Saturday, August 18, 2007

Grevens ciders

As I told you I love ciders. This is Grevens cider, produced by the Hansa Borg Breweries in Norway. This is the variety made from pear, and I enjoyed this glass reading the paper, as my Friend Ketil took a stroll in the rain to the nearest urban centre, Kilsund, a half-an-hour walk away.

I have enjoyed many a good glass of cider before, and I know that there are as many tastes as there are brands. As Norway has only a very small wine production (but we still have), ciders and beers have been the most common alcoholic drinks produced in the country.

Grevens cider is a sweet cider, and it may be too sweet for some of you. I, however, love it as a contrast to beer, chilled, but I always put a slice of lime in it. In fact this was the rest of the lime I used as I prepared my Skagen røre.

So find you own cider variety, and give me a hint of what you like?

You find a few lines on Norwegian cider production here - in Wikipedia.org

A countryside dinner - Saturday August 11th

Pork tenderloin with cider roasted onions and baked asparagus

This is the kitchen in our summer home. Not a very practical place to make food, but still the best place to prepare and enjoy good food for me! Just outside this window I can harvest fresh herbs and ruccola growing in abundance in my flower bed.

Saturday, August 11th, I prepared dinner by this table. We had bought a 750 grams, 1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin. This is the meat for those on you on a diet. This is probable the leanest meat you can get. I love to prepare pork with onion, apples and sage. For this recipe I did not use apples but apple cider.

As you may remember I have used this combination of ingredients as stuffing in chicken and ducks, then adding bacon. Apples and onions work very well together, but if you use cider, add salt to balance the different sweetness and acidity you find in the many cider varieties.

I used Grevens cider, made by the Hansa Borg breweries in Bergen, a very sweet cider variety, so I had to balance the sweetness with lime juice. More on this later.

Preparing the pork tenderloin

I love pork tenderloin. This is an excellent cut of meat at a very reasonable price. Buying beef tenderloin or tenderloin of venison or reindeer deeply vertainly affect the weekly food budget. Pork tenderloin is in fact an inexpensive cut of meat with little fat and bursting with protein.

The weekend before, as we prepared beef tenderloin, I explained the importance of cleaning away fat and membranes before you start preparing the beef. I am glad to say that there are no need to the same job with the pork tenderloin.

Season it with salt and pepper. Heat up a good amount of butter in an iron pan until it is very hot. Seal the surface of the tenderloin properly until it has a golden brown crust. Put aside to rest as you prepare the cider onions.


Fried onions with cider

Slice two medium sized onions. Heat up some butter in an iron pan. Fry the onions until it has a golden colour.

Add 5 cl / 2 liquid oz cider in the pan and boil until the liquid has evaporated, then add the same amount and reduce. When the onions have taken up the liquid, add salt and pepper to taste. If you have some sage it is excellent to use in this mixture. As I told you earlier, the cider I used was very sweet so I added the juice of half a lime to balance to sweetness.

The final preparations

And then over to the rest of the meal. This is an all in one dish, that means that you can prepare the whole thing in the oven.

I placed the tenderloin (left), some asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper, and some frozen potatoes in an oven tray and baked in the oven for 40 minutes at 175C / 350F. It is vital that you allow the tenderloin to rest for 10 minutes before you start to slice it up.

And with the cider onion the plate looked like this. We enjoyed it with a bottle of Doppio Passio, the most excellent Italian red wine.

This is one of the many great meals I have enjoyed with friends in the house by the sea, and the food truly tastes better there, and I look forward to return there and make more food.

Are you wondering what to cook today?

See other recipes on Enjoy Food & Travel here!!

See more on this wonderful house and another dinner there here

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lunch, Saturday August 11th

Skagenrøre - shrimp salad from Skagen, Denmark

Saturday at the old house I prepared smørrebrød with Skagenrøre as a traditional Danish "frokost." I prepared the salad from this delicious recipe, named after the charming, small town of Skagen located on the northern most point of Denmark. This mayonnaise based shrimp salad is one of many similar recipes prepared in Scandinavia (and beyond) using many different crustacea (crayfish, lobster, crab, etc). I used all the traditional ingredients supposed to be in a genuine Skagenrøre, except red caviar. It is particularly delicious if you use the caviar variety with the big translucent eggs, but the cheaper varieties works as well.

What you need to make four generous sandwiches with Skagenrøre is:

200 grams / 7 oz of shrimps, peeled
50-75 grams / 2-3 oz good mayonnaise
1/2 a large onion, finely diced
Juice from half a lime
Pepper
1/2 teaspoon of sweet chili sauce (optional)

Mix the dried ingredients, then add the mayonnaise. Mix well, then add lime juice, pepper and chili sauce. Add more salt or pepper after your taste. Allow to cool down.

If you would like a leaner salad, substitute half the mayonnaise with a low fat mayonnaise or sour cream. If so add more salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

Place two slices of rye bread on a plate. Spoon generous amounts of Skagenrøre over. If you follow the Danish smørrebrød tradition the slice of bread shall be completely covered by the salad.

And what to drink? Beer, of course. This variety is the inexpensive Seidel variety we have available but any pilsener type beer will do. And a cold glass of Aquavit may also be enjoyed according to tradition.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bergenhus fortress an castle

- a monument from the Golden Age of Norwegian history

There are very few monuments that are preserved as well as the Bergenhus fortress and castle in Bergen. This impressive monument dates back to the period called Norgesveldet, the time when Norway and its possessions were at its greatest, including Iceland, Greenland, The Orkney's and the Faeroe Islands

It has been military buildings at Holmen for over 900 years, and the oldest parts of the present fortress dates back to 1240. It was the seat of Norwegian kings until 1299 when the capital of Norway was moved from Bergen to Oslo.

The building you see on the left is the Rosenkrantz tower, built in 1560 by the commander of the fortress Erik Rosenkrantz. It enclosed the old keep built by Magnus Lagabøter in 1270.

Håkonshallen - the large Hall at the Fortress

The most impressive structure on today's fortress is the hall built by king Håkon Håkonsson in the middle of the 13th century. This is by far the best preserved medieval hall in the country. There were, however, similar buildings at Hamar and at Akershus castle. The first is in ruins the second is restored in the late 19th century.

It has burned and decayed many times during its turbulent history. In 1266, and in 1429 it was burnt by German mercenaries, the "Victual brothers." Still it was what happened at April 20th 1944, that was the most dramatic episode in the halls 750 year history.

Then a dutch ship docked close to the fortress with 120 tons of dynamite on board, exploded and most of the wooden structure on the buildings caught fire. After the war ended restoration work was started to bring the old buildings back to how it had been.

The Hall is a magnificent building and the restoration work has managed to keep the medieval atmosphere. As you walk in you can admire the beautiful wooden ceiling and the beautiful Gothic windows.

Today it is used for concerts and official purposes. How magnificent it would be to be present at a banquet in such a room!!

It was my first visit there in June, and I will certainly return for another visit as I revisit Bergen. I will also recommend a visit to Bergenhus and get a glimpse of Norway's medieval past.

The old church at Løten

Outside Hamar, in the eastern part of Norway, you are in a middle of an area steeped in old history. Here you probable have the largest number of stately homes in the country and a large number of churches dating back to Medieval times. One of these is Løten old church.

This is what you call a "langkirke" (Long church), and this shape was the most common for churches in Norway. The shape has a symbolic meaning as well, as the room symbolizes the human travel through life and the altar at the end of the room is the end of the travel, paradise.

This shape was also given to some of the oldest wooden churches, the Stave churches, and a good example is the church at Reinli.

The church at Løten has been extended and ended several times, but the oldest part of the nave goes back over 800 years, to the turn of the 13th century.

At the nearby cemetery you find this grave. Underneath the head stone is a murderer buried, in fact Kristoffer Nilsen Svartbækken. He was born in 1804 on the small farm of Svartbækken in Grindalen. He was in 1867 imprisoned for seven years at a prison camp at Trondheim for a mail robbery, and released in 1874.

The night to 28th February 1875, he butchered the 19 year old Even Nilsen Dæhlin with an axe, as he was on his way back to his parents. Even Nilsen had been in Trysil and sold grain, and Kristoffer Nilsen Svartbækken fled with is money. He was caught a few days later.

He was accused of murder and he was sentenced to death, and beheaded February 25th 1875. Kristoffer Nilsen Svartbækken was the last to be sentenced to death and executed in peacetime in Norway.

Read more on Kristoffer Nilsen Svartbækken here (Norwegian only)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Délice de Canard and Sauternes

What a way to start a meal

My brother declares that I am the mortal enemy of the whole generation of ducks, and I declare that I love every bit of meat from this fowl. I am particularly happy to get a slice of its liver, natural or made into a paté. This dinky little tin of délice was bought in Barcelona and I was determined to bring it with me this weekend and enjoy it with a chilled glass of Sauternes wine. And I did!!

Produced by Godard in the small town of Gourdon in the département de Lot in South Western France it is not entirely the real thing. It contains 25% of the stuff, besides pork meat, duck fat, eggs, milk, salt, Armagnac, port spices and sugar.

I paid €5, so I did not expect the full duck liver experience, but the little tin of délice de canard tasted remarkable well, and were enjoyed with some salted biscuits, and a bottle of the sweetest of nectars - Sauternes.

Château Gravas 2003 - quack, quack!!!

Château Gravas is located in Haut Barsac, has been owned by the Bernard family for 5 generation, since 1830. This wonderful wine is a blend of Sémillon (80%) and Sauvignon Blanc (20%).

Château Gravas is truly a wonderful wine with golden colour with pleasant aromas of fruits and apples - a rich and sweet wine and perfect as company for blue cheese, foi gras or to a dessert.

We enjoyed this nectar with the delice and both I and my company, Ketil Zahl, agreed that this is the way to prepare for a good dinner in the countryside.

A story of lost glamour

Dining on the train

Once again I left the city for the old house this weekend. I usually prefer express bus to train, as the bus is as punctual as the train and costs half the price. This weekend was an exception - as we departed by train Friday at 3.07 PM, and returned to Oslo 6.55 PM Sunday evening. And one good excuse to take the train is the bistro on rails. But dining on trains is not what it once was, it is a question of lost glamour.

No white table cloths and elegant waiters, and gourmet food. Very understandable, as the standard on Norwegian train reflects a price we can afford to pay for a round trip ticket. But cheap should not necessarily mean plain, because the food was plain. There must be better ways to prepare and serve ready made food than how they do it on board the NSB (Norwegian State Railway) train service from Oslo to Stavanger.

On our way to Tvedestrand, we both ordered pizza - meaning a rectangular piece of fine bread with tomato sauce, ham, and cheese, served crisp and dry and what did it taste. Certainly not what was promised. I swear it would have been much better if I had sliced white bread myself, used ready made tomato sauce, cheese and ham and baked in the oven. A disappointment!!

On our way back we ordered a pie. It is a serious question whether the thing served was a pie or something else. Still it was not made from crispy bread, but from real dough. And under the crisp crust the luke warm filling did not really taste that bad.

Still, luckily, I was not tempted by the "kjøttkaker med brun saus", the legendary meat balls with brown gravy every Norwegian brought up in a decent home compare to "the meatballs in brown gravy my mother used to make." As you enter this competition be aware of the fact that you will be compared to the serious comfort food enjoyed by a whole generation. My mother would have turned in her grave. Seeing the staff taking out a round plastic bag with the cult food inside, placing it in a microwave and then simply snip a whole when serving it, made me reflect on how low the art of traditional cooking may sink!!

But one good thing on trains - you can get wine and beer - in situ, as you are only allowed to drink it in the bistro. (For your information - remember you are in the country defined entirely as a no fun zone.)

WE (the happy and liberal crowd) enjoyed our beer on the wine down to Tvedestrand, and ordered red wine on our way back. Fortant Merlot, a red wine from Languedoc made from 100% Merlot grape, served in overpriced 18,5 cl bottles. A whole bottle will, in the no fun zone, cost you €12, and we paid roughly the same price for the baby bottle.

And did it taste well. Pretty decent, a deep purple colour and a strong blackcurrant character. But is it worth the price - I doubt it.

Well, my conclusion is: Glamour certainly has gone out of train dining. Plain plastic wrapped food heated in a microwave oven is not my idea of decent dining, amd I would once again remind you that quick food does not necessarily mean boring food. NSB should have done a better job and served better and well prepared food on their trains. But maybe it all boils down that it is our own fault. If we, the travellers , had not settled for what is served, but had demanded better quality, there might have been quality food served on our plates. Well at least, we can hope that it might be!

Read more on the food offered by NSB here