We've loved Rachel Khoo and her little Parisian kitchen since the launch of her fabulous TV series in 2012. But six years on, it's all change for Rachel. After swapping the rues of Paris for the vägs of Sweden, we speak to the queen of small-spaced living about her new cookbook The Little Swedish Kitchen…
You're renowned for your little French kitchen, so why the move to Sweden?
"I married a Swedish man. Paris was for the love of food and Sweden was the love of… love! I’ve been in Sweden for four years now and it really suits me for the stage of life I’m at and for family life – the parental leave and childcare in Sweden is amazing, you’re really cared for."
What is the last thing you cooked?
"Yesterday when I was in Sweden, I made a massive leftover salad with grilled corn, fried mushrooms, salad leaves and all sorts of bits and bobs."
You studied the art of pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu. What is the first thing you learnt there?
"The first thing we learnt was to say ‘Oui Chef!’. After that it was how to line a tart case. They showed us not to overwork the dough, work quickly, and to have cold hands. If our hands were too warm beforehand then we’d run then under cold water to cool them down."
You've got 20 minutes to knock-up a meal for two, what are you making?
"It always depends on what I have in the fridge. With writing this book I learnt a lot about preserves and pickles. Especially pink pickled onions. They’re a great way to liven up a dish. If you’ve got left over roast chicken you can make a simple salad with them or put them on flatbreads with grated carrots, chicken and other little bits that you might have lying around."
What ingredient couldn't you live without?
"Cheese. Most people would say chocolate, but mine is definitely cheese. Sweden has a cheese called Västerbotten, it’s their version of cheddar which is quite salty and flavoursome. In the recipe book I make a cheese pie with chanterelle mushrooms, it’s delicious. But I also love it simply sliced with crisp slices of apple."
What is one ingredient you can't stand?
"I'll try almost anything once. When I filmed A Cook Abroad with the BBC I was invited to the jungle to spend a day with tribesmen. They cooked me a jungle squirrel stew, which was a huge honour… but I can’t say I’d have it again!"
What is your secret to getting the most out of a small kitchen space?
"You don’t need a lot. Be clever with what you buy. It’s always worth investing in a big cast-iron casserole pan. They are beautiful and can be displayed on a shelf when you’re not using it; it’s a beautiful and practical piece! My London kitchen has lots of open shelving, full of and simple jars with sugar, flour and pasta, it’s a great way to store food when you’re limited on cupboard space."
What kitchen skill or dish do you wish you were better at?
"I wish I was more tidy. I really work at that, but when I’m trying different recipes it gets a bit messy. I was always told off at culinary school for being too messy in my workspace!"
What is the secret to good Swedish cooking?
"I think what I love about it is you won’t need to buy a whole new larder. Some cookbooks are exciting when you have to buy different ingredients that you wouldn’t usually, but Swedish cooking is a familiar palette. All ingredients are accessible and they run with the idea of simplifying meals with just a few ingredients. You won’t need to do a whole new grocery shop to cook good Swedish cuisine, which is what I love."
How many languages do you speak?
"English, German, French and I'm working on Swedish. I persist on speaking Swedish; I was with a Swedish cab driver yesterday and he kept responding to me in English, but I kept on going with my Swedish!"