Cider production; a century old tradition revived and alive in Norway

Cider production has a long history and tradition in Norway, especially in the regions of Hardanger and Sogn.  Documentation of growing fruit has been found dating back to the 13th century.   It was the Cistercian monks who first planted apple trees in the region.

In Hardanger,  the production was considerably large in the period between 1890-1920.  In 1921, however, stricter laws were put in place around the sale of alcohol, and the following year Vinmonopolet (the Wine Monopoly) was founded.  That shut the cider factories down, but the traditions lived on in people’s cellars and outhouses.   The cider produced in the homes were of varying quality, and often sweet and high in alcohol.

Throughout history, it was often the women in Norwegian village who were responsible for creating recipes from fruit and berries that would last throughout the winter.  In Mrs. Henriette Schønberg Erken’s cookbook from 1914 “Stor kokebok for større og mindre husholdninger” (Big cookbook for larger and smaller households), there are many recipes on how to make wine from fruit. (Balholm.no)

In Hardanger today,  the cider tradition has come back alive full force and production is bustling.  Some farmers produce cider merely for their own consumption, while man others have a license to sell their ciders.

Cider sales have increased in Norway by 60% from 2010-2014 and is indicative of the growing popularity of this drink.  In the summer of 2016, a new law was passed that allows growers to sell cider containing up to 22% alcohol direct to the consumer.  Previously, they could only sell beverages with maximum 4.7% alcohol, but it’s between 6-8% alcohol that the best apple taste is achieved.   Due to these new rules,  there is a growing and thriving industry in Hardanger, Norway’s most famous fruit region.

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In the early days,  it was typically the lower quality, “ugly” and unripe apples that the farmers couldn’t sell to customers, that were used for cider production. Today, however, it’s often the very finest quality apples that are selected.  There are several varieties of apples that are considered ideal for cider,  including Gravenstein, Aroma and Torstein – but there are also loads of other new and old varieties that are being experimented with.

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In Balestrand in Sogn, lies the well known Cider House,  a family run business which produces cider from fruit from their own organic garden.   The cider is served in their restaurant, which offers food made from local ingredients.  Other than cider, they use their apples to make dessert wines and fruit “drams”.  They also offer tastings to the public, as well as classes on cider as well as cooking classes.  A trip to the Cider House is included in the Norwegian Vegan Trail trip I announced in my last blog post, definitely check that out!

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Photo Credit: Ciderhuset

Norway has some of the best conditions to produce world class apples.  A cold climate with a long ripening period is key, and during the high season the apples are exposed to nearly 24 hours of sunlight.  This produces crisp, juicy apples with lots of sweet fruit.

While I don’t have a Norwegian cider to enjoy while writing this article, I picked up a cider local to me, from the Hudson Valley of New York.   As Hardanger, New York is known for apples (and is the second largest apple growing state in the country), where both regular and hard cider is produced throughout the state, as well as a variety of other apple products.

This particular cider is made at Breezy Hill Orchard in Staatsburg, NY by a female cider maker, Elizabeth Ryan.  She made the :God Speed the Plough” from a blend of Dabinett and heirloom Hudson Valley apple varieties as a homage to the European style ciders,  and is unfiltered and bone dry.   I would pair this with the carrot lox recipe I posted a while back (posing as faux smoked salmon) , some nice crusty bread and perhaps the vegan “leverpostei” (pate), for a nice snack.

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I look forward to looking up a true Norwegian cider when I leave to go home in a week and will report back on my findings!

 

Announcing first ever vegan tour of Norway in partnership with Up Norway!

Words can’t describe how thrilled I am to announce this incredibly well designed, exciting and expertly organized first ever vegan tour of Norway!   This has been a dream of mine for quite some time, and I finally found a partner I am so elated to be collaborating with.

This incredible culinary-focused tour is designed by Up Norway,  a new company headed up by Oslo-based Torunn Tronsvang, a travel expert who has lived in a variety of countries and worked for many world class resorts and hotels.   The concept of  Up Norway is to bring you the true experiences of our country, not just the popular tourist spots that everyone else is offering.  Even as a native of Norway, I got super excited and intrigued reading about all their unique offers and off the beaten tracks destinations, I knew I had to somehow work with them.  You can imagine how happy I was when they expressed interest in designing a 100% vegan tour of my beautiful country!

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The readers who have been following me for some time, know that I am equally as passionate and interested about Norwegian history, culture and travel as I am about food. I believe they are all connected, and help people understand a country better; why they behave and do what they do, why the eat a certain way and what is important to them.  This is all part of a deeper experience when visiting another country, and is what I find more and more travelers are looking for. It’s not enough to go to the two or three major attractions the destination is known for and say to yourself “Ok, I’ve now seen their ‘culture’.”

The only way to really get behind the scenes and see how a country and its people really live, is to seek out experts who are native of that nation and who feel it’s their mission to give their customers a heightened experience and higher quality trip. This is Up Norway in my opinion; I can’t really think of another company in Norway who is as cutting edge, knowledgeable and creative in the travel industry.

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Most people when thinking of Norwegian food, think of smoked salmon, herring and goat cheese, but the truth is our culinary world is so much more than that!  Among other things, we have the world’s best strawberries,  flavorful plums, rhubarb and blueberries, the highest quality chanterelles and other wild mushrooms, the juiciest farm apples, as well as earthy and delicious beets and other root vegetables.  Southern Norway is known for its fruit and cider and we are also one of the world’s top producers of craft beer.  Let’s not forget Norwegians are huge potato lovers as many of you know and find ways to sneak them into just about every meal.  Is your mouth watering yet?

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This Vegan Trail tour of western Norway, was created to show you how much Norway truly has to offer and is a stunning combination of city and country life.   Starting in the east in Norway’s capital Oslo, we’ll travel west through the country to Hardanger,  which produces 40% of Norway’s fruit, including apples, plums, pears, cherries and red currants,  before ending the tour in the Hanseatic city of Bergen.

On our trip you will get to experience the beautiful and varied nature, travel through fjords, mountains and the apple orchards of Hardanger,  savor the gorgeous food and drink (all vegan of course!) and witness the creativity local entrepreneurs showcase when utilizing top of the line local produce, as well as visiting Oslo and Bergen, the two biggest cities in the country.

Highlights of this fantastic 13-day tour include:

✅ experiencing the wilderness of Oslo.  The beauty of our capital is you can have all the offerings of a cosmopolitan city, then travel 20 minutes outside of the center and you’ll be in the woods!

✅ go foraging and cook a beautiful vegan Nordic meal with your harvest

✅ stroll through the forests where Munch painted the famous “Scream”

✅ 2-day stay at the charming Utne hotel, dating back to 1722,  including a 3-course vegan dinner

✅ go on a fjord cruise in the UNESCO protected Nærøyfjord

✅ travel the cider route in the Hardanger area and lunch at the Cider house as well as visits to local breweries

✅ hikes, kayaking and visits to local folk museums

✅ experience the oldest stave church in Norway, Urnes Stave Church

✅ travel to Balestrand,  a village so idyllic it inspired Disney to use it as a setting for the movie Frozen.  The historic Kviknes hotel here has its own vegan chef!

✅ explore Bergen, one of Norway’s most beautiful cities and try out local vegan fare

And so much more!

For a complete description of the 13-day tour with pricing, visit Up Norway’s page HERE. 

Who’s as excited about this trip as I am??

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Special offer for my readers: 

If you mention Arctic Grub to Up Norway when booking your trip, you will receive a complimentary 90 minute online cooking class with me as well as my e-book, A Collection of Recipes from Arctic Grub, where I will teach you how to easily prepare some of my favorite, traditional Norwegian meals – all plant based! This all is valued at $499 and a great way to prepare for your trip.

If you have ever dreamed of visiting Norway – this is your sign.  An unforgettable trip like no other in existence has been put together just for you, to visit the land of the midnight sun. What are you waiting for? You only live once!

Hope to see you in Norway! 🇳🇴

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Fyrstekake; a Norwegian classic cake improved

I have to admit, fyrstekake was never my favorite Norwegian cake.  The versions I grew up experiencing were always very dense, sometimes dry and most often too rich to even enjoy more than one bite.  Perhaps this is why I’ve been hesitant to make it regularly.    I am thrilled to report that my efforts to veganize this cake produced a result I am much happier with than the cakes I used to eat as a child and one I wrote about before I went vegan.

Interestingly, ever since going plant based, I’ve been enjoying re-making classic recipes and have found that in many instances I’ve fallen in love with dishes that didn’t traditionally excite me. Fyrstekake is definitely one of these instances.

So what is fyrstekake? “Fyrste” means prince royal in Norwegian, so this really is a cake fit for royalty! Today, it might have a reputation as an old fashioned cake, perhaps not for everybody and definitely not a cake younger people make that frequently.  Filled with a delicious almond base similar to frangipane, and too much butter to admit, it’s rich, decadent and definitely all about the almonds.   While not the prettiest cake to look at, we all know looks can deceive, and when this cake is baked right – it’s juicy and super enjoyable.

Fyrstekake is for many people associated with Christmas, and is said to have originated sometime in the 1860s at Erichsen’s Bakeshop in Trondheim and was the bakery’s pride and joy – and secret.  The ingredients were always measured out and weighed the night before the cake were to be baked, after the bakers had gone home. Eventually, the bakeshop closed down, and the secret was out.

The trick to a successful fyrstekake is in the buttery dough.  Often there is too much dough compared to filling, which causes the cake to be dry.  Going more conservative with the amount of dough as well as making it lighter,  is key.   I like to use brown sugar instead of regular or confectioner’s sugar in the filling,  as I find it adds a nice caramel-like flavor that adds to the cake. Many recipes have cardamom in the almond filling while some don’t – I elected to omit it in this recipe but you can add in 1/2 tsp if you so wish. I also used Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg, but if you can’t find that in your local shop, you can substitute 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax seeds combined with 6 tbsp water).

Fyrstekake holds the memory of sitting outside our cabin in the mountains with an afternoon cup of coffee, enjoying the sun. It’s a rustic cake that is a meal in itself, and definitely will please those who are into hearty, nut-filled cakes.

Let me just forewarn you: this is not a cake you want to make or eat if you’re on a diet – there’s nothing light or healthy about it.  Loaded with butter, sugar and nuts, it’s a special occasion cake, but a little slice will go a long way, so make sure you have someone to share it with!

VEGAN FYRSTEKAKE

For the pai dough:

2 1/2 cups or 300 grams all purpose flour

1/2 cup or 100 grams organic confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp baking powder

2 sticks (about 200 grams) vegan butter

1 tbsp ground chia seeds combined with 3 tbsp water

For the almond filling:

2 sticks (about 200 grams) vegan butter

1 cup or 200 grams organic brown sugar

1 1/2 cups or 200 grams almonds, ground

2 tbsp VeganEgg mixed with 1/2 cup ice cold water

1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

3-4 drops almond extract (optional)

a little plant based milk for brushing on dough

demerara sugar for sprinkling on top of cake

DIRECTIONS

To make the pie dough:

Add the flour, confectioner’s sugar, baking powder and butter in a food processor.  Process until a dough forms, add in the chia egg.  I like to grind the chia seeds in a blender with the water to make it more gelatinous first, I find that improves the blending.

When the dough forms, pour it onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide into two; 2/3 should be for the bottom of the cake, and 1/3 for the top.  Shape the dough pieces into a circle, lightly wrap with plastic wrap and leave in fridge for an hour or two.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.   Lightly grease a round pie plate – mine measures 10 inches (25 cm).

Make the almond filling:

Grind the almonds in a food processor.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add in the vanilla paste or extract, VeganEgg mixture, then the flax egg.  Combine well.

Pull out the dough from the fridge. Roll out the large piece on top of parchment paper into a circle larger than your pan.  You’ll want to roll it out on a piece of paper or mat because the dough is very buttery and will stick and be difficult to transfer off the table if you don’t.  Carefully transfer the dough circle onto the pie pan and push it down and up against the edges. Cut off any additional overhang.

Pour the almond mixture into the prepared dough.
Roll out the smaller piece of the dough and with a pizza slicer, slice into 1-inch strips. Place them criss cross on top of the almond filling, brush the dough with a little plant based milk and sprinkle with demerara sugar (or regular sugar).

Bake in oven or about 50 minutes.   Check in on cake after 30 minutes – the dough might get a bit dark, so cover with foil for the last 20 minutes.

Let cool on wire rack for 30 minutes to an hour before digging in!

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Norwegian “Sunshine Sweet Rolls” to celebrate spring

With Easter fast approaching and the first day of spring just passed, my mind goes to foods that reminds me of the bright sunshine, and “solskinnsboller” definitely fits the season.  Decadent, fluffy cardamom buns with a “sun” in the middle of vanilla custard, these sweet rolls are perfect to enjoy on an afternoon while sitting against the wall of your cabin in the Norwegian mountains, enjoying the sun and the crisp air.  Especially after a long cross country ski trip, where you most likely have burned several hundred calories!

Solskinnsboller, or solboller as they are sometimes called, is directly translated as “sunshine buns” or “Sunshine sweet rolls”. They are often enjoyed on the “sun day” in places in northern Norway to celebrate the return of the sun after a long, dark winter.  Funnily enough, in the later years, buns have been created called “mørketidsboller”, (darkness buns) which are eaten during the dark days of winter and they are glazed with chocolate and are also filled with vanilla custard.

Solskinnsboller are different from skoleboller, which I’ve written about in the past.  Skoleboller typically are topped with sprinkles of coconut and confectioner’s glaze, and sunshine buns often are filled with additional things like cinnamon sugar and butter, oranges, almonds, chocolate.. anything your heart desires, essentially.    I did add some confectioner’s glaze to my rolls, just to be rebel 🙂

These buns are in classic, Norwegian style; light, soft and juicy with a scent of cardamom which makes it impossible to stop at having just one!

My trick with veganizing these buns were definitely with the vanilla custard, as it isn’t as yellow as the ones made with egg.  While I tried using turmeric, it turned it more of an orangey green color.   If you care about the color (the taste is exactly the same as regular vanilla custard!) you can try applying some yellow food coloring.    Alternatively, you can always buy instant pudding mix such as Jell-O or this one from Organics, which I prefer. Just remember to use LESS plant based milk than you would regular milk, and almond milk works best.

Try these out and you might have some new fans very soon!

SUNSHINE BUNS

Makes about 15 buns

For the buns:

500 ml non-dairy milk

2 1/2 tsp instant yeast

2/3 cup or 150 grams vegan butter

1/2 cup or 100 grams sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

6 1/4 cup or 750 grams all purpose flour (more flour might be needed)

For the sugar cinnamon filling:

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup or 110 grams brown sugar

1/4 cup or 60 grams vegan butter, melted

For the vegan vanilla custard:

2 cups (500ml) of plant-based milk

2 tsp vanilla paste

1/4 cup or 50 grams sugar

4 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp agar agar

1/2 tsp turmeric or vegan yellow food coloring (optional)

For glaze (optional):

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

about 3 tbsp water – or enough liquid to make it into a paste

To make the buns:

Heat up non dairy milk and vegan butter in a small pot on the stove, until it reached a temperature of about 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celcius. Sprinkle in the instant yeast with a little bit of the sugar and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast starts to bubble.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, sift in the flour, cardamom, salt and sugar, attach it to the stand with a dough hook and combine the dry ingredients. Slowly drizzle in the milk-yeast-butter mixture and knead until you have a firm, smooth dough.

Cover the dough with a clean towel and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit / 250 degrees Celcius.  Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle.  Using a brush, spread the butter evenly across the rectangle and sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon mixture on top.

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Roll the rectangle up starting from the widest end until you have a “sausage” link, and divide the link up to about 14 or 15 pieces.     Place them on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a clean towel and let rest another 20-30 minutes.

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When ready to bake, make an indentation at the center of each bun with your fingers, and fill the center with a spoonful of the vegan vanilla custard.  Brush the buns with a little vegan butter and bake in oven for about 8-10 minutes until golden on top.

Let buns cool on a wire rack, and drizzle confectioner glaze on buns right before serving.

To make vanilla custard:

Heat up the plant based milk with the sugar, add in the cornstarch and agar agar and simmer for about 10 minutes until it starts to thicken.  Whisk in the turmeric or yellow food coloring and  remove from heat. Let cool in fridge for an hour or longer until the custard sets.

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Horn: Norwegian crescent rolls

Norwegians love to bake, and while all countries have their own versions of pretty much any dish in existence, I don’t think there’s anything quite like Norwegian “horn”.  The closest would probably be crescent rolls but I will refer to them as “horns” for the rest of this blog post, as there is just something very special about the Norwegian kind.

“Horns” is another example of one of those nostalgic foods that fill my heart with happiness. In appearance these savory pastries are reminiscent of crescents or croissants, but dare I say they are a healthier version, as they contain only a fraction of the butter croissants do.  “Horns”  are heartier and not as fluffy as croissants, but definitely not as dense as crescents.  I think both the flavor and texture of “horns” is what positively sets them apart from any other savory bun or pastry out there.

Sitting down with some type of Norwegian baked goods and a cup of hot cocoa or coffee, is one of the reasons why life is worth living.  There is a great satisfaction, perhaps rooted in deep childhood memories, in allowing yourself this luxury every so often and is probably why I too, as many Norwegians, love baking.

It’s typical to fill the “horns” with something like cheese and ham, in fact I remember in high school I would buy these massive sized ‘horns’ in the school cafeteria and I’m pretty sure that was an entire week’s worth of calories but every student loved them.

In Norway, horn are served both for breakfast and lunch, brought on picnics and on hiking trips for that extra special treat.   There are endless variations of “horn”  – one of my favorites are “pizza horns”, filled with tomato sauce and cheese (vegan in my case, of course).  You can pretty much fill them with anything you want, so long the filling isn’t too runny and will spill out.

There are two main ways to make them; with white, all purpose flour, and whole wheat or whole grain flour.  The white version is typically is baked with a touch of cardamom, and the whole grain one with sesame seeds or other type of seeds like pumpkin, sunflower or flaxseeds.  Black sesame seeds are also common, and in my case, since I only had white sesame seeds, I chose chia seeds and it turned out wonderfully.

No doubt if you visit a Norwegian bakery, you will see some type of these baked, half moon shaped delicacies and I highly recommend you try one. You’d be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t love them the minute they bite into one.
Now luckily, you don’t have to go to Norway to experience eating one, you can just make my recipe. And might I add that these turned out mouthwateringly delicious? Just ask my husband, a non vegan, picky food snob. So there!

If you want to fill the horns,  you will do so as you roll up the triangles before letting them rise again on the baking sheet. I made mine just plain and they were gorgeous just like that.

P.S. You can easily freeze these guys too so I recommend making a double recipe and heat them up in the oven whenever you want to have them – they are delicious just slathered with vegan butter, and perhaps add some vegan cheese or jam too if you wish!

NORWEGIAN BAKED HORNS (not the Viking ones)

1 1/2 cups (3.5dl) plant based milk

1/2 stick (50 grams) vegan butter

2 1/2 tsp dried instant yeast

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp salt

3 1/4 cups (400grams) all purpose flour

1 3/4 cups (200 grams) whole wheat flour

plant based milk for brushing crescents

sesame seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. for sprinkling on top

Heat up the butter and milk in a small pot until the mixture reaches about 98 degrees Fahrenheit/ 37 degrees Celcius.  Pour into the bowl of a standmixer and sprinkle in the yeast and the sugar and let sit a couple of minutes until it starts to foam.

Attach the dough hook on your stand mixer and add in the flours and the salt, and knead for 5 minutes on medium speed until you have a smooth, firm dough.  Cover with plastic or a clean towel and let rest until double in size, 1-2 hours.

Grease or line two baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit/210 degrees Celcius.

Pour the dough onto a clean, floured work surface, cut the dough in half, and with a rolling pin, shape each piece into a large circle.  Cut the circle into six triangles.  Roll each triangle up, starting from the widest point, until you have a crescent shape.

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Place the crescents on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a clean towel and let rest for another 30 minutes.

Brush the crescents lightly with some plant based milk and sprinkle on seeds of choice and baking in the oven for about 15 minutes until lightly golden up top.  Serve warm with vegan butter, jam or vegan cheese, and your favorite hot beverage.

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Root Veggie and Lentil Trio Stew from the Jazzy Vegetarian

As a food blogger, I am always inspired to see what other bloggers are up to and what they create.  Laura Theodore, aka the Jazzy Vegetarian is a talented vegan chef, cookbook author, radio host and actor I’ve loved to follow, from her award winning PBS television show, to seeing her publish books, DVDs and continues to contribute to the plant based world of food with fun, easy recipes that everybody can make.

I was honored to be asked to be part of her blog tour in anticipation of her upcoming, new cookbook release, Deliciously Vegan, which contains over 175 flavor-packed plant-based recipes, highlighting holiday entertaining to every day ideas for preparing quick an delectable plant-based meals for the family, along with tips for what it takes to stock and cook on a daily basis in a well-equipped vegan kitchen.   You’ll find ideas for ingredients to have on hand at all times in your pantry, effective egg substitutions for baking, delicious options for making vegan cheese and cream, and much more.

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I chose to feature her Root Veggie and Lentil Trio Stew because I felt this was a recipe very similar to what Norwegians would cook for dinner, especially this time of year.  For those of you who have been following me for a while, you know I love cooking with seasonal ingredients, and root vegetables are very typical Nordic ingredients in the winter time.   These are vegetables that survive a long, cold and dark winter and that we base a lot of our soups and stews on.

This is a hearty stew that is filled with loads of delicious flavors and nutrients that will keep you full and satisfied for a long time. I hope you will try this recipe out, and if you are curious about trying out other plant based recipes whether you are a new or seasoned vegan or just want to add more plants in your diet, I highly recommend getting Laura’s book, which you can purchase here.

I also have one cookbook to give away to a lucky reader, to be eligible to enter this giveaway contest, please scroll to the bottom of this post and follow the instructions.  Good luck!

Root Veggie and Lentil Trio Stew

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

The satisfying combo of my favorite root vegetables, combined with a lively lentil trio, makes a hearty and filling stew. Serve it with warm, crusty bread for a delicious and satisfying one-bowl meal.

1 1/2 cups lentil trio blend, picked over, rinsed well (see note)

4 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 can (26 to 28 ounces) diced fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice (see note)

6 cups water

1 medium clove garlic, minced

1 large vegan bouillon cube, crumbled

1 teaspoon tamari

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon garam masala (see note)

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a large soup pot and stir to combine. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the root vegetables and the lentils are soft. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon into deep bowls and serve with a green salad on the side.

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Chef’s Notes

  • If you cannot find a pre-packaged lentil trio blend, you may use any combination of black beluga, red and/or green lentils. Alternately, you may combine and use two or three of your favorite lentil varieties in this recipe.
  • If you cannot find fire-roasted tomatoes, you may substitute regular canned diced tomatoes.
  • For a spicier stew, use 1 teaspoon garam masala.

Recipe by Laura Theodore, from JazzyVegetarian’s Deliciously Vegan. Published by Scribe Publishing, ©2018, reprinted by permission.

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Want to win a free copy of Jazzy Vegetarian’s Deliciously Vegan?   Click HERE to see instructions and enter!  Unfortunately, this is limited to U.S. residents only.  Entry deadline is March 10th. 

 

Arctic Grub selected as one of the top 60 Scandinavian blogs on the web!

I am thrilled to announce that my blog, Arctic Grub, has been selected as one of the top 60 Scandinavian blogs on the web!!

The criteria for making the list were:

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

You can read the post and see the other bloggers who made the list here

I started this blog back in 2012 because I felt homesick not only for true Norwegian food and recipes, but also I had grown increasingly curious and interested in learning more about my own country’s culture and history and why we eat the way we eat.  I managed to find a lot of articles on the “how” to make a dish, but never the “why” behind it. This is what inspired Arctic Grub, and I started to blog about the foods from the fjords of Norway, where I’m from.

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My readers have been very loyal, with me since I created my blog almost six years ago and wrote about the classic dishes of røykalaks (smoked salmon), rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge), bløtkaker (cream cake) and beyond.

In late 2013 I decided to go vegan, and announced that I was no longer going to be writing about animal based dishes, but rather find a way to veganize all the traditional Norwegian recipes I grew up with.  It was a big decision, and  I was nervous I would lose a lot of followers, but I’m happy to say most of you stayed, and for that I am forever grateful.  I’ve put so much work into this blog – hours and hours upon research, recipe tasting, marketing on social media and more, but my followers make it all worth it.

Arctic Grub will always be a labor of love for me, first and foremost. I don’t make any money off my blog (yet), I write from the heart, and only when I feel inspired.

Thank you to all my wonderful readers for your amazing support – I appreciate every single one of you! I hope you will be inspired to remain with me in the years to come as I am planning many exciting posts and projects in the near and far ahead future!

Thanks also to Anuj Agarwal and feedspot.com for including me in this exciting list of incredible Scandinavian bloggers!

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Fiskegrateng, Norwegian fish au gratin sans the fish

Fiskegrateng is a classic dish most Norwegians remember from childhood, aimed to please both adults and kids, even those that wrinkle their nose when they hear “we’re having fish for dinner”.  Fiskegrateng is what I call true Norwegian comfort food, and a dinner I always looked forward to when I was growing up.

The traditional version is based on a creamy white sauce with dairy and eggs, macaroni and flaky fish that are put in a baking dish, topped with breadcrumbs (and sometimes cheese) and baked in the oven.   As with so many Norwegian dishes, this was created to utilize any leftovers (in this case, fish) from previous meals.  It’s also a super easy dish to throw together but will look really impressive on the dinner table.  Many of my friends remember their moms buying a ready-made fiskegrateng at the store, but when you realize how easy it is to put together (not to mention how much better it tastes), you’ll never buy store versions again.

I’ve successfully veganized dozens, if not hundreds of dishes containing dairy, cheese and eggs. Flaky fish proved to be trickier, however with a little bit of creativity, thinking about the texture I wanted to mimic as well as the flavor, I landed on: wild mushrooms!

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I used a mixture of hen of the woods, oyster and trumpet mushrooms. The latter two proved to be incredibly similar in texture; slightly chewy and ‘meaty’, with a mild flavor and a perfect companion for the macaroni and creamy sauce.

The addition of elbow pasta shows that this is a relatively “newer” creation, as I can’t imagine Norwegian using pasta in the 19th century, but I wanted to showcase a dish that is also very common in today’s Norway.  Not to mention many plant based eaters have been begging me to recreate this dish, and so I took on the challenge, of course!

Fiskegrateng is what we call “husmannskost”,  which is a common term used for traditional Norwegian dishes, based on inexpensive whole ingredients like potatoes and root vegetables, corn products, and often some version of pork.   Other examples of ‘husmannskost’ include meatballs, or kjøttkaker, with potatoes, pancakes, lapskaus and porridge, or grøt.

The word “husmenn”, is a word used to describe those people that had to rent land and houses from other farmers.  This term started going into use around 1650,   although the husmenn were largest in nuber around the 19th century.  Husmenn were the closest we came to the working class before the industrialization of the country, and has been a very popular subject for radical historians.

Ironically, husmenn didn’t eat “husmannskost, at least not the way we think of these dishes today.   Most of them could only dream of eating the dishes described above, in fact we know very little of what they actually ate.   Husmannkost more correctly describes the food you would find on Norwegian tables in the 1950s… More on that in another post!

If you don’t want to add pasta in this dish, you can easily replace the macaroni with cut up veggies like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc., it will taste equally delicious.

I made the creamy sauce with cooked cauliflower instead of using the traditional roux base of flour and butter. Using cooked cauliflower to make cream sauces is a common trick us vegans have,  and you get a cheesy flavor by adding nutritional yeast.  You won’t believe there is no dairy in this!

Serve the fiskegrateng with shredded (or boiled) carrots, boiled potatoes and drizzles of melted vegan butter.  My mom also used to chip some chives from our garden and add into the butter which added a nice touch.

Norwegian comfort food at its best! Velbekomme!

 

FISKEGRATENG (vegan, “FRESH” AU GRATIN)

1 1/2 lbs (600 grams) mixed mushrooms (I recommend oyster and trumpet mushrooms)

2 garlic cloves

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

olive oil for sauteing

12 ounces (350g) macaroni

1 small cauliflower, cut up into florets

1/2 cup (125 ml) almond or other non-dairy milk

1/4 cup (65 ml)  cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours

1/3 cup (1dl) nutritional yeast

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

juice of 1/2 large lemon (about 1-2 tbsp)

pinch of nutmeg

salt, pepper

1 cup (250ml) panko breadcrumbs, unseasoned

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

pinch of salt and several rounds of freshly cracked black pepper

Lightly grease a 13×9 baking dish with oil or vegan butter.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celcius).

Place the cauliflower florets in lots of salted water in a medium pot and boil until soft, about 20-25 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs with the onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta/macaroni according to the package direction and set aside (use a little oil to prevent pasta from sticking).

Clean and dice mushrooms; I halved and thinly sliced the trumpet mushrooms, and just cut the oyster mushrooms in half. I also used hen of the woods, which I diced thin as well.

In a large saute pan, heat up a little olive oil, add in a couple of cloves of garlic with some fresh thyme sprigs and saute for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Add in the mushrooms and saute over high heat until they start to shrink and get soft. Add a couple of pinches of salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Set aside.

When cauliflower is cooked, drain and place into a high speed blender with the almond (or other non-dairy) milk, drained cashews,  nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, lemon juice,  nutmeg, salt and pepper and puree until smooth.

Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta, fold in the mushrooms and pour the entire mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Evenly spread the seasoned panko breadcrumbs over, and drizzle with a little melted vegan butter.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes on the bottom shelf, until nice and golden up top.

Serve with shredded carrots, boiled potatoes and lots of melted butter!

 

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Dronning Maud’s dessert – a royal experience

When I surveyed my readers and followers a while back about which Norwegian dish they would most like to see veganized,  Dronning Mauds dessert (or Queen Maud’s Mousse) was right up there with “brunost” (the widely popular and unique Norwegian goat cheese).     I had to start recipe testing right away, as I have yet to see a non-dairy, eggless recipe of this dish.

Queen Maud was born in London in 1869, and her parents were the later King Edvard VII and Queen Alexandra of Great Britain.   Through visiting relatives in Denmark, she got to know her cousin Prince Carl, they married in Buckingham Palace in 1896, and settled down in Copenhagen. When the Norwegian government offered Prince Carl the throne in 1905, he accepted, and the British Princess Maud became the first Norwegian Queen following the dissolution of the union with Sweden.

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Image from kongehuset.no

Queen Mauds dessert, also called Queen Maud’s Mousse, or Haugesunddessert, was created when she and King Haakon visited Haugesund during the coronation expedition in 1906.   The dessert was named after her in honor of their visit.   It is common knowledge that Queen Maud had a tiny waist, so not sure how much she ate, but the story goes she liked the pudding very much!

I’ve yet to meet a person who isn’t absolutely in love with this dessert.  I like to think of it as Norway’s response to tiramisu, and although the ingredients differ, the texture and flavor reminds me of the Italian classic.    The pudding is more commonly seen in the western parts of Norway,  though I wouldn’t count on seeing it at every table any longer.  This dessert is one of the old, classics I’ve loved to revive and bring back, in an even better form!

Before I went vegan, I published the traditional recipe for this dessert, which contains egg yolks, whipped cream and gelatin.  Yes, not exactly a dish for those watching their weight, much less their health, as both egg yolks and dairy, with their high content of cholesterol, saturated fat and hormones, antibiotics and other additives you find in these animal products, are less than ideal for your body. You can go here to read my original post where I also detailed who Queen Maud was and what her place is in Norwegian history.

Substituting heavy cream is no problem at all.  Full fat canned coconut milk makes a wonderful whipped cream, when the can is placed in the fridge overnight, allowing the fat to solidify as a “lid” on top of the can.  This part is what is whipped, and the liquid is reserved for later use.   For more detailed info on how this works, I like this article.

Gelatin is also super easy to swap out. I use agar agar, a much healthier alternative.  Let’s just say, there’s a reason gelatin rhymes with skeleton, as that is really what gelatin is; animal bones (along with animal skin, hooves, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage all boiled together into a goo).  Yuck, I just don’t want that in my dessert or my candy thank you!

Agar agar is a flavorless gelling agent, derived from cooked and pressed seaweed, is available flaked, powdered, or in bars.  In Japan, agar is referred to as kanten. Agar agar is a good source of calcium and iron, and is very high in fiber. It contains no sugar, no fat and no carbohydrates. It is known for its ability to aid in digestion and weight loss, helps reduce inflammation and it carries toxic waste out of the body.  Not bad for an additive in this dessert, right??

Agar is very powerful, so you don’t need a lot – I found that 1 tsp was really enough for this recipe.  You can play around with amounts, there are a million different directions if you google it, but I found mine worked well.  I also am not sure you necessarily need it although it helps set the pudding if you leave it in fridge overnight. I found that the longer you leave the mousse to chill, the better the consistency.

So now we arrive at the trickiest ingredient to sub out: egg yolks. There are many ways to sub out whole eggs in baking, but not that many that describes the yolk itself.  In any event, I tried two versions; one with the VeganEgg, a powder when mixed with water, makes perfect scrambled eggs, frittata and also wonderful in baked goods, and silken tofu.   The tofu also produced a very tasty result, although had a somewhat “soupier” texture, and I found it a bit lumpy and not as smooth as the Vegan Egg.

You can find the Vegan Egg in most health food stores and Whole Foods, and I’ve seen it more and more in regular stores as well, as people are becoming more preoccupied with leaving animal products off their plate.

When my husband tasted the dessert, he said it tasted like a regular mousse or custard, that he would never guess it didn’t contain regular eggs. Since he works as a chef for a living and has the most discerning palate of anyone I know, I will take his word for it. Also because I know he doesn’t tell me things to be nice, he is honest.  I hope you will agree with me.  The recipe might look intimidating but it’s really super simple once you’ve got the steps down, and it’s sure to please anyone with a sweet tooth!

 

QUEEN MAUDS DESSERT (vegan)

6 tbsp VeganEgg mixed with 1 1/4 cup (300ml) ice cold water, quickly blended in Vitamix
6 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1/4 cup (0.5 dl) port wine
1 can whipped full fat coconut milk, placed in fridge overnight
2-3 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp agar agar mixed with 1 cup (250ml)  water (you probably won’t need more than half of this mixture)
3 oz (85 grams) shredded dark chocolate (or semi-sweet, make sure it’s vegan)
Directions:
Dissolve the agar agar in the water in a small pot, place it on the stove over medium heat, and keep whisking over heat for about 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
In a high speed blender, combine the veganEgg with the ice cold water, vanilla paste/extract and the confectioners until it has the thick consistency of whipped egg yolks.
Pour the mixture into a bowl  and fold in the chilled agar agar.  Add the port wine (port wine is optional, you can omit if you don’t drink alcohol).
Scoop out the solids of the coconut milk and whip it either with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer.  Add a couple of tsp of vanilla paste and confectioners sugar once the cream starts to thicken.  (I feel that when the bowl you whip it in is chilled, it works a bit better, so I place the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes before I whip it.).   When thick and cream starts to form peaks, it is done.
Carefully fold the whipped coconut cream into the vegan egg mixture.  Layer the cream mixture into a nice glass bowl with the shredded chocolate and garnish with some fresh raspberries.  Place in fridge at least for a few hours, preferably overnight, before serving.
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Polarbrød; Scandinavia’s pita bread

In January most people are swearing off bread and other carb laden foods, but that doesn’t have to include healthy, whole grain breads such as polarbrød. These fluffy, pillowy creations have been popular for quite a few years as an alternative to the traditional, whole grain loaves so commonly eaten and see around Norway.  They are similar in look to pita bread, except Norwegians tend to eat these for breakfast or lunch, topped with whatever smears or other “pålegg ” eaten during these meals.  (“Pålegg” is essentially anything you could possibly put on a sandwich).

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What makes these breads unique is that they typically are frozen immediately after being baked, following the original method of how they came about.  Read on…

Polarbrød (Polar Sandwich) is actually a Swedish brand of breads sold in stores in Norway and has a long history in Scandinavia dating back one hundred years. Johan Nilsson was the founder, and when he started his bakery back in the late 19th century.  He didn’t have much capital, and while he had ingredients like flour and spices, he lacked yeast.  He solved this by trading his “spark” (pictured below) for one kilo of yeast.

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Image from polarbrod.no

In the 1950s, the business was taken over by Johan’s grandson, who started a bakery and cafe with his wife Greta.  The couple saw huge possibilities with this bread.  But in order to scale the business and sell to the entire country of Sweden, they had to find a way to distribute it. How could they keep the breads fresh when they were to ship it all over the country?  To avoid spoilage, Greta tried freezing the already prepared sandwiches, and it became a huge success. She baptized them “Polar Sandwich”, and the rest is history.

Today, the business is run by Greta’s granddaughters, Karin Bodin and Anna Borgeryd.  They are 5th generation and plan to continue the family business for generations to come.  In Norway, polarbrød has been sold since 2002, and the family business Findahl & Krogh AS is responsible for sales and marketing of this bread.

The details above were translated from the website polarbrod.no

Instead of buying the already made polarbrød in the stores, many Norwegians opt to make their own.  Super easy to make and they are quick to bake too, I can see why this tradition is so popular in many modern homes.

There are a million varieties of polarbrød using different flours and the ratios vary as well.  You can add seeds like chia or flax for added texture and  I hope you will try mine out, I also use these as pita breads and serve them with hummus and other dips.

WHOLE GRAIN POLARBRØD

Makes 16-20 pieces

4 tbsp or 50 grams vegan butter

1 1/4 cup (300 ml) non-dairy milk

1 cup (200ml) water

2 1/2 tsp (1 packet) dry yeast

2 tbsp maple or brown rice syrup

2 tsp salt

1 scant cup (200 ml) quick oats, roughly pulsed in blender

1 1/4 cup (300 ml) whole wheat flour

1 scant cup (200 ml) rye flour

2 1/2 cups (600 ml) all purpose flour

Melt the butter in a small pot, add in the milk and water and combine. The temperature should be around 110F, then drizzle in the dry yeast, let sit for about 5 minutes.

Place yeast mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the remaining ingredients, and knead on medium for 5-6 minutes until you have a smooth dough. Add more flour or liquid as you see fit.

Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celcius).  Place a baking sheet in the oven.

Divide the dough in half and roll each half out to a link. Cut each link into 8-10 pieces, shape the pieces into a ball, then with a rolling pin form a circle that’s about 1/2 inch thick (1cm or so). Use a chopstick or a fork and prick some “holes” on top of each circular piece.

Cover the pieces with towels and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Place 4 or 5 pieces in the oven on the baking sheet at a time, and bake for about 3 minutes.  They should be slightly puffed up and light brown on top when done. Quickly remove them, add another 4-5 pieces and repeat until you have all the breads baked. Cover them with a clean towel while they cool off, this will help them stay moist.

These breads should be enjoyed right out of the oven, or wrapped up and placed in freezer as soon as they have cooled off.  They will thaw in about 30 minutes and will taste just as good out of the freezer as fresh.  Top or stuff with your favorite spreads, like vegan cheese, lettuce, sliced peppers, cucumbers, bean pate or even hummus!

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