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A slice of Nobel dinner right here

The Swedish Food Festival at Pavilion in Maurya Sheraton introduces diners to the Swedish way of dining dished out by none other than three master chefs having the proud experience of preparing food for the annual Nobel banquet at Sweden. SU MITRA SENAPATY enjoys the experience... .

NO NEED to be a Nobel prize winner, a member of the Swedish royal family, a top ranking scientist or politician with a gold-embossed invitation in your letterbox - instead walk into Pavilion at Maurya Sheraton in New Delhi for the Swedish Food Festival brought together by the chefs of Swedish Taste, the veterans behind the annual Nobel banquet in Sweden.

But what exactly is Swedish food? Henrik Hakansson, one of the three visiting chefs, informs: "Swedish cuisine is innovative and modern and fresh, incorporating a lot of international influences with Swedish basics such as game and fish."

"And it's healthy," he adds, narrating his Nobel experiences, the mystery and glamour, white tie and tails for men, ball gowns and jewels for women, and his menu of gourmet delicacies. It also means hard work with 40 cooks preparing food for three whole days before a team of 250 waiters serves the guests the ceremonial meal lasting for three hours. The entire meal is broadcast live in at least 10 countries.

Reflecting the long, cold Swedish winters, it's not surprising that there seem to be few vegetable preparations at the festival. Asked about what a vegetarian does for food in Sweden, Henrik suggests that they "read the newspaper!" But there are always potatoes in Sweden, whether boiled, baked, in pancakes and dumplings or even caramelised in butter and sugar. Brussels Sprouts, Fresh Chickpea Salad, Celery Slaw, Lemon Carrots and Asparagus and Dill stewed Potatoes are popular Swedish vegetarian options at Pavilion. Eating seafood with potatoes is something a Swede will never try to resist!

A classic Swedish preparation at the festival is Jansons Temptations, a dish of matchstick potatoes layered with cream, onion and anchovies and baked to a crisp golden brown. The Swedish smorgasbord originated as a pot luck buffet meal consisting of herring and other fish, cold marinated meats, cheesecake, fruit, ale and aquavit, the traditional Swedish liquor. One way of tasting food at the festival could be to put everything one thinks looked tasty onto the plate and sit down and begin eating. If something proved to be really tasty, go for seconds - if there is anything left. But a smorgasbord is not simply an "eat till you drop" buffet.

Even though the Pavilion buffet is filled with different type of dishes, some familiar, some unknown, a traditional Swedish meal is typically eaten in three stages. Start with the cold fish. On a small plate you select from a variety of herring, salmon and other seafood such as smoked eel or shrimp. There is herring in cream sauce, herring in dill, herring in mustard sauce, herring in sherry, herring that is first fried and then pickled. Together with the herring you eat boiled potatoes or sometimes hard-boiled eggs. Other fish dishes include smoked salmon and Gravlax - salmon curried in sugar, salt and dill. With this, you can also have the Wasa Crisp bread and the traditional cracker bread flavoured with caraway and sesame seeds.

The next course is the cold meats and better to eat it in a clean plate. Choose from Chicken Terrine, Fish Patties, Eggs with Caviar and cold meats sliced thinly. These are eaten with boiled potatoes, or as open-faced sandwiches on various types of bread spread. The warm food starts with the Jansons Temptation, Swedish Sweet and Sour Dill Lamb, Spiced Roast Chicken and the Dill Stewed Potatoes that are a favourite for all occasions. Check out the Swedish Mushroom Soup made from the many wild mushrooms of Sweden's forests. The best drink with Swedish food is beer.

By the end of the evening, if you can still move, it's time for dessert. You can have some fresh strawberry in puff pastry with lemon curd or Lenten Bun, a sweet bun filled with almond cream or some of the spiced breads with a strong cup of hot Swedish coffee to round off a delicious evening of eating. Smorgasbord is a Swedish word that is international.

"Everyone understands," says Chef Henrik.

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