Saturday, June 18, 2011
A Swedish Lunch with the Ambassador
A small group of us had a most privileged lunch with the Swedish ambassador and his team at His Excellency's residence. The Ambassador Mr Ingemar Dolfe gave us a short overview of Sweden and how it aims to become a culinary nation.
Sweden is surrounded by much water and this means lots of fresh fish and seafood. Their light spring and summer seasons yield plentiful fruit and berries. And the winters have trained them to become excellent preservers. Think pickles, smoked meats, gravad lax as a start.
There are some such products available in Singapore, but not a full-fledged Swedish restaurant where we can try really authentic Swedish cuisine. For most of us, our most common encounter with 'Swedish food' is the IKEA cafeteria. But as you can guess, Swedish food is more than just meatballs.
If you're curious about specific dishes, check out Swedish culinary classics and their recipes here:
They include Toast Skagen, Strömmingslådor, Gubbröra, Kanelbullar (and yes, Köttbullar too).
Jamie Oliver raved about Swedish cuisine in his book "Jamie Does... Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Sweden and France". He was blown away by the clean, refined flavours that he found.
It's interesting too that the Swedish have boldly embraced spices (e.g. cumin, cardamom, caraway seeds) in so much of their cooking and baking. I am also surprised to find the Swedes one of the biggest coffee consumers in the world. Cafes and pâtisserie are big in Sweden. You'll find breads too, of all kinds. And of course, the Smörgåsbord!
So yes, there's wonderful food, great markets, a vibrant coffee culture, lovely islands to visit in the archipelago, the great outdoors plus "snaps" and "glögg" (aquavit and hot mulled wine). Sounds like a destination to explore!
But back to our Swedish lunch in Singapore...
We were most fortunate to have Swedish chef Jakob Esko, Executive Chef at Capella Singapore, cook for us that day. His was a fairly contemporary take using certain signature Swedish ingredients as highlights.
The same three-course Swedish menu will be available for lunch on the 13th of July 2011 at Capella’s The Knolls Restaurant, priced at S$65++.
At the ambassador's home, we dined on the same kind of crockery used by Swedish royalty. It bears the three crowns in the national coat of arms.
Havscocktail med kräftsjudna skaldjur, morotsskum och dragon
frusen gräddfil, vit sparris och gelead gurka
Swedish Seafood Cocktail, Tarragon-infused Carrot Foam
Frozen Sour Cream, White Asparagus and Cucumber
A very pleasing start to the meal. The whole combination of carrot foam and sour cream complemented the fresh seafood well.
Kryddfärserad kalvrygg med toppmurklor.
Tartlette med vårprimörer och kalvbräss.
Potatisfondant samt rödvinssås
Spiced Veal Loin with Morels
Young Spring Vegetable Tartlette
Sweetbread, Potato Fondant and Red Wine Sauce
The veal was tender and it was wrapped together with some sausage of sorts. The lingonberries added a tart zing to the sauce. Portions were very hearty.
Päron, Mandel och Hjortronglass
Textures of Almond and Pear with Cloudberries Ice Cream
Now, cloudberries - exotic, no? That's one there in the foreground, the rich orangey fruit topped with gold foil. I popped it into my mouth and it tasted like...sunrise! There is a beautiful complexity to the berry sweetness that totally defies description.
If you can't make that lunch at Capella, here's a little bit of Sweden you can always enjoy at home. We had a taste of chilled white wine or sparkling water with a touch of elderflower concentrate. It's tangy like berries, but with a hint of floral fragrance. I found it remarkably refreshing, especially in our hot weather. The elderflower juice concentrate is available at IKEA.
Warmest thanks to the Swedish Embassy for their lovely hospitality and opening our eyes to Sweden's culinary potential.
And whatever you're eating, enjoy your meal today! Or as they say in Swedish: Smaklig måltid!
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