One day, out of the blue, I got a call from the Swedish Embassy's Saloni Zaveri-Ahluwalia enquiring about the Pune Gourmet Club and its activities. A few weeks later, on a visit to Pune, she dropped in for a chat and soon we were talking food - Indian and Swedish. My knowledge of Swedish food was restricted to the meatballs I once had at IKEA in New Jersey in the 1990s. One had of course read about the famous Smorgasbord and cakes of Sweden.
Saloni wondered if the PGC would consider a Swedish meet as a part of the Swedish Nobel Memorial Week in Nov. The idea appealed to me and a quick search on Google revealed that cooking up a Swedish lunch would be a challenge but not be impossible. Since the new Swedish consulate was being established in Mumbai, we could expect the consul general to come by for lunch and even help out with recipes and such like. Soon we got a Swedish recipe book by courier and we swung into action.
We fixed the date - Sunday, Nov. 4th and zeroed in on Grappa Garden at Post 91. Chef Kiran Patil, a man with considerable culinary skills, did not bat an eyelid when we mentioned Swedish dishes. Kiran and his team took care of starters and the mains and PGC members donned their baking aprons.
Saloni mentioned that Ms Fredrika Ombrant, the newly appointed Swedish Consul General based in Mumbai would be happy to drive down for the lunch. Which she did along with her two children and Ms Saloni Zaveri-Ahluwalia came over from Delhi. Grappa Garden was decorated with buntings of the Swedish flag. Swedish Innovations Indian Interpretations - a book distributed to all made for very interesting reading.
Swedish cuisine is not very elaborate. The use of preserved meats and seafood is high. Given the sourcing constraints, we decided on a menu using local ingredients. After discussion with the chef, the final menu consisted of Rilettes (Pâté) of chicken on toast, Raggmunk (potato pancakes) with smoked salmon, a cottage cheese and mushroom salad with coriander dressing (the Indian touch), Borscht (betroot soup) of Ukranian origin but popular in Scandinavia, Köttbullar (the famous Swedish meat balls in cream sauce) and (Fika) the traditional cake table. A selection of breads and flavoured butters complemented the courses.
The cake and bread table was laid out by PGC members. Vivek Mannige made a beer bread and Yeyati Nafrey the Almond Cake. Meghna Gajul took on the sand tarts and Sheela Narayan the spiced cake. I took a shot at the Knackebrod (crispy flat bread). Only the famous Swedish Princess Cake was outsourced to FlourWorks.
Absolut vokda and Akvavit set the spirit for the afternoon and a free flow of red and white wines courtesy Four Seasons kept everyone in good cheer.
|Consul General Fredrika Ombrant at the cake table with Shanth, Meghna, Sheela and Yeyati.|
|To the Good Times!|
|Swedish Consul General Fredrika Ombrant with PGC members|