Saturday, May 24, 2008

From times of war

I have told several stories of war here on Enjoy Food & Travel. The peaceful Scandinavia of today is an exception rather than the rule. Today the Scandinavian democracies are among the most successful in the whole world. However, only 70 years have passed since the German occupation of Norway and Denmark. There are several sights from times of war in Oslo, and at least two points to turbulent times of the 17th and 18th century.

Of the four present Nordic countries there were historically two winners and two losers. Denmark and Sweden established themselves as the dominant independent powers during the 14th and 15th century, and from their capitals, Copenhagen and Stockholm they each took control over Norway and Finland. Whereas the Swedes had to keep the Russians away from Finland, the Danes had to deal with the Swedes that attacked Norway over and over again along its long border with Sweden.

Den Gamle Krigsskolen (1640)

At Tollbodgaten 10 you find one of the few old stately homes left in downtown Oslo. This is a house going back to the times of the thirty years war that lasted from 1618-1648. The oldest part of this building was built in 1640 by chancellor Jens Ågesson Bielke (1580-1659). He came from an exceptionally wealthy family and owned properties as the Austråt palace north of Trondheim and Tøyen manor. In 1763 it was extended by Caspar Herman Storm. In 1802 the house was given by the squire Bernt Anker to the Norwegian Army to serve as Military Academy.

A two hundred and fifty year old battleground

Dronningens gate 15 used to be the main postoffice of Oslo. This massive stone building was built 1914-1924, on the spot where Departementsgården once stood. It was in Departementsgården that Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament assembled from its start in 1814. In the wall of old building that faced Akershus fortress there was a cannonball fired from the fortress in 1716 to drive away the advancing Swedish army led by Karl XII, the warrior king. The king had to draw back, and the cannonball was left as a reminder of the battle.

When the new Post office was built in 1924 the cannonball was taken out and placed on its exact location in the wall of the new building.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pizzeria Roma - Charlottenberg



















This blog post is probably the only of its kind. Pizzeria Roma is hardly the place a culinary writer would care to review. This as there are millions of small pizza joints scattered over the world from east to west, as this one found in the deep woods of western Sweden. This is where we, Susanne, Per, Stian and Øyvind, ended on a visit to shop groceries on the nearby shopping centre depending on Norwegians crossing the border to feast on cheaper food, liquor and cigarettes.

Welcome to Charlottenberg, hardly the centre of the globe, but still the home of a group of Turks busy making Italian pizzas with their own twist. Pizzeria Roma has the tastes of Italy and Turkey in an atmosphere of a typical local Swedish diner/grill.

Here you find an enormous variety of pizzas, dead cheap - from SEK 55 (€ 7) to SEK 65 (€ 8), and we had a wide range of pizzas with traditional Italian names to choose from. Margherita, capricciosa, marinara, and many more.

Pizza with prosciutto and onions

As this pizza with prosciutto and onions. The crust looked crispy enough, but I have to admit the dough under the filling was a little soggy. The art of Italian pizza baking is to keep the filling moist, delicious, and tasty, resting on a crispy crunchy crust.

Crispy crust or not - this pizza was good enough for Susanne.



Pizza with beef, mushrooms and Turkish peperoni

This was pizza was a twist. Thinly sliced beef, mushrooms and the hot, hot peperoni well known in the Turkish cuisine. You find these green peppers, pickled with or without fillings. I particularly love the peppers bought in my nearest Turkish green grocer - filled with feta cheese and marinated in rich olive oil.

And here on a fusion style pizza served in the dark woods of Värmland. What a beautiful world!!

And this pizza is mine - minced meat, ham, onions and hot Turkish peperoni

I thought I would get peperoni in the form of Italian salami spiced with red peppers and not the Turkish pepper. I love salami on my pizza and could even choose pineapple. I know some of you find the idea horrendous.

Horrendous or not, no crispy, crunchy crust, and rather rich - much olive olive oil I did not feel the urge to eat much the rest of that day.

This was hardly a gastronomic feast, but I felt at home and at ease at Pizzeria Roma, one of the millions of small restaurants baking this versatile Italian piece of pastry. It is certainly far away from the baking ovens of Naples where the pizza may have been born, but it made us happy and as satisfied as many of the Neapolitans when they leave their pizza hangouts. The only difference. If you were looking for a glass or two of red wine, you would be waiting in vain. Low alcohol beer where the only thing you would get here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mary had a little lamb........





















I do not know what happened to the lamb Mary once had, with wool as white as snow. I did however, during my weekend in my summer home, prepare one of its cousins for a Saturday dinner. I do not know whether I was lucky or knew what I did. The roast of lamb ended up extremely tender, succulent and perfect pink.

A friend had borrowed my flat and had left the roast in my refrigerator. It had passed its "use by" date by six days. I do know that meat may even be better and more tender if it pass the dato of consumption. I put the roast in my freezer, took it out and brought it to Sørlandet as a weekend dinner.
I was a little skeptical, as the brand "Slakter" does not have the best reputation. It had already been browned and marinated in garlic and herbs. I know that lamb should be pink and I had no knowledge on how long to bake a roast weighing 1 kilo (2,2 lbs) to perfection. I assumed that baking on low heat would be the best strategy.

I am pleased to say that I was right. 2 hours at 120C (250F) and 15 minutes to rest it was the way shown on top.

We were on vacation and I decided to act accordingly when preparing vegetables and gravy. I bought frozen "lapskaus" mix, meaning vegetables to prepare Norwegian stew, i.e. diced carrots, potatoes and sliced leeks. I mixed in olive oil, salt and pepper and baked the vegetables under the lamb catching the dripping from the roasting meat.

The soup from Kelda - a classic cream sauce was perfect to the lamb. All in all, this was a meal of leisure, as the day were - as we enjoyed the first Norwegian summer days.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A walk on the wild side - Danish style




















We are queer, we were there, and we were not going shopping. Six gay guys were visiting Copenhagen this Easter, and we had to try to take a walk on the wild side - Danish style. We were wild at two bars/restaurants, so completely different from each other as possible. We walked to a designer lounge where the smart set meets in Copenhagen and to one of the nicest gay cafées I have experienced until now.

CODE - cold design for the smart set

CODE is located in Rådhusstrædet in central Copenhagen. It calls itself a gay lounge bar, serving sandwiches, cakes and coffee during day, turning into a cosy lounge by night. Personally I did not find it "cosy", but chic and rather cold and hostile.

We enjoyed a few colourful cocktails at CODE, but even if we rested our tired bums on smart and comfortable designer leather sofas, we were soon bored enough to leave CODE rather early.

Address:

CODE
Rådhusstræde 1, 1466 Copenhagen K
Phone: (+45) 33 26 36 26
Website: http://www.code.dk/

A favorite to return to - Oscar!!

Oscar is a traditional gay café located by the Copenhagen City Hall. Here you may sit down and enjoy food and a glass of wine in a laid back atmosphere during day. During evening and night Oscar is filled up by good friends over a pint or a glass of wine. Oscar is in fact so popular by the Copenhagen gay crowd that you may have problem to find anywhere to sit or even stand during night.

Oscar offers a wide range of dishes at reasonable prices (€6-13), salads, sandwiches, open sandwiches, light meals and more during day and evenings. For me Oscar is a place to return to when travelling to Copenhagen.

Address:

Oscar Bar Café
Rådhuspladsen 77
1550 Copenhagen V
Phone: (+45) 33 12 09 99
E-mail: info@oscarbarcafe.dk
Website: www.oscarbarcafe.dk

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In the foot steps of pilgrims and crusaders

Some places you feel the heart beat of history. This is certainly the case when visiting Ringsaker church, located by lake Mjøsa in one of the wealthiest and most fertile regions of Norway. This is the region of mansions, and one of the strongholds of several old Norwegian noble families. At the mighty Ringsaker church you can clearly feel the continuity to time of crusaders and pilgrims.

Ringsaker church is the largest of the medieval churches still standing by the banks of Lake Mjøsa. It is said that the first church was built in wood by Sigurd I Jorsalfare - Norways crusader king.

Sigurd was son of King Magnus III Berføtt that died only 30 years old in Ulster - Northern Ireland in 1103. Magnus was King of Norway and of the Isle of Man. Sigurd reigned from 1103 to 1130.

Sigurd earned the nickname Jorsalafari ("Jerusalem-farer"), as he in 1107, led a band of Norwegians to support the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, thus being the first European king to go on crusade.

He fought in Lisbon, various Mediterranean islands and Palestine, and visited king Roger II of Sicily in Palermo, Jerusalem (Jorsalaland) and Constantinople (Miklagard). He joined forces with Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem to capture the coastal city of Sidon in 1110.

Sigurds is buried in the St. Hallvard Church in Oslo, now in ruins.

The present church is a cross shaped building built in the middle of the 12th century. It is one of a kind, maybe modeled from the Cathedral at Hamar. The characteristic pointed tower was built in 1695.

The building is packed with architectural gems, as this iron door, through which pilgrims may have walked during medieval times. Another interesting detail are two clover shaped windows over the main doorway.

This beautiful altar piece is Dutch carved in wood in 1520. The master of this beautiful piece of art was Robert Moreau, a French sculptor that settled in Antwerp in 1533. It has 127 gilded statues.

It was a gift from the last Roman Catholic / first Lutheran vicar Ansten Jonsson Skonk. The presence of such a piece of art clearly shows that Ringsaker was not a cultural back water, but was linked to, and an important part of European culture.

Another interesting detail is the wall paintings

Here you see a European trading vessel reminding you of those ships that crossed the oceans and discovered new worlds at the turn of the 16th century. You can even see part of its name ..NGHELP..., and the flag is waiving in the wind - a red cross on a white background with a lily on the top of the cross.

The church at Ringsaker, is, with the church at Stange landmarks from a time when the pilgrims walked to visit the shrine of Saint Olaf, the eternal king of Norway buried at Nidaros Cathedral, and when crusaders left to fight in the Holy Land. If you travel through Hedmark, it is highly recommended to visit the church at Ringsaker to feel the heart beats of history.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hip Hooray - the menu of the day














I am pleased to say that the brunch I invited to May 17th was a success. I followed my plans for the food and it tasted great. The guests brought red wine and sparkling wine, and good wine and food made us all into a cheerful bunch of people by the end of the day.

What did I make?

My salmon nibbles with cream cheese and sweet chili was a great success. This year I added more kick to them as I wrapped the cheese and salmon mix in tortillas made with jalapeños and garlic.

I made a variation of my salmon mousse, as I, after having poached the salmon in hot milk just flaked the salmon up before pouring the hot milk and aspic mix over. This is a one time experience, as blending the milk, aspic, and salmon finely gives a much better consistency. And I used only salmon this time, but a mix of tuna and salmon is delicious. I have also made a mousse with all herbs from the garden of my summer home.

The prunes in bacon is always a success!!!

I made an oven baked egg and bacon omelet, coating the surface of a non-stick bread baking tray with slices of bacon, before pouring in 8 beaten eggs, mixed with 8 tbsp water, salt pepper, and herbs. Allow to bake until completely warmed through. Allow to cool, before taking out of tray and cutting it into thin slices.

Then I made marinated shrimps. I took 2-3 tbsp of Tone's Salmon & Seafood seasoning, mixed in olive oil and sweet chili dipping sauce. Placed 500 grams / 1 lb of shelled shrimps in a zip-lock back, poured the marinade over allowing it to marinate for 5-6 hours. Yum!!

It is always a learning process as you prepare food, and things you would have done differently as you look back. These are small secrets you can keep for yourself and your improvement. But the smile on my friends faces and the good mood around the table told that the food had done its job, to unite good friends on the day commemorating the signing of the first Norwegian Constitution, 194 years ago.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The secret is in the sauce




















When you buy a good cut of beef, you must rely on a good sauce to add flavor to the dish. The best sauce is made from scratch and reduced down to concentrate all the aromas. The secret is in the sauce....

We bought 1 kilo / 2 lbs of beef tenderloin, cut the meat into three pieces, fried them gently. Do not overcook fine meats - it is a waste of money!

1 kilo / 2 lbs ox tails was the base for my sauce and they were browned in hot butter, before removing them from the pot, and fried diced onions in the hot butter. The sauce will get even better if you add diced carrots and celery. Then place the ox tails back in the pot and pour enough water to cover the meat and the vegetables. Add salt, pepper, and herbs - thyme and lovage is delicious.

Then you have to be patient. Allow the meat and vegetables to simmer for an hour before you remove them. Add a cup of red wine and reduce further. Taste to check whether you have to season more. Then take two tablespoons of cold butter and whisk it into the sauce.

Yum!

As we wait we sip to a glass of home made cosmopolitan, a concoction of vodka, triple sec, lime and cranberry juice - a dangerously delicious dame in disguise, with bright red lipstick armed to her teeth with a silver bullet.

Eat you heart out - Mae West!