The Nordic Baking Book: Magnus Nilsson on his latest labour of love
Magnus Nilsson; the world-renowned and internationally acclaimed chef who currently holds two Michelin stars at his restaurant Fäviken in Sweden talks about his latest literary offering. An almost encyclopaedic account of Nordic baking, Nilsson shares over 450 recipes, all perfect for home cooks and keen bakers. This enormous body of work took over three years to collate and concludes his exploration of Nordic cuisine. A must have for any avid cook.
The book is on nordic bakery. Where’s home for you?
Home is halfway up Sweden, Järpen. (where Nillson’s two Michelin starred restaurant Fäviken is situated).
You’ve been quoted as saying ‘I’m more of cook than a Baker’ What led you to focus on creating such an in depth book on baking?
The whole project started 6 years ago, where the idea was to chronicle and document the whole of the Nordic food culture and baking is a huge part of that. So it seemed impossible to do that without having a book on baking. This six year project has been split into two publications, The Nordic Cook Book and The Nordic baking Book.
The difference between this one and the Nordic Cook Book is that I collected and researched all the recipes but had Petrus Jakobsson (of the great Petrus bakery in Stockholm) bake and sample the recipes that went into the book, which in turn I then photographed. He contributed on a technical level to ensure that all the recipes worked. I wanted to explain what Nordic baking culture looks like and why it’s the way it is.
Your favourite recipe from the book?
Soft Swedish flatbread – which are very much linked to my childhood or the classic cinnamon bun.
You share recipes that are ingrained in Nordic culture, how easily do these translate to the modern cook?
Sometimes we believe that we decide what food culture is and that we shape it but we don’t. The food culture is the result of what people decide to cook and not the other way round. All the recipes in this book are recipes that people bake today. There are a few historical ones to add context but the majority are ones being baked at home today. So its very approachable in that sense.
You wrote, researched, styled and shot the book over six years, has this been a labour of love for you?
Yes! Within those six years The Nordic Cook book was released which I again shot and was the first half of this project, which The Nordic Baking Book concludes. When you write documentary books like this if you’re not able to do the photography yourself, the way I have, it would be almost impossible to shoot. You couldn’t commission a photographer to spend that much time out in the field, trying to collect moments. For me I’m travelling anyway, doing all the interviews, the research and you can snap away and occasionally you get something that’s good enough to go into the book. I set out wanting to make a documentary book explaining Nordic food culture and you realise you have to get it all in there to really get it right, as much as you can.
While this is in part a tribute to the Nordic food culture the Nordic cuisine is one of the most misunderstood food cultures in the world so it felt important to do this and to explain what it really is. It’s more than gravlax, meatballs and herring. This isn’t indicative of how people really eat or bake.
Which chefs have inspired you along the way?
There have been so many. But for this project there are no chefs, as it’s not about professional cooking.
In the more general sense it’s everyone I’ve worked for and all those that work for me now and in the past at Fäviken. They’re very inspiring people. It’s hard to pick one out but they all feed into your toolbox as a chef in a sense.
Every time I’m over in London I always go to Umut 2000, a Turkish grill in Dalston plus try and get round some of the newly opened restaurants. Bakeri Petrus is also a must if in Stockholm.
What cookery books do you always reach for from the shelf?
A series of cookery books that were very, very inspirational especially for this project were the Time-Life Foods of the world series produced in the 60’s. Incredibly thoroughly researched. They focused on specific regions of the world and are still relevant today, beautiful, original research, very impressive and very inspiring with quality photography. A series of books that they wrote for almost all of the parts of the world. It was inspirational to see that book and how much thorough and well researched work went into it and they’re smaller!
I used to collect cookery books, I have over 3000, but they’re currently boxed up in the basement!
What’s next for you?
When you write a book like this you also have to sell it afterwards, otherwise you don’t get to write more books like this. So there’s quite a bit of touring before I head back to work at Fäviken. I ‘m actually really looking forward to spending time at Fäviken.
I also bought an apple orchard, 18 hectars so I’m working out what to do with that.
'The Nordic Baking Book by Magnus Nilsson is published by Phaidon, £29.95
For your signed copy head here - https://www.phaidon.com/store/food-cook/the-nordic-baking-book-signed-edition-9780714878485/