Who knew Norway had French toast? Pieces of white bread dipped in milk, eggs, cinnamon and sugar, then fried in a pan until golden brown and topped with jam. The epitome of a decadent dish made with inexpensive ingredients. What’s not to love? The french actually call this dish “Pain Perdu”, while in Germany they call it “Arme Ritter” . In England it is referred to as “eggy bread” while the Scottish probably take the medal for the coolest name with “Gangsta Bread”. In Sweden the term used is “Fattiga Riddare” and in Denmark and Norway, the dish is called “Arme Riddere”. This translates to “Poor Knights”. Why the name? If knights ate this dish, I certainly don’t feel sorry for them. 🙂 There doesn’t seem to be an exact story behind the reason for the name, but “poor” would most likely refer to the fact that this is a cheap dish to make. Finding use for bread that has gone stale and making it into a delicate and tasty meal, suggests that the dish has a long history and some researchers suggest it dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. Where the knights come in seems to still be a mystery.
Arme riddere is an incredibly easy dish that qualifies for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack anytime of day. Using leftovers and any ingredients you have in your fridge or cabinets, this makes for a classic go-to meal not just in Norway, but everywhere in the world. This dish is also something Norwegians would refer to as “restemat”, Norwegian for ‘leftovers’. Coming up with a new recipe with leftover ingredients is one of my favorite things to do, there is a certain feeling of creativity and achievement that arises from this that I don’t get otherwise.
There are a million different varieties of Arme Riddere, not just sweet versions. One of my favorite Norwegian websites to visit for ideas is matprat.no. I like that they have a mixture of both classic and more modern recipes. Not living in Norway, I love keeping up to date with how Norwegians come up with spin offs of traditional dishes, making them more current, and in some cases, more decadent. So props to this website for doing a great job and inspiring me to create my own!
So what type of arme riddere can you make? There is of course the classic version, as mentioned above. Pieces of toast dipped in a standard egg-milk-sugar mixture, fry it in a pan and top with your favorite fruit jam:
If you have day old bread and feel like making an easy dinner or snack, you can always add some cheese and ham, and top it with an egg, sunny side up. Delicious!
Some people choose to call this dish “Rich Knights” (Rike Riddere) because it can end up being quite rich, like this version, where sponge cake is substituted for regular toast, and is topped with whipped cream, red currants and crushed pistachios. You can also add whipped cream, bananas, or fruits of your choice, perhaps drizzle it with chocolate sauce if you want to be extra naughty.
Below is a basic recipe you can use, and the toppings I will leave to your imagination, or you can take some inspiration from the suggestions above. By the way, there is nothing wrong with using whole wheat or whole grain bread should you wish, this might be a good option for breakfast, in particular. I hope you’ll have some fun with this dish, and add it to your repertoire this weekend! Don’t forget to visit my Facebook page for more tips, fun facts and posts on Norwegian cuisine http://facebook.com/forkandglass
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
6 pieces of day old bread (white)
butter for sauteing bread
Mix eggs, milk and seasonings together in a shallow bowl. Dip the pieces of bread thoroughly in the mixture. Add butter to a saute pan over medium heat and place pieces in the pan, saute on each side until golden brown. Top with your favorite jam or drizzle with maple syrup and dust with confectioners sugar. Alternatively, if you want a savory dish, top with sliced ham, turkey or chicken and/or an egg, sunny side up.