Interview with Susanne Jonsson
One of Sweden's most popular TV cooks
Susanne is one of Sweden's most popular TV cooks and has written several of Sweden's top-selling cookery books. Unfortunately Susanne's books are only published in Swedish, which is a pity as she is an imaginative and creative cook and her work reflects how Swedish cooking is evolving today.
In 2011 she was featured in the top selling Bästa series. It is a top accolade for a Swedish cook and is a collection of sixty of her most popular recipes, each with a sumptuous photo.
Earlier, in 2008, Susanne put together a collection of 50 recipes, from classic cheese dishes to innovative delicacies, for top cheese maker Västerbottensost. It is my favourite Susanne Jonsson book.
Back in 2006 Susanne published her book about cooking with game, Viltsmak. The book covered all the game that is popular in Sweden, such as reindeer, elk, wild boar, deer, roe deer, hare and birds. It was a book close to Susanne's heart as she is also a keen hunter.
Susanne explained, "My ambition was to balance the sweet, sour, salty, bitter and strong flavours in harmonious dishes. My hope was that the book would inspire people to try the dishes at home, in whole or in part. My own inspiration comes from travel, work and visits to restaurants and food markets throughout the world."
Susanne is at ease in front of a camera, having appeared in many television programmes. Currently, over a million viewers tune into watch her early evening slot on Go'Kväll. That is no small achievement for a country with a popular of 9 million. Since 2008 Susanne has been cooking 4 or 5 recipes in each programme and a collection of over a hundred of her recipes have been assembled in the book Go'Kväll.
Susanne is currently appearing in Två På Resa (Two Go Travelling) with Clara Lidström, a well known blogger in Sweden. The programme is currently available online, although without subtitles, so you will need to speak Swedish to follow it! Click here to watch Två På Resa.
Susanne is a diehard foodie. She loves everything about food and her knowledge of food is vast. Her great strength is being able to combine foods to offer the best possible food experience.
Susanne grew up in Norrbotten, the northern part of Sweden, spending a lot of time with her grandparents who lived in the countryside. Her grandfather supplied them with all the natural foods from the forests and lakes surrounding their house.
It wasn't until Susanne started school that she first came in to contact with processed food. She still remembers how strange and unpleasant she thought the food in school smelt and tasted.
Thinking that there must be a better way, she went off to catering school and worked for several years as a pastry chef. She then went on to obtain a Masters in Gastronomy from the University of Umeå and a Diploma in Wine Knowledge from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust in London.
Since then Susanne has gained extensive experience in the food industry, having run restaurants and catering companies as well as her extensive publishing experience.
JD: Where did you acquire your passion for food?
SJ: At home with my family, cooking with my grandparents and parents.
JD: Did you cook much as a child? What did you like to cook as a child?
SJ: As soon as I could sit up, I joined mum in the kitchen, mostly making a mess I'm sure. She was very patient and I would "help" her peel carrots or bake cinnamon buns. I loved to make cakes!
JD: You have run a catering company and restaurants, written cookery books and you are a TV cook. If you could only do one of these, which would you choose?
SJ: I love to inspire people, so it would be the things I'm doing now: writing, television and radio. I try to simplify cooking and make it more accessible to people, less frightening and more joyful. Very importantly, I try and spread the knowledge about good products to as many people as possible.
JD: What drives you to do so much?
SJ: A genuine passion for food and sharing my knowledge with everybody.
JD: What food issues do you feel passionate about?
SJ: Every aspect of it, really. Environment, ethics, all the way from the soil to the table and afterwards, as health, rubbish etc. Of course quality and taste goes with this.
JD: If you could alter people’s attitude to food which one thing would you most want to change?
SJ: Firstly that we don't have time to cook. This is a common misunderstanding, perhaps implemented by the food industry. There are good, quick recipes you could learn to prepare for yourself or your family. Just take some time to plan. Think about what is really important in life. Health and family for example. What is your priority in life?
Secondly, that food should be cheap.
Thirdly, that food anxiety is an epidemic, so I would be pleased if we could start to relax a bit at the same time as we shift towards a better and more sustainable way of living. Do one thing a day, one extra good choice when shopping and then, let go. Don't beat yourself up for grabbing a take-away (take-out), there is a saying that it's the choices you make between New Year and Christmas that count, not the ones between Christmas and New Year. Change will come gradually if you stick to your intentions. Oh, yes, and get some intentions and basic values, if they are lacking.
JD: Being a food lover surrounded by food, it must be so tempting to keep trying things. Do you ever diet?
SJ: I don't believe in diets unless as a strategy for treating illness, when it can be very beneficial.
JD: When you are not cooking food, you like to go fishing or hunting. Are you a bit of a Tom Boy?
SJ: Never heard anyone calling me that, in spite of my interests that might be regarded as typical guy thinges, I'm most definitely a girl! Sometimes I am called a naturbarn. (Naturbarn loosely translates as a nature-loving child.)
JD: You've travelled a lot, especially when making Två På Resa. Where are your favourite destinations?
SJ: I love to travel so it is difficult to answer. I like exploring different food cultures and so of all the countries I have visited India was probably my favourite, but I also love New Zealand, New York and southern Australia. Closer to home I really love Swedish Lapland, London, Lyon and Barcelona.
JD: Are you tempted to move from northern Sweden?
SJ: Not at the moment.
JD: Did you like living in London?
SJ: Yes, I love London. It is a very creative city and it is very dear to me. I enjoyed hanging out and helping in the kitchen at a Notting Hill restaurant, years ago, when my friend worked there.
JD: What Swedish ingredients do you miss most when you are abroad?
SJ: Nothing really food wise, perhaps liquorice.
JD: What is your favourite meal to cook for friends?
SJ: It depends on the season. Now in the autumn, it's game for sure. I did a moose stew some days ago, it was a big hit!
JD: You are famous for cooking Swedish food. Do you like food from other cultures?
SJ: Yes, very much.
JD: Surströmming: love it or hate it?
SJ: Love the tradition. However, I don't eat it. Yet. My taste might change with age.
Swedish readers might like to visit Susanne's blogg at blogg.svt.se/susanne.
Susanne Jonsson recipes
Here are just three of my favourites!
Swedes eat lots of wild mushrooms and enjoy them cooked in many different ways including in risottos. Although served this as a side dish I prefer to serve it as a main course. More…
I love Vaniljmarinerad Västerbottensost (cheese marinated with vanilla). It is a delightful appetiser, rather unusual and yet really simple to make. More…
Lussebullar med mandelmassa & vit choklad (saffron buns with almond paste and white chocolate) is a wonderful combination, especially during Advent. Read More…
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