Tom Kitchin: Denmark-inspired seafood recipes

Tom Kitchin. Picture: Greg Macvean

Tom Kitchin. Picture: Greg Macvean

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THE Nordic food movement has really taken off in the past decade and there seems to be a focus on its approach to food and produce.

The Scandinavians have long been associated with ideas of purity, nature and simplicity – in their food but also in areas such as design.

I recently visited Copenhagen, which is home to a host of fantastic restaurants and cafés, from the local food markets and street food stalls at Torvehallerne, to two-Michelin-star Noma – referred to by many as the best restaurant in the world. It’s an incredible, vibrant yet relaxed city and they have an enviable food scene, making the most of what they have available locally. I don’t get many chances to dine at other restaurants because most of my evenings and weekends are spent in my own kitchen. But when I do dine out, I’m always fascinated to see how these other restaurants work – their approach to service, food, the local nature and their relationships with suppliers.

We were incredibly lucky to spend an evening at Noma. You could feel they’d started small and grown naturally and organically into the immense success story they are today. I have a lot of respect for chef Rene Redzepi and his team. They’ve worked so hard to get to where they are today and they deserve every bit of their success. Their commitment to the landscape and culture is something in which I believe very strongly.

At this restaurant, they only use Nordic ingredients – fresh langoustines and shrimps, local fish such as halibut, cod and turbot, meats such as lamb and ox, seasonal berries such as elderberries, cloudberries and blueberries. These are among the many local specialities they showcase there.

Noma has been at the core of the Nordic food movement, which observes a lot of old values and traditions, using fresh local produce and preparing it with some classic techniques, such as drying, pickling, curing and smoking, and marrying them with new methods.

In Denmark, you see a lot of seasonal raw materials being used and animal welfare and cultivation of nature is key. Dishes tend to be light, fresh, fun and colourful. They have quite a different concept of eating, so very often you’ll find a number of smaller, lighter courses rather than three courses of starter, main and dessert, you see here. We could learn a lot from this region’s methods of cooking and utilising what is around them. That’s why the cuisine is also considered good for health and wellbeing as it’s all very pure and natural.

The food in the region is so unique because of the cold climate. Their natural larder is not too far removed from Scotland. There are some similarities with Scottish ingredients – beautiful fresh, local fish, lots of wonderful seasonal berries, sea buckthorn and deep, earthy mushrooms, for example.

There’s a distinct Nordic terroir, and as much as I loved the food we enjoyed in Copenhagen, I’d also love to one day visit Jutland on the west side of Denmark. The charming old town of Skagen and the Ulfborg in the mid-west are known as home to some of Denmark’s most beautiful nature. People look upon the area in a similar way as they do the west coast of Scotland – it has its own unique terroir which in turn presents its own natural larder and distinctive flavours. The same could be said of the west coast of Sweden. Strömstad and Falsterbo on the west coast are wonderful places to pick shrimps off the boat in the morning then sit on rocks in the afternoon.

My brother-in-law, Fredrik, who is Swedish and also a chef, lives in New York, but he has also been inspired by Noma and other Scandinavian restaurants where he learned his craft. My wife and I were particularly proud last week as Fredrik received his first Michelin star for his restaurant Aska, in Williamsburg. His interpretation of food and its heritage is inspirational and I love hearing stories about how he implements the same love of sourcing locally and being true to his Nordic roots, even when he’s located in Brooklyn, NY. Good stuff. 

I’ve included a couple of recipes this week that call for some of the local ingredients we share with the Nordics – crayfish, smoked salmon and fresh local herbs like cleansing dill.

Curried crayfish cocktail on rye bread

Serves four

100ml mayonnaise

1 tsp curry powder

1 tbsp chopped dill, plus extra sprigs to garnish

2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

squeeze of lemon juice, to taste

250g cooked, peeled crayfish

2 baby gem lettuces

¼ cucumber

4-5 radishes

1 avocado

4 slices rye bread

Method

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the curry powder, chopped dill and spring onions until evenly combined, adding salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.

Add the crayfish to the dressing, toss to coat and set aside.

Next, prepare the salad. Separate the lettuce leaves. Slice the cucumber lengthways into fine julienne, avoiding the core and seeds in the middle. Slice the radishes. Halve the avocado, remove the stone and peel away the skin, then slice thinly.

Arrange the salad ingredients decoratively on the rye bread. Pile the crayfish in their dressing on top and scatter over some dill sprigs to garnish. Serve at once.

Salmon Gravlax

Serves about six

1 side wild salmon, skin on
1 tsp white peppercorns
4 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp salt
200g dill, chopped

Freeze the salmon for five days to kill any parasites. Defrost the fish, remove any bones and dry both sides with kitchen paper.

Crush the peppercorns and mix with the sugar, salt and chopped dill. Place the mix over the flesh of the salmon to cover it completely. Place a tray over the fish, with some weights on top to press it down and leave in the fridge for 48 hours. Pour away any excess liquid every 12 hours.

Remove the fish and wash off the marinade. Dry and wrap well in clingfilm. The gravlax will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge or three months or more in the freezer.

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