Abisko: Lappish gourmet cuisine beyond the Arctic Circle
Who would have ever imagined visiting the harsh climate of Swedish Lapland just for the gourmet experience? Probably not so many people. But the reality is a bit different. Traditional local specialties will undoubtedly surprise many of experienced gourmets and connoisseurs.
Personally, I love good food, and the very act of its consumption is one of my favorite moments of the day. In Abisko, in a forgotten village in the heart of Swedish Lapland, we lived for a year, and during that time we had a unique opportunity to taste various delicacies of sophisticated Lappish cuisine.
In the north of Sweden, veganism or vegetarianism is not a very popular lifestyle indeed. The whole cuisine revolves around meat and products made out of it. Origins are to be found in the history of the region, where it was necessary for the inhabitants of Lapland, former hunters, to provide the body with as much nutrition and energy as possible from the resources available in the hostile environment of the Arctic tundra and the mountains. Therefore, in traditional Lappish dishes, we find plenty of freshwater fish from nearby lakes (Arctic Char), seafood and fish from the Norwegian Sea, reindeer and moose meat, root vegetables, potatoes and forest berries (mainly cranberries). Interestingly, while cranberry (lingonberry) in Swedish cuisine is found perhaps on every other plate, forest mushrooms are not much popular among local people.
Most of Swedes, our colleagues, reached for breakfast in the form of a slice of fresh bread (eventually knacke brod) and boiled egg. A more luxurious option would be a piece of bread topped with a few slices of hard-boiled egg and a thick layer of salty caviar spread Kalles Kaviar. At all times there must be a full mug of strong black coffee on the table.
The Abisko Mountain Lodge's breakfast buffet is of course not limited to bread and boiled eggs only. We served foreign tourists a variety of cheeses (Emmental, Camembert), ham and salami (pepper and beer), pickled sweet herrings, pickled gherkins, pâté, vegetable and fruit platters, meatballs, sausages, scrambled and boiled eggs, homemade marmalades (forest berries, strawberries, raspberries, citrus, apples and cinnamon), homemade muesli, several kinds of homemade bread (yeast bread, sourdough, rye, aniseed, whole grain, baguettes) and typical crunchy bread knacke brod.
Local people love coffee immensely. It is a common rule that several times a day they dedicate a few minutes for so-called "fika," a break for a large mug of hot black coffee and cinnamon roll.
Typical lunch menu in this freezy Arctic weather of Lapland mostly include rich soups and dense stews (or ragout) with a piece of bread or portion of boiled potatoes. Lappish stews are remarkably similar to our Czech-type sauces - meaty, creamy or goulash type. The preparation is simple. In a closed pot, they slowly braise/stew/simmer the content and gradually reducing the broth consisting of onions, spices, root vegetables, meat and wine (red and white). A few cranberries are added at the end and meal is done.
Swedes also love sweets and the licorice flavor.
To shed some light on the exclusive gourmet cuisine of the North, I've prepared a set of specialty dishes photos from the menu of the renowned Brasserie Fjallkoket restaurant at Abisko Mountain Lodge.
Raw salmon and arctic char, mustard dip, yellow and red beetroot, fennel, cress, cracker
Fresh salmon is imported from Norwegian Narvik, and arctic char lives in the waters of local Tornetrask lake.
Meatballs made from reindeer meat, potato puree (almond potatoes), cucumber salad with parsley, lightly coated fried onion rings, pickled cranberries, creamy dressing
As an alternative to meatballs, they offer an excellent reindeer sausage, made from a mixture of fresh reindeer meat and herbs.
Salad mix, thin slices of smoked reindeer heart, braised fennel, white radish, carrot and parsnip chips, capers, basil-parsley dip, dressing, blue cheese Jurs
Thick creamy Norwegian shrimp broth, butter fried croutons (made from dark sweet Kavring bread), crab meat (or cod), fennel root cut into fine strips, cress
Poached Arctic char fillet, creamy mussels broth foam, capers, artichoke puree, roasted bacon bits, watercress, sliced steamed fennel (or chicory leaf)
Mussels broth foam, lobster, golden and black caviar, artichoke puree, nasturtium, chicory, broccoli Raab (Rapini)
Thinly cut moose meat, creamy foam, brown sauce made of rich bone broth, potato puree (almond potatoes), roasted celery and parsnip cubes, yellow and red onion chips, pickled cranberries, chives
The base for the brown sauce is prepared from a small quantity of concentrated broth. This concentrate in the form of a small cube of dense gelatin is achieved by continually reducing the bone marrow broth to an absolute minimum. The whole process of reduction takes up to 3 days of continuous slow cooking, which results in a concentrated packed with flavors.
Slowly cooked pork meat on red wine, roasted red cabbage and Tuscan cabbage, pumpkin puree, carrot puree, yellow beetroot balls, watercress, cress
Lamb slices, brown sauce made of bone broth, roasted fennel, fried parsnip elements, cauliflower puree, mashed carrot, fried crunchy Tuscan cabbage and kale, Romanesco cauliflower, boiled unpeeled potatoes with spring onion
Lamb steak, brown sauce made of bone broth, roasted potatoes, parsnip puree, roasted Tuscan cabbage
Vanilla cream Brulée with caramelized orange crust, fruit
The sugary orange top layer is blow torched before serving.
Thinly sliced reindeer meat and smoked heart, brown sauce made of bone broth, artichoke puree, fried parsnip chips and cubes, pickled salad cucumber, pickled cranberries, roasted crunchy curly kale, creamy potato puree with butter fried onion.
Sample weekly menu Brasserie Fjallkoket
Fennel soup with dark and light croutons
Salmon steak with cucumber salad, pickled cranberries and potato puree (almond potatoes)
Cranberry creamy ice cream with roasted hazelnuts
Bread with roast beef (homemade bread)
Baked fish bawl (cod, salmon, arctic char) and seasonal vegetables (carrot, fennel, parsnip, potatoes, celery)
Swedish apple dessert (poached apples with vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, caramel, and fried oatmeal crumble)
Norwegian shrimp broth with butter-fried croutons made of sweet Swedish dark bread
Pork meat from local breed (Kiruna) served with cauliflower foam, fried red cabbage, and red beet.
Cup with vanilla ice cream and crushed chocolate biscuits
Thinly cut salmon on toast from a typical dark Swedish bread topped with mustard dressing
Swedish meatballs with creamy sauce and cranberries
Vanilla ice cream cup with frozen forest fruits
Garden salad with smoked reindeer heart and grated blue cheese Jurs
Poached Arctic char fillet with cauliflower puree, dill foam, topped with brown butter
Jerusalem artichoke soup with light croutons and salmon caviar
Pork meat from the Alviksgrisen farm with roasted Tuscan cabbage, Swedish apples, and red wine sauce
Chocolate cake with wild celery and crushed meringue crumble.
Vasterbotten cheese Kish cake with sour cream and smoked pork meat from Vindeln region
Poached fresh spotted cod fillet with dill foam and roasted kale
Wooden mug filled with forest fruits and vanilla ice cream
For illustration, I present a sample of the evening menu at the STF Tourist Station. This hotel is of a higher quality than Abisko Mountain Lodge, which however, doesn't, unfortunately, correlate with the quality of the food. Price for a three-course menu is the same as at Abisko Mountain Lodge - 500-600 SEK per person.
Grilled eggplant puree served on butter-fried toast, carrot-basil dressing
Italian hollow Choux pastry Beignet, warm rhubarb jam, blow-torched soft meringue, basil leaf
Moose steak with red wine sauce, roasted zucchini, gratinated potatoes, grilled asparagus, pickled cranberries