Before Tobias Fiegel became head chef at Nordic/Japanese fusion cafe, Edition Coffee Roasters, he knew very little about Nordic cuisine.
“Outside of smoked salmon, pickles, and meatballs, I was quite naive as to what Scandinavian food was about,” says Fiegel. “I now have about ten Nordic cookbooks in my repertoire ,and along with some Swedish and Danish friends who I talk to about what they grew up with, I’ve done a lot of digging.”
The chef takes his quest for knowledge so seriously he moved around the corner from the Darlinghurst cafe, allowing himself more time after work to experiment with different types of dishes and ways to pickle, cure and cook.
So when Fiegel was asked to collaborate with Fika Swedish Kitchen, to create a Nordic feast for Broadsheet’s European Dinner series, he saw it as an opportunity to not only put his knowledge to the test, but to learn from some of the best Nordic cooks this side of the equator.
“They’re all Swedish, it’s awesome,” Fiegel says of the team behind Fika Swedish Kitchen. “They bring authenticity to what they’re doing. It was quite inspiring talking to them.”
The seeds for Fika Swedish Kitchen were planted back in 2007, when Diana Chirilas, Linda Stanes and Sophie Zetterberg, were just three Swedish backpackers travelling around Australia.
“We were meant to be here for a couple of months but basically we never left,” says Chirilas. “We love Australian culture but there were parts of the traditional Swedish culture we really missed. We realised there were lots of Scandos in Sydney and that they must have been missing those things as well. We decided to open Fika to have a spot for people to come and experience Scandinavian culture and also for us to be able to enjoy it too.”
At Fika the trio was able to show Sydney-siders there was more to Scandinavian cooking than meatballs and Gravlax.
“There’s not much spicy foods,” Chirilas says. “It’s quite different from the sort of Asian cuisine or dishes people are used to here.”
Instead of chilli and spice, think of earthy flavours and ingredients pulled from the ground, such as dill, herbs and potatoes, as well as cured meats, seafood and lots of sauces. “Swedish people literally love potatoes,” Chirilas says. “We will eat potatoes in any way we can.”
Tasked with creating the Nordic Feast for the European-inspired dinner, the Fika and Edition teams wanted to produce a menu that showcased the best of traditional Scandinavian staples but in new and creative ways.
Enter the team’s main course – Hasselback potato on a bed of creamy cod, garnished with lingonberry, dehydrated dill and smoked-fennel pollen salt. The dish featured whole potatoes that have been cut into very thin slices, almost down to the bottom, and roasted in buttery goodness.
“It was fish and potatoes, which is typical of Scandinavia,” says Fiegel. “But you can’t even see the fish on the plate.”
Working with a classic Nordic combination for the main, the team decided to give the entree and dessert a modern twist.
“We made a little garden,” says Chirilas of the first course. “It was all made from grains and the picnic vegetables were pickled and roasted.”
Dessert was a take on a Swedish invention – the matchbox.
“Basically we wanted to recreate what a matchstick box would look like, just in a larger scale and obviously edible,” says Fiegel. “So instead of having the matchstick’s woody end and the red end that you spark, the wood end was poached rhubarb and the top little Italian meringues. It was Sweden in a matchstick.”
Here’s the recipe for the team’s Hasselback potato and cod – at home
Hasselback Potato and Cod
1 blue-eyed cod, just the bones
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
2 dill stalks, chopped
1 clove garlic
3 black peppercorns
2 juniper berries
1 desiree potato, peeled
50g clarified butter, plus extra for basting
Sea salt and white pepper
75g blue eyed cod, de-boned and skinned
50g fish stock
8ml lemon juice
0.83g xanthium gum
For the fish stock, place ingredients in a pot of water and bring to a boil.
Simmer for 20–25 minutes, skimming the surface to remove impurities. Take off heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes, as small debris will settle at the bottom. Strain fish stock, leaving the last dash in pot for waste. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Make thin, evenly spaced cuts in the potato, at 5mm intervals, about two-thirds of the way through. Place potato in an ovenproof dish. Pour butter over the top and then place into the middle of the oven. Cook for 90 minutes, basting the potato with butter every 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, poach the cod gently in fish stock until cooked. Remove from stock and put into a blender or mixer (while hot). Blitz the cod, cream, lemon juice and xanthium gum on high for 1 minute, then scrape the sides down and redo. Push the mixture through a sieve. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
Place cod puree and Hasselback potato on a plate and garnish.
This dinner and article was created in partnership with Holden Astra, celebrating the best of Europe in partnership with the Holden Astra – 2016 European Car of the Year.