“Food tastes so much better when you have it outside, regardless of the season.”
Located in the small village of Glen in Jämtland, an area famous for its unique wilderness and defined seasons, is restaurant Hävvi run by chef Elaine Asp. The menu is full Sámi inspired dishes that have followed her from her childhood, including blood pancake, reindeer, trout and elk.
“We lived off what was available in the forest. My grandmother taught me how to take care of the food through traditional methods, with no access to electricity, a fridge or freezer,” Elaine describes, and shows us her well stocked pantry literally just outside the door: “This is where I go hunting for elk, fish and birds as well as forage local herbs, berries, mushroom and birch sap,” she says.
While working in various restaurants in the city of Östersund for 15 years, Elaine grew tired of the low quality produce available. “I felt that if I was to continue working with food it had to be for real,” she says.
Although people doubted her decision, Elaine went ahead and opened the restaurant in Glen eight years ago. “I was worried of course, the village only has 14 residents, but I was adamant that people must be willing to travel for good food,” she says. “I knew how to butcher, hunt and forage. This way I could find my way back to my passion again,” she says.
With the help from Thomas Johansson, a reindeer herder, Elaine managed to create a thriving restaurant. Today people visit from all over the world to experience not only the food, but also the incredible location, surrounded by mountains, farmland, ocean and forest. “The remoteness of Glen has become an experience in itself. A lot of visitors stay the night in our cottages and get a full Jämtland experience.”
Due to the defined seasons, Elaine changes her menu regularly depending on what is available. The winter season means fewer crops and rich flavours. When spring slowly arrives in March to May, nature begins to wake up from the slow growth. These unique conditions mean Elaine never knows when produce can be harvested; it depends on how quickly spring and summer arrive. In other words, nature decides.
When we visit on a cold winter’s day, Elaine prepares her famous blood pancakes “Gampa-suele” outside on an open fire. They are served with thinly sliced smoked reindeer meat “Suovas”, a sauce of butter and cream and compote of cloudberries, lingonberries and birch sap.
“Food tastes so much better when you have it outside, regardless of the season,” she says. “You get a different kind of experience. The fire is a meeting spot, and to cook over it makes it special. Everyone can take part, young and old, and the food doesn’t have to be complicated.”
What is of more importance to Elaine is that she can track every piece of ingredient that she plates up. “I want to be part of the whole journey, it gives me a good feeling,” she says and adds:
“During the past seven years I have seen the interest for genuine food increase enormously. I’ve always been aware of what I feed myself and my children, it’s nice to see that the rest of the world is catching up as well.”