Recreate a Norwegian breakfast or lunch with rundstykker

What is ‘rundstykker’? These ’round pieces’ (=rundstykke) of bread are buns made with various cereals and grains, and are popular all throughout the Nordic countries, particularly in Norway and Denmark.   As bread lovers, Scandinavians love to play around with different versions of baked goods, and rundstykker are some of the more unique creations I’ve been unable to find a true equivalent of here in the United States.

While rundstykker are now enjoyed for both breakfast and lunch every day,  growing up in Norway in the 1970s and 1980s, they were a more decadent affair.   Today they can be found in ever home,  but when I was a teenager, you would mostly buy them in bakeries or cafes.

My niece recently shared a memory from her childhood of my sister making rundstykker and hot cocoa after they had been to swim class in the winter.  I recall my mom buying them at the bakery when she had her friends over from the charity she was involved with, and “dressing them up” with special cold cuts and neatly cut cucumbers, sliced salmon, scrambled eggs and curly parsley, or cheese and paprika.

Today you can even buy rundstykker half baked in the grocery stores, and just throw them in the oven and they are ready in no time,  but tasting like you baked them from scratch.   Rundstykker also go by the name “tebriks” – here are some examples of packages available in stores:

tebriks

Of course, I no longer eat meat, fish, dairy or eggs, so I was having a bit of fun the other day veganizing both the buns and the toppings.  Many original rundstykke recipes are already vegan – no eggs are needed and water is often used in place of milk.

I hope you’ll enjoy my recipe, these buns will turn out soft, light and airy and produces a fabulous dough that is easy to work with!     You can top the buns with any kinds of seeds, or leave seeds off and make them plain.  Spread them with butter and jam, or as I did the other day: a lettuce, tomato, peppers and avocado sandwich with vegan mayo:

avorundstykker

 

NORWEGIAN RUNDSTYKKER

Makes about 14 large rundstykker

1 packet (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast

2 3/4 cups plant based milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)

1 stick (113g) of vegan butter (Earth Balance)

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp water)

3 cups (700g) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (110g) rolled oats

1 cup (200g) whole wheat flour

melted vegan butter for brushing top of the buns

For topping on buns:

1 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp flaxseeds

1 tbsp pepita seeds

1 tbsp sunflower seeds

Melt the butter in a small pot over low heat on stove. Add in the milk and heat up to bring mixture to about 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand for 5 minutes until it starts to foam.

Combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  While the machine is running, pour in the butter-milk mixture, then the flax eggs. Knead on medium for about 10 minutes until a smooth dough forms.  Add more flour towards the end if it is still sticky.

Cover bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let rest for about one hour until dough is doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease two baking sheets with a little oil or baking spray.  Combine all the seeds in a small bowl

Sprinkle a little flour onto a clean work surface, turn the dough onto table, roll out to a log and divide into 14 equal pieces.

rundstykkedeig

Shape into round buns and place onto baking sheets, cover with a towel and let rest once more for about 30 minutes.

Brush top of buns with melted vegan butter and sprinkle seed mixture on.  Bake in oven for about 14-15 minutes until golden up top. rundstykker7rundstykker5rundstykker3

 

10 Things You May Not Know About Norwegian Waffles

If you are a fan of Norwegian waffles, you know that they are heart shaped, thinner and softer than the American version.   We also don’t eat waffles for breakfast, rather we enjoy them with a strong cup of black coffee in the afternoon or evening, preferably in the company of good friends and family.  The easiest and most widespread food to whip up when you have guests come over, is, in fact, Norwegian “vafler”!  We love them slathered with butter and strawberry jam, or for a more decadent version; sour cream and strawberry jam which is a delicious combination of tangy and sweet.

For more history about the Norwegian waffle, you can go HERE to a previous blog post I did on this topic.

So while the above mentioned points might be common knowledge to “Norwegianophiles”,  you might not haven known the following:

  1. There are few foods that exists that have as many different recipes as waffles.  The first recognized recipes for waffle batter in Norway appeared in the early 18th century in Stavanger at the Kielland family library.  The batter contained wheat flour, sugar, butter and eggs, as well as ground cardamom, mace, cloves, anise seeds and ginger.  Today, many of these ingredients still show up in waffle recipes.

2.   One variant that is not as widespread anymore is making waffles from porridge leftovers.  It was commonly used by the farming community, because their daily diet consisted of  porridge.  Porridge leftovers often ended up in waffle batters along with flour, water or milk, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and eggs.  The ingredients depended on what kind of porridge was included and how nice of a waffle batter one desired to make.

3. “Lompe”, bread of waffel?  I refer to lompe as the ‘tortillas of Norway,’ you can read my blog post about them HERE.    The classic combination is to serve a hot dog in lomper, but in the Norwegian town of Moss, serving hot dogs in waffles is a culinary classic. You’ll find this combination sold at soccer games there.  The tradition is said to have started in the 1960s when a man by the name of Eyvind Hellstrøm ran out of lomper when he worked at his uncle’s hot dog and ice cream stand.  His solution was to combine the waffles with the hot dogs.

4.  Today, waffles in Norway are associated with “hygge” or cozy times throughout the year, but in the 13th century waffles were spoken about as a romantic meal in the churches of Paris during Easter celebration.  Waffles were also used as a meal to break fast.  According to author Kristin Solli Schøien,  waffles stem back to the monasteries during the middle ages.  Un-soured bread were baked during communion,  and the alter breads were so tasty that they started making something they called apostle cakes for special holidays.  These are said to be the predecessors to the waffles served at Norwegian seamen churches across the world today.

5. For Norwegians abroad, waffles are a symbol of both homesickness and a heartwarming treat, according to the Norwegian Seaman’s Church.  For more than 150 years, the heart shaped waffles have served as a special trademark for what you can expect when you stop by the church.  Every year, the 31 seaman’s churches all over the world compete over who makes the best waffles.  In 2012 they made and handed out 27,500 waffles combined.

6. Waffles is a continuous symbol of thoughtfulness, also at home in Norway.  Volunteers set aside time weekly to hand out free home made waffles to homeless people  on the streets. The initiative from “Vaffelgutta” (The Waffle Guys) started in Oslo, but has quickly grown.  Today they are providing free waffles to people in the cities of Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim.

7. Despite how un- Norwegian International Waffle Day sounds, the tradition stems back to our neighboring country, Sweden.  The official explanation is that on March 25th, virgin Mary received the message from the angel  Gabriel that she was to give birth to baby Jesus exactly 9 months later.  This day was celebrated by eating cakes both in Norway and Sweden. Later on it become customary to have waffles.

A more creative explanation is that the day Mary got the message,  was named “vårfruedagen” in Sweden (Our Lady’s Day), which got muddled into “vaffeldagen” in Swedish among the people…

8. No waffles without a special waffle iron. The particular checkered pattern of the iron stems from the 13th and 14th century and is said to be made by following a model for bees wax cakes in the beehives.  The tradition of baking ‘cakes’ in this way stems back to the Greeks, according to Henry Notakers’ “Appetittleksikon” (Appetite Dictionary).  The actual waffle iron was invented by the American Cornelius Swarthout and was patented on August 24th, 1869.

9.  It’s actually not impossible to feed hundreds of people with just one waffel!  The biggest waffle in the world was measured to be about 98 cm or 38.5 inches. The Guinness record from 2011 is held by Norwegian Joar Mortveit from Skjold.  This record big waffle was baked in a gigantic waffle iron weighing 250 kilos  (551 lbs).  For every waffle, 10 liters (2.5 gallons or 42 cups) were used and each waffle took 20 minutes to bake.

10.  If you live in the United States, you don’t have to necessarily visit seaman’s churches to eat waffles. The internationally known and successful Norwegian fashion company Moods of Norway have become known for selling their clothes and accessories worldwide, inspired by Norwegian traditions.   They have also marketed Norwegian waffles by creating a waffle iron in the shape of a tractor. Below you can see how the waffles look after being baked in their iron.

moodsofNorwayKristerSørbøVG

Photo Credit:  Krister Sørbø/VG

I hope you found these facts interesting, because I sure did!  They are translated from the site godt.no and sourced from a variety of people and institutions.

I bet you are getting hungry for some Norwegian waffles now !  I’ve included a SUPER simple recipe below that you can throw together in a couple of minutes and the only kitchen equipment besides a waffle iron needed is a blender (or a food processor).

wafflesblender

This recipe is both vegan and gluten free, but it tastes so decadent you wouldn’t believe that it’s a healthy version!  Instead of eggs, I’ve included a banana, and oats take the place of wheat flour.  I’ve subbed maple syrup for white sugar, though you can use any sweetener you’d like for a very similar result.

I hope you enjoy this quick and delicious recipe ! If you try it let me know in the comments what you think! Velbekomme!

SUPER SIMPLE AND HEALTHY NORWEGIAN WAFFLES 

about 3 cups (700ml)  old fashioned rolled oats

1 1/4 cup (300ml) water

1 1/4 cup (300 ml) plant based milk (I used almond milk)

1 large ripe banana

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp maple syrup

melted vegan butter (I love Earth Balance)  for greasing the waffle iron

Throw all the ingredients in a high speed blender, alternatively use a stick blender or food processor, and puree until smooth.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Heat up the waffle iron and bake according to the manufacturer’s direction.

Serve spread with butter and  strawberry jam, or top with bananas, fresh berries, extra maple syrup or even plain! (Coffee optional, but that’s extra Norwegian:)

heartshapedhealthywaffles2

 

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

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

————————————–

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:

svalbardsol.jpg

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!

barleyvegsoup1

 

Celebrating Norwegian Easter With an Orange Cake

There would simply be no Easter in Norway without oranges. What a peculiar food to mention in the same sentence as Norwegian cuisine, you might think. Not so.  Here’s a fun fact to kick off with:  Norway is among the top importers of oranges, and during Easter, Norwegians double their consumption of this succulent, orange fruit and devour over 20 million oranges.  Oranges from Spain dominate, but Israel and Egypt are also important countries from which we import the fruit.

appelsin

Up until 1956 there was an import restriction in Norway of oranges, and they were a rare and expensive treat at the time.  When the regulation disappeared, the sale of oranges sky rocketed. Norwegian prefer sweeter oranges, and these typically appear at the end of the citrus season, which so happens to be around Easter; hence the peak season for oranges and  the holiday season fell together and tradition was made.  The color of the orange also represents the sun, and symbolizes the switch between winter and summer…. lighter times are ahead when Easter arrives!

paaskeski

As many of you know, Norway is fortunate to have a plethora of majestic mountains, and Norwegians are very good at taking advantage of the nature surrounding them. Most people own cabins, and for Easter this is the preferred destination to spend the holiday, skiing, suntanning, eating great food and enjoying time with family and friends. Carrying oranges in backpacks while on a skiing trip is a well known Norwegian tradition. There is probably nothing more satisfying than sitting down at the top of a mountain after a long, beautiful, but physically challenging cross country skiing trip, opening up my back pack, peel an orange and sink my teeth into the sweet, juicy fruit. One orange covers your daily requirement for C-vitamins, but don’t think Norwegians are too healthy. We also consumer millions of “Kvikklunsj” (Norwegians’ version of Kit Kat, although of course ten times better:) along with truckloads of marzipan candies during the holiday.

paaskeappelsin

paaskemarsipan BIKs2011041516745

Other than enjoying oranges on their own in the breathtaking outdoors or mountainside, there are many other ways to use oranges in cooking. I experimented with a couple of different recipes for an orange cake earlier in the week as I longingly looked at photos from my friends in Norway who had already taken off for the holiday to enjoy the nature, food, and the company of friends and family.

My first recipe was a gluten free cake made with chickpea flour and polenta – this turned out to be quite crumbly, not too sweet and a more ‘casual’ cake.  The second recipe I tested included regular all purpose wheat flour but had very little fat, no butter, but just  a little oil and lots of orange juice. This turned out super juicy, light and fluffy, and I’m still reeling from the deliciousness of it. Both cakes serve a purpose, so I wanted to include both recipes for these here, so you can decide what you are in the mood for:  a daily treat (the polenta cake) or get decadent (the latter)!   The best thing about both is that they are super easy and takes five minutes to put together. Whichever one you choose, you are in for a treat – decorate with fresh oranges on top of each one to make it colorful, and if you are creative enough, you may even be able to sneak a piece in your backpack if you go out hiking or skiing this weekend! 🙂  Happy Easter everyone!

POLENTA ORANGE CAKE

1 stick vegan butter (about 8 tbsp)

100 grams or 1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup almond milk or other vegetable based milk

zest from 1/2 an orange

1/2 cup polenta

3/4 cup chickpea flour

1 rounded tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 400F. Dress an oiled 8-inch spring form cake pan with parchment paper at the bottom.

In a standmixer, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Slowly add in the almond milk, orange zest, polenta, chickpea flour, and baking soda until a smooth batter forms.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake form and baking in the middle of the oven for about 20-25 minutes.

Let cool on a rack while preparing the glaze (Recipe further down, you can use the same glaze for both cakes).

paaskekake4

paaskekake5

paaskekakestykke1

paaskekakestykke2

JUICY ORANGE CAKE

350 grams/1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

350 grams/ 1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 3/4 cup freshly pressed orange juice

1/2 cup rapeseed or other neutral, organic vegetable oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

zest from one orange

2 tsp vanilla extract

Handful of toasted walnuts, chopped for decorating (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Dress a 10 inch round spring form cake pan with parchment paper and oil lightly the bottom and sides of the pan.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix them into the dry ingredients until a smooth batter forms. Pour into the prepared cake pan.

paaskekakeroere

Bake in the middle of the oven for 40-45 minutes, depending on your oven.  The cake should be golden on the top and firm on the edges, use a cake tester to determine when done. Cool on a rack while you prepare the orange glaze.

paaskekakeb4glaze

Orange Glaze: 

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

juice from one orange (give or take)

1 tsp orange zest

Place confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl with orange rind and add orange juice until you get a smooth glaze to your desired consistency.

Garnish both cakes with added orange zest, fresh blood orange slices, and/or chopped nuts of your choice (I omitted the nuts).

paaskekake1

paaskekake2

paaskekake3

“Eplekake”: Norway’s Answer To American Apple Pie

The fall is the season to celebrate all the amazing Norwegian produce. This time of year, it’s high season for apples, onions, beets, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, parsnips and rutabaga in Norway.   With the cool climate, it is only natural that root vegetables and fruits high in acidity (apples) as well as berries thrive the best. Traditions around these foods are near and dear to my heart, I love nothing more than to recreate them in my home in New York, as it brings me just a little closer to my family at home while I get to enjoy the familiar smells in the kitchen and taste around the table.  I always find it fascinating that these two cultures share similar customs as well, albeit in slightly different ways.

For instance, Thanksgiving is not just an American tradition.  Although Americans celebrate it in November, since 1889, the Norwegian Church has celebrated Thanksgiving in conjunction with the harvest around September or October.  It is customary to bring in corn husks, fruits, vegetables and flowers to the church during service being held at the end of September.

After a long summer, we often feel as if fall hits us fast and hard with its grey, darker and cold days. But the fact is, much like in the U.S., this is one of the most colorful seasons in Norway both when it comes to nature and the variety of produce in season.   As the weather gets colder, it feels more and more appropriate to spend days inside by a warm stove and do some cooking and baking together with family and friends.  When I saw all of these gorgeous apples at the farmer market the other day, I got inspired to bake one of Norway’s most beloved cakes: The apple cake, or “Eplekake” as we fondly call it.

apples1

Did you know that October 17th is Norwegian Apple Day?  Eplekake definitely belongs to fall in Norway.  This flavorful cake is juicy, moist, light and buttery all at the same time, with the crisp acid from the apples and the sweetness from brown sugar and the apricot jam the sliced apples are brushed with.  Not elaborate to make at all, but sure packs a lot of flavor and every home has their own version.

Here are my sliced apples ready to be placed on top of the batter (sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to avoid them from turning brown):

eplekake1

 

I’ve made it a dairy and egg free cake, where I replaced the eggs with ground flax seeds mixed with water, and I used vegan butter, although you can also use a good vegetable oil (not olive oil as the flavor is too strong).  A nice touch is the sprinkles of sesame seeds at the bottom of the cake pan for added texture and flavor.

eplekake3

This is also an extra decadent apple cake as I add in some shredded marzipan. It really adds tremendous flavor and texture (so moist!) – worth every calorie! I usually buy the ready to use package from Odense, but you can also make your own by combining almond paste with confectioner’s sugar and some sugar water or corn syrup.

Here is what the ground flax seeds look like once they’ve swelled up in water. I use 1 tbsp of flax seeds with 3 tbsp of water for every egg. Works fantastic as a binder – just like eggs!

eplekake2

So simple and quick to make, but will look like you spent hours in the kitchen!

I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I did – apples are abundant right now – this is a fun and delicious way to utilize this seasonal fruit!

NORWEGIAN EPLEKAKE WITH MARZIPAN

Serves 10

1 tbs vegan butter or butter of your choice, melted

1 tbsp sesame seeds

For the batter:

200 grams/7 oz vegan butter, melted and cooled off

150 grams/5 1/4 oz marzipan, roughly grated on a box grater

4 tbsp flax seeds combined with 3/4 cups of room temp water

1 cup light brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used spelt flour)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2 inch slices

1/2 cup organic apricot jam

1 tbsp water

50 grams or about 3 tbsp pine nuts (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).

Butter a 10-inch (24 cm) cake pan and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and set aside.

Combine the flax seed with the water in a small bowl and let it swell for about 5 minutes while you measure out the other ingredients and prepare the apples.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and vanilla sugar in a small bowl.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the apricot jam with the water and whisk until smooth, turn off and set aside.

Whisk the flax seed mixture with the brown sugar until well combined.  Add in the melted butter and the grated marzipan (and vanilla extract if using).  Add in the flour mixture and mix until all the flour is integrated. Pour the batter into the cake pan.

Neatly arrange and stick the apple slices into the batter in a circle until the entire surface is covered.  Brush the apple slices with the prepared apricot jam.  If using pine nuts, sprinkle those on top (I omitted these).  Place the cake in the oven on the lowest or second to lowest rack and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Serve the cake warm with vanilla sauce or vanilla ice cream or whipped coconut cream. Yum!!

Here is my cake right out of the oven – ready to be devoured!!

eplekake5

Spring Into the Season With A Delightful Asparagus Tart

Spring has  been my favorite time of year ever since I was a little girl.  Growing up in Norway, the winters were harsh, long, freezing cold and dark, which made people a bit depressed and not very social.   Having day light only for about five to six hours a day will do that to a person. But when the snow started melting, the days slowly were getting lighter and longer and I saw the first snowdrop flowers (“snøklokke” in Norwegian) pop up on the ground and the birch trees blooming,  I always turned cheerful and excited for warmer weather to come.

Synonymous with the change of season, came the new produce available to cook with.  I’ve always associated asparagus with spring; the bright green,  succulent and tender stalks offer a vibrant color signifying that nature is alive yet again,  and provides a wonderful taste and texture to any dish.  Besides being tasty, asparagus is also nutritious, low in calories, helps digestion, is rich in fiber and has anti-cancer benefits. Asparagus has been prized as an epicurean delight and for its medicinal properties for almost 2000 years. Only in season from April-May (in some areas through July), make sure you take advantage of picking up some bunches at your local market and hopefully you will want to try out my delicious asparagus tart – recipe below!

asptart2

SPRING TART WITH ASPARAGUS, WHITE BEANS AND PESTO

1 whole wheat tart dough * recipe to follow

1  15 oz can cannellini or white/navy beans

1/4 heaping cup raw cashews

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp pesto * (recipe to follow, or use store bought)

1 tsp kosher or sea salt

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp almond milk or soy milk

1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed

1 large Vidalia / sweet onion, sliced thin

Extra virgin olive oil for sauteeing

1-2 garlic cloves

To make bean filling:

Drain and rinse the beans, and add them to the clean bowl of a food processor. Add the cashews, pesto (see recipe below), salt and lemon juice. Pulse the food processor, stopping to scrape down the sides and pulse again. It should look like a rough paste.  Pulse a few more times, then sprinkle in the almond milk while the machine is running, helping to further smooth the paste. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.  See further down how to make asparagus/onion topping.

To make whole wheat tart dough:

I chose to use whole wheat here for a healthier dough, but you can substitute regular all purpose flour if you’d like.  I love how easy this dough comes together, and with only three ingredients (not counting salt and water)! I use this as a base for many of my savory tarts as its healthy, easy and super delicious.  Use a scale to weigh your ingredients when baking, it’s always more accurate.

wholewheatpastrydough

 

About  9 oz /250 grams whole wheat flour

1 tsp kosher or sea salt

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme or rosemary

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup cold water

Grease a 9 inch tart pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 400F / 200C.

Mix the flour, sea salt and fresh herbs in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add in the extra virgin oil and mix with a fork. Add in the cold water and knead lightly until it comes together in to a ball.

wholewheatdoughball

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough using a rolling pin, large enough to fit your tart pan.  Carefully transfer the dough into your tart pan and line it neatly. Trim the excess dough off the edges and place the pan in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.

wholewheattartdough

Blind bake the crust: Prick the dough with a fork, then cover with foil and place either dry beans or as I did, decorative rocks (!) on top to keep the dough from puffing up.

tartblindbake

Place in oven and blind bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and remove beans/foil.  Meanwhile make the pesto.

To make pesto:

2 cups tightly packed fresh basil

1/2 cup walnuts, almonds or pine nuts

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 tbsp nutritional yeast (I use this in place of parmigiano cheese)

salt and pepper to taste

Place the basil, nuts, and garlic in a food processor – pulse to combine until mixture is coarsely ground. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil in a thin stream. Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast and season with salt and pepper, pulse a few more times until combined. Scrape out into a container and set aside.

pesto

 

To make topping:

In a large saute pan, place 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil with a clove or two of smashed garlic over medium high heat, then add sliced onions, season with kosher salt and saute for 15 minutes or so until caramelized. Remove from pan and add asparagus stalks. Season with salt and saute over high heat for about 5 minutes or so until they begin to soften. Set aside.

caramelizedonions

 

asparagus2

To assemble tart:

Spread the white bean/pesto mixture over the tart dough:

wholewheattartbeans

Then top with caramelized onions and asparagus.

asparagustartbef2

 

Place in oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until tart is cooked through.  The tart is equally tasty warm right out of the oven or at room temperature. Serve with a nice green salad and your favorite full bodied white wine – this is absolutely mouthwatering and tastes just like spring!!

asptartsliced asptartpiece

 

 

Scandinavian Burger: Where Beet, Not Meat, Is The Star

The beet is an old cultural plant that has been grown in Europe for over three thousand years but likely arrived in  Scandinavia  in the 15th of 16th century.  Both the red beet and sugar beet stem from the beach beet, which grows wild along coastal Europe.   Beets can be round, oval or cylindrical, but more commonly seen is the round shaped beet.  Beets come in red, yellow or orange colors –  my favorite dish is to make a colorful salad which include all the different types roasted, toss them with some good olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, drizzle a little good quality red wine vinegar over them and sprinkle with some fresh dill.  Norway on a plate!

beets

Beets are used in a variety of dishes in the Nordic countries, as it is a traditional root vegetable with a long history in the Nordic kitchen.  Beets are served both warm and cold, the latter regularly in salads, and then there is of course red beet soup; borscht.  Cooked, chopped beets are often added to ground meat,  boiled beets are served with new potatoes with a dab of butter, and perhaps the best known way to serve these are pickled; either as a condiment to fish or as a topping on open faced sandwiches.  I’ve also seen them pureed  with butter and whipped into a cream, and with their bright red color, this not only tastes great but adds beautiful color to your plate. Besides beets being incredibly versatile and healthy with their low fat, high calcium, fiber and iron content, they are also amazingly tasty if you know how to prepare them to maximize their sweetness and underlying earthiness.

Beets are in season from May to November, when they are smaller in size and nice and tender,  but they will keep well through the winter, which is why they are so popular in Norway.    Regardless of the time of year, avoid selecting the very large beets, as they may not be as sweet and sometimes have a woody center.  The leaves on the beet stalks are also very nutritious, and can be chopped up and sauteed with some olive oil and garlic for a delectable side dish.  Don’t throw these out!

Since  I no longer include meat or fish in my diet, I wanted to create a dish that would taste “meaty” without the meat, and much better!  I have seen beet burgers on menus in restaurants before, but more often than not, the beets are boiled, then pureed and mixed with whatever other ingredients and fried on the flat top, much like any other burger. The result is generally a mushy mess in the center with an undesirable texture, reminiscent of baby food.  The way I decided to do mine, is shred the beets while raw into thin pieces, then saute them on the pan, almost similar to hash browns.  The result is a crispy exterior with a firm texture that better replicates the meat version. Simply perfection! When I had my catering company, Fork and Glass, we would make these and sell them in to- go containers at local farmer markets, and we could never make enough of these to serve everyone!

I love using a mixture of golden and red beets in the burgers for both taste and presentation.

shreddedbeets

I dare you to serve these to your meat eating friends or someone who has exclaimed before how much he/she hates beets – and see if they won’t change their mind next time they think of burgers!!

ARCTIC BEET BURGERS

2 cups raw red beet, grated

2 cups raw golden beet, grated

about 1 1/2 cups-2 cups oatmeal

2 tbsp flax seed mixed in 6 tablespoons of water

about 1/2 cup-1 cup sweet rice flour (you can use AP flour if you prefer)

3-4 large shallots, o4 1 large Vidalia Onion, sliced and sauteed/caramelized until soft and golden brown

5-6 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tbsp canola or olive oil, for sauteing

Place the grated beet in a bowl, season with salt and squeeze out any moisture. Add the rest of the ingredients, season generously with salt and pepper, and let rest in fridge for about 1 hour.

Prepare a couple of sheet trays lined with paper towels.  Scoop out 1/4 cup of the beet mixture and shape into a flat cake with your hands.  Place them on a separate tray.  Heat the oil in a skillet (I love using cast iron skillets) over medium heat and fry the cakes until golden brown on both sides.

beetsinpan

Transfer the beets to sheet trays lined with parchment paper or  paper towels until you finish the entire batter.

beetburgers

Besides serving them in the traditional burger bun, these are delicious accompanied with a grain salad or a green salad – topped with vegan dilled sour cream or a horseradish sauce.   You can make these cakes the day before and reheat them in the oven.  Who needs meat??

Homemade and healthy Knekkebrød

Each time I go home to Norway, the meal I most look forward to is breakfast.    Norwegians and Scandinavians alike take this meal really seriously.   It is often a serious spread and the meal can go just as long as dinner.  Various spreads are placed on the table, mostly savory but also a fair share of sweet, all topped on freshly baked whole grain bread,  accompanied by strongly brewed black coffee with large glasses of milk.  I have switched to almond milk now, which I find rich and satisfying with a creamy taste, and contains 50% more calcium than regular milk  – a winner! 🙂

knekkebrodcappelendammforlagImage: Cappelen Damm Forlag

In my house, several pieces of bread were topped with the most luxurious of foods (all homemade by my mother of course, ranging from pickled herring, pates and jam made from berries in our backyard) and ended with knekkebrød, topped with Norwegian brunost and jam.  I often regretted not making the entire meal just of knekkebrød; there is something so satisfying, but yet light and easy digesting about these crispy crackers which are so popular throughout Norway and Scandinavia.  Filled with a plethora of various seeds, whole grain flours and oatmeal,  they are the perfect canvass for which to start a healthy snack or meal.

knekkebrod

While many households  choose to buy pre-packaged Wasa knekkebrød or a gourmet version thereof, it has become more and more commonplace and popular to make these from scratch. Super simple and quick to make, I agree the latter is the better choice! Here are some examples of store bought knekkebrød solutions you can find in Norwegian supermarkets:

knekkebrodtoro

knekkebrodwasaIn January, you will see many Norwegians bring their “matpakke” (a packed lunch) to work containing two or more pieces of knekkebrød,  in an effort to cleanse their body from the riches of the gourmet foods of Christmas.  Often referred to as diet food, it does not taste like it, rather packs a ton of flavor and has a great, crunchy texture that is both satisfying and delicious.

A source of great antioxidants and healthy fats from the seeds, I think this is a perfect, ultra Norwegian food to kick start 2014 with!  I like them with Daiya cream cheese, a dairy free cream cheese that tastes so much more flavorful than the regular version,  with slices of tomato and cucumber, topped with dill or chives.   You can also spread hummus on them sprinkled with chopped olives, mint and roasted peppers for a more exotic alternative for lunch.

As always, I welcome any questions or comments!

CRISPY KNEKKEBRØD

225 grams or 1 cup oatmeal

225 grams or 1 cup rye flour

225 grams or 1 cup sunflower seeds

225 grams or 1 cup oat bran

225 grams or 1 cup sesame seeds

100 grams or 1/2 cup wheat bran

100 grams or 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

100 grams or 1/2 cup flax seed

2 tsp salt

1 tsp maple syrup

3 1/2 cup-4 cups warm water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celcius).  Line three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.  Mix the maple syrup into the water and pour over dry ingredients, stir to combine. Let sit for about 10 minutes.   Spread the dough over the prepared baking sheets .  Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, remove from oven and cut with a pizza cutter into desired sized squares.  Place the crackers back in the oven, and bake for another 20 minutes.   Rotate them and bake another 30-40  minutes, a total of 1 hour to 1 hr 10 min baking time.

Let cool on a rack and they are now ready to dig into!  You can store these in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.

knekkebroddinmatImage from dinmat.no