Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cheese puffs and soup of Jerusalem artichoke

Here is a dinner I cooked the other night for someone who I felt deserved something good. Sometimes a set of events, or ingredients, accidentally converge into something extraordinary. Here it starts with Saturday shopping, accidentally stumbling over a box of nice looking Jerusalem artichokes. My grandmother always used to make artichoke soup, and the recipe below tries to be as faithful to her recipe as possible, straight from memory. Another coincidence was when I a few days later stumbled over a blog post about Pate a Choux, on Michael Ruhlmans blog. Long time no see, I thought, as the evenings menu was taking form. But the starter and dessert were still absent. I knew I had some celery that needed to be used pretty soon, and so did the cucumber. Add a Grammy Smith apple and some leftover aïoli, and the rest came pretty much by itself: The Incomplete Waldorf salad. When thinking of dessert, three ingredients accidentally converged; I had an opened box of mascarpone cheese, some eggs that wanted to be used and incidentally, a box of Lady's Fingers taking up cupboard space. Enter a bottle of Marsala wine, and the stage was set for Lorenza di Medici's heavenly tiramisu cake. I'll write about it in a later post, it's too elaborate for this already long post. Need I say it was a beautiful evening?

Chees puffs
2 dl wheat flour
2 dl water
100 g butter
2-3 eggs
1 block Chevré , rind removed
salt to season
Grated Parmesan cheese to top

This recipe is based on a normal Pate a Choux.
Put the butter in the water and bring to a boil. Add the cheese, cut into small pieces. Toss in all the wheat flour and mix like mad. Keep on low  heat for 5 min,  and dry the dough. Take of the heat and mix in the eggs one by one, until a suitably smooth thick batter has formed. Pipe small piles onto a baking sheet, top with the Parmesan chees. Bake initially at 200 C for 5 min, lower the temperature to 170 and bake until golden, approximately 20 min.

Soup of Jerusalem artichoke
500 g Jerusalem artichoke, peeled and cleaned
1 big yellow oninon
2-4 cloves of garlic
100 g butter
1 can white asparagus
2-3 dl milk
salt to season

Heat the butter in a casserole, add the chopped onion and saute until transparent. Add the cubed artichoke and the garlic, and saute for a little while. Pour in the liquid from the asparagus and top with water. Let the soup boil slowly under a lid for 15-20 min, until the artichoke is quite tender. Liquidize the soup and strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Dilute the soup with milk until it has a nice, smooth consistency. Season with salt and bring back to a boil. Add the chopped asparagus, and serve.

Incomplete Waldorf
1 apple
2-3 sticks of celery
1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded
toasted pine kernels

2 -3 tbs mayonnaise
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsb Dijon mustard
black pepper

To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients well and adjust the ratios until it's good.
Cut the apple, the celery and the cucumber into roughly equal sized smallish cubes, and cover well with the sauce. Sprinkle with the pine kernels.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A tongue in cheek dinner

"You go on ahead, I'll follow on foot".

When I got hold of my copy of Fergus Henderson's "Nose to Tail Eating", I immediately got fascinated by all the recipes involving pig's head. I decided that this was something spectacular that just had to be tried, so off I went to the butcher's in high hopes of getting some head. I didn't. Head is not something you just get, not in these parts of the world anyway. It is something you wait and yearn for. And then suddenly one day, if your butcher is kind, you get the head you have been anticipating for weeks.
The head I got was frozen, it was split in two, weighed almost 5 kg and cost me some 200 kr. I thought it was expensive, because I thought it was mostly bone. I was wrong twice. To my great dismay, the ears had been cut off and the tongue removed, as well as the brain. I really wanted to try the "Crispy pig's ear salad", and now I was without ears. And some of my fondest childhood memories are of tongue. Back to the butcher's shop I went, to replenish the head with some tongue. Since I could not get hold of any ears, I bought some trotters instead.

There are plenty of recipes out there how to cook a pig's head, most notably the pig's head roll from the  The French Laundry. Making the roll the Keller way is a lot of work, and since this was my first head I wanted to keep it simple. Besides, if you are going to eat a head, why not show it off in all its glory, and serve it looking like a head, snout and all. And since my guests were a carefully selected bunch of brutes, it felt appropriate.  So here is what I did:

Brining the meats

Put the head, tongues and trotters in a big plastic storage box. Add 4-5 bay leaves, some peppercorns and mustard seeds, and cover the lot with a 5% brine. Put the box in the fridge for 3 days.

Cooking the head and tongues

The head is full of connective tissue, sinew and what not, so it's very tough and needs to be simmered for a long time, 2 1/2 - 3 hours. You will need a very big kettle for this. My 15 liter kettle was just barely big enough, and I had to crack some bones in the snout to make it fit, poor animal. Add the tongues, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Skim all impurities as they rise to the surface, there will be a lot of it. After an hour or so, add the stock vegetables and spices: 4 onions, 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery, button mushrooms, bay leaf, parsley stems and some peppercorns. After 2 hours check the tongues, and remove if very tender. The tongues must be peeled while hot, or it will be difficult to remove the skin. The head probably needs nearly 3 hours until the meat comes off the bone easily. When everything is cooked, strain the liquid into a clean container and degrease. The stock is absolutely fabulous.  When the head has cooled a bit, separate the meat from the bone using your hands. It should come off easily. Warm the head in the oven just before serving.

Cooking the trotters

Cook the trotters the same way as the head, checking if done around 1 1/2 - 2 hours. I prefer to cook the trotters in a separate kettle, since they give off a slight scent of pig's foot sweat (or something).  The trotter stock, while a bit sweaty, is very delicious. Before serving put the trotters in a baking dish, pour over a little trotter stock, and give them a few minutes under a hot grill. Serve with fresh bread to soak up the juices.

The sauce
Make a velouté using the head stock; Cook a spoonful of wheat flour in butter until it smells like biscuit, letting it brown a little. Add a couple of ladlefuls of stock while whisking, and let it boil slowly for 20 min, adding more stock if necessary. Season with salt. Just before serving add a generous amount of finely grated horseradish and chopped parsley.

I served the head, trotters and tongues together with potato mash, boiled and butter glazed small beets, the horseradish sauce and fresh bread with aïoli. It went down pretty well.

Tarte de Natas

 I'm not big on cakes and pies. Maybe I'd like to be, but the consequence of baking pies all day long is likely to have a quite devastating effect on my already not-exactly-super-model-slim torso. It's not that I'm overly fat, but the frigging cakes and pies are. Seriously, it's like sausage; You really don't want to know what goes into a tasty savory or sweet pie. And cakes are really not much better. Of course, books and magazines are full of recipes how to make healthy pies from saw dust and hay, but face it, that is really an oxymoron. Pastries and pies are supposed to be unhealthy little packages of pure pleasure and joy! So here is a recipe for a not particularly healthy, amazing invention of a pie. It's almost foolproof (that remains to be tested though, I don't know enough fools to get reliable statistics). I got this recipe from my two beautiful Portuguese friends Aline and Soina who requested Tarte de Natas before one of our many dinners.

Puff pastry or similar, it's up to you really.

Creme Patisser:
4 dl  mix of milk and cream
4 egg yolks
1-2 dl sugar
lemon peal
1-2 sticks of cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1-2 tbs corn starch in a small amount of cold water

Combine the milk, cream, sugar, lemon peal and cinnamon stick in a pan and bring slowly to a boil. Let it mixture simmer for a little while to give the cinnamon and lemon peal time to infuse. Strain the boiling mixture over the egg yolks whilst stirring.  Pour the mixture back in to the pan, mix half of the starch slurry into the custard, and bring slowly to a  boil. Yes, you read correctly, to a boil! The starch will prevent the yolk from separating, and the boiling destroys enzymes which might eat the starch. It's a double win! Adjust the thickness with more starch if needed; The consistency should be quite thick, a little beyond runny. Pour and scoop the mixture into a mold lined with the pie crust, and bake at 200-220 C until the crust is crispy and nicely browned, and the skin has brown spots. Let the pie cool for a while and serve sprinkled cinnamon powder, if you like.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kvelde mølle

Bread baking is full of surprises. When you think you have almost perfected some certain type of bread, you suddenly change something. By mistake. Or curiosity. Most likely both. More often than not, the result is less than satisfactory, but somtimes you get lucky. And I got double lucky today.

Yesterday when shopping for eplebrennevin I went to the ICA shop in the same building as DKNV. I don't usually shop there, because mostly they sell rotten vegetables and generally expired stuff. And that's precisely what they did. Again. When I got home it turned out that the sweet potato I bought was actually a Kinder Egg (tm); It had a surprise in the middle, and not a nice one. But that's not of any importance. What is of importance however, is that they sell wheat flour from a small mill called Kvelde Mølle. It's expensive, twice the price of normal wheat flour, it's more finely milled and it has a higher protein content. It had to be tried.

Yesterday evening I started two doughs; a preferment and a "no-knead" ciabatta dough. I immediately realized that the flour had higher water absorbing capacity and formed gluten faster than normal wheat. Based on this I decided to go a little wetter than ususal. A bit too wet for the ciabatta it turned out, but it didn't matter much, it came out nice anyway. Apart from the flour, and the (overly) wetness of the dough, one final factor played in: work. At the same time as I was baking, I was working on a scientific project (deadlines are killers), and I was so concentrated that I forgot the bread. That is, unitl I could smell it. Then it had been in the blazing hot oven, at 275 C, for much longer than normal. It had aquired a quite deep, golden brown crust in just 13-14 minutes, and I thought: Crap! I quickly turned down the heat, opened the oven and vented out the steam and a bit of excess heat, left the breads in and went back to work. When another 20 min had passed (at 225 C) I took out the breads. To my surprise they were not overbaked at all, and had a beautifully caramelized crunchy crust. And when cut open! My God! What a nice collection of large, irregular holes! This is some of the best bread I have baked so far, hands up. The moral of the story? Keep pushing it! Recipes will follow in the next post, although bread recipes are darn boring. They are all the same. Give and take a bit of this and that.

After a long Sunday of work, while the sun was shining outside and the weather was crisp and beautiful, I had the delightful pleasure to cook a quick 15 min Sunday dinner for the always beautiful Elis. I had already given up any plans for Sunday dinner, when the opportunity presented itself. But it had to be quick. Almost instant. I decided to serve some bread with a selection of butter, cold smoked salmon and rustic mustard. Additionally I made a little omelet I learned from Kebire, the Black Sea ninja chef.

Black Sea ninja omelet

1 small squash, coarsely grated
5-10 small fillets of anchovies in oil
1 tbs corn flour
1 pinch black pepper
1 pich salt
finely chopped fresh dill
finely chopped spring onion
4 eggs

Mix all ingredients well and fry on a low heat under a lid just until done, but not yet cooked to f*ck.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Eplebrennevin perkele!

I just have to tell you this! This is too good to not tell everyone, even if it might have consequences... It's a beautiful day today. Clear blue skies, no wind and a very agreeable temperature of +4 C. Autumn is definitively upon us, and it's been cold, windy and rainy for weeks. And now suddenly, nature reveals itself in all it's glorious beauty! The blue sky, contrasting the white, snow capped mountains with their red and yellow foothills are just stunning to watch.

But all this has nothing to do with what I wanted to say. Today I did my usual shopping round in the sunshine. The whole town comes alive when the weather is nice in the weekend. It's almost like living in a real city. As part of my routine I went to Det Kongelige Norske Vinmonopol to buy a bottle of red for Sunday dinner. In Polet I met Lisa. She was looking at a beautiful bottle containing a completely colorless liquid; Eple Brent Brut from Agder Brenneri. Now, normally I would have completely ignored the situation, but I have a soft spot for calvados and friends. And this bottle just looked inviting. So I bought it! The bottle contains a fine spirit made from proper apple cider, without added sugar, made from apples from Agder and Telemark. It has no added coloring or wood extracts, and it has not been filtered. Sounds like a potential disaster, doesn't it? I mean, it's more likely to be a harsh, immature solvent, better suited for biodiesel than human consumption. But no, this spirit is absolutely wonderful! It's smooth and soft on the palate, with an immediate and amazing taste of rotten apples, with a long beautiful aftertaste. I have had so much worse calvados so many times. This makes me happy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Not dead yet

Did you think this blog had died? Really? It hasn't! It's just been hibernating for a while. The truth be told, I have been too busy to write for a very long time. It's scary. I have started a few posts; One about Bacalo and Tarte de Natas, and one about special Finnish Labor Day food (sic). But time and energy have been scarce resources lately, and blogging quickly ended up low on my priority list. But now things are looking up again! Maybe I'll save that Labor Day post for the next 1st of May...

Even if the blog has been idle, I have not. I have been cooking and baking like ever before, and I have many, many things to write about. Here is a short list of things I want (try to) write about:
  • How to bake nice ciabattas with a set of simple, no knead recipes (this is for the SEAS crowd)
  • How to bake decent bread in a outright shitty, small gas oven, never intended for anything but storing trays and pots and pans in
  • Some comments on my experiences as a semi-professional chef, and the Black Sea food culture
  • My cheese making experiments
  • Bacalao, the beauty of Bacalao
  • The pig's head in my freezer
  • Mayonnaise and Aïoli
  • Lentils, red and green. And sausages. Mon dieu!
  • Lyon

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An accidental Thai dinner

Sometimes things that go wrong, actually go right. My dinner plans for the evening was to make a salad with some bruschetta, a fish soup and some grilled pine apple with mascrapone cream, using collected scraps laying around. I started by making a fish stock from some frozen, raw shrimp i found in the freezer, some leftover mussels from two days ago and an assortment of vegetables. Having strained the stock, I proceeded to add the canned tomatoes, only to find that the can of tomatoes I had in the pantry was coconut milk! Shitpanic! So Thai style noodle soup it was:

Noodle soup with fish and leftovers
The stock:
vegetable oil
200 g shrimp with shells
blue mussels in theirs shells
1 onion

1-2 sticks of celery

1 carrot
1 l water

The Thai:

1 can coconut milk
5-10 lime leaves

1-2 red chilies, chopped
1 tsb strong chili powder
1-2 tbs Thai chili paste

The goodness:
200 g halibut, cut in cubes and lightly salted

150 g surimi (crab stick of good quality, not the cheap crap)
1/2 a squash
sweet peas in the pod, cut in half

The stuffing: Thai rice noodles

Heat the oil and fry the shrimp until lightly browned. Don't worry about overcooking the shrimp, they will be sacrificed to the Gods of Compost. Add the rest of the ingredients for the stock, sweat for a while and cover with water. Let the stock simmer for 30 min, strain and return to the pan. Add the Thai stuff and season to your liking. Bring a kettle to the boil and cook the noodles until done (not al dente!). Just before the noodles are done, add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and turn off the heat. Simmer without boiling for 3-5 min. Put a generous amount of noodles in a deep dish and cover with the soup. This time not having canned tomatoes saved the evening.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A quiet Saturday

The plan for today was to a) go skiing, or b) fly tandem. Neither worked out. Plan a) went down the drain because I didn't go to bed until 4 a.m. in a good mood, and b) was canceled by a snowstorm. So instead I shopped food and wine for 1300 kr (!), had coffee at Perez, cleaned the house, baked bread and made dinner. Originally I planned to spend some quality time with myself and just relax, but since food tastes so much better in good company I decided to send out an invitation. I got lucky too, since the ever so wonderful Charlie accepted my invitation. And not only that, she brought a bottle of exquisite port. On the menu was an assortment of sushi, since the fish monger had very fresh and good quality salmon today. For desert we had cofee, port and dates filled with mascarpone and dusted with chocolate powder.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sjöslag med slagsida

My poor friend Geir. He bought half an organic lamb. He defrosted half a ribcage, and had to go to Murmansk for a week. Seldom I've heard so much pain and sorrow in his voice, as when he called me and asked if I would not "take good care" of if. I did. I invited the cava club for Sunday dinner. They brought the drink, Geir-in-absentia provided the lamb, and I took care the rest. We had a beautiful evening, and got both full and plenty cava-happy.


1 ribcage of a lamb
red wine vinegar
olive oil
2-3 tbs tomato pure
1 tsb dry thyme
2 tsb dry sage
1 tsb dry rosemary
3-4 cloves of garlic pureed

Salt the ribcage properly. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade, and rub into the meat. Let marinate for 24 h. Cook the ribcage in the oven at a low temperature, around 80 C for 4-5 hours.

Deglaze the pan containing the lamb drippings with red wine, and strain into a sauce pan. Try to remove as much of the fat as possible. Reduce until good, and thicken slightly with starch. Correct the seasoning, and enjoy.

Serve with halved potatoes baked in the oven with olive oil and salt at 200 C until nicely browned on top. And some greens. And the sauce. H.E.A.V.E.N.

For starter we had a soup I nicked from Heston Blumenthal. The original used pumpkin, but this works too.

Celery soup

2 onions
50-100 g butter
1 kg celery bulb, cleaned and cubed
full fat milk

Melt the butter, add the chopped onions, and fry at a gentle heat until it smells nice. Add the cube celery bulbs and water just to barely cover. Cook under a lid until very tender 20-30 min. Puree in the blender, strain through a very finely meshed sieve, and return to the pan. Add milk to the desired consistency and season with salt. That's it. Simple and beautiful.

Kudos cava klubben for a nice evening.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mother Superior and Rudolph the Reindeer

My mother visited me two weekends ago. Upon arrival she proclaimed "You do the cooking, I do the paying". I didn't complain, and we spent the weekend being overly stuffed. More or less constantly. Superior.

The first stop on the way home from the airport was the market square, where we picked up 1 kg of freshly cooked shrimp and a healthy slab of really fresh salmon from the fishers . Back home we tossed together a quick aioli to go with the shrimp on toast. The salmon was ultra fresh, and smelt of cucumber. Half of it was promptly turned into an assortment of sushis, together with the remaining shrimp. The other half was set to cure, to eventually become gravlax. We skipped dinner.

Needless to say, when you visit northern Norway you should enjoy the local produce in season. Since whale is definitively off-season, and the frozen stuff is just not anywhere near comparable to fresh whale meat, we opted for cod instead. Besides, I cooked whale the last time I had a visit. We had the cod on top of some quickly woked squash with garlic and a hint of thyme, topped with a red bell pepper sabayon, rich in butter and olive oil. Better than a beating.

Red bell pepper sabayon

1 red bell pepper
1 splash of white wine
2 egg yolks
2-3 tbs butter
2-3 tbs olive oil
salt and black pepper

Clean the peppers and cut into chunks. Boil the peppers in a splash of white wine under a lid until tender. Puree and strain through a very fine meshed sive. Return to the pan, and reduce if necessary. Whisk the egg yolks until foamy over a a hot water bath. Add the puree, and whisk to to a smooth foam. The temperature should register approx 77 C. Add the butter and oil while whisking. Season and serve immediately.

Sunday dinners need special attention, and for the purpose we had bought a reindeer sirloin. This is exclusive stuff, and it costs accordingly. Ask my mother. But truth be told, it's worth every penny. With such a superior piece of tender meat, you really don't need to do much work, other than make sure you don't under or over cook the thing. All I did to the meat was to prepare a light marinade:

olive oil
1 pinch dry thyme
1 pinch dry rosemary
1 generous pinch dry sage
2 tbs sherry vinegar
2 tbs honey
1 small clove of garlic, pureed and rubbed into the meat

While the meat was marinating, we went to Sommarøy to enjoy the view.
Back home, I just fried the loin in a very hot pan, oil almost smoking, to get a nice caramelization. Turned down the heat, added a knob of butter, and fried on a gentle heat to an internal temperature of 51-52 C. The pan was deglazed with the the rest of the marinade and a splash of port wine and strain through a double mesh sieve, reduced, and thicken slightly with a starch slurry. The meat was rested and served on turnip fries and green peas, with a spoonful of the dark, sweet, sour, and salty sauce on top.
As you can see from the picture, it looks like a pile o dog food. It's hard taking pictures of food. Well it looked a bit better than that in real life. But more importantly, it tasted a hundred times better than it looked. At least to me.
Oh yes, I almot forgot. For starter we had king crab, roasted under the grill for 3 min with a lemon vinaigrette, served with an avocado salad, mayo and fresh bread. I also did a lot of sour dough baking that weekend. Mother superior left with a bag full of bread.

Monday, March 16, 2009


The finished product. Note the Wrapmaster 1000 in the background.

In doing research for something I've already forgotten, I stumbled upon a blog with a tiny little link to a San Francisco based fish restaurant. What struck my eye was a small piece written by the chef on his experiments with cured fish roe. No recipes though. After some more research, I learnt that cured fish roes are considered delicacies in many parts of the world, most notably around the Mediterranean and in Japan and Korea. In the Mediterranean area it's called, more or less, depending on where, bottarga. Or botargo. Or similar. Furthermore, I learnt that it's easy to make, and it's delicious in tiny quantities. The thing is, it's very salty and should be considered a spice, not a food. It serves the same purpose as for example Thai fish sauce, preserved anchovies and shrimp paste; It provides the scent of the sea and copious amounts of umami. Too much, and you'll be sick.

Since my trusty cod roe is cheap and plentiful around these times, I bought two beautiful roe sacks and went ahead with the bottarga project. A few days later the roe sacks had lost most of their fluids and dried up to something reminiscent of cross between a shoe sole and the tongue of a dead dog. But apart from that, it had the scent of a fresh sea breeze in early May. My bottarga was ready and I had a taste. What a beautiful thing! Next thing I know, I'm making a quick pasta with sauce of a mixture of olive oil, garlic, a bit of red chili pepper and a small amount of finely grated bottarga, slowly simmered on a low heat while the pasta cooks. Drain the pasta, pour on the oil, add a generous amount of racket or fresh spinach, mix and enjoy. The whole procedure takes 20 min and tastes absolutely brilliant.


Small grained fish roe in the sack
coarse sea salt
olive oil

  • Day 1: Make a brine with 10% salt, 5% sugar, and soak the roe sacks in the brine for 24 h.
  • Day 2: Remove the sacks from the brine, pat dry, and oil them carefully. Place some paper towels on a plate, sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt and place the roe sacks on top. Sprinkle generously with more salt, and leave to cure in a cool and dry place. Don't put them in the fridge, nor on top of the fridge. I kept mine on the window still.
  • Day 3: Replace the wet paper towels and add more salt.
  • Day 4: If the paper towels are wet, replace them and the salt.
  • Day 5: The bottarga should be more or less ready, and the towels dry. If not repeat the procedure.
When the roes stop leaking fluids and have become hard, transfer to a suitable container and place in the fridge. From what I have heard, they will harden more and more with time, and will remain good for a year or so.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Return of the Sauerkraut

Finally time to write again! It's a full-blown blizzard here, so there is no chance of going up any mountains for skiing because a) you can't see much b) the danger of avalanches is very real c) it's too good to be home.

My sauerkraut went into the final stage of resting about 10 days ago, and is now ready ready for consumption. I pushed things a bit longer than normal, out of curiosity, to see where it would end. Well, the cabbage got very sour, but tastes fantastic. I really like sauerkraut. I make a batch 2-3 times a year and keep in my fridge. It's very nice with home made rustic sausage and other salty meats (yeah, griseknoke and sauerkraut will make your head explode). It's also fantastic in soups, both as an acidifier and for taste. Any proper borscht (beetroot soup) would feature sauerkraut, in addition to pork stock, beet juice, shredded beetroot and salt pork knuckle or unsmoked bacon. Serve with parsley and sour cream on a cold day, and your heart will warm. Promise.

Anyway, back to the sauerkraut. Fermented foods are fascinating. You herd an invisible population of bacteria and fungi under the right conditions, and they will turn an in itself not so interesting ingredient into a complex and marvellous delicacy! And in addition, they will prevent it from spoiling. They are a mans best friend, not dogs. A good example of an ingredient which becomes much more flavourful and interesting when fermented are the small summer cucumbers. Agreed, they are fantastic when fresh, but when wrapped in blackcurrant leaves and fermented in a 2 % brine for 2-3 weeks with lots of garlic, a bit of parsnips and a bit of horse radish, you get something of a totally different dimension. Miraculous is the word. Even though cabbage can't quite match it's cucumber counterpart, it's well worth the trouble.


1 medium head of white cabbage, the outer green leaves discarded
1 small carrot
2-3 cloves garlic
cumin seeds

Quarter the cabbage, discard the stem, and slice very, very thinly. A mandoline comes in handy here. Weigh the cabbage, divide by hundred, and add that amount of salt (approx. 1%). Put the salted cabbage in a plastic bag, push out all the air, and bang lightly with a rolling pin to somewhat break the structure and get the juices flowing. Start filling clean jar with cabbage, add a layer of chopped garlic and sliced carrot and a small pinch of caraway seeds. Add more cabbage and repeat. Place a small weight on top of the cabbage and cover with a loose fitting lid or pierced cling film, and place somewhere nice and warm, like on top of the fridge. After a day or two, the cabbage should be swimming in it's own liquids. If not, add a small amount of water. After 3.5 days you should see small bubbles. After 7-10 days it should start to smell quite oompfh, this is all good. You might see some white mold growing on top. It's harmless, and can be scraped away when the process is finished. After some additional days, the smell will turn fruity and fresh. Now your cabbage is ready, but if you leave it out for a few more days it will become more sour. Remove the weight, any white mold and put in the fridge. During the next few weeks it will stabilize and get a bit more mellow, although it can also be eaten straight away. Use your imagination and try to ferment any vegetable you like, or a mix of vegetables. I'm going to try with fennel to start with.

Man vs. Mountain: 2-1

I conquered two peaks last weekend. But not without penalty. The dark period, also know as the eat-drink-and-party-too-much season, is drawing to an end. It's being replaced by beautiful outdoors conditions, also known as spring, though most people would call it arctic winter. Being somewhat out of shape, still suffering from the excesses of the darkness, climbing 2000 m on skis during a weekend takes its toll; I have a cold. Not a bad one, but bad enough that I have totally lost my sense of smell. Now eating is boring, since everything seems to be cardboard flavoured. So I started thinking. Being left with only taste, one has to cook food which relies solely on the basic tastes; Sweet, salty, bitter, sour and and umami. And heat from capsicums and friends, of course. And, if you can make the food look like it's Hot N' Tasty (tm) it is an added bonus. You see what I'm getting at? Pasta al'arrabiata!!! It has it all! The tomato puré provides acid, is packed with umami, and if you search hard you can even find some bitter notes to it. The chili gives it a good sting, and adding a bit of extra salt really makes it fly. Finally, a small teaspoon of sugar rounds it off with rich sweetness. Served on pasta with a pleasant texture, topped with generous amounts of Parmesan cheese on an umami overdrive, this is pretty close to how good it gets without flavour. Oh yeah, and it's red.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Salmon on top

One of the benefits of living in Tromsø is the short distance to the wilderness and high, snowy mountains. From late February until early June the skiing season is full on. Since there is only one little knob of a hill with a skiing lift, the proper way to go skiing is to glue a pair of skins to the underside of your skis, and walk up any mountain you see fit. Or, more likely, one you are fit to climb. Because it's hard work. Really hard.

A really nice aspect of this activity is having luch at the top of the mountain. Or slightly below, when the wind is howling at the top. When you reach the top after some hours of hard work, you are hungry, tired, and sweaty. Soon you will be very cold too, so you need to set your priorities right. So, the first thing to do is to get naked. Second priority? Get some dry clothes on, and an extra layer of warm clothes. Third priority: Lunch time. Opinions vary, but the traditional Norwegian thing to eat on top of a mountain is ice cold chocolate and oranges!!! What the hell!? Can you come up with something less satisfying than that? Cold chocolate tastes of bitumen and chalk, and oranges are totally useless fruits in the first place. Granted, most people also bring sandwiches and a thermos full of hot drink. But still.

I'm pretty convinced that I have come up the the ultimate tour food on top of a mountain. It's extremely simple too, and anyone who has tried this can attest to its satisfying powers. Actually, more like powers of ten: Good bread with heaps of thinly sliced, fatty gravlax on top. Top quality cold smoked salmon will suffice too, but gravlax has the edge. The fish should be glistening from healthy, tasty fish fat.

Here is my granny's recipe for gravlax:

300-500 g piece of absolutely fresh salmon fillet from the upper part of the fish
1 tbs caster sugar
coarsely ground black pepper
a bunch of dill, chopped
coarse sea salt

The piece of salmon should be very fresh, and have a smell somewhat reminiscent of cucumber. Preferably the piece should be from the upper part of the fish, as this part is fattier, especially the abdominal meat. Any grayish white lumps of fat can be cut away and discarded, since too much is always too much. Sprinkle a dish large enough to hold the fish with coarse sea salt and lay the fish on top, skin side down. Sprinkle with sugar, black pepper and quite generously with sea salt. Then cover the fish with the dill. Cover with cling film, place a weight on top and put in the fridge. A good weight can be made from a small plastic bag filled with water (check that there are no leaks, or you'll end up with brined salmon). After 12-24 h remove the weight, and wait another 2-4 days before it's ready. You'll know when. To serve, cut very thin slices diagonally to make them wider with a more pronounced and beautiful marbling. Best eaten on toasted good bread with a bit of butter. '

Here is a recipe for a bread that goes well with gravlax:

Day 1:

100 g coarse rye flour
150 g whole wheat flour
150 g strong wheat flour
4 g fresh yeast, or 1 g dry yeast
400 g water

Mix well, cover with plastic and rest at room temperature for 12-18 hours

Day 2:

The starter from day 1
600 g strong wheat flour
20 g salt
20 g malt syrup
250-270 g water

Mix all ingredients well, and wait 20 min. Knead for 8-12 min on medium speed, or for 10+10 min by hand with a 15 min rest in between. Put the dough in a proofing box (any big plastic box with a lid will do) which has been greased with vegetable oil. Every 15-20 min, carefully,without tearing, stretch the dough and fold it like and envelope onto itself. Repeat 3-5 times. Then let the dough proof at room temperature for 2-4 hours. It contains very little yeast, and rises slowly in the beginning. When proofed, shape rolls, buns, loaves what ever you like, and place the breads on parchment. Sprinkle generously with flour and cover with plastic. After one hour, turn the oven on set to 275-300 C. When the breads have doubled, score with a serrated knife and pop them in the hot oven. Toss in half a glass of water in the bottom, and close the lid. Turn down the heat to 225 C, and bake for 25-35 minutes, depending on size. Let the bread rest on a grate for 2-4 hours before eating.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Penne Al'Arrabiata from the Death Star canteen

I got home from work tonight, hungry and in dire need of something quick and warm with a reasonably high snack factor. At first I thought of just making a salad with warm-smoked mackerel, since I had one lying around. Although warm-smoked mackerel has a high snack factor, the mackerel wasn't warm anymore, and I was not in mood for experimenting with hot iceberg lettuce. Besides, I really felt like pasta with a hot sauce, topped with a heap of Parmesan cheese. Very snacky. With a salad on the side.

After scavenging the fridge, Penne Al'Arrabiata was clearly the best option. Here is the recipe I came up with:

1 small onion
1 small carrot
1 stick celeriac
2-3 tbs tomato puré
1-3 cloves garlic
1-2 tbs oil

The rest:
1/2 dl cream
1-2 dl water
1 tbs Sambal Manis
1 mozzarella or similar

Fist make the soffrito; Grate the carrot and very finely chop the onion and the celery. Heat the oil, and fry on a gentle heat until not smelling raw anymore, add the coarsely smashed and chopped garlic and the tomato paste. Fry until it does not smell of raw tomato paste.
Add the Sambal Manis, the cream and the water and season with salt. Just when the pasta is ready, add the shredded mozzarella, or as in my case, the yet-another-not-quite-successful-attempt-at-making-mozzarella-cheese, give it a quick mix, voilá done! Plate the pasta, nicely topped with a generous amount of sauce and an even more generous lot of Parmesan cheese. Can''t really go wrong.

May the sauce be with you,
Sir Lord Baron von Vaderham

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What I did last week

This is mostly intended as a diary for myself, so that I don't forget what I have done lately. The problem is I already forgot half the stuff I did.

Last Saturday I had planned to cook and eat the "griseknoke" I bought the other day. A griseknoke is a heavily brined pigs knuckle, skin and all. It's heavenly delicious, but needs to be soaked in cold water for 2-3 days prior to cooking, or your physician will have a go at your sodium levels. I braised the knuckle with some onion, carrot and spices for over three hours, until it started to come apart nicely. Anyway, my plans went awry when Knut called and invited me for a perfect three star dinner at his place, starring a large chunk of organic veal. We were fed proper, and got proper drunk on good wine too. What an evening! Knut is king.

Sunday was Mølje party, as described in detail in earlier posts.

Monday, enter griseknoke! Fantastic thing, to come home quite late from work and find a parboiled pigs knuckle in the fridge. It was too much food for one, so Geir came over to help. The little pig was served with carrots and turnip cooked tender in the cooking liquid of the knuckle, boiled potatoes and parsley sauce. Kudos Fergus Henderson, the man is a genius. We also had salad and bread for starter, and fresh plums with slivovitz and cream for desert. Not a bad way to start a week.

Now it starts to get blurry, too many things to keep track of during the week. One day I had poached cod with a vermouth beurre blanc and salad. That was pretty nice, and I ate more than I should have. I also made a dirty-bomb-soup, using stuff that needed to be eaten ASAP. It ended up as a pureed soup of celeriac and leek with a bit of milk, cream, chicken stock and a bit of asparagus. Not bad at all, but not the best I've done. Leek, especially the green part, is quite troublesome in a smooth, pale soup. It also lacked butter.

Friday lutefisk was on the menu, since it was on sale, 29 kr/kg! Insane. It was served the traditional Finnish way with boiled potato, béchamel sauce and a load of finely ground all-spice. Too good. For dessert we had "floating islands"; A thick vanilla custard with boiled meringues and a warm raspberry reduction.

Saturday, enter griseknoke again! They were on sale, you see, 34 kr/kg. How could you resist? I bought a load. This time it was served with a cous-cous, broad beans and, surprise, Fergus's fantastic parsley sauce. For dessert we had berries with crunchy meringues and a port wine sabayon. That was the nail in the coffin, and I never quite recovered from that. The sofa was to be my best friend for the rest of the evening. Oh yeah, and I baked some bread of course. Not much to say about that. I got a bad batch of wheat flour (8 kg) which does not perform very well, as can be seen from the pictures.

Sunday, well that's now, and I have not cooked yet. Went skiing to Fagerfjell (873 m), and we had fantastic conditions although it was very windy. It looked quite bad, and will be, but the snow was still a really nice soft power. And the sun was shining! A really nice day! But, back to the food. I have a whole, albeit small, 1 kg monk fish (breiflabb, marulk) in the fridge. I got it super cheap from my favorite fish mongerer, only 99 kr/kg! That is very cheap, in the south they are paying up to 300 kr/kg. It's a very meaty fish, and I'll just roll the fillets in chickpea flour and pan fry them. I hope it goes nicely with an iceberg lettuce with tomato and avocado and mint. I'm not sure about the mint, but I have a whole bunch o fresh mint to use. I'll go easy on it anyway, just in case.

I'll write more on griseknoke and parsley sauce later, because it's definitively a dish that deserves a bit more attention and praise! All pigs are equal, but some are just tastier than others.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The New Mølje

I started writing this entry 5 days ago, but due to lack of time I only managed to finish it today...

So far I have discussed two of the three components of mølje. The only thing missing is the fish, and this is the easy bit, although cooking cod requires some care. Fresh cod cooked correctly is has a heavenly moist and flaky texture with a mouth melting feel to it. When overcooked it becomes a bit tough and stringy and sticks between your teeth like wet cotton fluff. Andreas Viestad has come up with a fail-safe method for cooking cod perfectly (in Norwegian), but it can be done even simpler. So, here is my method:

Bring a kettle with salty water to the boil. The water should be very salty, approx. 8-10% salt by weight. That's 4-5 big spoon fulls per liter! Add a splash of white vinegar, as this helps keep the very tender fish together. Remove the kettle from the heat, plop in the fish pieces and wait a minute or two. Using a sharp pairing knife, poke the fish where it is the thickest, or close to the bone in the case of cod slices. When the knife goes through with just a tiny bit of rubbery resistance, the fish is done. This usually takes 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove the fish with a spider and serve with boiled potatoes, cod roe and liver paté. And maybe a little melted butter. Butter is always good.

There is a slight variation on how to cook the cod, which has the additional advantage that you are left with a very nice base for a light fish stock. Instead of salting the water and using vinegar, take the fish pieces and cover, yes cover, them in coarse sea salt. There is no too much salt here. Let them sit in the salt for 15-25 min. This will not only salt, but also firm up the fish so it does not necessarily need any vinegar. A little white wine is never wrong though. Rinse off the salt under cold running water, before proceeding exactly as above. When the fish pieces are cooked you are left with a delightful light fish stock, which can be improved on by recooking it with all the bones left on the plates, a bit of onion, carrot, bay leaf, peppercorns and whatever else that comes to mind. Too good.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cod roe recipes

For completeness sake I'll add my cod roe recipes. Cod roe comes packaged in surprisingly sturdy, semi-transparent bags, with a mesh of not particularly appetizing blood vessels under the surface. They also very chewy, and not at all pleasant to eat. The proper viking way of (over)cooking them is to simply drop them into boiling water and wait 20-30 min. They come out gray, hard and brittle, looking like the giant scrotum of a dead, waterlogged junkie. Not quite my cup of tea.
So, what can be done? Firstly, cut open the sacks, and using a spatula carefully dislodge the million small eggs into a bowl. Then add 1% salt by mass and whatever spices you might like. Here are my favorites:

1. Finely ground allspice
2. Finely chopped onion
3. Double cream
4. All or any of the above
5. Nothing, let the roe shine in all it's glory

You can also add one egg yolk per ca 200 g of roe to bind it together a bit more. Now divide the roe into 300-400 g portions and pour it onto some heat resistant cling film (i.e. Glad wrap). The roe is quite viscous, so it will not flow out before you have time to react. Wrap the film around the roe and shape into a nice sausage, twist the ends to tighten a bit, and tie off. Steam the sausages in a double boiler until you reach a core temperature of 56 C. Let cool, unwrap and slice. Makes a delicious little side dish, or as topping for a piece of rustic bread with butter. Mayo is also good.

Here are some thoughts: When the roe is uncooked it has a beautiful orange color. When cooked, no matter how carefully, it turns a dull gray. Adding carrot juice could work really nicely (together with the egg yolk) both for taste, sweetness and color. Turmeric or saffron might also help relieve the problem, and provide both depth and flavor. I have not experimented extensively with cooking temperature, but as with fish in general, the lower the better usually. Cod is unfortunately very often infected with the anisakis worm and other parasites, so unless the roe has been frozen first, you need to make sure you reach a core temperature which kills all parasites.

What in the name of Cod!

So there I was, with a big pile of fresh and extremely fatty cod liver in front of me. Pretty nasty stuff, and somehow I needed to turn this into food for human consumption. We were about to have a northern Norwegian mølje party, with mostly foreigners at the table. Mølje is the traditional dish made from skrei, the fatty winter cod which comes into the fjords to spawn. It consists of boiled slices of cod, cod roe cooked in the sack and boiled cod liver. Very good if you were born above the arctic circle, but for rest of us, it's rather nasty in a niceish way. You know, the fish is fantastic and succulent, the roe is grainy and not too unpleasant, and then the liver; Grayish brown, collapsed and leaking fish oil. You taste it and go: "Well, that wasn't quite as bad as it looks.". But you will not ever go for seconds. Ever.
More as a sick joke than anything else, I decided that the liver needed to presented in a more palatable, or at least in a not so unappetizing looking manner. So, I google for cod liver pate. Zero hits! I could not believe it. If it's not in google, it's nowhere. It has not been done before! Since I knew the liver was going to end up in the compost bin anyway, I decided to fearlessly do some experimentation. This resulted in two different recipes for cod liver paté, which will be published in a moment. My biggest technical fear was that the livers would leak out most of the fat, and I would end up with a split liver mess floating around in fish liver oil. Like a failed Sauce Hollandaise from hell. But, to my great surprise both patés came out of the oven nicely browned on the top and had a pleasantly solid consistency. The even greater surprise was that they tasted good! Really good actually! Almost delicious! In fact, what happened at the party was that they were finished. Gone! They ate it all. And that's when I decided that google needed to be augmented with information about cod liver paté. Not that it's likely ANYONE will ever stumble upon this blog, but at least the information will be there for future generations.

In Cod we trust.

Cod Liver Paté, recipe 1

500 g fresh and fatty cod liver
1 onion
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
black pepper to taste
5 g salt
1 dl bread crumbs or 2 slices stale white bread

1 egg

Clean the cod liver: Cod liver happens to be the favourite playground for the anisakis nematode, and there can be hundreds of them on a single large liver. Since you are going to puree the liver and cook it, they are not a problem per se, but they are the ultimate spoiler of a healthy appetite. By removing the thin membrane covering the liver you remove more than 80% of the worms. Using a pair of tweezers, remove the remaining worms.

Combine all ingredients except the egg, and whizz in a food processor to a smooth paste. Mix in the egg, and let the mixture rest for a while in the fridge so the bread softens and the onion gives off as much taste as possible. The purée is quite runny, and not paste-like. Strain the purée through a moderately fine-meshed sieve. You will be left with a ladlefull of goop, which makes nice compost. Pour the smooth liver mixture into an oven-proof dish, and bake on a water bath at 160 C for 30-40 min until done. Let cool, unmould carefully and serve.

This paté is partially bound by starch, and has a bit more substance and bite to it. It can therefore be unmoulded.

Cod Liver Paté, recipe 2

500 g fresh and fatty cod liver
1 onion
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
white pepper to taste
5 g salt

1 dl double cream
2 eggs

Clean the cod liver: See recipe 1.

Combine all ingredients except the egg and the cream, and whizz in a food processor to a smooth paste. Mix in the egg and the cream. Strain the purée through a moderately fine-meshed sieve. Pour the liver mixture into an oven-proof dish, and bake on a water bath at 160 C for 30-40 min until done. Let cool, and serve directly from the mould.

This paté, or terrine, is very soft and has a nice velvety consistency. It tastes fantastic on a small piece of toasted bread.