Chef Benn Haidari has travelled the world during his culinary career. His last stop was the tiny Åland Islands located in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Sweden, where he has now retired and realised another of his childhood dreams of becoming an author.
Haidari finds himself a very long way from where he started life and his career as a chef. He originally hails from the Comoros Islands, off the southeast coast of Africa, east of Mozambique and northwest of Madagascar. But it is not only the geographical distance that separates him from his point of origin, but also the cultural and environmental extremes that make his story so intriguing.
From Spice to Ice
A simple comparison of titles between Chef Haidari’s current cookbook, Gastronomy from an Ice Cold Paradise, and his debut, Modern Zanzibar Cuisine, serves to emphasise the contrasts and diversity of his culinary experience. When asked to compare the differences between the cooking styles and palates of the two archipelagos, Chef Haidari highlighted “spice” and “ice.”
“The Åland Islands have [their] own art too [considering] the ice cold temperatures, so it is unique cuisine.”
One of the World’s Best Cookbooks And it is Gastronomy from an Ice Cold Paradise that has put both Chef Haidari and the Åland Islands on the map. The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards select the best of the 26,000 food and wine books released every year and are accepted as a reliable guide by food industry professionals. It was therefore an unexpected surprise when Gastronomy of an Ice Cold Paradise was named 2011 Best Local Cookbook for Finland.
“I did not expect to get such an award, I must say it is great,” explained Chef Haidari, who goes on to say, “this was the best [award] I have ever got in my life and especially [for] my wife and kids.”
Scandinavian Cooking, African Style
Chef Haidari will travel to Paris for the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards ceremony, where VIPs from the world of cookbooks and winebooks, including hundreds of publishers, authors, chefs, and journalists, will gather at the historical theatre Les Foilies Bergere to honour the best of the culinary world’s authors.
Chef Haidari is also honoured to be performing live cooking demonstrations at both the International Show Kitchen for the Paris Cookbook Fair from March 7th to 11th and the Gourmand Cookbook Corner at the London Book Fair from April 16th to 18th.
Chef Haidari will be tantalizing taste buds in Paris with Scandinavia’s oldest bread, called Birka or Black Bread, served with marinated dill salmon called Saumon á l’aneth. For his London soiree, he will pleasure palates by adding Åland pancakes, made with buckwheat and cardamom and served with plum pudding and Crème Chantilly to the menu.
Raising the Profile of an Unknown Paradise Live cooking demonstrations are another of Chef Haidari’s fortes. He is a proud pioneer of introducing food to TV as he hosted gastronomy shows back in the 1980s, before it became commonplace with the evolution of the Food Network and other popular cooking shows and celebrity chefs.
One of Chef Haidari’s great hopes is that Gastronomy from an Ice Cold Paradise “will have a big impact... and people will start finding out this paradise exists. Not many people know where Åland lies, and my motto was to put these islands in the world atlas.”
A Valentine’s Meal for Everyone to Enjoy To help him with this noble goal, we asked Chef Haidari if he would be kind enough to suggest a favourite Gastronomy from an Ice Cold Paradise recipe suitable for fellow AuthorHouse authors to prepare and enjoy as a Valentine’s meal. His selection is Simmered Herrings with Rosta.
“Because I am an Islander, I love herring and this is my favourite dish. It is simple and clear,” says Chef Haidari. He includes a delightful history of Rosta, a romantic commune in the province of Turin and the Kökar name for marjoram, with his recipe below.
Chef Haidari also divulges that his favourite beverage to complement this sumptuous dish is Stallhagen Beer. However, if this is not available in your local wine merchants or off license, herring is traditionally accompanied by a white wine. Chef Haidari recommends either a Sancerre or Pouilly Fume, both from the famous Loire Valley vineyards in France.
Chef Haidari Further Expands His Repertoire AuthorHouse is happy to report that Chef Haidari will soon complete his third cookbook. Swahili Romantic Gastronomy once again underscores his versatility and expertise in international cuisine.
Chef Haidari joins us in wishing all AuthorHouse authors a happy Valentine’s and hoping you enjoy his delicious dish, Simmered Herrings with Rosta.