Location: Northwestern Europe, in Scandinavia
Population: 5.3 million
Geography: A long, mountainous, northern nation with a very rugged coastline
Language: Norwegian, Sami
Signature flavours: Seafood (especially smoked fish), dill, potato, dairy, lamb or mutton, rye bread, berries
Eric and I travelled in Norway this past winter, and we loved it. Oslo was so walkable and full of interesting parks, museums, and squares; the countryside was a Christmas card; and the northern lights were hauntingly beautiful. I personally enjoyed many a smoked salmon sandwich, but Eric, who doesn’t like smoked fish too much, stuck to lamb. One of the highlights of the trip was a breakfast buffet, during which I heaped my plate with smoked salmon and herring. Eric was a bit concerned when he first got this assignment that all he would find were smoked fish recipes. Indeed, the very first recipe he came across was for a smoked salmon and celery sandwich.
“Wow,” he said. “I really don’t want to eat that.” (He hates celery even more than he dislikes smoked salmon.)
Luckily, he found there was more on offer than just smoked fish, and built a fantastic menu that showcased the flavours of Norway wonderfully.
Fjellbrød: A dense rye seed bread, with pumpkin, flax, and sunflower seeds.
Prep and cooking time: 2 hours
Gjetost: A semi-soft caramel-coloured goat’s cheese with a light sweetness.
Prep and cooking time: 3 hours
Agurksalat: A refreshing cucumber, onion, parsley, and dill salad.
Prep and cooking time: 70 min, including marinating time
Trekkspill Poteter: Accordion-cut baked potatoes, drizzled with butter and seasoned with paprika and savoury.
Prep and cooking time: 75 min
Fried Fish with Almonds and Capers: Flaky, pan-fried haddock, topped with shaved almonds, lemon zest, and capers, and served with sour cream.
Prep and cooking time: 20 min
The Shopping List
Goat milk and whey for the gjetost, as well as Icelandic haddock, were found at St Lawrence Market. Everything else came from either Bulk Barn or our local supermarket.
In the centre of the dinner table, Eric had placed his beautiful seed bread, looking like something out of a Norwegian bakery. We are both getting more comfortable with bread-baking, and he found the recipe very easy to follow, and was very impressed with the result. The bread has a mildly sweet, nutty flavour, and we topped it with slices of the gjetost cheese.
The cheese was a time-consuming effort, but most of the labour just involved stirring the boiling milk and whey, and skimming off the curd. Once reduced to a thick liquid, the cheese is rapidly cooled and shaped, before being chilled for a couple of hours. The cheese has a bit of a caramel-y quality, with a subtle sweetness and creaminess.
The agurksalat was another cucumber salad for the Wooden Spoon Wanderer archives — this time featuring dill in a starring role. It was a crunchy, juicy delight.
“Trekkspill” means “accordion,” which is just what the baked potatoes looked like, thinly sliced along the potato, not quite through to the bottom. They were soft and buttery, peeling apart slice by slice.
The fish was a really nice surprise for Eric, who doesn’t love capers. (This post is making Eric seem like a picky eater, which couldn’t be farther from the truth — if anything, I’m the picky one!) The whitefish was melt-in-your-mouth flaky, and the topping of almonds and capers, just added to the delicate tastiness of this dish.
If you’ve ever seen a room with a Scandinavian design, you’ll have seen the way a neutral palette is set off with little pops of colour. I see Norwegian cooking this way, with subtle flavours set off by stronger ones. For me, this makes me think more about what I’m eating, and to consider the flavours of each ingredient more carefully.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.