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.