Bergen Fish Soup (Bergensk fiskesuppe)

Bergen Fish Soup

Everyone has their own idea of a place, a snapshot memory encapsulating the scenes, smells, and moods they experienced there. One person’s Paris is different than another’s. A visit to Seattle might be dreary for one and vibrant for another. With that in mind, let me take you to my Bergen–not the rain-soaked city you may picture, rightfully so given it rains there more than 260 days a year, but the place that exists in my personal catalogue of memories.

Golden skies bathed in sun-drenched heat. Chilled rosé in the cool, dim cave of our hotel restaurant. Seagulls perched on the roofs around the famous open-air seafood market. Bergen was alive when I visited in the summer of 2008. Ski boats ferried joyful passengers in the harbor housing Bryggen, the Hanseatic wharf. A biker could comfortably break out his ride with no concern of rain. Any restaurant with patio seating was the place to be.

Seafood for Bergen Fish Soup

I’ve been reliving that trip this past week since cooking a batch of Bergen Fish Soup (Bergensk fiskesuppe). The soup is one of the best fish soups in the world, right up there with bouillabaisse, according to chef Andreas Viestad. Some say the absolute proper way to make it, Viestad writes Kitchen of Light, is to purchase live pollock at the fish market–which is one of the biggest and best-known outdoor fish markets in northern Europe–and make the stock the same day. It’s possible to bring the taste of Bergen home, however, with quality fish stock, such as the halibut variety from our neighborhood fishmonger.

As with most classic dishes, the recipes and styles vary. One cook might choose to use only white fish while another might add salmon or perhaps scallops and prawns. Some add dumplings while others omit them. One person might ladle thick, chowder-like portions into bowls while a neighbor makes it on the lighter side with the seafood surrounded by a creamy broth.

No matter the style, the soup allows the flavor of the seafood to shine, proving that a handful of quality ingredients simply prepared can go a long way.

Prawns for Bergen Fish Soup

Bergen Fish Soup and Crispbread

Bergen Fish Soup (Bergensk fiskesuppe)
This version is on the light side, which makes it perfect for dinner on a late spring evening when you need a little warming. Adapted from Scandilicious: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking by Signe Johansen, this recipe veers slightly from the traditional by adding a small amount of spices and giving sweetness with white wine and brandy rather than an abundance of root vegetales and a touch of sugar. Johansen grew up in Bergen, however, so she knows the essence of the soup and has created an elegant recipe that comes together so quickly it can easily be a weeknight meal. The mix of seafood is flexible; use whatever is fresh and available. 

6 1/3 cups quality fish stock
1 bay leaf
1 handful flat-leaf parsley stems, plus additional leaves for garnish
12 whole peppercorns
2 carrots, roughly diced
2 celery stalks, roughly diced
1 leek, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup brandy
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces salmon fillet, cubed into 3/4-inch pieces
3 1/2 ounces prawns, shells removed
5 ounce cod fillet, cubed into 3/4-inch pieces
8 ounces clams, with shells
Finely-chopped chives, for garnish

Heat fish stock, bay leaf, parsley, peppercorns, carrots, celery, and leek in a large pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the wine and brandy and simmer for five more minutes, then add the cream. Once the soup has returned to a simmer, add the salmon, cod, and clams and cook for a minute or two before adding the prawns, which should only take an additional minute or two to cook.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with additional parsley leaves and chives. Serve with crispbread.

Serves 4.

Bergen Fish Soup

Classic Norwegian Rhubarb Cake

Norwegian Rhubarb Cake

Oh springtime, you most gentle of seasons, on one day you bring sunshine and warmth, and on the next a tranquil fog.

The quiet morning unfolds with the aroma of coffee as I unload the dishwasher and begin the next phase of cleaning up. These mornings after, with vestiges of the previous night’s book club meal, involve reflection and reminiscing: new friends and old, successful new recipes, and countless tangents originating from one common book. These book club dinners, begun just months ago, have become an instant highlight in each one of our lives.

Book Club Mussels

As I load the dishwasher with the next batch of bowls and glasses, I pour remnants of milky broth speckled with parsley, shallots, and bay leaves down the drain. The fragrant scent of mussels lingers in the air and I light candles to freshen the room, enjoying the special quality they add to the morning. I take a bite of rhubarb cake, leftover from the night before, and sip my coffee, which cools rapidly in the ceramic mug.

I have come to enjoy these still, quiet mornings and to savor the freshness of a cloudy spring day. While the sunny days of the past week beckoned us to hurry outside, today with its diffused light and tranquil stillness seems to give us permission to just be—to enjoy a leisurely walk with a friend, to read a few extra books to my son before his nap, to linger at the computer and enjoy the process of writing as much as the progress, even as the kitchen remains cluttered.

Norwegian Rhubarb Cake Batter

Freshly Baked Norwegian Rhubarb Cake

Oh springtime, you most gracious of seasons! Even as I write this, the blue sky emerges from the fading clouds and the sunlight casts its warm rays on the trees outside. Morning has transitioned to afternoon, with the promise of a mild evening and the possibility of a dinner enjoyed outdoors. But not before I head back to the kitchen and finish the final phase of cleaning—and eat another bite of rhubarb cake.

Norwegian Rhubarb Cake on Pedestal

Norwegian Rhubarb Cake (Rabarbrakake)
Adapted from Norwegian National Recipes, this recipe features the exact proportions called for in the original, but elaborates on the instructions, which were limited. So, what you’ll find here is a true classic. Please try to bake this cake within a few hours of serving. At its most moist and tender in the first three hours, this is the perfect time to present it to guests. I must add, though, that you shouldn’t hesitate to enjoy the leftovers with a cup of coffee the next morning as you get ready to start your day–consider it a host or hostess’ reward.

1/4 cup salted butter
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large stalk rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the milk. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy. While continuing to stir, slowly pour in the melted butter. Add flour and baking powder and mix until combined.

Pour batter into an 8-inch springform pan and sprinkle the rhubarb over the top, making sure the rhubarb doesn’t touch the sides of the pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean–this took about an hour for me, but check it in advance. Allow to cool and carefully remove from the pan. This cake would be lovely served with whipped cream, as the original recipe suggests, but is also delicious plain.

Serves 6.

Family Classics: Norwegian Waffles

Norwegian Vaffler

I believe that food is a connector. Both to the people we love and to our heritage. I began writing about Scandinavian food in 2009 a couple of months after Grandma Agny passed away; the grief had struck me in ways deeper than I could have expected, and I found myself seeking out elements of our shared Norwegian heritage as a way to feel closer to her memory. Food was the winner.

As I read Beatrice Ojakangas’ The Great Scandinavian Baking Book and Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit–the two titles that began my collection of Scandinavian cookbooks–I began to understand my grandmother and our Norwegian heritage in new, illuminating ways. Outside Oslo became a place where I could share what was on my mind and what I was discovering as I cooked and baked my way through Scandinavian recipes.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of speaking at a Daughters of Norway meeting in Seattle about how we can use food to share our heritage with people we care about–both in the present and as we think about ways to preserve it for the future. Whey they invited me to come and speak at their May meeting, I was both honored and nervous. I would be speaking to women who knew just as much–perhaps more–about the cuisine than I do, and I wanted to both inform and inspire them. What it came down to was speaking from the heart.

Daytona Strong Speaker

On that special evening, I shared how I became interested in Norwegian cuisine, and the important roles it has played in my life from childhood and into the present. I discussed the value of creating memories with loved ones, sharing stories and family history, and handing down recipes and the associations that go along with them. Speaking from my own experience, I shared ways to preserve family history and recipes through tools such as blogging and making a family cookbook.

Norwegian Heart Waffles HorizontalAs I bake regularly with Grandma Adeline and my mom, we create memories as we spend time together in the kitchen, sampling bites of whatever we’re making and often enjoying a meal. In these baking sessions, something often triggers memories for Grandma, and she’ll share stories from her youth in North Dakota, her experiences cooking for and managing restaurants, and bits of family history. These baking days bring forth parts of my family history and my heritage that I might otherwise never have learned.

As I did with the women of Daughters of Norway, I would like to encourage you to find ways to share such experiences with your relatives, whether they’re older generations or younger. Food has an amazing way of connecting people, and so much of a time and place can be wrapped up in one single recipe.

Norwegian Waffles Vertical

If you do decide to write a family cookbook, let me share with you one of the recommendations a source gave me when I interviewed her for an article on the topic for Costco Connection magazine: Don’t worry about including the most impressive recipes. The goal, rather, should be including the ones with meaning, the ones that have fond memories and stories written between the lines.

For me, one of those recipes is for Norwegian waffles. I suspect every Norwegian family has its own version of this traditional dish; some use sour cream, others use buttermilk. Some people eat them with lingonberry preserves, others with geitost (brown goat cheese) or some sort of nut spread. But they’re typically made with a waffle iron that creates little heart-shaped waffles that look pretty on a platter and speak to the love that invariably goes into making them. This particular recipe goes back generations, at least to my great-grandmother Josephine. Making them with Grandma Adeline a week and a half ago, we carried on a family tradition, imbuing generations of past memories with our own and connecting the past with the present. And that, my friends, is a very special gift.

Norwegian Heart Waffles VerticalGreat-Grandma Josephine’s Norwegian Waffles (Vaffler)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat eggs in a separate bowl, then add to the butter and beat until smooth. Mix in buttermilk and milk. Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda and mix into the batter to combine.

Baking using a heart-shaped waffle maker.

The Norwegian Dessert Known as Troll Cream (Trollkrem)

Krumkaker and Troll Cream

If you follow Outside Oslo on Facebook or Instagram, then you probably know I’ve been planning to tell you about trollkrem, a traditional Norwegian dessert that translates to troll cream. Perhaps the best explanation that I can come up with about the name is the dessert’s almost-mythical properties.

Consisting of a mere two ingredients that barely form a pool in the bottom of a mixing bowl, the dessert transforms in a matter of minutes to a silky, creamy cloud. Egg whites mingle with lingonberry preserves as the mixer rapidly whisks them together, fluffing up the egg whites with air. The result is a featherweight pale pink puff.

Troll Cream Ingredients

Troll Cream in Progress

One of the things I love about having a Facebook page for Outside Oslo is the additional communication it fosters about Scandinavian food. When I made my first batch of troll cream, I was unsure that I was getting the whole picture as I opened book after book and searched the internet to try to find out the proper uses for it. With a texture and consistency far too ethereal for the dessert to stand on its own, it seemed to need a base, something to act as a foundation. I turned to you on Facebook and discovered not only a range of uses for trollkrem, but also how enthusiastic many of you are about Norwegian food. And that made me very, very happy.

From you I learned to put trollkrem in krumkaker (pictured here)–perhaps in the shape of cups rather than cones–and garnish it with mint. You also suggested filling sandbakkelse with trollkrem or using it to top pancakes. Growing up in a Norwegian-American family, krumkaker were always part of the holiday cookie trays, but we always ate them plain. Filled with trollkrem, the delicate cookies require just as much care in eating so that they don’t crumble all over, but the experience is much different, more akin to eating an ice cream cone. I’m still trying to find the perfect krumkaker recipe to share with you here, and when I do I’ll also try making them in the shape of cups, which cookbook author Astrid Karlsen Scott recommends.

If you don’t already follow Outside Oslo, I hope you’ll take a moment to do so today and join the conversation about Scandinavian food. You can subscribe via email or RSS, plus follow the blog on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. In the meantime, here’s a recipe for trollkrem.

Trollkrem med KrumkakerTroll Cream (Trollkrem)

This particular technique is adapted from Authentic Norwegian Cooking by Astrid Karlsen Scott. If you have access to fresh lingonberries, you can use those instead of the preserves, adding some sugar to the recipe. If you’re concerned about raw egg whites, apparently it can be made with meringue powder as well, according to The Everything Nordic Cookbook, which has such a recipe. Scott suggests serving this in a crystal dessert bowl garnished with fresh lingonberries and mint leaves or in krumkakeskåler–krumkaker in the shape of cups.

2 egg whites
1/4 cup lingonberry preserves

Place the egg whites and lingonberry preserves in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at high speed until the ingredients expand, quadrupling their volume. This should take about 8 to 10 minutes.

Serves 4.

Banana Sandwich, or Banansmørbrød

Banana Sandwich

Breakfast is all about getting back to the basics in our home. A little protein, some whole grains, a milk-based product, and fresh fruit–that’s about all it takes on the average weekday (special recipes are reserved for the slower-paced weekend mornings). It’s something I do almost instinctively, without much analysis, having enough nutrition knowledge to operate as if by rote. Reading Luisa Weiss’ post at The Wednesday Chef the other day about cooking for her son, Hugo, however, has me thinking a little more about this oh-so-important meal and wondering how I might be able to spice it up.

Bananas for Sandwich

Coincidentally, a recipe for a banana sandwich caught my eye while I was looking through a Norwegian cookbook last week. A slice of toast has long been a favorite snack for me, so I decided to give it a try, swapping out the butter for peanut butter to add some protein. The result? Nutritious, with just enough chocolate and powdered sugar dusted on top to make it feel like a treat. I’ll be filing this one away under quick breakfast ideas.

What do you eat to start the day?

Banana Sandwich, Banansmorbrod

Banana Sandwich (Banansmørbrød)
Inspired by Authentic Norwegian Cooking (Ekte Norsk Mat) by Astrid Karlsen Scott

1 slice of hearty bread
Spoonful of creamy peanut butter
1/2 banana, sliced crosswise into nine rounds
1 square of dark chocolate, finely grated
Confectioners sugar, for dusting

Toast the bread, and then while it’s still warm, spread a spoonful of peanut butter over it, smearing it all the way to the edges. Arrange banana slices over the top, then sprinkle on grated chocolate and powdered sugar. Serve immediately while still warm.

Serves 1.

My Original Lingonberry Recipes in Our Amazing Norway

Our Amazing Norway Lingonberry Article

As you probably know from reading Outside Oslo, I enjoy taking items frequently found in Norwegian and Scandinavian kitchens and coming up with new and original ways to use them. I had the opportunity recently to write an article about lingonberries for Our Amazing Norway, a magazine for expats in Norway. The story is complete with four original lingonberry recipes:

Cardamom-Scented Cauliflower Soup with Lingonberry and Dill

Black Tea Crème Brûlée with Lingonberry Preserves

Spiced Lingonberry Sauce for Ice Cream

Cucumber, Dill, and Lingonberry Smørrebrød

Check out Our Amazing Norway’s website to find out how get a copy. I have an article about another commonly-found item coming up in their next issue; I’ll be sure to tell you when it’s published. In the meantime, follow them on Facebook and Instagram!

Our Amazing Norway Cover and Lingonberry Article

Images provided by and used with permission from Our Amazing Norway.

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