History, culture, and a rich sense of place
Magnus Nilsson’s definitive The Nordic Cookbook showcases food of the region in 700 recipes, plus the skill and photography of a world-renowned chef
Norwegian American Weekly
As I’ve accumulated three shelves of Nordic cookbooks over the years, making room for titles both new and old, I’ve learned so much about the land where both sides of my family are from. Vintage recipes tell one story, modern recipes another. But they’re all linked together, in a way, a repertoire of dishes that have sustained and nourished countless people throughout time. While most cookbooks published in the past decade share either a 21st-century approach to eating or give the cuisine a New Nordic touch, The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson—two star chef of Sweden’s celebrated restaurant Fäviken—reflects history, culture, and a sense of place in every recipe.
Nilsson spent several years traveling throughout the Nordic countries, collecting stories and recipes as research for his latest book, which was published by Phaidon last fall. The result is a gorgeous, 768-page hardcover filled with traditional recipes that reflect what people throughout Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland have traditionally eaten. It is very much a resource on a wide range of Nordic ingredients and food preparations as well as a recipe guide, but it’s also much more.
Nestled among the approximately 700 recipes and the food photography by Erik Olsson are images of the Nordic region, captured by Nilsson himself. The chef and author had enjoyed photography since he was a child, and throughout the book he captures the beauty of the landscapes as well as the rawness of a moment as he documents life among the people who both produce and eat the food he writes about.
In addition to creating The Nordic Cookbook, his work is also featured in the brand-new exhibit Magnus Nilsson’s Nordic: A Photographic Essay of Landscapes, Food, and People. On its premiere display at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle until May 8, the exhibit then goes on to the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis in June.
As a food writer specializing in Nordic cooking, each of the books in my collection holds significance and importance to me, but The Nordic Cookbook is one of a handful that I reach for time and time again—for the recipes of course, but also for the history and context that Nilsson provides.
Norwegian Thick Salt-Pork Pancakes (Fleskepannekaker)
Adapted from The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson (Phaidon, $49.95 US / $59.95 CAN, October 2015)
In Norway, a salt-pork or bacon pancake can be made in various ways. It can be pan fried, as here, or it can be a thick oven-baked pancake, like the Swedish fläskpannkaka on page 451.
This version is often served with finely snipped chives and sometimes a bit of rømme, or even grated cheese. I have also seen a recipe or two that suggest fried apple wedges as an accompaniment. The Swedish version of this dish is usually served with Sugared Lingonberries (page 692).
Preparation and cooking time: 35 minutes
Makes: 4-6 pancakes
100 g / 3 1/2 oz (3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp.) weak (soft) wheat flour
good pinch of salt
550 ml / 20 fl oz (2 cups plus 1 tbsp.) milk
butter, for frying
300 g / 11 oz salt pork or bacon, sliced or cut into sticks
Combine the flour, eggs, salt, and half the milk in a mixing bowl and whisk until no lumps remain. Add the rest of the milk, whisking continuously.
Heat a little butter in a frying pan or skillet and add a generous amount of the pork or bacon batons. Fry until they start to brown a little, then ladle in some batter. You are aiming to get 4–6 pancakes in total, so divide the pork and batter accordingly. Fry the pancake until the underside is golden, then turn and fry on the other side.
Keep warm while you fry the remaining pancakes and serve with your choice of accompaniments.
Daytona Strong is the Norwegian American Weekly’s Taste of Norway editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo; Twitter @daytonastrong; Pinterest @daytonastrong; and Instagram @daytonastrong.
This article originally appeared in the April 15, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.