Eat, feel, love
Mikkel Karstad’s biography is pretty tasty. Head chef at Christianborg, the Danish parliament, a few Michelin starred restaurants, gastronomic advisor to Claus Meyer, famous co-founder of the gourmet restaurant Noma – these are just a few highlights from his career to mention. Now it’s time for his very first own book –“Spis”(or “Eat”). Browsing trough its pages feels dangerously delicious. For a little antipasto taste of it, Mikkel’s interview is your best choice!
Love affair with food
For some of us food is just a substance that keeps us alive. But for Mikkel Karstad it’s much more than that. It’s the aesthetics of food culture that makes his eyes sparkle. “I think the aesthetic side is very important because our eyes play an important role in eating and you almost always get the urge to taste something that looks beautiful and nice, rather than food that does not look so appetizing. You eat with your senses, eyes, and nose,”says Mikkel.
His own love affair with food beganin his childhood. He was engaged by his grandparents on Funen island in growing vegetables and catching fish. So it was always almost obvious to Mikkel that in his adult life he should do something with food and fine ingredients. “I remember all the good things from my grandparents. There were always homegrown vegetables, fruit, fish and game,”saysMikkel. “My grandmother worked for many years as a kogekone –cook lady, she was really good at cooking, like my mother. I’ve never seen it as fine gastronomy, just lovely homemade food with the good ingredients that were in season.”
Today Mikkel has four children of his own: Oscar, Alma, Konrad and Viggo. I would bet they’ve never tasted any frozen food. But Mikkel laughs –yes, they have…Even though he and his wife Camilla always try to prepare some good homemade food for their children, or at least buy good quality prepared meals. “We have to have a hectic schedule to fit together with two full-time jobs and four kids,”he laughs. “We have a classic Danish dish called meatballs in curry (boller i karry), which my kids love when I make it. But they have a pretty good taste for most things I make, even when they geta little ‘strange’, as they say.”
A book will change your habits
Being a trusted and creative chef, Mikkel Karstad deals every day with fine cuisine that he calls food with personality and taste. “I’d rather eat a meal that is made of some good local seasonal produce with personality and love, than a “fine”impersonal dish that consists of expensive ingredients and is made with a sense of duty,”he says.
That’s also one of the main goals for Mikkel’s newest cookbook, Spis, that has just been released in Denmark. It aims to inspire people to use good ingredients and to cook. Simple as that! And so important at the same time.
Mikkel lookedto the ingredients that he really enjoys using in the kitchen and which othersforget a little. He created 5-6 recipes with each of the ingredients, so that his readers would be inspired to use it creatively in several different ways, the way they’ve never done before. So if you are to read Mikkel’s book, you’ll probably have to change your eating habits slightly to be able to experience some new adventures with food.
Here, Mikkel tells me about his own most extraordinary gastronomic adventure. It was a trip to Greenland; he was out sailing in Disco Bay with his friend Claus Meyer (yes, the famous star-chef, co-founder of one of the world’s most renowned restaurants,Noma). There they saw a hunter who had shot a seal. He was standing there on a small ice floe. Mikkel and Claus sailed over to the hunter and he offered them a taste of warm raw liver. It’s a local tradition…“Eating that warm raw liver, just removed from a seal, and standing on a floe in Disco Bay at 10 degrees below zero, was one of the wildest food experiences I’ve ever had, and I will always remember it,”says Mikkel.
But don’t you go thinking that only being extreme and eating a poor seal’s liver inspires Mikkel in his creative work. His daily life and what’s around him, his beautiful wife, their cute children, the weather and the change of seasons— these are all the simple things by which Mikkel feels immensely inspired. “If the sun shines, it makes me want to prepare a light salad or seafood, but if it’s cold and snowy, then I feel like making a soup or braised pork cheeks,”he explains.
The most important things
It’s not been intentional, but Mikkel has always tried to excel and challenge himself. He’s lucky enough to have always done exactly what he most wanted to do at any given time. So there have been many exciting projects in his life. But he really can’t forget the experience of working with Claus Meyer, says Mikkel who worked for five years as Claus’gastronomic advisor. “It’s unforgettable both on the personal and the professional level. Traveling with him, writing books or just preparing good food with the best ingredients,” he reminisces.
By the way, it was Meyer who once said that his main motivation has always been moving Denmark’s food culture forward. How does Mikkel see his own mission in the food scene? “I think my mission is a bit more modest than Claus’. But of course, I want to help improve and preserve the Danish food culture. And I would also love to give my kids a good foundation for food, quality ingredients and sustainability,”says Mikkel. “If I had to take my last meal, it wouldn’t matter what it were, but rather whom it were with. And it should be with my own little family, my wife Camilla and our four children.”
Flamed strawberries –with rose and strawberry sorbet
You will need:
500 g strawberries
2-tablespoons of acacia honey
1 little handful of rose leaves
1 little handful of verbena leaves
1 unsprayed lemon
1 drop of whisky
Rinse the strawberries, and snip away the top. Let them drain off carefully.
Heat up a frying pan directly on the fire/embers, and put the honey onto the hot pan. When the honey starts to fizz and caramelize, put the strawberries onto the pan. Let the strawberries “fry”for 30 sec., then add the roses and finely grated zest and juice from a lemon, and let it all fry for one more minute, until it thickens and becomes a light syrup.
Add whisky to the pan (as needed), and tilt the pan a bit and shake it so the fire can get a hold of the alcohol and thereby flambé. When the alcohol is lit, shake the pan easily, until there are no more flames and therefore no more alcohol. Add the verbena leaves and shake the pan one more time.
Serve the strawberries right away, directly from the pan and while they are hot with a nice spoon of strawberry sorbet on the side.
The dessert can also be made with other kinds of berries or fruits such as peaches, apricots, plums, pears or apples.
500 g fresh strawberries
1 litre water
200 g cane sugar
10 whole peppercorns
2 unsprayed lemons
Rinse the strawberries, and snip away the top. Let them drain off carefully.
Slice the strawberries in half and put them in a pot along with water, sugar, vanilla, vanilla pod and the whole peppercorns. The peppercorns help “break”the sweetness in the sorbet, while at the same time stimulating the taste buds a little, and so enhancing the taste of the strawberries.
Bring it all to a boil, and let it stay that way for 3-4 min. Remove from the heat and season with finely grated zest and juice from the lemons. Leave the strawberry pickle for 20 min
Blend the pickle and strain it through a large-eyed strainer, such that some of the strawberry meat will go through. Place the sorbet brine in the fridge, and let it cool off completely.
When the sorbet brine is completely cold, pour it in an ice machine and run it to a sorbet. Put the finished sorbet in a plastic box and place it in the freezer, where it can stay for 3-4 days and still keep its nicely creamed consistence.
Read Mikkel Karstad’s blog “We You They Ate”
Find more recipes and photos from the cookbook “Spis” in the newest issue of Llamas’ Valley. Read it in full beauty on your iPad. The magazine is available in the App Store.