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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 17 March 2017
An amazing inspirational chefs book, a look at cooking in very rural Scandinavia & how to cook great food on a limited larder using old methods.
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on 4 October 2012
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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on 2 February 2013
This book is so good that when I gave it to my husband for christmas, we both fought over it. It reads beautifully, and is so much more than a cooking book. It can be a book about using local produce, foraging and cultivating your own food. It can also be seen as an insiration for business entrepreneurs and how you can build a successul business anywhere if you only have the passion, but also the integral structure of a brilliant team whom you nurture. I was very inspired by it.
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on 9 April 2013
A brilliant antithesis to "haute cuisine", this is about how simple ingredients from local sources, coupled with meticulous processes can create food that acheives its maximum potential through soul, rather than complexity.
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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on 16 November 2014
wonderful design and wonderful shots - slightly off putting precious treatment of very simple
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on 27 December 2013
Living in northern Sweden, I am lucky to share the nature that is found in the book. When it comes to ingredients, it obviously features some things more easily found in the northern forest or nordic countries. Sweden is where he is from and where his restaurant is.

More important than location and ingredients however, is the philosophy behind the chef. Magnus Nilsson cooks with his heart and soul. It will be his attitude to food and cooking that will inspire you, not the availability of some of the ingredients.

Being only a few hours drive away, I'm dreaming of a trip to this restaurant with my wife in the future. I'd better start saving the pennies...
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on 14 April 2013
When I finally got my grubby little mitts on Fäviken, the new cookbook by acclaimed Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson, I looked forward with pleasure to the rigors of what I had heard was an ambitious, challenging cookbook.

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.
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on 8 February 2016
This is a fantastic book.

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 literally years!). This is not a criticism.

The writing is sublime, the pictures are beautiful. It's a book to savour, in the same way as you would savour Magnus Nilsson's food if you were lucky enough to visit his restaurant - which I really, really want to do.

Curl up with this book on a dark evening and imagine the tastes of the aged, pickled, smoky, fantastically fresh food that is served up to you.
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on 11 December 2012
This is a wonderful book, beautifully printed, incredibly detailed recipes, just the best present to give anyone, it was very gratefully received.
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on 27 April 2013
Although I will probably never attempt to cook any recipe from the book - all are elaborated and difficult to execute - I could not put the book down and read it at one go. It did change the way I look at food in general and I re-discovered some of the techniques my grandma taught me. I think this is the book's key attraction: its ability to bring back the memories perhaps from very long time ago through his recipes. Being vegetarian for the past 20 years, I promise it never occurred to me to pick and cook "autumn leaves from last winter". The long walks in a wet forest in autumn when I was a child immediately sprang to mind, I could almost smell the dish (that also featured freshly picked and sauteed mushrooms. And no, I will not be cooking this any time soon!)
What I was not impressed by, was the overall editing job on this otherwise beautiful book. It appears there was no editor or s/he was clearly on vacation when this book went to press. Occasional wrong spelling, bad grammar, nonsensical sentence really does not do a justice to a chef obsessed with perfection of his meals. He would deserve an editor with a similar attitude to his/her work - what a gem this book would be!
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