Råkostsalat; a true Norwegian vegan dish

Having just returned from a week in London, I definitely feel a tad heavier after too much restaurant food and wine.   The Brits sure like their share of booze and heavy food… I do try to eat as healthy as possible while I am on vacation, but I also subscribe to the theory that you should also go for the experience and allow yourself some foods you wouldn’t normally eat.

Today’s recipe then was inspired by me craving a lighter meal and more vegetables. I wanted to create a cold meal because the temperatures have been soaring to 90 degrees here in New York for the past few days, which doesn’t make it very tempting to be standing over the stove.

When I first started veganizing my blog,  I went into a state of panic.  How on earth could I write about Norwegian food if I didn’t include smoked salmon, mutton, eggs, milk and butter?  Thankfully the vegan world has some very creative cooks who have managed to recreate both shrimp, fish, meatballs and cream cakes using plant based foods.

But what about original Norwegian dishes containing only vegetables and fruit?  They certainly are far and few in between but some exist.

Enter “råkostsalat”,  literally translated as “raw food salad”.  This simple dish is often served with ‘fiskekaker’, or fish patties, but is also enjoyed on its own when people want to lose weight or even just find a way to add more vegetables to their diet.   The Danish are also fond of this salad, and you will find even more variations there.

A funny fact about råkostsalat, is that it used to be a classic recipe students would have to learn to make when they entered a school called “husmorsskolen”.   This word translates to “housewife school” but more correctly defined, is a home economic school that was established in the late 19th century and were popular until the 1960s and 1970s.  A type of technical school for the domestic arts, its purpose was to provide specialized instructions in domestic subjects.   They were developed simultaneously with the agricultural schools that popped up around the country and were meant to teach mainly food preparation and housework.

Hence, in order to become a proper “housewife” you had to master making the råkostsalat!   Times sure have changed…

Here is a picture of a husmorskole class around the year 1913:

(photo credit: Romerike.no)

husmorskole

husmorskoledigitalmuseum

(Photo Credit: digitaltmuseum.no)

Råkostsalat is still popular today, and is a perfect food for the summer, because it is, as the name suggest, all raw, so very cooling, refreshing and filling at the same time. Providing lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber,  easy to make with beautiful colors ,  this should be on your repertoire too, whether you are vegan or not!

There are as many recipes for råkostsalat as there are mountaintops, valleys and fields in Norway,  so I encourage you to play around with a variety of vegetables and other ingredients.  We typically use vegetables that are readily available in Norway such as root vegetables and apples, and I find these keep well too.  I use my food processor to shred all the vegetables, but you can also use a box shredder and do it manually if you like additional work 🙂

I like to serve this salad with my vegan crab cakes made from hearts of palm (you will have to stay tuned for that recipe later!), or some beans and whole grains like quinoa or farro.  It can also serve as a healthy snack between lunch and dinner – this dish gives you so much energy and does your body a whole lot of good!

If you feel like whipping up a colorful plate this weekend that is healthy, pretty,  inexpensive and easy to make – this one’s a winner!

RÅKOSTSALAT

2 large carrots, shredded

1 red apple, cored, peeled and shredded

1/2 small red cabbage, shredded or sliced finely
1 small red beet, peeled and shredded
1 small yellow beet, peeled and shredded
1 small rutabaga, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup raisins
juice from 1 lemon
1-2 tbsp maple syrup or other sweetener
handful of fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the shredded vegetables and raisins in a large bowl.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and maple syrup and pour over the vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper and let sit in fridge for a couple of hours to let the flavors blend together. Serve topped with fresh parsley or other fresh herbs.

 

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Leverpostei; another Norwegian classic reinvented

Liver pate, or leverpostei, is as common in Norway as smoked salmon, the brown cheese and that caviar that comes in a tube when it comes to spreads for open face sandwiches Norwegians eat for breakfast and lunch.  Every kid grew up eating leverpostei, perhaps with some sliced cucumbers or if you were a fan of pickled beets, those would be a perfect addition too.

As children in Norway, many were familiar with and saw this canned guy on the breakfast table every day:

leverposteigul

The can comes with different faces on it; the first face was of Per Andreas Christensen which was released 63 years ago.  Christensen was the son of the owner of the Stabburet factory in Fredrikstad, and was the cover of this liver pate until 1972.   Since, only five other faces have had the honor of being pictured on the package, according to a Norwegian press release.

This leverpostei was easy to keep, cheap (about $4) and super smooth (aka processed) – makes me really wonder what was in it, though!  It is estimated that over 50,000 cans of pate is being sold daily in Norway.

There are several reasons why you would want to make your own pate.  While leverpostei has been touted as really healthy and rich in iron, it depends what kind of pate you are eating. Commercial “leverpostei” is generally of really low quality; from additives and sugar, bad quality raw ingredients, over processed ingredients, excessive salt, nitrates and unnecessary conservation methods just to mention a few.  Making your own spread you have full control of what goes into the product, and wouldn’t you rather know what you’re eating?!

My mom would make her own liver pate for us when I was a kid, it was much more coarse in texture, almost like a French pate, with much more depth of flavor.   She made it especially for the Christmas holiday,  which is a tradition in Norway, as that is when our breakfast table became way more decadent than the rest of the year.   Her version was my inspiration for today’s recipe. Although hers was baked, mine requires no time in the oven – just a few hours in the fridge setting up.

Of course a major difference between the traditional leverpostei and mine, is that I don’t use animal products to make it. Typically the classic version uses some type of livers from animals like chicken or pork, but I chose to use lentils instead, along with mushrooms. You’d be amazed at how this combination can mimic both the texture and flavor of meat!

The pate will last about 5 days in the fridge, but you can also freeze it should you happen to have leftovers – it will hold up well in freezer for about 4 month.  Spread it on crackers or home made Norwegian style bread, served with pickles, cucumbers, or pickled sliced beets with fresh dill or other herbs. Really delicious and also lower in fat than its original, so you can have more!

I choose to call my version LEVEPOSTEI, omitting the R in the first word lever (Norwegian for liver), which turns the word into “Living Pate” because no animals were harmed in the making of this pate! 🙂
Velbekomme!

NORWEGIAN LEVEPOSTEI  

2 cups mixed mushrooms such as button, portobello and maitake, cleaned and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vegan unsalted butter
1 small Vidalia onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups (400g) cooked green lentils
1 cup (140g) toasted walnuts or pecans
freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon
1 heaping tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
optional: 2 teaspoons Cognac or sherry
teaspoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and saute, until the onions become translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook until they’re soft and cooked through, another 5-5  minutes. Remove from heat.
In a food processor, combine the cooked lentils, nuts, lemon juice, soy sauce, rosemary, thyme, parsley, Cognac or sherry (if using), brown sugar, and cayenne.  Process until completely smooth. Taste, and add salt, pepper, and additional cognac, soy sauce, or lemon juice, if needed.
Pour the pâté into a serving bowl or small terrine and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.

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Serve on homemade Norwegian style bread – I topped mine with sliced cucumbers, red onions, pepper and dill:

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Carrot “lox” – a healthier alternative to smoked salmon

When I decide to start my blog several years back, it stemmed from a desire to spread the word about Scandinavian, more specifically Norwegian, food and share with my readers that yes, we do eat foods beyond Swedish meatballs and smoked salmon.

Of course the latter inspired today’s post, as I’m always trying to find plant based versions of animal based dishes from my home country.  When I veganized my blog three years ago, I was admittedly a tad worried I wouldn’t find things to write about,  as 90% of our dishes consists of either meat, fish, dairy or eggs.  But thanks to some very imaginative vegan cooks, and my own desire to use plants in a more diverse way, I have seen the most amazing creations being produced.

Which leads me to today’s recipe I would love to share with you, taking on the very famous smoked salmon dish so cherish by the Nordic countries.   I might gain some enemies when I say that salmon is not at all “healthy”, the way it has been advertised in media and on many health websites.  Salmon is in fact, half fat, which increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and the fish derived Omega 3 found in fish inhibits the action of insulin, thereby increasing blood sugar levels and aggravating diabetes.

Most salmon out there now are in fact farmed salmon, which contain unhealthy levels of contaminants like PCB, arsenic mercury, dioxins and other chemicals that cause cancer.   Commercial ships who are largely unregulated and heavily government subsidized, are cleaning the oceans of fish, particularly wild salmon, so eating this type of fish is now easier said than done.  In fact, three quarters of stores who claim their fish is “wild caught” is in fact farmed.

According to the Norwegian government, the salmon and trout farms in Norway alone produce roughly the same amount of sewage as New York City. The huge amount of raw sewage, dead fish corpses, and antibiotic-laden fish food sludge settling below farmed salmon cages can actually cause the ocean floor to rot, destroying vital habitat for the already strained marine ecosystem and turning coastal waters into open sewers.

While you may not be ready give up fish entirely just yet if you are still consuming this food, I encourage you to do your own research on this topic, perhaps starting by reading these articles here, here and here.  I always encourage everyone to come up with their own conclusions after reading studies and research that has not been funded by the specific industries of the product you are trying to read up about (reading articles from the fish industry on this topic would not be very objective, for instance).

All the information I’ve been studying for the past years, have made me want to come up with alternatives for fish but with the same taste.  I’ve been able to recreate crab cakes using palm of hearts, “tuna salad” using chickpeas and “Fish” tacos using Gardein fishless filets with much success.  And now… smoked salmon using carrots!

So how on earth can carrots taste like smoked salmon you say?  It all comes down to using the flavorings that make up the original dish.   Meat, for instance, wouldn’t taste very good if you eat it raw or just cook it without seasoning. It’s the rub, marinades and sauces you put on them that make up the dish.   With smoked salmon, it’s  salted and smoked – so for the “smoky” flavor I use something called “liquid smoke”, which is incredibly effective for re-creating the experience, and I add nori sheets, which is the Japanese word for for an edible seaweed species, to add the “fishy” flavors to the carrots.  You will see nori sheets being used to make and wrap sushi.  You can find nori sheets in your local health food store or at Asian specialty markets.

norisheets

Seaweeds are incredibly healthy and helps boost your immune system, may lower blood pressure and may favorably alter estrogen metabolism by modulating women’s gut flora, resulting in decreased breast cancer risk, among other things.

Today, with the increasing wealth, access to and development of fast food chains in Norway, people who are obese, living with diabetes, and developing cancer and heart disease are on the rise.   While people are in general eating more vegetables, the consumption of fish, meat and eggs have not gone down, and in many cases increased. It’s a well researched fact that everybody could do well with reducing animal based foods in their diet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t recreate the same experience and flavors in your favorite traditional dishes!

I hope you will try this dish with an open mind, and perhaps you even have vegetarians in your household that would appreciate eating a traditional, Norwegian dish!

I served my smoked “lox” on top of scrambled tofu (resembling eggs), with slices of red onion, cucumbers and a sprig of fresh dill.  I also made home made rye bread with loads of seeds like sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and whole oats.

One recipe at a time… so here you go – and velbekomme!

SMOKED CARROT “LOX”

3 big carrots, peeled

1 nori sheet, crumbled into small pieces

1 tsp liquid smoke

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

In a small bowl, combine the liquid smoke, soy sauce, extra virgin olive oil and fresh dill and set aside.

Using a vegetable peeler or a mandoline set on thin seeting, slice the carrots into large ribbons.  The carrots should be thin but not paper thin or see through.

In an medium sized, oven proof dish (I used a Pyrex dish), place the sliced carrots and sprinkle the nori sheet crumbles over.

carrotlox1

carrotlox

Add the liquid mixture and combine well.

carrotlox2

Cover the dish with a lid or foil. Let sit for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake carrots for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit to cool on top of stove with lid on. When it’s cool, place in fridge and let chill for at least 2 hours.

Now your carrot lox is ready – serve on bagels with vegan cream cheese, or home made bread like I did with scrambled tofu or chickpea “eggs” with red onion, cucumbers, capers and lots of fresh dill!

loxsandwich

loxsandwich2

Sunnmørsbrød; a traditional bread from northwestern Norway

Sunnmøre is the Norwegian region in which I was born and raised.  Located on the north western coast, it’s an impossibly beautiful part of the country, decorated with majestic mountains, gorgeous, big fjords and beautiful valleys scattered all over the area. Geiranger, one of Norway’s most popular tourist destinations, is also located here.
There is such a rich food history in Sunnmøre, and the interest for local, organic and artisan products have skyrocketed and now there are an incredible array of high quality food producers offering everything from jams, vinegars and sauces, to biscuits, organic flours and oats, mustards and spice mixtures to mention just a few of the selections from home.
While this blog piece is about bread, Sunnmøre is most famous for its incredible cake culture (think bløtkake, marsipankake, kvæfjordkake, nøttekake, tropisk aroma.. I have covered them all here on the blog). If you get invited to a confirmation, wedding or other major party here, don’t think there will only be one, or even TWO elaborate looking cakes on the table.  Most likely there will be at least seven or eight, and I have witnessed up to TWENTY FIVE different cakes on a table at once. You can safely say the Sunnmøre locals love their desserts!
But I digress…. back to bread!  The people of Sunnmøre is also known for their love of bread, much like the rest of their fellow Norwegian countrymen.  I grew up with a mom who would make home made bread on a regular basis.  I loved coming home from school (which was only a stone’s throw away by the way, I could walk to my grade, middle and high school in anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes), smelling that yeasty, sweet bread smell, knowing I would have some delicious open face sandwiches in store.  Her mom had shown her how to make these special dark rye and whole wheat flour based breads that tasted so fresh and from the region, and it was this memory that was sparked in me about a week ago when I received a truly special artisan made Norwegian apron from Hovden Formal Farm Wear.
This small company specializes in making traditional old school Norwegian work shirts called busseruller, and is run by an amazing fellow Norwegian woman, Ingvill Kaasin Montgomery, who like me, is an expat and an entrepreneur.   You can read all about her and her beautiful creations in my blog post from yesterday HERE.
hovdenoldpic
What we think of as “bread” today (i.e. loaves=, was not bread for most people in the country side in the old days in Norway, and was predominantly a city phenomena until the mid 19th century.   “Bread” was actually a crisp bread, what Norwegians today call “flatbrød”.  This was often referred to in Norwegian as “stump” or “kake”.  The flat bread was usually made in huge batches, and could last up to a year, stacked up on top of each other, until it was time to make bread again.  Part of the reason why breads were made super thin and flat like this, was to avoid mold forming on the bread.
People’s every day “bread” was in fact porridge, made out or barley, rye or oats,  as this was extremely filling, made with readily available ingredients and not expensive.  Wheat flour, of which most modern breads are made of today, was not at all common back then.  There is a word in Norway called “hvetebrødsdager”, which relates to the period after people get married, where no obligations have to be met, but the couple will go just relax and spend time with each other.  Hvetebrød is Norwegian for wheat bread, and so the meaning behind this is that it’s a special, luxurious occasion, much like baking with wheat was back in the old days.
dagligebrod
My sister Agnes reminded me of Sunnmørsbrød a few weeks back when she sent me a photo of her weekend activities in the kitchen. She is an amazing and seasoned baker, and she inspires me weekly with her creations, as she too, is very interested in bringing back old, traditional recipes.   The bread recipe in this post is loosely inspired by one she sent me, and I’m happy to say the bread came out perfect!
The amazing thing with this bread, is you don’t have to let the dough rise twice so it’s quicker to make.  The dough gets rolled out immediately after kneading and shaped into loaves, and it needs resting only once. As always, play around with baking time, but 45 min-50 min should do it at 400 degrees – they should be crispy on the outside, soft and light on the inside, and gorgeously brown on top.
Whenever I bake, I like to use organic flours, and sometimes even sprouted flours too, for maximum health benefits. This is a typical hearty Norwegian bread, with a crispy crust and soft and moist on the inside.  Honestly my favorite way of eating it is straight out of the oven with just a nice, thick layer of (vegan) butter, but of course you can freeze these breads easily and they hold up really nicely without crumbling.
sunnmorsbrodskiver2

 

SUNNMØRSBRØD

1 packet dry fast rising yeast (about 2 1/2 tsp)

About 5 cups luke warm water

3 tbsp rapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil)

1 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup or light syrup

1 tbsp salt

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

1 1/4 cup (300 grams) rye flour

1/2 cup (100 grams) old fashioned oats

4 1/4 cup (1,000 grams) all purpose flour

Pour the yeast, water, rapeseed oil, sugar and maple syrup into a bowl of a stand mixer.  Meanwhile in a separate bowl, combine the rye and whole wheat flours, oats and salt and let sit for about 15 minutes.  Then add the all purpose flour and with a dough hook, start kneading the dough for about 10 minutes.  Pour the dough onto a clean, lightly floured work surface, divide in three equal pieces and roll out to loaves.  Place in three 2 quart loaf pans (or you can just place them in free form on a  lightly oiled baking sheet which I did for two of my loaves), cover with a towel and place in a slightly warm area for about 1 hour.    You can see the difference in shape/appearance of the loaves baked in a form and the loaves just placed losely on a sheet. I kind of prefer the latter, and not a ‘perfect looking’ bread myself 🙂
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the top of the loaves with melted vegan butter,  and bake for about 45 minutes.  Let cool on a rack but not too long – because warm bread and butter is the BEST!! Freeze any loaves you and your family don’t devour immediately! 😃

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A silly, yet popular Norwegian tale about a pancake that got away

Ok, so this is a blog post I’m not sure will really translate very well into English, but I happened to come across it earlier and it brought back so many wonderful childhood memories I just had to at least give this a try!  This might be a funny story for the Norwegian-Americans who are reading this, to tell your children or grandchildren or you may even have heard this story! And for the Norwegians (like me), you may have completely forgotten about this tale from when you were a little child until now, just like me!

Food and childhood memories are so closely linked together, in fact it’s how I justify why I love certain dishes as much as I do, because there is no other reason than sentimental ones (some Norwegian food can be, admittedly quite strange to the outsider).

Last week I managed to recreate the thin, crepe-like Norwegian pancakes we typically have for dinner,  in a dairy free and eggless form for breakfast to my husband, who was craving them.   I was worried he was not going to be crazy about the new version, but I’m happy to report that both the flavor and texture came out beautifully.  I have included the recipe in this blog post, and you can feel free to skip the “funny” story about the pancake I grew up with and go right to it 🙂

This folklore tale is a “regeleventyr”, which means it’s a fairy tale that rhymes in a way, but it won’t in English, however you will still get the jist of it.  It’s hard to decide who to feel sorry for – the hungry people in the tale or the pancake (I tend to side with the pancake).  You be the judge! Ok here we go. The names in parentheses are the Norwegian words for the characters in the story, that rhyme:)

pannekaka

THE PANCAKE

Once upon a time, there was a women with seven kids, whom she cooked pancakes for. The pancakes were made from raw milk, it was laying there in the pan, rising so big and fluffy, and the kids were standing around the pan, and the old father looked upon.

“Oh please, mom, let me have a little pancake, I’m so hungry”, said the first child.

“Oh please”, said the second child

“Oh pretty, please”, begged the third child

“Oh pretty, kind, dear you, please”, begged the fourth child

“Oh pretty, kind, dear, good mom, please”, begged the fifth child

“Oh beautiful, pretty, kind, dear, good mom, please”, begged the sixth child

“Oh beautiful, ,pretty, kind, dear, good and sweet mom, please”, begged the seventh child

“Yes, my dear children”, said the mother,  “just be patient and wait until I can turn it around, then you will all get a piece, just have a look and see how thick and fluffy it’s getting!”

When the pancake heard that, it became scared, and all of a sudden it turned itself, initially wanting to jump out of the pan, but it turned on the other side, and cooked a little on the other side too. It became a bit firmer  so it got the strength to jump out of the pan and on to the floor, and then it rolled across the room and out through the door.

“Hey!!” yelled the woman, and all the kids and even the old father tried to run after it to catch it.  But the pancake rolled and rolled and soon it was so far gone that the women and children couldn’t see it anymore, because the pancake was faster than they were.

pannekakeeventyr

After a while of rolling, the pancake met a man.  “Good afternoon, pancake” said the man.

“God bless, man”, said the pancake (mann, brann)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,”  the man asked.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and kept rolling until it met a hen.

“Good afternoon, pancake”, the hen said

“Good day, hen,” replied the pancake. (høne pøne)

honepone

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the hen.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, and a man,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and continued rolling like a wheel until it met a rooster.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the rooster

“Good afternoon, rooster”, replied the pancake (hane, pane)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the rooster.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man and a hen,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and continued rolling as fast as it could. After a long while it met a duck.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the duck.

“Good afternoon, duck” replied the pancake. (ande, vande)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the duck.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man, a hen and a rooster,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and continued rolling until it met a goose.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the goose

“Good afternoon, goose”, replied the pancake. (gåse, våse)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the goose.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man, a hen, a rooster and a duck,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and hurriedly continued to roll down the road.

After a long, long time of rolling, the pancake came across a gander.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the gander.

“Good afternoon, gander”, replied the pancake. (gasse, vasse)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the gander.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man, a hen, a rooster, a duck and a gander,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and rolled quickly down the road.

After a long while, the pancake encountered a pig.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the pig

“Good afternoon, pig”, replied the pancake (gylte, grisesylte)

“My dear pancake, stay a little while, no need to hurry off.  Let’s walk together through the woods, I heard it’s not safe to walk through there alone.”

The pancake thought that made sense, so it agreed.

pigpancake

But after while, they came up to a creek.  The pig could float on water due to his flesh, so he had no problem crossing the creek, but the pancake could not.

“Sit on my face,” the pig said, “and I’ll carry you over”. And so the pancake did.

“Oink, oink”, said the pig and ate the pancake in one gulp.

And when the pancake couldn’t go any further, neither could this tale!

grispannekake

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Silly, right?? I guess I’m still finding these tales amusing 🙂

Enjoy the pancake recipe and as always, please leave me a comment and tell me what you think!!

NORWEGIAN PANCAKES (vegan)

2 cups (300 grams) all purpose flour

1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

4 tbsp vegan butter, melted

1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water

3 cups (700ml) plant based milk

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Add the flax seed mixture in with the plant based milk and our over the dry ingredients, combine until no more streaks of flour are visible, then add in the butter. Don’t over mix.  Let the batter sit for 10-15 minutes before pouring a small amount in a lightly oiled or buttered frying pan over medium heat. Cook until lightly brown on both sides.

Top with fresh blueberries or blueberry jam or any topping you wish!

Norwegianpancakes

 

 

 

 

 

A Nordic Root Vegetable Stew to Celebrate The Return of the Sun

I was inspired to right about this special day from old times in Norway, as I’ve recently noticed how the sun rises earlier and stays later in the day, making me feel ready to bid winter adieu and get ready for longer, brighter and lighter days.

Sunfest, or “Solfest” as we call it in Norwegian, is a date that is difficult to pinpoint, because it varies from town to town whether the sun is completely gone during the winter, and when she returns.

Like all other life, humans are also dependent on the life and the energy the sun gives us, and this was felt even more so in earlier times, when the only light people had were the day light (i.e. no electricity).  In many counties in Norway, it has been a long standing tradition to celebrate the day the sun returned, especially in small towns where the sun is gone for a long time during the year.

There is an old custom all over Norway where one would place a dab of butter in the window sill, and let the sun melt it. “Sun, sun, give me summer butter, here is some winter butter”.   From the town Selje, the following story is told:  “The first time the sun shone after she had been gone mid-winter, mother spread butter on the wall where the sun shone, and greeted her ‘welcome’.   From another town called Davik, the tradition of placing the butter in the window sill was customary the first day the sun shone, and here it was around February 8th.  If the butter melted, the year would be a good one both weather wise and generally.  This was a day filled with lots of happiness, dance and and songs about the sun.  When the sun is gone for months at a time, it’s definitely worth celebrating its return!

Here is a photo of Svalbard, where the sun’s return is typically celebrated around March 8th:

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Photo Credit: Kristin Sørdal

On this day, it was fitting to serve something colorful and good, a dish you could make in one pot, with ingredients that most people have in house or can easily get during this time of year.  Since root vegetables are in abundance in Norway around this time (and also in New York, where I currently live), I wanted to throw a variety of these in a pot with some vegetable stock and barley (“bygg” in Norwegian), which is the most traditional and widely grown grain in Norway.  We also use barley flour/meal in the popular potato dumplings “raspeballer” as well as in waffle batters, in addition to adding it to soups, salads and even breakfast porridge.  I soak the barley in cold water a few hours before cooking it, which makes it easier to digest, but it’s not necessary.

Not only is this soup colorful and extremely tasty, it is also super healthy!  Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like barley decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy and overall lower weight. It’s a great source of fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin B6. The same health benefits and nutrients can be said for the root vegetables in this soup. Basically – eat your root vegetable soup and you will do your body a huge favor!

rootvegetables

I added a beet to the soup, which colored it this really pretty red color almost like a Russian borscht, and also adds an extremely deep earthy flavor, which reminds me of home. If you don’t want to add this flavor or color to your stew, simply omit it.

Some people would freeze fresh herbs from summer over the winter, thaw it and serve on top of the stew.  Today, we luckily have access to fresh herbs year round.  You can use dill or parsley,  or even fennel fronds (typical in Norwegian soups), whichever you enjoy.  This makes a HUGE batch, which you can freeze and reheat in just a few seconds and have a delicious, hearty and healthy meal on your hands at any time! Velbekomme!

NORDIC BARLEY AND VEGETABLE SOUP

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 leek, white part only, sliced thin

3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 celery stalk, diced

10 cups vegetable stock

4 cups water

a handful of fresh thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

1 cup barley, soaked for a couple of hours in cold water

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 parsnips, peeled and diced

1 small celery root, peeled and diced

1/2 small rutabaga, peeled and diced

1 turnip, peeled and diced

1/2 small head of red cabbage, sliced thin

1 beet, peeled and cubed

small bunch of kale (or Swiss chard or spinach), roughly chopped

freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste

fresh herbs, such as dill or parsley, lemon wedges to serve

In a BIG soup pot, heat a little olive oil, add the onion, garlic, celery and leeks and season with salt. Saute for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the barley and coat well, then throw in the veg stock, water, bay leaves and thyme. and stir.  Add in all the root veg including the cabbage and beet, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add in the kale and nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes.

Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with a lemon wedge and some great, Norwegian bread!

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Simple Yet So Delicious: Norway’s Wildly Popular Raisin Buns

As we often hear, simple foods is often best, and that is certainly true when it goes for Norway’s classic “rosinbolle”. This fluffy, slightly sweet cardamom scented bun filled with plump raisins are the favorites of many.  Millions of these are being devoured yearly by Norwegians, we can’t seem to get enough.  In fact, baking “boller” has now become super trendy in Norway, and the variety of recipes that are floating around is astounding!

rosinboller2

Image: kk.no

Norwegians are definitely proud of their buns (no pun intended), and are known across Scandinavia for this specialty.  Often you hear the slogan “world’s best buns” around these creations, and I have to say… it’s not an exaggeration!

I was inspired to make rosinboller this week because it’s winter vacation in Norway, and many Norwegians pick some of these up at their local gas stations (yes, they sell freshly baked goods there – in fact some gas stations in Norway sell more “boller” than they sell gas!!) on the way to their cabins in the mountains, where they will spend the week skiing, catching some sun (hopefully) and being with family and friends.  This tradition also repeats itself a few weeks later during Easter.  It’s also considered the “healthiest” alternative among pastries, because it has no creamy or sugary sweet filling but is just a delight on its own.

Try out my dairy free, eggless cardamom buns that turned out OH so AHmazing…. I’m still reeling over the delight of the first bite, right out of the oven!! Happy baking!

ROSINBOLLER

1 stick vegan butter (around 113 grams)

1 1/2 cups (350ml) plant based milk

1/2 cup (150 grams) confectioner’s sugar

1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) dry yeast

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

4 cups all purpose flour (about 10 dl)

1 cup raisins

plant based milk for brushing buns

Place the raisins in a small bowl,  cover with hot water and let them plump up for about 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small pot over the stove and add in the milk.  Bring it to a temperature of about 110 degrees Fahrenheit (about 43 degrees Celcius). Make sure the mixture is not too hot or it will kill the yeast or too cold.

Add the mixture into a stand mixer bowl.  Whisk in the confectioners sugar, salt, cardamom and yeast and let sit for 2 minutes. With a dough hook, start adding in the flour gradually.  Continue kneading on medium speed for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and firm.  Cover with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm spot.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (225 degrees Celcius).  Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Pull the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface, and work in the raisins. Knead a few times until all the raisins are incorporated. Divide into about 12 even pieces (or 14, depending on how big you want your buns to be), and roll them into round shapes.  Place them on the prepared baking sheets. cover with a towel and let rise again for another 15 minutes.

Brush the buns with some plant based milk and place in oven, bake for about 12-15 minutes until lightly golden on top.

rosinboller

Havrekjeks – Norwegian grandmothers’ favorite cookie

It’s the 4th Sunday in advent today, as well as my birthday, so I figured I would go out with a big bang ending my Christmas preparation baking with some of my favorite cookies (next to kransekakestenger). These cookies are so simple, yet  just so heavenly, and for some odd reason only baked (for the most part) during Christmas. The thing is, once you’ve got a taste for it, these are cookies you will want to bake again and again…

havrekjeks2

Many Norwegians remember visiting their grandmother and her serving these up alongside a pot of hot black coffee… The traditional “havrekjeks” do not contain chocolate pieces, but rather are enjoyed with a slice of the special brown cheese Norwegians make (brunost or geitost, read more about that tradition HERE).  While these cookies seem almost like peasant food because of their simple ingredients (with the exception perhaps of the generous amount of butter), they are simultaneously regarded as a special treat, which is why I find them so fascinating.

havrekjeks1

The addition of chocolate pieces have proven to be particularly popular among children, so that is why you will see the more modern versions of this cookie made with chocolate.. (I’m a kid at heart, what can I say).

Thought I would leave you with this wonderful recipe as a last “hoorah” before we enter into Christmas week! Happy baking!!

HAVREKJEKS MED SJOKOLADE  (Oatmeal Biscuits with Chocolate)

1 tbs ground flaxseed

3 tbs water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 stick vegan butter (or about 113 grams)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark chocolate chip

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup oatmeal

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dress a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl, add the vanilla extract and set aside.

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light. Add in the flaxseed mixture and combine well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in the oatmeal and chocolate chip in the end.   Using a medium cookie scooper, scoop spoonfuls of the batter onto the cooking sheet – you should get about 30-32 cookies.

Bake for about 10 minutes. Cool off and enjoy!

Havrekjeks

 

havrekjeks3

Saffron Rolls To Shine a Light On Santa Lucia Day

Today , December 13th, we celebrate Santa Lucia Day in Scandinavia. This tradition stems from  a combination of the celebration of Saint Lucia and the Norse “lusse” celebration.  There are many theories behind why we celebrate this day,  I will shine a light (no pun intended) on a couple of them here in this blog post.

Saint Lucia,  a rich, Roman virgin, was born in the year 283 in Sicily, Italy and was killed (most likely in the year 304) because of her faith  during the crusades in the Roman Empire in the 4th century.  Lucia was Christian and faithful in her belief, but she was engaged to a man who didn’t believe in God.  Her father was dead, but her sick mother wanted Lucia to marry rich, but Lucia didn’t want that.  After Lucia’s prayers to the holy Agatha,  Lucia’s mother miraculously got well and canceled her wedding.  As thanks, Lucia donated her entire fortune to the poor.

When Lucia’s fiancee found out there would be no wedding, he told the emperor about Lucia’s Christian faith.  During this time, Christians were being persecuted, everyone was to worship the emperor.  She refused to do so and remained faithful to her beliefs. As punishment, she was given a death sentence by burning.  The tale goes she died holding a burning candle in her hands.  The name Lucia, is a female version of the Latin name Lucius, which means “light” or “brightness”.  Very early on, people started building bonfires and holding a festival of light in Sicily to honor her name .

santalucia

The tradition of letting a white clad Lucia spearhead a parade with girls dressed in white with candles in their hands and hair, started in Germany after the reform in 1536. In Norway this tradition really only began just a couple of decades ago, while this celebration has a much longer history in Sweden.  It is believed the “Santa Lucia” celebration has became more popular as of late in Norway because of the number of Swedish people moving there to work.

santaluciatog

In older Norwegian farmer tradition, this day also went by “Lussidagen”, “Lussinott”, “Lussimess” or “Lussi langnatt” (Lussi long night).  It was regarded the longest night of the year; when water turned to wine, and the animals in the barn were able to talk.  People complained that this night was as long as two nights put together. there were a lot of trolls and other evil creatures out during that night, so people were to stay indoors.
All the major work for Christmas had to be done by this day. If somebody was still baking or brewing bear, Lussi, a female troll, would appear and yell down through the chimney:  “Don’t brew or don’t bake, don’t keep big logs on the fire. If you do, your dough will divide in two,  your grinding stone in seven, and your baking/work table in fifteen pieces” (this sounds a little better in Norwegian, haha!).  She would then punish the people who were still working.   Young women were believed to be able to see their future husband if they fasted, and trolls went from house to house to make sure everything was prepared for Christmas.   So in short, this night was thought to be long, dark and dangerous, and was named after Lucifer, the devil, and not Lucy, the saint.

tussikatt

This story might be more in line with another popular belief, that most likely started in Germany around the 17th century.  The story goes that on this night, the devil, in form of a cat, would give naughty children a beating, while Jesus, in the form of a child, would hand out rolls to all the good children.  Since the devil was scared of light, the rolls (lussekatter) were colored with the bright yellow spice of saffran to keep him away.  Lusse is the name for Lucifer, and “katter” is Norwegian for “cats”.

So a lot of stories around these lovely saffron buns, wouldn’t you agree? I could go on and on, as stories vary from country to country, but I have to have some material for Christmas of 2016 as well, right? 🙂

In the mean time, I will leave you with my recipe for lussekatter, as always dairy free and eggless, but nonetheless just as delicious as (and healthier than) the traditional recipe!   We enjoy these straight out of the oven, preferably accompanied by a cup of rich, hot chocolate while watching the snow fall outside…. Happy baking and Happy Santa Lucia Day!!

LUSSEKATTER

100 grams (about 1 stick) butter plus extra for brushing dough

1 cup plant based milk

1 packed dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)

1 gram saffron

100 grams granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cardamom

about 3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup raisins

Melt the butter in a small pot on the stove, add in the milk and stir together, set aside. The temperature of the liquid should be around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.   Pour the liquid into the bowl of a standmixer and sprinkle in the yeast. Let sit for a couple of minutes. Attach the dough hook and add in the sugar, saffron, salt and cardamom. Slowly add in the flour (start with 3/4 of the amount) and add in more flour as needed. The dough should be smooth and firm.   Cover the dough with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot and let rise until double in size, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

On a clean, lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in four equal pieces, then divide those again in four, so you have 16 pieces. Roll each piece into links about 6 inches (15 cm) or longer. Shape them any way you want, here is an example of different shapes you can try out:

saffronbuns

Image  from Julbaket/receptfavoriter.blogg.se

Here are some of my shapes (as you can see, I need to perfect my skill, lol):

lussekatterpre1

 

lussekatterpre2

 

Place them on to two baking sheets dressed with parchment paper, cover with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celcius).

Stick raisins in the dough /creases of the shapes, brush the rolls with melted butter and place in oven. Bake for 6-8 minutes until golden on top, fluffy and moist on the inside. Enjoy!!

lussekatter1

 

lussekatter2

 

lussekatter3

Julebrød; a “must bake” Norwegian Christmas Bread

I wanted to rush to the computer straight after I baked my veganized version of “julebrød”  yesterday (also called “Julekake” meaning Christmas cake) because I simply couldn’t wait to tell you all how fluffy, juicy and flavorful this  bread turned out!!  This is, if I can be so bold, the best version of julebrød I have made and tasted to date, and I don’t say this lightly!

Delicate, slightly sweet with a subtle, welcoming flavor of the traditional cardamom spice used in Scandinavian baked goods, I am sure this will be your new favorite bread if you haven’t already tried it.  No eggs needed here, they turned out absolutely perfect:

julebrod2

The history of baking this Christmas bread can be traced back to pre-Christian, norse times and was one of the traditions Norwegians carried with them.  The bread was made from one of the last corn husks in the fall, and the bread was placed in the homes as decoration through the entire Christmas period.  The bread was not to be eaten, and was packed away and put in a special chest where people would store corn over the winter. The bread was brought out and unpacked when the spring harvest started.  When the plowing started, it was divided between the workers and the horse.   Some of the bread was also mixed into the seeds that were to be planted, as a form of fertility magic. Another interesting fact, is that the corn husk seems to stem from old rituals surrounding fertility, and several priests in Norway and Sweden tried to ban this “Un-Christian” tradition.

A sister and brother pictured in Oslo in 1905 with a Christmas tree and “Julenek” (resembling corn) or wheat husk in preparation for Christmas:

juleforberedelser

Photo by Anders Beer Wilse/ Oslo Museum

In old Denmark, Christmas bread was believed to cure headaches and snake bites, so if you find yourself with a migraine, perhaps try this recipe out … If your headache still doesn’t go away, your taste buds will at least thank you!!

julebakingstiftendk

Image from stiften.dk

This bread is wonderful as a special treat for breakfast during Christmas, but equally appropriate to serve up in the afternoon or evenings for friends and family. You can top it with cheese or jam, as is customary in Norway.   The traditional recipe includes “sukat”, or candied citrus peel, in addition to raisins – but I clearly remember meticulously picking those small green pieces out of my bread each and every time I had a slice growing up, so I decided not to include them (as most people do) in my recipe. If you would like to add sukat, just add equal amounts to raisins.

I hope you will try out my eggless recipe, you will not be disappointed,  I promise!!

JULEBRØD  (Julekake)

1 stick butter (about 125 grams)  plus extra for brushing dough

2 cups almond milk or other plant based milk

1 packet dry yeast

2/3 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

3-4 cups all purpose flour (start with 3, then add more as needed)

2/3 cups raisins

Melt the butter in a small pot on the stove, add in the milk and stir. The mixture should be around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and drizzle the yeast in, let sit for a couple of minutes until the yeast starts to bubble (This way you know it’s active and working).

Attach the dough hook, and add in the sugar, ground cardamom and flour.  Knead the dough for several minutes until the dough releases from the bowl and you have a smooth, firm dough.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.

On a clean work surface sprinkled with a little flour, divide the dough in two equal pieces, and knead in the raisins equally into both doughs. Roll out to a big “bun”, flatten them a little into oval shapes, and place on a prepared /greased baking sheet.   Cover with a towel and let rise for another 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush the top of the breads with melted butter and place in the oven on the bottom rack. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden on top.  Cool the breads on a cooling rack, slice and spread with butter and enjoy with a cup of hot coffee, Norwegian style! 🙂

julebrod

julebrodskiver