Life

Go Nordic with recipes from Noma founder Claus Meyer

Restaurateur Claus Meyer co-founded Copenhagen's Noma, aka the best restaurant in the world, and now he's taking on New York. Having spearheaded the New Nordic Cuisine food revolution in Denmark, he talks moving to the Big Apple and home cooking with Ella Walker

Fish cakes with tartare sauce, from Claus Meyer's The Nordic Kitchen

FRESH from an appearance on Saturday Kitchen, Claus Meyer is in a sea-blue three-piece suit and has spent the morning chopping up a raw inner-thigh of beef to make beetroot tartar with horseradish.

The restaurateur, businessman and chef is what you'd call supremely Nordic – from his no-nonsense attitude, to his chiselled, Viking cheekbones.

That and the fact he spearheaded the Nordic cuisine food movement and co-founded Noma, widely considered the best restaurant in the world.

"It's difficult to compare anything with Noma," he muses, "but it wasn't my achievement alone, – I had a very good chef and friend and partner with me down the road in Rene [Redzepi], and he grew a lot through the project. He was an unknown chef when we started, now he's the most known chef in the whole world."

Noma sent Meyer stratospheric in the world of food, while driving the New Nordic Cuisine movement, and developing a manifesto for it in 2004 saw him define and develop a whole new way of thinking about and working with food in Denmark, focusing on simplicity, seasonality and freshness.

"Not only did we launch the Nordic Cuisine," he says proudly, "we also launched the concept of any region having the potential – not only the right – but also the possibility, to suddenly capture the moment."

However, Meyer's personal ideas on food, and his recipes for home cooks, have only just become available in the UK.

Meyer can seem severe, and the recipes spare, but, he says: "I consider my food, or any food, like a draft – people should not be afraid to change the recipes slightly, and they should definitely season it so it works for them. Seasoning food is very important, chopping up things and putting them in a salad bowl is so easy, but getting the dressing right? It's so important."

Ten months ago the 52-year-old moved with his wife, three daughters and two dogs to New York, his plan to open a Nordic brasserie and food hall in Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal.

"It's one thing speaking about a project, inventing it, financing it and looking at all the details, but when it starts becoming an operation that runs all day long, all year long, it's a different animal," Meyer explains.

"So I'm really scared – but I'm also looking forward to get into it. I'm tired of planning and designing it, spending $20 million getting it up and running, I just want to see that animal. It's like training a racehorse: you're in the training field for years, and you want that horse to run."

Below are two Nordic recipes from Meyer's book to get started with.

 

  • FISH CAKES WITH TARTARE SAUCE

(Makes 4)

600g skinless cod or haddock fillet

1tsp sea salt

2 eggs

2tbsp plain flour

150ml whipping cream

1 carrot

1 baking potato

1/2 handful of dill, chopped

Freshly ground white pepper

10g butter

1tbsp rapeseed oil

Boiled potatoes or good rye bread, plus salad and tartare sauce, to serve

Put the fish in a food processor and mince coarsely. Add the salt and pulse the minced fish until it is sticky. Place the fish in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, flour and then the cream, a little at a time, and stir well until the minced mixture has a good, firm consistency.

Peel the carrot and potato and grate them finely. Squeeze the moisture out of the vegetables with your hands and stir them into the fish cake mixture. Finally, add the chopped dill and white pepper. Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes before frying.

Fry large spoonfuls of the mixture in the butter and oil over a medium heat – it is important to be patient so that they form a beautiful crust on the underside before you turn them.

Serve with boiled potatoes or good rye bread, as well as a green or more rustic salad, and a generous dollop of tartare sauce.

 

  • RHUBARB CAKE

(Serves 8)

For the cake layers:

4 organic eggs

125g sugar

150g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

Butter, for greasing

For the rhubarb compote:

300g rhubarb stalks

150g unrefined cane sugar

1 handful of lemon balm (a plant similar to mint, which can be found growing wild – or you can leave this out)

1/2 vanilla pod

To assemble:

50g blanched almonds

50g white chocolate, plus extra shavings to decorate

500ml whipping cream

1 rhubarb stalk

A little sugar, for sprinkling

First, make the cake layers. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until pale and foamy. Mix the flour and baking powder together and sift into the batter, then fold in gently with a spatula.

Grease a springform cake tin (about 22cm in diameter) with butter and pour in the cake batter. Bake the cake in the centre of a preheated oven at 200C for about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack. When the cake is completely cool, carefully cut horizontally into three equal layers with a sharp knife.

Now cook the compote. Cut off the tops and bottoms of the rhubarb stalks, but be careful not to remove the white 'foot' of the stalk, which is where the rhubarb flavour is most concentrated and best. Rinse the stalks in cold water, cut into 1-2cm pieces and put in an ovenproof dish with the lemon balm. Split the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the seeds and mix with a little of the sugar, making them easier to distribute in the dish. Mix the vanilla sugar into the rest of the sugar, then sprinkle over the rhubarb. Stir well and add the pod to the dish.

Bake in a preheated oven at 150C for 15-20 minutes until the rhubarb is tender but still has a firm bite. Remove the dish from the oven and leave the compote to cool completely.

Chop the almonds and white chocolate roughly. Whip the cream, set half aside for decoration and gently fold the almonds and chocolate into the other half. Add the rhubarb compote and fold in.

Assemble the cake with the flavoured whipped cream between each layer, and finish by decorating it with the pure whipped cream – for the best effect, use a piping bag.

  • The Nordic Kitchen: One Year Of Family Cooking by Claus Meyer is published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £25.

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