastic night and one that I and my friends will always remember.
All my photos from the night can be found in this Flickr photostream.
Do keep an eye out on Cook Sister, MsMarmitelover, and The London Foodie for their posts on their dinners, all held on the same night with different chefs and regions. Bellaphon has already posted on MsMarmitelover’s night.