As a Norwegian having lived abroad for 20 years, I often have to re-examine my own culture and traditions when asked by Americans what is typical Norwegian foods for different occasions. What seemed natural is no longer so, as I have adopted my own way of life and ways of eating here in the U.S. Christmas is probably the easiest holiday to explain, because most people will prepare our cured and salted mutton (“ribbe” or “pinnekjøtt”) or pork belly with the various accoutrements. But what about Easter? This holiday gives people a little more freedom as to what to eat, and you will find a variety of dishes throughout the country. The tradition isn’t as strong as at Christmas when it comes to food, more experimenting will go on, perhaps even modern and international dishes will find its way to the table. Most Norwegians will first think of oranges and chocolate when Easter is mentioned, particularly the Norwegian Kvikk Lunsj (pictured below and similar to the American Kit Kat but much better of course!) as this is standard “snack fare” to bring along in your backpack when going skiing in the mountains.
Most Norwegians take off an entire week to up to 10 days to celebrate Easter, where they go to their cabins and spend the days skiing, taking in some sun, then eat and drink well for the rest of the day. This is a time to take off from the hustle and bustle of every day life, to gather family who may otherwise be spread all over the country and take moments to enjoy the outdoors and our beautiful nature.
A popular meal of the day is the breakfast during Easter, and eggs play an important role. We love our eggs soft boiled, and we eat them along our open face sandwiches, cereals and yogurts. I like to put salted soft boiled eggs on top of a piece of toast that has been spread with raspberry or strawberry jam- the sweet and savory combination is delicious!
(photo: cesarastudillo Flickr)
What is the way to cook perfectly soft boiled egg? Place your egg in cold water in a pot, when the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot, and let the eggs sit in the hot water for exactly 10 minutes. Drain in cold water, and you have a perfectly soft boiled egg!
Another egg dish that belongs on the breakfast table is our special curdled eggs called “eggerøre”. You will see this on most buffet tables-smorgasbord in Norway in hotels, or when being invited to someones home for special occasions or parties. Mild flavored with a nice texture, they are the perfect companion to salty meats or fish. Here’s a quick, standard recipe for these delicious eggs:
adapted from dinmat.no
4 tbsp water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped finely
1 tbsp butter
Whisk the eggs, water, salt and chives together (for a more luxurious version, substitute water for heavy cream). Heat the butter in a saute pan over medium-low heat, add the eggs. Stir lightly, lift up the sides and let the liquid run under as the eggs start to curdle/cook. The eggs shouldn’t be completely dry, but still be somewhat soft. Garnish with extra chives and salt if necessary. Let it cool a bit before serving (many eat it cold as well).
You can put eggerøre on pieces of toast with some smoked salmon and sliced cucumber, or have it with cured meats like our fenalår (cured leg of mutton) or even prosciutto, salami or other charcuterie.
(Photo Credit: dinmat.no)
For dinner, we often see leg of lamb (sometimes smoked) as the standard dish, served with root vegetables and potatoes and today, most Norwegians will enjoy a good bottle of red wine (aquavit might sneak in later in the evening along with cognac and other hard liquor). As some of you, who are familiar with my blog or Norwegian cuisine in general, know- Norwegians are big sheep lovers. We eat mutton and lamb in all varieties and at all occasions.
(Photo credit: P4.no)
In additions to lamb, Norwegians may also repeat Christmas dinner and have the salt mutton or even ham with potatoes au gratin.
Soups are also popular, particularly green pea soup cooked on ham hock, or even chicken soup, deliciously warming and tasty after coming back from a long, cold ski trip. Here’s a quick recipe for a traditional pea soup to try out, and you can of course add your own spin on it!
1 piece of ham hock, lightly salted
1 cup yellow peas
1 sweet onion, finely diced
1 small celery root, diced finely
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1 leek, sliced finely
2 bay leaves
2 quarts water
half a bunch of fresh thyme
Parsley for garnish
Soak the peas in cold water overnight. In a large sauce pot, add some olive oil, add the sliced leek, carrots and carrot, season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 5-8 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Add the water, ham hock, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, place a lid on the pot and simmer for 3 hours, skimming off the soup as you go. Towards the end, take the ham hock out of the soup and pick the meat off the hock and place back into the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley and serve with flatbrød (flat bread) or a nice, crusty loaf and good butter. A nice cold, Norwegian beer would be a nice companion to this soup. Perfect cabin food!
Photo Credit: Matprat.no
And dessert? Well, the options are endless here, but you can never go wrong with chocolate in all forms. I think I will save that one for later in the week though. God påske!