Fäviken - Magnus Nilsson
Phaidon Press - 2012
Photography: Erik Olssen
Fäviken narrates the journey of Magnus Nilsson's food and the restaurant itself with very in depth explanations and some highly original recipes.
Nilsson grew up near to the restaurant that is fast becoming a buzz-word for foodies worldwide. This is a reinvention of old familial cookery where the produce, each ingredient comes first and the past is an inspiration rather than a set of rules. Location centric food means that it would be very difficult for most of us to get the ingredients that Nilsson uses; but the idea behind it, of noticing and connecting to nature is applicable everywhere.
Fäviken is a gorgeous book from the layout and font right through to the photography which is clean and well lit. The pictures are not bright and splashy but show the natural beauty of the food as well as Jämtland where it all comes from. It is a hugely original book but much harder to cook from than most. Nilsson's philosophy however makes it work as you are being shown techniques and an approach to food rather than being given a list of instructions.
"If it tastes good, it is right, and if it doesn't taste good, try again."
There are few easy recipes but some would work in a home kitchen, most need plenty of time and would involve a lot of shopping and new techniques. There is a great deal of detail about the reason behind the techniques that Nilsson uses which is really helpful even if you don't end up using it in a recipe from the cookbook. Puddings are a rare inclusion and it is almost all savoury but there is a good balance between the meat, fish and the vegetable parts with it all integrating well together to create a whole.
My favourite recipes included the Herb Vinegar, the Black Grouse in Hay, the Rakfisk and Sour Cream and the Vegetables cooked with Autumn Leaves.
There are extensive introductory notes to each broad section - you are encouraged to read straight through the book rather than just dipping into the recipes themselves so that the principles make more sense as a whole. It is all beautifully written. There is a complete write up of a day at Fäviken Magasinet including the full workings of the evening's service which is a bit over the top. There are an awful lot of notes with everything talked through, not just the food that is being cooked.
Near the start of the book Nilsson has included a section on how to use the recipes, which includes the style of cooking. It won't be for everyone as it is a very instinctive way of preparing food. Few of the ideas have times of temperatures attached because Nilsson wants people to have a personal recipe rather than trying to simply replicate his exactly - reflecting his move away from the rules of traditional French cooking that he learned while working in Paris. You are encouraged to follow the principles rather than a set of rules. The recipes include few ingredients used very well.
The book feels like a way to document the radical experimentation of a wandering mind. Dedicated but prone to bursts of genius that cause big diversions. Fäviken is the perfect antidote to the vast numbers of quick supper cookbooks; it makes you think more deeply about food. It is not a standard cookbook that you can use on a weekly basis but all the more beautiful for it.