Tastes: Plain & limited, but authentic
Staples: Fish – smoked salmon & other preserved, tinned & dried fish & mild cheese
Top Dish: Lutefish or hearty meat cakes
Serving Suggestion: Chewing on dried cod crisps followed by a sweet waffle!
Norwegian food is typically quite simple and plain. This is possibly for the same reason that makes it so different from the national cuisine of most other western European countries – it is descended from peasant food rather than that of the gentry. Although this is little consolation for its lack in flavour, at least you can know when you’re eating it, that what you’re tasting is very likely to be authentic to the meals of masses of Norwegians over the years, not just a select few.
When asked what they consider to be a truly Norwegian meal, many nationals may (quite accurately) say pizza, and as a nation Norway consumes more pizza than any other in Europe, and is typical of a national preference for quick and preserved foods.
After pizza, the most common answers to the question of a national food would probably be codand meat cakes – similar to burgers, but cooked more slowly.
Fish of all kinds are common in the Norwegian diet, unsurprising when you consider the length of their coastline in comparison to the size of the country, and that their climate limits what other food they can produce themselves. As it is, they import about half of what they eat. Preserved fish (and other foods) gained importance in the diet as a result of a desperate need to store food for the long and unproductive winter months. This has resulted in various combinations of smoking, drying, pickling and salting of fish and has resulted in some unique flavours! The good news is that here smoked salmon is cheaper than salami, but other varieties of preserved fish require a stronger stomach. One of the most famous is the Lutefisk, a national speciality, particularly eaten at Christmas. Its production involves drying, treating with lye, salting, and boiling or baking, and results in a unique texture and flavour that not even all Norwegians find palatable! Dishes don’t come much more unique than this.
Many meals in Norway are eaten cold, such as the national smorgasbord, a type of open sandwich topped with seafood and pickles, or pickled herring. Added to these cold foods are of course the national cheeses – the mild but tasty Jarlsberg, or the sweet, brown colouredgeitost, a goats cheese often seen on Norwegian breakfast tables. In fact, the Norwegians do seem to have a bit of a sweet tooth, popular snacks being doughnuts, waffles, and sweetened,spicy biscuits, which are particularly eaten around Christmas.
Here are a couple of recipes, should you wish to try the food before you go, or to recreate it after you return!
Recipe for Norwegian Meat cakes
– 1lb (450g) of minced beef
– a pinch of nutmeg
– a large pinch of ginger
– ½ a cup of potato flour
– ½ pint of milk or water
– salt and pepper to taste
Mix meat with a wooden spoon until it becomes sticky, then stir in the seasoning and potato flour. Add the liquid slowly until it is all well combined.
Form into thick rounds and brown in a hot frying pan, before cooking for about ten minutes in a small amount of water.
Serve immediately with boiled root vegetables or cabbage for a traditional Norwegian meal.
Recipe for Spicy Biscuits
– ¼ pint of cream
– 4oz golden syrup
– 8oz butter
– 8oz caster sugar
– 1lb plain flour
– 4oz ground almonds
– 2tsp baking powder
– 1tsp mixed spice
– 2tsp cinnamon
Slowly melt together the cream, syrup, butter and sugar, and gently bring to the boil.
Remove from the heat and stir in the dry ingredients until well combined, then knead into a smooth dough and roll into a long cylinder, about 1½ – 2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight.
Slice the dough into thin biscuits and place on a greased oven tray.
Bake for ten minutes at gas mark 6.
Odin: Norwegian Food
A great fact site about Norway, with detailed pages about the development of their cuisine and a variety of recipes.
Captain Gorples Norwegian Cuisine
An amusing site with information about Norwegian food that you never realised you wanted to know!
By Guilia Vincenzi