Crispy lichens seasoned with dried egg yolks and very lightly cold-smoked fish

A recipe by Magnus Nilsson, taken from Faviken
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This is a preparation that has been around for a while and changed quite a lot in the beginning when we were experimenting with different seasoning. During 2011 stayed it largely unchanged.

We serve it downstairs as an appetizer with drinks. Its mushroomy bitterness and very fragile texture is very good, almost as good as commercially manufactured crisps (potato chips).

Some lichens have always been eaten in difficult times; they have been made into porridge (oatmeal), used much like pine-bark flour to make wheat flour go further and they have even been made into jelly.

Lichens can contain polysaccharides, and in survival situations they have been known to keep people alive for quite some time, even when they are pretty much the only source of food available.

Lichens are a fascinating symbiosis between two organisms, a fungus and a blue-green algae.

They contain varying amounts of lichenic acid, a bitter substance that must be removed if the lichen is going to be eaten in large quantities. This used to be done by neutralizing the acid with potash, then washing the potash away by rinsing it many times in water.

At Fäviken I usually use the varieties of lichen

that contain lower levels of lichenic acids, and which are therefore less bitter. In any case, when served in tiny bites, as we do, the mushroomy bitterness is quite nice, and therefore an asset.

The lichens are steamed before being deep-fried very quickly without taking on any colour. After cooking they are seasoned with savoury cured egg yolks or dried fish, which heightens the flavour of the lichen effectively. To finish the dish we use a whipped sour cream mildly seasoned with garlic which binds the small, crispy particles in the mouth so that you get the sensation of the lichen dissolving in your mouth, instead of feeling sandy and unpleasant.

Serves 6

Ingredients

oil, for deep-frying

6 pieces reindeer lichen Cladonia rangiferina, rinsed and cleaned

6 pieces Icelandic moss (Iceland cetraria lichen) Cetraria islandia, rinsed and cleaned

50g of lightly soured cream

pinch of grated garlic

dried trout, to serve

cured egg yolks, to serve

Method

Heat the oil a to suitable temperature for deep-frying.

While the oil is heating, steam the lichens for about 10 minutes in a steam oven at 100°C (200°F).

Take them straight from the oven, while still humid, and drop them straight into the hot oil. As soon as they stop bubbling, take them out and place on clean paper towels. Change the paper towels several times to soak up as much fat as possible.

Whip the cream to soft peaks and season it very lightly with garlic, then place on a stone at room temperature.

Season the lichens by grating the fish over the reindeer lichen and the egg yolks over the other one.

Plate the lichens on a hot stone, and eat them like crisps (chips), with the cream to dip.

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Faviken

Fäviken is an exclusive insight into one of the world's most interesting restaurants: Fäviken Magasinet in Sweden. Narrative texts, photographs and recipes explain head chef Magnus Nilsson's remarkable approach to sourcing and cooking with ingredients that are farmed and hunted in the immediate vicinity of the restaurant, and how he creates a seasonal cycle of menus based on them.

Even though not everyone can visit Fäviken, Nilsson’s approach to working with ingredients in the most natural, intuitive way possible, and making the most of each season, will inspire all cooks and food-lovers to think differently about the ingredients that are available to them.

Many of the basic recipes for yoghurt, bread, porridge, vinegar, pickles and preserves are simple and straightforward enough for anyone to attempt at home, and the advice on natural preservation methods can be followed by anyone.

The text in Fäviken will provide inspiration for chefs and food-lovers all over the world and are fully accessible to the general reader.