Nordic Maisfesto Food Bytes Column by Monish Gujral in Sunday Express 20/11/11

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Epicurean magic of the Nordic manifesto

Monish Gujral Last Updated : 18 Nov 2011 12:16:06 PM IST
In 2004, a few introspective Danish chefs put away their knives and gathered around a meeting table in Copenhagen for an 18-hour brainstorming session with an ambitious plan. The plan to create an indigenous Scandinavian cuisine to rival that of Italy and France.
The result was a unique agreement called “New Nordic Cuisine Manifesto”—a 10-point programme that has become a foundational text not just for Danish chefs but also for foodies worldwide. In short, the manifesto was an agreement that cooking should be based on local, seasonal ingredients that were sustainably and ethically produced. This culinary revolution was based upon Nordic history and ancestral traditions. Nordic food labs carefully experimented with ingredients to develop interesting flavours and potential recipes such as combination of seaweed and cheese. Unlike Spain and Italy, ancestral food knowledge was lost to Denmark over the centuries, which the Nordic food movement has brilliantly revived.
In the fiercely competitive culinary market of Denmark, the chefs are expected to be creative and dream up their own original dishes. Meet Trevor Moran, a sous-chef, who invented the sea buckthorn and hip rose petal pickle dish. “We found sea buckthorn growing near some hip roses, a beach variety of rose. The idea is that if you find two things growing near each other, they’ll probably work well
together in a dish, as their chemical makeup will be similar. We pickled the rose
petals in apple vinegar for about a year. Then we combined them with the juice of the sea-buckthorn berry, and the result was just incredible,” says Moran. He works at Noma a celebrated restaurant, which is a must visit on a trip to Copenhagen. Noma offers its personal rendition of Nordic gourmet cuisine with an innovative gastronomic take on traditional
cooking methods.
Within almost a decade of the revolution, Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark has become a fine-dining destination. Gourmets and culinary tourists from around the world visit Denmark for a unique culinary experience.
Now the revolution for restoring culinary history is so widespread in Nordic countries that the search for lost ingredients is going online. An iPhone application is in development that will allow enthusiasts to photograph and map plants, they find growing in the wilderness, and suggest or innovate some appropriate recipes for them. The 10-point programme of “New Nordic Cuisine Manifesto” are :
1. To express the purity, freshness, simplicity and ethics associated with the region.
2. To reflect the change in seasons through meals.
3. The cooking should be based on ingredients and produce whose characteristics are in tandem with the Nordic climate, landscape and water.
4. Combine the demand for good taste with modern knowledge of health and well-being.
5. Promote Nordic products and producers to the world.
6. To promote animal welfare and a sound production process in the region.
7. To develop potentially new applications of traditional Nordic food products.
8. To combine the best in Nordic cookery and culinary traditions with impulses from abroad.
9. To combine local self-sufficiency with regional sharing of high-quality products.
10. To join forces with consumer representatives, other cooking craftsmen, agriculture, etc so that it is advantageous for everyone in the Nordic countries.
Smørrebrød, simply means “buttered bread”, but as any Dane will tell you, smørrebrød is much more than just open-face sandwiches. The rye bread is considered the canvas, and the topping a dish in itself.
Sourdough for Danish Rye Bread
Total Time: 3 days
Sourdough is the basic ingredient for Danish Rye Bread—It has to be prepared a few days in advance, however one can make a big batch and store it in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. You can make a big batch and then store it in the fridge to be used later. To keep it fresh, add a little fresh rye or wheat flour once in a while.
1cup rye flour
1 ½ cups water
pinch of salt
2 tbsp honey
2 tbspYoghurt
½ tsp sugar
Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix into a mud-like consistency. Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap, punching a few holes in the wrap so the dough can breathe.
Place the bowl in the fridge for two days. On the third day, mix some extra rye flour and water into your mixture, and leave for a day or two until you see the dough start to bubble. Your sourdough is now ready to be turned into rye bread
Danish Rye Bread
Baking this rich, dark bread that forms the basis of all smørrebrød dishes may take some time to master but once mastered you will be addicted to this dark beauty
Day One
2 cups of Sourdough
1 cup of whole rye grains
½ tbsp whole linseed
½ tbsp bread flour
2 cups of lukewarm water
1 tbsp salt
1½ tbsp honey
½ tsp sugar
Day Two
4 cups of rye flour
2 ¾ tbsp salt
1 ¼ tbsp honey
3½ cups of water
vegetable oil, for greasing the loaf pans
In a large bowl, mix all of the day one ingredients together. Cover the bowl with a wet muslin cloth and set it aside for at least 24 hours.
On the second day, add the day two ingredients (leaving the vegetable oil) and knead them into the day one mixture for 10 minutes. The dough should now have the thickness of heavy muddy mixture .
Rub a little vegetable oil inside two large loaf pans and divide the dough between the two pans. Leave to rise for 5 to 6 hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, then bake the two loaves of bread for 1 hour and 55 minutes. Remove the bread from the pans and place the hot loaves directly on the oven rack; continue to bake for another 15 minutes to develop a nice crust.
Let the loaves cool completely. For smørrebrød, cut thin slices of less than ¼-inch thick each .
Gravlax for topping
Serves: 12
Total Time: 4 days
Gravlax literally means “buried salmon”. It’s a tradition that goes back to the middle ages, when fishermen would salt their catch and preserve it by burying it in sand. It remains a hot favorite across Scandinavia, and it’s delicious when eaten with mustard or horseradish sauce as smørrebrød.
1 whole fillet (2 pounds) of salmon
Aquavit (preferably dill-flavored)
6 tbsp sea salt
5 tbsp granulated sugar
1½ tbsp dill seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 pinches of freshly ground black pepper
Large bundle of fresh dill
Sweet and strong mustard
Herb mayonnaise
1. Clean the salmon fillet, removing the bones and fat but leaving the skin on. Dry the fish with a clean cloth.
2. Put the aquavit, salt, sugar, dill seeds, coriander seeds, and pepper into a food processor and grind the mixture into a paste. Rub the paste all over the fish. Place the fish, skin side up, on a tray, and cover with plastic wrap.
3. Put the fish in the refrigerator for two to four days, turning the fillet over once each day to ensure it cures evenly.
4. When ready to serve the gravlax, finely chop some fresh dill and sprinkle it evenly over the fillet. Slice the fillet into thin cuts with a sharp knife. Serve with thin, toasted slices of rye bread and a variety of spreads (horseradish, herb mayonnaise, and mustard) as well as salad and apples.

First chef from India to be invited to Le cordon Bleu to demonstrate in Paris. Monish is credited with the trailblazing turn-around of Moti Mahal, from being a small but iconic presence in Delhi, to becoming a multi-national corporation that is well on its way to defining how the world eats Indian food. A traditionalist, Monish has remained true to the signature dishes that made Moti Mahal a legend, while reinventing the dining experience into one that is exciting and avant garde to suit modern sensibilities.

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