I’m on holiday, so no recipe tests. Instead I’m going to give you lucky readers one long post about the adventures, food or otherwise, that come my way whilst out in beautiful Scandinavia.
Out in Norway for a few days staying in a lovely place called Stavanger. It’s the centre of the Norwegian oil industry and it’s beautiful. Whilst enjoying one of the local bars, Bev’s (The Beverly Hills Bar), last night I had some beautiful charcuterie; lamb, beef and pork slices, and of course there was salmon on the side. The accompaniments were your general fayre; soured cream, wholegrain mustard, etc… but then I came across what could only be described as ‘heaven in pink’. It was a delicious concoction of mayonnaise, beetroot and a very subtle fishy flavour. I’m going to try and pick some up in a local supermarket and find out exactly what it’s made of…
For all you drinkers out there the beer is Tau, a local brew that was originally first brewed in 1855. It’s a typical continental lager and quite quaffable but when the landlord started offering around their ‘grog’ I just had to switch. It’s a traditional Norwegian Christmas drink which is very similar to mulled wine. The difference here was what the landlord, Oivind, liked to add a Caribbean twist by simply filling a 3rd of your glass with Morgan’s Spiced rum before filling it up with the hot ‘grog’. Again, delicious!
So that was my first night and it wasn’t a late one so when we returned I knocked up a batch of my corned beef hash with rice which went down very well – of course!
The reason for being out here is to have a ‘Christmas before Christmas’ with some family we have working and living over here. Today, therefore, is Christmas Day and I’m not cooking so we’re off for a walk and then its back for a giant pork roast, can’t wait!
Quick one, picture this: You’re out in Norway, you’ve forgotten your Ginger Nut biscuits and you just can’t do without, what do you do? You get hold of some Pepperkaker! They’re like Ginger Nuts but they’re easier to eat and have a lovely, subtle, peppery note to them, I’m converted.
Well that was lovely, we walked about 3 miles, 2 of them around a lake in the town. Crisp and cold but clean, it really was enjoyable. Here’s a couple of pictures of the lake…
…you can see the birds stood on the frozen ice.
The thing that became apparent is just how much more ‘outdoorsy’ the Norwegians are. There were families playing ball in their parkas and winter clothes, kids running around the playgrounds and people just having a good time. There is a saying here, “There is never bad weather in Stavanger, only poor choices of clothing”. I think that’s brilliant, don’t moan about it just get on with it.
There was one other thing we saw, very odd this. It’s essentially a tree where kids hang up their dummies and baby bottles. It’s almost a way for the kids to say “I don’t need this any more”, I think it’s brilliant.
With it being Christmas time (or jul as it is known in Norway) there are a number of julenisser knocking about which are basically different little Santas. These were just in someone’s window as we walked past. Now it’s time for Christmas dinner and I’m sure you know what that means – I’ll be back tomorrow…
So dinner yesterday was great, roast pork dinner with all the trimmings – spot on – followed by Christmas cake which, although not my favourite thing in the world, was moist and not over spiced with a lovely marzipan and fondant icing lid, well done Auntie!
I can’t talk about ‘out of the ordinary’ food all the time on this trip; today we had a fried breakfast, then we ate out and had fish and chips at lunch whilst doing a spot of shopping. The thing I will say is that instead of tartar sauce we were given a remoulade which I’ve never had before. I will be making my own when I get back home though. Seems weird that my two favourite foods while I’ve been here have both been dips…
The thing I can say is that all the food we have here just seems so fresh compared to our English counterparts. I know there was an animal welfare law passed here in 2010 (which I know very little about) and I can tell you that Norwegian bacon is some of the best I’ve tasted and the eggs are easily the equivalent of the organic eggs I buy at home in the UK.
We’re off to the pub now – it’s Christmas after all!!!
I tell you what, you’re greeted with quite a lovely site when you head down to the harbour in Stavanger; the combined Christmas lights of Bev’s Bar and the Sports Cafe are just brilliant – and far too bright for my camera phone to do justice to. We didn’t stay long but the DJ was kind enough to play a Stone Roses classic for me and the landlord even went to the shop to buy me some of the beetroot sauce I’ve been banging on about since I got here.
There are two kinds that he brought me, one called rødbetsalat (beetroot salad) and the other called sildesalat (herring salad) which obviously has quite a fishy flavour through it. The main ingredients of the rødbetsalat are beetroot, vegetable oil, rapeseed oil, water, cucumber and onion. The sildesalat is the same with herring and potato added. I will most certainly be trying my own versions before too long as they are both delicious.
Another local favourite, which if I’m honest I’m not too sure about, is brunost (brown cheese) which, according to Wikipedia, is popular across Scandanavia and is made by boiling a mixture of milk, cream and whey carefully for several hours so that the water evaporates. The heat turns the milk sugar into caramel which gives the cheese its characteristic taste. It’s eaten on bread or toast (or on its own) and is supposed to be lovely with jam but as I say I’m not convinced and I think after my first taste experience I’m going to give it a wide berth for a while.
When we returned we got stuck into the ‘Christmas before Christmas’ dinner leftovers and I was introduced to Tau’s juleøl (Christmas beer). I also discovered that the Ringnes brewery took over Tau some years ago but they kept the brand name. It’s not my favourite tipple, it’s quite Belgian-y and I’m not a fan of those beers. I find them too heavy for my taste so I only had one and it was off to get some kip for the next day’s adventures.
The next day’s adventures aren’t happening for me, I’ve woken up with a terrible cold and my whole body aches so Wife and Father-In-Law are going out to enjoy themselves and leaving me here to recuperate. We go home tomorrow so I really want to feel better by tonight – we’ll just have to see…
Amazingly I’m feeling just about well enough to go to the pub for dinner, the weather however is doing it’s best to stop us, check this out. It took about an hour to lay this down, on wet ground too – crikey!
We made it there and we made it back and what a great time we had. It was the last night here so seeing Stavanger in the snow was wonderful and everything else, well let me tell you.
We met Oivind in Bev’s and had a couple of drinks before we headed next door to Sjøhuset Skagen, a beautiful restaurant housed in what was a warehouse for many years built in the early seventeen hundreds. In 1970 it was turned into the restaurant and it’s use of space with little nooks and crannies over 8 floors is really unique. It still seems to have the smell of the days when it was stocked with fish for the local traders.
As it’s Christmas time there is a lot of traditional food on the menu but our host decided we should try the moose. Avoiding starters we got stuck into a bottle of Ratzenburger Reisling which was as good as you would expect. When the main meal arrived it was accompanied by a bottle of Valpolicella and, I kid you not when I say this, moose cooked like this was easily the best game meat I have ever eaten (it was so nice I forgot to take a picture before diving right in, the picture you can see is the best we could do with half a portion – apologies to the chef). Succulent and meaty with a hint of that irony after taste, it was perfect with some al dente diced root vegetables mixed with maple syrup, bacon, boiled new potatoes, mountain cranberries and a game sauce. To be honest, I don’t think I have the skill to produce this level of cooking and so we were very happy to be served it – isn’t that what dining out should really be about?
After a couple of G&Ts the cheese board arrived. Quite a simple affair with a bit of brie and a bit of cambozola and crackers. However, the addition of a small bowl filled with walnut pieces drowned in maple syrup was superb. Apart from taking the edge off the cambozola (I’m not a huge blue cheese fan) it was just lovely on its own and created a real talking point. Wife at this point decided to go for a sorbet and opted for the pear. It came with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and I promise you if it hadn’t been for the cold it would have passed as a poached pear in chocolate sauce. I cannot recommend this restaurant enough, the service was outstanding, the menu delicious and the decor so interesting that even after 2 hours in the same seat I was noticing new things around the place.
That’s probably that for this trip (unless there’s something amazing at Stavanger or Heathrow airports tomorrow) and it’s been outstanding. If you have the time, the money and the warm clothes, get over to Stavanger at Christmas. Seek out Bev’s bar on the harbour and just ask for some great advice on where to eat and what to do. If you’re really lucky Oivind might be there. Wife and I can’t thank him enough for his hospitality, what a guy, we’re so glad Father-In-Law has known him for over 20 years as he really is the perfect host.