A taste of Scandinavia

Valentine Warner cooking on the docks of the Lofoten Islands, Norway, as part of his cookery programme Valentine Warner Eats Scandinavia. Picture: PA Photo/onathan Ford.
Valentine Warner cooking on the docks of the Lofoten Islands, Norway, as part of his cookery programme Valentine Warner Eats Scandinavia. Picture: PA Photo/onathan Ford.

TV chef Valentine Warner is a lover of all things Scandinavian - their crime dramas, design and most of all, their food. I fish out some favourite dishes as I meet the cook in Norway.

It’s midsummer in northern Norway but you wouldn’t know it from looking at TV chef Valentine Warner.

Wrapped up in a grey chunky knit jumper, which is getting an airing after a day hiding underneath heavy-duty waterproofs, Warner is warming up in a village restaurant during a break from filming his new ten-part series, Valentine Warner Eats Scandinavia, which started on the Good Food channel on Monday.

But at a positively toasty 12C, Warner, who I meet in the Lofoten Islands, which is north of the Arctic Circle, isn’t complaining about the cold. After all, this is the man who recently perched over an icy lake for three hours to catch a fish, with just a flask of coffee to stave off the biting -45C chill.

“You’ve got three hours of workable daylight and the rest is a write-off,” recalls the cook, who previously presented BBC Two cookery show What To Eat Now.

“You have to keep the cameras covered in heat pads so they’re warm enough to use. Everything gets so cold that it snaps.

“If you went to pick up the knife, the knife would stick to your hand. You turn around to pick up the fish, and two minutes later, it’s hard as rock.”

Warner’s hands are free of limpet-like cutlery and fish today, but he admits that Scandi-fever has stuck with him.

“Yes, I’ve watched The Killing,” laughs the chef who trained as a portrait artist. “I’ve bought some things from Ikea and I’m interested in Noma restaurant in Copenhagen. I think that combination of things means that suddenly the focus is on Scandinavia.

“And it’s great food here too, really clean food. You’ve got the amazing outdoors and it really plays a part in the kitchen.”

Looking around at that amazing outdoors, offset with neat, burgundy wood cabins, many of which have cod dangling from available beams (a traditional way of drying the fish in the region), it’s easy to see why the cook has fallen for the area.

“In an imaginary world, I’d love a year off, where I could stay in a big wooden house and just draw with no other worries,” says the 41-year-old cook, who has two children with his wife Charlotte.

And it seems that Warner wouldn’t want for company here if he did have a year off to paint. One companion he’s made on his travels is the lively fisherman Dr Hook.

Today, Dr Hook is at perfect ease both with helping his foodie friend make a fish dish (even humming along with Warner as the cameras roll and they chop up the ingredients on the docks), and with sailing across the high seas where he accompanies Warner on a boat.

Luckily Warner, who fishes at “any opportunity”, has never had any trouble with seasickness. And while his sea legs are returning to the UK, he’s determined to bring a chunk of Scandinavia back with him. “I’m looking forward to seeing my kids and sharing the recipes I’ve stored from my time here,”