Saturday 25 September 2010

noma: time & place in nordic cuisine

Crave Sydney International Food Festival will launch on Friday 1st October, and first up they will be firing the big guns with René Redzepi, Head Chef at Copenhagen restaurant Noma, the recent winner of Restaurant Magazine’s prestigious Restaurant of the Year award.

Redzepi is an international ambassador for Nordic produce and has had a Michelin-starred career working at Pierre André in Denmark, Le Jardin des Sens in France, elBulli in Spain and The French Laundry in California before opening Noma.

From the harbour-side converted warehouse in the bohemian Copenhagen suburb of Christianshavn, Redzepi and the Noma team are pumping out some awe-inspiring dishes with native ingredients and unique presentations.

Having watched Redzepi and Noma’s popularity grow online, he has truly helped revive Nordic ingredients both in their native countries and abroad.

Think birch, wood sorrel, sea buckthorn, horse mussels, musk ox, lichen, curds and cloudberries.

I could go on and on and on. I really could.

The thought of these exciting ingredients conjures up memories of my husband’s Swedish homeland: the crisp air, pure drinking water, green herbs, flavoursome potatoes, powdery snow, rich moose meat, gentle sunlight, sweet crayfish, sparkling harbours, dappled forest light and bountiful tart berries.

Again, I could go on and on and on.

I am remarkably privileged to get a sneak peak into Redzepi’s new cookbook Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine.

The book begins with the evolution of Noma from widely-scorned concept to globally-adored gastro temple as well as an interesting diary excerpt from Redzepi’s produce-sourcing quest across Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

Everything I see and read about Noma echoes my own memories and sensations of Sweden.

Reading how the launch of Noma was met with disdain by other Scandinavian chefs (it was nicknamed Blubber Restaurant, Whale Penis and Seal F**ker by non-believers) reminds me that very few Australian chefs take inspiration from local Australian produce.

To date, most native Australian products have been siphoned off as “something for the tourists” and tarnished by the stigma of the crassly named “bush tucker”. It’s almost as if there’s been some sort of shame surrounding native ingredients and no one has dared take up the challenge to produce world-class cuisine that happens to focus around our native produce.

It’s such a shame, because there is a wealth of truly amazing flavour sensations in native Australian spices, fruits, vegetables and meats. My favourites are wattleseed, finger lime, quandong, akudjura and mountain pepperberry, as well as kangaroo meat, Balmain & Moreton Bay bugs (crustaceans), and the luscious native rock oysters.

Just in case you were wondering!

The Noma cookbook is more inspirational than home cooking, although some of the more sophisticated and well-tooled home cooks will no doubt give the recipes a whirl.

There are some truly magical creations such as:
• fried potato crisps frozen in liquid nitrogen then sprayed with a yoghurt and buttermilk glaze;
• fresh radishes planted into cream herb flavoured cheese then topping with “soil” made from dark malted crumbs
• slices of oyster served with wafer-thin pickled apple, cream infused tapioca and malt oil;
• cucumber balls sprinkled with cucumber peel ash and served with raw sea urchin, dill granita and frozen milk foam
• shards of dark birch meringue, pale birch sorbet, mead & honey jelly and fresh chervil
• lingonberry sorbet, hay-flavoured cream and crispy carrot cake crumbs
• a floral dessert of rose hip meringue, elderflower mousse, violet sauce, thyme gel and Icelandic skyr sorbet

Just to list a few!

As Noma has put Nordic cuisine on the “must-taste” list of every foodie around the world, here’s hoping that Australia can learn from Redzepi’s experience and cook up our own inspirational temple of native wonders, with an equally sophisticated and elegant approach that shakes off the “bush tucker” cringe.

Now we just need to get a copy of this cookbook into every Aussie kitchen!

Photo credits:


  1. The books is available in stores already - I got mine Friday. It is a beautiful book - very difficult to get some ingredients but a great source for drool and inspiration.

  2. Trissa - is it? that's great news! i just have a soft copy editor's version for reviewing purposes. it's all out of whack.
    i'll have to go buy myself one this afternoon!


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