Swedish Gastronomi in Mumbai


Ms Fredrika Ornbrant welcomes the guests
The success of the Nov.2012 Swedish meet in Pune convinced the Swedish Consul General Ms. Fredrika Ornbrant that a similar meet in Mumbai would rock!

Ms Ornbrant, an enthusiastic and accomplished cook, suggested a few dishes and also offered to arrange for a few typical Swedish ingredients - Sprat fillets for Jansson's Temptation, Gravad Lax for the salmon and Lingonberry jam - to ensure the meal had the authentic touch. The search for a venue ended as soon as it began. One phone call and Pawan Raina, ceo of Mocha chain offered Mocha Mojo on Hill Road, Bandra as the venue. Another call and Shailendra Pai of Vallonne Vineyards stepped forward to sponsor the wines.

Shailendra Pai, Shankar & Anil Arora

Ms Ornbrant took time off from diplomatic duties to sit down with Mocha Mojo's Executive Chef Gaurav Gidwani to plan the food trials. Only one dish needed  tweaking. It was decided to use chicken mince in the Kotbullar - the classic Swedish meatballs dish - instead of the traditional mix of pork and beef mince.

The final menu promised a delightful culinary journey. Since it was PGC's first event in Mumbai, I was a bit unsure of the response. But between the Consulate and PGC, we managed to attract nearly 65 persons, far in excess of the restaurant's capacity of 50. The meet fulfilled all three PGC criteria - the food was not on the restaurant menu, PGC members cooked part of the meal and the lunch included wine.  

Mrs. Ornbrant, in her welcome address, informed the guests on how to enjoy the meal. There is a method to every madness and a protocol needs to be followed to enjoy different flavours and textures. This Smörgåsbord had a mix of pre plated dishes and buffet.

The pre plated entree consisted of dill cured salmon with baby potatoes,mustard sauce and pickled herring. Mrs. Ornbrant guided the guests to have a bit of the salmon and herring in between sips of Akvavit - an anise flavoured snaps - and chilled beer. All the Doubting Thomases who wondered how they could enjoy a cold platter without a hint of spice were completely zapped by the flavours unfolding on their palate. The beginning augured well.

The rest of the meal was in traditional Smörgåsbord - a buffet.

Dr. Alpana Nabar, a home cook par excellence and Doubting Thomas who wondered how on earth one could make tasty meatballs without any spices was amazed by the Köttbullar served with creamed potatoes. Score 10 for Swedish meatballs!

Janssons Fretelse aka Jansson's Temptation, said to be named for Pelle Janzon, a food-loving Swedish opera singer of the early 20th century, is a Swedish classic. The creation of this creamy potato and ansjovis casserole was supervised by the Consul General herself. The Swedish ansjovis which refers to sprat is often confused for  anchovies. Sprat has a less oily but more even and smooth taste. Thanks to the Consul General, we served the real thing. No shortcuts at a PGC lunch!

A vegetarian sandwich quite unlike anything created by Mumbai's sandwichwallas was the smörgåstårta - a reinvention of the Great American Sandwich of the '70s and now a staple in Swedish cuisine. You name it, it had it - artichoke, bread, butter, mayo, cheese, veggies, olives, crème fraiche, mustard, spinach .... Displayed as a cake, it was cut into squares and served.
My search for an Indo Swedish dish led me to Sanjoo's Lax Nam Nam - a Swedish Indian crossover dish created by Sanjoo Malhotra, a Sweden based travel agent and food enthusiast. This unique dish of grilled salmon with zucchini, carrots and mango aioli was a hit with the guests.

The bread basket included both home made and store bought offerings. There was Rye made by Mocha, store bought Spelt and multi grain and typical Swedish  knäckebröd - a crisp flatbread made by yours truly. I substituted rye flour with whole wheat and used a meat mallet to replicate the effect of the traditional Swedish rolling pin. The breads were served with flavoured butters.

The venue was packed to the rafters and many Swedes chose the option of sitting outside in the warm weather.
The food and weather were perfect for a glass of Vallonne's Rosé or Sauvignon Blanc served nicely chilled. Unlike other Indian Rosés this one is just a shade sweeter than dry. Perfect for a pickled herring and dill potatoes. The Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and fresh.

There was much clinking of glasses and most conversations revolved around the food. 

No Swedish meal is complete without a Fika (technically a coffee break). Where there is coffee, can cake be far behind? And what a spread it was.

Chef Gaurav created the iconic Princess Cake complete with green marzipan dome and a pink rose on top. The original concept is credited to Jenny Åkerström, a teacher of the daughters of Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland. The princesses loved it so much, that the original green cake became popular as "prinsesstårta" - the Princess Cake. The much loved Swedish Cinnamon pastry was also made by Gaurav's team.

PGC members brought their contributions to the table. Meghna Gajool presented sand tarts and spiced cookies, Sheela Narayan served up a spiced cake and Vandana Inamdar brought in an almond cake.

The event attracted a veritable who's who of the food world. BBC Good Food India editor Sona Bahadur spent the afternoon with us as did food bloggers Raul Dias and Romi Purkayastha and Sula brand ambassador Cecilia Oldne. The august company included two chefs from the the world's top three restaurants. Garima Arora of Noma, Copenhagen and Michelle of El Celler de Can Roca of Girona, Spain spent the entire afternoon with us.  A little advance notice and maybe we could have got Garima and Michelle to cook for us!

PGC thanks Mrs. Fredrika Ornbrant, Consul General of Sweden in India for the untiring efforts to make the event so successful, Shailendra Pai for sponsoring the wine, Pawan Raina of Mocha for the venue, Chef Gaurav Gidwani for a super meal far removed from Mocha Mojo's fare and Mobin for keeping the wine, Akvavit, beer and wine flowing!

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