Thursday, October 12, 2006

And here he is - and his beard!

My great-grandfather Elling Andersen Torp, seacaptain (1850-1986), married to Caroline. Died of beri-beri, and buried in Santos in Brazil.

Time travel - the history of a strange necklace

My fathers and mothers family are dominated by seacaptains. In fact, my father was a captain, and sons have followed fathers at sea in his family in 14 generations, back to Peder at Borøya, on the south coast of Norway. He was born around 1580 and took his little ship between Denmark and Norway, crossing the Kattegat.

In fact three of my four great- grandfathers, died at sea in the same decade, in the 1890s. One drowned on a sailship with a cargo of coal crossing the North Sea, the second disappeared on his ship outside Pensacola in Florida, and the third died of beri-beri and is buried in Santos in Brazil.

We think it is the last one, Elling Andersen from Torp, or his father Anders Ellingsen Torp (we do not really know), that left us a strange object - a necklace made out of one of their beards. It looks like lace, and it has survived the last one and a half centuries surprisingly well. These objects were not as rare as you think. In Europe men and women have for centuries left their hair, as a token of love, in lockets and medallions. One of my collegues, coming from another southeastern family, in Mandal, told me that she has a broche, containing one of her ancestors hair.

The necklace has wandered around in the world. It was left to my grandmother Anna that married my grandfather Petter. She, in her turn, left it to my uncle Anders Skuggevik, and he brought it to America, when he, my aunt, and my cousin Anne Margrethe, moved in the late 1940s. Hanne, my aunt, who is now 96, told me that she used it on her wedding-veil. She left it to Erica, and she wanted me to take it home.

It is a very touching experience, taking such a strange and wonderful object home in your hand luggage, thinking that the last time it crossed the Herring Pond, it was on a ship - Vesterøy, 55 years ago.

So now it is back, and if it is my great grandfather, I have his picture and can watch the beard that is now a part of this necklace. If that is not strange, I do not know!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sherry, Cider, and Thai Chili: Sweeteners in savoury food

I have given my friends a lesson on sweeteners in sauces, marinades, and stews. A good tomato sauce will turn into a great tomato sauce by the right balance of the tartness of the tomatoes, the salt from ingredients as sausages, anchovis, and olives, and - sugar. And add sugar in your Bacalao, made from salted, dried codfish, onions, tomatoes, and a lot of olive oil.

But sweeteners are so much more than just sugar. The purest sweetener I know is a good maple syrup. It has a wonderful light sweetness and leaves no bitter after-taste.

I also love the fruity sweeteness of liqueurs like Cointreau and thai chili. Thai chili mixed with creamcheese, topped with smoked salmon and chives wrapped in a hot wheat tortilla is a great snack. Thai chili is not hot at all, you can safely make it more spicy by adding a few dried chilliflakes to get more kick, or you can leave it as it is. Orange liqueurs as Grand Marnier or Cointreau gives an intence fruit flavour in a sauce served with roast duck.

Fresh fruits often have the combination of sweetness and light tartness. A classic recipe is the way the 17th century cook Robert Mays prepared his salmon with bloodoranges, red wine, salmon and nutmeg. Another great cook, my friend Dagfinn Skoglund, added mango, to my amazement, to his tuna paté - but believe me, it works! I make stuffing for poultry as duck or chicken from apples, onion, sweet Scandinavian cider, streaky bacon, stale bread and sage. Apple cider is also great in gravy for a pork chop, with salt, pepper and cream.

Some fortified wines add a tart and even smoky flavour to their sweetness. The marsala wine has a distinct smokyness and a good sherry adds acidity. These are often good in rich cream sauces and stews with beef, onion and mushrooms. If you want to get more acidity you can substitute the fortified wines with red wine - but then you have to balance it with sugar or other sweeteners.

So sweeteners creates a whole world of possibilities in your cooking. Here are some recipes from

Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad with Maple Dressing

Duck l'Orange

Loin of Pork with Baked Apples and Cider Gravy

Veal Scaloppine with Mushrooms, Marsala and Thyme

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tomato and onion soup

Serves 3

6 small onions (or 2-3 large)
3 pts / 1,5 ltrs of water
3 vegetable stock cubes (Or the correct number of cubes to 3 pts on the package)
1 pt / 0,5 ltr italian passata
3 tsps of fructose or sugar
1 tbsp of thai chili
3 tbsps of sour cream

3 german bratwürsts
1 package of croutons

Cut onions in halves or quarters. Heat the water. Dissolve stock cubes in water and add the onions. Allow to simmer for 40 minutes. Take the onion out of the stock and put into a liquidizer. Put three or four ladels of stock and add the sour cream. Puré onions until smooth. Add puré back into stock, adding the passata. Tast with fructose and thai chili until sweet enough. Take chives or other herbs into soup just before serving.

Divide bratwürsts and fry them lightly in a hot pan and add to soup together with the croutons.

Bon appetit!

Old Buildings in Oslo - a short tourist guide

Oslo was founded before the year 1000. Then it was located south east of the current centre of the city. Very little is left from medieval times. As much of the city was built in wood, it burned down several times. Most of the stone buildings of the city have been destroyed by war or simply decayed.

You can still find the remains of old Oslo in Gamlebyen (The old town). Take the tramline 18 direction Ljabru to Gamlebyen. Here you find the ruins of the St. Clemens and St Hallvard churches and remains of the old Bishops Castle.

Much of the Oslo you see today is the result of the Renaissance king Christian IV that moved the city closer to Akershus castle after a fire in 1624. He also renovated the castle itself and many of the buildings as you see it today goes back to his reign. He renamed Oslo to Christiania and Oslo got its old medieval name back as late as the 1920s.

Here are some of old the buildings in Oslo built before 1700.

Gamle Aker kirke (12th Century / 1850-1855 / 1861)

A church at Aker is mentioned around 1080, and the current buildings may be the church referred to. Other sources may date the building to the early 12th century.

The building is a Roman Basilica built in Lime-stone. 1186-1536 the church was owned by Nonneseter Monastery in Bergen.

The church was hit by lightning and burned down i 1703. And fell into disrepair. The church was reconstructed in the mid 19th century and a new tower was built by Schirmer og W. von Hanno in 1861. The interior was restored 1950–1955.

How to get there:
Take bus 54 direction Kjelsås stasjon. Leave at Telthusbakken. Go up the old charming road to the left, and you'll see the church at the top.

Oslo Ladegård (1579/1725)

Oslo Ladegård was built on top of the old Bishops house from 1579. The site itself, however, contains remnants of buildings going back to around 1200.

The medieval buildings were abandoned in 1554, and it rapidly decayed. The mayor Christian Mule took over and built his house over the eastern wing of the medieval structure in 1579. It was in this house that King James I of England married princess Anne of Denmark in 1589.

Oslo Ladegård as you see it today is built in 1725. Lately the city of Oslo has reconstructed its baroque gardens.

How to get there:

Take tram line 18 – direction Ljabru / Holtet to Gamlebyen.

Rådmannsgården (1626 / 1782)

This house was built for Lauritz Hansen i 1626. It used to be much bigger. Rådmannsgården is built in two floors in imported dutch bricks. The wing facing Nedre Slottsgate was built in 1782.

The building used to house the library of the University of Oslo and has also been used by the garrison hospital. From 1937 it has housed Oslo Art Society.

How to get there:

Taket the tramline 12 from Oslo Central station direction Majorstuen to Christiania torv.

The Old City Hall (1641)

The Old City Hall has been altered several times. It used to have a tower that was torn down in the 18th century. The house was also damaged by fire in 1996 but has been reconstructed by the owner, the City of Oslo.

It was Christianias city hall from 1641 to 1733. It also housed the Norwegian supreme court from 1815-1846. A tavern was also situated in a side wing in 1850s. This restaurant moved into the main building in 1926. The original interior from 1926, designed by Hagbart and Carl Berner, was reconstructed after the fire in 1996. The restaurant is today called «Det Gamle Raadhus» (The Old City Hall.

From 1997 it has housed the Norwegian Theater Museum

How to get there:

Taket the tramline 12 from Oslo Central station direction Majorstuen to Christiania torv.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Some wines to drink now - or hopefully in the future (If you can get hold of them)

Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Western Cape, South Africa

This wine is absolutely wonderful. Produced by the de Wet family in the South West Cape region of South Africa. This estate goes back to 1859. The Cabernet-Sauvignon from this estate was great. After the wine was allowed to breathe, it developed into a wonderful full bodied wine with aromas of dark chocolate, black currants and earth with very soft tannins. If you can get hold of a few bottles do!

This full bodied wine is recommended for a wide varieties of food, as chicken, red meats, game or rich pasta dishes.

Melini Chianti Borghi d'Elsa 2003
Tuscany, Italy

Founded in 1705, Melini is a sign of tradition an an old and highly respected tuscan estate. It is produced on Chianti's finest soils by one of Tuscany's renowned winemakers, Nunzio Capurso. This wine has a clear fruity character.

I found that it was somewhat of a disappointment. Even after breathing I found that it rather flat. I would, if you are to buy this wine, recommend you to store this in hope for more character to develop.

It is recommended for meat, salads and cheese. If you are to drink it now I would recommend it for pastadishes and salads.

Ravenswood Vintners Blend 2003
California, USA

I love the Zinfandel grape and Ravenswood really knows how to make wine from it. It is produced in the predominantly zinfandel-growing counties of Sonoma, Lodi and Mendecino counties in California.

A lot character with distinct aromas of pepper, rasberry and blackberry, with enough oak, this wine is a great buy at a very affordable price, if you can hold of it. Due to its spicy character it can take spicy food, game and red meat easily. However this wine is very good to drink by itself. It is heaven!

NEW 12TH OCTOBER Look at this great wine-blog - Grape Scott

Saturday dinner

I had some collegues for a good dinner, and I would like to share the recipes with you. This will guaranteed fill you up. There are two ingredients that turn up in this dinner and that is orange in one or another form and the wonderful fruity sweet thai chili sauce.

As the guests arrived I greeted them with:

Le Suprême de Blancs de Volaille au Foie de Canard.

1 tin of Le Suprême de Blancs de Volaille au Foie de Canard (3 1/2 ounces / 100 grs)
6 round melbatoasts

The content of this tin is made by Comtesse du Barry. it contains a bloc of Duck Liver wrapped into a wonderful duck paté, flavoured with Armagnac. Split the contents of the tin into six, and place on toast. Serve with a good Sauternes. I had a wonderful bottle of Chateau de Myrat 2000.

Entree – Salmon and Tuna mousse with sweet chili (Serves 5)

Two pieces of salmon (10 0unces / 300 grs)
I tin of Tuna in brine (4 ounces / 125 grs)
8 fluid ounces / 200 ml of single cream (20%)
10 fluid ounces / 300 ml of whole milk (4%)
2 leaves of gelatin
1 stock cube of fish stock (to around a pint of liquid)
Dried dillweed
1 ½ tbsp of sweet thai chili

Soak gelatin in cold water until softened

Pour milk and cream into a pan and heat to boiling point, add stock cube, dillweed and the brine from the tuna. Reduce heat. Poach salmon in liquid 10-15 minutes. Take out and remove skin and bones.

Take gelatin out and dissolve in hot liquid. Add thai chili.

Place the salmon and tuna in a blender, ad liquid, and blend until smooth. Place in container and allow to cool in refrigerator until set.

Garnish with 200 grs / 8 ounces of shelled shrimps mixed with thai sweet chili.

Serve with a good bottle of Riesling. I chose a bottle of Dopff& Irion Riesling, 2005.

Long roast duck-thighs in orange and thai chilli

Four duck legs

2-3 tbsp of seasoning (salt, pepper, and lemon – I use Montreal steak seasoning)
Juice of ½ an orange
2-3 tbsp of thai chili
2-3 tbsp of olive oil

Mix seasoning with olive oil, orange juice and thai chili and allow to infuse (1 hour)

Remove the bone from duck-thighs. Make incisions into the fat. Place thighs in a zip-lock bag. Add the marinade. Allow the thighs to marinate in refrigerator over night.

Place in a deep tray and allow as little space around each of them as possible. This as the duck fat will leak out and the boneless thighs will roast in it. But do ensure that the tray is deep enough. If the fat leaks out in your oven, you into a good scrub the day afterwards. Pour the rest of the marinade over.

Place in an oven on 220 degrees fahrenheit / 100 degrees celsius and allow to roast for 3 1/2 hours. Pour out the fat, place duck bak into the tray and increase the temperature to 400F / 200C to get a crisp skin. Serve with sauce made from some of the liquids from the duck, some chicken stock and two tbsp of Cointreau. Serve with roast potatoes and asparagus.

Serve with a rich red wine. I highly recommend Rasteau, Côtes-du Rhône Villages 2004.

Chocolate Mousse

100 g (1 1/2 cups) dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 tbsp milk
1 egg yolk
1 ounce/25 g confectioner's sugar
7 fluid ounces / 175 ml thickened cream
3 tpsp of Cointreau
3 tbsp of Baileys Irish Cream

Place chocolate and milk in a heat proof bowl, set over a saucepan of boiling water and stir constantly until melted and smooth (mixture will be quite thick).

Remove and cool slightly. Place yolk and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes, until thick and creamy. Beat cream with an electric mixer in a bowl then gently fold through chocolate mixture with a spatula until just combined.

Spoon into 4 x 1/2 cup capacity dishes and chill for 4 hours, until set. Pour 1 tbsp of Cointreau and 1 tbsp of Bailys Irish cream over and serve.

Serve with good coffee and a good glas Cognac.