The Nordic Cookbook, written by Magnus Nilsson, is an impressive 5 1/2 pound book showcasing the cuisines and cultures of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland in over 700 recipes. You will find some well-known dishes (Hasselback Potatoes, Gravlax, Cinnamon Buns, Princess Torte) along with some that are not as common outside the region (Fish and Rice Casserole, Seal Soup, Falu Sausage Gratin, Rosehip Soup). I will also be sharing his recipe for Tacopaj (Swedish Taco Quiche) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a PDF copy of this book from Phaidon in exchange for my honest review. All opinions and statements are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Magnus Nilsson is a Swedish-born chef. He started his culinary career in Paris as a sommelier at L’Astrance and is was the head chef of Fäviken Magasinet in Järpen, Sweden (it closed in December 2019). He has been featured in the PBS series The Mind of a Chef and Netflix’s Chef’s Table. His first cookbook, Fäviken, was published in 2012.
The Nordic Cookbook
This huge book, which even Nilsson notes is only a fraction of Nordic cuisine and is far from fully inclusive (all of the research he compiled could have easily been turned into five large volumes), still does an amazing job at providing an insight into the region’s history. In addition to the vast amount of recipes, he includes a closer look at the culture with information such as food storage, the growing season, imported spices, meal patterns (as often as 6-7 meals during the labor-intensive summer period), alcohol consumption, holidays, hunting, and culinary differences between the countries.
Chapters are divided based on food type: Eggs; Dairy; Vegetables; Freshwater Fish; Saltwater Fish; Marine Mammals and Seafood; Poultry; Game; Pork; Beef and Veal; Lamb and Mutton; Hash and Minced Meat; Blood and Offal; Sausages and Charcuterie; Grains and Cereals; Breads and Savoury Pastries; Pastries, Biscuits and Sweets; Cakes and Tortes; Desserts; Basics and Condiments; Jams, Cordials and Sweet Soups; and Drinks.
Nilsson took the photography of the gorgeous scenery himself and Erik Olsson provided the full page photos featuring the finished product of many recipes, often with a few dishes arranged in a single photo. Illustrations of various techniques such as the types of shapes for Saint Lucy’s Day Saffron Buns and segmenting an orange are provided by Samantha Dion Baker.
Every recipe includes a headnote with background information, variations between the countries, and tips. The name of the recipe is listed in English and the original language with the country of origin. Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric (though Metric is mentioned as being preferred for more accurate results).
The book finishes with a glossary of ingredients that may be lesser known to some. Descriptions are provided and information on where to locate the product. There is also a directory to websites in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and International that sell specialty Nordic ingredients and goods.
Tacopaj (Swedish Taco Quiche)
I was immediately drawn to the Swedish Tacopaj (Taco Quiche) and it has quickly become a family favorite. Tacos were introduced to Sweden and Norway during the mid 1980s by spice companies and over time the flavors were incorporated into other dishes (such as pies) and so the Tacopaj was born.
A thick pastry dough is used to line the bottom and sides of a 9 1/2 inch springform pan. The dough is covered in a layer of taco-seasoned meat (usually beef) and topped with a creamy mixture of crème fraîche, egg, grated cheese, and mayonnaise. The resulting Tacopaj is baked in a 345˚F (175˚C) oven until golden and bubbly. After resting for a bit to settle and cool, the pie is often served with salsa and tortilla chips. As note, I ended up using the broiler for about a minute after baking to help get an extra golden top.
Use commercial mayonnaise for the creamy layer. Homemade versions don’t have the stabilizers necessary to keep everything together during baking.
I personally use Cheddar or Monterey Jack for the grated cheese, but a Tex-Mex blend or Colby-Jack would also work well. I seasoned the beef with this this recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything for homemade taco seasoning.
Looking for more Swedish recipes?
I also made Vaffel (Norwegian Waffles), Macaroni Casserole (Makaronipudding in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden/Makaronilaatikko in Finland), Tea Buns (Teboller in Denmark/Tekakor in Sweden), and Tiger Cake (Tigerkake in Norway/Marmorkage in Denmark/Tigerkaka in Sweden).
The Vaffel was perfect for breakfast. The batter is seasoned with cardamom or vanilla sugar and allowed to rest for an hour before cooking in the waffle maker. I served the waffles with jam and whipped cream and Nilsson recommends them with brown cheese, sausages, and cured meats.
I made the Finnish version of Macaroni Casserole (Makaronilaatikko). Ground beef is cooked with chopped onion and tossed with macaroni. It is baked in a creamy cheese mixture until golden and bubbly. It was an easy and delicious meal, perfect for a weeknight. In other Nordic countries, diced cured/smoked meats such as ham, salt pork or sausage are used in place of the ground beef.
Tea Buns (Teboller/Tekakor) are small yeast buns optionally seasoned with some crushed cardamom seeds. I enjoyed them with honey, but they are also served with butter, marmalade, or cheese.
Tiger Cake (Tigerkake/Marmorkage/Tigerkaka) is a sponge cake marbled with chocolate. The base is a plain sponge cake and cocoa powder is added to half of the batter. The chocolate batter is poured over the white batter and the handle of the wooden spoon is used to create the marbling (tiger) pattern. It was light and perfect for an afternoon snack.
This cookbook is a great choice for those wanting to learn more of Nordic cuisine. The recipes are authentic and traditional and they range from simple meals perfect for a weeknight to more complex projects. Most of the ingredients are readily available to the average American cook, but a few may be more difficult to source (grouse and other less common meat, golden syrup, lingonberries, pea flour, blood). Special equipment is also required to complete a handful of the recipes, particularly the baked goods. Nilsson notes that a small percentage of the dishes are simply not possible for the home cook, but are still included for historical purposes.
Tacopaj (Swedish Taco Quiche) Recipe
Excerpt from The Nordic Cookbook
Tacopaj (Swedish Taco Quiche)
For the pastry:
- 50 grams (2 oz, 3 1/2 tablespoons) butter soft
- 200 grams (7 oz, 1 3/4 cups) weak (soft) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 100 milliliters (3 1⁄2 fl oz, 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) milk
For the meat:
- 500 grams (1 lb 2 oz) minced ground meat most commonly beef, have also seen moose
- Taco spice mix follow the packet instructions and add enough for the above mentioned amount of meat (about 2 2/3 tablespoons to 1 cup water)
- 1 tablespoon butter for frying
For the topping:
- 300 milliliters (10 1⁄2 fl oz, 1 1/4 cups) crème fraîche
- 1 egg
- 100 grams (3 1⁄2 oz, 3/4 cup) grated cheese cheddar or monterey jack
- 2 tablespoons commercial mayonnaise
- Preheat the oven to 175°C/345°F/Gas Mark 4.
- Add all of the ingredients for the pastry, except the milk, to the bowl of a food processor. Mix for a couple of seconds until everything is almost mixed together, then add the milk and mix a bit more until just combined.
- Transfer the dough to a 24 cm (9 1⁄2 inch) springform mould and press it out in an even but rather thick layer, almost all the way up to the edge of the mould. Refrigerate for a bit.
- Meanwhile, brown the minced (ground) meat in a pan over a medium heat and when cooked through and nicely coloured, add the seasoning and some water (for the amount, follow the instructions on the back of your particular spice bag). Let it simmer for a couple of minutes until the water has almost reduced into the meat again.
- As the meat is cooking, mix all of the ingredients for the topping together in a separate bowl. (Do not use homemade mayonnaise as this recipe needs all the stabilizer in the processed one. Without it the topping will separate in the oven.)
- Transfer the cooked meat to the uncooked pastry shell and spread it out in an even layer. Continue by spreading a layer of topping over the meat. Place the pie in the oven for 35–45 minutes or until golden and crisp around the edges. Let it sit for a bit and cool before serving.