Next stop on Jamie Oliver’s enviable world food tour: Sweden. He’s living (and eating) it up in Stockholm, where specialties include such diverse delicacies as gravlax, reindeer heart, wild mushrooms, crayfish and fermented herring. “Swedish cooking is one of the unsung heroes of the cooking of the world,” Jamie says. “They have great produce and amazing ingredients. The food here is very clean, very fresh.”
Jamie always heads straight for the market when he visits a new city. Stockholm’s indoor market is a sprawling collection of restaurants, cafes and specialty purveyors. It reminds me of Mario Batali’s new Eataly in New York, which models itself after these European anti-supermarkets. Jamie samples some cured reindeer heart, which “tastes like really good roast beef,” and then picks up a salmon filet to use for homemade gravlax.
Then Jamie is off, via water taxi, to his friend Anna’s island. They catch up and forage for wild mushrooms and blueberries. Jamie is amazed to see Swedish chanterelles growing all over the place: “They’re absolutely beautiful, like gold. We pay 37 pounds a kilo for these in England!” Over on the shore, he cooks them simply over a campfire with nothing more than a little salt, butter and a swig of cream at the last minute. “That for me is simplicity itself,” Jamie swoons. “Pan-fried mushrooms with some torn-up bread.”
The Swedes are also known for their delectable baked goods. Jamie visits a local baker and learns that “coffee and cakes are cornerstones of Swedish life.” He heads off to bake up his own version of sweet buns, which he rolls with blueberries and nicknames “Sexy Swedish Buns.” They do look pretty irresistible when they come out of the oven, golden brown with crisp-crackly bits on the bottom thanks to butter and brown sugar that have caramelized.
Jamie also takes some time to celebrate a more offbeat Swedish delicacy: fermented herring. Basically, Jamie explains, it’s really rotten herring, with a powerful stench to prove it. He joins a group dinner led by a herring enthusiast, and admits that he’s a bit scared to give it a try. “It’s got that pungency, that saltiness of a good cheese or cured meat,” he says after venturing a bite of fermented herring on toast. “My brain is telling me don’t eat it, because of the smell, but my palate is telling me that it’s delicious.” Still, people at the table — Swedes who are apparently used to this stuff — are holding their noses. We admire your culinary courage, Jamie.