The New Nordic: the elegant simplicity of Scandinavian cuisine

By
Hannah Koelmeyer
Added
29 April, 2015

So much more than a passing food trend or fad diet, the new Nordic cuisine is about embracing simplicity. Simon Bajada’s brand new book showcases the true beauty of Scandinavian food.

For the past decade, Scandinavian food has been slowly and humbly making its way to the forefront of a new culinary paradigm. The new Nordic cuisine, conceived by a group of reformist Nordic chefs, including Noma’s Rene Redzepi, and championed by chefs the world over, is about purity, simplicity and freshness, and of looking back at ancient, natural foods with a modern, playful eye.

Despite its lofty origins, the proponents the new Nordic are very clear that the approach is just as much about home cooking as it is about revolutionising restaurant culture. And international enthusiasm for the movement has brought renewed interest in the unique flavours and techniques used in simple Scandinavian cooking.

Simon Bajada, a chef, photographer and food stylist, originally from Melbourne but now living with his family in Sweden, brings together these elements of elegance and simplicity in Scandinavian home cooking in his new book, The New Nordic. I caught up with Simon to discuss what this graceful cuisine means to him.  

Q: You recently moved from Australia to Sweden with your family. Did you know very much about the cuisine before you moved there?

At the time I met my wife I was working in a kitchen in Stockholm, consequently it was only natural for me to research Nordic cuisine and look deeper on the many occasions we have visited Sweden over the years. I got a sense of the produce used and the balance of flavours, this was before new Nordic cuisine was understood as it is today. 

Hot-smoked salmon, roasted garlic & apple salad | Baked cauliflower & juniper soup

Q: What is the 'new' Nordic cuisine? What would you say are the underlying principles of Nordic cuisine? What are the factors that have shaped it?

Because the new Nordic cuisine is constantly evolving its hard to give a firm definition. It’s not a fusion of cuisines nor a reinterpretation of Nordic classics. It centres on an idea of celebrating Nordic produce, gathering what’s close to home and bringing it together on a plate using a mix of traditional and modern technique.

I think things that have shaped it include willingness of Nordic chefs to recreate their cuisine. The success of Noma has acted as a beacon in this respect gaining the attention of food lovers around the world.

Q: What is it about Swedish and Nordic food in general that inspires you? How is it different to Australia?

I believe there are lot of parallels in new Nordic and contemporary Australian. The taste differs because of the ingredients used but the idea to create balance with the best technique and produce is in common. For a while there, new Nordic cuisine seemed to only use Northern European ingredients but that is changing, similarly to modern Australian, [new Nordic cuisine is] taking bits and pieces from all over the world. I’m inspired by the newness in thinking of Nordic chefs. It’s easier for them to break the rules than say an Italian or French chef as they are not held down by the idea of "how its meant to be". 

Cinnamon buns | Berry & skyr popsicles

Q: Are there any particular Scandinavian ingredients you've fallen in love with?

There are some beautiful vinegars – cloudberry for example and –the range of grains, flours and smoked seafood is incredible.

Q: You've worked as a chef, stylist and photographer. The New Nordic sees you combining all of these skills. Talk us through the creation of a dish – what starts you off? Is it a set of flavours you need to create and everything else follows; do you see a prop that inspires a taste or texture; does the idea for the image come first? Or are all three inseparable? 

The chapters formed the framework of my thinking and I referenced them to a well-researched list I made of typical Nordic ingredients and flavours. I wanted to make sure all the flavours were represented by recipes. 

From there I aimed to balance imagery and aesthetic to the recipes I developed. It was a long and rewarding process!


The New Nordic is out now through Hardie Grant Books. Cooked members can access the whole book online, or buy the book in print for 30% off in the store.

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