Ragnar Lothbrok returns with his fellow Vikings tonight on RTE2. Scandinavian cuisine has been strongly influencing world cuisine for the past few years and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Everybody’s heard of Noma, known for pushing boundaries with dishes like raw squid with kelp and raw shrimp with live ants. While recent 3 star Michelin Restaurant Geranium and two star Restaurant AOC offer less intense dishes but ones that are still steeped in tradition. We were curious….What exactly did Ragnor and his team eat while pillaging and raiding the Western World?
Seems like every restaurant these days wants to shout from the rooftop that their menu is seasonal and that they use only wild, local or foraged ingredients. Vikings were the original seasonal chefs but they also had to become experts in preserving food if they were to survive the winter and spring. They would dry, smoke, pickle, ferment or salt their foods to ensure they had something to eat in those fallow months. These traditions are still alive and well in Danish restaurants, with Geranium serving dishes like smoked wild duck leg, pickled green elderberries and truffle, or AOC serving scallop with fermented asparagus and dill.
Vikings were known for hunting wild meat and fish, while also gathering wild berries and vegetables like nettles, sorrel, cress and lambs quarters, otherwise known as wild spinach. They also made buttermilk, whey, curds, butter, and a type of cultured yoghurt called skyr. Sour whey was even used to preserve cooked meat which sounds quite interesting. Noma make their own milk curds, cure egg yolks, and smoke lumpfish roe.
We may not find buttermilk as enjoyable as the Vikings did, but it ends up being used in a lot of Danish restaurants these days. AOC serve a dessert of green juniper berries with pear and buttermilk, a trio of ingredients that does actually sound tasty. Geranium serves a dish of salted hake with parsley stems and caviar in buttermilk.
Wild berries like sloe have long been used in gin making, while lingon, bilberries, and cloudberries have all made appearances in craft beer offerings. As expected, they are common on dessert menus too. Geranium like to serve cloudberries with beeswax ice cream, pollen and honey.
If pickled herring and onions, fermented vegetables and buttermilk are too much for you, then you may fall in love with the Scandinavian art of salt crust baking. It is primarily used for cooking big pieces of meat on the bone like a leg of lamb, but can also be used for vegetables like beets. Basically the item is covered all over in salt, which creates a crust around it. This crust ensures the meat stays incredibly moist and tender by keeping the juices in while also cooking it evenly. Other classic dishes include eating eel, curing salmon with dill, juniper berries, sugar and salt, and sourdough rye bread. Noma serve a dish of rye toast and chicken skin with fish roe puree, delicious! While Geranium like to use rye vinegar and juniper oil in their cooking.
No Viking meal would be complete without some mead, an alcoholic wine made from honey. If this all sounds tasty to you, we recommend picking up Magnus Nilsson’s Nordic Cookbook in Hodges Figgis and get to pickling, fermenting, drying, salting and smoking anything you can get your hands on!
The premiere of Vikings Season 4 will air Monday 14th on RTE2 at 9pm