Niklas Ekstedt is passionate when he describes what has needed to happen in the last 10 years to save the floundering Stockholm food scene: “We needed to do original cooking, no longer import other culinary concepts, and we needed to invent our own ideas.” And with his help, the New Nordic Cusine happened. As he proudly proclaims, “Now Stockholm is the most important place for food in Europe,” a believable and earnest statement with a pedigree to back it up.
New Nordic Cusine cuisine is about cooking purely with fire — no gas or electricity — as they do at his Michelin-starred restaurant EKSTEDT in Stockholm. They only use Scandinavian wood in order to give the food a unique character. This means a more elemental style of cooking — open flames, smoke, wood-heated stoves and a Flambadou iron, a cone-shaped cooking tool for searing meat and fish with flaming fat.
The idea of cooking with fire is about returning to a more old-fashioned and traditional form of Scandinavian cooking, widely used until electricity became generally available. It is still used in more remote areas, and salts, spices, pickles, dairy and bread are all central parts of traditional Scandinavian food preparation, used to extend the life of ingredients for winter, and thus in much of the actual cooking.
Traveling to Stockholm to try this unique style of cooking is not, of course, overly convenient, so Ekstedt’s book Food from the Fire is a blessing. It doesn’t require you to be an expert at building fires or cooking on them; for those of us who don’t camp or have a working fireplace at home, Ekstedt takes us through the five steps of building a fire pit — from where to put it to the actual construction, the wood to use, and how to light it. He also takes us through the five different “analogue” cooking methods that can be used when cooking this way — wood, fire, smoke, cast iron and fat.