The art of eating and drinking our way around the world, inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open hearted and alive, is something that we always strive to achieve through our dinners. This incredible night was a perfect replication of all of it.
Swedes being always hungry for new ideas and inspiration and in love with innovation often take a traditional ingredient and use it in an unexpected recipe. So it was no wonder that throughout our planning, our Swedish host for the evening Aleksander who works in the Embassy of Sweden in Macedonia as Deputy Head of Mission, inspired us to create and tailor our own unique concept to experience the pleasure of discovering new tastes merging both Swedish and Macedonian cuisines.
Being one of the most environmentally friendly countries in Europe, with heavy metal emissions reduced by 99 per cent since 1985, food composted and turned into soil or biogas, waste water purified to the extent of being potable, Sweden has great products and amazing ingredients, and therefore the food is very clean and really fresh. Eco food, organic and slow food is highly popular in Sweden. And because of their long winters, they’ve always been a nation recognized by their forages and pickle’s preserves. A food culture in which the hob is the hub and tradition is trendy, and which goes from delicate appetizers to dishes that can be defined as filling and rustic with deep flavours.
It was a true challenge selecting dishes that complement the both cuisines, capturing the essence of their mutual flavour and combining the way how they are being served and eaten.
The table reflected Swedish rustic simplicity and minimalism, complemented by colours which are staples for both countries. A warm and inviting ambience was created through our wish to celebrate the festival of light, known as Lucia, and welcoming the long winter nights, enriching it with lots of candles and white shirt dress code.
Elderflower Sparklers. The perfect aperitif. Sparkling wine, elderflower syrup, mint and lemon. It has a delicate, lightly floral aroma and mild honey flavour. The elderflower syrup we used is made from the blossom of the elder tree, which at first seemed completely unknown to us, until it refreshed Ilina’s childhood memories about her grandmother preparing her elderflower tea. It was an ingredient that spontaneously connected Sweden to Macedonia right from the very start.
Lingonberry bread. In Sweden everyone is allowed to pick wild berries, mushrooms and flowers – all thanks to Allemansrätten or the right of public access, and there is a tradition of using different kinds of berries in a wide range of dishes, especially lingonberry, which makes this bread one of a kind.
Swedish/Macedonian boards with typical winter flavours. For this occasion, we had the possibility to serve and try original Swedish appetizers: Knäckebröd – crispy and fragrant bread, Swedish cheese, the famous Västerbotten cheese and another unpasteurized hard cheese – both with buttery rich flavours, slightly sweet and slightly sour lingonberry jam and the one and only Pickled herring with pepper corns and onion. We were amazed how all these wonderful delicacy Swedish staples were a perfect match for the Macedonian Ajvar – red pepper jam, white sheep’s milk cheese, walnuts and organic mountain honey.
Turli – Kalops A combination of Macedonian Turli Tava and Swedish Kalops, inspired by the tradition of both countries in preparing delicious meat stews with different kind of vegetables, mushrooms and herbs, especially in winter. The base for our Kalops variation was found in a receipe from the famous Swedish school of meal science, Grythyttan. Beside the fact that Kalops and Turli Tava are very similar in preparation, these dishes have different ingredients which make them unique. We chose ingredients characterized by both stews and combined them into perfect Macedonian – Swedish winter comfort food. A part from the different cuts of meat we used, the stew was vibrantly flavored with a variety of mushrooms and herbs.
Hasselback potatoes The Hasselback potato is clearly the most impressive spud to ever call itself a side dish. It’s like having all of your potato dreams come true at once: these potatoes have the crispy edges of your favorite French fries, but with middles as creamy as mashed potatoes — plus the added bonus of being, essentially, wholesome baked potatoes in clever disguise.
What is more unique and special for both, Macedonia and Sweden, is that they are surrounded with many lush forest, mountains, lakes and rivers, which is perfect base for growing a tradition for mushroom hunting. Putting accent on mushrooms in the main dish, came naturally to us.
Meringue cake with berries and whipped vanilla cream. This amazing desert was only a desire of ours:) We were too confident to even bake it before the event. On the actual day a disappointment followed, instead of a perfectly baked meringue, we were faced with a total disaster. But, we had a fall back plan and used the vanilla cream as a foundation to try all the varieties of berry jam brought by our guests from Sweden. For instance, the unique cloudberry that only grows in the northern hemisphere, complemented with Macedonian roasted coffee beans. Silky and crunchy, sour and sweet, at moments bitter delight.
Photography: Dimitar Gorgev
Wooden Accessories: MONOZERO