Culinary Canvas

Edible Tales from the Storytelling Chef: Part II

A day spent with Michelin-Starred chef Fredrik Johnsson learning about his evocative approach to creating new dishes.

Words by Sophie Miskiw. Photography by Johan Ståhlberg.

Like many of his compatriots, Fredrik Johnsson feels a close connection to nature. The forest is famously a symbol of Sweden and, while many Swedes these days live in cities, nature is still central to the national spirit.

Perhaps it’s for this reason that Fredrik humbly claims his inspiration doesn’t come from within but from what he finds around him. To stimulate his own creativity, he cultivates close relationships with local Swedish producers. Among those he counts as friends are Lena Engelmark Embertsén and Ola Engemark, the couple behind the award-winning Högtorp Farm.

This friendship gives Fredrik coveted access to raw ingredients found and foraged on the couple’s 72-hectare plot of land. His poetically-presented dish of juniper-infused roe deer heart, beetroot, ramson capers, and marrow emulsion, paints a vivid picture of Sweden as summer wanes.

It’s not a dish easily recreated with store-bought ingredients and Fredrik admits that the pièce de résistance isn’t easy to come by.

“The roe deer heart is a unique product and difficult to get hold of. Even if it leaves the forest - often it is left there when they gut the deer - it usually ends up in a hunter’s freezer. Now, at the beginning of the roe deer hunting season, it felt natural to use that meat,” he says, repeating his mantra, “It’s all about time and place.”

“The roe deer heart is a unique product and difficult to get hold of. Even if it leaves the forest - often it is left there when they gut the deer - it usually ends up in a hunter’s freezer. Now, at the beginning of the roe deer hunting season, it felt natural to use that meat,” he says, repeating his mantra, “It’s all about time and place.”

To prepare the roe deer, Fredrik smokes it with freshly-gathered juniper branches before flash-frying the meat so that it’s still rare in the middle. He then dices up the heart and serves it together with smoked slowly-baked beetroot and crunchy raw beetroot. But like all of the ingredients Fredrik chooses to work with, this isn’t your ordinary beetroot. It’s freshly harvested, grown by his father on the West Coast of Sweden, before being slowly baked in a fire pit.

“Because of how they are baked, the beets taste really meaty and smoky. The irony flavour of the heart and the metallic taste of the beetroot work really well together,” he says of his creative decision to pair the two ingredients. “The emulsion is flavoured with brine from pickled ramen capers and the marrow from the animal. It makes the meaty flavour even deeper."

The combination of soft and crunchy textures was deliberate, he adds, designed to prolong the taste in the mouth. In this way, it becomes more of an experience than a fleeting moment quickly swallowed down.

“If the texture is smooth, the taste disappears too fast. In my opinion, anyway,” he says. “It’s nice to build a dish that has different textures, like something crunchy, something chewy, something tender and something smooth. All these layers build up a longer flavour.”

This isn’t the only minutiae Fredrik considers. It’s his intention that each bite tastes different to the next, which in this case he achieves by concealing spoils freshly foraged from Högtorp Gård.

“Every single bite should be something new, like the juniper berries that I buried in the dish. It’s nice to have those surprises somewhere. It’s like an explosion.”

Words by Sophie Miskiw. Photography by Johan Ståhlberg.