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        Get to know Elle Nikishkova

         

        You could say that my life has been a long and varied journey. I had an exciting childhood and grew up in several different countries. I was born in the Soviet Union in 1984, which today is Ukraine. When I was six years old, my family moved to Cuba, a country that is quite different from my home town of Lviv in western Ukraine. An environment with cobbled streets, majestic old buildings and trams was replaced by a sunny island in the Caribbean with exotic fruits, a turquoise sea and a whole new language and culture.

         When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, we had to move back to Ukraine and a few years later we moved to Umeå in Sweden. I have lived in Sweden since I was 10 years old and lived in Norrland until I was 23. During my upbringing in Umeå, I engaged myself in political and environmental issues through field biology and several organizations. I was interested in nature and had great ambitions to save the world from environmental problems and injustice. I got involved in the Swedish UN Association and ran projects aimed at clearing mines in Cambodia. Through union organizations, I fought together with my friends for factory workers in Russia to get better working conditions. Throughout my childhood, I was very determined and knew what to study and what I would become when I grew up. I took two bachelor's degrees at Umeå University, one in Economic History and one in Political Science, and continued a few years later with my master's degree in International Politics at Uppsala University. In Umeå, I also studied to be a mushroom consultant to satisfy my love for nature and as a break from the university's fluorescent lights.

        When I finished my master's degree in Uppsala, I started working on human rights issues through various Swedish organizations. It was an exciting job and I am very interested in all that I studied then still today.

        Cooking and outdoor life have been two great passions.

        For a few years I took a study break to work in Norway and went backpacking to discover the world, different cultures and, not least, to enjoy fun party hostels on warmer continents. During my travels through the United States, Central and South America and Asia, I became increasingly curious about different food cultures; I went to cooking classes in India, lived and cooked with Mayan Indian families in Guatemala, etc. The dream has always been to travel and cook, preferably outside. To discover cool food markets, fresh vegetables and fruits and to learn how to cook typical dishes wherever I was.

        During my journey through Central America, I was offered an opportunity to start a restaurant in a hostel in Guatemala's jungle. I said yes immediately and then lived in Guatemala for one year and worked on training local staff who would continue the restaurant.

        In other words, cooking and adventure have followed me basically all my life. But you can't just travel and cook in the jungle. You also have to study and try to make some kind of career so that you can start saving… right?




        How did you get here?

        A few years ago, I went to Utefest outdoor festival on the High Coast. I had my griddle with me and planned to cook some food over the open fire after the daily adventures that were offered during the festival. At one point I took out the griddle in the open air village and started frying mushrooms, which we had picked during a walk in Skuleskogen national park. This spontaneous initiative was appreciated by everyone who was there and, not least, by representatives from various outdoor brands such as Primus, Morakniv and others. It was then that I understood that this is what I really really want to do. Cooking over open fire! I decided to make my two greatest passions a job. I went home and started Elles Utemat!

        When I grew up in the Soviet Union, cooking had a central place in our home and our culture. Everything was cooked from scratch, from pickled, juicy and sour vegetables, to fruits and berries that were purchased in colorful markets during the summer. Before big parties like New Year’s Eve and birthdays, my mother and grandmother spent several days preparing different dishes that required both time and knowledge. From childhood I got to learn and practice how to make the perfect dumplings, the most delicious borsjtj or the crispest sauerkraut. During the winter, in the afternoon, I went to my grandmother's store to pick out one of the colorful jars with various pickled berries and fruits for the evening tea. Cherries, peaches and strawberries in a syrupy juice. I had many favorites! My passion for food and cooking started right there, in the small and crowded kitchens of the Soviet Union and in the company of incredibly knowledgeable women.

         

        A real mushroom expert, or?

        I don't really like the concept of being an "expert". It doesn't feel very humble to call it that. In fact, very few people, if any, are true experts in anything. Knowledge is inexhaustible and it applies to all subjects that you learn as long as you live. I'm definitely no mushroom expert because there are so many others who know much more about mushrooms than me. In addition, mushrooms are a relatively unexplored subject and the facts and truths are constantly re-evaluated as more research is carried out. But I think I know enough about mushrooms to be able to learn and inspire others to get out into the forest and find exciting species and explore new flavors that can brighten up a dining experience.




        Elle in Nyhetsmorgon

        I was contacted by the producer for Nyhetsmorgon and she asked if I wanted to talk about mushrooms on TV4. The editorial staff had stumbled across my Instagram account and thought it was exciting and that I had a fun approach. She thought that there were too many guys in the mushroom industry and instead wanted a girl with a little attitude to engage the population on the subject during mushroom season.  It was really fun to be in Nyhetsmorgon, see how things work behind the camera and get the opportunity to reach out to a larger audience with my passion. I received a very good response the three times I participated and hope for continued cooperation with TV4 in the next season.

        The most important thing about mushroom picking

        is that you know what you pick. The best thing is to attend a mushroom course or join a local mushroom club to learn more about different species. Then it's good to get out in a mixed forest! Because many mushrooms grow in symbiosis with different trees, one can find more species if there are several different trees in the forest. What you need to bring with you is a mushroom basket, mushroom knife and an up to date mushroom book to be able to compare different characteristics. Dress accordingly for the weather, as always when you are out in nature.

         

        What are your top three cooking tips for our readers?

        1. Get out! There is no need for advanced cooking. Bring a Primus kitchen and some soup! It’s the natural experience and the hunger that should be the primary driving force.
        2. If you want to cook over an open fire, chop up wood into smaller pieces. In this way, you can more easily control the fire, avoid burning the food and inhaling unnecessarily smoke.
        3. Prep the food and prepare as much as possible at home! Pick up everything that should be used at home and bring it out in bags or boxes. You never know how the weather will be when you are there and it can be nice to avoid hacking onions when it is cold and rugged, or if you have forgotten the cutting board at home.

        Primus is a respected Swedish quality brand that makes incredibly good, user-friendly and stylish products. I frequently use their Open Fire Pan and Kamoto Grill, but also their classy plates and mugs during various dinners and events. I think Primus has a full range of different products for outdoor cooking and I look forward to testing and participating in developing the Open Fire series to make it even sharper and more competitive.

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