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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