Norwegain Christmas Eve dish

As you know from my previous posts, food is an important part of the Yule traditions in Norway. Christmas eve is the time for the family gathering and holiday dinner. Church bells throughout the land are ringing in Christmas at 5 o’clock and then the great celebration starts. I remember so well that time when I was a child. How we all sat around the coffee table and the children were delirious with anticipation. We had to eat dinner – that was a part of the ritual – but what we really were waiting for was the chance to open the presents. Every year one of our uncles would dress up as Santa Claus and sneak out of the house and come again to the door and deliver presents to all us good boys and girls, and you can believe we were GOOD just then!!
Growing older, I also learned to really enjoy the food too and today I’m going to share a very traditional Norwegian Christmas Eve dish: Pinnekjøtt (rib of lamb). On the net, I’ve found that 56% of the populations eat Ribbe (roosted rib) and 31% eats Pinnekjøtt. As you can see in the picture to the left, the dinner is served. So why don’t you sit in while I tell you a bit about this dish from the start until it’s served:

Soaking in water – The sticks form a rack.

Pinnekjøtt (literally “stick meat”) is actually traditional in the western parts as they have a lot of sheep. I’ve eaten it for the last 20 years though, as I think Ribbe is a bit too fatty. Pinnekjøtt is salted, dried and sometimes smoked lamb’s ribs which then are steamed, over birch branches, and served with potato, mashed rutabaga, beer and aquavit. One debate is if it is called stick meat because of the visual nature of the individual rib bones or from the birch sticks which are made into a steaming rack in the kettle. I’ll go for the last explanation and as you can see in the kettle above, there are sticks (a bit modern nowadays as we don’t cut and whittle them ourselves, but buy them in the grocery). You have to soak the meat in water over night to take out some of the salt and make it tender again.

Bon Appetit

The picture above shows my plate and how I like it. You see the potatoes, Pinnekjøtt, mashed rutabaga and Brussels sprouts (my favourite) and on the lower part of the plate, you find lingon berries. The beer and the aquavit is a must too, of course:-)

Yuletide is full of food traditions in Norway and the Nordic countries, so stay tuned as there will be more culinary posts to come! Until then: I wish you all a Happy Holiday Season:-)

Rakfisk – a traditional Norwegian Yule dish

I have the pleasure of inviting you to one of the most traditional Norwegian dishes: Rakfisk. The first record of the term Rakfisk dates back to 1348, but the history of this food is probably even older. A meal served in the dark winter time around winter solstice (long before the fridge was invented!). This is the kind of food you enjoy together with good friends like we did last weekend when my blog friend TorAa and his wife visited us in Mariestad, Sweden. Let me invite you to sit in before I give more details:

Dinner is served!
All pics taken with my Nokia mobile phone – please click to enlarge!

The word “rak” comes from the word “rakr” in the Norse language, meaning moist or soaked. The word descends from Indo-European “req”, which mean source or drop which is also related to the word rain. Rakfisk is put into a tub and then fluids are formed – it is brined. In the oldest sources, on the other hand, the Rakfisk is mentioned as “brine-cured fish”. Originally the fish was buried or put in underground cellars. The supposition for this conservation method is an even soil temperature at about 4C (39F) and that’s why the tradition is found around the polar circle at the northern hemisphere. We know of raking of salmon, herring and shark in addition to the gwyniad and trout/char that are the most commonly used today. Ours was a trout of course.

A convenient thing is that it does not need cooking since you eat Rakfisk as is. It’s usually served sliced or as a fillet with raw red onion, lefse (a traditional soft Scandinavian flatbread made out of potato, milk or cream and flour, cooked on a griddle), sour cream and almond potatoes. Some also use mustard-sauce, a mild form of mustard with dill. There is different traditions from every part of Norway – and don’t argue with them! – on the table above and in the rest of the pics, you see how we do it:-). Although not an everyday meal, approximately 500 tonnes of Rakfisk are consumed in Norway annually.

My plate – Butter with the cheese slicer.

Again, a good meal is only fulfilled if eaten together with good friends or family. The traditional food in itself invites talk of about good old days, traditions, Christmas time or Yule (click to read my earlier post for more information) and enjoying each others company. In that way TorAa and his wife was a perfect match. Another important accompaniment is what you drink to this dish. It has to be traditional too of course and then we are talking about the Scandinavian distilled beverage; Aquavit and beer. TorAa wanted white wine though (to save his stomach:-) Hi also introduced another great way of using a cheese slicer (cutting butter) as you can see above.

Since we were in Sweden eating and this blog is about culture in the Nordic countries I should mentioned: Rakfisk dish is related to their Surströmming and probably shares its origin in Scandinavian culture. I’m sure some of my Swedish readers can comment on this!

This is post two of a trilogy about TorAa and his wife visiting us in our vacation home in Sweden this weekend. The last one will be about the hilarious time we had Saturday when our wives went shopping. So stay tuned!

Brussels, Belgium – another culinary sensation

Thanks for all your comments on my last post from Brussels and especially those of you who could add some more information about the places I was visiting. A good example of how educating blogging is and how much comments can be enriching. I promised to tell you about the dinner we had on Saturday and since the last one was so long, I will make it short and sweet this time.

We where staying at Jolly Hotel du Grand Sablon, so it was just a nice five minutes walk to the restaurant (actually quite close to Grand Place too):

The restaurant – visit their website!
All pics taken with my Nokia mobile phone – click to enlarge!

On their own webpage they say: Les Brigittines “Aux Marches de la Chapelle” offer you a pleasant Art-Nouveau setting with restful, dark-green walls and wood panelling. The original paintings, clever lighting, elegant Art-Nouveau objects and, in particular, the magnificent wooden bar ensure a nostalgic conviviality that in winter becomes even more agreeable when the fire is lit in the big open fireplace.

The menu:

Crémant d’Alsace – a lovely start and appropriately dry I think, just to wake up your appetite:-)

As a starter:
Chicken Soufflé, butter sauce with chives. We had Mãcon Villages – Joseph Drouhin and this white wine tasted perfect to the chicken.

The main dish:
Fillet of lamb with tarragon, market vegetables. We had Cõtes du Rhõne – Paralelle 45 Paul Jaboulet and this red whine tasted lovely to the lamb with a rich and very flavour taste.

For dessert:
Ice nougat, very sweet and tasty and I had coffee avec with it – a habit of mine:-)

This was of course tasty and very delicious. What made it an even more perfect evening to me was to share this with my friends within CEPIS – Council of European Professional Informatics Society. We were about 30 people all together and from all over Europe. At my table there were representatives from Finland, Poland, Slovakia and Hungry. We talked about the food and the wine of course, but also about culture and traditions of our countries as well as the history and the development of Europe. For sure our part of the world has opened up after the fall of the Iron Curtain. It was very interesting to listen to their experience and observations before and after the fall. So I learned a lot from my European friends that evening as the atmosphere around the table was very enlightened and like a consciences sensation. That is an important part of a culinary sensation too I think. Dinning is not all only about food – its about socialising too, you know:-)

This was the same society fellows I was with in Sofia, Bulgaria six month ago. Click here if you like to see a Bulgarian culinary sensation from that stay!

A Norwegian fall dish: Lamb in cabbage

Let’s face it: After a wonderful, warm summer, the day’s gets shorter and the temperature falls. Another season has started and I don’t regret since I love the significant four seasons in the Nordic countries. A milestone was the 23rd when day and night were equally long and it’s called the Equinox. When I was young, I already was looking forward to Christmas, but now I’ve learned to enjoy every day of the change in nature and rather slowly build up the anticipation.

Another milestone is to have the Norwegian national dish: “Fårikål”, or Lamb in cabbage if you wish. Fårikål actually means “sheep in cabbage”. “Får” is however not the usual Norwegian word for lamb or sheep, but the Danish word for sheep. The Norwegian word for the animal is “sau”. “Får” is only used in the names of a few dishes and in some figures of speech, like “sort får” (black sheep). Let me serve you the dish and then give you my experience and the recipe:

Dinner is served – click if you like a bigger plate!

I’ve been eating it since I had my first tooth and every time at fall it gives me a lovely trip down memory line. Shorts and t-shirts were changed to jeans and sweaters, farmers were finished with the harvest and the boring old school days were back in their regular routine. I was a bit tired of playing football and was just waiting for the snow and ice to go skiing and skating. Something was brightening up the season though, especially the last weekend of September. We had Fårikål for Sunday dinner. The house was filled with the lovely smell from noon till dinner time, and the atmosphere was filled with anticipation. There was no way mom could surprise us and it was a part of my childhood highlights. Even my father contributed in the kitchen as he pealed the potatoes. Nothing was like an ordinary day:-)

This year we where one weekend late though, but anyway:-) Let me tell you how easy it’s done. I mean even I can make Fårikål, but then again I’m not only a man, I’m a Norwegian you know:-)

You just cut the cabbage into pieces and layer lamb and cabbage on top of each other with some whole black pepper in between. Some sew a sack to hold the pepper, but that’s cheating. One of the charming thing about eating Fårikål, is to pick the pepper out of your dish and if you don’t get all of them: well you have an extra sharp taste:-)

Two hours more and it will be perfect:-)

It should be slowly cooked for at least 4 hours on low heat. The longer it cooks the better as the cabbage gets tenderer and of course the lamb picks up the flavour from the newly harvested cabbage and vice versa. I start with just a cup of water in the beginning but after a while I pour little cold water mixed with flour to make the natural sauce. As you can see from the first picture – all taken with my Nokia mobile phone anyway – I like lingonberries with it, but that is of course optional.

And you might think the story ends here. But no; the dish tastes even better the second day! Then the best piece of meat might be taken, but my creative mom added some sausages for a full dinner day two. Sausages is not my number one favortie, but everything goes in Fårikål you know:-)

The day after and even better!

So by this I declare fall has really begun at RennyBA’s Terella. Stay tuned, because I love this season too and will very much like to share some of it with you in the coming month!

White, white snow of Home

“The old home town looks the same, as I step down from the train, and there to meet me is my mama and my papa. Down the road I look, and there comes Mary, hair of gold and lips like cherries. It’s good to touch the white, white snow of home….”

Inspired of the Johnny Cash lyrics I will tell you about my trip this weekend to visit my family in Porsgrunn, 150 Km south of Oslo. Earlier I have told you a lot about my childhood and how much I love the old town in winter time. We have more snow than we’ve had for decades, so the town looked literally just the same as in the good old days.

In the picture you see the small suburb where I grew up. No wonder I am used to coping with the snow and the wild nature. I’ve climbed that hill many times and also hanged out on the branches of the trees on the top often as a child. When I saw this scenery again, I realised why my mother worried about me all the time! That was my world back then, my challenges and my way of experiencing life, and right now I am very grateful for the person this has made me into. I was feeling free like a bird as I climbed the hills and the trees, or skating on the little lake or even more; when I was cross country skiing or ski jumping. Other than the wild nature, the surrounding was safe and sound. Everyone knew everyone. If we where hungry or needed a band aid for a scraped knee, we just had to visit the nearest house to get comport and help.

I didn’t go by train, but by car though, and I just had to capture some of the winter landscape on my way as you can see. It was a relaxing trip as I felt the stress and daily pressure lifted off my shoulders as I got closer and closer to the destination to meet my kin. Through this I also am able to share more of my winter wonder land and hope you find it nice too!

The occasion for my trip home was a yearly family gathering when we eat the old traditional dish of rakfisk or “fermented fish”. That is one of the most Norwegian foods I can ever think of. Its roots come from the days before refrigeration, when fresh fish needed to be preserved for months ahead. Either you love rakfisk or you hate it, and I can tell you my mouth is watering just by thinking of it. Some of the most important part of the dinner is the Norwegian liquor: “aquavit” and beer to drink with it :-) I’ve linked some more information about this delicacy from Oslo foodie at the bottom of this post.

Here you see the garnitures and how it looks on the service dish. I wander if Crocodile Dundee would have said: “it taste like shit, but you can live on it”? LOL!

You eat a lot both because it tastes good and also since the company are so good and the atmosphere is so delightful. Here you see my sister and me and how we cope with wanting more and more and more. Be aware of that all the pics are taken with my Nokia Mobile phone and please click to enlarge.

More information about my home town Porsgrunn and details about rakfisk at Oslo foodie.