Saturday, July 28, 2007

A midsummer party

I have two large parties a year. In October I have my Halloween celebration. As my birthday is July 25th, I invite my siblings, their kids, cousins, and my old 90 year old aunt for a midsummer part. This year was no exception.

When making food for 15 people in a tiny kitchen, I always prepare cold food, and this year I made some classics I have made before. I made a tapas table - a Nordic-Mediterranean fusion meal.

Salmon mousse with herbs

I have a recipe on salmon and tuna mousse here on Enjoy Food & Travel. There I recommend that you use gelatin powder or sheets.

I made the mousse the same way. I used packets of aspic (stock and gelatin powder) that you can get in most Norwegian supermarkets and used 1 kilo / a little over 2 lbs of salmon.

I poached the salmon in 50 cl / 18 fluid oz of milk. Added 1 tsp sweet chili and herbs (lemon balm and lemon thyme). Removed the salmon an allowed to cool.

Dissolved the aspic in the remaining milk. Took half the salmon - flaked it up and blended it thoroughly with the milk in the liquidizer. Poured half the mixture in a long
oblong container adding the rest of the salmon. Allow the salmon mousse to set in the refrigerator over night. Remove from container on to a tray.

Chicken aspic with peas and asparagus

Use another packet of aspic. Heat 50 cl / 18 fluid oz. of water and add the aspic powder.

Then you need approximately 800 grams / 2 lbs of chicken meat. I bought a cold roast chicken and plucked the meat off. Arrange white asparagus (I used canned), green peas (frozen are great), and the meat in layers in a oblong container. Pour aspic over. Allow to cool in refrigerator over night.

Remove from container on to a tray.

Crispy Italian bruschetta

Pour 20 cl / 7 fluid oz good olive oil in a casserole. add 4-5 anchovies fillets, 2 tsp minced garlic and herbs in you have in hand. I used lemon thyme, thyme, oregano, tarragon, and rocket leaves.

Heat the oil carefully, it should only infuse, to enhance the flavour from the anchovies, garlic, and herbs. Remove from heat after 10-15 minutes.

Cut rolls or ciabattas into halves, dip the surface into the oil, place them on a baking tray. Sprinkle a liberal amount of grated parmeggiano on top, and bake in a hot oven until golden and crisp. Great for soups or salads.

Seafood in spicy olive oil and white wine

Waste not - want not. As I have much of the delicious infused oil left after the bruscetta, I decided to prepare some seafood. I used 500 grams / a little over 1 lb of frozen seafood mix. This mix contained calamaris, prawns, and mussels.

Defrost the seafood. Pour the leftover olive oil and one glass of good, dry white wine (I used a table wine from Languedoc) in a ovenproof dish. Add the infused olive oil.

Place in a hot olive oil, and allow to remain in the oven 10 minutes after you see the liquid bubble. Great to dip the bred in the liquid.

Other tapas served

I served my little piggies, prunes rolled in bacon.
See recipe here

Then I made salmon nibbles with cream cheese.
See recipe here

I am happy to say that the party was a success. I started the preparation of the food the day before and in this way, making food for 15 an easy task. As long as you have a large refrigerator you can prepare the aspic, salmon mousse and the piggies and store them over night.

You only need to prepare the seafood, salmon nibbles and the bruschetta the same day.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ice cream from Bakken Øvre

I have always admired the local initiative and at the farm Bakken Øvre at Løten, they have found a production that really pays off - ice cream.

The Kildahl family had milk left after they had produced Pultost, their locally produced and very traditional Norwegian cheese. This milk did not go to waste. They produced the most delicious ice cream from the leftover milk.

My friend Øyvind took me to a local cafe, one of the few places that sell this delicious product, to indulge - and we certainly did. I ordered strawberry and vanilla / blackcurrant. This was a great product. It could most definitely compete with any Italian gelato. Today they produced 30 different varieties, half based on cream, the second half sorbets for sale in the local area.

The Kildahl family has most certainly shown rest of the Norwegian farming industry how they should meet the future. The future Norwegian agriculture should rely on production of high quality products not by high import duties.

Hurra for Løten!! Hurra for Bakken Øvre!

Visit Lokes Nidblogg - my new Norwegian website

I launch a new blog, today, Thursday July 26th. Lokes Nidblogg will be my new personal space in Norwegian. I want this blog to be a channel for my opinions on what happens on the national arena. And sorry - no food or travel there!!

The first article is on H.R.H. Princess Märtha Louise, that claims to possess the ability to communicate with angels. Regrettably, the spiritual scene of the Kingdom, is gradually taken over by quacks, that claim to have solutions to all your problems - for a price. Her Royal Highness is hoping to cash in on this trend, by opening her own academy. Here you can learn how to communicate with angels for the sum of 3000 EUR a year.

Sadly these idiots makes it so much harder for those of us that have a genuin interest in the area itself. These kind of ideas makes it so much difficult to achieve a sound and serious debate on important issues related to spiritualy and religious systems.

Read more on Lokes Nidblogg here:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Beronia Crianza 2004

Decent wine at a decent price

Yesterday I invited my friend Laila for dinner. The deal is, as always, I cook and she brings wine. This time she brought a Beronia Crianza 2004 from the Rioja region in Spain. She had bought it on the duty free shop at Oslo airport, but it is available at our Vinmonopolet at only €11 a bottle. Decent wine at a decent price, if you ask me.

This wine is made from tempranillo, grenache and mazuelo grapes. It is recommended for lamb, cheese or pork dishes. In my opinion it can also match a good beef, as most of the Rioja wines I have had the pleasure to taste.

It has a wonderful red colour, has a rich character of fruits and herbs. Can be consumed now, but I think it may mature further if stored for another year.

A great choice, and it matched what I served Laila, cannelloni filled with ricotta and spinach, topped with a rich tomato sauce. Yum!

Rating Tenorio Braseria , Barcelona

Great design and service, disappointing food

We were frantically looking for a restaurant in one of the side streets of Passeig de Gracia. This as our friend John had recommended a restaurant in this neighbourhood called Cerveseria Catalana. This was a place to eat tapas, he claimed, and we headed there on our last night in town. Sadly we did not find the place so we strolled down Passeig de Gracia, passed Casa Battlio looking for a place to eat. It was then we found Tenorio, and decided to dine there.

Location: BBBB
Dead easy to find, as Tenorio is located in one of the busiest street in Barcelona, close to Catalunya. Hardly the most romantic setting to sit outside, but you can always take a drink in Barri Gotic. But the interior may ignite some romantic feelings, I must admit.

Atmosphere: BBBBB
When we entered, we were amazed to see that only one more couple ate in this large restaurant. As one of my first rules is that a good restaurant is always packed with people, we wondered whether we had made a good choice. But since we were early diners, compared to the Catalans, that tend to eat rather late, we decided to give it a try.

What we did not know was that Tenorio is claimed to be one of the hottest, newest, and sleekest restaurants in town designed by the hot interior designer Estrella Salieti. She had designed sleek lines, curving banquets, neutral colours charged with inventive purple lighting on walls and ceilings.

In spite of the lighting, it felt rather dark in there, as if we entered a cave, as we left the bright light outside for the soft chairs in the brasserie. This could be a good place for a romantic dinner or the first date, after all, as it felt dark and cosy, and we were comfortably seated by the elegant table.

Service: BBBBB
The service was excellent, nothing more, nothing less. As we arrived early, there were more staff than guests. We were well advised on the menu, choice of wine. The food arrived without delay.

Price: BBB
The price for two entrees, two main courses, a bottle of wine and coffee was a little over 100 EUR for two. Hardly the most expensive experience, particularly if you compare this to Scandinavian prices, but considering the food we got, and compared to other restaurants in the same price range in Barcelona, we found the food at Tenorio a little overpriced.

The food: BBB
Tenorios chef Jaume Turon is known for imaginative, even unique, fusion cooking like his own special paella, Butifarra sausage grill, and artichoke ravioli with aged Spanish ham in carbonara sauce.

Terje ordered a salad with manchego cheese. Well prepared and beautifully presented, with large slices of cheese and melon piled up into a tent-like shape. I was extremely uninventive as I ordered – well you guessed it, cheese croquettes. My croquettes were more out of the ordinary, but there are certain limits to what you can do with croquettes.

The main course was veal chop "Galician style" – meaning; one large very tender veal chop (no old cow there), direct from the grill with fried slices of potato and a baked tomato. I had expected something more, what about some asparagus, petit pois, or spinach on the plate? Something was most definitely missing for us to claim it as an excellent dish.

It was served with an excellent red wine from Rioja (sorry have forgotten name), deep red colour, with aromas of red fruits and with a distinct oak character, a good match to the meat.

Rating the Tenorio experience: BBBB- (3,8 points)
Great interior and service, but the food did not meet our expectations

Tenorio Braseria
Address: Paseo de Gracia 37 Barcelona.
Phone: (34) 932 720 592

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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!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hamar – the Bishops Fortress

Close to the old cathedral you find the remains of the fortress for the bishops of Hamar. The diocese was founded in 1167, and the bishop’s residence grew in size during the next centuries. Today much of the fortress is still standing and you get a good impression of how large the buildings were.

Through the Middle Ages Hamar grew into an important political and religious centre. The church played a major role in this process, but during the 15th and 16th century, Hamar's ambitions of power were challenged by Oslo. The Danish-Norwegian king Christian III embraced the Lutheran reformation in 1536 and as the last Catholic Bishop fled in 1537 the diocese was abolished and this started the decline of Hamar.

From 1540 to 1560 century on the Bishops palace and the cathedral slowly fell into disrepair, and it all ended as the Swedes destroyed most of it in 1567.

In 1587 the king closed the market in Hamar and the city lost its privileges.

Still, surprisingly enough, much of the remains of the fortress survived and it continued to serve as part of the farm buildings at Storhamar. The large barn is built on much of the remains of the old fortress and the Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn designed a new museum building over the rest of the walls. The barn and the new addition are now an important part of the collections of the Hedmark county museum.

Here you see the impressive barn that once was the northern wall of the bishop’s palace. Its new role as a farm building at Storhamar farm saved much of it from further decay. It is now connected to the building designed by Fehn.

As you enter you see remains of the buildings located within the walls.

The keep

The keep was the main tower of the fortress. Here you found the bishops quarters. It was a large structure that was built up successively from 1200 until 1450. The tower rose 60 feet over the ground and dominated the whole structure. It also contained the kitchen and probably a large hall on the top. Today only the basement area is left. Here the bishop stored food and a well supplied the bishops household with water.

The bakery

Within the walls you also find the bakery. This small two-room building is much newer, built in bricks and wood in the 16th century, i.e. just before the finale decline of the fortress. One of the rooms had a large fireplace in the corner, and this is the place the guards could get some heat during the cold winter months.

The other room had a large oven, where the guards could make the bread for the episcopal household.

Another interesting part of the old structure is the kitchen - a vital centre in a strong political centre, also added in the 16th century.

Here there were large flat stones in the middle of the room, for an open fire, as well as a fire place in the corner to fry fish or meat. One may just wonder what has been made here to feed the hungry bishop and his men.

On the opposite side of the courtyard you would have found the large hall, where the bishop met important visitors. The rooms under the hall was used for storage. The keep and the great hall are rivalled only by similar buildings in Trondheim (Bishops Palace), Bergen (Håkonshallen), Tønsberg (Tønsberghus castle) and Oslo (Akershus castle).

The museum and its collection

The new addition is partly built on the fortress west wall. Here you find a large walkway with exhibitions on both sides, where artifacts going back to medieval times and beyond are displayed. Some of the most important treasures from the last two millennium have been found in the fertile area around the largest lake in Norway. The most important is the jewels found at Åker farm dating as far back as the Merovingian era, around 575 AD. This Merovingian treasure is claimed to be rivalled only by the rich treasures from the same period found at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. It is on display in the Norwegian Historical Museum in Oslo

The bishop’s fortress is one of the most important remains in the interior part of Eastern Norway. It is a place you have to visit if you travel by Hamar, and you can get a guided tour at the premises. It is evident that you are on historic ground, when you visit the area.

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