Noma – Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine

The fellow foodies critic opportunity for April 2011.

Phaidon Press 2010. Hardback. 368 pages. RRP £35

When this incredible tome arrived I was absolutely stunned by the exquisite presentation. The opening blurb describes the book as “…an exclusive insight into the food philosophy and creativity of Chef René Redzepi and his innovative Copenhagen restaurant.”

The overall look of the book is stunning; unbelievably beautiful and a real treasure to possess. Even the detail of the paper that has been printed on has been meticulously planned to convey a tactile experience when devouring its contents.

The book opens with a fold-out map of the Nordic region to set the scene facing a contents page whose simplicity belies what is to come!

The following chapters develop the theme that eating food shouldn’t be just a necessary sustenance stop in the day, but is an opportunity to experience new and beautiful things and challenge our senses. The evolution of Noma is described in great detail so that the reader can really feel like he or she is in tune with the concept.

René Redzepi is quoted in the second chapter; “You have to become aware of the history of the raw material or the famer’s passion and his involvement with the raw material he grows for you. This encounter means that you wouldn’t dream of manipulating the materials excessively. It’s about being able to feel the link to the producer, whether it’s nature herself or agriculture. We only do our job properly if we succeed in creating a dish in which we show the history of the raw material and put it in the right context. Without this connection it makes no sense”.

There is then a section of René’s diary in which he describes a search for new products and conveys his enthusiasm for his subject. At this point you are tantalisingly close to the amazing photographic section, but for a brief biography of the Chef which reminds you again of how it is possible to transform “normal” into “incredible”.

The photographs are spectacular and absolutely my favourite part of this book. I find myself returning to them again and again, and quite forgetting that the subject is food as they are wonderful pictures in their own right. As well as being numbered there is a secondary number to link the picture to the recipe which is handy, although it is not easy to flick between the two sections.

This is where a slight note of disappointment crept in as I identified a dish that I would like to attempt, located the recipe and then found the ingredient list to be beyond my experience. I have a feeling that many of the ingredients are not native to suburban Surrey and although a more experienced foodie might be able to locate suitable alternatives I feel that you would lose on the concept side of things. I also found that the skill level required to accomplish many of the dishes was beyond me requiring equipment and time that I just don’t possess. Such was the anxiety that it induced I even recruited my husband (a Chef), who pointed out that what I really need to achieve these wondrous feats is a professional kitchen, with a team of highly trained chefs, probably somewhere in Copenhagen!

The final section of the book details the talented and passionate individuals that make up the team for Noma who do produce these works of art on a regular basis. This book is a fabulous showcase for their skills and the concept of Chef René Redzepi. More than anything it makes me want to travel to Copenhagen and taste it all for myself!

As a recipe book for me, I would not rate this book very highly due to the issues I had with locating ingredients and ease of use, however I would give this book a fellow foodies rating of four forks for its sheer beauty and otherworldliness. It reminds you that there is more to food than mere survival and incredible things can be created from good local produce.

Reviewed by Emily from Surrey

Click here to read about Maureen’s experience at Noma!

(picture: Phaidon Press website)

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