Sweden tickles Indian taste-buds with traditional food fest

October 12th, 2008 - 3:21 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) The taste of Sweden may be a bit bland for the Indian palate bred on spices. But for those with a yen for delicately flavoured pickled fish and green vegetables that are low on spices but high on preservatives and cheese, a Swedish platter is just the fare. Consider a spread of pan fried shredded potatoes served with bleak roe, crème fraiche, red onions and lemon; or portabella lasagne served with tomato crème and rocket salad for lunch - accompanied by Swedish rye bread and Vasterbotten cheese.

The food is Swede in all its authentic glory and the venue is Machan - the eatery at the Taj Mahal Hotel in the capital that has laid a special Swedish table till Oct 18 in memory of Alfred Nobel, in whose name the world’s most coveted civilian prize is instituted.

The Swedish Treat at Machan is part of the ongoing Sweden-India Nobel Memorial Week celebrations that began Saturday.

King of the table, Nobel chef Mark Phoenix of the Stockholm Guild Hall held fort at the Machan that strained at its seams with an over-enthusiastic lunch crowd heaping cold cuts, fishes and salads on their plates.

The Stockholm Guild Hall has been honouring the innovator-businessman Alfred Nobel since 1907 with an annual feast every year Dec 10.

“Since 50 percent of Sweden lies along the coast, the staple diet is fish. They are mostly pickled, seared in heat or baked. The common varieties of fish are salmon, cod, herring, tuna, anchovies and Arctic Char, a mini variation of salmon. Of course, we eat a lot of shellfish like lobsters,” Phoenix told IANS at the luncheon venue.

The chef recommended seared sea fish as a simple recipe for Indian homes. “Sear the fish in high heat after marinating it with bay leaves and krydd pepper or old spice,” the chef advised.

As for lovers of lamb, the recipe was a quick concoction of fried lamb fillet served with “rathaoiulee” or the French potato gratin. Much of Swedish food is cooked in rapeseed oil and occasionally olive oil.

Swedish culinary traditions draw from its old culture of farming and preserving food, explained Swedish Ambassador to India Lars Olof Lindgren.

Summers are the only time when foodies can gorge on fresh farm harvests and catch from the sea. Dill, fresh asparagus, potatoes and strawberries flood the local markets. In the long dark winter months, Swedes fall back on food that have been pickled and stored in summer.

Some of the dishes have odd lineages. For instance, the Jansson’s Gratin - a mixture of shredded potatoes, anchovies and cheese - was named after a Swedish religious fanatic who could not relinquish earthly pleasures and failed his vows tempted by the rich anchovies in his potato gratin.

“The dish is 100 years old,” chef Phoenix said.

The Nobel chief’s USP is his desserts. “I love making desserts, especially chocolate cakes with cherry caramel and home-made vanilla ice-creams,” he said.

But what is the Nobel signature dish? “It’s called the Nobel Glass Parfait, a version of a vanilla ice-cream shaped like a dome with a filling of cowberry shorbet. This is a traditional Nobel week recipe in our country,” the chef said.

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