Guest Chef Demonstrationwith Henrik Ritzén
Le Cordon Bleu London were joined by Aquavit's Executive Chef Henrik Ritzén for a guest chef demonstration to celebrate all things Nordic; there was hay-baked turbot, pickled cucumbers, compressed dill oil – the very dishes that earned Aquavit a well-deserved Michelin star and all with Henrick at the helm of the kitchen. Having had a passion for cooking from a young age, the Swedish born chef attended culinary school in Gothenburg at the age of 16. He worked at Fiskekrogen for three years before moving to London in 1998. When he arrived, Henrick quickly climbed the ranks to Head Chef at Lutyens, Fleet Street.
In 2016, he launched the high-end Scandinavian-inspired restaurant Aquavit in London. The plan was never to emulate the original Aquavit, but to lean on its influences to create a brasserie style restaurant and a menu to reflect this. “We didn’t set out to create a Michelin-starred restaurant, but were instead just trying to celebrate Nordic food as a brasserie, similar to many brilliant restaurants based in Gothenburg and Stockholm and other parts of Sweden."
Henrik was joined by Le Cordon Bleu Master Chef Anthony Boyd, who briefly worked alongside Chef Henrik at The Square back in 1999, but they both remembered each other fondly. Their former Head Chef had a front row seat at Chef Anthony’s request, providing a pleasant surprise for Henrik.
Henrik explained to guests that he always focuses on the food and the natural flavours that the ingredients provide, he lets the plate talk for itself by marrying the best produce in a harmonious way. Throughout the demonstration, Henrik described the processes in his cooking in such a natural way that it made the process sound far more simplistic than it is.
Henrik prepared a delicately cooked turbot with hay burnt potatoes and pickled cucumber, topped with Sandefjord sauce. For the turbot, he made a brine to moisten and season the fish, using 500 ml of water, natural sea salt and a squeeze of lemon before steam-baking at 42-44°C for 10-15 minutes. At Aquavit London, a brine like this is almost always used when preparing fish as it helps give consistent results.
Henrik placed Ratte potatoes on a large cast iron pan and blowtorched quickly, not to cook it but just to blister the skin and increase the barbecue flavouring. He then boiled the potatoes in a pot with water, garlic clove, thyme, salt and rapeseed oil until cooked. He drained and placed them in a gastro tray and covered the top with hay, which was then scorched to ash and sifted the ash from the potatoes. Using some hay to smoke the potatoes added such a smoky depth which is so simple to achieve.
Moving onto the cucumbers, which he peeled and placed in a vacuum bag. He gathered white peppercorns, dill seeds, fennel, mustard and coriander seeds and stirred them through Etica vinegar to create a pickling liquid with around 10-12% acidity.
To create a balance of flavours, he made a Sandefjord sauce which consists of shallots, Etica and water, butter and crème fraiche. He deep fried the Panko crumbed skirt in a pan and once cooked, he poured the Sandefjord over it.
If Henrik was cooking this at his restaurant, he'd assemble the dish by adding the turbot and hay burnt potatoes on a plate, but for the purpose of the demonstration, he cut the food into small portion sizes and placed into small bowls for each guest to try just before the evening came to an end. Before guests left, Henrik emphasised his approach to cooking: “The most important thing with cooking is to have fun and you have to enjoy it as if you aren’t enjoying it, then you aren’t going to learn nearly as much. When I started, I enjoyed it and had the passion from others around me and it didn’t even feel like I was learning as I found it so interesting; it was just enjoyable throughout.”
At Aquavit London, dishes like these are featured on the menu, and are a true depiction of the cuisine made in Sweden. Aquavit London sits an average of 80-90 diners at lunchtime and 110-180 diners at dinnertime. It delivers the very best of Nordic cuisine and 75% of ingredients used in the restaurant are UK-sourced with the remaining being European-sourced, including their prawns from Norway and Herring from Sweden. The restaurant reduces waste by reusing the cast-off items such as the filleted fish carcass which can be used for stock, or the roe from the fish. ‘Smorgasbord’ is a Swedish buffet-style section on the menu which features four types of herring, blood-pudding (traditional Swedish style served with lingonberries) and other popular sharing options, which guests can choose ahead of their starter, main or dessert.
See our upcoming guest chef events like this on our culinary conferences and cooking demonstrations page, or why not browse our courses and programmes pages to learn the skills required to make incredible dishes like Henrik.