Fiskeboller! Fish balls? What??
I’ve been resisting writing about fiskeboller for a while now. But after days of debating with myself, I realize I simply cannot call this a Norwegian food blog without a mention of these funny white balls, made up of ground white fish, served in a rather “naked” state only with a bechamel sauce, boiled potatoes, coleslaw or broccoli and asparagus. While we may not have added to the culinary wealth of the world by inventing these little guys, they must certainly be included under the file “Norwegian Classic Dishes” with perhaps a sub-note that reads “interestingly subdued”… Here’s an example of a typical basic plate of fiskeboller:
Every single household will have had some sort of experience with this dish, and as funky and indelicate they may seem to outsiders, every Norwegian seems to love them. With a silky texture, not a very strong fish taste but rather delicately mingles with the creamy sauce and the hearty potatoes and vegetables on the plate, it’s an easy dish to make and grow fond of. More unbelievable is the fact that the majority of people opt to buy their fiskeboller ready to eat, many times from a can or container like the ones below. My mother would not be caught dead eating the purchased version, so needless to say I thankfully grew up eating the homemade ones!
Apparently the famous Norwegian Polar explorer Roald Amundsen brought with him tinned fiskeboller on his ship “Maud” during his famous expedition to reach the North Pole between 1918-1926, as he thought it important to bring along healthy food products. This product is then in fact a hundred years old, and today over a million cans of fiskeboller are produced each year of just the one specific brand “Vesterålen” (not pictured)! Not bad for a country with only 5 million people…
A new, more exotic version popped up more recently where the fish balls are draped in curry sauce - this happens to be my favorite. It is not often that a Norwegian pulls out a fancy spice from his or her cupboard, unless, it’s of course cardamom or cinnamon, then again – that’s reserved primarily for baking. The curry is faint, but present enough to create a much needed kick to this otherwise mild and tame dish. These days, the younger generation has developed a more sophisticated palate more accepting and tolerant of spicier flavors, and interesting twists on the basic recipe are being developed every day.
Another popular way to enjoy fiskeboller is to add them to a fish soup. In fact, one of my talented home cook friends in Bergen, suggested I make fiskeboller from salt cod and make them into bacalao patties (sort of) and add them in a soup. I am working on developing this recipe as I’m writing this and will definitely blog about that in the near future.
Below I’ve included a basic recipe for fiskeboller, as well as a more updated version with some additional spices. Finally, I also thought to include a basic recipe for fiskebolle soup – if you don’t feel brave enough to try them solo, having them in a delicious, creamy broth should be a pleasing, culinary experience. Some people choose to add bacon to the dish because let’s face it; what dish does not benefit from some added bacon?
CLASSIC FISKEBOLLER IN CURRY SAUCE
For the fiskeboller:
2 lb/1 kg haddock
2 tsp salt
white pepper to taste
1 tbsp potato starch (or corn starch)
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Make sure there are no bones in your fish and that the fish and all your ingredients are cold/straight from the fridge. This makes it easier to form the balls. Place the fish in a food processor along with the salt and pulse until a rough paste forms. Add the potato starch and nutmeg. While the blade is running, add the eggs one at a time, then add in the milk and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper. With a soup spoon, form “balls” and place on a tray and place in fridge while you make the curry sauce. (You can test one “ball” out and fry it or poach it in the hot liquid before you form the rest, to test for appropriate seasoning).
For Curry Sauce:
4 tbsp butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tbsp red curry paste
4 tbsp all purpose flour
6 cups fish stock
1 x 14 oz unsweetened coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley for garnish
Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat, add the shallots and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the apple, season with salt and pepper and cook for another couple of minutes until the apples begin to soften. Stir in the curry paste and flour and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. In a separate pot, heat up the fish stock and when hot, start ladling in the fish stock into the curry paste roux until you have a smooth sauce. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then add in the coconut milk and stir well. Add in the fiskeboller and let heat through. Season again with salt and pepper and serve with boiled potatoes, carrot slaw or whatever vegetables you wish. Garnish fiskeboller w/chopped parsley.
Here I add a mixture of haddock (or you can use pollock, cod or any other white fish) and salmon, since stronger spices will be included and the salmon is a heartier dish that can stand up to a bit more “punch”.
1 lb /5oo grams haddock
1/2 lb/300 g salmon
1 small Vidalia onion, minced
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp garam masala
1 garlic chopped finely
1 small red chili, minced
2 tsp ginger, grated
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, grated
To make the fiskeboller:
Add the garlic, ginger, red chili and onion to the food processor and process until a paste. Add the fish and salt and pulse until combined. With the blade running, add the egg and the cilantro. Process until smooth but not super fine. Shape balls with a big spoon and place on the fridge while you make the sauce.
For this recipe, I make the curry sauce (see recipe above) but I add in a box of chopped tomatoes, some additional fresh cilantro and additional ginger and perhaps another chopped red chili.
Sides can include curried cauliflower, shredded carrots, fennel, broccoli, caramelized onions and/or some type of squash or zucchini, either sauteed, grilled or pan fried with some coconut milk. If you are not fond of potatoes, rice would also be a good companion to this dish.
Photo Credit: rema.no
1 recipe homemade fiskeboller (see above)
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups fish stock
1 small container creme fraiche or sour cream
2 carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 small can sweet corn, drained
1/2 lb small shrimp, peeled
parsley, chopped – for garnish
Heat the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan, add the flour and whisk to incorporate into a roux. In a separate pot heat up the fish stock, and start ladling the stock into the roux gradually until you get a smooth gravy like sauce. Add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes until vegetables are almost fork tender. Add the creme fraiche and corn and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add the fiskeboller and shrimp at the very end and let heat through for a couple of minutes before serving, garnish with chopped parsley.
Photo Credit: Stabburet