We’ve all been there. One moment you are happily typing a document, fingers whizzing over the keys; and the next a colleague leans over your shoulder and asks you to check something for them. And suddenly, everything falls apart. Your fingers struggle to find letters that you can usually find with your eyes closed; you lose the ability to spell; you appear not to understand basic computer functions like opening a new tab or minimising a window; or you develop Tourettes of the fingers and click on that minimised Amazon window where you were doing Christmas shopping instead of finishing your work. Although you may never have heard it called that, I am willing to bet that almost everybody reading this has suffered from type fright – the phenomenon that causes reasonably technically competent to type like an orangutan with uncontrollable finger spasms the minute anybody else is watching. That was how I was beginning to feel when I poked my thumb directly through the second egg yolk of the eggs I was trying to separate under the watchful eye Swedish chef Peter Skogström.
But let me backtrack a few hours first. After our fabulous Swedish crayfish party the night before and our visit to the Malmö farmers’ market the next morning, Su-Lin, Denise, Nick and I we were ready to try our hand at turning some of the fabulous Swedish produce into a meal. There are few better places in Malmö to do this than Mat & Vin Slottsparken. In June 2012, Swedish Chef of the Year 2006 Peter Skogström opened Mat & Vin (literally Food and Wine) in Malmö’s beautiful Slottsparken to serve as a venue for large and small private functions (from weddings and conferences to intimate birthday dinners), as well as for regular public or bespoke cooking classes and teambuilding events, while also being open to the public one night each month as a restaurant. And so it was to Mat & Vin that we headed that morning to attend a private cooking class – something Su-Lin was particularly looking forward to as Peter had been the chef cooking dinner for her friends at last year’s Blind Date With a Swedish Chef event.
The inspiring atmosphere at Mat & Vin Slottsparken starts with the pleasant walk through the park to get there and is further encouraged by the very Swedish lounge area with its huge windows overlooking the park, funky orange colours and covetable spherical lampshades that reflect the entire room like funhouse mirrors. But it is the pristine, state of the art kitchen that really got me swooning – every bit of kit you’d ever need, all within easy reach of the well-designed workstations. Over a welcome coffee, Peter showed us the fresh ingredients for today’s meal that immediately got us in the mood for a Swedish feast: dill, trout, chanterelles, lingonberries, beets and venison shot by Peter himself. He then showed us the menu that we would be preparing and immediately terror set in (for me, at any rate!). Smoked fish? Ice-cream from scratch? Soufflés?? But not only were we divided into teams to lighten the load; Peter also pointed out that all the ingredients for each dish were pre-measured, so all we had to do was follow the step by step instructions. Which is how Su-Lin and Denise ended up on soufflé detail while I ended up butchering rather than separating eggs for the ice-cream. Oy vey. If I were a stagiare I would have been fired!
Peter is really good at teaching in the sense that he quickly sussed that, my egg-butchering aside, we were all actually pretty confident in the kitchen, so he gave us the recipes and let us get on with it but kept a watchful eye on things and stepped in if we were heading too far off piste, dishing out onion chopping tips to Nick and soufflé- making advice to Su-Lin. After whipping the ice-cream into shape, my and Nick’s job was to make the starter which involved making a cauliflower and almond puree, and lightly curing and smoking some beautiful pieces of trout in a fish smoker. Once the fish was sealed inside above some its layer of smoking woodchips on the hob, Nick was instructed to place both hands firmly on the metal lid of the smoker. “So how long does the fish smoke?” he asked. “Till the smoker gets too hot to keep your hands on it”, replied Peter with a twinkle in his eye. Meanwhile, at a neighbouring workstation, Denise was whipping the egg whites into a froth while Su-Lin was looking like an extra on Dexter, covered in crimson beet juice. Much hilarity ensued when the soufflés had to be piped from a giant (dare I say it?) tumescent bag of pink egg white and caramelised lingonberries – but this probably says more about my juvenile sense of humour than anything else! Once the dishes were ready to serve, we had a quick plating masterclass from Peter (more attention to detail than I could ever muster, but glorious results!) and were then invited to sit down at a table laid for us in the corned of the kitchen to enjoy the fruits of our labours.
The starter that Nick and I produced was probably my favourite dish (and not only because I had a hand in preparing it!): warm salad of Swedish trout, cauliflower, almond and dill. The trout was a thing of great beauty, just barely cooked with a lovely sticky pellicle from the cure and a delicate smoky flavour. It was matched beautifully in flavour and texture by the rich cauliflower and almond puree topped with crunchy almonds, cauliflower florets and dill – a really impressive dish with minimal effort provided you own a fish smoker. The main course produced and plated with great aplomb by Su-Lin and Denise was a spicy venison steak served with beetroots and chanterelles. The venison (as I recall) had been seared and then roasted in the oven until barely cooked through and the red and golden beets had been boiled before lightly roasting to caramelise them. The slightly peppery, spicy notes of the game matched beautifully with the earthy sweetness of the beets and I do believe there is no dish that can’t be improved by the rich Autumnal flavours of chanterelles. I also loved that Peter had selected a South African wine to match this course – the Porcupine Ridge Syrah Viognier!
While we were eating, Peter popped Su-Lin and Denise’s famous soufflés in the oven so that they would be ready after our main course. You could feel the tension at the table as they tried to make conversation but found their eyes pulled inexorably back to the oven door to check whether their soufflés would rise… but they needn’t have worried – they rose like fluffy pink clouds! Soon we were feasting on our final course – a joint effort of soufflé of caramelised lingonberries with vanilla ice cream. This was another winner of a course – the tartness of the lingonberries is just what is called for in a soufflé and I loved the colour that they gave. Peter also said that where lingonberries are not freely available, you could substitute almost any fruit (raspberries, pears, apples) as long as you caramelised it with sugar first and then puréed it before adding to the egg white.
I have attended cooking courses before, but this was definitely the best I had been to – not only because of the glorious kitchen we had been let loose in but also because of the outstanding Swedish produce available to us, and Peter’s approachable teaching style. It wasn’t that you learnt complex cooking techniques – it was more a demonstration that even with modest cooking skills it is possible to break down the individual elements of a meal to produce restaurant quality food without too much stress – a massive confidence boost. I also loved the meal at the end where we all got to enjoy what we’d made and pick Peter’s brains for tips on how to recreate this in our own homes. I could happily have stayed all afternoon, bbut sadly Peter had a wedding to prepare for that evening, and the rest of us had other culinary engagements that afternoon. But if you love cooking and find yourself in Malmö I would definitely look up the Mat & Vin cooking course schedule and try to book a place – you will not regret it! Alternatively, you could try to visit Mat & Vin on one of its monthly restaurant nights, or you could visit Peter’s other restaurant with more regular hours, Restaurang P2 in Malmö.
- A Swedish crayfish party
- Malmö farmers’ market
- Bastard restaurant, Malmö
- Things to do in Malmö- the Malmö Festival and beyond
We flew direct on Ryanair from London Stansted to Sturup airport 33km southeast of the city and Easyjet also operates direct flights from there. SAS operates up to eight nonstop flights to Stockholm Arlanda from Malmö daily. There are regular trains between Malmö and Copenhagen Kastrup airport or Copenhagen central station and trips take 20 and 35 minutes.
Scandic St Jörgen Hotel
Stora Nygatan 35
GETTING FED & WATERED