Wednesday, September 19, 2007

First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin......

As Britney Spears would have said - opps! I did it again! Yes, I have bought another ticket to another destination. This time I could not resist a round trip ticket to Berlin with Norwegian Air Shuttle for €100, all included. This is in october, so I know I will be restless again, after returning from South Africa, so why wait?

I already have taken Manhattan, and I took Berlin, and I seriously loved it. I spent 10 hot summer days in the German capital in July 2006. The occasion was to spend a week with good friends and also attend the Gay Pride Parade, where half a million queers (yes you heard right) were to party a whole week. And we partied. The whole parade ended by the large column in the Tiergarten park with loud music, men in high heals or in uniforms, women in comfortable shoes coming in all shapes and sizes.

This time, things could not be more different. I am travelling with a very straight friend to a Berlin during fall. I am already in the process of convincing him to book a room at the very fashionable Park Inn Berlin-Alexanderplatz, a 39 floor four star luxury hotel. Single room at a ridiculous rate at €70 a night. I hope I succeed, and if you read this - hands off, those two rooms are mine!!!

So - coming up in November - Enjoy Food & Travel reporting from a cold and quiet Berlin.

Auf Wiedersehen!!

Dessert? Mousse au Chocolat!

There is nothing like chocolate mousse to end a great Saturday dinner. I have my own recipe that I have used many times. I prepare my mousse with a great chocolate with a 80% cocoa content and the best thing is to add Cointreau, Grand Marnier or another orange or mandarine liquor. Chocolate and orange blend into a higher entity. This time I filled the mousse into tall glasses, added almond flakes on top and a small piece of decorative chocolate. Use your imagination. I first searched my kitchen cabinet for my silver cake decoration, I thought that it would have been smashing, but this worked as well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Main course - crispy duck breast

I have already told you how I was initiated into the art of preparing duck breast. So for main course I served this, one of my favourites. Cooked until slightly pink in the middle, in a dry pan, in its own fat, skin side down. I served it, thinly sliced with baked asparagus and sweet caramelized echalotes. And as sauce? 6 cl of cointreau in the pan, adding salt and pepper.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lobster terrine!

I wondered what to serve as entree on Saturday. I went through my local delicatessen and ended up buying 250 grams (8 oz) lobster terrine. It was enough to feed two, two plates, one thin toasted slice of pain de campagne on each and two slices of lobster terrine, with the most succulent core of delicious lobstermeat lined with boiled spinach. Garnish - prawns, a slice of lime, and a little drizzle of sweet chili sauce.

Open Sandwiches for lunch

Open face sandwiches are eaten by Danes, Norwegian as well as the Swedes. The Danes are however the most faithful to this great tradition. Last Saturday I served two different sandwiches for lunch. I used Danish rye bread, two slices topped with Skagenrøre and peeled shrimps. The other two had two large slices of Danish liver paté, garnished with cold fried slices of bacon and pickled cucumber.

I am happy to say that open sandwiches are always a popular things to serve for lunch. The mere abundance of prawns and liverpaté, as one of my heroines the Danish Smørbrød Queen Ida Davidsen have stated. An open sandwich must have so much topping that you shall not see the slice of bread underneath.

And what do you drink. We observed the tradition this Saturday. I had bought some bottles of Tuborg beer and the cold beer was followed by small Russian crystal glasses filled with the most delicious shots of Aalborg Jubilæums Akvavit.

I was drowning in honey, sting less. I will not wait long to serve this delicious food for guests again. It was a success.

For those of you who want to learn more on Open Sandwiches you can read more here, and find some good recipes as well.

Velbekomme! Smakligt Måltid!!

A Castle! A Fortress!

Akershus fortress and castle has defended the citizens of Oslo for over 700 years. Early in the 14th Century the last Norwegian kings started to build a magnificent military stronghold on a cliff overlooking the mouth of the Lo river and the inner part of the Oslo fjord. At that point the city was located south of the fortress, where you still find a part of the city called Gamlebyen (The Old City). Akershus is linked to the development of Oslo as the the biggest city and its role as capital of Norway.

The complex as it stands today goes back to the mid 1300, and it has buildings dating back to late medieval times, from the renaissance and baroque, and reconstructed parts from the Nationalist Revival period in the late 19th and early 20th century, leading up to the break up of the union between Norway and Sweden in 1905.

Knutstårnet (Knuts Tower)

King Håkon V started the building of the fortress as far back as 1290. From this period you find this small and insignificant tower, Knutstårnet. It is one of the few buildings left from the first time.

Its name dates back to the early 16th century. Knut Alvsson was a powerful noble man during turbulent times in the Norwegian history. He was also in charge of the fortress from 1497 to 1498. After being forced abroad by the Danish king, he returned in the year 1500 as a leader of an army of peasants. Sadly he was caught and executed in 1502, and his corps was allowed to rot inside this tower for twelve years to 1514, when he finally was released for burial. So Knutstårnet got his name from Knut Alvsson.

From Medieval Fortress to Renaissance Castle (1527-1653)

The fortress was seriously affected by the wars in the first half of the 16th century. In 1527 much of the fortress was destroyed by fire ignited by a lightning. Much of the remaining parts of fortress was destroyed the wars that raged during this period.

It was the colourful renaissance king Christian IV that started the work to build up what was left in ruins. He tore down what was left of the medieval towers and built two new. Blåtårnet (The Blue Tower) and Romerikstårnet, named after the area Romerike north-east of Oslo. It was peasants from just this area that were enrolled as labourers to complete one of the wings of the present castle. Today you can enjoy the magnificent rooms from this period with furniture daring back to the renaissance and baroque era.

Reinforcing the fortress (1653-1820)

The fortress was extended and reinforced during the next two centuries. The impressive bastions were built then by experts that were hired in to create a state of the art military complex.

In spite of this fortification, Akershus fortress gradually lost its military significance as the Kingdoms of Denmark-Norway (1319-1814) and Sweden-Norway (1814-1905) entered more peaceful times. The last buildings that were to be reconstructed were to celebrate history at the dawn of the age of Norwegian National Patriotism.

At the dawn of Norwegian patriotism - Olavshallen (1976) and the Royal Mausoleum (1947)

The decades leading up to the turn of the 20 th century was the dawn of the new Norwegian state. As the union between Sweden and Norway gradually broke down, the national consciousness of the Norwegian increased.

In this period the importance of monuments left from the medieval period when Norway was an independent state increased. The restoration works on the Nidaros cathedral where the shrine of King Olav II, Norway's eternal king started in 1869, and important restoration works were also started at Akershus castle.

The restoration of Olavshallen, the banquet hall and other parts of the fortress was started around 1900 and continued through most of the 20th century. Olavshallen as you can see it today was finished in the was finished as late as 1976. Today it is also used for official dinners and festivities

The Royal Mausoleum

The Royal mausoleum has its entrance from the fortress courtyard, but the building is relatively new, as it was finished in 1947.

Today it house the graves of the Norwegian kings and queens.

They are: King Haakon VII (1872-1957), married to Princess Maud of Wales (1869-1938), daughter of King Edward VII of England and Queen Alexandra. Haakon VII or Prince Carl of Denmark was elected the first king of the independent Norwegian monarchy in 1905.

Here you also find the grave of King King Olav V (1903-1991) married to Crownprincess Märtha (1901-1954) of Sweden.

And finally - the ghosts haunting the fortress

The horseman by Jomfrutårnet

Jomfrutårnet (the Virgins Tower - image) is from the oldest part of the fortress. In 1567, during the Seven Years War, a Swedish horseman was killed by the Guards as he harrased them. From that time it is claimed that you can hear the sound of a horse riding by the entrance. You were doomed if you saw the Horse of Death, you would die before the year was out.

Malcanisten - The dog in the Dark Passage

The dark passage led from the Gates into the heart of the fortress. In 1550 a part of the passage fell down, and the commander at Akershus, Peder Hansen Litle decided to inspect the damage. As he walked down the passage with a small lamp, the rest of the soldiers refused to follow him. Here he met Malcanisten, a large black beast of a dog, with glowing eyes and a chain around his neck. Peder Hansen Little threw the lamp at the beast and fled., and he died the coming year having not recovered from the encounter.

Mantelgeisten - the Maid at Margrethehallen

In 1370 the young Queen Margrethe lived at the fortress. She wrote a famous letter to her husband Olav VI of Norway, complaining to him that even she starved as the rest of the royal household.

Mantelgeisten wandered around here for 500 years. She was said to be one of Queen Margrethes maids that starved to death that year. She used to glid out from a dark corner, faceless with a large cloak, scaring the spectators before she slowly vanished into thin air. She did not like books, however, as when the National Library moved into the Margrethehallen in 1811, she was never seen again.

So whether you believe in ghosts or not, or just want to see what is left from 700 years history, there are plenty reasons to visit this wonderful National monument.

So come - to Enjoy!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

An Italian Feast

This recipe inspired by the famous English-Italian cook Antonio Carluccio as he visited Italy in one of his food program in quest for the white truffle.

He prepared what he called the most expensive pasta dish in the world for the truffle hunter and his wife as they returned home from the lush forests. They were peasants that never had tasted truffles in spite of the fact that they are found just outside their doorstep.

Antonio Carluccio boiled some plain tagliatelle, and then prepared the sauce. Butter and garlic heated in a skillet, a little salt and pepper and a €750 white truffle. Some of it slightly warmed in the skillet and the rest mixed raw into pasta in thin slices. And to end it - some parmeggiano reggiano. And then she tasted truffles for the first time in her life.

Yesterday I opened up a glass of black truffles and prepared them according to Antonio Carluccio, using Kviteseidsmør, an aromatic butter originating from Kviteseid in Telemark County. I chopped the two black truffles and heated them in butter adding 1 tsp minced garlic. Then I poured the butter over boiled linguine and mixed it with grated parmeggiano.

It was heaven!!