My trip to Norway in August 2015 was my first for nearly ten years and I was desperate to eat all the things I’d been missing. Fortunately, my auntie Gro, having fed me over many summer holidays, knows exactly what I like to eat.
Breakfast is always a good spread in Norway, It usually entails open sandwiches made with various kinds of sliced bread. Brød is the generic word for bread in Norwegian but it’s usually applied to brown bread, whereas white bread is called Loff.
Typically there’ll be a choice of ten to twenty things to put on your bread such as cheeses like the Brunost I mentioned in my last post. The most commonly available types of brunost are Gudbrandsdalsost, made with a mix of cow and goat milk, and Geitost, which is made with goat’s cheese only.
On this visit I was very lucky to be given (thanks Aud Christina!) a very rare variety of geitost called Undredal Ost. It’s made using traditional methods that are in danger of disappearing, so much so that it has featured on Radio 4’s Ark of Taste programme.
Another popular cheese is Nøkkelost which is a white cheese with cloves and cumin seeds.
As a child my favourite open sandwich was buttered (low salt Lurpak) brown multi grain brød with sliced tomatoes with Norwegian mayo and chopped spring onion. Bliss! I also love smoked or cured salmon (Røkt Laks or Gravelaks) with scrambled eggs. Another favourite is Kaviar (spreadable cod roe in a tube) paired with thinly sliced hard boiled egg. And of course strong coffee, cereals and various types of yogurt and milk.
On our first night staying at the summer house, Gro laid on a huge feast of Norwegian prawns, one of my favourite things in life and something you really must try if you ever go to Norway.
Many aficionados believe that seafood from colder waters has more flavour, which means that the North Atlantic Pink Shrimp (which we mistakenly call a prawn) must be one of the best, if not the best, in the world!
One of my first food memories, I was perhaps five or six years old at the time, is of my grandmother taking me down to the prawn trawler in the harbour and buying a bag of fresh prawns straight from the boat. It was a food epiphany for me, one of the first moments I began to properly appreciate flavour, and I have loved prawns and shrimp ever since.
Typically Norwegians eat prawns on slices of French stick, spread with unsalted butter and topped with mayonnaise. Sheer decadent pleasure.
My auntie soon followed this with another favourite meal; Frankfurter sausages, which are known in Norway as Pølser. These processed pork sausages are THE fast food of choice in Norway and have been since they were introduced from Denmark in the 1950s.
You can buy them just about anywhere, particularly from petrol stations, and they’ll be wheeled out at any excuse, for special occasions such as kid’s birthdays, or at football matches, or just as a snack between meals. I love them and will even go to Ikea just to eat the Swedish version, which isn’t as good obviously.
The speediest preparation is to simmer them, as is the case here, but perhaps the tastiest way is to grill them on a barbecue. You can put them in a sliced hot dog bun or more traditionally in a Lompe; a floppy flour pancake like a tortilla.
Most people will then just squirt on a bit of ketchup and mild mustard but other popular condiments (such as those in the picture above), are dried fried or fresh red onions or Rekesalat, aka prawn salad, the commercial version of which is just prawn, egg and mayo, although other versions exist.
Another joy best experienced in Norway is fried mackerel. One morning my brother went out fishing with my cousin and they caught about fifty! We were eating them for days but it wasn’t a problem.
On the evening they were caught, our Auntie Eva and Uncle Svein invited us round for tea and fried up a huge plateful of them with butter and parsley. We just couldn’t stop eating they were so good.
They were served with lovely floury new potatoes from their garden which were tossed in butter and dill, a very traditional preparation.
For dessert there was a huge bowl of strawberries from Eva’s garden. Typically these are sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice. Heaven!
Another popular dessert is Pannekaker med Blåbærsyltetøy og Rømme (pancakes with blueberry jam and sour cream).
Blueberries grow everywhere in Norway and I like to pick my own and just put them in the batter, as with this recipe.
It’s hard to get dark chocolate in Norway, usually my first choice, but I’m also very partial to a brand called Firkløver (four leaf clover). It’s a milk chocolate mixed with hazlenuts; a dangerously addictive combination!
The craft beer revolution has reached Norway as well. The Hvaler islands now have their own micro brewery called Kofoedbryggeriet.
The beer seems pretty popular with everyone.
The national firewater is called Aquavit (from Latin ‘Aqua Vitae’) and is typically drunk with seafood, and on special occasions such as Christmas. It’s usually flavoured with caraway or dill. The unflavoured variety is known as Brennevin (liquor) or Hjemmebrent (moonshine) if it is made at home. The latter was the cause of many a hangover in my youth!
The best stuff (pictured below) is called Linje Aquavit, so-called because it has been put in oak barrels on a ship to Australia and has crossed the equator (linje) twice. The action of the waves, constant humidity and the changes in temperature are said to speed up its maturation. This practice continues to this day.
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.
This is just a small selection of good things to eat and drink in Norway, I’ll add more to this post more in the future!