Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Fredrik Eriksson's fisherman's tales

This autumn by latest I've truly fallen in love with the ethical, ecological and inexpensive herring. For the recipes so far , please see here. So it was with excitement I greeted the opportunity to review Fredrik Eriksson's new book on the fish.

The book is a very thorough introduction to this sliver of silver - from the origins, preparation and nutritional value to different cooking methods. And (at least to a Scandinavian completely enamoured with the lifestyle of Nordic archipelago) a touching journey through the author's childhood summers and Nordic food traditions. 

Fredrik Eriksson, the man behind this book, is a well-known Swedish chef with a long and impressive career under his belt. He is also in charge of Långbro värdshus, located in Älvsjö near Stockholm. 

Photos are extremely important to me and I often buy and read cook books for the atmosphere and inspiration derived from the photography of the books, not so much to blindly follow the recipes themselves. The photography of this book is clean, simple and so utterly Scandinavian in its minimalism - very much like the star ingredient the book is dedicated to. The recipes' simple and down to earth- approach is a wonderful tribute to this humble and often overlooked fish. 

The book is an absolute joy to read as the genuine appreciation to the archipelago's culinary traditions is so tangible. The recipes are simple and fuss-free, but therein lies the very beauty of local traditions, be it Italy or the Nordics: the best treats are often results of very few, high quality and locally sourced ingredients. 

As giddy as I was over Restaurant Muru's cook book, the best thing about this book is its accessibility. None of the recipes seem technically challenging and the ingredients they call for are readily available.

Recipes along with the accompanying photos are light and summery (6 more months to go!!!) but the one I decided to test was a bit sturdier one - though even this was titles Hanna's summer casserole. This, I learnt, is something that is often served for lunch during the summer months at Långbro.

A word of warning is in order for the readers outside Scandinavia. What we in Scandinavia call anchovy, is actually not an achovy. Our anchovy is actually European sprat (Sprattus Sprattus) whereas anchovies as the rest of the world would understand come from the family of Engraulidae. Sprat is bigger and usually comes stored in distinctive sweet and salt, peppery liquid. I wouldn't therefore terribly passionately advocate substituting it with the actual anchovy.  Instead I would recommend you check the food section at your local Ikea, as they carry these fillets and many more staples of Scandinavian cooking. 

Serves 4

400 g herring fillets
6-8 potatos, boiled and chilled
1 medium sized onion
appr. 2 tbsp butter
1,5 dl cream
1,5 dl milk
1 tin sprats (125 g + liquid)
3 eggs
salt, freshly ground white pepper
1 tbsp chopped chives
dill for serving

Butter an oven-proof dish. Cut the potatos to 1/2 cm thick slices and line the bottom of the tray with them. 

Peel the onion, cut in half and slice finely. Sauté in butter over medium heat so it won't start getting any colour. Scatter over the potatos. 

Remove the fin form the herrings and roll tightly the flesh-side up. Place them standing up in the dish so they cover 2/2 of the bottom - start from the center and then continue towards the edges 

Combine cream, milk, the liquid from the sprats and eggs. Season with salt and white pepper.

Pre-heat the oven (175°).

Coarsely shop the anchovies and scatter over the onions around the herring rolls. Pour the egg-mixture around the fish and bake for about 25 minutes until the casserole has got a nice, golden colour.

Sprinkle chives and dill on top and serve.

The dish was nice. The flavours were in balance and it wasn't too rich. Even The Mane Magician and my Brit Brother who I pestered into the test audience from the middle of the drama that is moving houses, loved it. And neither one of them can stand anchovies. Heja Hanna!

The book has a special section for all the trimmings that go so inseparably with the fishy feasts such as special breads, spreads and schnapps. All in all it's a delightful book I would definitely recommend. Makes a lovely gift for any Scandiphile!

*The book was received for free for the reviewing purposes*




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