I was born and raised in a family and a nation (or even part of the world) that is largely fed on high-carb diets. We’re amazing at underground veggies. Root vegetables can be and is used in so many different ways. Above the ground veggies on the other hand is something still a little exotic in this part of the world. And there are of course reasons for that. Living on the coast far north wind and rain is more common that not. Root vegetables are safe, they grow here, just like the sheep.
Above the ground vegetables are thus sort of a little intimidating. Honestly, ten years ago I had never tasted a courgette (zucchini), paprika is something I knew three uses for: diced in salads, sliced on top of cheese on a slice of bread, or on our (I call it ours, it’s as Norwegian as komle!) Grandiosa pizza. Google that last one, it’s not something we eat often and not something I’ll blog about. But I think youtube would have some treasures for you.
However, trying to incorporate as many vegetables in our diet as possible I have to turn to the above ground types, and find new ways to use them. One dish that blew my mind, thankfully not literally, was a dish I was served at Lou Pistou in Nice last year. It was typical for the area, very simple, and just soooo good. The recipe was no secret, so the wonderful, lovely lady explained it to me. I have now tried making it myself, and this is too good not to share.
You need vegetables that you can fill, and I believe anything goes. Try making a local version! I had onions (those are a must), courgettes (zucchinis), aubergines (eggplants) and peppers (paprika). You can serve this as a full meal (mine was served with a salad – and talk about getting your five a day!!) or you can something with it (fries, rice, or similar). Here’s what you need:
- 2 onions
- 1 courgette
- 1 aubergine
- 2 peppers
- 250 grams of ground beef
- four slices of bacon
- 2 cloves of garlic
- salt and pepper
- thyme, oragano or basil
- two good handfulls of parmiggiano (or similar cheese)
First boil the vegetables for about five minutes. Put the whole veggies in the pot. At the same time you fry the bacon in a pan. Afterwards cut in half and scrape out what’s inside (throw away the insides of the pepper). Use the now empty and halved veggies as serving bowls. Finely chop everything else and mix together. Fill the halved veggies then bake at 200 degrees celsius for about 35 minutes.
We had a few days of perfect summer weather last month. Temperatures above 20 C, blue sky, burning sun, bare, white legs and arms, and sunburned noses. The children loved it, especially our daughter who was allowed to play in the garden all by herself for the first time. The door to the kitchen was open so I could hear her at all times and she could run in and out as she wanted, euphoria for a toddler. Those days have now passed, but only for now. We need some proper spring days before we can take on the proper summer.
I thought of a pineapple drink that Husband and I used to make some years ago. I couldn’t find the recipe for it during those warm days, but I knew it called for frozen pineapple, so after a Friday taco-dinner I froze the leftover pineapple, to have it ready for the next warm day.
I had a rough day today. I feel the stress of the exams and everything getting to me. And I needed to cheer myself up. This drink, a mix between a milkshake and a smoothie, is summer in a glass and exactly what I needed. I found the recipe without having to tare the house down. A few minutes later I had more than half a litre of sunshine. The children tried it for the first time, Son was particularly suspicious to what he was served, but he downed two glasses. Daughter walked around with her smoothie cup, singing and talking in a perfectly happy mood, but gave out a shrilling scream if anyone came near her cup. A perfect afternoon energy boost.
Also, if drunk properly, it’ll give you a moustache.
- 4 dl of pineapple juice
- 1 dl coconut milk (with plenty of the good coconut fat for the kids)
- 2,5 dl of frozen pineapple
- 2 small scoops of vanilla ice-cream (or frozen yoghurt)
Mix well in a blender and enjoy the summer!
Fastelavn is the three days before lent. The word derives from low-German and means the evening before lent, it also tells of Norway’s religious history and influences: lent is a Catholic tradition, while Norway is primarily Protestant, much of the tradition has been brought to the country through German influences. Lent starts seven weeks before Easter, which would be now on Wednesday. Today is the last Sunday before lent. Traditionally the days before lent were days where you could feast before the 40 days of fasting, consequently the days before lent are in Norway called ‘fleskesøndag’ (lard Sunday), ‘fleskemandag’ (Monday) and ‘feitetirsdag’ (fat Tuesday).
The Christian traditions were mixed with heathen traditions of fertility. ‘Fastelavnsris’, twigs from a birch-tree decorated with colourful feathers, are sold by a non-governmental organisation for women’s health in all supermarkets the Saturday before fastelavn. Historically the ‘ris’ was used on married, young women who had yet not born children and to fight of winter. Norwegians might have invented friendly spanking…
Today much of this is lost. The meaning of it is not given much thought, but a combination of the earlier traditions lives on. Today is, by the man in the street, called ‘fastelavn’ or ‘bollesøndag’ (sweet-roll Sunday). The modern tradition involves exquisite sweet-rolls, the dough similar to that of the French brioche, served with cream and a sprinkle of icing sugar. And the tradition still stands strong. Last year my parents visited for ‘fastelavn’ and my mother made the rolls. Here is her recipe:
Makes 12-16 rolls:
3,5 dl whole milk
50 grams of fresh yeast
100 grams of butter
1 dl sugar
500 grams of flour
1 t cardamom
Melt the butter and mix with the milk. Make sure it’s not too hot when you add the yeast. Add the egg and mix with the dry ingredients. Knead the dough and leave to rise until it has doubled in size under a plastic cover (the plastic will keep the moist from vaporising). Roll out and leave to rise while the oven heats up to about 200 degrees Celcius. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and delicious. Try and wait until the rolls are cool before you slice them in two and add whipped cream (mix the whipped cream with custard cream if you feel decadent) and serve with a sprinkle of icing sugar. Many also serve with a layer of jam (raspberry or strawberry) and a thin slice of marzipan.
One of Norway’s most popular dishes is taco. Yes, very logical and oh so Scandinavian, but we still love it. Many Norwegians eat taco once a week and Friday night seems to be the days where most of us devour our tacos. Well, to be honest, to call it taco might be seriously offensive to those who really know what taco really is, or can be, but it is easily pronounced, easily made, and totally tasty!
Many Norwegians eat the processed versions you find in the store: salsa in a jar, quacamole in a tin, and taco spice mix out of a paper bag. Of course these do not taste like or contain the same as the real deal, but many can’t look past the quick fix. A few years ago I came across a recipe for a mix-yourself-taco-spice-mix, I tried it and have never after gone back to the one-portion bag from the store. This is better in so many ways: it tastes better, it’s cheaper and you control the amount of salt you use. It takes you ten minutes to make the first time, and then your set for several Friday-night-tacos to come.
3 T chilli powder
1,5-2 T sea salt
2 T cumin
2 T powdered paprika
2,5 t garlic powder
2,5 t crushed chilli flakes2,5 t dried oregano
1-2 t cayenne pepper
Norwegians normally use mince meat, and for 400 grams I use one large tablespoon of spice-mix. I also toss in a small teaspoon in salsa and guacamole. The mix is, of course, also perfect for mexican inspired soups or casseroles.
Please let me know if you try!
Kakemenn is always a favourite among the kids. It’s sweet, very mild in taste and, like the pepperkaker, they are shaped in various recognisable figures. They are very easy to make and the ingredients are items you most likely already have in your cupboards. Kakemenn is to me important come christmas, and I never go a year without making them.
The recipe is very straightforward and easy. Just mix all ingredients together (but do feel free to reduce the recipe – we used about half this year):
1 kg of white wheat flour
0,5 kg of sugar
4 teaspoons of horn salt (“Horn salt (also hartshorn) is used in traditional Norwegian baked goods as a leavening agent. Modern horn salt is ammonium bicarbonate.In the USA it can be purchased at the pharmacy” says this site)
85 grams of butter
4 dl of milk
As with the pepperkake-dough, the kakemenn-dough must also be cold before it’s easy to work with. The dough doesn’t need to be as thin as the pepperkake dough, I would set the thickness of it to double that of the pepperkaker, see this post. The kakemenn are baked at 200 degrees until they get a wee bit of a tan. They should still be white-ish, so about the colour of a Scandinavian in April would do.
Never stand too close to the oven when opening the oven-door, and never get the horn salt too close to your nose. You have been warned! (sneezing and swearing could occur!)
I bake pepperkaker every year. It’s the Norwegian version of gingerbread and how different it is to it’s cousins around the world I have no idea. It’s an activity everyone should go through before christmas, every year and children young an old seem to enjoy it (children do at least for a short while). Here’s the recipe that will leave you with pepperkaker well into the new year:
150 grams of butter
5 dl sugar
Dice the butter and leave it on the counter until it’s tempered and soft. Whisk it with the sugar until it’s white and fluffy. Then add the remaining ingredients:
2 dl of syrup
2 dl of water
1 T ground cinnamon
1 T ground ginger
1 T ground cloves
1 T baking powder
1,5 litres (850g) of wheat flour
Place it somewhere cold, preferably for a day or two, but a minimum of an hour. This is to improve the dough before working with it, and for the tastes to set properly.
This is my mom’s recipe and it has been used for ages! I think it’s huge, and found out just how huge it is the first christmas I lived away from home. Not having much experience with baking I asked my mom how big the recipe was, she claimed it was just the right size. And indeed it was! if you’re a family of 15!! I was making cookies into the wee hours of the night and filled up so many tins it was not even funny! This year I made about a third of it, which was just about perfect for our family. Recipe then looks like this:
50 grams of butter
1,7 dl of sugar
0,7 dl of syrup0,7 dl of water
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1 t ground cloves
1 t baking soda
5 dl (just about a pint) of flour
We filled about four trays of cookies. Son was done after one and a half and we were left with a decent amount to make on our own.
The cookies should be very thin, but not quite see-through. A few millimetres is perfect. Bake for 5-7 minutes at 200 degrees (celcius) and make sure to eat a few while they’re still warm and soft.
Enjoy the delicious ‘pepperkaker’ and the christmassy smell that fills the house.
Thursday was the 12th day of December and following was the night before the 13th day. Logically, yes, indeed, but I only say this because these days are of severe importance to us. You can read more about our traditions here, but another important tradition are the lussecats. Lussecats (lussekatter) are bright yellow baked sweet rolls of fascinating shapes that we only bake once a year.
I can not go a year without, and even last year, when I returned home from hospital with a brand new baby this exact date, I still had to bake. This year it was done in a hurry before picking up our Son from kindergarten and heading out on more adventures, but the ‘cats’ were still good and added to this wonderfully important day in December.
Join in on the fun, I’ll allow you to try them out even though it’s a bit late, but next year it’s the night before the 13th day of December (which means sometimes during the 12th or 13th)
Recipe is as follows:
- 2,5 dl of milk (about a cup)
- 25 grams of fresh yeast
- 75 grams of butter
- 0,5 grams of saffron or 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of cardamom
- 1 egg
- about 6 dl of flour (about 2 cups)
Using saffron: Melt the butter and add the milk. Heat the milk a tad bit to have the colour set properly, but then have a cup of tea while you wait for the mix to cool down. When the mix is cold-ish you add the fresh yeast. If the milk is still warm you’ll kill the poor yeast – and the yeast has done nothing to deserve that! Drink tea, don’t kill!
Using turmeric: Melt the butter and add the milk, mix the two together and take off the heat. Make sure the mix is more cold than lukewarm. Add the turmeric to the dry ingredients.
To continue: Add the fresh yeast to the milk. Then add the sugar (this will spike the yeast) and the rest of the ingredients. Knead for as long as you can bother (or have your Kenwood do it for a few minutes). Leave to rise – when it has doubled in size knead it and create lussecats. Here are some of the shapes. Leave them to rise while the oven heats up to about 210 degress (celcius), then paint with a mixed egg (or only egg whites) and decorate with raisins.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and delicious. Serve with a glass of milk and eat while clad in white and with candles burning in the background.