Wonderfully moist cinnamon-raisin bread

As many of my readers know, I also have a Facebook page where I post pictures of Norway, recipe tips, food products and fun bits from Norway as well as food and wine pairing tips.  It’s a place where people can go to for more visuals of my country and culture, and I also add in food from other countries, especially Mexico since that is his ethnic background. The page is growing day by day and I would love it if you checked the page out and liked it!

The other day I made cinnamon raisin bread, which is one of my favorite baked goods, mainly because, as I told my followers, to be a true Norwegian you must love cinnamon! In pretty much everything! 🙂  My page, being very new still, just reached 500 followers and I promised my readers I would post the recipe as soon as we hit this first ‘milestone’. So here it goes – it is inspired by many different recipes I’ve tried over the years, but this one definitely is the most decadent, producing the fluffiest, most moist and aromatic bread. You will never buy store bought cinnamon bread again! The actually assembly takes 2 minutes, but you must be patient and wait for the dough to rise twice – 2 hours each time. So make it early in the morning or afternoon and let it sit while you are doing other things around the house or run your errands.. by the time you get back it will be ready to pop in the oven and you will know what I mean when I say it was worth the wait!  Enjoy everyone!

CINNAMON LOVER’S CINNAMON-RAISIN BREAD

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter

2-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one packet)

3 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

3 all-purpose flour

1/2 cup bread flour

1 tsp salt

1/3 cups sugar

2 tbsp cinnamon

1 cup raisins, plumped up in a bowl of some hot water and drained (prevents them from drying out in the bread)

1 egg and 2 tbsp milk whisked together to brush the loaf

additional butter (softened) for greasing the loaf pan

Directions:

Melt butter with the milk and heavy cream in a small sauce pot.  When warm to the touch (not hot), sprinkle yeast over the top, stir gently, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix sugar and eggs with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in the milk/yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add half the flour and beat on medium speed until incorporated, then add the other half and beat until just combined.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead dough on medium speed for ten minutes.  If the dough is still very sticky (It should be moist but form a ball that separates from the bowl) add a little more bread flour (1/4 cup or so) and knead for a couple more minutes.

Fill a mixing bowl with hot water to heat the bowl.  When ready to add in the dough, empty the water, and add a few drops of canola or vegetable oil in the bowl to coat it, add the dough and lightly coat with the oil. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and set it in a warm spot for at least 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a  rectangle about 16 x 20 inches, brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the butter on the dough, and then finish with the raisins.  Starting at the far end, roll dough tightly toward you. Pinch the seams to seal.

Grease the loaf pan with some softened butter. Place the dough, seam down, into the loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap let rise again for another 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the egg and milk together in a small bowl and brush the top of the dough. Bake for about 35-40 minutes on the middle/lower rack of the oven.

Remove from the pan and allow bread to cool.   Eat it just as is when freshly made or the next day, toast it with some butter, or you can even make French toast or bread pudding with it – the options are endless! YUMMM!!

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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:

fiskebollerplain

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!

                       fiskeboller2                     fiskeboller1

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

2 eggs

To prepare:

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.

SPICY FISKEBOLLER

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

2 eggs

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.

Fiskebollerkarrisaus

Photo Credit:  rema.no

FISKEBOLLE SOUP

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

2 parsnips

1 small can sweet corn, drained

salt, pepper

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.

Fiskebollesuppe

Photo Credit: Stabburet

A juicy herring burger on Peder Stol Day

Today is February 22nd and marks Peder Stol Day, or Peter Stol Day.  Historically in Norway, this is when the ice would start melting on the water, and the frost on the ground began to thaw. From this day on, the ice on the water was no longer safe, and if somebody fell through the ice, people were not obligated to help.

This was originally a day in memory of the apostle Peter, who became the bishop of Rome and the first Pope in the Catholic church.   He died a martyr,  crucified by the emperor Nero (year 54-68) with his head facing downwards. The St. Peter’s Church in Rome is built on top of his grave.

apostlenpeter

Traditionally the day was called “Per Varmestein” (Per Hot Rock).  An old saying goes that Peter threw a burning hot rock in the water on this day, so that the winter would end.   This signified the first day of spring, and the weather would remain the same as it was on February 22nd until the beginning of summer.  Another interesting tale was that if a hen/chicken could drink enough water from the ice melting off a roof of a house to quench her thirst, it meant it would be a good year (apparently this is also a Germanic tradition).

If the fishing season for herring had not started by Peder Stol Day, there would be no herring that year. The Norwegian people living along the coastline were incredibly dependent upon herring, which was responsible for the growth and wealth of our people – but also hunger and poverty when the herring did not show up.   In good years, the “spring herring” would start streaming in towards the beaches during the months of February and March, and thousands of fishermen would gather in small boathouses along the coastline waiting for their catch.

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No food tradition is really tied to Peder Stol Day, but because of the role of the herring around this time, I thought it fitting to include a recipe for a herring burger I enjoy.  Some of you may be familiar with pickled herring and think that is the only way we enjoy herring in Scandinavia, but nothing could be further from the truth. Herring is wonderfully versatile, and is much more flavorful and richer than any other fish burgers. That is why they can stand some  additional strong spices and herbs – making them even better. By the way – I was told by herring fishermen near my hometown that snow storms and a full moon provide the best chances for great fishing..

These burgers are as delicious as they are nutritious – give them a try and let me know what you think!

NORWEGIAN HERRING BURGERS

Serves 4

1 1/2 lb herring filet

2 tsp salt

1/2  cup buttermilk (or regular whole milk)

1 Vidalia onion, finely diced

3 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely

2 tbsp capers

1 1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp potato starch (or cornstarch)

butter

Cut the herring filet into pieces, place into a food processor and process/pulse a few times with the salt. Add in the chives, onion, capers, garlic, rosemary, pepper and potato starch. Process until smooth and well combined. In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk (or milk) together), and slowly add in to mixture while blade is running.  Season again with salt and pepper – you can form a small little ball and saute it to taste to make sure that it’s to your liking.

Shape mixture into patties.  Heat a saute pan over medium heat, add a dollop of butter, and saute the herring patties until golden brown on both sides. Serve with boiled potatoes, caramelized onions and shredded carrots.  Alternatively, you can serve them with sauerkraut or mashed peas- all are traditional sides to the herring burgers.

sildekakergodfisk

Photo Credit: Godfisk.no

Betasuppe – a hearty soup for the outdoors

Betasuppe is a soup I often think of as pre-packaged and store bought – something my mom would bring along to our cabin in the mountains during the winter when we needed something quick, easy to prepare and warm (our cabin at the time only had cold running water and no real kitchen to speak of other than a small stove).  Betasuppe is a classic example of what we would call “winter food” in Norway, created for cold days and definitely worth waiting for.

Although store purchased, this particular soup was surprisingly delicious and I always looked forward to it, as it was one of the few times my mom would actually use something pre-made.  To me, it was different and exciting.  She would sometimes add additional vegetables and bits of meat to it to make it more her own, and also to make it heartier.  Often we would have Norwegian pancakes along with the betasuppe – probably to make the meal even more substantial, but this pairing is actually incredibly tasty. The sweetness of the pancakes and the saltiness of the betasuppe worked wonders on my palate!

Torobetasuppe

“Beta” means “bits” in Norwegian and “suppe” as you can imagine, is Norwegian for “soup”, hence the soup consists of bits and pieces of different vegetables, meats and /or sausages.   Classic vegetables will include yellow peas, carrots, rutabaga, potatoes, green onions and barley.  The meat is often mutton and the sausages pork.  Typically, meat bones will be added to the broth (water) to create a deep flavor and the soup will simmer for hours on the stove, developing an amazing aroma in the cabin.  Coming from the refreshingly cold, clean,  and crisp mountain air outside after a long ski trip, and in to the warm kitchen where my mom would be cooking, is a memory that I still hold on to today.  Here’s a picture of the fireplace in my family’s cabin:

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Our “dining room” where we enjoyed countless delicious meals prepared by my mother:

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To Norwegians, soup serves as a main meal, not so much a starter.  It’s a symbol of every day life – and in the winter months of January, February and March there are plenty of those! A bowl of warm soup is a reason to gather people around the table and into our homes, even on cold and dark arctic nights.  This soup is however just as often prepared outdoors as indoors, as the title of this blog post indicates.

Perfect for cooking over a live fire when hiking, skiing or enjoying nature, I thought it fitting to include a recipe for betasuppe this week when so many Norwegians are on vacations in the mountains, skiing, sunbathing and enjoying great food and drink.  Betasuppe is definitely on many people’s repertoire around this time, because of the ease of preparing but still packs a lot of flavor.

betasuppebaal

Betasuppe is also a popular food served in the Norwegian Seamen’s Churches around the world –  a home away from home for Norwegian expats. A lot of homesickness has been cured around a steaming hot bowl of betasuppe and freshly baked Norwegian bread. Something so simple and inexpensive to make, but yet incredibly satisfying and heartwarming to eat is bound to remain a classic staple of Norwegian cooking.

I like my betasuppe to include sausages, but you can use any type of meat or just vegetables too if you prefer. Remember: bits (beta) and pieces of whatever you have will do just fine!

NORWEGIAN BETASUPPE

1 lb smoked sausage such as Kielbasa

3 slices bacon

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1 large rutabaga, peeled and diced (you can also use turnip)

3 small parsnips, peeled and diced

1/2 celery root, peeled and diced

1 lb yukon gold potatoes, diced

1 leek, thinly sliced

1 quart chicken stock plus 2 cups water

1 hamhock

4-5 sprigs fresh thyme

4-5 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped

2 bay leaves

salt, pepper to taste

Add the hamhock to some water in a pot, add the bay leaves and bring to a boil, reduce and let simmer for 2-3 hours. Let the meat cool off for a bit in the stock before picking it/taking it out of the stock.

In a separate large pot, add the strips of bacon and saute until fat renders off, and remove bacon and set aside. If need be, add a bit of oil to the pan (You should have bacon fat in bottom of pan), and add all your vegetables, season with salt and pepper saute for about 10 minutes or so.  Add the stock from the other pot, add the sprigs thyme and let the vegetables cook until tender, about 20 minutes or so.  (If you want to add yellow peas, you can add these into the stock and cook for 45 min-1 hour before adding the vegetables).  Finally, add in the meat and the sliced sausage, and let them heat up in the soup.   Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve with a nice fresh loaf of bread or flatbrød or Norwegian pancakes! The recipe for Norwegian pancakes you can get in my previous post about pancakes here.

betasuppeaperitif

Photo Credit: Aperitif.no

Fyrstekake – Norway’s royal almond cardamom cake

Norwegians undoubtedly have a love for almonds, cardamom and cinnamon when baking, and this cake is no exception. A buttery dough with a moist filling of almonds, confectioners sugar and the aforementioned spices, it is decadent but still a bit humble in its appearance.  Although not the most beautiful cake to look at, looks can deceive, as we know, and once you bite into it, all is forgiven!  Norwegians (and Scandinavians in general) are known for their use of cardamom in baked goods, and I believe might be the only people who use this spice in sweeter foods.  The Arabs use it in their coffee, while the Indians use it in their curries.  An ancient spice, no other internationally known spice has such an uneven geographical food pattern; but over half of the production is being consumed in the middle East and Scandinavia.  We sure love our cardamom! By the way, never use the store bought ground cardamom, I always toast whole cardamom pods in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant (30 seconds to 1 minute) and grind them in a mortar and pestle and remove the outer shells – SO much more aromatic and flavorful! Often referred to as the queen of spices, you can find both green and black cardamom- I tend to prefer the black in baking but either one will do.

cardamomseedsgreenblackcardamompods

“Fyrste” means prince or head of principality in Norwegian, so this really is a cake fit for a prince (or princess) !  The cake is an old classic that never goes out of style; moist and tasty and always pleases, especially nut lovers. In many households, fyrstekake is traditionally baked around Christmas, as one of many varieties of cookies and cakes made during this holiday. What I enjoy about this cake is that it is not overly sweet, it’s almost like a fancy breakfast bread and has somewhat of a savory quality to it due to the cardamom.

I always used to get fyrstekake when visiting my best friend from childhood, Renate’s house; her mom had the cake perfected.  Although I tried to make my mom make it, she just didn’t seem to want to expand her existing cake selection. I suspect it was because she wasn’t taught how to make this cake by her own mother while growing up. Again, each family has their own traditions!  Surprisingly many Norwegians I’ve spoken with, have not tried baking this cake at home either, despite consuming it regularly, but rather choose to buy it ready to eat in bakeries and shops. Lucky for me, Renate lived only two blocks away, so I made sure to make frequent visits 🙂  In my mind, fyrstekake used to be a cake all grandmothers would bake – it was a cake that was considered quite a luxury back in the old days because of its generous almond content. In fact, during the second World War, the filling was often made with mashed potatoes to make up for the shortage of almonds, which made the texture silky smooth and even.  Some chefs choose to still incorporate some mashed potatoes in the filing to this day, with great success.  If you don’t like almonds, are allergic to nuts, or want to lighten the calorie load of this cake, you can also select to fill the cake with apples or rhubarb or raspberry jam, all popular choices that have worked well for fyrstekake fans.

Fyrstekakematprat

Photo Credit: dinmat.no

A perfect coffee cake to bring as a snack accompanied by your coffee when going on a ski trip (as many will be doing this week in Norway during their winter break), or equally impressive to serve to guests on a special occasion – fyrstekake definitely belongs in your repertoire of Norwegian baked goods!

FYRSTEKAKE

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons whole milk or heavy cream

For the filling:

2 cups ground almonds

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

3/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk

3 large egg whites

For crust:
Whisk flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter and sugar in a medium bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and milk. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients and beat just until thoroughly combined.

Pat dough into a ball; break off one-quarter of dough. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten balls into disks.

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Cover separately and chill dough disks for at least 2 hours or overnight.

For filling and assembly:
Butter tart pan or spring form pan (I use a 9 or 10 inch pan).

Break larger dough disk into small pieces and scatter over bottom of tart pan. Using your fingertips, press dough onto bottom and up sides of pan. Use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to smooth the surface and trim the edges.

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Roll out smaller dough disk to about 1/8″ thick.Using decorative cookie cutters, cut out shapes and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Or, you can cut 1/2 inch long strips and place three strips across the cake, then three more across the other strips. Cover and chill crust and cutouts for 1 hour.

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Preheat oven to 350°F.  While dough is chilling, pulse almonds, powdered sugar, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Transfer dry ingredients to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and vanilla in a medium bowl until medium peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into dry ingredients.

Whisk egg yolk and 2 teaspoons water in a small bowl to blend. Fill chilled crust with almond mixture; smooth top. Arrange cutouts on top and brush cutouts with egg wash.

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Bake tart until crust and cutouts are golden brown and filling is set, 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool. DO AHEAD: Tart can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

 

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Norwegian trout: a perfectly simple and flavorful dinner choice

Typically on Sundays I prefer a light fish dinner, especially since Saturday nights I may have been a bit more indulgent.  Preparing for a new week, it’s also good to finish the old one not feeling completely sluggish.

When I think of Norwegian dinners, my mind admittedly more often than not, goes to fish. Salmon of course plays a big part in our cuisine, as does cod and halibut – but a fish that is not as often talked about is trout, which is a fish from the salmon family (salmonidae). Mountain trout is particularly tasty and popular among fishermen and outdoorsy people.  Trout is originally from Europe and little Asia, and arrived to Norway most likely after the first Ice Age.  Humans helped them along, past high waterfalls and upward river streams, where it gathered colonies in the high mountains. In Norwegian, trout is called ørret, and probably stems from the Norse word aurridi – “the one who rides back and forth on the “auren”, i.e. the bottom of the gravel, when spawning.

trout

The trout has the characteristic black dots on the back, and its color can vary from almost white to almost brown or reddish brown. The color of the fish depends on the water quality and the food it eats.  In addition to natural differences, there are also genetically differences – there is the ocean trout, the mountain trout, the creek trout and the lake trout, all of which are naturally available in Norway.   The creek trout is pictured below and is also very tasty:

bekkeorret

The consensus about this fish is that it is so tasty, it really needs no fancy preparation or a lot of ingredients, but rather let the fish shine.  I recall this as one of the few meals I would make with my father (who rarely cooked, although he was always the one making us breakfast in the morning) – after he would catch the trout, he would just dredge the fish lightly in flour, salt and pepper and saute them lightly and we would eat them just like that, served with boiled potatoes of course and some pieces of flatbrød (flat bread). It was one of those moments when I truly felt like I was eating a piece of nature, and appreciated where I was from.  The tastiest of all is the mountain trout, caught in the lakes while people are out hiking, hunting and enjoying nature.  The trout is prepared right there, prepared over an open fire, and enjoyed in the fresh mountain air. What could be better than that?

grillingpå-bålet

The general season for trout is in from May until early September, when mushrooms and berries are also plentiful, so these ingredients are often combined.  If you are lucky enough to find cloudberries, these can provide an interesting match, and is not just for dessert!  Trout is widely available all over in Norway, mainly because it is so versatile and lives in all creeks, oceans and lakes.

Trout is delicious just eaten grilled with a sprig of thyme, seasoned with salt and pepper and a squirt of fresh lemon, perhaps served with a dollop of sour cream and boiled new potatoes.  The fish is also perfect served with a pickled cucumber salad, maybe some sauteed shallots and roasted cauliflower. Since Since Sunday dinners should be somewhat “fancied up”, I got the idea from another magazine to make a beet root sauce and include dill with my potatoes.  Scandinavian in style for sure, and definitely a keeper in my book for future dinners when entertaining for guests or just enjoying a meal on my own.

Below is a recipe adapted from Klikk.no which I came across when searching for Norwegian trout dinner ideas!

TROUT w/DILLED POTATOES and BEET ROOT SAUCE

Serves 4

1 lbs beets

1 lb new potatoes (skin on is fine)

1 lb mushrooms, sliced

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

1 garlic clove

1 orange, peeled (reserve the peel)

1 tbsp prepared horseradish (from store bought jar)

1/2 bunch fresh dill, chopped

4 tbsp olive extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tbsp whole grain mustard

2 lbs trout filets, skin on

3 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400F.  Wash the beets, dry them off, season with a bit of olive oil, and LOTS of salt, and place on a sheet tray. Place and bake in oven for an hour or until soft. Let them cool off enough to handle, then peel them.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pot with salted water, and cook for about 20 minutes or until tender. Strain the water off and let them dry out in pan.

Lower temperature to 160F – place the mushrooms on a baking tray season with salt, pepper and a bit of oil and place a couple of sprigs of thyme on top.  Place in oven for about 10-15 minutes or so until golden.

In a food processor, add the parmesan cheese and garlic and grind until a powder. Add the beets, the orange zest/peel (the orange only, not the white), half of the horseradish and half of the dill and pulse until a puree forms.  Add some of the olive oil until you achieve a pesto like sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix the rest of the horseradish with the sour cream, whole grain mustard and the remaining dill.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cut the potatoes into thick slices and mix them with the sour cream dressing.

Make sure the skin of the trout has been scaled, if not do so.  Season the filets with salt and pepper. Heat the rest of the olive oil and butter in a saute pan over medium heat and saute the filets for about 7-8 minutes until the skin is crispy. Remove the pan from the heat – flip the filets and let them finish cooking in the residual heat.

Arrange mushrooms, potatoes, trout and beet root sauce on 4 plates and serve!

orretsopp

 

Photo Credit:  Godfisk.no

Heart shaped Norwegian waffles for Valentine’s Day

Yesterday I wrote about the Norwegian pancakes, so in the spirit of the momentum and the season, I would like to continue with a post about our very special waffles, appropriately heart shaped and perfect for Valentine’s Day!  National Waffles Day is not until August 24th, and Scandinavians celebrate Waffle day on March 23rd, but in Norway, waffles are served on a dare I say, almost a daily basis.   Norwegians love their waffles regardless of the occasion. We don’t eat them for breakfast (we prefer savory, not sweet foods in the morning ), we devour them as dessert, as a snack with our afternoon coffee, and waffles is considered  a necessity when inviting people over.  A special waffle iron is required to achieve the shape, luckily this is now widely available in the U.S. at a reasonable price of around $40-50.

vaffeljern

There is a very special connection between our waffles and the church, more specifically churches labeled  Norwegian”seamen’s churches” (Sjømannskirken) , with locations all over the world.  The seamen’s church  was founded in 1878, and the first church was established right here in NYC.  The church was originally a home away from home for many Norwegian sailors manning ships that carried goods and passengers around the world. Today, it is also a home for students, au pairs and visiting business men on long or short visits.  Many Norwegians choose to get married there, and the Royal family will be sure to make an apperance while traveling.  It is also a cultural center with exhibits and performances of artists from Scandinavia, and there is a weekly sermon on Sundays.   A small little convenience shop is available, where Norwegians can buy food from their homeland:

sjømannskirken

I read somewhere that the Norwegian waffles signify “the taste of homesickness”.  In the early years while I was still a “newbie” to living overseas,  it was incredibly comforting to be able to stop by the church (in my instance in midtown Manhattan),  where I could meet other Norwegians, speak Norwegian, read Norwegian newspapers, attend mass or… most importantly; get a free serving of Norwegian waffles with my coffee!  The seamen’s church have served waffles to Norwegians abroad for over 150 years!  Waffles go back all the way to the Middle Ages when it was served in convents.  Initially, breads without yeast were made for communion, and these breads were so tasty, they were made into “Apostle cakes” for special occasions. These cakes may have been the predecessors to waffles!

Waffles were made way before the stove was invented, by using the long shafted “irons” that you could place above fire.

vaffelerngammelt

The waffles were made up of leftovers, including milk that had gone sour (hence why we today use “kefir” or buttermilk). While today we see recipes using fresh /whole milk, this is a relatively modern trend.  Leftover porridge, sauces, water, different kinds of flours and oatmeal were also used in the original waffles. Today, we add sugar, spices and butter , as we can afford to make them more luxurious. Regardless, I think the old fashioned waffles were just as tasty, as they represented the love and care of the homemakers, who aimed to make the most delicious food for their guests.

Traditionally we serve waffles with strawberry jam and a dollop of sour cream (yum!) or butter and the Norwegian brown cheese “gjetost” (Heavenly)…but I suspect they will taste delicious regardless of what you feel like topping them with!

Vaffel 2

Below I’ve included my special recipe for ‘vafler’ – make this for your honey tomorrow and I guarantee you will get a star in your book! Or, treat yourself if you are on your own – that is what Valentine’s Day is about: LOVE. Love yourself, and show love for others!

Heart

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

NORWEGIAN WAFFLES

4 eggs

400 grams (7 oz) sugar

1 lb all purpose flour

1 quart buttermilk or kefir

1 1/4 cup sour cream

1/3 cup water

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

1 tsp cardamom

250 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat your waffle iron.

Whisk the egg and sugar to light and frothy.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla sugar (or add the vanilla extract, if using – to the egg and sugar mixture) and cardamom.  Add in the flour and buttermilk interchangeably until a smooth batter.  Add in the melted butter. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Right before getting ready to bake the waffles, fold in the sour cream.  Place a small circle of batter in the middle of your waffle iron and cook according to your waffle iron’s instructions.  Serve with your favorite condiment – don’t forget the coffee!!

vafler3

Norwegian pancakes: it’s what’s for dinner

In honor of National Pancake Day, I thought I would do a quick post about my favorite pancakes: Norwegian ones! Not unlike the Swedish style, they are very thin and the batter is slightly sweet, much like the French crepe.

pannekaker2

Photo source: hobbykokken.no

As opposed to Americans, however, Norwegians will serve pancakes for dinner, you would never see them for breakfast (naughty!) . I used to serve up Norwegian pancakes at my local farmer market stand, which by the way, I’m happy to report was a huge success! One of my regular customers, referring to her 6-year old son, exclaimed “Oh boy, doesn’t he wish he lived in Norway!” astounded that we actually would eat these for dinner.

Growing up, I always looked forward to ‘pancake day’ – traditionally this was Saturday, since we would have “dinner” very early then (2 pm!) and save our appetite for a special treat at night, when my mom would make exotic, international dishes such as pizza, tacos or Greek moussaka.  Saturday was, as you can imagine – a day we all looked forward to as kids.I would eat the pancakes just plain with some granulated sugar, with some jam or even drizzled with honey.  It was not unusual for me to kill four or five pancakes in one sitting. Guess I’ve always had a big appetite! 🙂

Let’s face it; every country in the world has their version of “pancakes”.  The Americans have their thick, fluffy pancakes, the Russians have their luxurious blini, the Chinese have their delicate spring roll, the Mexicans their amazing tortilla, the French probably rule the pancake world with their beautiful crepes, the Indians impress with their dosas and the Italians with their aromatic crespelle.  I love them all! They are eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner  and dessert, as well enjoyed as a snack anytime. They can be savory or sweet, made with all kinds of flour, have different thickness and texture and ingredients and the proportion of ingredients will vary greatly depending on what country, region, town and household you visit.  Pancakes qualifies as an international food that is recognizable in every corner of the world.  Seldom do we run into someone who doesn’t get excited at the mention of this dish, as someone can always find a way to enjoy this food.

The most unique and traditional (and in my opinion, delicious) way to serve pancakes in Norway is with bacon and blueberry jam.  The salty flavor and crunchy texture of the bacon marries perfectly with the sweet, velvety mouth feel of the pancakes and the jam.  If you don’t eat bacon, try spreading the pancakes with the blueberry jam, and then place a dollop of sour cream on top after the pancake is cooked. Not unlike the Russian blini, except sweet !

pannekaker med bacon

Photo Credit:  tine.no

You may think this combination sounds strange, but I would love for you to try these – and  feedback is appreciated!  Quick and simple, but incredibly satisfying – I have a feeling you will make these again and again! Happy cooking!

NORWEGIAN PANCAKES

6 eggs

6 tbsp sugar

2 cups whole milk

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

50 grams (about 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Butter for frying the pancakes

1 lb bacon, cooked /sauteed until crispy, and crumbled

blueberry jam (home made or get your best store bought brand)

Whisk eggs, sugar and milk together until a homogenous liquid. Add in flour and salt and combine well.  The melted butter gets added in at the end. Make sure all the lumps are gone and the batter is smooth, let rest for 30 minutes.  Heat a little butter on a large non stick saute pan over medium heat, and pour a generous ladle of batter into pan.  Crumble a handful of bacon over the pancake, spread a tablespoon or two of blueberry jam on top and cook until the top starts to dry out. Start rolling the pancake together or fold in half with a spatula, then in half again (like a triangle).  Flip over and cook all the way through – this should take no more than 2 minutes total.

pannekaker5

Photo Credit: vasaan.no

Celebrate Fat Tuesday with Berlinerboller!

Berlinerboller are doughnuts (without the hole), filled with ether vanilla custard or jam, and rolled in granulated sugar. As the name implies, these wonderful treats stem from Germany where they are called Berliner Pfannkuchen (this also means pancakes), or in some areas of Germany and Austria they are referred to as kraeppel or kreppel, krafen or krapfen.  In fact, when doing some research, pretty much all central European countries have a version of these doughnuts, from Poland and the Czech Republic to  Croatia and Bosnia, and even here in the U.S., where they are referred to as “jelly doughnuts”.

berlinerbollervg

Image source: VG.no

My mother was the only one I knew around me growing up who made these at home – they were my favorite thing about an otherwise dreary February month.  It was also unusual because my mom would NEVER deep fry anything.  She must have been inspired by a food magazine she read or by someone else, I am pretty sure my grandmother didn’t make these either.  My sister didn’t continue this tradition, as she finds the house smelling of lard afterwards, and her kids prefer the “fastelavnsboller”I wrote about yesterday. To each his own – the more lard, the better, I say! 🙂

Sometimes, the doughnuts are filled with a vanilla custard, and in northern Norway are then referred to as solbrød, or in English “sun bread”, and was made to mark the return of the sun after a long winter.

berlinbolleeggkrem

Image source: dinmat.no

Berliner buns were traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day and to celebrate carnival holidays such as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and today they are also made on the Sunday of Fastelavn.   A fatty food for fatty Tuesday – sometimes you just have to indulge! Here’s a recipe to try out – be careful working with the hot lard/fat, and NEVER work with water around the pot!

berlinerbolle

BERLINER BOLLER

Makes about 30 buns

2 lbs all purpose flour

3 1/3 cups whole milk

75 grams cake yeast (fresh)

200 grams butter (about 2 sticks)

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp salt

2 lbs (About 2 quarts) lard (alternatively vegetable/canola oil if you don’t want to include animal products)

granulated sugar to coat the doughnuts

raspberry jelly or preserves for filling doughnuts

DIRECTION:

Warm up the milk and melt butter in it until the mixture reaches about 110-115 degrees, then dissolve the fresh yeast i the mixture and stir until well combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached,  combine flour, sugar , salt and cardamom. Add in slowly the liquid mixture and knead until a dough forms.  Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and firm.  Place a towel over the bowl and let rest in a warm spot until it doubles in size.

Punch down the dough, place on a floured work surface and divide into about 30 pieces, roll them into buns, place on a baking sheet and cover with a towel and let rise again for another 30 minutes.

Melt the lard in a big pot, and let it heat up until it reaches about 340-360 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also test it by dropping a 1-inch piece of bread into the lard – if it drops to the bottom and rises again to the top quickly, the lard is hot enough.  Be VERY careful working with oil/lard, it’s extremely hot and can cause major danger if not proper care is taken.

Drop the buns into the lard carefully, brown them in batches, on both sides, let them dry off on parchment paper and roll them in sugar when cool enough to handle. You can eat them as is, or fill a piping bag with a small tip with raspberry jelly, carefully insert into the doughnut and fill it with a small amount.  Alternatively, use a vanilla custard for the filling if you prefer (recipe to follow).

berlinerboller2

EGGEKREM (Vanilla Custard)

3 egg yolks

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 vanilla bean

Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds out  – place in a small pot with the rest of the ingredients. Whisk under medium heat (be careful so as to not boil) until the custard thickens. Chill it by placing the pot in cold ice water.

Image source:  Dinmat.no

You can also freeze them, but then omit rolling them in sugar before placing them in freezer.

Fastelavn – an excuse to eat cream puffs

Fastelavn is celebrated the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and evolved from the Roman Catholic tradition of celebrating the days before Lent. Often referred to as the Nordic Halloween, children will dress up in costumes and gather treats for the fastelavn feast. Although we don’t see as much of this tradition in Norway, it’s still very much practiced in Denmark, who I think are the masters of ‘fastelavn’ and are known for parades and festivities across the country.

The term fastelavn comes from the old Danish fastelaghen, again borrowed from the low German word vastel-avent, or fasten abend, meaning “fast evening”.  Much like Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras) in this country, the day was created to ‘fatten up’ before the fast.  In Norway, this Tuesday is often referred to as “white Tuesday”, when “white” food like flour and milk products were on the menu.  In fact, ‘fastelavn’ is not only one day, but three; fastelavn Sunday, Blue Monday and Fat Tuesday.

Fastelavn, originally a heathen spring fest,  is related to many old customs, among others the fastelavnsris -a bouquet of birch branches, often decorated with colorful feathers or candy among other items:

fastelavnris2 fastelavnsris

Women, animals and trees were to be woken up to fertility by being whipped with these birch branches, and was  practiced specifically on young, childless wives. A lot of superstition surrounded the birch; which was filled with sprigs full of life this time of year, and the branch was often called “the life branch”. People believed that birch which not yet had leaves, had true fertility power, and the sprigs which developed was a sign of life to come.

Gluttony was the key word for fastelavn – one custom said one were to eat nine times in every corner of the living room; that totals 36 times!  Food included bacon, fatty soups and flour buns.  These flour buns were probably the origin of what we in Norway and Denmark make and eat surrounding this day, called “fastelavensboller”; a sweet bun filled with whipped cream and jam.

fastelavnsboller3

In Sweden, you have the delicious “semla” or “semlor”, a very similar creation.  Historically, only rich people in the city made fastelavnsboller and didn’t become a nationwide tradition until the 20th century.  There are endless variations of recipes of course, but the commonality of the fastelavnsboller is that they contain whipped cream and many are dusted with confectioners sugar while others are topped with chocolate.

Fastelavnsboller

I find it interesting comparing the different buns, or cream puffs, among the three Scandinavian countries, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. They are very different in many ways although they may look similar.  Norwegians prefer theirs quite simple, with a little bit of sweetened whipped cream and a dusting of confectioners sugar, perhaps some raspberry or strawberry jam in the middle.  The Swedes will scoop their buns out, making room for more filling, and sometimes mix the scooped out center with a little marzipan and milk and place it back in the center of the bun. The Danes will use a wienerbrød base to make their buns – you can read more about wienerbrød in my previous post here.   The buns are often filled with either a chocolate or vanilla custard and whipped cream mixed with some raspberry jam and often glazed with chocolate as well.

fastelavnsboller2

Image: Odense-marcipan.dk

I’ve chosen to list three different recipes, inspired by an article I read about the famous Norwegian bakery “Bakeriet i Lom”.  The baker there, Morten Schakenda, has almost cult like status and is highly regarded for his fantastic bread and other baked goods. Previously a chef at some of Norway’s top restaurants, he decided to pack away is knives and open a bakery in Lom, which has since experienced tremendous success. Lom is located in Oppland and part of the traditional region of Gudbrandsal.

Below is a recipe for his famous “Schakenda Buns” under the Norwegian recipe.  Hope you will give these a go when you feel like a special treat – perhaps for Fat Tuesday?  I know I will!

NORWEGIAN FASTELAVNBOLLER

2.2 lbs all purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

150 grams (5.3 oz) granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cardamom

1 large egg

50 grams fresh (cake) yeast

150 grams (5.3oz) butter, diced

For the filling:

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp sugar

Confectioners sugar

To make the buns: In a large bowl, add all the ingredients except the butter.  Combine ingredients by hand and knead until a dough forms. Slowly add in the pieces of butter and continue kneading until the dough releases from the bowl (about 15 minutes) and all the butter is integrated.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, in a warm spot.

Divide the dough into 20 pieces and shape into buns. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and let them rise until doubled in size.

Crack an egg into a small bowl and whisk lightly – brush the buns with the eggs, and bake in the oven at 400F for about 15 minutes, until the buns have a golden color on top.

Cool on a rack.  Whisk the heavy cream with the sugar until you get whipped cream. Divide the buns in half lengthwise, fill them with the cream, and dust with confectioners sugar.

fastelavnsboller4

SWEDISH SEMLOR

Use the same recipe as for the buns in the Norwegian recipe (I’ll let the Swedes have this one, hehehe)

Filling:

300 grams (10.5 oz) marzipan

1/2 cup milk

Scooped out crumbs from the buns

Vanilla sugar

Confectioners sugar

Cut off the “lid” off the buns after they are baked and cooled off. Remove a bit of the insides and place in a bowl. Add in the marzipan and combine it with the bun insides. Add some of the milk until you get a loose dough. Divide the filling in the center of each bun, whisk the heavy cream with some vanilla sugar (or confectioners sugar and vanilla extract) and place on top of the marzipan filling. Cover with the “lid” top and dust with confectioners sugar.

Semlor

DANISH FASTELAVNSBOLLER

This will be the most time consuming of the three recipes, as it is a flaky style butter dough and requires cooling down of the dough and rolling out several times. But will be worth it!

about 1 cup cold water

2 eggs

500 grams/1 lb all purpose flour, sifted

50 grams (1.8 oz) granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

40 grams yeast

400 grams (14 oz) butter

Filling:

Vanilla custard, home made or store bough

1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Raspberry jam

Melted chocolate

To make buns:

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the freezer to make sure that the dough is not too warm when you will work with it.

Mix all ingredients in a big bowl except the butter. Combine until you get a dough shaped, and continue kneading slowly for five minutes, then five minutes rapidly.  Place the dough on a flour dusted work surface and cover with plastic. Let rise for 15 minutes.  Grab a rolling pin, and roll out the dough until you get a rectangle measuring 25  x 40 cm (10 x 16 inches). Place the dough on a parchment paper lined baking tray and place in the freezer. Turn the dough around carefully after 20 minutes and let it sit in freezer an additional 25 minutes.

Place the butter on the cold dough so that you are able to fold the two longest parts over the butter.  Press lightly together on top and press the edges of the rectangle together, so that the butter gets enclosed in the dough.  Roll out the dough on a floured work surface until you get a rectangle measure 10 x 40 inches, and about 2 1/2 inches thick. Brush off the flour and fold the dough into three.  Place the dough on a tray lined with parchment paper and leave in fridge to rest for 20 minutes, until next rolling out.

Roll out the dough again to a new rectangle measuring 10 x 35 inches and 2 1/2 inches thick. Brush of flour and fold the dough in three again. Shape lightly with the rolling pin and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and place in fridge for 30 minutes.  Roll out the dough one more time until you get a thickness of about 1/8 inch.  Brush off flour and cut the dough into 20 squares.

Fold the squares like an envelope. Place them with the fold down on to the baking tray (the opposite of when you make wienerbrød).  Let  the pieces rise for about an hour covered by a kitchen towel.

Lightly push down on the middle and brush with an egg that has been lightly whisked.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes (convection is great) at 380F until nice and golden.  It’s important to let them bake well so that they don’t fall apart when removed from the oven.

Cool on a rack.  In a bowl, combine some vanilla custard and raspberry jam, and mix in some heavy cream.  Divide the buns in half, and fill with the vanilla/raspberry jam/whipped cream and top with the “lid”.  Top with some melted chocolate.

profiteroles

Image Source: Boligliv.dk