Archive for the Norway Category

Norway – Hvaler – Herføl

Posted in Herføl, Hvaler, Norway with tags on January 11, 2017 by gannet39

Herføl is another small island in the Hvaler archipelago, just to the south-west of Søndre Sandøy. Historically it marks the south-eastern limit of Norway’s border with Sweden.

It’s also home to the Ytre Hvaler National Park, most of which is in the sea and contains kelp forests and a cold-water coral reef, but it also takes in part of the island.

It’s a great place to go for a walk so one day we hopped on the ferry for the short trip over the fjord to Herføl marina.

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A few people live on the island in pretty tradtional houses.

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This is the cover of a well which is quite typical in Hvaler.

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First stop was another Bronze Age cairn which interestingly was directly opposite the one we went to on Søndre Sandøy. Perhaps they could signal to each other from these high points.

It must have taken a lot of people a lot of time to pile all these stones up on the top of the hill.

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We picked some wild Juniper berries here to garnish our G&Ts back home!

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From here we walked to the southern tip of the island which is the national park area. The coastal landscape is stunning.

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There are Trollgryter (pot holes) everywhere here.

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Wild flowers and plants abound.

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It’s quite a rugged landscape to walk over but very beautiful in its own special way.

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We walked up to the warning beacon to get the view.

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Here’s a video of the panorama at the top. We are literally standing on and looking over the south-east corner of Norway.

This was definitely a day trip to remember. The cobwebs were well and truly blown out!

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This is my last post on Norway for this trip, off to NYC next!

Norway – Food & Drink – The Good Stuff!

Posted in Norway on January 10, 2017 by gannet39

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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They were served with lovely floury new potatoes from their garden which were tossed in butter and dill, a very traditional preparation.

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For dessert there was a huge bowl of strawberries from Eva’s garden. Typically these are sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice. Heaven!

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Another popular dessert is Pannekaker med Blåbærsyltetøy og Rømme (pancakes with blueberry jam and sour cream).

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Blueberries grow everywhere in Norway and I like to pick my own and just put them in the batter, as with this recipe.

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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!

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The craft beer revolution has reached Norway as well. The Hvaler islands now have their own micro brewery called Kofoedbryggeriet.

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The beer seems pretty popular with everyone.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Norway – Hvaler – Søndre Sandøy

Posted in Hvaler, Norway, Søndre Sandøy on January 9, 2017 by gannet39

After ten days of hard partying in Croatia I was ready for a couple of weeks of relaxing holiday in Norway. My brother and I are half Norwegian on my mother’s side and we both spent many summers here when we were growing up.

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Our family has a summer house on Søndre Sandøy (Southern Sand Island) a small, beautiful and very quiet island that is part of the Hvaler archipelago in the Oslo Fjord in the south of Norway. Google map here.

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It’s an idyllic spot; a log cabin surrounded by real natural pine forest, bursting with berries, mushrooms and many kinds of wildlife including foxes, squirrels and birds that will eat out of your hand. If you’re lucky you might see wild deer or elk that become stranded on the island over the Winter.

Forest

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Ant hills, always a sign of a healthy forest, are everywhere.

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No surprise that wood is the fuel of choice in people’s houses here.

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Very few cars are allowed on the island and to get there you have to catch the small ferry that runs from Skjaerhalden on the mainland out to Hvaler.

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There are no shops on Søndre Sandøy so we have to take all our supplies with us which is quite an operation.

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We get off the ferry at Nedgården which is one of two ferry stops on Søndre Sandøy. Usually we’d load everything onto a wheelbarrow here for the twenty-minute walk to the summerhouse.

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On this occasion though we were fortunate to bump into Svein; the husband of my mum and auntie Gro’s cousin Eva. As one of the fifty or so permanent residents on the island he’s one of the very few people who are allowed to use motorised transport and he kindly gave us a lift in his van with all our bags and boxes.

Once we’d stowed all the provisions, we could finally get into relaxation mode. There’s very little to do on the island other than reading, cooking, swimming and walking, but that’s completely fine by me.

There are a few small beaches, the nicest being Stuevika about thirty minutes walk on the other side of the island. There’s a campsite here should you want to come and stay.

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The water is warm enough to swim as its heated by the gulf stream from Mexico in the summer months. Pepsi the elkhound is always up for a paddle.

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Just along the shoreline from Stuevika is a diving spot that I used to come to in my youth. The views across the fjord are fantastic from here. In this photo the coastline opposite us is Sweden.

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On another day we went for a nature walk with Svein and Eva’s family.

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Wildflowers are everywhere.

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Svein’s children are my second cousins and we spent a lot of time together in the summer holidays when I was growing up. Our cousin Monika works in conservation and she knows the island and its nature like the back of her hand.

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The whole of Norway was glaciated during the Ice Age and a few features can still be seen from this time. In this picture Svein is standing in a cylindrical pot hole called a Trollgryte (troll pot) that was bored out over time by melting water and rotating gravel and stones from the bottom of the glacier. This is a big one, they are usually much smaller.

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We were also shown a couple of archaeological sites on the island that we had never known about. First the ancient walls of temporary shelters for viking fisherman who would come to catch and dry fish in the summer months.

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There’s also a Bronze Age cairn; a pile of rocks on a high outcrop of rock overlooking the fjord. No one is sure whether it was a burial or whether it was meant to demonstrate ownership of the island.

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Either way it’s a good spot to stop for a picnic.

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The sandwich topping of choice in Norway brunost, a brown goat’s cheese that has a sweet caramel flavour (you can get it in Waitrose now if you want to try it). Brunost is a quintessential Scandinavian foodstuff that you can find in every family fridge. Typically the cheese is eaten on knekkebrød (crispbread ie Ryvita) but we had it on some nice crusty homemade bread. In this photo it’s paired with strawberry jam, Don’t knock it till you try it!20150723_144624

Something else that can’t be beat is fresh honey, still in the comb. You can eat the wax, just spread it with the honey.

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We also found some wild strawberries along the way. As kids we’d thread these on long stalks of grass, along with blueberries and cranberries, and pull the stalks through our mouths so we got a gobfull of berries all at once!

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More about food in the next post. Ta ta for now…

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