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.
I’ve always had a bit of an on-off thing with porridge. I certainly wasn’t a ‘Ready Brek’ kid despite my mum’s best efforts; I stuck firmly with the Weetabix back then.
As I got older I found that porridge was sometimes good but mostly only with a heavy sprinkling of brown sugar and the creamy top of the milk.
And it was a staple on camping weekends with friends, helping stave off the damp and any budding hangover before nipping up a few hills in the Lake District. For the most part though porridge never entered my regular list of breakfasts.
Well eventually I realised that most people make porridge with milk (or part milk, part water) and if there is one thing I don’t like its the smell of warm milk. Cold milk great. Warm milk ugh. In fact anything with warm milk makes my stomach turn slightly (custard, hot chocolate). So doesn’t the creamy top of milk go warm when it hits the porridge? Maybe a little but it stays pretty cold and it doesn’t have that warm milk smell and the porridge itself must have been made with water – so no warm milk odour anywhere. Of course porridge made with water is a bit dull, its okay but its not going to become a favorite without something else added – the sugar, the cream, maybe raisins.
But somewhere deep down I knew I kind of liked porridge, the comforting texture, its warming qualities. So I thought I’d try again but without the milk. What to use instead. Milk substitutes have always seemed a slightly weird idea to me (well except for people who genuinely can’t have milk) but I happened to find something called ‘oat milk’. And here was the first step on the road to a renewed relationship with porridge. Oat milk can only taste of oats, it can’t smell like warm milk, it simply enhances the oatiness on the porridge.
Step two was the lazy persons find – porridge with the fruity bits already added. Just how hard can it be to add raisins, or sultanas, or dried blueberries when cooking up the porridge. It CAN’T be can it? No of course not but when venturing into something new sometimes things need to be a little bit easy or the challenge becomes too great. A small step is often the way to open up a whole new and exciting world. There in the cereal aisle was just what I needed – the small step – porridge oats with fruit already added.
So armed with the right ingredients (and with recent damp and/or cold weather that makes porridge seem like the right option) I have ventured in to a land of porridgey breakfasts. For me about 50g of porridge and 150ml of the oat milk works a treat, simmer for 5-6 minutes and eat – no cream or brown sugar needed. Tasty oaty porridge to start the day. I might even take up hill walking again!