Life, love and meat­balls

Rachel Khoo falls for Swe­den Matt Pre­ston on food ma­chines

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

It’s the home of Abba and Pippi Long­stock­ing and Spo­tify and meat­balls and her­ring and, of course, Ikea. It’s also now the home of Rachel Khoo, the Bri­tish cook who turned her lit­tle Paris kitchen into a hit book and TV show. Now she has fol­lowed her heart to Swe­den.And she’s lov­ing it.

“I mar­ried a Swede. Not a veg­etable kind! That’s how I ended up in Swe­den – it’s as sim­ple as that,” Khoo says down the line from Stock­holm where she’s lived for the past cou­ple of years with her hus­band, Robert Wik­torin.

“I’ve al­ways been one to em­brace liv­ing in dif­fer­ent coun­tries. I’d moved back to Lon­don from Paris and thought, let’s give it a go. It’s hum­bling mov­ing to another coun­try.You start from zero,you don’t un­der­stand peo­ple. I speak Swedish like a two-year-old, but I give it a try.”

It’s the slower pace of life in a city with a tenth of the pop­u­la­tion of Lon­don that es­pe­cially ap­peals to Khoo,who now has an 18-month-old child in tow.

“I def­i­nitely feel this place is right for me now. It’s a so­ci­ety where loads of dads pick up the kids from school or are in the play­ground dur­ing the day be­cause they’re on parental leave.To see that bal­anced ap­proach is great,” she says.

“I love Lon­don and I love Paris, but some­times the pace – you can’t keep up. In Stock­holm, peo­ple are much more laid-back; they’re su­per-friendly.”

Tak­ing things slower is a change for Khoo,whose life had been a whirl­wind of cook­books and TV se­ries since The

Lit­tle Paris Kitchen was first pub­lished in 2012, in­clud­ing film­ing Rachel Khoo’s

Kitchen Note­book in Mel­bourne and co­host­ing Zumbo’s Just Desserts in Sydney.

“For a good while I was in Aus­tralia more than any­where else, and I was think­ing of mov­ing there at one point,” she says. “I think my mum’s so happy I found a Swedish man be­cause Aus­tralia is a long way from her in Aus­tria.”

Born in South Lon­don to a Chi­ne­seMalaysian fa­ther and Aus­trian mother, Khoo, 37, lived in Ger­many as a teen and grad­u­ated with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in art and de­sign from Lon­don’s pres­ti­gious Saint Martin’s Col­lege in her 20s be­fore mov­ing to Paris on a whim to trans­form a pas­sion for pâtis­serie into a diploma of pas­try from Le Cor­don Bleu school.

Turn­ing the kitchen in her apart­ment into the small­est restau­rant in Paris, seat­ing just two (La Petite Cui­sine à Paris), Khoo honed the recipes that would ap­pear in her book The Lit­tle

Paris Kitchen.And it’s an ex­plo­ration of her new home that Khoo cap­tures in her lat­est, The Lit­tle Swedish Kitchen, shar­ing her favourite dis­cov­er­ies, from clas­sics – yes, there’s a recipe for the fa­mous

köt­tbullar or meat­balls – to her own take on lo­cal dishes. With a fleet­ing sum­mer and a seem­ingly end­less win­ter, the sea­sons play a defin­ing role in Swedish cui­sine – pick­ling, cur­ing and smok­ing ex­tend the short grow­ing sea­sons – while tra­di­tional cui­sine makes the most of the lim­ited avail­able pro­duce.

“If you don’t have a wide va­ri­ety you need to be cre­ative with the things you do.The tra­di­tional food – most likely you’d have the in­gre­di­ents in your cup­board. I think there’s some­thing very mod­ern about ap­proach­ing food with that men­tal­ity – okay, I don’t have a wide va­ri­ety of pro­duce, but I can still make some­thing de­li­cious,” she says. “You have to find a sim­ple way of cook­ing. That’s an ap­proach I have en­joyed.”

The tra­di­tion of fika – a break with cof­fee and cake or pas­try – is another part of Swedish life Khoo has em­braced with gusto.

“They love their cin­na­mon and car­damom buns.You go into any bak­ery and the smell hits you. I had this bun the other day – imag­ine a brioche dough­nut that’s heav­ily scented with car­damom. When you buy it, they fill it up with this re­ally light, fluffy vanilla cream, so much that it’s burst­ing at the seams when you bite into it. It’s ab­so­lutely de­li­cious.”

Tak­ing the time to en­joy such sim­ple plea­sures – a bun with cof­fee, a bike ride by the wa­ter, pick­ing sum­mer berries in the for­est – is some­thing Khoo says the Swedes def­i­nitely get right.

“You’re en­cour­aged to take a lunch break, to get out and en­joy nature. One of my favourite things to do in sum­mer is to pick berries – lin­gonber­ries, for­est straw­ber­ries, blue­ber­ries, cloud­ber­ries, wild rasp­ber­ries. It’s a lot of work, but it’s such a joy­ful ex­pe­ri­ence,” she says.

“You ap­pre­ci­ate the sea­sons more when the win­ters are so long. But that’s what I love about Swedish cul­ture – it doesn’t mat­ter what’s hap­pen­ing, they em­brace it and make the most of it.”

Hav­ing a keen ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the sea­sons is some­thing Khoo also learnt from chef Mag­nus Nils­son when she did a two-week stint in his Fäviken kitchen. At the fa­mously re­mote restau­rant – it takes a plane, a train and car to reach the 8000-hectare es­tate 750 kilo­me­tres from Stock­holm – Nils­son serves mod­ern Nordic fare that’s from the sur­round­ing land to just 16 guests a night.

“It was the con­nec­tion to nature there in the mid­dle of nowhere that made it such a unique ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Khoo. “He had so much re­spect for each in­gre­di­ent. It didn’t mat­ter whether it was a piece of meat or some car­rots they’d grown.”

While peri­patetic Khoo is happy call­ing Swe­den home for now, don’t be sur­prised if there’s another in­stal­ment in her Lit­tle Kitchen cook­book se­ries down the track.

“Ob­vi­ously it’s not just me now, it’s a fam­ily de­ci­sion [but] I’m al­ways one to em­brace new things,” she says. “Life is an ad­ven­ture. I think you only get one go, so if life throws you some­thing ex­cit­ing and it’s the right thing, why not go for it?”

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