Norway – Søndre Sandøy – some memorable meals at the Olsens

One morning, Svein’s and Eva’s daughter Laila came to pick Dan and I up on her vintage 1950s tractor. It’s one of the few vehicles allowed on the roads on the island, so she’d just come back from chauffeuring a bride and groom to and from their wedding on the trailer she was pulling!

She whisked us off down to Nedgården…

… to where her boat was tied up…

…to take us on a fishing trip. As you can see from this video Laila doesn’t hang about when it comes to getting around.

When we were kids, you could catch all kinds of fish, particularly young cod and plaice. Now the most common fish is mackerel, which like its relative tuna, is a surface fish, requiring the lines to be dragged behind the boat to get their attention. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not. On our two trips in 2015 and 2018, we caught 2 and 0 respectively. But then Dan and Laila went out again in 2018 and caught 50 mackerel in a couple of hours. But then again, back in the late 70s, my cousin Geir and my grandad Christian and I caught 246 assorted fish in about 4 hours! So times have changed…

I’m quite happy eating mackerel for several days in a row. The first time though, it has to be dusted in seasoned flour and fried in butter, and served with good new potatoes tossed in dill, as Eva served some of those 50 to us.

We are blessed to know Svein and Eva, they have been so kind and hospitable to us over the years. The mackerel is not the only fantastic meal we have eaten outside in their garden. Once we had some of the best lamb I’ve ever tasted in my life, reared on salt grass on one of the smaller islands, and grilled over charcoal by Svein outside in their garden.

Another time some Skrei, prime cod caught in its breeding season, which Svein had traded from some guy in northern Norway, such is his reach. Once for dessert, some incredible strawberries and another time, the classic Norwegian dessert Tilslørte Bondepiker (veiled peasant girls) made with layers of mashed apples, biscuit crumbs and whipped cream and served with an exquisite Norwegian silver spoon.

And to finish, some strong coffee made over the fire and a glass of good Norwegian French brandy. The Norwegians are of course great sailors and boozers and, like the British, they have sought out quality alcohols around the world. For example, when I visited Oporto I went to Krohn, a Norwegian port house that has been shipping sweet wine since 1865. It was no surprise to me then that there is a Norwegian company, Haldenkanalen Cognac, sourcing good quality VSOP cognac, a bottle of which Svein was kind enough to share with us.

The garden is their pride and joy, both for flowers and food, and in fact they won a national prize for it in 2016. Here’s the TV program that was made to showcase them and their garden. All the fruit and veg we ate in these meals, the potatoes, apples, strawberries and the five salads served with the lamb above, had all been grown just a few metres away from where we were sitting, and harvested the day they were eaten. You can imagine how incredible the flavours were.

So thank you to Svein and Eva for your fantastic hospitality and to all the Olsen family for looking after us over the years. Our visits wouldn’t have been the same without you x.

Off to visit the family in Oslo next…

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