More to Swedish cooking than herring!

CHRISTMAS has come early for Anna Mosesson. After years of trying to hook a publisher, she's finally seen her persistence pay off. Now we can all enjoy making choklad kladd kaka (chocolate gooey cake), Pärlhöna med blandad svamp (stuffed guinea fowl with wild mushrooms) and råraka (lacy potato pancakes).

CHRISTMAS has come early for Anna Mosesson. After years of trying to hook a publisher, she's finally seen her persistence pay off. Now we can all enjoy making choklad kladd kaka (chocolate gooey cake), Pärlhöna med blandad svamp (stuffed guinea fowl with wild mushrooms) and råraka (lacy potato pancakes).

It was worth the wait, because her idea for a Swedish cookbook caught the eye of the Anness Publishing empire. The UK's largest independent publisher produces many food books and has a reputation for doing things properly.

Hence, Swedish Food & Cooking combines simplicity with a sense of style and some mouth-watering photographs by William Lingwood to show herring and meatballs are far from the whole story as far as Scandinavian fare is concerned.

There are over 60 recipes, from appetizers and side dishes to wild meat and desserts, but it's more than a standard cookbook: a dash of history, a smidgeon of national tradition and a pinch of geography are also part of the mix.

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There's also a component Aldeburgh-based Anna was very keen on: some detail about her upbringing and a sense of her own personality.

Half Swedish and half Finnish, she spent much of her childhood in Sweden (with a spell in Scotland, too): at her parents' home in central Stockholm and, over Christmas and every summer, at her aunt Brita's house in Södermanland. It gave her complementary experiences of both city life - strong memories, for instance, of the sights and smells of the Osterrmalms hallen food hall in the capital - and the countryside.

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“I have a lasting childhood memory of sitting under the table in our kitchen, enjoying the coming and going of people running back and forth,” she writes. “My parents were having what seemed to me like a banquet. I remember being transported by the smells of simmering stocks, the roasted meats and the baked bread . . .

“At other less hectic times I used to watch our cook, Fanny, in the kitchen, and over the years I learned from her the basics of Swedish cooking.”

In Södermanland, meanwhile, young Anna would collect milk from the dairy and make gräddkarameller: fudge. In the mornings she'd often catch her own fish in Lake Öljaren. Perch was the easiest to get, using just a worm and a cork.

She'd help in the kitchen, too, by rolling meatballs, usually made of elk. Then, later in the day, it would be time to collect wild blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, and pick mushrooms in the woods.

“One summer, I was sailing with my parents in the Stockholm archipelago and we came across a little house where a lady was hanging out nets. My father asked if she had any fish to sell us and she showed us a pike swimming around in a large wooden box with holes in it, called a sump . . .

“My father cooked it in the open air by salting it and then wrapping it in wet newspaper and cooking it over an open fire. My mother made a delicious fresh mayonnaise to go with it. The pike was the best I have ever eaten.”

The seed of the book was sown nearly a decade ago. After launching her own catering business in London in 1982, Anna ran her first restaurant - Scandelicious, in Aldeburgh High Street - from 1997 until a few years ago.

“Lots of people said 'Oh, you should write a recipe book; we love your food.' I've always had a collection of recipes, so I then put them altogether and approached lots of publishers.

“They just said 'Swedish food . . . er, is there a market for Swedish food in Britain?' I told them 'Look, it's not only a British market. There are hundreds and thousands of Swedes in America - and maybe even Americans would be interested, because of their backgrounds.”

She approached Chatto and Windus, “because Nigella Lawson had just come out with a book, and I thought she's rather similar: a girl who isn't a chef, loves cooking, and talks a lot about her life. That's what my book was all about: my upbringing, and how I've been influenced by ways of eating.

“Jamie Oliver's PA came in and said 'You write a book; I'll give you the number of Jamie Oliver's publishers.' I wrote to them. Same letter came back: 'We love your recipes, but we don't think there's a demand for Swedish cookery.'”

Things started to change when Anna opened her first London restaurant, Glas, in the spring of 2005.

“A publisher came to me and said 'Would you consider writing a Swedish cookbook?' I said 'I don't believe it!'”

A long wait, then, but her wish eventually came true.

“I did get my way, but it took a heck of a long time! I'm now on my third restaurant; you'd have thought people would have appreciated then that I do know what I'm talking about!”

So what are the major culinary differences between Anna's motherland and her adopted country?

“It's a different way of cooking. I don't think the British eat as healthily as the Swedes. They eat a lot of chips and bread. In Sweden the bread is traditionally made from rye, which makes it healthier.”

Having said that, Anna thinks people are being re-educated. She's heartened by farmers' markets, which have put the emphasis back on local produce and good quality.

“If it's well prepared, it doesn't matter what nationality food is. Good ingredients - you ask Gordon Ramsay, that's what he swears by - good ingredients, simply prepared, and you're away.”

Swedish Food and Cooking is published by Aquamarine at £16.99. ISBN: 1903141419

A BOOK published and a new London restaurant launched . . . It's a busy time for Anna Mosesson.

She had to up sticks from Glas - “a little hole-in-the-wall; very sweet” - when discussions about a new lease were terminated. Good job, in hindsight, since building owner Network Rail is forging ahead with a major project linked to the Olympics.

It's expanding the railway line into London Bridge, she explains. That wouldn't have done a lot for Glas, whose kitchens were literally underneath the arches. Cooking and dust from major construction work wouldn't have made a rewarding combination.

So, about six weeks ago, it was goodbye to Borough Market, south of the Thames, and hello to Islington. With the former tram shed building situated on Upper Street N1, what better to christen it than Upper Glas?

Ikea has been generous in helping create that Swedish sense of style and wellbeing, donating about £20,000 of furniture from a design exhibition, and Anna's got “young, bright chefs doing innovative things”, including smoked reindeer.

She's putting the brake on her catering enterprise in Suffolk - private dining, food for parties, and so on - as there's too much to do in London, but she still has her weekend Swedish food stall at Borough Market: something she started in 1999 when winter trade was slow at the Aldeburgh restaurant.

“It's good fun, although I feel sometimes a bit like a monkey in a cage, because there are so many tourists there. They come and look at you, taste the food, and go away!”

She's taken on a little London flat to ease the commuting from Aldeburgh. She doesn't leave Upper Glas until two o'clock in the morning, and is up again at 8am.

“You take time off, sleep for 24 hours, and then you go back to it. I don't think people understand what it entails to be in the restaurant business. Why we do it, I don't know!” she laughs.

A pause. “I love it!”

It's the parade of diners that thrills.

“I could write a play about the people I meet. The South Africans, for instance, who were in on Saturday night after a rugby match at Twickenham.

“These guys came all the way from Twickenham to go to Jamie Oliver's restaurant and it was fully booked, of course. I think someone recommended me - I'm not far away - and they were the best customers, because they were on an absolute high having won the match, and they went to town.

“Then I had another group of people who were very funny. They came in and said” - she puts on an estuary accent - “'Oh, you don't have any music on. What's wrong here? Where's the atmosphere?' They were quite rude to me about it.

“I said 'People like to eat without music, you know. Why don't you have a drink and settle down, and take in my kind of atmosphere?'

“They were eating out of my hand; they had two bottles of wine, lots to eat, and by the end of it they'd booked a table for 20 the next week!”

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Anna facts:

Catered for Placido Domingo's 40th birthday party, and gala ballet reception attended by the late Diana, Princess of Wales

1994: One of the final contenders for Anglia TV's Hostess of the Year contest

2004: Reached the later stages of BBC TV's Masterchef at Large competition

Anna Mosesson's Skagenröra - Toast Skagen - from Swedish Food & Cooking

Skagenröra, which translates as “a mixture from the sea”, is often served in restaurants as a seafood snack.

Ingredients. Serves six to eight

1kg/2.25lb shell-on cooked prawns (shrimp); 250ml/8floz/1 cup sour cream; 250ml/8floz/1 cup thick mayonnaise; 30ml/2 tbsp chopped fresh chives; squeeze of lemon juice; 25-50g/1-2oz/2-4 tbsp butter; 8 slices bread, halved; 5ml 1 tbsp red lumpfish roe; salt and ground black pepper

1. Carefully remove shells from prawns, keeping them intact. Put the sour cream, mayonnaise, chopped dill, chives and lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the prawns.

2. Melt butter in large frying pan; add bread slices and fry until golden brown on both sides.

3. Serve the prawn mixture piled on top of the fried bread and garnish with a small amount of the lumpfish roe and a frond of dill.

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