Aggi Sverrisson is the patron chef and owner of the Michelin- starred restaurant Texture and he’s on a mission to bring the cooking and ingredients of his native Iceland to London. We met up with him to discuss why we should all be eating skyr, how to make Christmas cooking less stressful and his food predictions for 2019.
Texture is known for its Icelandic ingredients and dishes, what is the ethos behind Icelandic cooking?
Iceland’s culinary ethos has its foundations in simplicity and purity, with a strong focus on seasonal and local produce. The harsh Icelandic climate means that traditionally, our cuisine is centred around those ingredients which could survive the elements – lamb, potatoes, skyr and incredible fish and seafood. There is also a strong heritage of preserving ingredients, whether that be through fermentation, salting, smoking or pickling.
And do you have your own ethos or motto for your kitchen?
A key ethos for me is that I don’t use any cream and butter outside of dessert, as I prefer the clean, fresh flavours that come through when these are removed from the plate. I cook and eat healthily as much as I can, and always focus on using plenty of fresh vegetables in my dishes.
We’re at Texture, what do we order?
We keep our menus concise as much as possible, changing our dishes regularly to reflect what’s in season. Icelandic skyr features in so many of our dishes – my favourite being the salmon gravlax with sorrel, cucumber and skyr mustard; and new season English baby beetroots with gorgonzola skyr, snow and walnuts.
You use Skyr in your cooking, what exactly is it and why do use it?
Skyr is a cultured dairy product native to Iceland. It is an integral part of our food culture and day to day diet, having been produced and eaten in the region for thousands of years. It has a texture and taste that is similar to Greek yoghurt, but unlike yoghurt is made with skimmed milk, making it naturally fat free. Skyr is incredibly versatile and at Texture we use it in almost everything, from our barley dip to ice creams and baked skyr parfait.
We’re sold! So how can we make the most of it at home?
At home in my own kitchen, I eat plain skyr with just seasonal fruits and muesli – the natural flavour and texture are so delicious that they need little embellishment. Skyr is naturally high in protein (it has twice the protein content of similar dairy products), while also being fat and sugar free, so works as a great substitute in recipes for cream, butter and other less-healthy dairy products.
So, if Skyr is on the rise, do you have any other predictions for the London food scene?
I think the focus on health more broadly is only going to strengthen. We’ve seen veganism sky rocket, and I don’t think this is going anywhere. I think this is the year where plant-based dishes and menus will be expected as standard at all restaurants – there are over 3 million vegans in the UK, after all! We love cooking plant-based at Texture, and are excited to develop new vegan dishes in the new year.
Do you have any tips to make cooking and hosting on Christmas day go smoothly?
Prepare as much in advance as you can! It’s also worth thinking about mixing up your trimmings, as traditional sides can be really time consuming. Roast potatoes usually take around two hours to cook, so to save time, create a flavoursome rosti instead. Whip it up first thing or the day before and then quickly cook for that perfect crispy potato crunch. “Mix 500 grams of carrots, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, red onions and beetroots. Add olive oil, thyme and 2 cloves of garlic and roast at 180° for 25 minutes and serve. It has all the flavour of roast potatoes, in much less time.
When you’re not at Texture where can we find you eating?
When I’m in Iceland, one of my favourite restaurants to eat at is Blue Lagoon. In London, Restaurant 34 is my daughter’s favourite.
And finally, what are your thoughts about the Icelandic delicacy of fermented shark?
I love it, but that’s probably because I grew up on it. We used to eat it instead of crisps in front of the tv. We always keep a small supply at Texture – it’s not on the menu, but it’s there for any guests keen to try it!
Texture Restaurant, 34 Portman Street, Marylebone, W1H 7BY