TV chef Valentine Warner is a lover of all things Scandinavian - their crime dramas, design and, most of all, their food. Keeley Bolger fishes out some favourite dishes as she meets the cook in Norway.
It’s midsummer in northern Norway but you wouldn’t know it from looking at TV chef Valentine Warner.
Wrapped up in a grey chunky knit jumper, which is getting an airing after a day hiding underneath heavy-duty waterproofs, Warner is warming up in a village restaurant during a break from filming his new ten-part series, Valentine Warner Eats Scandinavia, starting on the Good Food channel on Monday, September 16.
But at a positively toasty 12C, Warner, who I meet in the Lofoten Islands, which is north of the Arctic Circle, isn’t complaining about the cold. After all, this is the man who recently perched over an icy lake for three hours to catch a fish, with just a flask of coffee to stave off the biting -45C chill.
“You’ve got three hours of workable daylight and the rest is a write-off,” recalls the cook, who previously presented BBC Two cookery show What To Eat Now.
“You have to keep the cameras covered in heat pads so they’re warm enough to use. Everything gets so cold that it snaps.
“If you went to pick up the knife, the knife would stick to your hand. You turn around to pick up the fish, and two minutes later, it’s hard as rock.”
Warner’s hands are free of limpet-like cutlery and fish today, but he admits that Scandi-fever has stuck with him.
Yes, I’ve watched The Killing,” laughs the chef who trained as a portrait artist. “I’ve bought some things from IKEA and I’m interested in Noma restaurant in Copenhagen. I think that combination of things means that suddenly the focus is on Scandinavia.
“And it’s great food here too, really clean food. You’ve got the amazing outdoors and it really plays a part in the kitchen.”
Looking around at that amazing outdoors, offset with neat, burgundy wood cabins, many of which have cod dangling from available beams, it’s easy to see why the cook has fallen for the area.
“In an imaginary world, I’d love a year off, where I could stay in a big wooden house and just draw with no other worries,” says the 41-year-old cook, who has two children with his wife Charlotte.
One companion he’s made on his travels is the lively fisherman Dr Hook.
Today, Dr Hook is at perfect ease both with helping his foodie friend make a fish dish (even humming along with Warner as the cameras roll and they chop up the ingredients on the docks), and with sailing across the high seas where he accompanies Warner on a boat.
But things weren’t always so straightforward for the memorably-named fisherman.
“Dr Hook is a lovely, kind man,” Warner says, taking a restorative sip from his coffee. “But he was sick every day for the first 10 years of his fishing career.”
Luckily Warner, who fishes at “any opportunity”, has never had any trouble with seasickness. And while his sea legs are returning to the UK, he’s determined to bring a chunk of Scandinavia back with him.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my kids and sharing the recipes I’ve stored from my time here,” he says. “There’s a liquorice rhubarb cake that I’m really looking forward to trying at home. There’s a lot I’ve seen on this trip that I’m taking away with me.”
Recipes for you:
If you want to try a taste of Scandinavia, here are three of Warner’s recipes from the series.
Haddock with bacon and mushroom sauce
n 28g dried whole morel or mixed dried mushrooms
n 50g butter
n 75g smoked bacon, chopped into small cubes
n 1 bay leaf
n 250ml single cream
n 100ml sunflower oil
n 5tbsp flour
n 3 eggs
n 4tbsp toasted breadcrumbs
n 2 large haddock fillets, skinned and chopped into even chunks
n 2tsp parsley, chopped
n 1tsp flaked sea salt
n Black pepper
Rehydrate the mushrooms in 100ml warm water and drain, reserving the liquid. Set the mushrooms aside on a piece of kitchen paper.
Melt the butter in a pan and add the mushrooms and bacon. Keep stirring until they turn golden.
Add one tablespoon of flour to thicken up the sauce.
Pour in the mushroom liquid. Add the bay leaf and give it a good stir. Add the cream, stirring to make sure the sauce is combined. Season with black pepper, stir and turn the heat right down.
In a frying pan, heat the sunflower oil. While it heats up, start breadcrumbing your haddock pieces. To do this, set up three shallow bowls - in one, mix four tablespoons of flour with one teaspoon of flaked sea salt; in the second, beat three eggs, and in the third, put the breadcrumbs.
Dip the haddock into the seasoned flour, then the egg wash and then the breadcrumbs.
Add the pieces to the pan, in batches if need be. Turn the haddock pieces as they cook so they’re golden all over.
When golden brown, remove the haddock from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels.
Add the chopped parsley to the mushroom sauce at the last minute. Serve the haddock on top of the mushroom sauce or alternatively, put the mushroom sauce in a bowl and dip the breaded haddock into it.
Curried potato salad
n 400g new potatoes, or peeled and chopped waxy potatoes
n 2 egg yolks
n 1tbsp wholegrain mustard
n 1/2tsp sugar
n 1tbsp white wine vinegar
n 2tsp mild curry powder
n 1 large tbsp creme fraiche
n 150ml sunflower oil
n 50ml olive oil
n 1 white onion, peeled and finely diced
n 4 radishes, 3 chopped finely and 1 sliced, to garnish
n 30g dill, roughly chopped, plus extra to garnish
In a pan, bring the potatoes to the boil and simmer until cooked through. Drain and leave to cool - to cool them quickly, rinse with cold water.
Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and then add the mustard, sugar, vinegar, curry powder and creme fraiche.
Very slowly beat with an electric whisk or hand blender, drizzling in the oils until you have a thick mayonnaise.
Mix in the onion, radishes and dill. Season with salt, extra mustard or vinegar to taste.
Slice the new potatoes thickly, or if using larger potatoes, cut to an equivalent size and mix all the ingredients together. Top with sliced radishes and sprinkle with dill.
Open steak sandwiches
n 1kg beef sirloin
n 4tbsp whipping cream
n 2tbsp creme fraiche
n 2tsp Dijon mustard
n 1/4 horseradish root, grated
n 12 slices rye bread
n 6 cornichons (gherkins), sliced
n 1 shallot, sliced
n Walnut oil, to drizzle
n 1 lemon, half zested and all juiced
n Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5.
Season the beef generously with salt and pepper.
In an ovenproof pan on a high heat, sear the beef on all sides. Place the pan in the oven for 17 minutes, or until the desired pinkness is achieved.
Beat the whipping cream in a mixing bowl until fairly stiff. Add a dollop of creme fraiche and the Dijon mustard. Mix thoroughly.
Mix the horseradish root with the cream and creme fraiche. Add a pinch of salt and mix to combine.
Slice the rye bread. Slice the beef finely and evenly. Then, layer the sliced beef, horseradish creme, shallots and cornichons onto the rye bread slices.
Drizzle with walnut oil and lemon juice, chop up the fresh chives and sprinkle on top.
Add a final grating of lemon zest and serve.