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Customer Review

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and novel, a peek into a passionate chefs mind., 4 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Fäviken (Hardcover)
I have been waiting for this book to be released for a couple of months at least now. I can't remember where I even first heard about Magnus Nilsson but I was fascinated by his restaurant at what feels like the edge of civilisation. The book is prefaced by a couple of thought provoking and sometimes touching forewords, which outlines some details of the Swedish chefs background and his journey to his current celebrity.
The book itself is gorgeous, filled with high quality pictures of his creations, and of the surrounding areas of Sweden. It is also quite densely filled with text (for a cookery book), something I really enjoyed in this book since a lot of the ideas and methods are so alien they need explaining not only in terms of technique, but in terms of Magnus' thought processes and evolutions.
The recipes in the book are, simply, stunning. Quite complex I felt in terms of prep and flavour (though I am no chef!), but the theory is really simple, and they are presented in a spare, minimalist fashion. That being said, a lot of the ingredients are going to be impossible to obtain without a good knowledge of plants, herbs (if they even exist where you happen to live: Finnish bitter milk caps, for example) etc and a lot more still are made by obscure and longforgotten methods. You can't nip down to the supermarket and get all the ingredients required. Most of the ingredients dreamt up by Nilsson are explained, like how to make "vinegar matured in the burned-out trunk of a spruce tree" for instance. Some single ingredient might take a lot of effort to make, or find. Some might just not be possible to obtain, like pigs blood. In the UK I'm fairly sure this cannot be sold to the public, or possibly only in a dry form. These things sound fairly negative, and I suppose are, along with Nilssons tendancy to always insist upon "Perfect" chanterelles or "Exceptional" quality cloudberries, say. His grading system of good, very good, perfect and exceptional is a bit confusing sometimes, and some recipes are rather vague in other ways. I suspect this is deliberate, encouraging anyone attempting recreations of his cuisine to find their own path, and to experiment.
These gripes are minor and probably pedantic, as its not really about the ingredients. Its about the concept. The book, overall, is awe inspiring. Magnus' use of his environment, and embracing its limitations as a challenge to his skills as a chef, is (I found anyway) rather moving. You won't find him using anything other than what is available, in season, yet of incredibly high quality. E.g. Lemons don't grow in Sweden. So, no lemons in the kitchen. Instead, he seems to have around 100 bottles of vinegar, made with whatever he can get his hands on via a multitude of different methods.
This book has made me really think hard about the land where I live. About how I could be using what is available naturally and THINKING about it, being inventive and creative, rather than buying something that has been forced, or shipped halfway around the world, because a recipe calls for it, or it goes with whatever piece of meat/fish I have in the fridge. It has changed the way I look at everything, really. I'm only an amateur chef, its a hobby, but I've never felt more excited to experiment; to get to know my surroundings more, and to be brave with whatever I make. Fantastic, I can't recommend it enough! 4.5 Stars. I need a good plant guide or I shall eventually poison myself.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Jan 2013 11:41:53 GMT
S Pegum says:
I've just seen Magnus Nilsson on Saturday Kitchen (26.01.13)

Posted on 2 Dec 2015 14:29:22 GMT
What a great review - thank you for taking the time to do this. As someone who reads cook books for pleasure and for getting to know a place via its cultural food and food heritage I really appreciate a good review on a book I'm interested in. :)
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