Tuesday, July 24, 2007

One rainy summer evening on the island

The Oslo fjord is a long narrow body of water that stretch 100 kilometres / 60 miles into the eastern part of Norway. For someone that loves the sea, like me, it is more a puddle, than the real thing. Still when you visit one of the islands on the fjord, you are left with that feeling being by the coast. I did, as I have friends living in the middle of the summer paradise – all year round. And a week ago, they invited me out for a dinner.

Hans Morten Skivik and Sven Børge Hoftun sold their flat in the centre of Oslo and settled at Brønnøya, just outside Sandvika, the administrative centre of the borough of Bærum – a suburb of Oslo. This island, as most of the other islands with no bridge or year around ferry connection are teeming with life during the busy summer months, but only a few hardy enthusiasts live here all year around, like Hans Morten and Sven Børge. They are both successful consultants working in Oslo, but are enjoying the tranquillity of Brønnøya with one cat and two German shepherd dogs off season. Here, life has another pace that allows your heart to find rhythm - attuned to the nature and the seasons.

Well, as Hans Morten invited me to a dinner and to stay over I responded with enthusiasm. I was certainly eager (as ever) to enjoy the tranquillity by the water, as well as good food, good wine, and excellent company in abundance.

I had already bought two chickens, and prepared them two days before, on Sunday. I removed all the bones, as I have done before (for those of you that need an encore I leave the following links. Do as described in the following steps: Step 1, step 2, step 3, step 4, step 5, step 6 and finally step 7) Sorry all the links, the description was written before I discovered I could include more than 1 image in each story published on the net!!

Well – I reached step 7, when you have the birds with no bones in front of you. I made the most delicious filling for the roulades. I mixed 250 grams / 8 oz ricotta cheese, 75 grams / 2,5 oz grated parmeggiano reggiano, 3 tsp of pesto (Use the one you like the best, I love the Barilla brand) and 1 tsp sweet chili sauce. I stirred until smooth and creamy and added salt and pepper to taste. I spread the mix on the deboned fowls and rolled into a sausage form, using strings to keep them in shape. Sprinkled the surface with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbs. I baked the chucks over low heat (100C / 210F) for 4 hours, and raised temperature to 200C / 400F for the last half hour to get a crispy crust.

Then I left them to cool down, wrapped them in cling film and left them to sleep in my refrigerator for two days.

Tuesday Hans Morten picked up in their bright red Alpha Romeo, with one huge German shepherd caged in the back of the car. We did do some grocery shopping on our way– asparagus, large scallops (my favourites) and potatoes, and I was brought to the island in style – as a boat with a large roaring motor brought us from the pier to its shores.

Beer and wine for snacks, and after two hours – preparation for the evening meal, and we had a guest to impress – a neighbour. As I had made the dinner, the hosts prepared the entrees.

At this point I realized that Hans Morten and Sven Børge are into style as well as cooking. They picked out their crescent shaped white china, used plastic squeeze bottles to make decorative lines of balsamic vinegar and olive oil (just like on BBC Food). Fried the large scallops in a pan and added pine nuts and Dijon mustard with honey.

I took this snap shot, and I really think it turned out quite well. Their wooden table, fancy china, beautifully presented food and the wine glass.

Just after I took this picture I was in honey-mustard-scallop heaven, and the succulent white scallops accompanied by a glass of crisp white wine made me nearly levitate.

Main course! I had already cut the raw potatoes, mixed them well with salt, pepper, fresh herbs from the island, and liberal amounts of olive oil and left them to bake in a hot oven (200C / 400F) for 40-50 minutes. Prepared the asparagus as I usually do, and put them and the chucks into the oven for 20 minutes.

I have to admit it – I had some help from my friends. They assembled the chucks, now filled with a creamy, cheesy sauce and cooked to perfection – on their best china. You should by now know that I am a fan of slow cooking. Make food, not war – slowly!! Sensuous cooking! I got this shot perfect as well.

Chicken roulades, crispy potatoes, baked asparagus and red wine in a velvet evening with good company meant total satisfaction. The only thing that could have made it even better, would have been a little nutmeg to the sauce, but it was great. Preparing food is magic as you can experiment with different ingredients, making variations over the same theme and even new combinations that taste differently from time to time.

Wined and dined, what could be better than a sweet end to it all? The finale - Sven Børges fruitcake – delicious death!. Freshly baked for the occasion, no recipe given (Sven Børge is hereby asked to submit his recipe). A cake drizzled with icing sugar, served with espresso and a large glass of cognac.

At this point I was nearly bursting, but even at this stage, I remained awake as the discussions went on well into the July dusk. You probable recognize some of these magic moments, and this was certainly on of them.

A dinner on the island, that summer of 2007 – "you remember that summer where the river banks burst and you did not see the sun for weeks." Yes – I remember!

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