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Fäviken Hardcover – 1 Oct 2012
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Featured on the Netflix documentary series Chef's Table
"Magnus is one of the brightest chefs that I have ever met – and this comes through so clearly when flicking through the pages of this book."―René Redzepi, NOMA
"...Extraordinary food... A book about an honest, and fundamentally Scandinavian, philosophy of food."―The Sunday Times
"A wonderful, fascinating book, richly designed and whose photos show both the actuality of everyday life at Faviken and its rare culinary minimalism."―The Daily Telegraph
"Master of even one dish would be worth the price tag."―Food & Travel
"Phaidon, lately, has led the way in quirky, uniquely designed, international cookbooks. The press raises the bar dramatically here with 100 recipes taken from Faviken Magasinet."―Publishers Weekly
"This collection of recipes and stories from Nilsson's experimental, hyperlocal restaurant in west-central Sweden is a beautiful reminder of what 'farm-to-table' really means."―Bon Appetit
"Just as the best travel books describe an internal and external journey, Faviken tells the story of a chef discovering his cuisine in the woods of Sweden."―The Huffington Post
"Its heavy-stock pages open a door into one of the hottest restaurants in the world right now."―Time Out New York
About the Author
Magnus Nilsson (b.1984) is the head chef of Fäviken Magasinet restaurant in Sweden. After training as a chef and sommelier in Sweden he worked with Pascal Barbot of L'Astrance in Paris before joining Fäviken as a sommelier. Within a year he had taken over the running of the restaurant.
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Top customer reviews
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.
Before glancing at any of the recipes, I read the long introduction by Bill Buford, author of one of my favorite culinary memoirs, Heat. He dedicates numerous paragraphs to describing the stark remoteness of Nilsson's restaurant (also named Fäviken). According to Buford, a visit there requires employing the services of the region's single cab driver. He tells the restaurant's origin story, explaining how difficult it was for Nilsson to hire anyone to work at his new restaurant due to its isolated location in the northern part of snowy Sweden. Though Nilsson's ambitious daily hunting and foraging is reverently described, I was no less confident I could cook from this book.
After that long haul comes a foreword food writer Mattias Kroon. In it, he describes an Alice-Waters-like dedication to the local and the seasonal. To my Anglo-Irish sensibilities, this is hardly a novel approach to cooking. I've become so inured to this manifesto, in fact, that I can scarcely suppress an eye roll when I hear it in restaurants--mostly because, in reality, few places actually cook according to this code. One look at a restaurant kitchen's spice rack or the olive oil likely to be served with bread will reveal sins against the gospel of "local or Slow food movement"
But according to Kroon, and as was evident when I moved onto the recipes, Nilsson has conscribed the scope of his culinary creativity to only those foods he can coax from the miserly arctic landscape that surrounds him. His cooking must be like a haiku, where limitations and restrictions force a lean poetry into existence that couldn't have been conjured any other way. With mere weeks as a growing season and a severely limited range of things that will grow in the first place, Nilsson must rely on a range of preservation techniques and genius twists to keep his food interesting through the long, dark winter where he lives and cooks.
That said, Nilsson's restaurant is situated on a large piece of unspoiled wilderness where he forages and hunts regularly. He is near enough to the water that he gets daily deliveries of just-plucked-from-the-sea-bed scallops and other fish.
For an example the Scallop cooked over burning juniper branches.
Moi on the other hand, live on a metropolis of concrete in the middle Eastern District of Abu Dhabi. I have a window box & mines-cure garden at my disposal. In the foreword, Kroon comes out and says that the type of food made at Fäviken simply doesn't travel. I wondered if that were the case, why anyone would go to the trouble to write a cookbook about it.
Page 25 had a somewhat reassuring headline: How To Use The Recipes. (By now, I was having considerable doubts I could even comment on a book it seemed impossible to cook from.) In this section, we learn that:
1) The recipes are vague and confusing--but it's OK, they're meant to be that way.
2) The instructions shouldn't be taken literally because they are just suggestions to help the reader understand where good cooking really comes from--intuition and passion.
3) We should not even try to replicate the recipes because we are not from northern Sweden. Northern Sweden is the unlisted yet most crucial ingredient in every recipe in the book.
4) We should be inspired by the approach the recipes exemplify and actually create our own recipes from our own local ingredients.
5) "If it tastes good, it is right." This is obviously my favorite line in the book.
Unhelpfully, this section concludes with two famous last words: "Good luck!"
Still, I was determined to find a recipe from this book I could, in spite of being warned to the contrary, actually recreate.
Some dishes looked like candidates at first glance: Beef marrow and heart with grated turnip and turnip leaves, for example. Upon closer examination of the ingredients list, what I needed was not merely a turnip, or even a local turnip, but a turnip "that has been stored in the cellar with its little yellow leaves that have started sprouting towards the end of winter."
Even if I possessed such a turnip, I don't think that my non existent basement even if i did have it would be complete with a bugs graveyard and fine toxic coating of dryer lint, would be an appropriate place to store it. And even if it were, I've still got months to go before the start of winter (sorry I forgot what winter?
I was drawn to the rackfish and sour cream recipe and could reasonably access the necessary ingredients, but I don't have the pH testing kit I'd need to "control the pH level so that it drops quickly to below 4.46." Even if I did, there are no instructions given regarding how to manipulate a pH level. How fast, in minutes or hours, is "quickly"? Regardless, I didn't have the six months minimum I'd need for this preparation to "mature."
Other impossible-to-procure ingredients include:
The burnt-out trunk of a spruce tree
"good, clean" moss
2 handfuls old autumn leaves from last year
1 lavender petal from last summer
After combing Fäviken cover to cover multiple times, I had to face facts. There was almost nothing in this cookbook that I could really cook. I zeroed in on a recipe for "Douglas' Shortbread Biscuits," which does call for homemade jam.
Unfortunately, though I followed the instructions to the letter, the recipe just didn't work. Crumbly and dry, the dough was impossible to roll into the spheres depicted. I mounded them up in little craggy hills only to watch it collapse into a mound of gravel-like crumbs when I tried, as instructed, to make an indentation with my finger for the jam. Ultimately I pressed all the loose crumbs into a small baking sheet in a single, jam-dotted layer and hoped for the best.
What I decided to do next was follow Nilsson's instructions for using his book. I could take inspiration from his dedication to making a truly local cuisine from a pretty stingy environment. Given the cold and the dark and the abbreviated growing season, he is more or less wringing blood from a stone. It makes what Alice Waters does, from her agricultural Eden of a home base in California, look easy.
If Nilsson can forge a local cuisine from so little, surely I can consciously lay off the olive oil, lemons, and avocados that often shape my home cooking-at least for this one meal.
I would like to tell you I foraged for mushrooms in the hills of Jimena De La Frontera, the mushroom capital of the Andalucia, or that I donned my hunting gear and shot a deer for cauldron of venison stew. A more rugged soul might take just that inspiration from Fäviken and its chef, frequently seen in photographs swaddled in a furry pelt of something he probably recently shot and ate.
This is the last Book I will Purchase involving Foraging and 1 year aging, its just not practical.
But that said it has to rank amoung the most "out there" Origional books published by a cookery publishing House.
Don't expect a recipe book - chances are you won't be able to find the ingedients (or even substitutes) for many of the recipes that DO feature.
This is more about the human process of eating from cultivation/nurturing, through preparation and to, finally, enjoyment.
A brilliant and fascinating read.
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It's not a cook book, you're not going to follow the recipes in this book, they are ridiculously involved and time consuming (several take...Read more