An old forest house, far from the main roads, sits surrounded by dense conifer forests and marshes inside Latvia’s Gauja National Park, 70 kilometers from Riga and 20 from Cisis. Today it is home to Dabas Garša, known as pavāru radošā māja, the Chefs’ Creative Workshop.
A guest at the last edition of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, Ēriks is a volcano of ideas, passion and energy. His philosophy has always been in harmony with the Slow Food movement. Several years ago he started a collaboration with the Earth Market in Straupe, and this August he launched the Latvian Cooks’ Alliance, the first in the Baltic countries. In his biography online he says that for him cooking is a mix of biology, art, geography, history, chemistry, politics and fashion: He tries to put the whole world on a plate while at the same time maintaining the dominance of a product’s natural taste.
“Culinary practice is closely related to the processes in nature, to people’s attitude toward ecology, to fashion trends… and therefore chefs have to be knowledgeable about and responsible for what they put on a plate. We cannot let ourselves get too influenced by trends, for example, the growing use of rapeseed oil. We cannot do it because this monoculture is grown over huge areas in Latvia causing misery in nature. The fields are regularly sprayed with chemicals in order to increase harvest yields, but this action greatly harms wildlife and nature. I am always observing with horror how people are collecting, for example, linden tea or forest strawberries just a few meters away from these fields. Therefore, chefs must be careful, otherwise with a lack of knowledge they could put poison on a plate.”
He is also very aware of the importance of collaboration, and teamwork is fundamental for him. “A team is very important in our industry. My team is the whole of Latvia. My team is the numerous farmers I have conversations with about products and after our talks, they invent new products. My team is the craftsmen who are making plates and dishes for us from wood, clay, porcelain, birch bark… My team is the collectors of nature’s bounty with whom I am having conversations about protected plants, about forgotten edible nature. My team is scientists who are open to sharing advice and giving me the task of monitoring the desires of consumers.”
Dabas Garša, which opened its doors two years ago, is his kingdom: “This idea came to me as I felt the necessity to create a place where a chef can get out from the daily routine and devote themselves 100% to creative work. The Chefs’ Creative Workshop welcomes chefs from all over the world. There is only one condition, that they must see the world in a similar way to me, in other words sharing the same values when cooking as we do in the restaurant. We very carefully make our food ever more contemporary. We share our thoughts on the work we do so that our children can live in a better world than we do!”
Here Ēriks offers us a recipe that he usually makes with traditional legumes from Baiba Smilga, a Straupe Earth Market producer, but it works with any kind of bean. Try it!
Crispy bean balls
1 kg dried beans
100 g sour cream
Grated hard cheese
Oil for frying
Soak the beans for at least 12 hours.
Boil the beans until soft, then drain, cool and puree in a meat grinder or food processor. Add the sour cream, tomato paste, ground cumin, grated nutmeg, thyme, parsley, grated cheese, salt and pepper to taste and mix until smooth.
Form the mixture into small balls. Dip first into egg and then into breadcrumbs, then again egg and again breadcrumbs.
Heat the oil to 180°C and fry the balls until golden-brown, about 1 1/2 minutes if the balls weigh around 10 grams each. Drain and serve immediately.
Chef Ēriks Dreibants
Chefs’ Creative Workshop / www.dabasgarsa.lv
Restorāns 3 / www.restaurant3.lv
Ho dovuto inventare questi dosi perche’ diceva solo 0.1, 0.15 – sembrano giusti?