Eating Norwegian for Eurovision, naturally

Its Eurovision time again. Tonight. In Oslo. Surely you are going to be watching? And you’ll need something to eat whilst the 25 contestants do their stuff followed by the age long voting process. So how to decide what Eurovision dish to have. Well you could rustle up a menu from the cuisine of the country you are supporting, you could just have something random and un-Eurovision related or you could try something from the cuisine of host country Norway.

Some of you might be saying ‘what Norwegian cuisine, isn’t it just herrings and meatballs?’ Apparently not according to Signe Johansen of the blog Scandilicious, and currently working on her first cook book. She’s already ranted on the very topic at the Real food Festival recently and she’s one a number of people championing Nordic cuisine as being seasonal, tasty and good for us too. Another champion of Scandinavian food is Trina Hahnemann, Denmark’s own Delia apparently (wonder how she feels about that!). Trina has had two books published in the UK in the last 18 months and both have plenty of recipes to whet the appetite for a fresh regional cusine that not Mediterranean. Even Jamie Oliver cooks Sweden in his latest book and series.

Regular readers will know that I’ve sampled various Norwegian dishes before, and that I have a particular penchant for the curious thing that is brown cheese (gjetost). But always keen to explore more, particularly if there is cheese on the menu, I jumped at the chance to attend a cooking demo and lunch with Trina being held at Madsen earlier this, especially because it was in association with Jarlsberg cheese.

Its not that Jarlsberg is new to me in fact I’ve been eating it from back in the days when it could only be bought in the food halls of smart department stores (all good department stores used to have rather nice food halls back then). My Dad used to buy it and rather lovely German style rye bread and it quickly became a staple on sandwiches. For whatever reason that’s kind of where it stayed. It never occurred to us to cook with it, and so it has remained in my mind a cheese for pairing with good bread and tomatoes but not one that is cooked with.

Until the lunch spent with Trina. To start off Trina explained a bit about how Jarlsberg is made (the exact recipe is a secret of course!), the process and ageing are like Gruyere and in fact the gentle nutty flavour and texture are very similar. Had I spotted this similarity myself I might have thought of cooking with it sooner. We then moved on to the demo where Trina made a cheese bread and a rye based pizza using Jarlsberg. I can hear the traditionalists howling at the very idea of the latter and Trina was mindful that it was a dish inspired by pizza but made with ingredients more traditional to Scandinavian food. I was a little sceptical, I love rye bread, I love pizza but I wasn’t sure how the two would fare together. Whilst Trina finished off the other elements of our lunch we all went back up to the restaurant where we sampled beers from AERØ. The food started to arrive and Trina came back to join us. We had a huge spread of citrus cured salmon with scrambled egg, Jarlsberg bread, rye pizza with bacon potatoes and Jarlsberg, a kale apple walnut and Jarlsberg salad, crispbreads, huge hunks of Jarlsberg, a variety of AERØ beers, tomato salad, plum compote and… you can imagine we were pretty full by the end. Trina was great company telling anecdotes about cooking in Denmark and also a font of useful information about Scandinavian cuisine.

After coffee we were packed off with giant goodie bags. And in my case a new set ideas for a cheese I’ve been a fan of for many years. For all you doubters the rye pizza was delicious, very hearty and full of flavour and just what you probably need for a long evening in front of the Eurovision.

You can find the recipe here on the Jarlsberg site.

With thanks to Jarlsberg, Trina Hahnemann and Madsen for hosting a great event.

Supermarket safari

I love going away on holiday. I love the different sights and sounds and tastes. And in particular I love the supermarkets. Yes that’s right the supermarkets. Not the food shops or markets but the supermarkets. The specialist food shops and markets are good too but you have to know a modicum of the language in question or be a dab hand at gesticulating to get something close to what you want and I mostly got stuck at “dos cervezas por favor”. So I say bring on the exploration of another nation’s food culture through it supermarkets (or indeed lack of them). They can even act as handy research libraries ahead of a trip to a real food market. After all it really helps to know that salt cod looks a lot like chunks of smashed up concrete….

So without further ado here is a foray around two (yes two) supermarkets in Bergen, Norway.


Look its actually called Safari – brilliant!

First up some potatoes with nice Aztec styling:


Ah look no beers for us today its the wrong time on Saturday afternoon so the beer is all hidden away:



Fiskekaker, fiskeboller, fiskepudding…..fiske pretty much anything. Wonder if its as good as the ones down at the fish market in town……


And erm……fløtepudding (apparently its an extra creamy fish pudding kind of thing)


Oh and some sild, sild and more sild (herrings marinated any which way you choose)


Look lomper (potato cakes) – apparently the wrapper of choice for your hot dog!

And more Roses cordials then you’d ever see in the UK:


Ah, excellent, Lapskaus…..


Right lets try another supermarket (apparently this one is posher than Safari!)


Blimey reindeer stew – tons of the stuff


Oh and a different kind of baller (potato dumplings I think)


Blue cheese (a Norwegian take on gorgonzola I think we can safely assume)


oh and some frozen reindeer meat


and last but not least weird kaviar spread stuff….


Fascinating :)

See how much more you now know about Norwegian food. Always explore the supermarket before making a a fool of yourself in a real shop.

Celebrating: Norwegian style

They’ve got a lot to be happy about in Norway today.

Firstly its national day when they celebrate their declaration as an independent nation in 1814 with parades, parties, flag waving and plenty of food. And to add to the festive atmosphere their Eurovision entry, Alexander Ryback, stormed to victory last night with the highest ever score recorded and over 150 points clear of his nearest rival. Its only the third time Norway have ever won and for many years they were rather more well known for their 1978 ‘nul points’ than anything else.  



So today I think they’ll all be going a little crazy. The flags will have been flying high on every building and there will be much merriment. Norwegians enjoy a good celebration and important events are marked with special dishes and the hoisting of your own flag on your very own flag pole; christenings, weddings, confirmation all have their own rituals but all involve the flying of the flag.  

And I’m going to join them by trying one of their celebratory dishes.


When I was researching my Eurovision inspired Norwegian breakfast I came across a dish called rømmegrøt that I wanted to try, but further investigation told me that its wasn’t a breakfast dish at all but more of a festival one. I think I was thrown by the translation of grøt as porridge.

So what is rømmegrøt? Well having now tried it earlier today I’d say it a kind of sour cream custard rather than porridge in the way we think of oat porridge here in the UK. It’s very rich and quite sweet and then you add cinnamon and sugar, although apparently it’s also traditional to serve it with fenalår (air dried lamb leg – a kind of lamb version of Serrano ham – its lovely though fairly strong flavoured).

Rømmegrøt really is a celebration or treat dish and as well as being served today (17 May, National Day) is served on occasions such as weddings, Christmas and harvest festival. At Christmas some might be left out for the Christmas pixie, a bit like we leave mince pies here, and on farms at harvest it is traditional to leave some out for the ‘nisser’ or house spirits to appease and thank them.  

Here’s the recipe I used, I went for the richest version to get the full on experience, some recipes are thinned down with milk and others use barley flour or semolina (I found at least 10 subtle variations).

Serves 4 (from The Norwegian Kitchen):

1 litre 35% sour cream (I used regular sour cream from the supermarket and that caused a small problem)
¾ cup plain flour
sugar and cinnamon (or fenalår) as garnish

Simmer the sour cream for 15 minutes and then stir in the flour, keep cooking and the butterfat should rise to the surface and you skim this off but keep it. This didn’t happen and I guess the sour cream had too low a fat content (having looked at the label I think its only about 18%). The mixture will go lumpy and so whisk it to get it as smooth as possible. Add a little salt then serve with the reserved fat drizzled over and your choice of garnish (I had to cheat and pour over a little unsalted melted butter but that seemed to work). The book suggests that as this is so rich you might want to use it as a topping for other porridges such as rice porridge.

It was really tasty but so rich we could only eat a little sample. My husband thought it would be great with bananas and fruit or compote would also go well to make a really nice rich dessert dish. We’ve put the leftovers in the fridge to see if its tasty cold as well. I’ll report back.



Eating Eurovision: Norwegian for breakfast

What did you have for breakfast today? Cereal? Toast? Fry up? Nothing?

Whatever you had I know it can’t have been as interesting as my breakfast was. Why’s that? Well I was Eating Eurovision and you, unless you are one of the other very mad food bloggers taking part in this caper (each with our own country to sample), you weren’t. Today for you was probably just a normal day with a normal breakfast. My breakfast may well have been normal for any self respecting Norwegian on any normal Norwegian day but it was an adventure through another culture for me.

So how exactly did I get to be eating Norwegian delicacies in East London on a damp Saturday morning (hey Norwegian style weather to make it more authentic excellent!)?

Um well, via the wonders of the superinternetmotorwaytechiethingy I recently joined a London food bloggers forum and, lo, one of then had come up with the challenge of 25 food bloggers eating the food of the 25 Eurovision finalists within the M25. Sounded like fun so I signed up and duly spent Thursday evening in a meeting room at the BBC watching the second semi final with 20 people I’d never met before…..ah the wonders of the internet bringing people together – a new approach to community. Once the complex voting for the last ten coveted slots was over we each selected (with some fear for which country we would get) a pingpong ball from a bag.

I got RUSSIA. 

And so why have I just been eating Norwegian breakfast? Well poor old Norway hadn’t been picked because we were a few bloggers short – so I gallantly said I’d take it on – I mean they are right up there as one of the favourites to win tonight how could we not sample their cuisine plus it was going to be a great chance to introduce BROWN CHEESE to the rest of the world.

Now I happen to have some Norwegian connections in my family so I’ve eaten Norwegian before and been to the lovely city of Bergen several times. So I sort of knew what I was letting myself in for but I had no idea how easy or not it would be to get my mitts on some Norwegian breakfasty things within the M25 in time to blog about it all today.

First stop was Twitter where the airwaves were buzzing with #eatingeurovision tweets from everyone taking part trying frantically to track down leads for their country. I didn’t get any Norwegian specialists this way but I did get some general Scandinavian pointers. I moved onto the internet proper and that miracle tool that is Google. ‘Norwegian food cooking london’ and other similar phrases threw up a link to the Official Norway site in the UK – here there’s lots of info about all things Norwegian including the upcoming festivities for National Day this Sunday 17 May (which has its own favoured dish I’m going to blog about separately) and some background on Norwegian foods. Rather worryingly it refers to lutefisk simply as a fish dish particular to Norway when in reality it’s a pretty frightening sounding concoction involving cod that has been dried then soaked in lye or caustic soda until it becomes soft and jelly like. Moving swiftly on I find a link to a shop near Oxford circus that sells food goodies from Scandinavia so I decide to pin my hopes on this.

I get to Scandinavian Kitchen just before the lunchtime rush and I’m so excited I forget to take any pictures of anything, dear oh dear. I spot the cheese section fairly quickly and can see they have some of what I’m after so I have a little chat with the guy behind the counter, telling him what I’m up to and asking what else my Norwegian breakfast should involve, he directs me to the flatbread (flatbrød) but also tells me that crispbreads are not very Norwegian and steers me away from a Ryvita type moment. He has to get back to serving so he hands me over to a lovely lady who takes me on a whistle-stop tour of what I need: the cheeses are good, flatbread is good, there should be fresh bread too (they don’t have any specifically Norwegian stuff at the shop so she suggests sourdough but not rye, Norway is not big on rye bread she says and they like their bread less sweet than the Swedes!), liver paste, lamb salami, a Norwegian take on Nutella, fish egg paste (I skip on this option), boiled egg, jam (but she doesn’t have any cloudberry so I skip on getting jam as well). I’m pretty loaded up by now and then along comes a customer she knows well who happens to be Norwegian and so we double check the breakfast options with her and we are bang on track, I just need to drink a big cup of coffee with it and I’ll be having a full on Norwegian breakfast moment. I take my haul to the till, pay up (ouch the prices are high but they are also high in Norway, food is not cheap there) and dash off weighed down with stuff. The friends I’m meeting for lunch are all a bit bemused when I roll up with a huge bag full of Norwegian stuff and clearly think I’ve gone completely mad since they last saw me, ah well, they don’t know what they are missing.

On to this morning and its time for a Norwegian breakfast feast. My husband looks a bit dubious as I start getting all the stuff out and is clearly disappointed that it’s not the bacon and mushroom sandwich option that Saturday usually brings. But he joins in skipping only on the brown cheese.

So what did we have and what was it like? Here’s the spread:

We’ve got (L to R, back row first):

lamb salami (this one is actually Swedish but the shop didn’t have any specifically from Norway and I wanted to give it a go)
Flatbread (take a look inside the box….erm where does the packing stop and the bread begin….)

My nice glossy Norwegian cookbook that my brother gave me
some Ridder cheesesome brown cheese (Gudbrandsdalsost)
Liver paste (isn’t the kid cute)

the chocolatey nutty spread
some Norvegia cheesemore brown cheese (Ekte Geitost) 

And here it is on the plate with my lovely Norwegian pewter cheese slice (essential for cutting slivers of these boingy cheeses):

Was it good? 

Pretty much so. The salami wasn’t as lamby flavoured as I’d expected and it was rather too salty but pretty nice. The flatbread was very dry (you could play the eat 2 creams crackers challenge with it) but that’s part of the point, its dry so it stores well, its not especially interesting or full of flavour and when I told my husband I’d spotted a recipe for soup made with it he looked at me rather oddly; its not inedible just a vehicle for other stuff. The chocolate-y spread was so so sweet I couldn’t have more than a mouthful – I guess you either like that kind of thing or you don’t. The liver paste was really tasty, a smooth liver pate basically, good stuff. The two paler cheeses (Ridder and Norvegia) were fairly mild, a bit like Edam; the Norvegia was a lot like Jarlsberg which you can get easily in supermarkets here; the Ridder was stronger with a slightly earthy flavour and probably better as a lunch or dinner cheese. 


They are both made from goats milk and are very traditional Norwegian cheeses. There are quite a few variations available in Norway in terms of strength and creaminess, sometimes cows and goats milk are used together which generally makes a for a milder cheese. All are made from a mix of milk, cream and whey cooked together until they caramelise which is where the brown colour and surreal sweet flavour comes from. I really love the flavour, its weird but tasty (think savoury fudge!), others think it’s vile (e.g. my husband for one). The Ekte Geitost was stronger and had a drier texture than the Gudbrandsdalsost, which is milder and smoother.

Go on give them a go you know you want to and you can get them at some branches of Waitrose according to the Norwegian Cheeses UK site. Hurrah a constant supply for me ?

And as for tonight well lets hope young Alexander Ryback has been brought up on a good diet of smooth tasty brown cheese – its sure to give him the edge over rivals. Go Norway Go.