‘Flames, high temperatures and smoke’. That’s how Niklas Ekstedt describes the cooking methods at his Michelin stared Stockholm based restaurant Ekstedt in the German food programme Kitchen Impossible. Exhibited through the time Kitchen Impossible spends at the restaurant is Niklas Ekstedt’s driving idea of cooking as Scandinavians did before electricity.
This idea of a return to the past grew in Ekstedt’s mind as he became increasingly tired of the growth of technology in the kitchen. The chef’s work place was beginning to look like a gadget factory. Ekstedt’s desire for a more analogue style of cooking led him back to the use of elemental cooking techniques like open flames, smoke, wood heated stoves and a Flambadou Iron, a cone shaped cooking tool for searing meat and fish with flaming fat.
Simple as cooking in such a raw way can sound at times, it’s clear from the TV programme just how complex and exacting it is, as Ekstedt says, it’s not a grill house in the style of the low and slow cooked American BBQ. It’s rough, hot, fast and precise so that what the brigade produces can be clean, delicate, contemporary plates of food that’s made up of local ingredients endowed with the qualities of the cooking processes they have been through.
As the new Wallpaper* Guide to Stockholm notes, the restaurant is full of the pleasant smell of burning birch wood as you eat your way through the four or six course tasting menus among the timber, leather and copper surroundings that were inspired by Ekstedt’s childhood in northern Sweden.
Cooking and flavouring our food with wood and smoke is an ancient technique that we still love today. As Nathan Myhrvold explains in the new Netflix series “Cooked”, the flavour the food takes on when cooked over wood comes not from the wood itself burning, but from the incomplete combustion of the gaseous compounds given off as the wood burns. Other flavours can also be imparted to the meat, such as the fat dripping from it onto the wood, then burning and releasing smoke back up to the meat.
Enjoy it if you can.
For more on Ekstedt restaurant see here
Ekstedt Restaurant website