Scallop I skalet ur elden cooked over burning juniper branches

A signature Faviken dish
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“This is a dish I am very proud of. In my opinion, not only is it very close to perfection at every stage, from the raw product to the technique used to cook it to the presentation, but it is also our only truly iconic dish. The recipe has been printed countless times, and even if people know in advance that they are going to eat it when they visit us, it never seems to stop surprising diners with its simplified complexity and deliciousness.

The reason I love this particular recipe is that it exemplifies everything that I think is desirable in a dish. It is a perfect product cooked very simply and presented with an even greater simplicity, which tells the diner a story of passion, and in which you can sense the skill of the chef’s cooking in every bite and sip.

The origins of this dish go back to when I was around 20 years old, at a Biarritz beach barbecue. When I lived in Paris I quite often went to the Basque town of San Sebastián in Spain to eat at one or another of its great restaurants. I usually stayed in a little bed and breakfast run by an old French lady in Biarritz. It was actually a bit impractical, since San Sebastian is quite a distance away. The first time I went I didn’t realize this, but afterwards I just kept going back because I liked the lady and the place, with its beautiful setting high up on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, impractical or not.

One night when I had just arrived, I went for a walk on the beach and soon met some surfers, who invited me to a barbecue with them and to have some drinks on the still sun-warmed sand. As I was sitting there, talking and enjoying myself, I remembered a Swedish friend telling me some time before about placing some oysters, whole in their shells, on a grill, cooking them until just barely warm and then enjoying them straight from the shell.

He claimed it was delicious and I had no reason to disbelieve him.

A couple of hours earlier I had met a girl who turned out to work in a local restaurant. I later befriended her and grew very fond of her, meeting up with her every time I went to Biarritz for years afterwards. I like to believe we had a bond because of what I served her later that night. I asked her if she thought we could find some oysters somewhere at this hour (it must have been three o’clock in the morning). I was thinking that she might have a key to the restaurant where she worked and that we would go there and raid the fridge, but instead she just pointed towards one of the cliffs a bit farther down the beach. It was one of those beaches that will be familiar to anyone who has been to Biarritz, that looks as though large pieces of rock have just been thrown out on the beach, some with their bases standing in the water. I must have looked a bit perplexed because she stared at me as if I was foolish and asked if I did not know that oysters live attached to cliffs. She said that she had seen them there, and that when it was low tide you should be able to walk there and pick them. She took me by the hand and we walked away from the bonfire and away from the other people, towards the looming shapes ahead.

We didn’t realize beforehand how firmly the oysters were attached to the cliff, and, lacking other tools to break them loose I used the key to my rental car (making them the most expensive oysters ever) and she used a bottle opener, but we managed to harvest about ten small oysters after quite a lot of hassle, some badly bruised knuckles and a lot of laughter. When we finally got back to the party, it was more or less dying out and so was the fire, which had been fuelled by driftwood and a piece of old telegraph pole.

A few people were dozing on the sand, but when I walked past them they hardly noticed my footsteps as I dragged with me some branches broken from a big bush that was growing a bit farther up towards the back of the beach. When I placed the branches on the hot coals it began to smoke a little and we set the oysters out, straight onto the embers; after a minute or so they slowly opened and we picked them off the heat and ate them as we watched the sun come up over the Bay of Biscay. They were briny and creamy, utterly fresh and had a faint aroma of sweet smoke. It was a magical moment.

I don’t know if it was because of the girl, the place or the utter deliciousness of the oysters, but this meal has always stayed with me as a very strong and important memory. It was the basis of what I started developing some years later at Fäviken, ending up with what it is today. We don’t use oysters at Fäviken because there aren’t any this far to the north; we use scallops instead. We don’t use beach bushes, but juniper. And we don’t use telegraph poles as firewood because creosote is neither delicious nor very good for your health, so we use birch charcoal instead.

Even though it is a very simple dish, it is extremely demanding to produce. The scallops must be nothing less than perfect, the timing of the cooking has to be very precise and the process needs to be perfectly rehearsed to be executed quickly enough. To be able to reproduce this recipe with good results you need to have at least two people working on it, otherwise the critical moments will take too long and the precision, which makes for perfection, will be lost.

The iodine saltiness of the almost-raw broth, together with the perfect scallop eaten and drunk directly from the half-shell covered in fresh smoky soot, is excellent with some good bread and mature butter.”

-Magnus Nilsson

Serves: 6

Ingredients

fresh juniper branches, for the fire

some dry hay with a high herb content, or a piece of moss that covers the plate, to serve

6 perfectly fresh, very large and absolutely sand-free live scallops in their shells

good bread and butter, to serve

Method

Light your birch charcoal with a hot-air blower or an electric coil – never use lamp oil or any other chemical. Spray the hay or moss lightly with water.

Put the juniper branches on top of the charcoal and when they start burning, cook the scallops directly over the fire. They are finished when you hear them making a crackling noise around the edges.

Open each scallop up and pour all the contents into a preheated ceramic bowl. Separate out the scallop meat and put it back in the bottom shell. Strain off the beards and intestines quickly and pour the cloudy broth back into the shell with the scallop in it. Put the top half shell back on, place the whole scallop on the dampened hay or moss with some fresh juniper and hot coal for a few moments, then serve right away with good bread and mature butter. No more than 90 seconds must pass between taking the scallop off the fire and serving it.

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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.