Nordic cuisine is based on purity, simplicity, the changing seasons and what is local to the area on land and water. It emphasizes fish and foraged ingredients like vegetables, berries and fruits. And it uses modern techniques combined with old-world methods of preserving. Over all, it is a healthy, tasty and fascinating way to take advantage of what is around us.
Arctic char is one of the few Northern fish that are fresh at this time of the year. (Most other wild fish are frozen.) Char is exceptional and, when lightly brined, firms up while cooking. When I was recently travelling in the Nordic countries, sea buckthorn, a berry, was used in everything from purées to garnishes. It grows on a shrub that we also have here in Canada, and it’s full of healthy vitamins and minerals. Sea buckthorn is only available fresh in August, so you’re more likely to find it frozen. If you can find it, garnish this dish with a sprinkling of berries and serve with black or green lentils.
2 cups coarsely chopped dill
1 cup grapeseed oil
2 tbsp sea salt
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp grated lemon rind
4 Arctic char fillets, about 8 oz (250 g) each
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup fresh rye-bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups sliced leeks, white and light green portion only
1/4 cup gin
Purée dill with grapeseed oil in blender. Place in a small pot over low heat and bring to just warm (about 50 F). Chill overnight, then pass through a fine sieve before using.
Combine salt, sugar and lemon rind to make cure. Pat all over fish fillets. Let sit for one hour at room temperature. Brush off cure and discard any liquid.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet. Add garlic and bread crumbs on medium heat and stir until bread crumbs are toasted (about 5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Reserve.
Heat remaining butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add gin and cook for 1 more minute or until gin evaporates.
Preheat oven to 225 F. Oil the base of an oven-proof baking dish. Place fish in centre and brush each fillet with 2 teaspoons dill oil. Spread leeks over fish, then sprinkle each fillet with bread crumbs.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until juices begin to rise up. Remove from oven. Serve with extra dill oil dotted on the plate.