Saturday, May 19, 2007

Coming up next week - sights from old Oslo

The city of Oslo has existed at least for the last thousand years. Since most buildings of the city was constructed in wood, it has burnt numerous times, and invading armies destroyed what was left built in stone.

The street plan you see today is the result of the fire in 1624. After this large fire, Christian IV of Denmark and Norway, decided to move the city centre closer to the Akershus fortress. He renamed the new city, after himself - Christiania. From this period the buildings were constructed in stone or bricks. In the quarters close to fortress there are a considerable number of buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th Century.

Still, if you enter Gamlebyen - named after Old Oslo, you will find remains predating 1624, and there are many interesting stories to be told from this part of the city.

I have roamed these streets with my camera and I will, the coming week, share with the historically interested tourist some sights from Old Oslo. As the window on this picture. It is now part of the foundation of the Oslo Bishop Residence, but used to be a part of one of the old monasteries of the medieval city.

Friday, May 18, 2007

May 17th 2007 - in retrospect

The brunch ended 7 PM, when the last guest left. At that point I just cleared the table and watched television. I am sorry to say that I did not report anything on the final result - but here it comes!!

Today I will leave for Sweden to by buy groceries, but before I leave I'll show you the rest of the brunch table and review the Champagne we drank.

On tray here you see

  • Top: Cured ham bought at El Corte Inglés, Placa Catalunya in Barcelona. It is branded En Celler D'En Joan, 08550 Balenyà. A great ham. very lean, a rich meat flavour and not oversalted.
  • Top left, 3-stjernet Hvidløgs Spegepølse. Danish , cold smokes cured salami with garlic. Produced by 3-stjernet in Horsens. Much garlic flavour, a little oversalted and greasy.
  • Top right: Chorizo Cantimpalos Extra, bought at El Corte Inglés, Placa Catalunya in Barcelona.. It is branded Pico Torre, 40213 Vallelado Segovia. Great paprika taste, much garlic, not oversalted. Definetely something to buy again
  • Low left: Cheese with onion and chives, produced by Allerstädter Käserei, 06442 Wolmirstedt. Very soft cheese with a distinct onion and chive taste. Delicious!!
  • Low right: My wraps with serrano ham and cream cheese with chili, as decribed earlier
Second tray: I used a mold to plate the scrambled eggs and potato sallad.
  • Around the edge of the tray - slices of smoked norwegian salmon
  • In the middle you see creamed potato sallad, i.e. diced precooked potatoes in a mayonnaise and sour cream dressing with chives. This is often used with cured meats as the ones on the other tray.
  • In the middle you also have scrambled eggs, made from 4 beaten eggs, a little cream, salt, pepper, herbs (Scandinavians traditionally use chives). This mix is slowly heated in a non stick pan while stirring.

Grémillet Brut Cuvée des Dames

Until they started their own brand, the Gremillet family in Balnot sur Laignes sold their harvest of grapes to famous Champagne houses as Veuve Clicquot or Mumm. But I am happy that they started their own production, as this is one of my favourite brands. It produce 150 000 bottles each year from their 17 hectar vineyard

It is based solely on chardonnay grapes. It has a wonderful yellow colour. It has a distinct apple character with hints of minerals. Very dry - as I like it and fresh.

Visit the Official Gremillet website

And sadly it is another year until the next brunch!!

See other recipes here on Enjoy Food & Travel here!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 17th - as the day progress

May 17th, 09.46 AM:

Today is our National Day, and already now, at 9.45 I hear the sound of brass band playing in the streets. At 10 AM a large parade of children from the primary schools in Oslo will gather close to Oslo's main street, Karl Johans gate to parade down, passed the Norwegian Parliament to the Royal Palace. Here the Royal family will greet the happy children.

Will I be there. No, I am still sitting in my pyjamas, having had my first coffee, waiting for my brunch guests to arrive at noon. Per and Susanne Koch, my friends and helpers her at Enjoy Food & Travel and Øivind Grimsmo, a friend of mine currently living in Valencia in Spain. I have made set the table
with crystal Norwegian Flags, candles in our National colours, crystal glasses, fine china and silver knives, forks and spoons.

Why all this fuzz? Fine dining in not only about food, but should also enjoyed in style. That means that the food should, not only taste well, but be presented nicely and be enjoyed by an elegantly set table.

So what have I already prepared. Let me show you.

Wraps with Spanish Serrano ham and cream cheese with chili.

This is very easy to make and tastes great. I love the combination of the taste of salted cured meats and the intense sweetness of the chillies. Use large wheat tortillas. Heat the tortillas in a hot non-stick pan to soften them.

I use a cream cheese with chili added, but it is easy to take a regular Philadelphia cheese and add some sweet chili sauce.

Spread the cream cheese liberally on the tortilla and take three slices of serrano ham or any other cured meats. You can use you local variety. Place the meats on top of the cream cheese.

Fold the edges of the tortilla and press down. Then take the other edge and roll the tortilla and
press gently to hold it together. Cut the wraps in two and place in the refrigerator to cool down.

This is a delicious snack. It is equally delicious prepared with smoked salmon and chives.

Shrimp and Asparagus Salad with Saffron Mayonnaise

CAUTION: This recipe contains raw eggs, that may be the cause of gastro-intestinal sickness. You may use premade mayonnaise for a similar result. Then add saffron and garlic.

This saffron colour is a little fake, as I have used the Sazón Goya seasoning I have told you about earlier.

When you use eggs for this recipe, remember to leave them outside the refrigerator so they reach room temperature.

Separate two egg yolks, and beat them. Add a little vegetable oil ( I use rapeseed oil), and beat to emulsify the mixture. Add more oil and work the mixture until it has thickened. Add mustard, saffron (or one bag of Sazón Goya seasoning - and then do not add salt!), salt , pepper, garlic and dill weed.

Add 10 oz / 300 grams peeled shrimps and 5 oz / 150 asparagus tips. Stir into mayonnaise.

Allow to cool in refrigerator for a few hours.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Preparing the National Day

May 17th is the Norwegian National Day, celebrating the day of the signing of the Norwegian Constition May 17th 1814. Norwegians celbrate this day with parades of school children that follow the countless brass bands that play around in the whole country.

I have one National Day tradition - a May 17th Brunch. As you can see I have started the preparation already, with candles in our national colours and matching decorations. Most of the food, however, will be prepared tomorrow.

I will prepare smoked salmon, chorizo and spanish serrano ham with scrambled eggs, french paté, shrimps in saffron mayonnaise, cheese, served with fresh bread. And a rich chocolate mousse for dessert. And what to drink? My guests, Per and Susanne Koch are bringing a bottle of Moët & Chandon. Great stuff.

I will show you how to prepare these cold dishes tomorrow, so - I'll se you tomorrow......

(By the way, my great-great-grandfather, Even Thorsen (1776-1867) was one of the men that signed the Constitution that day in 1814 - something to be proud of)

Monday, May 14, 2007

This is the 500th story on Enjoy Food & Travel

- and soon there will be more on restaurants in Oslo

Some of you may have noticed that I have not, until now, written anything on Norwegian restaurants. This has had one important reason. I have since January 1st 2004 worked as assistant director at the main office of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. This has made it difficult, or even impossible for me, as a food bureaucrat, to share culinary experiences from Oslo. This period will, however, soon be over......

I will, in the next months, change to a new job. This means that I finally will have the chance to share my experiences with you from restaurants and bars in Oslo, as well as being able to write more freely on Norwegian food in general. So this 500th story is something to celebrate.

For Oslo has, in spite of being a rather small capital city, so much to enjoy for the hungry traveller. You can either visit the most exclusive restaurants with Michelin star rating and pay a fortune, or you can enjoy good, and inexpensive street food in one of the Eastern parts of the city. Oslo is quite small, but has still everything a big city has to offer.

So bookmark Enjoy Food & Travel, as there are much more to come.........

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Tønsberg Castle Hill

When you arrive in Tønsberg, you will see a grey tower on a hill overlooking the city. The tower was erected to the celebration of the citys first millennium in 1871. This was the site of Tønsberghus fortress, one of the largest military strongholds built in Scandinavia during medieval times. It was constructed from the 12th to the 14th century. It fell into disrepair in late medieval times, and was totally destroyed by an invading Swedish army in 1503.

The famous Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, claims that Tønsberg was founded then, before the Battle of Hafrsfjord, the event that marks the start of the Norwegian state. If true, it would make Tønsberg til oldest city in Scandinavia.

There are many that dispute the accuracy of Snorris accounts, but the castle hill was a perfect place to build a fortress and it might have been used for natural protection by the population for a long time before the structure itself was built.

St. Mikkelskirken (1160-1503)

At the 2nd half of the 12th Century St. Mikkelskirken (Saint Michaels Church) was built for the Premonstratensian order. It was an important place of pilgrimage.

Around 1300 it was extended with a quire in Gothic style and given large gifts from the Norwegian king Håkon V Magnusson, the last king of the dynasty founded by King Sverre a century before.

Left you see what is left of this large church. It fell, as the fortress itself into disrepair in the late middle ages, and what was left was destroyed by the invading Swedes in 1503.

Magnus Lagabøtes Kastell (1267-1503)

On the hill closer to the city you find remain of a building. It has a plaque saying:


This structure was built by King Magnus VI, called the Law Mender in 1276 and stood until 1503.
The Southern Gate

You can leave by a walkway built in the 19th Century. Here you find the remains of what was the Southern Gate with the Guards house. It used to be decorated with glazed bricks.

A steep bridle path led from this point down to the Church of St. Lavrans (now the cathedral).

Kristina of Norway (1234-1362)

In 1257 a Norwegian princess left Tønsberghus fortress to marry a Spanish Prince. Kristina Håkonsdatter was at that point 23 years old, and her marriage to Prince Felipe of Spain was arranged to create a political alliance between the two countries. She arrived at the Monasterio de las Huelgas in Burgos, on Christmas eve, and they married in march 1258. They lived in Seville she died childless in 1262.

This statue by the South Gate, was a gift from the the local paper Tønsberg Blad, to the citys 1100th Anniversary in 1971.

A comfort soup: Asparagus and broccoli soup with German Bratwurst

As some of you may have noticed, I am extremely fond of soups - and of asparagus. A great creamy soup is soothing and works as comfort food on a quiet Sunday. I did not have much asparagus, so I used some peeled broccoli stalks.

Some of you think may that the thick woody broccoli stalks will be good for nothing. But if you peel them and chop them you can use them in stir fries, or as here in a good creamy soups.

For 2 pints of soup you'll need

1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2,5 oz / 70 grams bratwurst, in thick slices
1,5 pint / 70 cl hot water
1 1/2 cube of chicken stock
5 oz / 150 grams of asparagus stalks (the lower part), halved
3,5 oz / 100 grams of broccoli stalks, peeled and halved
3,5 oz / 100 grams asparagus tips (the soft part)
2 small teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon dried Provence herbs
10 cl / 3,5 fl. oz single cream

Heat up oil. Fry German bratwurst until golden brown. Remove from oil.

Ad minced garlic to oil and brown slightly. Add hot water and stock cubes, allow them to dissolve.

Add broccoli and asparagus stalks to the liquid. Add sugar to enhance sweetness from the asparagus, and dried herbs.

Place asparagus tips in a steamer. Place on top of pan with lid on. Allow asparagus to steam until soft, but still crunchy.

Allow halved asparagus stalks to boil in the stock until very tender. Remove from stock, scoop out the soft centre with a spoon and discard the rest. Place them back in pan.

When broccoli stalks are tender, pour all into a liquidizer, add the single cream and blend until smooth.

Pour soup back in pan, add bratwurst and asparagus and more salt, sugar or pepper for your personal taste.

Presto - soup!!

Monte Fiorentine Soave Classico 2005

This wine from Veneto in Italy, accompanied my New England fish pie. My friend, Laila, brought this, and she wondered whether it would the quality would reflect the price she paid for it. I very rarely buy a bottle of white wine with this price tag (€18). We were, however, very pleased.

If you like dry white wines, I highly recommend Monte Fiorentine Soave Classico 2005. It is produced by the firm Azienda Agricola ca'Rugate, sitated close to the villages of Brognoligo and Soave. It was established by the Tessari family 20 years ago.

It is made from 100% Garganega grapes, a variety widely grown in Veneto. It has a green-yellow colour, and has a distinct citrus character, with hints of anis, herbs, and minerals. A wine highly recommended for a warm summer day. Serve chilled to seafood or chicken.